Listen Up

Strangled Silence AudiobookI’ve just received my author copies of ‘Strangled Silence’ on audiobook, ably narrated by Clare Corbett. This recording is published by WF Howes on their Clipper label. It’s a CD in this case, but it will soon be available on their excellent Playaway device, an mp3 pre-loaded on a dedicated player that you can borrow from libraries.
Here’s the blurb: Amina Mir is a doing work experience at a newspaper in London when she meets Ivor McMorris. Ivor is convinced he’s being watched. He served in the war in Sinnostan and believes that someone interfered with his memories while he was there. He’s afraid that if he tries to do anything about it, the watchers might make him disappear.
Chi Sandwith investigates conspiracies. He has spoken to soldiers who, like Ivor, are haunted by their experiences in Sinnostan. They speak in fearful tones of a covert operations group known as the Scalps. People who ask too many questions about the Scalps tend to suffer ‘accidents’.
Tariq is Amina’s teenage brother. He’s taking part in a new school programme, run by the Army. They are using action-packed computer games to teach parts of the curriculum… and he’s loving it. But he starts to suspect that the games have another purpose.
Some questions are better left unanswered. Some mysteries are best left unsolved. The truth is out there – but it could get you killed…
So I’ll soon be indulging in listening to someone else reading my words out loud. Always a slightly dislocated experience.
Speaking of speaking, it’s been ages since I mentioned any visits. Last time I did, I think I was on my way to Bennekerry N.S. in Carlow back in February. Those sessions went really well, I had a fine time – despite breaking one of their chairs and falling flat on my back while in the throes of Mad Grandadding.
On the 27th of February, I ran a four-hour workshop on Children’s Fiction for the Limerick Writers Centre, and have since done sessions in St Patrick’s Classical School in Navan, as well as Drogheda and Dundalk libraries for World Book Day. That day included an interview on local radio in Dundalk. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been back to those libraries now – they probably have me registered as a part-time employee.
P-Con LogoOn the 6th of March, I sat on a couple of panels at the seventh Phoenix Convention (P-Con to its friends), a sci-fi and fantasy convention that focuses on books and writing. These cons are always good craic – a sense of humour is a must. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t find any Klingons or stormtroopers mingling with the crowd. And I never fail to pick up some news about publishing or learn the names of a few new writers to check out.
This year, I was discussing, with Ruth Long and Maura McHugh, how the nature of our writing tools has changed with new technology . And on the second panel, myself, Steve Westcott and Colin Harvey talked about how we got where we are and the business of being a writer once you get published. If you’re into Genre stuff (sci-fi, horror, mystery, fantasy etc.) then you’re bound to have a good time at these cons, and the lines between speakers and audience are very thinly drawn. If you’ve never been to one, ready my beginner’s guide in my Articles section or on Sci-Fi London’s website.
Alice in Wonderland-Mad HatterOn the 10th of March, I spoke at handed out prizes at the awards ceremony for the MS Readathon, with Sarah Webb again, at the cinema in Dundrum Town Centre. This is a great campaign; over a million euros was raised this year to help sufferers of multiple sclerosis, and there were some serious prizes won, including a laptop, a bicycle, digital cameras and thousands of euros worth of books. About three hundred kids attended from all over the country. Afterwards, they were treated to a free 3D showing of Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Congrats to everyone involved.
The following day, I was in St Colmcille’s GNS in Swords, talking to some very lively and excitable girls, and then yesterday I was in Skerries Community College, talking to second and third years. So, things have  been busy, considering I’m supposed to be writing and illustrating for a living. Tomorrow, I’ll be at Trinity Comprehensive in Ballymun, and finishing up a six-week course I’ve been teaching at the Irish Writers Centre. They’ve been struggling since their Arts Council funding was cut, and as part of their fundraising campaign, they’re holding a piano recital and readings on Friday. Check it out.
The Cat Who Walks Through WallsWhile out on the road, I’ve been listening to ‘The Cat Who Walks Through Walls’ by Robert A Heinlein on mp3. I downloaded this from South Dublin Libraries, and had been looking forward to it – Heinlein is considered one of the giants of modern sci-fi, not to mention one of the few fervent right-wingers in a genre dominated by lefties. So I was expecting a challenging read.
Unfortunately, it was challenging for all the wrong reasons. I have since heard that you shouldn’t try to read this book unless you’ve read a bunch of his others, as it is set up as an intersection for many of them. That was no comfort. It starts off well, with a good chunk of suspense and drama backed up by some interesting concepts (a must in any ‘hard’ sci-fi story), but the plot just petered out halfway through, surrendering to long-winded ‘witty’ banter, some aimless descriptions of time-travel, gratuitous sexual encounters (though he veers away from any detailed description – no fun at all) and endless introductions of additional characters whose only apparent purpose is to be named before being sidelined again. And it’s a shining example of a writer ‘telling’ and not ‘showing’
Yuri GagarinAnd for the record, space travel was not born the moment Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, as Heinlein implies in ‘The Cat Who Walks Through Walls’. If that honour belongs to anyone, it’s cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man to orbit the Earth, back in 1961 (just ahead of the Americans). The first woman was Valentina Tereshkova in 1963. Perhaps Heinlein felt they didn’t count because they were both Russian communists, so he picked a part of the space race that the US did win.
Oh, and the bloody cat hardly features at all, and has no bearing on the story.
I was disappointed to say the least. I will pick up another one of Heinlein’s books, but this time I’m going to get someone I trust to specifically recommend one.