Why Jeff Bridges is Responsible for my Fear of Flying


In the next couple of days, I will be boarding an airplane for the first time in about seven years. This delay has been completely intentional.

Oh, I’ve used a lot of excuses: pregnancy, my smallest son being too small to enjoy the flight, lack of money, isn’t Ireland just gorgeous in the summer, won’t a week in Kerry be just as nice as Spain (it isn’t: not when its drizzling, grey and 10 degrees). That kind of excuse.

They were nonsense. The truth is, and I have mentioned this elsewhere, I am terrified of flying. What I have not mentioned is that it is all Jeff Bridges’ fault.

Years ago, I flew frequently and with blithe disregard for any potential consequences rather than the obvious one of getting where I was going, I flew to England, America, Germany, Spain, France, Austria, without giving it a second thought. I descended on Glasgow once in a minute plane called a Focher that bounced around like a toy being waved about by a small and somewhat boisterous child. I didn’t, as they say, turn a hair.

Now, thanks to the film Fearless, I am filled with panic at the mere thought of flying. Even as I write, my stomach feels as if it is full of snakes.

Let’s be fair to Jeff Bridges. He didn’t make Fearless. Peter Weir was the director, but Peter Weir is not the person who features in my imagination every time I even think of getting on a plane.

In Fearless, Jeff Bridges is traumatized by a plane crash, and spends much of the film trying to overcome that trauma, most notably by getting into a car with Rosie Perez and driving into a wall.

With all due regard for the substantial talents of Jeff Bridges and Peter Weir (who directed The Truman Show, one of my all-time favourite films), Fearless is not a particularly good film. But, its depiction of the plane crash scared me witless.

The most frightening bit, the bit that flashes into my mind whenever I even consider leaving the country, is the bit with Q. Or rather, John de Lancie, the guy who acts Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Not to spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn’t seen Fearless, Q (sorry, John de Lancie) is sitting beside Jeff Bridges when the plane goes belly up; but where Jeff Bridges somehow survives, Q loses his head. Graphically. Chillingly. Horribly.

What I see, whenever I think of being in a plane, is Jeff Bridges, sitting beside a headless John de Lancie.

This is why I cannot fly. Or at least, not without the help of some serious sedative, which I will look up on the Internet as soon as I finish writing this (only joking).

But I am going to Sweden, because my brother lives there, and even if he didn’t live a plane journey away, I would be getting on an airplane this year. The world is a big and fascinating place, and I have run out of excuses not to visit it. I cannot show my fear, either, that wouldn’t be fair on my children, who have never seen Fearless and hopefully never will.




My #WritingProcess #Bloghop


It seems ironic to discuss my writing process on this week of all weeks. I will not bore you with my technical problems. If you would like to know the details of how my netbook rebelled against my move away from a Big Corporate OS by discarding an entire month’s worth of writing, you can read about it here. For my part, I will remember those lost chapters as the best I ever wrote. Nothing will ever achieve their level of greatness (That’s very easy to say, you might rightly point out, because nobody will ever read them). There is really only one word to say in response to a situation like this, and as a children’s book author, I probably shouldn’t say it.

Before I go on, I shall acknowledge the substantial talents of the person who invited me onto this blog train, Yusuf Toropov, whose novel, Jihadi: A Love Story, is a quarter finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. And rightly so; it is a remarkable piece of work. I feel honoured to be following in his blogging footsteps.

a) What am I working on?

Two novels (as if one weren’t enough work). I am continuing The Galian Spear series with The Sword of Want, and it is going to be longer and more action-packed than the first book. After a visit to 18th-century Dublin, it is now wending its way through the mythical Dark Ages, on the tracks of the elusive Orvin Flint. The Dark Ages are a great era from a writing point of view because it is a time almost nothing is known about. The imagination is free to do anything. (Well, almost anything. If Orvin took out his smartphone and started tweeting, it might seem a bit of a reality stretch).

The reason I am writing two books at the same time is because two publishers have expressed a strong interest in another of my works in progress and to capture this interest before it wanes, I am hell bent on finishing The Frozen Man as soon as possible. The Frozen Man is not a children’s book. It is a thriller set in 2018, and it is quite political, in its own way. It is very different from The Galian Spear, although they have some things in common: They are both set in Ireland, they both have elements of fantasy and they both feature volcanoes, although in very different ways.

b) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think we are all marked by our influences. When I was writing my first book , one writer especially stood out in my mind, E. Nesbit. Nesbit wrote in the 1900s, but she had a very progressive, bohemian outlook for her time, and I think this is why her work has endured so well. I also have always been drawn to books that combine the mundane ordinary aspects of the world with parallel worlds of magic or mythology. This form of magic realism features in my work whether I am writing for adults or children.

c) Why do I write what I do?

My first novel, now titled The Spear of Time, largely arose from my desire to write something for children that they would enjoy. With this in mind, I included many elements that had appealed to me in children’s books when growing up and ones that I knew would entertain my children.  The result is a blend of mythology, time travel, science fiction, adventure and fantasy.

The Frozen Man was inspired by the culture of fear that has arisen in the last decade-and-a-half and been fueled by global events and the people who influence them. I began writing it in 2003 and have continued to add to it over the years. I shelved it in order to write The Spear of Time, but it is an idea that will not go away. Last summer, when Edward Snowden was trapped in the no-man’s land of the transit area of Moscow Airport, a crucial element of The Frozen Man occurred to me, and I realized that the time had come to complete the novel.

d) How does my writing process work?

In one word: coffee. No, two words: coffee and chocolate. Actually, three words: coffee, chocolate, and being anywhere else other than my own home. I know… that’s way more  than three words. I wrote much of the first draft of The Spear of Time in the lobby of a Dublin theatre called The Helix. My primary writing tools, along with my (now treacherous) netbook, were a large cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate biscuit cake. I can no longer write this way, sadly, because if I did, I would eventually be unable to get out of the house in the first place. The chocolate biscuit cake has had to go, but I now have something I didn’t have when I was originally writing the book: a wonderful network of other writers. Knowing others are there, ready to offer support or act as beta readers and give their unreservedly honest opinion, is a great incentive. I especially must mention Richard Gibney, whose encouraging feedback has kept me going at times when I might simply have given up, and Matt Dickinson, who has been both perceptive and extremely honest.

It is now time to introduce next week’s contributors to the My Writing Process blog tour. I have the honour of passing the baton to three very talented writers: Ruth Eastham, Sarah Holding, and Heather Hill. Here is some information about each of them:

Ruth Eastham was born in the north of England and has lived in several different UK cities, as well as New Zealand, Australia and Italy.  Her first two novels, The Memory Cage and The Messenger Bird, between them won 5 awards and were shortlisted for 12 others including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Ruth’s latest book, Arrowhead, has just been released.

Find out more about Ruth and her work at: http://www.rutheastham.com/

Heather Hill – comedy author & mum of five (not the band) is one of a rare kind; the rare kind being a member of the O negative blood group, pitch perfect (therefore unable to fully enjoy the atonal drones of Scotland’s bagpipes) and one of the 0.5% of females that is ever-so-slightly colour blind. She is known to have been prevented from leaving the house with blue eyebrows on at least one occasion.

Find out more about Heather and her work at www.hell4heather.com

Sarah Holding. “Having worked as a postman, an architect, a university professor and an urban development consultant, Sarah Holding is now a full-time children’s author, juggling writing with looking after a family of three children. They live in Surrey in a funny old house with a leaning tower. When she’s not writing she’s singing, and when she’s not singing she’s playing sax in her jazz band. She says she knew there would always come a time when the abandoned island of St Kilda would feature somewhere in her life, little thinking it would be the setting for her first children’s book, nor that her trilogy would join the ranks of a new genre of sci-fi otherwise known as ‘cli-fi’.”

Find out more about Sarah at: Sarah-holding.com

Ruth Eastham, Heather Hill and Sarah Holding will be posting their contributions to the My Writing Process Blog Tour on May 19th.

How I Was Betrayed by my Netbook

My netbook is my primary writing instrument. It is not a good writing instrument. In fact, it’s fairly abysmal, but it does has some redeeming qualities: It is small enough to fit in a handbag, it is too slow to offer much in the way of distractions and the battery lasts more than 30 minutes. This is the story of how my netbook betrayed me, and showed itself to be the corporate stooge I always suspected it to be.

Four weeks ago, I changed the netbook’s operating system from Windows XP to Linux. I had two good reasons for this. Firstly, Microsoft had stated that they would no longer support XP, and my contrary instincts prevented me from responding by giving Microsoft more money and obtaining an upgrade. Secondly, Windows and the netbook had a bad relationship from the outset. With Windows XP, using the netbook, even for something as simple as writing, was not unlike riding a tricycle up the side of Mount Blanc, slow and frequently impossible. So I switched it to a nice, straightforward sounding operating system called Linux Mint.

It worked a treat. Suddenly, I could type more than three words without the netbook pausing for an extended coffee break. I could do more than that. I could open two, even three, programs at once, and the netbook would not come to a screeching halt. It worked so well that I forgot to back up, something I have always done in the past, at the end of every writing session. I WAS A FOOL.

My netbook is clearly a tool of the corporate system that created it. It was built for Windows XP, and it wears its  Windows XP sticker with pride. “Why,” it thought to itself smugly, “should I change? I’m happy with my lack of productivity, my prolonged coffee breaks.” “You have already written one novel on me,” it said, “I expect to take it easy from now on.”

Last Tuesday, I switched on the netbook, ready for another productive day. I waited for it to log in, my head full of ideas to move on from the full chapter I had written the day before (A FULL CHAPTER!). The netbook wouldn’t log in. I switched it off and tried again, and again and again.

I am no technical expert, you understand. I am just someone who likes to press buttons to see what happens when they’re pressed. I don’t accept it when the buttons do not do what they are supposed to. If something goes wrong, I will keep trying to put it right. This is what I did. For the next four days, I wasted more valuable writing time as I tried everything I could to save what I had written. Initially, my aim was to get my netbook working again. Then I would simply have been content to recover what I had written. It was no go. I went onto the Linux help forums, but they might as well have been talking a different language. What am I saying; they WERE talking a different language. Eventually, I had to force myself to come to terms with the loss of the precious files by simply formatting the whole thing, irrevocably deleting everything on it.

So here I am, once again, trying to recreate what I have written in the past month and backing up, almost obsessively this time. I do not blame Linux, you understand. Linux Mint worked perfectly on my system until it decided not to.  Its hard drive wiped and restored, the netbook is also working perfectly again, although I no longer trust it. I suspect that it is just waiting for an opportunity to throw the transition to Linux in my face once again.