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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.

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.