An Irish ‘Thirteenth Warrior’

It’s just about four years since I published the second Liath Luachra book and, keen to distinguish it from the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series, I had the action take place much further south in the area that was once called ‘Usraighe‘.

I also incorporated a number of elements from ancient stories associated with Usraighe as part of the plot. As a result, the final story is often described as a kind of Irish version of the movie ‘The Thirteenth Warrior’ (itself based on a book called ‘Eaters of the Dead’ by Michael Crichton which I’ve never actually read). That was never the intention but I can certainly understand the comparisons.

‘The Swallowed’, therefore, was very much a standalone novel and although it contributes to the Irish Woman Warrior Series and reveals elements of the character not found in other books, it’s not necessary to have read it to follow the series. This is also why, when the series was originally optioned as a potential television series, this book was not included with the other three as part of the final deal.

Drawda: Boyne Mythology

A potential site of interest for those with a cultural history/mythology bent is Drogheda ( a port town on the eastern coast) that came up with an interesting artistic initiative over the course of the Covid pandemic.

‘Drawda’ (a very clever play on words) was a curated public arts programme that took take place in the town from November 2021 until it culminated in a one-day, fun day in April 2022. Consisting of six murals, it involved six national and international mural artists working to the theme of key figures from Irish Mythology associated with the Boyne Valley and region (an area which is linked to a huge proportion of our national mythology and belief systems) .

The first of these was Ciaran Dunlevy’s magnificent mural (on Wogans wall) which depicted part of the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Salmon of Knowledge.

The second mural features Etaín by Dutch artist Nina Valkhoff.

The third mural (near Abbey Lane) represents Bóann (the personification of the Boyne) by Spanish artist Lula Goce.

The fourth work is ‘The Morrigan‘ by Friz (a Northern Irish artist). Have to say, the man’s already earned my respect as he’s spared us the usual ‘Goth’/Fantasy representation of ‘The Morrigan’ that non-Irish people love (blackness, doom and bloody crows!)

The fifth work is An Dagda ( an ancient representation of fertility – no he’s not a feckin god!) by the French artist Russ (in Lawrence Street)

And the final mural (on Drogheda’s port wall) is Amergin by French artist Aero. Again, it’s pleasing to see how he avoids the ususal foreign cliched representation of Amerigin.

Overall, the works are unique but hold the core of the old stories and, for the most part, avoid the hackneyed Anglo representations. Well done to all involved in the project!

The Saint’s Potty

This charming story is associated with Áed Uaridnard, who was one of the senior Northern Uí Neill chieftains. According to the source, he was passing through monastic land controlled by Saint Muru when he stopped to wash in the river flowing through the town. As he did so one of his men warned him not to do so.

Oh, rí. Do not put that water on your face.’

‘Why not?’ asked the rí

‘I’m ashamed to say,’ he said.

‘What shame is on you for telling the truth?’ asked the rí.

It’s this. The clerics latrine is over the water.’

‘Is that where the cleric, himself, goes to defecate?’ asked the rí.

‘It is. indeed,’ said the youth.

‘Then, not only will I put it on my face,’ said the rí. ‘I’ll also put it in my mouth, and I’ll drink it – drinking three gulps of it – for the water his shit goes into is a sacrament to me.’

Obviously, this somewhat extreme example of piety reflects a fanatical sense of Christian dedication, but you’ve got to avoid the temptation of jumping on the anti-Christian outrage wagon to get your head around this particular story.

That said, there there are plenty of other valid reasons to be annoyed with Christian (and Wicca and Pagan and etc. etc.) interpretations of ancient Irish culture.

Certainly, too many to cover here.

Almost eight years of Liath Luachra

A blast from the past with this old post (and draft cover) from 2015.

At the time, I was still writing the first Liath Luachra book with the intention of using it as a prequel for the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series.

That plan went kinda sideways. After an initial lacklustre reception on it’s publication, more and more people started writing and asking for a second book. Four books (and a few short stories) later and the Liath Luachra series has now surpassed the popularity of the original series it was meant to introduce.

Add in subsequent screen options and the character seems ot have taken on a life of her own that I’d never really anticipated.

———————

LIATH LUACHRA – THE GREY ONE (VERY EARLY DRAFT COVER)

2015 has been a bit of a tough year on the work front so far but I’m pleased to say that we’re actually making good progress on the book and website fronts (amongst others).

At this stage, I’m approximately two thirds of the way through Liath Luachra – The Grey One (which is something of a prequel to the Fionn Mac Cumhaill Series). I usually find that by the fifth chapter, the plot lines are cohesive but that I need to go back and rewrite/amend some of the earlier sections to ensure the linear flow of the narrative. This tends to delay the completion but it really is the most important part for me in terms of ‘plot quality’ so getting over that ‘hump’ is important. Everything else after this feels like “walking downhill” (as one of the Ents in LOTR says)

Review of Turning Roads

‘Turning Roads’ is an innovative anthology of short narratives centred around the theme of ‘Irish Folklore’ and told through the medium of comics. Consisting of 18 different stories contributed by a range of creators from Ireland and overseas, it was edited and produced by Paul Carroll in early 2022.

It’s probably worth noting up front, that themed anthologies generally come fraught with complications for the people who produce them. Collating works from a wide range of different creators and creative styles can often feel like herding chickens (chickens with ADHD and attention disorders). For ‘Turning Roads’ however, those challenges are even more substantial.

The first challenge is the ‘narrative format’.  It’s actually quite hard to write an effective, stand-alone, story so that it fits into a set number of pages and, to achieve that, writers have to use great innovation and practical creativity in terms of compressing the plot and dialogue. Produce those shorts stories in ‘comic’ or ‘graphic’ format however, and suddenly the task becomes that much harder as you also have to take the visual element of your story into account as well. 

The second challenge is ‘theme scope’. To put it bluntly, the scope of a theme like ‘Irish Folklore’ is absolutely huge. Sadly, outside of Irish academia and various Celtic Studies circles, there’s actually a very limited understanding around the concept of ‘folklore’. Similar to concepts such as ‘Irish mythology’, it has vastly different interpretations, depending on who you ask, where you ask and when you ask.

Such a wide thematic scope was bound to result in an enormous swath of thematic variety and, of course, that’s what happened here. That issue was astutely picked up on by writer Michael Carroll (no relation to the editor) in the foreword where he openly admits to being thrown by the sheer diversity of the stories. He nicely explains that off as the typical reaction by Irish people when they’re being told what to do – and, to be fair, there’s a certain amount of truth to that.

As a result, the final collection of stories careering down ‘Turning Roads’ incorporates a range of works from ‘ould schtyle’ tales your grandad would have told you, to contemporary sci-fi and fantasy narratives, to hoary plastic paddy pastiche, where every cliche under the sun is dragged out to play. Throw hugely different writing and artwork styles into the mix, and your anthology can start to feel like the first stirrings of a Sunday morning hangover.

So, given the limitations of format and thematic scope …, does it work?

Well, yes and no. The more ‘plastic paddy’ stories (usually those dealing with faeries and leprechauns – ochón, ochón!) tend to be the weaker ones as they’re trapped within established cliches (that’s not always the case, of course and sometimes a weak narrative is effectively saved by impressive artwork).

The stronger stories tend to be those that integrate the visual and written elements to create an interesting or original narrative concept, within the restrictions of the page/panel count. Where the stories successfully manage to incorporate genuine elements of folklore, that’s an additional bonus. Sadly, only a few of the stories actually achieve the latter.

The following were my favourites from the anthology, those stories where the contributing elements of script, artwork, and folklore (not always) combined to produce an effect I appreciated or admire. Needless to say, these were MY personal favourites. I’m pretty sure you’d choose something completely different based on your own taste and personal background.  

Bansi (script and art by David Byrne and coloured by Fawn Blackwood)
A tight, tense little story based around two women awaiting the possible end of the world – or Dublin, anyway.  Despite the extremely tenuous link with Irish folklore (the ‘Bansi’ computer system of the title is nicknamed ‘Banshee’ – that’s it!), I really enjoyed the stark, yet intimate, atmosphere of two women smoking cigarettes on a Dublin city rooftop, waiting to find out if some foreign missiles are going to destroy the city or not. A very clever, moody story.   

The Cycle (written by Gerry Moloney with art and letters by Colin Crakey)
This, the first story in the collection, genuinely caught me by surprise, and it took me a moment to work out what was going on. An ingenious sci-fi reinvention of the battle of Áth Fhirdiad (Ferdiad’s ford – in Ardee, Co Louth), where Cú Chulainn fought his best friend and foster brother Ferdiad, this is a very cleverly done reinterpretation, particularly within such a small panel space.

Mythic Miners (by Dave Hendrick and Pete Marry)
Mythic miners is also a clever reinvention, this one relating to the cliched ‘crock of gold’. The ending is sudden and a bit weak, but the story’s sly humour still works well.  I cracked up at the concept of the ‘Bitcoin Billionaire’ discovering ‘trader’ leprechauns in his field. 

Long Live the King of the Cats (story by Hugo Boylan with art and letters by Hugh Madden)
King of the Cats is based on the old Cork version of the original tale (which is actually believed to originate from Great Britain). The design and artwork is cleverly orchestrated with the larger cat ‘art’ pieces. I particularly enjoyed the reinterpretation of the story’s ending which is actually far better than the original (the ending in the original tale is far more vague, and weaker for that).
Tell everyone that Irusan Balgury is dead!

The Banshee (story by Kerrie Smith, art by Leann Hamilton)
To be honest, I tend to dislike cliche – particularly where it relates to Irish mythology/folklore. As a result,  I wasn’t overly impressed by the simple story but Leann Hamilton’s art blew this out of the water. I’m come across some of her work before, but this is certainly the best I’ve seen to date.

Although the breadth of this anthology was probably over ambitious, as an introduction to Irish comic writers and artists, ‘Turning Roads’ works respectably well and Carroll and his team deserve praise for pulling together a product that achieves that.

For the Irish Comic scene to grow, it needs publications like this, opportunities for budding creators to develop their skills and for the work of more established creators to be exposed to wider audiences. Kudos to O’Carroll for achieving this and for runnning a kickstarer to help fund it. I hope Creative Ireland have the nous to recognise the value of such publications and help fund this in future on an annual basis.

A vulnerable – but feral – savage

This is a selection of some of the images I used when I was originally conceptualising the woman warrior Liath Luachra.

This particular set (from Spanish artist/photographer Lídia Vives) visually captured the savage/thoughtful aspect of the character and proved a helpful prompt when writing. I’ll probably be using these again for the next book (Liath Luachra: The Great Wild) – which will actually be a prequel to the Irish Woman Warrior Series, and involve the character when she’s far younger and far more feral.

I have a number of key scenes already sketched out and I’m looking forward to getting them down on paper.

Upcoming Irish Mythology Projects

Over the last few years. I’ve restricted my public work on Irish culture and mythology to the three Celtic Mythology Collections and haven’t really published anything further on the topic.

This was predominantly due to a growing cynicism with the ‘spiritual’ industries and ‘new age’ style religions who regularly comandeer elements of Irish culture and mythology, then twist them completely out of context to support their own agendas. Throw in the American white supremacists on Irish Facebook Groups, the occasional rabid Irish nationalist and ‘creators’ who want ‘Oirish’ branding for entertainemnt purposes, and you quickly find ‘Irish mythology’ can become a pretty toxic mix online.

That situation eventually got to a point where, any time I published something, I’d have three or four emails (always from non-Irish people) demanding further information or arguing against what they believed was an incorrect interpretation of Irish culture (again, this from people who don’t speak Irish, who have no real connection with Irish culture and who have – at most – visited the country once or twice).

That said, I do have a further project on Irish culture and mythology which I’m hoping to bring out in the next year or two but it’s quite a huge one (with a number of different elements). For that reason, the project has to be introduced and implemented appropriately, in a manner where it canot be hijacked and misused by those listed above. Needless to say, this wil be quite a bit of work … so watch this space.

SCÉAL

‘Scéal’ is an interesting little story-based game I came across last year (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). The 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 games released over the last few years.

Overall, the game is absolutely gorgeous to look at and the music (by Sean-Nós singer Lorcán MacMathúna) is particularly outstanding.

Apparently, the game can still be downloaded via Steam and other sites. YOu cna find a smaple of how it works here: Irish Game

Irish Art Performance Battles

Ever since the infamous Battle of the Books (when the force of Saint Columba and Saint Finnian ended up fighting over the illegal copying of a psalter), Irish people have been opposing each other over the creation and ownership of works of art.

It’s been particularly interesting to watch the dynamics in the Irish art and creative sector over the past 10-15 years, especially where it relates to live performances. In an area where larger, nationally funded organisations tend to dominate the landscape (and hog the available funding), there’s been a noticeable sense of exasperation among performers and creators locked out of that funding stream. That frustration has led to many independents going off to create their own organisations or working as part of larger collectives to compete with the established ‘institutions’ for a more democratic share of the funding.

The pandemic has probably had the biggest impact of all, in that Covid prevented most large-scale performances (the mainstay of the larger art organisations) over a protracted period. Under immense pressure from a struggling sector, the national art funder finally had to release money to smaller, more localised organisations and performance. Since 2020, therefore, we’ve seen some ingeniously innovative, local and regional art productions, most of which wouldn’t even have received the ‘sniff’ of a single Euro just a few years before.

A nice indicator of this is a recent report from ISACS (the Irish Street Art, Circus and Spectacle Network – a support and advocacy group for the smaller arts organisations). ISACS was established in 2010 and since then, have seen their membership grow steadily year on year, reaching a peak in 2021 with over 200 members (40% more than the previous year). 

You can be certain that some of the established Irish arts institution will be watching such developments with concern and using every connection they can to ensure the funding goes back to where they believe it should reside (with them).

ISACS are going to have to be very canny and very strategic in their thinking to prevent things going back to the previous status quo.

I wish them luck.

You can find the ISACS promo reel HERE

Image featured above is ‘The Bishop’s Lady’ from Limerick’s 2019 Samhain Festival (creator’s name could not be found)

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.

Quick Tempers in Beara

Looking across to Beara from the Sheep’s Head peninsula with ‘Cnoc Daod’ glowering under the central clouds. The name ‘Cnoc Daod’ can be roughly translated as ‘the quick tempered hill‘ (relating to the weather and its ability to turn bad fast). Back in the day, the name was anglicized to ‘Hungry Hill’ (and there’s an old – not sure how credible – story explaining that) which I personally refuse to use.

Interestingly, there was a film made in 1946 based on Daphne du Maurier’s bestselling novel ‘Hungry Hill’ (ironically, shot in Wicklow) – based on two Irish families feuding over a copper mine on the hill. By all accounts, it’s pretty bad, factually wrong on most counts and “oh, so, very Oirish” – in other words, a typical foreign representation of Ireland and Irish stories. From the poster, I get the impression this was an attempt to cash in on the success of ‘Gone with the Wind’.

I’m looking forward to heading back to Beara in the next few months. While I’m there, I’ll be working on an outline for a potential television series based on the Beara Trilogy books. I’m not overly convinced that’s ever going to happen but it’ll help me prepare for when I get back to writing ‘Beara: Cry of the Banshee’.

Pleased ot say, I finally have a plan in that regard.

A Dark Dawn on a Hill

It’s almost a year to the day since ‘Dark Dawn’ – a free, online interactive project based on the Irish mythological Fenian Cycle was released online. Although produced on a shoe-string budget over the initial chaos of the 2020 Covid pandemic, the final product remains quite strong and garnered some very favourable reviews

GrimDark Magazine

Irish Examiner

Shortly after it’s release, unfortunately, I came down with a bug that prevented any marketing or any further work on the project but, Shortly after it’s release, unfortunately, I came down with a bug that prevented any marketing or any further work on the project but, for anyone who wants to give it a try, the story remains free online HERE:

I’m very grateful to Nate Aubin from ‘Grimdark Magazine’, Mike McGrath-Bryan from the ‘Irish Examiner’ and all other reviewers

A Mythological Silhouette

Most striking topographical sites have mythological stories associated with them so it’s no real surprise to find so many linked to the dramatic silhouette that’s Binn Ghulbain – the peak of Gulbain (there’s still a lot of disagreement around what ‘Gulbain’ refers to, but it’s far better than the anglicized – and meaningless – ‘Benbulben’).

The Fenian Cycle has several tales associated with that mountain including the climax to ‘Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne’ and, of course, Fionn’s encounter with Sadhbh.

I’m still scoping out how much of the Fenian Cycle stories I’ll cover through my ‘Fionn’ Series (and another I hope to do once I’ve completed that) so I’m not sure if I’ll incorporate these stories or not. Producing more culturally authentic versions of the story (i.e. not the sterilized and anglicized versions we were taught as children) means a number of the more common variants of these stories are difficult or unsatisfying to adapt for contemporary audiences.

But it’s certainly not for want of material.

Liath Luacha: The Metal Men is out!

I’m pleased to announce that the fourth book in the Irish Woman Warrior Series is now live at the Irish Imbas website and most ebookstores. You can find the various links HERE

The price will remainat $4.99 for the rest of the month but will go up to $5.99 next month.

Liath Luachra: The Metal Men continues the story of a 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.

You’ll find that my books might differ slightly from other books related to Irish Mythology. The reason for this is that when you come across ‘Irish mythology’ in English fiction, a lot of it tends to reflect an Anglocentric interpretation of Irish culture – that is, one that bears little real or meaningful similarity to its supposed source.

With most of my own books, therefore, I try to tell Irish stories – in English – from a more authentic ancient Irish/Gaelic slant. In doing this, I not only use the available historical information (and current academic theory) but draw on my own personal Irish language and cultural concepts as well. 

The Metal Men marks a particulalry interesting challenge for me in that I was keen to present an international incident (occurring in the 1st century) from the unique perspective of the native Irish. When it came to introducing a foreign culture on ancient Irish soil therefore, I attempted to tell the story from a viewpoint of how ‘native’ people in first century Ireland might have viewed that culture and interpreted the behaviour of its people. I don’t think any other Irish author has attempted this before, so it’ll be interesting to see how readers respond.

Bain sult as! / Enjoy!


The back cover summary is as follows:

“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.

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 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.

A Gentle Seismic Shift

I have two books coming out this year which I’m hoping will create a gentle seismic shift around Irish culture and how Irish mythology is understood and portrayed. Both, however, are very different.

The first (Liath Luachra: The Metal Men) is ‘historical fiction’ but it’ll be taking Irish mythological fiction narratives to a place they haven’t been taken before (and hopefully amend some misconceptions along the way).

This will be released on 16 March 2022.

The second (the working title is ‘Irish Mythology:The Fundamentals) is non-fiction and is intended to be the definitive book explaining how Irish mythology (and other mythology) works and should be utilised. This one is anticipated to create a lot of reaction. The proposed release is October 2022.

One way or the other, I suspect this will be an interesting year.