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Small Pleasures in the Pandemic

It’s always nice when a box of books arrives at the door, a delivery I tend to limit to once a year. Usually, this occurs only when I’m releasing one of my own books (Liath Luachra: The Seeking, in this case) or printing off a small number of books for presents/reviews, or treating myself to a rare book gift from home.

This year however, given the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s a particular poignancy to the annual ritual. I’m currently based in New Zealand (something I’m very grateful for every day) – an isolated island at the edge of the planet. It’s very difficult to make or to receive deliveries here due to the international mail disruption and the reduced number of aircraft carrying goods to this part of the world. To send a book to America from here, can currently take up to four weeks. To Australia (just “across the ditch”) it can take three.

And just last week (early March), I recieved a whole bunch of Christmas mail from Ireland.

This year, I couldn’t get the books I wanted to order from lreland so I focussed instead on updating my own stock. In the scheme of things, of course, I’ve nothing to complain about.

I’m more than happy with that.

Upcoming Projects

With the ‘soft’ release of Liath Luachra: The Seeking, I now have a slight breather where I can mull over future works in the pipeline and consider what’s coming up next.

In terms of “Definitely Coming Soon”, I can confirm priority on the following projects:

(1) Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha/ Dark Dawn
This Irish/English language project will be released in May/June 2021. You can find a little more information on this at: HERE.  

(2) Liath Luachra: The Metal Men
Given that this completes the story in ‘The Seeking’ I’m keen to get this finished and released as soon as possible. I’m feeling pretty confident about getting this out as five chapters are already in ‘close to final’ draft (i.e. they’re written but haven’t yet been touched by the red pens of partner K (my first ‘rough’ reader) and editor Madame Palamino Blackwing.   

(3) Fionn: Stranger from Mullán Bán This novel has been sitting patiently in my drawer for well over a year now. The first six chapters are done and dusted so this will be the immediate priority after ‘The Metal Men’. As usual though, its completion will depend on the intensity of my freelance work and how much publishing time I have available. The first chapter/short story can be found here on the Irish Imbas website (Fionn: The Twisted Trail)

New and Potential Projects

From past experience, I know it’s just impossible to foresee what I’ll be prioritising once these initial three projects are completed. Every year for the past five years, some major event has unexpectedly slammed in from the side and thrown all my well-laid plans to the winds. At present, these are the projects on my work table. Hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll have a better idea which ones I’ll be working on.   

(1) Irish Mythology Project
This is a substantial non-fiction project I’ve been working for over two years. Basically, it’ll explain – in a practical manner – how Irish mythology works, how you can use it apporpriatey and effectively and how you can make it personally relevant (or not).    

(2) Smaller Irish Mythology Project
This is a fiction-based mythology project. Possibly another Short Story Collection – I’m not entirely sure yet.  

(3) A Liath Luachra novella
A prequel-novella based on an event in Liath Lauchra’s life during her first year with Na Cinéaltaí.

(4) Beara 2 and Beara 3
This is a substantial piece of work given the size of the existing book but I’m keen to get this story finished.

(5) An Irish Battle Series 
This is a short, three-book series based on on the events leading up to a major Irish battle and the people who took part in it. 

(6) Cú Chulainn
I’ve also recently been thinking of doing a series on Cú Chulainn (i.e. from an Irish/Gaelic perspective as opposed to the anglicized fantasy stuff that’s usually served up). The Cú Chulainn story is actually one that’ll be very difficult to adapt for a contemporary audience while keeping it culturally authentic. I suspect this will probably take a lot of commitment in terms of time (for research, scoping and actual writing).

Please feel free to let me know if any of these projects sound of interest to you.

FACEBOOK rejects Irish Woman Warrior Fantasy for animal welfare reasons.

I had a bit of fun with ‘Facebook Shops’ recently.

A recent attempt by the social media company to break into the eCommerce market, I’d generally avoided Facebook Shops in the past as it was simply too difficult to load products onto it. Remarkably complicated and driven by a clunky algorithm, it always seemed to come up with some amusingly obscure reason for rejecting my books. After loading the few books it would accept, I left the others and promptly forgot about it.

A few days ago when I was launching another book (called ‘Liath Luacra: The Seeking’) I decided to try Facebook Shops again for visiblity reasons but ended up with an even more surreal response than ususal. An adventure series dealing with the experiences of a young woman warrior in 1st century Ireland (and linked to the Fenian Cycle), the book cover depicts the protagonist – a very feral character – in a scene where she’s adorned in black and white war paint. This is the cover:

When I submitted the book cover to Facebook Shops, this was the response I received. Note the policy that Facebooks says I’ve violated!

Apparently, the Facebook algorithm thinks she’s a zebra!!

LIATH LUACHRA: THE SEEKING has been released (kinda)

As promised, Liath Luachra: The Seeking is finally being released today. It’s something of a ‘soft’ launch however (in that you wont see much fanfare) as the book will only be available in digital form through the Irish Imbas Books website (and in paperback form through Amazon) for the next month or two.  After that, it’l lbe relased wider.

Part of the reason for this apporach is that the story’s a two-parter to be completed in Liath Luachra: The Metal Men, which I’m hoping to finish and release in the next 4-5 months or so. I’m not overly comfortable putting out a completely unfinished story but people were demanding something be released and this seemed like a good medium.

It’ll be interesting to see the reaction the cover gets when it’s released wider than this website. As covers go, it’s a bit confrontational and controversial (given the naked – albeit desexualised – woman on it). Those who know the character or who’ve read the book will ‘get it’, of course.

Brian Mahy – an artist who I really enjoy working with – was given the task of designing a cover that represents a scene from the book where the character is naked. To do this, I asked him to make the protagonist clearly recognisable as feminine while also ensuring it wasn’t sexualised. I think he did an excellent job of that and also in reflecting the ferla nature of the character. You can find more of Bryan’s work at Bryan Mahy Artstation or Bryan Mahy Behance.

Where Can I Get IT?


You can get the digital version HERE.

The paperback version on Amazon is available HERE but note that this link may change depending on which country you’re living in. If you search for it, it’ll probably only appear if you look it up in the ‘Books’ section as oposed to the ‘Kindle’ section. If you’re based in Great Britian – the whole Brexit mess menas a lot of books don’t appear on Amazon UK.

I have to admit, it’s not my preference to make the paperback available uniquely on Amazon, unfortunately most other paperback distributers have made it too expensive to go through them at the moment.

By the way, you should also be aware that there appear to be delays with the shipping of paperback products from Amazon. I ordered several paperback copies recently for review purposes and probably won’t get them until mid- to end- March. If you’re downloading through the Bookfunnel system meanwhile, remember that it can take up to two hours (admittedly rare) to receive the file and if you have a gmail address the email may end up in one of the more obscure folders.

Interesting Parallels with Irish Culture

Recently, the Cherokee Nation in the United States gave notice to Stellantic – the company making ‘Cherokee Jeeps’ – that it was time to stop using their name and culture for commercial branding purposes. This followed actions by other American tribes (e.g. pressures on the Washington Redskins football team to change their name, the Navaho tribe taking J.K. Rowling to account for her use of their cultural belief systems for her ‘fantasy magic’ stories etc. etc.) and indigenous peoples in other countries to prevent the misuse and misrepresntation of their culture by commerical entities.

Ireland’s in an interesting place in that regard. We’re not an indigenous people like native Americans – except perhaps in Ireland (or parts of it!) – yet our history means that we’ve ended up one of the few countries in the western world where individuals and commercial entities from other countries feel completely free to come in and ‘cherry pick’ aspects from it, for their own commerical purposes.

That’s a very simplistic summary of course. There are many different aspects to this and very many layers which first need to be looked at before we can even start to understand how we got to where we are.

Still, it’s an interesting parallel and I’m seeing an increased levels of anger amongst Irish people at the way in which ‘Irishness’ is transformed to ‘Oirishness’ for commercial and branding reasons.

‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ anyone?

You can find a link to a Guardian article on the Cherokee situation here:

Patterns in History and Mythology

You can’t really understand mythology if you don’t have the culture and the historical context – one of the reasons Western-based “internet mythology” remains an ‘entertainment’ rather than actual ‘knowledge’.

When it comes to mythology, one of the biggest mistakes people tend to make is an enthusiatic and frenzied focus on individual events and records rather than the longer term patterns. It’s a basic scientific principle that nothing makes sense unless it’s repeated (ie. it’s reproducible) and that truth holds just as well for mythology.

Attached is a link to a recent NYT article on an ancient Roman pandemic which gives a good example of this kind of thinking (although related to historical events rather than mythological). Obviously, you can’t compare apples with oranges but there are certaily clear patterns to be found if you look closely enough.

The Antonine Plague

Dark Dawn Project Update

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.

PEAKY BLINDERS’ IRISH SCRIPT LINKS

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.

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/real-life-peaky-blinders-how-the-ira-sourced-guns-from-the-birmingham-mob-1.4452366

IRISH WOMAN WARRIOR ON A HORSE

This was a snippet from Liath Luachra: The Seeking which I first put online this day a year ago.

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.

‘I’ll run.’

‘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.

And, of course, they were also rather high.

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[Image from the film, “Centurion”]

Liath Luachra: The Seeking

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).

Liath Luachra – Teaser Trailer

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 seriously considering doing a trialer for the Beara Trilogy and the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series now to see what happens!

The End. And the Start.

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.

Brian O’Sullivan

[December 2020]

Note: You can find Aida Pascual’s beautiful photograhy here: https://www.aidapascual.com/

FIONN: Stranger At Mullan Ban: Whats Happening?

Fionn mac Cumhaill Series

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.

There will be blood.

Walking “the Great Mother’s Mantle”

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’.

Paperback Books

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.

THE HEAD OF THE SHEEP

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.

Dark Dawn/ Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha

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.

Time for a Change

Ireland: 192 A.D. A time of strife and treachery.

Ireland 2020: Somewhat similar but now we have the Covid-19 virus as well.

Just for information, I’ve set up a new cover for the digital version of FIONN: Defence of Rath Bladhma which you can see above.

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:

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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.