First Fridays: Chapter Seven

Another Friday, another behind-the-scenes look at a chapter of Changelings: Into the Mist. If you’re new, you can start with Chapter Oneand be sure to pick up your copy of Changelings so you can follow along!

Seven

20141207_140911~2Growing 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.”

* * *

Grania and Queen Elizabeth

Grania and Queen Elizabeth

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.

Word of the Day

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

Devil’s in the Details

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.

Historical Footnotes

Statue of Grace O'Malley in the Westport House grounds

Statue of Grace O’Malley in the Westport House grounds

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.

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First Fridays: Chapter Six

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!

 Six

20141207_140911~2The 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.

D: Pedant.

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.

D: Scintillating.

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.

Historical Footnotes

Carrickahowley Castle, photo via WikiCommons, uploaded May 2007 by Brholden

Carrickahowley Castle, photo via WikiCommons, uploaded May 2007 by Brholden

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).

First Fridays: Chapter Five

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!

Five

20141207_140911~2Sean 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.

Word of the Day

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).

Devil’s in the Details

The Mighty Oak Tree

The Mighty Oak Tree

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.

Historical Footnotes

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).

 

First Fridays: Chapter Four

20141207_140911~2D: 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: SPOILERS!!!!

A: Wow.

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.

Chapter One | Two | Three | Want to read along? Get your copy here!

Four

 

What does the hill look like? Maybe like this - in an abstract, totally denuded sort of way!

What does the hill look like? Maybe like this – in an abstract, totally denuded sort of way!

“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.

* * *

Word of the Day

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.

Devil’s in the Details

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!).

Historical Footnotes

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!).

First Fridays: Chapter Three

20141207_140911~2D: 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.

D: Pedant.

A: Are you pouting?

D: Maybe.

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.

A: (Eye roll). Anyway, If you’re new to the First Friday feature, check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, and don’t forget to pick up your own copy of Changelings so you can follow along!

Three

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.

Word of the Day

Schematical illustration of a plan view of a cathedral, with the coloured area showing the nave. "Langhaus" by Benutzer:Leonce49 at the German language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Schematical illustration of a plan view of a cathedral, with the coloured area showing the nave.
“Langhaus” by Benutzer:Leonce49 at the German language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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!

Devil’s in the Details

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.

Historical (Astronomical) Footnotes

"Lunar Corona" by Wing-Chi Poon - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

“Lunar Corona” by Wing-Chi Poon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

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!

First Fridays: Chapter Two

Every Friday, for the rest of the year (and then some – there are actually 55 chapters in Changelings), I am presenting the first page of each sequential chapter in the book – but the real fun comes after the chapter, with behind-the-scenes goodies, historical footnotes and a bit of dialogue with a certain Druid. Enjoy it as a stand-alone treat or read along with your very own copy of Changelings. Check out Chapter One and follow along!

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Maureen clasped two identical boxes beneath her arms as she slipped into the boarding school common room. She shot a bright smile at Sr. Theresa, but the woman barely acknowledged it. She was sitting comfortably in the corner with a dog-eared James Stephens novel. It was a hard-won indulgence in the nun’s otherwise austere life, and Maureen knew she would be a complacent chaperone for the abbey’s only summer residents.

Sean was perched on a chair in the opposite corner, reading a comic book – another indulgence. As soon as he saw her, he leapt to his feet. Brightly coloured pages fluttered to the floor.

“There you are!”

She curtseyed. “Here I am.”

They always met in the common room on Sunday evenings, after chores were completed and supper eaten. Sean always finished first, but tonight she had not been delayed by some creative punishment. She shifted her cargo and grabbed his comic. He would be annoyed later if he’d left it there.

He squinted at her and then eyed the prize in her arms. “Oi, those are—”

“Our boxes.”

The squint turned into an arched eyebrow. “But mine was in my room.”

“And I went to the liberty of getting it for you.” She tried to sound nonchalant as she deposited said boxes on the low table in the middle of the room. It was not the first time she had collected them – she knew where to look.

“I wasn’t aware I wanted it.” He ran his hands through his short, jet-black hair and laced his fingers behind his neck. The arched eyebrow was firmly in place.

“You did. You want to help me find the man.” She stopped and clenched her hands. She had no idea what he had actually seen during mass, and she found herself not wanting to say too much. If Sean had not seen—

* * *

D: If Sean had not seen what? My brilliance? Of course he saw. He was stunned by it, overawed, and if Maureen were paying any attention to him, she would have noticed.

A: Could you not revel in spoilers, D?

D: She takes the boy for granted, A, and you know it.

A: Oh, and picking up his comic when it fell to the floor was taking him for granted?

D: Pure reflex.

A: She’s trying to protect him – and herself, D. It’s the 1950s—

D: But that’s hardly—

A: In Ireland—

D: But of course Ireland, A – it’s a land full of mystics and seers.

A: (Eye roll) Just the same, visions in church are grounds for the asylum.

D: But–!

A: Or candidacy for the priesthood for Sean–

D: Surely you’re reading far too much into this, A.

A: Or the nunnery for Maureen.

D: Oh. That would be bad.

A: Uh huh.

D: As bad as you going into the nunnery. Talk about nightmare–

A: Oi, Druid! That is quite enough of that!

D: Oh, ahem. Well, I see your point, now. Indeed – bad business those visions. Remind me to apologize.

A: I’m pretty certain there’s going to be a list of things to apologize for before we’re done.

D: And now who is reveling in spoilers? Hm? Don’t you have historical footnotes and other flotsam with which to delight and entertain?

A: (Eye roll) Indeed, I do, D. Indeed I do.

Word of the Day

Supper: Often used now interchangeably with dinner, in Ireland and the UK, supper was/is often described as a light repast later in the evening (i.e.: slice of buttered bread and water at 10 pm). Dinner is the midday meal, and was often much heavier, especially on Sundays. Of course, to complicate things, in Ireland ‘supper’ was sometimes used interchangeably with ‘tea,’ especially if that light meal, eaten at 6 pm, had some added accoutrements…sigh.

Regardless, I found ‘supper’ sounded more Irish to my Midwestern American ears, and while I could have used ‘tea,’ many American readers may not have known that tea is a meal as well as a beverage akin to the lifeblood of most Irish men and women.

Devil’s in the Details

James Stephens (1880-1950) was an Irish novelist and poet. Sr. Theresa’s ‘dog-eared’ novel in question is In the Land of Youth, a direct reference to Tír na nÓg. Despite being a Benedictine nun, Sr. Theresa is a believer in – and lover of – faerie stories (or, the Good Folk, as she calls them) and often shared that love with Maureen and Sean.

James Stephens also wrote Insurrection in Dublin, in reference to the 1916 Rising, as well as numerous other retellings of Irish fairy tales. While researching just who Sr. Theresa should be reading, stumbling upon James Stephens’ name was kismet. Given his writings, and given Sr. Theresa’s stubborn refusal to give up this one ‘indulgence,’ may indicate Sr. Theresa has a greater roll to play in the lives of the Changelings.

But of course, you’ll have to wait until Book Two, The Coming Storm to find out.

Bonus: Maureen’s punishments often include peeling potatoes in the kitchen, polishing the silver or, if she’s been really bold, embroidery.

Historical Footnotes

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara Ireland | Photo Courtesy: WikiCommons

Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland*

‘…The abbey’s only summer residents.’ Carrickahowley Abbey is not an orphanage; rather it is a boarding school for international and local students. Just as the Abbey itself is based off  Burrishoole Friary, the school is based (very) loosely off Kylmore Abbey, an international boarding school and local school for girls in Connemara, Ireland.

The main difference between Carrickahowley and most other church-run boarding schools is that it is co-ed. One could argue that there were two different schools housed on the grounds but in my vision of the school, that is not the case (and in case you’re wondering, Carrickahowley

Glenstal Abbey School* - This is Carrickahowley, only a lot bigger!

Glenstal Abbey School* – This is Carrickahowley, only a lot bigger!

looks more like a squat version of Glenstal Abbey School than it does Kylmore – especially since they were built around the same time). However, proprieties have been observed and Carrickahowley has separate dormitories – even if Maureen insists on stealing into the boy’s dormitory to fetch Sean’s orphan box.

 

*Photos courtesy WikiCommons


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!

 

A Year of Fridays

Ah, January – every year you inspire me to get organized, lose a pound or two (or ten), rededicate myself to writing every day, and lately, actually make a plan for the blog. And, usually by March, some of that inspiration manages to slip into a sort of inglorious oblivion.

Wisconsin winters, wine, potato chips not to mention a few sugar plums, turtles and Wassail make keeping to a diet so not easy.

Wisconsin winters, wine, potato chips not to mention a few sugar plums, turtles and Wassail make keeping to a diet difficult indeed.

Now, the writing thing almost always succeeds, and while I can’t speak to why my diet fails every year (oh wait, yes I can: ridiculously long Wisconsin winters, wine, and potato chips), my lack of inspiration for the blog comes from a confusion of what I want it to do. Up until November of 2014, I had nothing to offer beyond the dubious wit of one druid hanging out in my head (and the dubious sanity of one writer). I am my greatest fan, so obviously, I think I’m hysterical, but now there is this book baby waving valiantly at the world. It’s here, it’s real and it’s beautiful. . . and it’s given me something to write about, regularly (I swear, angels are singing. And no, it’s not just because it’s still Christmas in my house).

Thus, each Friday, for the next fifty-six weeks, I’ll present the first page of each chapter and/or an epically awesome page from Changelings: Into the Mist, complete with historical footnotes, tidbits, and dialogues with a certain Druid. If you want to grab a copy and read along – even discuss your interpretation of my background notes in the comments – well, by all means, you can pick up a copy on Amazon (or, if you live in southeastern Wisconsin & parts of Illinois, you might be lucky enough to have it at your local library – squee!).

And so, without further ado, the first page of the first chapter of Changelings: Into the Mist.

One

My little stash - plus, an awesome poster!

My little stash – plus, an awesome poster!

I sat in the grove of my own creation and stared out at a world and a people descended of mine own. As I watched, trees gave way to stone and the Many lost their claim to the priests of the One.

Then the wheel turned. The sacred trees grew around my effigy of stone and the Many came out of hiding. I sat in my grove and watched a world outside my imagination, willing it to see.

She saw. She saw me with uncanny green eyes – the green eyes of my mother and her mother before her: witch’s eyes.

Joy rose in me. It was time – time to join the world after years of solitude, time to act after centuries of stillness.

I closed my eyes and reached across the barrier, to touch my future and my past.

†  †  †

Maureen O’Malley’s eyes snapped open. The grove of ancient trees with their twisted branches disappeared.

Daydreaming. She took a shaky breath. It had just been a daydream.

Slowly – too slowly – her senses acknowledged the church, the hard pew beneath her, and the drone of Father’s voice as he said the Epistle.

She was not stranded on a hilltop mired by mist. There was no stand of oaks, and their gnarled branches were not creaking and groaning in the breeze.

There was no breeze, and the curls that had escaped her veil were not brushing her cheek – no, they were plastered against it. The late August heat, trapped amid the dusty black skirts of the nuns surrounding her, pressed in on her and stole her breath.

She gave her head a slight shake, as if the movement would free her from the grip of that dream world.

* * *

D: So is this where you tell us that Maureen’s inattention at mass – her daydreaming which is about to lead her to a glorious vision of yours truly – is just a re-imagining of your own ‘vision’ that eventually gave birth to the book, right?

A: Actually—

D: Of course, since you had that daydream in church when you were merely 14, it means that for a full five years, you had this story – this first book – without my brilliance.

A: Sure, but D –

D: No wonder you put it away.

A: D!

D: What?

A: You are insufferable.

D: (Preens) I thought that was why you liked me.

A: I think you’re mistaking like for loath.

D: No, no I’m pretty sure you like me.

A: Depends on the day, Druid.

D: And is today that day?

A: Don’t push it.

As long-time readers of this blog know, there was a book a few years before D came on the scene. Historically sketchy, it had only a scant reference to Irish gods and mythology, and nothing to do with a time-travelling Druid. That started to change when I was bequeathed a new character who existed within the tale, but had a hard time fitting in with the story as it was. Fifteen years later. . .

D: I’m brilliant, and the story isn’t too bad either.

A: (Sigh) You are brilliant (a brilliant pain in the head). When first we “met,” I wrote the first few lines of this chapter, which are italicized above. Those alone kept me going through ten years of writer’s block, because I knew if I could write the story etched within those scant 140 words, I would have the story to which you belonged. Fifteen years later . . .

D: I’d say you did it.

A: Cheers, D.

Word/Phrase of the Day

The Many vs The One: The Many refers to the pantheon of Celtic gods vs. the coming of the One, the Christos or Christ. In my research, I got the feeling that there was little argument between the Druids and the priests, particularly priests of the early Celtic Catholic Church (that concept alone is a whole other book, or four – in fact, it’s Book 3 and 4), but as Catholicism incorporated and supplanted the native beliefs, much knowledge and lore, I feel, was lost. It is this the Druid laments.

Devil’s in the Details

Nothing – not a single word – has changed in the opening 140 words of this chapter since it was written fifteen years ago. The same is true for the opening sequence of Changelings 3, which was written (and will be re-written next year) 13 years ago, while I played at being a stay-at-home mom with Tom.

Historical footnotes

Carrickahowley Castle, photo via WikiCommons, uploaded May 2007 by Brholden

Carrickahowley Castle; Photo via WikiCommons, uploaded May 2007 by Brholden

The year is 1958 and the place is Carrickahowley Abbey, located just outside Carrickahowley (now Rockfleet), Ireland. The place exists but the Abbey does not, although it was based – very loosely and rather after-the-fact – on the Burrishoole Friary, run by Dominical friars. The Friary, a historical monument, was operated well into the eighteenth century, despite the dissolution of religious orders following the English Reformation. It was abandoned in 1793. That said, boarding schools and orphanages similar to Carrickahowley Abby were established between 1880 and 1950.

It’s also worth noting that Maureen grudgingly wears a veil and thinks Father is pretty boring during the Epistle. Before the reforms of the Catholic Vatican II, women wore veils over their hair and masses were said largely in Latin. Unless Maureen was a very good, attentive student of languages – which she is not, we will find out later – Father’s voice as he said the Epistle would have indeed droned on for her.