It’s hard to believe that it’s almost four years since I published FIONN 3: THE ADVERSARY – the book that completed the first three-book arc of the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series.
The above image is an alternative cover for that book (developed from a series that the artist went off and created predominantly to satisfy her own creative urgings). An incredibly talented cover designer, she had the whole fantasy genre down to a tee and, hence, thought I’d love what she sent me. And I did – anything this artist does is amazing!
Unfortunately, by then, I’d also been feeling increasingly uncomfortable with having my work locked into the ‘fantasy’ genre, predominantly due to my growing understanding around the confusion between genuine mythology and ‘fantasy’ (particularly where it relates to anything Irish). The over-sexualised imagery that tends to accompany the fantasy genre was also wrong for the kind of books I produce.
In the end, we used a different variant for the cover (using the original photostock – you can see the final here) but I ended up paying the artist for the additional set of images as well. She’d done some amazing work for me in the past and, frankly, she deserved it. Although I’ll probably never use any them, its nice to pull them out on occasion and appreciate the great skill she put into them
I received one of those social media reminders today that it’s been six years since I first published FIONN: Defence of Ráth Bládhma, an anniversary that’s triggered some quiet reflection for me.
FIONN 1 was actually the second book I ever published (Beara: Dark Legendsbeing the first). It was my first attempt at producing a genuine (as culturally authentic as I could make it) Irish historical adventure/fantasy novel and, to be honest, I had no idea whether people would like it. I’d never written anything similar before and given my insistence on using Irish cultural concepts and – occasionally – language, I assumed most people would be scared off.
Six years later there are four (by December) books in the series as well as a spin-off series (The Irish Woman Warrior Series) which will have three books by the end of the year. It still amazes me that people buy them, even more so when they leave positive reviews.
When I finish a book, it goes from my head and even a few months I struggle to remember even writing it. I reread this book about two years ago and it was a slightly bizarre experience in that it was actually just like reading a book someone else had written. The weirdest thing was that I really enjoyed it and, overall, I thought it was great (!!?). I’m not really sure what that says about me. People often say you can be your own worst critic but I clearly run the other way.
I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to all of you who took the time to read this book and a particular thanks to those of you who were kind enough to go so far as to write a review. For any writer that will always be a buzz, no matter how old the book or how many books they’ve written.
I’ve always had a clear idea in my head where this series was going (and the Liath Luachra Series of course) and although I’m keen to move onto other projects it feels good to be edging closer to the completion of the story, the characters, the twists and the plots I wanted to reveal. Given the growing interest in a television version, this could of course end up going on in a way or a direction I’d never even envisaged but, to be honest, there are a thousand other things I need/want to do.
I think some stories never end.
Note: The above image shows the development of the cover since my initial amateurish introduction. The current cover is the image seen below.
Stories based on Irish mythology and culture have been bowdlerised quite a lot over the last two hundred years or so, often to the point where, now, many people struggle to differentiate genuine Irish history and mythology with commercially-produced “Celtic” fantasy. That’s something that, as an Irish fiction writer (non-fiction, on occasion), I’m regularly confronted with. It’s also why I’m so pedantic in telling stories that are as historically and culturally authentic as I can make them.
Telling stories based on authentic elements of Irish mythology can be something of an effort, however. Not only do you have to get the history right, you also have to introduce ancient Gaelic concepts into the story in a way that a contemporary audience can (a) understand them and (b) enjoy them. That takes research (a lot), it takes language skills (Irish) and of course, the ability to put a story together in a way that allows those elements to shine.
Creating those kinds of Irish mythological stories was a bit exhausting over 2019, fortunately for all the right reasons. The key reason was the recent sale of the screen option(and the subsequent adaptation) for Liath Luachra: The Grey One which took up a major proportion of my year.
There’s still a long path to travel before any decision is made on whether this appears on a screen near you, of course. There will be a post about it all at some stage in the future but, until then, here’s a little teaser (ironically, made before we had interest from Hollywood).
But, screenwork aside, here’s a little update on the other projects currently taking place.
Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán
Book number four in the popular series (the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series) concerns the growing pains of the young Fionn (Demne) who’s struggling to solve the mystery of his father’s death, supported as always by this three guardians; his aunt – the bandraoi Bodhmhall, the woman warrior Liath Luachra and the eccentric womaniser Fiacail mac Codhna. This story is maturing quietly in our office drawer like a potentially fruitful wine. There are six books in total planned for this series. We had intended to release this volume in December 2019 but, for reasons explained above, this is now delayed until the first half of 2020.
Liath Luachra: The Seeking. This will be the third in the Irish Woman Warrior Series and follows on directly from book two (Liath Luachra: The Swallowed) with the woman warrior Liath Luachra returned to help a comrade rescue his sister from a mysterious group of raiders. Needless to say, this turns out to be far more complicated than expected.
This book returns to many of the themes and characters in Book 1 but also commences the overlap between this series and the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series. Originally, we had planned three books in total but that’s now likely to expand to four.
We’re hoping to release this book in the first quarter of 2020. The current cover is undergoing revision so this is a standby cover until its completed.
Dark Dawn: This is a bit of a trial project I’m currently working on and involves the story of a dying warrior attempting to protect a settlement. The settlement in question is Ráth Bládhma. Expect to see an announcement on this sometime in the first quarter of 2020.
Despite all the excitement over 2019, we have actually released a few items, mainly the following short stories. Note, however, that these are currently only available through the Irish Imbas website:
In ancient Ireland, a mother seeks a boon of an old lover, now the most ferocious and feared chieftain in the land.
Probably one of the most well-known stories from the ancient early Irish literature, the fascinating tale of Labhraidh Loingseach (Labhraidh is pronounced ‘Lowry’ in English), has never been accurately portrayed for a contemporary audience.
This, then, is the story of the mythical Irish chieftain, the founding ancestor of Na Laighin (a major tribe in Ireland’s south-east for which the province of Leinster is named) and the man to which a very strange attribute is associated.
After a year’s hard slog, I’m certainly ready for a break. In the meantime, all our books can be obtained through THE IRISH IMBAS BOOK SHOP of course. Updates on the latest releases will be made available through our newsletter Vóg (last one for 2019 will be end of November).
Anyone who’s anyway capable with Irish (the language), or familiar with my work, is probably aware that ‘Liath’ is the Irish word for ‘Grey’ (although it can also mean a grey-haired person). ). Like most Irish adjectives, the word is pretty flexible: Sioc liath is a ‘hoar frost’ for example. Bainne liath is a kind of watery milk whereas arán liath means bread that’s gone a bit mouldy … and so on and so forth.
The word doesn’t tend to turn up too often on the Amazon website so you can imagine my surprise when I went to check one of my books the other day (Liath Luachra: The Swallowed which I released about a month ago) and found a whole slew of “Liath-themed” Irish books as follows.
These are just a small selection. There were actually quite a few others (all with ‘Liath’ in the title, all claiming to be an “Irish Edition”) Interestingly, when I took a closer look at them I found that, not only were they all at ridiculously high prices (none of them are less than $65), the interior sample content of each one was complete garbage, meaningless Irish words scooped up with some app and combined together in nonsense form.
I did a quick google image check for ‘Gaoth Liath”- the first pic above and found it had been nicked from a wallpaper engine site. When I searched out the authors, they were all pretty much empty – a single name, a single book, nothing more.
So obviously, someone has gone to a bit of trouble to create a whole bunch of faux Irish Edition books (I’m assuming the common word ‘Liath’ was included so that they’d be easier to find). I have seen other reference online to books like these appearing and disappearing and most of the theoretical discussion seems to suggest these books are use for fraud purposes (where someone steals a credit card, orders hundreds of hugely-inflated price books and scoops up the profit for example). They’re certainly no use as books.
To be honest, finding this has pissed me off a bit. Getting decent Irish language books on places like Amazon is pretty hard as the larger ebook stores tend to focus on the English-speaking mass market only. Most Irish-language books tend to be published for the home market by specialist publishers (I’d like to rectify that one day) and frankly, An Gaeilege simply isn’t large enough or profitable enough for them to care.
Crap like this though, is hardly going to help.
Needless to say, I raised the issue with Amazon over a month ago and their response was the usual …… meh! This morning I looked again and, lo and behold, those gorgeous Oirsih Books continue to be shine brightly from their shop screen.
Wellllll, I think I’ve finally got the message that the summer holidays are done and dusted although, to be honest, it’s been something of a working holiday this year. For over a week, we were ensconced at a beach in Australia with temperatures hitting 35°C and over. The holiday dips consisted of a dash to the (lukewarm) water and then another rapid dash back to shade. There was really no way of remaining out on the beach in that temperature unless you were wearing a radiation suit.
It’s very hard to believe but there hasn’t been a contemporary version of the Fenian Cycle (written by an Irish person) professionally published for almost one hundred years.
For those of you with an interest in Irish historical fantasy, Irish Imbas Books is making Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma available for 99c or 99p at all the major ebook outlets over the next two days (possibly three – I still haven’t worked out the time differences!).
Currently a finalist in Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO 2016 competition, this first book in a contemporary series of the Fenian Cycle has probably been our most popular over the last two years. Just be aware though, it really is a very different take on the sanitized Fenian Cycle tales we grew up with as kids, far grittier and more realistic (i.e. it’s not Celtic-Lite). I’d be particularly keen to hear what other Irish readers think.
The Celtic Mythology Short Story Competition– Bloody hell! The quality of the submissions this year has certainly jumped several notches. Thus far, I’ve read about 54 of the more than 70 entries. Only 20 have been identified and put aside as unsuitable at this stage (and I’ll be doing a post to explain that in the next 2/3 weeks). The shortlist will be posted on the website on Tuesday 31 January.
Fionn 3: The Adversary – Currently working on the first draft of the last chapter. The book will be released on 28 February.
Newsletter:We’ll be recommencing the monthly newsletter (after the Christmas break) this month but with the current workload it may be running two or three days late. That will contain a full update on what to expect over the next year.
For me, one of the real pleasures of independent publishing is having the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented artists and graphic designers. As someone who’s always wanted to draw or sketch (but had no talent for it), I’ve always been fascinated and a little bit envious of those people who could not only do so, but were very good at it. Since we started Irish Imbas Books almost three years ago, we’ve had some great artists working with us, some of whom we hope to work with again.
A few weeks ago, as a trial, we decided to run some ‘alternative’, more fantasy-based covers for some of the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series books which can be seen below.
The first one is a version of the original cover (by the same artist) but, at the time, we felt it didn’t reflect the look we were going for so we decided not to run with it. The Fionn mac Cumhaill series is very much designed for an Irish audience (as opposed to the international ‘Celtic’ audience) and we work hard to make it as historically realistic and authentic as we can. We felt this version just didn’t support that intent.
The second cover variation – for Fionn: Traitor of Dún Baoiscne – was in a similar vein and portrays the woman warrior Liath Luachra in an almost ‘model-like’ fashion. Again, although its a nice image, we felt it didn’t accurately represent the character or the mood of the series.
At this stage, the intention is to replace these covers next month. We had intended to play around with them for only a week or two but I successfully managed to screw up some technical details, preventing us form doing so yet. In February however, we’ll resort back to the original, more realistic and gritty look.
We also have a new cover for the hard copy version of Fionn 1 (Defence of Ráth Bládhma) which we’ll be using for books ordered through non-Amazon/Createspace routes and will probably be commissioning a follow-up for the second and third books. The prequel to the series (Liath Luacha) will remain as it is for the moment.
This is kinda embarrassing so I’m not going to dwell on it.
Three months ago, in preparation for a sales event on St Paddy’s Day, I ordered a box of hard copy books from Createspace (over 50). During the online order process though, I must have been tired because I inadvertently selected ‘Niger’ instead of ‘New Zealand’ in the delivery address drop down box.
To be fair, I caught it almost immediately when I checked it the next day but by the time Createspace got my email asking them to amend it, the order had already been processed. Even worse, according to Createspace, it was simply not possible to change that address once something was dispatched (until the incorrect address was noted by the transporter and the box returned).
So there I was, watching online for over two months as I helplessly tracked my parcel of books doing a victory lap of the planet. The worst irony was that, having been initially sent from the States (?!) it ended up in … CORK! At that point I was leaping up from my chair, screaming at then to leave it there, that I’d get my family around to the warehouse to pick it up.
But, on no (wagging of finger!). That simply wasn’t possible.
Sadly, following the inexplicable vagaries of international travel, the parcel was subsequently dispatched to London, then onto Germany then back to Amsterdam where it remained sitting in a warehouse for weeks. Needless to say, I was a tad … well, pissed, actually as I’d missed the deadline for St Paddy’s and had to cancel the event I’d been planning. Of course it was my own fault and I had no-one else to blame (dammit!).
On the positive side however, I think I must grown a little more mature because I started to get a zen-like pleasure from going online to see where that box of books ended up next (OHHHMMMMMM!). I really did have high hopes for Africa and was secretly hoping it might reach Capetown or Nairobi. Seriously, there’s still some smidgen of the exotic in international deliveries like this. It all reminds me a bit of when I was living back home and used to get those blue and red-striped international airmail letters from around the world. At the time, that was really cool! (no, really!).
Anyway, the whole caper came to an unexpected end this week when the box turned up unannounced. In fact, my son actually brought it in and it was sitting in the hall for two days before I actually noticed it! It’s kind nice having a large selection of books at home an all but … Sheesh!
PS: If you really, really absolutely want to see what’s happening with the next Fionn that’s a draft of Chapter six off to the left that I was editing this morning.
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