Mallow Castle has large mullioned windows, loopholes for muskets, and fireplaces in each room that stir the imagination. Who once warmed their hands or dried their clothes there, and what did they think about?Read More
Part 8 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end. Sometimes, though sand and water wash away the past, research and imagination still can resurrect it.
From Timoleague, Clonakilty is nearly a straight shot west along the R600. Heading south from there are rolling hills, green bluffs and marshy expanses leading toward Dunnycove Bay. On most driving and tour maps you’ll see a notation for Castlefreke.
Built by Randall Oge Barry in the 15th century, the fort was lost to the English after the Battle of Kinsale, was besieged and later burned during the Rebellion of 1641. A tower house was built on the site in 1780, which was remodeled in 1820, burned down in 1910, and at the time of my visit it was being remodeled as an event venue. However we did not visit Castlefreke itself, because it was not my destination. Instead, I wished to see Rathbarry Castle, the Red Strand, and just a little farther west, Coppinger’s Court.
Featuring characters from the Barry family in The Prince of Glencurragh, I sought locations where they might have met or slept. I was to find little remaining of the castle, but enough to stir my imagination, and even more so, the illuminate larger forces that had been in play in the region.
Thanks to my friends Eddie and Teresa, who introduced me to their friend Pat Hogan, I was able to visit and learn much about Rathbarry, and it became a landmark in the book, near the cottage of the mysterious healer Pol-Liam.
The castle Rathbarry existed on the site of what is now Castlefreke, bearing the family name of Freke for the current owners. Far out on the roadway, the gateposts marking the entrance to the castle grounds with their large spherical tops were said to be true remnants of the 17th century. Just one wall of the ancient stables and carriage house remained, and a new stable house had been built within it remodeled as a private residence. We were treated to a peek inside this structure to get a feel for what home life was like there.
From the upper wall of the ruin, crumbling stone stairs led down to an ancient watergate, a stone passage leading directly from the castle to the water, where boats would have come to deliver food and supplies. But, except for a small, enclosed pond, there was no water. From the top of the steps I could see the bay, maybe half a mile distant. How, I wondered, could the castle have been served from such a distance?
As Mr. Hogan reminded me, the landscape had changed dramatically since the 17th century, and events at the global level could have affected Ireland’s coastlines. In fact, in 1755 the Great Lisbon Earthquake and tsunami are believed to have done so. Considered one of the deadliest earthquakes in history, it is estimated to have hit the 8.5 to 9.0 range on today’s scale of magnitude, killed thousands of people and nearly devastated Lisbon. The tsunami’s impact was far-reaching.
“Tsunamis as tall as 20 metres (66 ft) swept the coast of North Africa, and struck Martinique and Barbados across the Atlantic. A three-metre (ten-foot) tsunami hit Cornwall on the southern English coast. Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, was also hit, resulting in partial destruction of the "Spanish Arch" section of the city wall. At Kinsale, several vessels were whirled round in the harbor, and water poured into the marketplace.” ~ Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, 1830
Gigantic waves were reported as well in the West Indies and Brazil. Could these environmental events have shifted sands and reshaped Ireland’s coastline? Undoubtedly.
Almost within view of Rathbarry was another site I wished to visit: the Red Strand. Also likely to have been altered by the tsunami, this sandy beach was called “red” because the sand contained fossilized sea creatures or “calcareous matter,” which was believed to have a healing effect and also promote fertility. As late as the 19th century the sand was being collected for use in fertilizing crops some 16 miles away.
The only red I saw during my visit was in the clumps of seaweed washed ashore; still, the strand fascinates, bounded on one side by stones, and on the other by bluffs and stream. The strand and the story behind it served my imagination for a deadly scene in the book.
Next time: Coppinger’s Court.
Thanks to: Library Ireland, Exploring West Cork by Jack Roberts, Castles.nl, Pat Hogan, Eddie McEoin, Wikipedia and other sources.
Part 1 - Kanturk Castle
Part 2 - Rock of Cashel
Part 3 - Barryscourt
Part 4 - Ormonde Castle
Part 5 - Lismore Castle
Part 6 - Bandon/Kilcolman
Part 7 - Timoleague
An heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?
The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.
Part 3 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See Part 1 and Part 2.
Excitement was to be replaced by disappointment when I first reached the gates of Barryscourt Castle in Carrigtwohill, County Cork. Driving solo from Cashel, I got a bit lost in the vicinity—often there are not good signs, if any, to indicate castle locations—but a petrol station attendant smiled and told me I was just a few blocks away. When I parked, two workmen told me the castle was closed for renovations, but the owner was in the adjacent house and I could tour the gardens briefly if I liked.
As of this writing, the Heritage Ireland website says the castle is closed “until further notice,” so if you want to see the interiors, you may have to rely on other visitor photos, such as the ones in this TripAdvisor site.
Consequently, there is no scene in The Prince of Glencurragh that is set in Barryscourt Castle. I circled the great Norman tower twice as if hoping to find a secret passage, and then focused on the magnificent garden. Plaques were placed about so that I could identify the plants within the castle walls, a feature that is extremely helpful to an author who lives in another country and manages best with the silk plant variety.
The original castle was built in the 12th century, and the structure I saw was dated for about 1550. The architecture is described as a typical tower house with courtyard and outer bawn or curtain wall, and a “drop-the-prisoner-in-from-the-top” type of dungeon. From the grounds, the castle has the look and feel of the ancient and romantic. I could almost feel the long courtly gown about me, sense the workers bustling in the yard, and imagine stepping through the great wooden door and then ascending a stone stairway to a room in the tower warmed by fire.
Here had been the seat of the noble de Barry family, to whom King John in the 12th century awarded baronies in South Munster province in return for service in the Norman invasion of Ireland. In this time, English landholders often intermarried with the Irish and relished their autonomy, so far removed from the king’s influence. In later years, when Henry VIII wanted to exert his authority, the Barrys supported the Desmond Rebellions. In 1680 they set fire to Barryscourt themselves rather than see it captured by Sir Walter Raleigh and his English troops. But the Barrys later submitted, and Queen Elizabeth pardoned them after the rebellions were suppressed. Barryscourt was repaired, but external walls still bear the scars of cannon fire.
In The Prince of Glencurragh, my focus is on David, the first earl of Barrymore, who fell to obscurity after the Desmond wars, and was rescued from it by the Earl of Cork who saw a noble-blooded match for his young daughter, Lady Alice. David would later build Castle Lyons, a reputedly beautiful castle that became the Barry seat in 1617, but burned down in 1771. In the novel, this earl has promised to support the protagonist, narrator, and two Barry relatives in their abduction of an heiress for the protagonist to wed.
The Barrymore titles in Ireland became extinct after the death of the last earl in 1823. But the name is not extinct at all to Americans, who are familiar with the names if not the theatrical careers of Maurice, his children Lionel, Ethel, and John, grandson John, and great-granddaughter Drew. While they might have owned castles, these Barrymores are not descended from the Irish clan. Born in British India, Maurice Blyth took his stage name Barrymore as his surname when he immigrated to the United States from England in 1874.
Perhaps as consolation for not getting to tour Barryscourt, in my research I stumbled across this site, http://www.duchas.ie/en, which is digitizing the national folklore collection of Ireland. It’s not an easy browse for gems, i.e. no photo gallery, but you can find handwritten accounts of people, events and places from Ireland’s own. I downloaded part of a story about Brian Boru, the famous Irish king of the 10th century, written by a schoolgirl, and realized even her cursive handwriting is a treasure, soon perhaps to go the way of tower house castles, and my mother’s shorthand.
Thanks to C.L. Adams’s Castles of Ireland, Castlelyons Parish website, Heritage Ireland, and Wikipedia.
An heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?
The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.
I finally got to see the movie Brooklyn featuring two-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan, and it did not disappoint for a moment. Though quickly labeled a chick flick by the two gentlemen who were with me, one stayed for the duration and was glad he did. In this movie, Ronan plays young Eilis Lacey who leaves her hometown in Ireland to find opportunity in America. I can't believe Miss Ronan is only 21 years old. Her eyes are absolutely penetrating and so expressive. She had me by the throat when as Eilis she arrived by ship in New York -- after the sea-sickness scene to which I can all-to-painfully relate. But her fear and discomfort in a strange place, as if she is the only fresh human among a circling pack of jungle carnivores, really took me back.
My experience was not as difficult as being an ocean away from anyone or anything she knew, but my first weeks as a freshman at college were pretty close. I felt alone, disconnected, as if everyone spoke a different language and all knew what they were doing while I knew nothing. After a few weeks, when an old friend from high school knocked on my dorm room door, he was the only person I knew in the state. I leapt into his arms.
I loved Eilis's 1950s "costume" as they called it—those sunglasses! And her friend fixing her up for a trip to the beach with her Italian love. And especially the characterizations: the cruel and bitter old shopkeeper in Ireland; the nosy, disciplining house mother in Brooklyn; and the kind Catholic priest who reminded me just a little of my dear friend Eddie in Bandon.
And, I could not hold back the tears when the sister died. How would I feel if something should happen to my own beloved sisters? Incomprehensible.
To leave Ireland at any time must be gut-wrenching. I don’t know of any place like it: so charming, intimate and yet so wild it defies description. And yet, for some and in certain times, it must have been a relief to leave and again find hope for some kind of future.
Although Eilis returns to Ireland and suddenly it seems she can have everything she ever wanted there, she realizes it is an illusion, and she has forgotten the reasons she left in the first place. She breaks free of the bonds of the past, and chooses the new life and love. I wonder is there in everyone's life, as there was in mine, an experience like this in which you’re given an opportunity to choose: to either hold on (like it or not) to what you know, or to embrace the new adventure.
Because I made the choice, I have ended up writing about adventures—always my dream—and in a place beyond my dreams.
If you love adventures and particularly historical adventures, checkout my novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies, Sharavogue. May latest book, The Prince of Glencurragh, comes out this summer.
And please sign up for my newsletter for information about the release and upcoming events.
Thank you for reading this blog!
Last night my sister Daphne and I watched the movie, A Little Chaos, with Kate Winslet as Sabine, a 17th century landscape architect, and Alan Rickman as King Louis XIV. It was rather a lovely fiction about a the building of an outdoor ballroom at Versailles Palace (apparently the ballroom was real, but the screenplay was TMU: totally made up.) In addition to enjoying just about anything set in the 17th century, we were thrilled to see familiar floors, archways, hallways and yes, the magnificent stairway we had seen when we visited Ham House last fall. This house and garden are part of the National Trust located just about 10 miles from London at Richmond-upon-Thames, Surrey.
Ham House is a beautiful place, and I could not get enough of it, literally. Before visiting London I had corresponded with Lucy Worsley, a brilliant person who had recommended Ham as an excellent experience of a 17th century manor house. I had looked it up and thought I had all the details right, my two sisters and I took the train, but when we arrived at Richmond we got caught in a rain shower and ducked into a pub for a while. I thought we still had plenty of time because the place wouldn't close until 5 pm, and we arrived before 3.
And our arrival was heroic, because my sister Gayle had worn her high-heeled boots that day. She swore they were comfortable to walk in, but we had about 1.5 miles to walk from Richmond, on a dirt path. It was a gorgeous day along the river, but poor Gayle could hardly enjoy it. And when we arrived for our tickets, the agent told us in fact we were late, because the shop would be open until 5 pm, but sorry, the house was closing at 3 pm.
She took pity on us (must have seen three very distressed faces) and said we could just take a quick run through if we would hurry. We did! The floors, the walls, the green closet, the fabulous library, the gallery, the kitchen and so on. And then the chapel. And the magnificent carved staircase.
Thank goodness when they escorted us from the house I bought the books from their store, because when I saw certain scenes in the movie, particularly the house where landscaper Monsieur André Le Nôtre lived with his very naughty wife, I knew we had been there. The same floors, the same corridors, the arches, the front entry and gate. And the unmistakable balustrade carved with trophies of arms, with carved baskets of flowers on the newels.
Why did they use a house outside of London when the movie is set outside of Paris? My guess is because it was probably less expensive, and also because the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale lavishly decorated the house to show their high position in rich 17th century society.
I may be whining a bit here, as I wished to linger a while in the halls at Ham House, and absorb the feel of it, maybe see if a ghost or two might tap me on the shoulder. But alas, we had to leave. My poor sister could barely walk back to Richmond, but the Clark's Shoe Store did benefit because she could not go another step in those boots and bought a lovely pair of patent leather flats. I wonder, if we had been shopping the in the 17th century, would they have been satin slippers instead?
The movie was interesting, mildly entertaining, but lovely for the cast (who does not love Alan Rickman?), the costumes and, of course, the wonderful settings. My only criticism would be that poor Kate's wardrobe was drab by Louis XIV standards, and her hair was just as messy when she was going to court as when she was working in the garden. Disappointing. But it was truly a thrill to see on the screen the wonderful place we visited, and remember setting foot on those stairs.
Ham House also serves as the model for a location in my upcoming prequel to Sharavogue, working title Glencurragh. Read Sharavogue and follow this blog for information on new books coming soon. Sharavogue is available on amazon.com, barnes&noble, iTunes for iPad, or Google books.
If you are looking for a unique way to celebrate the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day this year, consider getting a new haircut. In this woodcut by Albrecht Druer from 1521, you can see the glib or “glybbe” haircut that was once popular with runners and kerns (Gaelic soldiers during the middle ages).
For the ancient Irish runners this cut was a badge of honor, and also a thorn in the side of the English who hated it and wanted to have it outlawed.
To achieve this look, the hair at the back and side of the head is trimmed very short, while the front and top are kept long, giving you a large fringe to fall down over your face much like the forelock of a horse.
It might have looked a little like this image at left or, depending on the skill of your stylist, the image at right.
Whatever their hairstyle, fast and long-distance runners have long been appreciated by the Irish. According to Patrick Weston Joyce’s “A Social History of Ancient Ireland," Irish kings always kept runners in their employment as messengers or couriers, and sometimes they were women: “Finn Mac Dumail had a female runner who figures in the story of Dermot and Grania.”
In the time of Henry VIII, Pope Paul III had a number of “Rome-runners” (as opposed to "rum runners") or messengers who traveled back and forth between Ireland and Rome to keep the Pope informed about Reformation activity.
For the Irish Citizen’s Army founded in 1913 by James Connolly, the "Fianna Boys" were trained to act as messengers and runners during the actual uprising.
And, keeping the tradition going in 1984, John Treacy of Ireland, a graduate of Providence College in Rhode Island, won the Marathon Silver Medal in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
To read more about this, please visit the Irish Archaeology blog post, “16th Century Irish Hipsters.”
And have a delightful St. Patrick's Day!
Part 6 in a series on personal branding
For using personal branding to advantage, Napoleon Bonaparte was truly the emperor among history's royals. In Getty Museum's book, Symbols of Power in Art, Napoleon gets his own chapter, "A Case Apart." Historian Jules Tulard wrote, "There have been more works written about Napoleon Bonaparte than there have been days since his death."
His mother said Napoleon behaved like a ruler even from an early age (sounds like a typical toddler to me…) but struggled to fit in at school. He spent a lot of time alone reading, thinking and dreaming. At age 16 he wrote, "Always alone in the midst of people, I return home in order to give myself up with unspeakable melancholy to my dreams. How do I regard life today?"
His dreams even then must have been quite powerful for, while he valued revolution and political reform, what he wanted most was personal glory. His path to power was through military leadership and successes, and he once advised one of his generals to concentrate on "strength, activity, and a firm resolve to die with glory. These are the three great principles of military art which have always turned fortune favourable to me in all my operations. Death is nothing; but to live defeated and without glory is to die every day."
Tulard regarded Napoleon's brand persona as "the myth of the savior," truly the great leader on the white horse, bringing power, prestige and glory to France. Napoleon had a brilliant understanding for how to maintain this image using portraits, objects and writings:
"From carefully falsified army bulletins, to paintings and engravings, to the jewelled snuffboxes adorned with his portrait and distributed to the bishops who officiated at his coronation as Emperor, Napoleon knew how to create a cult of personality that maximised his popularity and sought to win the loyalty of those who might oppose him." --From History Today, "Napoleon the Man," Gemma Betros
His portraits are carefully constructed to show him as a fierce and valiant military leader on the white horse, a thoughtful and compassionate government administrator, a god-like ruler with the scepter of Charles V and the hand of justice of Charlemagne. Eagles on carpets and furniture symbolize imperial power, the bee embroidered into clothing symbolize industry. His feet do not touch the ground but rest on ornate pillows, indicating his godlike authority. In these images he invested heavily, but he could not tolerate criticism and worked to suppress images that opposed this persona.
"When he rose to power in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte had serious concerns about comedic references to his personage. He immediately ordered the closure of all satirical papers in Paris and let it be known that cartoonists who toyed with his image would be dealt with severely. In 1802, he attempted to insert a clause into the Treaty of Amiens with England stipulating that any British cartoonists or caricaturists who used his image in their art should be treated in the manner of murderers and forgers. The English rejected the unusual amendment." --From psychologist Nichole Force in a post about the dangers of humor
But over time his ability to suppress negative information was unsuccessful, especially when military defeats and other issues began to fray his persona and reveal the divergence between the image and the man. A series of key portraits depict his rise as a young officer and his eventual and dramatic decline, brought on, according to some historians, by his swollen ego and perhaps the remnants of the lonely teenager he had once been.
"Where the eager young officer would energetically mine others for advice, and the self-assured First Consul could openly admit to being wrong, as Emperor Napoleon became increasingly reluctant to hear the opinions of advisors, gradually preferring to work long hours in a solitude that suggested not so much ambition as quiet desperation as he led France to defeat." --Betros
Three takeaways from Napoleon
How can Napoleon's personal branding experience inform the personal branding of an author?
- A personal brand persona must align with the actions of the person. You've heard the old saying, actions speak louder than words. When what you exhibit or say differs from what you actually do, you break down the trust that is essential to any brand, personal or corporate.
- Prepare your brand for transparency rather than duplicity. In Napoleon's day duplicity served him by allowing him to appear to be doing one activity while covertly planning something entirely different. But in today's world of social media, this kind of misrepresentation is almost impossible to maintain and in the long run will get you smeared.
- Always be willing to listen to trusted advisors and well-intended feedback. Just as every writer needs an editor, every person needs to understand how he or she is seen from the outside. Nor can we see all perspectives in every situation. Most people want you to succeed, and their well-intended advice may not always be helpful but it is worth listening to, just in case. It can also help you to temper those things that drive you, so that they do not drive you into the ground.
Next week, Part 7 in the series will look at two American leaders who, although they were not royalty, created strong personas to help them gain the support of the populace.
Previous posts in the series:
Embark on an adventure in Irish history with the novel Sharavogue, winner of the 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award. Now available from online booksellers. Author Nancy Blanton will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival, February 20-21, 2015. You may also connect with her on Facebook.
Part 4 in series on personal branding Sometimes called Good Queen Bess, Gloriana, or The Virgin Queen, the second daughter of Henry VIII became Queen Elizabeth I of England at the age of 25. She quickly and masterfully defined herself in the eyes of her people -- that is, she established her personal brand.
At a disadvantage from the beginning because she was female, protestant, and the daughter of the executed Anne Boleyn, she was also coming into power after the death of her half-sister Mary, aka "Bloody Mary." Elizabeth needed to establish a firm base of power that her courtiers and her people could respect and accept. In her case, facing the likelihood of Catholic assassins, a strong personal brand was truly a matter of life or death.
Values and positioning
Elizabeth had been in training for royalty for a long time. She knew what she wanted: Increased world trade, supreme naval power, religious unity, and economic prosperity. She didn't care for war, but did not shrink from it in order to protect and defend her power and her nation.
To those ends, Elizabeth not only created a powerful persona, but also "positioned" herself as a strong and just ruler, a most noble and formidable king in a gentle woman's body.
Positioning is a way to define yourself to your audience in a positive and memorable way, while differentiating yourself from your competitors or predecessors.
If I were to quickly write Queen Elizabeth's positioning statement, first I would beg forgiveness at being so bold and admit a royal positioning statement would require a lot of serious thought and development time. That said, it might go something like this:
For the people of England, France and Ireland, we (the royal we) descend under divine right from Britain's greatest monarchs, to establish peace, religious unity, international trade and naval dominance, and to maintain their well-being, security and prosperity.
- Elizabeth based her claim to the throne first on history, descending from the Trojans, linking to King Arthur and Henry VIII. This history and provides the background to her many symbolic portraits, and to this she added color choices, iconography, and especially consistency.
- Elizabeth did not care to sit for portraits so eventually artists were given "approved" facial forms to paint from, adding to the consistency and agelessness of her persona.
- She preferred white gowns to emphasize her fair skin and bright hair, and augmenting her image of purity. Her courtiers wore miniatures of her to show their devotion, and had their own portraits painted wearing Elizabeth's colors – black, white, red and gold. (At the time, red and black dyes were difficult to obtain and process, so they were restricted to the wealthy.)
- In addition to portraits, Elizabeth's persona was communicated (and sometimes created for her) through poetry, drama, music and architecture.
Power of Portraits
Elizabeth had no advertising or social media to broadcast her message, so of course portraits were the best way to establish her persona. After the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, a famous portrait (above) shows her with the ships in the background and her feet upon a map of the world. Her hand rests on a globe below the crown, her fingers cover the Americas, indicating England's plans for expansion , and she is flanked by two columns suggesting her history. In the background the ships are driven to dark destruction while Elizabeth enjoys the sunlight.
“Elizabeth’s savvy in regard to managing and manipulating public opinion was substantial. She spent lavishly on gowns, jewels, portraits and royal progresses, whistle-stop horseback tours of her domain that let her see and be seen. Her skill with rhetoric, both visual and verbal, was undisputed, as in the legendary speech delivered to her troops on the eve of the Spanish Armada. The queen, dressed in an Athenalike white gown and silver breastplate, told her men, 'I have the body of a weak, feeble woman, but the heart and stomach of a king—and of a King of England too.’” --Hanne Blank Virgin, The Untouched History
In what is known as "the pelican portrait" she wears pearls indicating purity, the Tudor rose indicating unity, and a pendant that shows a pelican mother caring for her young. In Elizabeth's time, mother pelicans symbolized self sacrifice of mothers to care for their young, and as an icon represented Elizabeth as mother and protector of her Protestant nation and her subjects.
As Elizabeth aged and determined that she would never marry, she became famous for her virginity -- even though many believed she'd had a long-term love affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. She was celebrated as The Virgin Queen in the portraits, pageants and literature of the day.
Virginity was a courtly ideal. In younger days Elizabeth's virginity had represented her purity, innocence and chastity, making her a perfect bride for some wealthy prince. As she aged and all suitors were refused, her virginity was spun into a maternal sacrifice of herself for her country and her people, lending an air of holiness to her reign.
Elizabeth was also immortalized by the poet Edmund Spenser in his epic The Faerie Queen, where she was represented as a goddess and the embodiment of beauty and virtue. In reality, about this time her skin had been damaged by small pox, she'd lost much of her hair, and had to wear wigs and heavy makeup. Still, her gowns in some portraits are magnificent constructions of high shoulders and great wings. The Rainbow Portrait, painted when Elizabeth was in her 60s, is actually one of her sexiest, with her white floral bodice, her loose hair and elaborate headdress, a mantle draped over one shoulder, and a cloak designed with eyes and ears motif, the serpent of wisdom on her sleeve, the a rainbow with the motto "no rainbow without the sun." She reminds me of the recording artist Cher in this one: Ageless and outlandish.
In spite of many difficulties during her reign, Elizabeth remained popular with the majority of her subjects, and was praised as a heroine of the Protestant cause and the ruler of a golden age. Following her death in 1603, the date of her accession was a national holiday for 200 years.
Reason to believe
So what can be gleaned from Elizabeth's positioning in terms of personal branding?
- Your persona must support your positioning statement.
- Once developed, positioning can guide your marketing strategy and tactics to serve you for the long-term.
- The choices you make to represent your brand, such as colors, imagery and messaging, should be thoughtful and consistent, repeated again and again.
To create a good positioning statement you should (1) define your target audience, (2) include the frame of reference, as in the category or genre in which you operate, (3) articulate the benefit or unique qualities being offered and (4) give customers a reason to believe you will deliver on your promise.
Next week, part 5 of the series will focus on Louis XIV.
Sharavogue recently won first place for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards! You can purchase a copy from online booksellers and at the Book Loft on Amelia Island, FL. I will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival Feb. 20-21.
In honor of St. Patrick's Day today I am honoring a famous woman in Irish history, Grace O'Malley, also known as "the pirate queen," and "Granuaile." Grace was an amazing woman who supported her countrymen in rebellion against the English, defended her family castle, and stood face to face with Queen Elizabeth herself. Born in Ireland during the time of King Henry VIII, her father was a chieftain, her family seafaring, and her home deeply rooted in Clew Bay, County Mayo. Her family owned a string of castles protecting the coast, and the fishermen in the region paid a tax for that protection.
Story has it that Granuaile was a nickname her father gave her -- it means short or cropped, and that's exactly what she did to her hair when her father told her she could not accompany him on a trade voyage because her hair would get caught in the rigging.
Apparently she married two or three times, and had several children. When she took to the seas two of her sons, Tibbot and Murrough, were beside her. With their ships tucked into the bays, they awaited merchant ships passing through their waters, then stopped and boarded them to demand a toll in cash or cargo.
In 1593 when her two sons and half brother were taken captive by the governor of Connacht, the pirate queen sailed to England for an audience with Queen Elizabeth to argue for their release. Even so, Grace defiantly refused to bow before the English queen because she did not recognize her as queen of Ireland.
Grace's story is long and complex, twisting and turning as many Irish stories do. She inspired legends, poems and songs, and I had her in mind as I set the character Elvy on a path toward her territory in my book, Sharavogue. For a good biography on Grace and her adventures, look for Anne Chambers' book, Granuaile.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
I feel it is a great honor when readers share with me that they read my book, Sharavogue, and then describe the parts that affected them most. In a few cases it has actually sent a chill up my spine because, well, it is every writer's dream that her writing will be enjoyed and will actually touch someone. In that sense, it is really a dream come true. People ask all sorts of questions, but several have told me they'd be interested in learning about my writing process. I'm flattered, and a little embarrassed. I've been less than methodical in my research, so probably not a good model. But, everyone has their story, right? So in honor of my new friend Joan Butler, today I'm starting a series of posts about just that. I'm expecting it to be about 10 or 12 posts, and will gladly take questions from readers to cover a specific topic.
This being first in the series, I'm starting at the beginning -- how I got started writing this book in the first place. So hold on to your jammies, here goes. We're going back. Way back:
I'd wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. Alone in my bedroom, maybe 10 years old, I wrote little stories about dogs and squirrels and gave them to my mother to read (top secret, of course, because if my sisters had known about them they'd have teased me relentlessly). And Mother in Heaven forgive me, once I even had a story about a swan on a lake. (I know, it's been done...) My poor mother had to come listen to it accompanied by me on my ukelele (I thought the instrument was cute and had to have it, but never actually learned how to play it...). My father always called me "the dreamer." Little did he know.
In grade school and then college I continued my dreams. I dabbled in English, and then Education, until my roommate finally convinced me: If you want to write, study journalism! I did and have never regretted it, but in a way it distracted me from those stories. And my career drifted even further, from journalism to corporate communications, until I believed my stories were gone for good.
The last time I saw my father alive was in the fall of 1996. By then I was married and living in Seattle. I was visiting him in Florida. He took me to lunch and asked, "When are you going to start writing again?" I don't think he knew about the squirrel stories, but had always been proud of the newspaper ones. I shrugged and said I didn't know if I could write anymore. My writing was all bureaucratic now.
He said, quite simply, "You'll write when you're ready."
We lost him in March of the following year. It was almost exactly a year after his death that I was awakened from a deep sleep, as sure as if someone had shaken me, and a phrase was in my head: A snow path to Dingle. A snow path to Dingle -- a phrase so strong and nonsensical, it had to come from somewhere, for some reason, and it refused to leave. Hardly having any choice, I resolved to do some research to discover its meaning.
And, because I already loved historical fiction, and had twice visited Dingle in the west of Ireland to explore our family's Irish heritage, I felt I had a basic foundation and a clear place to start. And so I was off...on a real adventure.
When I talk to people about the setting of my book Sharavogue, and mention the name Cromwell, I get confused looks: cognitive dissonance. Most people have heard of Cromwell, but I am writing about the 17th century, and the man they tend to think of by that name lived in the 16th century, serving the court of King Henry VIII. After Cardinal Woolsey fell from favor by failing to produce this king's annulment from Queen Catherine of Aragon, his protege Thomas Cromwell took up the work. It was Thomas who orchestrated the marriage to Anne Boleyn, and who dissolved and destroyed the country's monasteries and churches to fill the king's coffers with their riches. By 1540, Thomas himself fell from favor and was executed for treason, though good Henry later regretted it. More than a century later, Oliver Cromwell gained prominence through the Parliamentary army's victory in the English civil war. And for anyone with a drop of Irish blood in their veins, it is this Cromwell who makes that blood run cold. Oliver shook the foundations of Europe's monarchies when he beheaded King Charles I for treason in 1649, and later became Lord Protector (rather than king) of the English Commonwealth. But between those two historic events, he marched his army across Ireland to massacre the Irish people and crush a rebellion. If you've ever heard the term "decimation," it comes directly from his practice of killing every tenth man among his captives, and shipping the rest to the West Indies to work until they died.
Ironically, Oliver Cromwell wasn't really a Cromwell at all. He was a Williams. As Antonia Fraser deftly explains in her definitive biography, Cromwell, Oliver descended from Thomas Cromwell's sister Katherine, who married Morgan Williams. Their son Richard adopted the "more celebrated" Cromwell name and this continued to be used by Richard's descendents. Apparently it was not uncommon during this time for families to adopt the name of a famous relative in hopes of benefitting from that prominence.
But wait, the ironies continue. The true descendents of Thomas Cromwell became Earls of Ardglass, and this family supported the Royalist side, opposing Parliament when Oliver led that army to victory. And though Richard Williams took the name Cromwell as a means to elevate his family, eventually it backfired as the two Cromwells became one in the modern mindset, and in addition to the brutal killings in Ireland, Oliver Cromwell also takes the blame for the hated archtectural destruction perpetrated by Thomas.
Oliver does retain his fan base, however. Though hated for his violence and brutality in Ireland and his Puritan oppression of the English court, he is revered by some for his military prowess and for introducing the idea of a commonwealth for England.