Well, this is a little victory in itself.
This book took a long time to get here.
I had the idea way back when I published The Soul of Adam Short, thinking about a YA novel set in Ireland, and the part of Ireland I know best is obviously South County Dublin and North Wicklow.
The problem of fires and farmers and the protection of nesting birds was something that started back then, and of course has kept going years later….
It merged with an idea I had when I was around 17….
The characters came separately, from a different inspiration.
It took a while to get the pen to paper, but my first typed document has a date of June 2015.
Then the first draft was done in 2018.
Yes. I can be 3 years on a book that’s only around 60k words!
I gave a copy of the third or fourth draft to my family – the younger ones – asking for feedback.
For a couple of years.
I got on with writing my long novel, Paul and the Pyramid Builders.
Then I asked my ex-publisher of Adam Short to have a look at it, and see if it was for the drawer.
She says it’s not.
So here it is. Edited and proof-read and ready for reviews.
Here’s the blurb….
Nicky and her two new friends, Mark and Ash, spend spring racing their mountain bikes through south Dublin – both down hillsides and hitching rides from HGVs – and exploring their feelings towards one another. They’re aghast to one day find an illegal fire on the mountain, just set by a farmer. When the police say they can do nothing about it, the three determine to catch the culprit red-handed. But life is as complicated as love, and as Nicky comes to terms with this, she discovers that sometimes you have to accept whatever little victories come your way.
It’s dedicated to my good friend Phil, no longer with us, who was a great man for the biking round south Dublin and Wicklow, though more on a road bike than mountain bike.
It’s on Pre Order now, and will be published before my birthday – Paddy’s Day to be exact.
March is when this novel kicks off, when the fires that beleaguer the Dublin and Wicklow mountains should be stopped rather than started.
Anyone who’s interested in a review copy can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy St. David’s Day, everyone.
Don’t forget, if you see a brush fire in Ireland from today, it’s illegal.
Winter, as it Should Be
Somewhat as it Should Be
Frozen fog has shut off any sights without the vale:
Only a few fields below the road and trees along:
Ash still green but paling, poplars rising glorious
In gold and rowan orange glowing. Goldfinches flee
But return easily to glean seeds to fuel against the cold
Ice clad grass banks and crown clods in shaded corners.
Chilled fingers fumble at the pen with these words, so I
Turn to the house, for use in clutching logs, and later,
Thawed to type by the fire, stopping by the spring
To fill the water bottle for a dram. The flow has not
Yet been helped by the recent rain and snow, I see,
But we’ve returned, somewhat, to winter as it should be.
I wrote this a few weeks back, when the weather was a little different. It’s clear that this Christmas is not white in much of Europe, but it’s whiteout in much of North America…. neither exactly what anyone wants…
Well, anyway, happy Christmas. Hope you’re warm wherever you are.
Some News on Novels
It’s been a while since I published a new novel.
I hope to have a YA set in Ireland out in the new year.
Meanwhile, some news: I’ll shortly be getting my copyright back on the five novels published with Tirgearr Publishing.
Once I do, I will do my best to get them back up for sale on Amazon, first as Ebooks. I am considering publishing them in print as well, and I have to admit I am in two minds – if you have an ebook, then it’s best to just download them. But if not… well, I hope there are folks out there who’d love to read them in print… I will get back to you on that. If anyone wants to comment either way, feel free.
As we see the fall of Twitter, and the fact of Meta failing and the Facebook basically falling also into disuse by at least a large proportion of folks in my friends lists, I am thinking of where to actually connect to readers and friends, apart from just here.
It’s true that the life of a writer is always hard, and getting readers to pick up our books never easy. The social media space has made it possible for some of us to sell some of our work.
And yet, at the same time, the whole selling scape is not often our favourite space. I personally rarely go on Facebook now – and I am one of the few people on the planet who legitimately need such a space to stay in touch with all the lovely people I’ve come to know over the years in my real life travels round the world. I feel the threads tying us together getting slacker, though, thinner. And in some respects this is inevitable, It would happen faster without the internet, but eventually it will happen anyway, as the years stretch on and we all get older.
In other respects, writing is something I will do regardless of who reads the work, and I will do it (am doing it because of constraints of real life) in my own time, despite the marketing mantra of getting new books out in front of folks’ eyes and having series to pull them in.
If anyone reads my poems you’ll see that it is out in the real world of Nature that I am happiest, and the writing comes when I am not there, from ideas I get while I am.
Those writings will come, as long as I live, and if the history of art has taught us anything, it’s that fame and life are not necessarily concurrent. We can only enjoy the work, and worry about everything else after. Nor is financial return any indication of merit.
I will continue to post my blogposts to Facebook, but you’ll not find me there much otherwise, so if you want to get in touch the best is to comment on these posts here on WordPress, and to write me at email@example.com
For when Twitter dies, I have joined Mastedon, and I here’s my page for anyone to follow: @David_J_OBrien@mastodon.ie
Meanwhile, here’s a poem I wrote a few years back. I think I might have posted it before, but it came to mind while writing this.
As we walk our world, we weave
A kind of tapestry about us:
Threads spread out, linking our lives
With those we meet.
Wonderful, a wheel of whirling strands
Swirling about us like glinting gossamer
Whipped on morning breeze across sunlit fields;
The thoughts and talks and memories
Shared and cared for across continents
But ultimately bitter-sweet,
For they inevitably wear thin over time,
We often fail to keep all attended to
To stop them breaking,
Trailing, frail, forgotten in the tangle,
And even the strongest spun silk can snap:
Stretched taut across landscapes,
When we walk too far.
Those we best attend to, too,
Weaken, and fade to invisibility
Eventually, severed, taken from us
When their own weaver leaves this ether.
How long will our own cloth survive,
When we’re not here to hold it?
As those that know us no longer
Hold memory of what we told them,
About our many connections, never
Mind our own names, and actions,
Faint after just a generation.
No wonder some strive to stencil
Their names in stone set into cathedrals,
Or indelibly upon a novel, poem or play
Which will carry on without us
When we’ve gone upon our way.
And It’s Glorious
The storm has eased, eventually.
Though cold, trees still, dripping yet,
Leaves left, strewn upon the street:
Sheets of gold and ochre. Streams of
Sticks and twigs clog the gutters,
Grown to spreading pools, reflecting
Gorgeous tempest survivors overhead.
And it’s glorious: a rare, raw, glimpse
Of our world without the concrete.
At least until the sweepers resume,
Scouring nature with their plastic brooms.
A Few Seconds of Eternity
A few Seconds of Eternity
A hubbub surrounds several idling cars:
Kids running between house and driveway
As the gang gets ready to leave on Sunday,
Carrying bags and banging shutters closed.
Asking, “Have we left anything behind?”
“Well, here it stays till next weekend,” replied,
For we’ve baths and dinners to have this evening
If we ever get on the road home.
Eventually, the door locked and all packed in,
Bar me, standing in the garden as the cars
Reverse out, waiting to close the gate, taking in
The scene surrounding us as every evening:
Silence settling o’er the vale as the breeze
Slows to swing round from afternoon heat
On the southern plains beyond the hills,
Set in scarlet, under clouds tinged pink.
The sparrows have ceased squabbling
In the hedges for roosting spots, chirping
Softly as crickets; the sky turquoise east,
Glowing golden west; the oaks go on growing
Under Saturn and early stars starting to shine,
As they have for eons, breathing in, quietly,
As the gate squeaks shut; all is mine,
For a few seconds, immersed in an eternity.
Often ‘Tis the little moments that make this life wonderful.
The Dance of the Gnats
In slanting sunlight along hedges warmed
Hordes of gnats amass in glittering swarms
Like plumes of dust thrust up
From the ground burst open, abounding,
In an ultimate race to lay eggs ere autumn:
A bountiful sign summer rests on last legs,
Yet, at least, as the flourishing knots
Feed the gathering flocks of swallows
Ere their exodus, fill lizards left lying on
Stone even cooling, fatten bats come twilight,
An indication our Earth brims, still:
Life resides, ready to thrive when we let it.
While they fly I will delight
In the dance as long as lasts this light.
Autumn has finally arrived, with a storm, some rain and wind and now chilly foggy mornings. And very happy we are to see it, and the flies dying as they should to be born again next spring…
The Last Cabaret
Marching bands and ballerinas
Parade the street, pulling public,
Producing impromptu dances
Around pushchairs and infants
Held aloft; cheering and chants
And stampings, stampeding
Children screaming gleefully
Gobbling up potato chips, fried
Calamari, scampi and such snacks
Washed with beer and wine,
Vermouth and gin and an ever-
Growing list of sin, resisted
Until the wee hours under stars,
Revelling unrelenting. Renewed
As sunlight reveals debris and
Blinkered vision revolves to
Another village, a different festival,
Of a reencountered countryside
Ready for recreation after a year
Of restraint and restriction. See
A need for sun burning, but
Another urge underneath fuels
This seeming endless summer:
A sense of a September looming
Despite peaceful scenes.
Heat will resist yet, bringing
Only waves of pain. Winter comes
Indeed, but carries no snow,
Nor silent ice-glazed stasis,
Only storms. The wars await,
Worse than after a former August
And this is our last cabaret,
Held under a hammer cocked,
A trigger primed, and all
Staggering at the tipping-point.
We were finishing up the festival of San Fermin Txikito, or little San Fermin, last weekend, which was kind of the last festival of the summer – one which had the youths going to as many festivals in as many villages round Pamplona as they could get to, after the two years they missed out on because of the Covid restrictions. And I just said to myself – good luck to them. They’ll have shit shovelled out in front of them soon enough. We have had a terrible summer in terms of exacerbated “natural” disasters, but as the weather gets cooler, we can only look forward to a winter, if not of discontent, then of a realisation of how bad things are going to get (in the privileged west where it hasn’t actually started yet unlike many other places) on our current global trajectory. We just have to turn down the thermostat here, and shorten the shower times, while in other places they’re kinda sorta fucked, as it were.
After I’d written this poem, someone on twitter, commenting on the current fiasco in the UK compared it to Weimar economics, and look how that ended up – suggesting we have a final cabaret.
So it’s not just me, of course…
I have few photos to illustrate this poem for obvious reasons…. who wants their photo on the internet with a pile of beer bottles etc. round them? I wouldn’t! But no judgement if you’re enjoying yourself – a drink before the war, as Sinéad sang…
September Still acts like Autumn after all
We have finally got some decent days of rain – and who’d have thought we’d be saying such words even a couple of decades ago?
September has returned, and the swimming pools have closed – an important part of the end of summer even in this cooler part of Spain.
So here’s a short poem inspired by the last dip a couple of weeks ago…
Chill seeps through skin and up
Legs creating a repelling shiver
Shaken off at last, reluctant leap,
Sweeping sweat away in one
Stroking refreshing lengths of
The clear water, vibrant, energized,
Once out, heat resting upon
The village becomes welcome again.
Soaking afternoon sun
Seems summer holds yet
Tight to the terrain. Still
Leaves left lying upon pool tiles
Tell a different tale:
September has returned;
Trees not dry of drought turn,
Blackberries shrivelled on brambles
Sloes fallen from thorns, walnuts
Weakly cling to limp twigs;
Chestnut spikes lie scattered
On forest floor, surprisingly, as if
We’d somehow forgotten
Autumn would come, and
At first, as evening chill envelops –
Our inertia preferring to ignore it.
Yet, when jumpers dug out of drawers,
We’ll embrace the breeze:
As bracing as this latest bathe.
Drought Triggers Fall like Frost
Drought Triggers Fall like Frost
The forest climbs either side of the valley
Up from the river gulley, glinting pools and
Protruding rocks, grey against green,
Except where steeply narrows, now
Auburn, gold and orange like autumn
Came in August as trees let their leaves
Fall on the shallow soil rather than farther
Toil for little gain under the strain
Of such a fiery glare all summer long.
Of Plastic and Plasticity
Of Plastic and Plasticity
Peering out over open water: green wash,
No spot of black to mark a seal, nor sight
Of white to indicate ice upon which to strike,
The bear turns about, towards dry land,
And trundles away from the shore,
Following a novel scent, not so sure
To signify a meal, but more appealing
Than sterile saline. The stench of humans
Almost overpowers hunger, pull of putrefaction,
But cautiously the bear pads across scraped
Gravel and strands of soft stuff –not snow – and
Colourful lumps, shiny hard strips and bits.
A sharp set of claws upturns tins and other
Things the bear has never seen, and finds skin,
Bones and shreds of flesh of prey never tasted:
Not even raw; changed in a way it can’t fathom.
Other animals abound – gulls and foxes and
Neighbour bears. But she fights for her share
Of the spread-out spoils of some unknown
Carnage, scavenging scraps of flesh amid debris,
Some of which is stuck with string, some
Clinging to wrappers – has to be eaten also –
But are surely shed easily enough
As would be ingested seal skin and bone.
Some men with glasses from a far observe
The animal with consternation, as it with
Relish ingests the refuse: Earth’s greatest
Quadruped predator reduced to such. But
Others shrug at suggestions of contamination,
Considering the data and the sea state –
Since even artic snow and summer rain contain
The same chemicals as the landfill, and
The seals are a dish equally intoxicating
From fish swimming in poisoned brine.
What use, they wonder, a pristine scene
Without seals within reach of a beach,
Other than to produce a perfectly clean
Bear carcass: healthy except for hunger?
The bear, on the other hand, now on land,
Is pulled by the wind past the dump, to
More varied carrion. Carcasses lie in woods:
Caribou, moose, deer and musk oxen;
Moving, the quarry could become new prey
Replacing seals, if bears become plastic enough.
The pinipeds themselves, if they are to survive,
Shall someday have to haul up on a shore to pup;
Walrus, too, must beach for calves to breach.
Eventually, perhaps, an adaptation to such crap
From our waste, awash in any water, solid or not,
They encounter, can give a chance for all species
To scarcely subsist somehow in a new balance.
But such hopes fast melt in plasticity’s absence.
Not the most up-beat of poems, but in some way a tiny bit optimistic for the predator if not species of large mammal facing the most precarious future of us all….