Attached are some conceptual images we used during the development of the Dark Dawn project.
Here’s a bit of the draft media release:
The latest product from IRISH IMBAS is ‘Caomhaoir Fuilsmeartha/ Dark Dawn’. An experimental narrative project, told in both Irish and English, it relates the story of a dying warrior’s attempts to protect the isolated settlement of Ráth Bládhma – future home of Fionn mac Cumhaill – from a potential attack. Brian O’Sullivan describes the project as follows:
“Essentially, it’s the story of a sick warrior who’s convinced – against his better judgement – to try and save a tiny settlement. Over the course of the story, that warrior must make a number of decisions – all influenced by significant events in his own life – that can change the outcome of the story. It’s a very simple story. A very human story.’
We’re now looking at a release date in late April /early May 2021.
In terms of plot patterns, ‘Peaky Blinders’ is probably one of the best shows on television at the moment and I’ve had a lot of respect for the writer Stephen Knight ever since seeing his startlingly innovative series ‘Taboo’ with Tom Hardy.
This interesting interesting post from the Irish Times shows some of the links on which the ‘Peaky Blinders’ scripts related to Irish gunrunning were based.
Today I sent the completed manuscript off to my editor for a final check prior to its release in March so it seems apt to put it out again.
Emerging from the cave, the warrior woman found Murchú already mounted and waiting below the yew trees. Swaddled against the cold in his black cloak, he had the lower hem drawn up and held in place beneath his inner thighs. The sight of the Uí Loinge man poised so casually astride the animal took Liath Luachra by surprise. Too dazed to take note when he’d first arrived, she’d assumed Murchú had managed to make it to Luachair on horseback only through a combination of good fortune and determination. The restful pose and the relaxed manner in which the reins dangled loosely from his fingers however, suggested he was a more than competent horseman.
She was even more surprised when he reached down with one hand to help her mount. Looking from the hand to Murchú, then back at the hand again, she firmly shook her head.
‘All the way to Briga?’ He adjusted the folds of his cloak. ‘That could cost us days. Days we don’t have, Grey One.’
The woman warrior frowned and regarded the horse with a measure of distrust. She didn’t know much about horses and had always viewed them with wary circumspection. They were beautiful creatures to look at and had their obvious uses but they were also skittish and could let you down when you needed them most.
With crazy workloads and various schedule upsets last year (not looking at you, Covid!), Liath Luachra 3 (The Seeking) was one of the main projects I was working on to suffer unexpected delays. Originally, my intention had been to release the final book in December 2020, but the on again-off again nature of the way I’d been obliged to work throughout the year, meant that completing the project by that date just wasn’t feasible.
This situation probably wasn’t helped by the length of the story. Originally developed as an outline for a potential second season in the proposed television series, this required a plot that was far more complex than I’d originally planned. Add in the need to incorporate the first links and overlaps with the Fenian Cycle (and the later Fionn mac Cumhaill Series) and the wordcount quickly expanded.
At this stage, my current draft stands at 130,000 words (The Grey One – the first book with Liath Luachra – was about 97,000 words) and I don’t think the story I want to tell (in the manner I want to tell it, at least) will take less than 170-180,000 words to complete. As an independent creator, (or, at least for someone who does as much research and writes as slowly as myself) this amount of work to produce a single book isn’t viable. I’ve therefore decided to release Liath Luachra: The Seeking in two parts and as two separate books.
Given that the first half of the story (Part 1) is already done and dusted (edited, proofed etc. etc.), this will be released in a limited form on 1 March 2021.
I’ll be aiming to complete and release Part Two by June 2021.
For those who really, really want Part 1, the full details and links to reading options will be outlined in the next issue of our newsletter (Vóg) but at this stage, the plan is to make it available for download here on the Irish Imbas website and probably in limited paperback form.
Once Part 2 is ready to go, they’ll both be available far more widely (for those who prefer to read the entire story in one sitting).
It’s hard to believe but it’s apparently been two years since this home-made trailer for the Irish Woman Warrior Series ( a series of books on the fictional adventures of an Irish woman warrior and her mercenary war party, Na Cinéaltaí – The Friendly Ones) first appeared online.
It’s certainly been an interesting (and slightly ironic) ride since then, with two seperate screen production companies unexpectedly expressing interest in the first book (Liath Luachra: The Grey One), those rights subsequently being sold to Graisland Entertainment and the book itself being adapted into a script for a televsion series.
Watching my work being transformed into a television series script by someone as talented as Michael Grais (and being allowed to watch it’s development) has probably been one of the highlights of my publishing work to date.
I’m finishing up this year with a beautiful photo from Aida Pascual that summarises my feelings for 2020 and 2021 far more effectively than words probably could. 2020 was extremely hard for everyone and although there’s hope for stability and peace in 2021, for many that remains a distant goal across a dangerous traverse.
On the personal front, I’ll be working over the Christmas period – just not so much online – although I will be taking a break in January. In early 2021, I’ll be releasing ‘Liath Luachra: The Seeking’ as well as launching my experimental project ‘Dark Dawn/ Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha’ – two works I’ve struggled with during the pandemic and associated complications.
Later in 2021 (probably towards the end), should see the completion and release of ‘Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán’. I had hoped to restart (and finally publish) Beara 2: Cry of the Banshee at that point but experience has shown me that, with creative independent publishing, sometimes you just have to go with the unexpected fluctuations and plans often end up going by the wayside.
With respect to the two narrative series that people seem to enjoy most, Liath Luachra (The Irish Woman Warrior Series) has four books planned in total. That series will end and segue nicely into the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series (which will have six books in total). By the end of 2020, therefore, six of the proposed ten books will be complete.
As of the December 2020, I have eleven fully published works available in ebookstores or obtainable through individual bookshops. Over the last year, with my growing cynicism of the ‘Amazons’ and ‘Apples’ of this world, I’ve started selling several small items – mostly short stories – exclusively from my own bookshop at Irish Imbas Books. In 2021, I’ll probably be doing more of that as – longer term – I don’t think I can continue working with self-serving and community-damaging ‘Supercorprates’. That’s just me, though. I’m not advising or encouraging anyone else to do what I do. The approach I’m taking works for me because of my own personal goals and because of what I want to achieve. It makes little immediate financial sense for anyone trying to make money from writing books.
If you want to support me in this – probably flawed endeavour – you can find the bookshop here (Bookshop). That should be getting a facelift in 2021 too.
There’ll probably be several other changes taking place at Irish Imbas over the next year or so too but I’ll reveal those through my newsletter (Vóg) as they start to occur.
I’d like to finish by thanking those of you who’ve been supportive with what I’m trying to achieve through Irish Imbas. I’ve been exceptionally lucky to have met some outstanding people online as a result of various projects I’ve completed over the last few years and those are relationships I value and appreciate highly.
You know who you are.
Beannachtaí na Nollag oraibh, a chairde! Agus Athbhlian faoi mhaise.
Note: You can find Aida Pascual’s beautiful photograhy here: https://www.aidapascual.com/
When I first wrote this tale some twenty years ago, I was originally trying to create a situation involving a dialogue between two strangers, where you could never be entirely sure whether anything that was said was true. Over the course of the story, therefore, when the protagonist (a young Irishwoman called Kathy) first encounters Dahl, she shifts from scepticism to wonder and then back again, never entirely sure whether the Hungarian girl is what she claims to be – or, indeed, if she’s even Hungarian!
To create the level of surreal uncertainty needed to make this story work, I set it in the seaside town of Hove but supported the technique of ‘unreliable narrator’ with ‘unreliable environment’ – in this case a mist that obscures the town, temporarily removing the normal physical features that offer a contemporary societal context. The surreal circumstance is then further confounded by Dahl spinning one outrageous story after another – to the point where you have to believe she’s lying.
Unless she’s not.
Dahl is a great character to write as you can honestly make anything come out of her mouth sound plausible. I liked her so much, in fact, that I used her as the template for a character in Beara Dark Legends – another mysterious woman but with a far more developed personality. I’m hoping to write another short story with Dahl at some point when time allows.
Wondering what’s going on with FIONN 4 (Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán)?
Although I completed seven chapters of this book last year, the potential television series for Liath Luachra: The Grey One meant I had to transfer all my time to finishing the next Liath Luachra book instead. As a result, this has remained languishing for most of this year.
Fortuantely, with Liath Luachra: The Seeking now almost comlete, I’ll be transferring back to FIONN 4 in February/March next year and hopefully will finish it with a few months (the first 3-4 chapters are usually the hardest).If you want to see what’s happening in the Fionn mac Cumhaill world, you can however, get the Chapter 1/ Short Story – Fionn: The Twisted Trail here on the Irish Imbas Books website.
The blurb for that is as follows:
“While hunting with two children in the depths of the Great Wild, the woman warrior Liath Luachra becomes involved in a pursuit she’d rather have no part of.”
“FIONN: THE TWISTED TALE is set four years after the events in the last book in the series (FIONN: The Adversary).
I should also warn you that there are strong connections in the plot to Liath Luachra: The Seeking – and to the overall direction of the FIONN series.
I was intrigued by a recent image I came across from Polish illustrator Piotr Chrzanowski, as it includes an intriguing level of cultural authenticity that lifts him far above the usual visual representations of (what passes for) early Irish warriors/culture. Chrzanowski’s own description notes on the image describe it as:
‘Gaelic Irish raiders’ – a slavers warband. From the 7th century. Some wearing captured Saxon or Norse helmets.
For me, Chrzanowski’s image and note are particularly interesting as:
he doesn’t fall into the well-trodden fantasy trap of using the word ‘Celtic’ to describe Gaelic, Welsh, Manx, Breton and other cultures
his notes display a level of knowledge of certain ancient Irish culture/history that most people don’t have
What probably intrigued me most about the image was the reference to ‘slavers’ as it covers an aspect of ancient Irish culture many people prefer to gloss over – Irish slavery. Not to be confused with the “Irish were the First Slaves’ fantasy pushed by white supremacist nutters, this actually refers to the period when the Roman Empire deserted current-day Great Britain. For two to three centuries afterward, the country was left in such disarray, opportunistic Irish raiders were able to raid parts of it on a regular basis for goods and slaves.
That is, after all, how we managed to snaffle our national saint!
Apart from this personally appealing snippet, Chrzanowski’s work is worth checking out as his character design illustrations are particularly well done. You can find him at: https://www.facebook.com/piotr.chrzanowski.art/
The Sliabh Bládhma mountains are located in central Ireland and, according to geologists, they’re one of the oldest mountain ranges in Europe, purportedly once rising to a height of 3,700m. That’s hard to believe nowadays of course. Over millennia, erosion has worn the mountains down to 527 metres and they’re really more aptly considered as hills these days (although if the day is clear you can still see for miles in every direction).
Sliabh Bládhma was of interest to me, mostly because of its link to the Fenian Cycle – although, in truth, that’s something of a soft link. That comes uniquely through the medieval narrative Macgnímartha Finn) where its mentioned once in the story as follows (translated to English by Kuno Meyer)
Cumall left his wife Muirne pregnant. And she brought forth a son, to whom the name of Demne was given. Fiacail, son of Conchenn, and Bodbmall the druidess, and the Grey One of Luachair came to Muirne, and carry away the boy, for his mother durst not let him be with her.
Muirne afterwards slept with Gleor Red-hand, king of the Lamraighe whence the saying, “Finn, son of Gleor”. Bodbmall, however, and the Grey One, and the boy with them, went into the forest of Sliabh Bládhma. There the boy was secretly reared.
From a narrative/plot perspective, the story holds quite well as this isolated spot was the most apt area of wilderness contiguous to the areas in Leinster, the area which would have been most populated back in the Iron Age. It would also have been a logical place to set someone who’s on the run or in hiding.
Back in 1st and 2nd century Ireland, of course, the area would have looked vastly different to what it looks like now. On the day I passed through and walked the terrain, it was hard to associate those soft slopes, domesticated holdings and manicured forests (plantation forest as opposed to natural native forest) with the rugged and dangerous wilderness portrayed in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series of novels. Despite this, all the descriptions conform with the overall geography. The ‘The Great Mother’s mantle’ (the surface layer) may have changed dramatically over the centuries, but the topography remains largely the same.
These days, the hills around Sliabh Bládhma are very popular with walkers and day-trippers although the local tourist board shamefully insist on using the meaningless anglicized name (Slieve Bloom) in their communications rather than the Irish name which has far greater cultural resonance. Given its age, getting an accurate etymology for Sliabh Bládhma is very difficult and rife with vague interpretations. The Metrical Dinnshenchas (which you always have to take with a healthy dose of salt) suggests a number of reasons for the name, mostly linked to a character called ‘Blod, son of Cu’. Even if it’s not entirely correct however, the stories and historical associations with that name are far better and richer than the meaningless ‘Bloom’.
I’m pleased to announce that nearly all of my books can now be ordered through bookshops anywhere in the world (while recognising many of them are still closed due to the pandemic).
For the last six years or so, there’s really been only three paperbacks available in print outside of the Amazon system (Fionn 1, Fionn 2 and Beara 1). That’s mainly been due to the administrative complexity and the costs associated with placing books into the Ingram system (that’s the company who hold the ‘Print-On-Demand’ files and supply copies to the bookshops on request). After several years, I finally found time to get this task done. Sheesh!
Anyway, if you order a copy through a local bookshop let me know how it turns out as I’m curious to see how this works in practice from the other side.
Rinn Mhuintir Bháire – The Point/Headland of the People of Báire two years before the Age of Covid.
Twenty years ago this place used to be deserted although I once met a crazy woman on the side of a hill road, sitting quietly on a stool in the rain with her dress pulled up around her waist while she listened to a ghettoblaster. She was very pleasant, giving me directions (wrong, of course!) while we both ignored her surreal presence on that isolated botharin.
Even now, many years later, I still wonder what the hell she was doing there.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve been carrying out an immense amount of work on the Dark Dawn/ Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha Project. An experimental work unlike anything I’ve done before, it’s taken up an inordinate amount of time, far more than I’d ever envisaged when I first started it. Over 2020, the non-publishing workloads I’m subject to, work on a potential television series for Liath Luachra and the impact of the Covid-pandemic have also meant I’ve never been able to give it the full focus it required.
Even at this point however, an enormous amount of work still remains and I still have no idea if the finished product will work or not. The time I’ve allotted to fart around with this creation up till Christmas is very much an early Christmas present to myself.
In terms of goals, Dark Dawn/ Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha is my latest attempt at exploring a more culturally authentic approach to ancient Irish fictional narratives, something I’ve been attempting principally through my Fionn mac Cumhaill Series. In terms of plot, its quite a simple character-based story involving the character Ultán from Fionn Defence of Ráth Bládhma.
“It’s raining butcher knives and my chest aches but Fiacail has a plan. That’s the way of it! Little more than two days’ comfort here at Ráth Bládhma and already we’re caught up in its people’s problems.”
I’m aiming for release in the first quarter of 2021.
The paperback version (currently only at Amazon – here) will retain the existing version although by next month (December) any bookshops will be able to order you the updated cover for the paperback version as well.
There is a plan (kinda) here somewhere. New developments are happening on the Fionn front and that’ll be come apparent early next year.
In case you’re interested; here’s the blurb for the actual book:
Ireland: 192 A.D.
A time of strife and treachery. Political ambition and inter-tribal conflict has set the country on edge, testing the strength of long-established alliances.
Following the massacre of their enemies at the battle of Cnucha, Clann Morna are hungry for power. Elsewhere, a mysterious war party roams the forests of the ‘Great Wild’ and a ruthless magician is intent on murder.
In the secluded valley of Glenn Ceoch, disgraced druid Bodhmhall and the woman warrior Liath Luachra have successfully avoided the bloodshed for many years. Now, the arrival of a pregnant refugee threatens the peace they have created together. Run or fight, the odds are overwhelming.
And death stalks on every side.
Based on the ancient Fenian Cycle texts, the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series by Irish author Brian O’Sullivan is a gritty and authentic retelling of the birth and early adventures of Ireland’s greatest hero, Fionn mac Cumhaill. Gripping, insightful and utterly action-packed, this is Irish/Celtic fiction as you’ve never read it before.
This week I’m recommencing work on Dark Dawn/ Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha, a new kind of Irish adventure which I’m hoping to release in Janurary 2021. At this stage, I can only say that it’ll be quite different to anything I’ve produced so far.
Unfortunately, this project dropped by the wayside as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic (the associated lockdowns and the mad workload that resulted directly as a result of that). Given the amount of time I’d invested in it, that was something of a disappointment but it’s nice to think I can now start the ‘salvage’ process.
My preference is for the Irish title (Camhaoir Fulilsmeartha) which means ‘Bloodspattered Dawn’ as opposed to ‘Dark Dawn’. You can find the Goodreads link here: Dark Dawn/ Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha
One thread that occasionally raises its head throughout Irish mythology is the motif associated with the burial process of some rí (a word often mistranslated as ‘king’ but more accurately translated as ‘chieftain’) or mythological celebrities, where the corpse is bound upright or interred in the standing position, usually in defiance of an enemy or rival population group.
The early and medieval Irish literature contains several references in this regard but the most famous is probably linked to that of Cú Chulainn who, in a final act of defiance, ties himself to a standing stone to die on his feet. Facing his enemies, he remains upright for three days after he dies as they’re too terrified to come close (clearly, nobody thought of throwing a stone!).
Another celebrity associated with upright burials was Laoghaire (son of the infamous Niall). Famous for his hostile interactions with Saint Pat, Laoighaire is recorded (by Tíreachán) as being buried on the ridges of Tara, placed upright and facing south in defiance of the Leinster tribes. This follows somewhat in his father’s footsteps, given that Neill’s body was also said to have been held aloft by his tuath asa good-luck token when heading off to battle.
Early Irish literature has a few other references to the bodies of chieftains and heroes being buried upright and although there is a possibility that might have reflected some kind of burial ritual linked to the cult of warriors, it’s very much a literary motif rather than a historical one. As a result, you really have to be careful with its interpretation.