Melissa Westemeier: Kicks Like a Girl Sunday, Jun 29 2014 

Melissa Westemeier Punches Out New Novel in Kicks Like a Girlkicks-like-girl-melissa-westemeier-paperback-cover-art

Wisconsin writer Melissa Westemeier published her latest novel this February, now available on Kindle and in paperback.

Kicks Like a Girl was inspired by Melissa’s experiences as a karate student. Now a 2nd degree black belt, she recalled her first time stepping onto the mat and how she struggled to keep up with advanced students while mastering the basics of martial arts.

“It was tough and scary, not unlike taking gym class as a new kid when the popular kids pick teams. You feel like a failure at first when you’re the last kid picked, and then you grit your teeth and determine that you will become a success at dodge ball or floor hockey—not unlike my experiences with writing when I think about it.”

The heroine of Kicks Like a Girl, Gretchen Benton, takes up karate to learn self-defense after she’s assaulted by thugs robbing her flower shop. “I wanted to write a mystery, like a whodunit, but it morphed into a book about a woman becoming empowered. The physical strength she gets from karate mirrors the mental strength she acquires and you see that at play throughout different parts of her life.”

Readers report enjoying the book, and feeling inspired to try martial arts themselves, which is exactly what Westemeier intended. “I love karate and I wanted to share my enthusiasm for it. I want readers, especially women, to walk away from this book wanting to try martial arts and feel the thrill of punching and kicking something really hard.”

Those who have read Westemeier’s first book, Whipped, Not Beaten, will appreciate the humor in Kicks Like a Girl, too. The witty banter between the characters, the Bridezillas Gretchen encounters as a florist, and the range of karate students will keep you entertained until the very last page.

Kicks Like a Girl is available online.

Melissa Westemeier’s pboished work includes Whipped, Not Beaten, and Writing in a Changing World. A former high school English teacher-turned SAHM, Melissa blogs about environmental issues, and her adventures raising 3 boys and a ton of fresh produce on her family’s 60-acre homestead in Northeastern Wisconsin. Her current projects included a trilogy about a river town in Wisconsin, earning her 3rd degree black belt in karate and figuring out what to make for dinner tonight.

Amy Shojai: Thrillers With Bite! Sunday, Jun 22 2014 

Auntie M is a real dog fan. She and Doc share their river home with a 7 yr-old Italian Spinone, Radar, a goofy clown of a sweet pup. So when she read about Amy Shojai’s series, she decided to ask Amy about what drove her to her books. Welcome Amy!

Auntie M: You wrote nonfiction pet books and articles for years before penning your first novel. What prompted you to decide on this career change?

Amy Shojai: I haven’t stopped writing nonfiction books and articles, but have simply expanded my audience by writing what I call THRILLERS WITH BITE! They incorporate my love for dogs and cats and pet behavior expertise—I’m a certified animal behavior consultant for both cats and dogs. That’s a fancy way of saying I help pet lovers understand problem behaviors and find solutions for them, and preserve the bond we share.

When I first began writing more than twenty years ago, I wanted to publish fiction and wasn’t able to get an agent or publisher interested. When I submitted a YA horror novel to one agent, she had no interest because “YA doesn’t sell” but encouraged me to submit nonfiction book ideas. I became her client and we sold a couple dozen nonfiction pet care books and I became so busy fulfilling those deadlines, the fiction fell by the wayside.

More recently, though, the publishing industry has changed. My nonfiction pet books are prescriptive, information-heavy works and these days, people prefer to “google” and find information for free in the Internet—never mind if it’s accurate or not. Publishers care most if the book sells, so the market for my nonfiction titles shrunk. Today a lot of my pet nonfiction is online at my site. And it occurred to me that I could still provide solid pet information—with entertainment—but in fiction books as well. That’s how the September Day Thriller Series was born.

AM: Tell us about your new mystery, and why you decided to write from a dog’s point of view?

AS: HIDE AND SEEK is a stand-alone suspense thriller and the sequel to my debut book LOST AND FOUND. The story picks up where the first one ended, but you don’t have to read the first book to enjoy HIDE AND SEEK.

Now, I’ve read LOTS of novels that include “animal viewpoint” and some are done well while others leave me cold. Most are written as if the animal character is a human wearing a fur coat, LOL! That’s fine in fantasy, and may work in other types of fiction. But I wanted my animal characters to BE ANIMALS in all their furry glory, and to act, react, and sense their world as would their true animal counterpart.

So in other words, the dog character, Shadow, truly behaves like a ten-month-old puppy, and he doesn’t talk—-but he scents, sees and feels the world around him and reacts to that world in a realistic way. I’ve had readers tell me they now understand their dog’s behavior and reactions in a fresh way, and better recognize how easily dogs and people misunderstand each other. Basically I wrote the book that I wanted to read.

I was delighted to receive wonderful praise from one of my favorite authors, veterinarian James Rollins, who also writes in “dog viewpoint” in his Tucker Wayne novels:

“Amy Shojai’s LOST AND FOUND wraps family secrets, murder, and medical miracles around the small form of an autistic child. Riveting, heart-wrenching, and brilliant, here is the debut of a stunning talent.” –James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of Bloodline and The Kill Switch

The first book LOST AND FOUND was so successful that my publisher, Cool Gus Publishing, wanted me to write a series. September’s tragic past that caused her PTSD was only hinted at in the first book, and that past comes back to haunt her in HIDE AND SEEK: A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours.
A STALKER hides in plain sight.
A VICTIM faces her worst fear.
AND A DOG seeks the missing—and finds hope.

Eight years ago, animal behaviorist September Day escaped a sadistic captor who left her ashamed, terrified, and struggling with PTSD. She trusts no one—-except her cat Macy and service dog Shadow.

Shadow also struggles with trust. A German Shepherd autism service dog who rescued his child partner only to lose his-boy forever, Shadow’s crippling fear of abandonment shakes his faith in humans.

They are each others’ only chance to survive the stalker’s vicious payback, but have only 24 hours to uncover the truth about Macy’s mysterious illness or pay the deadly consequences. When September learns to trust again, and a good-dog takes a chance on love, together they find hope in the midst of despair–and discover what family really means.

HIDE AND SEEK is a creepy must-read mystery for animal lovers. Animal behaviorist Amy Shojai knows her stuff.” –J.T. Ellison, NYT bestselling author of “When Shadows Fall”

HIDE AND SEEK proves Shojai’s masterful skill at blending ripped-from-the-headlines urgency with an emotional story of real characters in escalating dangers. Add in revelatory dose of animal psychology and behavior, and you have a thriller that had me turning pages deep into the night. Here is a novel written with authority and with a deft brilliance that any lover of animals or nerve-jangling thrillers will cherish.” –James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of “The Eye of God”

The series continues in the third book SHOW AND TELL, with more adventures for September, her service dog Shadow and trained Maine Coon cat Macy.

AM: You have several pets. Did you model any of your four-legged characters after your own cats or dogs?

AS: Ha! Absolutely! In my first draft of LOST AND FOUND, the dog character’s name was Magic—that’s my own German shepherd. I began writing LOST AND FOUND when Magic wasn’t too much beyond that puppy-stage and it was very easy to “channel my inner dog” with him as an example.

My cat Seren, though, has only a few things in common with Macy, the trained Maine Coon cat in the book. Seren is also trained, and she does some of the same tricks as Macy. But while Seren is a 6-pound Siamese wannabe and now an old-lady cat at about 17 years old—and very persnickety about strangers—Macy weighs over twenty pounds, is a young boy cat in his prime, and never met a stranger. Although Macy does “nail” the bad guy at the end of the book, it’s not out of meanness but only when prompted by September’s command. I suspect that the new story SHOW AND TELL will incorporate a goofy and clueless young cat, since this year we welcomed a stray (Karma) into our home. Karma has become best friends with Magic and it’s great fun to see the 90+ pound shepherd race around with the pudgy kitten.

AM: Tell us about your work(s) in progress?

AS: I’m recording audiobooks! The first four are already available. Three are nonfiction pet titles covering cat and dog behavior, along with LOST AND FOUND. Fiction is quite a challenge because different voices for characters are needed.

I’m working hard on SHOW AND TELL which will continue September and Shadow’s story. I like to include some kind of animal/pet “issue” in each story to provide some edu-tainment along with the roller coaster ride. I also love medical thrillers, so that aspect will be interwoven in this story as well. LOST AND FOUND focused on autism; HIDE AND SEEK examines animals and people exhibiting Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. You’ll have to wait and see what the third book covers. Bwaaa-hahaha!

AM: Other than writing, what gives you the most pleasure in life?

AS: Music and theater. I have degrees in both and love to perform. This past year, I’ve had the great pleasure to combine my three great loves—writing, music and theater—and collaborated with a co-writer to create and perform my second orginal musical comedy, STRAYS, THE MUSICAL. Together we wrote the script, the 12 original songs, orchestrated the show, and will cast and direct the show this fall at the local theater. What a rush!

Currently I’m performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the first annual Shakespeare In the Grove summer event here in Sherman, Texas.

AM: Who designed your book cover? Did you have any say in the final result?

AS: I’m blessed to work with a small independent publisher, Bob Mayer and Jen Talty, who created Cool Gus Publishing. Jen is my editor, and she also designs a good number of the book covers, and asked me for input. She sent mock ups and we worked through eight or nine versions before we had the final versions. At one point the only dog pictures she could find just weren’t right—-wrong color dog, too old, the look simply wrong. So I offered to find pictures of a young black German shepherd, and set up a photo shoot. The cover dog is a nine-month-old bred and owned by Magic’s breeder.

AM: Tell us a bit about your schedule and work habits as a writer.

AS: I’m a fulltime freelance writer, with weekly and monthly deadlines that pay the bills. So it’s a “real job.” Generally I start work at 9 am, work at least 6 days a week (I try to take Sunday off), and am at my computer until the day’s to-do list is done. For instance, as I type this, it is 3:50 pm on a Sunday night. Play rehearsal in an hour, so I need to wrap up quickly.

AM: How do you motivate yourself to write when you’re not in the mood to create even one more sentence?

AS: I look at what bills are due. That’s a great motivator!
Amy & Magic & Seren-karma copy

Amy Shojai ( has been reinventing herself for years. She’s a certified animal behavior consultant, and the award-winning author of 27 best selling pet books that cover furry babies to old-fogies, first aid to natural healing, and behavior/training to Chicken Soup-icity. She is the Puppies Guide at, the cat behavior expert at, and hosts a weekly half hour Internet Pet Peeves radio show. Amy has been featured as an expert in hundreds of print venues including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and Family Circle, as well as national radio and television networks such as CNN, Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101. She’s been a consultant to the pet products industry and a host/program consultant for select “furry” TV projects.

Amy blogs at her Bling, Bitches & Blood Blog at She is also a musician, actor and playwright, and brings her unique pet-centric viewpoint to public appearances and performances, audio books (her own and others), writer webinars, conference keynotes/seminars and THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Diane Gilbert Madsen: The Dog That Did Not Bark in the Night Sunday, Jun 15 2014 

Please welcome Diane Gilbert Madsen, who will tell readers about her newest book: The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper


Published May 22nd 2014, MX Publishing, London
3RD IN THE DD McGil Literati Mystery Series

Doyle final-jacket-cover

When everyone else my age was screaming for Elvis Presley and his swiveling hips, I fell head over heels for Sherlock Holmes, the lanky, taciturn, brainy detective whose hips would never be caught swiveling. I adored his aristocratic nose and his cold, impersonal, logic-driven, detail-oriented scientific mind. He was the polar opposite of Elvis – but to me, the British-to-the-core Mr. Sherlock Holmes was irresistible. I’m crazy about him still. His character was so fascinating that he quickly became famous world over. People everywhere not only recognized his name, but also they claimed to “know” what he looked like due to the wonderful drawings accompanying the serialized magazine stories.

My brother Albert was also a Sherlock Holmes addict. Over the years we often discussed why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had never written a story in which the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, matched wits with the world’s most fiendish murderer, Jack the Ripper. Sherlock Holmes, we knew, would definitely have solved the case. But such a match up was never to be. Why? We suspected that Conan Doyle’s silence was something like Sherlock Holmes’ observation about the dog that did not bark in the night.

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
– Conan Doyle, Silver Blaze

When I was searching for a subject for my third Literati Mystery, my brother Albert and my husband Tom both urged me to write “The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper” to uncover clues and answer the question of why Conan Doyle was silent about the Ripper. Sherlock Holmes concluded that the dog was silent because the dog knew the intruder. In my book, I uncover some facts and clues to help explain why I believe Doyle may have deduced the identity of the Ripper but never revealed it. The book is more about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and what he knew than about Sherlock Holmes. However, throughout the book I use the Sherlockian “Method” – his famous technique of close observation, careful analysis and keen deduction. This “Method” was based on the uncanny abilities of Conan Doyle’s mentor and colleague, Dr. Joseph Bell, a surgeon and lecturer at Edinburgh University who was in fact the “real” Sherlock Holmes. Bell was renowned for being able to analyze a patient’s illness before the patient uttered one word about his symptoms.

Almost everyone in the world knows something about the Jack the Ripper case in which a person unknown to this day murdered at least 5 women in the Whitechapel District of London between August and November of 1888. An entire school of Ripperologists exists to debate the details of the case and write about their theories. Over 170 suspects have been named as Jack the Ripper, according to the Guardian newspaper, ranging from the most humble to royalty. Some have even accused Lewis Carroll and others have named Conan Doyle himself. There’s also a Jill the Ripper theory in which a woman or a man disguised as a woman commits the murders with impunity.

With all this material available, I decided to examine the case from the police and eye-witness perspectives, using news reports, Ripper letters, noteworthy events and other theories on the identity of the Ripper. I then assembled a series of clues – clues I believe that Doyle – and by extension Sherlock Holmes – would have used to help solve the case. A major one of these clues is the Royal Pardon, hastily issued by the Queen and Parliament immediately after the fifth and last murder, giving a pardon to anyone connected with the murders who came forward with information. The Royal Pardon had never been given before or since – especially to an UNNAMED suspect. It was completely unique.

“MURDER. – PARDON. – Whereas on November 8 or 9, in Millers-court, Dorset-street, Spitalfields, Mary Janet Kelly was murdered by some person or persons unknown: the Secretary of State will advise the grant of Her Majesty’s gracious pardon to any accomplice, not being a person who contrived or actually committed the murder, who shall give such information and evidence as shall lead to the discovery and conviction of the person or persons who committed the murder.
CHARLES WARREN, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Metropolitan Police-office, 4, Whitehall-place, S.W.,
Nov. 10 [Saturday], 1888.”

I believe that vital intelligence was obtained after the last murder and that is why the Royal Pardon had to be issued. The police acted upon this intelligence and very shortly thereafter, the case was closed for all intents and purposes, and the police patrols were called off in the East End.

This key clue led me to ask the central question — which of the suspects would warrant a Royal Pardon? This question immediately eliminates many of the main suspects who had been identified. It is difficult to see a Royal Pardon being issued in connection with a butcher, schoolteacher or painter. The Royal Pardon shines the light on only a very few possibilities – including suspects who might not have been named at the time — suspects who had connections of such a high ranking that were too important to be named.

With an idea of the identity of the Ripper, I was faced with the task of putting it into the form of a Literati mystery. All the action takes place in the current day using continuing characters from my Literati mystery series, including the rare book dealer Tom Joyce, the Scottish Dragon Auntie Elizabeth, the twins Glendy and Lucille, and the City of Chicago itself which I consider an ongoing character in my books. This segue was neatly handled for me by the fact that Arthur Conan Doyle had visited Chicago in 1894 when he was touring the United States. It was at that time he sold one of his favorite manuscripts, “The White Company,” to David Gage Joyce, a Chicago lumber baron. The manuscript now resides in the Newberry Library in Chicago. The manuscript and the lumber baron both play important roles in the mystery.

As for who was Jack the Ripper – you’ll have to read my book, “The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper.” I hope you will enjoy learning the secret.
DGM w Corona #3

Diane Gilbert Madsen is the author of the award winning DD McGil Literati Mystery Series. She’s the former Director of Economic Development for the State of Illinois where she oversaw the Tourism and the Illinois Film Office and later ran her own consulting firm. She is listed in the World Who’s Who of Women and Who’s Who in Finance & Industry.
Diane is a member of several Sherlockian Associations including the Pleasant Places of Florida. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, International Association of Crime Writers, the Chicago Writers Association, and Florida Writers Association. She has published articles in The Hemingway Review, Mystery Scene Magazine, Mystery Reader’s Journal, Sisters in Crime Newsletter and The Write City Magazine.
Diane lives with her husband Tom and Angel, their Japanese Chin, at Twin Ponds, a 5-acre wildlife sanctuary on Cape Haze in Florida.

Website –
Link to book trailer –
Twitter @DianeMadsen
Facebook –

Alyssa Maxwell: The Gilded Newport Mysteries Sunday, Jun 8 2014 

Please welcome the author of the Gilded Newport Mystery series, Alyssa Maxwell, who will give us look into her historical series:

Write What You Know? No! cover front

If you take a look at my website, you’ll see that writing my Gilded Newport Mystery series has been a very special and personal experience for me. With my husband and his family having deep roots in Newport, you could say that I’ve taken the advice so often quoted to aspiring writers: Write what you know.

In many ways, that’s true. I’ve gotten to know the city much better than if I’d merely vacationed there, and having that “insider’s” view has certainly allowed me to breathe more life into these stories.

So yes, I wrote what I know, but there was also so much I didn’t know when I started writing. The Newport of 1895 was much different than the one we know today. To make my stories believable and true to the times, I had to research the burgeoning technologies of the late 19th century – for example my heroine has a telephone and uses a typewriter, and electric trolleys run through town – as well as notions of class consciousness and the relationships between employers and servants.

No books about Gilded Age Newport would be complete without a look at yacht racing, luxury steam ships, and the kinds of carriages people drove. Fashions, occupations, pastimes – these were all on my “to be researched” list. And, of course, since my heroine is also a newspaper reporter, I needed insight on real women reporters of the times – and yes, there were a few, and some of them even managed to push beyond the limitations of society page news.

Besides my main characters, who are fictional, people like the Vanderbilts play important roles in the books. I’d heard of them, of course, and knew they were incredibly wealthy, lived in huge, ornate houses, and were connected to the railroad industry. But I had no knowledge of them as individuals, or how they interacted with each other. I had to get to know them on a much more personal level so I could remain true to their personalities and their family dynamics.

All of these elements, and more, I had to learn. But what kept it exciting for me was my desire to dig around in the past, find the puzzle pieces, and put them together. Let’s face it – after a while what you already know becomes one big bore. Staying inspired means taking risks and forging into new territory. It’s an adventure that keeps your writing fresh and makes you eager to sit down at the keyboard every day. So for me, it’s not “write what you know,” but “write what you want to know, and what you’re excited to learn about.” In other words, find your passion (or passions) and take off running!

Do you have a passion for something? Share below and be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Murder at The Breakers! Or just leave any old comment – you’ll still be entered!

About Murder at The Breakers:

As the nineteenth century comes to a close, the illustrious Vanderbilt family dominates Newport, Rhode Island, high society. But when murder darkens a glittering affair at the Vanderbilt summer home, reporter Emma Cross learns that sometimes the actions of the cream of society can curdle one’s blood…

Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895: She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.

But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom, passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost…

Alyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries, a historical mystery series featuring the glamor of a bygone era and a sleuth who’s a less “well-heeled” cousin of the illustrious Vanderbilts. The series debuted in March with MURDER AT THE BREAKERS, to be followed by Murder at Marble House
in September, and Murder at Beechwood in 2015. Alyssa will also be debuting an English-set historical series, The Foxwood Hall Mysteries, in October 2015. Alyssa and her family live in South Florida, where she is a member of the Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, Sisters in Crime, and The Florida Romance Writers.

For review quotes, an excerpt, pictures, and all kinds of other fun stuff about The Gilded Newport Mysteries, please visit my website: I love to hear from readers, so while you’re there feel free to drop me a line!

You can also find me at:

Irish Author Mel Healy: Do They Speak English in Irish Crime Fiction? Sunday, Jun 1 2014 

Auntie M is thrilled to announce the publication of her third Nora Tierney Mystery, THE SCARLET WENCH. scarletwench_cover_front
While she’s out on tour, please welcome Irish crime writer Mel Healy, author of the Moss Reid series, who will attempt to explain the vagaries of language he faces as a writer– as soon as we both murder a pint!

Another Case in Cowtown, Mel Healy

Do They Speak English in Irish Crime Fiction?

by Mel Healy

Here’s a little dilemma when writing crime fiction in English: what KIND of English should you use? The answer may seem obvious for US or British authors – simply set your spellchecker to “English (United States)” or “English (United Kingdom)” and off you go.

But it’s not quite so simple in my crime novels, which are mostly set in Ireland with mainly Irish characters. My spellchecker is set to “UK English”, the kind of spelling generally used in Ireland, which Irish readers would expect. Yet there are linguistic differences far deeper than mere spellings, or minor differences in syntax between UK English (as in “I met him on Monday, he killed her on Tuesday”) and US English (“I met him Monday, he killed her Tuesday”).

Take food. My central character, Moss Reid, is a PI and a foodie. His philosophy in life is “eat, drink and investigate – in that order.” So he uses British rather than American terms to talk about his grub – from courgettes (not zucchini) to biscuits (never cookies).

He’ll also talk about specific Irish food and drink: a “sliced pan” (as in a loaf of pre-sliced bread in rectangular prism shape), “colcannon”, “red lemonade” (I’ve an entire chapter on that), “Tayto crisps”. His food is stored in “a press” (the Hiberno-English term for a cupboard or closet) or “the fridge” (rarely “a refrigerator” in Ireland).

He never goes for “a few drinks” either. He goes “for a pint”. One pint, singular – which often descends into the plural because he “could murder another” (i.e. could do with a second one). In England, by contrast, Inspector Morse would drop into an Oxford pub (never a bar of course) for a pint of “real ale”. In Dublin, Moss Reid would have a pint or “a glass” (Irish pub term for a half pint) of “stout” rather than “ale”.

With the obvious exception of “pints”, my characters generally prefer metric to imperial units for food and drink, along with a plethora of Hiberno-English measurements such as the “rake”, “feed” or “clatter”. These mean “a lot”, “many” – as in “a rake of pints”, “a feed of drink”, “a few scoops”.

Hiberno-English uses a rake (sorry) of “British English” nouns in peculiarly Irish ways:

– “A yoke” is an all-purpose noun for objects, gadgets (particularly things whose name escapes you)
– “The jacks” are the toilets / ladies / gents (UK), bathroom / restroom (US), washroom (Canadian English)
– “The messages” refers to the shopping
– And “I’m dying for a fag” – this one always confuses my American friends – simply means someone has a craving for a cigarette.

My characters are more likely to say “grand” or “deadly” than the American “awesome”. In Hiberno-English a “deadly jumper” is a nice piece of clothing while a “deadly weapon” is not nice at all. Or take the word “crack” or “craic”: “a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation” (Wikipedia). Hence phrases such as “mighty craic” or “the crack was ninety”.

So my characters use an English that’s quite different even to British English. They occasionally slip in an Irish word or phrase such as “slán” (“goodbye) or, more importantly, use Irish-language loan words when dealing with official state titles – the Taoiseach (head of government), the Oireachtas (parliament), and, of course, the Garda Síochána (police force) or gardaí or plain guards (cops).

Other relatively new phrases in common parlance from the Irish political and economic scene – “NAMA”, “Bertie-speak”, “the Galway tent” – are just the latest layers on top of all the older shorthand and sayings from Ireland’s largely colonial history. Hiberno-English dances at the linguistic crossroads, and does a rake of linguistic borrowing and bending in its merry dance. Hence my characters use terms such as:

– “Acting the maggot” (joking or acting the fool)
– “Culchie” (an unsophisticated rural person)
– “Eejit”, “bollix” (idiot)
– “Mitch” (play truant)
– “Bowsies”, “gurriers”, “gougers” (various nouns for rough or unruly elements)

Cultural reference-points are also quite different. Irish homes get US and British TV shows and know all about Oprah or Dr Who. But the media flow tends to be one-way: outsiders might know about U2 or “Father Ted” but wouldn’t have a clue about most Irish radio and TV, from “Love/Hate” to Mario Rosenstock, or catchphrases such as “Stop the lights” (from a 1970s gameshow).

Hiberno-English has another twist: sentence constructions that echo the Irish language. For example, in Irish you can’t say “I have written another book” – there’s no “have” in Irish. Hiberno-English mirrors this with “I’m after writing another book”. This construction (“I’m after killing him”, “She’s only after losing four stone!”) is called the “hot news perfect” or the “after perfect”.

Or take the question “Is that yourself there?” The reply might be along the lines of “It is.” Because Irish has no words for “yes” and “no”, in Hiberno-English the verb in the question gets recycled:

“Are you going for a pint?”
“I am” (instead of plain “yes”).

“Is your iPad working?”
“It isn’t” (rather than plain “no”). “Cos it’s banjaxed” (broken).

Hiberno-English likes conditionals (“She asked me would I help her” rather than “She asked me to help her”) and negatives (“This wouldn’t be the road to Skibbereen would it?”) and apparently empty words in conversations – like “like”, “know what I mean”, “so”, “sure”, “only”, “at all at all”. And, like Irish, it has both a second person singular (“you”) and second person plural (“youse”).

As the poet Ciaran Carson puts it: “I write in English, but the ghost of Irish hovers behind it.” Hiberno-English is a melting pot, with words and constructions from Irish, and archaic English words that fell out of use in British English. It even fills in certain gaps in English syntax. For example, “amn’t” (as in “am not”) is taken for granted in colloquial speech and literature (James Joyce in “Ulysses”: “Amn’t I with you? Amn’t I your girl?”), yet regarded outside Ireland as ungrammatical.

By now youse are probably wondering “Do the Irish speak English?” That’s also the title of a lecture by Terence Dolan, compiler of a Hiberno-English dictionary. Hiberno-English “is a distillation of the Irish character,” he says. “Irish people over the centuries have been oppressed, so therefore they don’t want people to know what it is they’re thinking or saying.” Hence, he says, Hiberno-English is “devious to start with, and evasive”. A real bonus when you’re writing crime fiction, particularly dialogue.

Without overdoing it, the dialogue in my books tries to give a flavour of all this. Maybe that’s breaking a textbook rule, as well as screenwriter John Yorke‘s sound advice: “Good dialogue doesn’t resemble conversation – it presents the illusion of conversation, subservient to the demands of characterisation and structure”.

But sometimes rules are there to be broken. Especially when speaking “broken English”.

Finally we can’t avoid the questions of (a) how much swearing to include (the Irish do tend to use swearwords as punctuation marks) and (b) the feckin’ weather. Apparently Ireland has more words for rain than the Inuit have for snow, and only in Ireland would a light sprinkling of rain be described as “a soft day”.

At the end of the day, though, let’s not get too hung up on the differences. Readers notice the differences standing out when something is phrased in a way that wouldn’t be heard in their locale. But the strength and beauty of the English language is that it’s both global and local. It spans borders yet enriches itself through its sheer diversity, feeding on the linguistic and cultural differences from place to rainy place.

Right. I’m off to murder a pint.

Mel Healy’s first two novels in the “Moss Reid” series are “Another Case in Cowtown” and “Black Marigolds“. For more info see his Amazon author profile at