Research and Road Trips

I love historical fiction. I love being transported to the past, to understand what life was like in a particular place and time through the eyes of a strong character or a gripping plot. I’ve always had a much better time studying history through novels, rather than textbooks.

I love writing historical fiction for the same reasons. I hope that one day my stories can also transport a reader to the past. My downfall is research. I adore it. Libraries, archives, old photographs and manuscripts make me clap my hands and say “goody!”

I’m working on the Famine trilogy, which begins by tracing one family’s journey from Ireland to New York.  Luckily, I’ve spent a few summers in Ireland. There, I was part of an archaeology field school that excavated a Famine village in County Mayo. I know how the cottages were constructed, how small they were ….how families of 6 or 8 or 10 would live their lives here, along with the cattle and other livestock. In the same structure. The outlines of the potato lazy beds still exist, small plots of about the size of my living room (11×11, if that). That patch of potatoes was intended to feed the entire family for months. When the blight hit, all the food for the common farmer was gone. Not to say their wasn’t food in the country – there was. It was being exported to the rest of Britain, and the world. Starvation ensued.

Tanners and Quarrymen is manuscript #2 in the trilogy. The rural town north of the Bronx where my ancestors settled is now a well-to-do New York suburb. The original houses are gone. However, the Eastchester Historical Society opened their doors and allow me to peruse through their photos and documents. My ancestors worked as stonecutters in the marble quarries and as tanners – making gloves for the quarrymen. These laborers helped build the towns of Eastchester, Tuckahoe, and West County.

I wanted to see what my family experienced, as much as possible. It was their labor and hard work that allows me the luxury of blogging, to play on Twitter, to consider going back to school for another degree. It’s as if one stone is built upon another. The least I can do is tell their story as best I can, as honestly as I can. To do that, I need to trace their journey and follow their struggle, one stone at a time.

Appalachian Trail…It’s been awhile.

Years, to be exact. I can’t blame living in Arizona for five years as my only excuse for not hitting the AT at some point since college.

It was, however, a homecoming. I adore the east coast in the summer. I like the humidity. So stepping into the shadowing forest, lush with dampness and green, I felt I was truly home after a long journey.

The AT is different. A little more remote. Much more challenging. Much more like home.


Southwestern Social Studies Lesson Plans

Social Studies Lesson Plans

Druids and Christians

I stood in front of the stone shafts of Clonmacnoise. Carved into the stone of this 6th century monastic site are images of possibly, pagan gods. The carvings in stone were a symbiosis of druid and Christian, the old and the new. A relatively peaceful transition occurred in Ireland. I began to question this transition – how did it happen? Was it all a result of St. Patrick’s missionary work? Or did Pallidius lay the groundwork? What was the role of Pelagius, if any?

These questions prompted me into research mode. These were broad questions, all over the map, so I ended up gaining bits and pieces about Patrick,and eventually Brigid. What piqued my interest even more, were the connections between Patrick and Brigid.

Though the stories are wrapped in the shroud of myth, dimmed through layers of legend, I believe it is possible that Patrick and Brigid were contemporaries. It is said that as a child, Brigid heard Patrick preach. Later, it is believed that she sewed his burial shroud. Could it be proven historically (putting religion and faith aside)?

I became fascinated with Patrick’s story of kidnapping and slavery, and how he came to know God while in bondage. Even more, I was amazed at his return to Ireland, going back to the land that had once enslaved him. I wanted to know what drew him back to the isle.

Even more intriguing was Brigid as the tripartite goddess, Danann, druid, and Saint. I examined her history, her possible co-existence with Patrick, the founding of Kildare.

The research I began at Clonmacnoise turned into a passion for writing, and developed into my manuscripts, Once A Goddess, Fiery Arrow, and The Church of the Oak. Though I fictionalized many of these myths, I believe there is a grain of truth in them all.

Bay To Ocean Writer’s Conference

Looking forward to the Bay to Ocean Writer’s Conference this weekend!

Please don’t snow.

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