Desk Dreams

I spent January working feverishly on the second draft of Book 2 which meant (a) a lot of sitting at my desk, (b) a lot of sitting at my desk late into the night and (c) a lot of sitting at my desk, looking around and thinking I despair. I live in an actual shoebox and so avoid adding too much furniture or doing too much decorating, not just because I rent but because there’s very little space to go around and extra things make the place look even smaller. But I was so sick of things not being exactly as I wanted them, I decided that in the gaps between drafts, I would give my desk a makeover. I would create, in the limited space I had and without going completely broke, the desk of my dreams. And here it is. Ta-daaa!

The idea: When I moved back to Ireland, the first thing I did was cover the walls of my teeny, tiny bedroom in my parents’ house in framed pictures. I wasn’t living abroad anymore, so the next best thing was to surround myself with happy memories of it. That’s what I wanted to do here: I’m stuck at my desk, so I might as well be surrounded by nice, pretty things while I’m stuck there.

The furniture: I have a Micke desk from IKEA (I bought my pink trim version over two years ago. I don’t think they still do it but they do have other colours, including plain white) to which I added an extension. My bookcase is from their Kallax range, with one drawer insert and one of their paper storage boxes that fit perfectly. Finally I decided that after years of sitting in dining chairs, I deserved a proper, comfy chair and – guess what? That’s from Ikea too!

The decoration: My pink lamp is from Dunnes Stores (I’m told the pink version will be restocked in the summer; for now they have a beige and a blue), my Scrabble tile lights were bought by Santa a couple of Christmases ago, my pink file folders are from Ban.do and the rose gold holder they sit in is from KikkiK, and my A6 lightbox and little plant are from New Look. There are also little bargain touches from places like Sostrene Grene and Flying Tiger.

(And yes, it’s neat. But when you live in a small space, you have to keep things neat because it’s like you put a single crumpled receipt from your pocket onto the dining table and then BAM! The next thing you know you’re on Hoarders. And also, don’t you think I might have tidied up before I took pictures to put online? And procrastinators have to be neat, because tidying up is a great procrastination activity. So, yeah. It’s neat. Get over it.)

The typewriter: My new baby is by We R Memory Keepers and the pink version is exclusive to Michaels, a craft/hobbies superstore in the US. I always, always, always said I’d get myself a pink typewriter and now I (finally) have. LOOK HOW PRETTY!

Tip: Michaels only ships to US addresses, so I had to overcome that in some way. I signed up for MyUS.com which gives you a US address for $7 a month, so you can take advantage of free shipping from online US stores and then have stuff reshipped to your home address. Now it is – or can be – a bit pricey to have these things shipped across the Atlantic, but the good thing is that you can consolidate packages and save. And I have to say, I experienced fabulous service. I bought the typewriter and a replacement ribbon, which Michaels shipped to my virtual US address separately. When the typewriter arrived here in Ireland, the replacement ribbon had been tucked carefully inside the typewriter’s box, and that box had been carefully replaced in the box it had shipped in originally, and alongside the ribbon was a signed note from the MyUS.com packer. Not only did it get here quickly, but I really felt they were as careful with it as I would’ve been myself. And this is just my unbiased, average customer opinion – this isn’t sponsored, or anything!

For balance, this is my desk from several years ago – 2010, I think –  when I was back living with my parents after coming home from the States and just had a tiny desk pushed up against my bedroom wall. Bit of an improvement, eh? (Also, is that TEA?!)

Let’s just do a side-by-side, shall we?

Places that are good for buying cute home accessories/stationery stuff from: Kikki.K, Sostrene Grene, My Shining Armour, Paperchase, Dunnes, Flying Tiger, The Range, Typo and obviously IKEA. (‘You’re welcome’ – not something your credit card is going to be saying.)

Now to actually do some work here…

If you live in Ireland or the UK, Distress Signals is currently just 99p!

The Obligatory St Patrick’s Day Post

It occurred to me that I should write something about Ireland or with an Irish theme in order to coincide with St Patrick’s Day* and cynically take advantage of the increased Ireland-themed traffic from Google, etc. But what to write about? I am Irish, we’ve established that. I wrote a book about Irish people that’s partly set in Cork (that’s just 99p to download the moment. Go! Quick!) but I’ve already blogged about that ad nauseam. We know what my least favourite Irish TV show ever made is. What else Irish can I blog about?

May I present…

My Top 5 Favourite Irish Things 

… that I can think of this morning, and in no particular order.

taytos1. Tayto

Tayto (or Taytos – or Taytoes?) is a brand of Irish crisp, crisps being what Americans call chips. But it is also so much more than that, for Tayto is THE brand of crisp, not just in Ireland but worldwide. And here’s the kicker: they only bloody invented cheese and onion. Yep, without this little island, the world may never have had cheese and onion flavoured chips crisps. Fun fact: there is even a Tayto-themed theme park. Fun fact number 2: the best way to consume cheese and onion Tayto is alternating bites with squares of Cadbury’s Dairymilk, but not the powdery bitter kind the sell in the States. Actual Cadbury’s Dairymilk, bought here or in the UK. You’re welcome.

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2. Tana French

National treasure Tana French is one of my favourite crime writers (and the woman who beat me to Irish Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards last November BUT LET’S NOT DWELL ON THAT.) I discovered French back when I was living in Orlando, and browsing the New Fiction section of my local Barnes and Noble. I picked up In the Woods because it looked interesting, and was surprised to discover that not only was it set in Dublin, but French was Irish too. I’ve been hooked ever since. What I like about French is that she is unapologetic in her Irishness; readers from abroad, presumably, just have to work out for themselves what the hell her characters are saying to each other, because they talk and act like real Irish people. Plus she can spin a damn good yarn, and I’ll never forget the shock of that In the Woods ending.

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3. Everyone wants to be one of us

I didn’t really understand this until I moved to the States and every Meet A New Person conversation included the line, ‘I’m Irish’ or ‘My family’s from [insert Irish town]’ which was very confusing for me because they were obviously not. America is a young country and what Americans mean when they claim Irishness (or ‘one-sixteenth’ of it as someone once did with me) is their heritage, their ancestry. The upper tiers of the family tree. I get that. The problem is people don’t use words like ancestry or heritage. They just say ‘I’m Irish’ and we can’t both do that, because that makes one of us factually incorrect and the other feel like their nationality is diminished by the sheer fact that every second person they meet in another country a few thousand miles away – where they and their parents were born and where they’ve lived all their lives – claims to be the same. It’s wonderful that everyone wants to be Irish, but if you want to tell any of us about your Irish ancestry, please, use that word. We’ll be delighted to hear about it. (But sadly, no, chances are we don’t know John Murphy. At least not the same one.)

4. Father Ted

Father Ted is probably the greatest Irish TV show ever made. I certainly can’t think of one that is better or has endured as long or has entered the popular culture to the point where no protest can take place in this country without a ‘Down with that sort of thing!’ sign. It was a sitcom about a trio of, respectively, drunk, idiot and morally corrupt Irish Catholic priests – and their tea-loving housekeeper – who had been banished to Craggy Island. (Grey’s Anatomy fans might spot a familiar face in the clip above, and none of us will EVER forget our introduction to national treasure Graham Norton, which occurred on this show.)

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5. Dublin

I moved to Dublin back in September 2014, because I was starting my degree at Trinity College. It’s a beautiful place when the sun shines, and the other 51 weeks of the year at least there’s plenty of cafes, bookshops and museums to hide in. And there’s so much history here, especially when it comes to writers and their books. For instance, a few weeks ago on a class trip, I visited Marsh’s Library for the first time and got to see where an eighteen-year-old’s Bram Stoker had signed the register for the reading room. Dublin is so much more than the Guinness Storehouse, a trad music session in Temple Bar and 57 branches of Carroll’s souvenir shops. I love it here. But I do recommend you visit during that one week of summer.

Cork, where I’m from, is alright too. We’ve got Titanic stuff.

(I’m joking, obviously. The seven sunny days are never consecutive.)

So that’s it. Have you been to Ireland? What do you like about us? Let us (all?) know in the comments below… 

*It is St Patrick’s Day, Patrick’s Day or Paddy’s Day. St Pat’s is just about acceptable, but Patty’s Day is not. It is absolutely not, has never been or ever will be anything involving the word ‘patty’. Patty is short for Patricia and a patty is food, and neither of those have ANYTHING AT ALL to do with St Patrick’s Day. You do not get to decide what our national holiday is called. Thank you for your attention. Now go do us proud and get messy drunk. 

How To Get Published in Just 50 Easy Steps

(Did you miss me? After the craziness of the Distress Signals month-long blogging bonanza, I decided to give you all a month off from me. Well, a month and a bit. Also, since I last blogged WordPress have hidden the ‘justify paragraph’ button from me and it is driving. Me. CUCKOO. I can’t even look at this left-aligned. Oh my God. Deep breaths. Wait! Keyboard shortcuts! YES. Okay. It’s all okay. Everything’s going to be okay. Breathe… Okay. Anyway.)

As of February 1, this little blog is a staggering SEVEN years old. One of the first posts I published on here was a tongue-in-cheek How To Write A Novel in 37 Easy Steps. So, seven years and a bit on, and to break my post-blogging-bonanza fast, I’ve decided to update that – or rather, continue it.

How To Get Published in Just 50 Easy Steps! 

  1. Decide, aged 8, that you are going to be a novelist.
  2. Ask Santa for a typewriter.
  3. Ask your parents for an electronic typewriter.
  4. Ask your parents for a PC.
  5. Spend much of your late teens carrying the first three chapters of your first attempt at a novel, a Formula 1-themed thriller named Chequered Flag, around on a floppy disk. By ‘novel’ read ‘excuse to daydream about Jacques Villeneuve’s abs on the cover of Jacques Villeneuve: A Champion in Pictures’…
  6. Sorry, drifted off there.
  7. Avoid studying for your own Leaving Cert, i.e. the final exams in Irish school, by writing a funny but quite pointless YA novel about avoiding studying for the Leaving Cert. Submit it to a publisher whose office is 5 minutes’ drive from your house, because you think geographical proximity will help seal the deal.
  8. Get rejected.
  9. Tell your parents you need a laptop ‘for college’.
  10. Go to college.
  11. Drop out of college.
  12. Go to NYC for a week’s holiday and think this qualifies you to write from the POV of a NYPD detective. Submit your (god awful) attempt at a detective novel via post to a top London agent and get so swiftly rejected that SAE arrives back at your house before you do.
  13. Stop writing. Pretend that reading books about writing will move you closer to your published novelist dreams in the meantime.
  14. Quit your crappy job working in a greeting card store.
  15. Quit your pleasantly boring job working in an auctioneer’s office.
  16. Take a job in the Netherlands.
  17. Take a job in France.
  18. Take a job in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
  19. Buy John Mayer’s Continuum album and put ‘Stop This Train’ on repeat for 36 days. (This is KEY.)
  20. Go backpacking in Central America.
  21. Start writing a book about number 18 after you return home to Cork.
  22. Find an agent who is interested in said book but cannot represent you on the strength of it due to there being only about 23 people in the whole world who’d be interested in reading it and even less in buying it (probably).
  23. Tell agent you are already writing a novel. (This is a big fat LIE.)
  24. Decide you can’t write the novel because your soul-destroying job is slowly but surely sucking all the life force out of your blackening soul and if you don’t do something about it soon your heart will be an empty abyss of abandoned dreams, bitterness and contempt.
  25. Quit your job – in the middle of a devastating economic recession, for maximum dramatic effect.
  26. Put a MacBook on your credit card, because you simply cannot work under these conditions.
  27. Use your savings to relocate to an isolated and slightly scary holiday home by the sea (in winter, in Ireland) with two coffee machines and your new computer.
  28. Write a comic, corporate satire, chick-litty novel. Describe it The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers.
  29. Start submitting the novel to agents and editors.
  30. Buy John Mayer’s new Battle Studies album and put the song Assassins on repeat for thirteen days. (No, really. This is KEY.)
  31. Self-publish the Disney book, i.e. Mousetrapped.
  32. Read an article about cruise ship disappearances in a magazine that someone left behind them in a café that your mum was in shortly before she picked it up and brought it home.
  33. Write a book about number 20.
  34. Self-publish that book, i.e. Backpacked.
  35. Get a meeting at a Major Publishing House by way of your friend Vanessa. The MPH don’t like the Weightwatchers Prada book, but they do like your writing. Tell them you’ll write something else.
  36. Writing something else (well, a synopsis and three chapters of it) and send it to the MPH.
  37. Writing something else else (well, a synopsis and three chapters of it) and send it to the MPH.
  38. Write something else else else (well, a synopsis and three chapters of it) and sent it to the MPH.
  39. Go for a meeting at the MPH and get offered freelance work using social media to promote their commercial fiction titles instead. Be very excited about this.
  40. Get an idea for a thriller from number 32. Write 30,000 words of it.
  41. Stop.
  42. Buy John Mayer’s Born and Raised and put the title track on repeat for the entire month of May.
  43. Let a year pass.
  44. Struggle to find anything to play on repeat on Mayer’s Paradise Valley. *tear*
  45. Decide to apply to return to university as a mature student to student English Literature.
  46. Panic when you actually get in, as this necessitates a move to Dublin. Use the panic to push past the 30,000 barrier and finish the thriller. Call it Dark Waters. Start submitting it to agents.
  47. Go to college. Stay this time. Use this as a distraction from the UTTER DEVASTATION OF REJECTION.
  48. Unexpectedly get offer of representation from dream agent while sitting in a coffee-shop near college waiting for your American Genres lecture and looking out at grey and gloomy rain. (Hooray!)
  49. Work with agent’s amazing in-house editor to write a second draft of the thriller. Change the name to Adrift.
  50. Get a 2-book deal. (Bigger hooray!) Change book’s name to Distress Signals. Start buying everything you see with an anchor on it and planning your book launch like it’s your wedding.

If you want to read Distress Signals, check it out here for Ireland/UK and here for the USA. Also if you’re in Dublin this Saturday, I’m chairing a panel on self-publishing at the Irish Writers’ Centre Women Aloud NI IWD event. Get more info on that here.

Also, on a more serious note, there’s an update on the Irish resident accused of murdering his wife on the MSC Magnifica. In a line that could’ve come from Distress Signals, his lawyer has said to reporters, ‘If this was murder, where is the body? Where are the witnesses?’ (There are neither because, of course, this is a cruise ship.) A working theory is that he allegedly stuffed her body into a suitcase and threw it from the balcony of their Deck 11 cabin. You can read more about this terrible case here.

Next time on Catherine’s blog: the Great Desk Redesign of 2017! It involves an actual pink typewriter. AN ACTUAL ONE.