Dublin Dispatch #4 – A New Year in Dublin

dublin coverHello and greetings once again from the House that St. Paddy built! (I don’t know if anyone actually calls Ireland that, but it worked for the Yankees with Babe Ruth, so I thought I’d spin it. Probably for the last time.)

In my last communique, I told you about all the Christmas fun I was having. Dammit. Stupid auto correct. Of course, I meant to type “all the really hard, unfun work I’m doing to gather research for the sixth SpyCo novella, Assignment: Dublin.” Because, like I keep telling Craig every time I submit my receipts, this is a brutal grind, but I’m taking one for the team.

At any rate, it’s New Years time now, and if you thought these folks did it up for Christmas (or so I’ve heard), you won’t even believe how they part for New Years (or so I assume.)

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One of the things I’ve noticed is that every holiday seems to bring really beautiful people out of the woodwork. For example, the lovely lady shown above, who may or may not dress like this every day. I forgot to ask. As you can see, she is holding her arms in the international gesture which either means “Celebrate the coming year,” or  “It’s approximately twenty minutes after nine o’clock.” I’m really bad at international gestures, so I’m not sure which.

Folks ’round here really know how to have a good time, but if you want to join them on New Years Eve and also have a really good time, be sure to buy your tickets way in advance, because by December 30 (which happens to be my daughter’s birthday – not related to anything I’m telling you about, but by mentioning it I’m in the running for a sweet “World’s Best Dad” coffee mug), everything is sold out! Fortunately, I bought all my tickets in plenty of time, although if Craig asks all the receipts that say “NYE BASH” actually don’t indicate that I’ve paid to get into a rockin’ New Year’s Eve party. Tell him it’s Gaelic for “Working really really really hard and having absolutely zero fun.” Like these ladies:

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Poor dears. Working so very hard. Just like me. I was very much hoping that as the clock ticked down and midnight approached I might be able to share a New Years smooch with one of them, but as the magical hour came everyone had paired up and there was only one set of lips left unmatched:

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So this may be my final dispatch, as I’m not sure I’m going to survive this encounter. But nonetheless, I’d like to wish everyone the Happiest of New Years, and I encourage you all to stay tuned to this blog and Craig’s VIP Reader’s page for news about the next SpyCo adventure, which promises to be the first blockbuster read of 2018!

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Dublin Dispatch #3: Christmas in Dublin

Hello, and Seasons Greetings from Ireland! I’ve yet to be deported! And in spite of the fact that when I thought I heard Craig say, “expense account” he was actually saying “You’re expensive, get out!” I’m still having an insanely good time. Excuse me. Of course what I meant to say was that I’m working extremely hard. While all of you are settling around the fire, or the tree, or the tree on fire or whatever, and sipping your holiday eggnog, I’m researching details for the upcoming SpyCo novella, Assignment: Dublin.

I need to tell you, reader-friends, that Dublin is a town that loves it some Christmas! I attended several lighting ceremonies, and they were amazing! Unlike my birthplace, New York City, where we make a huge deal about the lighting of a single tree, the big one at Rockefeller Center, in Dublin they celebrate throwing the switch in several locations. I managed to snap some lovely pictures at three of these shindigs.

The first was on Henry Street, where I met the beautiful Mother Christmas. I’m pretty sure some lights got turned on at some point. She was lovely though.

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Mother Christmas or Máthair na Nollag, entertaining folks on Henry Street.

I also attended the Dublin At Christmas celebration on Grafton Street, where I encountered this lovely present-headed girl, who was singing, possibly to the crowd, though I’m relatively sure it was just for me.

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Guess what. “Hey, can I unwrap you?” was not the cleverest thing this lovely performer had ever heard! I was certain it would win her over.

Again, I’m pretty sure that lights got turned on at some point, though I didn’t actually notice as I was fairly busy getting a little bit turned on myself.

Moving right along, at security’s insistence, I came upon the tree lighting on O’Connell Street.

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The O’Connell Street tree at the moment its lights came on.

This time my camera accidentally went off in the general direction of the giant tree and I caught this shot at the moment it was lit. I was also pretty lit by this point. (Did I mention there are some lovely pubs at all of these locations?) I’m sure I was actually trying to photograph yet another beautiful Irish woman, but by this point my aim was… let’s call it “questionable.”

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Kidding aside, Dublin At Christmas does an amazing job of lighting the city and entertaining the folks who flock to see the big moment.

In all honesty, Dublin is a city so in love with the holiday season that they actually have an organization dedicated to it, called Dublin At Christmas, who is the official sponsor of these beautiful displays.

So in review, (because at least one of these locations will likely find its way into the book), I fell in love with Mother Christmas, Present-head, and the wonderful city.

Now let’s hope that our ladies of SpyCo come out of their adventure as relatively unscathed as I have… thus far!

 

The Big Email Boom

209a9c59-541d-40dc-a469-ea36ab6ecd00I use a nifty service called MailChimp, that I heartily endorse to anyone who needs to develop an email subscription list. It’s worked well for me, and I’ve used the free plan since I began using email to market my books. I have absolutely zero complaints with it.

I mentioned a while ago that my writing partner, Craig A. Hart, recently put a link to my email list signup form in one of the mailings to his list, which is substantially larger than mine, and from that I got enough new subscribers to triple my list size in a matter of a few days. Phee-nommm-enalllll!

I got to thinking, however, after sending out my first mailing to the expanded roster, that it would be nice if I could connect with new subscribers automatically, to let them know I’d received their details and that they’d been successfully added to the list, as well as give them a brief taste of what they were in for.

Lo and behold, I found out that MailChimp has a function built right in to automatically send new subscribers a welcome email. “This is cool!” I thought to myself because I was the only person involved in the process who thought it was. Well, I was the only one involved in the process period, if we’re being honest.

Of course in learning how to use this tool, I found a way to mess things up a little, so that it didn’t send a single welcome email, but actually sent a second one the following day. I wasn’t really keen on the idea, feeling like if I heard from a new author that often right off the bat, I might think to myself, “This guy sends too many emails. I’m outta here.” But not knowing what I was doing, I assumed, at least briefly, that it had to be that way. I had to send the second email. The Chimp demanded it.

As I started understanding the process more clearly I realized this wasn’t the case. I could eliminate the second email, and incorporate the one useful aspect of it, (a link to this blog), into the first one. So that’s what I did.

But not before losing a subscriber, presumably for the exact reason I’d feared. They signed up on Thursday, and the day they received the second automated delivery, they opted out.

00brickspalNow, I’m a big boy. I stopped getting my feelings hurt by things like this back in high school when people opted out of your life face to face and it tended to sting a little more. (Sometimes literally, if the girl was a good slapper.) Also, I’ve unsubscribed from a ton of writers’ email lists myself, because to be brutally honest, I’d only subscribed because the author was offering a free book if I did so. After reading the free book I realized the author wasn’t really my cup of [insert your favorite beverage here], and I clicked on the bye-bye link. Other times, it was a case of too many emails coming in, most of which were pretty damn boring. (Mine are not. Mine are insanely entertaining. Or at least insane.)

So I get it. Not everyone is going to stay subscribed. But thanks to Craig’s plug I had an overall subscriber increase of 233%, and of those new readers, and unsubscribe rate of only 2%. I can live with that.

If you haven’t subscribed to the email list yet, you can click here to do so, and of course, if you were to tell all of your friends to do the same, that wouldn’t stink. Especially since I know that all of your friends do everything you tell them to do, thanks to your JFK-like charisma.

 

Ireland Research Dispatch #2

Hi! It’s your old buddy, S.J.V., writing again from the Emerald Isle, which contrary to what you may believe is not a gentleman’s club in Oz, but is a colorful name for Ireland, setting of the upcoming SpyCo novella, Assignment: Dublin. This is day number flrthiflr of my research trip. [Editor’s Note: “flrthiflr” is the sound Scott’s mouth makes when he rubs his hand over it while talking because he can’t actually remember how many days he’s been in Ireland, as he spent the first several touring the pubs of Dublin].

Let me start this installment by asking you a question: What can you find in a nation whose history stretches back a thousand years and whose people used to like to roam around taking over other people’s land, necessitating the building of something that might discourage this sort of behavior?

That’s right! Castles. I would have also accepted “Giant holes filled with hungry wolverines.”

But yeah, castles. Ireland’s got tons of them. Some stand more or less the same as they ever have, some have been painstakingly restored, and some, like my bedroom when I was in high school, are in ruins.

Just for fun, I thought I’d tell you about a couple of them.

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Photo Credit: VisionsofthePast

This is what’s left of Ballyloughan Castle. It’s a ruined castle located near Bagenalstown and according to Wikipedia, it features one of the finest gatehouses in Ireland. I checked it out, and think meh, as gatehouses go. But that’s me. The architectural style suggests it was built by a Norman lord sometime around 1300 and was likely abandoned in the 14th century probably because it was drafty. Despite its obvious lack of insulation, it was occupied by various Irish clans up until the 19th Century. I’m guessing they were just wandering Bagenalstown and came upon it, telling one another  “There’s no point in letting a perfectly fine, albeit drafty, castle go to waste. Why don’t we occupy it?”

Now we come to Drimnagh Castle, which is located, oddly enough, in the village of Drimnagh. Drimnagh is actually a suburb of Dublin and from all reports is made up of mostly farmland and what the Irish lovingly refer to as hovels. Sound’s homey, doesn’t it? The castle itself is pretty sweet and has had a ton of restoration completed, The photo to the right was taken around 1900 when the castle was a young and strapping 684 years old or so. I hope I look this good when I’m 684! This old place is doing so well that you can rent it now as a venue for weddings and “other events.” Anybody else thinking what I’m thinking: all-night kegger?

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Photo Credit: Postdlf from w

I’m going to conclude our brief tour with Doonagore Castle, to my way of thinking one of your more “castle-y” looking castles. Being not quite as old as some of the others we know that it was built around 1500 by a fellow with the altogether fantastic name MacTurlough O’Conner. [Note to self: Name next goldfish MacTurlough O’Conner.] The name Doonagore is possibly derived from Dún na Gabhair, which means either “the fort of the rounded hills,” or, and I am not making this up, “fort of the goats.” You know which it would have been if I’d been giving the job of naming the place. What stands today is essentially a tower house and a bawn, or walled enclosure, and it is privately owned by people who use it as a summer house and who don’t let you get any closer than this if you want to take its picture.

dublin coverThis is all very interesting on its own, but perhaps even more so because there is a good chance that a castle might figure into the storyline of Assignment: Dublin. Maybe even one of these, who knows?

My closing observation on all of the castles of Ireland, in general, is that none serve beer, so I’m heading back to Dublin to find someplace that does.

Full-Fledged Announcement

Recently my writing partner Craig A. Hart, who magnanimously opted not to kill me after I leaked certain details about our next book, revealed the cover of said next book, essentially letting me off the hook altogether. Take a look:

 

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SpyCo #6 is in progress!

 

 

Pretty jazzy, huh? Notice anything?

If you take a look at any of the previous SpyCo covers you’ll always see the outline of a man included in the design. This time it’s two women. What can this mean?

It means that the women of SpyCo are running the show this time! And let me tell you, they’ve got their hands full. What starts out as a routine training mission becomes anything but routine as Lyndsey, Adabelle, and Charlie face one of the most fiendish figures in the world of international espionage.

And while all three are featured, one question remains: will all three survive?

In the past, we’ve done all of our research digitally, but this time, to ensure authenticity I hopped a big ol’ jet airliner bound for Ireland, all on my Hart/Varengo expense account, and am collecting research first hand, which I’ll be sharing with you in upcoming blog posts. No amount of money has been spared to bring you the best reading experience possible for Assignment: Dublin, although you probably shouldn’t mention that part to Craig. In fact, definitely don’t.

I began my research with an exhaustive survey of the pubs of Dublin, and then when I regained consciousness, I found that I’d misplaced my notes and so had to visit them all again. After three such attempts, I was able to snap the following picture, taken at St. James’s Gate, Dublin:

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It was, after my wife on our wedding day and the birth of my two children, the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

Stay tuned for more exciting reports!

 

Some Things I Can Tell You…

… others must remain unspoken.

What are your talking about, you lunatic? (Don’t you just love it when I read your mind and ask the question you were thinking?

I’m talking about the conversation that took place earlier today between myself and a certain author from Iowa City, namely my writing partner on the SpyCo thriller series, Craig A. Hart.

What did we talk about? (See? I did the psychic thing again). Well, some of it I can tell you about… for example his newly revamped website, which you can check out for yourself by clicking this link. For those of you who find link-clicking onerous, I’m including a screen capture of the top of his homepage, which will no doubt overcome your “clickophobia.” (For those keeping track that is word invention #3 for calendar-year 2017.)

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You want to click that link now, don’t you? Here’s a secret: the picture is also a link! Oh, and for the record, yes, that is me playing the part of James Burke in the picture. Ruggedly handsome, wouldn’t you say?

AKWe also talked about the upcoming release of SpyCo #5, Assignment: Alaska. I took a break from working on this one, but I still recommend that when it drops on December 15, you grab your copy. There is even a way you can get it for free. Here’s the post from Craig’s VIP Readers Facebook page:

Guess what’s coming VERY soon? (Dec. 15!!!)

That’s right, a new Assignment is on the way. And it’s even Christmas themed! But here’s the BEST news. You can have it for FREEEEE! How? Leave a review for the first Assignment: Adventure collection and then email me a link (craig@craigahart.com) to your review. Then you will be placed on a list of lucky ducks who will receive a free copy of Alaska as soon as it hits retailers!

ADVENTURE BOOK: https://www.amazon.com/Assignment-Adventure-SpyCo-Collection-1-3-ebook/dp/B077GC1P2R/ — feeling crazy!

That is an offer that only a mentally deficient frog-groomer would pass up. [Editor’s note: If you are a mentally deficient frog-groomer, the author meant to say “fig-groper,” if you are a fig-groper, the opposite.] And it is open to anyone, even if you’re not a member for the VIP Readers Group, though once again, if you’re not I have to seriously call your overall quality of life into question. (You can find a link to the group on Craig’s website, and you can join, thereby decreasing your lameness by over 83%). (You can find a link to Craig’s website above, remember?)

ireland-flagFinally we got around to the subject of… oh wait. This is the part I can’t tell you about. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to drop you a couple of subtle hints, however, which I can neither confirm nor deny. We might have talked about SpyCo #6, which may once again feature the Hart/Varengo writing team, and may be set in a place where drinking stout is a regular occurrance. (No, it is not set in my house!) There is also a chance that the cover, if said book actually happens, may feature the colors green and orange. (Trivia: Mr. Hart always designs SpyCo covers with the flag colors of the nation (or state, in the case of AK,) in which the book is set.) And there is another big twist… which I am absolutely not revealing at this time, but will flavor the entire story… assuming said story even exists, which I categorically deny. Or confirm.

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Me, in hiding. I’ll be fine.

I’ve said too much. Craig is going to kill me. I can’t even lie and tell you he never reads my blog, because he has a link to it on his website, so he might accidentally click on it from time to time.

At any rate, my life is now in danger and I’m going to have to go into hiding for a while. And while I’m in hiding I may or may not be writing exciting books for you to read. With the guy who’s trying to kill me. Maybe.

 

 

A Bad Time for Funk

ClarkeW-1024x811 (1)When it comes to music, there is no such thing as a bad time for funk. As Stanley Clarke so eloquently tells us, “Funk is Its Own Reward.”  (See his album entitled “East River Drive,” if you don’t believe me.)

I’m always threatening to make myself a playlist called “Funk,” containing all the songs that give me that lowdown funky groove, including the two funkiest songs by white guys ever recorded, “Magic Carpet Ride,” by Steppenwolf, and “Long Train Running,” by the Doobie Brothers. (Give a listen to either one and see if the jungle monkey in your soul doesn’t wake up). And don’t even get me started on James Brown. Don’t. Even. Get. Me. Started.

l219520886But there’s a different kind of funk, a kind that is no friend to the writer. It’s like a wet, sticky cloud that follows you around, tying your hands together while at the same time whispering in your ear, “You have a lot of other projects that need your attention.” “The book isn’t going anywhere. Don’t worry about it.” “You only read half of chapter three to you writers’ group last week. That means you don’t have to have anything new to read until the 12th.”

That’s the funk I’m in right now.

That funk is a liar. That funk is a deceiver. That funk needs to go away.

The worst part is, of course, that I already know the cure: get your ass to work. Write! Stop writing about writing. Close your journal. Close Facebook Messenger and stop telling Craig, “I need to get to work.” Close your office door. Put some jazz on. Light some incense AND WRITE.

“But my computer is running slow. I need to tune it up!”

No, you need to write.

“But I have to research Bucharest.”

No, you need to write now, and add your well-researched details later.

The cold, hard fact is, (and I’m speaking about myself, but I believe this to be universally true), that the only remedy for writer’s funk is writing. Discipline, like funk, is its own reward.

Falling prey to the whispered lies is fine for someone who approaches writing casually. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but it’s not the one I’ve taken. I look at writing as the calling on my life. I look at it as the thing I do best and the thing that I’ve known since childhood I would one day make my life’s work.

So is allowing myself to become the victim of what Roger Waters called “the creeping malaise” an option?

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Me

Obviously not.

 

So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get ready for my nephew’s birthday party.

But after that, I’m going to write.