Reflections on Gratitude – Carlene O’Connor

Liz here, happy to welcome Carlene O’Connor to the blog today. Her recent release is Murder in an Irish Bookshop and I know you’re all going to love this heartfelt post about Ireland, connection and the hope for better times ahead. Take it away, Carlene!

Here it is, March of 2021, and over a year into a very difficult period for the entire world. As a writer I am so grateful that books are still being read and written and sold. Not only is writing them my passion, I love reading books. They’ve always been there for me, an escape, an experience outside myself, a connection to something bigger than me.

As a human I am humbled that is the case when everything else has been turned upside down and shaken around. I don’t think I’ll ever take “normal life” for granted again and I find myself reflecting on the things that matter to me the most. At the top of the list is family. My parents who I haven’t hugged in a year. My sister, and niece, and nephew who I haven’t hugged in a year. The writing friends I haven’t had coffee dates with or readers and writers I haven’t been able to meet at conferences, or festivals. The writing students who no longer fill the seats in my home. The bookshop events, the Irish festivals I enjoy every summer, all canceled one after the other as together we faced this new normal.

Learning of friends and family members getting sick, rallying together and loving them through it. I have not lost anyone to Covid but my heart is very much with those who have. I feel the pain. I know you do too. I know just from the fact that you’re reading this blog that you’re my people. Connection is what matters most and this year connections were put on pause, or funneled into a different form.

I’ve thought a lot about Ireland during this time. As you probably know, Irish pubs in normal times are the hub, the heart and soul in many towns and for many folks in Ireland. The place where locals gather for friendship, music, a nice peat fire, networking, and a pint or two of the black stuff. Where stories and jokes flow right along with the tap. Where everyone knows your name, your stool, and your drink. Connection is a human need and in some ways, despite being isolated this year, I do feel connected to my fellow man.

I’m so grateful for phone calls and Zoom, and the easy exchange of pictures and texts. I feel connected in a sense of responsibility to help protect one another, to be kind, to lift each other up. I’ve had cookies left at my door by thoughtful neighbors and I’ve left them in return. I’ve cried and I’ve listened as others have cried. I’ve cheered people up and I’ve allowed others to cheer me up. We need each other. I, as a writer, need readers. We’re an ecosystem. Zoom has allowed me to see the faces of my writing students or engage in panels and interviews to talk about my current release.

We can do hard things. We can lift each other up. And hopefully soon, we can travel again. To far away places. To pubs with roaring peat fires and local lores. To sandy beaches, or simply to the kitchen of a friend, a family member, or even a stranger. In the Fall of 2019 my father and I traveled to Ireland for HIS first time. We thought about the trip for a few years before committing to it. And we had a fabulous time. From Limerick to Cork, to Galway, and Connemara, I showed him this land that I love. He reads all of my mysteries and wanted to see the town of Kilmallock which is the inspiration for Kilbane in my Irish Village Mystery Series.

At first I thought the trip wouldn’t be as special because when I went for the first time, it was a specific set of Irish friends that made the trip extra special for me. By showing me around with that world class hospitality the Irish are known for. But I was going to do my best and just hoped his experience would come close to my first experience of Ireland. The joke was on me because the exact same group of folks who made the trip so special when I went for the first time showed up for my father too. A man they’d never met. They welcomed him like he was family. They opened their homes, their cars, their hearts. They rolled out the green carpet and showed him the land they love. They used their charm to make him feel welcome and their humor to illicit belly laughs. That is a gift I can never repay. He had one of the best times of his life.

Little did we know that after the trip we’d spend the next year not being able to see each other. How grateful I am we had that trip. How grateful I am that I have a second family in Ireland. And how grateful I am that the characters in my Irish Village Mystery series are just as dear and real to me as the people who inspired them. In my recent release, Murder in an Irish Bookshop, I welcome a new bookshop and more people into the close-knit village of Kilbane, County Cork Ireland.

Roam the aisles of the new bookshop: Turn the Page. Be careful– not all of them can be trusted. And if you have some extra time on your hands, Eoin reveals his recipe for Irish stew at the end. It’s comforting and we all could use a little of that right now. #Grateful. And thank you to The Wickeds (how cool are they?!) for their very gracious invitation to this guest blog. I am sending my light out to all of you.

Better days are coming, and you’ve got this. And until we can safely be together, you can always pull up a chair, open  book and get lost in the pages. As a wise Irishman once said: May your day be touched with a bit of Irish luck, brightened by a song in your heart and warmed by the smiles of the people you love. #ForeverGrateful. 

USA Today bestselling-author Carlene O’Connor comes from a long line of Irish storytellers. Her great-grandmother emigrated from Ireland filled with tales and the stories have been flowing ever since. Of all the places across the pond she’s wandered, she fell most in love with a walled town in County Limerick and was inspired to create the town of Kilbane, County Cork. Currently there are 7 mysteries and one novella in The Irish Village Mysteries and many more to come. They’ve recently been optioned for television. Carlene also has two installments in her Home to Ireland series and a brand new series is coming in the Fall of 2022. Readers can follow Carlene on Facebook, CarleneOConnor.net, Goodreads, and Book Bub, Insta as Writergirlchi or Twitter as @MaryCarterbook

Readers, do you have a place you love that you can’t wait to go back to? Leave yours in the comments below.

19 Thoughts

  1. New Mexico and Florida. While I love both locations, it’s the friends there that I’m eager to see and hug. “I’ll ever take “normal life” for granted again.” How true.

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  2. Ocean City, MD. I go in the off season, for years I went in December. It’s not crowded then, which is perfect because all I meet, all I want, is to be by the ocean. I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland 🇮🇪. Doesn’t everyone?

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  3. Welcome back, Carlene! A year ago today I left for Puerto Rico with one son to visit the other son, who lives there. We had such a special warm, sunny time, going to the beach, playing games, touring, and visiting the very special eco-farm where my son lives. It was a trip made, as it turns out, at the last possible moment, COVID-wise. And while I’d like to go back, where I really want to be is together with both sons. Anywhere will do!

    Best of luck with the new book – I can’t wait to read it. And yes, isn’t a joy that we can keep providing reading to our fans?

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  4. As a big fan of the Irish Village mystery series, you know that I love each time a new book comes out. So MURDER IN AN IRISH BOOKSHOP is definitely going to find a home in my book collection.

    I know that book signings aren’t happening, but I do hope someday to attend a signing where I can have my copies of the series signed.

    I love the idea of Ireland of course, but I’ve never been there. It is one of the few geographic destinations I’d like to accomplish someday.

    As for me, I’m not so much looking forward to going to some town or country when everything is over. For me, the one thing I’d like to see happening is a return to trivia night at the local restaurant where I’m part of the dominant team. Plus, there’s this beautiful waitress who works on trivia night that I’d like to get back to seeing on a weekly basis too.

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    1. You mention conventions, I’ve wanted to attend Malice Domestic for years, but it’s a little expensive. Maybe I can work it out for 2022. But I’m also a little leary, because from what I’ve seen online it looks like people attend with friends and I’d be alone. For local, smaller events, I’m okay with that, but for a big conference I’m not so sure.

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  5. What a lovely and uplifting post. I’m looking forward to visiting your Irish bookstore. I am one of the lucky. I came back to the place I love, our home in the Crown of Maine, this summer. If I had to go through a pandemic, I wanted to be in my heart’s home. Hubs and I packed up, rented an RV, and here we are.

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  6. Hubby and I, after retirement have been trying to do the traveling we have always wanted to do. With so many wonders in this great nation of our, we came up with the idea of going to national parks and in doing do being able to see many states and great sights – not only at our destination but all along the way too.

    Although our planned trip to Utah to see the five national parks there was unforeseeably cancelled due to Covid, we hope to still be able to go there some day soon. However, the place we have been to twice and would love to go back to would have to be the Grand Tetons. As two amateur photographers, it’s a place to behold with both beautiful landscapes and the wonders of all sort of critters. It’s the place where I fell in love with bears and got to photograph them up close and personal without bars, cages or confinement. Our hope and prayer is that with age and medical issues that we can once again mark off places on our bucket list before our want to see list turns into the wish I had seen list.

    Can’t wait for the opportunity to read “Murder in an Irish Bookshop” which is on my TBR list.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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  7. Welcome back, Carlene and congratulations on Murder in an Irish Bookshop. We were supposed to go to Scotland and Ireland last June–that didn’t happen. But I hope it will some day.

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  8. Oooh, another series that sounds so good! I just need 48 hour days to get more reading done! I miss traveling of all sorts. I’m about to fly to AZ to drive a moving truck, towing a car, back to PA where out daughter is temporarily moving in with us. While in AZ, I will visit Mission San Xavier del Bac in Tucson. It is one of my very favorite places. Once our daughter moves here, I probably will never get back, so the end of March will be a bittersweet time.

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  9. The places I enjoy traveling to are the beach and the mountains. Can’t wait to travel again, but in the meantime being at home is the best! Carlene, I have enjoyed your books. This newest one sounds like it will be another good one. Best of luck with your new book baby!

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  10. I love to be in bookstores and libraries. I am handicapped so I have to use a walker with a seat. It is harder to use in the winter with the snow and ice. We have had the libraries and bookstores on and off lock downs. I am looking forward to them opening up so I can go in and enjoy.

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  11. There is a secondhand bookstore that I adores going to every couple of months. I would take my TBR book list and dig through the shelves and bins to see how many I could bring home with me. Some days I took home a haul, other days just a handful. I really miss spending the morning there.

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