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 sat  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’.  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.

Four key packing points for the Camino

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On the Camino your material world often comes down to what you’ve decided to carry on your back.

I’m immersed in writing a guide on walking the Camino De Santiago that I plan to make available for people who are considering following the footsteps of my “Pins and Needles” characters along the last 100km or so of the Portuguese route. I’m on the bit about ‘what to bring’. When it comes to packing – and I get asked about that a lot – I realise that there are two areas of advice – general and specific. The specific deals with what type of backpack works best, what footwear to go for and what to avoid et cetera. The general, though, comes down to these four points which I thought I’d share here:

  1. Make sure that clothing is light and fast-drying. You can layer up for warmth but a thick, soggy article of clothing is something you want to avoid.
  2. Be prepared for cold rain and hot sun. Either can happen – and quite possible on the same day. But don’t overdo it. Remember that your raincoat could remain unused and your sun cream might come home unopened. Ten day weather forecasts are pretty accurate so consult them.
  3. Don’t bring a large bag. You’ll end up filling it. A smaller backpack forces you to be economical with what you bring.
  4. There are shops in towns along the route. If you forget something or find you need it you can buy it. On the other hand, if you bring something you don’t need you’ll be stuck carrying it.

Well, I’d better get back to writing the guide…