What do you do when the decisions you’ve made come back to haunt you? How do you make them right? Can you, when one wrong move will mean lives lost?
Deirdre O’Brien, an American political-activist living in Dublin, married the wrong man – and had to kill him to save the lives of thousands. Fifteen years later, he’s back from the dead, with a horrific plan to destroy the tenuous peace between Belfast, Dublin and London. To stop him, Dee will throw herself at a seedy underworld, where nothing is what it seems, and trust is a commodity too short in supply.
She only has three days – three days, and three ghosts. She will confront them, or risk becoming one herself.
The Race is On!
I first presented Three Ghosts as a serialized short story here at the blog, but as the story evolved, it was clear to some people (not me – I’m usually the last to be aware) it needed to be combined and made readily available for readers. Which means, today, I am happy to present Three Ghosts, a story born of a text message, which matured into a fast-paced political thriller where spies, paramilitary ideologues and pool-hall hustlers all vie for their chance to take on London via a heinous terrorist plot devised in the wake of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Even better? I’ve added brand-new content AND it is available to download FREE on Amazon today through March 20!
And, if that weren’t enough, Changelings: Into the Mist, my young adult historical fantasy also set in Ireland, is on sale today through March 20. Download your copy from Amazon for $.99, or get your hands on the print copy for just $9.99!
Changelings: Into the Mist
Changelings. They were the descendants of Man and Fae. They walked between worlds – as healers, mystics, even kings – but no more. He thought he was the last, alone and lost, until the day he saw them.
Irish teens Maureen O’Malley and Sean McAndrew are lost in time. It was the vision of the warrior, shrouded in mist, that did it. Maureen had to follow, and now they’re stuck in 1584, on a pirate ship captained by notorious local legend, Grace O’Malley.
Careening between swordfights on the high seas and a city on the brink of a bloody uprising three centuries later, the only way home is to confront a myth, and he – Faerie king, Nuada Silver Arm – would rather the last of the Changelings remain lost to time forever.
As the shadows rise, and the king’s insidious whispers drive Maureen and Sean apart, they turn to the one man who can help them: the warrior in the mist. The only Changeling the king could not break, Dubh Súile will do all he can to protect the last of his kind, yet even he may be too late to stop the king from rekindling a centuries-old war that threatens the very fabric of time.
Celebrate Ireland’s storied history of myth-makers and rebels!
Treat yourself to a slice of Ireland – whether you prefer edge-of-your seat excitement in contemporary Dublin, or long for Ireland’s misty hills, haunted with thousands of years of history and lore, Three Ghosts and Changelings have something for everyone this St. Patrick’s Day.
Descended of pirates and revolutionaries, Katie Sullivan is a lover and student of all things Irish. Born in the States, she is a dual US/Irish citizen, and studied history and politics at University College, Dublin – although, at the time, she seriously considered switching to law, if only so she could attend lectures at the castle on campus. She lives in the American Midwest with her son, two cats and a pesky character in her head named D (but you can call him Dubh). She can be found writing with said character weekly at her blog, The D/A Dialogues.
Another Friday, another behind-the-scenes look at a chapter of Changelings: Into the Mist. If you’re new, you can start with Chapter One, and be sure to pick up your copy of Changelings so you can follow along!
Growing up at the edges of Clew Bay – shadowed by Carrickahowley Castle and Clare Island – it was hard not to have heard the tales of Grania Uaile. The woman was a pirate, an unspoken chief, and the mistress of several strongholds along the western coast, Carrickahowley and Clare included. No one seemed to care whether the woman was real or not, not when the idea of her was synonymous with Ireland – with freedom – itself.
Sean once attempted to research the woman, to see if there was any connection to Maureen’s family. The nuns said Maureen’s father had done some work himself, but his records were locked away in Dublin.
At first, Maureen had gone along with his search – listening to his findings and helping occasionally – eagerly enough. But when infamous ancestor turned into a possible fiction, the research lost all its appeal for her. It did not matter that Grania Uaile inspired poets and rebels for four hundred years; if she was not real, Maureen was not interested.
“Did you ever find out if my father’s people were related to Grania?” she asked now.
“You do remember! Why did you act like that while we were walking, then?”
Liam and Tomás had left them alone in the small room beyond the wooden door, while they presumably went to fetch their captain. Sweet rushes covered dirt floors and filled dim corners. Dust motes danced on the streams of light let in by the slit of a window close to the ceiling.
She rounded on him. “And let them think we’re here to cause trouble with a pirate? Do you think I’m mad?”
“Do you really want me to answer that?” He rolled his eyes and she grinned at him.
“I overheard Liam and Tomás while you were loading the ship. They think we’re runaways, or spies. It was a mistake to say we were from Dublin.”
* * *
D: Is it, or is it not true that you once read a book that claimed Grania Uaile was a myth?
A: I think I’ve read several books to that effect, but yes, one does stand out in my memory stating Grania’s non-existence outright.
D: Care to share?
A: No. I don’t want to embarrass anyone –
D: And you don’t remember the name, do you?
A: No. It wasn’t a valid research source. I have a hard enough time remembering names when I’m supposed to! Of course, his line of thinking was not inaccurate, depending on the time.
D: That would be a double negative, A.
A: I am aware – thank you, D. My grammar check is having a field day with this post. As it is, while many people would have accepted the reality of Grania’s life – much like they accepted the ‘reality’ of the Good Folk – there was some serious academic doubt until the Articles of Interrogatory of 1593 came to light, proving her existence.
D: Do you think that will ever happen for me?
A: What, a document will surface proving, once and for all, that a time-traveling Druid helped two orphans fight a war between Man and Fae?
D: Well, when you put it like that, you make it sound so silly.
A: . . . and yet . . .
D: Just you wait, A. Just you wait.
Rushes are grasses in the Juncaceae family. At one time, fresh rushes would be strewn on earthen floors in dwellings as insulation. The ‘sweet flag’ Acorus calamus was usually favored for this purpose, and was often called a ‘sweet rush’ although that specific name is from a different order, and has medicinal uses (Ref: Wikipedia).
Side note: a similar question was asked on the SciFi Exchange about Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire.
Maureen is related to Grania – although, not descended from one of Grania’s children, but rather from one of Grania’s kinsmen. Of course, there is a lot more than blood to tie the two women together, as they will discover as the story progresses.
It’s also worth noting that Maureen has a wild imagination. She’s adept at making up stories, and often has to in order to explain her and Sean’s presence. Sometimes, those stories come back to haunt her because all she has is her own memory of her studies and a certain brand of impetuousness, to guide her (no smart phones here, and even if she had grown up relying on one, they certainly would not have worked in the sixteenth century). Sean, on the other hand, remains silent and watches – Maureen might know the history and facts of a situation, but he understands people.
Grania Uaile is one of *my* most favorite ancestors, too – and I have some Wild Geese in the family tree. The following is taken directly from Changelings’ Appendix: Fact vs. Fiction. My apologies for the length; much of what follows pertains to the situation in which Grania finds herself as Maureen and Sean’s temporary guardian. This also explains why it was a mistake for Maureen to say she and Sean were from Dublin.
Grania Uaile was indeed the Pirate Queen of the Irish seas. She was born in 1530, daughter of Eoghan Dubhdara Ó Máille (Owen ‘Black Oak’ O’Malley), the chief of the O’Malley clan. In 1546, she was married to Donal O’Flaherty, who was heir to the O’Flaherty titles. They had three children, Margaret, Murrough and Owen. Grania returned to her family’s holdings when Donal died, taking with her a significant number of O’Flaherty followers. This was the start of her independent fleet.
In 1566, Grania married her second husband Richard “Iron” Burke. Popular history states they were married under Brehon Law, ‘for one year certain,’ and at the end of the year, she dismissed Richard, but kept Carrickahowley (Rockfleet) Castle, where this book is set. However, contemporary English records state they remained together – or, at least, allied for a common purpose – until Richard’s death in 1583.
There was one child of the union, Tibbot. Captain John Bingham raised Tibbot in his household as a hostage – a practice common at the time, not only to ensure the ‘good behaviour’ of the hostage’s family but also to ensure the Anglicization of the next generation of Gaelic leaders.
Politically, Grania submitted to the English Crown with Burke in 1577.
Despite said submission, she maintained her fleet and seafaring activities, and supported a number of uprisings among the Gaelic chiefs as England’s power sought to supplant their own. The prison stay she mentions when speaking with Sean took place in 1577-1579 thanks to the efforts of the Earl of Edmond (Limerick) in an effort to prove his loyalty to the Crown.
In 1584, Sir Richard Bingham was appointed Governor of Connacht. He and Grania played a cat-and-mouse game via the various rebellions the broke out in response to Bingham’s attempts to enforce English law.
In 1586, Bingham’s appointed lieutenant and brother, Captain John Bingham, confiscated Grania’s horses and cattle, and murdered her eldest son, Owen. Saved by her son-in-law, Richard “Devil’s Hook” Burke, Grania fled to Ulster, where conditions were more favourable for her various enterprises. Bingham was eventually sent to Flanders and Grania returned to Connacht to resume her activities there.
In 1588, Queen Elizabeth pardoned Grania, but as that was the same year Bingham was reinstated as Governor of Connacht, and was still bent on curbing Grania’s power, the pardon had little effect. The Queen also interviewed Grania via the Articles of Interrogatory in 1593. The two women finally met in September 1593 at Greenwich Castle, in England.
Although Bingham did attempt to intervene, Queen Elizabeth took pity on an old, seemingly helpless woman. Grania’s remaining sons were pardoned and their lands reinstated. Grania was also granted her own personal freedom to act and ‘prosecute any offender’ against the Queen – which meant she could still ply a trade by the sea, so long as her enemies and the Queen’s enemies were the same.
However, as Bingham continued in his position of Governor and curtailer of Grania’s activities, he was able to circumnavigate the Queen’s orders regarding Grania’s ability to eek a living out of the sea.
Despite Bingham, the Nine Year’s War that pitted Grania’s son Tibbot against her onetime allies in The O’Neil and The O’Donnell, and an impoverished west coast, Grania persevered. She was still an active seawoman well into her sixties, as much out of necessity as desire. Nevertheless, she finally laid her body to rest in 1603.
Another Friday, another behind-the-scenes look at a chapter of Changelings: Into the Mist, this time, Chapter 6. If you’re new, you can start with Chapter One, and if you haven’t yet, be sure to pick up your copy of Changelings so you can follow along!
The sounds and smells of Carrickahowley Castle met them a good half-mile before they reached the stronghold itself. What was deserted in their time – with only the occasional fishing boat for company – was bustling with life. Nearly twenty ships filled the waters of the inlet, and the noise from their crews was rivalled only by a small market doing brisk business in the harbour. Overseeing it all was the stout stone tower. It glowered at them, even as it offered its protection.
Tomás manoeuvred his cart alongside a rickety dock and hailed two men standing close to the pier. They stopped their chatter and waved back. He turned to Sean and Maureen.
“Here we are. Hand those bundles off to young Owen over there.” He nodded his head at the younger of the two men as he approached the cart.
They scrambled out, eager to repay him – for his lack of interest, and the ride. Tomas tied off his pony’s reins and strolled over to the other man.
“No, that’s all right, lass. No need to strain yourself,” Owen said to Maureen as he took the sack of – well, of what, she was not sure. It was heavy, though. She handed it off and reached for a smaller pack.
“Ah now, you’re a bonnie bit of a thing, but breeches or no, the lad and I can manage this.” The young man laughed and sauntered off with two bundles under his arms. Sean looked at her and shrugged, but followed the other boy anyway.
She made a face and contented herself with unloading the cart and stacking its cargo close to the gangplank Sean and the boy had used to access a large ship. That was one mercy, at least. The gangplank was a flimsy thing, balanced precariously between the pier and the boat.
A shudder roiled her shoulders. Water, boats and swimming – these she did not mind. Heights, now? Heights made her legs weak.
Word of the Day
Gangplank: a movable plank used as a ramp to board or disembark from a ship or boat. Granted, as this NGram shows (and oh my god, aren’t NGrams the greatest thing ever for word nerds?!?)
D: I think that might just be you, A.
A: I don’t think so. There must be others. There’s a whole blog, called “Not One-Off Britishisms,” that uses it as a reference.
D: Okay, so you, and that guy.
A: Yeah, well – still not ‘just me,’ then, Druid.
A: Kill joy.
D: Fair enough. Let’s move on, shall we?
A: Right, where was I before you interrupted me?
D: Explaining why you used gangplank to describe the flimsy ramp between the dock and the boat when the word wasn’t even in use in 1584.
A: And the answer is simple: Maureen is describing the scene. To her eyes and ears, gangplank is a perfectly common, suitable word.
A: Indeed. Cheers, D.
Devil’s in the Details
Tomás Conroy is the ultimate messenger. In addition to being the resident blacksmith, he is a storyteller with a strong superstitious streak, which predisposes him to accepting strangeness, even as he is willing to tell all and sundry about it. Most quest archetype stories need one (heck, most stories no matter where they fall on the paradigm need one) and Tomás is it. Not only does he deliver Maureen and Sean to the action, he conveys important messages to a variety of characters, and to the readers. Because I use a limited form of 3rd person narrative, messengers such as Tomás are necessary to keep things moving along.
Carrickahowley Castle, today known as Rockfleet Castle, was just one of several strongholds held by a one Grace O’Malley/Grania Uaile, Pirate Queen of the Irish Seas. Carrickahowley is a tower house, built in the mid sixteenth century. It has four floors and is over eighteen meters in height. I took liberties with the location of the inlet, as currently the tower appears to have been built in the sea – at high tide, it is difficult to get into or out of the main door. Owned by an American, several years ago the castle was restored using traditional building methods and materials (Ref. Wikipedia).
I interrupt the blog’s Valentine tomfoolery to bring you the first page of Chapter 5 in Changelings: Into the Mist. If you’re new, you can start with Chapter One, and if you haven’t yet, be sure to pick up your copy of Changelings so you can follow along!
Sean woke with a gasp and a sickening heave of his stomach. The waking was so sudden, he forgot where he was. He forgot he had spent the night back-to-back in the dirt with Maureen. He forgot they had travelled through time – he even forgot they were now stranded. It came back to him in a rush and his stomach twisted even more.
Behind him, Maureen was stirring. He started to turn to her but she hit him and ‘shushed’ in his ear.
“Do you hear that?” she hissed.
His protest at being smacked in the shoulder died on his tongue. He closed his mouth and listened. There it was – the sound that first woke him.
“Someone’s chopping down the trees.”
Maureen nodded slightly. “Aye. I was having a nightmare and the noise blended with it, somehow. It woke me up.”
Something about the shadows under her eyes, and the steady beat of a handsaw and axe made the hair on his neck stand. “I don’t think we should be seen by whoever is up there – doesn’t feel right.”
She eyed him for a second – hunches and wild suppositions were her area of expertise – but nodded. “Nothing has felt right since yesterday morning. Let’s get out of here.”
They helped each other stand and quickly brushed off the leafy debris of their night under the stars.
Sean stretched and rubbed at his face. “If there’s any civilization here at all, we’ll find it closer to the bay. There’s probably a road or path at the base of the hill – if we can get to it without being seen.”
A shout and the ear-splitting groan of a monarch’s fall overshadowed this last. They stared at each other as the birds jeered above them.
Monarch: ruler of a kingdom, in this case the oak tree is the monarch of the forest, a common symbol. Oaks have long been associated with royalty – not only because it was valued by the Druids, but because of its durability (Ref: Fine Dictionary).
Dreams, visions and “wild suppositions,” as Sean calls it, figure heavily as motivating factors in Changelings. While only hinted at here, Maureen’s dreams – much like the oaks and the mist – become an important player in the ongoing mystery surrounding the Changelings.
D: Wow A – is that all you’re going to say?
A: Um, yeah. Why?
D: You’re ‘details’ aren’t exactly detailed today, are they?
A: I can’t say more – it would be a spoiler. It’s important. It’s probably the most important thing on this page of the book, besides their emotional elasticity – which I talked about in Chapter Four – that allows them to accept their current reality.
D: Bla, bla bla, words, words, words. You’re just not willing to admit this is kind of a boring opener for a chapter.
A: Would it be better if I’d stuck you in there, despite the fact that you were likely gallivanting around the Continent, leaving Maureen and Sean on their own?
D: . . . well, at least it would have been entertaining.
A: (Sigh) Yes, D. Whatever you say, D.
D: That’s better.
How many miles is it really to the bay? As the hill is technically fictional, it could be as many – or as few – miles to Clew Bay as I wanted. However, I had fun with maps (fun fact: I have several atlases. While I can get lost crossing the street – true story – maps are some of my favourite things.), and explored an elevation map for a reasonable spot to plant my fictional hill, abbey and chapel. As it happens, the other side of Carrowbeg Lough was just hilly – and empty – enough to be favourable. Using roads, that general area is roughly 2.3 Kilometers from Carrickahowley Castle, or 1.42 miles (See below – source: Google Maps).
D: Well, it’s about bloody time.
A: Excuse me?
D: How many months ‘hiatus’ did you take from podcasting, Miss A?
A: Seriously? This from the druid who ridiculed the very idea that I put my voice to the interwebs?
D: Well, now, I may have had some reservations, but while you were off not doing the podcast, no one was giving any thought to who should be my voice!
A: But I’ve known all along who should be your voice (and with that hefty revelation, why don’t you stop by GE Recommends for the podcast. Don’t worry – D’s waited this long. He can wait a few more minutes).
D: You have?
A: Uh huh.
D: . . . and why haven’t you shared that with the world? Come on, A – this audio-book isn’t going to act itself out!
A: Oh all right, in the spirit of the week that’s in it, I’ll reveal who not only inspired your um, brooding looks–
D: I do not brood.
A: It could have been worse, I could have called you a lurker.
D: (Sputtering). Fine. Brooding, it is.
A: This gentlemen not only inspired your brooding good looks, but in my head, whenever you speak, it’s his voice. Every. Single. Time.
D: Distracting, is it?
A: Considering The Boy jokingly gives me movie paraphernalia with his face on it every year for Valentine’s? Yeah, a little.
D: I knew I liked that child. So you’re telling me, I’m based on Thorin?
A: Or Richard Armitage, but yeah, basically.
D: I like it.
A: Really? No push-back? No snark?
D: No. I think it is highly appropriate. He has my gravitas, pathos and a charmingly wicked gleam to his eye. All in all, I believe you found the perfect muse with which to release my greatness. In fact, only one thing remains.
A: I’m afraid to ask. . .
D: Answering the question why you haven’t cornered him and demanded he do my voice?
A: I think he’s a little busy being epic on stage and in the movies.
D: I don’t think that ought to stop you.
A: Oh dear, this not going to end well.
D: In fact, I think you need to fly or sail or swim or, I don’t know, take that broomstick of yours and get yourself over to England and enlist that man’s voice. You can do it – I’ve heard what you and your friends got up to trying to get Conan O’Brien’s attention.
A: (Sigh) And I was right. While I try to talk D off this particular high, head over to Green Embers’ Recommends for the 14th episode of the Not-So-Shocking-News Dialogues, The Podcast Has Landed!
‘Twas the week before Valentine’s,
And all through the house,
Nary a heart was heard beating,
No, not even a pulse…
D: Um, A. . .
A: Yes, D?
D: What are you doing?
A: Taking creative license with Valentine’s Day.
D: With a poem ripped off from Christmas?
A: It’s how I roll.
D: Okay, but isn’t it slightly morbid?
A: You’re talking to the chick who wrote a flash fiction story based on a zombie getting it on with Jenny from Human Resources.
D: . . . this is true. So, tell me, have you written something slightly off-kilter for this year’s Valentine’s extravaganza – because I assume that this being Monday, you’ve decided to devote the entire week of posts to this strange, modern holiday designed to sell flowers, ridiculous pieces of lace, and overpriced bits of plastic masquerading as chocolate?
A: I actually like Valentine ’s Day.
D: . . .
A: No, really, I do – amid all that bad chocolate is some fabulous chocolate, which goes on clearance the day after. Plus, all the color is a nice break for all of us in the northern climes completely surrounded by grey, white, more grey and bits of crusted-over, gnarly-looking snow.
D: Uh huh, and?
A: And, it has some rather dark and disturbing pagan roots – beyond Cupid – and I just like that kind of thing.
D: Um, A – did you read the article you just linked?
A: Okay, I don’t like the actual Roman Lupercalia ritual, I just find the idea that the Catholics attempted “to put the clothes” back on the ritual when they tried to assimilate the pagans amusing. Of course, we’ve done a rather bang-up job of taking the clothes back off, which is okay, too. However, we can leave the ritual beatings for fertility to those ancient Romans, thankyouverymuch.
D: Thought so.
A: Right, so, we interrupt this Monday’s installment of “Three Ghosts” with the a repost of a story I wrote for The Community Storyboard a few years ago, which is a) based on the ghosts I grew up with, and b) the basis for a far-off book I’ll write when I’m good and ready and D please stop tapping your foot at me.
D: Who, me?
A: (Eye roll) Right – without further ado. . .
My Dearest Evelyn,
While war continues, I would not write of it. I would spare you the details of my daily horror.
When I write to you, it is to forget that I am far from you, far from your embrace. I wish that I had been brave enough to speak to your father and ask for your hand before this started. I have faced enough Secesh as punishment for my fear, and I will speak to him.
* * *
Your words fill me with hope that I will see you again. How foolish we were to think that this war would only last a week. Our nation is divided and my heart weeps. I will follow your advice, and think of you only as I remember you, for to imagine you amidst all that devastation is almost more than I can bear.
I think, in light of your new status in the military, you will find Father’s measure of you much improved, or else I have seriously misjudged his character.
Keep safe, my love.
* * *
My Dearest Evelyn,
Forgive me for keeping secrets from you. Once I knew that I would be granted leave for Christmas, I wrote to your father straight away. He has granted that we may wed.
I would not take you from the bosom of your family until this dreaded war is over, but please, do me the honor of becoming my bride when I return?
* * *
You must ask? Foolish boy, I love you with all my heart.
Mother is already a-flutter with preparations. She laments that we will not be able to go travelling as they did in her day, to celebrate amongst the family, but she is happy just the same.
I, on the other hand, am not merely happy. Your words have filled me near to bursting and I fear I may cry out, laugh or sing with the feel of it! Cook caught me signing the other day as examined what has become of my trousseau, and scolded me something terrible. She tells me such noise is bad luck. But what can she know of it? She is not married and I defy the fates to take this joy from me.
* * *
That I can call you wife, and yet not be by your side is more difficult than I would have ever imagined. Pray for me, my love; pray that I may return to your side, that I may have your sweet whispers in my ear once more. Pray that this war is over soon.
* * *
Mother says that ardor cools as daily life intrudes, but I have not found this to be true. Perhaps it is that I have yet to know you day-to-day. I remember you though, the feel of you by my side as I slept. At night, I kiss the air where you once were and weep to know that you are not there. My heart is full of the good nights and good mornings that have not yet been.
Knowing that you are mine, that those nights and mornings may yet be, only flames my ardor for you more. You may think me indecent, but my love for you only grows.
Let me be your beacon of light, guiding you home.
* * *
My Dearest Evelyn,
Your letters do me well, my love. I feel your kisses at night and they keep me warm, safe in this chill.
I do not find you indecent, dearest. Your blushes and modesty have no place with me anymore. I would fill your days with kisses and more were I there.
And, I will be there. With your love guiding me, I will be there.
* * *
The neighbors say that this war cannot last much longer. I pray that the year 1865 ends this horror. The thought of your smile, the memory of your touch, and the echo of your laughter stays with me, and cheers me. With them, I traverse the darkest hours of the night and live in hope that I will see you again soon.
* * *
Your words, you once said, should be my beacon of light. I tell you that they are so. Your love is my guiding star, my heaven. I have suffered but the promise of home keeps me. The war is over, they say. We will be coming home. Once I would have leapt with joy at the news, now I weep that I have been gone so long. Wait for me.
* * *
He knocked at the door and collapsed before it could open. Clutched in his hand was a scrap of paper, words scrawled across it with a near-unintelligible hand.
* * *
Evelyn opened the door and nearly tripped on the half-starved scarecrow that lay in a heap. There had been so many returning, so many seeking a warm fire and a bite of food, that she had stopped searching their faces for her dear Samuel.
* * *
He woke, stretched out before the fireplace. The tatters that had once been his fine uniform were gone, replaced by the heavenly scratch of thick wool blankets. The fire blazed, cheerful and comforting. He tried to turn his head, but found that even this small movement cost him more than he could spare.
“Don’t move, Samuel.”
Evelyn. He tried to say her name, to feel it on his lips once more. She kissed him silent. Her lips were salty.
“Don’t speak, my love. We didn’t know if you would wake. The doctor has been and gone; he was amazed you made it this far. Oh, Samuel, my dearest love.” She clutched his last letter in her hand. At least she would understand why. She kissed him again and rested against him. He breathed her in, surrounding himself with her. On her sweet perfume, he drifted off into the darkness, never to wake.
* * *
My Dearest Evelyn,
It was all I could do not to run all the way home when I received my discharge. That I was not permanently maimed or prisoner in some war camp was solely by the grace of God. That I prayed to you instead of Him may have been my undoing. The roads are not safe between our camp and you, and I was set upon in the night, attacked and shot. I fear it will be the death of me.
Forgive me, my love. Forgive me for not being able to be with you; forgive me for those beautiful babies yet unborn, forgive me for not growing into old age with you. I love you, Evelyn and I am so desperately sorry. If God is good, he shall grant that I watch over you, and love you for as long as you are upon this earth, my dearest. I feel your kisses yet, Evelyn and they still stave off the chill.
All my love,
Background: The home my parents built – the home I lived in until the age of 18 – was haunted. It was actually two civil-war era log homes dismantled and rebuilt together, and most of the ghosts accompanied the timbers in the move. Evelyn and “The Soldier” to whom I have given the name Samuel, resided in the formal living and dining rooms, respectively. Their close proximity as ghosts led me to wonder whether they knew each other in life, and the story grew in my head until I was convinced Evelyn had waited for her soldier, only for him to die in her arms upon his return from the war.
Eventually, Evelyn and Samuel will form the backdrop to a multi-generational love story, but until then, I’m happy to let them have this little snippet of a tale.
D: I still think we should skip ahead.
A: . . .
D: It’s just, I didn’t mean—
A: I know you didn’t mean to leave them there, all by themselves, with no one to turn to. . . poor orphans, at the cusp of adulthood, chasing a phantom.
D: You can stop at any time, you know.
A: (Grin). No, really, I know you had no idea that headstrong and ridiculously bright Maureen would decide to break curfew and chase after you. I mean, she’s only your—
D: Ahem. I mean, please don’t continue, A. Those are spoilers, and we wouldn’t want to ruin the story, would we?
A: Uh, no. Of course not. Sorry.
D: As well you should be. Good gods, woman – I’m almost happy to let you deconstruct the first page of Chapter Four if it will keep you from divulging information vital to the denouement.
A: Then that is exactly what we will do – hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because this is Chapter Four of Changelings: Into the Mist.
“Oh my God, Sr. Theresa was right, you are a Changeling,” Sean muttered. He did not know how long they had been lying in the tall grass, staring up at the starry sky. Long enough to realize that this was not a dream.
The church had vanished, and there were no sounds but those belonging to the night.
No, not a dream, but a huge, hideous mistake. The world started to tilt at funny angles and he dug his hands into the thick, matted earth.
“Me?” Maureen sat up. He winced at her speed. “It wasn’t until you touched my hand that anything happened.” She gave him a half-hearted glare as she attempted to smooth the back the riot of curls that had escaped her braids.
“And what did happen? In case you hadn’t noticed—”
“I know, I know. No church. Nothing.”
Yet, that was not completely true. She turned away and scanned the darkened countryside. Sean followed her gaze and tried to ignore the prickling unease that danced up his spine.
The church itself was gone, but the tumbledown remains of a stone structure, overgrown with weeds, sat in the middle of where the building had once been. Surrounding them was a great ring of oaks, or rather, what was left of them. Someone had been at them with an axe; a few raw stumps gleamed in the light of a moon that had just crested the hill. Beyond the oaks, with their twisted branches, were other stands of broad leafy trees that extended down into shadow.
The abbey, its collection of buildings and the modern trappings of their tiny world, had disappeared – either because they had not yet been built, or because they had fallen to ruin long ago.
* * *
Changeling: A changeling is often described as the offspring of the Fae, a troll, elf or other legendary creature, who has been secretly left in the place of a human child. The switch is often made to strengthen faerie bloodlines, or out of malice. In Ireland specifically, if one doted on one’s child too much, one was at risk for inviting the wrath of the Fae – and almost daring them to steal the doted-upon child (ref. Wikipedia).*
Use of the term changeling – particularly in medieval times – may have been a psychological need to explain mundane horrors. In a world where infant mortality was ridiculously high, and what we consider common illnesses were ascribed to some sort of devilish defect, bringing the Fae to bear when something is “off” about a child (or in the case of doting, in preventing heartbreak should the child die) is as good a way as any. The repercussions of such a “switch” depended on the religious temperament of the community and their general fear of – or abhorrence for – the old beliefs. As Sr. Theresa is evidence, there were still those in the 50s who referred to the Fae as the Good Folk and left crusts of bread and milk out for them to avoid incurring their wrath.
I love this chapter, because unlike the first three, it shows just how close Sean and Maureen are – they finish each other’s sentences. They draw strength from each other’s reaction to what happened. Sean is almost catatonic with terror until Maureen just brushes it all aside. Maureen, having no clue what happened but knowing she is the one who did it, knows she has the responsibility to remain cool – even joke about it to a certain extent later in the chapter.
I said in Chapter Three that time travel is easier without parents around, and it is true. Not having parents from such a young age also meant Sean and Maureen learned to rely almost exclusively on one another – and themselves. This independence from the outside world is their greatest coping mechanism, and it is what allows them to handle the fear and terror of traveling through the vortex within the church.
It is also my contention that as children growing up in the wake of WWII – orphans of war heroes whose war record was considered treason by their own government – they would have grown a tougher skin, and built up their own self-sufficiency. That self-sufficiency gives them the emotional and mental elasticity to deal with extraordinary circumstances (like traveling through time, meeting pirates and making war with Fae kings . . . you know, every day, mundane stuff!).
I’m afraid to say there is nothing particularly historically accurate about this chapter – except that if there had been a chapel or religious hermitage on the hill, it likely would have been torn down during the height of King Henry VIII’s Reformation of the Catholic Church.
While a few Catholic religious communities survived the Reformation (the Friary at Burrishoole being one of them – see Chapter One), many others did not. It is my contention, in the alternate history of the area, that the hermitage, surrounded by Oak trees (long held sacred by the Old Religion – especially in the generalized/idealized version in Changelings) would have been just too much for the reformers. Keep in mind, there were many pagan overtones to the Catholic Church before the Reformation (and an interesting study of this is the Lancaster Witch Trials of 1612), but even acknowledging the arcane aspect of religion, asking them to accept a grove of sacred oaks, atop a known sidhe mound, encircling a hermitage that may or may not house an ancient mystic? Saint/Goddess Bridget might have survived the Reformation, but that hermitage did not.
*Note on my reference material – no one has called me out on it, but I am well aware that Wikipedia is not the world’s greatest source, particularly for proper historical research. However, as a quick reference guide, it works well, and it’s a great starting point. I’ve noticed that, in general, its information has corresponded with many of my other source material (all of which are outlined in the Changelings appendix… get your copy today!).
Once upon a time, there was an author who liked to talk to a character – a mighty Druid warrior – in her head, and share her meanderings with the world.
Okay “liked” might be too strong a word to use. “Endured talking to” might be better. And I’m not so sure “mighty Druid warrior” is really how we want to describe D – in fact, I’m pretty sure he’s been messing with my post drafts…
Ahem. . . To expand their reach, and because they liked to catalogue the curious – their very own cabinet of curiosities, so to speak – said author and Druid curated other bloggers. And so, “The Druid Tells the Tale” was born. It further evolved into “Interview with a Druid” or “The Druid asks the Questions,” to help shine a light on those bloggers they knew had something to say – and something to share with the world.
And lo, the people were happy, until the day the author, being fickle and lacking basic time management skills–
Ahem. . .
I mean, until the day the author, pressed in on all sides with real life obligations, let it fall to the wayside. And the people mourned.
But then, January came, and the author had a revelation! Spotlight posts! Every Wednesday! Scheduled in advance!
And so, the author and her character did rejoice, and live happily ever after.
Okay, not quite, but as you can see, this is another “I’ve found a way to improve my life – or at least my blog – and I’m actually doing something organized about it” post.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I’m not a reblogger – at least, not a reliable one – and I’ve always had fun cataloguing a list of interesting tidbits, fanciful tales, and stories of interest – fact or fiction – for my readers. Of course, a few years into the blogging game, with a book out, another five million in various stages of creation and editing, not to mention a child who insists on getting older, and my time has withered away to nothing. So now, instead of being a curator of the interesting, I want to be a mouthpiece for it – and I need your help.
While I am trying to generate fans, I am aware that most of my readers are artists themselves, and all of them have something to say – something they want others to read and I want to help them do it, every Wednesday until I no longer have material.
It means shining a light on creative types – artists of all shapes and sizes. All and sundry are welcome – that is, if you write, paint, draw, document, picture, film, chronicle, pixelize, satirize, or in any other way create, you are welcome. You do not need to be selling anything to participate. Guests posts and interviews don’t need product to be successful, they just need you and your wonderful ideas.
And those wonderful ideas can be:
I do not make a distinction between promoting traditional or indie-fueled content. All I care about is quality work. If the post is error free, compelling, something you’re proud of, and has at least one graphic provided, then it’s good for me.*
Posts will go live every Wednesday until further notice, and are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. If there is a particular time-frame you’d like a spotlight presented, let me know now so I can schedule accordingly.
Art and creativity are subjective and I reserve the right to reject any posts that I feel are not right for this blog. This includes, but is not limited to, posts/promotions of an extreme violent or sexual nature. That’s just not my audience.
*Posts must be edited before submission. Posts with grammar, spelling and syntax errors will be sent back for revision. I will not post anything riddled with errors unless said errors are central to the promotion.
Use the form below to get started.
I will contact you by the email provided for more details and scheduling.
D: You know, A, I’ve been thinking.
A: This ought to be good . . .
D: What was that?
A: Nothing. You were saying?
D: . . . Yes, well, I was thinking perhaps we could skip this chapter.
A: What?! But D, this is a pivotal chapter.
D: Oh, there are far better chapters than this in the book. Take Chapter 19 for instance. That one was brilliant.
A: Well, thanks – but we’re going to get there eventually. Right now, we’re on Chapter 3.
D: I know, but . . .
A: We’re. On. Chapter. Three.
A: Are you pouting?
A: Don’t pout. It will give you wrinkles.
D: I’m over 1300 years old. I think I’m past wrinkles, A.
A: (Sigh) Now who’s pedantic? Stop stalling. We’re reviewing and titbit-ing and footnoting chapter three – and you will enjoy it. Got it?
D: Yes, Master.
A: Stop lisping and pretending to have a hunched back.
D: Yes, Master.
Maureen’s green eyes glowed in the half-light as she sailed out of the kitchen doorway. Sean followed, feeling slightly sick. He listened to the night, and found himself holding his breath. He was waiting for an alarm to sound – an alarm he knew in his gut would never be raised. After his earlier daring, he did not know what to say. This had been his idea, but it was her show. What happened next was all on her.
The fieldstone church was separate from the rest of the abbey, and built at the top of a hill that commanded views of the surrounding countryside. It was a short trek, and they walked in companionable silence. As they crested the hill, the newly risen moon came out from behind low clouds. Its light threw into stark relief a circle of young oaks that would, one day, tower over the little building. Their branches strained towards the sky, and the moon painted them in silver.
It was eerie and beautiful, and not quite of this world.
He shook himself and reminded himself why they were here. This was no time to allow the power of the morning’s vision to carry him away. He looked around for his friend.
She was gone.
The heavy oak door, the gateway to the church, opened with a grating sigh of wood and age. Panic seized his chest. He nearly bolted until he realized it was only Maureen, opening the door. He wondered where she had gotten the key – or if she had a key at all.
He shook his head. Some things were better left unknown.
She motioned him inside with a jerk of her chin and closed the door behind him. He waited for her to lock it again, hesitant to step foot into the nave without her. She touched his shoulder lightly as she passed him.
“What are we hoping to find in here?” he asked. His voice bounced off the stones and he winced.
* * *
D: What was Maureen hoping to find in there?
A: You know exactly what she was hoping to find. And you know that not finding it (or you, as it happens) is exactly what precipitates the rest of the story. Of course, your particular role in Maureen and Sean’s adventures is why you didn’t want to review Chapter Three. . .
D: Am I so obvious?
A: You’re a character in my head, D. Of course you’re obvious.
D: Now. There was a time when you had no idea what I was on about. Years, in fact.
A: (Sigh). Yeah. Those were the days.
Nave: The nave is the central part of a church building, intended to accommodate most of the congregation. In traditional Western churches it is rectangular, separated from the chancel (the space around the altar in the sanctuary) by a step or rail, and from adjacent aisles by pillars (ref: Wikipedia).
Technically, the nave extends from the entrance to the chancel, but I separated them slightly as the entrance is also called the vestibule, and I wanted to indicate that while Sean was inside, he was waiting for Maureen to set foot in the church proper. Plus, so many different words… it’s supper/dinner/lunch/tea all over again!
Readers may note that Maureen and Sean had to trek to the church, which should not have happened in a traditional abbey – those are generally self-contained structures, with everything – from kitchens, bedrooms, churches, dungeons (kidding!) – linked together. Not so at the fictional Carrickahowley Abbey, where the convent and school are at the base of the hill, while the small chapel commands the top. This was done for two reasons: 1) Sean and Maureen did not start out as orphans and the church was just a community church. Frankly, time travel is easier without parents around, so the elder O’Malleys and McAndrews had to be written out of the story, and the church was changed into the Abbey chapel – but in my head, the church was still all by itself at the top of the hill. Why?
Enter reason No. 2): there have been monuments to some sort of god on the top of that hill since man acknowledged such things – from Dubh’s hermitage to a small chapel of nuns. The lonely chapel is an homage to the mysticism of the hill. The chapel exists by itself, as though home to a power separate from any religious community – old, new, pagan or monotheistic.
In Part One, the moon – and its phases – features heavily. Not only was the moon a reliable timekeeper, in the generalized ‘Old Religion’ at use within the pages of Changelings the moon is a powerful magical gatekeeper – but only if used correctly. Dubh, being – as he says – over 1300 years-old, is well versed in the old magics. Maureen and Sean, born in 1943, are not.
Because the moon is used so specifically, I took pains to ensure I had the correct phases for the day/week/month as described in the book, which meant more than a little research to discover not only the phase of the moon, but also the sign. I finally found an online tool to help me – and once I knew that on August 31, 1958 the moon was three days past full, in Aries, I had an approximate date for when they could potentially return home (Feb 14, 1585 – when the full moon was in the opposite sign, Virgo), thus setting up the pacing and timetable for Parts One and Two.
I was very lucky that the tool I found was able to help me with the mundane timekeeping function of the moon as well. Listed on each day is a sun-and-moon rise-and-set time, which helped enormously. There were more than a few times where I would reference the moon only to realize it had not even risen in the sky yet – or, had set hours before.
Enjoying First Fridays so far? Don’t forget, if you haven’t already, grab your very own copy of Changelings, available as an ebook or paperback, from Amazon!