Five Years!

I got a bit of a shock today when a ‘Facebook Memory’ post alerted me to the fact that it was seven years since I’d published Fionn: The Adversary.

After that initial shock – and suddenly feeling very, very old – I was slightly mollified (and relieved) when I worked out that the post was actually referring to the online publication of the ‘cover image’ rather than the publication of the book itself … a mere (cough!) five years ago.

Despite the time that’s passed since publication, I do recall feeling a great sense of relief when I finally pressed the ‘release’ button and sent the finished product out into the void. As the third book in the series, Fionn: The Adversary completed the first of the two plot arcs I’d envisaged but it was something of a hard one to write due to the numerous plot lines and characters (and, of course, overlaps with the Liath Luachra Series where I had to be careful not to give too much away). It was also the last book I published with the limited stock photos I had available at the time (although the artist did a very good job in making it look far better than it probably should have).

Still, the post was an effective reminder that it has been a substantial time since I released anything in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series and that it was well due another story. Fortunately, I can say that the next (the fourth in the series) will be out before Christmas. At this stage, I don’t have a working title but there will be more news in two to three months or so.

Sky Dance

I came across Fidget Feet (a Limerick-based Irish ‘aerial circus performance company’) several years ago when I saw their ‘Sky Dance’ – a performance carried out against the backdrop of Dublin’s Customs House as part of the 2016/17 new year’s eve celebrations – which really blew me away.

I’ve always had a fascination with dance as an artwork – that physicality of movement operating within the confines of strict choreography. Aerial-based performances, however, raise the stakes dramatically, bringing in an even more complex physicality and sense of perspective that makes the choreography a hundred times more complicated.

To be honest, my first reaction was ‘why the hell would you do that?

Merging dance with aerial display on public buildings felt a bit like merging ‘Opera’ with ‘Demolition Derbies’ (this was on a scale far greater than the more theatre-contained works I’d seen from companies like Cirque du Soleil etc.).

Utilising light projection, aerialists, drummers, pyro dynamics and vertical dancers however, Fidget Feet managed to introduce me to a pretty spectacular art form I’d not encountered before. Fidget Feet are still out there doing new festivals and production but ‘Sky Dance’ remains my favourite.

You can get a quick taste of that HERE.

A Conversation with Bodhmhall

I really enjoy writing dialogue – particularly when it’s a dialogue between two strong characters with diferent motivations. This is a quick sample of a conversation between the woman warrior Liath Luachra and the bandraoi (female druid) Bodhmhall, who joined her hunt for a díbhearg (raiding party) in a slightly underhand manner. At this point in the story, neither character really trusts the other and that puts a nice tension in their interactions. This particular piece comes from Liath Luachra: The Metal Men which comes out tomorrow.

The converation occurs after a meeting to discuss the continued pursuit of the díbhearg.


A Conversation with Bodhmhall

With Crimall off reviewing the guards, it was Bodhmhall who represented Clann Baoiscne interests around the fire, sidling up silently to remain standing in the background and listening without comment. When the fénnid finally finished his story and the others started to drift away, she moved to approach the warrior woman, who’d seated herself on a fallen, moss-coated tree trunk a short distance from the others.

‘All power to you, Grey One.’

Liath Luachra eyed the bandraoi without warmth. Having spent the better part of the evening preparing defences for the campsite to counter a sneak attack by the díbhearg – a possibility she couldn’t ignore – she was tired and brittle and ready to sleep.  

‘Your plan to find the díbhearg trail sowed the makings of success. To reap its bounty is your just reward.’

Reluctant to be snagged in further conversation, Liath Luachra let the compliment slide by without comment, however the bandraoi settled easily onto the trunk alongside her. She cleared her throat with a delicate sound, her refined and polished demeanour looking a little more ragged after several days of hard travel.

‘In truth, I didn’t like your plan. At the time, I didn’t believe it had the makings of success.’

This time, the woman warrior eyed her in muted surprise. ‘And yet you supported it.’

The bandraoi acknowledged that truth with a wry, slightly sardonic laugh. ‘I suppose I liked the alternative even less.’

A brief lull followed this forthright admission. Despite the lengthening silence however, the Clann Baoiscne woman showed no inclination to leave. Liath Luachra scowled.

‘Why are you here, Bodhmhall? Your warning in Murchú’s regard was appreciated, but we are not friends. Distrust, between your family and I, runs too deep.’

The bandraoi remained silent as she considered the woman warrior’s response. Finally, she terminated that quiet deliberation with a sigh.

‘Given your experience of Dún Baoiscne hospitality, I can understand your grievance, Grey One. And, yes, I acknowledge the loathing my father holds in your regard.’ The bandraoi winced. ‘Actually, he bears you a measure of hatred I’ve ever only seen directed against his most gruesome enemies …’

Liath Luachra gave a dismissive sniff. Tréanmór’s hostility held little interest for her. She was unlikely to encounter the of Clann Baoiscne again.

‘I suspect,’ Bodhmhall continued, ‘my father’s hatred stems from the fact he’s so rarely bested. When you defeated Cathal Bog, you upended the plan he’d orchestrated for your humiliation and turned it back on him instead. That took my father by surprise. That took everyone by surprise …’ The bandraoi paused then, as though struck by a sudden realisation. ‘Myself included.’

The Clann Baoiscne woman drew back a little, eyeing Liath Luachra with greater attention. ‘In truth, it confounds me to have overlooked someone of your complex potential.’

‘I’m surprised your tíolacadh revealed no raging blaze,’ the Grey One answered, and although her words were laden with sarcasm, Bodhmhall didn’t seem to take offence.

‘There’s truth in that,’ she conceded with grace. ‘Then again, you had me at a disadvantage when we first crossed paths.’

Liath Luachra regarded her carefully. She had no memory of meeting the bandraoi prior to her sly infiltration of the fian. ‘When we first crossed paths?’

‘At Dún Baoiscne. In the gateway passage. You were on your way to fight Cathal Bog.’

Liath Luachra studied the Clann Baoiscne woman’s features with new interest. She vaguely recalled another presence within the gateway passage at that time but, focussed on her imminent combat with the Clann Baoiscne champion, she retained no clear mental image of the encounter.

Bodhmhall patiently endured the scrutiny until the woman warrior finally shook her head.

‘I don’t remember you.’

To her surprise, the bandraoi chuckled at that. ‘Ah, you wound my vanity, Grey One. Am I so easily forgotten?’

 ‘I haven’t forgotten you’ve not told me what you want.’    

The bandraoi frowned then, a new tightness of her lips suggesting a subtle reassessment.

‘Very well. I’ll spare you words daubed with winter honey. What I seek is forthrightness, forthrightness on the díbhearg we pursue. It seems to me that you’ve a greater familiarity with the raiders than you cared to admit to my brother – that, at least, is my sense of the matter. This pursuit is meant to be a shared endeavour between our two fianna towards a common purpose. In the spirit of that arrangement, I’d ask for a sharing with respect to the díbhearg’s true motivations.’

Only years of emotional compression allowed the woman warrior to conceal her true astonishment as she returned the bandraoi’s gaze. Behind that cool veil of impassivity however, she struggled to suppress a growing swell of panic. The Clann Baoiscne woman’s startling perspicacity had caught her completely by surprise and it was an abrupt and frightening revelation of just how dangerous she truly was. Crimall and Tréanmór might possess shrewd instincts that were enhanced by their ambition but Bodhmhall, with her piercing intelligence and An tíolacadh, was on level that far exceeded them.

The Grey One put her bowl aside softly and offered the ghost of a haughty shrug. ‘Given your reputed talent with imbas forosnai, I’d have thought you better placed than I to know the díbhearg motivations. Crimall certainly holds your Gift in great reverence and the Druidic Council are constantly at pains to assure us of the mystical glimpses An tíolacadh provides.’

Bodhmhall responded to the deflection with a bright smile but there was a subtle tension to her features that she couldn’t completely disguise. Behind her assured façade, it seemed the bandraoi had secrets of her own and the imbas forosnai ritual looked to be a topic she was reluctant to broach.

To the Grey One’s surprise, Bodhmhall abruptly rose to her feet. Although it appeared at first that the Clann Baoiscne woman intended to stalk away, she stood watching the woman warrior, the flickering of the fire casting a strange set to her features.

‘Sadly, on certain subjects Crimall tends to greater conviction for things he’d like to be true than in the truth itself. The reality is that An tíolacadh’s not a Gift so much as a burden. That’s doubly so with the imbas forosnai ritual, despite what Na Draoithe would have you think.’

She paused then, and Liath Luachra regarded her warily for there’d been a weary honesty to the response she hadn’t anticipated. More importantly, there’d also been a tacit acknowledgement in the bandraoi’s eyes, a kind of diplomatic retreat or implied agreement not to pry into the woman warrior’s secrets if she chose to respond in kind.

The bandraoi made to leave but then paused in mid-step, turning to consider the woman warrior over her right shoulder.

‘I’ve told you the full truth of why I’m here, Grey One. Perhaps you’d reciprocate that with frankness of your own. Why are you here? It’s obvious you take no pleasure in leading this Seeking.’

‘There’s no secret to that, Bodhmhall. I’m here because Murchú asked for my help.’

‘For your help.’

‘To rescue his sister and deal to her abductors.’ She hesitated. ‘And perhaps to kill some ghosts of my own.’

‘You cannot kill a ghost, Grey One.’

‘Perhaps not, Bodhmhall. But I will surely give the matter my best efforts.’

Liath Luachra: The Consent

One plotline that I’d hoped to return to in more detail with ‘The Metal Men’ was Liath Luachra’s relationship with Bressal Binnbéalach – Bressal of the Sweet Tongue – her old rígfénnid and sly ex-leader of Na Cinéaltaí.

The interaction between Liath Luachra and Bressal was always one of my favourite elements from the first book in the series (Liath Luachra: The Grey One) and it’s a relationship I’ve always intended to go back and explore a little further. Unfortunately, the subsequent plotlines meant that wasn’t really feasible.

Over the course of writing ‘The Metal Men’, I wrote about two chapters on this, but, in the end, as the story already had enough plotlines, I culled those sections from the text. Instead, I started writing a ‘long’ short story called Liath Luachra: The Consent, which focusses on Liath Luachra’s promise to obtain Bressal’s consent to undertake the Seeking (one of the conditions required by the Uí Loinge, in Liath Luachra: The Seeking).

This is a separate story which takes place after the events in The Metal Men. It’s not critical for anyone following the series. For that reason, I’ve intentionally kept it separate and, as a result, it’s only available at the Irish Imbas website.

The story is still unfinished (about 13,000 words) but the plan is to have it completed for around the 16th March so that anyone who wants it after they’ve read ‘The Metal Men’ can get it. Work permitting, I’ll get this out to Patreon patrons before then. 

The draft 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.

Liath Luachra: The Metal Men is done

Liath Luachra: The Metal Men (4th book in the Irish Woman Warerior Series) is now complete. I’m currently working with the artist to get the final covers sorted but all looks good for the planned release in March (patrons will get it earlier).

I’m really pleased with the final result.

The new back cover blurb is below.


“Everything the Hungry People devour has the taste of ‘more’”!

As the harrowing pursuit of a mysterious raiding party draws to a close, the woman warrior Liath Luachra prepares her war party for one final onslaught.But out in the Great Wild, even the best laid schemes rarely go as planned.

The south-eastern forests hide threats more dangerous than raiders, Liath Luachra’s alliances are foundering, and her own personal history risks upending her existence forever.

Just as she faces a challenge her world has never encountered before.


Liath Luachra: The Metal Men is the fourth book in the Irish Woman Warrior Series and continues the story of the traumatised woman warrior’s ongoing efforts to survive in the brutal, world of first century Ireland. The main character – Liath Luachra – is based on a 12th century reference from Ireland’s famous ‘Fenian Cycle’ mythology.

Awakening

She woke to the weight of that dream pressing on her chest.

That and a blanket.

And pain. Always pain.

Lying on the roundhouse floor, unable to rise, the memory of the owl lingered in her head, but she made no attempt to dismiss it. Dreams had their own distorted logic, a logic that had little application in the waking world, nevertheless she’d recognised some veiled half-truth in its twisted reasoning, something she sensed was of personal relevance to herself.

The Seeking was done.

That realisation made her wince inside, rousing the melancholy she always associated with the completion of a Tasking. Although such events should have provided a sense of accomplishment or achievement, in her own case they’d never heralded more than the removal of purpose, a lingering sense of helplessness and the dreaded prospect of a return to Luachair.

And the ghosts awaiting there.

[Segment from Liath Luachra: The Metal Men – 2022]

Image ref: Segment from ‘Lonely Girl’ by Luis Royo.

The Music of What Happens

Once, as they rested during a hunt for wild deer, Fionn mac Cumhaill and his men debated what the finest music in the world might be.

“Then tell us what it is,” said Fionn to Oisín, who’d started the discussion.

“The cuckoo calling from the tree that’s highest in the hedge,” cried his son.

Fionn nodded. “That’s a good sound,” he admitted. “And you, Oscar? “What is finest of music to your mind?”

“The finest of music is the clash of a spear against a shield in battle,” the warrior exclaimed.

“It is a good sound,” said Fionn.

Working his way through the party, he asked each of his men what they thought and each gave their answer: the belling of a stag across the water, the baying of a tuneful pack of hunt hounds heard somewhere in the distance, the throaty song of a lark, the happy laugh of a gleeful girl, the whisper of a loved one in the darkness of night.

“These are all good sounds,” said Fionn.“

So, tell us, a Fionn,” one of his men ventured finally, for there was genuine curiosity amongst them.  “What do you think? What would your answer be?”

Fionn considered the question for a moment.

“The music of what happens,” he said at last. “That is the finest music in the world.”

Note: This is a segment I’ve adapted from one of the ‘old style’ Fionn mac Cumhaill stories, in this case from a book called ‘Irish Fairy Tales’  by James Stephens. Stephens actually adapted it from the 12th century Macgnímartha Find [The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn] back in 1920. This is how a lot of the Fenian Cycle (and other Irish mythology) works.

Irish Imbas Projects for 2022

The nice thing about a decent holiday is that it gives you time and space to think outside the rut, to consider new possibilities or the need to change existing circumstances. Like everyone else, I think I’ve been pretty burned out from work and social stress since the emergence of the first Covid strain in 2020. That was something that cut the legs out from under a full year’s work on a potential tv series (while also dramatically escalating my freelance consulting work) on top of all the writing.

Fortunately, sitting in the sun and blobbing over the holidays, does wonders for the soul, in terms of planning what I can realistically achieve over the forthcoming twelve months, at least. Here are the projects I hope to work on over 2022.


Liath Luachra: The Metal Men

I’m currently on the last leg of this story – which turned out to be far longer than I’d anticipated due to the disparate plot threads. I don’t want to finish on another cliff hanger so I’m just going to slog through on this to a close-to-final draft at the end of January. I’m hoping to make this available to Patreons sometime in February and it’ll be available in all the ebookstores sometime on 16 March 2022.


Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán:

The next book in the Fionn series will have clear overlaps with ‘The Seeking’ and ‘The Metal Men’ and Demne/Fionn takes a more active role in the narrative. I’m provisionally working to a release date of June 2022, but I now suspect this will be later.  


Untitled Liath Luachra Short Story:

This short story will be available for Patreons only. Further detail later in the year.


Non-fiction Irish Mythology Book:

This is a book explaining how Irish mythology (and other mythology) works. Most of it is already written but I’m trying to work out how to best get the information across. The plan is to release this sometime in the latter part of 2022. I’ll probably do a small ‘fantasy-based’ spin off on that as well to guide fantasy writers on what to consider when dealing with other cultures and mythology.


Liath Luachra: The Great Wild:

A short Liath Luachra series novella. This will cover an adventure prior to Liath Luachra joining Na Cinéaltaí. The story will initially be available for Patreons only. Further detail later in the year.


How to Save the World

Not the usual stuff I publish, this is a non-fiction ‘white paper’ based on the freelance consulting work I’ve been doing over the last 20 years, predominantly for Government Departments. Over that time, I’m come across patterns and behaviours that need to change in New Zealand (and overseas) if the planet and its occupants have any chance of surviving the next fifty years. Normally, I’d write something like this as part of a project for a government agency but, as they’re part of the problem, I’ll need to write it independently. I’m trying to set this at a level that journalists and the general public can utilise.


Obviously, that’s a substantial amount of work (and major breadth) on top of the Vóg newsletter and additional content I’ll be providing for my Patreons). Interest is also rising once again on a potential screen version of the Liath Luachra series so, as always, these projects need to be flexible in terms of responding to events that might occur throughout 2022.

If you’re keen on following this particular journey, feel free to subscribe to my Vóg Newsletter or if you’d prefer more up front and personal updates and woudl like to support the work I do, you might want to join my Patreon Group).

Best wishes to everyone for 2022.

Liath Luachra 1 on Sale for the rest of December

To celebrate a decidedly good end to a pretty exhausting year!

The first Liath Luachra book – the first one adapted for the screen – is going onsale everywhere until the end of the year. You can find it here: https://irishimbasbooks.com/book/liath-luachra-the-grey-one/

Or in the ‘Books’ section.

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 (first book in the Beara Trilogy) was my first book but it’s the type of book that takes ages to write (the plot isn’t linear and it actually consists of two different – but interlinked – stories). As a result, I started the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series.

After two of those, I wrote the first Liath Luachra book as a prequel to that series but it ended up being more popular so I wrote a second one. When Hollywood showed an interest I had to write two more as they wanted enough content for three seasons if it got off the ground. As a result, I currently have three Liath Luachra (Irish Woman Warrior Series) books out and a fourth in the works.

Needless to say, I get at least one email every month from readers demanding the 2nd Beara, the 4th Fionn, the 4th Liath Luachra etc.

Sheesh!

Do not do what I did.

The Metal Men

I’m deep into writing the last 3-4 chapters of Liath Luachra: The Metal Men at the moment – which concludes the adventure commenced in the previous book (Liath Luachra: The Seeking).

At this stage, I’m hoping to have a close to final draft ready by Christmas but the upcoming holiday season means the final draft won’t be ready until the end of January 2022.

This particular book is a turning point in the series in that it brings a number of the plotlines to a close but there are still several others that need another book to tie up (and some, of course, that continue into the subsequent Fionn mac Cumhaill Series. As a result, it’s taking a bit of time to get the balance of plot and theme the way I want them.

I’m looking forward to getting this out there and seeing if I’ve got it right or not.

GAME OF THRONES TAPESTRY IN BELFAST MUSEUM

Fascinating to see what happens when fantasy becomes commercially strong enough to impact on reality.

In New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand often sold the country as ‘Middle Earth’ (i.e. where LOTR was filmed) but with the Game of Throne television series, Northern Ireland started to give it some serious competition.

This 253-foot-long tapestry (based on a style similar to the Bayeux Tapestry) was hung in Belfast’s Ulster Museum for a time and depicted a scene from each episode. With the completion of the series, the tapestry was transferred to the Bayeux museum (in 2019).

You can see it online HERE

An Emotional Horse (and An Unsubtle Saint)

One of the stories associated with Saint Columcille tells how, on the day before he died, he went to visit his fellow monks working in the field, but was so weak he had to be carried to them in a cart. When he finally arrived, he informed them all of his great longing to ‘go with Jesus’ but that he’d held off as he was very holy and felt obliged to do his holy duty by attending the recent Easter celebrations.

Not being entirely thick, the monks cottoned onto the fact that he was suggesting he didn’t have much time left with them. Accustomed to his tedious harping on however, they pretended not to understand.

A little later, just in case they hadn’t got the message, the saint also obliquely informed his companion, Diarmuid, that it would soon be his own day of rest – the following Sunday in fact (wink, wink!). Diarmuid stared silently at him, not entirely sure whether the saint was talking about him or about himself.

Heading back to the monastery, Colmcille grew weary and was obliged to sit down and rest at the side of the road when a white horse suddenly ran up to him, pressed its head against his chest and started crying, drenching his shirt with the flood of tears.

Unaccustomed to bawling animals, Diarmuid quickly rushed in to save the saint and attempted to drive the horse away. Colmcille, however, never one to miss an opportunity to lecture, latched onto him and prevented him from doing so by saying, “Allow this admirer of mine to shed his tears on my chest. For this horse, being an animal, understood instinctively that I was going to be with my Lord yet you as a man could not foretell this.”

Ever a man to labour a point, oul Colm Cille.

The Vita Columbae – Life of Columba – a hagiography (or ‘propaganda record’ of the saint’s life) indicate that he died the next day.

It’s silent on whether he was helped by the other monks.  

Meath County Council recently produced a short movie of the story which you can find here: St Colmcille and the Depressed Horse

I prefer my own interpretation, of course.

The Metal Men

This is the cover for ‘Liath Luachra: The Metal Men‘ which completes the story commenced in the previous book (Liath Luachra: The Seeking) of the Irish Woman Warrior Series.

The first five chapters have now been edited and are in their final forms and I’m busy drafting up ‘close to final’ versions of chapter six and seven. At this stage, the plan is still to release the book in December 2021, although this might initially be to the Irish Imbas website or Vóg followers before its distributed more widely.

The background imagery is quite dramatic in this piece and I’ll be explaining the full context behind that in the next edition of Vóg (due at the end of the month).

Following the Warrior Path

One of the challenges with writing a character like Liath Luachra – the woman warrior from the Irish Woman Warrior Series and The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series – is the need to reflect the traumatised aspect of her personality across history two different series, while also allowing her to evolve as a person over the time arc of the time periods within those books.

In the first book of the prequel Irish Woman Warrior Series, Liath Luachra is quite savage and ruthless, the result of different experiences that slowly get revealed over the remaining books in the series.  Over that time however, she establishes tentative relationships and, although she never comes to terms with her background, she does develop substantially as person.

By the follow-up series (the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series) which is set 1-2 years after the first series, although she’s still struggling with her traumatic background, the character is an essential part of a larger community, a leader of sorts, and in an established and caring relationship. But nothing burns like trauma and echoes of that remain to shape her character.

The following is a scene from the novel Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma – the first in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series – which is set in the isolated settlement of Ráth Bládhma in first century Ireland.

In this scene, the woman warrior is speaking with Bearach, a young boy who idolises her, and she attempts to explain to him how being a warrior – gaiscíoch – isn’t all it’s made out to be …

In her own inimitable manner.

—————————————————

‘I wish to be like you, Liath Luachra. I wish to be a gaiscíoch – a true warrior.’

She stared at him in genuine astonishment. A moment later, she started to laugh. It was a rare sound for her and one that was surprisingly soft, if tinged with an underlying melancholy. ‘Ah, Bearach. You are truly the only one to make me raise a smile.’

‘I make no jest, Grey One. I wish to be a gaiscíoch like you. One day I hope to equal your skill as a fighter, your ability to work through the fight in your head. I want to learn courage such as yours. You know no fear when you are Out in the Great Wild.’

‘Ah, yes. The Great Wild backs down when I tramp through its forests. Wolves shit themselves and slink into the undergrowth at my passing. Even the Faceless Ones, the ghosts of hazy glades, hide and tell each other fearful tales of the dreaded Liath Luachra who will come through the shadows to take their heads.’

The youth blushed at her gentle mockery. Picking at a loose thread on the hem of his tunic, he wound it about his index finger, tightening it until the tip of the digit grew white.

‘You are the best of us here in Ráth Bládhma.’

‘Which only goes to show how little of the Out you’ve actually seen, Bearach. There are many out there who would best me in a fight.’

‘But Aodhán says you beat Dún Baoiscne’s finest warriors. He says they fear you, that your reputation for war makes them quake in their boots.’

‘Aodhán needs to harness his tongue. And his fancies.’

‘He told me about the day you first came to Dún Baoiscne with Na Cineáltaí – the Kindly Ones – your fian of a hundred men. He says that you crushed their best fighters in single combat. Humiliated them. That you were too agile, too strong to be defeated.’

Liath Luachra ground her teeth together.

‘I did defeat them. And, yes, I did humiliate them. But that was a mistake for which they never forgave me.’ She shrugged. ‘I understand that now. I’d probably have reacted in a similar manner if I was defeated by someone I considered weaker or in some way inferior.’

‘But you showed them!’ There was a shrill enthusiasm to the boy’s voice that made her cringe.

‘You have a warped understanding of things, Bearach. I accept that the fault is not yours for you base it on the tall tales of those who should know better. I will have strong words with Aodhán about putting such stories in your head.’

The boy looked confused, almost disbelieving. ‘Aodhán has not spoken true?’

Liath Luachra shifted awkwardly on her seat. She was uncomfortable having conversations of such depth with anyone other than Bodhmhall.

‘Aodhán’s claims hold a sliver of truth. I did lead Na Cineáltaí but that band never had more than ten men at any one time. They were brutal men, little more than killers -’ Her voice trailed off. ‘You must understand, Bearach, my life back then … that was a different life. I was a different person. I had a haunting on me, a haunting so venomous that I became little better than a wounded animal: vicious, savage and very cruel.’

Unable to bear his trusting gaze, she dropped her own eyes to the floor. ‘You have seen the way a dog will snap at a wound in its paw.’

The boy nodded slowly.

‘It is the reaction of a stupid beast who knows no better. It experiences pain and immediately thinks it has been attacked. In its attempt to retaliate, to strike back, it hurts itself even more.’

She reached down into the fire and pulled a burning brand from the embers. Part of the wood had burned away and much of it was scorched and black but the tip was still red hot.

‘That was the way of me back in those days. Except that I didn’t strike at my own limbs. No, I was far too smart for that. I struck out at others instead. Bandits, reavers, murderers, sometimes even innocent people who merely looked at me the wrong way, at the wrong time on the wrong day.’

She placed the tip of the burning brand against the back of her left hand. Bearach stared in horror as smoke from the skin rose up, the stink of burning flesh filing the air. Liath Luachra showed no sign of even noticing. Her eyes flared with a ragged intensity.

‘I had a belly full of venom, a heart full of gangrene and battle rage. This world had cut me to the quick and I was determined to hurt it back, to carve its filthy influence out of my heart. I hacked and cleaved a route through blood and sinew and bone when all that time my real target, the one thing I was truly trying to strike, was myself.’

She paused and took a deep breath as she dropped the firebrand back into the fire. Her forehead was sweating profusely. Her heart thundered and there was a sickly taste in her mouth. She focused her attention on these other physical sensations, refusing to acknowledge the pain in her hand.

‘So yes, in a martial sense, that made me strong. It made me impervious to fear and, for a time, to pain. It also made me impervious to those things that make us human: compassion, friendship, affection.’

Her eyes raised abruptly to lock directly on the boy’s. ‘And that,’ she snarled, ‘is what you must sacrifice to be a true gaiscíoch.’

See More

The Thinking Woman’s Warrior

I’m delighted to announce that the third book in the Irish Woman Warrior Series is now out and available at all the ususal ebookstores. The paperback version is still available only through Amazon but that will change).

Definitely the most popular of all my book series, this is a brief description of what its all about:

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The Irish Woman Warrior Series is based on the adventures of the woman warrior Liath Luachra and her mercenary fian (war party), Na Cinéaltaí (The Friendly Ones).

Set against a backdrop of encroaching forest, mythic ruins and treacherous tribal politics, Liath Luachra tells the story of a damaged young woman who can count on nothing but her wits and fighting skills to see her through. Rising above the constraints of her status and overcoming her personal tragedies, she emerges Ireland’s greatest warrior and a protector whose influence lives on one thousand years later.

You can find the full background and details on the new book here: THE SEEKING

How Things Work Out (or don’t!)

It’s interesting for me to look back on some of the older posts and articles in this site and see how my plans and intentions have changed over the years. I recently came an article from 4 years back where I’d outlined some of my book plans including

  • Liath Luachra: Sons of the Land
  • Bodhmhall: The Black Hag
  • Fionn: The Salmon of Secret Wisdom

The first of those (Liath Luachra: Sons of the Land) did go ahead and was, indeed, published but under the title Liath Luachra: The Swallowed. At the point in time where I wrote that article, I knew the book would have a strong wolf element to it. The Irish word for ‘wolf’ is ‘mactíre’ which literally means ‘son of the land,’ so it seemed a logical title at the time. I think I ended up changing it as ‘The Swallowed’ aligned more effectively with the theme of the book.  

Bodhmhall: The Black Hag was a book I’d intended to write as an accompaniment to ‘Liath Luachra: The Grey One’. You can read why that didn’t go ahead in the 2017 article (HERE).  

Fionn: The Salmon of Secret Wisdom is a book I still intend to write but having started the 4th in the series, I quickly realised that there were some important elements to the story that had to take place first before I could even start talking about the famous Salmon. For the next arc in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series (three more books), Demne/Fionn takes on a far greater role than in the previous arc. He is the titular hero in this after all.

I’m hoping to release Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán (the first book in the new arc) during the first quarter of 2022.

Dark Dawn/Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha coming in May 2021

Sometimes it’s best to kill a man fast.

Other times it makes sense to take it slow, to work the movements and the killing strokes in advance.

This is such a time.”

Ireland: First/Second Century

In the isolated valley of Gleann Ceoch, a dying warrior is assigned to defend the isolated settlement of Ráth Bládhma (future home of Fionn mac Cumhaill) from an incursion of enemy scouts.

This experimental format story in Irish and English will be released in May 2021 – final date yet to be confirmed.