I often get asked if I visited Ireland for research purposes when I wrote this book. I have visited Ireland, long before I ever conceived of this story idea, but even if I had, it wouldn’t have been much help. The Song of Seare series emulates Ireland in the dark ages (I took inspiration from the third to the seventh century A.D.), and the Ireland in the time of St. Patrick was a much different place than it is now.
For one thing, a great majority of the island was forested. Trees were particularly important to the Celtic religion of Ireland, and druidic rituals were often held in groves of trees. Over time, the forests started to disappear, partly because of the growth of bogs, and partly because as the population grew, woods were needed for building purposes. Still, Irish law (the Brehon laws, which is perhaps the oldest sophisticated legal system in the world) made very specific provisions for how and when wood and shrubs could be cut and set out penalties for those who violated them.
So, while there are wide open emerald-green spaces in Seare as we think of Ireland today, the descriptions of the old forest that surrounds the abandoned fortress of the High King are a much closer depiction of what ancient Ireland would have looked like. In fact, the closest we can probably get to those ancient trees are the old growth forests of Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe.
Typically, when I’m writing a book, it all starts with the characters. Even when writing fantasy, which takes extensive world-building and preparation before the first word goes on the page, I have a conception of the people who will populate my story world. In fact, it’s usually a character that won’t let me go that starts the whole idea in the first place. That character for me was Conor MacNir, a highborn lad whose naturally good and peaceable character was seen as a detriment in his place of birth. When tested, I wondered, would he crumble, or would he find a thread of steel in himself that he didn’t know existed?
Join me for a visual introduction to the characters of Seare as I envisioned them… and don’t forget to enter to win your own limited edition hardcover copy of Oath of the Brotherhood! (International winners will receive an e-book.)
Conor Mac Nir
Conor jerked his head up and stared forward while the king’s gaze roamed over him.
One corner of Galbraith’s mouth twisted in displeasure. “Tell me, have you started your training yet? Sword, bow, spear.”
“No, my lord.” Conor’s voice came out strangled, forced from his constricted throat.
“Then what exactly have you been doing for the last nine years?”
“Studying, my lord.”
“Studying?” Galbraith’s tone changed, a note of curiosity in it.
Conor’s heart lifted slightly. “Aye, my lord. History, mathematics, literature, astronomy, law, languages—”
“I can read and write the common tongue, as well as Ciraean, Levantine, and Norin. My Melandran is passable, and I know a bit of the Odlum runes.”
Galbraith stared at him for a long moment. The hall fell silent but for the crackle of torches and the occasional rustle of a lady’s gown, every eye riveted on the spectacle before them. Then, in one swift movement, Galbraith reached over and ripped the sword from the scabbard in Riocárd’s hands. The ring of metal echoed in the hall as the blade stopped a fraction of an inch before Conor’s eyes.
“The only language our enemies understand is the language of the sword.”
Aine Nic Tamhais
None of the patients taxed Aine’s skills, considering a single touch revealed what ailed their bodies. She made her examinations and assured them she could mix a remedy back at Lisdara. Soon, her wax tablet was full of names and notes, and the crowd dwindled to only a handful of petitioners.
When the last patients had been seen, Mistress Bearrach strode to Aine’s side and took the tablet without asking. She scanned the notations, clucking her tongue. “Too fast. You don’t spend enough time with the patients.”
Aine’s cheeks heated. “Do you think I got the diagnoses wrong?”
Mistress Bearrach’s scowl returned, but her black eyes twinkled. “I have no doubt they are correct. But it won’t do to make it look so easy. People begin to ask questions.”
Aine swallowed hard. “I don’t understand what you mean.”
“Don’t you? When you touch them, you know what’s wrong with them, just as you felt the wards.”
Aine tried to deny it, but her dry mouth wouldn’t form the words.
For the first time, the old healer looked at her kindly. “I know how difficult it is to keep such a thing secret. There shouldn’t be a need. But even here, different can be dangerous.”
Eoghan of the Fíréin Brotherhood
The path emptied into a secluded yard where several brothers, including Master Liam, drilled with unsharpened practice swords. The clash of metal ceased when Eoghan came into view, and voices hummed, undecipherable. Conor peered around the corner and saw Eoghan take up a sword and face two of the older brothers. Master Liam stood aside, watching.
Conor crept closer, aware he was trespassing on a private gathering, and flattened himself against the rocks.
With the sword in his hand, Eoghan transformed, seeming to grow taller and more confident. He assumed a guard stance as he waited for an attack. When it came, he sprang into motion with a speed and fluidity that made Conor’s jaw drop. The boy met each attack effortlessly, ducking in and out of range with amazing ease. Even with his unpracticed eye, Conor could see he was just toying with them, testing his skills. His opponents, on the other hand, were doing no such thing.
For more about Oath of the Brotherhood or to view your purchase options, visit the book page. Then enter the giveaway below to win your very own copy!
Before I spent a number of years in publishing, I thought the process for getting a book into the hands of readers was straightforward. You wrote the book, signed a contract, the publisher puts it out in one format…and it stays in print forever.
Now, I realize that was perhaps a little naïve. Eight years into my publishing journey, I’ve had multiple books go out of print, move to new publishers, get new covers and new formats and new printings, and find a second life years later.
I’m particularly pleased this was the case when it came to my Celtic fantasy series, The Song of Seare, which was first published in 2014 and 2015. Fantasy has long been my first love when it comes to fiction, and while the genre and I have had our ups and downs (I had to take several years off from reading it because I had just overdosed on it and I stopped writing it completely, a situation I’m in the process of remedying), this series is really one of those stories of my heart. It has everything I love in a book—romance, adventure, hope, tragedy, magic, swordplay, fears, and triumphs. In fact, I think the only thing I didn’t write into this book were shrieking eels, and I probably would have done that too if I thought I could get away with the blatant stealing. (Those of you who read a lot of fantasy will most likely pick up on the not-so-blatant stealing… let’s consider it an homage to the fantasy greats before me. After all, where would any of us fantasy authors be without J. R. R. Tolkein?)
In the next week, I’m excited to open up some of the background of the first volume, Oath of the Brotherhood, both the writing of it and the real-life history that inspired it. Join me each day for a new feature about the world of the Seare and the people within it… and don’t forget to grab your copy if you haven’t already!
Only one week left until Oath the Brotherhood is back out into the world, this time in a beautiful hardcover edition with extra materials and a well-priced e-book! Start 2021 with a stirring faith-based adventure full of magic, romance, and sacrifice — preorder your copy today!
When evil threatens, who will find the faith to fight it?
In an island kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man’s worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a musician and a follower of a forbidden faith—problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.
When Conor is sent away to a neighboring kingdom to secure a treaty, he learns that his ability with the harp is a talent that traces back to the magical foundations of a once-united Seare. But his newfound home is soon placed in peril, entangling Conor in a plot that has been unfolding since long before his birth.
Only by leaving both kingdoms behind and committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he’s meant to play in Seare’s future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—including the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?