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THREE YEARS/ THREE MONTHS

Apparently it’s been three years since I last released a Liath Luachra book through the usual ebook stores. I do recall that, on that last occasion, I mistakenly made the book exclusive to Amazon. As a result, it was another three months before anyone who didn’t buy it through Amazon could obtain a copy.

I don’t particularly enjoy distributing my books through a monopolistic corporate that doesn’t pay its taxes. For that reason, with the most recent Liath Luachra book (Liath Luachra: The Seeking), I released the book directly through my own website.

To be honest, It’s always bothered me to have so little control over my own creative products and to support the greed of entities who take so much and return so little to society. This decision really felt like the best for me and, longer term, I suspect I’ll continue down that route.

As a result, for those who’d like to access the latest Liath Luachra in digital form, this is currently available through this site only. THe book will be available through the corporate ebookstores in about two months time (30 June 2021). The fourth (and possibly final) Liath Luachra book will be available before the end of the year. Initially – and predominanlty – through the Irish Imbas store.

When Ireland becomes a ‘Plastic Paddy’ Theme Park

I came across an interesting graphic novel last week called Judge Dredd: Emerald Isle. Originally published back in 2002, it was written by Belfast comic writer Garth Ennis and drawn by Steve Dillon (as part of the famous ‘Judge Dredd’ series) and it plays with every possible cliché of Ireland and Irish people – to the point where Ireland and Irish culture has been reduced to a tourist theme park!!

I’ve always enjoyed Ennis’ work, particularly his earlier ‘Hitman’ series (and to a lesser extent his later series ‘The Boys – also a television series on Amazon). He can be very brutal but he’s always funny and he certainly pulls no punches with this one.

I’m not quite sure if Ennis self-identifies as Irish or Northern-Irish but I suspect a lot of this particular work is influenced by his experiences growing up in Belfast during the ‘Troubles’.  I confess that I winced a few times with his portrayal of Irish stereotypes but I can’t deny he’s got an ear for the Dublin vernacular and his exaggerated representation of the mawkish ‘diddly-dee’ Oirishness (that some Americans seem to prefer over reality) is spot on.  

In summary, the plot is as follows:

In 2113, the Emerald Isle Ambassador and his robot chauffeur are shot by terrorist group ‘The Sons of Erin’ using a weapon called a spud gun. After a Pat-Wagon discovers the body, Judge Dredd is sent in to investigate.

Once day, I’d like to produce a graphic novel of my own without all the usual ‘Oirish’ stereotypes and anachronisms.  In the meantime, enjoy this little example of what happens when ‘Plastic Paddy’ jumps the shark: HERE

Wish I could have done that!

In a world dominated by ‘genre’ entertainment based on clichés and tropes, I’ve always been impressed by creatives that surprise me. That’s something I, personally, strive to do with my own work but, cynic that I am, it’s something I rarely experience myself.

I was fortunate to have one of those rare events last night however, while watching a German Netflix television show called Babylon Berlin. Assuming it was one of those pre-war, cabaret dramas, I’d pretty much avoided it for a long time but then my partner K and I ended up watching two episodes by chance.

The first episode was better than I’d expected and defied expectations in terms of sheer scale of production, the breadth of characters and the fact that it actually resembled to be a war-time ‘police procedural’ rather than a cabaret drama. One long scene in the second episode however, completely blew me away – an incredibly clever dance piece that looked like some kind of twisted ‘flash mob’ event in pre-war Berlin. Led by a female performer in drag, it managed not only to create an incredibly intense cabaret performance scene but interspersed it with a clever rivalry between two male dancers (for the same girl) and a machine gun massacre on a communist printing press (the latter, unfortunately, doesn’t appear in the You tube scene below).

German arthouse has always been the ‘bad boy’ of European art and creative work (as they always push the boundaries) but this is the classiest piece of work I’ve seen in a long time.

To be honest, I’m dead jealous.

The attached clip below will show you an abbreviated version of the scene but it won’t be as intense as you’ll be missing the ‘build up’ and context. My advice would be to watch the first two episodes for yourself but if you’re tempted … here it is!

How Things Work Out (or don’t!)

It’s interesting for me to look back on some of the older posts and articles in this site and see how my plans and intentions have changed over the years. I recently came an article from 4 years back where I’d outlined some of my book plans including

  • Liath Luachra: Sons of the Land
  • Bodhmhall: The Black Hag
  • Fionn: The Salmon of Secret Wisdom

The first of those (Liath Luachra: Sons of the Land) did go ahead and was, indeed, published but under the title Liath Luachra: The Swallowed. At the point in time where I wrote that article, I knew the book would have a strong wolf element to it. The Irish word for ‘wolf’ is ‘mactíre’ which literally means ‘son of the land,’ so it seemed a logical title at the time. I think I ended up changing it as ‘The Swallowed’ aligned more effectively with the theme of the book.  

Bodhmhall: The Black Hag was a book I’d intended to write as an accompaniment to ‘Liath Luachra: The Grey One’. You can read why that didn’t go ahead in the 2017 article (HERE).  

Fionn: The Salmon of Secret Wisdom is a book I still intend to write but having started the 4th in the series, I quickly realised that there were some important elements to the story that had to take place first before I could even start talking about the famous Salmon. For the next arc in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series (three more books), Demne/Fionn takes on a far greater role than in the previous arc. He is the titular hero in this after all.

I’m hoping to release Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán (the first book in the new arc) during the first quarter of 2022.

Part-time Creating

Producing and distributing a professional ‘product’ takes time and effort (or a lot of spare money!).

One of the issues asociated with being a niche, part-time creator therefore, is that competing priorities generally constrict you from achieving the things you want to achieve (in the time you want to achieve them). Add in family, other work and life-altering events (Covid-19, earthquakes,etc. etc.) and the opportunity for creative output decreases even further.

Since I first started producing my own products through Irish Imbas (since 2014, I think ), I’ve been regularly frustarted at having to shut down my creative projects in response to other priorities – sometimes for years (and , yes, people are still hassling me about getting the next Beara out!). Unfortunately, that’s the cost of maintaining control over your own work while you’re still involved in another career and immersed in other circumstances. Still, like any creator, you can grow your portfolio over the years and eventually end up with a body of work you can be proud of.

This year. I’ll finally see the fruition of three projects I’ve been working on (on a part time basis) for over two years. Liath Lauchra: The Seeking is already complete, Dark Dawn/Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha is coming out in May 2021 and Liath Lauchra: The Metal Men should be avalilable a few months later.

There really is no greater satsifaction for a creator than that.

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This was all triggered from a Facebook “memory” from four years back:

THE COMPLETION OF TWO PROJECTS, THE START OF ANOTHER
The first batch of hardcopies for FIONN: The Adversary arrived this morning. Fifteen copies and they’re already gone, mostly committed to people who’ve helped with the production, editing, reviewing etc. I think I have a single copy left which is remaining here on the home shelf.

Even after all these years, there’s still a great thrill and satisfaction in seeing all your intellectual work captured and consolidated into physical form. Digital copies are fine but I still prefer the tactile experience of flipping pages and the tangible weight of a book in my hand when I’m reading. [Full article at: Completion of Two Projects]

Dark Dawn/Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha coming in May 2021

Sometimes it’s best to kill a man fast.

Other times it makes sense to take it slow, to work the movements and the killing strokes in advance.

This is such a time.”

Ireland: First/Second Century

In the isolated valley of Gleann Ceoch, a dying warrior is assigned to defend the isolated settlement of Ráth Bládhma (future home of Fionn mac Cumhaill) from an incursion of enemy scouts.

This experimental format story in Irish and English will be released in May 2021 – final date yet to be confirmed.

I am the King of the World …And I am dying

Galway’s Macnas are probably Ireland’s most innovative live ‘theatre’ group – they’re certainly one of the most visually spectacular.

As an alternative to the plastic 2021 St Paddy’s experience (Covid-19 version) therefore, you might want to consider checking out their Galway 2020 commission – Gilgamesh.

As mythological epics go, this one is an interesting narrative and Macnas do their usual magic on visuals and mood.

You can find the site here: Gilgamesh

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.

Sheela na Gigs

There’s a lot of rubbish online about Sheela Na Gigs. Carvings of female figures displaying an exaggerated vulva, there’s certainly a sexual reference in there somewhere, but the truth is that we still don’t really know what they were used for, or what they’re meant to represent.

Although found across the European contient, the largest number seem to be centered in Ireland, but mostly in areas that were controlled by Anglo-Norman colonists (which is when most date to). This, and the fact that there’s no clear lexicological trail for an Irish (Gaelic) meaning, would seem to suggest it was an introduced motif rather than a native Irish one.

But the jury’s still out on that.

Whenever there’s any ambiguity, of course, you’ll find online ‘authorities’ (most who’ve never even seen a Sheela na Gig) claiming to know what they represent. Most of these tend to be pushing their own pet theories or agendas (thanks Facebook!) which is why you should never believe anything you read on the platfrom which hasn’t been reviewed elsewhere.

That said, this is an interesting take (in the Guardian) by some Irish feminists. I suspect (but I certainly dont know) the figures were used as a kind of ‘suppressor’ by the Anglo-Norman Church. It’s kind of amusing to see the shoe on the other foot. Sheela!

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:

Brian Boru – Guerrila Fighter against the Vikings

Attached is a short but interesting video on Brian Boru from an old television series called ‘Ancient Warriors‘.

This being an American series, much of the pronunuciation of Irish names and terms is pretty dodgy and the producers seem to have got their locations badly mixed up. That said, they do cover the inter-tribal discord and Brian Boru’s early years fighting the Danes quite well.

For several years, when Brian Boru was in his early twenties, he waged a guerilla war against the Danes around Limerick and other parts of western Munster. Although records of the time are sparse, he seems to have created some serious disruption for them over that period. Living a tenuous existence with his fian, his shortage of men, tribal support and resources menat that he coudl never do more than carry out ambushes and surprise attacks before quickly retreating to the relatively safety of marshes and hidden caves.

This and violent lifestyle inevitably led to attrition over time and many of Brian’s followers were either killed or deserted him. It wasn’t until his tribe – the Dal gCais – finally committed some resource, that Brian was able to move on to bigger and better things.

Unlike many of the Irish heroes described as warriors, Brian Boru did appear to deserve that description and the ‘up close and personal’ battle experiences would have helped his later – far more strategic – battle planning.

Over those early two to three years however, Brian and his men lived a life very much like Na Fianna as described in some detail in my own books on the topic.

You can find the link to the video here: Brian Boru

Some Sage Advice on Druids

Sage advcie on druids

It’s interesting when you use different languages for what’s supposed to be the same thing or the same word defining the ‘thing’. The problem, of course, is that langauge is culturally-based and, often, a word cannot be directly translated or even explained without a good understanding of the culture in question.

In English, the word ‘druid’ has really taken on a kind of ‘magic’ or ‘fantasy’ element in contemporary times. In Irish (Gaelic), because it’s quite a different culture (and a different way ot thinking), the word has a somewhat different context. That’s pretty much the reason I mostly use the Irish term instead of the English term in my books.

Either way, like all people who want to tell you what to believe in – draoi, druids, priests, bishops, gurus, swamis etc. – you should never truly trust what they tell you.

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