Category Archives: Articles

Ten Types Of Authors Who Can Go Fuck Themselves

Gabino Iglesias shares his list of ten types of authors who can go fuck themselves and explain why some crime writers deserve such an insult. 

Back in 2017 I was writing a piece for LitReactor and suddenly realized the amount of reactions it was surely going to get. You see, at that point I had already been doing the columnist thing for almost a decade. It had all started back home with a monthly political column I wrote for Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper.

By the time I stopped writing it in early 2016, I’d received four death threats, thousands of “corrections,” and enough insult to last me a last me a lifetime. In any case, I tweeted this after finishing that column: “Everyone who’s gotten angry at one of my columns should hear the stuff I don’t even bother to pitch.” The result was almost immediate; a bunch of authors said they wanted to read some of the stuff I didn’t bother to pitch to editors.

I’m all about making my friends happy, so I wrote the first incarnation of this list and it was published in a venue that’s now defunct. There were angry emails, insults, invitations to fight, blogs written in response, etc. Sadly, I see some of the same behavior that inspired that column still happening. So, here we are. I’m ready to make some more friends. Let’s get started, shall we? Here are ten types of authors who can go fuck themselves (God I’m good at making friends!):

Read the rest of the article here:

Source: Ten Types Of Authors Who Can Go Fuck Themselves

The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People | Radical Copyeditor

If you’re using an acronym that includes trans people, it’s important to actually include trans people in the context of what you are writing about. For example, if you’re only writing about people in same-sex relationships, or if you’re trying to refer to everyone with a marginalized sexuality, don’t use LGBTQ. Some trans people (15%) identify as straight.* LGBTQ and straight/heterosexual are not, therefore, opposites, and should never be treated as such.

Source: The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People | Radical Copyeditor

The Matrilineal Culture of the Algonquian Peoples of Eastern North Carolina | Author Suzanne Adair

The coast of Eastern North Carolina was once home to an abundance of Algonquian tribes. The Iroquoian Tuscarora tribes were more influential within the Upper and Lower Inner Banks and Coastal Plain regions. These various Algonquian-speaking peoples occasionally formed loose affiliations and alliances, which, when paired with their overlapping cultural practices, sometimes blurred the lines of individual tribal identification.

The coast of Eastern North Carolina was once home to an abundance of Algonquian tribes. The Iroquoian Tuscarora tribes were more influential within the Upper and Lower Inner Banks and Coastal Plain regions. These various Algonquian-speaking peoples occasionally formed loose affiliations and alliances, which, when paired with their overlapping cultural practices, sometimes blurred the lines of individual tribal identification.


Read more of this excellent article here:

Source: The Matrilineal Culture of the Algonquian Peoples of Eastern North Carolina | Author Suzanne Adair

Solving Mass Shootings

There seems to be a sharp increase in the number of deadly mass shootings in the United States lately. Everyone is offering a solution, but no one seems to be doing anything that works.

We won’t solve this all at once or simply. Getting angry at each other over single-focus issues is counter-productive and just divides us.

It’s a multi-faceted problem and it requires a multi-faceted solution. It’s a gun access issue, a toxic male culture issue, a child discipline issue, a mental health issue. We need solutions on ALL fronts to make any process, and people need to stop saying ‘but what about this statistic? This proves it can’t be a ___ issue!’

Life is not simple and solutions to issues like this are not simple. You have to make a step in ALL directions to make a difference.

– Toxic Male Culture – the idea that, in our society, the traits of dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions are considered the norm. These men have no outlet for their pain and lash out with anger and violence as that is considered acceptable. It isn’t. We need to change that culture by example and education.

– Child discipline – in the noble pursuit to eliminate abuse and foster confidence, we have removed from child-rearing the idea that actions have consequences. That every child is a winner, and every child deserves everything. Then, when they grow up, they can’t understand why they don’t have all they want and deserve. They are taught no process to deal with that disappointment. We need to teach our children that failure happens and how to deal with it.

– Mental health – Our culture stigmatizes mental health issues and is pulling back on the very necessary funding for care of those issues. Anyone who is different feels they must hide their difference. This then results in an explosion of pain and anger when they can find no reasonable outlet. We need to fund our mental health and educate that it is not a stigma. It’s also a possibility the higher reliance upon drugs might have an effect on particular individual’s psyche. Some doctors have become prescribing machines, without regard to an individual’s needs or reactions to such drugs.

– Access to firearms – Yes, easy access to firearms is part of this issue. By requiring background checks (and enforcing them!), licensing and registration, and proving the owner has a basic knowledge on how to operate the gun (just like we do with cars), it can reduce the issues. Yes, other weapons can be used, but reducing those available will help. This would be the ‘well-regulated’ part of the second amendment. We need to pass legislation to make gun ownership a sacred responsibility.

– The craving for fame/copycat – our 24 hour news cycle has created a crop of people that decide they want to be famous, because, as they were taught as children, they deserve it. Those with no other way to become famous decide that killing others is a spectacular way, even if they go down with ‘a blaze of glory’ as part of it. We need to stop spreading the perpetrator’s name everywhere. Instead, honor the victims, not the criminal.

– Wealth inequality – There is a growing gap between our richest and poorest citizens. This results in much lower access to resources for health care, education, housing, and other basic survival necessities. It throws people into a desperation where the only way out seems to be violence. We need to fix our minimum wage to the rate of inflation, make higher education either free or affordable, increase the safety net for the poorest of our people, fix health care (my choice is a single-payer system), and increase taxes on the wealthier citizens. I would also support a shift to Fair Tax.

– Normalization of hatred – Our current leaders have made it acceptable to show blatant hatred, racism, sexism, and other bigotry. We need to make this no longer normal. This hatred creates divides in our societies, in our families, and in our country. This hatred makes people desperate for a solution. We need to punch more Nazis and rapists.


Celtic Music

I’ve been enjoying what is loosely termed ‘Celtic Music’ since I was a child. It all began with The Unicorn album by the Irish Rovers. My mom had a copy… I think I was 4? 5? Regardless, I’ve always loved Irish and Scottish music. I’ve since branched off from ‘traditional’ Celtic music to embrace more aspects of this genre. Below are some bands I’ve enjoyed. Feel free to let me know of any I’ve missed!



  • Afro Celt Sound System – I have several of their albums, including Seed and Sound Magic, and love them all.  This is Celtic and Senegalese music mixed.  Very funky and upbeat.
  • Aine Minogue – lovely Irish Harpist with a bit of New Age
  • Albannach – drums and pipes and LOTS of energy
  • Altan – the lead singer, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, has a wonderful voice!
  • Anuna – New Age music with a Celtic feel, uses nonsense words to convey dreamy music
  • Bear McCreary – American composer who has done music for Outlander, The Walking Dead, and Battlestar Galactica
  • Black ‘47 – sometimes silly, always passionate, fun and energetic
  • Blackmore’s Night – Ritchie Blackmore used to play guitar for Deep Purple, and then went mystical with his girlfriend singing – neat stuff
  • Bohola – a Chicago-based duo, really, consisting of Jimmy Keane on piano
  • Bothy Band – traditional Irish trad group from the 1970sBoys of the Lough – they combine Irish and Scottish influences, but include in their number Cathal McConnell, one of the great Irish song-collectors
  • Brobdingnanian Bards – Traditional ren band, very good, very nice!  I also see them at Dragoncon every year.
  • Caladh – a local pub group we saw in Kilkenny – they were great!  (and the lead singer is cute!)
  • Capercaillie – This band features wonderful vocals by Karen Matheson, and a haunting feel.
  • Cara Dillon – Irish folk singer with clear, sweet vocals
  • Celtic Thunder – Irish American group done with polish and talent, a bit like a male version of Celtic Woman.
  • Celtic Woman – all-female Irish vocal ensemble which has high production value, and has launched many careers. Chloe Agnew, Orla Fallon, Lisa Kelly, Hayley Westenra, Mairead Nesbitt and many others.
  • Cernunnos Rising – New Age, Druidic and Celtic music
  • Cherish the Ladies – New York based group with lovely vocals, traditional/ceili
  • Chieftains – Another 40 year old band, well respected and making music.
  • Christy Moore – the Granddad of Irish Folk music
  • Claire Roche – Irish harpist who loves Yeats’ Poetry
  • Clanadonia – drums and pipes and tribal energy
  • Clann An Drumma – tribal band from Scotland, drums and pipes
  • Clannad – Ethereal, classic, beautiful music. They’ve done songs to Last of the Mohicans, Robin the Hooded Man, etc.
  • Coda – male a capella traditional band in Ireland, great harmonies. I got to see them live in Westport a couple of years ago.
  • Crannog – Traditional Ren Faire musicians
  • Culann’s Hounds – great traditional Irish folk band from San Francisco
  • Damh the Bard – Wonderful pagan music, traditional sounds
  • Danú – a fantastic trad-based band hailing mostly from Co Waterford.
  • Davy Spillane – hands down, the best Uillean pipe player
  • De Dannan – Top Irish trad group from the 1970s
  • Déanta – Lovely young vocal Irish groupDervish – teetering a little close to more modern style songs
  • Dolores Keane – Classic singer with a fantastic voice
  • Donovan – Scottish singer with an eclectic blended style, mainstream in the 60s and 70s.
  • Dougie MacLean – Scottish folk singer, best known for his song Caledonia, which still makes me tear up every time I hear it.
  • Dropkick Murphys – Celtic Punk Rock band
  • Dubliners – legendary band from Dublin
  • Emerald Rose – This is a wonderful live band, not as magical on their CDs though.  I see them at Dragoncon every year – they combine Irish traditional with rocking pagan music.
  • Empty Hats – the prior incarnation was Double Indemnity, and are now Empty Hats.  They are one of the BEST ren bands I have ever heard, full of energy, humor, and talent.
  • Enter the Haggis – Celtic Rock band from America, lots of fun and energy
  • Enya – Who hasn’t heard of Enya?  Her haunting singing and mythical music got her the gig to do the Elves music in Lord of the Rings.  Who better?  Was part of Clannad (her family) at one point.
  • Erin’s Guild – Trad Rock band out of New England
  • Flogging Molly – Celtic Punk band
  • Gaelic Storm – This is the band that played below decks in the Titanic movie – lots of energy, lots of fun!
  • Grainne Hambly – traditional Irish harp music
  • Great Big Sea – they sing a lot of traditional songs, as do most Plastic Paddy bands, but with modern energy and beat (from Newfoundland)
  • Heather Alexander – Californian singer and fiddler
  • Hollie Smith – A beautiful haunting, smooth voice, sometimes in duet with Steve McDonald
  • Horslips – Irish Celtic rock band inspired by traditional musicIrish Rovers – I grew up listening to ‘The Unicorn’ and other fun songs by this very folk group
  • Iona – progressive Celtic rock band from the UK
  • Jethro Tull –  Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull released (2000) a wonderful flute album called The Secret Language of the Birds that is enchanting.
  • Julie Fowlis – fantastic Scottish Gaelic singer, on the soundtrack from Brave
  • Kate Rusby – throaty singer of traditional songsKelliana – Pagan singer extraordinaire
  • Liadan – lovely group of female vocalists out of Ireland
  • Loreena McKennitt – She has an incredible range for her voice, and tends to do original songs based on legends and myths in Celtic culture, such as Arthurian legends.
  • Lothlorien – this New Zealand band takes traditional music and enchants it with mystical music.  Theirs is one of my favorite Celtic CDs of all time.
  • Luke Kelly – Irish singer and folk musician from Dublin, founding member of the DublinersLúnasa – Irish folk band with great energy
  • Maire Brennan (Moya Brennan) – lead singer of Clannad, she has fantastic music as solo as well
  • Mary Black – Irish singer of both folk and modern material
  • Makem Brothers – Sons of Tommy Makem reviving the trad
  • Mary Black – Beautiful Irish vocalist
  • Mediaeval Baebes – wonderful a capella harmonies
  • Mike Freeman/Tania Opland – I first discovered this duo because they produced a wonderful CD based on Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders of Pern books, and I was hooked.  They are a wonderful studio band, and my special favorite is Cut to Rhythms.  I have all of their albums.
  • Morrigu – Celtic Trad and Irish punk, mix thoroughly
  • Narada – This is actually a collection of music, and each CD has a theme. One, Celtic Mysteries, is a mix of Celtic and Indian (Asian) music.  There is Celtic Odyssey, Celtic Dance, etc.  You get the idea.
  • Natalie MacMaster – fantastic fiddling
  • Noel McLoughlin – traditional singer with throaty, powerful vocals
  • Off Kilter – We saw them first at EPCOT in the Canada exhibition – rock music to bagpipes, what a combo!
  • Old Blind Dogs – Great harmonies and rhythm (Scottish)
  • Omnia – Neoceltic pagan folk band based in the Netherlands
  • Paddy Reilly – best known for Fields of Athenry, a traditional Irish folk singer and balladeer
  • Pandora Celtica – Delightful a capella band with a great deal of sea shanties and beautiful harmonies
  • Peatbog Fairies – Scottish rock and house music fusion
  • Planxty – Irish folk music band from the 1970s, included Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Liam O’Flynn. Helped popularize Irish music.
  • Prodigals – Another group of great energy, combined with wicked humor. Their CD ‘Dreaming in Hell’s Kitchen’ is just very happy and fun.
  • Runrig – Great Scottish folk/rock band
  • Sarah McLachlan – Canadian singer best known for songs that make you cry
  • Seven Nations – American Celtic rock group with lots of power
  • Sharon Shannon – Accordion player extraordinaire
  • Shooglenifty – Celtic/rock Scotland group that does a bit of house style music
  • Sileas – traditional Scottish harp musicSilly Wizard – One of the forerunners of modern traditional music – no, that’s not a contradiction.  They started out in the 1970s playing traditional music to huge crowds, and were one of the reasons for the current resurgence in Celtic interests.  The lead singer, Andy M. Stewart, wrote many well known modern songs such as Queen of Argyle and Ramblin’ Rover.
  • Sinead O’Connor – Irish pop and trad singer. Her vocals in Foggy Dew, for instance, are incredibly powerful
  • Sliabh Notes – fantastic Sliabh Luachra-style music.
  • Smoky Finish – They are probably the least Celtic of these, but still have some traditional music in their CDs.  Again, modern take and energy on old songs.
  • Solas – American Irish trad music group
  • Stan Rogers – Canadian folk and traditional singer known for his sea songs
  • Steeleye Span – English folk-rock band from the 1970s, still active today
  • Steve McDonald – Ethereal bagpipes with a story – what else could you want?  His CDs Sons of Somerled and Stone of Destiny are among the best I’ve heard.
  • Teada – another really, really great trad band, whose leader Oisin Mac Diarmada is one of my favorite fiddlers, and who along with flute-player Damien Stinson is from Sligo.
  • The Clancy Brothers – This group practically defines Irish folk music – they’ve been around over 40 years, singing the folk music to us beautifully.
  • The Corries – Scottish folk duo, traditional
  • The Corrs – Pop Irish Trad family, Irish. Andrea Corr had an incredible voice.
  • The Cranberries – Powerful vocals and lyricsThe Gothard Sisters – Lovely true sisters with beautiful vocals. I just saw them live in November
  • The High Kings – sort of a male version of Celtic Women, great voices and high production value in concertThe Irish Rovers – Traditional Irish Band that was actually my first exposure to Irish music. My mom had The Unicorn album.
  • The Irish Rovers – Traditional, high energy, classic.
  • The Pogues – short for ‘Pogue mo Thoin’, or Kiss my Ass, this punk Irish band exploded on the scene
  • The Proclaimers – best known for their song ‘500 miles’, this Scottish rock band has many other hits
  • The Rankin Family – Cape Breton traditional Celtic/American Country band
  • The Saw Doctors – Irish folk/rock group with lots of powerThe Young Dubliners – American Celtic Rock band
  • The Waterboys – Traditional band, mainly musicians from Scotland, England and Ireland
  • Tommy Makem – A founder of the irish folk/traditional revival, father of the Makem brothers
  • Tommy Sands – Singer and Songwriter from northern Ireland, best known for his sacrifice during the hunger strikes
  • Turlogh O’Carolan – not a modern composer, but one from the 18th century. The last true Bard, credited with many of the classic tunes.
  • U2 – The most famous Irish band, enough said.
  • Van Morrison – Van the Man. Northern Irish singer, mainstream in the 60s.
  • William Jackson – traditional Scottish harp music
  • Wolfe Tones – Known for their strong political songs, this is another folk group

Europe – Planning a Trip

Europe – It’s Not Just for Daydreams Anymore

A Guide on Planning a European Vacation


Ah, the magic of Ireland.  The history of London.  The highlands of Scotland.  You’ve heard of them for years, seen them in the tourist commercials, and heard about them in the music.  Yet you have never yet visited these dreams.  And why not?

It’s too expensive, you say.  I could never afford a trip to Europe.

Less expensive than a week at Disneyworld, I say!  For a two week Ireland vacation in summer (2006), including airfare, rental car, B&B accommodation and trip insurance, I spent about $1600.  Yes, that’s it.  Now, that doesn’t include food or souvenirs, of course, but it did include a wonderful vacation to a magical place.

So, how do you get such a deal?  Well, it takes patience, research, and the ability to make decisions when you need to.  I will take you through, step-by-step, how to get the best deal for a European vacation.

DECISIONS:  Who, What, Where, When and Why

WHO’s going?  You?  Your spouse?  Your children or parents?  Your best friend?  A huge group of 20 friends (not recommended unless you want ulcers!)  This decision makes a big difference in accommodation and transportation choices.

WHAT to do?  Are you interested in touring the whisky distilleries in Scotland?  Or the abbeys in England?  Or the pubs in Ireland?  Your trip doesn’t have to have a theme, of course, but it is more fun if you have one – and helps you to plan when your mind is a blank.  Perhaps you’ve seen a movie or read a book set in Yorkshire, and want to tour the area?  Or you dance and want to learn step dancing in Ireland?  The imagination can take flight here!

WHERE to go, of course, depends on WHAT you are doing.  It also ties into WHEN you want to go.  Since my most recent trip was Ireland, I will use that as an example, but most of my advice can be applied to any destination in Europe, or even beyond.  The decision of WHEN to go will be tied into the destination.  For instance, Ireland is much nicer to visit in the summer – but also more expensive; whereas Greece is cooler as a winter destination.  The days are longer in the summer the farther you go north – and conversely, shorter in the winter, resulting in much shorter days for sightseeing.

Another part of WHERE includes the character of place – towns and villages, or bustling metropolis?  London or Kilkenny?  Edinburgh or Ullapool?  While each city has its own character, they can be overwhelming at times, and aren’t always the best places to stay.  A small village used as a base of exploration can be wonderful, and you get more chances to meet the locals.

You might also want to think about WHY you want to go.  Do you want to touch the roots of your ancestors?  Or experience an ancient culture?  Do you just want to get away from the screaming kids?  Or make your co-workers jealous?  There are many reasons WHY you may want to go to Europe – pick several!

RESEARCH: Find out everything about everything –

then throw half of it away

The internet is many things.  Addicting, yes; maddening, yes.  But it is also incredibly helpful when doing research, especially about places far from your home.  Airfare, hotels, cities, beautiful beaches (yes, they exist in the UK) and gloomy castles are all listed somewhere – you just have to find them.  The best order of research I’ve found is airfare first, then itinerary, lodging, and finally ground transportation.  The airfares available may define your itinerary somewhat, and the itinerary will define the other items.



There is a reason I look for this first.  There is a definite season to vacationing in the UK – summer.  While many people do go on the non-‘peak’ months of July and August, there is indeed a reason why summer is the best.  Longer days to see sights, warmer weather, less rain and wind – and more things are open.  That also means the airfare is the most expensive, and usually lodging as well.

The shoulder months of May, June, September and October are becoming more popular, as the weather is still nice, and the days aren’t incredibly short yet.  However, that also means that the airfares are creeping up as they become more popular.  I have traveled to southern Ireland in April and it was beautiful – and inexpensive.

When I’ve decided how much cash I’m willing to sacrifice for a warmer vacation, I start researching my flights.  I go to dozens of websites, sometimes daily, to find the best fare.  When I got tickets to Ireland in 2006, I found them on Travelocity on a one-day fare sale on Virgin Air.  The tickets were non-stop from Miami to London, for $488 including taxes – in June.  They were gone within 24 hours, so if I hadn’t jumped on them, I would be stuck with the lowest I could find later – $800 a piece.

Also consider flying into one city and out of another.  This is great for Ireland, as you can fly into Shannon, explore the west, and end up flying out of Dublin at the end of your trip.  Edinburgh, London, and Glasgow are also considerations for this technique.  This is called an open-jaw ticket, and usually doesn’t cost much more, if any, than a normal round trip ticket.

Here are some of the sites I check regularly for discount airfare:

There are others, of course, but these are the ones I’ve used most often.  Also don’t forget to check the airline websites; if you find a great fare on Travelocity for Delta, Delta might have it cheaper, and it is usually better to deal directly rather than through a middleman.  Also remember not all sites include taxes in their fare quotes.

When you buy your tickets, check out the cancellation policies.  Usually, the cheaper the flight, the less flexible the changes allowed.  Make sure you are going before you purchase non-refundable, non-change tickets!


There is a wealth of information about places, monuments, workshops, battles, and other things of interest.  Most cities and towns, even villages, have their own website with tourist information.  In addition, many travel agent websites have great information for the intrepid traveler.  Even more, there are websites dedicated to those interested in travel, with wonderful forums for those odd questions.  Some of my favorites are:

Once you have done exhaustive research of the places you want to see, taken notes to places, planned routes around them, and then throw half of it out. Yes, that’s right – you will likely end up with a list of 17 things to see in each city, and you will only have time for half of that, so pick your favorites.

Also, do yourself a favor, and be sure to leave room in your itinerary for free time – wandering around and getting lost, people-watching at a café, or just having a pint with the locals.  These are usually the most memorable parts of your trip, leave time for them frequently.  You don’t want to end up with an itinerary where you are rushing through things so fast you don’t see them.  Michele at calls that the Green Blur tour.  I suppose a Scottish version would be the Plaid Blur?

If you’ve got the places listed you want to see, look for a pattern.  Are they all close to a couple central locations?  If so, pick several places and use them as bases of exploration.  Can they be strung together in a large circle?  Then spend a couple nights in each place, moving around the circle.  Plan wisely, and try to avoid criss-crossing or backtracking.  Check driving times between places with and  Then add about 20% to those driving times – they don’t take into account UK and Irish roads.  They twist, turn, and wiggle, which keeps speeds down lower than the speed limit!  You don’t want a day where you are driving 80% of the time, trust me!  I try to keep my days to 3 hours of driving at the most, and even that broken up with sites along the way.


Once you have your airfare and itinerary, you know which nights you are going to need lodging for, and where.  The UK is wonderfully full of adorable Bed & Breakfasts, and I highly recommend this accommodation choice.  The B&Bs in the US tend to be more upscale and expensive than those in the UK, so don’t go by their example.  Most B&Bs I’ve ever been in have been comfortable, clean, cozy, and a delight to stay at.  They run around $30-$60 a night per person, and include a huge breakfast (more on that later).  You will pay higher for city B&Bs, and sometimes shared hotel rooms are less expensive in the larger cities.  Do chat with the owners, and get their advice about local sites and attractions.

Now, the breakfast.  Ah, that artery-clogging wonder of cholesterol, the Full Irish, English or Scottish Breakfast.  Take eggs (usually over easy), add cold toast (they put it in racks to cool), sausage, side ham (they call it bacon), black pudding, white pudding, grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, cereal, bread, milk, juice, coffee, tea, and perhaps some fruit on the side – if you’re still peckish.  Stent, anyone?

Hotels, as mentioned above, usually charge by room rather than by person.  However, they may or may not include breakfast in the deal, and are usually more cookie-cutter and sterile.  They are a place to stay rather than a place to enjoy.

Then you can try the other options, such as youth hostels (not just for youth anymore), camping, caravanning (RV), canal boats, or lodging in old monasteries, colleges out for the summer, etc.  There is no end of unusual places to stay.  On the Isle of Lewis, you can stay in a traditional black house; near Inverness, there is a converted church set up as a B&B.  Get creative!

Once you have decided where you want to stay, make a reservation.  Make sure to check the cancellation policies.  Most have a day or so required, some a week or even a month.  Email is usually an option for communication these days, but some may require a phone call; remember they are at 5pm when it is noon here, and don’t wake anyone up!


Ground Transportation:

So, you know when, where, and why you are going – how are you getting there?  Well, my recommendation for the UK and Ireland is definitely for renting a car.  While it is possible to use bus and train to get around, and certainly many people do, you can’t find the little villages doing this, and getting lost on the way is half the fun.  If you are in a bus, you can’t make a detour on a whim to go find a hidden castle when you see a sign.  You can’t always determine how long you stay at one spot; there is much less flexibility.

Now, I know it is scary to think about driving on the wrong side of the road.  It gets worse:  automatic transmission cars are twice as expensive to rent, and the manual transmission cars make you shift with your left hand (since the driver is on the right of the car).  Confused yet?  I remember many times trying to grab the stick with my right hand – only to bang it on the door.  However, it’s not so bad – you get used to it very quickly.  It helps to have a designated navigator, as the signage on the islands is different.  Signs tend to tell you what the next town is, not what the road is called.  That means you should know the major towns on the way to where you are going, or even the ones just past your destination.

Many cities in the UK don’t require a car to get around in; in fact, having a car is a liability in Edinburgh, Dublin and London.  It is difficult to drive, find parking, and expensive.  London even has a toll to enter the city centre!  Those cities have a good public transportation system, though, especially the Underground in London, so use those instead.  Turn in the car before getting there, or wait to rent it until you leave.

Gas (petrol) is very expensive over there.  It is running around $8 a gallon right now.  Yes, really!  The good news is their engines run much more efficiently, and you can usually get around 45 mpg from them.  However, filling up a tank can still run you $100!  Budget accordingly.

I’ve gotten decent deals from and from  I would advise against renting from a place you’ve never heard of, cars can be very expensive – and it is difficult to fight a fraudulent damage claim from overseas.  Do be aware that most credit card insurances do NOT cover Ireland, so you will likely be required to purchase expensive CDW insurance for such a rental.



OK, you’ve done your research, gotten your tickets, your reservations for lodging, and your car rental.  Ready to go?  Not yet!

Trip Insurance

You break your leg the week before the trip.  Ruined!  All your money lost!  Not so, grasshopper – if you bought the proper trip insurance.  Go to and compare the benefits of different packages.  Find out if your health insurance will cover you on foreign soil.  Find out if you need medical evacuation, trip cancellation in case of medical emergency, etc.  Compare the benefits, and find one that fits right.  For a small investment, you get a great deal of peace of mind.

Paperwork, money, etc.

This should be taken care of before you even get the tickets, but everyone procrastinates.  My husband ended up getting his passport the day before we flew out – we were very nervous!  Normal processing time for a new passport is six weeks, but please give it plenty of leeway (especially if you’ve already bought non-refundable tickets!).  This has increased to about 12 weeks with the new regulations regarding travel to Canada and Mexico (which don’t apply on the road crossings, just flying).

US citizens don’t need visas for short visits to the UK or Ireland, but if you are going somewhere else, do read up on the requirements long before your flight, and make sure all paperwork is in order.

Right now, the UK is on the Pound Sterling and Ireland is on the Euro.  I recommend going to your bank and getting a couple hundred dollars with to start out with, and getting more during your vacation from the ATM machine, and/or using your credit card.  Shop around for a card with a good rate – many (Capital One is one of the few that don’t) add on an extra 3% for any foreign transaction, in addition to the 1% Visa/MC charges.  You don’t want to carry too much with you, but some B&Bs require cash, and some require prepayment.  You can also get some pre-trip Euros online through companies like AAA or Thomas Cooke.


Sure, you’ve packed dozens of times for vacations.  What’s the big deal?  Well, the new flight carry-on restrictions, for one.  Transatlantic flights have new rules, and it behooves you to know them before you are waiting in the security line for your flight.

Carry-on:  Most airlines have their carry on rules on their websites.  Some have weight as well as size restrictions, and the liquid restrictions are fun.  Check before you go!  Right now (Jan 2007) any carry-on liquids must be in containers no larger than 3oz (100ml) and they must all fit comfortably in a quart-sized clear Ziploc bag.  That includes water, drinks, toiletries, even lip gloss.  Prescription medicines must be labeled in the traveler’s name, baby formula may need to be tested at the gate.  There are several exceptions like this, so check them out.

Liquids include gels and semi-solid things like jellies and sometimes cheese, so be careful.  When in doubt, check it or leave it.  Also, jackets and medical equipment are not counted towards your carry-on limits.  I’ve taken heavy stuff from my carry-on and stuffed it in my purse, which is rarely weighed.  You can also stuff the pockets of that jacket!

Bring a soft sided carry-on or luggage, as it will likely expand with the things you buy on your trip.  Some are expandable with zippered sides.  Or, just bring an extra duffel to check on the way back.

Checked luggage:  Some airlines are now charging hefty fees for overweight luggage, and limit the number of pieces each person can check.  Also, any locks on checked luggage can be cut by TSA (airport security).  I usually use cable ties to tie mine – if TSA does go into my bag, they will put their own on afterwards, and in the meantime I’ll know if someone else goes into my bag.

Don’t, don’t, don’t put valuables or medicines in your checked luggage!!!  Cameras, laptops, anything fragile, anything essential, must go in your carry-on.  Of course, this makes your carry-on heavy, so some decision making is sometimes necessary.  I also usually put one day’s worth of clean clothes in my carry-on, in case the checked luggage is delayed or lost.

If you think you must take your laptop for all those digital photos, think again.  You can have CDs made at most internet cafés (which are prevalent even in small villages like Dingle, Ireland) or bring a photo storage device.  I bought one with 30G of memory – plenty of room for the 3000+ photos I take.

READY TO GO?  Don’t forget the smile!

Don’t forget to pack the most important thing for any trip – a great attitude.  This small item can make the worst disaster into a hilarious story, can take the biggest lemon and make lemonade out of it.  After all, how can it be terrible – you’re in Europe!

A trip to Europe will be full of wonderful memories, historic experiences, and meeting wonderful folks.  Whether you get addicted like I have, or are happy with going once and treasuring the memory forever, you will have an exquisite time.

Irish Shows and Movies

Irish Movies and Shows

by Christy Nicholas

Want to feel closer to the Emerald Isle? This might help!

  • Comedy/fun/light:
  • Ballykissangel (TV Series) – not really historical, but set in a small town in Ireland, great funny series.
  • Father Ted (TV Series) – again, not historical.  Three priests (a young one in training, a mature one, and an old one in retirement) live on a remote island in the west of Ireland.  Silly comedy. Some strong language.
  • Waking Ned Devine – an old man wins the lottery – and promptly dies.  His friends try to collect his winnings. Hilarious.
  • The Secret of Kells – a delightful animated movie about the Book of Kells, an exquisite illuminated gospel from the 8th century – the kids would probably love this, too.  Some scary bits (mean Vikings).
  • Leap Year – an American is stuck in the boondocks of Ireland, and tries to make her way to Dublin to propose to her boyfriend on Feb 29th.
  • P.S., I Love You – A true tearjerker. A man dies in New York, and his wife is sent on a series of quests by him, via notes written before he died, ending up in Ireland where they met.
  • Darby O’Gill and the Little People – Sean Connery sings! Darby O’Gill tries to get the better of the Fairy Folk to save his daughter from dying.
  • The Matchmaker – Based on the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, a funny tale with Janeane Garofalo.
  • Drama:
  • The Commitments – A Soul Music group gets together in Dublin
  • Into the West – a couple young tinker (gypsy) boys find a mystical white horse
  • The Secret of Roan Inish – a movie about Selkies, mystical creatures that are seals in the water, but humans on land.
  • The Quiet Man – A classic with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara; a man moves from America to the small town he was born in to reclaim his heritage.
  • Circle of Friends – Minnie Driver stars in this tale of young men and women in 1950 Ireland.
  • Once – Set in Dublin, story of a pair of musicians learning the ways of the street.
  • The Guard – A misfit policeman gets partnered with an uptight FBI agent to investigate drug smugglers
  • Philomena – A woman searches for word of her child, taken from her in the Magdalene Laundries.
  • Angela’s Ashes – True story of a child growing up in Limerick.
  • Ondine – Tale of a water spirit.
  • Dancing at Lughnasa – Five sisters in rural Ireland in the 1930s.
  • Gritty/heavy/serious/not for kids:
  • My Left Foot (Daniel Day-Lewis plays a Irish painter quadriplegic, 1960s)
  • In the Name of the Father (Daniel Day-Lewis, accused of bombing in Northern Ireland, 1970s)
  • Michael Collins (Liam Neeson/Alan Rickman) About Ireland’s revolution (1916)
  • The Wind that Shakes the Barley – Also Ireland’s revolution (1916)
  • Bloody Sunday – historical drama about the true events that occurred in the beginning of the Troubles in Derry, Northern Ireland (set in 1972).
  • Ryan’s Daughter – Story of a woman who has an affair with a WWI British officer. (1916)
  • Excalibur – Classic King Arthur tale filmed in Ireland
  • Da – Story of a man dealing with his father’s death, with Martin Sheen.
  • The Field – A feud about who gets to farm a field results in death and pain. (Spoiler! Sean Bean dies)
  • Omagh – Dramatization of the bombing in Omagh in 1998.
  • The Crying Game – A British soldier captured by IRA terrorists

Filming locations in Ireland:

  • Game of Thrones
  • Penny Dreadful
  • The Princess Bride
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Braveheart
  • The Tudors
  • Foyle’s War
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
  • Your Highness
  • Reign of Fire
  • Casino Royale (1967)
  • The Amazing Race