Books I Love · The Stone of Kings · Writing

Introducing…The Stone of Kings!

TheStoneofKings_500X750

It’s been live on Amazon since the wee hours of the morning, but I was waiting for it to roll over to Barnes & Noble and Smashwords before writing this post. So, without further ado…

If you love a good Irish adventure as much as I do, you’ll enjoy The Stone of Kings. I wrote this book for those who, like myself, have enjoyed the Harry Potter series and The Alchemyst series, with a touch of By the Light of the Moon and The Chronicles of Narnia. In other words, these are some of my favorite books, so that is the kind of book I wrote. I sincerely hope you enjoy! 😀

Here are the links where you can find it:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

 

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The Stone of Kings · Writing

Just Look at this Gorgeous Cover!

TheStoneofKings_500X750

A huge thank you to Cora Graphics for the fabulous design! I had a hard time visualizing what would go on the cover, but when she sent this to me, it screamed “I’m perfect!” 😉 Remember the release date: August 12!

I’m having unfortunate computer issues at the moment, which is keeping me from accessing Microsoft Word. Ack! I was hoping to add the back blurb here for those of you who can’t quite read that blurry thing up on my banner (lol), but I can’t open the file.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get some blog posts ready in time for my guests spots on my friends’ blogs. *whispers* I may just have to borrow hubby’s new computer. Shh.

The Stone of Kings · Writing

3 Things I’ve learned about Screenwriting…So Far

They're doing their best imitation of Mommy.
They’re doing their best imitation of Mommy.

At the time of writing this post, I’ve got about 32 pages of my screenplay written. The goal, so I’m told, is to keep it around 120. While I’m having fun with this project, I’m also learning why books always seem better than their film counterparts.

I love details. I love the ins and outs of knowing why things happen. I love knowing exactly what motivated  a character to say or do what they said or did. I’ve always kind of known why movies can’t portray this as well as books, but I’m “getting” it better.

On the other hand, I also love the “Behind the Scenes” features. So this experience (whether or not it gets produced) is a real treat. 🙂 I feel like I’m getting a blast of “Behind the Scenes” for all the movies I’ve ever watched, by learning how they were originally created. So for all you “Behind the Scenes” junkies like me, here are some things I’ve learned:

1. Writing “meanwhile” scenes is tricky.

Okay, so maybe there’s a technical term here that I haven’t learned yet. You know when important things happen at the same time? That’s what I’m calling “meanwhile” scenes. Like, in The 5th Element, when Leeloo fights the Mangalores during Diva Plavalaguna’s concert. The way those scenes are presented would be very confusing to read if a novel presented them that way, and it wouldn’t have the energy.

So I’ve got two scenes where Thomas and Ardan discover Bresal’s book of faerie spells while Bresal is out with Turlough in the garden having a secret chat with a faerie chief. The scenes are written separately, but that doesn’t work visually. Figuring out how to chop them together so that they both end when the boys vanish in a flash of light was an interesting task.

2. Killing darlings is tough. 

If you’re not familiar with the phrase, I believe it was coined by Stephen King. He uses it anyway in his book, On Writing. Your darlings are the passages of text that, in the words of Ralphie from A Christmas Story, rarely have the words pour from your penny pencil with such feverish fluidity. But rather than having readers go over your work with the Romeo and Juliet theme playing in the background, their likely to give your beloved words a 2 star review (translated in my mind as C+). 

I killed many darlings already in the The Stone of Kings, but the slaughter continues, not only for the sake of time, but also for losing visual interest. In my book, I have Turlough play two songs that help to encompass who he is. But describing the performance is much shorter than presenting it. So he only plays the song which helps to set the tone of the story. I’ve read how the inciting incident (in this case, when the boys find the magic book and promptly send themselves 300 years in the future), is supposed to happen around page 30 of a screenplay. Killing more darlings helped me to be on track. 🙂

3. Research starts anew.

I thought I’d put my biography of Turlough O’Carolan away when I got the major edits done on the novel. But then there were things that I didn’t bother mentioning in the novel, that I had to mention in the screenplay.

After Turlough wakens from his fever with smallpox and realizes he’s blind, the scene in the book is written from his point of view, so I didn’t bother to talk about Mrs. MacDermottRoe’s appearance. She’s the lady who eventually has him trained as a traveling harper. But I didn’t think that having an entire scene from Turlough’s blind perspective would work for the movie, so I had to give some description so that if this gets produced, they could cast an appropriate female for this minor role. Mrs. MacDermottRoe was, in fact, only about 5 years older than Turlough.

Do you like “behind the scenes?” Are you frustrated when movies don’t quite capture the book? Are you understanding of filmmakers when they leave out your favorite scene from a book?

Books I Love · The Stone of Kings · Writing

5 Quick Tips About Irish Faeries

That hat is red. Trust me.

I’ve been so busy learning about screenplays this past week, that I almost forgot to write today’s post!

With all due respect to the movie The Labyrinth, which I grew up watching over and over… and over, I’ve learned that faeries command more respect than from a fear of being bitten by them as if they were nothing more than beautiful bugs. 😉 My Grandma Caroline didn’t talk about the faeries often. But when she did, she spoke about them as if they were real. She gave me W. B. Yeats book on Irish Myth, Legend, and Folklore, and on page one I saw why she might have been so silent on them – “Beings so quickly offended that you must not speak much about them at all,…”

Huh, but we lived in America at the time. I guess old habits die hard.

But silence on the subject puts a damper in my story, so I did take a few liberties. I hope The Good People can forgive me. Which leads me to my first tip (many of these come from Yeats, some come from The Stone of Kings):

  1. “…never call them anything but the “gentry,” or else daoine maithe, which in English means good people,…” I’d much rather refer to them as Good People than Bad People anyway. 😉
  2. They are “…so easily pleased, they will do their best to keep misfortune away from you,…” I think I’d want these guys on my side…
  3. Don’t mess with the rath! – A rath is the faery’s fort. This can be a simple mound of earth. My mom says that the Irish even build some of their roads in such a way to avoid destroying a rath. And yet – we come to a bit of inspiration for my book – Yeats says, “Carolan,…slept on a rath, and ever after the fairy tunes ran in his head and made him the great man he was.” This leads us to…
  4. They love good music! My account of how O’ Carolan acquired his abilities is not completely accurate (you’ll just have to wait for my book to come out 😉 ). But I believe that it encompasses the ideas of how the faeries are easily offended yet appreciate a good tune. For more on this, read the story of Lusmore and the Fairies.
  5. If you want them to visit your garden, plant red foxglove. I believe this is something I borrowed from the story of The Priest’s Supper, found in Yeats’ book. When the priest comes along, “…away every one of the fairies scampered off as hard as they could, concealing themselves under the green leaves of the lusmore, where, if their little red caps should happen to peep out, they would only look like its crimson bells;…” In my book, anyone associated with fairies has red foxglove (lusmore) in their garden so the faeries have a place to hide. 😀

What are some tips you’ve picked up Irish faeries? Have you ever had a run in with them? Share your story! 😀

Blogging Contest · Harp · NaNoWriMo

#19 Your Greatest Fan

Ick, sometimes I feel as if I’m my own greatest fan. Which is about as sad and silly as I’m My Own Grandpa.

I’d love it if my hubby were my greatest fan, but when he reads, it’s always non-fiction. I don’t think that harps and romance or faeries and druids will appeal to him. 😉 So, unless I sell a million copies of my books, my writing will look like just a hobby to him.

Having a hobby doesn’t really draw fans.

I suppose my greatest fan depends on which book you’re talking about. So far. For either one, my fans are my mom and step-mom (whom I also call Mom, just to add lovely confusion 😉 ).

My birth-mom has the same taste in reading as I do. She and I enjoy discussing the finer points of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series. She liked Harp Lessons, but has been really enjoying being my beta reader for The Stone of Kings. When I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go with TSOK, we had wonderful brainstorming sessions. That always got the story moving again.

My step-mom is more of a visual artist, but has provided most of the inspiration for both my finished books. She has encouraged my writing throughout my childhood, got me started playing harp, and took me on my first trip to New York City, where she grew up. She and her mom, my Grandma Caroline, told me endless stories of Ireland and what it was like to live there. If you’ve read Harp Lessons, do these things sound familiar? Naturally, Mom has been tickled pink that I’m now a published author.

I know there are those outside of my family who have loved Harp Lessons. But I can’t imagine having many “fans” since I’ve only got one book out there so far. I’m quite happy to have my mothers as my greatest fans. But it’ll be nice to start getting multiple five-star reviews that my fellow author friends (who have great backlists) have.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 17,462

Harp · Writing

For the Love of Ireland

May I just stop in for a cup o’ tea and a chat? Image attributed to Joseph Mischyshyn via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m about 2 chapters and an epilogue away from finishing my WIP (which I’m pretty sure will be titled The Stone of Kings). I gotta tell you, I’m excited and nervous about finishing it up and sending it out. It’s completely set in Ireland, a country I’ve only spent one week touring.

I’m not Irish by blood (that I know of). My dad remarried when I was nine and it was my new mother’s family who are Irish. I still love to chat with Grandma Caroline about what it was like for her to grow up there.

I fell in love with the magic of the country and by the time I learned to play harp I felt that the Irish tunes were written for me. I relished the romance of a country that created music which could move me so much.

Most of this is what inspired me to write Harp Lessons. But I’ve still had an outsider’s view of Ireland. I didn’t even “get it” when I spent a week there. Granted, a mere week in any country is not near enough time to truly understand anything.

I think I’m “getting it” now.

Parts of my current work take place in the spring of 1715. Obviously, I’ve had to do a lot of research, because I really want to get this right. I only hope I’ve done enough.

Now, I’ve always known about the famines and the English oppression. But still, it’s always been easier and prettier to view Ireland through the lens of movies like The Quiet Man or The Secret of Roan Inish. But I’m writing about 1715 Ireland. One of my principle characters is Turlough O’Carolan, who really lived. And lived he did.

I don’t know why I thought the British control of Ireland would have been any better for them than it was for us. (Though I’m glad we’re friends with the Brits now; they have just as rich and fascinating a history.) But I’ve been studying about a man who still managed to rise above it.

Making Turlough O’Carolan an actual character was tough. I’ve been afraid of putting words into his mouth that shouldn’t be there. But I hope I’ve captured his character into which I believe to be at the heart of Ireland and why I love it so much.

Carolan didn’t care if you were wealthy or poor, Catholic or Protestant. He was all about making friends and unifying Ireland against oppression. He loved a ‘ludicrous tale’ and had a temper. He didn’t use his fame wholly for personal gain (if that’s what he was after, he would have converted from Catholicism), though he did have a bit of an ego and craved the attention. He did, however, use his fame to help neutralize as much as possible the oppression that the Irish Catholics were subject to at the time.

I’m no historian, but these are the facts that I got from studying Carolan’s biography. I find him to have been a fascinating man and a wonderful example of the spirit of Ireland. I do hope that I’ve translated this accurately in my new book.

What are your feelings about the spirit of Ireland? Is there a country, whether or not your own, that you have similar feelings for? Is there a perfect representative of it?

Harp · Writing

Inspired Again

EUREKA!! Image attributed to Mark Dumont via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s fun to experience the moment when inspiration strikes. Especially when you’ve been stuck.

When I regularly hired out to play harp, I remember one event where, for some reason or other, I had a lot of wait time. I used the time to work on writing Harp Lessons. I was writing the scene where Sarah plays her harp in Central Park for the first time. After I wrote about how she felt while playing Danny Boy, I was compelled to play it again myself.

My next book doesn’t have quite as much harp playing, but there is a bit. After all, Turlough O’Carolan is one of the characters. But by the time I started writing it, I hadn’t practiced harp for over a year because I was too busy with the boys.

Being asked to play for my cousin’s wedding was a wonderful excuse to practice again, but it also helped to get me back in touch with how it feels to actually play. I don’t think one ever really forgets the feelings of effectively striking the strings into a pleasing tune. But the sensation had dulled somewhat until I brought it out again while practicing for the wedding.

Plus, I was stuck in research again.

I’d let my writing fall away for a couple of weeks. Although I knew what I wanted to do with my characters, I wanted a ‘mythological’ way to do it. When I finally found some cool stuff that would work, I sounded like an excited ape.

“Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!”

I’m getting so close to the end! My guess is maybe 2 or 3 more months, then some serious editing. And definitely off to have one of my Irish cousins proof-read it. 😀

What are some fun ways you react to inspriation?

Harp

Running In Heels

Somehow, I don’t think these would have helped either. Image attributed to Oxfordian Kissuth via Wikimedia Commons

I’m back to what happened last week, with writing my post on Monday morning. As full as my past week was, I think I can be excused. But still, I apologize for the late post.

My cousin’s wedding was Saturday, and it was beautiful (as expected :D). I made mistakes playing my harp for the ceremony, but I know they were the kind of mistakes that only I and maybe some other musicians noticed.

I felt that old irrational feeling of my heart racing as I played. I say ‘irrational’ because no one is really totally focused on me, though they will come over and listen to a few of the songs that I play before the ceremony. They are there for the event and I’m the pretty background music. Besides, this was family!

Nevertheless, my fingers get as cold as if I’m walking through a blizzard with no gloves. I have to focus harder to make the songs sound smooth. Inevitably, about ten minutes after I’m done, my fingers finally ‘thaw.’

*contented sigh*

It may have been better if my morning had gone smoother, but here’s a little story to give an idea of how I was feeling:

After I bought my dress and got my hair done, I went to JC Penny’s to find matching suits for our boys. The store had signs for all the children’s sizes except for what my boys currently fit into. Go figure. After asking a clerk, I was led to some adorable suit sets, so I got matching ones. I will dress my boys alike as much as I can while I can get away with it. It’s as cute as I can get without having a little girl to put in a sweet frilly dress.

I don’t think my boys or my husband would appreciate it if I got them dresses…

Thirty minutes before we were ready to leave, disaster complication struck. William’s suit was missing its tie! My boys would not be perfectly matched and it would irk me for the rest of the day. *grumble*

Fortunately, Penny’s is only five miles away, so we swung by on our way out and I ran in. Unfortunately, they were also remodeling so the closest door that I could use was on the opposite side of the store from where I bought the suits. Hubby offered to run in for me, but seeing as it took me forever to find the suits in the first place, I figured I should do it.

So I’m running through a busy Penny’s on a Saturday afternoon, all dolled up, and trying very hard to ignore the pain in my feet. I’d worn those shoes before and even added cushioned inserts to them, but I usually wear them to church where I sit most of the time. I grabbed the tie (I’d called ahead), and ran back to the car.

For the rest of the day and ever since, I’ve felt like I’ve been walking on marbles. My hubby was super duper sweet last night and prepared a foot bath with salts, and then massaged my feet with mineral oil. Love! ❤

It’s been totally worth it. I had the honor of playing for my cousin’s ceremony and relished spending time with family, some of whom I hadn’t seen in many years.

What are some ways you’ve made yourself completely uncomfortable but would do it all over again for the sake of loved ones?

Harp

Who Knew My Fingers Have Their Own Brains?

Image attributed to Rama

I’ve been asked to play my harp for my cousin’s upcoming wedding. I greatly admire this cousin who has been highly dedicated in serving in our military. I love my country and so I’d considered joining after I graduated high school, but my parents talked me out of it. It was the only advice of theirs that I regret taking. So agreeing to play for this particular cousin’s wedding was a no-brainer.

However…

The last time I played for any kind of real audience was when I played a wedding while I was pregnant with Charlie. I had horrible morning sickness at the time and I prayed I wouldn’t vomit during the ceremony. Ever since, I’ve been too distracted by family to even do any serious practice, not to mention the fact that a bit of sneaky gluten can now make me feel worse than I did at that last wedding.

But I’ve been feeling great and hopefully no tricky gluten will surprise me between now and then. So I’ve pulled out my harp from the closet, all my old books, and the replacement strings. I fixed the broken string, struggled to tune the harp (because we gave my sister back her piano), and tried to play what I thought I might remember.

In. Credible.

After 3 years, I could still play, from memory, most of my music. For some songs, I only needed to look at the first few notes on the page, but then I was off. It wasn’t perfect, rather like a rusty music box, but I still played!

It was like my fingers have little brains of their own. While I was busy running after the boys, my fingers were still holding on to their dances, remembering their choreography with the strings. I love muscle memory! I know I can easily have my music polished by the Big Day. 😀

Have you ever thought you’d forgotten a skill and realized you never forgot at all? Have you tried again?

Harp · Writing

How O’Carolan Influenced St. Patrick’s Day

Image of O’Carolan’s memorial attributed to James Yardley.

As sick as I’ve been for the last month, I couldn’t let St. Paddy’s day go by without talking about it just a little bit. Having played a non-pedal harp for half my life, I’ve plucked out my share of great Irish tunes. Several of these are attributed to Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738). He was Ireland’s most celebrated harper for his day.

I’ve always known the basics about O’Carolan. He was blind and wrote many his songs for the nobles of the country. I even knew some fun tidbits, like how he would finger his coat buttons while traveling as a way to practice the fingering of his music.

Since he’s a character in my Work In Progress, I’ve learned some more great stuff about him that makes me wonder for the first time this year, how influential he was in the way we currently celebrate St. Patrick’s day.

During my research for my new book, I came across an excerpt from an article by Very Rev. M. J. Canon Masterson (honestly, I’d like to know why there was a need to put in “Very”) http://homepage.eircom.net/~tina/mohill/O’Carolan.htm. A line that stood out was, “[O’Carolan] served as a heaven-sent envoy to unite all creeds in a common love of country and hatred of oppression and, I repeat, he needed the help of the Protestant gentry, and secured it in generous measure.”

It sounded to me like O’Carolan (who was Catholic) didn’t care who you were, where you came from, or what your faith was. As long as you weren’t cruel to anyone, he was good with you. Being an American, I’ve always come to know St. Patrick’s day as a day where anyone can be Irish. It doesn’t seem to matter our background or creed, it’s a day where we all have a common love of Ireland 😀

With all the traveling O’Carolan did and his intense fame in his time, I can’t help but think that he was a key player in this spirit of the holiday and in the friendly openness of the Irish people in general.

I’ve still got a lot to learn about the bard and am impatiently waiting for my copy of his biography by Donal O’Sullivan, which I unfortunately can’t seem to find at any nearby library. *humph* But I’m enjoying learning about a man whose music I’ve been playing for quite some time. 🙂

What do you think? Are my conclusions about O’Carolan and St. Patrick’s Day feasible? Have you come across other things that may have influenced the “everyone’s Irish for a day” feeling we get?

Glutened Goals Update: Nothing. I think that my glutening may finally be over, but, like my boys who have green goo dripping from their noses, I’ve caught a bug that makes it difficult to tell. lol To quote Gilda Radner, it’s always something.