100 words a day for the rest of Nanowhatevero

“Here is an exercise for you. Go to page twelve of the book you are reading, pick out random words and write a piece around them.” Thanks Lorraine! Here goes the first attempt at writing 100 words a day for the rest of November. Expect English and Gaolainn!

Don’t look now but they’re opening. At last. Let’s galvanize our efforts! Your tone was off so I took a furtive look, to calculate the distance. No. The barn was closed, sealed. Without a key we could do no more. The heads of gas-blue flames rose up behind the gates, a vacuum sucking out the life. Let them burn.

(From p.12 of Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín)


Clammed Up


‘How’s the writing going?’


‘Any more stories?’

‘A few, but nothing new.’

‘Will you show me one when it’s finished?’

You’ll be waiting.

‘Yeah, no bother.’

‘Grand job. So, any other craic?’


‘Me neither.’

‘Feckn’ cat out tho’!’

”Tis, yeah. When you can see the mountains, it’s a bad sign.’

But I love being able to see the mountains. And smell the leaves. Yeah, smell them. That damp, heady blast of air that promises rain. Cloud gathered in a posse. Bunched, hanging, full. Then they splice apart like those digger shovels that open their mouths like clams and then the rain is free, and you’re free, you’re free, you’re free…

‘Talk tcha.’

‘Yeah, cool. Later.’

I’m free, I’m free, I’m free.




My review of Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty


Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty

I hadn’t read a children’s book in a while. In fact, when I do it’s usually up a notch in age group to young adult level. Often, I would have taken my reading recommendations from my pupils but this time I was drawn by the cover hee hee!. Anyway, am I glad I read this gem, this “crystal”! (Geddit? Well, you will when you read the book!)

The premise of the story is an underlying threat from “The Infested Side”, the world of monsters, or more accurately, “legends”, who aim to infiltrate and overcome the humans in the “Promised World”. Finn is twelve years old and fated to be the next Legend Hunter in his town Blighted Village of Darkmouth. He is in line to succeed his father, Hugo, who obsesses with catching or “dessicating” these legends who are threatening to take over the world. The trouble is that Finn is no superhero and looks at life through the lenses of any regular kid his age. He contends with school, homework, bullies, relationships—he is growing up. The difference is that all the while he is being relentlessly trained by his father to take over the role of protector of the town to prevent an ultimate and seemingly inevitable doom.

Simply put, the book is clever and engaging. The start is on the slow side but it soon takes off. Significant but subtle clues are casually rolled into view and just out of the corner of your eye you may make out a hint of what is to come.

The main success of the story is that at no point  do we lose sight of this tension: will Finn succeed, keep  the legends at bay, save the town and the world too? He engages in his daily training routines but is torn between a wish to be the same as everyone else and an innate desire to please his father and fulfil his designated role in life. This inner turmoil is the other hook.  We will him to succeed and it is this empathy with the protagonist that keeps us reading.

The author manages to ratchet up the tension even further by using the other characters as the means for Finn to reveal his true self.  The well-worked characters of Emmie, Broonie and Mr Glad  provide important glimpses of Finn’s abilities and potential as does the fraught relationship he shares with his father. The common-sense but also tender relationship he has with his mother proves to be an eye-catcher and she is the one to hold the household together, keeping a hold on reality.

I laughed along too, and the splashes of humour give some welcome relief from the threat of the legends.  The Concise Guide to The Legend Hunter World is hilarious as are the decidedly “Irish” references such as “Niall Blacktongue” or “Dermot the Tomorrow-Knower”. Sergeant Doyle’s extended cameo role  fits the bill as he does his best to maintain law and order in a chaotic but still relatively normal day-to-day existence for a “garda”.

The author has conjured quite the world and if you’d like to take a rip-roaring trip into the known and the unknown, get your hands on a copy.


The next instalment, Darkmouth: Worlds Explode is out now. I’ll be getting it. Now, where’s my fighting suit?:)

The summer and this teacher

summer hols

Writing is writing right? Did you know that I’m a teacher by day? Today, I’ve decided to sidestep fiction and expound a little on the forthcoming return to school, the French version of which has never been bettered in a single statement, “la rentrée”.

I’m back at work since Monday 10th August and you may think that’s a bad thing but you know what I’m delighted! We teachers get bad press. “What’s the best thing about teaching? June, July and August.” I speak for myself but I have a general view too. I exited in June to get an operation done on my ankle and have been recovering since. I finished up the school year with a battery dangerously in the red and the face  I usually wear (fair I hope), replaced with more of a grimace than a smile. I needed a break and the operation imposed it as only surgery can. And so it went.

Generally speaking once the exams have reach their zenith, I make the well-worn journey to Athlone, set up camp for a two day marking conference, before spending the next 24 days at least in a marking marathon. More money on top of the money I already make? Agreed. You won’t find me arguing with that but if a person is happy to work, what’s the difficulty?

I read an article in the Irish Times the other week (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/after-the-leaving-cert-what-happens-to-your-exam-scripts-1.2312506#.VcszapvZJlM.twitter) which compared the marking process in this country with that in France. Tellingly, teachers there mark exams over a 10-15 day period and may or may not be engaged on a year-to-year basis. There is an extra payment but it is understood as being part of the package for a teacher in France. Here, it’s optional. The naysayers cry from the hills, “make it compulsory sure they’re off anyway!” Again, I’d have no major problem with that if it could be woven into the accountable, transparent and fair system of marking that we already have. Separating the roles of teacher and examiner has a merit that maintains confidence and anonymity in the results and find me an Irish person to argue with that one (this applies only to the Leaving Certificate examination—the new Junior Cert. is a battle and debate for another day).

So, if you so choose, you may pack up the boxes in your classroom (if you have one), turn the key in the door and never darken the door again until the exam results come out, or if otherwise engaged sometime towards the end of August. So, what do teachers do during the summer? For me, I keep busy but rest at the same time. Evidently, this year was exceptional but it more or less matched the pattern for other years except that I had to volunteer on a “work-from-home” basis rather than showing up in person. The summer time for me consists in large part of the following: working until the exams are over (this year June 19th), then marking exams (until July 11th or so), while volunteering in my spare time and taking a holiday. I also write and read fiction, history books, newspapers, magazines (I’m big into business ones at the moment), watch films and read up on educational issues which is something I struggle with doing during term time. Throw in catching up with friends and family or helping someone to move house and it proves to be a busy time. There is a structured break thrown in at the end where my wife and I seek out the sun and kick back before I return to work in time for the exam results.

Two weeks down and I’m tired but it’s a different sensation. I’m invigorated, charged. I’ve a good two weeks’ work done with much to do between now and when the other teachers breach the threshold on the 27th August. I’m fully rested and ready for the year ahead and so it is. Brass tacks: I have a good job which pays well. I have the privilege that I have time off from that job which allows me to reflect, re-evaluate, re-energise and get into the best shape I can for the academic year ahead. For many a year when someone asked the inevitable, “and what do you do?” icebreaker, I rattled off “teacher” with a little too much deference. I’m educated and will continue to learn as much as I can (I’ve enrolled in UCC for the forthcoming year) but that doesn’t mean I inhabit a plush room in an ivory tower. I don’t consider myself superior to you because I’m so used to the sound of my own voice that I can’t hear you. I’m open to change which brings about an improvement for the pupils in our care. Would I welcome readjustments to improve the service of education to our pupils? Of course I would; without change we are dead. One way or another, I’m busy and that won’t be changing if I have anything to do with it.


new “About Me” :)

Blog pic 16-8-15


I’m Toirdealbhach Ó Lionáird. I’m from Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Don’t tell anyone but I lay dubious claim to Skibbereen, Co. Cork as my birthplace.

I write short stories in my spare time but can also be found reading, looking up the meaning of words and writing them down in a notebook, watching t.v. box sets and films.

I’m unapologetically a teacher (deputy principal RAWR!) but you won’t find me forcing my views down your throat. The best thing about the job is the students. Simple as that!

I drink coffee and love grub (too much) but I try to work it off at maybe an intensity that reaches for my champion youth a little too much.

I love being on the move at home and abroad and a little secret I’ll let you into is to get out and meet people. It keeps me right and real. This may be a weBLOG but I prefer the real world.

Languages are my “thing” and I can string together a few words in French, Irish or even in my default English if you rattle my cage for long enough. I’d love to hear from you so follow me on twitter @teaandpeach , here on the blog, or tolionaird@gmail.com



Writing prompts and Kowloon Walled City

I was procrastinating this morning. Rather than tear into another proofreading assignment, I opened my latest story draft. Rather than read it, I headed over to ragingplanetfire in search of a writing prompt that I had uncovered there before but had mislaid. It was on this search that I came across the Kowloon Walled City which used to be in Hong Kong but was demolished in 1993-1994. 

Announced in 1987, it took the following 6 years to evict the residents and prepare the homes for obliteration. 2.8 hectares, a total of 28,000 square metres, or in Irish terms the bones of 7 acres. Not to labour the point, but to get my head around the scale I searched for an equivalent bank of land nearby and found the land pictured below.


Gullane West, Gneeveguilla, Co. Kerry.

7 acres of agricultural land. Imagine, beginning with the construction of a shed for farming purposes (or to manage the trade of salt as in the case of Kowloon) and ending up with a population of 33,000 people living there?! Nuts! Gullane West, Gneeveguilla wouldn’t know what hit it – no place would!

No more cabin fever for me. (I’ve been laid up with post-surgery restrictions you see). Get over it! (I’ve been reading Roy Keane’s book so forgive the rhetorical narrative voice:)

So, get on over to raging planet fire and check out the documentary and Taidgh’s poem,When I Dream I Dream of You. My advice would be to watch the film first but I know you won’t!

Over and out,


P.S. I never did find that prompt!:)


Things I’m mulling over:

  • humble bee, dumbledore, bumblebee (The Mayor of Casterbridge).
  • Harry Potter.
  • Susan Henchard’s’ P.O.V. hmm….
  • Ní hé la na gaoithe lá na scolb (or: “the windy day is not the day for scollops’, take time by the forelock).  Suimiúil ach n’fheadar faoin gcruinneas?! Tá scéal istigh ansan in áit éigin mhuise!
  • Ní mór dom aghaidh a thabhairt ar mo chruinneas féinigh más ea.

Agus mar sin de. TÓL

How to Keep Going & Get That Book Deal!

This is great! Dream on believers!


(This article was originally written for Writing.ie, but I’ve had a very positive response, with lots of people saying it’s really helped them to sit back down and write…So I’m posting it here, just in case it’s of use to even one more person. Apologies if you’ve already seen it! Otherwise, happy reading & happy writing!)

Just six months ago, I was sat in front of my computer, feeling like I was banging my head off the wall. I hadn’t written just one book to a publishable standard, I’d written two – different genres and for different age groups – and although I had faith in them both, it felt like I was never going to succeed in getting them on the shelves.

I had the agent, I’d put the work in (twice!), but other than sell my soul, what the hell did I need to do to actually get…

View original post 1,686 more words



I’ve had the pleasure of being published over at http://spontaneity.org/

The key is in the name. As editor Ruth McKee puts it, “We are all about ideas, about the interplay between short stories and photography, poetry and flash fiction, music and visual art. Everything here connects to something else, so click on a piece you like, then get beautifully lost – and if you want to be a part of it, get in touch!”

I did and based my “micro-drama” (I know, really cool name!) on a photograph by Marina Fitzgerald Selby who was inspired by Jason Lee’s image and on it goes and such is the beauty of it all.

So go on, try it out and get lost (in a good way of course!)


Claire Keegan at Jasper’s


Upstairs in Jasper’s was the venue for a Claire Keegan masterclass organised by Lightning Bug Press on Saturday 25th April. Jasper’s café sits perched in a nook on Beech Road off New Street around the corner from Boylesports and just below what we in Killarney call “Old Tesco”.

In any case, coffee in the system, I took my seat at the back with a couple of other hardy punters eager to hear what a purveyor of fine fiction might have to share.

I was immediately impressed by the not-so-subtle “Phones Off” policy already embossed on the flipchart and thus began a relentless and epic journey in pursuit of TIME and its function as the single most important element in the writing of stories, the “temporal art”. After all, if something happens, you can’t change it, the watch can’t be wound back!

Keegan covered every pile of the carpet as she roamed back and forth, sideways and even up onto a chair, making use of any and all available props (including the colour coded tops of the markers!) to elucidate meaning. Drawings, graphs, role play, quotes and arm spans of passion became the hallmarks of the day and we hung on every word.

Keegan proffered light, food, drink, money and deep murky water as the means to get to the core of a story; stalwarts all of the writer’s toolbox. The notion of writing with your bellybutton as your radar summed up what was a privilege to experience. You’ll have to get along to one yourself to find out more. As for me, I’m journeying to the white-hot centre to find the right time in which to begin my next story!