Dusty Old Legends

file1541253679431It’s been quiet around the ol’ blog lately … like a solid month since I posted something.

There are cobwebs hanging in the digital rafters, ghost turds (that’s Marine Corp speak for dust bunnies) scattered across the floor, and it looks like some feral, cyber-raccoons might’ve taken up residence in the blog-attic. I do have a lot of good excuses for my tardiness, honest, I swear: We had a baby (Samuel, who is now two months old), I released MudMan on March 8th and since then I’ve finished a new Lazarus novella while also moving house.

Sigh. But still … shame on you James Hunter. Neglecting your blog like that, lowering the property values of all the other blogs in the neighborhood.

So, I’m back, and I’m going to try to get back into the habit of posting something once a week. A book review. An update. A post on writing or editing or marketing. Maybe even a snippet of something new I’m working on. Whatever. The point is, more activity shall commence.

And in that vein here is a new thing. A new blog post. A new piece of writerly clutter, clogging up the blogosphere.

Since I’m preparing to release a new Flashback novella (The Morrigan), I thought I’d share about some of the totally awesome research that helped bring this book alive for me. The Morrigan takes place in 1998—Yancy Lazarus is still with the Guild (though not for long) and is embarking on his last assignment, one that’ll take him into the heart of Irish myth and legend.

One of the things that I love about the Lazarus books (and MudMan, too) is how many cool mythologies I get to explore during the course of writing the story. For the Morrigan, I had to dig extra deep, though, since I knew next-to-nothing about the Tuatha De Danann—ye olde Irish gods of badassery—or Tír na nÓg, which is the land they call home. But I was more than glad to dive into the deep, murky, and often confusing waters of ancient Irish mythology. Totally worth it.

Some of those dusty old texts actually read like ancient Urban Fantasy books (the main text I pulled from was a called Cath Maige Tuired), though with a lot of ol’ timey language thrown in for good measure. There are crazy gods. Dark demons. Humans, enslaved by diabolical overlords. Sorcerers (Druids) conjuring great magic to throw back the things of the night. Crazy plot twists followed by epic battles. And the internal relationships are just as interesting—King Dagda has an affair with the Morrigan on Samhain, only to betray her and bed Boand, a nubile river goddess, who was already married. The whole thing was like reading the otherworldly version of The Young and the Restless. Crazy interesting.

Going through those accounts was pretty time consuming, but I was able to incorporate a lot of that material into the novella itself. Most of the characters—Lugh, the Morrigan, Dagda, Oghma—draw inspiration from the ancient texts documenting their strange lives, and even the plot (and twist) pulls on the historic Cath Maige Tuired (or, in English, the Second Battle of Mag Tuired). And the Druids … Super badass. Mathgen, Figol mac Mamois, Dían Cécht (who was also sometimes pictured as a god). These guys are seriously the predecessors of all Urban Fantasy wizards and mages.

Check out this little snippet from the original text (though, translated into English, obviously):

“Then he asked the sorcerer, whose name was Mathgen, what power he wielded. He answered that he would shake the mountains of Ireland beneath the Fomoire so that their summits would fall to the ground. And it would seem to them that the twelve chief mountains of the land of Ireland would be fighting on behalf of the Tuatha De Danann …

Then Figol mac Mamois, their druid, said, “Three showers of fire will be rained upon the faces of the Fomorian host, and I will take out of them two-thirds of their courage and their skill at arms and their strength, and I will bind their urine in their own bodies and in the bodies of their horses. Every breath that the men of Ireland will exhale will increase their courage and skill at arms and strength. Even if they remain in battle for seven years, they will not be weary at all.” (Cath Maige Tuired; sacred-texts.com)

Lastly—and this can’t be overstated—there are So. Many. Cool. Monsters. Seriously. I know we, as Americans, have something of a love obsession with Vampires and Werewolves (and Vampires and Werewolves are cool), but there are some many fantastically awesome and terrifying creatures out there in the big wide world.

Here are a couple of the creatures I cherry-picked for Flashback: The Morrigan (along with their descriptions from the new book, which are distinctly my own).

The Fomorians:

Willowy, vaguely-humanoid creatures with pinched, hard-angled faces, and lipless, fishlike mouths filled to overflowing with hundreds of needle-sharp teeth. Pronounced horns protruded from the back of their skulls and curved toward the dark sky overhead. Each of the sons of bitches stood seven-feet or taller: all ropy muscle, covered in slick gray skin, which blended perfectly with the landscape around them. Unlike the Tuatha De Danann—finely dressed beings who exuded an air of civility, at least superficially—these creatures were garbed in dusty leather armor, trimmed in dirt-caked fur, studded with dull metal rivets, and inscribed with arcane runes and symbols.

The Dearg Due:

Next came a cadre of shriveled, pale-faced women—faces skeletal, eye sockets empty, noses sheered away from decay—who littered the ranks of the Fomorians, driving the battle squadrons onward with dangling whips of gleaming bone and bloody muscle and ropy sinew. They were Dearg Due. Exceedingly rare Irish vampires. The shrunken women loomed high above the others, twenty feet or more in the air, and crept about on ropy-tentacles of black hair like a school of nightmarish octopi.

The Sluagh:

And then there were the hulking, quadrupedal sluagh. Frog like beasts of muscle, scales, and bristly hair, which lurched along the uneven terrain, bearing Fomorian riders on their broad backs. The sluagh were stupid creatures that stared out on the world with vacant, bulbous yellow eyes, luminous in the night, which sat above wide gullets ringed with spikes and teeth. Not unlike the Cŵn Annwn—hellhounds of the Wild Hunt—the sluagh were said to track down the souls of the wicked, attempting to flee from judgement.

So hopefully, you’ll enjoy seeing some of these old myths come alive again and then being blown into crispy smithereens. My question to you is this, What mythology would you like to see Yancy Lazarus explore next? Or it could even be a strange and unique location with some awesome folk-lore related to it. I’d also love to hear any obscure urban legends/folk lore you know about; just stick your ideas, experiences, or suggestions in the comments section.

As always, thanks for reading and being awesome.