Have you entered the big #BloggersBash Blog Writing Competition yet? If not, why not? It’s just a bit of fun, with a great theme – CONNECTIONS – and could win you some nice prizes! You have until March… Read More

How the Old Stories Inspire Today’s Irish Writers with Modern Seanchai Alan Walsh

Book of Conquests by Jim Fitzpatrick

The Book of Conquests by Jim Fitzpatrick

Followers of this blog will know just how inspired by obsessed I am with Irish mythology, and how I can lose myself in it for hours at a time. I call it research, but really, it’s my guilty pleasure; how lucky I am that I can indulge in it on a daily basis as an excuse for the work of writing!

And it seems I am not the only one. The illustrious Jim Fitzpatrick was feeding his inspiration and creating his famous masterpieces in the year that I was born. He in turn has inspired many artists and writers to unleash their creativity based on Ireland’s legends, not least among them, today’s guest author, Alan Walsh.

Alan is not new to this blog; he very kindly allowed us a sneak preview into his latest novel, Sour, which is based on the legend of Deirdre of the Sorrows, a couple of weeks ago. It’s certainly a highly original reworking of the myth. I love the caustic tones of the Puca, as he narrates the story, and the portrayal of Deirdre as a bit of a wild free spirit. Check it out for yourself; you can read it here, if you missed it. I already have a copy on my reading list. So, without further ado, here is Alan to tell you what exactly inspired him to write this book…

Sour by Alan Walsh

Sour by Alan Walsh

I had picture books of illustrations by Jim Fitzpatrick, when I was growing up. This was probably my first exposure to Irish myth, that and the obligatory Children of Lir they teach you in school. I used to like to copy out Jim Fitzpatrick’s pictures, owing to how much I liked their style, how they depicted a strange, ethereal world, like something from an old metal album cover, only more refined. So it was really that, as a boy, and then years of not really caring much for the old stories in way or another until I moved to London.

I had lived abroad before, in Italy, and had gotten along very well trying my hand at reading Italian authors, but for some reason, while living in London, I went and sought out books of old Irish stories. Not just Irish, either, but volumes of old Celtic tales, from Wales and Scotland, from France and other parts of mainland Europe laying claim to that heritage. Then further afield, taking in mythology from Scandinavia and Russia, from Africa and the Middle East and on and on. It ran a little like languages, each border two cultures met, the mythologies cross-pollinated easily.

London is very much a drinking culture. It’s not uncommon to take a pint with your colleagues at lunch and pick it up again after work on a Tuesday. I happened to be working in IT, which meant I was in an office with a wide range of nationalities, all of whom were curious sorts by nature. When they found out I was reading mythology they asked me to recite something.

Well, the only one that came to mind consistently, was Deirdre of the Sorrows. I’m still not sure why. I think maybe it’s because of how it ends. The same way Romeo and Juliet endures because of the horrific ending, this story lingers because it almost couldn’t have ended more horribly. It was all but guaranteed a reaction from a listening group. I still find that when I tell the story now, even here at home. Maybe that’s when I started wondering about Sour.

I had been writing a story about a murder in a small, dreary rural town in Ireland. It was kind of a procedural really. The lead character was a detective, he introduced the reader to one weird character after another as he pursued his line of questioning. The idea was the reader would uncover how the town was a kind of microcosm of the nation as they read along. But it lacked a hook until it dawned on me the crime I had in mind wasn’t a hundred miles away from the old story of Deirdre and the Sons of Uislu, and right then I set about working out how I might be able to use the old tale. It felt strange, on one level, re-purposing an old, almost sacred cultural element to fit my own needs, but I think that’s where the fun came in and that what provoked me into pushing the boundaries of taste with some of the more famous of Ireland’s heroes.

Fionn Mac Cumhaill as an unemployed wide-boy, downing cans of cider and passing his days playing X-Box on the ghost estate he lives in with his mates was a lot of fun to imagine. The kind of young men you see roaming streets in groups of about six in the small hours of the morning, with their dogs. This was the Fianna, there being no reason you can’t find old fashioned courage and heroism in characters as modern as this.

Cuchullain was re-imagined as a battle-scarred old traveller, bossed by his wife, passing his time watching afternoon television, but still managing to strike fear into the souls of the characters who come to ask for his help, along with everyone else in the town. Casting Ireland’s great epic hero as a traveller was interesting to me, owing to how that culture is so entwined with what we think of as Irish going back as far as the sixteenth century.

That the story is told by a Puca opened up a wide range of opportunities, as the mischievous supernatural being is most probably the very definition of the unreliable narrator. I was pleased mostly with how much potential the character gave me to bring in nature and give it character, how trees were angry about deforestation, how a cloud can be a hate-filled bastard, that mountains choose to look different based on how you look at them. I hoped people might be prepared to accept those kind of absurd digressions from a nebulous trickster.

Deirdre herself was the easiest to write, I think. In the original story, she kills herself at the end. Many people read that as an act of despair, but it always felt to me more like an act of defiance. When she was told she’d be shared between the two men she hated most, she showed them she was still in control of herself, if only in this last, awful way.

That idea really informed how she was written, an outright rebel from the first time we meet her. Not just an ordinary one either, a provocative, showy, angry rebel. Someone who has ostracised herself from the whole town. Only later do we learn she hasn’t just been rebelling against her father, but rather the whole town itself too, which she sees as complicit. Writing as the Puca gave me license to paint these characters with broad strokes, making them much larger than life, along with all the incidental characters, like the Morrigan, an old lady in a bowler hat doing an Open University course in fine art and also the smoking, grouchy crow that follows Deirdre wherever she goes.

Writing a book is a strange experience as it relates to a particular timespan in your life as much as anything else. I guess it’s much the same as reading one now I think of it. This one, for me, will always be the book I wrote between London and Dublin, between when I had the life of a tearaway to when I met my wife and we had a little boy together. I’ll always look back on the book with this in mind. I still read Irish mythology very regularly, and enjoy seeing it being re-purposed and re-imagined as much as and even more than I have, as this is definitely the only way to keep the old tales alive.

Read an excerpt from Alan’s book, SOUR, here. 

You can buy SOUR on Kindle or in paperback on and and most other retailers. It would make a great Christmas gift for someone you know!


Author Alan Walsh

Author Alan Walsh

I’m a writer, designer and recently a father too, who returned to Dublin a couple of years ago after living abroad in Bologna, Florence and London, doing all kinds of jobs from teacher to delivery-man to commis-chef.

Sour is my first novel, published by Pillar and available in all the very best places. I tweet pretty often at @Alan_Walsh_77 and I blog as often as I can at:, and there’s a whole website about the book at:

The Hummingbird

The Hummingbird

In the November of 1999, I was lucky enough to achieve one of my dreams. I took three weeks off work and travelled around Peru. I could have spent longer… hell, I could have upped sticks and settled there! But it was not to be.

Three weeks is nowhere near long enough for visiting a country like Peru, but I consider myself very lucky. I decided I really wanted to trek the Colca canyon and see the condors; I wanted to trek the Inca trail into the Andes to climb to the sacred city in the clouds, Macchu Picchu, and I wanted to fly over the Nazca lines.

And so without further ado, for Ed Mooney’s Heritage Photo Challenge, here are my pictures of the Nazca Lines. You may need to click on the individual images to see the designs more clearly.

I took a lot more, but the light was so bright, the quality, sadly, did not turn out so good. I’d just like to say that in order to see the lines, and to get pictures, I had to take my life in my hands and climb into an ancient knackered old two seater aircraft. It rattled so much and so noisily as it took off, I thought it would disintegrate at any moment, and the wind positively howled and shrieked through holes in the skin so large, you could have punched a fist through. But I wasn’t going to let a  heap of little things like that put me off; I’d been waiting years to see these things…

The lines cover a dry plain about 80km wide, and are thought to have been constructed by the Nazca people some time between 500BC and 500AD. They were made by removing the reddish stony top layer and revealing the paler ground beneath. There are animals, birds and fish; plants and flowers, and lots of lines and trapezoids. The largest designs measure more than 2oom across. But why? Why why why?

All kinds of theories have been put forward, but the truth is, no one knows the reason why these lines were made, or what purpose they served. They can of course be seen most clearly from the air, which has led some to speculate about their potential to communicate with aliens, or Gods. However, they can also be seen, albeit less clearly, from the tops of nearby hills. They could be ritual pathways, religious icons, shamanic symbols, they could represent constellations, or perhaps were used in some way as a giant calender.

Personally, I have learned to let go of such desire for scientific evidence and proof. They are shrouded in a fog of mystery we cannot hope to unravel. Whilst we hanker to interpret them and turn them into something mundane instead of magical, how can we enjoy them? How can we truly appreciate their magnificence, and the skill of those who created them, if we continually seek to deny them on the grounds that we can’t explain them?

In the words of a famous song, just let it be.

You can read a very interesting article on the Nazca Lines in the National Geographic, and see some clearer images than mine here.


Timekeeping has never been one of my strengths. Perhaps it’s an Irish thing, I don’t know. In any case, I missed Sacha Black’s Writespiration for Death Row – sorry, Sacha – but as I have a story hanging about, I thought I may as well post it here. If you haven’t visited Sacha’s blog yet, please follow the link and check her out. Not only is she the source of great writerly posts and authorly wisdom, but her Writespirations draw some fantastic quality flash fiction writers. However, my fave posts are those which fall under the heading of Weekly Wonders… and if you want to know why, all I will say is that she is a ‘lover of all things strange and unusual’. Go see!

Death Row

He doesn’t know I’m here, on the other side of the glass. He never asked me to come, and I didn’t offer. I didn’t know if I could be strong enough, but how could I stay away?

Just one pane of glass, that’s all that stands between us. I press my hands against it, feel the cold unrelenting pressure against my fingertips, and it soothes the throb in my head, the roar in my ears.

He is weeping, but I won’t let myself feel pity. I suspect you won’t believe me, but the truth is, he is as much a victim in this as all the others. The ones he brutalised. The ones he helped on their way to salvation.

A decade of words on pages swapped, thoughts and emotions spilled along with tears, sadness, and joy. Confessions, both mine and his. We understood each other, and that was not something I expected when I began this journey.

You see, I too feel loneliness. I know despair, how one can sink into it so dark and deep, that the light of hope, always just beyond reach, gutters and dies in its grip. It is a terrible thing to witness. And when you are there, well, all the warm glad things which make us human just don’t matter anymore.

I hoped only to bring a little brightness into a stranger’s life, but our friendship became more than merely that. We depended on each other. He found my jokes funny. I found his poetry exquisite. He was fascinated by the mundane details of my life outside. I was devastated by the deprivation of his confinement.

Of course, he didn’t do it. You know, the things he was convicted of. He is just a flawed human being who took the wrong road. A childhood of abuse can do that to a person. No one but me, it seems, cares.

But twenty years of quashed appeals and pacing a 6ft by 8ft cell for the large part of each day can drive anyone a little crazy.

I watch the poison take a hold of his body, rolling his eyes back into his head, teeth gnawing till his lips bleed, spasms racking his muscles till it seems his bones must snap. Then he slumps.

But I am dry eyed, as I gather my coat and bag and leave. I have no time for grief. I have his memory to honour, and his legacy to fulfil.


New and Improved! Jane Dougherty’s The Green Woman Trilogy Released as a Single Volume with Stunning New Cover.

TGW_9 cover art

My lovely author and blogger friend, Jane Dougherty, has just released her Green Woman Trilogy as a single volume at the amazing price of just $3.99. I’m loving the vibrant new cover! Here she is to tell you more…

jane bio picThank you, Ali, for letting me borrow your blog today for a bit of blatant self-publicity.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. It ended up being a mammoth operation, but it’s done, finally, the three books of The Green Woman series are available in a single volume. It’s on pre-order at the moment. Release day is Saturday April 18th.

And here’s the new blurb.

She is the light in the darkness, the fiery beacon, but the world’s fate seems such a little thing when the light in her heart is dead.

Among the ashes of the world, a lone city cowers in fear and ignorance. A light breaks the darkness, the spark that will kindle the greening of the world. This is the story of how Deborah carries the spark of memory from the grey oppression of Providence to a green place, where its fire will spread to cover the whole of the earth.
The darkest, oldest of evils vows to quench her light, but the Green Girl is filling the world with heroes, courage blazes in the desolation of Providence, and love is waiting in the desert.
Abaddon’s grip tightens on the earthly realm he has promised himself and his followers, but he reckons without Deborah, who marches with the banner of her fiery hair, and a burning passion for freedom, justice…and vengeance.

And a short excerpt from The Dark Citadel, the first volume.


The sound of boots tramping purposefully down the corridor outside her cell made Deborah leap to her feet. The jingle of keys was followed by the grinding of the heavy lock, and the door swung open.
“Slopping out duty,” the guard bawled. Dark eyes flashed out of a face that was all bristling black brows and short square-trimmed beard. He moved aside, waiting for Deborah to pass. “Get a move on, we haven’t got all night,” he barked, pointing at the buckets standing outside each of the occupied cells. “Take them to the privy at the end of the corridor and empty them. The other prisoner washes them and you bring them back. Got it?”
Deborah nodded, thankful she wasn’t the one detailed to do the washing out. The buckets stank despite their closed lids. The privy stank worse. She tipped the contents of the first bucket down the shaft, and holding it out at arm’s length, handed it with a grimace to her companion. The boy ran the empty buckets under a tap, swilling them along a yellow-stained gutter that disappeared into a hole in the wall.
At the same time, Deborah noticed with distaste, he was splashing the ends of his trousers with the filthy water. The boy turned to take the next bucket and Deborah recognized the curly black hair and hawk nose of the hero in the exercise courtyard. Her heart leapt in spite of the unsavoury situation. He held out his hand for the bucket and nodded a sort of greeting.
Deborah smiled, eager to win the confidence of the rebel. “I saw you in the courtyard, it was me who waved. I clapped, I wanted to cheer.” Her voice rose in excitement.
The boy put a finger to his lips. “Not so loud,” he whispered. “They’ll hear.”
“Let them,” Deborah raised her voice a tone. “I don’t care. What can they do?”
The boy frowned. “If you don’t know what they can do, then you’d best be quiet.         Tomorrow I will receive five lashes for blasphemy, and I hope I will bear it like a man. But I don’t want any more just because of some girl’s squealing.”
Deborah’s face was burning with confusion. Something about the boy had seemed…special. Something about him had made her think of the dream laughter, and for a moment she had wondered if…The thought dissolved into a sad puddle. This boy certainly never laughed like that. And now she had annoyed him. She found herself imagining his pale back ripped and striped with bleeding furrows.
“Come on,” he snapped. “Just give me the bucket or you’ll have the guards over.”
Deborah’s eyes narrowed as she thrust the slop bucket at the boy. “And I thought you were different.” Her lips twisted in scorn. “You’re just as much a coward as the rest.”
The boy raised himself to his full height and sneered. “And you’d know all about heroics, I suppose. Was it for heroics in a dark corner with some Ignorant boy they picked you up, then?”
“Oh,” Deborah gasped in indignation. “You arrogant little shit!” With a furious gesture she sent the contents of the slop bucket over the boy’s shirt.
“Hey, you two,” the guard shouted. “If you like paddling in crap so much you can clean out the privy at the end of the week.”
They finished their turn of duty in icy silence. The full buckets were slopped into the privy, water from the tap swished round in the clean buckets, and splashed in the gutter. Empty buckets rattled and clanged as they were set back down outside cell doors. When the job was done the guards escorted them back to their cells. They parted without a look, in silent anger. The guards didn’t even notice.

You can find The Green Woman for the astonishing price of $3.99 etc. at
Amazon UK
Amazon US
For the canny buggers, I have reduced the price of the first volume, The Dark Citadel to 99c. Available from
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Guest Post | How to Write Successfully in Multiple Genres by Craig Boyack


Author Craig Boyack is very busy with his blog tour this week, (as you can see from the picture, he is busy celebrating!), but he takes time out to invite us into that weird and wacky place (his brain) where the ideas behind Will o’ the Wisp, The Cock of the South, and Arson (to name but a few) were born, and shows us how he manages to write so successfully in multiple genres. Take it away, Craig…

I write in multiple genres, and have been asked several times recently how I manage to pull it off every time. Whether I was successful or not is up to the reader to decide, but that’s the way the question was posed to me.

My stories are all within the area of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. My first secret is not to admit they are separate genres. They exist for marketing purposes, but are actually one big genre that I call speculative fiction. I refuse to limit myself to one corner of the speculative fiction market. It’s a mindset more than anything.

The second secret is to believe that all stories are about people. Readers can only relate to people through people emotions. The characters can be robots, lost clownfish, or calypso singing crabs, but they have to be written like people.

I try to bring engaging characters to my stories so readers will cheer for them. Maybe my goal is to make readers hate the characters. Either way, I’m going for an emotional connection. I’m not saying I nail it every single time, but there is usually one memorable character in every story.

After that the genre is all window dressing. I’m a big believer in examples so let’s make up a character. I’ll call him Goozle. He’s elderly, has long white hair and a bum leg. Let’s see what happens…

Goozle pulled his floppy hat down low and stuck to the forest shadows. He leaned on his staff to support his arthritic leg. He discovered a way to create winged creatures that could carry messages throughout the seven kingdoms at the speed of lightning. That was before the worthless heir to a good King had him banished from the land.

War is coming, and fast accurate reports are the only way to survive the coming onslaught. His cave was heavily guarded. He swirled his wrist three times and blew across his palm. Voices appeared in the forest south of the entrance. When the guards investigated he slipped inside the cave.

He lit the wall sconces at the five equal points in the summoning chamber and dragged his staff in a clockwise circle across the floor. The circle glowed. The lights reflected and formed a perfect pentagram in the air around him.

The beast materialized out of thin air. Nearly nine feet tall with thick wool to serve as armor, and horns that jutted out over it’s heavy brows. It knelt on one knee and said, “Master.”…

Okay, it looks like some prince somewhere is going to regret crossing old Goozle. Try this one…

Dr. Goozle propped his bad leg on the seat across from him. The hyper train lurched forward, pressing him back into the seat. He pulled his hair into a ponytail and drew his greatcoat around his shoulders.

The junior executives killed his plan to replicate laboratory animals. He could make anything they wanted; white rabbits, apes, pigs, even rats. They only lasted a week, and cost the company nothing. No more inspections by animal welfare groups. No more endless permits for the more useful species. The short sighted fools. He could move research ahead by generations if the company would only support him.

He entered a code into his belt buckle and electrical impulses spread across his leg implant. He left the train and walked to the Ceton Corporation.

In the basement his equipment sat covered with sheets and a layer of dust. Goozle pulled on his lab coat and yanked the sheet off the Lab Rat 3000. He turned the dials up as high as they would go, and watched the systems boot up one at a time. At full power, he poured the stem cell cocktail into the reservoir and threw the switch.

The lights flickered throughout the building. An electronic crackling resonated from deep within the machine. What came out the other end had never been seen by human eyes before. It looked at its crimson claws with dead black eyes, and clicked it’s pincers together. Crawfish boy turned to Dr. Goozle and said, “Master.” …

Okay, so the junior executives are in trouble this time. Both stories are revenge based. Both stories have a character who might be over estimating his worth. Goozle even created creatures in both stories.

Which one is the better story. Well, they both suck, but they work as an example. Magic Goozle could be paranormal or fantasy. There isn’t enough story to decide yet. Call the creature a Minotaur, and you’re getting close to labeling it a fantasy. Call it Kyle, and maybe it’s urban fantasy.

Goozle has to travel somewhere fast. Once you know what kind of story it is, he can use flue dust, a teleporter, or a winged Pegasus.

Goozle needs information; it’s a crystal ball, advanced Internet, or gnomish spies.

I used to say pick a lane and drive in it, but that isn’t completely true. It is possible to mash up genre points and still deliver a good story. It’s really hard, but it is possible. It also poses a problem when it comes time to market the story, because that’s the time for labels.

Obviously, Goozle needs to be fleshed out a bit. It’s a blog post and I do what I can.

Once you follow my thought process, it isn’t hard to imagine The Iliad set in the Star Wars universe. (Trojan Bantha anyone?) It isn’t hard to imagine the gyrations of the Starship Enterprise as a wooden ship set during The Odyssey. Why can’t Arthur pull Excalibur from a parallel universe?

You can’t ignore the research either. There has to be some realistic genetic material to go into the Lab Rat 3000. Maybe Goozle’s bad leg should relate some older disorder, like gout. It might even be caused by using magic all his life.

I don’t necessarily write multiple genres, I just envision my genre as being a little bit bigger. I write speculative fiction, and it’s a big field to play in.

will of the wisp image for review

Craig has recently launched a YA paranormal novel called Will o’ the Wisp, just in case you had temporarily left the planet and weren’t aware, and is in the middle of his blog tour, find out more on his blog. You can check out his books on and

Also, if you hop along to his blog right now, you might find a little post there from me…

First of all, I would like to thank Ali, for affording me the opportunity to share this article with you. To start off, I would like to share a little about myself and how I got involved in Medieval Combat. For those readers who don’t know me, I am an amateur Photographer based in Kildare.

I have always had a great interest in ancient history, especially that of Ireland. And it was this interest which eventually got me involved in a Living History group, where amongst other things we trained in medieval re-enactment and combat. Read More

Guest Post | Multi Touch Technology and the Future of Ebooks by R.J. Madigan

sword of air 1

‘The Sword of Air,’ – Using Punk Publishing and iBook to stand out in a crowded market place.

Authors are publishing new YA Fantasy titles every day and it is getting harder and harder to stand out in such a crowded market place. This is why I decided to publish ‘The Sword of Air,’ my first novel as an iBook. With world building creative options like music, HD video, 3D modelling and photography to colour my world I was able to create a book unlike anything else on the market.

We are on the edge of a paradigm change in the way people consume their stories. Sales of printed books are falling every year and the sale of ebooks are rising. I believe this change is even more evident with children and young people today. Kids are brought up with broadband wireless and touchscreen technology. It’s not just that they know how to use it from a young age, it’s in their mind, part of their consciousness and it affects the way they think. In schools teachers use internet enabled, interactive touchscreen whiteboards instead of blackboards and chalk like when I was at school. Children expect everything to be linked to the greater hive mind that is the internet and something that isn’t interactive is almost bizarre.

I was also inspired to publish ‘The Sword of Air,’ as an iBook by writers such as Isaac Asimov and Neil Stephenson. In Asimov’s short story ‘Robbie,’ and Stephenson’s ‘The Diamond Age,’ both writers envisaged a world where books were more than just print. They came alive and talked to you, reacted and interacted with you. That world is now. The iPad has brought science fiction into reality.

The challenge has been to take the audience with you. When I’m marketing the book I have to try and get people excited by the story but also explain what an iBook is. Not easy in a short advert or a Facebook post!

Apple has given everyone the iBooks author software for free because they have a very forward thinking strategy towards their users. This software enabled me to take my story and illustrate it in a way that isn’t possible in normal printed books. Music, video, 3D modelling and photography gives my readers a much more visceral experience rather than just being told about the events that unfold in the course of the story. Surely if this new technology best described as ebooks meets movies, gets more young people interested in reading again then that must be a good thing?

Don’t get me wrong I love printed books as much as you do and own many beautiful editions. I just believe young people expect more from books today than we did as kids. Why should books be just pages of printed text and not more interactive. The technological tide is rising and taking all of us with it whether we like it or not.

Of course there are barriers with any new technology. Producing an iBook unlike anything else on the market has not been without its frustrations and difficulties. Firstly the technology is so new and cutting edge that it is only currently available for iPad and Mac. If you don’t own either of these devices then you can’t read ‘The Sword of Air.’ As a writer this has been incredibly frustrating for me because I know a lot of readers have been disappointed because they are unable to access my book. It has also caused problems in the marketing stage of the publishing process because I have lost out on reviews because people willing to do so did not own an iPad or a Mac.

Secondly it can be difficult to make your work visible because you can’t publish on Amazon or similar platforms. You have to use the iBooks store.

However I think the greatest barrier for writers is that iBooks author has such a steep learning curve. This technology is not user-friendly like software such as WordPress and Facebook. I had to team up with a computer whizz known as ‘The Producer’ on my blog, to get the book I wanted out of iBooks Author. This is why despite the interest in iBooks authors are not yet taking advantage of this new technology for their storytelling.

Producing an iBook requires you to source media, photos, video, music, even 3D models. My partner in making the iBook, ‘The Producer’ is a great photographer and was able to contribute some stunning photography as part of his involvement. The other aspects, the music, the video etc… has to be licensed. So this does mean you have to commit to your book and invest some money up front. This is a challenge but realistically these days, creating a best-selling book without investing money up front is very unlikely.

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Once you’ve got all this media, you need to be able to manipulate it, to get it into a package that fits the story. This does require a (reasonably) high level of skill in multiple software programs, e.g. iBooks Author, iPhoto and iMovie.

‘The Sword of Air,’ is an epic fantasy story set in an altered reality of medieval Ireland. Sixteen year old Niamh Kelly’s village is burnt to the ground by the Raven Queen’s Fomor army, and her adoptive grandmother is brutally murdered right in front of her. She is forced to flee into the forest of the Nadur with only an old storyteller, her best friend Rauri and his wolfhound Bran for protection. Hunted by the Raven Queen, the brutal ruler of Ireland, and her armies, Niamh desperately searches for the forgotten Fae people to help her. She must find allies and the power within herself if she is to survive against the dark powers of the Raven Queen.

Characters such as the beautiful but merciless Raven Queen and bad boy Jareth, Crown Prince of the Fae, spring from the page with hundreds of beautiful photographs, that go full screen at the tap of a finger. Sound effects put you inside the action instead of just being told about it. The cinematic soundtrack adds another layer telling the story and giving depth to the characters as the book progresses. Short movies built right into the story put you inside the characters head, let you see what they see and feel their emotions.

iBooks Author allowed me to build the character map for ‘The Sword of Air’ as an interactive guide for the reader. As they come into the story each character and location is described at the end of each chapter. A fantastic feature for a high fantasy book with a large cast of characters and multiple location changes.

If you have the patience and determination to overcome the barriers that come with iBooks Author then there is so much you can do with this software to make your book stand out from the crowd and literally wow readers.

I hope that you will love ‘The Sword of Air.’ You can download the first three chapters for free from the iBooks store to experience the exciting multi-touch features for yourself.

‘The Sword of Air,’ is new, different, exciting, and I promise you won’t be able to put it down. It is punk publishing at its best. Pushing the boundaries of the publishing medium to create something new.

There are many (and myriad!) challenges in putting together an iBook. But the total creative freedom is so liberating and empowering! You only live once and I wanted to do something amazing. Despite all the challenges, I’m really enjoying the journey.

Once you’ve read ‘The Sword of Air’ I’d love to hear what you think of the story, the technology and how you think this will develop in the future.

You can follow ‘The Sword of Air,’ at
on Facebook at
on Pinterest at

R. J. Madigan

Researching a Fantasy Story, and How Mythology Helps by Guest Author Craig Boyack


If there are two things you have learned about me from following this blog, it’s 1. I love mythology, and 2. I love researching mythology! It seems I am not alone; fellow author and blogger, Craig Boyack, has dropped by to tell us how mythology helped pave the way for grounding one of his recent novels, Cock of the South, which I recently reviewed on this blog, and which featured on The Friday Fiction. So without further ado, here’s Craig…

Ali asked me to visit today with the topic of researching a fantasy. Many people think there is no research involved in fantasy, and that authors make it all up. This isn’t true, and we must ground our readers in some kind of reality they can relate to. This is more than having air and gravity. Readers have expectations and it’s important to consider those.

The Cock of the South is a Dwarven fantasy. I’ve already made a promise to my readers that I must fulfill. It must have dwarves in it. Everyone knows dwarves are small, hairy, semi-grouchy miners of some kind. They’ve all read a book, or heard a fairy tale to cement that in place. Many of them watched some pretty popular films about dwarves recently.

This isn’t to say I can’t change things up, but somewhere along the line I need to fulfil this promise.

My Southern Dwarves are a conquered people at the beginning of the story. They’ve scattered to the four winds as refugees. I wanted to bring something new to the characters, so I placed them in an area with no valuable minerals at all. Mining was off-limits. This is where my research began in earnest. I wanted them to be characters of the Earth, but adapted to their environment. I made them into quarrymen, stone carvers, masons, glass blowers, and potters. This led to even more research into what kinds of stone they work with, what a pit kiln involves, etc.

I avoided putting them in the typical Scandinavian setting. Southern Dwarves, hmm? The Cock of the South is set in a Greco-Roman environment. Looks like my stone is going to be marble. I also made another promise to my readers. This setting comes with its own expectations.

The setting led to another round of research. I bought a copy of Bullfinch’s Mythology. I poured through reams of data about both Greek and Roman religion. I needed monsters too, and found a wealth of them. It would have been easy to let Gods and Goddesses take over the story, but they don’t. There were minotaurs and rustics that failed to make the cut. The story is full of cyclops, centaurs, and satyrs. I even wound up checking part of the Bible when researching the cockatrice.

I also twisted one of the oldest myths on its head. I needed to establish the dominant civilization in the area, and still have the freedom to change things. I decided that Remus killed Romulus, and Rome was never founded. Remus took its place, and while they are similar (they were brothers after all), I had the freedom to change weapons, tactics, trade routes, and more.

At this point, I’ve managed to ground almost everyone who reads this story. They have a reference point that allows them to move forward with the tale. It may be The Lord of the Rings for one reader, the Odyssey for someone else, and maybe even The Bible for another.

There was a huge amount of research that came after this. Grecian pottery, the Cambodian Plain of Jars, and the recipe for Dwarven sand. (Which probably landed me on some NSA watch-list. Don’t make this at home kids.) I even researched dwarf breeds of milk cows, but you’ll have to read the story to find out why.

I needed other humans around too, so I learned about the Paeonians, Goths, and slaves. When I used these characters, and the fantastic ones, they all needed to be distinctive. Each society demanded a period of research. The Internet became my best friend.

The promise of fantasy, the Greco-Roman setting, and Dwarves, are all fulfilled. There was still a ton of room to play and make things up as the tale came together. The research helped me build fences to focus my story on where it needed to go.

All stories require research of some kind. Medical thrillers, police procedurals, inter-racial romances, science fiction and all the rest need to be grounded in reality at some point. They also need to keep in mind the promises made on the cover and in the blurb.

I went down the rabbit hole again today with a paranormal tale I’m writing. The New Orleans cemeteries I want aren’t working out for me. They still might, but I have more research to do. Where has your research led you?

Craig’s other books

Boyack photo (2)

I was born in a town called Elko, Nevada. I like to tell everyone I was born in a small town in the 1940s. I’m not quite that old, but Elko has always been a little behind the times. This gives me a unique perspective of earlier times, and other ways of getting by. Some of this bleeds through into my fiction.

I moved to Idaho right after the turn of the century, and never looked back. My writing career was born here, with access to other writers and critique groups I jumped in with both feet.

I like to write about things that have something unusual. My works are in the realm of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. The goal is to entertain you for a few hours. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Follow Craig’s blog      Check out Craig’s novels      Tweet to Craig onTwitter       Craig on Goodreads

Guest Post | Chris Graham aka The Story Reading Ape on Mythology

Looking cool, Chris, looking cool...

Looking cool, Chris, looking cool…

Introducing Chris Graham, otherwise known as The Story Reading Ape, champion of Indie authors and all round good ape. What you may not know is just how cultured an ape he actually is, but I had realised this from his many intelligent comments on my mythology posts. Impressed, I asked him to write a guest post for my blog. This is what I got…

When Ali asked me to consider writing a guest post for her blog; on my interest in mythology, my first reaction was ‘WHAT?’

Then I thought ‘How on earth can I avoid sounding like a furry Erich Von Daniken?’

Finally, I realised that everyone already thinks I’m just a crazy / Mad as a Hatter / eccentric (minus the riches) old ape, so I might as well GO FOR IT…

Have you ever wondered where all the strange and exotic creatures may have come from in our myths and legends?

Plus, what actually happened in the past to make legendary events… well…


I’m sure we’ve all got different opinions, but bear with me for a while (go fix yourself some refreshments, this might take a while lol)

For the purposes of this article, let’s look at a list of some mythical creatures (this will NOT be all of them, but these are believed in almost worldwide with only the local names differing):

DRAGONS have to be top of the list.








Still here?


I better get on with it then…

Cough, clears throat, takes drink of water (WATER you doubting Thomas at the back…some people…I don’t know…)

Now, where was I?

“DRAGONS” I hear someone shout…


Time for an interesting (and colourful) map:


Imagine yourself as a pre-historic person out foraging for food and generally minding your own business when SUDDENLY, sticking out of the ground / hill / riverbed / seashore sand / bog you see what looks like a… a… what the heck IS that called?

So, it’s a quick scamper back to the village / cave / tree / whatever, to ask the Chief / Shaman / Witchdoctor / Wise Woman / oldest person you know, what the thing is called.

Have YOU ever tried describing something you’ve never seen before?

After a while the person you’re asking will say something like “Shut up and take me to it you idiot” and you duly comply…along with probably the rest of the village / tribe / family / whatever (apart from those whose duty it is to make the meals).

Upon arrival at the scene of the find, everyone gathers round to hear the words of wisdom and knowledge from the wise and knowledgeable person…who looks long and hard at the object, sends the smallest (and most expendable) person over to touch it, and bring it back with them (if it hasn’t killed / destroyed / made them burst into flames / eaten them first).

The wise person didn’t get to be wise by being stupid…

Anyway, possibly with more help, the object is uncovered completely, cleaned up a bit and brought over to the wise person to inspect closely (now that it has been established as safe).

Today, any two year old would immediately identify the object as a DINOSAUR skull…a four year old could probably identify WHICH ONE…but wise as they are, the wise person does not have the benefit of watching National Geographic on his cave / hut wall so has to take a calculated risk and make up a name and story to go along with it…(have you ever told someone the name of something they’ve never heard of, then ended up describing it, complete with a story that describes how it works?)


Thereby were DRAGONS BORN…

Don’t believe me?

When the Ancient Greeks uncovered some long extinct Mammoth bones and skulls during one of their City State Capital projects, or cutting tunnels through mountains to bring water from somewhere else to it, they arrived at the considered opinion that giant one eyed man-like creatures existed in the dim and distant past, during the AGE OF HEROES…



Right that’s enough waffling from me on this subject.

Any questions?

What’s that?


Oh that’s a story for another day I think, besides, to quote the Sce’ali (Storyteller) in the pub in the movie ‘The Quiet Man’

“Me TROAT is very dry”

Thanks Chris! I am truly honoured to have you on my blog today!

If you don’t already follow his blog, take the time to drop by now, as not only does he interview and review authors and their books, guest post them, and promote them, but he lists a wealth of information and resources perfect for the Indie, and can even create book covers and trailers at very reasonable rates! There’s just no end to this multi-talented Ape’s skills…

Tara Sparling Taking Stock, Or the Electrical Side of Blogging

Tara Sparling is the WINNER of the Best Newcomer Blog Award Ireland 2014, and yesterday she had this to say about Grá mo Chroí, Jane Dougherty and my collaboration. (Please note WordPress won’t allow me to re-blog her post for some reason, but I’m linking to it instead.)

“There’s a new book coming out which might save our nation’s youth

For anyone who was scarred by my cringeworthy piece on How To Torture A Beloved Story To Death (And Ruin Children), there is an antidote to the pain and suffering I caused you.

Grá Mo Chroí (Love Stories From Irish Myth) is written by two very talented tellers of Irish lore, Ali Isaac and Jane Dougherty, and features an ethereal telling of the Diarmuid and Gráinne myth from Gráinne’s perspective, along with several other vivid resurrections of ancient Irish tales of love and loss. It’s a lovely book, not least for its lyricism, which makes you feel like you’re listening to these stories by the fireside. It’s interesting too to see how our forebears thought of love. The viewpoints are startling, and refreshing. Rom-coms they ain’t.”

You can read more of Tara’s witty and entertaining posts on her blog, Tara Sparling Writes. It’s definitely worth popping along for a gander to see what a successful, award winning blog looks like, and also to find out how to join the blogging workshop that Tara is running for Carousel Creates.

Thanks Tara for your kind words about our book!

Guest Post | The Importance of Mythology by Author Jane Dougherty


Ali has asked me to write about the importance of mythology in my writing, and what exactly it is doing in the near-future dystopia of The Green Woman series. I have heard it said that every fantasy world, if it is to be taken seriously as a rounded, realistic proposition, has to have references to religion. No real society can exist without religion. That’s as may be. But without wanting to pick a fight over it, I’d say that no society can exist without stories. There has to be a collective imagination to bind people together, a system of common shared beliefs. In older, pre-Christian societies, stories, religion, and history were more or less interchangeable. Some cultures have stories that represent a world-view that I personally find more appealing than others.

When I was a child, my maternal grandmother would go back to Ireland a couple of times a year, usually out west where her own mother came from. She always went alone, to the wildest parts of Sligo, Mayo and Clare, where she took photos of cliffs and pouring rain and landscapes of rolling bog and heath. She used to climb Croagh Patrick for the view, never did the stations. And she always brought us back books. One of my most treasured and most often read possessions was a copy of Irish myths and legends edited by Seán Ó’Faoláin. I loved those stories for their verve and passion: because there were lots of girls and women in them; because they weren’t supine, they were dangerous; and because the love stories were not romances. They ended badly as often as not, without melodrama or high tragedy, but often in a vengeful blood bath. Something you can relate to when you’re an under-ten.

In our house and at school to an extent, legends and stories were Irish. Mythology tended to mean Greeks and Romans. The world-view of those poor benighted people was cruel and misogynistic, with gods and goddesses who behaved like petulant children playing with the antique equivalent of nuclear missiles. I pitied them.

When I was older, I was very much drawn to Robert Graves’ interpretation of the beliefs of ancient societies, and I have tried to adapt some of his ideas into the fundamental ethos of The Green Woman. The very earliest societies, Graves argued, before paternity as a biological fact became established, were matriarchal. Women controlled the birth of children, the growth of the crops, and knew about the properties of plants. Women could make magic, because all of this power was magical. Men were useful members of society for their muscles. He also hints that possibly women were well aware that once men realised the part they played in reproduction, the female mystique would be harder to maintain. Once brawn took over from brain, we would see the development of conflict and aggression. And we do see it today in almost every society in the world.

When I created the utopia of the Garden (which is a nod and a wink to the Garden of Eden as it might have been if God hadn’t interfered) I wanted to go back to a hypothetical age of innocence, where birth, growth, nurturing and protection were more important than beating the brains out of your neighbour—or casting your children into the outer darkness, come to that. Transposed to a modern society it would mean wiping out cultural prejudices and taboos, and treating each individual as a unique member of society, not a reproduction of a type.

It is this kind of world Deborah proposes to the people of Providence. To help convince them, she brings back the memories, essentially the stories, of a time when we were closer to nature and further from the aggression that has come to typify the human species. Given what we know of Providence, its cruelty, police brutality, religious and civil oppression, and its all-pervading ignorance, you’d think they would have jumped at the chance. But human nature hangs onto what it knows, and no group likes relinquishing power. Without giving away too much of what happens at the end of the trilogy, I think I can say that she has an uphill struggle.

Myths, legends, stories, history, language, are what bind a culture together. They give us common points of reference, something to talk about, something to differentiate us from the rest. That is why I believe they are fundamental to any world we care to imagine, the backbone that supports the rest of our culture. If you go back far enough, you will find stories and beliefs that have little in common with the rapists and torturers of Greek myth, but instead see meaning in rocks and mountains, the sun and the moon, rivers and animals. Rather than cruel gods with very human failings, the earliest peoples venerated concepts: purity, the power of the elements, motherhood, wisdom, the cycle of life and death. To me it seems that we, modern, sophisticated people that we are, could do worse than try and recapture a little of the wonder our distant ancestors felt at the sight of waves crashing on a silver strand or a white doe on a hill.

janeJane Dougherty is a product of the Irish diaspora. She was brought up in Yorkshire and educated in Manchester and London then moved to France to work in the wine trade. She spent fourteen years in Paris where she married and had four children, sold a lot of wine, studied Irish for a year at Paris’s Irish College, and taught herself Italian. Next move was to Laon in Picardy, a medieval gem of a town set in beautiful countryside, where her fifth child was born. She now lives in Bordeaux with her family, a Spanish greyhound and a posse of cats.

Jane can often be found on her blog, on her FaceBook author page , or tweeting. You can find her books here, and here. You can read an excerpt of The Dark Citadel, first book of The Green Woman Trilogy, and see my review here.

Jane said something here on my blog last time she visited, which I haven’t forgotten. She said “We have similar influences, Ali and I, both steeped in the magic of Irish legend and history. Culture is like a genetic marker; it finds its way into our writing, inviting itself in even when it wasn’t asked.”

I think this is very true. Those Irish heroes of the past and their stories have found their way into our hearts and cannot now be denied. I am proud to be able to bring them to life in my writing. Thank you, Jane, for joining me on my blog today, and sharing what our heritage and mythology means to you, and how it inspired your creation of The Green Woman Trilogy.