The Memory of Myth: 1964

Changelings: The Memory of Myth is two days away!

I took a different approach to the book this time around – both stylistically, and in terms of practicality. The E-Book will be available on Saturday, and the paperback a few weeks after that. Instead of the pages and pages of an in-book appendix – lovingly termed The World of the Changelings – in the e-book, readers will be directed to this site, where I’m working on creating an ever-evolving repository of historical fact vs fiction, reference links and general tidbits. The print book will still have the appendix, however.

Stylistically, The Memory of Myth is an all 1st-person narrative, from three different perspectives. I did not intend it to be that way, but it turned out, it was the best way to capture the now-adult Maureen best.

In the first few drafts, I had a chapter or two from Margaret’s perspective. Ultimately, I struck them from the book because I did not have enough of them for it to make sense, and their themes were easily integrated into other parts of the book. They did give me an excellent insight into the story, however, and the one below particularly gave me the strength to continue with the book at a time when I hated everything about it.

Enjoy!


Changelings: The Memory of Myth, Volume 3 in the Changelings series, will be available via Amazon on May 30, 2020.


1964 ~ Margaret McAndrew

The house was empty without her, but – thankfully – not as empty as it had been. Gerry remained – and Patrice and Jenny, as always – but gone were their worried stares and hushed silences which befell a room when I would sweep around the corner.

As if I could still sweep at this advanced age. I am spry, certainly, but I had never been particularly majestic. Even as a chieftain’s wife, I was more lithe and willowy than imposing.

But, I supposed, if I had been imposing, they never would have taken to me.

“They would have.”

“Perhaps,” I allowed after a moment, without turning to address him. “But not as quickly.”

“I was taken with you the first moment I laid eyes on you.”

“You were but a pup, and a bit teched.”

I turned then, but I knew he was not there.

He came to me often like this – in snatches of conversation, in small whiffs of humour or sympathy.

Were they truly gone? Had war stolen the heir to our legacy – my grandchild more than sixty times removed?

I supposed Dubhshìth’s voice was my foolishness, and though we had made plans – so many plans – to say he and Sean were gone, now and forever. . . I did not believe it.

Maureen did not believe it, either. Not really.

Maureen still waited.

She waited in the hallowed halls of the University of Edinburgh. She waited while she presented the findings of her genealogical search to the trustees of the estate.

She waited while she teased Colin McAlister with the treasure troves I kept hidden from him, and the possibilities of what lay within the Dunn Ussie broch.

Maureen and her professor had begun the preliminary work to excavate the grounds. It would take a year or more before they found anything of note – anything the National Trust would give them credit for. I bit my tongue almost daily to stop myself from giving too many hints about where to find what.

As if anything had survived the last 1,275 years.

Yes, Maureen waited, even as her life continued, as full, if not more so than if she and Sean came back from that faerie war unscathed.

Just as I waited.

Waited while I married a rival chieftain, so he would send his soldiers to save my lover and his clan.

Maureen waited as I had as the lady of Teach na Clochach, for that lover to return to me, and again through Culloden, and again through both World Wars – waiting for men who never came home, or who came home forever changed.

“You promised me.”

“And I shall keep my promise. I swear it.”

† † †

“It’s different this time.”

“I’m sorry – what did you say?”

I saved my spot in my book with my finger.

Gerry and I always took tea together in the library – and sometimes in the back garden if the weather was nice, but the rain hadn’t stopped lashing at the windows in three days, so it was definitely not nice.

We took tea, sometimes chatting, sometimes perusing the papers, or a book, or our faraway thoughts.

Without Maureen, and the rigours of managing the day-to-day of the estate, faraway thoughts and dreamy escapes in books and magazines were often the rule, not the exception.

What day was it, even?

“Tuesdays are for art, I know – and forgive me for interrupting your novel. You’ve read that one before, aye?”

“Whether or not I have read the book before does not mean I do not glean enjoyment from it, Mr. Ballard.” I tried to keep my voice arch.

“Ah, so you forget bits and pieces too.”

I sniffed. “What is different this time?”

“The air. The quiet. Before, it was so sad. I mean, I miss the young lass and all, and Master Sean – I just–”

Gerry pulled out his handkerchief and made a lot of uncouth noises to cover the hitch in his breath.

“Aye well, that one still hurts, but with Miss Maureen gone, the quiet is not so bad as it once was. We know where she is, and the Mach 10 can bring her home any time she likes.”

“Yes, Mr. Ballard. I was thinking much the same myself.”

“Aye, I thought so. When you get to thinking about them, you get to thinking about him, too, and it’s almost like your thinking summons him.”

“Him?”

Gerry snorted. “Aye. Him. The one you loved and lost. The one who spirited them away.”

One lonely night, not long after Sean and Maureen disappeared into 1745, I had confided in Gerry – told him of my part in it. He, in turn, trusted me with the part he played in their lives in Ireland.

“There’s this look you get around your eyes, and the tilt of your head is like you’re listening to someone – and the air shimmers around you. Sister Theresa told me what to look for. She thought maybe I was like herself – canny, like, but not able to move about. I reckon she wasn’t wrong either.”

“But I am not like they are – not like you and Sr. Theresa, either. I see no shimmer, or eddies of mist when Faerie is near.”

“No, but he is – and it’s like he’s there. Just beyond seeing.”

It was my turn to cough over a hitch in my throat.

I reached over to pat Gerry’s hand, and he covered mine with his big paw.

I smiled.

“Well, my dear friend, if he is just there beyond seeing, then perhaps Sean is too.”

“Oh aye – I’ve thought that myself. I hope he is. I hope. . .”

“I hope so too, Gerry.”

† † †

The rain had subsided to a mere drizzly trickle – the sky might even stop its weeping tomorrow. Perhaps then the meanderings of memory would leave me in peace.

Maureen still had three years before she completed her doctorate – and a residency after that.

Did this old body – which, the history books and my memory said would not have seen me past 50, much less the 85 I was today – have four more years?

Would I be able to see Maureen to the end?

Would I be able to see myself to the end?

“You promised, my love.”

“And I shall keep it – I swear it.”


Other books in the Changelings series:

Changelings: The Memory of Myth, Volume 3 in the Changelings series, will be available via Amazon on May 30, 2020.

The Memory of Myth: A Look Back

Well, there are 6 days left. The third – and final – book in the Changelings series, The Memory of Myth comes out on May 30. 

The Memory of Myth is my birthday present to myself – a stressful present, but still a present. The book also tells a story I never expected to tell and follows Maureen to a place I was personally reluctant to go to. Maureen, Margaret, and Catherine have made me alternately cry and tear my hair out in frustration. 

The Memory of Myth may not be the hardest story I will ever write, but it certainly is the hardest I have written to-date. And, if I am honest, it is the most rewarding story too (which may come as a surprise to the people who know me, given how much I complained about the bloody thing). Harder – and more rewarding – stories will come, but for now, I am happy the Changelings trilogy is finally complete.

I wrote the piece below for Changelings: Into the Mist – wrote, and then removed and posted here as an outtake. Rereading “The Race” was eye-opening, especially since I have been living with Maureen as a twenty-five-year-old for at least two years now. Going back to who she was as a young woman. . . well, the former girl-pirate was definitely a character! 

This piece plays a part in The Memory of Myth, so I hope you enjoy it!

The Race

“You let that horse lead you too much,” Maureen scolded.

Sean looked up, startled. He had been daydreaming, not watching the road. He trusted the horse to know her way home. Maureen’s voice jolted him to the present, which was, oddly enough, the past.

Today was November 30, 1584. They had been part of Grania Uaile — Grace O’Malley’s — crew of pirates for three months. In that time, they had crossed the breadth of Ireland, rescued Maureen from Sir Richard Bingham — the newly-installed English Governor of Connacht — and thwarted said governor’s plan to destroy Grania Uaile’s hold on the western coast.

Now, they were back in port, back at Grania’s stronghold, Rockfleet Castle. Now, they were home. The only problem: he and Maureen had been born in 1943. Home was a relative term.

“What are you doing here, Maureen?” he asked. He kept a wary eye on her as she sidled up to him on her own horse, Baibín.

Maureen ignored him and instead, leaned over and patted his mare’s neck.

“You have him wrapped around your hoof, Mistress Réalta ” she whispered. She looked over at Sean and winked.

Sean rolled his eyes. He did give Réalta too much lead, but it was a compromise he was willing to make with the horse to remain seated. He was no horseman.

“I’ll ask again, since you obviously didn’t hear me the first time: what are you doing here, Maureen? Didn’t Grania tell you and Owen to clean the stables?”

It had been Maureen’s punishment for refusing to take a knife to her hair. The dark curls always threatened to escape the tight, coiled braid Maureen wrapped around her head. It posed a real hazard when one spent her time among the rigging and ropes of an Irish galley.

After Grania’s decree, Maureen had stated, rather boldly, that she had no desire to earn a nickname like Grania’s own: Grainne Mhaol — Grania the bald.

She would keep her hair bound while on board, thank you.

Shooting the room a look, Maureen had dared anyone to contradict her.

Sean had stayed out of it. He was not going to be caught between the two formidable women — one old and one young, but both determined. Eventually, Grania yielded and Maureen had been tasked with mucking out the stables.

Now her hair was flowing free over her shoulders, the sun catching the hints of red within its dark waves and making them glow.

Sean shook his head and stared ahead, smiling ruefully.

“We finished,” Maureen was saying now.

He didn’t believe her; he believed Owen — youngest of the O’Neil lads, who were Grania’s most trusted associates — was mucking out the stable by himself.

Réalta the horse wasn’t the only one who knew how to take advantage.

With a blithe shrug, Maureen turned her mare and kept pace with Sean. “I thought I would ride to meet you. It’s too lovely a day.”

Translation: she had nowhere else to go where she would not be caught shirking her duties, and she was jealous of Sean’s freedom.

She smiled brightly at him and he smiled back. Whatever Maureen’s reason, it was good to have her company.

“How was Tomás?” Maureen asked.

Sean had been sent to Tomás Conroy, a smith who lived about three miles inland. The once-empty bags straddling Réalta s rump were bulging with metal-worked, lethal goodies.

“You just missed him — he came out part of the way with me. He said there have been people along the road, unusual people.”

“More unusual than us?”

Tomás had been their first encounter after arriving in 1584. Thanks to Maureen’s wild story about being orphaned runaways-turned-minstrels — to account for their unusual clothes — he had taken them for spies and delivered them to Grania.

“Ah, you know Tomás — he’s worried about the hill,” Sean replied.

They were approaching the hill now. It was a fairy hill — a sidhe mound — and within it was the power bridge the gap between centuries. Sean often wondered how many other superstitions were really truths buried by centuries of lost knowledge.

“He says they — whoever ‘they’ are — have cut more trees. He’s afraid the good folk are mad. Given we’re here, I’m inclined to agree with him.”

Maureen nodded her head and gazed up at the hill.

The sun was starting its descent. As it slipped behind the hill, a shadow spread across the path.

Sean would never admit it aloud, but the hill scared him. At the sight of it, dark premonition slithered over his shoulders. Dubh’s letter had said they would be able to use the hill to return home in three months’ time. How — and by what power — he did not want to know.

He shook her head, banishing the thoughts, and turned to Maureen.

“Moseying past the hill seems a bit like walking on our own graves,” she said, as if reading his mind. “I’ll race you back to Rockfleet!”

“Maureen,” he protested, “I’m no horseman — you’re the one who had the lessons, not me.”

“The way Liam tells it, you did fairly well on the trip to Dublin.”

“Don’t remind me.” Sean rubbed his backside. There was a reason he preferred life in Grania’s fleet to life on land — in the sixteenth century, anyway.

He looked at Maureen. She was waiting patiently for his acquiescence. He made a face.

“Fine, woman. We’ll race — but no cheating this time!”

“What, me? Cheat? I’m offended, Sean!” Maureen leaned over; there was a wicked gleam in those green eyes and Sean held Réalta s reigns tightly.

“Just for that, I’ll give you a head start!” Maureen whistled and slapped the horse smartly on its behind.

Réalta snorted and shot ahead. Sean bounced on her back and tried to hold on with his knees. Maureen laughed behind him and he cursed, loudly. Réalta took it for encouragement and somehow galloped faster.

They rounded the bend which skirted the hill, its shadow damp and chill in the already-cold November air. Something snapped in the scrub and Réalta gave a startled whinny.

†††

Maureen chuckled as Réalta took off with Sean clinging to her back. She dug her heels into Baibín’s flank; Réalta was a fast horse, but Baibín was faster.

She was within a tail’s length of horse and rider when she heard Réalta s frightened whinny and Sean’s desperate call. She watched, helpless, as he nearly lost his grip and struggled to keep his place. The panic in his voice was real, and she urged Baibín on.

They were hurtling through the countryside. Its barren winter splendour was a blur as they raced, yet Réalta was not tiring.

She would have to do more than muck out the stables if they ran roughshod through the huts, carts, and stalls of the village abutting Rockfleet Castle.

“Try to avoid the stronghold, Sean,” Maureen called out. Just beyond the stronghold was a protected dune and shallow inlet. If Sean could steer–

“You think I’m in control of where she goes?” Sean managed to shout back.

Maureen grinned. At least he had not lost his wits.

“Hold on!” she called out. To Baibín. she muttered: “Go fast, girl — fly!”

And they flew. She caught up to Sean, and with Baibín close to her flank, encouraged Réalta to veer off the path. They cut through tall grass and bramble, ignoring the sting as thorny branches slashed at their legs. The inlet was ahead; Maureen hoped the sandy dune, the pebbled beach or the shifting waters would stall Réalta s frantic gallop.

“Maureen, get me off this thing!”

“I’m doing the best I can!” she shouted back. She did not trust her skills as a rider to reach over and grab Réalta s reigns — was not sure it would even work.

They careened over the dunes and slammed into the shore faster than she thought they would. Both animals reacted too quickly for Sean and Maureen to do anything other than scream as the horses deposited them into the shallows.

Recovering first, Sean sputtered and wiped seawater from his face. He grabbed at Maureen and helped her stand. Baibín and Réalta up to their knobby knees in the water, snuffled at their drenched heads.

“Well, that was fun,” Maureen muttered as she pushed Baibín away.

“Fun?” Sean shot back, his blue eyes wild. “Maureen O’Malley, you’re mad.”

“Aye well, Sean McAndrew, you’re off the horse and alive, aren’t you?”

Sean slapped at the water and Maureen shrieked, laughing. She splashed back, and they giggled — giving into hysterics as they tried to help each other out of the water.

†††

Liam O’Neil, Grania’s first mate, and his brother Owen observed the spectacle from the dunes. Owen turned to Liam.

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

“So, who do you think won the race?”

It was not the first time Maureen had challenged a fellow rider.

Liam turned to see two older women from the stronghold rushing towards Sean and Maureen and attempt to help them out of the shallows.

He laughed shortly. “The washerwomen.”


Changelings: The Memory of Myth, Volume 3 in the Changelings series, will be available via Amazon on May 30, 2020.

Other books in the Changelings series:

Changelings: The Memory of Myth

The war between Man and Fae is over.

Nuada is dead, but so too is Sean. Dubh has disappeared back into the mists of time, and Maureen is alone.

But not quite. Aunt Margaret, torn from her own time, is waiting for Maureen to come home – to bear witness to the family she saved. With Aunt Margaret’s help, Maureen will unlock the tragedy at the heart of the family she created.

The war between Man and Fae is over, but the War of the Gods is just beginning.


Changelings: The Memory of Myth, Volume 3 in the Changelings series, will be available on Amazon on May 30, 2020.

Other books in the Changelings series:

‘Twas the night before. . .

As I was putting the final touches on Rise of Kings a few weeks ago, a suggestion from one of my beta readers led me down the path of -gasp- prose I’d written as a way of getting inside D’s head. While I don’t consider any of it *good,* it is insightful. None of this made the cut in the book, but I wanted to share it anyway – there were plenty of easter eggs to be had, which I enjoyed and I hope you do, too.

Originally posted on April 17, 2014 as Lives Entwine.

Warning: Prose ahead! The Daily Post’s challenge-of-the-week was to write a post in prose. Now, I know quite a few excellent poets, and I know I am not of their number. However, as my brain steadfastly refuses to leave D’s world, I thought a bit of prose introducing the players in Book 2 might be in order.

As I said, prose ahead – you’ve been warned!

Maureen

I live.

Queen and goddess,

He said, the mother of kings.

Yet, power withers in my hand

And nothing to claim but portents and lies

Out of the way of history I step,

Out of the way of kings.

Let their magic die upon the Plain

I will be their pawn

No more.

*

Sean

I stand.

Stalwart and true

Hers is the gift of whispers

Twisting a song of power

While mine screams loud with terror.

For her I’ll taste the bitter sting of steel

In wars of men and battles of Fae

Yet his fate we will not echo

For our time, I swear,

Will come.

*

Dubh

I fall.

Crippled druid,

A thousand times I die,

A sacrifice, upon the Plain.

Now I move as myth amongst men – a god

Of terrible vengeance,

A father of kings.

At my call, the sleepers shall arise

And his tyranny will be

No more.

*

Niamh

I fight.

Daughter of gods

Weaver of spells, I see far.

Magic withers upon the Plain –

Death and decay mark his reign.

I will call to the heart of my people

And weave their songs once more.

With his champion at my side,

The age of peace

Will come.

*

Nuada

I rule.

Sons of mac Lir we were

And fierce were our battles

‘Till the day he graced my door.

Cloaked in mist and forgotten power,

He won for me my crown.

Lies I twisted, all to tame him

Until the day, he slipped from my side.

My kingdom is myth,

No more.

*

Mairead

I love.

I stand through the centuries,

A guardian and friend.

Mentor and mother,

The lineage of gods in my keeping,

And his word my only salvation.

I know when wars be over,

And kings awakened,

On that day my love

Will come.

***

Get your copy of Changelings: The Rise of Kings (Changelings, Vol. 2) today – ebooks and paperbacks available at Amazon, and signed paperback copies available here

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!

20141207_140911~2Two

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.

Hunted

I heard this wild cry of terror, as though hounds howled against the night.

Photo Courtesy Google Images, labeled for commercial reuse.

Photo Courtesy Google Images, labeled for commercial reuse.

The plain, Mag Mell, was empty – stripped of all lore, all magic and life – and Niamh Golden Hair’s curses rang in my ears.

I would rue the day I had turned from her cause, she had said.

As the sound caused dread to prickle my skin, a part of me laughed. There is a reason Mistress Niamh is Tír na nÓg’s greatest spell weaver and seer, though not many risk the King’s ire to say so.

The mists pressed down upon me. They started to dance. So wrapped up in my own misery – my own hot denial of her visions – was I that I did not see their grasping fingers twine ‘round my legs.

And then that cry. That hideous, desperate cry.

The King. It had to be.

I carry no weapon in the lands of the Tuatha. There would be no use – nothing man has made can harm them now. Once upon a time it was said they could be killed – that the Fae feared man’s iron and the cold touch of steel.

Fairy tales, I say. They were not driven to their hills. They did not retreat. These are bedtime stories to sooth the frightened Celtic heart, told reassure them that the Fae would trouble them no more.

Would that they had known that Fae had little interest in the world of man. Unless, of course, man came stumbling through the veils. Blundering, as I had, so many years ago.

The cry that rent the air told me I was hunted. It is always so for those who can travel between the worlds. Why did I think I would be any different?

Did it matter that I had won for him a war?

No.

Did it matter that donning the name of one I had heard since my days in swaddling – a man-god who saved his king – that I became the myth?

No.

All that mattered now was that I was a man outside of time, beyond the help of kindred, and I had just turned my back on the last of those who cared.

A haunting wail pierced the air, adding anguish to that wild cry of terror. We sang in tune, my hunter and I, and when he ripped the world from beneath my feet, I nearly wept with relief.

***

“What do you remember?”

Dubh an Suíle mac Alasdair lifted his eyes to the red-haired man before him. He looked smart in his uniform, and he was young, yet, his green eyes spoke of many battles.

Every day it was the same question. What did he remember?

Everything.

And nothing.

***

For Papi Z’s prompt: “I heard this wild cry of terror…”

Also, the 450ish words  above are a slightly different version of the opening page of Changelings: The Coming Storm, the sequel to Into the Mist.

Sometimes, giving over to D’s voice is the only way to jump start a new scene, or, in this case, a new book. Don’t get me wrong, the core of this book has already been written – it’s the second part of Maureen and Sean’s journey. Yet, this part here – with D and the red-haired man – this is new territory. And as much as I have enjoyed researching it, it was not something I had anticipated writing… yet. It has not been easy to get into the flow of the relationships forged over a very brief span of time – relationships that are key to understanding why D risks life, limb and time to keep Maureen and Sean safe.

It makes me wonder, for anyone, when you’re shifting gears in a project at work, in the home or in your writing, is there a trick you use, or a method you employ, to help you find that ‘sweet’ spot so you can move forward with it? Or do you just ‘keep on truckin’ in the hopes that it will find itself? Is this where planning comes in?

I solemnly swear. . .

De Havilland Mosquito Yorkshire Air Museum Image Courtesy Google Images

De Havilland Mosquito
Yorkshire Air Museum
Image Courtesy Google Images

D: You are never up to any good.

A: Yes, I am. I’m up to researching-good.

D: Researching-good? Never mind your abhorrent abuse of words, I thought this was going to be about resolutions.

A: Yeah, that ship could have docked last week. If it had, I was going to mention something about organization, staying tuned because the blog is about to have a baby sister called “author website,” please don’t mind our dust as we reorganize, and that whole thing about only posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (I mean it this time). As it was, that ship found incredibly cold waters, had to take a detour around the Rock of Hibernation and has since sailed.

D: You are taking that metaphor much further than it ever needed to go.

A: Yep, where no man, woman –

D: Or character –

A: Has gone before.

D: Hyperbole, too.

A: I aim to please.

D: Or distract.

A: Don’t look at the man behind the curtain, D.

D: You are a man?

A: (Eye-roll). No. No, I’m not, but thank you, D. That, again, was a figure of speech.

D: Pardon me for being a seventh-century Pict (you know that is not what we called ourselves, right?)

A: (Yes, but no one has determined what exactly it was you called yourselves, so I’m going with Pict for the mo, ‘k?)

D: (Was that English?)

A: (Nope). Anyway, writing Book 2 to completion and drafting all of the Catherine books is my first resolution of the year, and organization is my second. My third is research. Hence, researching-good.

D: Any research in particular?

A: At the moment, anything on Pathfinder Group 8, Squadron 109 and the Battle of Berlin, specifically the attack on Nuremberg on March 30, 1944. I took one look at the Mosquito planes and knew that was the plane Patrick O’Malley and James McAndrew flew.

D: Oh, you’re going there. Oh, joy. I thought you were waiting until my story to tell that part of the tale.

A: Try to contain your excitement, D. I was going to wait, and then I realized I needed to know why you were kicked out of Faerie. The readers will need to know, too. They need to know what the kids are up against. It eases the transition between the first book and the second book. I’m excited.

D: Or you just thought the Mosquito plane looked ‘really cool’ and you wanted to write about it.

A: . . .

D: Don’t deny it. I heard you.

A: Okay, fine. I’m not denying it. But, considering I know nothing about planes (besides wanting to fly one), or WWII (beyond the basics) I was actually hoping to postpone the research, but I just can’t. So, off to the library I go!

D: Can I make one request?

A: Yes?

D: Don’t turn me into Captain Jack. I know you have been watching an awful lot of Torchwood lately, and I’m a bit concerned . . .

A: I would never!

D: . . .

A: His name starts with a J, and your alias’ all start with a D. Any other similarities between you are coincidence.

D: (Mutter, grumble) Bloody woman.

A: Cheers, D!

With that, I’m off to the library – tomorrow, when it’s not below 0° Fahrenheit! Wish me luck! Good night, folks!

The Billy the Kid and D Files, Pt 2


They were found on a roadside, deep in the Nevada desert. Part of a cache of documents obviously intended for a secure location, the files have been kept secret until today. Their earth-shattering contents will amaze, possibly frighten and answer the question: what happens when an infamous Old West gunslinger and a centuries-old time-travelling Druid meet up?

 Chaos. Card games. Drinking. And chaos.

Part 2: Lover’s Walk

D: Miss Angel, Billy, it’s great to see you again!

Angel: Just call me Angel. I’ve always just been Angel. You’ll spoil me with formalities.

D: A good lady deserves to be spoiled, Mi–Angel. Now, Billy, you said you’d tell me more about your adventures with Pat Garrett and Angel here! You must begin, friend – I can’t wait any longer.

billy 500 reward

Photo Courtesy: Flickr Commons

Billy: It was the adventure of a lifetime. Anyway, it was for my Angel. I was a fool and thought she was dead. Of course, how could I have known otherwise? She’d been shot multiple times.

D: Wait, shot?! Gods, that’s horrible! Who would shoot a woman?!

Billy: Patrick F. Garrett.

D: Sounds like a dastardly fellow. I’ve known a few Pats… they’ve never ended well. Tell me he got his comeuppance!

Billy: The foolish rat! He was the only one who’d dare shoot the love of my life.

Angel: Just breathe, Billy. And thank you D! You are so sweet!

D: I do try, really I do. You sound like a brave woman, Angel. Billy is lucky to have you at his side.

Billy: I surely am! I’d have died long ago if she’d been taken from me!

Angel: You are such a darling, D! Thank you, but really, I merely followed my brave leader.

D: I know how you feel. Well, Angel, he’s lucky to have you by his side – willing to follow him into danger and brave what the fates will throw at him. Makes a man a stronger fighter, I think.

Billy: Do you have a girl out there somewhere, my friend?

D: I do and I don’t . . . she lived long ago but had to make a choice between saving our clans and our way of life, and her heart. I think fate may have given us a second chance but we’re both going to have to wait a few lifetimes in order to see if fate is truly kind.

Briana: How did this turn into a love story? I thought it was just going to be Billy and D telling tall tales and making jokes! Perhaps inviting Angel wasn’t such a good idea.

A: I know, right? It’s always a love story. D doesn’t talk about Mairead very often, but he does love a good old fashioned love story.

D: Do not. I just appreciate a good woman who fights with her man. They’re in short supply!

Billy: Well I’ll be! Briana, please do give us a moment, will you? Being a woman, I am sure it is hard for you to see how us menfolk love and appreciate our true loves. Angel and Mairead are both one-of-a-kind and it brings us great joy to speak about them. But for me, I get to hold my Angel’s hand and tell her how much she means to me. I am so very sorry for your loss, D. Your Mairead sounds like one wonderful gal. I hope fate is kind to you and you will see her again.

Briana: Um, well, I suppose it won’t hurt for me to step out for a moment. What do you think, A? Is it safe to leave these two alone to talk for awhile? I can only imagine the chaos it could cause…

A: I think it’s … well, not safe per say, but I think I can manage to step away and let the boys have their chat!

Briana: Okay, if you can do it, then I guess I can, too!

Billy: Yippie! D! We’re free!!!

D: Huzzah! . . . Wait, I’m not sure what to do with this freedom! What do we do, Billy? Is there a train to rob?

Billy: I honestly don’t know, D. I think I’m a bit rusty at the outlaw stuff. Besides, I was never much of a locksmith, and I hear that nowadays, there are some pretty snazzy ones when money is concerned.

D: So I’m told – I’m rather used to the barter system myself. What do you do for fun nowadays, Billy?

playing cardsBilly: Well, I’m hardly ever let out of Briana’s imagination, so I’m a little lost right now. Not hearing her voice is something of a mystery to me….Anyhow, I’m not going to spoil my one glorious chance at complete freedom! For fun? Well, I am sort of addicted to poker. How are you with cards, D?

D: Truly, I wish A would let me play for her when she finds herself in front of a hand. I spent some time with some RAF pilots back in WWII. I love the cards!

Billy: I can’t say I’m a professional gambler, but I’m no cheat, either! What do you say? Up for a little game?

D: Certainly! I have a deck of cards here … how shall we go about doing this?

Billy: You pick the game, my friend. I’ll bring the gold nuggets!

The transcript ends here in a mess of unreadable squiggles. Considering what happened later, we’re fairly certain they were off-their-heads drunk by the time the night ended.

Read more about Billy and Briana at her blog, When I became an Author.

Read Part 1 of the Billy the Kid and D Files.

Wondering how D and Billy met? It all started when A decided to go on hiatus