Has the Editing Process Hit a New Low?

September 10th, 2010

Critics of self-publishing often cite “quality editing”—or a lack thereof—as one of the main reasons why traditionally published books are superior products to their independent counterparts. True, many self-published books don’t pass the test when reviewed in terms of structure or basic grammar and punctuation. But I believe a significant percentage of books coming from large, conventional publishing houses are simply not up to scratch either.

No matter what way a book is published—be it self-published or traditionally published—there is simply no excuse for sloppy editing, especially basic typos and errors. Having said that, no matter how thoroughly a book is edited, it is seldom that a first-print edition doesn’t have at least a couple of medium-large errors amongst its pages (I too must raise a guilty hand. Lord of the Rams went through a rigorous review process by a number of experienced editors, but a few errors still made it into the final copy).

But when a book is so full of basic errors that it begins to prove distracting from the text, one really has to question the quality review process.

In truth, I haven’t read enough self-published books to comment on the standard of editing of same. But I read a considerable amount of traditionally published titles (in a wide range of genres) and my experiences suggest that quality control from some publishers is in need of considerable improvement—especially in books published in Ireland the UK. And let’s not forget that traditional publishing houses have finances and resources available to them that a self-published author does not—making such mistakes all the more unforgivable.

I recently read a UK-published memoir (which will remain nameless) that is by far the most poorly edited book I have ever happened upon. After noticing one deplorable error after the other, I eventually began writing down some of the mistakes I spotted.

This is just a handful of the offending items:

“Sylvesterr Stallone” Page 133

“Brian Denehy” [incorrect] then three lines later “Brian Dennehy” [correct] Page 134

“… let alone turn up turning up on the doorstep of a stranger …” Page 137

“And when I’d get therethey’d say …” Page 150

“… auditionedin front of …” Page 204

“… now standing iat the back of the hall.” Page 204

“… coming up two two months old …” Page 289

“… he met some of thestars …” Page 291

There were also an abundance of consistency issues with things like ellipses and quotation marks. Whilst these errors originally belonged to the author (and he must be apportioned a certain amount of the blame), ultimately it is up to the publisher to find and correct such errors. On this evidence, the author was severely let down by the publisher—I would expect a school child to spot some of the mistakes that are marked above. The publisher has since gone out of business, and perhaps this is the best news possible for authors and readers alike.

Purchase my comedy memoir Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide post and packaging).

Getting on the Property Ladder

August 14th, 2010

As mentioned in a previous blog, I recently purchased an apartment in Dublin. My new home is in Mountjoy Square, an area steeped in history and associated with a number of famous writers such as James Joyce, Sean O’Casey and WB Yeats. Lawyers, churchmen and politicians have also lived in the square in the past—and Joseph Napier, appointed Attorney General for Ireland in 1852, lived at my exact address—one of a number of Georgian buildings that have been redeveloped as apartments in recent years.

Arthur Guinness spent his later years in Mountjoy Square until his death in 1803. Dáil Éireann held meetings in the Mountjoy Square home of the republican Walter L Cole prior to the foundation of the Irish Free State. And most recently, the critically acclaimed movie Once was filmed in an apartment on the Square.

And it is in Mountjoy Square where I hope to continue my writing after a four-month break due to the stresses and trials thrown up by moving house. Although this is my first venture onto the property ladder, it reminds me of an episode from my life some time ago (as featured in Lord of the Rams).

I was about to start second year in college and had made the long two-bus journey from Cavan to Waterford to view prospective accommodation. Goosey, my flatmate from First Year and long-time friend, had stated clearly that I could get any place of my choosing so long as it was not Flat 4A—the infamous hovel we called ‘home’ the previous year …

Exclusive Extract from Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told
Arriving in Waterford, the Rams had a little less than two hours to find a home. With the internet still in its infancy, the only way he could hope to spot anywhere remotely suitable would be by combing through the morning’s newspapers. Unfortunately, a few phone calls confirmed that most decent dwellings had been snapped up a few hours prior to his late-afternoon arrival in the city. At last, however, he happened upon an advertisement for a three-bedroom house, centrally located and within a few hundred yards from the phone box where he was standing.

‘This looks promising,’ he thought, dialling the number included with the advert. A gentleman, who identified himself as an auctioneer named Joe, agreed to immediately meet the Rams on a city centre street.

Ten minutes passed by and the Rams was still waiting patiently for Joe to arrive. For the majority of that time a suited businessman had been leaning against a railing a few feet away, occasionally glancing over in Rams’s direction. Realising that time was against him, the Rams called out to the stranger, the returned greeting leaving him in no doubt that he was now speaking to the auctioneer. Joe seemed almost surprised that Rams was the same person he had conversed with over the phone, but the confused expression quickly gave way to one of cheer, and he spoke amicably with the Rams as the pair walked the short distance to a house around which Joe provided Rams with a grand tour before sitting down to talk business.

The house was nothing special, but it goes without saying that it was a definite improvement on Flat 4A. It had three reasonably sized bedrooms and its location was quite close to the part of the city the Rams was most accustomed to. Having asked the usual pre-rental questions regarding bills and utilities, Rams put the million-dollar question to the auctioneer.

‘So how much is this place per month?’ he asked.

‘It works out at 32 pounds each per week,’ replied Joe, alluding to Rams’s earlier comment that he would be moving two other people in with him. The rent was a little higher than Rams had hoped for but, with only 20 minutes remaining until the bus for Dublin departed, this was not the time to be playing hardball.

‘Well, I’d be fairly interested in taking the place. How much of a deposit are you looking for?’

‘Five percent of the value of the house and, once I receive that, I can hold the place if you’re waiting for your mortgage to be processed.’

‘What was that?’ gasped the Rams, scarcely comprehending what he was hearing and almost needing to hear it repeated lest his ears were deceiving him. ‘You said something about a mortgage there. Is this place not for renting?’ he asked.

‘Of course not,’ Joe replied, looking slightly peeved upon realising that he had wasted valuable time showboating the house to the poorest student in Ireland. ‘I was thinking you were a bit young to be buying the place,’ he added, before quickly showing Rams the door.

With mere moments remaining until the call of Cavan beckoned, Rams sprinted to a nearby phone box and dialled Mickey Rooney’s mobile number. It was the last thing he wanted to do but, given the circumstances, he didn’t see himself as having much of a choice.

Mickey’s phone rang for several seconds before an unmistakable gruff voice could be heard at the other end of the line. Rams rushed through the necessary small talk before asking if Mr. Conway had any properties other than Flat 4A available for renting at that time. Apparently Conway had a nice vacant town house, which would be perfect for the lads. But since Mickey was attending a horse racing event in Tramore that day and Rams was rushing back to Cavan, it was agreed that Rams would ring Mickey the following day to continue the conversation and perhaps—at least in Rams’s mind—provisionally agree to rent the property.

Unfortunately, the resultant telephone call squashed any hopes Rams had of living in anything other than squalor for the college year. Mickey, changing his story from the previous day, stated that the house was undergoing refurbishment and wouldn’t be ready before Christmas. All was not lost, however, because another property was available for renting immediately and at a fair price.

‘Goosey, how’s it going?’ yelled the Rams into the telephone receiver.

‘Not too bad. How did ya get on in Waterford?’

‘I have good news and I have bad news.’

‘What do you mean, Rams?’ asked Goosey, sounding slightly concerned.

‘The good news is that I found us a place to live in for the year.’

‘Nice one; for a minute there I thought you were going to say you got nothing.’

‘Well, the bad news is that it’s Flat 4A.’

And with that, the phone went dead.

Did you like this story? Maybe you’ll enjoy Lord of the Rams, featuring anecdotes and misadventures from my student apartment in Waterford in the late nineties. Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide post and packaging).

Book Review: The Average American Male

July 5th, 2010
The Average American Male

What do us men really think about women, relationships and sex? If you’re a woman reading The Average American Male, you might afterwards decide to take thee to a nunnery and vow never to set sight on the male form again. True, Chad Kultgen’s debut novel from 2007 doesn’t paint man with the brightest of colours but, for me, his book is one of the most addictive, outlandish and hilarious reads to cross my path.

The unnamed narrator of The Average American Male is in his late-twenties, is in a relationship with a girl he no longer likes, and spends almost every spare minute thinking about sex and getting friendly with himself. He also plays a lot of video games and hangs out with his friends at bars and parties.

This might not sound like much of a premise, but Kultgen has created a work that will resonate with men worldwide.

His observations about relationships are at times both accurate and very funny. On one occasion, he’s  driving his girlfriend to the airport. She’s doing his head in with incessant chatter about trivial matters.

“She keeps talking about things as I stare down the road trying to imagine what the couple in the car in front of us is talking about. I can see the silhouette of the woman in the passenger seat. She’s kind of flailing her arms around and every once in a while pointing at the guy driving, who’s completely motionless, staring straight ahead and probably looking at the car in front of him wondering what the woman in that car’s passenger seat is saying to the guy driving.”

Some people will read The Average American Male and not “get it”. They will say that the main character is a man of no values with few redeemable qualities, that the book’s other main characters aren’t properly fleshed out, and that the novel presents a one-dimensional and pitiful view of men who see women as mere sex objects.

But these people are only partly correct. Although a novel, The Average American Male is saturated with the sort of frank honesty that should be applauded. Kultgen has produced the sort of book that few people would have the balls (no pun intended) to write. He has written on paper—albeit in a somewhat exaggerated and tongue in cheek fashion—exactly what men often think but don’t say. He also succeeds, from a man’s perspective, in delivering an ending that speaks volumes about relationships and how they evolve—or dissolve—after time.

Sexually explicit (and by no means intended for a young audience), extremely funny and vile, this is a book that will mainly appeal to young men who have “loved” and lost and “loved” again. If you’ve read the factual  I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, note that this has a similar style except that it is a novel, and is infinitely more funny, intelligent and addictive. Highly recommended.

Purchase my own book—the hilarious comedy memoir Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with FREE worldwide postage and packaging)

Book Reviews: Red Mist & The Internet is a Playground

June 3rd, 2010

The only good thing about commuting between Cavan and Dublin the past few weeks is that I’m getting through a shed load of books. And even though I’ve got a box full of unread books, I’ve been busy buying more just in case I should run out …

With the World Cup almost upon us, there’s no better time to revisit the madness of Saipan via Conor O’Callaghan’s Red Mist: Roy Keane and the Irish World Cup Blues – a Fan’s Story. And if that only serves to remind you that Ireland isn’t in this year’s competition, cheer yourself up by picking up David Thorne’s The Internet is a Playground.

Red Mist by Conor O’Callaghan

Red Mist

It was Ireland’s 9/11. Nobody died, but the entire country was in mourning. Roy Keane sent home from the 2002 World Cup, and a nation up in arms over who was to blame for the catastrophe – Keane or the Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.

Connor O’Callaghan provides an account of the Saipan saga whilst interweaving stories from his own life during the tumultuous events. Red Mist: Roy Keane and the Irish World Cup Blues – a Fan’s Story is a solid read and serves as a great reminder of just how divisive the Keane/McCarthy debate was. Neighbours and families throughout the country became embroiled in the argument, and some even stopped speaking to each other completely as they took sides and held firmly on their convictions.  In fact the most entertaining parts of Red Mist centre on the effects of the debacle on O’Callaghan, his son and the community.

The telling of the Saipan story itself doesn’t offer anything new. It would have been great if O’Callaghan interviewed some of the Irish players under a veil of anonymity. Did Keane really call McCarthy an “English c**t” ? O’Callaghan quotes the newspaper reports aplenty, but it would have been great if he had spoken to a number of people who were actually there. Also, the numerous side-stories at times take from the telling of the Saipan incident itself.

Furthermore,  O’Callaghan writes in the present tense and constantly refers to dates in the book as “last Friday” and similar. That would be fine if Red Mist was written in a diary format and the reader could easily keep track of the days/dates to which he is referring. But O’Callaghan often moves the action on a few days or weeks and then again refers to “last Thursday”  or “last Friday”, making it difficult for the reader to know on what dates things actually happened.

As a retelling of the Saipan saga, Red Mist isn’t entirely successful. But then again, that doesn’t seem to be O’Callaghan’s primary objective. As a memoir based on the months after Saipan, and as a case study of how it affected the ordinary man on the street, Red Mist is a triumphant success. Worth a read!

The Internet is a Playground by David Thorne

The Internet is a Playground

If you’ve never visited David Thorne’s website 27b/6, don’t go there just yet. Buy The Internet is a Playground, and then visit the site once you’ve consumed every page of this hilarious book.

The Internet is a Playground comprises “the complete collection of articles and emails” from Thorne’s infamous site.  So there’s little here that you can’t already get for free on the website, but Thorne’s material really does deserve a place on your coffee table.

Thorne shot to fame in late 2008 when he tried to settle a bill with a drawing of a spider. The resulting email correspondences were posted on his website, and word quickly spread around the internet.

The book consists of the spider piece along with a number of similar—and no less hilarious—emails. Thorne invites himself to his neighbour’s party, turns the tables on a strict teacher and weasels his way out of paying a late fee for some rented DVDs. But summarising these emails could never do them justice. You just have to read them yourself. Read one and I guarantee you will be hooked.

Unfortunately, the “articles”, which feature on Thorne’s website and form a large part of the book (much more so than the emails), aren’t anywhere near as funny or engaging as the emails. Many of these articles see Thorne writing in the name of people he knows—such as colleagues—and essentially parodying them to the utmost of his ingenious abilities. These articles have their moments, but generally I found myself racing through them in order to get to the next email piece.

Make no mistake about it, the emails featured in this book are comedy masterpieces. Like hidden camera TV shows, half the fun is seeing how people react to Thorne’s absurd emails. And Thorne never fails to reply to each email with clever arguments, witty observations and downright off-the-wall logorrhea .

If you like the writing of Maddox, then you’ll love The Internet is a Playground.

Purchase my own book—the hilarious comedy memoir Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with FREE worldwide postage and packaging)

Moving House: Memories from Christchurch View

May 12th, 2010

8 years. It’s a significant percentage of anyone’s life. And it’s a very long time to spend living in the same rented apartment.

It seems like only yesterday that I moved into an apartment in Christchurch, Dublin. I had been living in a cramped two-bedroom apartment nearby for two and a half years, but the time had come to move on.  The move to Christchurch turned out to be a great one.

A month after I moved in, the lease-holder of the apartment bought a place and moved out. I was delighted—he had very little to say for himself and was one of those rare people I knew I would never get on with. That left me and Ed, a Dubliner who had been living there for a few years, on the look-out for a new tenant for the large double room. A Roscommon man,  a fellow Ronan, eventually moved in, and it wasn’t long before we began partying it up at Christchurch.

Ed moved to Boston to get married around May 2003, and all manner of people moved in, and moved on again, over the years—Leanne, Ian, Mark, Denise, Deborah, Kara, Julianne, Anke and Karen. Nicole and Danusia also lived there on and off at various stages. And Mark held the distinctive record of actually living in the apartment twice (following a year in between stays working in London). Ronan stayed at Christchurch for 5 1/2 years before eventually moving on, only to be replaced by Andrzej who stayed for over two years.

Dublin (and indeed Ireland) has, in some ways, gone from hero to zero in the past two years. And this has certainly been reflected in the rental market. Finding long-term tenants has become very difficult (the last four tenants were all visiting Dublin for just a just a matter of months) and so I recently decided to move out of the apartment along with my other housemates Andrzej (moving back to Poland) and Karen (going travelling).

I am currently in the process of purchasing an apartment and am hoping to move into it soon.

I left Christchurch with some happy memories and funny stories from my time there. And I’ll sign off today with just one recent story that remains fresh in my memory …

………………… Memories from Christchurch View …………………

It was April 2009. An Irish guy had arranged to view the spare room after Deborah had moved out. The rental market, however, had changed dramatically in the preceding few months. Where once 50 people might reply to a room advert on Daft.ie, now this number was closer to four or five. So I was delighted that John Joe (not his real name) was Irish—not because I’m anti-foreigners (far from it) but because I presumed he would be around for the long haul.

Anyway, John Joe shows up. And he’s fat—morbidly obese in fact. I’d say he’s about 25 stones (or 350 pounds). That’s fine; no big deal but I do start thinking that I might have to hide my Weetabix from this guy if he moves in. But I have no intention of moving him in. Why?

Well for a start, John Joe has brought his sister with him. She’s a rough diamond—looks like she could cut a man’s balls off just by looking at him. At first I think she’s John Joe’s mother—she’s got to be in her mid-sixties, but I suspect a diet of cigarettes and alcohol may have played their part in the ageing process. But John Joe is no spring chicken either. I reckon he’s nigh on 40. In truth, he seems a nice enough guy. He’s quiet, but then again he’s not getting much of a chance to put his views across since his sister is doing all the talking.

Maybe I’m assuming too much at this stage but I get the feeling that John Joe has lived in the nearby family home (or with his sister) for most of his life. And now the sister is forcing him out into the big bad world to fend for himself. Shame she didn’t do it sooner. John Joe moving out at 40 and viewing apartments with his dangerous looking sister doesn’t help ingratiate him as a prospective housemate with me.

Anyway, after showing John Joe and his sister around the living room, kitchen and bathroom, and making the same lame joke I always do about our two fridges (“One for food and one for beer”  Boom Boom!), I invite them to follow me up the spiral staircase to view the bedroom.

I steal a quick glance at John Joe’s massive frame and think: “There’s no way this guy is getting up these stairs.”

So the sister bounds up the stairs along with myself, and we enter the room. It soon becomes apparent, as I envisaged, that John Joe is having difficulties.

I keep the sister talking, or she keeps me talking—I’m not quite sure which. She is very interested in the room and apartment (Who’s moving in here? Her or John Joe? I’m beginning to wonder!).

“I can pay ya a deposit right here today,” she says, and I’m almost too scared to tell her that other people will be viewing the room and I would move a monkey in before living with her over-pampered, can’t even get up the stairs brother.

John Joe eventually makes it into the room after about a minute or so. He’s sweating profusely and I’m wondering what the legal implications might be if he drops dead in the apartment.

The sister at last asks him his opinion on the room, barely waits for his response and then tells me that, “We’re very interested in taking the room.”

Off she goes down the stairs, and John Joe follows. I’m hoping that gravity might help him with his return journey, but things don’t turn out that way. As John Joe rounds the first bend, he becomes stuck in the stairway. He looks to be well and truly wedged. I don’t know where to look (I’m standing upstairs just beside the top of the staircase) so I try to encourage him and make him feel better by telling him that it took me three or four months to get the hang of walking up and down the staircase.

After a good two or three minutes, John Joe manages to free himself and somehow gets to the bottom of the staircase without bringing it crashing to the floor.

The sister takes one look at her visibly tired and mentally traumatised brother, and she shouts up the stairs at me.

“It’s no good. He’s too big. He’ll never get up and down them stairs.”

And with that, she opens the door and drags her embarrassed brother out with her.

Did you like this story? Maybe you’ll enjoy Lord of the Rams,  featuring anecdotes and misadventures from my student apartment in Waterford in the late nineties. Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide post and packaging).

The Making of Lord of the Rams 2: Author Diary – Part 2

April 12th, 2010

Almost nine months into the writing of Lord of the Rams 2 and I have completed the first draft of 13 chapters. Sounds good, but there’s a lot of work to be done and real life has a nasty habit of standing in the way of progress.

Since the first diary update, I have been to Las Vegas and back. Those of you who read the exclusive draft extract from Lord of the Rams 2 in last month’s blog will know that ordering food in Vegas can be a pricy affair if you don’t keep your wits about you. Unfortunately, the food bill for dinner on the Friday night this time round put the bill from the extract firmly in the shade.  What’s that about “you live and learn”? Maybe next time!

Anyway, as a result of that trip and distractions either side of it, the writing took a back seat (i.e. was non-existent) for two full weeks. But things are beginning to get back on track and I am currently working on what I hope will be the opening chapters of the final book.

Today I’m going to write a little about the planning process of writing a book—particularly a memoir. Unlike my first effort, most of which I wrote in chronological order, I’m approaching Lord of the Rams 2 in a slightly different way.

The original Lord of the Rams could essentially be split into four parts—primary school, secondary school, college and post-college life. But the sequel is a different beast and will not be as easy to segment into large chunks as its predecessor. For me, I find it useful to split my work into segments—it helps with planning the story and defining the overall structure of the book. It also helps when editing the book and it allows me to assess chapters according to the overall sections in which they belong.

For example, with Lord of the Rams 2 I know that this book will take place almost entirely outside of Ireland. From there, I can identify which of my many trips from 2003 onwards (where the first book ended) might be of interest to the readers.

For most of these trips, I’ve initially listed a series of bullet points in a notepad detailing key points I want to cover in the book. I am also conscious that I will need to reintroduce characters from the first book (for those of you who have, heaven forbid, not read the original) and create some semblance of an overall story arc, but the bullet points are a great foundation for the overall book.

The notepad scribbles are added to all the time—following conversations with friends who were on the trips, “flashbulb” moments and reviews of the many photos charting the events of the book.

True, if I kept a diary over the years it would make things easier. But everybody has their own way of doing things—and this, unorthodox as it might sound, is mine. In truth, I have jotted down some bullet points in notepads while on some of my bigger trips in the past three years or so. These will no doubt help with getting the overall facts, figures and recollections down onto paper.

I mentioned “research” in the February diary update, and this doesn’t just involve verifying facts about tourist sites I visited. Airline tickets and hotel reservations are being retrieved and scrutinised to ensure that everything I write is as close to fact as possible.

All of this planning will eventually lead, I hope, to a cohesive book that can be split into several sections—definable by different adventures. Some sections will be much longer than others. But my overall goal is to have short accessible chapters—something I think I achieved with Lord of the Rams.

So, where exactly am I with Lord of the Rams 2?

Progess Report

Word Count: 22,923 (typed)

Chapters Complete (1st Draft): 11 (typed) + 2 (untyped)

Featured Locations (thus far):

  • Edinburgh (Scotland)
  • Oldcastle (Ireland)
  • Ljubljana and Postojna (Slovenia)
  • Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Austin, Nashville, Memphis, Chicago (United States)
  • Riga, Sigulda and Cesis (Latvia)

Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide postage and packaging)

Are you writing a book? Share some of your planning methods via the comments box below.

First Exclusive Extract (Draft) from Lord of the Rams 2

March 10th, 2010

I’m off to Vegas tomorrow for a five-day trip, so I thought this might be a good time to share a short story from my first time in Sin City back in 2005. This is a draft excerpt from Lord of the Rams 2: A Tale of Four Continents (so it may undergo significant editing before publication). Coincidentally, all of the main characters in this extract will be joining me in Vegas this weekend. Who knows, maybe a new chapter will be written. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this wee story, which I think provides a small glimpse into some of the excesses associated with Vegas. Feel free to post your comments below.

…………………Draft excerpt from Lord of the Rams 2: A Tale of Four Continents…………………

Situated on the Las Vegas Strip, The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino was the largest AAA Five-Diamond resort in America. It boasted over 4,000 suites at an average size of 700 square feet; a 120,000 square feet casino; several large nightclubs and restaurants; a Madame Tussaud’s museum; and the 1,760-seat Blue Man Theatre, which played host to the world-famous Blue Man Group. Add in one gigantic shopping mall and canals on which one could avail of gondola rides, and it’s easy to see why The Venetian stood out in a city brimming with stand-out resorts.

The hotels in Vegas were designed so that one must pass through the wallet-emptying casinos en route to one’s room. And The Venetian was no exception. After successfully navigating the gauntlet with their wallets intact, the lads reached their twin suites, which impressed mainly due to their sheer size and the abundance of couches and chairs that helped make up the decor.

One hour later they were seated in one of the resort’s many restaurants. Rams had set a personal target of eating as many steaks as possible on the trip, so he was particularly looking forward to a good fillet of beef following the so-so meal in LA the previous evening. A well-dressed gentleman showed the lads to their table before introducing them to their waiter. This certainly wasn’t one of those restaurants where the man who greets you at the door also waits the tables, slaughters the cows out the back, cooks the food and washes the dishes. After ordering a beer each, the lads skipped straight to the mains.

A ravenous Rams ordered his usual—fillet steak, French fries and a side-order of fried onions. The waiter, just like his international counterpart in Ljubljana earlier that year, didn’t seem too sure about the onions part of the order, but he eventually nodded, gathered the menus and scuttled off in the direction of the kitchen.

Within half an hour the waiter returned to the table. Courteous almost to a fault, he circled the lads, presenting Goosey, Dowd and Hartley with their meals before placing a large plate in front of the Rams.

‘Where are my chips?’ thought the Rams, and then he realised there was a bigger problem at hand. The chips arrived a moment later as a side-dish but there, nestled on the dinner plate beside a succulent eight-ounce fillet, was a huge mother fucker of a lobster.

Rams stared aghast at the arthropod, silently wondering if ‘onions’ meant something else in Vegas. Goosey, sitting across from the Rams, was quick to quiz the waiter.

‘He didn’t order the lobster. What’s the story with that?’

Rams nodded in agreement, but the waiter simply shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘It’s all included,’ before disappearing almost in a puff of smoke.

‘Ah sure lobsters must be ten a penny over here,’ remarked Hartley as the lads began tucking into their first shared meal of the holiday.

Rams, ever the pervicacious diner, shovelled the sea creature onto Dowd’s waiting plate. The shameless one was beaming and licking his lips at the prospect of eating two meals for the price of one. And the gastronome was still polishing off the lobster when Hartley called for the bill.

‘Ah for fuck sake,’ bellowed the Rams upon picking up the bill. ‘Just over 360 dollars. Are these guys for real? Sure we only had two beers each and a main course.’

Unsurprisingly, Rams’s ‘all included’ steak-lobster combo had come in at over 80 dollars.

‘And I didn’t even eat the lobster,’ complained the Rams, but the tiny claw remnants protruding at that moment from Dowd’s cave-like mouth suggested that the lads would have little grounds on which to make a complaint. Dowd had done an admirable job of devouring the evidence, but at least he wouldn’t have to eat again for a few hours.


Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide postage and packaging)

The Making of Lord of the Rams 2: Author Diary – Part 1

February 3rd, 2010

As mentioned last week on lordoftherams.com, a sequel to Lord of the Rams, provisionally titled Lord of the Rams 2: A Tale of Four Continents, is in the works. It’s a long way from completion (projected release date is 2013) but it’s definitely on the way.

Unlike its predecessor, the action in Lord of the Rams 2 will—for the most part—take place outside of Ireland in a diverse range of countries such as Russia, Mongolia, Japan, United States, China, Slovenia and Germany. Many of the old characters will be back—including Goosey, Dowd, Sean George Mara II and the irreproachable Tighe brothers—and they’ll be causing mayhem and destruction with yours truly right across the globe.

But if the book is at least three years away, why am I telling you about it now?

As the title of this month’s blog suggests, today marks the first part of what I hope will be a regular series (every two or three months) in which I will discuss the progress of the new book. I aim to provide an insight into what goes into writing a book—the research, the time commitments involved, the problems, etc.

I know a lot of people who have spoken about writing a book but never seem to get round to it. Well, these updates will follow my trials and tribulations, as I get stuck into the writing and editing process while trying to balance work and other commitments. It might be interesting; it might send you to sleep. But I’d welcome any comments along the way.

Just because I’m writing my second book, that doesn’t mean the process gets any easier. For one, there is a certain level of expectation (however low) surrounding a sequel to any work. Difficult second album syndrome can apply to authors too. For me, the biggest question in my mind at this early stage of the process is: can I write a follow-up that can at least equal, if not better, my first effort? Right now, I just don’t know. I think Lord of the Rams 2 has potential, but only time will tell if I can manage to pull it off!

Going back to the point I made about people who talk about writing a book but never find the time, I had that problem too. I started Lord of the Rams in January 2003, wrote less than a handful of pages and then didn’t touch the project again for a year—a failed new year resolution no doubt. Exactly 12 months later I returned to the writing with renewed vigour.

The most important rule to remember if you want to write a book—and any author will always tell you the same—is that you need to write something every week. Set a realistic target (in terms of word count) and stick religiously to it. I write by hand on A4 notepads, and my aim each week is to fill three notepad pages. This only amounts to about 800 words maximum (which explains why my first book took almost five years to complete). Sure, it’s a relatively small output but it adds up over the course of a year.

Even factoring in six weeks holidays per year (it’s important to take extended breaks from your writing so you can return to it with fresh eyes) and averaging 800 words per week, you will have written almost 37,000 words in your first year—a remarkable achievement and about half the length of a small novel (Lord of the Rams clocked in at over 72,000 words).

The main problem I had when writing Lord of the Rams is that I didn’t commit enough to reaching that 800 words target each week, and so it ended up taking me almost three years instead of two to complete the first draft of the book.

This time round, things have been going a lot better. I began work on Lord of the Rams 2 in mid-July 2009. Once again my biggest stumbling block was getting those first few words down on paper. However, once I got started, the old creative juices began flowing and I have reached my targets every week (after factoring holidays into the equation). The word count at the moment (which is no indication of quality but is an important physical benchmark nonetheless) is around the 19,000 mark—not bad for a little over six months’ work.

So, where exactly am I with Lord of the Rams 2?

Progess Report

Word Count: 17,020 (typed)

Chapters Complete (1st Draft): 9

Featured Locations (thus far):

  • Oldcastle (Ireland)
  • Ljubljana and Postojna (Slovenia)
  • Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Austin, Nashville, Memphis, Chicago (United States)
  • Riga, Sigulda and Cesis (Latvia)

One of the ways in which Lord of the Rams 2 will differ from its predecessor is that it will include references to some of the hotels, restaurants and tourist sites I’ve visited over the years. Don’t expect guidebook-type reviews (far from it) but I’m hoping that the descriptions of the locations will help bring the story to life and will allow readers to relate more to the book if, for example, they too have visited a location mentioned in the book.  This time round I have to do a lot more research in order to accurately portray the events in the book (last night, for example, I spent time trying to find out the name of the oldest restaurant in Ljubljana. It’s called Gostilna Sestica in case you were wondering). On the plus side, I have hundreds of photographs from my trips (which are the cornerstone of this new book) to help fill in the gaps, and that’s a luxury I didn’t have with the first book.

I’ll post another diary update in April or May. But first there’s the little matter of a trip to Vegas in March. All in the name of research, I’m sure you’ll understand.

Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide postage and packaging)

A Comedy Classic

January 12th, 2010

“All women are bastards.” Jimmy Collins—competent middle manager by day, suburban rockstar by night—has just been dumped. And he’s not taking it very well. Even a visit to his stylist can’t cheer him up. He decides to take control of the situation, convincing his friends to help him find the perfect girl—beautiful (but loyal), smart (but not too smart), confident (without being feminist), an expert bunmaker, who’s indifferent about shopping, enthusiastic about Star Trek and scornful of self-help books: the mythical babe who’s got it all—Superchick.

Happy New Year to all. In this month’s blog, I’m taking a look back at a classic book that began life as a self-published work—Superchick by Irish author Stephen J. Martin.

I first heard about Superchick while attending a self-publishing workshop in Dublin in early 2006. Given the subject matter of Lord of the Rams, the workshop host felt I would be interested in reading Stephen J. Martin’s debut novel. She wasn’t wrong.

As per the above product blurb, Superchick tells the story of Jimmy Collins and his search for the perfect woman. Originally self-published by Martin in 2002 while he was living in Australia, Superchick went on to sell thousands of copies via word-of-mouth reviews and recommendations. Martin draws on his experiences working in IT and singing in a Tokyo-based band to deliver a book that is packed with memorable characters, witty dialogue and laughs aplenty.

Those of you familiar with Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy will likely draw favourable comparisons with Martin’s work (coincidentally, Doyle originally self-published The Committments). In fact the Superchick book eventually found its way to a mainstream publisher (Mercier Press) and developed into a trilogy, with Rock and a Hard Place (2006) and Ride On (2007) bringing the saga to an end.

Although the follow-ups don’t match the magic of the original (but they certainly have their moments), here’s hoping Martin is working on something new within the humorous fiction genre. I’ve read a lot of so-called funny books over the years, and Superchick was perhaps the only one that lived up to—and exceeded—the publicity hype.

You can now purchase the first two books in the trilogy from http://www.mercierpress.ie for the ridiculously cheap price of just €3. So you know what you need to do!

Favourite Reads of 2009

December 9th, 2009

As Christmas and year-end—indeed the end of the decade—fast approaches, I’ve decided to pick my three favourite books of 2009 and look ahead to what’s on my reading list for 2010.

Note: Any book I read during the year, regardless of the date of publication, can (and does) feature on the list.

So, in reverse chronological order:

3. No Time for Work by George Ryan
No Time for Work recounts the misadventures of George and his best friend Cecil Chuckleworth—two alcoholic teachers who are almost allergic to an honest day’s work and will try just about anything in order to prevent themselves from inadvertently doing what is expected from them by their superiors. Headmasters and school inspectors suffer horribly at the hands of the sharp-tongued Ryan and Chuckleworth, as do stuck-up members of the local golf club and numerous other characters who encounter the devious pair.

The fact that this self-published book has sold so many copies over the years (see my full review at http://lordoftherams.com/blog/?p=45) says a lot about its undeniable charm. Although one could argue that No Time For Work lacks a discernible plot and is constructed in an “unconventional” manner (similarities with my own book have not gone unnoticed by yours truly), I enjoyed this title from start to finish. Perhaps not suited to “serious readers” but I think anyone looking for a light-hearted laugh, will enjoy George Ryan’s novel.

2. Hitman by Bret Hart
Hitman charts the life of one of wrestling’s biggest stars, Bret Hart. During a career that spanned almost a quarter of a century, he became one of Canada’s most famous sons, toured the world, and endured tragic events that unfolded in front of the world’s media.

Quite simply, this is the most riveting autobiography I have ever read. I must admit that the wrestling autobiography sub-genre is amongst my favourites (what goes on behind the scenes in professional wrestling is infinitely more entertaining than the show that airs on TV) , but I do occasionally read other autobiographies and travel memoirs, more recently books by Bill Bryson, Steve Martin and Slash (Guns N’ Roses). None of those books, nor the ones that have gone before, came close to painting such a vivid, heart-warming, tragic and entertaining true-life tale as Bret Hart’s Hitman (see my full review at http://lordoftherams.com/blog/?p=17).

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, The Shadow of the Wind concerns a young boy, Daniel whose father takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge library of rare, forgotten titles. After bringing home a book called The Shadow of the Wind, Daniel becomes caught up in an intriguing adventure when he sets out to find out more information about the book’s author Julián Carax.

This is the only book on this list that I haven’t already reviewed on my blog. Words can’t really do justice to what a remarkably enchanting and engrossing tale this is. Described by Entertainment Weekly as “a love letter to literature”, The Shadow of the Wind is that and so much more.

Not just my favourite book of 2009 but the new benchmark that other titles will be measured against.

By coincidence, my favourite reads of 2008 (A Quiet Belief in Angels by RJ Ellory) and 2009 (The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón) were both featured in the Richard and Judy Book Club—in 2008 and 2005 respectively. I’m not sure what that says about the quality of the books featured in the club over the years, but I for one am glad I have another couple of selected Richard and Judy titles sitting on my ‘to-read’ pile for 2010—namely No Time for Goodbye (Linwood Barclay) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini).

Honourable Mentions for 2009:

  • The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
    I’m currently reading the Booker Prize shortlisted and Costa Award winning The Secret Scripture by Irish author Sebastian Barry. The book (of which I have read over two-thirds thus far) is a beautifully written tale (albeit with heavy prose that may turn off the casual reader) charting the life of Roseanne McNulty, a 100-year old inmate at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital. Told via ‘diary’ entries by both Roseanne and her Psychiatrist, Dr Grene, The Secret Scripture is a gripping read that that keeps the reader guessing as to what led up to Roseanne’s 50-year incarceration.
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
    Another Booker Prize shortlisted title, The Reluctant Fundamentalist take place during the course of a single evening in an outdoor Lahore cafe, where a bearded Pakistani man called Changez tells a nervous American stranger about his love affair with, and eventual abandonment of, America. Short (you will finish it in one or two sittings), riveting and beautifully told, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a really enjoyable read although I did feel a little short-changed by the ending (conversely, I think many others found the ending satisfying). Highly recommended.

If you’ve read any of the books above, feel free to share your views. My reading list for 2010 is already full with diverse and promising titles ranging from Spike Milligan’s Pukoon and William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Hulk Hogan’s new autobiography, My Life Outside the Ring.

Happy Christmas to all.

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