Book launch at 23 Seats

And finally, the big night arrived…

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The Wild Weather Blues were in the air. But despite predictions of snowmageddon, a large crowd of family and friends turned out for the launch of Talking’ Squirrel Blues at 23 Seats in Dundalk this evening.

A huge word of thanks to everyone who showed up and made it such a memorable evening. And thanks also to everyone who sent messages of support and encouragement on social media.

Here’s the speech I gave, introducing the book and setting it in context. I’ll upload a video of the event in the coming days.

In the meantime, it’s only words…

“Welcome everybody! I’d like to thank you all for coming out on such a cold evening. Be sure to get some warm beverages into you!

Let me begin by thanking Alan and Ulrika for providing the venue tonight here at 23 Seats. As you may know, they have hosted book launches in the past. Indeed, they are doing their bit to create a literary café society here in Dundalk to rival the culture of Vienna in 1890s, Paris in 1920s, New York in 1960s, or even Ardee in the 1980s.

And of course my contribution to world literature is the reason we’re all here tonight. Welcome to the official launch of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues, a surreal comedy novel about love, life and blues music.

This novel had its origins a few years ago when I, like the main character in the book, was walking into work in Dublin. As I made my way down a deserted early-morning suburban street, a rustling in the fallen leaves ahead of me caught my attention.  Out of the leaves popped a squirrel, full of business and merrily getting on with its day. I didn’t have much excitement in my life in those days, so my immediate thought was “Wow! Today I saw a squirrel walking into to work.” Then I corrected myself. A squirrel walking into work? That didn’t sound right. The squirrel wasn’t walking into work, obviously. Or was he? With this slightly sleepy thought, the germ of a story idea was planted in my brain.

I had been interested in creative writing for many years, since my school days in fact. Over the years, my parents patiently waited for me to become a best-selling millionaire author, a goal I’m still working on, word by word, letter by letter. But this was the first time I’d embarked on a novel. Having explored the traditional publishing route for a while, a few years ago I started to explore the growing world of ebooks and self-publishing. In 2013, I self-published A Blanket of Blues, a collection of short stories based on blues lyrics that I had written. In the character of Fingers Flaherty, a dead blues singer, I’d found a hook that I could hang other creative projects on as well. So, in 2014, I followed up the short story collection with Dimestore Avenue Blues, a novella. And then I felt that the time was right to return to that walking, talking squirrel I’d met in the suburbs.

As the book neared the target date for self-publishing, I found myself sitting in the cinema in Dundalk watching the Monty Python reunion show from London. Then something completely different happened. I got a phone call from Australia. My friend Colm wanted to know if I’d like to be godfather to his son Michael. Of course, I was delighted to be the godfather. You could say it was an offer that I couldn’t refuse. I had dedicated my novella to my goddaughter Faye, down in Co Wexford. And so this novel is dedicated to that very special little boy, Michael McGee, in Melbourne, who one day is going to grow up and read this book and realise that this father has some very strange friends in Ireland…

Given that I spent five years studying English literature in college, it would be nice if I was able to say that this book was inspired by reading Tolstoy, Joyce, Shakespeare and Hemmingway. In fact, I was probably more inspired by reading comic strips and listening to blues music. We all grab our ideas wherever we find them.

Although writing is usually a solitary endeavour, it is not a solitary journey. Many people help you along the way. When I started this journey, the invaluable support and feedback from Eleanor McNicholas and Pat Carroll helped ensure that I didn’t get too lost in the wordy woods. Other colleagues have provided input and encouragement for my writing over the years too: Helen McVeigh; Paul Nash; Joyce Hickey; Eamon Mag Uidhir; Deirdre Clancy; Meaghan Dowling; Christine Doran; Sandra Hopper; Orla Donoghue and Kevin Stevens. I’d like to particularly thank Emma Dunne, my editor, whose expertise and insightful suggestions helped me get the final manuscripts ready for publication.

Family and friends too numerous to mention individually have supported me in countless ways in this project. A special mention to the Rathmines contingent, who were with me in the trenches back in the day.

And of course my late parents – who ironically were never late for anything in their lives, a trait I have rarely managed to live up to. They never stopped believing in me and my weird writing. They set me on this road and I’m proud to continue walking along it.

Finally, a word of thanks for the local support in preparing this book launch. Margaret Roddy in The Argus helped get the ball rolling with coverage in the papers. Dundalk Tourist Office has been doing great work with the publicity on the twitter machine. And I’d also like to thank the local library for helping to promote this event. A number of local businesses have kindly stocked the book: McAteer’s Food House; Roe River Books, that wonderful bookshop just down the road; Ruby Ellen’s in Carlingford; and McCrystal’s in Jenkinstown. And again, thanks to 23 Seats for hosting the event tonight.

So now I’d like to read a short extract from the novel. The extract is only about 90,000 words long, so – assuming my false teeth don’t fall out – we should be able to wrap up around midnight.

Just a little background. The main character in the book is a twenty-something marketing assistant. He doesn’t really understand his job, and he doesn’t really understand his life. Therefore he endures a constant vague sense of confusion and frustration as he bumbles his way through the day. For him, the low point in any day is when he trudges into work and sits down to have breakfast with his colleagues. And that’s where we meet him in the opening chapter…”

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Stay tuned for the video!

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I Was Donald Trump’s Nanny

So long as you’re not in the obituary page or the crime notices, a mention in the local paper is usually a nice thing. And sometimes it’s a very exciting thing! This week, I graced the arts page of The Argus, our local newspaper. Floyd, Moses and Fingers Flaherty also put in an appearance.

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Below is the text of the article:

“I saw a squirrel walking into work today…”

With that overheard snatch of conversation, Pádraig Hanratty had the seed for a new story idea. He pictured an executive squirrel scurrying to work, flash suit neatly wrapped around him, leather briefcase jauntily swinging by his side. Talkin’ Squirrel Blues was born!

Over time he returned to the story, populating it with a cast of eccentric characters: Moses, the lovelorn marketing executive whose career path was strewn with missed deadlines and abandoned goals; Jesse, the grumpy neighbour with little patience for Moses’s martyr complex; and Fingers Flaherty, a dead blues singer whose voice continues to bawl from the dusty speakers. Which one will be able to guide Moses to happiness? Should he listen to a talkin’ squirrel or a dead blues singer?

Pádraig has worked in the elearning industry as a writer and editor for twenty years, covering subjects as diverse as time management and Six Sigma, alternative energy and rodent infestations, Oxford commas and Steve Jobs. In his spare time, he takes part in creative writing courses and readings. He has produced a variety of pieces over the years, including short stories, haikus and flash fiction. Talkin’ Squirrel Blues, a surreal comedy set in recessionary Dublin, is his first novel.

In 2013, Pádraig self-published A Blanket of Blues, a collection of short stories available from Amazon as an ebook and paperback. He followed this up in 2014 with Dimestore Avenue Blues, a novella. Relishing the challenges and learning opportunities inherent in self-publishing, in 2015 he returned to his novel and decided to bring it to market via the self-publishing route.

Talkin’ Squirrel Blues is his first novel and is dedicated to his godson Michael McGee. It is now available for purchase in various local businesses, including Roe River Books and The Food House. The official book launch will take place at 23 Seats, Crowe Street, on 14 January 2017.

*****

Many thanks for Margaret Roddy for her help with this.

I made it on to page 82 of the paper. I wonder who made it on to the front page…

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And was I really Donald’s nanny? Maybe I was. Maybe I wasn’t. After all, anything is possible in 2016… However, as Julius Caesar once said, “You shouldn’t always believe everything you read on the Internet, Brutus!”

Looking forward to the book launch! Bring your nanny.

Think global, act local

They say all politics is local. And promotional campaigns need a local base too. So I’m delighted to announce that our local supermarket, McCrystal’s XL, will be stocking Talkin’ Squirrel Blues.

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It was quite a thrill to see my humble little poster making its presence felt on the edges of the local notice board!

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And then finally, amidst the puzzles and the gossip, a talkin’ squirrel settled himself down into the local literary scene.

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If you’re in Jenkinstown, do support your local supermarket!

Dundalk book launch takes places at 23 Seats, Crowe St, on 14 January 2017.

 

 

 

From self to shelf

It takes a long time for a book idea to evolve from a vague idea inside your head into a paperback book on the shelf of the local bookstore. But the destination is worth the journey.

Last week, I delivered copies of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues to Roe River Books (formerly Carroll’s bookstore) in Dundalk. First came the thrill of seeing the copies patiently waiting for their spot on the shelf.

20161104_160612Roe River Books is one of those small, amply stocked bookstores where you can browse away your time getting lost among myriad titles and stumbling across obscure literary treasures and delightful, quaint editions.

Once the initial euphoria waned, I knew I’d have to start advertising the book. So it was off home with me to design a simple (nay, extremely basic) flyer to publicise the talking squirrel.

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Once the finished flyers were printed, it was time to head back to the bookstore to deliver them. By then, winter had arrived in all its grim austerity. I was shivering to my bones, trampling down the chilly grey November street. (As my aunt likes to say, “That breeze would eat ya!”)

Then I saw me a sight that warmed me to my core. My little book perched in the bookstore window! Floyd’s journey had entered a new exciting phase.

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And inside the bookstore, there the talkative squirrel was again, nestling snugly among the “We recommend” titles. Not even the ice in the breeze could cool my elation.

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Over the coming weeks, the book will be settling into other local businesses that have kindly agreed to stock it. And then on 14 January at 23 Seats, the official launch of a talking squirrel (and its babbling author) will take place.

Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Floyd, Fingers Flaherty and the hapless Moses.

And remember, wherever you are, support your local bookstores!

 

 

Talkin’ Squirrel Blues launch (Dundalk)

The official launch of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues is getting nearer!

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Sinéad Roche and the wonderful staff at Dundalk Tourist Office. Looking forward to working with them as we help to promote local businesses in the run up to the book launch. 🙂

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COME VISIT DUNDALK!

The book launch will take place at 23 Seats, Crowe Street, Dundalk on Saturday, 14 January at 7.00 pm. Refreshments will be available on the evening!

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Paperback writer relaxing…

Any café that has a Beatles photo on the wall is always going to entice me to come inside! This delightfully quirky haven of indie ambience serves great tea and coffee, as well as a savoury selection of sumptuous snacks. And the music is always as effortlessly cool and sophisticated as a Siamese cat in shades!

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A warm haven on a cold dark day!

If you’re in Dundalk, be sure to drop in for a cuppa and a snack!

Like many other blues singers, Fingers Flaherty appreciated the solace of a warm cup of coffee on a winter’s day…

Last night I woke up with a toothache, a haemorrhoid, a squint and a stranger,
I woke me up last night to find a toothache, haemorrhoid, squint and a complete stranger.
But the coffee’s on the boil, oh yeah, so at least that’ll keep me out of immediate danger.
Coffee for Dinner

Remember the date: Saturday, 14 January.

See you then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refresher Training Blues… Live!

JUST IN TIME FOR HALLOWEEN!

An underground bootleg video has emerged of my reading of Refresher Training Blues at the recent Sunflower Sessions evening in Dublin.

Check out the video below.

Many thanks to Eamon Mag Uidhir for surreptitiously recording the performance and sneaking it onto the collectors’ black market.

If the video makes your day, be sure to like it on YouTube, and maybe even leave a delightful comment too. Thanks!

(Oh by the way… Check out my cool haircut, auntie.)

You can read Refresher Training Blues here.

Coming soon: Details about the Talkin’ Squirrel Blues book launch!

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Refresher Training Blues

Last night, I got another chance to flash my wares…

The Sunflower Sessions took place in Nealon’s on Capel St, Dublin. This time, I presented another flash fiction piece: Refresher Training Blues.

I have worked in the e-learning and education sectors for the last twenty(!) years. In that time, I have come to develop a great appreciation for the value and importance of training, continuous improvement and lifelong learning.

As will become apparent from this short snapshot.

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Refresher Training Blues

Arthur hated training days!

Sure, there was always room for improvement. He got that. There were always pointless new procedures to master. And yes, it was a few hours off work.

But Arthur still always hated them.

The fact that Timothy the trainer was a complete tosser didn’t help. Timothy thought he was performing to a stadium of 80,000 fans, and not ten barely conscious colleagues in a shabby room. All that was missing was the twenty minute guitar solo.

The training had started at 8.30. Unfortunately, Arthur wasn’t a morning person. Or an afternoon person. He was more an evening person. He only really perked up when he wasn’t at work.

Anyway, Timothy was in the throes of another evangelical fit as he pondered his seventeen-step model for positive self-actualisation.

He declared, “You are your own masterpiece, friends! Every day is your blank canvas. Don’t settle for being a sketch on a napkin. Use bright colours! At high volume!”

How could a painting be at high volume? Arthur wondered. He also wondered if it would soon be lunchtime. He had, as usual, skipped breakfast.

“Why do we have targets?” Timothy asked, all frothy mouth and blazing eyes. “Because I know you can hit them.”

To Arthur, this was all nonsense. But it was better than getting bawled at for being a basket case. That was the regular routine in all his previous jobs. At least these guys were pleasant.

Timothy adopted his solemn monk voice.

“That’s why we feel sad when people miss their targets. There’s no magic bullet. Dig deep and optimise real-time solutions that synergise your human interface capabilities.”

Timothy had clearly started speaking in tongues.

Arthur zoned out, gazing around the room. Some of his colleagues were already comatose in their rumpled suits. In Reginald’s case, it looked more like rigor mortis. Malcolm was the only one who looked engaged. But of course Malcolm had no life – a presentation like this was probably the high point of his week.

Meanwhile on the podium, Timothy was building up a head of steam and frazzled hair.

“Hit the mark, people! Shoot from the hip. Always aim high. You have to dodge the raindrops if you want to build the rainbow. You are our crock of gold!”

Arthur would be the first to concede that his standards were slipping. He’d missed a few targets lately. Definitely losing his edge. In fact, they all were. Some argued they were just “keeping their powder dry”. Truth is they had no fire in their bellies anymore.

Timothy however was determined to inspire his weary team. So for six more hours, he cajoled, praised, pleaded, value-streamed, harnessed and empathised.

Then finally it was over. Time to get back to work.

A new list of targets. Fresh deadlines. Motivated action points.

Arthur barely had the motivation to get up from his chair.

As he slouched out of the room, he ensured his pistol was loaded.

Even assassin squads need refresher training…

 

(c) Pádraig Hanratty 2016

 

Don’t forget that copies of Flare are now on sale. Available from Books Upstairs or by contacting the Sunflower Sessions.

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Who knows what blues November will bring?

See you again soon!

 

Launchin’ blues

Floyd is getting ready to launch himself into the wider world, in all his bloodshot-eyed, bushy-tailed glory!

A book launch for Talkin’ Squirrel Blues will take place in Dundalk in January 2017. Followed a few weeks later by a Dublin launch.

Stay tuned for further details!

I launched all my dreams with her, but in time she sunk my ship.
We launched our sweet dreams together. Then she went and sunk my ship.
Now I’m swimming to the shore, with my busted heart and broken hip.

Ship Launch Blues
Fingers Flaherty

Gone Home Again

On 5 October 2005, my mother passed away. Shortly afterwards, I wrote a poem about her. Each year since, I’ve published the poem in the local newspaper, around the time of her anniversary. A small gesture to let her know that she’s not forgotten.

And here it is.

Gone Home Again

A Sunday dinner, then tea and cake,
Ties that bind and cannot break.
A story told, a laugh or smile,
Or gentle silence for a while.
A special gift, now and then.
Now she has gone home again.

 

Someone to talk to any day,
Someone to help in any way.
A warm fire on a winter night,
An ice-cold drink in summer bright.
A sturdy coat for the pouring rain.
Now she has gone home again.

 

An emptiness is left behind,
Lost things you will never find.
But a memory of what she’d say
Helps you through another day.
Away from us, down the lane,
On her way back home again.

(c) Pádraig Hanratty 2016

Sometimes you never find again what you’ve lost. But at least you still have the memories as each year passes.

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Image copyright: Padraig Hanratty

 

 

 

Freedom’s Just Another Word

It has been a while since I flashed in public…

But this week I was invited to read a piece of flash fiction at the Sunflower Sessions at Nealon’s pub in Capel St, Dublin.

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Nealon’s provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere for poets and fiction writers to share their work with a supportive audience. Refreshments (and perhaps inspiration) are provided in the bar downstairs.

The Sunflower Sessions are a monthly open mic evening of poetry, prose and spoken word. They take place on the last Wednesday of each month from 7.30.

If you’d like to find out more, you can follow them on Facebook.

Last night was a special session as it marked the launch of the first issue of Flare, a broadsheet collection of poetry.

Eamon Mag Uidhir kindly invited me to present one of my flash fictions to the group. I chose “Freedom’s Just Another Word”, a bitter monologue inspired by the adage that love is a short word, whereas marriage is a long sentence. In summary, it’s about… 500 words long.

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Photo by Paul Nash

Freedom’s Just Another Word

…And then, the icing on the poison cake, she says we have to give each other space. Seems I’ve been suffocating her lately. She wanted freedom… That’s the bombshell Andrea dropped on me last week. Made her case, packed her bags and off she went… Don’t know what sparked this all off. Well, sure, I had an internal freak attack when we bumped into Saoirse in the supermarket last Monday. That was awkward! And Saoirse was in flying form, all psycho polite to Andrea and throwing daggers at me with her volcano eyes. But, fair play to her, she didn’t even hint about… any of that stuff. I thought maybe that was why Andrea got on her high horse for the high road. But she knows nothing about… any of that stuff. And she’s never even met little Ronan. Maybe she just needs to unwind a bit. She’s certainly tightly wound these days! She’s been working late a lot on those bullshit projects. Honestly, how can she expect me to take an interest in her projects when they’re so boring? Of course, it cuts both ways. She doesn’t take any interest in my work either. Then again, even I don’t take much interest in my work. I always have pleasanter… distractions… to keep me engaged in life. It’s good to keep engaged… Oh yeah, that was another thing she was always going on about, the engagement. I think two years is perfectly reasonable. Down the aisle and down the hill! But that became the new obsession lately. When are we going to finally set the date? Not that she has much interest any more in other sides of marriage. The sunnier side of the street. She always has a headache whenever I bring up that particular subject. The priest must have dropped her when he was baptising her! No normal woman could have that many headaches… Saoirse never had any headaches, that’s for sure! Of course, little Ronan was a bit unexpected. But I don’t care what she says, I’ve done the maths and it doesn’t add up. And we took all the necessary precautions. That’s one problem that can’t be blamed on me… Andrea was always great at pointing out my problems. No matter how late she worked in the office with Tom, she could still find time to find fault. Too much drinking. So I cut down… a bit. Too much smoking. So I quit… more or less. And then I could taste just how awful her cooking was! Well, don’t have to worry about that for a while anyway… And I never gave out about anything. Her faults run into the hundreds, if you take the time to count them all. But I never complained. Not even about her working all those late hours in the office with Tom. Every night, some weeks… What the hell got into her? Why does she want freedom now all of sudden? I’m pretty sure Saoirse said nothing to her…

(c) Pádraig Hanratty 2016

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Photo by Paul Nash

Looking forward to the next session already!