The Crossing Extras - Secrets Behind the Story
1. Manannán mac Lir, Celtic hero of Immortals: The Crossing
2. More Celtic Connections in Immortals: The Crossing
3. Immortals: The Crossing and Dante's Inferno
» Manannán mac Lir, Celtic hero of Immortals: The Crossing
What's in a name? Manannán mac Lir, the hero of Immortals: The Crossing has a real tongue-twister. What's up with that? Mac's name is borrowed from Celtic mythology. He's based on a real legend: The Celtic god Manannán mac Lir, who appears in Scots, Welsh, Irish, and Manx folklore.
Manannán is described in mythology as the son of Lir, the Celtic sea god. Sometimes, he's presented as the actual Celtic god of the sea, rather than a son. Manannán's associated with the Celtic Land of the Dead, located on the Isles of the Dead west of the Celtic lands. In Irish lore, Manannán is considered one of the Tuatha De Dannan, semi-divine race that settled ancient Ireland. On the Isle of Man, the Manx people honor Manannán as a protector. He's also associated with the faerie world, and is sometimes said to be married to a faery queen.
There are many stories and legends concerning the mythological Manannán, but for Immortals: The Crossing, I chose to borrow only the name and some elements of the original myths, and weave my own tale. In The Crossing, Manannán mac Lir, or Mac, as he's generally known, is indeed the son of the Celtic sea god, Lir. Rather than have a Sidhe queen as a wife, it's Mac's mother who provides his Sidhe link. Niniane, Queen of the Sidhe and Mac's overprotective mum, would much prefer her only son spend all of his time in Annwyn, the Celtic Otherworld. But Mac, like many Sidhe, is fascinated with the imperfections of humanity. He lives exclusively in the human world, where, like his mythological namesake, he plays a guardian role, as he ducks his mother's cell phone calls.
One of Mac's titles is "Guardian of Celtic Creatures in the Human World." The main races he protects are the Sidhe (tall, Lord of the Ring elven-types), and faeries (the winged "little people"). As Immortals: The Crossing begins, a faerie village comes under an attack from death magic. Mac rides to the rescue--and encounters a mystery, and a mysterious witch, he could never have anticipated.
Mac's been studying human love for seven hundred years. Most recently, he's seen its power at work in the life of his friend, the Immortal Kalen (from Immortals: The Awakening). A part of Mac longs to experience human love for himself; another part of him is very afraid that his Sidhe blood makes him incapable of the emotion. Mac's mum wants him to forget about inferior human women and settle down and marry a nice Sidhe girl. But Mac knows he'll never do it.
Mac doubts the human woman exists who can handle him and his magic, but he's searching for her anyway. He finds her, unexpectedly, in the person of one Artemis Alexandra Black. Artemis, a mixed-race witch with the rare power to balance life and death magic, has been casting spells against peaceful faerie villages. She nearly killed a faerie infant with her magic. Mac, called by the faeries to help, is incensed that someone would dare to attack his charges. He immediately sets out on Artemis's trail. Only to discover he's finally found the one woman capable of giving him a magical run for his money. What's wrong with his luck these days? His dream woman isn't supposed to be a criminal! Mac's no fool - Artemis's situation is not quite as black-and-white as it seems. It's clear she's in trouble, but she's not telling him anything. If he wants to save her, he's going to have to find out who or what she's up to. Mac just didn't anticipate going to Hell to do it.
Celtic Connections in Immortals: The Crossing
Celtic Connections I: Worldbuilding with Celtic Mythology
When I first created the paranormal Celtic background of Immortals: The Crossing, I had some decisions to make. There are so many conflicting images of Faeries and Sidhe in literature and mythology. Sometimes the two terms refer to the same race, sometimes not. Faeries are often portrayed "little people," but not always. Sometimes faeries have wings, sometimes they don’t. Other times Faeries or the Sidhe race are portrayed as tall and slender, like the Elves from Lord of the Rings.
Confronted with my own worldbuilding possiblities, I had some decisions to make. I decided that for the purposes of the Immortals world, Sidhe would be humanlike, tall and beautiful, wingless, and enjoy very long life spans. Their magical talents would include elfshot, elflight, and spellcasting. The Immortals Sidhe are pure life magic creatures, and become ill around death magic. They love luxury and sensuality and music. Full blooded Sidhe can be cruel to humans, whom they consider an inferior race. The Sidhe queen rules the Celtic Otherworld of Annwyn, but there are many of her race who choose to live in the human world.
Faeries in the Immortals world are a separate race from the Sidhe. Though they are also Celtic creatures, they are less powerful than the Sidhe. Faeries are the "Little People" - not tiny enough to sit on a flower, but about three feet tall, and winged. They are good-natured and live in happy communities hidden in the countryside. They fear death magic creatures, but are friendly to humans. Humans consider faeries good luck and do not often harm them.
Celtic Connections II: Sidhe Character Traits
Manannán mac Lir, the demigod hero of Immortals: The Crossing, is half Sidhe. His mother is Niniane, the Sidhe Queen of Annwyn. (His father is Lir, Celtic god of the sea.) Mac has vast water magic powers inherited from his divine father, but also controls Sidhe magic from his mother's people. He also shares traits commonly attributed in literature and mythology to the Sidhe/Fae races.
In Celtic lore, Sidhe traditionally live in barrows or mounds of earth. Sometimes these barrows are a means of magical transportation, as they are in Immortals: The Crossing. Sidhe/Fae are also traditionally associated with musical talent; Mac is a hot international Celtic alternative techno-rock star, known for his unique blend of traditional Celtic instruments, natural sounds, and computer synthesis. Sidhe are also known for their strong sensual appetites - they like to luxury of all kinds, and have a legendary appetite for sex. Mac's no exception to this rule. Despite his motorcycle-riding and grunge attire, he lives well. His easy smile, good looks, and natural charisma means the ladies are constantly battling for a place in his bed. And he doesn't turn them away.
A recurring theme in stories about Sidhe/Fae is their fascination with, and disdain of, the inferior human race. Mac's on the fascinated side of this conflict; his mother is on the arrogant side. Sidhe don't experience love the way humans do, and Mac's obsessed with solving the inexplicable puzzle of human love. He's seen its power, and knows it's real--but he's never felt it himself. A part of him longs to experience love; another part of him is afraid he's incapable of the emotion. Niniane, by contrast, just wishes her only son would forget about humans and settle down in Annwyn with a nice Sidhe girl. But Mac knows he'll never do that.
Mac doubts the human woman exists who can handle him and his magic, but he's searching for her anyway. He finds her in the person of one Artemis Alexandra Black. Artemis is a mixed race witch with the rare power to balance life and death magic, and she's been casting spells against peaceful faerie villages. Mac's on her trail, but Artemis is perhaps the one woman capable of giving Mac a magical run for his money. No wonder he’s so obsessed with the woman. His Sidhe pride is at stake. He's not about to let her get away!
Celtic Connections III: Halloween/Samhain
The "crossing" part of Immortals: The Crossing has to do with the Mac and Artemis crossing the boundary between the land of the living and the realms of the dead. Mac, in the tradition of his mythological namesake, finds himself on a mission in the land of the dead. From the beginning, I intended to set this story around Samhain/Halloween. It was a happy coincidence that the book was scheduled for an October release.
In the Greek tradition of "Unity of Time," the main action of Immortals: The Crossing takes place in one uninterrupted swath of time that spans about a day and a half that encompasses Samhain--from afternoon on October 30th to the morning of November 1st. This makes for non-stop, fast-paced adventure.
Samhain is a Celtic festival that marks the mid-point between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. Samhain gave rise to Halloween and trick-or-treat, a largely American custom that has been gaining popularity in Scotland in the past years, much to the disgruntlement of traditionally-minded Scots. (In The Crossing, you'll find Mac muttering about "that sodding American jack-o-lantern" in a shop window.)
Halloween is a night when, traditionally, the veil between life and death thins, allowing beings from either side to cross what is usually an impenetrable barrier. Artemis's mission can only be completed on this single night. Mac, pursuing her for her crime against the faeries, has no idea what is making Artemis so desperate. All he knows is that he's not going to like it when he finds out.
Celtic Connections IV: Hecate the Hag
I borrowed another name from mythology for one of the villains of Immortals: The Crossing. Hecate was originally an ancient goddess of Greek/Asia Minor origins associated with wilderness and childbirth. The Greek playwright Euripides cast her as a mistress of witchcraft, which most likely started her demonization. Over the centuries she devolved from goddess to witch to ugly hag, and was especially known to linger near graveyards and have power over the dead.
Hecate became associated with Scotland when Shakespeare wrote her character into Macbeth, where she commands the three witch hags who predict Macbeth's downfall. In The Crossing, the demoness Hecate challenges Mac and Artemis at every turn. Her thirst for living souls is truly evil.
Immortals: The Crossing and Dante's Inferno
And so the action of The Crossing moves from the real world into Hell. Many stories have been set in Hell and the Underworld, but perhaps the most famous is the Inferno, a fourteenth century epic Italian poem written by Dante Alighieri. If you're like me, you first encountered Dante's Inferno in high school English class. And if you're like me, you've never quite forgotten it.
You might call Dante the world's first popular horror writer. Dante's Divine Comedy, of which the Inferno is a part, was notable in that it was written not in Latin, the scholarly language of the day, but in the local Tuscan dialect--which meant the poem was accessible to common people in the way literature had never been before. During the single night (Good Friday, not Halloween, as in The Crossing) in which the Inferno takes place, the narrator (Dante) descends through nine levels or "circles" of Hell, encountering various demons and damned souls on the way. Many of the "damned" souls were Dante's contemporaries--talk about an author's revenge! I'm sure Dante's first readers loved it. (No, sorry, I did *not* write any real people into The Crossing!)
Each level of Dante's Inferno punishes a specific category of sin, starting with mild transgressions and progressing to the most heinous of crimes. The punishments fit the crimes, sometimes in very humorous ways. It was fun creating my own version of Hell using Dante's nine circle structure. The levels of Hell that Mac and Artemis pass through on their way to the deepest pit are similar to Dante's in that they punish the same sins as set forth in the Inferno. The punishments, however, are from my own imagination. Dante's storms, freezing slush, and flaming tombs are all very well and good for Fourteenth Century sinners, but the modern-day damned need something a little more relevant. Like, say, an eternal deli-counter line. Or being trapped for all time in <shudder> the bikini department at the mall!
Things get dire for Artemis and Mac as they descend into the deepest depths of Hell. Artemis is being emotionally manipulated by a pair of nasty demons, and as for Mac, he finds out his vast life magic doesn't work so well in the land of death. For the first time in his long life, Mac's facing some inner demons of his own, and he'd wondering if he's finally gotten himself into trouble he's not going to be able to get out of. But he’s not about to abandon Artemis. Follow her to the Gates of Hell? Been there, done that. Now there’s nowhere to go but onward and downward, to the deepest darkest pit.
Immortals: The Crossing is one hell of a journey. I hope you enjoy it!