Monday, October 29, 2007

Mississippi property

My eyes popped open this morning while drinking my coffee and watching the morning news shows before leaving for the gym.

A husband was suing his ex-wife's new boyfriend--all parties in their sixties--for TWENTY TWO million dollars. The wife started seeing him AFTER they'd split up and had left her husband because of his excessive drinking and abuse.

The cause of action is 'Alienation of Affection' and based on the premise the new man took his property from him.

Yes, PROPERTY. Apparently, in seven Southern States, a wife is regarded under their laws as property, as in chattel. I am NOT kidding.

Only in the blessed and dark parts of the South. And people from abroad wonder why there's a bit of a social divide in this country.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Give me a break!

JK Rowling's announcement that Dumbledore's gay has lit the fires under the arses of some bigots again, albeit some of them seem to be using the tired old 'fear of leading children down the path of witchcraft card.'

Rev. Ron Barker (it embarrasses me to learn he's Roman Catholic and not a rabid Evangelical, but what can I say) has banned all Harry Potter books from St. Joseph's Catholic School in Wakefield Massachusetts. His reason is the above-mentioned, but we all know that's horseshit given its proximity to the recent Rowling announcement.

Disingenuousness at its most blatant, most foolish, most despicable. And this guy's in charge of educating young minds.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Still writing, still editing, still working

Just finished a long session of writing as I want to get this first novel rewrite completed and move on to 'the next thing' as Jeanne, one of my writing group members, says. It's tough to write when we're still experiencing summer temperatures that have in effect prevented the usually spectacular fall foliage in this part of the country. This year, many of the trees are still green and, of those that did turn, only a few exhibited any dazzling color. The sugar maples, for example, can always be counted on to put on a show, a show of crimson and gold.

I'm also riveted by the plight of Californians who're struggling against the Santa Ana winds that are barreling down the canyons and fueling the fires and turning their homes into pyres. But Californians are tough people and will come out of this better and stronger. Also heartening to note the current administration is promising to send financial aid to that state because it's time our taxes were spent on helping people at home. (Last I heard on the telly, Jane Seymour--who's doing bloody well in Dancing with the Stars' I'm happy to say and despite her Mum's recent death--was on telly saying her hubby was in Malibu trying to protect their home.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Review on

Kathryn Esplin-Oleski, a prodigious author on, interviewed me recently for and has just posed a lovely review of A Son Called Gabriel that I wanted to share with you.

Here it is (and you can alos see her layout in all its technicolor glory by joining, which is a free social networking site):


Damian McNicholl is a long-time Gather member (February 14, 2006) ( who grew up in Northern Ireland and went to law school in Wales; in the 1990s, Damian came to the US as an attorney and taught himself to write fiction as he commuted from Long Island to New York City. Agents picked up Damian's manuscript of A Son Called Gabriel and it was published.

The protagonist, Gabriel Harkin, is the sensitive, first-born child of four in a working-class, Catholic family set in the Northern Ireland of the 1960s; Gabriel's childhood is beset by oft-brutal cruelty set within a loving family. Life is difficult for Gabriel because times were strict and he tries to hide his fears as he realizes he is not like other boys. In this coming of age novel, Gabriel soon realizes that Uncle Brendan, a priest, also struggled with a secret and had to leave Ireland for Kenya. The novel deals very poignantly with how Gabriel's parents and siblings try to offer Gabriel comfort as he struggles to conform to life. A Son Called Gabriel goes beyond most coming-of-age novels published in recent years. A must read.

A Son Called Gabriel was made an ABA Book Sense pick and was a finalist in a couple of literary awards, including the Lammies. Damian has co-authored a play with another playwright, based on 'Gabriel' that is under consideration for production at theatres in the US and abroad.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Damian about A Son Called Gabriel.

* * *

Damian, your novel, A Son Called Gabriel seems to be partially autobiographical, or, at least, based on some truth. Would you like to describe for readers what growing up in Northern Ireland was like?

A Son Called Gabriel is what I refer to as semi-autobiographical. By that I mean it has the elements of truth in certain aspects of the work, especially the political climate in which I grew up where the minority in Northern Ireland were repressed and discriminated against and took to the streets to demand their civil rights, and the complex issues involved with both heterosexual and homosexual sexuality in a very conservative environment. However, Gabriel is not me and Gabriel's family is not my family.

Growing up in Northern Ireland at that time [Ed note: 1960s and 1970s] was difficult for Catholics because they did not have the right to vote and all the best jobs were reserved for the Protestant majority. That is not to say that all Protestants had good jobs, of course. There were working class and impoverished Protestants, particularly in the inner cities, who were brainwashed or allowed themselves to be puppets for their Protestant masters--the landowning, Eton-educated Protestant masters--by accepting their bigotry and ideas that Catholics were wicked and untrustworthy, and vassals of the Church of Rome whose goal was world conversion to Catholicism.

But life there was also full of joy and fun. I grew up in breathtaking part of the Northern Irish countryside where farmers tilled their fields, juicy plums were picked from trees that grew alongside the road; carnivals, sports events and concerts featuring local talent were held frequently, and neighbors socialized and looked out for one another. (We also had our share of community gossips who kept the fires well banked and used attendance at Sunday Mass for intelligence gathering and reconnaissance.)

There was a lot of church because the area I grew up in was fervently Catholic and I attended Catholic primary and high schools. The entire community attended Mass on Sundays, observed Holy Days and fasted during Lent. Lent was always difficult for children and teenagers because it meant Mass every evening for six weeks, with Benediction and Rosaries thrown in for good measure.

Contemporary Northern Ireland is a very different place. My nephews and nieces are pretty similar to American kids today because of the Internet and TV, though they are not as coddled and micro-managed as many kids are here. I was over in Ireland a few months ago and my brother's twins--they're six--are speaking with very proper English accents and it was quite hysterical to listen to them. No one can understand why they are speaking like this or where it comes from, but it's very funny. They've been talking like this for two years. A few years ago, it would have been scandalous for an Irish kid to have an English accent. But the economy over there is doing extremely well and many people over there are now as well off as Americans, so the political strife and hatred has given way to reconciliation and a slow built trust between the two cultures. Those who still hate are being marginalized. That's how it should be.

How long did it take to write Gabriel?

The first draft of A Son Called Gabriel only took six or seven months to write. I think this was because it was so personal and Gabriel and his story was already fully formed in my mind. Of course, rewriting and editing took as long again.

You have such a beautiful, lyrical style to your prose - so haunting, quite reminiscent of Frank Mc Court's Angela's Ashes. Have you published other works besides Gabriel?

Thank you. I've read Angela's Ashes and enjoyed the writing style. Gabriel is my first published novel.

Your second novel will be published in 2009. Would you like to give us any hints as to what it is about?

It will be published in 2009 (maybe earlier if they so decide) by The Friday Project in the UK. Well, I can reveal it's now going to be a series of novels and they're going to be comic with just the right amount of darkness thrown in. I like to use humor in my writing where possible, even when dealing with heavy subject matter, because I can't stand books that are too heavy.

The working title of the novel is Unusual Steps. However, after working with my editor, we made the decision to split the novel in two, as the principal characters are very strong and have their own story lines. I'm working now on Marcus's story, which is about a young well-bred man leaving Ireland for the bright lights of London.

He moves into a house belonging to a very assertive young woman who's an immigration officer at Heathrow and next door lives a very meddlesome neighbor. He also befriends a very interesting American woman who's studying at the LSE [Ed note: London School of Economics] has a couple of run-ins with the law, and the story depicts his adventures as he goes about finding his place in the world. The second novel in the series will be about Julia, the immigration officer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

She's absconded: You're dismissed

Today I was summoned to the County seat for jury service. Anticipating a great deal of downtime, I took the book I'm currently reading, Rachel North's, Out of the Tunnel, a riveting memoir from The Friday Project about her life and suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after she was injured in the bomb that went off on the tube at King's Cross on 7/7/05 (the UK's 9/11 equivalent).

Jury duty was an interesting experience because Bucks County has a One Day-One Trial system, which means the jury is on call one for day only unless selected to form part of a jury in which case it's for the entire trial and not for the full two weeks as they do in say New York State. It makes for a very efficient handling of both the Court's time, the jury's time and the lawyers time. Indeed, it appears that Bucks County, as a result, is the most efficient court system in Pennsylvania (and undoubtedly beyond) as as result of this system and many jurisdictions are emulating it because it has been so successful.

In the United States, the fact I am an attorney does not preclude me from having to do jury service, which I believe is right and proper. I think the jury should reflect society at large, so the fact I have legal training and am a litigator should not mean I can't serve the interests of justice in a case in which I have no direct interest. I'm sure I would get elected the foreperson for the jury--or would try my damndest to make that happen, as I'd like to manage the deliberations and read the verdict at the end of the trial.

In any event, it wasn't to be on this occasion. I was to be sent to a court room for 'voir dire' (selection or rejection by the attorneys) in a criminal trial, but the judge and a tipstaff (Pennsylvania equivalent of a bailiff) came into the jurors lounge at 1.45 and stated the defendant had decided to abscond during lunch and the bailiffs were now in hot pursuit of her. Much chuckling ensued. After thanking us for our time, the judge said he was letting us go as he was not a mean man and going to keep us until she had been apprehended. I guess she decided she was guilty and likely to do time.

I was rather hoping to serve in a murder trial, though one part of me was also nervous because Pennsylvania has the death penalty which is very alien to me as Ireland and the UK abolished capital punishment many years ago. It would, however, have been marvelous grist for a plot or two.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Rewriting, rewriting, rewriting

I'm busy with the rewrite of Unusual Steps (my second novel), in between being appointed to scour the internet for interesting ideas for flooring for our new house.

Unusual Steps is really no more. I've separated the novel into two parts and am now concentrating on the male protagonist's story. I'm having a good time as I'm developing people in the novel who had no point of view, but really 'demanded' one.

It's a slow process. Not the edit I first thought it would be when my UK publisher--The Friday Project--acquired the novel.

But hey, it makes life interesting and challenging and worth living and all those good things.