Distress Signals Shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year (Whaaa..??!)

If you missed my tweetgasm yesterday, I have news: Distress Signals has been shortlisted for Crime Novel of the Year in the Irish Book Awards!

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(One exclamation mark is really not enough for that but I’m trying to restrain myself here, okay?)

I’d love to be able to play it cool, but I can’t, I’m sorry. This is a really big deal to me. If you’ve been following my blog or me on Twitter for a while, you might know that for the last two years, I’ve attended the Irish Book Awards ceremony. The IBAs are a very unusual literary prize in that they highlight achievement in many different categories, with the winners are decided by a voting system that includes literary critics, booksellers and the public. In this way, you get a collection of books that the nation has actually been buying, reading and loving in the past year, as opposed to, say, a number of challenging literary fiction titles that hardly anyone has read and most people have never heard of. The ceremony itself is both the Irish Publishing Christmas Party (well, it is to me anyway!) and a warm and fuzzy celebration of all things books. It’s wonderful.

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The first year I went, I had only just signed with my agent a fortnight before and hadn’t yet started to edit the book that would become Distress Signals; I didn’t know it, but the realisation of my lifelong Get Published dream was five months away. The highlight of my night was getting to stand behind Tana French in the queue for the bathrooms. French to me was – and still is – a literary goddess among women. I’ve been reading her since I picked up In the Woods in the New Fiction section of what was then my local Barnes and Noble, back in Orlando in 2007. Just to be in the same room with her was thrilling – even if, yes, that room was a hotel bathroom!

This year my little book is nominated alongside Tana French’s latest, The Trespasser.

Isn’t that crazy?!

But it gets crazier. Better and crazier.

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L-R: Hazel Gaynor, Carmel Harrington, me (obvs) and Elizabeth R. Murray

At last year’s ceremony I was back at the Writing.ie table sitting with two lovely writing friends: Elizabeth R. Murray and Hazel Gaynor. Also present at the ceremony was another lovely writing friend, Carmel Harrington. We were all there because of Vanessa O’Loughlin, the founder of Writing.ie and a great friend and support to all of us, who writes crime fiction under the name Sam Blake.

All of us, I’m sure, harboured secret dreams of one day being more than a mere attendee, but getting shortlisted felt improbable. Just getting published had been a long, winding, difficult road. And only six books make the shortlist in each category, and there’s a whole year’s worth of publications to choose from.

But this year we will all attend the ceremony as shortlisted authors.

(I’m sorry, I’m breaking them out: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Between the five of us we have (at my count): five different agents, four different genres and four different publishers. One of us writes for children, one of us is on her third book. We all got published at different times after very different journeys. And yet all five of us have had this amazing, unlikely, thing happen to us, in the same year

Sam Blake/Vanessa O'Loughlin and me

Sam Blake/Vanessa O’Loughlin and me

What are the odds? When you consider the odds of just getting published in the first place,  I think they’re pretty damn astronomical.

So shoot for the moon. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it’s unlikely you’ll get there. Someone has to. You might.

The Irish Book Awards are partly decided by a public vote. Choose your favourite reads of the year here.

Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2016 – Full Shortlist

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  • All We Shall Know – Donal Ryan
  • Days Without End – Sebastian Barry
  • Solar Bones – Mike McCormack
  • The Lesser Bohemians – Eimear McBride
  • The Wonder – Emma Donoghue
  • This Must Be The Place – Maggie O’Farrell

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  • All Through the Night – Edited by Marie Heaney
  • Dublin since 1922 – Tim Carey
  • Looking Back: The Changing Faces of Ireland – Eric Luke
  • Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks – Edited by Fintan O’Toole
  • The Invisible Art: A Century of Music in Ireland 1916-2016 – Michael Dervan
  • The Glass Shore – Sinéad Gleeson

newcomer

  • Himself – Jess Kidd
  • Red Dirt – E.M. Reapy
  • The Last Days of Summer – Vanessa Ronan
  • The Maker of Swans – Paraic O’Donnell
  • The Things I Should Have Told You – Carmel Harrington
  • This Living and Immortal Thing – Austin Duffy

nonfiction

  • I Read The News Today, Oh Boy – Paul Howard
  • Ireland The Autobiography – John Bowman
  • The Hurley Maker’s Son – Patrick Deeley
  • The Supreme Court – Ruadhán Mac Cormaic
  • Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir – John Banville & Paul Joyce
  • When Ideas Matter – Michael D. Higgins

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  • Lying In Wait – Liz Nugent
  • Conclave – Robert Harris
  • Dictatorship: My Teenage War With OCD – Rebecca Ryan
  • All Through the Night – Edited by Marie Heaney
  • All We Shall Know – Donal Ryan
  • Victim Without A Face – Stefan Ahnhem

poem

  • In Glasnevin – Jane Clarke
  • Patagonia – Emma McKervey
  • Suppose I Lost – Andrew Soye
  • Love / Hotel / Love – Michael Naghtan Shanks

childrenjnr

  • A Child of Books – Sam Winston and Oliver Jeffers
  • Goodnight Everyone – Chris Haughton
  • Historopedia – Fatti and John Burke
  • Pigín of Howth – Kathleen Watkins
  • Rabbit and Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits – Julian Gough & Jim Field
  • Rover and the Big Fat Baby – Roddy Doyle

childrensenior

  • Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Dave Rudden (Puffin)
  • The Book of Shadows – E.R. Murray (Mercier Press)
  • The Making of Mollie – Anna Carey (The O’Brien Press)
  • Needlework – Deirdre Sullivan (Little Island Books)
  • Nothing Tastes As Good – Claire Hennessy (Hot Key Books)
  • Flawed – Cecelia Ahern (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

cookbook

  • Recipes For A Nervous Breakdown – Sophie White
  • The World of The Happy Pear – Stephen and David Flynn
  • Natural Born Feeder – Roz Purcell
  • The Little Green Spoon – Indy Power
  • Neven Maguire’s Complete Family Cookbook – Neven Maguire
  • The Brother Hubbard – Garrett Fitzgerald

popularfiction

 

  • Game of Throw-Ins – Ross O’Carroll-Kelly
  • Lyrebird – Cecelia Ahern
  • Rebel Sisters – Marita Conlon-McKenna
  • The Girl From The Savoy – Hazel Gaynor
  • The Privileged – Emily Hourican
  • Holding – Graham Norton

popnonfict

  • Adventures of a Wonky-Eyed Boy – Jason Byrne
  • Fat Chance – Louise McSharry
  • Making It Up As I Go Along – Marian Keyes
  • Pippa – Pippa O’Connor
  • Talking to Strangers – Michael Harding
  • Pussy: Before I Forget to Remember – Alan Amsby/David Kenny

sports

  • Blood, Sweat & McAteer – Jason McAteer
  • Coolmore Stud, Ireland’s Greatest Sporting Success Story – Alan Conway
  • My Life in Rugby – Donal Lenihan
  • Out of Control – Cathal Mc Carron
  • The Battle – Paul O’Connell
  • Win or Learn – John Kavanagh

shortstory

[You can read all the shortlisted stories here.]

  • Here We Are – Lucy Caldwell (Faber&Faber)
  • K-K-K – Lauren Foley (OL Society – Australia)
  • The Visit – Orla McAlinden (Sowilo Press)
  • Green, Amber, Red – Jane Casey (New Island)
  • The Birds of June – John Connell (Granta Magazine)
  • What a River Remembers of its Course – Gerard Beirne (Numero Cinq Magazine)

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  • Distress Signals – Catherine Ryan Howard
  • Little Bones – Sam Blake
  • Lying In Wait – Liz Nugent
  • The Constant Soldier – William Ryan
  • The Drowning Child – Alex Barclay
  • The Trespasser – Tana French

HUGE congratulations to all my fellow shortlisted authors!

Voting is now open. Cast yours here. The ceremony takes place in Dublin on November 16th. Follow @BGEIBAS on Twitter to find out more. 

Writers, Amazon Are Coming to Dublin – For YOU!

This morning I have great news for writers who are interested in self-publishing, promoting their books or both, and who either live in Dublin or can get here on Saturday November 19th – BUT you’re going to have to move fast to take advantage of it!

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Amazon has teamed up with a host of bestselling authors, publishing experts and Writing.ie to bring a very exciting daylong event to the Davenport Hotel in Dublin city centre on November 19th next: How To Publish Independently With Amazon.

Here’s the thing: if you don’t snag a ticket or you can’t travel here, you can still benefit from the event because – get this – it’s going to be live streamed on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing YouTube channel. The feed will also be shown in libraries across Ireland.

The event will include a wide range of panel discussions and workshops and will be hosted by RTÉ 2fm Presenter and book enthusiast, Rick O’Shea. Sessions will include ‘How To Write a Bestseller’ and ‘An Introduction to Independent Publishing’ and cover topics including editing, cover design, marketing and more. As well as that attendees will have the opportunity to book one-on-one sessions with the authors and experts taking part so they can discuss their specific self-publishing query or problem with someone who’s been there, done that. A number of Amazon team members will also be on hand to share their expert advice on making the most of KDP and CreateSpace.

Authors and experts taking part include Hazel Gaynor, LJ Ross, Mark Dawson, Adrian White, Alison Walsh, Madeleine Keane, Robert Doran and Writing.ie founder Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin who writes as Sam Blake.

Oh – and me!

As regular readers of this blog will know although I have self-published in the past, I am currently on the other side of the fence, getting published. But, I think the ideal situation for any career author is to have a foot on both sides. And even if you’re not interested in self-publishing, there’s so much you can learn from authors who’ve done it successfully – promotion, building an audience, even things like time management – that you can apply to your own career, no matter how your books or other written work gets to readers.

Now, here’s the best bit. This event is completely FREE. Yes, free. But, also limited to 150 places and as I prep this post late on Wednesday night, more than a third of the tickets have already gone. So if you want one, CLICK HERE, quick!

That’s also where you can go if you want more information. Libraries who are interested in hosting a live stream can contact vanessa@writing.ie. Those of you who want to watch the live stream from home, just set yourself a reminder to tune into Amazon’s KDP YouTube channel on the day.

Good luck!

Writers and Workshops

The very first writing workshop I ever attended turned me off them for life (I thought at the time). Fifteen years ago I spent three whole weeks* as a Lancaster University undergrad, taking Creative Writing as a minor alongside my science degree. To get onto this module you had to queue up in front of a specific table in a huge hall of similar tables and hand a writing sample to the lecturer who was sitting there. I had written my piece the day before, and it was about a writer who was trying to come up with something that would prove he was a good writer. (Oooh, meta!) The lecturer scanned the first couple of paragraphs, running her finger along the words, and then said, rather unenthusiastically for my liking, “Yeah, okay. Fine.” I was in.

A few days later I attended my first lecture; my notes from it could be condensed into a single line, and that line would be keep your ideas in a notebook. I’d already spent my entire adolescence reading books like On Writing, From Pitch to Publication and every new edition of The Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook. Keep a notebook? Um yeah, like, I know? But there was worse yet to come: a workshop where five or six of us would sit around in a circle, read a piece of work aloud and then brace ourselves while the others sandblasted our soul—I mean, our writing. I learned nothing except that we were all really, really bad and that a surprising number of people were writing novels about what “really” happened to Princess Diana.

(And this was 2001. It wasn’t exactly a hot topic.)

Flash-forward now to the summer of 2004. The ending of a long relationship at first felt like being dangerous unmoored, and then deliciously free. Single for the first time since I was a teenager, I spend one of my first weekends alone doing something that’s just for me: I book myself into a fancy hotel in Dublin and attend a two-day workshop at the Irish Writers’ Centre that I think might have been called Start Your Novel or Finish Your Novel or Stop Arsing Around and Write Your Bloody Novel, For Feck’s Sake. This workshop felt totally different. For one thing, it was useful. And for another, it was the first time I spent any time around people who were as serious about writing as I was. Going back down to Cork on the Sunday evening I was buzzing with motivation, buoyed by encouragement and, best of all, I felt like I finally had permission to write, to say, ‘I want to be a writer’.

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(Lancaster, all was forgiven.)

Then adventure distracted me. In 2005 I moved to the Netherlands to take up a seasonal job, had the best seven months of my life and then went back there the following year to have more fun. I went from there to working in Walt Disney World, and from there to backpacking across Central America. When I eventually got back to Ireland and I started seriously thinking about writing again, I was more focused on it than ever – which is why I ended up at an Inkwell Getting Published workshop in Killiney, Co. Dublin in April 2010.

This workshop has since become legendary. Monica McInerney and Sinead Moriarty dropped in to talk to us, and we all sat there in awe – and jealously, of course – wondering if we’d ever get published and if they had magic pens. “We” including Maria Duffy, whose sixth book will be published by Hachette this week, and Hazel Gaynor, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. The facilitator, Vanessa O’Loughlin, now writes crime under the name Sam Blake, and her debut Little Bones spent an amazing four weeks at No. 1 when it was published earlier this year. Oh, and there was me, of course. Five years later, Atlantic pre-empted my debut, Distress Signals, as part of a 2-book deal, it debuted on the Irish bestseller list back in May and has been optioned for TV.

(You know, just in case you’re new around these parts.)

There are benefits to attending a workshop that are obvious: you learn useful information that needed to know. That’s what you pay for. But it’s what you get in addition to that that I think makes attending workshops, seminars and other writing events really, really worthwhile.

If you want to be a doctor or a teacher or an entrepreneur, you will come across people in your normal, daily life who already do those things. But how often do you accidentally cross paths with a professional writer, and in a setting where you can pick their brains? And we all know that telling friends and family your career plans involve a 6-figure book deal doesn’t exactly result in a cheerleading routine complete with pom-poms, which is why it’s so important to spend time around people who not only share the same goal as you, but believe it’s possible too (because it IS).

And finally, giving an afternoon or a weekend over to your writing self isn’t indulgent, but necessary. Imagine your creative self is like a well that needs refilling every so often; spending time thinking, talking and focusing only on your writing will do that. On a more practical level, events like these can get you face-to-face with editors, agents and other contacts who might help you get a step up down the line.

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A little story: the first time I met Monica McInerney was at that 2010 Inkwell writing workshop. She had brought some of her books to show us and when the workshop was over she invited us to take home one of them if we wanted, and I wasn’t shy – I took one and asked her if she would sign it. She wrote in it that she was looking forward to reading my novel. In this picture, six years later, Monica is getting me to sign a copy of my novel for her, and I’m reminding her of the workshop, and I’m starting to cry. (I love this picture!)

What do you think? Have you ever done a writing or publishing workshop? How was it? Did it help?

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If you are in or near Dublin, the Dalkey Creates Festival kicks off next weekend. It has a stellar range of workshops including Writing Historical Fiction with the aforementioned Hazel Gaynor, Writing Crime with Louise Philips, Writing Memoir with Alana Kirk – and, yay for you, Vanessa O’Loughlin is doing a Getting Published workshop there too! There’s also a chance to find out exactly what editors are looking for from Ciara Doorley, editorial director at Hachette Ireland. Visit the Dalkey Creates website to find out more

*Well, one of them was Freshers’ Week, so technically it was two.