Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lessons in the Irish Gift of the Gab, a guest post by Lisa Alber

 
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: One of the great joys of being a part of Jungle Red Writers is the community that is our backblog. Our commenters have shared their joys and sorrows, met up at writing conferences, hashed out recipes and made "working" at the blog more like gabbing with neighbors at the local coffee shop. Several of our back-bloggers are writers themselves, and I know I speak for all the Reds when I say nothing makes us prouder than when one of our regulars says, "I have a book coming out!"

That's Lisa Alber. If you've been hanging around here, you'll know her sense of humor and way with words. We're not the only ones to have noticed - Lisa is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant and a Walden Fellowship. Today is the launch day for her debut mystery, Kilmoon.  We're so glad she's spending it with us!   


Lessons in the Irish Gift of the Gab

Thanks for having me back, Julia and Reds! When Lucy asked me to write a guest post in June 2013, my novel launch was still a far-off dream. Now, here I am with my debut novel out in the world. The dream is reality!

A few weeks ago I dug out one of my novel research journals. It's hand-sewn black leather with handmade paper. I remembered being worried that I would fill it up too quickly, so I wrote small, filling each page to the brim with observations and thoughts about Ireland and my work-in-progress. Profundities abound:

3:45 a.m. Ugh—awake. Just took half a Vicodin. How am I going to get myself a SALAD?

I came upon the name of a man I hadn't thought about in years. Malcolm McAndrew. (Don't you love that name?) For quiet County Clare, he was quite the exotic because he wore a black leather jacket and drove a Harley. He was so cute—OK, I admit it, I was infatuated, but not only because of his dark Irish good looks. In the midst of his hilarious stories, he'd say things like:

"He was that cross-eyed, when he cried the tears rolled down his back."

Or:

"He's so cheap he wouldn't give you the steam off his piss."

Or:

"It's not like a 12-foot wall; you'll get over it."

Or:

"He should be tied to a bull's balls and scuttered to death."

He had me at "cross-eyed." And it wasn't like he had a special flare for language or metaphor either. One day I was talking to my B&B hostess, and she said, "I literally ran in and took the hinges with me."

What a wonderful way to tell me she was scared out of her mind!

Or, how about this from an old codger who apparently liked the looks of me: "If I had salt, and I had pepper, and I sprinkled it all over you, I would just eat you up."

I love that! How does that even spring out of your mouth without forethought?
I also love love love Irish putdowns. I'm an unrepentent potty mouth myself, so I lapped up all kinds of lovely words such as "wankstain" and "toerag" and "geebag" and "f**kbucket.” (Look at me, trying to be polite with asterisks!)

I’m OK with just about anything, especially when it’s said with an Irish accent, but even I was taken aback when I heard the c-word that rhymes with "bundt" bandied about without care. It didn't take me long to figure out that men only say this word when clowning with their (male) mates. It’s like calling someone an “ass” here.

By comparison, a putdown such as "sad sack" seemed benign. Hah! Little did I know. I thought I’d caught on to the Irish gift of the gab when I made the mistake of calling a bunch of single lads I’d befriended "sad sacks" as they lolled around the B&B after a wild night at the annual matchmaking festival. (Sidenote: I was in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, to research the festival for Kilmoon.)
You'd have thought I'd called them, well, the c-word! I bet they would have laughed me off if I had. Instead, I found myself apologizing for insulting them so grievously.

As I slunk out of the room, I heard one of them mention the lot of them "standing around like a bunch of spare pricks" at the Matchmaker Pub the previous evening. I still hope they didn't hear me laughing as I ran to my room to jot down the phrase. I was there. I saw them. I couldn’t have come up with a better description if I’d give myself a week to do so.

I couldn't write fast enough to keep up with everything I heard. When I returned to the States, I promptly inserted what I'd heard into my manuscript. Ah, novice novelist that I was! This was a case in which reality read like the worst kind of make-believe, so I eventually (after much kicking and screaming) yanked most of it out again. Ah well, at least I have my journal when I want a dose of the Irish gift of the gab. 

How about you, dear readers? Do you journal? Do you have the gift of gab? Do you use asterisks instead of swearing? Lisa has a copy of Kilmoon for one lucky commenter, so let us know!

Lisa Alber received an Elizabeth George Foundation writing grant based on Kilmoon. In addition, Ms. George asked Lisa to write a short story for Two of the Deadliest: New Tales of Lust, Greed, and Murder from Outstanding Women of Mystery (HarperCollins). She featured Lisa’s story in an “Introducing…” section for up-and-coming novelists. A Walden Fellowship recipient and Pushcart Prize nominee, Lisa lives in the Pacific Northwest. Kilmoon is her first novel.

You can find Lisa at: website | Facebook | Twitter | blog

46 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

What a treat to visit with Lisa today. Congratulations and happy launch day . . . I’m looking forward to reading Kilmoon . . . .

Journal-keeping? Of course. Gift of gab? Not so much . . . usually I open my mouth and promptly put my foot in it. Swearing? Not so much . . . .

Reine said...

Lisa, I am sooooo happy for you!!! I feel like I know you after these past few years of commenting here and on other blogs. You have a great gift of saying things in a way that I often would not have thought of myself, but when I see what you have written I recognize that I share the feeling or insight. I just want to say that I think you are terrific and talented. xoxoxoxo

Lisa Alber said...

Hi there! It's great to be here!

Joan, I don' t have much of a gift of the gab either, which is probably a big reason why I loved sitting around in pubs listening to the loquacious Irish!

Reine, dear, thanks so much! I'm so glad we've gotten to know each other. We have the fab JRW to thank!

Ellen Kozak said...

It was a delight to read those Irish comments, and I'd love to read Lisa's book (even though she says she removed most of them from it.) They took me back to when I was writing my senior thesis on (I kid you not) "The Effect of Irish Monasticism on the Seventh Century Northumbrian Ascendancy" (as one of my classmates commented "Lord spare us from esoterica!") and devouring all things Irish from the sixth through the twentieth centuries.

I kept journals from childhood until about a decade ago. Then I started to rely on just saving my e-mails. Alas, some reside in prior programs and are nowhere near as accessible as the banker's box of notebooks in all sizes and all colors, with handwriting that changes according to my mood, and occasional sketches in the margins. But the computerized e-mails-- when I can still access them-- are faster to search. (Unfortunately, Facebook posts and comments on blogs are not so easy to locate. I should probably go back to the notebooks.)

Having only flown over Ireland (It's that green from the air! Really!), I've never kissed the Blarney Stone, and my gift of gab is much more fluent on paper than on my feet. But swearing? I came of age in the Sixties. Profanities come more easily than other adjectives and exclamations, although I do try to substitute some euphemistic modifications, like "effing" for the word I'm prone to using more frequently-- or at least I do so on paper.

Riley McKissack said...

I visited Ireland years ago. Your quotes made me just want to go again. You're right, I love me an Irish accent.

Lisa Alber said...

I just realized something -- I got so into Irish-isms that I forgot to tell you a little something about KILMOON!

Very quickly:

In KILMOON, Californian Merrit Chase travels to Ireland to meet her long-lost father, the famous Matchmaker of Lisfenora. Little does she know that he’s a man with a dark past, and murder is about to make an unexpected appearance. Betrayal, vengeance, cruel love … Merrit’s in for a wild ride!

Lisa Alber said...

Ellen, I using "effing" a lot too. I try not to be such a potty mouth in polite company. That's one of the things I love about the Irish: they use "fecking" and "shite." So, really, they can sweat in an social situation! :-)

I try to store emails too ... Just not the same as journals and letters, alas.

Hi, Riley! And I'll tell you, that Malcolm McAndrew ... He had quite the accent!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hurray, LIsa! SO delighted for you!And tell us MORE abut the fabulous sounding KILMOON!

Gift of gab? Me? Nope.. ANd yes, I tried to keep a journal for a while, hers ago. It was SO BORING when I re-read it--I just gave up. I do keep little snippets of thoughts on scraps of paper..but that probably doesn't count..

Jack Getze said...

I don't journal and I don't chew, but I spend time with women who do.

The book sounds great. Potty mouths unite!

Brenda Buchanan said...

Hello Lisa,

Kilmoon has been on my list since the first time I heard the title and plot line. I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Congratulations to you on your launch day. Wishing you all the best.

Brenda

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Happy pub day, Lisa! I'm SOOOO excited to read Kilmoon!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Happy debut novel Lisa! We're delighted to have you here.

Ellen, I love the thesis title. Academics sure know how to juice up a title:)

Hank doesn't have the gift of gab? Ha! But I found my journal attempts utterly dull too. I wish I had kept one over the years though--material to mine...

Denise Ann said...

I love anything Irish! I don't understand about removing the colorful phrases --- did they not suit the characters? Did they stand out to brightly?

It is definitely the way the Irish speak!

Lisa Alber said...

Hank, thanks! I'm a total note scribbler too. Scraps everywhere! Can you imagine future literary excavators trying to piece together our lives from the scraps?

Jack, saw you featured on Omnimystery yesterday! Very cool!

Brenda, thanks so much!

Susan, I have you to thank for the signature cocktail, the KILMOON Sour! :-)

Mary Sutton said...

Lisa, congratulations. I get more interested in KILMOON the more I read about the launch.

I don't journal. Like Hank, I tried - and it was so boring when I read it later. Gift of gab? I'm more likely to set myself up for an unintended double-entendre. I used to swear a lot when I worked with a couple of ex-Marines. It was the only way I could get their attention, but now not so much. Had a friend who studied Celtic history and yes, the Irish can swear!

I adore accents - British, Irish, and Australian. Automatically ups the appeal of just about any man going - especially if he's wearing a leather jacket and riding a Harley!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your debut novel, Lisa. Wishing you a happy launch day. I love the name of the character, Merritt Chase. Where do I start? How did you find wonderful names for your characters? How did you come up with a title like Kilmoon? I love the photos, including the one of the Matchmaker sign. Like another commentor, I flew over Ireland on my way to England and Ireland looked very green to me. I was at a bus station when I saw signs for tours to Ireland from England. If I had more time, I would have loved to visit Ireland.

I would love, love, love to win a copy of Kilmoon. I look forward to reading Kilmoon.

~Diana

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your debut novel, Lisa. Wishing you a happy launch day. I love the name of the character, Merritt Chase. Where do I start? How did you find wonderful names for your characters? How did you come up with a title like Kilmoon? I love the photos, including the one of the Matchmaker sign. Like another commentor, I flew over Ireland on my way to England and Ireland looked very green to me. I was at a bus station when I saw signs for tours to Ireland from England. If I had more time, I would have loved to visit Ireland.

I would love, love, love to win a copy of Kilmoon. I look forward to reading Kilmoon.

~Diana

Gigi Pandian said...

Lisa, I think you've captured one of the most fun things about being a writer: sitting back and jotting down all the fascinating things other people say! I love looking through my old novel journals to see everything I've noticed over the years.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the double posts above ~ they said I was not able to type in the text so I resend the post.

~Diana

Lisa Alber said...

Lucy, I'm delighted to be here. Thanks once again for inviting me the first time around. :-)

Denise Ann, good question. A little slang/colorful language goes a long way. I overused it for sure. After awhile, at least to my beta readers, it became distracting, and I didn't want to distract from the story. Also, words like "scuttered" caused many a question mark. :-)

Hi Mary! Yes, Malcolm M was quite the heartbreaker! Frankly, I rarely read my old journals, but keeping them comforts me.

Hi Diana, thanks for popping in! I think I stole Merrit's name from another novel. This was ages ago. The name just seemed to fit my fledgling character. "KILMOON" is the name of a historical site in Ireland -- an early Christian church.

Gigi! Don't you just love that? I loved bellying up to the bars and listening in on the old fellas.

Katie Baer said...

Hi, Lisa.

Your blog post cracked me up and reminded me of so many wonderful Irish phrases.

One example: when I was in Doolin, a tiny town and home to great traditional Irish music, I asked some young girls whether a band was playing at the pub near my B & B that night. They shook their heads vigorously and assured me: "Tha's no band--just a bunch of guy playin' music."

Turned out to be one of the best nights of my life, hearing great traditional music and people-watching as families wandered in and out until late at night.

Congratulations on your first novel--such a big accomplishment. Can't wait to read it.

Katie

Kathy Reel said...

Lisa, your posting was so much fun to read. I love to hear both Irish and Scottish phrases, so colorfully creative. I am somewhat of a closet potty mouth, as most of my friends are rather not. I do have one friend with whom I can let loose, and we have our little potty mouth sessions. Jack, maybe a uniting of potty mouths is what I need. I will say, Lisa, that your trip to Ireland and your book sound effing fantastic! Congratulations on your debut, and, from your appearance here, I predict that the book is going to be a first rate read.

Pat D said...

Kilmoon has been on my TBR list since I heard about it. Love the Irish. I don't keep a journal; just don't care to write! I love colorful and/or potty mouth expressions. Here in the south we have quite a few. A heavy rain is a frog gagger, for example. I did kiss the Blarney Stone but it didn't take. Try, try again? Congrats Lisa on getting your book out there!

LynDee said...

Yay! Congratulations, Lisa! Can’t wait to get my copy!

I journal sporadically. It’s never been an every day habit, but I go through seasons where I journal like mad, and others where I don’t at all.

I’m not sure how gifted I am, but I like to gab. That must count for something. :)

And I’ll take a seat by you in the swearing club. I try to keep it clean around the little ones, but often forget around adults.

Hope you have a lovely book birthday!

Lisa alber said...

Katie, I love Doolin! My novel research took me to nearby Lisdoonvarna. I'd often drive over to Doolin for a night of music and good craic. :-)

Kathy, I love a good potty mouth session. I've heard that studies have shown that blowing off steam with a little swearing is good for us!

Pat, "frog gagger," I love it!

LynDee, hi! I admire anyone who can gab--definitely counts for something in my book!

Susan D said...

Oooh,that journal. I made a similar one in a bookbinding workshop last summer,and I can't decide what would be worthy to put into it.

Yes, I'm a journalling junkie.

Huge congratulations on your book release, Lisa.

Mollie Cox Bryan said...

I used to keep a journal many moons ago. It was helpful at one time. In the mean time I wish you all the best with your book and writing. There's nothing like your first book. Enjoy it, Lisa! I look forward to hanging out with you again soon!

Kim said...

Congratulations, Lisa! If this blog post is any indication, your book is going to be terrific. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Best of luck with the book launch! Kim

debjulienne said...

What a treat that must have been. I'd love to go and just spend a week soaking up the atmosphere...and I'm sure they'd cart me away, laughing alike a loon for all I'd hear...but I'd go happily just to hear it.
Can't wait to read this.

Libby Dodd said...

Absolutely delightful!
Sure and you could charm the birds out of the trees.
The Irish (I'm part Irish and have kissed the Blarney Stone) have a way with words.

"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with blarney"

"Irish diplomacy is telling someone to go to hell and having him look forward to the trip"

Very best wishes on your launch. I look forward to visiting the old country through your story.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Hurray, Lisa! Happy launch day! I can't wait to read Kilmoon.

I've kept a journal since my early twenties, though not as regularly while I'm writing a book since I keep a journal of the book on the computer. And yes, I can swear with the best of them, unfortunately.

Have a fabulous launch day!

Linda Rodriguez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deb said...

Happy pub day, Lisa!!! Just bought Kilmoon--can't wait to read it. Can you believe I've never been to Ireland. I was going to set a book in County Clare, and somehow ended up in Scotland instead...

Huge congrats from you mates at Jungle Red!!

Marianne in Maine said...

Hooray, Lisa!!! I can't wait to read this. I have it ordered.

I love Lisdoonvarna. (Now I have the song "Listoo, Listoo, Listoo, Listoonvarna" in my head.) Great town for the craic.

I wish you great success with this boo and the sure-to-follow ones.

Marianne in Maine said...

Oops, forgot to say that I tend to not use those asterisks. I swear a bit. Especially now that the Yankees are leading the Red Sox.

And the only journal I keep is for my daily food and exercise.

Lisa Alber said...

Susan D, I love journals! I buy 'em when I see 'em. I tried making a journal, but the binding foiled me. :-)

Mollie, gab-festian extraordinaire! Can't wait to hang out with you again too.

Kim, thanks so much!

debjulienne, thanks -- looking forward to talking to you soon! :-)

Libby, I love those! I'm going to write those down in my latest journal!

Thanks so much, Deb! Ah, I could see one of your novels set in Ireland--that would be awesome!

Marianne, I could stand to use a food and exercise journal--it might help keep me on track. (And now I've got the song in my head too!) Good old Lisdoonvarna.

Lisa Alber said...

Susan D, I love journals! I buy 'em when I see 'em. I tried making a journal, but the binding foiled me. :-)

Mollie, gab-festian extraordinaire! Can't wait to hang out with you again too.

Kim, thanks so much!

debjulienne, thanks -- looking forward to talking to you soon! :-)

Libby, I love those! I'm going to write those down in my latest journal!

Thanks so much, Deb! Ah, I could see one of your novels set in Ireland--that would be awesome!

Marianne, I could stand to use a food and exercise journal--it might help keep me on track. (And now I've got the song in my head too!) Good old Lisdoonvarna.

Deb Romano said...

Congratulations, Lisa! I look forward to reading your book. I always think it's a special pleasure to follow a "pre" published novelist backblogger here all the way to publication!

I'm not one for potty words, although I do have a history of making up my OWN pottymouth words. And that way, nobody knows what I really mean!! (I've shared one or two with VERY good friends! It's our own special code!)

Deb Romano said...

Oh, I forgot to say about keeping a journal: I used to do that religiously, but got out of the habit, mainly because arthritis made it painful to hold on to a pen. I would love to get back to it, maybe on the computer. And, Hank, my journal was quite dull, too, but re-reading things did help remind of when certain things happened in our family - the "sibs" always say "ask Deb, she never forgets anything". It's not so much that I don't forget, as that I would write things down.

christinalay said...

Thanks for the laughs, Lisa. Those sayings remind me of my grandfather and his cronies- why say something simply when there's always a colorful phrase at hand? My favorite was "the wind was blowing so hard it blew the buttons right off my shirt."

Lisa Alber said...

Linda, thanks! I find that I don't journal as much since writing novels, as far as personal journaling that is. Sometimes I miss it because purging my daily "stuff" is quite cathartic. :-)

Deb Romano, I just learned the word "backblogger" today as a matter of fact. Have a feeling you'd do great in Ireland with your creative profanities. :-)

Christina! That's a good one. I'm writing that one down. I remembered another one the other day, something about the sun being hot enough or bright enough to crack the rocks. :-)

FChurch said...

Interesting range of subject matter--from Ireland to potty mouths! Lisa, congratulations on the publication of Kildoon--it's going to be a great read when I get my hands on a copy. And the writing journal--I journal, much more sporadically now, but it's a place to write (bad) poetry, express my emotions, count my blessings, and gripe--with a generous sprinkling of the aforementioned swearwords. Since I won't be getting to Ireland anytime soon, stories are the next best thing!

Leslie Budewitz said...

Yay, Lisa!

Kelsey Sandy said...

I'm excited to read your book, Lisa! I'm always looking for a new mystery and always looking to support a debut writer, as an aspiring novelist myself. My family is originally Irish, so I have always loved the culture, and of course the accent, and would love a chance to visit.

My husband is from a very small east Texas town. So my own writing, however, focuses on the gift of East Texas gab. I love their colorful idioms: "Madder than an old wet hen," "I am fit to be tied," etc. Like you, I am amazed sometimes at the things my friends or in-laws are able to roll off their tongues, words I never would have put together given hours at my writing desk.

Thanks for the post!

Lisa Alber said...

fchurch, that's me--following a thought stream straight to potty mouth. :-)

Leslie, glad to be a member of the club now!

Kelsey, thanks so much. Texans are come of the best gift of the gabbers we'll find in the States, that's for sure. I meet a Texan author at a conference, and I'm sure to be entertained!

Kate L said...

Lisa,

Congratulations! Kilmoon is on my TBR list - anything to do with ye olde sod is always of interest, and yours is particularly appealing!

I wish I'd spent more time in Ireland than a mere (wonderful!) 10 days. The craic in Doolin was fantastic, and so was some in Galway (which otherwise did not impress).

My favorite pub expression: I walked into one near Athenry one night in time to hear one of the regulars say, "Oh, under the affluence of incohol, was he?"

Slainte,
Kate