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Patterns in Irish 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’ or a false promise of mystic wisdom, 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’.

The attached link to a NYT article on an ancient Roman pandemic, gives a good example of this kind of thinking (although its related to defined historical events rather than ‘mythological’ events).

Obviously, you can’t compare apples with oranges but the patterns are clear and there to be found if you know your own culture and look close enough.

Book to TV Series – how times fly

It’s almost four years ago now, since the pre-production work started on a television series based on ‘Liath Luachra: The Grey One‘.

The series (to be produced by Graisland Entertainment) was renamed ‘Liath: Celtic Warrior’ and I confess I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the new name – it simply doesn’t make sense from an Irish perspective. That said, it wasn’t my production and, with screen adaptations, you really just have to step away and accept that it’s a completely different product.

Sadly, the sudden arrival of the Covid pandemic knocked the production off its feet and it never really recovered. I’ve let the screen options run out as I’ve just been too busy on other things, but I might start sending this out again later this year.

Interestingly, there seems to have been a lot of interest from fans to have ‘Liath Luachra: The Great Wild” adapted for the screen. Because the story’s smaller in scale, it’s probably easier to negotiate an option but it’s pretty low on my list of priorities for the moment.

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LIATH LUACHRA: THE GREY ONE

Graisland Entertainment have an amazing team doing some innovative pre-production work around the potential television series for Liath Luachra the Grey One.

Based on the story of a young Irish woman struggling to survive in the brutal, misogynistic world of warrior bands in 1st and 2nd century Ireland, if this gets the green light it’s going to throw what people think of ‘Irish mythology’ on its head.

Coming in 2024

After a hectic, but production poor 2023, I’m proactively returned to creative mode. At the moment, my key focus is on finishing ‘FIONN: The Betrayal’ – the fifth book in FIONN mac Cumhaill Series and, probably, the second last.

This particular work has been a lot harder to write than most other books in the series thus far. That’s not really a surprise as it’s also the first book to start reeling in all the different plotlines spread across the FIONN series (and some elements from the overlapping Liath Luachra books).

For that reason, it’s a lot more ‘talky’ and includes far more character development than many of the other books but that’s critical to maintaining an appropriate narrative pace leading up to the series culmination.

That’s all boringly technical, I know, but the last thing I want to do is rush the story (in a manner similar to the last season of the Game of Thrones television series, for example).

I’m hoping to publish this on the Irish Imbas website at the end of March /start of April. It’ll then go wide to all the other ebookstores a month or two after that.

On completing this book, I had intended to start the next in the Liath Luachra series but, given the overlapping narratives, it’s important that I’m further along in the next FIONN series before I can do that. As a result, I’ll probably start immediately on the sixth FIONN book (title not yet decided).

I’ll also be working on a shorter Liath Luachra work (LIATH LUACHRA: The Quiet One) once that’s completed. That will follow the story from ‘Liath Luachra: The Great Wild.’

Not to be confused with ‘The Quiet Girl’.

My last priority is non-fiction work entitled ‘Irish ‘Mythology 101 (How Irish ‘Mythology’ Works) which I’ve been working on for some years but which I’ve regularly had to put aside due to other commitments.

This should be available by the end of the year.

I have other projects and creative work on the go, but these are the ones I’m focussed on delivering in 2024.

Maith agaibh!

Ten Years

It’s hard to believe but it’s now coming up to ten years since I first started publishing books on Irish culture and Irish cultural belief systems.

Back in 2013/14, I’d originally planned to write (and publish through a mainstream publisher) a non-fiction book related to Irish Fenian stories. What I ended up discovering through my research however, completely upended my plans (both in terms of WHAT I decided to publish and HOW I published)

I started off with BEARA: Dark Legends in 2014, as it was closest to my heart. After that, I published FIONN: Defence of Rath Bládhma which subsequently went on to become a finalist in the SPFBO competition (it came in 4th place out of 300).

Over the following ten years, I published about 1-1.5 books a year and currently have 14 books on the catalogue (with some separate short stories/novellas and another book to come out in the next 3-4 months).

Throughout those ten years, I learned a huge amount about Irish ‘mythology’, what people think that is, and what it really is. One of my more ambitious projects is to produce a work on those findings by the end of the year. I also learned a lot about computer game production, script writing and negotiating with Hollywood lawyers.

I’ve also learned that no matter what my plans, life will always come barging in to disrupt them. That was originally a source of great frustration for me, but I’ve got over myself and just learned to accept it.

Creatively, I’ve become faster at producing work and the books and other products. Meanwhile, the works I’ve developed continue to increase in popularity (which is a reward in itself, of course).

Over the next year or two, I’m hoping to get to a point where I can support myself uniquely through my creative work and I’m very grateful to all those people (readers, reviewers, advisors, etc. ) who’ve supported me over the years and helped me get to this place.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh!

Fionn mac Cumhaill … The Poet

A lot of people tend to forget that Fionn mac Cumhaill also held a reputation as a talented poet (which has a whole bunch of relevant associations) and the Fenian narratives are strongly linked with what’s generally referred to as ‘nature poetry’.

A number of ‘nature poems’ are actually attributed to Fionn (and I’ve a bridge to sell you if you believe that). This one is a 9th century poem (in Irish and English) which was translated by the German philology scholar, Kuno Meyer, back in the early 1900s.

Note, this was written in 9th century Irish, so it’s quite different to modern Irish. I have to say, though, Meyer did a superb job of the translation.

Scél lem duíb

Dordaid dam

Snigid gaim

Ro-faíth sam

Gàeth ard uar

ísel grian

gair a rith

ruirthech rían

—————

Here’s a song

stags give tongue

winter snows

summer goes

high cold blow

sun is low

brief his day

seas give spray.

Darthuala

‘Darthuala’ – a variant name for Deirdre (as in Deirdre of the Sorrows) – by British artist Henry Tidey. Tidey produced this sometime back in the 1980s.

The painting was based on James Macpherson’s somewhat fraudulent representation of Gaelic works which, amusingly, makes this ‘a reinterpretation of a misrepresentation’.

It’s quiet surprisingly how common this is, even in contemporary society.

Actually, perhaps even more so!

An Teachtaire

‘An Teachtaire‘ is an Irish-language book written by Colmán Ó Raghallaigh and published through the excellent Cló Mhaigh Eo.

An Teachtaire can be translated as ‘The Messenger’ in English but of course there are a number of cultural connotations the English version misses out.

In this book, the title refers specifically to Saint Patrick who is seen as the ‘messenger’ of a higher power. In my own Fionn mac Cumhaill Series, I use teachtairí (the plural form) in a far more detailed and historically practical way, essentially portraying them as individuals who communicate between different tribes.

Given the importance of this role, the individuals acting as teachtairí had to be carefully chosen. Individuals with connections (intermarriage etc.) between tribes would certainly have been considered, but they’d also have to be individuals of standing within the two different groups. Most importantly, they’d have to be considered trustworthy.

The various dynamics are covered off pretty well in FIONN: Traitor of Dún Baoiscne but, at the moment, I’m having a lot of fun writing about a teachtaire in FIONN: The Betrayal who has absolutely none of the skillsets mentioned above.

LIATH LUACHRA: The Consent

I’m testing a new cover for ‘Liath Luachra: The Consent’ – a long-short story that follows on from the last Liath Luachra book (the Metal Men). I won’t be publishing a new Liath Luachra book until the end of 2024 at the earliest, so this was intended as an additional story for those who wanted more.

The story concerns Liath Luachra’s reconnection with her old leader Bressal Binnbhéalach (Bressal of the Sweet Tongue) who was last seen in Liath Luachra: The Grey One.

I have to admit, I really enjoyed writing the interaction between the elusive Liath Luachra and the predatory Bressal but, older now (and far more experienced) the young woman warrior’s relationship with her rífénnid is certainly not going to be the same.

You can find the link to the book HERE and the blurb is as follows:


Ireland: 1st century A.D. A land of tribal affiliations, secret alliances and treacherous rivalries.

Although ‘The Seeking’ is complete, to fulfil her word to the Uí Loinge Elders, Liath Luachra must reconnect with Bressal Binnbéalach – the previous leader of Na Cinéaltaí – and obtain his consent.

But Bressal hasn’t forgotten her actions against him at Dún Mór.

And there’s only one thing she has that Bressal truly wants.

The Problem with Series

I was trying to explain to someone yesterday about how I ended up having four different book series on the go at the same time.

Beara: Dark Legends was my first book but it’s the type of book that takes ages to write (not linear and it’s actually two different – but interlinked – stories) so I started the Fionn series.

After two books from that series, I wrote the first Liath Luachra book as a prequel but it ended up being more popular so I wrote a second one. Since then I’ve written two more Fionn books and have a fifth coming out early next year. That series will finish with the sixth book.

When Hollywood showed an interest I had to write two more Liath Luachra books as they wanted enough content for three seasons if it got off the ground. I the added a prequel. As a result, I currently have five Liath Luachra books out.

Needless to say, I get at least one email every month from readers demanding the 2nd Beara, the 5th Fionn, the 6th Liath Luachra etc.

Sheesh!

More on the Beara Trilogy next year!

Imagining Iron Age Ireland …

What was prehistoric Ireland like 2,000 years ago? Before Christianity, when it was likely an Island with a population of 100,00 – 200,00 people?

And how you get that across for a contemporary audience?

I discuss this with the Irish Stew gang on the latest Irish Stew Podcast interview.

You can find the link here: Irish Stew Podcast

Ó Bhéal 

A fascinating Irish documentary was released yesterday on how Irish musicians are fusing rap music styles with native Irish poetry performance traditions and Sean-nós singing.

As a general rule, its incredibly difficult to take two completely different art forms and merge them successfully (i.e. to make something worthwhile and which can stand on its own). That said, there does seem to be a genuine overlap of emotional and stylistic resonance behind the Irish art forms and the US black originated artform.

I’m intrigued to see where this goes.

You can find the trailer link HERE.

Samhain Substitute

I’m always slightly cynical of the Samhain reinvention over the past few decades and I think the more we align with the American tradition of ‘Halloween’, the further we get from what we were.

That said, there’s no denying the fun of events back home and Limerick have certainly pulled out all the stops for their Samhain Festival.

Fair play, daoibh!

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“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.