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I had the idea for Vampire Story a couple of years back. The idea being to tie Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, in with modern vampires living in Stoker’s hometown of Dublin. I knew I had to make a film, to direct the telling of the story. My friend Padraig said he’d back it. So he became the producer. I didn’t realise how big the project would become. Making a film, even a short one, is a piece of work. Dozens of talented people, location permits, equipment hire, the weather, the script, pizzas – all these have to come together at the right time for magic to even stand a chance of happening.
Making a film is a very enlightening experience. It’s all about the suspension of disbelief. Now I understand why the top actors are paid so well: they have a true talent. Acting is hard. Editing is hard. Getting the audio right is hard. I get why movies can cost so much: there is so much to get right so that the audience loses their grip on external reality. That’s the magic of film. So, over a period of about 18 months, the magic did happen and we have a showcase available now for all the world to see, for free.
I figured that a story about a novelist needed to be expressed in its literary form also, so I wrote Vampire Story the book, taking the intimacy of text as an excuse to push back the boundaries of the story, create some new worlds within the world that was captured so well by Canon 5D cameras.
Then I contacted the musical geniuses who made the movie soundtrack, Carol Keogh and Aidan Casserly, and asked if we could release the Vampire Story music to the people of the world to enjoy as their own, personal soundtrack to life. They said Yes! and, within days, the original soundtrack was available globally.
Vampire Story is now full spectrum entertainment, and all for free). Thanks to all the cast and crew for helping make it happen, for sticking with it. It’s hard.
Picture the times: Peasants roamed the shabby streets, gathering the droppings from passing horses and the occasional nuggets of coal that fell from carts, numbed the pain of existence with stout and whiskey. It was a filthy land, the deep wounds left by tribal conflicts still oozing poison. Into the social void, the high priests, with their glittering temples and mysterious ways, had assumed absolute power. ‘See this shining thing’, they proclaimed to the uneducated masses. ‘It is all that you need. Let us take your souls, your minds and your bodies, and the shining thing will give you a wonderful life. When you’re dead.’ ‘Oooh,’ gasped the peasants.
That was Ireland, in 1937. That’s when Eamon de Valera and the Catholic Church wrote Ireland’s Consitution. Together.
The Irish Consitution is truly a primitive and uninformed document, written with the specific purpose of keeping the peasants in the shit (literally), while the Church and State could reap their bodies and souls, while maintaining the social order. I believe that the whole Constitution should be discarded, and a completely new document created, one which can be used to unite all the peoples on this island, and with human dignity at its core.
But, for now, we continue to amend the Consitution. On October 26, 2018, Ireland will vote for our President, and voters will also have the opportunity to remove blasphemy from the Constitution.
The current text in the Constitution reads (Article 40.6.1):
The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.
Bizarrely, the law defining the offence and penalties only came into effect in 2009. Yes, 2009. A Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition, led by Brian Cowen, decided that, with the world tumbling into a debt-driven cycle of despair, and Ireland selling out her peasants to pay off European banks’ gambling debts, we really needed to get blasphemy onto the statute books for once and for all. Yes, we defined the punishment for blasphemy in 2009.
The Defamation Act 2009
That Act says that a person publishes or utters something blasphemous if they publish or say something that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and intend to cause that outrage.
Under the 2009 Act, where a person is accused of the criminal offence of publishing or saying something blasphemous, it is a defence if they can prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific or academic value in what they published or said. If convicted of this offence, a person may be fined up to €25,000. There is no prison sentence for this offence.
Freedom of expression
So, let’s get blasphemy out of the Irish Constitution, and let the Government expunge its nastiness from the law. Sedition and indecent matter will stay in, why not just get rid of the whole shitty shooting match? It’s called freedom of expression.
Check out the Preamble to the Irish Constitution
As part of my reasoning for the drafting of an entirely new Constitution for Ireland, I invite you to read the offensive Preamble to the Irish Constitution:
In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,
Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,
And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.
Update, 27 November, 2018
Today, President Michael D Higgins (who was re-elected, thankfully, on the day of the blasphemy referendum), signed the order that removed the offence of blasphemy from Ireland’s Constitution. 65% voted for this to happen, 35% wanted to keep blasphemy in the Constitution. While it’s shocking that a third of the population still fearss the wrath of the invisible sky god, we must see this outcome as progress. Go, Ireland!
Photograph of President de Valera kissing the ring of Rev. Dr. John Charles McQuaid Archbishop of Dublin: UCD School of History and Archives. UCD Archives. Press Photographs of Eamon de Valera (1882–1975). P150/PH/3855
Just when you thought that life couldn’t get any better, along come three awesome, free ebooks
Bite-sized adventures that might just change your life, and how you see the world. Grab these free ebook trilogies from iTunes right now, then share this link out among friends, family and everyone who deserves a special treat: the joy of reading!
Challenging, edgy short stories that happen before, during and after 9/11. ‘The Garden at the Inn’ is set in Afghanistan and Pakistan and looks at the formation of Al-Qaeda. ‘Tuesday’ is Manhattan on September 11, 2001. The trilogy concludes with ‘Nine Twelve’, a vision of life the day after.
These stories will challenge you, on your journey into the cauldron of New York on September 11, 2001.
Three short stories set in Ireland. The first story, Perhaps A Few, happens just before Ireland’s devastating potato famine of 1845-49. Troika is a story that happens in the dark 1930s, while Blitzkrieg Ireland 2016 considers what might have happened during the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the event that led to Ireland’s independence.
These stories are entirely speculative, creative fiction. It is a given that Ireland has had a pretty miserable history; Ireland Trilogy brings some of her formative forces into sharp, painful focus.
If you don’t use iTunes for your ebooks, you can find these trilogies, and many more Gary J Byrnes titles, on Smashwords here. They can be downloaded in every ebook format, including Kindle, and also read online.
Rats feasted on a dead drunk, but out of sight. A heavy evening after the scorched afternoon; late summer, the month of the God Emperor Augustus. The air glowed, smoke from thousands of oil lamps and open fires catching the sun’s fading power.
The writer’s eyes burnt as he stood on the balcony of his family domus on the Palatine Hill, watched the murmuring city stretched out below. He acknowledged a peculiar beauty in the wide sweep of wretched humanity huddled together; slums and tenements hugging the banks of the Tiber, hill after hill to the glimpse of distant, burning sea.
Time passed. Abstract forms took shape. His heart leapt, giddy.
Later, a fat moon rose from behind the imposing home, cast its cold light over the dead day, the greatest city in history, the worried man. But the writer had a fire in his belly, a new idea burned, became alive. At last, his simmering anger had found a purpose, some kind of direction.
‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ said his mother, touching his elbow and rubbing it fondly.
‘From up here, yes. But it is a different life in the slums,’ he answered. ‘It stinks like a dead dog.’
‘It’s said there are a million souls in the city now, Marcus. A million. They are here by choice. This is the Golden City of Dreams. Dreams of wealth, success, excitement. You cannot blame our Senators or our Emperor for the squalor that success inevitably brings.’
‘Especially since we have a Senator as guest this evening, mother?’ quizzed Marcus, worried for his father.
‘We must be gracious. Anyway, Maximus has been very kind to us. And he’s your father’s best friend in the Senate.’
‘That’s a very beautiful stola you’re wearing, mother. Where did you get it? And is that black wig from India, perhaps? Has generals’ pay risen again?’
She didn’t answer, just stared at the city in silence until a servant announced the Senator’s arrival.
‘I will welcome our guest. Please, for me, be happy.’
‘I’ll try,’ said Marcus, as if to himself.
His mind flew: filled with conflict, many emotions, passion. In recent months, he had begun to question the society in which he enjoyed a privileged place. The vast majority were poor or enslaved, while he had enjoyed a Greek education, the spoils of Empire and the stability of position. But it wasn’t enough. Not anymore. Not since he’d started hearing the stories, the stories he’d begun to write down and share, in Greek so that they could be read throughout the civilised world.
Would his stories bring any fairness to the casually cruel and biased system that controlled so many millions of lives? Probably not, but he knew that was not reason enough to abandon his project. The simple act of writing would purge his own guilt and, like a pebble in a pond, who knew where the ripples would end up? His heartbeat louder as he lost himself in the structure, the plot, the drama. He was truly lost to it.
He heard his mother calling his name repeatedly.
He drained the goblet of wine and took a deep breath. He turned from the glorious musings, hesitated, went to the dining area. During the hot summer season, evening meals were taken in the peristyle, the open garden in the centre of the domus. The servants waited in the shadows while oil lamps on the pillars illuminated the guests. Two child slaves were tasked with using ostrich feathers to keep flying insects away from the diners. The centrepiece was an innovation: a long oak table which overflowed with gold platters of grapes and bread and many jugs of wine. The guests were seated on plush, high-backed chairs, rather than the typical lounges.
‘Mother, your generosity is unequalled in all of Rome,’ said Marcus, touching his lips and bowing deeply. He turned to the guests. ‘I welcome you, Senator, and all our guests on behalf of my father.’
‘Indeed,’ said his mother. ‘He risks his life blood in Gaul so that we may enjoy the fruits of the Empire.’
‘I thank you for your welcome, Marcus,’ said Senator Maximus, resplendent in his purple-trimmed Senatorial toga. ‘In these difficult times, the welcome of friends is indeed a respite.’
Other guests. His mother’s current artist-in-residence. The wine merchant who lived next door. The merchant’s wife. To Marcus, the artist was a pompous man whose ability didn’t match his ego, a frighteningly familiar idea for a struggling writer. The merchant couple were wealthy, overweight and vulgar in all their habits. Bacchus was their favoured god. So they called for more wine. The servants filled the wine goblets with mulsum, honey wine. All present stood and drank in honour of their hostess, her courageous husband and the House Gods.
For the first course, a plate of mixed salad with olive oil dressing was followed by sea urchins marinated in liquamen, the sauce made of salt and rotten fish. Salt was ubiquitous, Rome herself having been founded on a salt mine. The finest spices from Ephesus were passed around the table. Praise flowed and Marcus was happy for his mother and thankful for his fortunate circumstances.
The talk was of politics, of course. There was discussion of little else at Roman dinners, Emperor Caligula having recently returned from Gaul with cartloads of seashells and thousands of slaves. Now, the Emperor was reimposing his will on the city at the centre of the world.
‘I know Tiberius put the last independent legions under imperial control and will be remembered for not much else,’ said the merchant, ‘but I preferred him to Gaius Caesar Germanicus Caligula.’
‘Little Boot has increased the free flour ration and the games are becoming more bloodthirsty,’ said Maximus. ‘So the masses are happy enough. But I must warn you all that he is seeking to replenish the state treasury.’
‘How?’ asked the merchant, worried. ‘More taxes?’
‘Worse,’ said the senator. ‘Extortion and confiscation. He has demanded tribute from many wealthy citizens. Failure to pay has led to confiscation of estates.’
The merchant became pale and quiet, calculating how much he could easily offer the Emperor should the agents come knocking. He decided to lead the discussion away from the disturbing topic.
‘Yesterday, I saw two gladiators fight a lion,’ he exclaimed. ‘A lion! It managed to gore one of them before they dispatched it with a dagger in the ribs. It was truly a spectacle. The mobs lapped it up. But think of the expense in bringing a lion to Rome from the furthest part of Africa.’
‘The servants are talking about his plans to make his favourite horse a senator,’ said Marcus.
‘Nonsense,’ retorted Maximus. ‘I fear these whispers are being put about by someone who sees opportunity in our emperor’s madness.’
‘Claudius does have the loyalty of the Praetorian Guard,’ said the merchant. ‘And Little Boot executed Naevius Sutorius Macro of the Guard after he ascended. So there will be no love lost there.’
‘The Guard may yet save us all,’ said Maximus.
The discussion was interrupted by the head servant, a Greek, who rang a beautiful gold bell to signify the arrival of the main courses. A full roasted pig, assorted baked fish, a roast pheasant and copious quantities of wine soon covered the table. The guests rejoiced and praised their hostess.
‘Did you hear about Caligula’s little episode in Jerusalem?’ asked the artist, a self-obsessed man who observed his reflection in anything shiny at every opportunity.
‘Please go on,’ said the merchant’s wife.
‘Well, I have it on good authority that he wants to put a wondrous statue of himself in the Temple at Jerusalem.’
‘How do you know this?’ asked the merchant.
‘My very good friend is the sculptor. The statue is almost complete. Fortunately our puppet there, Herod Agrippa, won’t allow it. He thinks it’ll drive the locals mad. They’ve been very restless in Judaea, apparently.’
The conversation waned, all mouths busy with the main courses. Marcus was more disillusioned with Roman society than ever before. He knew Caligula was broadly disliked, but now it seemed clear that the Emperor was mad and the citizens would suffer for his insanity.
‘Yes, I’ve heard stories from Judaea,’ said Marcus, quietly delighted at the opening.
‘Do tell,’ said his mother.
‘I’ve been speaking with a Judean. He’s a slave in the baths near the Forum. Nice chap. Quite intelligent. He can even read Greek.’
‘Fascinating how some of the savages can adopt our ways,’ said the merchant. ‘But no more civilised than dogs.’
The others nodded their approval of the assumption, a commonly held superiority complex.
‘So this slave, Luke is his name, he told me about a character in Judaea. I’m writing a long story about him. A novel.’
‘Wonderful,’ exclaimed his mother, clapping her hands and kissing him on both cheeks. ‘You will be the greatest writer the Empire has known. You are still so young. You have time. All you need is the idea. Praise to Mercury,’ she said, raising her goblet, ‘Protector of writers.’
‘And merchants!’ said the merchant as all at the table raised their drinks.
‘Tell us your idea, Marcus,’ they chorused.
‘The idea is to write a sequel to the Testament, the holy book of the Judeans, which is very popular reading among the literate classes.’
‘I’ve read some of it,’ said the artist. ‘I even have the scrolls in my studio. Quite fascinating, really. Their god character is such a brute. Is it meant to be ironic?’
‘Oh, it’s magical,’ said the merchant’s wife. ‘A fantasy, I’d say. The part about the creation of the Universe is so exciting.’
‘Genesis, isn’t it?’ said Marcus’s mother.
‘Everybody’s talking about it. Escapist, exotic literature is such an antidote to political plays and love stories.’
‘I’m so tired of the Greek myths.’
‘Yes,’ said Marcus. ‘So I hope to capitalise on this interest in religious escapism and continue the story.’
‘In which direction?’ asked the merchant.
‘More wine!’ called his wife. ‘Bring us that pale Spanish.’
‘You’ll like this,’ said the merchant. ‘It hasn’t suffered for travel. Marcus, I apologise. In which direction will you continue the story?’
‘This slave, Luke, has given me the entire structure,’ said Marcus, excited now at the growing potential of his story. In truth, he was amazed at the popularity of the old Judean stories among Rome’s elite. It all seemed to fit perfectly. ‘Just a few months ago, a man in Judaea claimed to be the son of their god.’
‘Yes,’ said his mother, ‘the Judeans have only one god. How quaint.’
‘Needless to say, he upset the local priests and they had him crucified. Our man Pilate was forced to order the killing.’
‘As cunning as wolves, priests.’
‘This crucified man supposedly performed miracles, such as turning water into wine.’
‘Water into wine? Then off with his head!’ exclaimed the merchant.
‘Quite,’ continued Marcus, after the laughter subsided. ‘He is also said to have cured lepers and raised the dead.’
‘All very interesting,’ said the artist, a secret atheist. ‘But it sounds like a simple religious fantasy to me.’
‘It gets better,’ said Marcus. ‘After he was entombed, three days later, he rose from the dead.’
‘A standard switch, I would’ve thought.’
‘Those Judeans have had too much of the man’s magic wine, I fear,’ laughed the merchant, uneasily.
‘Apparently a lot of them believe this is all true. Besides all the magic tricks, he had a profound message: that all men are equal, that the Emperor and the slave are as one before god.’
‘Be careful with this tale,’ warned Maximus. ‘That kind of talk could get you deported. Or worse.’
He’d thought of this risk, of course, and had already taken the decision to publish under an assumed name. Perhaps a Judean name for authenticity: Matthew or Luke or just put it down as the word of God. Edgy. He would lose credit for his work and any chance at profit. But these motivations were no longer the drivers of his creative urges. His spirit demanded more. His soul had awoken. He would create a character like none seen in fiction before. Pit him against an empire. Challenge the status quo. An Odyssey for a new millennium, a Ulysses not on a journey of self-discovery through allegory, but a hero for the poor, the enslaved, the ninety-nine percent.
The dishes were cleared and dessert of Syrian pears and Greek honey was placed before them.
‘Your main character, Marcus. The magician, what is his name?’ asked the merchant’s wife.
‘Literally, the anointed one who brings the salvation of God,’ said Marcus. ‘For a hero, Jesus Christ has more of a ring to it, don’t you think?’
‘I’m worried, Marcus,’ said his mother then. ‘I don’t want you causing any trouble.’
‘Don’t worry, mother. It’s just a story.’
A story that can wait awhile, perhaps. This scene, this now, this is too interesting to lose.
Another story formed.
The writer excused himself, went outside to smell the night and to look at Jupiter, King of all the Gods, in all His glory. He smiled.
Find this and all my short stories so far in one juicy collection, The Writer and Other Stories:
The Slave Market By Gustave Boulanger – http://peripluscd.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/boulanger-gustave-clarence-rudolphe-french-1824-1888-the-slave-market.png, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31742831
SEO marketing is about getting a high search ranking on Google as a key way to drive new business, which can be digital or traditional. SEO means Search Engine Optimization: You optimize your website so that the Google search engine/algorithm knows what it’s about and who it’s relevant for. Algorithm is a fancy name for Google’s software program.
SEO for Google – To get the importance of a website’s Title and Description, start with SERP and CTR
Search Engine Result Profile is the three pieces of text you see per result in Google’s page of ten results (sandwiched between the paid-for search results at top and bottom of page). SERP is made from site Title, site address (AKA URL) and site Description.
CTR is the click-through rate. This is key, because getting a shit-ton of impressions on Google without encouraging searchers to click through is a complete waste of time. Including the searcher’s time, so you’ll likely be penalised by the almighty algorithm, as Google wants to serve up the most useful and effective results. Simple as. So the total number of clicks through to the website, divided by the number of search result impressions, gives CTR. This is called conversion. You convert a searcher to a visitor, which results in an opportunity. An opportunity to do what? That’s entirely up to you.
The website Title tells Google what the website is about, in a general sense. You do not waste the limited number of characters with the business name or the word ‘home’. Imagine you’re talking to a computer. Which you are. Describe the essence. Ideal Title length is about 60 characters, so focus, people!
The Description is designed to tell a human what the site is about and encourage them to take action. This is very important for driving conversion. The ideal Description length is about 300 characters, so make every character count.
How to see a website’s Title and Description
What you see in Google’s SERP isn’t always what’s been added in the website platform. Sometimes Google decides that the Title and Description aren’t good enough, so it grabs text from elsewhere on the page. To see what’s been actually defined, just right-click on a blank piece of the website, then select ‘View page source’ from the dropdown. In a new tab, you’ll then see the web page in HTML, the funky language of the web. Look for the Title and Description up near the top (bracketed with <>) and you’ll see what’s what. You can ignore keywords, as Google doesn’t bother with those any more.
Don’t rely on expensive web designers to look after SEO. Do it right, by knowing the key elements. But these technical SEO factors are just the foundation. What Google really wants is to give searchers the best possible experience. This means giving them the answers they’re looking for, in a pleasant and fulfilling user experience. So, focus on user experience – UX – while optimizing for the key elements like Title and Description. Keep your site updated, and as speedy to load as possible. Again, for the experience. Tick these boxes and you should do well on Google.
I can’t stress the importance of books for kids. I’m a huge fan of the works of Roald Dahl, but there are few other writers who even come close to his ability. So I decided to write some books for my own kids, and to publish them for everyone who sees the value in engaging children’s books that are also designed to be fun for the bedtime reader, e.g. me.
Mylie’s Alphabet Adventure at the Zoo
This book is great for learning the alphabet and building vocabulary. The ideal book for kids who are pre-school, kindergarten, or being introduced to English as a second language.
The Witch Grannies stories are thrillers for tiny hands – read them in the dark, ideally under your duvet with a flashlight!
The Case of the Evil Schoolmaster
A thrilling children’s novel, which is set in Ireland and perfect for anyone aged 8 to 12 who’s just discovered the joy of reading exciting fiction, but appeals to all ages. Meet Emily and Malcolm two kids that have been sent to stay with their grannies down the country. Boring! But their rickety train journey to sleepy Castleconnell in Ireland takes a decidedly nasty turn and they find themselves up to their necks in trouble.
See, there’s an evil presence on the train, an evil presence that’s been making trouble for the local youngsters. And now he needs another kid for his schemes.
Emily and Malcolm are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Thankfully, their grannies are on hand to sort things out.
Oh, and their grannies are witches…
The Case of the Lonely Banshee
Emily’s witch grannies have whisked her away in the night, to the village of Castleconnell in the west of Ireland. The River Shannon is home to a banshee and she’s collecting souls, including Emily’s witch sister, Edna.
The witches must race against time to find the banshee’s lair and free the trapped souls.
But there is an even bigger threat to the river and all her inhabitants. Can the Salmon of Knowledge guide the witches to the nasty trio who plan to use deadly poison in their search for gold? Can they save the river?
All these books are currently available for FREE, in digital formats, until we get the vaccine. Learn more…
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