Fridays at Ofelia’s | Reworking Celtic Myths with A.L. Lester

Guest-Post

Today, my dear friend A.L. Lester is here to talk about Celtic myths. Welcome, Ally ❤


Firstly a big thank you to Ofelia, for inviting me visit today! I thought I’d talk a bit about the inspiration for my Reworked Celtic Myth short stories.

Celtic Myths

I live in the UK and although I’m Somerset born-and-bred (that’s a county in the south-west of England and traditionally we are all expected to wear farming smocks, hobnail boots, chew straw and talk with a very rural accent) I have spent quite a bit of time living in more Celtic-rooted Wales, another of the countries that make up the United Kingdom.

Wales is a small, hilly country with a beautiful language, that is full of lovely people, wonderful countryside and lots and lots of fantastic myths. Many of them are to do with the Christian church, many of them are to do with ancient Welsh history. Welsh, Cornish and Brittany in north-western France all have Brittonic languages that are broadly similar. They’re all forms of the Celtic Languages. The areas also share traces of a Celtic Christianity that is separate from the Roman Church that was brought to Britain by St Augustine in the sixth century AD. So there are lots of minor saints that might originally have been pre-Christian deities. In addition, many secular ancient oral tales were written down in The Mabinogion in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries after being handed down for centuries from person to person.

In addition, Scots, Irish and Manx (spoken on the Isle of Man) all share forms of Gaelic and likewise have a deep seam of ancient myths.

For writers looking for inspiration, the stories are rich and plentiful.

But they’ve been there all the time I’ve been alive. Why did I suddenly decide to start writing about them now?

Well. A little while ago during lockdown I started trying to make more professional links online; and so I joined the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association. There are various chapters. The Welsh one is called Cariad, the Welsh for love. And because of my connection to Wales, I was allowed to join their online meetings.

In January, we talked about celebrating St Dwynwen’s Day on the 25th of the month with relevant stories. St Dwynwen is a Welsh saint who over the last few decades has become known as the Welsh St Valentine. I read up on her and found I had a story to tell. Playing Chicken is the first in the series and I had great fun playing with a retelling in a contemporary setting. St Dwynwen’s story is actually a bit random and not in the least romantic—a chap hits on her and she freezes him into a statue before unfreezing him and forgiving him and ends up with a chapel in north Wales with a magical well full of eels. It’s all a bit confusing, so I picked out the interesting bits and wove a story from them.

Before I began writing with Ofelia and Nell Iris in the Online Office in the mornings (horrifically early for me, because 6am Swedish time is 5am UK time), I didn’t really think I had a handle on short stories. But with their encouragement I was confident enough to try and the story came in at just under ten thousand words. Because I had such fun, I thought I’d have another go and this time I picked St Kevin, patron saint of crows. He’s Irish rather than Welsh, but I transplanted him (sorry, Kevin) and gave him a lonely cottage on the Welsh coast instead of a damp cave in the Irish hills. Again St Kevin’s legend is a bit gruesome—he nearly drowns a woman who tries to seduce him, and when he doesn’t, quite, she’s so grateful, or likes him so much, or is into rejection…or who knows?…that she becomes a nun. Again I took the bits I liked out of the legend…the crows!…and made a story, As the Crows Fly.

Then I had to take a couple of months and write an actual full length novel I’d set a date for at the beginning of the year and had been looking forward to for ages (The Fog of War, coming on the 10th of July from JMS Books!). Once I turned that in a couple of weeks ago, though, I began to think about the next myth.

This time I’m going with a tale from The Mabinogion about Brânwen, sister of King Brân of Wales. Her brother marries her off to Matholwch, King of Ireland, but the marriage goes bad for complicated reasons to do with horses, and he banishes her to the kitchens. She tames a starling and sends it with a message to her brother and there are battles and a resurrection cauldron and warriors hiding in flour bags and all sorts. I knew I wanted to write about the starling, but to begin with I was trying to hitch him up with Brân. And then I realise that it would be a better story if it centred the Brânwen character, who is very much an object to be moved around in the original story and is very much not so in my own version.

I’ve also cut out the battles and the resurrection cauldron. Sorry.

Anyway. I don’t have a name for it yet, but if you’re interested in the other two, you can find a bit about them on my website. I’ll be posting buy-links to the starling story there as soon as I have a cover sorted. I’m really enjoying having a contemporary side-line to my usual historical stories and I can see myself adding to them as and when I have the time!

Queer short stories

About A. L. Lester

AllyAlly Lester writes queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense and lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, Morris the badly behaved dachshund, a terrifying cat, three guineapigs, some hens and the duckettes.

She likes permaculture gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy these days. Not musical, doesn’t much like telly, likes to read. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has fibromyalgia and tedious fits.

Join my newsletter, for a free copy of the novella An Irregular Arrangement or find me on social media via my link-tree.

What’s in a Name?

Naming characters is not easy. Sometimes a name’s just there and sometimes I name them something but it doesn’t feel right. I often check the meaning of the name, not always, but if you ever google the meaning of a name, you’ll see that it sometimes fits well with the character and/or the story.  

Sometimes I just pick a name because I think it’s cool or funny – like Eldred Henstare (though Eldred means red and he had red hair) or Captain Elazar Steel. You have to love those guys LOL 

Sometimes if I’m writing paranormal, I check random name generators for inspiration – Thaddeus Ezax is one of those. I doubt a name like Thaddeus would’ve popped up in my mind unless I saw it or something similar somewhere. I seldom borrow names exactly as they are, I usually change something, but Thaddeus definitely comes from a random name site. 

Sometimes I give a character an ‘ordinary’ name because they want to hide – like John Welsh in Once in May. He does not want to be noticed, and who remembers a John?  

And sometimes I google what names topped the lists a certain decade – like Larry in Falling Through. I wanted him to have a name from the time when he lived. Same with Charles and William in Remember Us (formely named Trapped) – not that you can’t be called Charles or William in any decade, but I wanted ‘old’ names. 

So, mostly to amuse myself, to be honest, I grabbed a pen and a paper, and I started to write down my character names. I need to write stories with someone whose name starts with an I, U, X, and Y. That’s not easy.  

I mean, I’m a bit surprised I don’t have one beginning with I. I think I have an Igor in an old story that I haven’t published, but U, X, and Y… Actually, Ulfgangur Hunter is gonna get his story soon.  

Letters

This is what we have (I hope I forgotten anyone): 

A

Abe in Crazy Joe, Ace in Acronym, Aiden in Aiden and Tristan, Alex in Knickers in a Twist, Anders in Silent Woods, Archie in Jaeger’s Lost and Found, and Arlo in Black Blird

    B

    Bjorn in Elevator Pitch

    C

    Cecil in Elevator Pitch, Charlie in Remember Us, Chris in Per Delivery, and Creed in The Maddest of Men

    D

    Daniel in Silent Woods, David in Deadly Sugar, Delron in He Melted Us, and Dylan in The Snowflake

    E

    Elazar in Eight Feet of Magic, Eldred in Worth His Salt, and Elijah in Mind Scrambler 

    F

    Felix in Nine Stones, and Fred in Banger Challenge

     

    G

    Gael in Jarger’s Lost and Found, Gary in Scary Gary, Gabriel in Pet Delivery, and Grayham in The Maddest of Men 

    H

    Hank in Eight Feet of Magic, Hannes in From All of Us to All of You, and Hush in Pine Tree Mary

    I

    None

    J

    Jason in The Egg Hunt, Jett in Deadly Sugar, Jian in 24 Dates, Jonas in Crazy Joe, John in Once in May, Josh in Deadly Lies, Joshua in Around Seven, and Jules in #PictaBook

    K

    Kace in Kisses and Cabins, Kirk in Nine Stones, and Kol in Mind Scrambler

    L

    Larry in Falling Through, Lars in Acronym, Levi in When Skies Are Gray, and Lukas in Kisses and Cabins

    M

    Madoc in When Skies Are Gray, Mason in Turning Wood, Max in It Doesn’t Translate, Micah in Scary Gary, and Mo in Worth His Salt

    N

    Nash in Black Bird, and Noir in It Doesn’t Translate

    O

    Oswald in Around Seven, and Otho in Turning Wood

    P

    Peter in Knickers in a Twist, Phillipe in He Melted Us, and Phoenix in #PictaBook

    Q

    Quincy in Quinny, Focus! and Quinn in Pine Tree Mary

    R

    Roarak in Cup o’ Sugar

    S

    Sam in Cup o’ Sugar, Sandulf in Soul Eater, Santino in Dazzle Me, and Simon in From All of Us to All of You

    T

    Thaddeus in Soul Eater, Theophile in The Snowflake, Tom in Dazzle Me, and Tom in The Egg Hunt (two Toms, FFS?!), Travis in Falling Through, and Tristan in Aiden and Tristan

    U

    None

    V

    Victor in 24 Dates

    W

    William in Quinny, Focus! and William in Remember Us (Two Williams?!!! I wonder if writer have story bibles to avoid this from happening) and Wojtek in Blood on Sand

    X

    None

    Y

    None

    Z

    Zach from Once in May, Zeppelin from Banger Challenge, and Zoe from Blood on Sand

    Up North | Around Seven

    River

    It’s time to share a little about Oswald and Joshua from Around Seven. This is an autumn story with lots of yellow leaves and crisp, cool air. It’s not yet nippy, but the summer warmth is gone. The river is quiet and peaceful, the trees reflecting on the surface, and then there is a huge splash as Oz falls in. 

    Oz is a friend of Aiden’s from the Aiden and Tristan stories and he’s come to Nortown because Aiden has asked him to work with him. Aiden is a massage therapist and Oz an acupuncturist and Aiden thought it would be good for them to work together. Oswald isn’t convinced but he has nowhere else to go. 

    Joshua has spent a week on Andre’s couch since he’s renovating his cabin.  

    Fun fact, I had no idea I’d placed a second person on Andre’s couch before someone pointed it out to me – that Once in May and Around Seven both has a guy on Andre’s couch who then leave him behind for another guy. Poor Andre LOL 

    Anyway, Josh is a down to earth guy who doesn’t get involved unless he has to. He listens to his friends’ problems, but he never talks about his own. The last thing he wants is people gossiping about him. 

    I love this story and it’s the last one I wrote that takes place in Nortown. In other Up North stories, the characters visit Nortown, but no one has lived there since Joshua. Perhaps it’s time to rectify that. 

    Oswald Sattle Joshua Roth

    Blurb:

    aroundsevenOswald Sattle has been sleeping in his Toyota Camry for the last 273 days, the exact number of days since he discovered his fiancé cheating on him. Now, out of money and out of options, he’s on his way to Nortown. Aiden, an acquaintance from his past, has offered him a job opportunity he can’t turn down, no matter how much he’d like to.

    Joshua Roth moved to Nortown four years ago, and he has everything he needs — a job, friends, peace and quiet. He’s not looking for a boyfriend; no one even knows he’s gay, and he’d like it to stay that way. Everything changes when he offers Oswald a place to stay, though.

    Oswald looks like he wants to run away, and Josh finds himself suggesting things that will make him stay. All he wants is for Oswald to smile. Oswald doesn’t want to overstay his welcome, but nothing soothes his nerves like being with Joshua in his cabin.

    How long can Oswald stay before it’s time to move on again? Can Joshua have Oswald staying with him without the whole town talking about them? Probably not, but does he care?

    Buy links:

    Contemporary Gay Romance: 23,995 words

    JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/AroundSeven