Liath Luachra: The Great Wild Release

I’m currently behind on where I want to be with Liath Luachra: The Great Wild. At this stage, the draft is sitting at over 30,000 words and although I had planned to keep it around that length, the final product is looking more like 40-50,000 (in other words, it’s about 3-4/5 complete).

This means that the final version it won’t be released in April as intended. I’m now postponing release until the start of June (although Patrons and paid newsletter subscribers will get it earlier).

In that regard, I’ve now put it up as a pre-order for Amazon which you can find here: The Great Wild Preorder

The back cover blurb reads as follows:

Ireland : 1st Century

In the deep, green depths of the Great Wild, a naked girl awakes in a forest clearing. With no belongings – bar a cloak and a bloody knife – and no memory to guide her, she must adapt and survive in an unfamiliar world.

With every possible kind of danger.

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.

Doon … and Other Works

An Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitúil agus Oidhreachta (Ireland’s Office of Public Works and National Monuments Service), get a lot of bad stick online, usually from opinionated keyboard warriors who don’t understand the realities of managing a nationwide conservation programme.

It’s nice, therefore, when they release a new project that helps to increase accessibility (and understanding) of our native monuments.

Earlier this year (in Dublin Castle from 8-12 February 2023), they held an exhibition with some stunning photographs of archaeological monuments throughout the country. If you missed that, the collection is also available in their book “Monumental Ireland” which is now available as well.

The attached image of ‘Doon Fort’ (Doon lake on the west coast of Donegal Ireland) is from that collection.

Culture Integrity in Creative Irish Projects

When I first started writing the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series almost nine years ago, I was keen to create a realistic, culturally authentic version of the famous Fenian Cycle. In particular, I wanted to write stories that were genuinely Irish while also accessible to non-Irish readers.

As part of my overall goal with Irish Imbas however, I was also keen to use the books as a means of reintroducing lost Gaelic/Irish concepts (that is words, expressions and – more importantly – ways of thinking) that have been lost from common Irish parlance as a result of language decline, the impacts of colonization and so on, but which still have significance at a societal level.

This is why throughout my books (and other projects), I always add a smattering of words like ‘fian‘, , draoi, ráth, and so on – words that by themselves mean little, but which in the context of understanding Irish/Gaelic culture, have a hugely significant resonance.

The word ‘Fianna‘ is a classic example of how much has been lost. This word – the basis for the contemporary word ‘Fenian’ – is believed by most people (including many Irish people who were never told any better) to be the name of Fionn mac Cumhaill’s war band.

In fact, ‘Fianna’ was simply nothing more than the plural of the word ‘fian‘ (which meant ‘battle group’ – usually in a tribal context). This means that Fionn’s fian was just one of a number of such groups and a recognised dynamic in the society of the time.

It’s a little thing, but when you take the downstream consequences of that new knowledge into account you can see how it changes the interpretation of both story and culture. For creators who want to retain cultural integrity in their work, this absolutely has to be done.

Trying to balance those competing goals (the requirements of cultural integrity and the requirement to deliver an accessible and enjoyable story to an international audience) can actually be quite a challenge at times. The balance is never easy and any creative decision you make with one can have a huge consequence for the other.

One of my earliest decisions, for example, was to retain the original Gaelic spelling for the character names (Fionn, Liath Luachra, Bodhmhall, Fiacail etc.) and place names (Seiscenn Uarbhaoil etc.). This goal for cultural accuracy – naturally – clashed enormously with the accessibility goal. For non-Gaelic speakers, Irish names can be the equivalent of having a broken stick in your mouth – whatever comes out is going to come out mangled! Anyone used to thinking in English – understandably – struggles with the unfamiliar combination of vowels and consonants.

Naturally, the advice I received from everyone was to use an anglicization of the names to make the reader more comfortable. After all, that’s why in the early days Fionn mac Cumhaill’s name was anglicized to the meaningless ‘Finn Mac Cool’. Sure, the latter is easier to say for an English speaker but the English name doesn’t carry the strong cultural associations of the Irish one (Fionn means ‘fair-headed’ but also has related connotations of ‘insightfulness’ etc.). ‘Finn’ is a meaningless term that includes no such depth or resonance (and, here, I’ll have to apologise in advance for to those parents who’ve gone and named their kids, Finn!).

Most of the books and other products I produce are strongly influenced by my decision to always lead with the ‘heart’ (cultural authenticity) as opposed to the ‘head’ (commercial ease). That said, I usually try to improve the accessibility where and when I can. For example, with the names and placenames, I soften the challenge for readers by providing an audio pronunciation guide.

In most respects, that actually pays off in the longer term as readers can generally work out when something’s authentic or not. Most readers tend to respect what I’m trying to achieve and have demonstrated immense patience and willingness to overcome things like the initial pronunciation challenge.

At the end of the day, I guess what my experience has really demonstrated is that if you produce something that’s good enough/intriguing enough/interesting enough for people to enjoy, they’ll put up with your whims and, often, they’ll support you.

As an aside, here’s a question I once held up at Irish cultural/heritage class I was running:
How would you pronounce the following?

  • Zach Galifianakis
  • Michelle Pfieffer
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor

Everyone in that group of attendees (about 18) was able to pronounce at least two of those names. Even when they couldn’t, they still knew exactly who those individuals were and what they had achieved as part of their creative career.

Basically, culture is not a barrier to success unless you let it be.

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

Breith [Birth]

Father Sun had neared his peak when the girl in the clearing stirred.

Stretched across the ankle-high grass, her initial shiftings were indiscernible beneath the black cloak that swathed her. As vigorous ripples of activity shifted through the garment however, it loosened and slowly unravelled. A bare pair of legs slid into the open and a solitary figure unfolded from it in a series of awkward angles.

Lying face down in the flattened grass, the dark-haired girl who’d emerged, raised her head to peer at the forest standing twenty paces away. A long moment passed as she stared blankly at the trees, engrossed by the shifting depths of its mottled browns and greens, the smooth sway of branches that throbbed with the sound of birdlife.


This is the opening scene to Liath Luachra: The Great Wild, a novella that I’m hoping to complete by the end of next month.

It’s probably been influenced (to a degree) by some of Alessio Albi’s beautifully moody works (attached)

Some readers might find this image a little familiar.

That’s because it’s remarkably similar to the layout of the ‘Crannóg‘ used in the book ‘LIATH LUACHRA: The Metal Men.

In fact, this is an early image of the ráth at the Irish National Heritage Park. It has a very similar layout to the fictional crannóg as, in general, there wasn’t major differences in terms of structural designs back in the day. People used the natural materials available and the fundamental designs of what worked were easily adapted to many structures.

Our ancestors were eminently practical as, a lot of the time, their lives depended on it. 

Coming in 2023

For all of the bad news over 2022 (the Ukraine War, Climate change disasters, attacks on democracy etc.), the year was a relatively calm time at Irish Imbas Books and we managed to release a trio of works that I’m quite proud of.

In March, the fourth book in the Irish Woman Warrior Series – Liath Luachra: The Metal Men – was released (and well received by followers of that series). This was accompanied by a supporting short story, Liath Luachra: The Consent (note: this is only available through this website) which resolved a gap in the plotline that I hadn’t been able to cover in the books without disrupting the flow (it brings the character Bressal back into the series). Overall, I’m very satisfied with both

Meanwhile, in about two weeks, the digital version of FIONN: Stranger at Mullán Bán, book four in the Fionn Mac Cumhaill Series finally gets released.

This book marks a step change in the direction of the series as the maturing Fionn (Demne) starts to make his mark and begins his struggle to solve the mystery around his heritage. As always, he’s supported by his three guardians: his aunt – the bandraoi Bodhmhall, the woman warrior Liath Luachra, the eccentric womaniser Fiacail mac Codhna, and a number of other characters from Rath Bládhma (and further afield).

At this stage, I’ve seen three reviews for the book. All three have been very positive, which is always something of a relief.

What’s coming in 2023?

For the next six months, I’ll be working full time in the creative space and focused on completing the following projects:


Liath Luachra: The Great Wild.

The Great Wild is a prequel to the Irish Woman Warrior Series. The first ‘chapter’ is now complete but its slightly experimental nature means I’m still a bit uncertain as to what the final product is going to look like. The target for release to Patrons is Mar/April 2023. I’m not sure when it’ll be publicly available, yet.

Liath Luachra: The Raiders

This isn’t a new book but a repackaging of two previous ones (Liath Luachra: The Seeking and Liath Luachra: The Metal Men) so if you’ve read those, this probably won’t be of interest

Given the strong positive feedback on these books, I wanted to bring the two stories together into a single narrative (which had always been the original intention). This will require some minor rewriting to make the story more accessible for people who haven’t read the other books, but it shouldn’t be significant.

‘The Raiders’ will be exclusive to Amazon for a few months (which means the digital versions of Liath Luachra: The Seeking and Liath Luachra: The Metal Men will be unavailable from all other bookstores over that time. If you’re thinking about getting either of those books from Apple/Kobo/Google Play/Barnes & Noble/ etc., I’d recommend getting them before Christmas as they won’t be available from those suppliers for several months.

Fionn: The Betrayal

Are you a follower of the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series? Have you ever wondered who facilitated the deadly ambush in Fionn: Traitor of Dún Baoisnce or how’The Adversary’ managed to obtain physical tokens from Bodhmhall and Liath Luachra? Have you, perhaps, wondered what exactly happened at the great battle of Cnucha (where Fionn’s father Cumhal was killed) or why so many vested interests have it in for Demne/Fionn?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, then Fionn: The Betrayal may be for you. This series is slowly but surely drawing to its conclusion, so I’m planning to resolve a number of plotlines with this particular book. It won’t be the last in the series, but it will certainly answer some of the mysteries lurking in the background since book 1. There’s also an overlap with the Liath Luachra Series in there although I don’t think you’ll be able to identify it just yet.

The projected release date for this is June/July 2023.

Beara: Cry of the Banshee

Yes. It’s finally happening. After six or seven years of distraction with the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series and the Irish Woman Warrior Series, I’m finally returning to West Cork and Beara, the most south-western point of Ireland. There, more skullduggery and mythological detective work, await the ever-cynical Mos O’Suilleabháin (O’Sullivan).

Beara: Dark Legends was my first self-published book and it took about 4 years to research and write. It was quite successful at the time of its release, but the effort of producing it left me wrung out to the point where I couldn’t cope with starting the second book (hence the detour into the Fionn and Liath Luachra series). I’m now satisfied that I can get this series up and running again, so expect to see an announcement towards the end of 2023.

Other Projects

There are also a number of other projects sitting at different stages of development or completion, that I’ll also be working on over 2023. Some of these include audiobooks, film/tv scripts, a non-fiction project (The Fundamental Concepts of Irish Mythology) and two more ambitious projects that I’m not in a position to talk about yet. These kinds of projects are hard to scope out in terms of timelines but they’re important from a creative perspective in that they allow me t explore different aspects of storytelling.
I’m also hoping to carry out at least one or two collaborations over 2023 so if you have an interesting (and appropriate) project, send me an email before I get overloaded. 

All in all, 2023 is looking like a very important year from my perspective. Roll on New Years Eve!

A quick shout out.

A quick shout out to the Irish Field Archery Monthly Magazine which is running a copy of my article on “Bows and Chariots in Ancient Ireland – The Facts and the Fantasies” in their latest edition.

Kudos to the creators and their work- I know how difficult it is to produce a regular publication while struggling to ensure appropriate content and quality. You can find a link to the free PDF’s of their magazine here: Irish Archery

And interesting side-effect wrt to this article is that it always tends to draw at least a number of ‘Cardboard Celts’ out of the shadows. After republishing, I usually get at least 2/3 emails or social media comments from outraged readers who refuse to believe that history and physical fact doesn’t align exactly with events in ‘An Táin’. It’s also interesting to note that, generally, most of these outraged individuals aren’t Irish.

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.

Future Productions

The 4th book in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series (Fionn: The Stranger at Mullán Bán) is now a close to final draft (another three to four weeks are required to complete the reviewing and editing process).

Irish Imbas Patreon supporters should be contacted by the end of October. The book gets officially released on 14 December.

Meanwhile, work has commenced on Liath Luachra: The Great Wild which we’re hoping to complete by March/April 2023.

‘The Great Wild’ will be a shorter novel that outlines the beginning of the future woman warrior’s adventures and the events that made her the person she is.

As 2023 progresses, Irish Imbas outputs should increase with two additional publications. That will most likely include one of the following:

  • Fionn: The Betrayed (Book 5)
  • Liath Luachra (Book 5)
  • Beara (Book 2)

Production will also commence on a number of audiobooks (probably the Beara Series) and one or two additional non-book projects.

Overall, 2023 is looking like a busy year.

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