Monday, May 20, 2013

A Love Affair with a Place by Beppie Harrison

Home is easy to love.  It’s home, known and familiar. Usually coming home brings a little sigh of relief. Your feet know the shape of the steps. Shabby or neat as a pin, its warmth wraps around you.
So how is it that sometimes we go to someplace entirely new, completely alien, and foreign, and from the first time our feet step onto the ground we feel we belong there?  This is not home, but in some inexplicable way this is your place, too.
That’s how I feel about Ireland.

I first started to think about Ireland as a place, as somewhere that intrigued me, years ago, when I was in college.  I was drawn to Irish writing, the medieval ballads as well as the writings of the Irish scholars, learned men during a period when there were hardly any others in Europe – the period we call (not entirely accurately) the Dark Ages.  Then I discovered William Butler Yeats, and fell in love.
Not long after that, I married an Englishman and went to live in England.  Unfortunately, it was just about that time that what the Irish so characteristically call “the Troubles” began.  It was the old Irish/English impasse all over again: the Republicans, from the Irish Republic, in the overwhelming majority Catholic, wanted Ireland as a whole to be free of English (now British) domination. The people of North Ireland, overwhelmingly Protestant – many of them descendants of the Scots Protestants that Cromwell and his successors planted on the soil of northern Ireland, having first cleared away the Irish Catholics who had owned the land before – wanted to remain part of Great Britain. Using religion as a cudgel, both sides did their best to make the life of the other side intolerable. Good men on both sides were killed; women and children were blown up by omnipresent bombs.
I went right off Ireland.
It wasn’t until over twenty years of warfare made the population too weary to continue that an uneasy peace settled, which gradually became less uneasy. The barricades came down. The barbed wire was rolled and discarded. Belfast became almost an ordinary city, no longer under continual siege.
And finally I came to Ireland and lost my heart all over again.
What is it that won me? Part of it was the history. Much of it is as ugly as the Troubles themselves. The Irish were never a calm and peaceable people. The ancient history, muddled with legend and myth, is full of fierce warriors, both men and women, and brilliant tales of their beauty and bravery. The Irish fought each other before they fought the English.
It’s been over 800 years since the English (mainly then the Normans, the new conquerors of England itself) first set foot on Irish soil and made themselves at home. For 800 years the English have tried to make the Irish English, and for nearly the whole of the 800 years the Irish have fought back.  The Reformation added new fuel to the fire after Henry VIII reformed the English church to become Protestant. The Irish by and large chose to remain Catholic. The signs of their battles are all over the country. Ireland is a land of ruins – beautiful ruins, many of them now, weathered and sturdy even in decay.
More than that, Ireland is a land of talk. Story-tellers of magnificent tales, true or not. The same Irish who loved to fight are the Irish who now love to laugh and make wry jokes about the state of their country. An Irish pub is a warm and welcoming place, a window into the common life of the Irish people.
 Ireland is green. No one could have guessed that the good Lord had so many shades of green to spread around the rolling hills and rocky plateaus of Ireland. There is good land to grow crops on and much more stony, stubborn land to be conquered before it can be fruitful, but all of it is green.
I came to Ireland late, but when I came home to my cozy, familiar home, the distant seductive sound of Irish music was still in my ears. I’ve been back since, and I’ll be going again.  And in the meantime, part of my heart still lives there, and part of Ireland lives with me.
- Beppie Harrison 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Historical Inspirations by Lane McFarland

Throwing my imagination into years gone by, researching dark periods of strife and violence, justice and quests for freedom, and dreaming of what it may have been like to live and survive during these hostile periods have been the most fascinating aspects of writing historical romance.
Cameron, the first book in my Daughters of Alastair MacDougall series, begins in May 1297, a time of unrest between Scotland and England.
The death of Alexander III in 1286, followed by the demise of Queen Margaret in 1290, became a time of consternation for Scotland. Labeled as The Great Cause, a fight for the Scottish throne ensued between two powerful men, John Balliol and Robert de Bruce. Unable to agree on a successor, Scottish nobles requested the help of England’s King Edward I. The king and his vast army arrived at Norham Castle and agreed to settle the dispute under the condition of the Scot’s pledge to him as their feudal overlord.

Norham Castle, Northumberland, England by Karen V Bryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Shrewdly, the Scots explained something of this magnitude would have to be the decision of the newly appointed king. Edward spent over a year arbitrating between 13 claimants for the throne. But before he would decree judgment, he forced all contenders to accept him as overlord of Scotland. Some say John Balliol appeared the easiest to manipulate so Edward ruled in his favor and appointed him as King of Scotland in November 1292.
Much to Edward’s chagrin, Balliol stood strong against England’s attempt at wielding power over their country. He balked at providing troops for Edward’s war with France. Instead, Balliol sided with the French and attacked Carlisle. As a result, Edward retaliated, and the Battle of Dunbar ensued in April 1296. Afterwards, Balliol was stripped of his power and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Many skirmishes followed the Scottish defeat. In 1298, Robert de Bruce, one of country’s most famous warriors, emerged as the Guardian of Scotland. During his reign, he led rebels bent on freedom from England’s tyranny and preserving their way of life, ultimately regaining the country’s independence.
Isn’t history fascinating?
Thank you for stopping by and visiting with me today. I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment to let me know favorite historical events that draw you into the period. What about them captivates you, invokes passionate images of struggle and survival? What are your favorite historical books and movies that intrigue you…and why?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Our First Blog!

Greetings, and welcome to Romancing The Era’s first blog!

...and my first blog on my first website as an author. Wow. Not fancy, maybe, but still, there's something a little magical about it, a sense of having achieved a milestone that only a few months ago seemed impossible. So, good morning, dear readers! If you have a blog, do you remember how you felt, blogging the first time? Can you see my smile? Can you hear the delight in my virtual voice, a joy that makes me feel like dancing?

This blog allows me to announce that I am only weeks away from publishing my first novel, 'To Dream of Langston', a serialized book that in its own way, feels like a first child. All these 'firsts'! I feel elated. Protective. Fearful. Hopeful. Energized.

What a trip it has been getting to this point. Long hours. Grueling effort (really!). Phone calls. Countless emails. Hours searching the net. Early mornings. Late meals. DH sighing. Kitties irritated. Frustration. Fun. Lots of "eeks". Fun! And now, worth it all.

Today, I raise my cup of smoky lapsang souchong to my dear author friends Beppie Harrison and Lane McFarland (and our talented, knowledgeable, patient web designer, Rae Monet), who share this wonderful first with me. Pat yourselves on the back, Beppie and Lane. We're almost there, girls!

Màiri Norris


So now we begin.

I am a great fan of the beginnings of things – a fresh start, new territory ahead of me, no inconvenient bumps in the road.  No stupid mistakes, although since I’ve spent a lifetime with myself I can guarantee some will come along.  I just ask that people focus on the “stupid” rather than the “mistakes.”  Most of what I do is well-intentioned!

What will I be blogging about?  Well, primarily whatever is on my mind at the moment I start to think about writing it down.  Today is a beautiful sunny spring day in the southeastern corner of Michigan, where I live.  I gather spring has finally found us.  It seemed to have taken a detour somewhere – maybe down in the Caribbean?  So another beginning, and a good one.  Trees are remembering they have leaves, the magnolia trees are on the point of popping into ivory-colored splendor, and the bulbs the deer haven’t eaten are bursting into bloom.

So, dear readers – and I hope your numbers will increase! – I blow a wish to you that this will be a new beginning in some ways to you, too.  Let us know what you’re starting on, or starting to finish. That’s nearly as good.

Beppie Harrison


When Beppie, Shirley and I embarked on our journey together, we packed our bags with tidbits of information. Slowly, but surely those bags have filled with tips and tricks of website design, a newsletter, Twitter, Circles on Google…whew! My head is spinning, and my heart’s thumping with excitement as readers join us.

I look forward to posting topics from gardening, to places I long to visit, articles I run across in my research, and whatever happens to pop into my world. As I write from my quiet country home in the mountains surrounded by abundant wildlife, you never know what will wander up.

Thank you for stopping by! I hope you will leave us comments, let us know if something is of interest. We would love to hear from you…

Lane McFarland