The Irish Way

I’ve spent my life to this point in a very stressed out, tough, angry part of the country. [You know I love you, Philly, but it’s true.] This is not to say the Irish never get upset or angry, of course they do. But it’s usually at the government, corruption, inequity, persecutors of people and of course the rival football or rugby club. As long as I stay outraged at wrongdoing and don’t start cheering for County Mayo, I’ll fit right in.

The village I live in is small and as a result, everyone knows one another. Even a transplant like me. For instance, the other day in taking my daily walk, I traversed a part of Main Street and as I did, I encountered the postman. I intended to wave hello and keep going but he stopped me and said, “Hiya, hold on I’ve got your post for you.” Now, mind you, I was nowhere near my house and I’ve only met the man twice in the time we’ve lived here. Granted, “the American woman” probably stands out in the small crowd, but already I’m familiar. That’s a wonderful thing. My mail carrier in Bucks County never addressed me by name and frequently mis-delivered my mail even after 14 years.

Riding the bus to and from Galway is always a pleasurable education, too. All the neighbors catch up on the news of their families and the state of the world. “Hiya, Mary. How’re ye keeping? Ah, grand, that’s grand. God bless ye.” The trip home is like being on the school bus —the driver, who everybody also knows— stops at all the old ladies’ houses so they don’t have so far to walk. “This next house on the left, Gerry, if ye don’t mind. Thanks a million.” How cool is that? It was a miracle if any of my Bucks County neighbors waved hello as I walked by. I only knew their names because their mail was so frequently mis-delivered.

And the local radio station: Galway Bay FM has its own funny charm. It’s always playing on the bus so I get to hear it often enough. They have call-in contests and the DJ always finds some connection to the caller. “Hi, we’ve got Julie from Loughrea on the line. How’re ye, Julie? Now, where do ye live in Loughrea? Northside? Say, do ye know the McGettigans? They’re two houses down? Ah, they’re great pals of mine. Went to school with Jamie, don’t ye know…” Eventually they get to the call-in contest question. It takes forever, but it’s pretty hilarious.

The radio also gives a rundown of the local death notices, the subsequent viewing location and the funeral arrangements. And on the other side of surreal they also provide the television lineup for RTE One, including plot synopses and teaser/trailers for each program. All I can say about that is, it’s no wonder everyone goes to the pub. Now, since I’m five hours or more ahead of you folks back home, I’m off to have a pint!

Compulsion

A poem by Meg Sorick

Symmetry and straight lines,
All the light switches closed.
The knives pointed
In the same direction
The dishes must be white.
And there must be an even number.
Or a set with one in the middle
Just so, nothing less is acceptable

Take the spoon from the front
If you please, there’s no other way
To make sure they’re all used equally.
The shelves are not full.
I must fill the shelves.
Fold the clothes and stack
Keep the piles from tipping.

Balance is essential,
But neither temperance or sensibility.
This relentless striving for perfection
Pushes to the very edge of the abyss,
Where the only comfort is in a bottle.

Too much is out of my control.
I must control all that I can.

*Not autobiographical, header image artwork by me.

Genre Bending

An older post revisited.

One of the things that catches me up at the end of a project is selecting the best genre for the book. Seems like it should be a no-brainer but it isn’t really. Of the five complete novels I’ve written in The Bucks County Series, all of them have a romantic component, so I’ve listed them under the romantic suspense genre. Nevertheless, all but one are crime stories: mysteries with clues to be followed and criminals to be apprehended. The one exception —Run For It— is even more hard to define; there are elements of suspense and romance, but no crimes get committed nor are there secrets to uncover. What is that? Realistic fiction, maybe? The thing is, I feel like I might be misleading the reader by including the ‘romance’ part in describing the genre.

Do romance readers expect steamy sex scenes? Or is that now classified as erotica? While the stories I write include the development of romance/relationships between my main characters, I abstain from depicting any sort of physical relationship beyond kissing. I think a romance reader might be a little disappointed. In any case, writing romance was never my objective, it was to write a good story in which a relationship might develop. In fact, I have nearly removed the romantic components from two of the five books because I felt the stories could stand on their own without it. I just liked the books better with the relationship left in.

I’m not a good, traditional romance writer and I know it. And perhaps that’s because I’m not particularly traditionally romantic myself. Candlelight dinners? I like to see what I’m eating. Chocolate? Ok, I’ll take the chocolate but not one of those samplers – half the stuff is inedible in those things. Flowers are nice but eventually they will dry up and all the petals will fall off and make a mess. I can never remember where I keep the vases anyway. New jewelry is lost on me – I always wear the same favorite pieces every day. You see what I mean… I feel like a hypocrite writing those sorts of things into my books. My characters feel as silly as I do in traditionally romantic situations.

So how does a romance go in a book by Meg Sorick? Most of my female leads are self-rescuers – they don’t actually need their men to bail them out of their crises. That is not to say my male leads are not capable of rescuing; I like strong male characters, just not Neanderthals. No offense Neanderthals (I hear that’s actually a thing … Neanderthal DNA showing up in all the ancestry testing everyone is having done to find out your real lineage, not the one your grandma lied about. But I digress…) Anyway, except for the non-mystery in my collection, the women find themselves as the target of some sort of criminal activity: burglary, stalking, attempted murder, and finally vandalism/arson. The men are there to help follow the clues, discuss possibilities and ultimately assist in solving the mystery. This is how I like the relationship to develop — the couple works together to overcome an obstacle or withstand a series of terrible events. They will genuinely like and respect each other, they will definitely be attracted to one another and they will learn to trust each other with their very lives. Not a bad formula, I would say. But then I arrive back at the original issue: how to classify the stories I write. I have some thinking to do. And I may give romance a rest altogether after I finish my next stand alone book —a historical novel set partly during World War One. I have plans for a sweet romance in that story, but after that? I think I should part ways with love…