Saturday, December 31, 2011


Are you ready for Hogmanay? I understand you need a torch, some coal and a bottle of whisky (no 'e'!). I think Miss Wendy and I may just have a nice dinner out. We had a lovely trip through Connemara yesterday. Here are some lovely photos to show it. Cool and misty, but the landscape was so gorgeous.


See the whole Ireland album here. Happy New Year! By the by, if you feel so inclined to vote for my story It's a Curse as one of the best horror shorts of 2011, please do! And guess what's on Kindle now (thanks to Brad!)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dublin & Miss Wendy

I tried to post from the phone and kept getting errors. I am getting the photos up online so you can see the fun we had :-)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day v St Stephen's Day

I'm packed and ready for the next journey -- meeting Miss Wendy in Dublin which ought to be a lot of fun, but makes it no less difficult to leave Dundee. A bus to Edinburgh Airport then a flight to Dublin and one more bus into the city centre. Hopefully Miss Wendy is having a chance to sleep off her jet lag as she should be there already. I leave the UK where it's Boxing Day and arrive in Ireland where it's St Stephen's Day. Will I feel the difference?

I'm over at the New England Horror Writers blog today with a little information on Dundee's Howff: drop by and enjoy!

A Writer Discovers the Famous Dundee Cemetery

by Kate Laity

The Dundee Dragon (picture by Kate Laity)

I have a lot of New England friends who enjoy exploring the graveyards of the northeast and probing the histories behind them, so it’s a treat to be able to visit an even older cemetery here in Dundee where I am spending Christmas. Of course the big holiday in Scotland is Hogmanay, but I have to be back in Ireland this year, so I’m going to miss it. Dundee also has a famous dragon as well, though it’s best known for the three Js: jute, jam and journalism. The jute mills once employed much of the population, until jute production was outsourced to India in the 1920s. Orange marmalade continues to be a staple of British tables. And Dundee remains the home of DC Thomson, creator of The Beano, The Dandy and The Sunday Post... [read the rest]

Did you get a Kindle or some other reading device for your holidays? Need something to read on it? I have some suggestions :-)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: Riddley Walker

Russell Hoban was a singular writer; when asked what kind of a writing I do, I have generally offered up Hoban as the "genre" in which I write. Sadly, his name didn't always resonate with people -- and that includes NY Times obit writers; though most memorials mentioned Riddley Walker, too many seemed to be speaking of his masterpiece second hand. While many of Hoban's works deserve the accolade of 'masterpiece' this is the one that resonated most deeply for me. I read Riddley first in high school around the time I also read A Clockwork Orange: these books cemented my love of languages in a fictional context, though when I re-read Riddley as an adult, it was as if I had never read it before. Becoming a medievalist brought a further level of amazement, and visiting Canterbury Cathedral to see the St. Eustace painting was the ultimate pilgrimage for me.

Along with the art of "being friends with your head" Hoban's books taught me to trust in my muse and just write the stories I had to tell and trust that somewhere out there might be readers who would find resonance with them (and that they wouldn't do so if I didn't write them). Fans of Hoban might not be as numerous as those of more popular writers, but my experiences with the Kraken show me they are extraordinary and devoted.

My obsessions with storytelling and ritual feature here. The essay originally appeared in Puppetry International back in 2006, one of the first academic essays of mine to appear in a  non-academic publication that I nonetheless listed on my CV. At the time it seemed a bit radical (is it peer reviewed?!) however since then  I have continued my slide into publishing with abandon wherever my words might be of interest. No regrets there. I suppose I could blame tenure, but I only got that last year, so I suppose it's just my lax attitude. (>_<) I recommend picking up the issue of PI  if you have any interest in puppetry: fascinating publication. I think there's more I have to write about puppets, even more about Punch, but things leak out of my brain at their own pace.

Here's the opening: I've put the rest up on Scribd (restoring my original title which I prefer). Be sure to see Todd's round-up of this week's Forgotten Books (Pattii's taking a break for the holidays).

Future Medieval Space: Performing “Punch” in Riddley Walker

Although he sets his novel Riddley Walker (published in 1980) in a post-apocalyptic future, Russell Hoban makes use of the medieval world to mark this future as a site of the “primitive.” For this stunted society, the most apparent aspect of the Middle Ages is the explicitly medieval legend and wall painting of St. Eustace, which still exists faintly on the wall of Canterbury Cathedral. Perhaps more important is his appropriation of the medieval mystery plays, which illuminate bibilical narratives and are traditionally performed on mobile wagons. As performed in Riddley Walker, the “Eusa Show” (a garbled version of the St. Eustace story) takes on many of the mystery plays’ aspects, transmitting the truths of the culture and entertaining people with education. This modified Punch and Judy show conveys the only narrative that remains after the apocalyptic devastation of English society. The ritual of the puppet show picks up the religious meaning of the mystery plays, but it also takes on a social and governmental function that medieval dramas typically lacked. Just as various dissenters from Lollards to Pelagians threatened the orthodoxy of Christianity in the middle ages, the young protagonist’s discovery of a real Punch puppet sets off a chain of events that destroys the carefully scripted Eusa show. Hoban’s use of Punch history gives this superb novel its authority, while the familiar art of puppetry provides a vivid connection to this bizarre future world for the modern reader...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

BitchBuzz: Making Small Talk

The light begins its return today: a relief. It was beginning to seem like the sun had gone down before I'd properly gotten up. Then again, that could be due to my lazy schedule. I am getting some good relaxing in :-) and a bit of writing, too, as well as watching Allan battle angry penguins in cars (o_O).

It's Short Story Day, I hear. May I suggest my collection Unikirja? Or if you like something more gruesome how about It's a Curse: Drunk on the Moon 7. Guaranteed quality!

My column today may seem a tad ironic: who's less qualified than me to talk about conversational skills? Ah, but those who can't do, teach or so I'm told. Better than I used to be.

Dos and Don'ts for Holiday Small Talk

By K.A. Laity

Holidays bring the often trying task of making small talk with people you do not really know, whether they are co-workers in distant cubicles, business acquaintances you've never really had a chance to develop a rapport with or relatives you can't actually recall having met before, or at least not since the age of three. While Oscar Wilde maintained that, "Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative," I say any port in a storm when faced with days of chit chat with unfamiliar people.

As a person accustomed to spending the better part of her time alone, I find it taxing to make conversation. Like most introverts, I am stressed by time spent in groups.

While I have been able to develop extrovert abilities for my professional life, the fact remains that I am not a good conversationalist except with a few intimate friends (or online -- the internet is a great gift to introverts). But it can be possible to make small talk without falling into Eliza Doolittle perils...

Read the useful tips over at BBHQ. I guess penguins are the theme of the day :-) Yes, I was pleased to work in that scene from My Fair Lady as well as The Testing of Eric Olthwaite. Black pudding at the ready!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Glorious Yule

Hello from the swirling mists of the haar. Tonight is the longest night; by the early hours of the morning the light will begin its return. May the return of the light bring you new hope and inspiration. Spring will come again. These long nights provide a great focus for contemplative work and transformation, a crysalis of dark shadows. What will burst forth from yours come the sun?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked A/V: Spacedog

Before the main feature, a little advert: through the 24th, Trestle Press will be offering a buy one, get one special, which means you can buy It's a Curse: Drunk on the Moon 7 or Dark Pages: International Noir and get another book the same price for FREE!

I'm cheating a bit on the "overlooked" aspect of today's choice as it's a new release. Let us say, it is in danger of being overlooked in a market crowded with Xmas product and far too many soporific X-Factor Idols of Disney uniformity annd blandness. Truly remarkable and independent voices have a hard time being heard at all, let alone getting a decent chance at finding an audience in the overcrowded cacophony that is the net.

And there was a beautiful view 
But nobody could see. 
Cause everybody on the island 
Was saying: Look at me! Look at me! 
        ~ Laurie Anderson, Language Is A Virus

I know I've written about Spacedog and Sarah Angliss before; I was so pleased to have a chance to see them perform last June (and yes, I got to play the theremin after the show :-). I'm even more pleased to say that they've released a CD Juice for the Baby.Of course I immediately downloaded it as soon as I heard about it (can't remember if that was on Facebook or Twitter) from Bandcamp.I'm happy to report it's just as wonderful as the live performance. There's the ethereal music, theremin, vintage sound clips, and beautiful vocals and recitations all woven together in a seamless waking dream of surreal affect. You can't see the robots, but you know they're there.

The songs range from the eerie "Electric Lullabye" and the somehow comfortable "My Death" to the heartbreaking  "For Laika" as well as the captivating (and favourite at the moment, because it's owls) "Owl Club" featuring guest Professor Elemental.And how can I resist a song channeling Tommy Cooper? I can't, of course. Besides, 25% of the procceeds from that song's downloads will go to the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund, jus' like that!

This collection is magical: it manages to feel both like a seance with a lost past and an ultra-modern dream. Angliss and her co-horts (which include sister Jenny on vocals and percussionist/composer Stephen Hiscock as well as the guests) bring a sense of wonder to the mechanical and electronic, a glitter of the uncanny which makes the coldness of technology seem warmly alive. Highly recommended! 

Be sure to catch all the Overlooked A/V recommendations at Todd's blog.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rocking with The Cundeez

Awesome to finally see The Cundeez in Dundee and talk to Gary and Stevie in person. I even got a shout out from the stage. Alas, we were too late to have a chance to sing back up (we just missed the bus!). Doubtless there will be other opportunities in the future. Headliners TV Smith and the Valentines did a great set of Adverts tunes. And I got a signed copy of the new CD. Wonderful night out!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Forgotten Books

Normally, I'd try to have an offering for Patti Abbott's blog but as I am writing this from the comfort of Dundee where I am relaxing, I will just reiterate my birthday wish to request your help in keeping my books from being forgotten by liking, rating and reviewing them on Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari and so forth. I would be most grateful!

Do it in the name of today's birthday kids, Jane Austen and Philip K. Dick, both of whom have been an influence on me.

This is the first blog post I've written on my phone. Let's see how it goes! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Scotland Bound

Doubtless my column will post some time today at BitchBuzz. I am dashing off shortly, though: planes, trains and automobiles on my way to Dundee. Doubtless tweeting and FBing along the way. Wish me luck. Oh hey, a short story up at A Twist of Noir, too! Sorry -- in haste!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Goodbye, Russ

Sad news today that Russell Hoban has died. The author of Riddley Walker and so many other wonderful books has left this world without me ever having the chance to say how much I loved his books and how much I learned from them and from him. He taught me to trust being "friends with your head" and believing an audience would find you. If you are unlucky enough to be unfamiliar with him, drop by the Head of Orpheus and find out more. My thoughts go out to his family and to my fellow Krakenites.

I am that astonishment from which you write in those brief moments when you can write.
      —The Head of Orpheus in Russell Hoban's The Medusa Frequency

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: The Long Kiss Goodnight

I got into a discussion on Twitter with Anne Billson about Finnish music and films, and we both lamented the lack of love in Hollywood for Renny Harlin when people like Ridley Scott continue to be trumpeted. I suppose I have a weakness for a Finnish director who always manages a little nod to his homeland in the midst of a blockbuster, whether it's a pirate ship flying the blue and white flag in Cutthroat Island or the Finlandia vodka prominently served in Deep Blue Sea. I find it hard to believe that I have not written about this film here before, but I searched the blog and turned up nothing, so let's assume it's true (yes, I did mention it in a column on holiday films for BitchBuzz).

I love this movie.

A lot of this is down to Geena Davis' winning performance as the amnesiac suburban mom who discovers she's really a lethal weapon. Davis has done a lot of work behind the scenes since then with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and while promoting the film she spoke about how her then-husband Harlin would balance the punishment she took on screen with therapeutic massage at night. She takes a beating in this film, but she's also warm and funny as well.

Samuel L. Jackson is great fun of course: Shane Black's script (written before repeating Lethal Weapon films sucked a lot of life out of him) sets him up as fairly hapless and yet always hopeful, though he can't get song lyrics right (heh!). Brian Cox is terrific (of course) in a small role and utters one of the funniest lines in the film (although the humour is due as much to his dry delivery as to the line). Craig Bierko makes for a fetching psychopath. David Morse and Patrick Malahide offer terrific performances as well in supporting roles. But this is Davis' star turn and she makes the most of it.

Chefs do that.

See the round-up of overlooked films, television and other audio-visuals over at Todd's blog. And if you haven't seen this film? Do. Look, it's really cheap. And it totally kicks ass.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Obsession: Guest Post at Trestle

I'm up on my publisher's blog today with a piece on obsession. Yeah, you wouldn't imagine it, eh? Me? Obsessed? Nah. Here's the first part of it. Read the rest over at Trestle and feel free to share.

K.A. Laity- "Obsession"- Guest Post, author of "Drunk on The Moon-It's A Curse"


I seem to have two speeds: obsessed and don't care. The greater part of the world falls into "don't care": politics, fashion, television, sports -- I just don't care. For that matter, add cooking and cleaning and talking to people who don't amuse me. Obsessions: writing, Peter Cook, The Fall, writing, myth, magic, folklore, writing, travel, theatre, film, writing and classic British comedy. And writing. I completely understand P. G. Wodehouse's comment, "I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write."

My ex once accused me of having hypergraphia. It's a clinical disease where people obsessively write anywhere, anytime, on anything they've got in front of them. Most people who suffer from the little-studied disease write nonsense: it's the action of writing that comforts their manic sprees, not content. I have a head bursting with stories that want to be written and I spend a lot of time in front of my black Mac going tappity-tappity. I also go out to the pub with friends and go see plays and walk along Galway Bay and think nothing at all but what a wonderful world this is. But writing is what I do. Writing is how I see the world. When something terrible happens to me, I struggle through it by finding the right words to describe it in my head.

Read the rest over at Trestle Press and if you haven't checked out It's a Curse, well criminy! It's only 99¢ -- it's not going to break the bank! Hee hee, and this is the beginning of my birthday week, so don't forget about my birthday wish. I appreciate your help.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: Young Men in Spats

"I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write." 
-- P. G. Wodehouse

There's some kind of fundamental perversity in my nature that made me choose at the library this week a 5 CD unabridged set of Beckett's Malone Dies as well as P. G. Wodehouse's Young Men in Spats, but I'll leave you to sort out what that means.

Wodehouse's prose delights. A simple yet profound pleasure, one that most Americans in particular seem immune to -- a phenomenon I cannot comprehend. I suppose I can grasp there are those who dislike spending time with the (mostly) rich young things idling their time in (mostly) frivolous ways, as does Wodehouse's most well-known creation Bertie Wooster. More folks became enamored of them when Bertie and the inimitably shimmering Jeeves were brought to vivid life by Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry (who seemed born to take the roles). But it's also true that Wodehouse has never received the acclaim more dour writers regularly do, because he makes everything seem so effortless. The key word there is seem: as Oscar Wilde could tell you, there's nothing that takes more effort than creating prose that feels effortless.

Wodehouse is a genius. While his topics may be nothing earth-shattering, his prose captures a crystalline brightness that seems impossible to replicate. It's so deft. So I will just share some of the delights from this volume detailing the exploits of some of the young men of "a little group of Eggs and Beans and Crumpets" who often regard women as a separate species:

"It saddened him, he tells me, when he opened his illustrated tabloid of a morning, to have to try to eat eggs and bacon while gazing at a photograph of Mae Belle McGinnis, taken when she was not looking her best because Mr. McGinnis had just settled some domestic dispute with the meat-axe."

"The foundation of the beverage manufactured by Mr. Silvers seemed to be neat vitriol, but, once you had got used to the top of your head going up and down like the lid of a kettle with boiling water in it, the effects were far from unpleasant."

"And on the morning of which I speak they had strolled into into the Thorpe and Widgery emporium to lay in a few little odds and ends, and there, putting in a bid for five pounds of streaky bacon, was a girl so lovely that they congealed in their tracks."

"The first intimation Barmy had that the binge was going to be run on lines other than those which he had anticipated was when a very stout Mother in a pink bonnet and a dress covered with bugles suddenly picked off a passing cyclist with a well-directed tomato, causing him to skid into a ditch, Upon which, all sixteen mothers laughed like fiends in hell, and it was plain that they considered the proceedings had now been formally opened."

"Already the barmaid's ears had begun to work loose at the roots as she pricked them up."

"Well, Freddie, as you know, has never been the dreamy meditative type. I would describe him as essentially the man of action. And he acted now as never before. He tells me he doubts if a chamois of the Alps, unless at the end of a most intensive spell of training, could have got down the stairs quicker than he did."

"He had studied Woman, and he knew that when Woman gets into a tight place her first act is to shovel the blame off on to the nearest male."

See the rest of the overlooked books at Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

BitchBuzz: Penguin's Vanity Press

Great night out with colleagues at the tapas restaurant and then the French bistro. It's supposed to get very cold tomorrow, so an excuse to hide inside. At least we're not getting the much worse storms that are hitting Scotland -- take care up there!

Today's column takes up the latest cynical move to fleece would-be writers:

Vanity-Publishing vs Self-Publishing

By K.A. Laity

The digital revolution continues unabated, or perhaps it's just the grumble heard round the world as writers feel their words devalued again.

Penguin started up their very own "self-publishing" business. The "self" is optional, of course. As the coverage in The Wall Street Journal describes it:
In a sign that major book publishers are now recognizing the potential of the digital self-publishing industry, Penguin Group (USA) on Wednesday is launching a service to help writers publish their own books. For a fee of between $99 and $549, plus a cut of any sales revenue, Penguin's subsidiary Book Country will offer an array of tools—ranging from professional e-book conversion to a cover creator—to help a writer make their work available through digital book outlets and print-on-demand services.
So, it's the kind of "self-publishing" that you actually pay for, between $99 and $549. This is the kind of thing that's generally known as vanity publishing, not self-publishing. It's fine—there are all kinds of reasons to pay for publishing like wanting to see your work in print even if no publisher wants to print it. It might be too edgy and revolutionary for them, or it just might be crap, but you're an adult. You can make choices...

Read the rest over at BBHQ.

I have a couple of acceptances, but they're a ways off: one is reprint news for "Fear and Loathing in Deptford" which hasn't really got enough of an outing, I think. One of my favourites anyway, but that usually means it's something that only makes me laugh. There have been a couple of reviews for It's a Curse but as one was written by someone close to me, it may not be entirely dispassionate. :-)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Converting Galway

Thanks to Michael, there's a photo of me giving my talk at the Moore Institute yesterday. There was quite a good turnout! I suspect it was the sandwiches. The audience seemed to be receptive and laughed in the right places, always a good sign.I will put the talk on line when I get a moment. I went out to the pub with Leslie and Michael after the talk and then ended up tagging along to dinner with some of Michael's colleagues later. They're sad as their time in Galway is nearly over. I'll miss them.

They're asking me to teach a creative writing course in the spring, so now I will begin brainstorming about what tack to take for that. I suspect I will use it as an excuse to get some of my colleagues to Skype with my class :-)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Krampus and Digital Monks

Did the Krampus visit you last night or did Saint Nicholas fill your shoes with gifts? Happy Independence Day, Finland (let's have a little Värttinä for that).

My talk is today at the Moore Institute. It's an update of my keynote address from April; I wanted to hit a lot of the same issues, but I've also cut it a bit as well. Mostly the jokes: different audience. Not all of the jokes, of course. But I figure some of the offhand popular culture references won't travel well.

Writers: have you taken my survey about writing in the digital age yet?

No idea what kind of audience there'll be. Some friends have promised to show and there will be sandwiches. We'll see. And no, I didn't go through with my plan to graft a Guy Fawkes mask onto the Moore Institute logo for one slide. Coward.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Publication: It's a Curse

 Whoohoo and hoooowwwwwwl! It has arrived. My contribution to Mr B's fine Trestle Press series Drunk on the Moon: IT'S A CURSE. Yes, of course of course, it takes its title from a song by The Fall and yes, there may be a few references to other Mark E. Smith lyrics in there.

You're shocked, I can tell.

Here's the synopsis:  

Roman Dalton’s woken up in the wrong place again, but he can’t blame it on the moon this time. Finding himself in a tug-of-war between two lovely women might sound like he’s landed in clover, but one wants to ‘save’ him and the other—well, he’s got a feeling she’s a whole lot of trouble wrapped up in a designer gown. As far as our favourite werewolf PI’s concerned, IT’S A CURSE.

On Friday I had a chance to chat about it on the G-Zone with fellow Trestle Press writer Edith Maxwell. Mr B called in too and well -- to be honest, the two of us kind of hijacked the rest of the show, hee hee. You can listen to the whole thing from the archive. Great fun.

I've already made a trailer for it. Tell me what you think. And help spread the word! The page could use tagging, liking and of course, reviews! It's at B&N, too.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Kipper Lost! and Found!

UPDATE: He's been found! Now being spoiled with some tuna -- a neighbour let him in and then he was retrieved. Whew!!

Poor little guy! He got out of Barb's house. We're hoping he hasn't gone too far and can be lured back in. She saw him on the porch, but he ran off. She's putting out the have-a-heart trap and hoping for the best. Fingers crossed. I feel so helpless, so far away.

UPDATE (Sun night): Barb says that some of her neighbours have seen Kipper around so he hasn't left the area -- a very good sign. The hunt continues. Keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, December 02, 2011

My Birthday Month Wish

I mentioned this yesterday, but I'll provide helpful links today. I'm claiming the whole of December for my birthday. Why not? I already have to share my birthday month with both Markos, Jane Austen, Hannukah and Xmas, so there's barely any month left for me!

But I'm not demanding to be showered with gifts!

All I want for my birthday is for you to like me -- well, not me really: my books.

The most difficult thing for a writer is not to get published (especially now with ebook publishing) but to get noticed once you are published. People are eager to find new writers they might enjoy, but they are reluctant to try things blind. How do they know my books are great if someone else hasn't read them first and said, yes, these are good? Reviews help with that.

So if you're feeling kindly toward me, head over to my Amazon Author Page and like, rate, tag or review my books. I'd be especially grateful for any attention to Kit Marlowe over at All Romance eBooks (only The Big Splash is on Amazon, though The Mangrove Legacy is supposed to be there soon...), but any help would be appreciated.

I've also got profiles on GoodReads, LibraryThing and Shelfari if you spend some of your time there. Sadly, not all my books are even listed under my name! If you see one missing and feel like adding it, I would be ever so grateful. I've got a new profile on CrimeSpace, too; if you're over there at all, friend me. If you actually do book reviews on your blog or website, let me know: I'll be happy to give you review copies of books you're interested in reading. I have confidence that my words are worth reading. I just need to find ways to let more people know that!

Thank you for your help. I appreciate it greatly! With luck I will have news about It's a Curse later today -- whoohoo! Now I shall get back to dancing.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

News, a Wish and BitchBuzz

Criminy: it's December! How the time has flown by this semester, even though I haven't been in class. My sympathies to my colleagues knee-deep in exams and grading. I know how it feels -- and couldn't be happier that I am not.

Sorry! But it's true.


It's a Curse: Drunk on the Moon, Book 7 by moi should be about tomorrow from Trestle Press. Thanks again to Mr B for inviting me to have fun playing with his werewolf PI, Roman Dalton. I hope I did him justice -- it sure was fun :-) I will have a book trailer up soon: just waiting on the cover art.

I'll be on the G-ZONE blog radio show, AKA Gelati's Scoop tomorrow night to talk about It's a Curse. You can listen live and call in, or listen to it later online. I'll be on about 4.30 pm Eastern time, which is about 9.30 pm here.

I'm interviewed in the latest Broadly Speaking from Broad Universe which is about mentors and teachers in literature, so I talk about Owl Stretching and Pelzmantel a bit and my own teaching experiences a little bit.

Next Tuesday is my talk at the Moore Institute at NUIG. I keep thinking about trying to add a Guy Fawkes mask to their logo just for a lark, but I lack the requisite skills.

My column for BitchBuzz this week is on gifts that won't steal your soul. Give something genuine if you're gift-giving this holiday season.


It's my birthday month, so I want to ask you for a gift. Nothing expensive -- all it costs is a little of your time. I don't need stuff: I spent some harried weeks this summer trying to get rid of a lot of my stuff. What I would really like is some attention: not for me, for my books. My wish is for any who have the time to "like" my books on Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing etc. and offer them reviews. They need not be elaborate; they need not be glowing. But books without reviews seem chancier to potential readers. No one wants to be the first to do something; they want to see that others have trod the path before them and it's safe. So if you have a few spare moments, can you help out a fellow American who's (okay, not really) down on her luck?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Know-vember: Your Humble Narrator

I want to thank all the wonderful friends who took part in Know-vember. It was a delight to share. I think I may well make this an annual event. Yes, as promised, I will now turn the tables on myself. Don't you already know too much about me? You must be part of the Cult of Kaity or you wouldn't be coming by here, surely, so you must have heard me blather on and on for the--what?!--six years I have been blogging here. From Texas to New York to Galway. Where will I be next? What will I be doing? If I knew, would I tell you? Probably, but first I'd have to know. Wow, didn't the fabulous Queen of Everything make me look good here? This is one of the pictures that hung in her first gallery show. I am art!

1. What's the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

I pick up my phone to see if I have any messages from my sweetie and then I check Twitter (and then Facebook and email and...) and then I finally get out of bed and make some tea (black with one sweetner. If there is no sweetener, I do not add sugar because I do not like sugar: never milk!). 

2. What's a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

I will dance to nearly anything with a beat and a few things that have none. Anything from Vic Reeves' fantastic version of "Dizzy" to Fred Astaire's version of "Cheek to Cheek" -- particular faves include Tori's "Raspberry Swirl" and Dee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart." 

3. Where in the world do you live?

I live in lovely Galway and every day I stop to think how lucky I am to be here. Life is good and there are magpies outside my window on Eyre Square. I walk down by the bay and am filled with wonder to be in this wonderful world.

4. What's a great night out for you?

I am happiest with a good meal, some tasty drinks, maybe a little dancing or a concert with great music: essential -- good friends with lots of laughs (friends who make me laugh are the best gift of all). That said, an evening down the pub with my friends is aces.

5. What's a great night in?

A good movie and a cuddle in front of the fire with my sweetie. A real fire would be best, but at present I have a fake coal fire and he has no fireplace at all, so we have to make our own sparks. 

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world,where would you go?

Around the world I would go, for sure for sure. I have always wanted to go to Egypt and India, but as long as I were going there I'd want to go to New Zealand too and then why not Japan and China and then Russia and back through Scandinavia and to Finland again and Iceland too -- on and on. Macchu Picchu! Rio! Everywhere.

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

I would say Alice in Wonderland which people tend to know from movies rather than the real book and it is one of those lynchpins of my life, but I'd also want to get people to read Beowulf (in the original!) so I could just recite lines from it at random and be understood (well, I already recite lines at random, but people tend to stare at me). I should be smart and say one of my books...

8. What movie makes you cry?

Lots of movies make me cry! I'm a sap. Guaranteed tear-jerkers include Auntie Mame, Now Voyager, The Women, Dark Victory, An Affair to Remember, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility -- oh, the list goes on and on!

9. What makes you laugh?

Peter Cook, Peter Cook, Peter Cook! HAHAHA -- unexpected that, right? And Tony Hancock, the Goons, Pythons, Goodies, AbFab, Black Books, The Mighty Boosh, Blackadder, and all my witty friends.

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

I am the fairy at the bottom of the garden but I moved inside because my toes were cold.

Thank you all for a fantastic month of sharing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Know-vember: Bertie

It's the man who needs no introduction, but did insist on his own special font. Here is he at Eton; nothing but the best for Bertie.

1. What's the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

say oy

2. What's a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

Anything by the sensational Irish duo Jedward! [Ed: groan!]

3. Where in the world do you live?

just a bit north of manhattan....a bit. quite a bit.

4. What's a great night out for you?

drinks with the guys at Harry's Bar in Paris, sank roo doe noo. (celebrating 100 years, this Thanksgiving!)

5. What's a great night in?

chewing on marrow bones with Connor, maybe with a little 1990 Chateau Margaux

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

a Thomas Cook agent, to purchase all the tickets and accommodations to all the places i want to go to. i think st. helena would be the first stop.

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

why, Pelzmantel of course!

8. What movie makes you cry?

Dr. Zhivago

9. What makes you laugh?

tragedy + time

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

no. Connor took care of them.

Merci, mon frère!

Know-vember: Frances McCormack

Okay, what're the odds? Oh sure, it is entirely likely that I would get on with the first medievalist I met at NUI Galway. After all, we medievalists have to stick together like all endangered species. But we keep finding amazing things in common like our birthdays (!) and P. G. Wodehouse and the Marx Bros and Tony Hancock. Destiny took a hand in things, I think, when it sent me to Galway. She even invited me to talk to her Old English course so I wouldn't forget entirely what the inside of a classroom looked like. Here's the lovely Frances, award winning lecturer.

1. What's the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

Let the cats in for a cuddle and go back to sleep, even if only for two minutes. I'm not a fan of sleeping late, but I do like to wake up slowly.

2. What's a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

I'm a trained dancer, but the best songs are those that make me dance like I don't know how! "Come on Eileen," by Dexy's Midnight Runners, has made me jump up and down on ever since I was a bairn in 1982. I remember the first time I heard it: I jumped around the breakfast table with such enthusiasm and abandon that my mum cried with laughter. "Late in the Evening" by Paul Simon makes me do what my husband calls "Muppet Dancing", and it works best when I'm in the passenger seat of the car (although God knows what the people looking in their rear-view mirrors at me are thinking)!

3. Where in the world do you live?

In books. I much prefer stories to real life!

4. What's a great night out for you?

I don't tend to go out. I much prefer 'in'.

5. What's a great night in?

Learning languages, or doing something craftsy. I like to be busy!

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world,where would you go?

Japan, Japan, Japan...or New York! But unfortunately, as I don't really like 'out', traveling is not the easiest thing for me to do!

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

The one with the boy with the orange pyjamas...but I can't remember what book it was. I vaguely remember reading it in bed--there was a boy who may have been an orphan; someone (it may have been a man) took him in, and a woman (whose name may have begun with a J) brought him pyjamas in which to sleep. The pyjamas either had oranges on them or orange buttons, and the boy had an aversion to the colour orange, so he slept in his clothes and then crinkled the pyjamas the next morning to make it look like they'd been slept in. I can't remember whether I actually read this book or DREAMT that I had read this book so if it sounds familiar to you, let me know what on earth it is!

8. What movie makes you cry?

I don't cry at movies...but Graham Greene's books always have me in tears!

9. What makes you laugh?

At the moment, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But everything in general...I'm a giggler! [Ed: I can attest to this.] Ooh yes, and games where you substitute the word 'goose' for either a noun or a verb in a film title. That one makes me chuckle too!

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

Yes! There's actually a special fairy garden in my garden, where the dead trees are and the primrose grows. I don't like to visit it very often, because it's also where the septic tank lives, but the fairies don't seem to mind.

Thank you, Frances, a delight!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Know-vember: The Other Marko

Jeez, now we're doubling up on entries! Where were you folks at the beginning of the month? I know, I know, everyone's a last minute Charlie. I couldn't get Marko to do the question thing, but his evil twin Bizarro Marko AKA Pony Boy has given me his responses. He's one of the handful of people I still know from when I lived in Los Angeles -- or know again (thanks, social media). Let the madness begin!

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful!

1. What's the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

Beautiful coffee...

2. What's a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

"Disintegration" by the Cure

3. Where in the world do you live?

Knoxville, TN in my own little world.

4. What's a great night out for you?

Good meal with friends, wine, dancing of all sorts - ballroom to freestyle.

5. What's a great night in?

Wine, fire and movie with my children.

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

So torn!  Italia?  Egypt?  Sao Paolo?  Hmmm, probably Ukraine from where my parents came.

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

Gods of Eden

8. What movie makes you cry?


9. What makes you laugh?

My children in laughter.

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

Who told you about my fairies?  Of course there are and they drive the gnomes crazy with their practical jokes.  One time, these two fairies flew past...  Wait!  I've said too much.

Thank you, madman!

Know-vember: Peg Aloi

My movie buddy! Peg and I have seen a lot of movies together, good and bad -- and have often argued about which was which (hee)! Peg is also a writer and academic as well as an amazing cook and baker (mmmm, deliciousness). I haven't gone to the movies yet in Galway, surprisingly. The good theatre is a bus ride away (I may eventually rent a bike), but I think part of it is not having someone to go to movies with in the middle of the afternoon (AKA the best time). Miss you, Peg! Hope you can make it over here :-)

1. What's the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

Nudge the dog to get off the bed.

2. What's a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

Was enjoying "Get Down Tonight" by KC and Sunshine Band at the dentist's office today...but I like to dance and to all kinds of music, generally.

3. Where in the world do you live?

Albany, New York.

4. What's a great night out for you?

Great food and drinks with friends, a film premiere, a super hot play ticket in London or New York, a walk along a sparkling city street, sitting in chairs beneath a starry sky in the country, a bonfire, I am easy.

5. What's a great night in?

Steak and a TV marathon of The Tudors...or having friends over for food and drinks.

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Good question...probably Paris.

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt, or Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon.

8. What movie makes you cry?

The ones where sad things happen. [Ed: hahahahahaha]

9. What makes you laugh?

The Colbert Report, at the moment.

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

I should hope so.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Know-vember: Dana Gravesen

The days are just packed, to steal a phrase from Calvin and Hobbes! No sooner does Dana compliment me on the fun to be had in Know-vember than I strong-arm him into answering my devious questions. And now they're up -- BAM. Serves him right! I first knew Dana as a snot-nosed thirteen-year-old on the Horror in Film and Literature List. He's now a doctoral student. How awesome is that? Damn. From New York City to Iowa no less, but he's one of those folks who bloom wherever they're planted. Well done, you! We need to drink more martinis together, young man.

1. What's the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

Nicely ask Alley (my cat) to stop chewing on my hair. [Ed: Kipper chews my hair too! I miss him :-( waah!] Then I hit the snooze button 10 times. Then panic about what day it is and what needs to be done. Then I hit the snooze button 5 times. Then I put coffee on to percolate while I smoke 2 cigarettes outside.

2. What's a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

There are so very many. But dancing for me usually requires a bit of “lubrication.” The excellent thing is that I can dance to Slayer and Rihanna on the same evening at the local gay bar. “Rude Boy” is my favorite.

3. Where in the world do you live?

Iowa City, Iowa USA. It's a town dominated by the University of Iowa, but it has a few charming elements like good restaurants, the Pioneer Food Co-op, and shirtless jock neighbors who like to leave their blinds open 24/7.

4. What's a great night out for you?

A couple of good friends at a restaurant or tavern. I'm more of a stay-at-home kind of gal and usually get irritable or quickly exhausted with late nights out.

5. What's a great night in?

Alley on my lap, the couch, boxed wine, and Roseanne.

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Hong Kong. I'm a huge fan of Hong Kong cinema and I absolutely love exploring super-metropolises. Plus I have a lot of friends who grew up in Hong Kong and could show me the ropes. My second and third choices would be Copenhagen (I'm part Danish) or to return to Belize.

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

Any of Maupin's first six in the Tales of the City series. [Ed: Love those! In my novel Owl Stretching, the dead cat is named Mr Tolliver]

8. What movie makes you cry?

A couple of years ago my answer to this would be the following Simpsons quote: “This is where the tears would be if I could cry! But I can't. Botched facelift.” I never used to cry at films. But the first film to ever make me cry was The Bridges of Madison County. I threw the book across the room but thoroughly enjoy the film (Go Iowa!). Truth be told, the first movie to ever make me cry was Bird on a Wire with Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn. I was 8 years-old when it was released and I forced my mother to take me to the lobby during the final “zoo” sequence because I didn't want to see any animals get hurt.

9. What makes you laugh?

Witty friends and drag queens.

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

No, but there are often fairies smoking with me on my stoop.

Thank you, you're beautiful!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Know-vember: Alessandra

The lovely poet of Rome, monarch of Pandemonium, translator extraordinaire and jester full of sprezzatura -- yes, it's La Bava! How she brightens my days simply by being her extraordinary self. She was my hostess in Rome who took me to all the dazzling sights and fed me the very finest food, most of it at her own table along with her handsome son, the knight Edoardo, and the delightful royal taster, Ghibli the Dalmatian. You must see some of her fabulous poetry and why not check out her devoted partner John, who took this lovely photo of Ale during their holiday in Umbria, Lazio & Tuscany.

1. What's the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

I curse the alarm clock since it’s usually 5.30 am, then I shower, I get dressed and at that point I am in dire need of coffee. Not to mention the fact that there is a hairy mister wagging its tail demanding to be fed!

2. What's a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

No song in particular, rather the disco dance of the Seventies.

3. Where in the world do you live?

In the most charming spot of the planet. A place also known as the Eternal City.

4. What's a great night out for you?

A happy hour or dinner out somewhere in the center with the people I love and/or with friends.

5. What's a great night in?

Excellent food and wine, a movie and fireworks in the pink room.

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would head to St. Petersburg, Moscow and the Article Circle to experience the Aurora Borealis. Japan and Patagonia would be next on my wish list.

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

Any of Dostoevsky’s works. It’s one of the authors whose entire works I have read and re-read over the last 30 years.

8. What movie makes you cry?

Many do. Bright Star, to name one. But, Million Dollar Baby is the movie that really had me cry my heart out.

9. What makes you laugh?

Witticism of any kind and my dalmatian -- he is a comedian in disguise. By the way, John and I laugh ALL the time! [Ed: I am unsurprised ;-)]

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

Of course! But, the malicious house kobold is the sprite I am more fond of. 

Thank you, my dear!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Know-vember: Chloë

What is more awesome than awesome? It has to be the lovely Chloë! She sent me absinthe chocolates. That would already make her more awesome than awesome, but she's also hilarious and has adorable Maudie to help with the awesomeness, too. We finally got to meet in Derby this year at Alt.Fiction after having lots of laughs on line. Not surprisingly, we had lots of laughs in person too. How awesome is that? Very awesome! Like Chloë. Here she is with a ladybird hat & Mr Y.

1. What's the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

Think "oh fuck, not this again" and then get a kick in the head from Maud the dog who objects to me being compos mentis as it generally involves me moving and disturbing her.

2. What's a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

I could probably be persuaded to dance to anything because I’m easily led, let's get that clear early on – and I’m especially easy once I've had a few, ahem, blackcurrant cordials. I have a fond memory of dancing in a student night club to "I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls and putting the fear of god into the tiny student girls and boys (I was a “mature” student) with my earthy hip movements … Nowt better than scaring the children.

3. Where in the world do you live?

Fribourg, Switzerland. It’s the city that all the other Swiss cities look down on. And they shouldn’t because Fribourg is shiny. As long as you don’t mind life at a molasses slow pace and occasionally being bored titless.

4. What's a great night out for you?

Unexpected nights out - ones that are organised last minute or when you think to yourself, "This is going to be average, so I'll just have a couple and then get an early night" only to wind up crawling home, full of Jägermeister or some other deadly concoction at three in the morning. Which makes me sound like a lush ... okay, I confess. In truth, the best nights are the ones where you can relax and talk to the people around you and not feel awkward. That’s all I really ask.  

5. What's a great night in?

Me, Mr Y and a paddle. Not that kind of paddle either. Ain’t no creeks round here.

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

India. It has been a constant desire since I was about 6 years old. I want to see as many Ganeshas as I possibly can, see the full moon light up the Taj Mahal, breathe in the air of the Himalayas, sink my toes into a beach in Kerala, launch a lamp onto the Ganges at dusk for my Grandfather, and to witness New Delhi – amongst a catalogue of other things. I also have a hankering to see Canada (and to meet Isa and catch up with my pal Shelley) and to see the Aurora Borealis in Iceland (especially now as they should be at a peak for the next year or two). Can I have one of those round-the-world-many-stop-ticket thingies please? [Ed: yes, and me too so I can go as well.]

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World by Bob and Jenna Torres.  

8. What movie makes you cry?

Oh lordy, I am a sap when it comes to movies. In real life, I’m not much of a crier, but the movies can manipulate the crapola outta me and I’ll fall for it every time. I’ve never seen all of ET, just can’t do it, can’t even watch clips of it. Out of Africa nearly killed three generations of the women in my family when I watched it with my mum and grandmother. And then there was Reservoir Dogs. I had an immense crush on Harvey Keitel for a very long time and I thought he was beautiful when he was trying to keep Mr Orange alive. I bawled like a baby and everyone looked at me like I was crazy. They may have had a point.

9. What makes you laugh?

Odd things. Mr Y can make me laugh like a donkey – he’s got a mainline to my funny bone and I couldn’t even explain why most of the time. I love Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd, and a cornucopia of other tv stuff, but I have to confess to a penchant for Jackass. I know it’s wrong on so many levels but watching a man snort wasabi and then retching inexplicably tickles my funny bone. I can’t lie to you; I’m clearly a base and desolate creature.

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

I used to talk to the ones at the bottom of the garden of the house where I grew up. I had my own little plot at the back of the shed where all I grew was a climbing white rose because that was all they wanted. I spent many happy hours there.

Thank you, ma'am. You are a delight.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Know-vember: Mark Walker

In the States, today is Thanksgiving day; depending on who you ask it's either a day to commemorate when the Pilgrims survived the vagaries of New England despite their ignorance and arrogance with considerable help from some of the indigenous folks (who would come to regret that kindness), or it's a day to stuff yourself comatose with all kinds of foods and watch sporting events while ignoring endless family arguments.

Okay, it's also a day to show you're grateful and give thanks, so while I'm grateful for all the friends I'm featuring in Know-vember (and all the ones who didn't let me feature them here >_<) I am especially grateful for this friend. He's why I'll be going back to Scotland for my birthday and Xmas, too. Here's a very sweet picture of Mark with his son Allan.

1. What's the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

I reach for you. If you are not there, I reach for my phone and look for messages from you instead.

2. What's a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

I love to dance so will be quite happy to dance to pretty much anything. Personal favourites include: Panic by The Smiths, ABBA’s Dancing Queen and anything by The Fall. [Ed: smart man!]

3. Where in the world do you live?
I live in a little house in Dundee, Scotland. It looks a bit like Paddy’s market in places but it's home and I like to think full of love.

4. What's a great night out for you?

Good company, something nice to eat, a few drinks and some live music. Pretty much the perfect evening.  

5. What's a great night in?

A little drink perhaps. Nice cozy up on the sofa with a decent film on the telly and a really nice cozy in bed just to finish the night.

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

It’s a tough call as there are quite a few places I would love to see. The Great Lakes and Northern Scandinavia would be high up the list. If I had to pick just one I would plump for Iceland. It just seems such an amazing place and who knows I might just run into Björk

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?
It would be great if everyone was to read The Bridge by Iain Banks. Then maybe just maybe one of you might be able to tell me what the hell is going on. Other than that my wish would be simply that more people take the chance to read.

8. What movie makes you cry?

Oh dear, this question should have a subtitle of ‘guilty pleasures’; I am a sucker for a RomCom. Bits of Notting Hill have been known to have the old tear ducts in use. My god did I just admit to that? [Ed: yes, yes, you did o_O] ET had me in floods of tears as did the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

9. What makes you laugh?

Ah, now we are talking. In no particular order as it would change pretty much on a daily basis. The genius of Peter Cook, Tony Hancock, Sid James, The Goons, The Goodies, Monty Python, Tommy Cooper, Eddie Izzard and Kenneth Williams. Oh and of course, Steptoe and Son.

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

Not any more as I have invited them all into the house along with the little people.

Good plan :-) Thanks, sweetie.