Thursday, May 5, 2016

I Made The Southern Star

I'm not one of those authors who spends every waking moment on promotion, shilling my ebooks like a carnival barker. I prefer to write my stories and plays first, and do the promotion and marketing in whatever time is left over after that.
I'll admit that long periods go by when I do no marketing or promotion at all. I need to get better at that, because it's critical when you self-publish to get the word out to your audience. So, lately I've been on a promotional binge, and I've been contacting newspapers in the U.S. and Ireland to publicize my ebooks. Ireland is a natural, of course, since my Rose Of Skibbereen series starts out in that beautiful country.
I'm happy to announce that I have a story in today's edition of the Southern Star, a newspaper in West Cork, near Skibbereen, the town some of my ancestors came from, and where my novel begins. You can read the story here. It's even got a picture of me, taken when I visited my great-grandmother's house several years ago!
I'm very happy that this newspaper, which was established in 1889, only a few years after my great-grandmother left Skibbereen to come to Philadelphia, has a story about my book.
It feels like things have come full circle, in a way.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Immigrant Thoughts

I have watched the current anti-immigration talk from candidates like Donald Trump and it has disturbed me. I understand that some American workers may be angry if they think immigrants are taking their jobs, but we are a nation of immigrants and we should not close the door on people who are trying to do the same thing our ancestors did. 
Here’s what I learned about Irish immigration in my research for my “Rose Of Skibbereen” books. 
Ireland in the 19th century could not support its population. The potato famine made the situation desperate, forcing poor families to send their children away. None of them really wanted to go. They would hold “American Wakes”, like the one I portray in the first "Rose Of Skibbereen" book, and these gatherings were called wakes for a sad reason -- the families felt they were burying their sons and daughters because they knew they would never see them again. 
And it was true. My great-grandmother came to America when she was just a teenager, and although she lived until her eighties she never saw her parents or her homeland again. It was not an easy thing for these immigrants to leave a place where their families had roots stretching back hundreds of years. 
They left their families and came to this country, starting at the bottom rung of the ladder and enduring much hardship and even persecution. They did it because they were seeking a better life than what they had in their homeland. The first generations usually didn't see much improvement over the life they left behind, but their sons and daughters achieved a better life. That's certainly what happened in my family
I know there are some different issues today than there were 150 years ago but there are also similarities, even to the cry of, “They’re taking our jobs!”. People are still coming here for the same reasons they always did, it hasn’t been easy for them or us, but in the end it’s made America stronger and given a better life to millions. 

We should remember that when politicians talk about shutting the door. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Thursday, January 14, 2016

My Latest Ebook Is Out!

I have a new ebook out! It’s the latest in my “Rose Of Skibbereen” novels about an Irish immigrant named Rose Sullivan Morley and her many descendants. This is a historical novel series done in my own unique style, and at this point I’ve written about 300,000 words of it. The latest book brings the saga up to the present, so the story has covered 135 years now. Several dozen characters have come and gone, and I’ve had a great time getting to know them. 
Book Six is told through the eyes of Rosalie Morley, who is the great-great granddaughter of Rose Sullivan Morley. Rosalie has a unique way of looking at the world. She’s socially awkward but funny, blunt but witty, a thinker who’s also a dreamer. She shares the psychic streak that all the women in the family have to some degree. 
This book is different than the others in one big way: it’s a thriller. There is danger in the air in Rosalie’s world, and she has to find a way out of a scary situation with a stalker.
I don’t want to spoil the story so I won’t say any more. I hope you download the book and that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Tell me what you think about it -- send me an email. Or, if you want to post a review on Amazon or Smashwords, that would be great also. 

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Get Your Red Hot Quotes Here!

It's a new year and one thing I always do at the start of a new year is make resolutions and try to make improvements in my life. It always feels like the right time to make a fresh start, when the year is young and there are so many possibilities. So, this year one of the things I decided to do is post a quote every day on social media. It's been a habit of mine to read inspirational quotes, and all of a sudden I thought, Why not write some of my own? I have lots of ideas for quotes -- some funny, some starry-eyed, and some with a bit of an edge to them. Some will be pearls of wisdom, and some will probably be pearls of understatement. Some will hit you right between the eyes, and some will probably take a little while to sink in. Some may sound like they came from a Zen master or ancient sage, while others will probably make you smack your head and say, "What makes him think there's anything special about THAT?"
These are just the thoughts of an ordinary guy making his way through the world, and they'll be the essence of what I've learned (and what I'm still learning, mostly through making the same mistakes over and over). Just a momentary thing, offered for your reflection.
If you like any of my quotes, feel free to share them on whatever social media world you inhabit. It would be nice if you'd give me credit, somehow, by just mentioning my name. If you don't like my quotes, you can feel free to forget about them the minute you finish reading them.
And here's one of my first ones:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Gift -- A Christmas Essay

This is a Christmas essay I wrote, and I offer it for your reading pleasure. I told it as part of an evening of storytelling that was recently put on by the Bucks County Playhouse.

By John McDonnell
Until seventh grade there was still a part of me that believed in Santa Claus. Oh, I would never have admitted that to my schoolmates, but there was still a secret part of my heart that wouldn’t give up the belief in a jolly, red-suited man who brought presents every year at Christmas. If you asked, I would have said it was because I had younger siblings, and I had to keep up appearances for their sake. And it was still fun to dream about what would be waiting for me under the Christmas tree each year, so I had a vested interest in not looking at Santa Claus and his gifts too cynically.In 1964, though, it all changed. I had discovered girls, and the fact that just because you liked a girl, it didn’t mean she liked you back. Actually, it was more likely that she would ignore you, which made you doubt your very existence.
As that Christmas approached I had received my first heartbreak, when a girl I liked made it clear that I was the last person on Earth she was interested in. On top of that, I was developing acne, I was in the middle of a growth spurt that made me feel like my body had been taken over by a lurching monster from a B grade horror movie, and I was hopelessly lost in Math class. All in all, it was not a good time.So, I was already in a depressed state when Christmas morning arrived. When I went downstairs and saw what was under the tree, it left me cold.
There was a pile of new clothes, some books, and a bike. It was a three speed bike with skinny tires, hand brakes, and those curved racing handlebars like European bikes. It was everything my old Schwinn was not -- sleek, lightweight, fast.
But I hated it.
It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate getting a bike from my parents, it was that I didn’t want a bike in the first place. The reason I didn’t ride my clunky old Schwinn bicycle anymore was that I had realized something: nobody my age rode bikes. Well, none of the cool guys did. The girls had stopped riding bikes the year before, and the cool guys had stopped with them. The only boys who still rode bikes were the ones who wore big round glasses, and accidentally spit when they talked, and had scrapes on their knees from falling off their bikes.
Things had changed overnight, and in the ruthless world of seventh grade you had to adapt or you would permanently be tagged as a loser.So, I gave a weak smile, mumbled “Thanks,” to my parents, and went upstairs to my room, where I laid on my bed listening to my transistor radio and thinking about the cruel march of Time. I heard the excited babbling of my little brothers downstairs and I realized I would never have that kind of youthful enthusiasm again.
I was old, there was no doubt. My childhood was forever gone.
It didn’t take long for my father to come upstairs and ask me what was wrong. I told him I just didn’t feel much like Christmas this year.
He figured out pretty quickly that I didn’t like the bike. “You ungrateful child,” he said. “That’s a great bike, and it cost me a lot” (he whispered this so the kids downstairs wouldn’t hear). “Spoiled, that’s what you are, spoiled! When I was your age it was the Depression, and we didn’t have Christmases like this! My father was only working ten hours a week at his job, and that year we only got one present each. You don’t appreciate what you have here. You probably wanted some bigger, fancier bike, right? Well, the hell with it, I’m taking that bike back to the store tomorrow!” He slammed the door and went downstairs and ranted to my mother for awhile about how ungrateful I was.He never took the bike back. My little brothers begged to be allowed to use it, and my father let them ride it after much pleading, mostly because he hated to not get his money’s worth out of something he’d bought. There were times when I actually rode it, too, although that was not till years later, when being cool didn’t matter to me anymore.
I should have known better, but I did the same thing when I was a parent. When my son was in seventh grade he was a great soccer player. I used to love to watch him race down the field and shoot the ball from any angle, and see it go rocketing into the goal. I lived for those soccer games, and that year at Christmas I bought a full-size professional soccer goal from a Web site. It had a metal frame and a mesh net, and although I didn’t put it together on Christmas Eve I had the box and a picture of it under the tree for him.
He seemed excited, but not as much as I thought he’d be.
“It’s great, Dad,” he said. “Really great.”
The weather was warm that year, and I was able to assemble the goal and put it up in the backyard on Christmas afternoon. My son put his soccer cleats on and I played goalkeeper and he took shots for an hour while I dove every which way trying to deflect them. He rocketed one ball after another past me into the net, and I was gleeful at his skill.
But that was the only time we did that. The cold and snowy weather came, and he wasn’t able to use the goal for several months. When Spring came he didn’t seem as interested in soccer, and he hardly ever practiced in the backyard. By the next year he had quit soccer to concentrate on basketball. Basketball was the game the cool guys in his school played.
I had to take that goal down five years later when we moved to another house. By then the net was torn and the metal frame was rusted. It had been a long time since anybody shot a soccer ball at it. I spent an afternoon taking it apart, and then I threw the pieces into a big dumpster we had rented for cleaning out our house.
“Damn spoiled kids,” I said to myself. “All the money I paid for that thing, and he didn’t appreciate it.”
Then I thought of my Dad buying me that bike, and how I always felt bad about not showing enough appreciation for it. I realized he’d probably done the same thing to his Dad. Maybe that year in the Depression when they didn’t have hardly anything for Christmas? Maybe the one thing he got he didn’t appreciate, and he made that fact clear to his Dad. Maybe he always felt bad about that, and it was the real reason he bought that expensive bike for me.Because maybe we buy these gifts not for our children, but for our parents. As a way of saying we’re sorry for never telling you we appreciated what you did for us.


Friday, November 13, 2015

My Christmas Classic

I’ve always loved Christmas. I have happy memories from the Christmases of my youth, and it’s a time when for at least a short while many people seem to be filled with the spirit of joy and love and giving. Wherever you are in your journey, I think those are good values to celebrate. 
Six years ago I wrote a story, The Christmas Gift, that I put into ebook form. It’s a story about a little girl in the Great Depression, and a special doll named Constance that she steals. It’s just a story that came to me one day, and I enjoyed writing it. Back then ebooks were a brand new thing, and not many people knew how to buy one, let alone read it. I didn’t expect much, but I liked the story and I wanted to share it with people. 
It’s the only Christmas story I’ve ever written, and it’s still listed on my Amazon author page, with all my other ebooks in various genres. Each year at this time I am pleasantly surprised to see that people still buy it, and I’m glad that it has become part of some family Christmas celebrations. 
The Christmas Gift is just a simple story that can be enjoyed by both children and adults. It’s also available in printed form here if you don’t have an e-reader. 

It’s a great story to read at this time of year.