I’m Alive! And Other Stories

*watches tumbleweeds roll past*

Oops! In case you were worried, yes, I’m still alive. I simply had entirely “forgotten” about updating my blog, until I looked today and realised it’s been pretty much a year. Cue a lot of guilty feelings and mid-year resolutions to do better.

To bring you up to speed, here are the top 4 things that have occupied my mind over the last 12 months:

  1. Real Life
    Yes, yes. Yawn. I know. But between increased responsibilities at work and buying an apartment, life has been far too grown-up for me to handle.

  2. Epic TV
    It’s been kind of hard to find the time to write between Game of Thrones, Black Mirror, Westworld, The Handmaid’s Tale, Lucifer, Preacher… Okay fine, I’m the queen of procrastination.

  3. Bookstagram
    Seriously. 12 months ago I barely knew it was a thing. A year on, and I spend half my life there. I haven’t felt the urge to blog here, because instagram scratches the microblogging itch. Love it!

  4. Writing Sabbatical
    Most importantly, I’ve taken the last 3 months to write a new novel! It is a science fiction detective story set in a futuristic Canada. I am super excited to finally be writing new content, and look forward to sharing updates with you. I will also be looking for beta readers so if you’re interested in being an early reader, please sign up to my mailing list.


Enough with the excuses. I solemnly swear to get more organised. Here’s my monumental to do list:

  • Finish my WIP novel!
  • Blog regularly (once/month)
  • Figure out what content to send my mailing list subscribers (open to suggestions! writing advice? book reviews?)
  • Think about updating this website
  • Probably something else I’ve forgotten

In the meantime, help me catch up: what’s been occupying your mind for the last 12 months?

Why We Need To #PickUpLucifer

Whenever anyone has asked, I’ve described the TV show Lucifer as my guilty pleasure.

After all, in many respects it’s a paranormal romance masquerading as a supernatural police procedural. The Devil, bored of ruling Hell, moves to LA and starts working with a (attractive) homicide detective. Cue random murder investigations used primarily as a plot device to explore character relationships and development.

It can be corny, tongue-in-cheek and nonsensical. The show features the literal Devil, who can be far too smug with himself. It shouldn’t be as good as it actually is.

And yet —

And yet. The beauty of Lucifer is precisely the characterisation. It’s one of those impressive shows that rides on the actors’ charisma. Yes, the plot is often whimsical, but the synergy between the main characters and their interactions with each other (and not just with the show’s eponymous hero) kept me glued to my seat.

Obviously there’s the main duo: Lucifer and his homicide detective Chloe. Watching them dance around each other has been nail-bitingly addictive, particularly with Lucifer’s spiritual angst pitted against Chloe’s belief that he has a mental health condition.

But the side characters are also a huge part of the appeal. A demon finding and struggling with her humanity. A lawyer guilt-stricken over the crimes she’s helped cover up. Sibling rivalry and insecurities. And — my favourite — seeing the impact of the supernatural on the humans drawn into the mix. Dr Linda, you’re the best.

Of course, part of what makes great characters is great dialogue. A script-writing friend of mine told me that in the average script for animation, you aim to have maybe five lines of dialogue per page, all very brief. In Lucifer, you go basically two full pages on average without a single line of description. The dialogue carries the show.

And when you think about the representation, including race, sexual orientation, disability/mental health, religion, single parenthood, divorce…? That’s the icing on the cake.

All of this to say that I’m devastated that FOX have decided not to renew Lucifer for a fourth season — and hopeful that someone else will recognise, and reward, its brilliance.

The Forward Ripple

In all but name, my great aunt Vera was a grandparent to me.

I write “was” because Auntie VV passed away two weeks ago. My first ever funeral. (In retrospect, getting to 29 without having attended a funeral seems an impossible feat.)

Yet as I sat there in church, listening to the eulogy, I didn’t feel sad; I felt thankful.

Thankful for the long holidays in Spain as a child, walking along the beach, Auntie Vera buying me ice cream and giving me hers when mine wasn’t enough. I remember sitting on the veranda together as the sky darkened and bats flitted overhead, playing cards and gambling with her enormous stash of pennies

Thankful for how much she made me laugh as I grew older. I remember sitting at her table in Dublin, talking about everything and anything as her latest rescue cat stared distrustfully from the doorway. I remember the throaty rasp of her dry chuckle, her eyes brightening with wicked humour.

Thankful for her friendship, the easy camaraderie despite the years stretching between us. She used to call me her little chicken, but I never thought of Auntie Vera as a mother hen. She was one of the girls, a trusted confidant of our many little secrets.

My entire childhood — when I had no concept of age — I thought she was 75 (an insult to her, at first, but eventually a compliment). Over the years, I noticed her getting older, but it was always in a passive way, unacknowledged.

But then, in one moment, things changed.

At her 90th birthday, in the confusion of a large family gathering, for a split second she confused me for my cousin’s wife. I bent down to hug her — careful now, she chuckled, don’t spill my rosé — and she said it was nice to meet me.

That was when I truly realised she wouldn’t be there forever.

I sat through the meal refusing to think about it. After dessert when the family furore had quietened, I went to sit next to her and we talked as we always had, as if nothing had happened. She quizzed me on “Mr Tall, Dark and Handsome” and then leaned in to tell me a secret: I can’t drink like I used to, she whispered, have a vodka for me, won’t you? 

The last time I went to visit her before her death, she was at home in her favourite chair with a blanket over her knees. Cigarette clutched in one hand, crumpled lottery tickets on the mantlepiece behind her.

Everything looked exactly as it always had, except her. She was smaller, somehow, as delicate as a bird in my arms.

Not long after, she was admitted into a care home. I never made it back to Dublin to see her, but I sent her postcards, photos, flowers, chocolates.

And now she’s gone. Yet no matter how hard I try to accept the finality of her passing, I can’t.

My great aunt Vera helped make me into the person I am today. She helped shape the lives of many others both in my family and beyond.

So when I think of her now, I think of the beautiful ripple effect of her influence, stretching forward into the endless future.

And I think that, one day, I’d like to leave a ripple like hers.

Recapturing The Dream

Three months ago I started a new job. 

I’ve always worked in boring publishing. Fresh out of uni, many of my classmates wrangled their way into the big names: Random House, Harper Collins, Bloomsbury, and so on. They jumped headfirst into the dream we’d all wanted. 

Me? I met a guy on a night bus and ended up in legal publishing.

I told myself it didn’t matter. I was paid more than my classmates, given more responsibility, and had my writing to satisfy my personal interests.

Eventually I needed a new challenge, and moved into financial publishing. (I did warn you: boring.) My career progressed even more as I ultimately ran all print operations. 

But something wasn’t right. 

I didn’t believe in the work I was delivering. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to read it. 

So I started job hunting again, determined to recapture the dream. 

The problem was that now all the traditional publishers took one look at my CV and said no. I hadn’t worked in fiction or books before, hadn’t slogged my way up the chain. Some publishers offered me an entry-level salary as if my last six years’ experience counted for nothing. 

I started to question what I was worth, whether I’d been deluded all along. I started to wonder whether I’d be stuck in boring publishing forever, because I couldn’t afford to take a cut. 

And you know what that feeling reminded me of? That sliver of doubt whenever a negative review hits too close to home. When I start wondering why I bother writing, when I’m never going to be good enough anyway. When I’ll never reach my dreams. 

It’s so hard to remain enthused about writing when so many other commitments have to come first. It’s even harder when those other commitments – like my job – aren’t going the way I want. 

If I can’t get the job I want despite years of hard work, how can I succeed at anything else? 

Then, one morning six months ago, I had an email in my inbox. A job alert from a more modern publishing house. The role was right. The salary was good. 

First thought: I’m never going to get it. 

Second thought: What do I have to lose? 

Two months and several interviews later, I was in. A part of me still can’t believe it. It’s been a whirlwind (hence my silence on the blog front), but each night I come home energised. At last I’m working in fiction. 

And you know what? 

Now that I’m working so closely with books and editors, the dream of being a full time author has never seemed closer. 

I’ve just got to keep working.

Why Change Is A Good Thing

I dyed my hair yesterday.

For an hour the bathroom was transformed: the L’Oreal do-it-yourself kit spread out over every available surface, the contours of my face greased with vaseline, purple dye splattering the sink as I contorted to reach every strand.

When I finally emerged from the shower in a haze of chemicals like a butterfly lifting out of its cocoon, my other half took one look and said, “I don’t know why you do it.”

I shrugged and said, “Because.”

But inside my mind was whirring. Why do I dye my hair? Is it boredom, something else? I turned to my trustworthy friend Google but found no answers to explain my behaviour.

Dyeing my hair is an unintentional quasi-annual tradition. A switch goes off inside my head and it’s all I can think about: the transformation, the change.

Who cares if the process is tedious? For a few pounds and an hour of my time, I’ve explored the frontiers of mahogany, chestnut, and yesterday’s experiment: dark cherry. (The verdict’s out so far — I’ll let you know how it settles after a couple washes.)

But why?

We are primed to think about our physical appearance in terms of how others perceive us. Any alterations to our looks – make up, clothes, hair dye – are therefore assumed to be for other people’s benefit. Yet I’m not seeking male attention, nor believe that a new hair colour will make me more beautiful/desirable/noticeable.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that there’s only one possible reason for dyeing my hair: for a change.

Change is a good thing.

I’m a creature of comfort. But every so often I force myself to change, to jolt out of the normal routine to discover other parts of myself. To push myself into reading a new genre, or visiting a new place.

More recently, I’ve broken through my writing block by starting a paranormal romance novel. I’ve never written or even imagined myself writing romance before. But faced with the longest dry spell ever, I wondered: what if I need to write something different?

So maybe dark cherry is the wrong hair colour for me. And maybe this new romance novel will be a complete pile of poo.

But unless I try, how will I know?