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Who among us wouldn't prefer to be walking the cobbles of Dublin, letting a day slip by in the fields of Cork, or getting in a pedantic argument about the occurances of snakes on the Emerald Isle? As much or more a sign of spring than waiting for groundhogs to make wild pronouncements about weather patterns, St. Patrick's Day is that time of year when we can all embrace a little Irish in ourselves. So, we went around the office and asked everyone, what are some of your favourite Irish authors, stories, and fictions?

 

Lesley H - Of course, the quintessential modern classic of Irish literature is Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt’s memoir following his family’s forced emigration from America back to Ireland. The book was an instant hit twenty three years ago, and was followed by a film adapation and two sequels: 'Tis and Teacher Man

 

 

Lee-Ann B. - The trinity of Great Irish authors are, of course, James Joyces, WB Yeats, and Jonathan Swift. If you are looking for the classics, these are the authors to look at first.

 

Linda F - I’d suggest Days Without End by Sebastian Barry.  It seems weird for this Irish author to be writing about the American West, but the book is wonderfully written, just so full of vigor and life despite the horrors it depicts (maybe sustained by the humanity of the narrator).  A short, muscular, intense book that seems very American in spite of its Irish author.

 

Carrie P - Dublin Murder Squad is a fantastic series, each focusing on a different detective in the Dublin police homicide division. And, written by an American living in Dublin. Brooklyn is an arresting period piece that was also adapated into a film. And anything by the master of wit, Oscar Wilde.

 

Karrie V - My family is very Irish, so I have grown up watching Irish movies. My favourite movie of all time is Darby O’Gill and the Little People, where Sean Connery sings! Some others that are good include Philomena, Quiet Man, Far and Away, HungerSecret of KellsMy Left FootWind That Shakes the Barley, In the Name of the Father, and Commitments.

 

Rachel S - I read Maeve Binchy for years- one of my favourites being Circle of Friends. And of course, the author of our favourite vampire Dracula - Bram Stoker

 

Nancy B - Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb, in which Eve Dallas' Irish vacation is disturbed by a murder.

 

Kirk O - For a historical fiction book about Ireland, I love Trinity by Leon Uris. Uris always has strong characters around pivotal historic events and this book delivers that as well.  From the Irish famine to the uprising in 1916, this tells the story of Conor Larkin and his family.  It was so good I have actually read it three times over the years, making a trinity myself.  And if anyone is planning a visit, as I did in 2018, and loves Guinness as I do, the tour of the St. James’s Gate Brewery was a highlight. A few pints overlooking Dublin is a great way to spend an hour. Perhaps reading Pint-Sized Ireland: In Search of the Perfect Guinness by Evan McHugh, an Australian travelling Ireland in search of a perfect pint.  

 

Michael C - I'm going to go way off the beaten path here and recommending Grabbers, a comedy horror film in which an idyllic remote Irish island is invaded by enormous bloodsucking tentacled aliens. I'm also going to recommend the works of director/playwrite Martin McDonagh; specifically the mobster dramedy In Bruges. Also his brother John Michael McDonagh's film Calvary .

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Sláinte mhaith!

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I love language. I am effervescent in its multitudes.  I rejoice, exclaim, wallow, and exult in the verisimilitude of the vernacular. I delight in dialects, pontificate on puns, saturate in slang, and generally gestate in grammar. Often, I have been accused of using ten words when three would do, because why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to run wild with syntactic abandon when given the chance?

 

Of particular interest to me is the history of language. Where do our words come from? How has time and history and culture shaped the way the world pushes air out of its throat and rolls it across its tongue. It’s all well and good for the Académie française to try to keep French on the straight and narrow. But what about English, who is more likely to push another language into a dark alley and “borrow” some loan words? And it still comes out short compared to German, which produces words like Treppenwitz, literally “stair case joke”, for the comeback to a joke or insult that you don’t think of until later.

 

Reading for me can be a laborious task, as I’ll be working merrily through a text when suddenly I’m jolted out of the narrative by an errant word. What is this delightful collection of syllables, I’ll think? What precise congress of meanings have crafted such an expression? And off I’ll pop to look up its etymology. And where better to start than that trusted friend, the dictionary?

 

In the world of words, consistency of meaning is key to understanding. If we don’t all agree that the word “horse” means a large, four legged mammal with a long face and mane, then a trip to the farm is going to get very confusing very quickly. Enter the Dictionary, that compendium of terminology which keeps us on the same page. A concise definition of every word in the language. A thing of beauty.

 

But definition is only half the work. The other half is context. Knowing not just what a word means, but when it is appropriate to use are the cardinal ingredients in a delicious language recipe (garnished liberally with grammar, of course). Which is why dictionaries include something that you may have overlooked, or don’t pay that much attention to: an example of use. For examples, From the Collins Dictionary:

 

Certificate - An official document that you receive when you have completed a course of study or training. The qualification that you receive is sometimes also called a certificate. Ex. To the right of the fireplace are various framed certificates.

 

One person who didn’t overlook these snippets of speech was author Jez Burrows, who developed an ambitious plan: to write short stories comprised of just the example lines from dictionaries. To hear him tell it, he started by compiling a massive catalogue of every example line from a range of dictionaries, then sorted them into groups, including those that feature a person doing an action, or emoting, or the rarest of all, speaking. Treasured were sentences describing the condition of an object.

 

Taking all these disconnected, brief and context-lacking lines, Jez strung them together into short tales of absurdity, suspense, and melancholic beauty. What were once pieces of linguistic illustration become “I began to speak, but stopped short at the look on the other woman's face. It was not prudent to antagonize a hired killer.” Those line comprised of entries from the Collins English Dictionary and New Oxford American Dictionary.

 

I am in love with this idea. Creating a jigsaw of story from the leavings of language; putting to work the orphans of description. These brief lines, once stagnating on the dictionary page have found bizarre and unexpected new purpose under Jez’s direction. It seems to me to be a form of linguistic collage, part and parcel with gluing sea shells and pine cones onto a picture frame. This concept seems tailor made for the era of Twitter and the character limit, but Jez has collected his foundlings and knitted them together into a tome entitled Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings.

 

A brisk read, but surprisingly soulful and elegant, and a love letter to language. A perfect companion to a snowy winter evening, or to share betwixt friends. A meal made of morsels has never tasted as sweet or been as filling. More about Jez and his work is available at http://www.dictionarystories.com/.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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The first personality test I ever took was the True Colors test. I took it at the behest of a manager who believed that the dynamics of the department could only truly be reconciled by colour coding. For those not familiar, True Colors groups people in percentages according to the colours Blue (passionate), Green (logical), Gold (responsible) and Orange (fun). 

 

According to that test, I am a majority green, which I immediately dubbed the Scientist Robot category. Most of my coworkers were Gold or Blue. I took this an excellent opportunity to break out my Mr. Spock impersonation, considering how many Kirks and McCoys I was surrounded by. Given that there were no Oranges in the group, my impression was not appreciated.

 

A few years later, at a leadership retreat, I took part in the Myers-Briggs test. This test blows out the possible number of results even more, with 16 possible personality types. There are too many to list here, but they all have cool sounding names like Commander, Protagonist, or Virtuoso. Essentially, after answering a battery of binary questions, you are assigned one of two letters in four different categories.

 

I was, apparently, an INTJ, which I immediately and continue to pronounce “integer”. This means I am Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Judging, each of which Mean Something. Mostly, it seems to mean that I’m at risk for attempting to take over the world as apparently most movie villains are this type. So I’ve got that going for me.

 

A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to Enneagrams, by which I mean their chosen past time was attempting to type a person and, within a few minutes of meeting someone, would start shouting seemingly random numbers at them. As party tricks go, it leaves much to be desired. Enneagrams place people on a nonagon, with two numbers between one and nine identifying their personality. For instance, you could be a 2-7, which means that you are mostly a two, with a heavy seasoning of seven. Unlike other personality tests, which tend to track your strengths, the Enneagram places weight on where you most need improvement. In other words, it tells you why you suck.

 

I am, again apparently, a 4-5, the Individualist and the Investigator. Which I immediately dubbed the Robot Detective. And what I learned is that people who take these tests earnestly really don’t like it when you start introducing yourself as a Robot Detective when other people are trying to be capital-s Serious. Which, as you may have gathered, I am not. I personally feel that personality tests can inspire fun conversations, but shouldn’t be something that workplace dynamics or your own life philosophy should be based upon. Many, many people disagree with me. And spend a lot of money for the opportunity to take these tests.

 

The three I've mentioned are not the end of it. Personality tests are big business. StrengthsQuest, 5 Love Languages, MAPP, Big Five; the list goes on. BuzzFeed has built a business out of easy to take tests that tell you what kind of grilled cheese, or what Winnie the Pooh character, you are. And whether you pay for the privilege or take it on your phone during your lunch break, all of these have about the same scientific backing as the daily horoscope. Unlike the horoscope though, many of these tests are presented as being Scientific.

 

Myers-Briggs, for example, was not developed by psychologists, but by a mother-daughter team of amateurs who had an interest in pop psychology and based their method on their personal interpretations of Jung’s archetypes – archetypes which were not backed by scientific research either. It is these two women who at the focus of The Personality Brokers, by Merve Emre. Part history book, part biography, Emre dives into the social conditions that were present between the two world wars that gave rise to the Myers-Briggs assessment (the word “test” isn’t officially used by the institute that bears the name today), and the paranoia of the post-war period that saw it become successful. In a time of Cold War mistrust, a simple test can tell you exactly who a person is? Of course that would be a hit!

 

Emre also goes on step further, and examines why they appeal to us as we take them. The fantasy of personality they can provoke. Do we answer this questions honestly, or wantonly? Are we identifying who we actually are, or who we want to be? There is no such thing as a wrong answer, and on the whole, no bad personalities. But if you could, would you rather be an Orange or a Green? Emre touches on this self-romanticism, while striking a balance between being factual and being critical. She isn’t anti-personality test, she just wants the reader to think more about what these tests tell us about ourselves, beyond what they tell us about ourselves.

 

Oh, in case you’re wondering, I’m an Owl, and a Provolone on Rye. Who knew?

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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A few months ago, I decided to learn how to cook.  Although I grew up with a mother who went to culinary school, my family is both British and (according to my mother) peasants.  This meant a lot of simple meals without a lot of seasoning beyond salt.  I’m not blaming my mom (especially since she’s probably reading this); both my parents worked and myself and my brother were, shall we say, a touch picky.  It just means that most of my meals growing up were the basics.

 

When I moved out at 19, I still didn’t have much interest in cooking.  It took time and dirtied dishes and what the heck was a shallot anyway.  The list of foods I didn’t like was also much longer than the list of foods I did, and included most vegetables.  This was fine in my twenties, sort of, but now I’m getting older and fast food is not only expensive but doesn’t seem all that satisfying anymore.

 

I started cooking using a food delivery service, which sends me the ingredients for recipes I’ve chosen from their list.  It means I actually have to use my dishes (and then wash them) but the food comes pre-portioned and all I really have to do is chop it and throw it in a pan or oven tray.  Which is usually about the point that I remember I have no sense of timing and run back and forth in my kitchen trying to keep things from burning.

 

The biggest benefit of learning how to cook is that I’m trying new foods.  I used to hate onions, but honestly, they’re not that bad mixed in with other stuff.  I’ve discovered jicama, pilafs, spinach-ricotta meatballs, and learned that a shallot is a type of onion related to my favourite herb, garlic.  I still find mushrooms mildly horrifying and tomatoes give me heartburn, but I’m willing to try almost anything that isn’t too spicy.

 

I’m also incorporating what I’ve learned via the food delivery recipes into buying my own groceries.  Fortunately cooking is more forgiving than baking (I’m not entirely sure that food created using math can be trusted) and I’m not subjecting anyone else to my creations.  This means that I might actually have to look at some cookbooks, especially those with quick and easy recipes.

 

Although I live alone, I like to make big meals so that I have plenty of leftovers for lunches at work and those evenings where I haven’t actually washed the dishes yet and just want to stick something in the microwave.  Cookbooks with family recipes, like The Super Big Book of Easy, Delicious, & Healthy Recipes the Whole Family Will Love!: 500+ Recipes You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less, are usually geared towards making enough food for 3-4 people so I don’t have to do any math to expand a recipe only meant for one person.

 

Even better, there’s been a trend lately towards meals cooked using a minimum amount of dishes, which is perfect for someone who likes to pretend her kitchen sink doesn’t exist.  Canadian Living offers a cookbook called Essential One-Dish Favourites, which has the added bonus of shopping tips for when I realize that jicama is available at approximately one store 20 minutes out of my way.

 

I might be in my thirties now, but there’s still some benefit to looking at cookbooks geared towards the college and university market.  They don’t get too fancy and they assume you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, so you don’t have to go ask Google what it means to ‘mince’ something.  How to Feed Yourself from Spoon University has recipes that are simple, low-budget, and include a giant PB&J cup.

 

It’s fine with me if I never become a great cook with the ability to wow dinner guests.  I’m just happy to make some food that I look forward to eating, even if my mom complains that I use too much garlic (no such thing).  I’ve even asked for some cooking tools for Christmas, which I think might make me an actual real adult now (also no such thing).  I’m expanding my horizons, eating way more veggies, and discovering spices, and that’s good enough for me.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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According to Wikipedia, there are over thirty holidays, observances, and traditions celebrated world wide in the month of December. Some as ancient as Shabe Yaldā and some as new as Festivus. Most of them celebrating, in some manner, the shortest day of the year, and the turn away from the Bleak Midwinter. One holiday in particular nearly lapsed into obscurity until, a century and a half ago, it was rescued by some ghosts.

 

Last year saw the release of the film the Man Who Invented Christmas, telling the story of Charles Dickens and the mutual life support his A Christmas Carol gave to both himself and a fledgling celebration that had long since been dwarfed by Boxing Day. By the beginning of the 1800s, Christmas had already had a turbulent history. The Romans had celebrated Saturnalia at this time, but didn’t have to contend with snow. As they expanded into Northern Europe, they encountered the Germanic Yule, and other “pagan” celebrations happening at the same time, and merged those traditions with their own.

 

Time, as it likes to do, moved on, and Christmas largely remained an excuse to drink and be merry, with emphasis on the drinking. The rowdier elements of the pagan traditions did not sit well with the English Puritans, and Christmas was banned in England by Oliver Cromwell in 1645. It was restored along with the monarchy a few years later, but the wind was taken out of its sails, and for the next two hundred years the celebration in the UK was a much more subdued, private affair. No decorations, no presents, no carols or fanfare.  Just a goose, if you were lucky.

 

In 1819, Washington Irving (of Sleepy Hollow fame) wrote an account of Christmas celebrations, which were almost certainly fabricated. Irving was a notorious liar, who is also responsible for the myth that people before Columbus thought the Earth was flat. But Irving’s idea of a seasonal gathering which brought together people of all status, to celebrate a new year and enjoy the customs of the ancients caught the imagination.

 

In 1823, Clement Moore published The Night Before Christmas in New York (with its long Germanic and Dutch heritage, as well as healthy immigrant population), fully bringing the Germanic and Nordic traditions of St. Nicholas into the Christmas story. A few years later, back in the UK, a young Queen Victoria married the German Prince Albert and with him came more of the German traditions, still heavily influenced by the ancient pagan practices. Mistletoe, Holly wreaths, candles and carols came to England with the Prince. In 1841, a tree was decorated in Windsor Castle for the first time, illustrations of which made their way across England and over the ocean, cementing the Christmas tree as the centerpiece of the holiday home.

 

For more on the history of Christmas, and how it evolved over the centuries, check out the gorgeously photographed Christmas: from solstice to Santa by Nikki Tate.

 

Then came the ghosts. The Victorians were no strangers to ghost stories; they permeated much of their literature. As the Victorian age marched on and the Scientific Revolution began to take hold, spiritualism spiked. Charles Dickens wasn’t a spiritualist, but he did think of ghosts often. Not as the white sheeted frights of horror, but as the memories of those who have passed, especially in the last year (this being the Victorian era, and death common and indiscriminant). It was his belief that there was no better time of the year to consider the lessons ghosts might teach us then in the deep of the winter, when the trees were bare and the air cold, and candles danced shadows through long nights.

 

Having suffered a series of commercial failures, Dickens was desperate for a hit. But Christmas was a long shot at best. A holiday people barely made mention of was hardly the foundation for a best seller. His publishers were nervous, but Dickens had his ghosts to guide him, and wrote his Christmas Carol not based on any religious practice but on a common human decency. That Christmas was a time for families to come together, to celebrate and rejoice in their company, and toast the year to come. Most of this was – again – largely fictional. It made for a good story but shared little in common with a reader’s actual experience.

 

It struck a chord though. Upon publication, it was an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Readers saw in Dicken’s morality tale not what they had, but what they wanted and could have. Christmas as an idea exploded across the British Empire, heralded by ghostly warnings and promises. Ghosts never really took off as a Christmas staple – they lost their moral compass and became spooks over on Halloween. Thanks to Dickens though, they’ve never really left Christmas either. Each year more writers are inspired to tell their own paranormal tales - such as in the short story colletion Ghosts of Christmas Past, including the works of Neil Gaiman - usually featuring spirits seeking to put right what once went wrong.

 

This year we’ve put together two lists (40777 for fiction and 40653 for everything else) of recent and popular material the celebrate the holiday season. With more than thirty to choose from, there is surely something for everyone in the coming month. And if you’d rather skip them all, there are still roaring fires, hot cocoa, and thoughts of tropical beaches you’d rather be on to keep you warm. Whatever and however you celebrate being halfway out of the dark, if you happen to meet any ghosts along the way, mind what they tell you. They might be friendlier than they look.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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I would jump at the chance to have a pet dinosaur.  Despite five movies (and counting) focused on just why this would be a terrible idea, there’s still something appealing about it.  I already share my space with a miniature panther; a chicken-sized dinosaur would probably be just as happy to sleep under a pile of blankets on the couch.  Whether it and my easily offended cat would get along is a different concern.

 

Dinosaurs capture the imaginations of people of all ages.  Whether these creatures are searching for the Great Valley, solving crimes with Whoopi Goldberg, or just a pile of bones in a museum, there’s something incredibly appealing about these ‘terrible lizards.’  Especially those large enough to tower over people.

 

Of course, I could have a pet dinosaur.  They just go by a different name now: birds.  Anyone who’s dealt with swans, geese, or particularly aggressive roosters would likely spot the similarities to their ancestors.  Swans and geese are large enough to cause a person damage; just ask the Cambridge University rowers in the UK who had run-ins with Mr. Asbo and his descendants, Asboy and Asbaby.  Chickens may be smaller, but I can personally attest that those beaks are sharp and the spurs on a rooster’s legs can cut skin when they attack you from behind - like the bane of my farm existence, my parents’ Polish rooster, Tolliver.

 

Still, the idea of owning a bird is different from the idea of owning a creature ten, twenty, thirty times bigger, with a mouthful of razor sharp teeth and claws to match.  That doesn’t mean I don’t still want a pet dinosaur; I just reluctantly acknowledge a pet T. rex would probably be dangerous.  No matter how much I might want to sic it on the pickups tailgating me on my daily commute.  T. rex has always been my favourite and the history of its fossils is fascinating to dive into.

 

The largest, best preserved T. rex fossil found to date is FMNH PR 2081, commonly known as SUE.  Discovered in August 1990 by Sue Hendrickson, SUE the T. rex spent most of the 1990s at the center of a legal dispute over ownership of their bones.  SUE was eventually purchased for $8.3 million by the Field Museum in Chicago, and still resides there.  SUE can be followed on Twitter @SUEtheTrex (where they declare not only their nonbinary status but also that they’re a LARGE M U R D E R B I R D and who hasn’t felt that way every now and then) and had a documentary made about them in 2014 called Dinosaur 13, available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

Although possibly the most famous of the fossils under ownership dispute, SUE isn’t the only one.  In 2012, a fossil collector named Eric Prokopi brought a tarbosaurus skeleton from Mongolia to the UK.  It was later sold in New York for $1 million, but the Mongolian government halted the sale with the complaint that their Constitution declared all dinosaur fossils to be culturally significant and illegal to remove without government permission.

 

Prokopi was charged and convicted - via a guilty plea - of multiple counts of felonious smuggling.  This not only caused the return of the disputed tarbosaurus skeleton, but also the return of more than 18 other fossils; enough that Mongolia was able to open a new dinosaur museum in Ulaanbaatar.  The case was the subject of a 2014 article written by Paige Williams for The New Yorker: “The Black Market for Dinosaurs.”

 

Four years later, Williams has published a book diving more deeply into both the case and the world surrounding it.  The Dinosaur Artist is a combination of paleontology and true crime, exploring the fine line between the advancement of our scientific knowledge and the private collectors’ market.  These collectors pay high prices to claim these bones, in part as a status symbol, but maybe also driven by the same desire I have: to keep a dinosaur as a pet.  By doing so, however, collectors prevent the fossils from being studied and hinder our knowledge about these ancient, magnificent animals.

 

I know that I’ll never have a pet dinosaur.  Even if we were able to bring them back, it’s unlikely that dinosaurs would ever be classified as pets, easily adoptable from the local Humane Society.  Regular lizards – geckos, iguanas, bearded dragons – require specialized care as it is.  And despite the increasing population of urban chickens, city councils would probably draw the line at urban dinosaurs.  Even the small ones.  The idea is still fun to fantasize about, however, and as long as there are books, movies, and novelty T-shirts keeping dinosaurs alive, I’ll be waiting in line.

 

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter.  To keep up to date with all of our services and other information, we encourage you to subscribe to our Green Memo, sent weekly.  And finally, come back to this site each and every week for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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