Daily Lines: Here we go!

“I was once told my daughter would be a queen.
The man who said it had tears in his eyes as he kissed my fevered face. He stared at me as though he would burn the memory of me into his soul.
Goddess, he called me.
It was those words, and the look of loss in his eyes, which would eventually allow me to forgive him all that followed – which would allow me to forgive him for dying.
I think, when our small company parted ways, he lost so much more than I – though I can admit now that my life was never the same without him in it.”

D: . . . Well, way to start on a melancholy note, woman.

A: This is your story, D.

D: My story?  I’m pretty sure that’s Maureen speaking, my dear A.

A: It is. You put her through a lot.

D: I put–

A: Oh yes – you, Druid. You put – you continue to put – that poor dear through the ringer.

D: That poor dear, who would have brought down the British Empire with her bare hands? I’m fairly certain she can handle herself.

A: *No longer containing the ridiculous smile that accompanied D’s Return(TM)* That she can. So, what do you think?

D: I told you what I think – that’s a rather melancholy way to start!

A: Well sure, but it’s’ the third – and final – foray into your world. That is a little melancholy, even if it is wonderful and ridiculously exciting!

D: I saw you publish a “World of the Changelings” short earlier this year, A – don’t think you’re going to get rid of me that quickly.

A: *rolls eyes* heaven forbid. I’m not hoping to get rid of you – did you not see that grin when you showed up?? You’ve been a bit MIA, Druid.

D: I have not – I have simply been biding my time. A druid is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.

A: You just stole that from Tolkien.

D: I think you will find, given our respective timelines, that Tolkien stole it from me.

A: *eye roll* Right – my mistake.

D: Indeed, my dear A. Indeed.

Well, there you have it – Book 3, tentatively titled The Memory of Myth is underway. As I remarked to friends today – as a way to explain my sleep-deprived self – this is the

This trunk has been around the block a few times in the last 40+ years, but most notably – or recently – it’s seen 5+ books written on (or near) it’s surface

first time in about 4 years that I’ve written anything from whole cloth. Once upon a time, this book was slated to be the second in the series, and a stand-alone tale of Catherine McAndrew.

The threads of Niamh’s tapestry dictated, however, that it become the final story. The 120,000-word behemoth I wrote at this same yellow trunk 16 years ago while my then-baby boy slept is to be pared down and incorporated into a Möbius strip of timelines and stories that will bid farewell to the O’Malley, McAndrew, and McAlister clans, who have kept me company these last 25 years.

I hope you’ll join me (and D – who is indeed with me again!) – it’s been an interesting road, made even better by the people I get to share it with. I’ll share daily/weekly lines here and on Facebook, and as always, pictures of my world and writing buddies (otherwise known as my cats) on Instagram.


Welcome to the World of the Changelings. Pick your Poison:

Unmasked: A love letter to our favorite Dilettante

This is one of my favorite images of the Dilletante.

This is one of my favorite images of the Dilettante.

There’s a rumor going round that our dearest Dilettante, Helena Hann-Basquiat (not to mention her hair-raising alter ego, Jessica B. Bell) has been unmasked. And well, I think the title of the – ah – revelatory post says it all. Helena is the Goddamn Batman. She doesn’t need to be unmasked.

The name and gender of my writerly-friend matters not at all. There is brilliance that flows from that pen, whether it’s styled as Helena’s frank prose, which is at turns, hysterical and heartbreaking , Jessica’s creepy mastery, or Ken’s bitingly-aware vignettes of human nature. That said, I support Ken’s decision – I support Ken and his writing, because I believe in it. I read his words – even the ones I’m supposed to be editing (ha ha, who’s the lucky chick with her hands on CHUK?!) – and I stand in awe of his talent.

Allow me, for those who may doubt, to defend Ken and his decision – either to unmask himself or to write as Helena – before moving on to why it doesn’t matter. If the name and gender is more important than the writing, well, then you’ve come to the wrong place.  A and D are not always myself and the druid – sometimes the voices fail me, and I fall back on snippets of conversation I’ve heard, or the voice of those within my sphere. I’m a writer. So is Helena. It’s what we do!

Not convinced? One of my favorite authors – Barbara Michaels/Elisabeth Peters/Barbara Mertz – has been writing as three different people since the 60s, probably earlier. It’s just, as Helena says in her post, the weird manufactured intimacy of the internet, in which we expect people to bare their souls to those of us who are interested, makes shifting personas to meet a literary need questionable.  We’re just so damn accessible – and I’m a willing participant in forcing that accessibility (case in point, this Twitter post from last night, attempting to entice Richard Armitage to narrate Changelings…. still waiting, Mr. Armitage).

The fact remains: regardless of this amorphous concept of identity, we as readers have lived Ken’s world – in bits and pieces, in snatches of brilliance and outright terror. We’ve been there every step of the way, and who or what our favorite dilettante is matters less than the journey we’ve taken. I know many who will agree with me: It’s a great journey.

That talent that I crow about can take us from laughter to tears in the space of a few sentences – or to a shocked, but amused, gasp if he’s feeling wicked. A year ago, when I was happily promoting the Kickstarter for Memoirs of a Dilettante Vol. 1, I wrote the following:

Through her words, I see her world. Penny is as familiar to me as people I’ve known my entire life, because that’s how Helena invites you into her world. Some of the things you’ll witness there are raw. Some of them are painfully but beautifully honest and still others are downright silly and fantastic. And all of it will keep you captivated. Every last second. You’ll devour her words and in turn, they will devour you, spit you out and leave you satisfied they did.

Ken does a remarkable thing, which is to create intimacy where there could easily be none. The face and the name don’t matter because the writing connects us to a wider range of human experience – connects us to a raw, captivating nerve, which transcends identity because it has the ability to speak to all of us.

I decided two years ago the mastermind behind “Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante” and I were going to be friends. And my nerdy persistence paid off – even though I’m not the greatest friend out there. Nevertheless, Ken, in turn, has persevered, and trusted me with the information of who-he-really-is, and that is a gift I cherish from the bottom of my crusty heart to the ends of my tippy-toes. Furthermore, Ken has trusted all of us with this information. Treasure it. Hold this writer close to your heart and let him weave his magic over you. Because that, more than names, more than genders, is who he truly is, and that is what we’ve been privy to this whole time.

Vol. 2 of the Memoirs, Cover art by Hastywords

Vol. 2 of the Memoirs, Cover art by Hastywords

Now, Ken has a PubSlush campaign going live in 5 short days. If you’re new here and want to know what all the hubbub is about, check it out. Better yet, head over to “Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante” and read to your heart’s content. You will not be sorry you did. I know I never have been.

~ A and D – otherwise known as Katie Sullivan

We're a Wee-Bit-Wordy

adventureswithD-final (1)A: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to turn your attention to the link here, which will take you to the wonderful world of Wee Bit Wordy, where Dean was kind enough to invite yours truly to write a few words–

D: Ahem.

A: Yes, D?

D: Just where am I over at Wee Bit Wordy?

A: Um, not there?

D: Precisely.

A: And your point is?

D: How can you be your truly wordy self without me?

A: Ah, well you see, that wasn’t exactly the point of the post–

D: And I’m not even going to mention that part where you said I wasn’t real–

A: Oh, you read that part, huh?

D: Yes, but we’re not going to talk about it. It just hurts too much.

A: I see. So, you’ll be getting back at me some time in the future, then?

D: Yes.

A: Good to know. Since you read the piece at Wee Bit Wordy, do you have anything to add?

D: Um, let’s see – I took some notes. Oh yes, imagination – research. . . yes, and vampires. . . cricket bats. . . Jack Flacco. . . Well, actually, A, it seems like you covered it.

A: . . . Really?

D: Yes, really. Nice job, A.

A: Who are you — wait, this is you getting back at me, isn’t it?

D: It’s best to keep you on your toes, A.

A: Oh dear.  And with that, we bid you a fond good evening. Check out the post, and the rest of Wee Bit Wordy – as well as Dean’s other blog, Dean’z Doodelz!

 

An Exercise in Prose: Lives Entwine

freamWarning: 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.

***

D: Liar.

A: Excuse me?

D: This isn’t the Ballad of Dubhshìth—

A: No, but it has elements of an interlaced story that I want to capture with the final song of the Ballad. Besides, I think it would be kind of interesting if the ballad itself had these voices – you know, future—

D: Oi! Spoilers, A.

A: Oh – sorry, D.

D: As you should be – now who’s getting all – how do you say it? Timey Wimey?

A: Oh, my aching head. You must be catching.

D: Funny, I was going to say the same thing about you.

A: Cheers, D.

So, I have been swamped at home. The Boy is in a local production of Godspell. It’s fabulous (no, really – he was in charge of his costume, and with that many sequins, it can only be called fabulous). It has also meant some adjustments to our typically-lax schedule, so  my time is spent mostly on writing D’s narrative, and far less on blogging. Then, it snowed on Tuesday, and I, being the massive klutz I am, fell. Again. Thank heavens for mothers who are also chiropractors, because mine put my shoulder back in its proper spot!

Needless to say, my urge to glean news from the interwebs has been somewhat diminished, but my love for the following folks is not. Check them all out – because I know they have something interesting, fun and entertaining to say!

In no particular order (because I love you all). . .

**Update: Because apparently a sore shoulder means I don’t know how to put in hyperlinks, I’ve fixed the links below. Sorry!

  • Helena Hann-Basquiat, Being the Memoirs of: http://helenahannbasquiat.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/phone-calls-from-cthunchuk-by-jessica-b-bell/
  • Marie Ann Bailey, 1WriteWay: http://1writeway.com/2014/04/15/mid-april-update-on-the-writers-rebel-creed-2014/
  • John W. Howell, Fiction Favorites: http://johnwhowell.com/2014/04/16/wednesday-story-day-2/
  • Bradley, Green Embers: http://greenembers.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/i-ask-you-respond-to-green-embers-well-aint-that-a-kick-in-the-head/
  • Green, Phoebe and Roxie, Green Embers Recommends: http://greenembersrecommends.com/2014/04/15/believe-tv-new-series-impressions/
  • Jack Flacco: http://jackflacco.com/2014/04/16/clementine/
  • Ionia Martin, Readful Things Blog: http://readfulthingsblog.com/2014/04/14/an-interview-and-opportunity-to-win-a-signed-copy-from-francis-guenette/
  • Pam, Year ‘Round Thanksgiving Project: http://pamela984.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/hello-again/ AND http://poetrybypamela.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/how-much-longer/
  • Charles Yallowitz, Legends of Windemere: http://legendsofwindemere.com/2014/04/14/monsters-magic-items-and-thingies-from-ionia-and-john/
  • Sarah M. Cradit, . . . And then there was Sarah: http://sarahcradit.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/amazon-breakthrough-novel-contest-2014-i-made-it-to-the-quarter-finals/
  • Julian Froment’s Blog: http://julianfroment.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/my-love-2/
  • Sue Vincent, Daily Echo: http://scvincent.com/2014/04/17/let-the-star-rise-land-of-the-exiles/
  • Andra Watkins: http://andrawatkins.com/2014/04/17/fight-brain-drain-read-a-novel/
  • Briana Vedsted, When I became an Author: http://whenibecameanauthor.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/book-signing-2/

Moments to Remember: The Druid himself – An origin narrative

no eyes2

The first appearance of the Druid – I think The Boy did a great job as a stand-in!

A: It’s the final piece of the D/A Dialogues origin stories, written in response to the Weekly Challenge: Reflections.

D: Because we all know that, for A, following the rules and only posting one thing in response to a challenge is boring.

A: Too right, Druid.

D: (Eye roll) Today, it’s my turn to speak about my origins – about the man I am in A’s books.

A: And don’t worry – he’s not blonde.

D: Thank the gods. Anyway, some of this is from the two defunct books that make up my back-story – the tale of my parents and that first-person narrative I mentioned yesterday.

A: Mentioned is a nice word – I would have said blabbed.

D: You say tomato, I say tomahto.

A: Indeed – and without further ado, the Big Tomahto himself, Dubh an Súile. . .

An old woman, a priestess of a goddess now banished from the minds of men, once laid her hands on my mother’s belly.  Long before my small movements could be felt, long before I even looked like the man-child I would become, the old woman felt my spirit, strong and true.  Bidden by this, she uttered words that, on the eve of great tragedy, gave my mother greater calm:  “They will know him as Dubh an Súile, and he will be a great leader of men.”

My origins – my life and its path – can be traced to that prophesy. Whether or not the old woman was correct, it followed me through to the end of my days. It haunted me as much as it bade men to follow me. It was, in turns, used as a curse against me and to rally me from despair of my own making.

The monks of the Christos and the priests of the Druid grove each had a hand in my education, but at seven years of age, it was to the grove I was sent. I was the second son, and while they knew I would not lead the clan upon my father’s death, it was hoped I would lead the grove.

It took me nine years to earn the right to sing at the hearths of my people, counsel kings and delve deep into the heart of men to see their path. I was a Druid true – not a magician but skilled in the Sight and a reader of the stars. I returned home only to have my homecoming interrupted by war. We – the mac Alasdair clan of Craig Ussie – went to aid our brethren against the Kingdom of Northumbria.

We were betrayed; my father and I were captured and held by our enemy for over a year. Our kin thought us dead, but fought on regardless. They said our deaths lead them into victorious battle. Our southern brothers were free once more, but I lost everything that mattered: my father, the woman who had given me her heart and the life we could have led together.

When we returned home, I knew I could not stay – and yet I could not lead the grove, either. I went to Éire – Ireland. I put aside my training as a mystic to earn my keep at whatever hearth could keep me. I roamed the country so long I thought I had escaped the life I once led – I sang tales of my own bravery in battle, and none knew that it was I.

The moment of my becoming – the moment when that old woman’s prophesy claimed my soul – happened as I stumbled upon an old hermit, living atop a sidhe mound. These mounds dotted the land – sacred and feared – and marked the places where once the Milesians led the Tuatha Dé Danann after they conquered the land. That he lived so close to the Fae was a temptation I could not resist.

It was a temptation that would prove the undoing of me – and be the key to my salvation.

D: I can’t actually say more, or A will interrupt me.

A: You know me too well, Druid.

D: Well, it could hardly be helped – you’ve been singing “spoilers” in the background for the last fifteen minutes. Singing off-key, might I add.

A: (Shrug) It’s what I do.

D: . . . I’m not going to suggest just what it is you do, but do you realize, A, that in all of this, we never actually gave the blog’s origin story?

A: I think we’ve been over that more than enough times.

D: Sure, but you know, the short version. . .

A: Okay, the short version is that I used to write notes between us in the marginalia of edits. Or in the back of my head. Or on napkins and notebooks. I’d giggle. I thought others would, too.

D: And . . .

A: Relentless much? And I was faced with the idea that if I wanted any agent/publisher/reader to look at me, I was going to have to learn to promote myself – otherwise known as putting myself out there. For an introvert of massive proportions, it was a big deal. Having a dialogue with you seemed like a great way to get started.

The Dialogues' very first logo - my poor, aching head.

The Dialogues’ very first logo – my poor, aching head.

D: Also, it lets people know, right from the start, that you are stark raving mad.

A: Well, it helps. It lowers the expectation threshold.

D: Indeed – and with that, I do believe we are going to bid the internet a fond evening.

A: We are at that, D. I have Spartans to watch with The Boy.

D: I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that – those Spartans—

A: D – D in no way is the movie we’re about to watch historically accurate. Just sit back and you know, think of England or something.

D: . . .

A: (Grin) Thanks for reading everyone – have a great weekend!

Part 1: A’s Writerly Origins | Part 1.5: Bookish Origins | Part 2: D’s Character Origins | Part 3: The Druid himself – an origin narrative

Moments to Remember: D's Character Origins

Part Two in the D/A Dialogues Origin Story – in response to the WordPress Weekly Challenge: Reflections.

Whenever I think of D's origins, I see these two images.

Whenever I think of D’s origins, I see these two images.

A: What is a character’s true origin story? Is it their personal history, or is it the story of how they came to reside in an author’s imagination?

D: Both.

A: Okay, which one would you prefer to tell?

D: I think, actually, it would be a better if we told the people how I came to live in your head, first. It started with that bookshelf you so lovingly carted across the sea.

A: Indeed it did. Take it away, D.

D: What A didn’t tell you was that she continued to write while she lived in Ireland. When she left university, and became a pub’s writer and web designer-in-residence, she dug out that dusty old manuscript and started editing it again. She even showed it to someone to read. He’s the one that introduced her to me. He’s A’s ex-husband, and he lives back across that sea. The Boy and I are all that remains of his time in our lives.

That was the first moment to define my life as a character – that introduction. A knew I belonged to the story.  I can’t tell you much about that time in his head. I was a different man. I was angry – more warrior than mystic. I was proud, yes, and skilled, but young.

A: You were also blonde.

D: I was?

A: Yeah. I read my original notes. Blonde warrior. Blue eyes. Tattoos. You were cold and cruel, too – with a massive chip on your shoulder. No wonder I didn’t like you.

D: Which brings me to the second moment that defined me as a character: being ‘gifted’ to a writer who may have appreciated me (for all her whinging, she did appreciate me, otherwise I would never have gotten anywhere near her precious manuscript), but did not understand me. To make matters worse, despite not particularly liking me, she stuck me in the book without really trying to find out how I fit. Yes, it was my story but there were certain things . . . missing.

Much of Changelings is not about the youth I had been – I had already been tempered by war and heartache by the time I step out onto the stage. As much as Changelings is an adventure story – a romp through time, as it were – it’s also about living with past mistakes, and creating a future worth living.

As A’s notes indicate, the me she met originally was not suited for that tale. She had to find out who I really was, and as life got in her way, she did not have much incentive to do so.

When she discovered the religious and political strife of seventh century England and Scotland – when she re-discovered many of the myths that were echoed in her work – she started to find me. Not only that, she wanted to find me. It was quiet, that desire, but it was there.

The final moment of my origin came relatively recently. I had existed rather quietly, I think, in A’s head for all those years. She never talks about the first-person narrative book she wrote – my book. It may not have gone past 100 pages, but she did write it. I won’t say she failed – she just wasn’t ready yet.

Then I started bugging her friends to make her start writing again—

A: True story – had a friend call me up and tell me she was dreaming about D, and perhaps I should start writing again? That was 4 years ago. I’m stubborn.

D: So am I. My persistence was rewarded, and though she didn’t write anything of note until last year, bugging her friends resulted in a redraft of the book outline. She revisited what she had written in my book and brought those elements into the story. I finally had a place – a real place.

Of course, A is still learning – we’ve hit a roadblock on some of the timelines for the sequel, but we’re working on it. We can do that now – thanks in part, to this blog. It’s ever so helpful to be able to snark at her in public. Cathartic too. Plus, she has the support of other writers. Without you, she’d be a hermit. And I don’t think a hermit would be as willing to get my life out onto the page.

Could you imagine this guy as a blonde?  (D as imagined by Green Embers)

Could you imagine this guy as a blonde?
(D as imagined by Green Embers)

A: Well, gee, D. That was pretty complimentary. Kind, almost.

D: I know. I’m not such a bad Druid after all, am I?

A: I suppose not.

D: In fact, I think I’m pretty spectacular.

A: I was going to say, just don’t let it go to your head, but I can see it’s already too late for that.

D: Go to my head? Whatever do you mean, woman?

A: Exactly – watch it, or I’ll make you blonde again.

D: You wouldn’t dare!

A: And I think that wraps up the origin story of a character–

D: A, we are not done here – promise me you won’t make me blonde!

A: Stay tuned for tomorrow’s exploration of D’s origin as a man. Have a great day–

D: A! Are you listening to me?

A: And thanks for reading!

D: A!!!

Part 1: A’s Writerly Origins | Part 1.5: Bookish Origins | Part 2: D’s Character Origins | Part 3: The Druid himself – an origin narrative

Moments to Remember: A bookish addendum

life

The books – some of them, at least

A: Before D gets going on his origin story –

D: Of course you would interrupt my glory.

A: I’m not interrupting. This is an addendum to yesterday’s origin story post.

D: Oh, sure.

A: Oi, Druid – you get 2/3 of this 3-part origin story! Besides, I think the germ of you may be among the books I decided I could not live without.

D: Yeah, well, just don’t take too long. Can you do that, A? Can you strive for brevity?

A:  . . . (sigh).

Okay, so Melissa Janda asked yesterday which 30 books I absolutely had to bring to Ireland. Since I took a picture of those books (don’t ask. I love books. I just. . . don’t ask), I was able to recreate some of the list. Frankly, I think there were more than 30, but these are what I could (sort of) see in the picture and recall from what was stashed in my room.

In no particular order:

    1. “I’d just as soon kiss a Wookie” Quotable Star Wars
    2. The Jesus Incident
    3. The Lazarus Effect
    4. The Ascension Factor
    5. Absalom, Absalom
    6. The Russian Revolution
    7. The History of Ireland
    8. The History of Costume & Fashion
    9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
    10. Gone with the Wind
    11. Mists of Avalon
    12. The Last of the Savages
    13. The Prince, Machiavelli
    14. The Gratitude of Kings
    15. Unnatural Exposure
    16. The Stranger
    17. Heart of Darkness
    18. King Lear
    19. Ireland, A Graphic History
    20. The Folklore of Ireland
    21. Medicine Man, Shaman (Something – too small to read)
    22. Anne of Green Gables
    23. Emily of New Moon
    24. Scarlett
    25. The Witching Hour
    26. Lasher
    27. Taltos
    28. The Feast of All Saints
    29. Cry to Heaven
    30. The Barbarian Conversion

Not all of these books were read, mind. I had been given The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity as a graduation gift, and it sat on that shelf, looking pretty, for a few years.

Eventually, it became my bible – and inspiration when I was writing about the lives of a clan of Picts and the convergence of religious and political strife. I never knew about the Celtic monastic resistance to Rome (Oh, that’s why St. Patrick was sent back to Ireland? To bring the de-centralized monasteries to heel – those same monasteries that had maintained Christianity and the shreds of civilization while various invasions swept across England and mainland Europe? Huh.)

D: Nice rant, A. I could have told you that.

A: I think you did – someone whispered it in my ear and said “This – this is the world I came from. Write me.”

D: Which we will delve deeper into when A lets me write my origin story.

A: Indeed – enjoy your day, folks, and thanks for reading!

Part 1: A’s Writerly Origins | Part 1.5: Bookish Origins | Part 2: D’s Character Origins | Part 3: The Druid himself – an origin narrative

Moments to Remember: An Origin Story in Three Parts

life

Photos from the top: Some of those precious 30 books I carted to Ireland, me on the phone in Ireland (some things never change) and that cute kid I call, The Boy (11 years ago)! And behind it all, a printed beta-reader copy of Changelings.

The Daily Post had a prompt up yesterday that tied in beautifully with their weekly writing challenge: Reflections. What follows are the moments that define me. These moments are a part of the origin story of how I became a writer – or rather, the writer I am today. The writerly me of tomorrow may have a different tale to tell entirely.

The pre-history of me includes being the youngest of six by 15 years – essentially an only child – growing up on quite a few acres on the shores of Lake Michigan. I was late to reading and writing, but I always had an active imagination.

D: Active?! Ha! You thought you were Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and your best friends were the characters from Star Wars.

A: Yes, yes and I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I grew up . . . Hush, D. You’ll get your turn.

Anyway, I moved to Ireland when I was 18. Technically, it was to attend the University College, Dublin, but as I think I have mentioned to my parents in the years since, I had a cover story should that university thing fall through. I had letterhead and everything. I was going. No matter what.

I was a writer and had something resembling a web presence then, too. I had queried a few agents and publishers on a draft that shares three characters with Changelings. Theoretically, it’s the same story, but all that’s left of the original is Maureen, Sean and Grace O’Malley.

I had a few nibbles but nothing big and as I prepared to move myself, my 30 I can’t-live-without-them-Dad-please-pack-them-in-a-box-and-fly-them-out-with-me books 4,000 miles east, I completely forgot about the letter from the then-Penguin Group publishing house, asking for the MS.

Because I’m an idiot.

Or not. That was before D entered the story. That was before the story took real myths and turned them on their head. That was before it was ready to actually be read.

Ireland was an adventure. It was eye-opening, exhilarating, terrifying and life-altering. At one point, I refused to leave and let my ticket home languish in a drawer. So much of the life I’m living now started in Dublin. I was almost married there, and my son was thisclose to being born there, too.

Which brings me to the second thing that has defined my life as a writer: Motherhood.

I went back to writing after my son was born. During naps and semi-early bedtimes, I wrote what is now D’s back-story. Five hundred pages-worth of back-story. It was once a book, but no longer. One day I may revisit it, but I don’t have the same urge to tell that story.

Besides, I’m not entirely sure there is a whole lot of interest in the convergence of the centralized Roman vs. monastic Celtic vs. pagan religious traditions in a small clan of Picts, overshadowed by looming war with the Kingdom of Northumbria.

Have I ever mentioned that I was a history major? I like to research. It’s fun.

In the middle of child-rearing, and after that mammoth book was done, I stopped. I put it aside. Yes, writing in a way still defined me, and I loved to read and research, but having that yearning without the discipline to put it to practice, without the discipline to do something to improve my writing meant it was always going to be a pipe dream.

Until I sat down and decided it wasn’t. It was the third moment to define writerly me. I’ve talked about my journey back to writing before. It’s why this blog exists. Essentially, it boiled down to this: the threads of the story that is Changelings began when I was 14. I’ve had Sean and Maureen rattling around in my head for 20 years. That’s all of my fingers and all of my toes. It was time to give them a book worthy of their loyalty. When D joined them, they found an advocate. An annoying, egotistical, bull-headed advocate.

D: Oi, woman! Surely, I get to combat that last?

A: Of course you do – tomorrow. (And don’t call me Shirley.)

D: Tomorrow?! (Oh for heaven’s sake, A. That joke is so old.)

A: (Tee hee!) Yes – that’s why it’s an origin story in three parts. Tomorrow you’re going to tell us the three moments that have defined your life as a man.

D: And what’s the third part?

A: You sound like you don’t trust me, D.

D: I don’t. What’s the third part, A?

A: I want you to look at yourself as the character in my head. I talk about you as a character, and you talk about you in the story, but you never really quite manage to talk about you as a character. I want to know how you coped all those years, being in a book that didn’t want you – having an author that didn’t quite like you.

D: You talk about it as though it were the past, A.

A: It is, D. I think we’ve come to an understanding –

D: HA! I knew it! You like me.

A: Well, yes –

D: No, don’t deny it, A. You like me!

A: Who’s denying?

D: You weren’t denying?

A: No. I was going to say I’ve actually had some fun blogging with you – some good insights, too. I can go back to describing you as annoying and bombastic, if it will make your diatribe worth something.

D: Um. I might have you do that, A. I’m not entirely sure what to do if I’m not contradicting you.

A: (Eye  roll). Me neither, D. Me neither.

D: So, is that it? You’re just going to set this up to lead into tomorrow’s post?

A: Uh, yeah. I mean, I have a few things: Charles Yallowtiz’ new Legends of Windemere book, Family of the Tri-Rune is doing great, Helena accepted a Liebster Award and nominated us (and I accept your challenging questions, darling!), and the Green Embers’ Recommends editor spotlight on the lovely mistress of Readful Things Blog, Ionia, is live.

D: That’s it?!

A: I know, I know – I haven’t had time to trawl the interwebs for interesting and amusing fodder for our dialogue, so this is it. Tomorrow, perhaps?

D: Tomorrow it is, then.

A: Thank you all for reading – have a fantastic day!

Part 1: A’s Writerly Origins | Part 1.5: Bookish Origins | Part 2: D’s Character Origins | Part 3: The Druid himself – an origin narrative

What’s in a name?

Somewhere in this chaos is D's real name.

Somewhere in this chaos is D’s real name.

D, I call him. Druid. Dubh.

A title, he says.

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I only recently discovered D’s real name – the name he was born with, and not the name I had been calling him all these years. In my defense, it’s not easy for a character as old as D (1345 and counting) to keep one name. Languages change. People change. Countries rise and fall and what was once a mark of pride becomes shame, and back again.

And in D’s case, he gave up his real name when he became less than the man he wanted to be. He took on a title, an identity that would keep him safe. It was, perhaps, the only way he could armor himself against what he had become. That title became a shackle, one he had to destroy if he wanted to claim his real name, and with it a destiny and lineage he could be proud of.

Names are powerful. I’ve heard this more than once, and while my rational brain accepted it, I never quite knew how true it was. Sure, having the right name – one that suits you – just is. My son had his name picked out well before he was born – back when I thought maybe he was a she. But the moment his name popped into my head, I knew I was having a boy, and I knew his name was Thomas. I may have any number of nicknames for him (The Boy or The Kid being the most notable here) but he is, and forever shall be, Thomas.

D as imagined by Green Embers

D as imagined by Green Embers

D isn’t quite so clear-cut. How could he be, when he is by his very nature a man who walks between worlds? Each situation requires a different identity, and with that identity, came a new form of his name. Each one suited the times and the language. Each one portrayed a facet of his personality.

Writing his book became something of a mystery to solve, even though I wasn’t aware I was trying to find his real name. When I did find it, I realized his name – his real name – had been the key to unlocking his true self and undoing the resentment I’d held onto during the years in which I did not write.

That’s a lot of responsibility for a character, even one as epic as D. I don’t blame him for hiding his real name from me – not anymore (just don’t tell him that; he’s got a big enough head as it is). He has earned his real name back, and as I wade through book 2, I am happy – no, scratch that – honored to be able to use it.

Cheers, D.

For the WordPress Weekly Challenge: The Power of Names

Living Musically

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Image courtesy Google Images, labeled for commercial reuse.

2014 is going to be my year, not of living dangerously, but musically.

I have a fair amount of music. Granted, much of it comes from soundtracks. I can’t seem to help myself. Perhaps it’s my way of reliving the movie, or as I used to do as a child, scripting my life and having my very own soundrack. Whatever the reason, I’m staring down 2336 songs, and that’s just what I allow on the iPod. There are perhaps another 1000 that don’t see the light of day except between October and December because they’re holiday songs . . . or Il Divo.

Of that 2336, I listen to about 100 regularly. A glance at my “recently played” and “most played” reads like a funeral gone majestic. With some calls for revolution thrown in for kicks.

So, here’s my challenge to myself (something similar to a New Years Resolution, but fun): queue the iPod to “all songs,” shuffled, on the way into work. That averages about 9 songs, which is great, given how many work days are left in the year. Admittedly, that is an imperfect calculation because I suck at math, but you get the idea. Each Friday, I’m going to feature the song of the week, one song of the many that I’ve rediscovered or has given something resembling meaning to my day.

I’m only doing this on the way in to work, mind. The day always starts out so hopeful, but on the way home there are going to be days I just want to listen to Florence + The Machine or Misty Mountains on repeat, challenge be damned.

This week’s favorites:

Oh, What a World, Rufus Wainwright – I forgot how much I enjoyed this song, and Rufus, and this song. 

Craic was 90 on the Isle of Man, Christy Moore – I didn’t even know I had this song until it came on this morning.

The Pitch, Moulin Rouge – Because Jim Broadbent makes me smile.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Monty Python – Because at 6:15 in the morning, scraping the car in -4 temperatures, hearing crazy Brits sing is probably the best thing to get you through the day.

Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar), The Doors – I loved it long before I heard it in At World’s End, but now that association make it even more fun.

And the winner:

Oh, What a World, Rufus Wainwright

In other News

D: So, I get no say in this year of living musically?

A: No.

D: Not even—

A: No.

D: Sheesh, tough crowd this morning.

A: Crowd? It’s just you and me, D.

D: And the guys in your head bantering about the non-sparkly vampires, per Papi’s Prompt.

A: (Coming to a Dialogue blog near you on Saturday) . . . that still doesn’t count. Anyway . . .

D: Don’t look at me like that, woman. I’m not going to interrupt again. Now who’s slowing down the show?

A: Right. So, the wonderful  Helena Hann-Basquiat, and her wicked alter-ego, Jessica B. Bell have some fantastic news:  The Best Medicine and Three Cigarettes are now available on Amazon for .99 each. Check them out, buy them, devour them, review them.

D: Not only that but, Pamela at Poetry by Pamela has published a collection of her love poems, Dreams of Love. Congratulations, Pamela!

A: Indeed, Congratulations, Pamela – the book looks beautiful, and I know your poetry is lovely. Elsewhere, Green has an incredibly funny post on the joys (or is that dangers?) of being a singleton on the internet. How he deals with them is hilarious.

D: How do you deal with that kind of thing?

A: I don’t – I have yet to be accosted by fake people on the interwebs.

D: That’s just sad.

A: Right? Instead I’m accosted by fake people in my head.

D: Wow, that’s rough. . . hey, wait–

A: And on that note, I hope everyone has a fantastic day! Happy Friday!