Yes, progress is being made

I have to confess I always get a kick posting this image up on Facebook. Several months back when I first released the book, I put it on the Facebook shop only for it to be rejected as “the sale of animals is forbidden” (the Facebook algorithm thought it was a zebra!).

When I resubmitted it a second time, the cover was judged as ‘offensive material’ and therefore unsuitable for the Facebook shop. Neeldess to say, I won’t be adding any more products to the Facebook Shop. Ironically, of course I can still post the image without any qualms whatsoever.

Aaaah Facebook!

The conclusion of this story started in this book will be released in December (porbably through the Irish Imbas website) and through the ususal suspects some time afterwards. Further detail on that over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, here are some of the Amazon reviews for Liath Luachra: The Seeking. As always, I’m very grateful to those people who’ve made the effort to do a review.

Liath Luachra: The Great Wild

This is the cover image for a small project called ‘Liath Luachra: The Great Wild‘ which I’m hoping to release sometime next year – probably towards the end of the year. Essentially, it’s a prequel novella to the Liath Luachra Series (The Irish Woman Warrior Series) that tells of an event during Liath Luachra’s first year with mercenary group Na Cinéaltaí – The Friendly Ones.

Currently in outline only, I’m expecting the final work to be around 35-40,000 words in length. In terms of style, this story reverts back to the more simple and rugged approach of the first book in the series (Liath Luachra: The Grey One). A simple, stand alone story, it won’t have the ongoing ‘plot baggage’ (that’s a technical term us arty types use!) of the other books in the series which should make it easier (faster) to write.

Prior to releasing that, I have to publish Liath Luachra: The Metal Men (probably in December 2021) and Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán (planned for June 2022).

I’m also hoping to get at least five chapters of Beara: Cry of the Banshee (the second inthe Beara Trilogy) drafted but that will really depend on my freelance workloads. Meanwhile, I also have a non-fiction (Irish mythology based) book planned for next year but that’s a pretty big project so I’m not committing to delivery as yet.

Sheesh! I feel tired just thinking about this!

The Metal Men

This is the cover for ‘Liath Luachra: The Metal Men‘ which completes the story commenced in the previous book (Liath Luachra: The Seeking) of the Irish Woman Warrior Series.

The first five chapters have now been edited and are in their final forms and I’m busy drafting up ‘close to final’ versions of chapter six and seven. At this stage, the plan is still to release the book in December 2021, although this might initially be to the Irish Imbas website or Vóg followers before its distributed more widely.

The background imagery is quite dramatic in this piece and I’ll be explaining the full context behind that in the next edition of Vóg (due at the end of the month).

Following the Warrior Path

One of the challenges with writing a character like Liath Luachra – the woman warrior from the Irish Woman Warrior Series and The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series – is the need to reflect the traumatised aspect of her personality across history two different series, while also allowing her to evolve as a person over the time arc of the time periods within those books.

In the first book of the prequel Irish Woman Warrior Series, Liath Luachra is quite savage and ruthless, the result of different experiences that slowly get revealed over the remaining books in the series.  Over that time however, she establishes tentative relationships and, although she never comes to terms with her background, she does develop substantially as person.

By the follow-up series (the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series) which is set 1-2 years after the first series, although she’s still struggling with her traumatic background, the character is an essential part of a larger community, a leader of sorts, and in an established and caring relationship. But nothing burns like trauma and echoes of that remain to shape her character.

The following is a scene from the novel Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma – the first in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series – which is set in the isolated settlement of Ráth Bládhma in first century Ireland.

In this scene, the woman warrior is speaking with Bearach, a young boy who idolises her, and she attempts to explain to him how being a warrior – gaiscíoch – isn’t all it’s made out to be …

In her own inimitable manner.

—————————————————

‘I wish to be like you, Liath Luachra. I wish to be a gaiscíoch – a true warrior.’

She stared at him in genuine astonishment. A moment later, she started to laugh. It was a rare sound for her and one that was surprisingly soft, if tinged with an underlying melancholy. ‘Ah, Bearach. You are truly the only one to make me raise a smile.’

‘I make no jest, Grey One. I wish to be a gaiscíoch like you. One day I hope to equal your skill as a fighter, your ability to work through the fight in your head. I want to learn courage such as yours. You know no fear when you are Out in the Great Wild.’

‘Ah, yes. The Great Wild backs down when I tramp through its forests. Wolves shit themselves and slink into the undergrowth at my passing. Even the Faceless Ones, the ghosts of hazy glades, hide and tell each other fearful tales of the dreaded Liath Luachra who will come through the shadows to take their heads.’

The youth blushed at her gentle mockery. Picking at a loose thread on the hem of his tunic, he wound it about his index finger, tightening it until the tip of the digit grew white.

‘You are the best of us here in Ráth Bládhma.’

‘Which only goes to show how little of the Out you’ve actually seen, Bearach. There are many out there who would best me in a fight.’

‘But Aodhán says you beat Dún Baoiscne’s finest warriors. He says they fear you, that your reputation for war makes them quake in their boots.’

‘Aodhán needs to harness his tongue. And his fancies.’

‘He told me about the day you first came to Dún Baoiscne with Na Cineáltaí – the Kindly Ones – your fian of a hundred men. He says that you crushed their best fighters in single combat. Humiliated them. That you were too agile, too strong to be defeated.’

Liath Luachra ground her teeth together.

‘I did defeat them. And, yes, I did humiliate them. But that was a mistake for which they never forgave me.’ She shrugged. ‘I understand that now. I’d probably have reacted in a similar manner if I was defeated by someone I considered weaker or in some way inferior.’

‘But you showed them!’ There was a shrill enthusiasm to the boy’s voice that made her cringe.

‘You have a warped understanding of things, Bearach. I accept that the fault is not yours for you base it on the tall tales of those who should know better. I will have strong words with Aodhán about putting such stories in your head.’

The boy looked confused, almost disbelieving. ‘Aodhán has not spoken true?’

Liath Luachra shifted awkwardly on her seat. She was uncomfortable having conversations of such depth with anyone other than Bodhmhall.

‘Aodhán’s claims hold a sliver of truth. I did lead Na Cineáltaí but that band never had more than ten men at any one time. They were brutal men, little more than killers -’ Her voice trailed off. ‘You must understand, Bearach, my life back then … that was a different life. I was a different person. I had a haunting on me, a haunting so venomous that I became little better than a wounded animal: vicious, savage and very cruel.’

Unable to bear his trusting gaze, she dropped her own eyes to the floor. ‘You have seen the way a dog will snap at a wound in its paw.’

The boy nodded slowly.

‘It is the reaction of a stupid beast who knows no better. It experiences pain and immediately thinks it has been attacked. In its attempt to retaliate, to strike back, it hurts itself even more.’

She reached down into the fire and pulled a burning brand from the embers. Part of the wood had burned away and much of it was scorched and black but the tip was still red hot.

‘That was the way of me back in those days. Except that I didn’t strike at my own limbs. No, I was far too smart for that. I struck out at others instead. Bandits, reavers, murderers, sometimes even innocent people who merely looked at me the wrong way, at the wrong time on the wrong day.’

She placed the tip of the burning brand against the back of her left hand. Bearach stared in horror as smoke from the skin rose up, the stink of burning flesh filing the air. Liath Luachra showed no sign of even noticing. Her eyes flared with a ragged intensity.

‘I had a belly full of venom, a heart full of gangrene and battle rage. This world had cut me to the quick and I was determined to hurt it back, to carve its filthy influence out of my heart. I hacked and cleaved a route through blood and sinew and bone when all that time my real target, the one thing I was truly trying to strike, was myself.’

She paused and took a deep breath as she dropped the firebrand back into the fire. Her forehead was sweating profusely. Her heart thundered and there was a sickly taste in her mouth. She focused her attention on these other physical sensations, refusing to acknowledge the pain in her hand.

‘So yes, in a martial sense, that made me strong. It made me impervious to fear and, for a time, to pain. It also made me impervious to those things that make us human: compassion, friendship, affection.’

Her eyes raised abruptly to lock directly on the boy’s. ‘And that,’ she snarled, ‘is what you must sacrifice to be a true gaiscíoch.’

See More

The Bird with the Cat’s Head

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

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

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

Potentially on a branch.    

The FREE literary game is live!

Dia Dhaoibh a Chairde/ Hallo Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bain sult as! / Enjoy!

Dark Dawn/An Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha coming 11 May 2021

Introduction:

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

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

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

Yes, the people of Ráth Bládhma have strong defences.

But that’s not going to save them.

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

And I do not reckon their chances.

LAINSEÁIL AN CAMHAOIR FUILSMEARTHA/ DARK DAWN!

AG TEACHT 11 BEALTAINE!

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

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

Go deimhin, tá cosaint láidir ag muintir Ráth Bládhma.

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

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

Agus déarfainn féin nach bhfuil seans na ngrást acu.

Dark Dawn/Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha coming in May 2021

Sometimes it’s best to kill a man fast.

Other times it makes sense to take it slow, to work the movements and the killing strokes in advance.

This is such a time.”

Ireland: First/Second Century

In the isolated valley of Gleann Ceoch, a dying warrior is assigned to defend the isolated settlement of Ráth Bládhma (future home of Fionn mac Cumhaill) from an incursion of enemy scouts.

This experimental format story in Irish and English will be released in May 2021 – final date yet to be confirmed.

LIATH LUACHRA: THE SEEKING has been released (kinda)

As promised, Liath Luachra: The Seeking is finally being released today. It’s something of a ‘soft’ launch however (in that you wont see much fanfare) as the book will only be available in digital form through the Irish Imbas Books website (and in paperback form through Amazon) for the next month or two.  After that, it’l lbe relased wider.

Part of the reason for this apporach is that the story’s a two-parter to be completed in Liath Luachra: The Metal Men, which I’m hoping to finish and release in the next 4-5 months or so. I’m not overly comfortable putting out a completely unfinished story but people were demanding something be released and this seemed like a good medium.

It’ll be interesting to see the reaction the cover gets when it’s released wider than this website. As covers go, it’s a bit confrontational and controversial (given the naked – albeit desexualised – woman on it). Those who know the character or who’ve read the book will ‘get it’, of course.

Brian Mahy – an artist who I really enjoy working with – was given the task of designing a cover that represents a scene from the book where the character is naked. To do this, I asked him to make the protagonist clearly recognisable as feminine while also ensuring it wasn’t sexualised. I think he did an excellent job of that and also in reflecting the ferla nature of the character. You can find more of Bryan’s work at Bryan Mahy Artstation or Bryan Mahy Behance.

Where Can I Get IT?


You can get the digital version HERE.

The paperback version on Amazon is available HERE but note that this link may change depending on which country you’re living in. If you search for it, it’ll probably only appear if you look it up in the ‘Books’ section as oposed to the ‘Kindle’ section. If you’re based in Great Britian – the whole Brexit mess menas a lot of books don’t appear on Amazon UK.

I have to admit, it’s not my preference to make the paperback available uniquely on Amazon, unfortunately most other paperback distributers have made it too expensive to go through them at the moment.

By the way, you should also be aware that there appear to be delays with the shipping of paperback products from Amazon. I ordered several paperback copies recently for review purposes and probably won’t get them until mid- to end- March. If you’re downloading through the Bookfunnel system meanwhile, remember that it can take up to two hours (admittedly rare) to receive the file and if you have a gmail address the email may end up in one of the more obscure folders.

Brian Boru – Guerrila Fighter against the Vikings

Attached is a short but interesting video on Brian Boru from an old television series called ‘Ancient Warriors‘.

This being an American series, much of the pronunuciation of Irish names and terms is pretty dodgy and the producers seem to have got their locations badly mixed up. That said, they do cover the inter-tribal discord and Brian Boru’s early years fighting the Danes quite well.

For several years, when Brian Boru was in his early twenties, he waged a guerilla war against the Danes around Limerick and other parts of western Munster. Although records of the time are sparse, he seems to have created some serious disruption for them over that period. Living a tenuous existence with his fian, his shortage of men, tribal support and resources menat that he coudl never do more than carry out ambushes and surprise attacks before quickly retreating to the relatively safety of marshes and hidden caves.

This and violent lifestyle inevitably led to attrition over time and many of Brian’s followers were either killed or deserted him. It wasn’t until his tribe – the Dal gCais – finally committed some resource, that Brian was able to move on to bigger and better things.

Unlike many of the Irish heroes described as warriors, Brian Boru did appear to deserve that description and the ‘up close and personal’ battle experiences would have helped his later – far more strategic – battle planning.

Over those early two to three years however, Brian and his men lived a life very much like Na Fianna as described in some detail in my own books on the topic.

You can find the link to the video here: Brian Boru

IRISH WOMAN WARRIOR ON A HORSE

This was a snippet from Liath Luachra: The Seeking which I first put online this day a year ago.

Today I sent the completed manuscript off to my editor for a final check prior to its release in March so it seems apt to put it out again.

———————————-

Emerging from the cave, the warrior woman found Murchú already mounted and waiting below the yew trees. Swaddled against the cold in his black cloak, he had the lower hem drawn up and held in place beneath his inner thighs. The sight of the Uí Loinge man poised so casually astride the animal took Liath Luachra by surprise. Too dazed to take note when he’d first arrived, she’d assumed Murchú had managed to make it to Luachair on horseback only through a combination of good fortune and determination. The restful pose and the relaxed manner in which the reins dangled loosely from his fingers however, suggested he was a more than competent horseman.

She was even more surprised when he reached down with one hand to help her mount. Looking from the hand to Murchú, then back at the hand again, she firmly shook her head.

‘I’ll run.’

‘All the way to Briga?’ He adjusted the folds of his cloak. ‘That could cost us days. Days we don’t have, Grey One.’

The woman warrior frowned and regarded the horse with a measure of distrust. She didn’t know much about horses and had always viewed them with wary circumspection. They were beautiful creatures to look at and had their obvious uses but they were also skittish and could let you down when you needed them most.

And, of course, they were also rather high.

————————————-

[Image from the film, “Centurion”]

Liath Luachra: The Seeking

With crazy workloads and various schedule upsets last year (not looking at you, Covid!), Liath Luachra 3 (The Seeking) was one of the main projects I was working on to suffer unexpected delays. Originally, my intention had been to release the final book in December 2020, but the on again-off again nature of the way I’d been obliged to work throughout the year, meant that completing the project by that date just wasn’t feasible.

This situation probably wasn’t helped by the length of the story. Originally developed as an outline for a potential second season in the proposed television series, this required a plot that was far more complex than I’d originally planned. Add in the need to incorporate the first links and overlaps with the Fenian Cycle (and the later Fionn mac Cumhaill Series) and the wordcount quickly expanded.

At this stage, my current draft stands at 130,000 words (The Grey One – the first book with Liath Luachra –  was about 97,000 words) and I don’t think the story I want to tell (in the manner I want to tell it, at least) will take less than 170-180,000 words to complete. As an independent creator, (or, at least for someone who does as much research and writes as slowly as myself) this amount of work to produce a single book isn’t viable.  I’ve therefore decided to release Liath Luachra: The Seeking in two parts and as two separate books.

Given that the first half of the story (Part 1) is already done and dusted (edited, proofed etc. etc.), this will be released in a limited form on 1 March 2021.

I’ll be aiming to complete and release Part Two by June 2021.   

For those who really, really want Part 1, the full details and links to reading options will be outlined in the next issue of our newsletter (Vóg) but at this stage, the plan is to make it available for download here on the Irish Imbas website and probably in limited paperback form.  

Once Part 2 is ready to go, they’ll both be available far more widely (for those who prefer to read the entire story in one sitting).

Paperback Books

I’m pleased to announce that nearly all of my books can now be ordered through bookshops anywhere in the world (while recognising many of them are still closed due to the pandemic).

For the last six years or so, there’s really been only three paperbacks available in print outside of the Amazon system (Fionn 1, Fionn 2 and Beara 1). That’s mainly been due to the administrative complexity and the costs associated with placing books into the Ingram system (that’s the company who hold the ‘Print-On-Demand’ files and supply copies to the bookshops on request). After several years, I finally found time to get this task done. Sheesh!        

Anyway, if you order a copy through a local bookshop let me know how it turns out as I’m curious to see how this works in practice from the other side.

Dark Dawn/ Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha

Over the past three weeks, I’ve been carrying out an immense amount of work on the Dark Dawn/ Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha Project. An experimental work unlike anything I’ve done before, it’s taken up an inordinate amount of time, far more than I’d ever envisaged when I first started it. Over 2020, the non-publishing workloads I’m subject to, work on a potential television series for Liath Luachra and the impact of the Covid-pandemic have also meant I’ve never been able to give it the full focus it required.  

Even at this point however, an enormous amount of work still remains and I still have no idea if the finished product will work or not. The time I’ve allotted to fart around with this creation up till Christmas is very much an early Christmas present to myself. 

In terms of goals, Dark Dawn/ Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha is my latest attempt at exploring a more culturally authentic approach to ancient Irish fictional narratives, something I’ve been attempting principally through my Fionn mac Cumhaill Series. In terms of plot, its quite a simple character-based story involving the character Ultán from Fionn Defence of Ráth Bládhma.

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

I’m aiming for release in the first quarter of 2021.

Time for a Change

Ireland: 192 A.D. A time of strife and treachery.

Ireland 2020: Somewhat similar but now we have the Covid-19 virus as well.

Just for information, I’ve set up a new cover for the digital version of FIONN: Defence of Rath Bladhma which you can see above.

The paperback version (currently only at Amazon – here) will retain the existing version although by next month (December) any bookshops will be able to order you the updated cover for the paperback version as well.

There is a plan (kinda) here somewhere. New developments are happening on the Fionn front and that’ll be come apparent early next year.

In case you’re interested; here’s the blurb for the actual book:

—————————

Ireland: 192 A.D.

A time of strife and treachery. Political ambition and inter-tribal conflict has set the country on edge, testing the strength of long-established alliances.

Following the massacre of their enemies at the battle of Cnucha, Clann Morna are hungry for power. Elsewhere, a mysterious war party roams the forests of the ‘Great Wild’ and a ruthless magician is intent on murder.

In the secluded valley of Glenn Ceoch, disgraced druid Bodhmhall and the woman warrior Liath Luachra have successfully avoided the bloodshed for many years. Now, the arrival of a pregnant refugee threatens the peace they have created together. Run or fight, the odds are overwhelming.

And death stalks on every side.

Based on the ancient Fenian Cycle texts, the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series by Irish author Brian O’Sullivan is a gritty and authentic retelling of the birth and early adventures of Ireland’s greatest hero, Fionn mac Cumhaill. Gripping, insightful and utterly action-packed, this is Irish/Celtic fiction as you’ve never read it before.

Dead Men Standing

One thread that occasionally raises its head throughout Irish mythology is the motif associated with the burial process of some (a word often mistranslated as ‘king’ but more accurately translated as ‘chieftain’) or mythological celebrities, where the corpse is bound upright or interred in the standing position, usually in defiance of an enemy or rival population group.

The early and medieval Irish literature contains several references in this regard but the most famous is probably linked to that of Cú Chulainn who, in a final act of defiance, ties himself to a standing stone to die on his feet. Facing his enemies, he remains upright for three days after he dies as they’re too terrified to come close (clearly, nobody thought of throwing a stone!).

Another celebrity associated with upright burials was Laoghaire (son of the infamous Niall). Famous for his hostile interactions with Saint Pat, Laoighaire is recorded (by Tíreachán) as being buried on the ridges of Tara, placed upright and facing south in defiance of the Leinster tribes. This follows somewhat in his father’s footsteps, given that Neill’s body was also said to have been held aloft by his tuath as a good-luck token when heading off to battle.

Early Irish literature has a few other references to the bodies of chieftains and heroes being buried upright and although there is a possibility that might have reflected some kind of burial ritual linked to the cult of warriors, it’s very much a literary motif rather than a historical one. As a result, you really have to be careful with its interpretation.

 

Cover Grow Up

Had a timely ‘blast from the past’ today when I received a reminder of a book cover from October 2014 (for FIONN: Traitor of Dun Baoiscne). It was timely given that Amazon have somehow managed to revert to printing my paperbacks with the older covers instead of the more recent versions (which have been in place for some years).

Back when I first started writing and publishing, there were far fewer artists available to do illustrations and limited stock photos that you could purchase within a shoestring budget. For 1st/2nd century Ireland – the time/culture in which my books are set – finding ‘representative’ covers was particularly difficult. Despite many days searching, in the end I had no choice but to resort to fantasy-style photostock and using a graphic artist to try and ‘Gaelicise’ the result as far as possible.

I was never entirely comfortable with the resulting image. The fanboy, Red-Sonya fantasy style image I ended up with, really didn’t work that well for the culturally-realistic feel I was trying to reintroduce in our mythological narratives (not to mind the lack of realism around Irish weather!). As a result, this cover (deservedly) endured some serious piss-taking (predominantly from my partner, daughter, editor [female], proof-reader [female]).

Despite that, it proved remarkably popular until I could finally afford to replace it. Skimpy-clothed model aside, I think the standing stone, the colour and the background terrain worked really well.