I'm pleased to announce a slight departure from the usual post on my blog. I have for you today an interview with Robert Germaux, who came to my attention with his intriguingly-titled Grammar Sex and Other Stuff. Being a fan of the Oxford comma, amongst other punctuationary issues, I thought I'd reach out directly...
So what's the story with Grammar Sex and Other Stuff?
As I say in the blurb for the book, it’s one man’s take on life’s little moments, minor annoyances and unexpected delights.
This book is a change from your previous books. What made you change things up?
I’ve enjoyed reading a couple of local newspaper columnists for several years. At some point, my wife suggested I try writing some essays myself, with an eye towards having enough for a book. So to anyone who enjoys the book, you can thank Cynthia for planting the idea in my head.
Sex. A deliberate attempt to grab the attention of potential readers?
Definitely, and the fact that you asked that question means it worked, right? Actually a year or so ago, when I was writing my first guest post, a friend suggested I come up with a “catchy” title. Since I had used the expression “grammar sex” in “The Backup Husband,” I decided to use the term in the title of the post. Incidentally, that piece is one of the essays included in this book.
I love slice-of-life stories and Grammar Sex and Other Stuff certainly fits that category. How did you manage to recall the stories? Notes or memory?
I have a good memory, but not that good. One thing that helped, especially with the essays related to vacations Cynthia and I have taken, is that I’m big on taking notes. When we’re on vacation, I take a few minutes every evening and jot down notes about what we did that day. After we get home, I use the notes to write what amounts to a daily diary of our trip. I put that diary with the photo album of the trip, and then we’ll get it out every few years and relieve all those wonderful moments. As for the essays that aren’t trip-related, anything I can’t remember on my own, I can usually get help from Cynthia or, in some cases, family members, especially my sister Barb, who’s become sort of our family historian.
Speaking of stories, what do you think makes an interesting story?
For me, it has to be something that I can relate to in some way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something I have personal experience with, as long as the author writes well enough to grab my attention. That pertains to fiction, but I also enjoy reading autobiographies.
What kinds of books are in your personal library?
I like detective novels, of course, but also other genres, anything that is well-written and captures my interest. I particularly enjoy stories that inform me about other countries and cultures.
Do you have a book genre/writing preference – fiction or non-fiction?
Definitely fiction. I loved writing “Grammar Sex and Other Stuff,” but I prefer writing about my private detective, Jeremy Barnes, or my police detective, Daniel Hayes, both of whom work in Pittsburgh. As soon as I sit down and start a new chapter about either Jeremy or Daniel, I’m right back in the world that I created for that book. I just lose myself in it.
Do you have any new books in the works?
Yes, I do. I’ve completed “One by One,” the next book about Daniel Hayes. It will be available not too long from now. And I’ll also be releasing at least one more Jeremy Barnes novel later this year.
How can readers connect with you?
You can always reach me at my Amazon Author Page. I love interacting with my readers.
Since you have now had several published books completed, what advice would you give aspiring authors?
The most important thing is to keep writing (and rewriting). Equally important is to find at least one person whose opinion you trust. Ask that person to read everything you write and give you an honest take on it. In my case, that person is Cynthia. She knows my characters, my writing style and, well, me better than anyone else in the world. When she offers a suggestion, I end up taking it 99% of the time.
ABOUT ROBERT GERMAUX
Robert Germaux and his wife Cynthia live outside of Pittsburgh. After three decades as a high school English teacher, and now a good many years into retirement, he is beginning to have serious doubts about his lifelong dream of pitching for the Pirates. Grammar Sex and Other Stuff is Bob’s first non-fiction book. You can find links to his first three novels (The Backup Husband, Small Talk and Hard Court) at his Amazon Author Page.
It’s that time of the year again. St Patrick’s Day. To get an idea of how excited Irish people get about March 17th, check out Guinness’ offering from a few years ago.
However, until quite recently, St. Patrick’s Day was a fairly subdued celebration in Ireland. A day off school if you were lucky; a few pints with friends if you were of age, or close enough. The pomp and debauchery is a gift from our American cousins, but since the Irish are never one to refuse a good party, we have become used to the green, garish and garrulous celebrations for which St Patrick’s Day is best known.
There are a gazillion articles about the man himself, and how we celebrate his death (it’s more Easter than Christmas, folks), but here are a few factoids you might not have heard before. So sit back, raise your glass to the man himself, and expand your knowledge of this most famous celebration.
I spent November writing blog posts for other people who were kind enough to share my ramblings with their readers. When The Stone Bridge launched in December, I was featured on over twenty different book blogs, which helped drive my sales. Today, I'm very proud to host my first ever stop on a blog tour (for the uninitiated amongst you, think readings and signings in bookshop, only updated for the 21st century). If you're a fan of fast-paced thrillers, this is for you!
Cry for the Mercenary - Gabriel Wright
He was all they had . . .
In the face of a monster of a man, they were powerless. They couldn’t run, they couldn’t hide, they couldn’t fight. Every aspect of their lives were under his control. It was obedience or oblivion. When that monster of a man went down into a death spiral, he expected them to follow.
To break free they needed an outsider, a stranger, a mercenary. They found him.
With all his troubles, and all his flaws, they found him. With all his baggage, and even his reluctance, they cried for him. It wasn’t only a question of would he do it, but could he. It wasn’t only a matter of saving them, but of saving himself.
About Gabriel Wright
Gabriel Wright was born and raised in NYC. He spent 20 years in a career as an IT Professional, but Gabriel’s true dream job was being a writer. It was always in the back of his mind, but after being laid off, he decided that the time had finally come. Gabriel’s debut novel is Cry for the Mercenary.
Gabe still lives in NYC with his family. Along with writing, he’s making a success of his family-owned bagel shop in Harlem. Gabe encourages readers to connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.
BUY CRY FOR THE MERCENARY ON AMAZON.COM
Yesterday saw the end of a journey begun three years ago: the last words of a story that started decades ago. Yesterday my third book, the conclusion of The Devil’s Bible Series, went on sale. Hopefully it will garner rave reviews and mammoth sales, but que sera sera – I have done it.
I didn’t intend to become an author. I certainly didn’t intend to write three books. I was already halfway through the story that was in my head when I thought it might be a good idea to find out how long a book should be. I should have planned more, but that’s not how I tend to work, and so one book became three, and I became an author.
For the past three years I have bored everyone senseless with factoids from the mid-17th century. It’s small wonder I don’t get invited to dinner parties any more. For the past three years, I have taken random ideas and woven them together into a single story.
And now I have a confession to make.
I’m hooked on writing. I have put my money where my mouth is and written a book. And I want to write more. Oh, I know, there are things that could be improved – there always will be – but I want to know what happens next to Isabella and Conor, to the Fianna, to Leo and the Ducky of Brabant, so it looks like there's more to come.
Bur first my focus has to be on marketing the book and keeping the promises I made to my readers. That starts with my blog tour, where I have contributed guest posts to blogs I find interesting. Check out the tour here, and please visit the sites – they range from history to writing, food to fantasy. And go out and buy The Stone Bridge. It’s up on Amazon and will be on the other retailers over the weekend.
Longer-term, I have great plans, involving bestseller lists and literary festivals, but I might have to content myself with a celebratory drink this evening. Gin, I think – the best invention of the Thirty Years War.
Other than the Sons of Brabant, that is.
I was terrified when I did the school run this morning. Instead of being greeted by the usual shy, sweet children, I cowered from hundreds of witches and vampires running amok, screaming at the top of their voices. Hallowe’en is here again.
For all that it has been hijacked by the American-Disney-Corporate entity, there are a lot of Hallowe’en traditions that are truly that – traditions. I’m not talking about trick-or-treat, most recently described as “dental Armageddon”, which has only really been a menace since the 1920s. What interests me most are the origins of this holiday and how tradition is reflected in our modern day interpretation of Hallowe’en.
Some 5000 years ago (yup – five thousand) the proto-Celts built a massive tomb near where Dublin now sits, aligning it with sunrise on the winter solstice. No-one knows exactly why the tomb was built, but it is an accurate astral chronometer. A thousand years before the Great Pyramids, five hundred years before Stonehenge, the proto-Celts’ remarkably sophisticated calendar consisted of twelve thirty-day months, with five additional festival days. Today is the festival of Samhain, the bridge between the end of one year and the beginning of the next.
It was said that on such days, the borders between this world and the realm of Faerie were at their weakest, allowing the Fair Folk access to the world of mortals. As the Church slowly hijacked local traditions, merging them with Christian doctrine, November 1st became All Hallows’ Day and Samhain became Hallowe’en. The Fair Folk were viewed as a hangover from Celtic paganism and were systematically vilified as monsters, goblins, and countless other nasty beings. Our custom of dressing up has gone on for centuries (possibly even millennia) as an attempt to disguise ourselves and confuse those spirits that do make it through the veil.
Just as with the Mexican Día de Muertos, this was also a time when you could send a message to departed friends and family. Gifts were left for the dead, amongst them the bounty of the harvest: nuts, apples, and the like. It’s a different worldview to look at the onset of winter as the beginning of the year, but looking at harvest as the culmination of a year’s work needs no explanation.
And what of pumpkins, I hear you ask? Well that one’s easy. When the Irish immigrants in the United States wanted to make their Samhain lanterns to ward off the evil spirits, they found that pumpkins were a lot easier to carve than the more traditional Irish turnip: the Irish are nothing if not practical. But what most people don’t realise is the grisly precursor to that part of the story. The Celts used to behead their enemies and eat the brains of their victims in a demonstration of superiority. The skulls were kept as lanterns for such days, to scare off the spirits of their former inhabitants. So for pumpkin, read turnip, read skull. And try not to anger any of your Irish friends today.
Nowadays, Hallowe’en has been adopted in many countries as a non-religious celebration, the first of many winter holidays of indulgence, and a great excuse for children and grown-ups alike to dress up in increasingly creative and terrifying costumes. Just don’t forget to book an appointment with the dentist when you dare to venture out again…
Last week’s depression has morphed into anger. I’m happy enough to admit that I’ve become a grumpy old man in general, but several comments over the course of the last seven days have left me fuming.
The British Prime Minister suggested that if you are a citizen of the world then you are, in fact, a citizen of nowhere. I’m sure that several thousand years ago, the Macedonians, Athenians and Spartans were all espousing similar thoughts. Yet when Greece was unified it ushered in an age of artistic, scientific and cultural advancement not seen again until the Renaissance. Sometimes you have to let things go to move forward.
The Devil’s Bible series is set in a time when there was no Germany, when there was no Italy. There was no Belgium, and the Netherlands had only just declared themselves independent of Spain. Theresa May’s words could well have been written by a Hessian or a Bavarian in the mid-17th century. And yet history has proven that it is indeed possible to maintain both a regional and a national identity, so why not a national and a supranational one? It’s like belonging to two clubs at the same time. In my position – British and Irish passports, a wife with British and German passports, living in Prague – such man-made definitions seem arbitrary.
Then someone much closer to home floored me with the statement that plants which don’t have deep roots don’t tend to survive long. I had voiced the opinion that the actions of the British Volk made the UK much less attractive to me and my family, and was all but accused of abandoning my heritage. Aside from the obvious quip about grass managing quite well with shallow roots, I started to consider what ‘having roots’ actually means.
To have roots in Northern Ireland could indeed mean a traditional upbringing with a strong work ethic and a down-to-earth practicality, overlaid with a love for education and a desire to better oneself. But it could also mean the small-minded insularity that comes from living in the corner of a forgotten island, the last stop before the empty vastness of the Atlantic. Throw in forty years of hatred and sectarian violence, and I question whether I really want to have roots there.
We are all in search of tribe. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, there is a joy in finding kindred spirits. They say you can choose your friends, but not your family – in many ways it’s the same thing for where you come from. I’m lucky enough to have been born in Ireland, and there is much (so much) that I love about the culture and identity that the Emerald Isle bestows upon its diaspora. A toss of the coin and I could have been born in Syria…
So yes, I’m angry, because I see so many decisions being made as knee-jerk reactions, instinct trumping (no pun intended) intellect. I just hope the voice of reason prevails before we explain Fermi’s paradox by destroying ourselves.
I wrote the bulk of The Stone Bridge in November 2015. It was finished by February 2016. It’s now October 2016, and the book still hasn’t been released. Why? Well that’s a long story…
The simple answer is that I tried to write the book that I wanted to write, when I should have written the book that it wanted to be. There’s a massive difference, and I screwed up. It took real guts for my editor to tell me that what I had written just didn’t work and I needed to redo it. Well, not all of it, thankfully. Only half.
I have spent months rewriting chapters, killing off characters, editing and re-editing words until I really am reaching the end of my tether. It’s only thanks to my inherent stubbornness (and a lot of support from friends) that the book will reach its conclusion. But this last stage is killing me – I feel like Jonny Brownlee at the end of the Triathlon World Series.
I haven’t written a blog post in what seems like decades. I haven’t posted on my author Facebook page for centuries. Summertime, life, kids, travel – I’ve let them all get in the way. I haven’t been really happy for months, and I blame the book for much of this. Perhaps my standards are higher than they were when I started. Perhaps those of my editor are. Perhaps deep down I just want to write a good story. Whatever the reason, I am looking forward to reaching the end, although I know that it’s just another beginning. I’ve started on the next series already…
I have always been a 95% person. Fine tuning, making something perfect, has never been my strong point, and now I’m paying the price for that character flaw.
Don’t worry – The Stone Bridge will hit the bookshelves soon. It has just cost more than I expected.
It’s December 1st, and I have lost my reason to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve achieved my goals and there’s nothing left to strive for; the rest of my life will be a sham, a hollow simulacrum. National Novel Writing Month is over. I did it. I’m a winner. My third novel is more than halfway along, the words no longer floating randomly in the vacuum of my skull, but saved on my laptop. And in the cloud. And on an external hard drive. Having had a computer simply break this year, I’m taking no chances.
Yes, NaNoWriMo is done and dusted; my first year of the challenge, the idea of which is that you sit down on November 1st with a blank page/ screen/ mind, and write fifty thousand words in one month. I know several people who have completed the challenge in previous years and I wanted to see if I could do it myself.
The simple answer is that while I managed to get to the 50K word limit, I didn’t do it alone. My wife shouldered more of the domestic work than she might normally, freeing me up to write every day, or at least almost every day. In the end, I wrote on 22 of the 30 days in November, and I learned a lot.
Mostly, I learned that I haven’t lost my competitiveness. I do deadlines – that word count became fifty thousand Swords of Damocles hanging over my head. The thought of not reaching the 50K mark never entered my head, but there are a few things that have become clear over the past month:
Will I do NaNoWriMo next year? I don’t know. Whatever I decide, I’ll go into the challenge with open eyes. Like most things in life, the goal is there to be reached, you just have to put in the effort.
Have you run your fingers over some hieroglyphs recently? Perhaps you browsed through the news in a vellum codex this morning? Read a scroll on your daily commute?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you’re likely an archaeologist and you are excused from reading further. For the rest of you, I have one simple question: why?
The answer is relatively simple: progress.
I’m sure there were people who resisted the change from the scroll to the codex, the Dark Age equivalent of the trolls who decry the ever-increasing switch away from paper towards electronic books. Just as the Luddites failed to halt the advances of the Industrial Revolution, so too will the tree-killing paper lovers fail to stop the sweep of the e-reader and the tablet.
Don’t get me wrong. I love books. Paper ones, that is. Had I the choice, I would happily while away my time in a personal library, surrounded by the sheer presence of books, my eyes attracted occasionally to the special motes of dust that one only finds near a collection of books. I would sit in that library, breathing in the dustily dry smell of the books, as I read on my Kindle.
You see, ebooks are just too convenient. I travel a lot, and appreciate being able to carry hundreds of books with me in one handy little package. I watch my parents increase the font size, making it easier for them to read the latest John Grisham. I get an email from Amazon minutes after my wife finishes a book, telling me that she has purchased another, after browsing the virtual bookshelves. In-built dictionary, note-taking facility, adjustable screen brightness – the list goes on.
My final epiphany came a few months ago. A good friend released her long-awaited book and kindly sent me a review copy. I was so excited when it arrived – the look, the smell, the feel of it – it was real! I’ll confess that the autographed compliments slip added a nice touch.
I started to read the book. The content was wonderful, dryly humourous, with enough vitriol to make me smile and even laugh out loud on occasion. My wife started to grumble that I still had my light on. Could I turn the pages more quietly? But the straw that broke the camel’s back came when my thumb started to grow tired holding the pages open! I persevered, but concluded that I’ll stick with my Kindle.
There’s also the minor fact that Amazon alone sold more than three billion ebooks last year. Now I just have to figure out how to get my 0.1% share…
It’s not quite raining as we troop off the bus. Anyone not from Ireland would say that it was, but like the Eskimos’ forty words for snow, today is simply soft; perfect weather for rugby. The leaves have blown up against the kerbstones like confetti from last night’s wedding, oaks mixing with chestnuts, all destined for the groundsman’s brush and a mulch pile.
Because there’s obviously a groundsman here. The mature trees, the razored grass edges, the pristine sports pitches all scream that there has been a groundsman here for generations. Look at all that space, boys! To have something like this in a country town is one thing, but here, in the heart of Belfast? This is the cradle of civilisation – it must have cost a fortune to build all this.
And what sort of boys go to such a wealthy school? In my mind’s eye, I see hordes of mature teenagers trot out with the discipline of an army, taller, stronger, better-looking that our rabble. The sort of boy that stands when your mother enters the room, meets your Dad’s eye over a firm handshake, and has to choose between offers from Oxford and Cambridge. How are we even going to compete, let alone win? Not for the first time that morning, I feel nervous.
Truth be told, I feel nervous every Saturday morning, every time we play. It’s worse at home, as my parents are there week in, week out – watching, supporting, advising. But even after an hour in a battered Ulsterbus, the butterflies are still having a party in my guts.
I try and think through my fears as I lumber churlishly towards the changing rooms, surrounded by my team. They’re half the problem. They’re not just my team-mates, they’re my class-mates and my friends. I really don’t want to let them down. Or myself, for that matter. I’m a good enough player, but I can have off days, like anyone else. Let today not be one of those days.
I stop just as we enter the games pavilion to don our rugby kit. I look back at the pitches, knowing that within the hour, thirty boys are going to throw themselves at each other in a life-and-death battle. I smell the light wind, a few desultory raindrops landing on my face as my friends bundle past me, teasing and complaining as I block the doorway. And I know that today will be a good day, regardless of the perceived stature of our opposition, regardless of my jitters, regardless of the outcome. Today will be a good day. I tell myself that.
What I don’t realise is that thirty years from now, I will be walking through the centre of a foreign capital that I call home. It will be not-quite-raining, although anyone not from Ireland might argue that point. The leaves of oak and chestnut will mingle with those of maple and linden, but they’ll still be lying in the gutter like drunks. And I will remember that day in Belfast, those emotions, those feelings.
And I will know that today will be a good day.