Ah, January – every year you inspire me to get organized, lose a pound or two (or ten), rededicate myself to writing every day, and lately, actually make a plan for the blog. And, usually by March, some of that inspiration manages to slip into a sort of inglorious oblivion.
Now, the writing thing almost always succeeds, and while I can’t speak to why my diet fails every year (oh wait, yes I can: ridiculously long Wisconsin winters, wine, and potato chips), my lack of inspiration for the blog comes from a confusion of what I want it to do. Up until November of 2014, I had nothing to offer beyond the dubious wit of one druid hanging out in my head (and the dubious sanity of one writer). I am my greatest fan, so obviously, I think I’m hysterical, but now there is this book baby waving valiantly at the world. It’s here, it’s real and it’s beautiful. . . and it’s given me something to write about, regularly (I swear, angels are singing. And no, it’s not just because it’s still Christmas in my house).
Thus, each Friday, for the next fifty-six weeks, I’ll present the first page of each chapter and/or an epically awesome page from Changelings: Into the Mist, complete with historical footnotes, tidbits, and dialogues with a certain Druid. If you want to grab a copy and read along – even discuss your interpretation of my background notes in the comments – well, by all means, you can pick up a copy on Amazon (or, if you live in southeastern Wisconsin & parts of Illinois, you might be lucky enough to have it at your local library – squee!).
And so, without further ado, the first page of the first chapter of Changelings: Into the Mist.
I sat in the grove of my own creation and stared out at a world and a people descended of mine own. As I watched, trees gave way to stone and the Many lost their claim to the priests of the One.
Then the wheel turned. The sacred trees grew around my effigy of stone and the Many came out of hiding. I sat in my grove and watched a world outside my imagination, willing it to see.
She saw. She saw me with uncanny green eyes – the green eyes of my mother and her mother before her: witch’s eyes.
Joy rose in me. It was time – time to join the world after years of solitude, time to act after centuries of stillness.
I closed my eyes and reached across the barrier, to touch my future and my past.
† † †
Maureen O’Malley’s eyes snapped open. The grove of ancient trees with their twisted branches disappeared.
Daydreaming. She took a shaky breath. It had just been a daydream.
Slowly – too slowly – her senses acknowledged the church, the hard pew beneath her, and the drone of Father’s voice as he said the Epistle.
She was not stranded on a hilltop mired by mist. There was no stand of oaks, and their gnarled branches were not creaking and groaning in the breeze.
There was no breeze, and the curls that had escaped her veil were not brushing her cheek – no, they were plastered against it. The late August heat, trapped amid the dusty black skirts of the nuns surrounding her, pressed in on her and stole her breath.
She gave her head a slight shake, as if the movement would free her from the grip of that dream world.
* * *
D: So is this where you tell us that Maureen’s inattention at mass – her daydreaming which is about to lead her to a glorious vision of yours truly – is just a re-imagining of your own ‘vision’ that eventually gave birth to the book, right?
D: Of course, since you had that daydream in church when you were merely 14, it means that for a full five years, you had this story – this first book – without my brilliance.
A: Sure, but D –
D: No wonder you put it away.
A: You are insufferable.
D: (Preens) I thought that was why you liked me.
A: I think you’re mistaking like for loath.
D: No, no I’m pretty sure you like me.
A: Depends on the day, Druid.
D: And is today that day?
A: Don’t push it.
As long-time readers of this blog know, there was a book a few years before D came on the scene. Historically sketchy, it had only a scant reference to Irish gods and mythology, and nothing to do with a time-travelling Druid. That started to change when I was bequeathed a new character who existed within the tale, but had a hard time fitting in with the story as it was. Fifteen years later. . .
D: I’m brilliant, and the story isn’t too bad either.
A: (Sigh) You are brilliant (a brilliant pain in the head). When first we “met,” I wrote the first few lines of this chapter, which are italicized above. Those alone kept me going through ten years of writer’s block, because I knew if I could write the story etched within those scant 140 words, I would have the story to which you belonged. Fifteen years later . . .
D: I’d say you did it.
A: Cheers, D.
Word/Phrase of the Day
The Many vs The One: The Many refers to the pantheon of Celtic gods vs. the coming of the One, the Christos or Christ. In my research, I got the feeling that there was little argument between the Druids and the priests, particularly priests of the early Celtic Catholic Church (that concept alone is a whole other book, or four – in fact, it’s Book 3 and 4), but as Catholicism incorporated and supplanted the native beliefs, much knowledge and lore, I feel, was lost. It is this the Druid laments.
Devil’s in the Details
Nothing – not a single word – has changed in the opening 140 words of this chapter since it was written fifteen years ago. The same is true for the opening sequence of Changelings 3, which was written (and will be re-written next year) 13 years ago, while I played at being a stay-at-home mom with Tom.
The year is 1958 and the place is Carrickahowley Abbey, located just outside Carrickahowley (now Rockfleet), Ireland. The place exists but the Abbey does not, although it was based – very loosely and rather after-the-fact – on the Burrishoole Friary, run by Dominical friars. The Friary, a historical monument, was operated well into the eighteenth century, despite the dissolution of religious orders following the English Reformation. It was abandoned in 1793. That said, boarding schools and orphanages similar to Carrickahowley Abby were established between 1880 and 1950.
It’s also worth noting that Maureen grudgingly wears a veil and thinks Father is pretty boring during the Epistle. Before the reforms of the Catholic Vatican II, women wore veils over their hair and masses were said largely in Latin. Unless Maureen was a very good, attentive student of languages – which she is not, we will find out later – Father’s voice as he said the Epistle would have indeed droned on for her.