Category Archives: St Patrick’s Day

Irish traditions ~ St Patrick’s Day!

Irish

Aye, the luck o’ the Irish… who else could find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Certainly not this girl. But shamrocks and leprechauns are part of the Irish folklore and tradition.

And the movie Waking Ned Devine takes place in Ireland. Only in the movies could that convoluted a plan to claim the lottery winnings happen. My favourite part of the movie (apart from watching Jackie and Michael tearing around the countryside on a motorcycle in their birthday suits) was the beautiful scenery of the country.

I’ve schmoozed with Royalty having met Princess Anne but we never had the opportunity to chat about our favourite tipple – mostly our families and my connection to the place where we met. However, I do have one thing in common with former President Obama and his First Lady – Guinness! Although, I find it doesn’t taste as good here as there. Maybe because it’s too chilled in my part of the world? Dunno.

Irish
By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States) (White House Flickr) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
There is an art to pulling the perfect pint and it looks like the First Lady has mastered it, even under extremely close scrutiny…

And how about a tune suitable to the occasion when many of your have partaken in copious amounts of green beer and/or Irish Whisky.

I’ll close this post with the Irish proverb…

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven
half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.

St Patrick’s Day with JB Johnston of Brook Cottage Books!

JB JohnstonWelcome to Celtic Connexions. Come in, make yourself comfortable. I know you under two different names – JB and Debbie. Which would you prefer I used?

Hi Melanie, thank you so much for having me as a guest. I honestly don’t mind which name you use. I will answer to anything! Most people online know me as JB so I suppose that one’s okay. At book events I attend I get called by both names. Whatever anyone is comfortable with. The name JB is a shortened version of two names – Jontybabe, which was my original online name, and Just Books Johnston! A little joke about when asked what I bought on a shopping trip I always say, ‘Just Books!’ My real name is of course Debbie but I do most of my writing under the name J.B.

I made sure to have Doritos and wine on hand since I know you enjoy them. One of the wines is from the Niagara region of Ontario, the other from somewhere in South America, Argentina I think. Hope you like red. I don’t have a lot of white wine, although I can send my manservant, Donald, to the wine cellar to see what’s there.

Oh thank you Melanie. Doritos are my guilty pleasure but I have to restrict myself to one bag a week now otherwise I’d be hugely fat! Friday nights are the nights that I settle down on the sofa with my Doritos and wine and I watch a movie with my son. I’m more of a rose or white wine girl myself but I have been known to partake in a glass of red although I do avoid it as it makes me very giggly and even more silly than I normally am. Also, it makes my face go very red too.

It is only Thursday, but then it’s a special occasion – and these Doritos are virtual so you can have as many as you like.

Ah, the manservant says we have some Jackson Triggs Sauvignon Blanc in the cellar. Shall we open one of them? It’s a very nice wine. * gives manservant the nod and a few minutes later, the wine appears in a cooler with two glasses already filled for us*

Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself? The readers at Celtic Connexions know Brook Cottage Books but not necessarily the woman behind the brand.

JB Johnston

JB JohnstonOh gosh! It always feels funny talking about myself! I’m so used to promoting other people. Well, I am 45 years old and a bit of a book freak in case anyone hadn’t noticed. I am a fully qualified and practicing social worker in the real world although I am desperate to have a full time career in the bookish world and hope that one day someone notices me and offers me a job! Although not based in England, I’d be more than happy to fly to the mainland for meetings! Yes I’m that desperate for a job in publishing. I’d love to start branching out also and start writing magazine articles. I have some great ideas for articles and the plan is to start compiling them into a folder and pitching them to magazines.

I love walking and running and I used to be a real gym bunny until a shoulder injury slowed me down a little. I’m waiting for surgery to correct that. I’m always looking for new challenges and have turned into an adrenaline junkie. I abseiled down a very large tower a few years ago for charity and I’m always on the lookout for an adventure! Until my shoulder injury I was always taking part in charity runs but I’ve had to stop doing that for a while as apparently I swing my arms a lot when I run and that’s not good for my shoulder!

I’m very family orientated and have a real interest in special needs and parenting issues as my daughter has autism and a learning disability. I am very happily married to a wonderful man who is an accountant! I have 2 children and 2 step children and a mad dog. As well as Brook Cottage Books I have a personal blog www.thedebbiediaries.blogspot.co.uk  and I have just started a product review site www.crazyatthecottage.blogspot.co.uk

What made you decide to start a book blog?

Well, a number of years ago I originally had a special needs blog called IT’S A CRAZY WORLD. That blog no longer exists now as I was concerned that now my daughter was much older someone in the real world would recognise that I was writing about her and tell her about it. On that blog I used to write some book reviews. I’ve always been an avid reader and constantly have my nose stuck in a book. However, the requests for reviews became so great that I knew I needed a dedicated site just for bookish things. I was really interested in having authors on the blog with interviews and guest posts too and I wanted to take part in book tours. And so, Brook Cottages was born and has evolved into something way beyond what my original expectations ever were for the blog. Now, as well as book reviews and author spots I coordinate and run virtual book tours which I absolutely adore. Although, this means never having a day off! But, I can live with that. Brook Cottage Books has taken over my entire life and made me realise that being involved in the book world is actually my dream job. I have met so many wonderful and generous people through the book world that I feel this is where I belong.

You were shortlisted for an award for your blog, were you not?

Oh yes I was! In 2013 I was shortlisted for Romance Blogger of the Year at the Festival of Romance. That was a great feeling and a wonderful black tie event to attend. Everyone was spruced up in their finest and to be honest I was more than a little nervous! Unfortunately I didn’t win but my lovely friend Sharon Goodwin did win with her blog Jera’s Jamboree. However, the lifestyle magazine I am involved with www.loveahappyending.com  did win an industry award for Innovation in Romantic Fiction so that was a proud moment for those involved. At that event it suddenly dawned on me that book bloggers were at last receiving recognition for all the hard work they do. It was amazing! In 2014 I was honoured to be asked to present the award to that year’s winner Sophie Hedley for her amazing blog Reviewed the Book.

If memory serves, you’re from Northern Ireland. What sort of things do you and your family do to celebrate St Patrick’s Day?

Yes Melanie, I am from Northern Ireland. I live about 14 miles outside of Belfast. To be honest I don’t really do anything to celebrate St Patricks Day. It does mean a day off work so I usually spend it being quite lazy with a big lie in, daughter permitting! My husband can usually be found on the golf course every St Patricks Day as there is usually some sort of golf competition on that day. St Patrick’s Day celebrations always involve lots of Guinness though!

JB Johnston
By Dirk Van Esbroeck (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I’ll put on a bit of music for us to listen to while we sip our wine.

I hope you like corned beef and cabbage. It’s a staple here on St Patrick’s Day. If not, I won’t be offended. I also have a vegetable curry simmering in my slow-cooker. I know it’s not Irish but hey, why not?

JB Johnston
By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Well I’m afraid I’m going to have to go for the vegetable curry being a vegetarian. I do love cabbage though and often stink the house out with it! It does not make me popular with the rest of the household!

You took part in this past November’s #NaNoWriMo. Can you share any of this project with us?

Oh my goodness what a stressful but exhilarating time that was! When I was in the throes of it and people asked me about the book I froze with fright, terrified to talk about it in case I jinxed myself! I’m pretty sure a lot of people thought I was a little bonkers! Apologies to the lovely Carol Cooper who asked me about the book when in a lift with me in London and I looked like I was ready to climb out the roof of the lift! I’m a little less dramatic about it all now. At the moment I am trying to find the time to do some revisions and edits on the book and its currently sitting at over 60,000 words. After NaNo I couldn’t look at it for months! I was so traumatised! Lol. Anyway, the general gist of the book is this………..My main character runs away from a life that is already planned for her by a very domineering mother. She returns to her home town 10 years later after living in Italy all that time. She comes back with some secrets and attempts to rebuild relationships with those she left behind 10 years ago which doesn’t prove easy. It’s kind of a sad story about lost relationships and wasted time. It’s also about forgiveness, love and hope. I’m not altogether sure it’s any good and whether I’ll ever share it with anyone but I was sobbing writing the final chapter!

Anything else you can share with us about the woman behind BCB?

I’m not too sure there are too many interesting things to say about me but here goes –

  • Last year I co-wrote a book called Little Kitty, The Cat Burglar and all proceeds raised from sales go to charity. It’s a children’s book and was written by myself and a group of authors and illustrators to raise money for Alzheimers Research. The book was the brainchild of author Suzan Collins who does a lot to raise awareness of dementia issues. I was honoured to be asked to participate.
  • I used to have a spot on a radio show with author Nicky Wells. The show was called Books Rock and combined wonderful music with book news, author interviews and reviews! I miss doing that and hope that one day the show airs again! Nicky was brilliant as a DJ as well as being a fantastic author! She’s one of my favourite people!
  • I edited a book in 2013 under my real name Debbie Johnston– Little White Lies and Butterflies by Suzie Tullet. The book was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize award. It’s a brilliant book! Go and buy it!
  • I’m afraid of the dark and always have been! I have a candle app on my phone that I switch on when I am staying away from home in a strange hotel so that I am not sleeping in complete darkness!
  • When I was 23 years old I was paid to be a model in a tourist board photo shoot for my town and had to dress as an Austrian milkmaid as the town is twinned with a town in Austria. I’d not long given birth to my son so was looking quite voluptuous in my outfit when the photographer offered me a glamour shoot! Needless to say I turned him down!
  • I got drunk when I was 15 years old and stole a horse as a dare, rode him about a field without a saddle or bridle and eventually fell off when he jumped over a hedge. My house was built in that very field many years later!
  • I have had the same group of 5 friends since I was at school. We are a close bunch and are always there for one another. I don’t know where I’d be without them. My next NaNoWriMo project may have characters based on each and every one of them. They are all a bit worried about that! I can’t think why!
  • When I was 17 I very nearly joined the Navy. But then I met my first husband and the rest they say is history. I did try to join the naval reserves last year but apparently I am too old now.

I’m not sure how Irish this is, but sometimes after a meal, especially if it’s a special occasion, we indulge in a dram of single malt whisky. So, if you’d like to carry on in our tradition, I have a selection of Irish ones to choose from.

JB Johnston
By Cafeirlandais at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
Blarney stone
Usually, I invite my guests to kiss my ‘Blarney Stone’ as they come in. I thought I would see how well you do on your way out… Think you can manage? I’ve added a twist this year. It’s lower to the ground and you have to bend backwards over a railing. Don’t worry, the manservant will be your spotter.

Well it’s a good job I am double jointed! And, you should know that I can do the splits too so this will be no problem to me! Although, I should add that once on the floor, I usually require some assistance to get back up again!

Thanks for stopping by. It’s been a treat to have you here after being a host in so many of your book tours.

Thank you for having me here Melanie. It’s been wonderful being here and thank you for being such a valued member of the Brook Cottages family.

LINKS

www.brookcottagebooks.blogspot.co.uk

www.thedebbiediaries.blogspot.co.uk

www.crazyatthecottage.blogspot.co.uk

www.facebook.com/brookcottagebooks

www.facebook.com/jontybabe

www.twitter.com/BrookCottagebks

www.twitter.com/jontybabe

https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/jb-johnston/67/729/587

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+BrookcottagebooksJBJohnston

email: brookbooks@hotmail.co.uk

And how about a tune suitable to the occasion when many of your have partaken in copious amounts of green beer and/or Irish Whiskey.

I’ll close this post with the Irish proverb…

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven
half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.

St Patrick’s Day Party with Sharon Black

St Patrick's DaySt Patrick's DayWelcome to Celtic Connexions, Sharon. Do make sure you kiss the Blarney Stone here on the table by the front door. At least you don’t have to sit on a ledge and lean back until your head is lower than your bum.

St Patrick's DayYou’re looking very much in the St Patrick’s Day spirit all decked out in green. Can I offer you a drink? I have to say, I LOVE your hat. I have a selection of Irish Whiskey. Have a look on the sideboard and see if there’s something there you fancy.

 

 

St Patrick's Day
By Cafeirlandais at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
I have plenty of nibbles to snack on whilst we chat. Crisps with French Onion dip (coloured green, naturally), jelly beans, chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Don’t be shy. Dig in. Who knows, before the end of the night we might even find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Thank you for my Cead Mile Failte (a hundred thousand welcomes) here today, Melanie. I was born in Dublin, the eldest of three children, and grew up in an area called Rathfarnham, which is at the foot of the Dublin mountains. I studied history and politics at college, and then did a postgraduate in journalism, before working for national newspapers. I now live in a small coastal village in Dublin, with my husband and our three children. It’s a place where most people know each other, so apart from my friends from school and college, I have really good friends here.

Back home in Ireland, how do you normally celebrate St Patrick’s Day?

Traditionally, we would have always brought the children to the parade in town (which is what Dublin people call the city centre). Our eldest two are far too old to go with us anymore, so if they want to see it, they would go with friends. But our youngest is still game. The parade runs right through the centre of town, so most people have their favourite places to view. Ours is on Dame Street, on the south side of the river Liffey. Afterwards, we’d go to the Kilkenny Design Centre in Nassau Street, which is a mecca for Irish design, and have a hot drink and a treat.

We have the Americans and in particular the Irish Americans to thank for much of the improvements to our parade down the years. The St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin was incredibly boring when I was a child. I don’t think we understood what it was meant to be about at all. The highlight was always the American groups who came over to participate. They brought colour and excitement and, dare I say it, a professionalism that we lacked.

Now, it’s a festival that runs right over the weekend, and we have wonderful contributors, both Irish and from further afield.

You made the jump from journalist to novelist – is Going Against Type loosely based on your previous career?

I suppose the book is very loosely based on elements of what I knew, when I worked for the papers. I drew on bits of people I knew for some of the characters, and all the jargon is authentic.

I had also written a column for a while, for one of the national newspapers, but it wasn’t a sports column. I never wrote about sport, so Charlotte and her columns needed a lot of research.

Dinner is ready? *looks towards manservant* Come through to the dining room. I have to admit I got a bit carried away with the decorating – sparkly, green Leprechaun hats at the place settings, pots of basil with shamrocks and candles, and green noise makers. What can I say? I wanted it to be special, it being my first St Patrick’s Day party.

I hope you enjoy your meal. I’ve got Potato Leek soup

By Vegan Feast Catering (Potato Leek Soup) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
with soft pretzels followed by your choice of Corned Beef and Cabbage,

By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Guinness Braised Pork, or Guinness Meat Pie. You can think about it while we have our soup course.

I love potato leek soup. My mum makes her own all the time, and gives me over big pots of it. The whole family love it! And I was raised on corned beef and cabbage. My grandmother made it a lot. She would shred the cabbage up really fine, and stir it in through creamy, mashed potatoes.

We’ll chat while we eat. Going Against Type is your debut novel. Can you tell us a bit about it?

I’d love to. It’s set against the backdrop of Dublin newspapers, and it’s the story of two rival newspaper columnists who fall in love. Because they write their columns under pen names, they have no idea that they’ve each fallen in love with the enemy!

The book opens with Charlotte Regan, who works as a sports reporter in a very male-dominated sports department, getting a chance to write the new sports column Side Swipe. The column is very sharp and her views very controversial – and it’s noticed by The Squire, a gossip columnist on a rival newspaper.

The Squire is written by fashion journalist Derry Cullinane, who initially assumes that Side Swipe is a man! And he takes no prisoners.

Going Against Type by Sharon Black - 100

BLURB

Some would say Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Regan has it all. Beautiful, smart, athletic and a great job working as a journalist – in the almost exclusively male sports department. But Charlotte is not quite as sure as she seems. Recently split from her overbearing boyfriend, she escapes for weekends, surfing in the Atlantic, and spends her free nights watching sports, roaring at the TV.

Derry Cullinane is a fashion writer, gossip columnist and sophisticated man-about-town. The go-to guy for any woman seeking expert advice on what fabulous outfit to wear for any given occasion. He’s also tall, dark, good looking – and straight! So what’s the snag? He has a track record of dating glamorous, vain and shallow women.

Charlie gets an opportunity to write a new column under the pen name Side Swipe, but is soon drawn into a war of words and wit with a rival paper’s columnist The Squire – and their verbal fireworks get readers and editors talking. Yet neither Charlie nor Derry knows just whom the opponent is…

When Charlotte and Derry meet at the Races, the attraction is instant. As their relationship develops, so much more proves at stake, than protecting their alter egos. But a blunder puts Charlotte’s job in jeopardy just as Derry’s past makes front page, and Charlotte begins to doubt her feelings.

When Side Swipe and The Squire are finally forced to reveal themselves, will they revert to type – or confound everyone’s expectations?

**********

EXCERPT

Oh good grief, Charlotte thought. It’s Panama Hat Man. She found herself blushing as Fiona steered her into the man’s line of vision.
A slow, amused smile of recognition spread across his face. Brown eyes locked hard with green. Okay Charlotte, play it cool. With a show of dignity, she looked away.

‘Everyone, this is my old school friend Charlotte Regan. Charlotte, this is Clare, Tina and Rosemary.’

Charlotte smiled and shook the other women’s hands, quickly memorising their names, acutely aware of the man’s attention.
‘And Derry Cullinane,’ Fiona said.

Almost reluctantly, Charlotte met his gaze again, forcing herself to breathe normally. She smiled politely and extended her hand. Derry held it a fraction longer than necessary.

‘Tiny hands too,’ he murmured. Charlotte flushed.

‘How’s your foot?’ he asked, releasing her hand but holding her gaze.
‘Oh, do you already know each other?’ Fiona asked, looking slightly puzzled.

‘No,’ said Charlotte quickly.

‘We met at the Galway Races,’ Derry said at the same time. An image of the peroxide blonde woman popped into Charlotte’s head.

‘Can I leave you for a minute? I must check on things in the kitchen.’ Fiona briefly squeezed Charlotte’s hand and left.

Charlotte glanced quickly about, hoping to engage with the other women, but to her frustration she found that they’d drifted away. Leaving her with this egotistical…

‘So as an experiment, do you think we’ll work?’ Derry said, interrupting her thoughts.

‘Um, will what work?’

He shot her an arrogant smile.

‘Fiona’s matchmaking attempt. Either Cupid will be on target or we’ll end up throwing bread rolls at each other.’

Charlotte gritted her teeth.

‘I’m a crack shot with a bread roll.’

**********

It sounds like a fun book. I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR list.

Can you describe your writing routine? What time of day do you find you’re most productive – that kind of thing.

I’m definitely at my best in the morning, but I’m not one of those people who can get up at five O’clock to write. I wish I were. Once my younger two are in school, I start to write. The trick for me is to know what I want to write, the night before. I’m far more productive when I have a plan.

I think the party is about to start. I hope you got enough to eat. There is dessert but we’ll let this settle first before we have it.

*escorts Sharon back into other room and inserts Cranberries CD*

I hope you like the Cranberries. They’re one of my favourite groups.

While we listen to music, I’ve stashed a pot of gold somewhere in this room. Do you think you can find it?

I love The Cranberries. They’re a brilliant group. Hmmm, a pot of gold? Is it under the stash of sweets that we were eating? Those chocolate-covered gold coins might do. They’re very lucky.

We have Baileys Mousse Pie and Apple Amber for dessert. Which would you prefer? While you search, I’ll get it and bring it in for you.

I’d love the Apple Amber, it sounds delicious.

Returns to room with dessert(s) *changes CD* There’s a bit of a story behind this one.

It involved one of my cousins but I won’t go into all the details here.

It’s been a fun party. I hope it lived up to your expectations.

Before you go, can you tell us where to get your book and how to find out more about you?

This will take you to my book page at Tirgearr Publishing, and has all the buy links, as well as a nice excerpt: tirpub.com/gatype
I can be found on Twitter: @Authorsharonb
Here’s my Author page with links to my blog, various excerpts and other nuggets of information:
Sharon Black Author Page

Thanks so much for stopping by, Sharon.

Thanks a million for allowing me to be your guest today, Melanie.

 

How do you celebrate St Patrick’s Day? Do you have any family traditions? Tell us about them in the comments.

 

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

leprechaun

Aye, the luck o’ the Irish… who else could find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Certainly not this girl. But shamrocks and leprechauns are part of the Irish folklore and tradition.

And the movie Waking Ned Devine takes place in Ireland. Only in the movies could that convoluted a plan to claim the lottery winnings happen. My favourite part of the movie (apart from watching Jackie and Michael tearing around the countryside on a motorcycle in their birthday suits) was the beautiful scenery of the country.

I’ve schmoozed with Royalty having met Princess Anne but we never had the opportunity to chat about our favourite tipple – mostly our families and my connection to the place where we met. However, I do have one thing in common with President Obama and the First Lady – Guinness! Although, I find it doesn’t taste as good here as there. Maybe because it’s too chilled in my part of the world? Dunno.

Michelle_Obama_pours_a_pint_of_stout.jpg/512px-Michelle_Obama_pours_a_pint_of_stout.jpg
By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States) (White House Flickr) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
There is an art to pulling the perfect pint and it looks like the First Lady has mastered it, even under extremely close scrutiny…

And how about a tune suitable to the occasion when many of your have partaken in copious amounts of green beer and/or Irish Whisky.

I’ll close this post with the Irish proverb…

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven
half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.