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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Legend to Life

I met Sheila Lamb when we were both wrangling 9th graders through World History I at Chantilly High School.  This in itself is a bonding experience.  On top of that, we learned that we both wrote, so the bond was doubled.  We continued friends and each other’s readers over the years, and now Sheila’s book is published!  While I rarely have guest bloggers on my site (‘cause, you know, I have so much to say myself), I asked Sheila to tell us a bit about her writing and the book, Once a Goddess.   
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I've always had a fascination with Irish and Celtic history, partly due to research into family genealogy. I became curious as to how and why Ireland converted relatively smoothly from druidism to Christianity. Other regions, like Gaul and Britain, were converted when forcibly taken over by the Roman Empire but  Ireland’s ties with Rome were in trade.  As I began to read various sources, some scholarly, some religious, some questionable, I found that St. Patrick and St. Brigid were crucial in the Christian conversion of Ireland. I also found that Brigid had three facets - goddess, druid, and saint. And then there were a few odds and ends about how Patrick and Brigid's paths had crossed.

As I read about Brigid, particularly in her goddess aspect as one of the tribe of TĂșatha de Danann, I began to see how easy it would have been for Rome to co-opt the belief system via the goddess Brigid, as they'd co-opted gods in places they conquered even though Rome didn't conquer Ireland. Patrick, a native Briton, did. It struck me that Patrick and Brigid must have had some connection beyond casual association.  That's how my book began to percolate.

So I really got into Irish mythology and legend. Once you start reading these stories, it's hard to stop. The TĂșatha de Danann, the Fomorians, the Fir Bolg, then the Milesians (the Celts) are captivating. The Danann, the first tribe to settle Ireland, were supposedly endowed with magical abilities including shape-shifting. They had great battles with the tribe Fomorian. In some of the stories, Brigid marries Bres, a Fomorian, and they have three sons, including Ruadan who appears in the book. I definitely was distracted from writing and spent a lot of time reading and researching.

When I began writing this story many years ago, it was one big, big, big, book. Now it's a trilogy which begins with Once a Goddess. These three manuscripts went through a couple of critique groups, one a historical fiction group which had some terrific writers who now have terrific books.  At one point, one of my critiquers, Lisa Yarde, suggested that I divide the book. Best advice ever. I also was lucky enough to have trusted readers (ahem, present company included) [ed. Note:  Ooooh!  That’s me!] to give their honest feedback. Then it was a matter of finding the right home. That can take a long time. Solstice, a small press, is the perfect fit.

There are some days where it's a "pinch me" moment. Something you've dreamed about for years has finally come true.
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BTW, if you see Sheila, she looks just like Brigid on the cover above!  She's made the first chapter of Once a Goddess available for free here:



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Have a Good Time at Camp!


We were reading the morning Post on our porch one Tuesday when we saw our neighbors heading off to work.  “Don’t work too hard,” she said.  “Have a good Thursday,” he teased.  He had a point.  Retirement is rather like perpetual summer camp except you can sleep in -- if you have the time.  The day of the week becomes almost moot.
“What do you do now that you’re retired?” 
I take ballet three times a week.  I quilt.  I sew a bit of costuming. 
“What does Steve do?”
He golfs.  He takes classes at George Mason’s Lifetime Learning Institute.  He goes to his men’s group and reads books for his men’s book club.  He golfs.  (Yes, I said it twice on purpose; he loves golf the way I love dance.)
We have season’s tickets to the Washington Ballet.  We go to movies DURING THE DAY!  We visit our children and Perfect Grandchildren.    We travel.  (Turkey’s coming up and then French Polynesia.  Heh) 
My theory is that it takes a year to settle into retirement and create the life you find rewarding.  Many people seem trepidatious about retirement.  Although they could retire comfortably, they continue to work because they think they have to have it all mapped out in advance.  Never mind that they don’t do that with any other part of their lives.  They can’t imagine how they'll fill the time.   For starters, errands could take up every second of the day.
One by one you add activities and crafts and friends.  Wine plays a substantial role in our retirement.  We switch off cooking, or we eat eggs, or we order out. 
Seriously, to the question, “What do you do now that you’re retired?” there is only one answer:  “Whatever I darn well please.”  
Except, of course, when the Perfect Grandchildren call.  Then we run like puppies hearing a dinner bell.