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.
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.
One of the gorgeous initial scenes from ‘An Táin’ by Cló Mhaigh Eo – Ireland’s only Irish-language comic producer (that I’m aware of – feel free to correct me). This involves Meadhbh and Aillill comparing their belongings to see which of them is the wealthier.
The image is by Dublin artist and animator, Barry Reynolds (who subsequently went on to do character design for ‘The Secret of Kells’ animation film.
These days, thanks to many decades of misinformation (and an unregulated internet), most non-Irish people (and, sadly, some Irish people) can’t tell the difference between a Gael, a Celt, a Viking, a Gaul, a Pagan/Wicca, a Skyrim warrior, a Briton, a Saxon, a Pict, blah, blah, blah, etc. etc. and if you look at many English-language representations (particularly in gaming) you’ll find that they use a mish-mash of completely different cultures for each.
I’ve recently been researching various conflicts and battles between the early European peoples and the Roman Empire and, of course, the long-term engagement between the cultures is far more complicated than you’d think. Interestingly, most of the imagery around this subject also tends to be Eurocentric in nature (the Gauls and the northern German tribes).
The above image by talented French artist Thibault Ollier, pretty much epitomises how most western people visualise those early conflicts. Applying the historical story to the reality to 1st century Ireland means a certain amount of adaptation is going to be an interesting challenge for the next book in the Liath Luachra series if I want to make it work on both a creative and culturally authentic basis.
Ireland’s ‘Culture Night’ kicks in tonight (depending on what part of the planet you’re on) and its very cool to see Macnas running the giant Crom through the streets of Athenry (with drummers and assoicated escorts).
I have to admit, the staggering array of events on Culture Night is probably the one thing I miss most about Ireland these days.
This murky image was taken at Uaimh na gCait (often bastardised into English as Oweynagat) located at Cruachain in Roscommon and its one of the more famous ancient ‘crossing points’ to the Otherworld – a list predominantly derived from literary (i.e. not historical) sources. The site is definitely worth a visit as long as you also visit the nearby Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, and you’re nimble enough to get through the narrow entrance and clamber down into the main cavern.
Over the last forty years or so however, it’s worth noting the development of misinformed fantasy-style narratives around the site and its function (e.g. the Entrance to Hell, the home of the Morrigan, dun-dun-dun!). As a result, you have to take most of the online references with liberal doses of salt.
This pattern of what we generically call ‘Tourism Mythology’ is one that we’re seeing increasingly across the country and its probably something you should keep an eye out for if you’re interested in authentic Irish culture.
I’ll probably be covering the issue in Vóg (the Irish Imbas newsletter) at some point in the near future.
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.
There was one morning when the world dissolved, obliterated in a downpour that melted the distant islands, then the immediate surroundings as well. Preceded by a cluster of unusually threatening, blue-bruised clouds, the incoming deluge had given plenty of warning. As a result, the girl was comfortably settled under a solitary oak at the tip of the inlet outcrop, cloak tugged tight around her shoulders as she waited to watch the clouds unload their burden.
The downpour rattled the lake’s surface with a startling intensity that she’d not seen before, a ferocious hail that scattered white-foamed eruptions across the water around her. Mirrored by countless ripples on that shuddering surface, the resulting kaleidoscope of movement was giddyingly, but terrifyingly, beautiful.
Tethered to the island by nothing but a thin strip of rock, the girl felt a swell of panic when even that link disappeared, and her existence reduced to the tree above and three paces of the rocky outcrop. Conscious that there was nothing beyond the fusillade of rain, she was struck by a sudden, shocking sense of absence. Terrified at the prospect of being cut adrift, she peered desperately through the deluge for any hint of physical substance, for any trace of natural solidness, for … anything.
To her trembling relief, the downpour eased soon after, and although it seemed to take far too long a time, the outline of the island took substance through the rain. Whole and expansive, the Great Mother’s bulk emerged from the surrounding murk. Slowly, ponderously, it reached across the thin strip of stone, embraced the girl in her fulsome whole and, soothingly, reassuringly, brought her home.
Liath Luachra: The Great Wild was released on 2 June 2023. You can find the details here: The Great Wild
There’s a lot of misinformation online about this rock in Kilcatherine on the Beara peninsula. So much so, that the rock is now regularly polluted by votive ‘offerings’ left by visitors and ‘seekers’ who don’t really understand the context or the evolution of its fame.
This year, I’m hoping to make a start on the next Beara novel in which An Chailleach Bhéara plays a large part. Hopefully, at the same time, I can make it a bit easier for those who come to Beara to actually understand what they’re looking at.
It’s been three years since I released the first official ‘Irish Imbas Catalogue’ (to much hoorah!) back in May 2020. One of the problems with catalogues, however, is that they really are a snapshot in time of creative work and output and, often, they don’t reflect creative or professional changes that have occurred over a particular period.
Last year, I instigated a slow-moving change in response to patterns that I was picking up around Irish culture and what people mistakenly call ‘Irish mythology’. Some of that involves an increase in non-fiction work – on top of my fiction work – the results of which should become more evident towards the end of this year or the start of next year.
At the moment, therefore, the current Irish Imbas catalogue doesn’t provide information on the following:
• LIATH LUACHRA: The Great Wild (book release 4 June 2023)
• LIATH LUACHRA SERIES: Screen Bible and Script (Aug 2023)
• The IRISHNESS Conceptual Model– Cultural Work (Oct 2023)
• THE FENIAN PROJECT – Cultural Work – (Oct 2023)
• How MYTHOLOGY works– anticipated release Dec 2023)
• FIONN 5– book release – anticipated release Dec 2023)
• BEARA SERIES: Screen Bible/ Script (Dec 2022)
Fortunately, it does still offer a good summary of what Irish Imbas does and why. If you’re interested you can find that here: Catalogue
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 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.
We had a bunch of foreign visitors arrive at our home in Cork last night. Being hospitable, we fed them at the kitchen table. As soon as they’d consumed what we’d offered, they got up and started rummaging through the cupboards, combing through our personal correspondence, pulling our belongings out and throwing them one side as they continued their search.
‘Where do you keep the Irish mythology?’ they demanded.
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.
There’s a new version of ‘An Táin’ released this week. The cover image and fact that its title is ‘THE Táin’ suggests it’s designed for a non-Irish audience (although, to be fair, it’s primarily targeting children).
I’ll be writing more about ‘An Táin’ in ‘Vóg‘ – the Irish Imbas newsletter – at the end of the month.