A Bronze Defence

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

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

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

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.

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.

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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)

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.

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

Liath Luachra: The Consent

One plotline that I’d hoped to return to in more detail with ‘The Metal Men’ was Liath Luachra’s relationship with Bressal Binnbéalach – Bressal of the Sweet Tongue – her old rígfénnid and sly ex-leader of Na Cinéaltaí.

The interaction between Liath Luachra and Bressal was always one of my favourite elements from the first book in the series (Liath Luachra: The Grey One) and it’s a relationship I’ve always intended to go back and explore a little further. Unfortunately, the subsequent plotlines meant that wasn’t really feasible.

Over the course of writing ‘The Metal Men’, I wrote about two chapters on this, but, in the end, as the story already had enough plotlines, I culled those sections from the text. Instead, I started writing a ‘long’ short story called Liath Luachra: The Consent, which focusses on Liath Luachra’s promise to obtain Bressal’s consent to undertake the Seeking (one of the conditions required by the Uí Loinge, in Liath Luachra: The Seeking).

This is a separate story which takes place after the events in The Metal Men. It’s not critical for anyone following the series. For that reason, I’ve intentionally kept it separate and, as a result, it’s only available at the Irish Imbas website.

The story is still unfinished (about 13,000 words) but the plan is to have it completed for around the 16th March so that anyone who wants it after they’ve read ‘The Metal Men’ can get it. Work permitting, I’ll get this out to Patreon patrons before then. 

The draft blurb is as follows:


Ireland: 1st century A.D. A land of tribal affiliations, secret alliances and treacherous rivalries.

Although ‘The Seeking’ is complete, to fulfil her word to the Uí Loinge Elders, Liath Luachra must reconnect with Bressal Binnbéalach – the previous leader of Na Cinéaltaí – and obtain his consent.

But Bressal hasn’t forgotten her actions against him at Dún Mór.

Liath Luachra 1 on Sale for the rest of December

To celebrate a decidedly good end to a pretty exhausting year!

The first Liath Luachra book – the first one adapted for the screen – is going onsale everywhere until the end of the year. You can find it here: https://irishimbasbooks.com/book/liath-luachra-the-grey-one/

Or in the ‘Books’ section.

Oirish Wargames!

I came across some interesting ‘Fianna’ warriors on the website of ‘Gripping Breast’ (an English ‘Wargames miniatures’ manufacturer) yesterday which made me smile. They’re currently selling ‘Oirish’ figurines for Wargamers and, for sure, it’s meant to be a bit of fun, but you’d think they’d at least try to get some of the basics right.

What struck me as particularly bizarre was ‘Griping Bleat’s’ translation of ‘fianna’ as “hearth guards” (er…?!).

Even more strange was their inclusion of “Irish mounted Fianna hearth guards” (do they really think people in 1st and 2nd century Ireland were using horses for large scale battles?).

My personal favourite, however, was the ‘Irish Fianna with Danish axes’ (the Danish axes turning up several hundred years after the Fianna were meant to be around).

Gripping Beats’ also seem to have a bit of a fascination with the ‘Irish Dark Ages’ (which is something I’ve not come across before).

Anyway, if you’re a Wargamer and you want ‘Oirish’ figurines, clearly ‘Gritty Bream’ looks like the place to supply you!   

Update On Liath Luachra 4

I’m currently working full blast on the remaining two chapters (and epilogue) for ‘Liath Luachra: The Metal Men’ but the book is now available for pre-order at Amazon and Kobo and soon thourgh the other major ebook stores. You can find the details here: Liath Luachra: The Metal Men Availability

At this stage, it looks as though at least two (earlier) chapters will need to be removed and reworked for use in a separate book in the series (Liath Luachra 5). Unfortunately, I won’t have a title or any kind of release date for that for several months (as I want to complete Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán for a June 2022 release).

Some other good news is that interest in the potential television series seems to have raised its head again. That doesn’t mean, of course, that it’ll actually go to green light. There are always at least a dozen or more other variables on those kinds of decisions.

I guess, like Book 5, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Liath Luachra and Red Sonya

I get an email every now and again where people ask if the Liath Luachra character is based on the Red Sonya character. She isn’t, of course, but the development of the Red Sonya character is actually quite interesting in itself.

The original Red Sonya was ‘Red Sonya if Rogatino’, a red-haired woman warrior from the book ‘The Shadow of the Vulture’, which was written by Robert E. Howard (creator of the famed ‘Conan the Barbarian’ books). Published in the 1930s, it was more historical fiction than the pure fantasy of his better known works and set during the Ottoman invasion of 16th century Europe (and more specifically around the first Siege of Vienna). In the book, Red Sonya is actually a lesser character to the main protagonist – Gottfried von Kalmbach – who she helps in the defence of the city.

The Red Sonya character also drew a lot from one of Howard’s other characters called Dark Agnes de Chastillon, a red-haired woman who turned up in a trio of stories set in 16th Century France: ‘Sword Woman’, ‘Blades for France’ and ‘Mistress of Death’ (you can probably get these online but I’ve not read them so I’ve no idea if they’re any good or not).  

Much later (sometime in the 1970s), Marvel Comics picked up some rights to the Howard characters and used them to develop a new sword and sorcery character to “attract the lady fans” to their ‘Conan the Barbarian’ line of comics (which is still running today). The character apparently pulled in some readers, although given the signature (and misogynistic) metallic bikini armour she wears, I suspect they were predominantly male.

A number of books were published over the 1980s and in 1985, a film called Red Sonja was released (again, hoping to ride on the coat-tails of the Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘Conan The Barbarian’ movie released the year before). That movie stared Brigette Nielsen and I can vaguely remember seeing it back in the day. I have the sense that it was ‘not great’ but to be honest, I can’t really recall.

Actually, now that I think about it, I do seem to remember Nielsen being a terrible actor … but I may be doing her an injustice. There are talks of a new film in development with the character and given the #metoo and heightened awareness on diversity, I suspect this will be very different (if it goes ahead).

I first came across the character about ten years ago as the Marvel comic did some lazy cultural theft by bringing a goddess called Scáthach into the story (sigh!). In that version it’s the …. cough … Goddess Scáthach who gives Red Sonya her heightened fighting skills.

Because of my own culture and background, the Liath Luachra character I developed is very much a character of mythological fiction, an done based on a very strong cultural basis. The Red Sonya character however rests deep within the fantasy genre. That’s a place I’ve increasingly avoided over the last few years as so many people don’t seem to understand the difference between ‘fantasy’ and ‘mythology’.

That’s something, of course, I’ll be working on over the next few years.

The Metal Men

I’m deep into writing the last 3-4 chapters of Liath Luachra: The Metal Men at the moment – which concludes the adventure commenced in the previous book (Liath Luachra: The Seeking).

At this stage, I’m hoping to have a close to final draft ready by Christmas but the upcoming holiday season means the final draft won’t be ready until the end of January 2022.

This particular book is a turning point in the series in that it brings a number of the plotlines to a close but there are still several others that need another book to tie up (and some, of course, that continue into the subsequent Fionn mac Cumhaill Series. As a result, it’s taking a bit of time to get the balance of plot and theme the way I want them.

I’m looking forward to getting this out there and seeing if I’ve got it right or not.