Book to TV Series – how times fly

It’s almost four years ago now, since the pre-production work started on a television series based on ‘Liath Luachra: The Grey One‘.

The series (to be produced by Graisland Entertainment) was renamed ‘Liath: Celtic Warrior’ and I confess I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the new name – it simply doesn’t make sense from an Irish perspective. That said, it wasn’t my production and, with screen adaptations, you really just have to step away and accept that it’s a completely different product.

Sadly, the sudden arrival of the Covid pandemic knocked the production off its feet and it never really recovered. I’ve let the screen options run out as I’ve just been too busy on other things, but I might start sending this out again later this year.

Interestingly, there seems to have been a lot of interest from fans to have ‘Liath Luachra: The Great Wild” adapted for the screen. Because the story’s smaller in scale, it’s probably easier to negotiate an option but it’s pretty low on my list of priorities for the moment.

———————-

LIATH LUACHRA: THE GREY ONE

Graisland Entertainment have an amazing team doing some innovative pre-production work around the potential television series for Liath Luachra the Grey One.

Based on the story of a young Irish woman struggling to survive in the brutal, misogynistic world of warrior bands in 1st and 2nd century Ireland, if this gets the green light it’s going to throw what people think of ‘Irish mythology’ on its head.

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!

Fionn mac Cumhaill … The Poet

A lot of people tend to forget that Fionn mac Cumhaill also held a reputation as a talented poet (which has a whole bunch of relevant associations) and the Fenian narratives are strongly linked with what’s generally referred to as ‘nature poetry’.

A number of ‘nature poems’ are actually attributed to Fionn (and I’ve a bridge to sell you if you believe that). This one is a 9th century poem (in Irish and English) which was translated by the German philology scholar, Kuno Meyer, back in the early 1900s.

Note, this was written in 9th century Irish, so it’s quite different to modern Irish. I have to say, though, Meyer did a superb job of the translation.

Scél lem duíb

Dordaid dam

Snigid gaim

Ro-faíth sam

Gàeth ard uar

ísel grian

gair a rith

ruirthech rían

—————

Here’s a song

stags give tongue

winter snows

summer goes

high cold blow

sun is low

brief his day

seas give spray.

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!

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

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.

Cath Fionntrá – The Battle of Fionntrá

For those of you who aren’t aware, an updated version of An Seabhach’s “Cath Fionntrá” came out last year.

The story concerns the King of France’s ire (clearly, this was pre-revolutionary France) when his wife and daughter run off with his guest Fionn Mac Cumhaill. Joining up for vengeance with Dáire Donn (the King of all the World who wants to add Ireland to his collection) and a host of other famous kings and warriors, they sail in a gigantic fleet to Fionntrá in Ventry (Kerry) where the biggest battle the world has ever seen, takes place.

The white sands of Ventry will be white no more.

Although a little formulaic, this classic is still an interesting read for anyone interested in the non-kernel Fenian narratives.

Ten Years Later

As of today, it’s 9 years exactly since I published FIONN: Defence of Ráth Bládhma – my first attempt at producing a genuine (as culturally authentic as I could make it) Irish historical/ adventure novel.

To be honest, at the time I had no idea whether people would like it. I’d never written anything similar before and given my insistence on using Irish cultural concepts and – occasionally – language, I assumed most people would be scared off.

Nine years on, four books in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series have been published and five books will have been published in the spin-off series (The Irish Woman Warrior Series) by April this year.

Since their initial publication, several have been bestsellers, one of the series was fully adapted for a television series, another for a video game. I’ve been very lucky to have worked with some amazingly talented people at the top of their game in different sectors and I’ve learned a lot over the last decade.

2023 will bring some major changes in the way I work. My longer-term intent is not just to publish books but to revitalise Irish genuine cultural knowledge in a meaningful way and that requires working in other formats as well as books. As a result, over 2023, although I’ll be increasing the amount of time I spend writing and publishing, I’ll also be expanding my work in the production of other projects, the details of which will be revealed when, and if, they become available.

A key principle I adhere to is that any project I work on must retain its cultural authenticity and meaning. That approach places practical limitations on what you can do with an international audience, but it also forces you to apply levels of innovation and creativity that provide their own opportunity and reward.

I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to all of you who’ve taken the time to support the work I do. I hope you continue to enjoy what I do over the next decade

Fionn the Poet

A lot of people tend to forget that Fionn mac Cumhaill also held a reputation as a talented poet (which has a whole bunch of relevant associations) and the Fenian narratives are strongly linked with what’s generally referred to as ‘nature poetry’.

A number of ‘nature poems’ are actually attributed to Fionn (and I’ve a bridge to sell you if you believe that). This one is a 9th century poem (in Irish and English) which was translated by the German philology scholar, Kuno Meyer, back in the early 1900s.

Note, this was written in 9th century Irish, so it’s quite different to modern Irish. I have to say, though, Meyer did a superb job of the translation.

Scél lem duíb

Dordaid dam

Snigid gaim

Ro-faíth sam

Gàeth ard uar

ísel grian

gair a rith

ruirthech rían

—————

Here’s a song

stags give tongue

winter snows

summer goes

high cold blow

sun is low

brief his day

seas give spray.

Fionn mac Cumhaill Taking the Dogs for a Walk

An impressive stainless streel representation of Fionn (and doggies) in Kildare. I really like the style by Lynn Kirkmann (the creating artist) but I was surprised at the Kildare County Council website notice which provided the following text:

——————————

The sculpture came about following a consultation with Kildare County Council who wished to commission a significant landmark sculpture to celebrate Kildare’s colourful history and folklore and the presence of the Military in the area since earliest times and up to the present day.

Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna are genuine historical figures whose deeds and life stories have been embellished through time, myth and legend. There are many tales of their acts of bravery and magic. They were hunters and warriors, the bravest, the swiftest, the strongest and made the wild places of Ireland their demesne.

—————————————-

To find a County Council publishing that colonial-style fantasist perspective is genuinely a bit concerning. Fionn and the Fianna were not historical figures but native cultural representations.

Training the young Fionn mac Cumhaill

This is a representation from illustrator Arthur Rackam of Liath Luachra teaching Demne (the young Fionn) at a very early age.

It’s actually a visual representation of a scene from Macgnímartha Finn where Liath Luachra and the young Fionn chase other around a tree with a switch.

There are quite a few interesting and unknown elements associated both with the picture and to that scene, but I’ll cover those in Vóg at a later date.

FIONN: Stranger at Mullán Bán – First Reviews

The first reviews from the paperback are just starting to trickle in. Usually, by the time I release a book I’m far too close to tell if its any good or not. As a result, it’s always a bit of a relief to find the reviews are positive.

The digital version gets released on on 15 December.

The first review from Padraig O’Mahony can be found here:

The second review, from Wayne McAuliffe is here:

Huge thanks to Wayne and Padraig. Go raibh mile maith agaibh!

Another Fionn mac Cumhaill Book

I’m currently in the process of outlining the next book in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series, which will finish up the adventure commenced in ‘Fionn: Stranger at Mullan Ban‘ (but not the series).

All going well, I’m aiming to have this out in Oct/Nov 2023.

This current arc develops the ongoing direction of the series a little further. Demne/Fionn – the titular hero – is growing up and takes a more proactive role in the adventures but his three guardians (his aunt Bodhmhall, the woman warrior Liath Luachra, and the gregarious Fiacial mac Codhna) have their work cut out for them as they try to identify who’s behind the latest threat against their charge.

Cue more adventure, betrayals, and violence with a sprinkling of friendships and romance.

In the Shadow of the Death Sun

I’m just in the process of completing the last chapter in Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán and felt it might be timely to offer a small taster of what that book will be about.

For those of you who’ve been following this series, the events in this fourth book take place six years after Fionn: The Adversary. By now, the settlement of Ráth Bládhma is well-established, even if it’s inhabitants are still haunted by the unknown forces arrayed against over the previous three books. Demne – soon to be Fionn – is now a young teenager and dealing with the ramifications of drastic actions to keep him safe. Bodhmhall, meanwhile, continues to lead the growing settlement while dealing with her Gift and the disturbing premonitions it continues to send her.

Liath Luachra, meanwhile, continues to roam the wild, hunting and teaching the younger members of Ráth Bládhma … where this story begins


It was a death-sun that revealed the strangers’ tracks, south-east of the Bládhma mountains. Sliding in on the heel of dusk, its slanted glare cast a bloodstained hue that clearly illuminated the broad spread of footprints. Liath Luachra, the Grey One of Luachair, regarded them in silence, her expression grave and hard as stone. In all her years travelling that isolated territory, she’d never once encountered evidence of another person’s passage. To find such a number, and such a diversity, of tracks all at once, made her stomach muscles clench in unease.

Kneeling beside the nearest footprint, she chewed on the inner tissue of her left cheek and glanced warily around at the surrounding forest. The dense vegetation meant there was little enough to see: a series of endless dark walls where tall oak trees layered the ridges to the north and south, the distant blur of the Bládhma mountains peeking above the canopy to the east. Within that landscape however, there was no sign of movement or anything else out of the ordinary.

Reassured by the absence of any immediate danger, the woman warrior bent closer, probing the footprint’s shallow depth with the fingers of her right hand. Conscious that the early evening sunlight would soon be fading to grey, she scraped a piece of dirt free, raised it to her nose and sniffed.

It smelled, naturally enough, of earth.

Of The Great Mother’s moist and muddy breath.

Tossing the gritty residue aside, she wiped her hand on the leather leggings that hugged her haunches and considered the two boys who stood nervously to her right. Bran, with almost seventeen years on him, was more youth than boy and by nature tended to solemnity. That sombre temperament was evident now in the furrows that lined his forehead and the nervous manner in which he chewed at his fingernails while studying the erratic mesh of tracks. The youth was visibly troubled by the prospect of strangers in Bládhma territory. He might not have been able to remember the full detail of his parents’ brutal murder at Ráth Dearg fourteen years earlier, but he was certainly old enough to realise that incursions like this didn’t bode well for anyone.

‘Who are they, Grey One?’

The younger boy, the dark-haired Rónán, had little more than seven years on him but was markedly more upbeat than his friend. Despite being burdened with a wicker backpack full of pork and venison cuts – the prize from a successful hunt in the Drothan valley – he stared down at the scattered tracks with unbridled excitement.

The woman warrior shrugged dispassionately. ‘Read the story in the Great Mother’s mantle. Read what the earth tells you and tell me what you see.’

The dark-haired boy reacted to the suggestion with his usual animation, nodding fervently as he moved closer to the tracks. Ever keen to accompany the woman warrior on her forays into the Great Wild, he invariably responded to such tests with enthusiasm. Crouching alongside her, features fixed into a frown, he chewed on the inside of his own cheek in unconscious mimicry as he studied the tracks. His long hair was held from his eyes by a leather headband, but several strands had worked free, and he brushed them away with an irritated gesture.

Liath Luachra watched as his gaze fixed on the single footprint in front of him before transferring to the jumbled network of other tracks that surrounded them.

He’s just like Bearach. Happy, eager as a puppy.

She suppressed that thought immediately, burying it deep in a dark place where she rarely chose to venture. Some memories were best embedded in dark caverns, places best avoided, crannies where it was wiser not to light a torch for fear of what you’d see.

‘There’s five or six sets of tracks,’ noted Rónán. ‘The prints are spaced wide apart so they’re travelling fast.’

She nodded, pleased by the keenness of his observation.

‘Yes.’

‘They’re headed east.’

She inclined her head to her left shoulder but made no response. That fact was plain enough to see from the direction in which the tracks were pointing.

Sensing that he’d disappointed her, the boy tried again. ‘They’re men,’ he said warily, as though not entirely convinced of his own conclusion.

Again, easy enough to work out from the breadth of the imprints and the depths of their impressions.

‘Yes,’ she pressed. ‘But what else? What’s the pattern?’

Rónán looked down at the prints once more. Unable to distinguish any obvious configuration, he threw an anxious glance towards Bran, but the youth had already turned away, focussed on other, more distant tracks.

Realising there was little succour to be had from that quarter, Rónán turned back to scrutinise the nearest imprint, bending to examine it more closely in the fading light. Despite further study however, his efforts garnered no fresh intuition. Finally, raising his eyes to the woman warrior, he conceded defeat with a frustrated shake of his head.

By then, Liath Luachra had already changed position, moving away to lean against a holly tree, her backpack pressed against the coarse trunk to take some of the weight from her back and shoulders. She was looking towards the dying sun when she caught the movement of his head from the corner of her eye and, squinting against the ruddy light, turned back to consider him with an impassive regard.

‘It’s a tóraíocht. A pursuit.’ She shifted to adjust the balance of the backpack against her shoulders. ‘A group of men is chasing a single man, a solitary traveller from the looks of it.’

She gestured towards a particular line of tracks that had a visibly different appearance to the others.

‘See how those footprints look older? The edges of the prints are friable, the flat sections drier. All the other tracks are still damp because they haven’t fully dried out. That means they were made more recently, probably just a little earlier this afternoon.’

Rónán thought that explanation through for several moments before raising his eyes to look at her, his lips turned down in a frown. ‘Why are they chasing the single traveller?’

The woman warrior shrugged. ‘I don’t know. The Great Mother only ever reveals part of the stories of those traversing her mantle.’

Bran, who’d turned back to observe their interaction in silence, cleared his throat and shifted his weight awkwardly from one leg to another. ‘Grey One. If they’re travelling east, they’ll strike Ráth Bládhma.’

Liath Luachra rubbed her nose and sniffed.

‘Perhaps. Perhaps not. Just because the tracks here show them moving east, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll continue in that direction.’ She gestured loosely towards the forested ridges north and south of where they were standing. ‘In the confines of this landscape, it makes sense for the intruders to travel east but they might well drift to a different course once the ridges drop and the land opens out.’

Bran kept his eyes lowered and he made no response, but she sensed he was unconvinced by the argument.

Sighing, the Grey One stepped away from the tree, grunting as the full weight of the backpack settled back down on her shoulders. ‘Rest easy. Our own course to An Poll Mór follows their trail for a time yet. If they veer off the eastern path, we’ll know they’re no threat to Ráth Bládhma.’

‘What if they don’t veer off?’ asked Rónán. ‘That …’ The woman warrior gave another noncommittal shrug. ‘That’s an issue we’ll address if we come to it.


Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán will initially be available through Amazon on 15 December 2022

You can pre-order that book here: FIONN

You can find more information on the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series here: Fionn mac Cumhaill Series

A Bronze Defence

This bronze shield excavated from Lough Gur gives many ‘Cardboard Celts’ a frisson of excitement as they imagine the warriors who used it in battle. The truth of course is less violent but just as fascinating.

Contemporary theory is that this was one of a number of votive offerings deposited in the lake and it was probably never used in battle at all. The fact that the shield dates back to over 700 BC is also an eye-opener in that it shows a thriving level of craftmanship in the country well over two thousand years ago. That’s several hundred years before the time period in which the Fionn mac Cumhaill stories are set.

The shield in the image is actually a replica which can be seen at Lough Gur. The original is kept in the National Museum (for obvious reasons).

Irish Book Sales

For lovers of Irish mythology books, Irish historical fiction books, Irish historical fantasy books, Irish adventure books and Irish action books!

Circumstances beyond my control mean I won’t be returning to the office until the end of July. As a result, the sale of our two bestselling Irish adventure books:

Fionn: Defence of Rath Bladhma

and

Liath Luachra: The Grey One

will continue until 31 July.

When it was first published, ‘Fionn: Defence of Rath Bladhma‘ became a finalist for the 2016 SPFBO competition (it came in at 4th place)

Liath Luachra: The Grey One, meanwhile, was adapted for the screen as a potential television series by Graisland Entertainment.

Needless to say, we’re very proud of both books.