Stone Heart

When Life Gives You Lemons, Write About It

An update on the work in progress

Okay, okay, I admit it has been a while since I wrote an update on the work in progress. In truth, getting engaged and moving house has this strange ability to get in the way of other things. That didn’t stop me writing, of course, but it did affect my free time to catch up on my website.

I’m now living in the land of the Euro with my better half. We’ve slipped across the border into the republic and as I write this at 08:30 on a Saturday morning, I can hear the birds chirping outside my office window and there’s a slight mist hanging in the air. The wall that borders the garden (I say garden, but there isn’t a flower in sight) is built from the same type of stones as that of Grianan of Aileach (more on that in a minute). The local Chinese takeaway, that I can also see from the window, hasn’t fired up its ovens yet, thankfully. It’s a little early for those kinds of smells.

The pin-board on the wall beside my desk is overflowing with ideas and my Trello board (an online whiteboard that no one should have to live without) has a documented plan for all but the last few chapters of my work in progress.

So it’s all good news. The novel, still with just a working title (if you think writing a novel is hard, try coming up with a suitable title!), is shaping up nicely. In fact, it now equals in length the word count for The Camel Trail – and I’m really only around a third of the way into the story, give or take.

This work in progress is very dear to me. Set circa 250BCE, it takes place for the most part in what I could call my childhood playground, Greenan of Aileach – or, in its native Irish, Grianán Ailigh. Ignore Google’s translation of ‘Quiet Alex’ (as much as I love it), Grianán Ailigh roughly translates as ‘sun fort’ or ‘place of the sun’.

work in progress
Modern-day Grianán Ailigh

As you can see from the photo, the fort at Ailigh still stands to this day. As a child, we used to walk up the hill and play there. Inside the fort, there are small tunnels that have since been closed off, but when we were kids, they were secret hiding spots during games of hide and seek.

Every time I’m up there now, it reminds me of my younger, carefree days. And it has always made me wonder who lived there, and for what purpose. It’s that one idea that sparked the writing of this work in progress.

Grianán Ailigh

Historically, the fort has been starting in some state or other (it was repaired back in the nineteenth century after its supposed destruction in c.1101) for thousands of years. My interpretation has it at a much grander scale. We know from archaeological data that there were three outer ramparts. And my brain went into overdrive.

Without giving too much away about the work in progress itself, suffice to say this novel is going to be epic in scale. A story, as it were, as old as time.

I’ve struggled with the Big Bad – who and why would want to destroy everything for my main characters, my Celtic warriors – but I now fully understand who they are, and their motivation. Which has only succeeded in turning the story into something bigger, something grander. It’s not just their lives at stake any more – it’s everyone’s.

I’ve been trying not to get bogged down in the research. Oftentimes you can look something up, start reading, and realise you’ve lost five hours and the cursor on your screen is beginning to blink angrily at you where you left off, halfway through a sentence. But the research is the fun part. I’ve even been working on a Python-based computer algorithm to attempt to calculate tide times in the area over 2,000 years ago. I’m missing some seasonal data, but it’s getting there.

Where we are

All told, the whole story, the novel, the work in progress, is coming together inch by careful inch. This book will be, as they say, chomh gaelach le muca Dhroichead Átha – as Irish as the pigs of Drogheda.

In my next update (yes, yes, I will; I promise!) I’ll discuss the matter of pronunciation. While I’ve tried to refrain from too much Gaelic in the novel, many of the Irish names of the time do not sound as they are written. ‘Niamh’ is not the sound a Formula 1 car makes as it speeds by. But more on that later.

Until next time, nár mhúcha Dia solas na bhFlaitheas orainn!

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