Cú Chulainn and Ferdia

Cú Chulainn and Ferdia in combat at Áth Fhirdia (the Ford of Ferdia).

With the intial series of FIONN mac Cumhaill coming to a close next year, I’ve been giving some thought to doing a series based on the Ulster narratives.

To be honest, I’ve still not decided. Developing a workable narrative for Cú Chulainn is no easy task and would require some serious adaptation from An Táin to make it work (unless you go down the whole Celtic Fantasy which doesn’t really interest me and which, frankly, has had its day).

We’ll see. I’ll give an update in Vóg – (my newsletter – link available in the comment below) on my thoughts around that at the end of June.

Liath Luachra – A New Project

On the work front, I’m fully occupied with an intense freelance project which means it’ll be a few more weeks before I can launch back into writing.

That’s a delay that’s always a bit frustrating but I’ve spent the few free hours I have, relaxing with a fun project I hope to bring to frution at some point in the future.

Attached is a cartoon/comic-book image of Liath Luachra associated with that.

Some old (and slightly mysogenistic) Covers

I’d just started the process of redesigning the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series book covers this week when these arrived in yesterday as part of a historical post.

About eight years ago, I’d commissioned some covers and the artist came back with the attached images. At the time, although I was really impressed with her design skills (she did the first Liath Luachra book cover and one or two more) I felt these images were very ‘genre dated’ – harking back to the misogynistic, old-style, fantasy covers of the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties.

It’s also worth noting that there was absolutely no stock images out there to represent 1st/2nd century Ireland in a meaningfully accurate way (and there still isn’t, hence my preference for hiring my own illustrators).

I never used these versions but went with a far more restricted set that I’ve slowly being replacing over the years. I’m hoping to start introducing the new covers in the next edition of my newsletter (Vóg).

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!

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

“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

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.

Battle Scenes

An ‘early medieval batte scene’ from Polish artist Aleksander Karcz.

As a general rule, I tend to avoid large scale battle scenes in my books, except where they’re the culmination of some important plot point or otherwise a necessary contribution to the story I’m writing.

Fantasy entertainment has probably set a few unrealistic expectations when it comes to Irish battles – cartainly in pre-history times (i.e. pre 5th century). During that period, there was no real warrior class in the Irish society of the time and the low population density meant tribal warfare would have been more ‘skirmish’ than ‘pitched battle.’

Excerpt from ‘Liath Luachra: The Great Wild’

There was one morning when the world dissolved, obliterated in a downpour that melted the distant islands, then the immediate surroundings as well. Preceded by a cluster of unusually threatening, blue-bruised clouds, the incoming deluge had given plenty of warning. As a result, the girl was comfortably settled under a solitary oak at the tip of the inlet outcrop, cloak tugged tight around her shoulders as she waited to watch the clouds unload their burden.

The downpour rattled the lake’s surface with a startling intensity that she’d not seen before, a ferocious hail that scattered white-foamed eruptions across the water around her. Mirrored by countless ripples on that shuddering surface, the resulting kaleidoscope of movement was giddyingly, but terrifyingly, beautiful.

Tethered to the island by nothing but a thin strip of rock, the girl felt a swell of panic when even that link disappeared, and her existence reduced to the tree above and three paces of the rocky outcrop. Conscious that there was nothing beyond the fusillade of rain, she was struck by a sudden, shocking sense of absence. Terrified at the prospect of being cut adrift, she peered desperately through the deluge for any hint of physical substance, for any trace of natural solidness, for … anything.

To her trembling relief, the downpour eased soon after, and although it seemed to take far too long a time, the outline of the island took substance through the rain. Whole and expansive, the Great Mother’s bulk emerged from the surrounding murk. Slowly, ponderously, it reached across the thin strip of stone, embraced the girl in her fulsome whole and, soothingly, reassuringly, brought her home.

Liath Luachra: The Great Wild was released on 2 June 2023. You can find the details here: The Great Wild

What is the Sweetest Sound?

What is the Sweetest Sound?

The music of what happens next.

In terms of what happens next, I’ve got my head down on a number of separate IRISH IMBAS projects, most of which won’t see the light of day until later this year (and some later still).

Most of these are in varying stages of completion and although, in some regards, I’m champing at the bit to get them out, I also know they won’t taste anywhere as sweet if I rush them.

Key amongst these projects are:

  • LIATH LUACHRA: The Great Wild (book release for 4 June 2023)
  • LIATH LUACHRA SERIES: Screen Bible and Script for Pilot Episode (Aug 2023)
  • The IRISHNESS Conceptual Model – Cultural Work – anticipated release Oct 2023)
  • THE FENIAN PROJECT (working title) Cultural Work – anticipated release Oct 2023)
  • How MYTHOLOGY works – anticipated release Dec 2023)
  • FIONN 5 – book release – anticipated release Dec 2023)
  • BEARA SERIES: Screen Bible and Script for Pilot Episode (Dec 2022)

I’m back home in Beara and travelling around Ireland during June and July, catching up with family and friends and carrying out some additional research.

If you’re seeking an interview or have a mutually interesting project you’d be keen to work on together, feel free to email before I get back.