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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Some of 2014's Gifts

Inspired by Tara Lynne Groth, who blogs from the last place I lived and who was inspired by another blogger, who was inspired by a blogger before that, I'm taking the last day of the year to reflect on 2014. Skimming over the bad news of the year, here are ten things I can consider 2014's gifts.

1. My husband and I moved to the Northeast after five long years away.

2. I got a job working with my two favorite languages, English and Spanish.

3. This job meant that my husband and I could stay in the Northeast.

4. Early snow.

5. No traffic accidents.

6. I finished my second novel, Awash in Talent, and the people who've read it say it's my best writing yet.

7. I got to meet Thelma and Louise.

8. I got to see Harapan.

9. Saxophone Santa.

10. My husband reads to me and sings me Happy Birthday for weeks surrounding the actual day. This amounts to more good fortune than can be counted, period.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry, Happy Christmas!

I worked on Christmas Eve (which the company says will be observed on December 26, so it's okay). A lot of "key players" had already started their celebrations off company premises, but the employees who came in were celebrating, too! Colorful sweaters, pizza parties, and bright smiles abounded. Just like Santa's elves, we got our deliverables out, of course, but that's not what I'll remember about this year. I will remember the welcome they gave my husband, who doesn't work there, and a generosity that would make Emmet Otter's Ma say, "Anybody'd be interested!"

To spread the joy, I can't resist these links, which show you how in the Middle Ages, life wasn't quite as nasty, brutish, and short as later critics would have us believe because every year, Christmas came around to brighten it up.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Author Kristin Gleeson's Children's Book Inspiration

Kristin Gleeson, already the author of Selkie Dreams and Anahareo, has just released an even more magical (if that's possible) novel, Along the Far Shores. In it, a twelfth-century Irish woman travels to American shores. Even more amazing to consider, the story is based on an ancient legend that may just have a grain of truth in it. Kristin stopped by to share what inspired such an unexpected mixture of cultures.

Inspiration for novels can come from almost anywhere, some unexpected places. For Along the Far Shores, it was especially unusual. When I was a children’s librarian outside of Philadelphia years ago, I was doing some much needed weeding and I came across this book that told about the legend of Prince Madog of Wales’s voyage to America in 1170. It wasn’t a beautifully illustrated picture book; it was a nonfiction text that investigated the legend in order to substantiate its truth.

I was so intrigued, I took it home and read it in a night. I have to confess I’d never heard of the legend before this. I’d heard of Leif Ericsson’s eleventh century voyage along Labrador and that area and of course I heard of the sixth-century voyage of St. Brendan, which again was most likely up in the northern areas of the Americas. Madog’s voyage apparently ended up in Mobile Bay, in what is now Alabama, and he sailed up what is now called the Mad Dog River. All very intriguing.

At the same time, I was writing a novel that looked at the red-haired plaid-clothed mummies that were discovered in the Xinxiang Province in western China. They dated back to about 1500 BC, long before any archaeological evidence of “Celts” or what we group as Celts, though they seemed to share many of the same characteristics in their burial patterns, clothing composition and other items. I loved the idea of it and my novel evolved as two parallel narratives, one in the ancient past that brought a small proto Tlingit group and a proto Irish/Celtic group together, and the present that brought an Irish woman and a Tlingit man together. In the many centuries in between those periods I thought I would write other novels that told the story of similar encounters between the two groups where I could show the two cultures in different periods and the aspects of prejudices and assumptions that each time period might have. Linking all this was a medallion passed down through the centuries and back and forth and appearing in each novel as a connection that means something strongly to one of the characters. 

When I read the Madog tale, it seemed like a wonderful event to use as part of this novel chain. Aisling, an Irish noblewoman, escapes the turmoil in her country only to find a similar situation in Wales, where her brother is serving one of the many princes. She stows away on Madog’s ship in order to be with her brother and is tossed overboard during a storm. She is rescued by a Tlingit trader, Caxna, who reluctantly takes her along his trading journey, first to the declining Mayan city of Xicallanca and then later to Etowah, the powerful city of the Mississippian empire.  For Caxna a successful journey means his clan’s freedom. But Aisling changes everything. 

Very exciting! Along the Far Shores is available in ebook and softcover. Visit Kristin's site to learn much more! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Six Years of Christmas

Having a full time job has made me into one of those people who just can't do it all. This blog has suffered most. I've worked hard on it for years and appreciate every single one of my readers, so my New Year's Resolution will have something to do with establishing a regular schedule here again.

Looking back on the year at this holiday time has brought to mind all the travels (and accompanying emotional ups and downs) my husband and I have done since we met. And so, enjoy photos that represent Christmas through the past six years.

We had been living together in Massachusetts for half a year when Christmas 2008 rolled around, and it was a small apartment and so had only a tiny potted Christmas tree at home. But we had love, and my husband was determined to fulfill a promise he'd made sooner rather than later, so we also had Mickey! At Disneyworld! An unbelievable Christmas.

Christmas 2009 was bare-bones. We had moved to Pennsylvania only days before. But at least we had love, and Saxophone Santa (still our favorite holiday toy). See Saxophone Santa in action here and with a friend here.

The following year, we had placed our stuff in storage and moved in with my gracious sister-in-law in Arizona the previous month. It was the beginning of an explosively creative period in all aspects of my life, but I wasn't aware at the time. Holiday 2010 is represented by fake snow for the wondering Arizonans at the Winterhaven lights display.

By 2011, we had moved to our own apartment in Arizona and both had interesting jobs, and I was writing like crazy. But we hadn't been able to get our stuff out of storage, so at home, we decorated a tree with candy canes and a beautiful compass rose ornament I received from an author who had already become a good friend. This year, we had even more fun at the Winterhaven display because we found this gorgeous Christmas rhino!


We moved from Arizona to Georgia in 2012, but didn't make it to Christmas there. Instead, we went from the boiling pot of water that was summer in Georgia to the icebox winter of Illinois. This was the Christmas my husband realized that I own four giant tubs worth of Christmas decorations, enough to decorate our tree several times over. My mom got me started when I was a kid, and you can't throw away memories like that. I accomplished the amazing feat of finishing my first novel, Seven Noble Knights, in November 2012, and it's commemorated with the cake and the thumb drive, and the new ornament.

Christmas 2013 was probably the most surprising of all, as my husband and I had been living in a hotel in North Carolina since May. We never expected to stay there for so many months, and yet again, our stuff was in storage. We got a little tinsel tree and set it on top of the dehumidifier I insisted on earlier in the year. Those North Carolina summers might be even wetter than the one in Georgia!

And that brings us to this year! In the photo, our tree with a lot, but not all, of the ornaments from the four tubs, stands out in front of a medieval Christmas banner I picked up at a museum in New York City and stacks and piles of other memories. Note the Fight for Rhinos sustainably sourced wooden ornament, front and center.

Finally, this photo was taken on Thanksgiving Day, but the bare trees, the church tower, and roofs covered in snow scream Christmas.

Coming soon: a guest post from outstanding author Kristin Gleeson!

Happy Holidays!