Liath Luachra talks with Feoras

This is a scene from the upcoming novel ‘FIONN: The Betrayal‘ (although that title is likely to change).

Set in the settlement of Ráth Bládhma, in this scene, the woman warrior Liath Luachra, is attempting to plan a dangerous trip to the distant Tailte Méithe – The Fat Lands.

To do this however, she needs information from the punacious techtaire (messenger) Feoras -and a conversation she has not been looking forward to.


Leaving the firepit, Liath Luachra worked a path between the roundhouses, slowly making her way to the southern side of the ráth embankment and the lean-to where Feoras was sequestered. There, despite the mildewed light and the lean-to’s interior shadows, she had little difficulty making out the sour puss on the techtaire as he watched her approach.

Cónán, standing guard to the left of the lean-to, rolled his eyes and shook his head as the Grey One drew closer. The previous evening, the young warrior had expressed his weariness at the techtaire’s incessant complaining. According to Cónán, when Feoras wasn’t bitching about the food, he was carping on about the accommodation, neither of which he considered commensurate with a messenger of his standing. His treatment at Ráth Bládhma had drawn particular vitriol, although there at least Liath Luachra felt he might have had some grounds for complaint given that, on their return to Glenn Ceoch, she’d drugged the cantankerous old man and transported him on a litter, to conceal the settlement’s location. When the techtaire had finally come to, he’d been furious to learn what she’d done. Bizarrely, that fury towards her had been exceeded by his fury at the ignominy of being billeted in a lean-to used for the storage of winter fuel.

It was hard to know where the techtaire’s delusional expectations of hospitality might have come from, but Liath Luachra had little interest in trying to find out. As she slid in under the shelter’s slanted roof, she ignored his scowling features, quietly grabbing a nearby stump of wood and rolling it into an upright position. Sitting herself on the makeshift seat, she shifted around so that she was facing the old man directly.

‘We leave Ráth Bládhma tomorrow,’ she said bluntly. Feoras wasn’t a nice man so there seemed little point in social niceties.

The techtaire’s scowl softened a little at that announcement.

‘You’ll hear no complaints from me,’ he answered haughtily, raising one hand to ruffle his thick bush of white hair. ‘Arriving at Ráth Bládhma has been akin to stumbling upon a precipice marking the limit of human influence. My welcome has been nothing but a litany of insults and injury. My hospitality, little more than cast-offs a mottled swine would reject.’

He waved a hand to indicate the cramped, wood-strewn interior, as though to support the validity of his grievance. Liath Luachra said nothing, waiting for him to complete his querulous griping before she proceeded to the reason for her visit.

‘We’ll leave Glenn Ceoch at first light. By then, the final preparations should have been completed. More importantly, that allows a full day for the ground to firm up after last night’s rain.’

Feoras’ forehead creased a little at that. He pursed his lips and squinted at her uncertainly.

‘If the ground is firm,’ she explained, ‘we leave less trace of our passage on the Great Mother’s mantle. Tracks become less important the further we get from Gleann Ceoch but with Clann Morna haunting the nearby hills, I’ve no desire to leave a trail that leads straight back to the settlement.’

The techtaire scratched at his beard but made no comment.

‘Before we leave,’ the woman warrior continued, ‘it would suit my purposes to learn what you can tell me of the character of the land we’ll be traversing, any relevant water sources, impassable rivers or other obstacles …’

Her voice stalled momentarily as she registered the particularly sour expression he’d turned towards her, but she continued with fresh resolve.

‘That knowledge would allow me to take proper account of the supplies we’ll need.’

‘The Cailleach Dubh has agreed to follow my guidance,’ the techtaire countered, his jaw jutting forward with mulish obstinacy. ‘It should be my role to decide on what might be needed over the course of our travels.’

Liath Luachra regarded him coldly.

‘The argument was lost before it even started, Feoras. I lead the travel party. You’re a guide, Nothing more.’

The old man glared at her, but the heat of that glare glanced harmlessly off the smoothness of her serene, somewhat remote features. Defeated by that unruffled composure and the finality of her response, he turned his angry gaze away.

‘Well?’ she prompted.

She noted the techtaire’s jaw clench a little and, for a moment, she thought he was about to sink into an outraged sulk. To her surprise however, he seemed to think twice about it for when he spoke again, his voice was smooth and calm if, troublingly, cordial.

 ‘What is it you wish to know?’

Note: FIONN: The Betrayal should be available in May/June 2024

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).

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.

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!

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.

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!

“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

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.

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.

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.