A date for your diary…

Launch Invite

The books are back from the printer so I’ve been able to nail down the launch date. Because the novel is set against the Camino de Santiago, I’ve decided on nice Spanish wine and nibbles. I realise that some of you reading this may have a slight difficulty flying into Dublin from the Pacific coast of the USA for a glass of wine and to say ‘hi’ but if you happen to be in or near Dublin, I do hope that you’ll pop along. Don’t worry, you won’t be pressurised into anything. It’s just a celebration that the thing got finished – and I love the job the the printer has done πŸ™‚ Put the date in your diary – October 12, 6pm Hodges and Figgis on Dawson Street.

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The ghosts in my house…

“I’m glad he’s moving out of that house because of the ghosts.”
We were on a family holiday – the last before my Dad died – in Dingle and my sister was on the phone to my brother who, having been detained in Dublin, was to join us the following day. I had mentioned over dinner, in passing, that I was leaving the 240 year old Georgian house that I’d been renting in Drogheda for the previous three years to move back to Dublin.
“What ghosts?” was my sister’s predictable response.


My brother went on to explain that, within days of me moving in, he’d called to visit unannounced and found nobody home. He’d crossed the street to take a photograph with the disposable film cameras that he still used – his technophobia ruling out such modern contraptions as digital cameras or smartphones. The photograph was to show his girlfriend my new seven level home, which came complete with servants attics, cellars and servants’ quarters. There was even a bell pull beside each fireplace which rang a bell in the servants’ quarters to tell them where they were required. It was not until the photograph was developed that my brother noticed the two figures behind the net curtain in the lower window. Rather than upset me, he had a Mass said and told me nothing.
My sister instructed my brother to bring the picture with him to Dingle where we all poured over it. I took a photograph of the photograph and was able, therefore, to zoom in closer. A few days after moving in I painted the front door bright red so the photograph was definitely taken within the first few days. While I was sure that there must be a rational explanation, I was keenly aware that, until more than a week after the painting of the door, there wasn’t a stick of furniture in the that room. What’s more, I’d changed the locks so there was nobody in the house while I was absent that day.
“When you have removed all possibilities, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth,” had claimed Conan Doyle’s legendary detective Sherlock Holmes (or words to that effect). Therefore, I concluded, there were two possibilities. Either the ghost-like figures were, in fact, a reflection from across the street or… well, the alternative was unthinkable.
As soon as we returned to Dublin I wasted no time in driving to Drogheda. I crossed the street to the exact spot where my brother had stood and gazed across at the window. I can still recall the shiver that ran up my spine. Because a series of steps ran up from street level to the door, the window sill was at head height from the street. What’s more, the glass in the windows been countless decades old, like the glass in the the upper windows, it was warped and reflected the sky rather than anything on the street. I stretched and jumped trying to catch the reflection of anything – perhaps a street lamp or the top of a building – but there was nothing that could have caused a reflection.
What added a further air of mystery to the puzzle of the photograph was my memory of the first few days spent in that house. I had found myself unable to spend the first night there alone, such was the sense of brooding oppression that I felt from it as the evening darkened into night. The following day I had returned familiarise myself with all the nooks and crannies under the courage of daylight. When I went into the servants’ quarters I was hit with a strong smell of pipe tobacco that I remembered from a neighbour’s house in my childhood. I couldn’t find anything that would explain the smell. I managed to stay there that night but on a sofa in the first floor living room after exorcising the place with my guitar and a raucous rendition of every Bob Marley song I knew (I know. Bob Marley? Somehow it seemed appropriate at the time). On the third day, probably the day that my brother took the photograph, I was gone until evening, organising heating oil, a bed and other such necessities. On my return I entered to find that the oppression had lifted. It wasn’t that it didn’t feel as though the house had a personality. It felt more as if it had decided to accept me.
I had a number of dinners and parties over the three years in that house with friends from Dublin staying over. I became quite used to hearing that they’d been ‘spooked out’ by something. I had two friends who would only stay if they shared a room which used to raise an eyebrow (I trick I can no longer perform since my eyebrow nerve was severed in my recent accident.
The final chapter in this tale came from my sister. Some weeks after I had left the house, the riddle of the ghostly photo unresolved, my sister was mentioning it to a friend in company and showing her the photo. A woman interjected.
“That was a priest and a young boy,” she said. “He used to call at the local orphanage and bring a different child with him on his rounds each week to give the boy a break from his routine.”
“She’s a medium,” my sister’s friend explained when the woman had moved away.
I’m looking at the picture now. I found it while looking for photos that I’d taken on my Camino trips while researching my “Pins and Needles” book. It still sends a shiver down my spine. It’s also giving me ideas for my next book…

Come to my launch!

The ‘powers-that-be’ suggested Thursday, October 12th would be suitable for the official launch of ‘Pins and Needles’ in Hodges Figgis – one of my favourite bookshops – on Dawson Street, just a stone’s throw from Trinity College Dublin. I made a series of phone calls to all my friends, checking their availability, and found that both of them are free πŸ™‚ so, we’re locked in. The rest of the day was spent deciding on things like “plastic or glass wine glasses?”, “will I talk for few minutes or make a short video?”. With the book’s connection to the Camino de Santiago I’ve decided on Spanish wine and something along the lines of tapas. This prompted another string of ponderings on the nature of the latter. The main thing is, I guess, that the launch is on and I hope that you’ll be there to tell me if the wine choice was right and if the tapas hit the spot. Put it in your diary. It’s at 6pm in the aforementioned bookstore. I’ll be setting up a Facebook event so RSVP there. If we’re not Facebook friends then please rectify this situation :)You’ll find me here: http://facebook.com/declanjcassidy
In the meantime, someone got on to me to ask me if I was aware that my book is on sale on Ebay in Australia! Not only that, but it’s selling at $54. I had to check it out and, sure enough, there it is. At least it’s not going at a bargain-basement price πŸ™‚
aussiesalebook

Kindle launch means free preview…

With today’s launch of the e-Book version of ‘Pins and Needles’ on Amazon, there’s now a preview available that you can read immediately before deciding if it’s for you. The link is below. I also want to send out a huge thank you to all of you who have bought the eBook or paperback and I really appreciate the feedback from those who have finished it. Thanks for passing it on too. The more readers the merrier πŸ™‚

800 years of the Irish in Santiago

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Hundreds of scallop shells, each hung there by a passing pilgrim and each one with a personal message. So many stories…

Since at least the year 1220 there have been Irish people leaving St James Gate – home, now, to Guinness – and heading by sea and land to Santiago de Compostela. Of course St James is the English name for San Tiago. I’d left St James’ Hospital a little dejected at having been told that post concussion dizziness and fatigue take on average 43 days to pass if you completely rest the brain or, on average, 100 days if you use your brain (that’s me, I fear, as I don’t know how to switch my brain off), when I saw the sign, pictured below, outside St James’ Church on St James’ Street.

There is an office, there, in the church, staffed by volunteers, giving information and documentation for those intending to walk the Camino de Santiago. I decided to drop in and see if any of them wanted to come to the book launch next month (date to be confirmed). A friendly chap there told me that, when excavating to build the Dublin City Council head office on the banks of the River Liffey they found thousands of scallop shells, such as those above that I photographed on the Portuguese way while researching Pins and Needles. According to the guy, it was customary for pilgrims arriving back in Dublin by boat from their Camino to Santiago to throw the shell that they’d carried for the entire trip overboard and this is what led to the huge number of them on what would have been the riverbed. I’d been surprised, when first arriving in Santiago, to find that Galicia is a Celtic culture and that the people there see themselves as being connected to us here in Ireland. It seems that our connection does, indeed, go back through the centuries.

St James Church
To the left hand side of this church front on James Street is the Camino Ireland Office, staffed by volunteers and providing a wealth of information for anyone considering walking the Camino.

The agonies of letting go… and thanks!

inside paper comparison
I’ve been agonising over paper choice for the bookstore versions of Pins and Needles. The white sample is from a printer and the other is the Amazon paperbacks copy.

I’ve spent the week with my head in a spin about paper types, paper colours, fonts, font sizes, cover thicknesses and other such technical considerations as Pins and Needles was prepared for the printers. It’s available on Amazon in print-on-demand format where it will also be released in e-book on September 1. That bit was quite painless. If something wrong is noticed I can still make changes. With thousands of copies rolling off a printing press it’s a different story. Whatever decisions I make or errors that go unnoticed are unchangeable once that machine starts spitting copies out.

To get some inspiration I popped along to the launch of lifestyle youtuber Melanie Murphy’s new book Fully Functioning Human (Almost): Living in an Online/Offline World at Eason on O’Connell Street. It proved to be a master class in how a book launch should go. Melanie’s speech was informal, honest and, it appeared, effortless. A chair and table had been set up for signings but, instead, Melanie mingled, chatted and laughed with friends, fans and family, making everyone feel special by somehow finding the time to talk to each person. The book is a real beauty – and, having been living in ‘book publishing preparation mode’ myself, I know what I’m talking about. The production quality is top class and the layout of the book very clever. It’s sectioned off by theme and has quirky illustrations which make it visually engaging. I came home, the proud owner of a signed copy, and began making mental notes of the things that I liked about it. One was the off-white paper that Melanie had used. One printer had sent me a copy of Pins and Needles on the paper that they recommended I should use. It’s the whiter one in the accompanying photograph. The other copy, with the creamish finish, is the print on demand finish from Amazon. To me, that off-white looks more like the real thing. I hope you agree – it’s what I’m going for.

Finally I want to acknowledge all of those who reacted with such support and care to my last post about the accident and my steps to recovery. It was truly heart warming and made it quite impossible to feel sorry for myself. Thank you!

When readers give birth to books…

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The seaward side of Ireland’s Eye – a haven for all types of sea birds – pictured from my little Hunter 19 Europa sailboat.

I was out sailing my little boat from Howth around Ireland’s Eye and, as often happens when the towering rock face blocks the wind, the sails fell slack and the boat was left bobbing in a sort of micro-doldrums. I satΒ  contemplating the myriad seabirds ensconced in every nook and cranny of the cliff as I waited for the breeze to find the canvas again and set me back on my way. Many times during the writing of Pins and Needles, when I’d been stuck at a plot twist or character development problem, I’d come out here for a sail to clear the mind. Before joining the yacht club at Howth I used to sail from Malahide and I’d just had word that the first bookstore I’d approached – Manor Books in Malahide – had agreed to stock the novel. It set me thinking of the new publishing reality that marries traditional printing, e-books and ‘print on demand’ – in my case through Amazon. The traditional print run of Pins and Needles that is underway at the moment is necessary so that people who decide to get hold of a copy of the book can do so on the same day in a bookstore. However, watching the tiny young seabirds finding their feet on cliff ledges or in the sea around me, it struck me that there’s something rather beautiful about the relatively new world of ‘print on demand’.Β  When I finally signed off on the book it became available to buy through Amazon but didn’t, at that point, exist in physical form anywhere. Each person who then clicked on the ‘purchase button’ to buy a copy was, I realised, actually, breathing life into a physical manifestation of my book. Each purchase meant that the buyer had caused a book to be born, packed and shipped into the world. At various places around Europe now copies of my book have been created in answer to readers’ requests. As they make their way by courier to their new owners they are starting a life that could take them anywhere but they are starting their lives wanted. It’s a pleasant thought for a writer.

Keep an eye on this website if you want to know which bookstores are stocking Pins and Needles. We expect the first copies to hit stores around mid September.