Fifty Shades of Failure, Part 3

Fifty Shades of Failure, Part III23f75d4bcae4c60c fifty

I tried and failed to read Fifty Shades of Grey in fifty page instalments and report on it objectively. And now I've decided to comb through the wreckage of my disastrous experiment, in the small hope of sparing someone else a similar fate. Let's get right to it.

You Can't Have Both...right?

You Can't Have Both! Or can you?rosie the riveter personalized posters-r7eaefcb4079c4cc5b54933ec0b1bf495 ishs 400

Note: This post is also running, in a more tightly edited version, on the fine website If you'd like to leave a comment, please do so here. I might write a follow-up piece, so any wise words would be greatly appreciated.

The year I turned 40, I realised that I'd have to resolve a few long-term dilemmas in my life, if only to keep from getting too depressed when that birthday rolled around. One area I needed to deal with was my writing – I finally got the nerve to treat it as more than a hobby, started applying to graduate level programmes in creative writing and settled down to work on my first novel.

The other worry that had been hanging over me was fertility.


Fifty Shades of Failure, Part 2

Fifty Shades of Failure: Part 21206572119215038269johnny automatic NPS map pictographs part 68 svg med

I tried and failed to read Fifty Shades of Grey in 50-page chunks and report on it faithfully – dragging Lady Chatterley's Lover and a lesbian biker novel called Satan's Best along for the ride. Here's the wreckage.


Fifty Shades of Failure

Fifty Shades of Failure  fifty-shades-of-grey-300-400

Okay, I've been threatening to post this for the better part of a year. Time to share the magic. And just to be clear, it's not the novel that's the failure here. It's me. Back in the dark days of starting this blog, I had an idea for what I thought would be an interesting series of articles: I would read Fifty Shades of Grey in instalments of 50 pages, and report objectively on what I'd found. Why? Well, the book kept coming up in conversation, especially with writers, but nobody involved ever seemed to have read a word. To make the proposition more interesting, I decided to throw in 50 pages of Lady Chatterley's Lover as well, and just for fun, I'd add a lesbian biker novel called Satan's Best by Red Jordan Arobateau (generously donated to my personal library by Mr Fintan O'Higgans of Brussels). So you'd get pure trash, great literature and middle-brow trash, all concerning sex. Sounds like fun, right?


Begrudgery, on a Summer's Day

Begrudgery, on a Summer's Day

This post originally appeared on, with a slightly more upbeat ending. For the original, grouchier version, read on.three bananas

Picture it: you're at a gathering packed with writerly types, all doing the usual drinking and complaining, when someone arrives bursting with good news – an award, a publishing deal, sales in excess of E.L. James and the Bible put together. Now look around the room. What's the reaction? Smiles and congratulations, of course. But while some of these smiles are genuine, others may seem a bit forced –  maybe closer to grimaces of pain. 'Oh,' they all say, 'I'm so happy for you!' Then everyone runs for the bathroom to have a good cry.

I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea. 'Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little,' said Gore Vidal, and you'll note that it wasn't a plumber or a skiing instructor who came up with this. Literary begrudgery is something all writers have to deal with if they're going to be happy, especially in this age of social media where you spend so much of your time online 'liking' and congratulating others.


It's the Anti-Launch!

It's the Anti-Launch!

Hey! My birthday was last week! And my fella's was the week before. All this celebrating has put me in mind of gal fireworks-258parties past and present, and so I decided to recycle this article, which ran on the Canadian National Post Blog in May. It's about my Dublin 'anti-launch' for Cinnamon Toast one rainy March night. No names have been changed. Here it is:

As soon as I announced that Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World was getting published, friends started talking about a book launch, and so did I. In fact, I dreamed about it as if it were my wedding.

But as I got closer to publication, I realised that this really was just daydreaming.


Letting Go - or Daruma's Other Eye

Letting Go  -  or Daruma's Other Eyedaruma

I wrote this article on St Patrick's Day, when Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World had just been released. The post briefly ran on, then a few weeks later writer and blogger Louise Gibney was kind enough to feature it on her website (check out her travel blog as well). Then it hit the Canadian National Post blog in May. That's a lot of travelling! Now it's retiring here. Read on:

If you go to any Buddhist temple in Japan at New Year's, you'll find Daruma dolls for sale. These are round figurines, usually made of papier-maché, depicting a grumpy-looking bearded man cloaked in red and gold with no arms or legs. The reference is to a monk called Bodhidharma who, according to legend, sat facing a wall in meditation for nine years. 'And then his legs fell off!' is the gleeful note the story ends on.


J.K. Alias and the Pseudonym of Cuckoos

J.K. Alias and the Pseudonym of Cuckoos

I was recently asked to write about The Cuckoo's Calling by...ahem...Robert Galbraith, and what it imagesmeans for new writers. Here's what I came up with. This article is also running this week on Normally I'd wait to post it, but I figured that in two weeks this story will be time capsule material, so... Read on.

Okay, time to come clean. I've been involved in an elaborate hoax for years. You see, I don't actually exist. Any of you who believe you've met me were the victims of a complicated set-up involving actors, wigs, mirrors, and hallucinations brought on by large quantities of bad Roquefort. My name is on a book, but it's a pen name, a pseudonym. The real author of my novel is, of course, J.K. Rowling.

So, should run out and buy it. Now.

No, just kidding.


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Get your copy of Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World here Ireland and the UK 

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In the U.S.A.

In Canada...or try here. Or go independent.

"...astonishingly good....a juicy coming-of-age story...also an important read." The Globe and Mail

"...poignant...heart-wrenching. This stunning debut will surely appeal to both teenage readers and adults." Quill & Quire, starred review

"Witty, devastating, with a melancholy humour..." Sunday Business Post

", top drawer stuff..." BGE Book Club

"...warm, witty, heartfelt and utterly engaging..." The Irish News

"A stunning debut. I loved it." The Irish Examiner