“A unique merging of beauty and action”

Over the years, I’ve been lucky with some very generous reviews of my books but I’ve only recently realised that I’ve reached something of a peak with ‘Liath Luachra: The Great Wild’.

This book is currently sitting with a five star rating on Goodreads … because every review of the book has given it a five star rating!

That’s not something I’ve ever achieved before and although I know it can’t possibly last, the fact that its reached this point with no launch activity to speak of, and very limited advertising, is quite astounding in itself.

As always, a huge thanks to those of you who’ve made the effort to write a review.

Míle buíochas daoibh!

You can find the Goodreads reviews page HERE

Broch

These are some recreation images for the Broch of Gurness – a kind of stone roundhouse from the Iron Age, located in the northeast of Orkney. This was an important community centre at various points over the historical timeline with the initial settlement estimated to have occurred somewhere time between 500 and 200 BC.

Sometime after 100 AD, the broch was apparently abandoned but them later occupied again into the 5th century AD. After that, stones from the ruin were used to construct other dwellings on top of the original structure. Later, in the 9th century, a woman believed to be associated with Norse settlers was buried there and was obviously a person of importance as her grave was stone-lined and contained two bronze brooches and a knife and sickle. Other Norse men were buried there as well.

The images are by excellent Irish artist JD O’Donoghue – a recreation artist who, more recently, has produced a fine line of more fantasy-themed work.

FIONN: The Stalking Silence

This short story was the one that started the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series (and, subsequently, the Liath Luachra Series). It’s available free on Amazon at the moment but should be available everywhere else as well from the start of December. It feels satisfying to make this more available again as I slowly edge towards the end of the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series.

At this stage, I don’t want to give anything away about when I’m finishing the series, where in the overall stretch of the Fenian narratives I’m going to set it, or why I’m doing it the way I intend to. What I can say ist that it’s been planned for several years.

Scene from An Táin

One of the gorgeous initial scenes from ‘An Táin’ by Cló Mhaigh Eo – Ireland’s only Irish-language comic producer (that I’m aware of – feel free to correct me). This involves Meadhbh and Aillill comparing their belongings to see which of them is the wealthier.

The image is by Dublin artist and animator, Barry Reynolds (who subsequently went on to do character design for ‘The Secret of Kells’ animation film.

Two Mothers

This is an interesting one from Jakub Rozalski – one of the more impressive visual artists out there. Normally, Rozalski is most well-known for his striking werewolf and fantasy battle scenes but this one introduces the intersting concept of two mothers competing for a supply of food for their young.

As with books and stories, images can take in an increased resonance or depth when you can layer more than one theme within it.

Shadow Conflicts

These days, thanks to many decades of misinformation (and an unregulated internet), most non-Irish people (and, sadly, some Irish people) can’t tell the difference between a Gael, a Celt, a Viking, a Gaul, a Pagan/Wicca, a Skyrim warrior, a Briton, a Saxon, a Pict, blah, blah, blah, etc. etc. and if you look at many English-language representations (particularly in gaming) you’ll find that they use a mish-mash of completely different cultures for each.

I’ve recently been researching various conflicts and battles between the early European peoples and the Roman Empire and, of course, the long-term engagement between the cultures is far more complicated than you’d think. Interestingly, most of the imagery around this subject also tends to be Eurocentric in nature (the Gauls and the northern German tribes).

The above image by talented French artist Thibault Ollier, pretty much epitomises how most western people visualise those early conflicts. Applying the historical story to the reality to 1st century Ireland means a certain amount of adaptation is going to be an interesting challenge for the next book in the Liath Luachra series if I want to make it work on both a creative and culturally authentic basis.

Siúil leat, a Chrom!

Crom Ag Siúl

Ireland’s ‘Culture Night’ kicks in tonight (depending on what part of the planet you’re on) and its very cool to see Macnas running the giant Crom through the streets of Athenry (with drummers and assoicated escorts).

I have to admit, the staggering array of events on Culture Night is probably the one thing I miss most about Ireland these days.

Siúil leat, a Chrom!

Nead an Iolair/ The Eagle’s Nest

This is the location of Nead an Iolair, down on the Beara Peninsula. The local story is that when Domhnall Cam Ó Súilleabháin departed on his mid-winter flight north to Breifne, he left his wife and child in the care of a trusted captain. Through the stark and hungry days of winter, unable to leave the valley due to enemies nearby, the Captain supposedly fed them by stealing food from the eagles with a very clever strategem. This is probably something I’ll use in one of my next books although I will be referencing the original.

Supposedly, the nest was located on one of the ledges on the cliff face to the right. As usual, however, you really have to take such local legends with a healthy dose of salt.

Working on ‘The Hungry People’

I took some time out yesterday from my current projects to play around with various concepts for ‘Liath Luachra: The Hungry People‘ (and, sorry, I won’t get to writing that until mid- next year at the earliest).

The previous book in the series left a number of unanswered questions and unresolved plotlines that I’ll be picking up in the next book but, as with the previous book, I want to avoid the whole cliche of western represented Romans and play the observation from the ‘native’ side.

I’m still not sure how I’ll achieve that but I’m sure it’ll come together.

The attached images (from Roman Zawadzki, Marius Kozik, and Joseph Feely) have been helping me formulate some ideas.

Tourism in the Irish/Oirish Otherworld

This murky image was taken at Uaimh na gCait (often bastardised into English as Oweynagat) located at Cruachain in Roscommon and its one of the more famous ancient ‘crossing points’ to the Otherworld – a list predominantly derived from literary (i.e. not historical) sources. The site is definitely worth a visit as long as you also visit the nearby Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, and you’re nimble enough to get through the narrow entrance and clamber down into the main cavern.

Over the last forty years or so however, it’s worth noting the development of misinformed fantasy-style narratives around the site and its function (e.g. the Entrance to Hell, the home of the Morrigan, dun-dun-dun!). As a result, you have to take most of the online references with liberal doses of salt.

This pattern of what we generically call ‘Tourism Mythology’ is one that we’re seeing increasingly across the country and its probably something you should keep an eye out for if you’re interested in authentic Irish culture.

I’ll probably be covering the issue in Vóg (the Irish Imbas newsletter) at some point in the near future.  

Corto Maltese in Ireland

Despite a measure of artitistic self-indulgence, I’ve actually come to enjoy Hugo Pratt’s books (some of them at least) but his representation of Ireland during the war of independence is amusingly uninformed.

When his laconic anti-hero (the nautical Corto Maltese) ends up in Ireland, he meets the hilariously named ‘Banshee O’Danann’.

I sometimes wonder whether Pratt was actually very sly, and this was all just part of some obscure joke.

I wouldn’t put it past him.

Fionn: The Betrayal

Now that I’m back in the office, I’ve started work on FIONN: The Betrayal – the fifth book in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series. At this stage, this is intended to be the second last book in the series.

The current chapter one (these things tend to change) involves a conversation around a game of fidchell between Demne (Fionn) and his aunt, Bodhmhall. This approach allows some development of the Fionn character but it also provides a helpful recap of the story so far and sets the scene for the rest of the book.

More importantly, it’s also quite fun writing the conversation dialogue between the young/eager Fionn and the much more worldly Bodhmhall.

I’ll make this first chapter available in the ‘paid’ section of my newsletter once I’ve advanced the story a little further.