Kingdom of Uisneach: The Prophecy

For centuries fairy tales have entertained, comforted and inspired us. They have offered opportunities for adventure and provided hope for a ‘happily ever after’ life. But real life isn’t always as simple as fairy tales would have us believe. Sometimes the prince doesn’t wake the sleeping princess, or if he does, they discover they are a poor match. Sometimes a happy ending is a fairy tale.

Briana Brennan, aka, Mouse, has a biological clock that is ticking. So is the clock of destiny, started by a visit from a forest witch at the hour of her birth. While is worrying she won’t find her Prince Charming, a kingdom is worried that they won’t rescue their Savior and the kingdom will be lost. Following a sound in the woods, Briana finds herself traveling through a tree into the kingdom of Uisneach. She is met by gnomes who have been waiting for her to come as the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, destined to save King Brath from a cursed exile and take the kingdom back from the evil Lord Shamwa and Druid Artanin. With only a magic map to guide her, she begins a journey that requires her to make decisions at every crossroads. The choices she must make at these crossroads pale in comparison to the life choices she will have to make as she meets and travels with her companions, strong and stalwart, Lord Marshall Sigel, the handsome young bard, Silas of Cedarmara and a wolfhound called Dara. Overseeing the journey and mentoring her are a shapeshifting crow and a forest crone. Together they must learn how to use the black medallions each wears to unlock the curse and release the king.

Magical maps, powerful swords, dryads, fairies, evil druids, good friends, and an Abbess, all contribute something to the journey and to her growth as a woman, a warrior and a queen. She learns the challenging lessons of love, patience, sacrifice, loyalty and commitment. The journey across Uisneach is a grand adventure, but one in which she must endure heartache and physical pain to find love and her happily ever after

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Gauntlet

I am three chapters from finishing the revisions on The Prophecy. Rather than seeing any rainbow and hearing and angelic voices singing hallelujahs, I am reminded of the scene in First Knight where Richard Gere, as Lancelot, runs the gauntlet to reach Lady Guinevere and receive a kiss.
Do you recall the scene? Lancelot learns that the victor of the gauntlet will get to kiss Guinevere. No one has made it through, but Lancelot determines to try and as we hold our breath (not really), he makes it through in one piece. He impresses King Arthur and finds a very chivalrous way to deal with a kiss he isn’t actually going to get.
I am so close to my goal of finishing this novel and publishing it. I want to see the rainbows and hear the angels sing. I want to begin working on book two. Who knew that at the point I need to put every ounce of energy and time into this project, I would be faced with a gauntlet of my own.
Unexpected medical and dental visits that cannot be done during the other work week, funerals and family events and the zillion appointments and things that need to be tended to. Don’t get me wrong. Taking care of your health is important and serving others in a time of need is a privilege I don’t take lightly. Life goes on and I’m happy to be an active part of it, but I do wonder why it seems to come all at once and at a time when, as a writer, you just want to retreat to the cave, get off the grid and tell people you were a figment of their imagination?
However, I noticed in the gauntlet scene that Lancelot had a strategy for making it through the challenge. There were three things critical to his success:
Planning- most of the other challengers raced headlong onto the plank and were kicked off or injured almost immediately. Lancelot studied the patterns of the gauntlet, determining where the openings were, figuring out the pace and probably calculating his own skill.
Timing-Based on his assessment he determined the pace of his moves. Timing is critical to the success of any venture.
Knowing when to stop and when to go- This goes along with the planning and timing; it’s the visual of the two combined. I marveled at the grace with which Gere maneuvered through the moving weapons on an unstable platform. He didn’t panic, he didn’t give up; he just watched closely what was happening around him and responded to the moment while always moving forward.
This musing is a pep talk for me. A reminder that the universe is doing its thing and I’m just meant to flow with it. But I am not helpless and I will be successful. I simply need to remain calm, stay focused, do what needs to be done in the moment and carve out other times to work on the book. I’m almost there and this gauntlet is child’s play for me. I will enjoy the rainbow and angelic chorus at exactly the right time.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Learning To Play the Harp
I’ve just finished reading Bard- the Odyssey of the Irish, by Morgan Llyweln. As with all Llyweln’s books, you are taken completely to another place and time with such skill you might feel you are or have been to the places and times she writes about. Early on in the book, she writes about the great druid Amergin’s early years of learning to be a bard. He begins by learning the stories of his people and develops his skill at their retelling. The day comes when he and his teachers feel he has mastered the art of storytelling. He’s made it! But then his teacher says, “Now you must learn to play the harp.”
That is how it is with becoming an author. A writer is born, an author is trained and developed. Amergin could be no other than a bard, but he needed teachers, lessons and years of practice to become the greatest bard of Irish history, the one’s whose very harp seduced and inspired kingdoms.
Let’s not put the proverbial cart before the horse, though. Before the teachers and lessons comes the inspiration. Again the history of the harp holds a connection. In Irish mythology, the inventor of the harp was a love bruised woman named Canola. Leaving the bed of her lover after an argument she takes a walk along the seashore and hears the mystical music. Seeking the source, she discovers that the wind is singing through the rotted sinewy rib bones of a beached whale. From that odd source of inspiration, she invents the instrument which becomes the national symbol of Ireland. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canola_(mythology))
The Welsh have a name for inspiration- Awen-which is often found in druidic sources as the energy or flowing spirit of inspiration (http://www.druidry.org/library/modern-druidry/awen-0).
Learning to write necessitates an openness to both one’s natural gift as well as to the topical flow of inspiration. So many ways to write, so many ideas and things to write about. If one is to become intentional about the craft, choices or paths will be followed. Should I write poetry or prose; novels or educational texts; fantasy or romance (my own particular question at the moment)? That is not to say that one must exclude all but one, but our humanity naturally limits what we can accomplish in one lifetime, so becoming proficient means narrowing the learning curve. If like me, you putter around until the latter years of life, then the task becomes a wee bit more difficult because now you have a shorter period of time to call in the teachers and get in the practice hours.
One thing I must note here is that one can really love something without being very good at it. Or, could be technically good, but uninspiring. I have watched and heard young musicians learn to play piano and been fascinated by the difference in those who play correctly and well and those who may play less well, but bring me to a place of deep emotion.  The lucky ones have both the gift and the passion, but given the choice, I’d put up with a few mistakes to be taken to ethereal regions of imagination. The same is true for literary talent. I’ve read impeccably written books that left me bored or wondering what just happened. I’ve read less critically acclaimed books that I couldn’t stop thinking about for years! I would love to be one of the lucky ones, but I’ll take the latter. 
Moving on. In order to help me put refine my novel, my editor asks where I believe my energy and passion is; in romance or fantasy? Joseph Campbell might have asked where my bliss is? Once determined, then we must call in our teachers. Writing is hard work, so why would anyone take on such an endeavor in a genre or field that they are not truly passionate about? Many of us have precious little time to dedicate to writing once you factor in time spent at paying jobs, attention to family matters, communal obligations and so on. Logic and creativity dictate that we discover our bliss and go there to write.
From whom does a writer learn? Who are the teachers? We begin our education in school, generally. The dismal homework of basic sentence structure, grammatical rules and points of view, may have given us a headache in junior high, but I would bet that the would-be writers loved creative writing class. Speaking for myself, if I had known then what I know now, I would have put much more effort in the technical skills of writing. Who knew I would actually want to have those down pat and not have to rely so heavily on grammar tools from the internet and spellcheck?
Alas, when Awen finally overwhelmed me, I had to begin by reviewing those dusty old lessons. Writers read books from other writers about writing. I admit it. I have become a junkie.  From Monica Wood, I learned about description and word usage; from Stephen King, I learned that failure is success along the continuum and from Donald Maass, I am learning that genre is a fluid idea and that making the characters suffer, and suffer badly, is a good thing.
Beyond the technical skill, I learn from other writers.  Every book and author I read provides an opportunity to learn about the craft. What is beautiful? What is jarring? What is believable? What is unrealistic? And what is believably unrealistic?
Finally, I am learning from my own writing. The first time I looked at the edited version of Uisneach, I cried. I almost put a cover on the keyboard and threw out every book I had on writing craft.  And then I read the editorial again and again and again. I began to see the things I had done well and the things that gagged even me.  Revising my plot, rewriting entire sections and seeing them better has been a real learning experience.
Listen to me- I sound like I know what I’m talking about. The fact is- I am learning to play the harp and hope someday to be a competent and inspiring word musician.

On this St. Patrick’s Day 2017, it seems appropriate to share this blog about playing the harp. To learn more about the actual instrument that became the symbol of Ireland check out this link to Trinity College and the Brian Boru Harp. https://dh.tcd.ie/clontarf/The%20Brian%20Boru%20Harp

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Happy Birthday Silas of Cedarmara

In honor of Silas’s birthday, I offer this wee gift of poetry. 


Some men are born to be warriors,
Protection by the sword.
Some men are born to be kings,
Ruling by the law.
And some, the special ones, are born to be a bard,
History by the word.

Upon this day, in mythic times, centuries in the past,
Under Archer moon, druid lover born.
Silas of Cedarmara.

z

Beyond the veil in dark of night,
Listening to the wind.
Heralding a king and queen,
To sit upon the holly throne.

Upon the steed Aldebaran,
Racing ‘cross the land.
Out of mist beyond the stones,
Pride of Celts beats in his heart.

He’ll sing a song and share a brew,
And make you feel at home.
Harp and drum make faeries dance,
In flowering meadows dewy wild.

Perfect aim with word and bow,
Lyrical and magic.
Forest deep to burning hearth,
Heroic deeds of love and battle.

From shore to shore, tree to castle,
Journeys with his lady.
Trav’lers both from timeless waves,
Healing ancient wounds and curses.

Dryad light, cat and mouse,
Wisdom in the making.
Eye of whale and starry sky,
Winter promise auld lang syne.







Friday, January 6, 2017

Prologue-Welcome to the Kingdom

“You’re a writer. Write!” Those were some of the last words I heard from the lips of the charming, wizened old poet on Wild Meadow Road. Days later, he died, leaving us all with fond memories and a lovely story about magical folk who lived in the forest.
As they say, one thing led to another…
“You’re the only one standing in the way of writing a book,” my husband and friend said to me at the kitchen table over Chinese food. Those words forced me to break down the barriers to my creative success and begin the work of bringing a kernel of an idea to life.
There were three kernels, actually. A place called Uisneach (which actually exists in Ireland), gnomes named after a local road I traveled weekly on my way to see the poet and the image of a young woman walking through a tree to become the savior of a kingdom.
I spent at least six months on the first four chapters before realizing I was hopelessly mired in quicksand. Writing a novel sounded like such a good idea, but now I had a heroine I didn’t know and whose name I detested, a plot that seemed pretty ordinary and predictable and a hero that was like every other hero written about in fairy tales. I wanted this to be a fairy tale for adults and I had a kid’s book (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but…). I wanted to turn the traditional fairy tale on its head.
In a ripple of time, everything changed. In one magical moment, I met my muse. What happened shall remain forever my secret, but the results are what you will read as The Kingdom of Uisneach series of books, beginning with The Prophecy. I went to bed that night and the next morning had the plotline for not one, but three books. I knew exactly who my protagonist was, and her proper name! A secondary character became primary. The king, who was meant to be the hero became somewhat of an antagonist, though he’s not a bad guy. Really, he’s not.
Completing the first draft of Uisneach took only about nine months. I went to sleep each night only to be spirited awake at 3 am (the mercy hour, indeed) with conversations between characters which needed to be put on paper immediately! My paying job keeps me on the road and a notebook became my constant companion to pull over and record some critical idea, phrase or conversation.
 I found someone willing to read my work and felt the thrill of having her fall in love with one of the characters. That had to be a good thing, right? I felt ready to send my baby to publishers and agents, certain that it would be snatched up immediately. Right. While I had a few kind comments, the only publisher eager to work with me turned out to be a subsidy publisher. It seems that being a new author with no credentials of previous work keeps doors tightly shut. I decided, after some research on self-publishing, that if I was going to pay someone 5K to publish my book with no guarantee of marketing, then I might as well spend the money publishing it myself! Right?
Let me go on record here as saying that writing the novel was the easy part! Query letters, waiting, more query letters, more waiting and the stream of rejections was agonizing. Coming up with the money to self-publish was challenging and learning every detail that goes along with publishing your own book was back breaking. And I’m not done yet! Two things seem critical to me for successful writing and publishing:  
            Invest in a professional editor! I read this over and over from other authors but they don’t come cheap, and I procrastinated. However, I could not believe how much more polished Uisneach could be until I worked with an editor. Having some first readers is important. They are your cheerleaders and the ones who can tell you what does and doesn’t fly before you make a fool of yourself. But having the critical eye and expertise of a professional is, I believe, essential to the responsible publication of your novel.
           Refuse to be denied the time to work on your craft and project.
Most of us who aspire to authorship, having paying jobs, families and other things that require our time and attention. It is so easy to give up writing because your focus is needed elsewhere. But books don’t write and publish themselves. There is a tremendous amount of sacrifice required, both from the writer and from the writer’s family and friends, when you commit to writing a novel. That was one of the barriers that I had to break down to do this. I had to learn to say, “No” and that is not always easy.
It was also not easy to get that first edited manuscript back and find all the lines through it, the suggestions that your infant is less than beautiful and that it might be necessary to start all over. Ouch! Feel free to crawl in a cave and lick your wounds. I did. And then somewhere in that dark night of the soul, you must find your inner warrior, child, Hemingway or whatever and get back to work.
I’ll be honest, this is the place I find myself now. I thought Uisneach would be in a Kindle near you by January of 2017. That is not happening. While I was cowering in my mental dolmen, I decided that while I was ‘fixing’ things, I would go ahead and start the website with blogs. Perhaps other writers would find something comforting or valuable in my own self-publishing journey. Or, maybe I would find others who wanted to come out and play with me. Both seem good reasons to blog about this experience.
So here I am, introducing myself and my project. I would love to hear your own stories of writing and publishing. I welcome any suggestions to keep moving forward and any particular books, websites or tools that have been helpful. At the very least we can keep each other company along the journey.
I am working with the following resources right now to help me with my rewrite:
·         Magical World Builder’s Guide by Stephanie Cottrell Bryan  http://www.web-writer.net/fantasy/ 
·         Description by Monica A. Wood
·         Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
Also recently read Stephen King’s On Writing and Diana Gabaldon’s I Give You My Body- How I Write Sex Scenes. Both great books! Of course they are- they are written by masters!  
Writers write and writers read. It’s what we do. For pleasure reading, I recommend Cindy Brandner’s Exit Unicorn Series. I cannot promote this series enough.  It is the story of Ireland during the time of “The Troubles” as experienced by an incredibly well-written group of people. It is the love story not only of Casey and Pamela but of family and Ireland herself. Make sure you have time to read this one, because I promise, once you start, you won’t stop until you finish what is written of the series. Her fans eagerly await volume five next year. So, what’s on your bookshelf?
And please, you don’t have to be writing or publishing to follow this blog! This is a place to have fun, share good books and talk about all things fun, fantastical and magical.

And now, ladies, lords, commoners and peers of the realm- let us go forth with confidence, determination and playful intention and write!