Big news from Amazon. They are introducing Kindle to India.
A huge English speaking market.
We writers need to take heed of this. The potential there is simply huge.
I’ll be doing some research and trying to see how to make an impact.
The first few pages of any novel is so critical, whole books have been devoted to how to write them. I’ve read a few and honestly can’t say I learned anything useful I didn’t already know. One does read first pages that have obviously followed the creating writing class formula to the tee. It’s obvious and makes me wince. I’ve done twelve novels now so I know when I’ve got it right. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s a bloody struggle. Just occasionally it’s so right it makes me smile and feel guilty for feeling so satisfied. I wish I could pass on the formula. I really wish I could because then I could get right every time myself.
The most difficult starts I have is on one of my series novels. I am mindful of wanting each to stand alone and be enjoyable without having to read any others in the series. That presents a great challenge. How much back story can I put in without annoying those who’ve read the pervious novels in the series? How much character introduction do I need to achieve the same thing? How to intrigue and draw the reader in without being too obvious?
I have two examples here which I believe do the job well enough to give me that grin. The first is from number 2 in the Daniel Series: Challenge. The task here was to set the plot historically; the opening of the Falklands War in 1982 and describe the role of the principal characters. I also needed to introduce the two main protagonists: Lauren and Bonny and ease the reader into an understanding of their unusual relationship. I think it worked.
What do you think?
Chapter 1. April 1982. Bad News.
To: Mrs B.A. Dawes. From:CINCFLEET Operational Headquarters, Northwood, Middlesex. It is my sad duty to inform you that your husband, Lieutenant Commander Daniel Dawes DSC/Bar FAA 826NAS R.N. has been reported missing (presumed dead) while on active service in the South Atlantic on or about the 29th April 1982. I regret I have no further information at this time but will be in touch immediately if any further information becomes available. Captain F.L.W. Jones RN.
“That’s it word for word, Lauren,” said Bonny. She set down the note and held the phone with both hands to try to stop the quiver.
“I’m coming now, darling. Hang on. I’ll make a few calls first and see what I can find out, but please don’t worry. I don’t believe this and neither should you. Hold on, Bonny, I’m coming.”
Bonny went to the front door, opened it and stood gripping the frame to steady herself. The wind was chill and strong. Twenty yards away across the lawn, the waters of the Dart estuary were being whipped to a muddy brown soup. The great weeping willow at the water’s edge danced and flailed as its thin branches whistled and wind-wailed. This can’t be true. Lauren is right, this is crap. My DD isn’t dead. I’d feel it. I would know. Daniel won’t die so easy. Oh bloody hell, am I kidding myself. This is a proper war. A big gun and bomb and missile war, not like… no, no, Daniel’s not dead. Bonny shivered and stepped back inside. She slammed the door hard, threw her head back and howled and cursed as loud as she could. When she felt herself grow faint with the exertion and breathlessness, she sank to her knees, laid her head down on the old-oak floor boards and cried. The warm musky smell from the boards suddenly intruded on her anguish as she had a vivid recall. She was laid on the floor near the roaring fire. The big rug had not masked the warmed wood scent rising beneath her. Bonny’s senses were on fire as Daniel lay beside her, playing her body from toes to bliss-closed eyes. The smell of burning logs mingled with wine and the male musk of Daniel and her own arousal and lingering perfume, all there, but that old oak wood scent had stuck uppermost in her sense-memory and now it brought all those associated memories flooding back. Bonny sat up and touched her finger to her lips, remembering the touch of Daniel’s lips there. No, my Daniel is alive and he will be back to kiss me again.
Bonny had only been Mrs Dawes since just before Daniel had sailed for the Falkland Islands and a possible war. He had insisted on marriage for very pragmatic reasons to do with pensions and life insurance and had pulled some strings to get the whole thing pushed through quickly. Bonny and Daniel had been living together for a little over three years. Their first six months had been spent in a lovely apartment at Cultra on the shores of Belfast Lough. When Daniel had come for flight training to Cornwall, they’d found their idyllic cottage overlooking the Dart estuary. The cottage had been advertised for sale on a postcard in a local shop and they’d bought it the same day. The owner was also navy and the cash price agreed was very reasonable. Bonny had used an inheritance from her father and Daniel had put in his savings.
Bonny-Ann Dawes was twenty-three years old but could pass for sixteen at a casual glance. She was a little less than five foot tall and had long thick black hair framing a round girlish face with prominent cheekbones and huge bright hypnotic eyes. They were palest grey blue with rings of yellow and emerald flecks. She had thick dark eyebrows and plump ripe lips and her skin was that flawless white that only Irish girls seem to have. Her small stature only became apparent when you stood close, because her figure was so well proportioned it made her look taller from a distance. She had curves, abundant curves to hips, thighs, waist and bum and, most noticeable of all, breasts. These, her most prominent feature, were near melon-sized and -shaped and sat high and firm on her chest. All these female curves were not soft and girly but taut and well muscled. Bonny had spent the past three years exercising twice a day and it showed in her hard-defined low-fat athletic physique. Much to her delight but less so Daniel’s, she had also dropped three bra cup sizes. This athletic quality to her body had been encouraged by her relationship with the woman she had phoned. Lieutenant Lauren J. Greer. She was a Physical Training Instructor at the Britannia Naval College in Dartmouth. Daniel and Lauren had worked together in their native Belfast for a highly secret military intelligence unit known as detachment 16. They had used a driving school as cover for their operations and it was as a pupil there that Bonny had first met Daniel and later Lauren. Bonny’s father had been one of the people det16 were targeting.
Bonny was in a daze and time passed unnoticed. Again, Bonny thought about the meaning of this note and over and over she thought about why she didn’t believe. Daniel had survived four attempts on his life during his time in Belfast and had come through unscathed. Other people died, two of his team had died and Bonny’s cousin Ray and her own father and many others but not Daniel. He didn’t do dying. Daniel was the rock. She and Lauren and his det16 intelligence team all depended on his unflappable calm and razor sharp awareness of danger to keep them safe. He couldn’t possibly be dead.
The war had not even started on the 29th. How is this possible? It’s a mistake and Lauren will fix it. Wonderful organised sorted Lauren will get the truth and make this inconceivable message go away. She will bring our beloved Daniel back to us.
Bonny heard a car on the gravel as Lauren’s little blue Renault 5 Gordini screamed up the long drive and skidded to a dusty stop. Lauren erupted out of the car and sprinted to the door. She was wearing a dark blue sweat top with navy badges, very brief running shorts and short white socks and trainers and was carrying an incongruously ornate and girly handbag. Her blond hair was tied back in a ponytail. She wore a long fringe cut straight across her eyebrow line. Her skin was tanned bronze and shining. Her remarkable sprinter’s muscles popped and bulged as she flew up the garden path, a picture of athletic perfection. Bonny ran to the door and, as she opened it, Lauren scooped her into her arms and hugging her, held her face and kissed her. Bonny’s eyes filled with fear as she fought back tears: “Tell me it’s not true, Lauren. Please tell me it’s a mistake. It can’t be true, I’d feel it if he was gone, but I feel him in me strong. He’s not dead.”
Lauren, at five ten, was much taller than Bonny and so strong that she had lifted her off her feet so Bonny now hung with her arms around Lauren’s neck, looking into her eyes, searching for clues of what she might know. Lauren lowered her to her feet, took her hand, led her to the couch and sat close beside her: “Bonny darling, I have phoned some people who are looking into it as we speak. They have this number and will phone us here soon. I phoned Rear Admiral Ranson. He was our boss at det16, remember. I also phoned my father. He still has many friends high up at the Admiralty and a few others I know at Northwood. I think you’re right, sweetheart – Daniel is not dead. This letter is bollocks.”
Lauren made them tea as Bonny talked in the spontaneous nervous way people in shock do. “If he hadn’t wanted to fly he would be all right. He’s a submarine hunter. Surely that’s not very high risk even down there and the news has made no mention of any accidents apart from that one Sea King that went down on a transfer flight. That crew was named. There’s something screwy here. Someone knows and isn’t telling. It’s spy stuff for sure. I’ll bet they’ve dragged him back into sneaky stuff again. Do you think that could be it, Lauren. Spy stuff again? Could he be in Argentina?”
The next is from number 5 Judgement. I really like this one. The task here was complicated by the need to introduce four children and three adults. Plus set the back story.
Chapter 1. Mimosa Again.
Dee Josephine Dawes stood at the foot of the bed and looked at her father as he lay snoring. She was well used to the sound and found it comforting if she awoke at night. If she didn’t hear his distinctive night call she would feel ill at ease and have difficulty getting back to sleep as she worried where he was. Sometimes, like tonight, she would get up and come to her parents’ bedroom to listen at the door or peek in to reassure herself that all was well. Tonight she hadn’t heard the sound and had come for her reassurance. As she opened the door and peered in, she heard Mammy Bonny making her usual puffing sound. Bonny lay on her back one arm over her head with the huge white globes of her breasts silver in the moonlight. Beside her in the same bed was Dee’s mother, Lauren, silent and still with the sheet cast off as usual. Her long golden hair looked like pure silver in the moonlight streaming in through the huge windows that made up one wall of the bedroom.
Papa was not in the same bed and Dee was alarmed for a second until she stepped into the room and saw him in the small double bed by the wall. He was curled up on his side and when she came to the foot of his bed he rolled onto his back, grunted and began to snore. She could see the big plaster just below his neck that covered the wound. Dee shivered when she saw that and had a vivid flashback to the moment when Papa had been shot and she had thought he was gone. She made herself stop thinking about it and instead remembered the night she had spent in the hospital bed with him when she had woken frightened from her dreams. He had talked to her about her fears of death. That had been so nice and she wished she could get into his bed now and cuddle to make herself feel better and to hold him so he wouldn’t go away or die.
Suddenly there was silence and Dee saw his eyes shining bright and open. He lifted the side of his sheet in invitation and she came and snuggled up by his side. She laid her head on his chest and felt the soothing beat of his heart and the heat of his body. His arm came down her back and he patted her bum gently as he whispered: “Bad dreams, sweetheart?”
“No, Papa. I just woke up and couldn’t hear you and wanted to make sure you were alright.”
He lifted her long strawberry blond hair from her face and kissed her softly on the forehead, and that was all she needed to relax and drift away to the familiar lullaby of his heartbeat.
Across the room Lauren had opened her eyes and saw her daughter standing at the foot of Daniel’s bed, looking at him. Her first instinct was to call her but she waited and saw Daniel beckon Dee to the comfort of his cuddle. Tears came to Lauren then and she had to suppress the sigh she felt rise in her. Daniel had been right when he had warned that Dee would take the trauma of the past weeks harder than the others. Little Dee was so serious and such a thinker, even at just six. “No, six and a half, Mama.” She could be startlingly perceptive and would say and do things that made her seem much older. Ever since her father’s latest brush with death, she had been ill at ease when he was away from her. During the time when he had remained in hospital and the family had returned to the sanctuary of Bonny-Mimosa,Dee had been unhappy and fretful and insisted on speaking to him every day on the phone. Everyone, including the other children, tried to reassure her without success. They had been in the pool this afternoon when Daniel and Dave arrived. Daniel had shouted from the road above in the valley. Lauren had watched Dee’s reaction as she leapt from the pool with the others. Kathy, Christine and David had stood by Bonny’s side and bounced and yelled. Dee had come to Lauren, taken her hand and said very softly over and over, “It’s OK now. Papa’s here now, it’s OK.”
When they emerged from the car five minutes later, Daniel had been nearly bowled over in the stampede to hug him, a charge led by Bonny. He had staggered in with Kathy, David and even the usually reserved Christine clinging to him, and Bonny bouncing by his side. Lauren had put on her swimsuit but Bonny was as usual, completely unaware of her nakedness, and the presence of Dave made no difference. Dave tried hard to avert his eyes but Bonny’s so female abundance was impossible for any heterosexual male to ignore. He busied himself getting their stuff from the hire car as the naked squealing scrum came into the house. Daniel collapsed on the sofa buried in children and Bonny. Dee stood holding Lauren’s hand, grinning and waiting. Daniel managed to shuck the excited huggers off and opened his arms to Dee, who let go her restraint and threw herself into his embrace, crying tears of relief and happiness.
Lauren heard the bedroom door again and Kathy’s round pale face appeared like a little moon. There was a whisper, then Christine appeared and they came to the side of Daniel’s bed. They stood holding hands obviously unsure about disturbing their father and sister. Kathy was only a week younger than Dee, and Christine fifteen months, but Dee was the big sister and thought she was the boss. Kathy challenged that assumption frequently, but still they were reluctant to risk annoying her now because they were well aware how upset Dee had been. Without opening his eyes, Daniel lifted his sheet and they got in beside him. Kathy couldn’t contain her excitement and let out a little squeak that woke Dee. As they all settled, enveloped in their father’s arms, Dee looked at Kathy across his chest and whispered: “Bugger.”
Kathy stuck out her tongue but didn’t rise to the challenge as she usually would. A few moments later the door opened again and David appeared. He looked at his sisters cuddled up beside Daniel and he too let go what was becoming the family’s familiar curse: “Bugger.”
Lauren waved him to her, and when he was close she lifted him and set him between Bonny and herself. Bonny whispered: “Never mind, darling, it’s much nicer for you here between the soft Mammies.” She hugged him and got a muffled. “Ummph, Mammy I can’t breathe in here.”
She released him from the pillows of her breasts and he curled up on his mother’s shoulder and was soon asleep. Lauren turned towards Bonny and in the silver rays could see her big round luminous eyes open and moist with emotion. Lauren reached across and put her hand on Bonny’s cheek and felt the damp of her tears, as she too was moved, shedding happy sad tears of relief and loving empathy.
Like I said, I know when it works but I can’t say how it works.
To people of my age, let’s say those born before 1960: life is full of astonishment. One need only consider this – this blog, this Mac, I’m writing on, this internet, this whole world that’s opened to us now. When I was a teen and getting into wordcraft, books, poetry and the magical world of the great literature I discovered in libraries – I was astonished.
I was enthralled by the possibilities and the newness. My little world expanded hugely, fed by books and photographs and films and imagination. Since then, I have watched the technological explosion brought about by PC’s and the web and the resulting avalanche of world wide instant communication with glee and joy.
I think younger folks don’t really appreciate what they have because it’s always been there for them. They don’t rememeber when there was only print and film and then TV. They don’t recall how rare even phones were. I do and I celebrate the liberation and true freedom of expression we now have. I am a still a little in awe of it. And yes, some of the evils that hitched a ride are nasty and unwelcome – but still – sit back and think about what we can do now? Really think about the possibilities of this communication revolution and then tell me it’s not really astonishing.
I am still struggling to keep up with the speed of change. Twitter is still a challenging stranger I’m trying to make friends with but I’ll get there, just as I got there with Indie publishing. Thanks to the new modern communication giant Amazon – I can speak to the world through my novels and my voice is not muted by the gatekeepers of the commercial publishers seeking the next big thing that fits their formulas.
Yes I really am astonished and celebrate this new smaller big world.
Daniel walked through the garden to the shoreline. The tide was out and he was able to slip out of his shoes and walk along the water’s edge. It was fine silt-mud this far up the estuary, but he enjoyed the feel of it squelching through his toes as he slowly made his way down towards the sea. The sun was gone behind the hills in the west but it was still a fine light evening with a lovely red glow to the sky behind the cottage. He stopped to look but found he was sinking and had to keep moving. Kris’s manipulation had eased his body and he felt more mobile with less pain when walking. His mind felt fuzzy and unfocused and kept flitting about from memories and images to speculations and questions about the future. Since he’d left hospital, he’d had no time to be reflective and hadn’t given thought to anything beyond the immediate and urgent concerns of their safety. Now he tried to think once again of what he would do next. His mind wouldn’t fix on it and kept flitting back to the recent past. He was aware of feeling something like irritation, as if being bitten by a small insect. A tiny pinprick but constant and growing more annoying every minute. He stopped again and tried to concentrate on what it was that was bugging him. He felt his feet begin to disappear in the soft mud but didn’t move. He closed his eyes and looked intensely inward trying to clear away the mud that was in his mind as well as round his ankles.
Then, like a light being switched on in a dark room, he saw it. It grew and enveloped him so he threw back his head and roared as loud as he could, again and again. The sound echoed around the estuary as a flock of shore birds rose chittering and squealing in alarm from the reeds beside him. He opened his eyes and saw them tile the sky around him. He was filled with a great rage and pure clear anger. He had gone back to Ireland to do a good thing – tell Lauren’s parents the news of her pregnancy. The bastards had dragged him back into their sordid vile tribal violence again. He felt contaminated and defiled by it and that filled him with outrage. He had felt no such thing when he had aimed his weapon at Jimmy and ended his life. Then he had felt nothing at all, an effective emotional numbness. Now, the thing that had been nibbling at him bit hard and made him scream in indignation. m so he threw back his head and roared as loud as he could, again and again. The sound echoed around the estuary as a flock of shore birds rose chittering and squealing in alarm from the reeds beside him. He opened his eyes and saw them tile the sky around him. He was filled with a great rage and pure clear anger. He had gone back to Ireland to do a good thing – tell Lauren’s parents the news of her pregnancy. The bastards had dragged him back into their sordid vile tribal violence again. He felt contaminated and defiled by it and that filled him with outrage. He had felt no such thing when he had aimed his weapon at Jimmy and ended his life. Then he had felt nothing at all, an effective emotional numbness. Now, the thing that had been nibbling at him bit hard and made him scream in indignation.
My writer’s name David Rory O’Neill is not my given name. The O’Neill name is taken from my grandmother’s maiden name. It’s an ancient noble family with an interesting history.
Here is history of the name and family, two crests and an old song.
A song of praise for an O’Neill Chief:
His Brehons around him – the blue heavens o’er him,
His true clan behind, and his broad lands before him,
While group’d far below him, on moor, and on heather,
His Tanists and chiefs are assembled together;
They give him a sword, and he swears to protect them;
A slender white wand, and he vows to direct them;
And then, in God’s sunshine, “O’NEILL” they all hail him:
Through life, unto death, ne’er to flinch from, or fail him;
And earth hath no spell that can shatter or sever
That bond from their true hearts – The Red Hand for Ever!
Proud lords of Tir-Owen! High Chiefs of Lough Neagh!
How broad-stretch’d the lands that were rul’d by your sway!
What eagle would venture to wing them right through,
But would droop on his pinion, o’er half ere he flew!
From the Hills of MacCartan, and waters that ran
Like Steeds down Glen Swilly, to soft-flowing Bann –
From Clannaboy’s heather to Carrick’s sea-shore
And Armagh of the Saints to the wild Innismore –
From the cave of the hunter on Tir-Connell’s hills
To the dells of Glenarm, all gushing with rills –
From Antrim’s bleak rocks to the woods of Rostrevor –
All echo’d your war-shout –
`The Red Hand for Ever!’
O’Neill is arguably the most illustrious among the surnames of Ireland, though only tenth in the list of most commonly found names. The story of the sept originates in the myths of prehistory. The ancient clan historians trace the family back to Heremon, son of Milesius and Celtic conqueror of Ireland. Thence the line continues through many generations to through Conn Ceadcathach (Conn of the Hundred Battles), second century High King and on to Niall Naoi Ghiallach or Niall of the Nine Hostages, High King of Ireland from 377 to 404 AD. As High King of Ireland, Niall reigned from the ancient Irish royal seat at Tara, in modern Co. Meath. During his reign he conquered all of Ireland and Scotland and much of Britain and Wales. He took a royal hostage from each of the nine kingdoms he subjugated, hence his famous nickname. The families that descend from Niall are collectively known as the Uí Neill, meaning descendants of Niall, and not to be confused with the sept of O Neill. He had twelve sons, of whom four moved into Ulster to establish the dynasty there.
Eoghan, son of Niall gave his name to Tir Eoghain (in English Tyrone) and twelve generations later we find his descendant, Niall Glandubh (Niall of the Black Knee) as High King in 890 A.D. He was killed in battle against the Norsemen near Dublin in 919. It was his grandson, Domhnall (c. 943) who adopted the surname O Neill, meaning grandson of Niall. From the fifth to the eleventh century, and from the twelfth century to the death of Red Hugh O Neill in 1608, this dominant family were monarchs of all Ireland, kings of Ulster, earls and princes of Tyrone, statesmen and soldiers. The O Neills are the oldest family in Europe with unbroken descent in the male line. The descent of the original Tyrone family has continued unbroken, down to the present holder of the title of O Neill Mór.
From the sixth to the twelfth century, the Grianan of Aileach, which overlooks the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, was an O Neill stronghold. It was plundered many times and Murtough O Brien demolished it in 1101 in revenge for the destruction of the O Brien royal seat at Kincora in County Clare. It is recorded that he ordered his soldiers to carry away the stones with their provisions. In the nineteenth century, the Grianan was imaginatively restored by a local citizen.
In the fourteenth century a branch of the Tyrone O Neills migrated to Antrim where they became known as Clann Aodha Bhuidhe, from Aodh Buidhe (or Hugh Boy) O Neill, who was slain in 1283. His name is perpetuated in the territorial name Clannaboy or Clandeboy. These O Neills reversed the usual trend in Ireland of that day by taking large tracts of land from the Anglo-Norman invaders. Their principal seat was at Edenduffcarrig, later known as Shane’s Castle, northwest of Antrim town. The attempts made by the English in the sixteenth century to exterminate them, which were carried out by Essex and others with a ferocity and perfidy seldom equalled even in that violent age, were unsuccessful, and O Neills are numerous there today, as they are also in West Ulster. Since 1740, the O Neills of Clanaboy have been living in Portugal, where they proudly continue their ancient Gaelic designation O Neill, Chieftain.
The O Neills of the Fews in Co. Armagh descend from Aodh, known as Hugh of the Fews, died 1475, second son of Eoghan, chief of the name, who was inaugurated in 1432.
The O Neills of Thomond (Clare and Limerick) were chiefs of a territory in the modern barony of Bunratty: to-day O Neill is not a common name in Co. Clare, but the Nihills and the Creaghs of that county claim to be of Thomond O Neill stock. Modern historians believe that Nihills were originally Ulster O Neills who settled in Co. Clare after the battle of Kinsale.
The name O Neill is quite numerous in and around Co. Carlow, where an O Neill sept was situated in the barony of Rathvilly. Another O Neill sept was located in the Decies and its present day representatives are found in Co. Waterford and south Tipperary.
One of the most lasting and identifiable symbols of Ireland, the red hand, is taken from the O Neill coat of arms. The symbol predates the advent of formal heraldry, which was introduced by the Normans and is recorded on the battle standards of the Uí Neill in the fourth and fifth centuries. Even the family motto “Lám Dearg Éirinn” means “the red hand of Ireland”. There are many legends as to how the O Neills acquired their motto. One story is that when their ancestors sailed close to the northeast tip of Ireland they agreed that whoever landed first would have that area of land. A quick-witted warrior chopped off his left hand, threw it onto the shore and claimed his reward! Modern coats of arms show the symbol as a right hand, but the more ancient records clearly have it as “sinister” or left.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the struggles to preserve Gaelic Ireland centred around the O Neills and many of them left an indelible imprint on the history of the province of Ulster.
Conn Bacach (the lame) O Neill, the first Earl of Tyrone (c. 1484-1559), was the first of the great warrior O Neills. When his territory was invaded, he went to London to submit to Henry VIII who created him Earl of Tyrone. His family did not approve of an English title and there was much feuding, which led to the murder of one of his sons. Conn took refuge in Dublin, inside the Pale, where he died. Conn was succeeded by his son, Sean an Diomais (Shane the proud). Shane’s followers murdered his half-brother, Matthew, and Shane himself was murdered by the MacDonnells of Antrim in revenge for the destruction by Shane of their Scottish settlements in the county.
Conn Bacach’s grandson, the great Hugh O Neill (1550-1616), 2nd Earl of Tyrone and son of Matthew, lived for six years at the Court of Queen Elizabeth as Baron of Dungannon. She hoped to tame him and win the allegiance of the O Neills and for a long time he appeared to be loyal to the Crown. Ireland was in a chaotic state, it lacked any government except inside the Pale, and constant warring had led to famine and disease. Given his experience in England, Hugh was aware of the wider political issues, and at times it must have been difficult for anyone to know, including himself, which was the right side to support. He began a series of intrigues with the local chiefs and also with the English, and was harassed by Elizabeth’s spies. Endlessly suing for peace or pardons, he played for time, waiting for the promised help from Spain. His marital arrangements were equally unstable. He divorced his first wife, his second wife died, and, at 45 he eloped with Mabel Bagenal, the sister of his archenemy, Sir Henry Bagenal. She left him when she discovered he “affected two other gentlewomen”. She did not live long and, after her death, he married Catherine Magennis. In 1595 he had a successful encounter with the English at the battle of Clontibret. At the battle of the Yellow Ford, near Armagh in 1598, the Irish had one of their greatest triumphs and Bagenal was killed. Hugh O Neill now began to be regarded as Prince of Ireland – The O Neill – a title, which meant much more to him and the Irish than Earl of Tyrone. His arrogance alarmed Elizabeth who sent over her favourite, the Earl of Essex, with a vast army. However, Essex was tricked by O Neill and returned, unsuccessful, to London, where Elizabeth had him executed. She sent another expensive army with more efficient leadership. Many of the Irish chiefs, thinking only of their property, joined the English. When the Spanish army finally landed, it was at Kinsale rather than at an Ulster port. Hugh O Neill had to lead his army in hazardous winter conditions from the north to the extreme southern tip of Ireland. He wanted to attack at once, but was, it is thought, restrained by Red Hugh O Donnell and Del Aquila. When they finally attacked on Christmas Eve 1601, it was too late, and the best opportunity in centuries was lost.
The defeat at Kinsale marked the end of the Gaelic order and ushered in the exodus to Europe. In 1607, Tyrone and his family and many other chiefs sailed from Lough Swilly, an event to become known as The Flight of the Earls. Tyrone died, homeless and penniless, in Rome. Although they fought continuously, either between themselves or against their neighbours, they also sought valiantly to drive out the colonisers. When Hugh O Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and O Donnell, Earl of Tirconnell, fled to Europe, they left Ulster open to the Protestant plantations of James I, contributing to the continuing conflict in this area of Ulster, which remained British when the rest of Ireland became independent.
Owen Roe (the red haired) O Neill (1590-1649), a nephew of the great Hugh O Neill, Earl of Tyrone, was a professional soldier who had served thirty years in the Spanish army. He returned to Ireland and, in 1642, joined the new movement styled the Confederate Catholics of Ireland. He defeated the Scots under Monro at Benburb in County Tyrone in 1646. When Cromwell landed to wreak vengeance, Owen Roe, on his way to join the royalist army led by Ormond, died.
Owen Roe’s nephew, Daniel O Neill (1612-64), was a Protestant Cavalier and a favourite of Charles II who, in 1663, appointed him Postmaster-General, an appointment which an O Neill of Clanaboy, Charles O Neill, was to hold in the nineteenth century.
Sir Phelim O Neill (1604-53), a lawyer, soldier and bon viveur, took part in the disastrous insurrection of 1641 where he was Commander-in-Chief of the northern forces. He was betrayed by a kinsman and executed as a traitor.
The O Neills of Ulster were a fiercely proud, sometimes arrogant clan. Although their royal dynasty is long gone, their fame still lives on in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe, where O Neills fought in the armies of Spain, Austria and the Netherlands. There were also distinguished O Neills in the Church and the arts. The wandering, blind harper, Arthur O Neill (1737-1816), is recorded as having said, “wherever an O Neill sits he is always the head of the table”. This Arthur was the rootstock from which has sprung some of the best in Irish traditional music.
Sir Niall O Neill (1658-90), the eldest son of Sir Hugh O Neill of Shane’s Castle at Antrim, of the Clandeboy family, had the dangerous assignment of stopping the first wave of King William’s troops crossing the Boyne at Rossnaree in 1690. He was fatally wounded and was later buried in Waterford. Shane O Neill was the last Gaelic Lord of Clanaboy. In 1740 he sailed for Lisbon in Portugal, and the aristocratic O Neill dynasty continues there to the present day. After his departure, the O Neill castle, Edenduffearrig in County Antrim, was renamed Shane’s Castle. Today, Raymond, 4th Lord O Neill of the English creation of 1868, lives there. An ancestor of his, Mary O Neill, married the Reverend Arthur Chichester, rector of Randalstown. Because these O Neills had died out in the male line, he adopted the illustrious surname, and the numerous descendants of Mary and Arthur have kept the name an active one in Irish public affairs. Shane’s Castle on the edge of Lough Neagh has suffered many vicissitudes. In the nineteenth century, Earl O Neill had almost completed the restoration of the splendid mansion designed by Nash, when it was destroyed by fire. Some say the fire was caused by Kathleen, the family banshee, who had been disturbed by the rebuilding. It was later burned again by Sinn Fein, with the irreparable loss of historical family papers. Raymond O Neill includes among his wide-ranging activities the preservation of steam trains; he runs a railway system on the estate at Shane’s Castle, which is open to the public. There is also a nature reserve, and the rebuilt conservatory houses a unique collection of camellias which, are over 100 years old. Lord O Neill is also chairman of the National Trust in Northern Ireland.
Self-confidence and self-belief are essential implements to have in your writers toolbox. Without them you will flounder and be crushed in the unkind published world. For an Indie writer these things are even more crucial, however, there is danger too. Too much uncritical self-belief can send some astray. There are too many books out there that really are only there because of misplaced self-confidence or is that arrogance?
I think the trick is to counter ones one self-belief with a big dose of editorial balance. It is essential to have a relationship with an editor one trusts and listen to their advice. It’s not always going to be right and need not always be acted upon but one needs to engage with that editor. Discuss their opinions, think about what they say and ask yourself if there are babies to be killed?
It’s too easy these days to get published. So say the doubters and anti Indie types. There is some truth in that but… if you have an editor you trust and self belief and realistic self-confidence then. . . go for it. There is a rich seam of wonderful literature available now that would never make it past the gatekeepers, not because it’s not worthy but because it’s not easily marketable or doesn’t fit neatly in a the genre slot that’s hot right now.
So dig in that tool box, get your confidence straightened by a good editor and get your wonderful words out in the world.
The countdown to the free download of The Prairie Companions has started.
Four days to go to Paddies day.
I’ve been having fun on Pinterest and have created a few boards. One has images related to the novels. That has been an interesting pinteresting thing to create. Do stop by and have a look. http://pinterest.com/davidrory/
I’d like to offer a salute to the glory that is the female on this the International Day of Women. It is a sad condemnation of our societies, that such a day is still required to draw attention to inequalities and iniquities perpetrated against women.
I read this in a blog on Indi writing: “An italicized word here and there for emphasis – that has become more common because of eBook formatting – which doesn’t allow for all capitals or underlines. So that’s absolutely acceptable. I’m more talking about people who use italics for thoughts – then write entire paragraphs of them.”
At first sight this seems reasonable, it was part of piece on the ten most common writing mistakes. It’s badly written by a person purporting to be an arbiter of standards. But that’s not what irked me.
This started me thinking about the whole ‘creative writing class’ mentality that has become almost a doctrine. We accept stuff like the above too easily.
No, no, no. I hate homogenised formulaic stuff. Be it bland industrialised hydrogenised fats playing at being cheese squeezed from mass-market tubes or perfectly edited, standard usage, poetry free, mass produced, creative writing class approved, dirge and pap passing for literature.
Would Joyce get anything past these gatekeepers of conformity? I think not. How many other rule breakers and original voices would be drowned out by the howling of the conformity freaks. Yes, be all means let us strive for good grammar and correct spelling but let’s not get carried away and allow personal taste to get confused with correctness.
The example I opened with is a case in point. If I’m reading an enthralling story, well written, full of humanity, warmth and poetry – I will not care if a bit of internal dialogue is rendered in italic for one or two or three paragraphs. I’ll not notice if the voice is real and true and involving. Nor will most readers. Nor should we.
The laying down of arbitrary rules of taste is to be resisted by all of us who love literature, both as readers and as writers. If someone wants bland formula driven sustenance well that’s allowed but I will not be told that real unpasteurised cheese is not permitted. NO.