My Writing Journey: Guilty by Siobhan MacDonald

For as long as I can remember I loved to work with words. Right back to early memories of penning letters home from Irish college. Embellished accounts of how many dances I got at the céilí, complaints of inedible food, along with grateful thanks for parcels safely received. Parcels containing summer vests (in case it was chilly) and homemade buns in a cardboard box. I enjoyed reading the notes enclosed. Finding out what sibling had gone to hospital for what particular ailment – someone was always breaking or injuring something.

Early letter writing paved the way for my further forays into writing. There followed some poetry composition and a bit of script writing for two-person plays in school, where I was encouraged to enter dramatic duologues into Slógadh, an Irish language arts festival. I and my friend acted the scenes on stage. I was educated at Laurel Hill Coláiste in Limerick. In school I was a swot. No two ways about it, a fully-paid-up, spectacle wearing swot. A broadbrush education gave me the supports to negotiate the twists and turns of my career that lead me to where I am now – my happy place.

As a teen, I loved constructing essays, writing plays, poetry, and short stories. Tucked away at the back of a drawer in a blue velvet box is a medal I was awarded for creativity in State exams. I fancied doing History and English in college. Or languages perhaps. I liked Latin and French. Maybe I’d become a journalist or columnist.  But those kind of jobs, in fact any jobs, were few and far between in the 80s, so I was advised to do electronic engineering instead. I got a scholarship to NUIG Galway and off I trotted to do engineering through Irish.

Four fun-fuelled years later, I graduated as an engineer. But I still harboured notions of becoming a writer. I was offered a research job in RTE, but I was keen to spread my wings. A timely ad in The Irish Times saw me take off to Scotland where I trained as a technical writer with NCR corporation, a company creating ATM hardware and software for the banking industry. I had very romantic notions of Scotland from all the Lillian Beckwith novels I had read in the school library. I headed to Dundee, the city of the 3 Js – Jute, Jam, and Journalism.

As it happened, technical writing married my technical knowledge with my love of writing. It gave me a great grounding in how to write analytically, something which I use today to plan my novels. While I was designing and writing user manuals, I was writing creatively all the while in the background

Producing a tangible product is always satisfying, as was working in a technical publishing department, peopled with a mix of illustrators and writers. They were drawn from both permanent and contract staff. The contract writers in particular were an eclectic bunch, often funding nomadic, alternative lifestyles with short-term contracts. One such writer was a commercial deep-sea diver, another a dapper character who used to arrive to work with a pink plastic briefcase. Another lived out of a locker in the local train-station.

Dundee was cold. Warding off frostbite took some effort. The local nightclub was curiously named the Coconut Grove, though I’d never heard reports of a coconut tree growing at such northerly latitudes. Soon, I took off again and headed for the Côte d’Azur. I lived in Juin-Les-Pins and Antibes whilst technical writing for a French company that provided telecom solutions for the airline industry.

Subsequent jobs involved writing procedures for engineers on drilling platforms in the North Sea, writing about intelligent networks and how to deploy base stations for first responders in natural disaster situations. Although both interesting and challenging, not quite the creative work to take me to my ‘happy place’.

While working day-jobs I tried my hand at short-story competitions inspired by incidents that had happened to me throughout my work-life. With an abiding love of mystery and a penchant for suspense, I finally set myself the challenge of writing a full-length novel. My first effort was met with some positive feedback, but I had to painfully accept that the result was a novel of two halves, starting as a gentle mystery on an island and morphing into a thriller.

With my following two novels, I went on instinct and crafted stories wholly in the thriller genre. Happily, my instincts proved fruitful and both Twisted River and The Blue Pool were published to some critical acclaim.

There is no one prescribed route to becoming a writer and every writer’s journey is different. But one thing is common to all writers. Abundant patience, an inner confidence and a resilience. A sense that you’ll get there in the end, by staying focussed and keeping your eye on the prize.

On this next stop on my writing journey, accompanied by agent, Jo Bell of Bell Lomax Moreton, and editor Krystyna Green, I very much look forward to what readers think of Guilty, (published 11 June 2020, Little Brown). With a smattering of luck, I have created an engaging, dark, and twisty tale that gets readers thinking and keeps them guessing.

(c) Siobhan MacDonald

About Guilty:

guilty siobhan macdonald 196x300 - My Writing Journey: Guilty by Siobhan MacDonald


Doctor Luke Forde has the perfect life. A respected heart surgeon, he has a rewarding job, a successful wife, and a daughter, Nina. From their beautiful house overlooking Carberry Lough in County Clare, they present a portrait of family bliss. But over the course of a weekend, Luke’s life spirals into chaos.


It begins with the word ‘GUILTY’ painted on his boathouse one morning. Then he spots a chilling notice in the local newspaper. When this is followed by the delivery of a small coffin-shaped package, Luke is terrified. Someone knows the dark secret he is hiding. And someone is out to get him.


Luke begins to be plagued by horrifying anonymous messages, and it transpires that it’s not only Luke the sender is intending to harm. With strange things happening in the operating theatre, Alison’s political ambitions straining their marriage, and Nina’s behaviour sparking all sorts of trouble, Luke turns to therapist Terence Black. Is the therapist the only one that can save Luke and his family from the horrendous secrets of the past?

A twisty and compelling psychological suspense novel set in Ireland, from ebook-bestselling author Siobhan MacDonald. Perfect for fans of Dervla McTiernan and Andrea Carter.

Order your copy online here.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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