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

Shake

These images from the Cork Midsummer Festival caught my eye recently. They relate to a performance called ‘Shake’ by Laura Murphy (an independent dance artist choreographer) which was part of the festival. I thought the images were an ingenious merging of humour and epic backdrop.

You can find out more about the performance itself (note it doesn’t actually take place on the Ringiskiddy mudflats!) HERE

Fionn, Fenians and Wild Irish Pigs

Wild pigs, especially boars, were exceptionally important in ancient Ireland due to their abundance throughout the wilderness and their usefulness as a food source. Wild pigs therefore form an important part in ancient stories and tend to pepper the established mythological associations.

Pigs were particularly associated with the Fenian Cycle tales and, indeed, wild pigs form an important narrative element across the range of Fionn mac Cumhaill’s life. The Macgnímartha Finn, for example, reports how, in his early years, the young Fionn defeated his first wild boar in Cuilleann in a kind of coming of age ‘warrior event’ (often used in ancient stories to give characters a certain kudos).  That goes as follows:    


Then he (Fionn) went forth to Cullen of the Uí Cuanach, to the house of the master smith Lóchán, who had a very beautiful daughter, Cruithne by name. She fell in love with the youth.

Apparently, Lóchán was very impressed with the young Fionn (although, amusingly, the Macgnímartha Finn never actually says why) and reacts – ahem – as most fathers would.

‘I shall give thee my daughter, though I know not who thou art.” Thereupon the girl slept with the youth.

“Make spears for me,” said the youth to the smith. So Lóchán made two spears for him. He then bade farewell to Lóchán and prepared to make his away.

“My boy,” said Lóchán. “Do not go upon the road on which is the sow called the Beo. She it was that devastated the mid­lands of Munster.”

But what happened was that youth travelled upon the very road on which the sow was to be found. There the sow charged him but be thrust his spear at her, so that it went through her, and left her without life. Then he took the head of the sow with him to the smith as a bridal gift for his daughter.

Hence is Sliabh Muice (Pig Mountain) in Munster situated.


That hill (no Sliabh na Muc) is located between Tipperary and the glen of Aherlow. In ancient times, the glen was an important travel route between the districts of Tipperary and Limerick so it’s no real surprise to find such stories associated with it.  

Towards the end of his life, another boar plays an important role in Fionn’s story. That occurs in An Tóraíocht when Fionn has supposedly made peace with the warrior Diarmuid Ui Duibhne (who earlier betrayed Fionn by eloping with his future bride, Grainne).

Visiting Diarmuid in his home in Sligo, Fionn joins the warrior in a boar hunt around Benbulbin. During the hunt, the creature gores Diarmuid badly and although Fionn has the power to heal him by letting him drink water from his palms, he refuses to do so.

Pressed by his grandson – the warrior Oscar – a friend of Diarmuid’s – Fionn relents but still overcome by bitterness, he twice lets the water flow through his fingers before he can raise them to Diarmuid’s lips. Finally, when threated by Oscar, Fionn does the right thing but by then it’s too late and Diarmuid has succumbed to his wounds.

Although wild boar may have once been native in Ireland, it became extinct in prehistoric times.  Since then, the environment has changed substantially, and if reintroduced, they would now be considered an invasive/pest species as they’re likely to have a huge impact on local habitats and wildlife. Despite this, there were some interesting happenings in Kerry recently when people were asked by the Parks and Wildlife Service to report any sightings of a large male boar running wild in the Cordal and Mount Eagle area.

I guess there’s always going to be some ‘eegit’ with a wild pig agenda!


I currently have a new series in development based around the adventures of an Irish sportswoman living in the west of Ireland. Set just a few years in the future, I’ll probably be using a lot of Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA) content for inspiration.

Attached is one of the better ads for Irish women’s football which is close to what I’m looking for in terms of style (although a pity about the whole Lidl branding).

Expect a kind of Liath Luachra in sports shorts and boots.

THE AD

Note this probably won’t be available for a year (or more) at least.

The Bird with the Cat’s Head

An Ceann Cait’ – ‘The Cat Head’ owl – is an intriguing part of the Irish landscape, particularly as its ‘working hours’ and natural camouflage make it extremely hard to see. That visual rarity give the bird a bit of a ‘mysterious’ reputation and, hence, there’s been a lot of mythology or folklore ascribed to it. Unfortunately, like much ‘Irish mythology’ out there on the internet, it tends to be more recently invented or the result of contemporary interpretations on topics that aren’t fully understood. To be honest, in its natural environment, the bird’s behaviour is fascinating enough and it doesn’t really need a whole bunch of fantasy background or meaning (or worse, the term ‘Celtic’) applied to make it more interesting.

I was lucky enough to see An Ceann Cait once a few years back, and although the feline ears, facial disc and broad eyes gives the animal a ‘stunned’ expression that looks quite comical, it’s actually a ruthless little predator (mostly preying on mice and other rodents but they take down small birds as well).    

I ended up using the animal in the first chapter of ‘Liath Luachra: The Seeking’ (which is also the short story ‘The Winter Cave’) as it served to present the protagonist with an effective foil for self-reflection. I intentionally kept away from any supernatural or mythological leanings, though.  As mentioned earlier, the animal’s already interesting enough in its own right and like most of the ‘magic’ or ‘meaning’ modern-day spiritualists seem so desperate to find, its often sitting directly in front of you.

Potentially on a branch.    

Ar Ais Arís

Brú Theatre are presenting an interesting virtual reality project around the Gaeltacht communities in Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry and Cork from the 11th  to the 20th of June. As part of the proposed approach, small audiences will be presented with scenic views and soundscapes of Ireland’s west coast, then virtual reality headsets will be distributed to show three individual 180° short films.

The films – shot in Connermara – will present an immersive mix of Irish language, music and poetry will be based on texts from Irish witers such as Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Máirtín Ó Cadhain.

Brú Theatre are a small theatre group based in Galway who present bilingual works in Irish and English (they’re the one who created and produced the visually captivating ‘Fisherwives’). Ar Ais Arís was commissioned by the Galway 2020 / Áistriú project.

Needless to say, I’m very jealous I’ll miss it.

Reading Material ‘as Gailege’ for Kids

One of the big problems I experienced raising my kids ‘as Gailege’ in New Zealand back in the early 2000s, was trying to get decent reading material to teach them with. Back then, there was relatively few ‘modern’ books for children (particularly in somewhere as isolated as New Zealand) and the cost of ordering them from the likes of ‘Siopa Leabhar’ and other outlets (who insisted on charging VAT even for overseas sales) was prohibitively expensive.

Fortunately, I was able to return to Ireland on a relatively regular basis and, on each occasion, I’d scour the shops for suitable books in Irish. One series of books which my kids absolutely loved was the ‘Cití Cailleach’ series (the Cití the Witch series) translated to Irish from the original ‘Winnie the Witch’ written by Valerie Thomas and illustrated by Korky Paul.

Yesterday, my daughter (now grown up) discovered a batch of the books we’d kept and was desperately looking for the Cití Cailleach series. Sadly, I’d passed them onto other Irish parents who were trying to raise their kids ‘as Gaeilge’.

As I was looking online however, I found this excellent video resource at Glór na nGael where one of the book is very ably read by Donach. I wish I’d had this kind of resource all those years ago!

You can find the you tube video HERE

LIATH LUACHRA: The Seeking – “THE BEST BOOK YET”

After the release of Dark Dawn/An Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha, I took a break for a few weeks, however this weekend I intend to recommence work on the next Liath Luachra (The Metal Men).

I also caught up with up a few reviews on Goodreads for Liath Luachra: The Seeking and was particularly gratified to find these two from Andrea and Peter – two people who’ve been incredibly supportive since the series’s inception. I value both of their opinions highly so this was a big thing for me.

Liath Luachra: The Seeking is currently available on Amazon in paperback but in digital form only at the Irish Imbas Books website. The digital book will be available everywhere from 30 June.

I’m hoping to release the next book in 3-4 months time but I’ll revela more on that in the next newsletter.

Sinéad

An interesting segment from Sinéad O’Connor’s biography in the Irish Times today.

To be honest, I’ve always been in two minds with respect to Sinéad. One part of me thinks of her as a somewhat obnoxious and needy individual who’s desperation for attention outweighs anybody else’s opinion.

Another part of me has a bit more compassion and sees both the anguish of the extreme mental health issues she’s dealing with and the creative work she’s produced as a result of that.

Both impressions, of course, are built on nothing more than half-glimpsed newspapers headings – rarely a source of credible detail.

I may get her book (if I find the time/opportunity) but I do wonder whether she’d be a ‘reliable narrator’.

Meanwhile, judge for yourself. You can find the article HERE

Scéal

‘Scéal’ is an interesting little story-based game I came across last month (although it was actually released way back in 2016!). Originally created by Sandro Magliocco, the Slovakian-based developer drew on childhood holidays in Carlingford to set the overall look and design of the project.

‘Scéal’ tells the story of the ghost of a young girl who’s trying to work out where she came from and how she died. To do this, she has to travel through the watercolour world of a magical storybook, using paint strokes to reveal elements of her backstory.

Some of the marketing and advertising for the game suggests strong links to Irish folklore and mythology but in fact, there’s no real connection to established native folklore (or if there is, it’s fanciful and paper thin). This game is essentially a fantasy ghost story that takes place in an Irish setting with moody Irish background music but, that said, it’s a lot better than a lot of the ‘Oirish’ themed stuff coming out of the States at present.

Overall, the game is absolutely gorgeous to look at and the music (by Sean-Nós singer Lorcán MacMathúna) is particularly outstanding. You can get a sense of what it looks like HERE.

Apparently, the game can still be downloaded via Steam and other sites.

The FREE literary game is live!

Dia Dhaoibh a Chairde/ Hallo Friends!

Welcome to the launch post for Dark Dawn/An Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha.

Through the image link below you’ll be transferred to an experimental format literary game relating to the ancient Irish Fianaigeacht – Fenian Cycle – tales (and to some of my own Fionn mac Cumhaill Series books). 

At heart, it’s the story of a sick warrior who’s convinced – against his better judgement – to try and save a tiny settlement. During the story, that warrior must make decisions – influenced by events in his own life – that can change the outcome.

It’s a very simple story. A very human story.

The game can be experienced through Irish or through English (or both). Naturally, because they’re different languages/cultures, those experiences will differ slightly. When it comes to different cultures, there’s no such thing as a ‘direct translation’.

This project is one I started three years ago as part of Irish Imbas’ ongoing mission to make Gaelic/Irish culture more visible and more understood (and to counter the reams of misinformation relating to Gaelic Irish mythology that pervade the internet). Developed on a shoestring budget, it required a whole new set of skills that I was obliged to learn as I progressed. In that regard, it’s also been something of a labour of love. To be honest, although I’m happy with the final product, I’m also a bit relieved I can finally move onto the next creative project.

Please feel free to share the post with whoever you think might be interested. In fact I’d encourage you to do so as there are still plenty of people out there under the illusiton that Irish/Gaelic is a ‘fantasy’ language. If you’re feeling particularly generous, I’d really appreciate an honest summary of your thoughts/feedback, either through the usual Goodreads review mechanism (here or at the end of the game) or directly by email.

But that’s enough of the intro.  It’s time to jump on in. Just click the link through the image below.

Bain sult as! / Enjoy!

SAMHLÚ

An ingenious 2020 Irish production by Meangadh Fíbín (for TG4 – the Irish langauge content creator and broadcaster) just recently picked up the ‘Most Original and Innovative’ award at the Prix Circom Awards ceremony.

‘Samhlú’ (which means ‘fancy’ or ‘imagination’) was a cultural showcase celebrating artistic endeavour and creativity in Ireland thorugh that very challenging period of artists.

Funded by The Creative Ireland Programme, it had some big names like Tommy Tiernan and Bill Whelan etc. Beautifully produced by incorporating script, music, dance and more, it was gorgeous to watch and, honestly, deserved the award.


If you haven’t heard of ‘Samhlú’ before, here’s a little taster: SAMHLÚ 

Dark Dawn/An Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha coming 11 May 2021

Introduction:

It’s raining butcher knives and my chest aches but Fiacail has a plan. That’s the way of it!  Little more than two days’ comfort here at Ráth Bládhma and already we’re caught up in its people’s problems.

But … it’s a nice place, I’ll give them that. A secluded, V-shaped valley, deep in the folds of the Great Wild’s crinkled arse. Two forested ridges stretch north-west and south-east, a tight-curving cliff at one end to tuck it in all nice.

The expanse of pasture starts at the western woods – the single access to the valley. It stretches wide and green to a slight rise at the valley centre. That’s where the settlement of Ráth Bládhma’s located. In truth, it’s a secure position. The inhabitants have a clear view on every side. With the gateway bolted, any enemies who did manage to find the valley would not only have to cross that open ground but the barrier of the circular ditch. Then they’d have to climb the earth embankment and palisades to get at the people inside.

Yes, the people of Ráth Bládhma have strong defences.

But that’s not going to save them.

Fiacail says there’s a fian coming, a war-party more than fifty strong. The way he has it, their scouts are already in the valley for he’s seen their sign and suspects they have eyes on us. Within the ráth, we number three fighting men; myself, Fiacail and my cousin Tóla. But we’re visitors passing through. The population of Ráth Bládhma proper sits at seven inhabitants and only two of those – the woman warrior Liath Luachra and the youth Aodhán – are blooded warriors.

And I do not reckon their chances.

LAINSEÁIL AN CAMHAOIR FUILSMEARTHA/ DARK DAWN!

AG TEACHT 11 BEALTAINE!

Tá sé ag cur sceana gréasaí agus tá pian i mo chliabhrach, ach tá plean ag Fiacail. Sin an chaoi a bhfuil sé! Níl muid anseo i Ráth Bládhma ach dhá lá agus tá muid sáite i bhfadhbanna mhuintir na háite cheana féin.

Ach… is áit dheas é. Gleann amuigh ar an iargúil atá ann, go domhain i bpoll tóna an Fhiántais Fhiáin. Tá dhá dhroim faoi chrainn ag síneadh siar ó thuaidh agus soir ó dheas, agus aill chuar ghéar ag an gceann eile a choinníonn gach rud istigh. Tosaíonn an féarach ag an gcoill thiar – sin an t-aon bhealach le dul isteach sa ghleann. Talamh fairsing, glas is ea é, a bhfuil ardú beag ann i lár an ghleanna. Sin an áit a bhfuil lonnaíocht Ráth Bládhma. Déanta na fírinne, is suíomh docht daingean é. Tá radharc soiléir amach ar gach taobh ag muintir na háite. Agus an geata dúnta, ní hamháin go mbeadh ar an namhaid teacht ar an ngleann ar an gcéad dul síos, ach bheadh air an talamh sin agus an díog chiorclach a thrasnú, dul suas an claífort agus, ar deireadh, briseadh tríd an sonnach adhmaid.

Go deimhin, tá cosaint láidir ag muintir Ráth Bládhma.

Ach ní thabharfaidh sí sin saor ón mbás iad ná baol air.

Deir Fiacail go bhfuil fiann breis is caoga laoch ag tarraingt orthu. Dar leis, tá scabhtaí acu sa ghleann cheana féin. Measann sé go bhfuil a lorg feicthe aige agus go bhfuil siad ag coinneáil súil orainn. Níl ach triúr laoch sa ráth; mé féin, Fiacail agus mo chol ceathrair, Tóla. Ach níl ionainn ach cuairteoirí atá ag stopadh ar feadh tamaillín ar ár mbealach. Níl cónaí ach ag seachtar i Ráth Bládhma i ndáiríre, agus níl ach beirt acu siúd ina laochra – an banlaoch Liath Luachra agus an t-ógánach Aodhán.

Agus déarfainn féin nach bhfuil seans na ngrást acu.

Tribes (Then and Now)

One of the aspects I delve into a little deeper with the book Liath Luachra: The Seeking (and the entire series, in fact) is around the workings of ‘tribes’, at least in terms of how they related to ancient Ireland.

The concept of ‘tribe’ (tuathor treibh in Irish) is one that most westerners are familiar with on an intellectual level. Due to the individualised, ‘nation’-based societies in which the vast majority of us now live in however, we don’t really have a practical understanding of how tribal systems function or how they influence human interaction or behaviour.

If you look up a definition of ‘tribe’ from the usual sources, most English-based dictionaries will usually define it in the form of ‘a human population’ that has the basic elements of:

  • a common ancestry; and
  • a common/homogenous culture

Which is a bit simplistic, to be honest.

When you think about it, it’s a pretty fundamental for people to come together. And that’s not only for social interaction but for the purpose of survival in threatening or trying circumstances. When it comes to human beings, the established truth is that, over the longer term, groups of people tend to operate (and survive) far more effectively than individuals, particularly where there’s an established interdependency between their members. That’s summed up quite nicely by the old Gaelic saying:

Maireann na daoine ar scáil a chéile’

It’s in the shadow of one another that people endure.

In ancient Ireland, where the population was substantially smaller than it is today, the most natural groupings would have been those based on familial bonds. Like all families however, those relationships were dynamic in that once groups reached a certain size (and the interdependency or internal bonds between people weakened), members would have ‘moved out’, splitting away from the larger group to form ‘sub-tribes’, some eventually growing large enough to be recognised by others as tribes in their own right. Certain tribes of course, would have gone the opposite way, combining with other tribes to form much larger tribal confederations.

One aspect of tribal life that many modern – particularly western – definitions tend to overlook, is the importance of a common geographical territory or ‘homeland’ in which tribes operate and over which they hold authority (even nomadic tribes have established routes they follow). This element is important as land ‘roots’ the society living on it. Basically, that means that over a long period of occupation, people establish very strong interactions with – and connections to – the land, connections that strengthen tribal identity. This is one of the reasons, tribal identity tends to be far stronger and encourages far greater loyalty than ‘national’ identity’.

Losing authority or control over a territory (as expressed through a tribe’s continued occupation or presence on it) – would have had a deleterious effect in that it separated tribal members from their established cultural history and stories – critical factors of identity (and probably linked to the reasons many westerners grapple with their own sense of ‘belonging’).

Unfortunately, even today, many western nations struggle to understand tribal models as they don’t fit neatly into their paradigm and/or governance systems. Some western governments, seeing them as something that doesn’t concur with their concept of ‘nationhood’, simply don’t want to.

And that’s a loss for everyone.

Dark Dawn/ Camhaoir Fulismeartha Launches 11 May

On 11 May, the story Dark Dawn/ Camhhaoir Fuilsmeartha will finally be released online. A creative project that’s been in development for almost two years, I’m feeling both relief and excitement at finally having it ready for launch.

Set in 1st Century Ireland, it tells the tale of a dying warrior who’s been assigned to defend the isolated settlement of Ráth Bládhma (future home of Fionn mac Cumhaill) from an incursion of enemy scouts.

Presented in a unique and experimental format, the story will be available in both Irish and English.

The invitation is currently available as a Facebook event. Just prior to the launch, a link will be made available to all those signed up as ‘attending’. That link will provide access to Dark Dawn and particpants can explore it at their own time and leisure.

If you’d like an invite, send me a request through info@irishimbas.com.

I hope you can join us.

THREE YEARS/ THREE MONTHS

Apparently it’s been three years since I last released a Liath Luachra book through the usual ebook stores. I do recall that, on that last occasion, I mistakenly made the book exclusive to Amazon. As a result, it was another three months before anyone who didn’t buy it through Amazon could obtain a copy.

I don’t particularly enjoy distributing my books through a monopolistic corporate that doesn’t pay its taxes. For that reason, with the most recent Liath Luachra book (Liath Luachra: The Seeking), I released the book directly through my own website.

To be honest, It’s always bothered me to have so little control over my own creative products and to support the greed of entities who take so much and return so little to society. This decision really felt like the best for me and, longer term, I suspect I’ll continue down that route.

As a result, for those who’d like to access the latest Liath Luachra in digital form, this is currently available through this site only. THe book will be available through the corporate ebookstores in about two months time (30 June 2021). The fourth (and possibly final) Liath Luachra book will be available before the end of the year. Initially – and predominanlty – through the Irish Imbas store.