Kingdom of Uisneach: The Prophecy

Dreams of battle. A king offering a crown. Longing for a faceless archer. From a quiet life in Maine, Briana Brennan, landscape designer and bookworm, is led into the woods and through a tree, where she emerges a savior of the mythic kingdom of Uisneach. She must begin the journey through a land terrorized by the evil Lord Shamwa. Guided by the stalwart Lord Marshall Sigel and the handsome young bard, Silas of Cedarmara and mentored by a forest crone and a shapeshifting crow, she must discover how to use the black medallions they wear to unlock the curse and rescue the king.

A magical map, mystical beings and a fantastic world all contribute something to the journey and to Briana’s growth as a woman, a warrior and a queen. Briana’s trek across Uisneach is a grand adventure that will hopefully bring her love and a happily ever after. Or will it?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Drum roll, please...

It has been an incredibly busy couple of months. It seems that in the book writing and publishing business you reach a point where things come together all at once and you need a few more sets of hands and another couple of hours in the day.
I am thrilled to be able to share The Prophecy book cover with you.  Damonza, the book designer I used, has done a brilliant job creating a cover that reflects an important theme in the book.  My husband says it is “mysterious” and offers a tantalizing hint of what the story is about. What do you think?
I have to say that Damonza was wonderful to work with and very patient with this newbies questions and probably over the top excitement with every phase of the process. I highly recommend them if you are looking for someone to design your book cover or format the interior.
I don’t mind sharing that the moment I opened the book cover and interior formatting, I cried. I have spent almost four years writing this book and have dreamed it for forty years before that! To see my story as a real book is an emotional experience, no less powerful than that of one who has reached the top of Everest. I’m sure seeing it on Amazon will be earth-shattering as well.
I also admit, there was a point last week that I told someone had I known how hard it would be to write and publish and book, I would never have started.  Truthfully, had I known then what I know now, it would have seemed too daunting.  But this week, with the bill paid and my Facebook page bearing The Prophecy banner, I am so glad I did. I’m glad I took the advice given to me to take things one step at a time and persevere through the challenges and lack of sleep.
Final steps- finish website (very soon), get reviews and PUBLISH! I plan to release in February (the month of love) so stay tuned!  Already working on the second book, The Runes of Evalon (working title) so best get back to work! 


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Word Weavers

Finding my connection with a very special writers group was pure magic. This was how it unfolded:
 My husband read an advertisement in our local paper about a children’s author who was giving a talk on publishing at a local library. I thought ‘Well, I wasn’t writing children’s books but surely I could learn something about publishing from this woman.’ There was nothing in the ad that suggested you needed to pre-register and it was quite literally the day before the event, so I showed up at the library with notebook and pen in hand. There were about twenty aspiring writers present to listen to this woman’s advice.  A library staffer was checking people in and discovered I wasn’t on the list. She didn’t think I could stay. I had already struck up a conversation with a couple of women and they made the case that there was plenty of room and I should be allowed to participate.  After checking with the author, who had apparently set the limit, it was agreed I could stay. I did learn quite a bit from that workshop, but the real value of the day came later. At the end of the talk, a group of people decided to start a writers group that would continue to meet. One woman took responsibility for managing it, but then had some personal conflicts and couldn’t do it so it stalled. A month or so later, I received a call from Pat Hill saying she had volunteered to pull a group together. In the end, it was me and four women, Pat, Polly, Donna and Blanch who comprised what became Word Weavers. A couple of months later, we were in the middle of our monthly meeting in the library when a woman interrupted to ask if we are accepting people into the group. Mary, a writer of young adult fiction, became our sixth, and last member. We have been meeting for so long and are working on the same projects that we decided to close the group.
I was involved with another writer’s group decades ago and I know how useful they can be. There are three things I have found most beneficial about being involved in such a group.
1.       Most importantly is the support and camaraderie of other writers. Writing is hard and lonely work and I know I’m not alone in feeling sometimes that I am misunderstood by people because of the way I think and my incessant need to put my thoughts and ideas on paper. Being with people who get that, even if only for a few hours a month, reminds me that I am not crazy- simply creative.
2.       Encouragement through the long and tedious process of writing is critical to continued writing. It is easy to get discouraged, to lose your way and to feel like you can’t, for whatever reason, keep writing. Word Weavers begins each meeting with a check in portion where we talk about what we’ve accomplished, anything we’ve learned, what we’re struggling with professionally and/or personally and we celebrate even the smallest success. Things like writing one key paragraph, finishing an outline or discovering a technique or tool that has helped us in some are reasons to celebrate and we do.
3.       The largest part of our meetings is the actual review and feedback of our work. We made a pact early on to let the group know if we wanted feedback, encouragement or a complete shredding of the work we present. As far as I know, none of us has left a meeting feeling despondent over the critiquing of the group. We understand two things. One, the work is ours and feedback can be used or discarded at our will and two, our work can only benefit from the insight of others.
The ladies kindly let me take a picture for this blog. Let me introduce you. Bottom from the left: Donna Therrien, who is working on a wonderful story about a princess and trolls and who so generously created the map for Uisneach. Pat Hill is the force behind the Weavers. She keeps us on track and organized and is diligently organizing her literary work. Back from left: Mary Findley, or Steampunk Mary, as I call her.  Her young adult WIP is dark, mysterious and dystopian. Polly Montgomery delights us with the adventures of Lucky, the lost cat. Yours truly completes this picture and you already know about Uisneach. Not pictured is Blanch Nutting, who is on high adventure traveling the United States with her husband. Her sweet autobiography of growing up in Maine in the 1950’s and 60’s reminds us all of the joy of days gone by. I should also give a shout out and thank you to Springfield Central Library in Springfield, Vermont for so generously allowing us to use space for our meetings. 

Magic brought me to Word Weavers, but fondness and appreciation for the talent and friendship of these woman has kept me there. Thank you, ladies, for all your kindnesses and the sharing of your incredible gifts. I am so grateful that I was allowed to stay!  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Baigsith- Village of Harmony

 It has been a busy month of editing and travel so rather than the blog I was working on about my writer's group, I decided to post this snippet from the book to introduce you to the gnomes and their sweet little village of Baigsith.
The editing is going fine and I still hope to publish in October. Will keep you posted. In the meantime...

Mouse breathed in a stunned “Ah…” as she saw what lay in the valley. A quaint hamlet nestled serenely before her. Plumes of chimney smoke rose from numerous small homes nestled in and among gently sloping hills. 

“Hobbit houses!”

Jack cocked his head at her comment. “What’s a hobbit?”

“They’re little…never mind,” she stopped herself, knowing the reference would be lost on them. Splashes of color dotted the glen from brightly painted doors and shutters on miniature thatched cottages, vibrant against whitewashed walls and golden straw roofs. Gardens overran every home and doorway, with bright red geraniums, petunias, Sweet William, lobelia, fern, vinca and ivy spilling from the gay flower boxes. Blue morning glory, purple clematis and pink and orange honeysuckle grew up trellises beside the doorways. She noticed several varieties of plant life that were unfamiliar, but equally lovely. Old stone walls meandered through the town. Every so many feet there was a pot of something - pansies, begonia, petunias and assorted plants unknown to her, trailing down the sides of the container. Worn wooden gates provided a measure of privacy for each home but were at the same time inviting, with welcome signs hung near posts or doors. A meandering stream bordered by ferns, trillium, primrose and hosta ran through the middle of Baigsith, just wide enough to require a bridge. Tiny cascades eddied and pooled along its length. In the middle of town grew a spreading chestnut tree, its limbs and leaves creating an umbrella that could in all likelihood shelter the whole village. Her hands itched to play in this botanical wonderland.

Surrounding the homes were patchwork plots of farmland and larger gardens, worked by a small army of gnomes. Deer meandered unconcerned between the postage stamp parcels of land, as did ducks, chickens, sheep and other livestock. Small children scampered about everywhere, laughing in the midst of their games. The sound of their chatter and singing rose up, a happy hallelujah.

Genevieve clasped Briana’s hand. “What do you think of our wee village?”

“Oh, Mrs. Wells.” She smiled, utterly enchanted. “It’s darling. I can’t believe it.”

“Oh, ’tis real, milady, and we will do anything we must to keep it this way.”

 It seemed the threat of Lord Shamwa was never far away. Somewhere in the recesses of her mind, Briana was beginning to think she would also do anything possible to help them keep it this way.

Raucous, joyful voices spun her attention to the center of town where gnomes were gathering in a large circle with an awful lot of cartwheels, backflips, hand-clasping and general merrymaking. 
The closer Briana and her companions got to the group, the quieter everyone became, until suddenly there was an expectant hush. Jack Wells drew himself to his full stature, as much as that was, and announced, “It is with great joy that I present to the good citizens of Baigsith, the prophesied one, the Mouse, the hero of Uisneach, milady Briana!” Briana nearly jumped out of her skin at the cheer that went up from the people. A mass of jolly bodies pressed in, patting her and shaking her hand and giving happy hugs whenever and however they could.

There was no denying the honor that came with their belief that she was here to liberate the king and their wonderful kingdom. With the honor, though, came a tremendous amount of uncertainty and a heavy responsibility. And truth be told, she was still not one hundred percent sure any of it was real.
Copyright 2017 Heidi Hanley

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Okay, dear friends, I am taking the plunge! I am posting the opening scene of "The Prophecy." I hope you enjoy it. I would love to hear your first impressions and if you would consider reading this book when it published, hopefully in October.  

Chapter One
Gray mist rolled across a bloody field.  Air redolent of fear, vomit and putrid flesh choked her. Men lay dead or dying in unthinkable positions in front of her. Crouched and partially hidden behind a tree, she watched through hanging branches as an auburn-haired man came toward her holding a blood dripping sword in one hand and a crown in the other. Her heart raced and her stomach rolled violently. Good guy or bad? Desperately, she felt around for something to protect herself and her fingers made contact with cold steel. She rose up slowly, lifting the weapon in front of her. The man’s expression changed to one of reassurance and he spoke soothingly, holding out the crown to her. She couldn’t make out the words but let her sword drop slightly. A flash of blonde hair caught her eye. She turned to see the back of another man as he slung a quiver behind him and walked away. Faceless but familiar. Who are you? She was about to follow him when a fierce battle cry forced her attention back to the auburn haired man as he rushed toward her, now looking angry and afraid. Too late, she realized as the sensation of cold metal cut across the skin of her thigh, followed by a burning and a river of redness that flowed down her leg. She turned to face the source of the attack and saw a different, gray-uniformed man preparing to stab her again. Pain and rage overwhelmed her. She screamed.
Briana sat bolt upright in bed, heart pounding and drenched in sweat. Reaching across the tangle of sheet and quilt strewn across the bed she found a pillow and clutched it to her chest. The dream again. The third night in a row she’d confronted the grisly scene, felt the giant’s icy blade slice into her body and felt compelled to follow the faceless blonde haired man. Closing her eyes again, she willed him to appear, but he would not. She sighed, cast the pillow aside and sat up, pulling her hair off her sweat-dampened neck.
 A hint of pre-dawn light cast shadows around the nest Briana called her bedroom. Beyond the colorful heap of quilt and hand-woven throws and assorted pillows tossed on the floor, were clutters of tiny treasures she had collected from the outdoors; a fractal of stones, shells, lichen and bark, stashed everywhere - on shelves, in cupboards and on windowsills, collecting light and dust. She scanned the bookcase of fairytales, fantasy and mythic adventures underneath the picture of an old Irish abbey and the medieval figures, arranged in defensive positions to protect the king and queen, standing atop a castle she built herself from tiny stone fragments until she found him-the archer. Dressed in red with bow nocked and helmeted by long, blonde hair, he reminded her of the faceless man. Longing rushed through her, not new, but more intense during this past week of the dream. Who are you? He wouldn’t answer. He never did.
Copyright  2017 Heidi Hanley

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Soundtrack of The Prophecy

Scientists have written extensively about the effect of music on the limbic and paralimbic system, the amygdala and hippocampus. There are chemical and neural reasons that we get a chill when listening to a certain kind of music. Also well documented is how music in a major key usually evokes a happy feeling while music in a minor key makes one sad.
 Good information but what I’m more interested in is how it translates into the writing of a novel, specifically the Kingdom of Uisneach series.  
I discovered in the writing of The Prophecy that some music or musical artists created a mood in me that was conducive to writing battle scenes, love scenes and a few otherworldly moments. Some music or songs inspired me to think about the relationships and the philosophy behind the choices characters made. Some music was instrumental (pardon the pun) in world-building and plotting.
If I could choose one song that represents the essence of The Prophecy, it would be Adrian von Ziegler’s mythic, “Prophecy” ( While writing the wedding scene, I looped this on my device and although some would find it more a dirge; for me, it evoked the culmination of all the sacrifice, commitment and love that brought our heroes to the altar and the throne.
Celtic Thunder earned several spots on my playlist with one song, “Voices” nearly appearing in the book. Due to copyright issues, I decided not to use it directly, but it inspired me to write the lyrics to “Crossroads” which made many appearances as a rally song along the journey from Wellsland to Ard Darach. “Noreen” could bring a tear to my every time I heard it as a reminder of Silas’s sorrow.
Briana spent much of her time mooning over her bard with von Ziegler’s “Ashes”.  She also happens to be fond of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years.” I discovered a less well-known song by the Carpenters, “I Believe You,” that made her (and me) smile.
Most of the battle scenes were planned out listening to another favorite musician, Brunuhville whose haunting Celtic sound transported me to that mythic world. Songs like “Tales of Ice and Blood” and “Heart of Fire” called up images of warriors (and warrioresses) battling it out on the fields and forests of Uisneach.
Ahhh…Silas- ‘man of the forest’ is what the name means and our bard/archer/lover is an emotional force all by himself. He would be represented on my playlist by Keith Harkin’s “Wait On Me” and “My Love Goes On” and his recent recording on Brian Byrnes project Goldenhair, “In the Dark Pinewood”. James Bay’s, “Incomplete” and “Hold Back the River” speak to the soulful nature of their love. From the inception of The Kingdom of Uisneach, I had a vision of Silas on a castle parapet, singing something like “Now We Are Free.” It’s there, not the song, but the inspired scene.
It took me until the end of the second revision to connect with King Brath. I resisted him; oh my, did I resist. He’s handsome, smart and a just and visionary king, but very different from Silas. Eventually, I discovered the good and loving man underneath the crown. Ray Boudreaux helped me out here with his album First Train. A couple of songs, “Why Don’t We” and “I Don’t Wanna Stop,” drew me into this sexy ruler.
Interested in a sneak peek at music for the sequel books? Try out “My Immortal” by Evanescence, which sets the tone for Briana’s grief or BrunuhVille’s “When Love Fails” which is titled exactly opposite of how I feel it and the scene it inspires. “To Where You Are” (Celtic Thunder’s version) shows up in books two and three for different reasons. I recently discovered a new song by Brett Young, “In Case You Didn’t Know,” that I could imagine Silas singing to Briana in book three, although I have a feeling before he can sing that one, he’ll be listening to Yiruma’s “Kiss the Rain.” Our beloved bard has a long road ahead of him and it won’t be an easy one.  I will let you guess the scenes inspired by Brian Crane’s “Song for Rome” in book three.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this musing.  I would dearly love to hear from other writers about their current work and the playlist for it. Musing is much more fun when it’s shared! 
Until we meet again- I lift my goblet to you! Sláinte! 

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. (
The Welsh have a name for inspiration- Awen-which is often found in druidic sources as the energy or flowing spirit of inspiration (
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.