Oh to be in Ireland…

-On St Patrick’s Day…

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☘ ☘ ☘ ☘ ☘

Even if you’re not Irish, this is the place to be today. The best place to enjoy the beautiful scenery, music, Guinness and most of all THE CRAIC! Yes, craic, not crack. It’s the Gaelic word for fun and shenanigans. Plenty of that over here today! ☘

You can’t be here? Then why not try a virtual tour of Ireland through some great Irish stories, like Hot Property, my rom-com set in Kerry, or the two hilarious Boston-Irish detective stories I co-wrote with Boston-Irish crime writer Pete Morin, Full Irish and Half Irish. All three are on a $0.99 special until the weekend. Craic and other shenanigans guaranteed!

No better way to enjoy The Emerald Isle from afar. So go on, download the books to your kindle, fasten your seat belt and let us take you there.

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!

☘ ☘ ☘ ☘ ☘

P.S Half Irish is now on Netgalley, where you can download it for reviewing.

Half Irish Cover final SMALL AVATAR

Beating the Billionaires

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When I wrote Hot Property over two years ago, I decided to create a new kind of hero- the antithesis to what was trending at the time- the lonely billionaire. I know this is-or was- the man every romance reader dreamed of: rich, handsome with a lonely heart, looking for true love. Sorry but…yawn.

I wanted to present a challenge to the reader, a hero who didn’t have the means to offer the heroine a life of glamour and leisure, who couldn’t take her to the hot spots of the world, fly her to Paris for lunch, or give her diamonds and pearls. My hero would be, okay, sexy, but a man who worked hard to keep bread on the table and the wolf from the door. Someone who had other values and ideals, preferring the great outdoors to fast cars, yachts and fine dining.

So I conjured up Paudie, a Kerry sheep farmer, good looking, poor but honest, hot tempered, strong, stubborn and very, very Irish. He loves animals, the great outdoors, Irish music and a well-pulled pint. He has bright blue eyes and a smile to melt a thousand hearts. I fell in love with him myself as I wrote the story, and now tens of thousands of readers have done the same.

I didn’t really expect it or plan it. I thought I was taking a huge risk. But I never write to a formula or try to find the zeitgeist of the moment- which is impossible.

Hot Property is now available for free in all e-book stores worldwide. It has seen over 20000 downloads on Amazon to date, and received rave reviews. Many readers have sent me messages swooning over Paudie. Must be that Irish charm- or perhaps that readers now want the simple life in a beautiful landscape, rather than champagne and caviar.

Is this a new trend? In that case, I’m proud to have been one of the first to kick it off.

US-UK, What a Difference!

US-UK the contrast   I have noticed through the years of publishing my e-books worldwide, that there is a great difference in the settings- or should I say countries- to which US and UK readers want to escape. As I have had quite a globe-trotting life, I set my novels in the countries where I have lived- and they are quite a few. The places in which I have lived and loved the most are France and Ireland. (Also my home country- Sweden, of course, which was featured in Swedish for Beginners).

I have often been told that my sense of place is one of the best features of my books, and that the readers feel they are ‘there’ as they read. I think this is because I think very visually and feel myself I’m right in the middle of the setting I describe as I write. I ‘see’ the beautiful vistas of France and Ireland, I feel the heat, and smell the herbs and garlic of a French coq au vin, or an Irish stew with fresh soda bread. I swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, or walk up the grassy hills of Ireland with the wind in my hair. My greatest wish was to take my readers along with me on these trips, and if I have achieved that, I’m very happy.

My e-books sell mainly in America and Britain. But these readers have very different tastes. American readers love to ‘travel’ to Ireland, especially the wild west coast, as described in my Kerry Romance Series, the first of which,Hot Property, is free right now. UK readers, on the other hand, love going to France in their imagination, which is why my brand new Riviera romance, Selling Dreams, along with my comedy/satire, Villa Caramel, have seen amazing sales in the UK all winter.

I have my own theory about this. I think Americans love Ireland, and thus like reading about it. Many American have roots in Ireland and there is a great infinity between the two countries. People in Britain, on the other hand, have a great love of France and all things French. It’s more exotic and the weather is better, not to mention the food and wine. I can’t argue with that.

This chilly winter, I have myself, escaped to the French Riviera, and continue to do so while I write the second book in what is to become The Riviera Series.

After that, I might return to Ireland… Who knows? In any case, I’m not complaining. Vive la difference!

Brendan Behan and I

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The publication of Full Irish  my co-written Irish-American detective story has raised a few questions in my my mind, the main one being: how Irish am I really? Of course, my name suggests an Irish colleen with roots in County Cork, but that’s borrowed plumage from my marriage to an Irishman from said county. In fact, my Co-writer, Pete Morin is more Irish than I am, as his mother’s family name is Donnelly, originally from County Sligo. I have to confess to having been born in Sweden and there is no shame in that. Except when you market a book set partly in Ireland. But, although my first twenty years were spent in the country of my birth, the rest of my adult life were, apart from some years in foreign countries, spent in Ireland.

I feel more at home here than in Sweden and, indeed, I am told I speak English with an Irish accent. Not only that, my connection with this country goes back to my early childhood, when my father came here on holiday as a young man and fell in love with this beautiful country and its people. It’s partly his ‘fault’ that I met and married my Irish husband of many years. My dad used to invite Irish friends to stay in our summer house in the islands and I have been familiar with Irish voices from the tender age of five or so.

As my late father travelled around Ireland and mainly County Kerry, he befriended many an Irishman in the many pubs he visited (purely for local colour). One of these gentlemen was Brendan Behan. They met in a pub in Dunquin on the Dingle peninsula and started to talk, swap stories and (probably) risqué jokes as well. I do believe there was also some singing. (Brendan was a wonderful singer). As they parted, my father gave Brendan his card (as yo do) and said something along the lines of: “if you’re ever in Stockholm, give me a call”, not thinking for a moment this would actually happen. But it did.

A few weeks after his return home, there was a phone call from the local police station in Stockholm to the house in the islands. Did my father know an Irishman named Brendan Behan? And if so, could he come and pick him up? Now, I know that at this time. Brendan was not drinking, so he was probably just being Irish and argumentative. He was also in the company of his wife Beatrice, a pretty, soft-spoken woman. They were both immediately invited to stay with us.

This was in 1958 and, although I was just a little girl at the time, I have vivid memories of those weeks when Brendan Behan came to stay. I suppose it was because he was such a big, warm, noisy man with a great sense of humour and a loud, contagious laugh. I remember how he got up at 4 am every morning to work on the final proofs his book, The Borstal Boy, the first edition of which is still sitting in the bookcase in the summer house. He got the cover image during his stay, and proudly showed it to us. When he had finished the morning’s work, he cooked us all a Full Irish breakfast and that was my first introduction to this typically Irish feast. I have enjoyed many of those since then, but the ones cooked by Brendan Behan were the best.

There are many tales of Brendan Behan, and most of them are of him being drunk and disorderly. That is not my image of Brendan. I simply remember him as a larger-than-life man, who was so kind to us children. A man who stood on the pier on a dark, moonlit night in August and sang an Irish ballad, his beautiful voice ringing across the black waters of the bay. A man who went to a Jussi Björling charity  concert in the church on the island (Jussi had a summer house close to ours) and listened, tears rolling down his cheeks. I also remember him singing the ‘Ridi Pagliaccio‘ aria on his knees in front of my grandmother, making her both laugh and cry. Despite the fact that I, like my younger siblings, didn’t speak much English, Brendan managed to communicate with us using a smattering of Swedish he had picked up, and the few English words and phrases we knew.

My dad later told us the story of their subsequent visit to a fancy restaurant in Stockholm. The Maitre d’ took one look at Brendan and hesitated about whether he should be let in to such a select establishment, saying “that man likes to drink”. When my dad translated this to Brendan, he replied: “tell him that’s the understatement of the century”.

Brendan and my dad are both gone. I like to imagine them together in Heaven, sitting on a cloud, having a pint and singing Irish songs.

How one thing lead to another, and years later a story is born

A few weeks ago, I announced  that I’m starting a new co-written project with my friend and fellow writer Pete Morin. Nearly at 10000 words in and looking at chapter 5, I’m thinking back on my Authonomy  days and how I met Pete. Back then, (in 2008) we were both competing to get to the top of the Ed’s desk, me with a contemporary fiction novel, Swedish for Beginners and Pete with his legal thriller Diary of a Small Fish. I was less competitive and gave up when my book reached number 20 in the charts and went on to self-publish it, as I’m very impatient and found it hard to stick to the daily routine of reviewing and plugging my book. In any case, the superb writing of Pete’s book got him to the top and he received a glowing review and the gold star. Much later, he published it as well and it was a huge success.

During those Authonomy days we were part of a great group of writer friends who, to this day, keep in touch. We joked and laughed but there were some heated arguments too. Maybe because as writers, we have hot tempers and big egos.

That was six years ago and since then, we’ve kept in touch, comparing notes and sharing our individual writing/publishing experiences. But I never thought we’d work together. And even if the thought had entered my mind, I would have imagined that we’d end up arguing and give up on the idea. As we’re both quite headstrong, opinionated and stubborn, a working relationship was not something I ever thought would work. I think we agreed that it would be ‘volcanic’ at some stage.

But then, somehow, we got started . Threw ideas at each other. Plotlines. Chracters and their relationships. Settings. Twists and turns in the story. The Boston-Irish corruption plot grew and grew. We created two main characters, written from two POVs. Pete with Paul Forte from his previous novel and me with a new heroine, sassy journalist Finola McGee. Together, they will crack the case and reveal the villain(s). And, along the way, take the readers on a fascinating and intriguing journey. And we’re having a lot of fun writing it.

You can read the rest of what we’ve come up with so far on Pets’ new blog post. I think it’s going to be quite a story.

The Hot new Genre- and I’m in it!

I have just read this very interesting post about the hot new genre on The Passive VoiceFarm-Lit. As in, town girl ditches stilettos for wellies and falls in love with country life, cows, sheep and the great outdoors.

This made me feel very excited. Because-guess what? I have just finished writing EXACTLY such a novel. I wrote this book just for fun, inspired by my own experiences of doing up a wreck and being catapulted from city life into country life. Shows how writing what you enjoy sometimes hits what’s in the air…

In Hot Property, my new novel, due out mid-June, Megan O’Farrell, city girl and fashion expert learns that she has inherited an old wreck of a house in County Kerry in the wild west of Ireland. What follows are hilarious adventures, frustrations and romantic encounters with not one but two handsome hunks…

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Excerpt from chapter one:

 

“‘To my great-niece, Megan O’Farrell, daughter of my nephew, Sean, I bequeath my house at Kilshee, County Kerry and all the land thereof ’.”

Megan blinked and stared at the young solicitor, momentarily forgetting the cold air creeping up her bare legs in the small office. Having nearly drifted off while he droned on about inheritance laws and other legal gobbledygook, she was now wide awake.

 “House? Old Uncle Pat willed me his house? That lovely little farmhouse?” She paused, trying to take it in. “‘And the land thereof’? So there’s land as well as a house?”

“Yes. Ten acres.” He smiled. “Congratulations. I’m sure it was a pleasant surprise.”

“Yes, of course.” Megan was stunned. This was like a dream. She instantly imagined herself in that cute little house by the sea, with the turf fire burning in the grate and the smell of roast lamb wafting around. “I didn’t know exactly what I’d inherited. I was hoping it would be some money. I could do with a bit of cash right now.”

His eyes twinkled. “Couldn’t we all? But this is even better, isn’t it?”

“You bet.” Megan beamed at him. “A house,” she mumbled, “a little house by the sea…”

 “Excellent location,” the solicitor said. “A spit from the ocean, at the foot of the Benoskee. Wonderful views and great walking, if you’re into hill walking.” He glanced at her shoes. “But perhaps not.”

She looked down at her strappy sandals. “Well,” she started, “I would naturally change my shoes if I were to go hill walking.” She tugged at her skirt, regretting her choice of clothing, but it had been hot and sunny in Dublin when she left early that morning. Here, in in the south west, it was misty and chilly.

“Of course. But you don’t look like the outdoorsy type.”

Annoyed by the slight scorn in his voice, Megan shook back her hair. “You mean because I don’t have chunky, hairy legs and a butch hairdo? Actually, if that’s what it takes…” she glanced at the little sign on his desk, “Mr Nolan, I wouldn’t be interested in climbing hills.”

“Right,” he muttered, his voice cooler. He turned back to the document. “So, there we are. You’re the proud owner of a house.”

“In the Kingdom,” Megan added.

He glanced at her. “Are you taking the mickey?”

“Taking the—what?”

“Taking the mickey,” he repeated. “As in being ironic.”

“Why? Isn’t that what they call Kerry? The Kingdom?”

“Yes. But it depends on the way you say it. It can sound like a sneer.”

“Why would I sneer at Kerry?”

He shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. Dublin socialite, slumming it, popped into my mind. Having a laugh at the peasants.”

Megan bristled. “You’re very quick to judge by appearances, I see.”

“Well, a person’s appearance is often a good hint of their general lifestyle and attitudes, I find. As a lawyer, I often have to make a quick assessment.”

“And how often do you get it wrong?”

He grinned. “Never.”

She smirked. “You just did.”

His smile stiffened. “That’s a first.” He adopted a more serious expression. “Are you married? Sorry, but I have to ask. For the purposes of the registration of the property.”

“Can’t you tell? I mean your powers of observation being so great, one would expect you to know whether I’m a married or a single ‘socialite’.” Megan drew breath. She knew she sounded bitchy but the way he was sizing her up made her feel uncomfortable.

 “I take it you’re not,” he retorted.

“What makes you say that?”

“No wedding ring. And…uh, your general attitude.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. You seem a little prickly.”

Megan straightened up on the rickety chair. “I must say your attitude is, uh, a little unprofessional, if you don’t mind my saying so.” She was going to add that his white fisherman’s sweater and jeans were not appropriate for a solicitor but changed her mind. Why sink to his level?

Their eyes locked for a loaded minute or so, until Nolan turned back to his document. “You’re right. Please accept my sincere apologies.”

Megan sighed, too tired to keep up the fight. “Apology accepted. Sorry if I seem a little irritable but I’m very tired. I practically got up at dawn to drive down here, and I haven’t had any breakfast. So, maybe we could get back to business? I’m sure you have other clients who need your attention. Or you have to go and defend someone in court or something.”

“Yes, I do actually.” He cleared his throat. “So, married or single?”

Is being newly divorced “single”? She found it hard to say the word “divorced”. It was an admittance of failure, somehow, of not having succeeded in keeping a man. Of having been rejected. Even saying that word brought her back to a place she was trying to forget. “I’m not married,” she said after a moment’s deliberation.

He wrote something on the document. Then glanced up. “In a relationship?”

She let out a little laugh. “Sounds like something from Facebook.”

He coloured slightly. “I do have to ask these questions, you know.”

“I see. Okay. No. I’m not in a relationship. At the moment.”

“Right.” He scribbled something. Then he looked up. “You’re on Facebook?”

“Isn’t everyone?”

“I suppose.” He peered at her. “You have a lot of friends there?”

“Uh, yes. Twelve,” Megan said without thinking. “…hundred,” she added, to make it sound less pathetic.

 He looked at her with respect. “You have twelve hundred friends on Facebook?”

She met his gaze. “That’s right.”

“Amazing. I only have two hundred or something. But I don’t spend much time on it.”

Tired, fed up and now so hungry, the rumble of her stomach echoed around the small room, Megan sighed. “Neither do I. Can we sort this out, and then I’ll sign on the dotted line. Once I have the keys, I can go and take a look at the house.”

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible.”

Megan stared at him. “What? You just told me I owned a house and then—”

 Nolan sighed. “I explained all that before I read the will. It’s the subject of probate.”

“Probate? Uh, what does that actually mean?”

Nolan adopted a business-like expression. “Probate is a way to determine who has ownership of the property and allows those who may have unpaid debts or bills to make a claim against the estate. There is a probate court which works with this type of thing. It involves executing the will or establishing a means of disposing of property when there isn’t a will.”

Megan blinked. “Oh. I see. But there is a will.”

He nodded. “Yes, but it has to be established that your uncle was actually the only owner of the property when he died.”

“But isn’t that the job of the executor?”

“Yes,” Nolan said. “And I’m the executor. Unusual, but your uncle appointed me because he said he trusted me. He didn’t really explain why he wanted you to have the house, though. Do you know?”

“No. Other than that it should have gone to my dad, but he died two years ago. I didn’t even know Uncle Pat that well. We spent a summer with him when I was eight but I haven’t seen him since. My dad didn’t talk about him much, or had any contact with him, as far as I know.”

He studied her for a moment. “You’re very like your uncle, you know.”

“Am I? I don’t remember what he looked like.”

“Red hair, brown eyes. Just like you. The same strong chin.” He nodded. “Yes. You’re the image of him.”

“I look like my dad, everyone says. But maybe Uncle Pat and he were alike, then.”

“Probably. And your uncle had no children of his own…” Nolan shuffled through his papers. “I think it said something about not wanting to give it to those who didn’t deserve it… I had it here somewhere…”

Megan tried to curb her impatience. She wanted to get out of there, have something to eat and then drive around for a bit to get her bearings. Daniel Nolan was a good-looking man, with his hazel eyes, thick, sandy hair and tall frame, but there was something about him that made her bristle. “Never mind,” she said. “I’m sure there was a good reason. How long will the probate court take?”

Nolan shrugged. “Depends. Could take a couple of months or a year.”

“Oh, shit,” Megan blurted out.

“Quite.” Then he seemed unable to hold in the smile she suspected had been hovering on his lips for some time. His white teeth against his light tan instantly took years off him. “I know. It would piss me off big time, too.”

Megan couldn’t help returning his smile. “Well, I suppose I’ll just have to be patient. But I was so looking forward to telling my sister. She always thought I was useless. But now that I own property, she might change her tune.”

“Why can’t you tell her? You’ll get the house sooner or later.”

“Hmm, no. I’ll wait until I am the rightful owner. Then I’ll wave the deeds in her face.”

 “What do you think you’ll do with it?”

“What?”

“I mean,” he continued, “are you keeping it or are you going to sell it?”

 “I don’t really know,” Megan said. “I’d like to see it first.”

“If you want to sell, let me know. It’s in a very good location and would sell quickly. The land could be sold separately as grazing land. Farmers in the area are always looking for extra fields.”

“Okay. I’ll think about it.”

“It’s pretty wrecked, you know. It’ll take a lot of work to make it habitable.”

Megan stood up. “Well, we’ll see. I might be able to do it up myself. I’m pretty good with a hammer and nails.”

“It’s more than banging a few nails into a wall, I’m afraid. Or hanging up pretty curtains. It’ll be a while before you can invite your trendy friends over from Dublin.”

 “I might find a builder willing to give me a good price,” Megan said, trying to look as if restoring houses was something she did as a hobby.

He laughed. “Around here? This is Kerry, not Dublin. Builders are scarce, and a cheap, honest one even scarcer.”

Megan sighed. “Well, we’ll see. Right now, I just want to go and have some breakfast and then get going. It’s a long drive back.”

He rose. “You know, you could go and have a look at the house if you want. I can’t give you the keys, but no harm done if you just have a look from the outside.”

She was going to say no and flaunt out of his office, but her curiosity got the better of her. “That would be great.”

“I could come with you, if you can wait until lunchtime.”

“No thank you. I can manage all by myself. Just tell me where it is, and I’ll be on my way.”

He picked up a brochure. “Here’s a very good map and a description of the house. It was done before your uncle died. He was thinking of selling, as he was in a nursing home then. But he died before he had a chance to go through with it. We got a few very good offers, actually.”

“We?”

He nodded. “Yes, my dad is a real-estate agent, and we often work together. Those offers are still on the table. We told the prospective buyers we would ask you what you wanted to do and let them know.”

Megan stood at the door, hesitating. “How much did they offer?”

“With the land, two hundred and fifty K. Just the house and the small garden, a hundred and fifty K.”

“K? You mean thousand? Two hundred and fifty thousand? Euros?”

He smirked. “No, peanuts.”

“Ha, ha.” Megan took the brochure and stuffed it into her tote bag. “I’ll decide when the time comes.” She held out her hand. “Goodbye, and thanks for your help.”

He took Megan’s hand and held it a moment longer than absolutely necessary. “You’re welcome. By the way, there’s a restaurant down the street, where you can get breakfast. I get the feeling you need ‘the full Irish’.”

Megan wrinkled her nose. “Never touch that horrible stuff.”

He laughed. “No, I suppose it’s not very healthy. But sometimes it’s a great pick-me-up after a heavy night. They do a great one there that few people can say no to.”

“I’m sure I can resist the temptation.”

He grinned. “You’re probably not that easy to seduce.”

“Not with sausage and bacon in any case.” Megan withdrew her hand. “Goodbye, Mr Nolan.”

“Goodbye.” He winked. “Enjoy the breakfast.”

 

So… that’s the start. And, just to put you in the picture, or the setting, if you prefer:

The drive to the house took about half an hour from Tralee. Megan passed through Camp and took the right turn on the road toward Castlegregory, along the Atlantic coast. The sun appeared from behind the clouds, turning the water of Tralee Bay deep turquoise. With the dramatic backdrop of majestic mountains, it was the most stunning scenery she had ever seen. She had trouble keeping her eyes on the road, wanting to take in all the beautiful sights. The blue sky. The endless ocean. Seabirds gliding, dipping, rising again. She had to stop several times to allow her senses to take it all in.

On an impulse, she drove past the turn she should have taken and continued on, past the village and out towards Brandon, turning up the road to the Connor pass. She wanted to get up there to see the views of the whole of Dingle, so she could get an idea of the landscape and the setting of this peninsula she hadn’t visited for so many years.

After driving up the scary hairpin bends, she finally reached the top of the pass and the viewing point.

She got out of the car, looked to the north side of the peninsula and recognised Castlegregory, that lovely decrepit old village with its tangle of cottages and Victorian houses. Further out, the Maharees, with its low-lying landscape, a scimitar of sand edged with long golden beaches, pushed flat and green into the wind-ruffled water of Tralee Bay. The mountains of the Dingle Peninsula, the long spine of Slieve Mish inland, the hills around Mount Brandon away in the west across Brandon Bay, outlined in dove grey and pink against the ever-changing sky. And the Atlantic spread out below, the intense blue meeting the sky at the horizon and the waves crashing onto the rocks.

 

Out in mid June. I’ll keep you posted.

Book for netgalley review

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