The Bonfires of Beltane by Mark Fisher

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 | 16 comments

The Bonfires of Beltane by Mark Fisher

Fans of historical fiction will enjoy meeting this week’s guest, Mark Fisher, and hearing about his debut novel, The Bonfires of Beltane. In today’s publishing world, it is not uncommon for authors with the same publisher to be unacquainted with each other, unless they meet at a writer’s conference. During a recent visit to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, I posted a prayer request on the author page for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Much to my surprise, it resulted in an invitation to church and a new friendship. Fellow LPC author, Mark and his wife, Barb were a huge encouragement to me, as were the members of The Gathering, a church in downtown Rochester. Sign in on the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the page for a chance to win a signed print copy! We have extended the giveaway until midnight August 11th due to problems with the Rafflecopter! 

Fabulous Fridays

Welcome, Mark! It’s a rare treat to interview an author I  have met. Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

For six years I worked as a public aid caseworker in Illinois, and then for twenty-eight years as a firmware programmer for IBM in Rochester, Minnesota. I “retired” from IBM in 2009. Even as a young child, I wrote stories. When I got a PcJunior in the 1980s—you’ll find them in a computer museum today—I wrote two early, secular fantasy novels and dozens of short stories that were never published. After I was baptized in 2007, I began to write Christian stories in earnest. Then I coedited and self-published Tales From Calvary, a collection of short stories (with four of mine), testimonies, and poetry from my former church.

One day I sat down to write a short story about a girl on an island. The island moved itself off the coast of ancient, Celtic Ireland, and the girl became a young man. Then I thought, few people know the story of how St. Patrick brought the gospel to that pagan land. So my main character hooked up with Patrick. My research led me to add druids, Celtic culture, and more. Thus was The Bonfires of Beltane born.

What affect does serving as an elder and treasurer at your church have on your writing time?

After I left IBM, I started working for God, spending half my week working as treasurer and preaching elder for the church I helped plant in 2013. Each week my wife and I host a community group at our house, so besides a monthly sermon, there’s also a weekly lesson to prepare. Whatever time I have left in my week, I try to spend writing. And feeding my blog and the social media beast.

I know you have visited Ireland, the setting for The Bonfires of Beltane. Did you know at the time you would be writing a book or did the idea for the book come after your trip?

We visited Ireland after I wrote the book. In fact, it was on that trip that Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas sent me an email telling me they were interested in the book. So the trip was post-book research. It resulted in several changes, mostly geographic, some cultural.

What experiences in modern Ireland were particularly helpful when it came to writing a book set in ancient Ireland?The Bonfires of Beltane by Mark Fisher

My visit to Navan Fort, the site of Emain Macha, seat of the Ulster kings. And to Tara, seat of the ancient kings of Leinster and sometimes Meath. Walking the green hills covered with sheep, stepping under fifth century stone churches no bigger than a bedroom, and ducking into cold beehive stone huts where the monks lived—all of it helped enhance the book’s setting. I love ancient history (much to my wife’s chagrin) and the museums with artifacts of the time also helped me add the small details that are so important in describing the daily life of the era. I was also impressed by the traditional Irish music, nurtured and kept alive even today in the pubs.

What is your favorite period in history and why?

The early medieval period in Europe. Few have written about it, yet it’s a fascinating time. Only a few hundred years after Christ, the Roman Empire was crumbling. Barbarian peoples were migrating into mainland Europe, and ancient, Celtic Ireland was becoming a bastion of scholarship, where Christianity would be preserved through the coming Dark Ages. Society was stratified between powerful kings, nobles, druid sorcerers, and the common folk. In ancient Ireland, folks lived thirty or forty to a roundhouse, and the local king or Rí Tuath ruled alongside his druids and a council of nobles. All gave loose allegiance to the regional kings. The druids controlled the peoples’ spiritual life, and they worshiped dark, foreboding gods whose pictures would make your hair stand on end. All of it makes for a good story.

What was the greatest problem/challenge you faced in writing this book?

Historical records for fifth century Ireland are scant. Many accounts are filled with exaggeration. Even the list of Irish kings of Ireland is suspect. I relied heavily on archaeological data and on Patrick’s Confessions, the only true record of his life. And on several books about the Celts.

Which do you think is more important: to entertain or teach/inform, and what would you like readers to take away from your book?

A gripping story with interesting characters and intense conflict must come first. Without an interesting story, a novel is nothing.

I think readers might find interesting how readily the early Irish turned from their pagan beliefs and accepted Christianity. One of the book’s themes is of spiritual conflict. We in our day often take Christianity for granted. But those living in the shadow of the druids’ spiritual darkness found true hope, joy, and peace when they replaced their dark gods with Christ.

What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?

That, as Paul says, we must finish the race well, that our Christian walk will have many ups and downs, and that on our down days, or when God seems far away, we must turn, again and again, back to Christ.

As a debut author, what are you learning that might help others who are just beginning their writing journey?

  • Sit down at your computer and just write. Outline or not, but have an idea what your ending will be before you start and work toward that. Above all, see your work through to the end. Then revise, rewrite, redo, and revisit everything you’ve written a hundred times. When you think it’s finished, hire a professional editor.
  • Do attend writer’s conferences, both before and after you have completed something you want to publish. There you will learn the trade from professionals, especially how to avoid mistakes that could cost years of redo. That’s really the only place you can market a finished work to agents and publishers and avoid the slush pile.
  • Read widely, both in the genre you like, but also the classics.

Please share the opening scene of The Bonfires of Beltane with us.

Chapter 1, Darkness

If Laurna and I were to catch the thieves, we’d no time to lose.

I crept inside the large roundhouse where her fine slept and eased the door shut, fearing to wake the forty sleepers sprawled across the floor under furs and rugs. By firelight, I scanned the great room and the spot where she’d be. The air trembled with snoring and heavy breathing. The odor of sweat and animal skins and the sweet smell of pine smoke tickled my nose. By a near wall, I spied her tawny hair spread wild across black fur, then stepped over rugs and bodies, knelt, and gently shook her.

She opened her eyes, focused on mine. “Wh–what? Taran?” A smile spread from her lips to her eyes, blue and sparkling by firelight. “‘Tis time?”

“Aye, tonight we’ll catch them. I heard footsteps outside, heading toward the pens.”

“Sure, and we’ll go, but first you must guess what I’ve made for you.” She rubbed her eyes and gave me a lopsided smile. “For every wrong answer, you owe me a kiss.”

“A brooch to hold my cape?”

“‘Tis na that.”

I grinned, leaned over and pressed my lips to hers, feeling their wet warmth against mine. “Lassie, I could play this game, and play to lose, all night. But we’ve got to hurry.”

Smiling, she pulled on a tunic, shoes, and cape, and we tiptoed through the sleepers and out the roundhouse door into the chill of an early spring night. As we hurried over the hard-packed earth between houses, a full moon topped the eastern mountain, lighting the way.

When we passed the farthest house of the village, we saw them. They were leaving the animals’ rock pen and entering the forest. One thief led a stolen kid by its tether. A second carried a blazing torch. Both wore white robes.

My heart quickened. I barely whispered the word. “Druids.”

They were our healers. Administrators of justice. Advisors to my father, the Rí Tuath, who, along with the comhairle, or ruling council, led the clan. They kept the spells of healing and cursing, memorized and passed down from before the days of the Fir Bolg.

They were our priests. They gave their souls to the spirits of trees, streams, and rocks in hope of learning their secrets. Once I was with them. And then I grew cold, dead, and shriveled inside, for they worshiped the darkness. They worshiped the dread idol of gold, Crom Cruach. The Bent and Bloody One. And he owned their souls.

A shiver rippled down my back.

I pulled Laurna behind the trunk of a yew. “This thievery, ‘tis druid business.”

“There’s na good in this. Na good at all.” She frowned.

“We must follow them, see what they do.”

Laurna caught my glance, put her hands on her hips, and her frown melted into a smile. “Aye, let’s follow them.”

Thus begins my story of long ago, with Laurna and I sneaking away in the wee hours to solve a mystery of stolen goats. I sit here now, warming old bones by a fire of pine logs, with a pile of vellum parchment and quills. I marvel at how young and brazen we were then. Had we known the trouble to come, the lives we’d upset, we might have returned to our beds.

Instead, we followed the druids’ torch down a twisting forest path across the mountain…

Book Blurb:

In A.D. 432, when Taran questions the druids’ practice of child sacrifice, they banish him from his island home to the sea. Leaving his betrothed behind, he lands in ancient, Celtic Ireland, where he meets the Roman evangelist Patrick. Together, they fight the druids’ spiritual darkness and bring the gospel to a pagan land long ruled by powerful kings and tradition. Yet Taran longs to return home to his beloved Laurna.

Mark FisherAbout the author:

Mark wrote his first twelve pages at the age of ten, complete with drawings of a prairie fire, Indians, and a stampede. More recently he’s been writing Christian historical fiction in an early medieval setting. His writing career only began in earnest after his baptism into Christianity, after twenty-eight years working for IBM as a computer programmer, and after completing a Masters of Ministry. Mark and his wife like to travel, with recent trips to Japan, Ireland, Italy, and France. When he’s not working for the church he helped plant in 2013, he’s walking his dog or at his desk writing.

Connect with Mark:


Facebook Author Page:


Book link: 


a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I think it’s wonderful that you found a new friend, while you were in Rochester. (The Rafflecopter isn’t showing up for me).

    • I will check on that!

      • Great! You got it working. To answer the question, I really enjoy fiction set in ancient times. Some of my favorite books have been set during that era.

        • And I’m going against the tide in writing about it. Most Christian historical fiction is set in Victorian, Western, World War I or II, or more recent times. But I have to write about what interests and captivates me. It’s good to find someone else who likes the period.

  2. Hi Mark, your book sounds interesting. Thank you for being such a wonderful encouragement to Norma while she was at Mayo.

    • It was great to talk with another LPC author and have her visit our church. I hope you enjoy the book!

  3. I love historic times and I also I love to read about Ireland. This book sounds very interesting. I know I can learn a lot by reading this book. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

    • And thank you for your interest and entering the contest.

  4. sounds like a great read!! would love to read it..thanks for the contest.

  5. The title jumped out at me right away. Any kind of historic fiction is right up my alley. Would love to read!

    • It’s an era we don’t hear much about and one that intrigued me. I hope you enjoy it.

  6. The setting of this book is one I know very little about. I’d like to read it to learn more about this era. I like to learn even when I am reading fiction!

    • Most historical fiction is concentrated in the Victorian era, centered on England, or WWII, or the Old West. So I’m out of the mainstream here. And my research into this era has resulted in a year-long blog about Celtic culture and history.

  7. The story line intrigues me the most. I’m so excited to have the chance to win this! I would love to read it!

    • I’m glad the story line interests you. It started out as a short story about a girl on an island. Then as I wrote, the main character became, instead, Taran mac Teague. And the island moved itself near to Ireland. Then I put it in the era of ancient, Celtic Ireland in the time of St. Patrick. That’s how it ended up where it did. When I started writing with one idea, everything changed. Go figure. It did make for a lot of rewriting, however.

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