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, 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.