Old Settler’s Song

#amwriting #amsinging #folkmusic

In the mid-19th century, the Gold Rush left many hopeful miners dispirited and penniless. Rumors abounded that the Pacific Northwest was ripe for the plucking, with rich, fertile soil for those willing to work it. Unfortunately, most of that soil was covered with timber, and years of work were needed before it would yield enough crops to sustain a family. Another dream dashed, but in its place was the possibility of “farming” the sea.

This song is also known as “Acres of Clams”, and is sung to the tune of the old Irish favorite Rosin the Beau. The phrase “I started one morning to shank it” simply means “I started off on foot”; the shin or leg was commonly known as the “shank” in the 19th century, and walking was often referred to as traveling “by shank’s mare.” You can listen to a version of this song by The Travelers here.


I’ve traveled all over this country
Prospecting and digging for gold;
I’ve tunneled, hydraulicked and cradled,
And I have been frequently sold.

And I have been frequently sold,
And I have been frequently sold.
I’ve tunneled, hydraulicked and cradled,
And I have been frequently sold.


For each man who got rich by mining,
Perceiving that hundreds grew poor,
I made up my mind to try farming
The only pursuit that was sure.
So rolling my grub in my blanket,
I left all my tools on the ground,
And started one morning to shank it
For the country they call Puget Sound.

For the country they call Puget Sound,
The country they call Puget Sound.
I started one morning to shank it
For the country they call Puget Sound.


Arriving flat broke in midwinter,
I found it enveloped in fog
And covered all over with timber
Thick as hair on the back of a dog.
When I looked on the prospects so gloomy,
The tears trickled over my face.
I thought that my travels had brought me
To the end of the jumping off place.

To the end of the jumping off place.
The end of the jumping off place.
I thought that my travels had brought me
To the end of the jumping off place.


I staked me a claim in the forest
And sat myself down to hard toil.
For two years I chopped and I loggered
But I never got down to the soil.
I tried to get out of the country
But poverty forced my to stay,
Until I became an old settler
Then nothing could drive me away.

Then nothing could drive me away,
Nothing could drive me away.
Until I became an old settler,
Then nothing could drive me away.


And now that I’m used to the climate,
I think that if a man ever found
A place to live easy and happy,
That Eden is on Puget Sound.
No longer the slave of ambition,
I laugh at the world and its shams,
As I think of my happy condition
Surrounded by acres of clams.

Surrounded by acres of clams.
Surrounded by acres of clams.
I think of my happy condition
Surrounded by acres of clams.


#amwriting #amquerying #IrishMusic

In honor of my #PitchWars entry, DONOVAN, the first in my Irish family saga, here’s song about the Irish emigration. Made popular in the late 19th century, it is hopeful and upbeat as many of the emigrant songs of the times were, as stories of gold to be found in the streets of America were common. The reference to “many a house besides” is probably a reference to a (ahem!) “cat house”. You can listen to The Dubliner’s version of the song here.

Goodbye, Muirsheen Durkin

In the days I went courtin’, I was never tired resortin’

To the alehouse and the playhouse or many a house beside.

I told me brother Seamus I’d go off and go right famous,

And before I’d return again I’d roam the world wide.



So good-bye Muirsheen Durkin, I’m sick and tired of working,

No more I’ll dig the praties, no longer I’ll be fooled.

For as sure as me name is Carney, I’ll be off to Californey,

where instead of diggin’ praties, I’ll be diggin’ lumps of gold.


I’ve courted girls in Blarney, in Kanturk and in Killarney,

In Passage and in Queenstown, that is the Cobh of Cork.

Good-bye to all this pleasure, for I’m going to take me leisure,

And the next time you will hear from me

Will be a letter from New York.




Good-bye to all the girls at home, I’m sailing far across the foam

To try to make me fortune in far Amerikay,

For there’s gold and money plenty for the poor and gentry,

And when I come back again I never more will stray.



Notes: “Muirsheen” is an often used pet name for Maurice, Mary, or Maureen, Durkin probably being the dedicatee’s last name. This tune is often sung in the US as “Good-bye, Molly Durkin”, and the singer’s name is sometimes recorded as “Kearney”.

PSA: Yes, “Spirit Animals” Are Cultural Appropriation- That Means You

An excellent article on appropriating cultures.

The Hoodoo Witch

Another important topic has been bought up on my dash, and that is the use of “spirit animals”. Having an animal guide or an animal familiar or an animal you really like is not the same as a spirit animal: and for those of you who are confused, here are several Tumblr posts to help you understand:


[NB: if you (like me) are non-Native and you reblogged agentotter’s commentary PLEASE read sofriel’s refutation below. “Spirit Animal” as a non-Native phrase is SUPER FUCKED UP.]






Petition to start using “patronus” instead of “spirit animal” because not being appropriative is pretty rad.

Okay let’s go through this one more time. Deep breath.

If you think the concept of “spirit animals” comes from Native American religious practices, you are wrong. Also, you’re probably basing your ideas about Native American spiritualism on…

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#PimpMyBio for #PitchWars!

PitchWars is not just another contest – not just another chance to snag an agent’s attention or improve your query, pitch or first page. No, on Wednesday, August 3, PitchWars is a chance to work one-on-one with a published author for two months, polishing up every page of your manuscript! The contest is run by the fabulous Brenda Drake and all the deets are on her blog here.
As a potential mentee, I’m pimpin’ out my bio to entice all the mentors any mentor to work with me. I’ll start by telling you
What I write:
I write historical fiction/romance – stories about a family of Irish immigrants who settled in the Arizona Territory. Right now there are three completed novels, a follow-up and a “prequel” started, and at least three more planned. The story I’m submitting is DONOVAN, the first novel of the series.
Why have I chosen that subject and time period?
1. I grew up on cowboy TV and I really, really wanted to be a cowboy. Not a cowgirl – they wore silly skirts and sat sideways on horses. A cowboy. I was asked in school one time (I think I was 8) who was the greatest hero in American history, and I answered “Roy Rogers”. The hard-core Knight of the Range and the literature of that time, that place – both live deep inside me.
2. My father’s family were Irish immigrants. Legend has it that his Uncle Jack was chased out of Ireland by the Black & Tans, escaping by the skin of his teeth. Several years ago, I realized that my Irish ancestors from County Clare had to have lived through the worst of the Irish Famine (An Gorta Mor), a disaster that cut Ireland’s population by at least one-third while Irish-grown food was exported to England at astronomical rates. I felt compelled to tell the stories of the survivors – the ones who somehow held body and soul together, managed to live through it, and found a way to prosper.
3. On my mother’s side, I’m descended from the Lenape Nation, so I’ve spent my life absorbing Native American history and customs.
I’ve created a diverse village in the Arizona Territory called “White’s Station”, named for a real river in AZ. While DONOVAN is the love story between two white, able and heterosexual people, there are several citizens of other ethnicities and abilities with whom they interact. Some of my later manuscripts feature these villagers as MCs.
I write in the third person multiple POV. My style is literary (some say lyrical **blushes**), but my content is commercial.
Trigger Warnings: rape/murder; physical abuse; rape/incest. All of these occur before the story opens and are presented without graphic violence, and treated with respect and empathy for the victims and/or survivors, and no sympathy/excuses for the transgressors. Within the novel, there is an unwanted pregnancy, a stillborn baby, and depression.
That being said, DONOVAN is a story about the resilience of the human spirit and there is most definitely an HEA (and no, not the kind that says, “See, he loves her – so now she’s okay.”)
So, you want dark secrets? angst? guilt? shame? romance that’s tender? and an HEA? You’ve come to exactly the right place!
What I’m good at:
1. I’m a grammar nerd – that kid in sophomore English who completed the sentence-diagramming workbook in two weeks. I have a love affair with the Oxford Comma (my husband understands there’s nothing he can do about that); I’m quite fond of the em-dash, the colon and the semi-colon, though I hate to see any of them used to do the comma’s job. I’ve also coached a couple of ESL novelists in English grammar and sentence construction.
2. I enjoy the judicious use of adverbs, adjectives and dialogue tags. I have a vast vocabulary, but know how to make the complex simple. I believe that any word can be used as long as it fulfills the sentence’s needs; as a reader I’m always looking to expand my vocabulary, and expect my readers to want the same.
Soooo… if you’re a staunch proponent of the “Heming-Way”, or otherwise totally opposed to any of the above, I’m probably not the right mentee for you. But if you enjoy the unparalleled grace of the English language, please… read on…
 What I’m looking for:
1. About one-third of the professional feedback I’ve gotten states “I didn’t connect,” whether with characters, setting or plot. A few have said they don’t understand the motivations of my male MC. I need help making people feel connected to the story I have to tell and the characters therein.
2. This book explores the inner workings of a large Irish-American clan. There are scenes that advance the family dynamics while not necessarily moving the plot along, and at times provide much-needed comic relief. My critique partners and Beta readers are split on these scenes: three say they’re “dead zones” and should be cut; three find them enjoyable and want even more; and the last wants me to scrap the whole book and write a shoot-em-up. I need professional feedback on this issue.
3. I’ve gone as far as I can to eliminate “telling”, but I wonder if it’s far enough. This has always been the hardest thing for me, and perhaps I can’t see the forest for the trees.
4. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which has the added benefit of “brain fog” on occasion. (I always feel I should say “CFS has me”, because it otherwise infers that I could, if I wanted to, throw it away like an old pair of shoes.) Anyhow, I need to have deadlines with some wiggle room – not in terms of weeks, but a day or two occasionally. On a bad day, you may have explain something twice before it sinks in, but if you’re flexible and comfortable with doing our work by e-mail and/or scheduled phone calls, I can bull my way through the problem days.
What I will/won’t do to get there:
1. I’m a perfectionist. I sometimes sweat the tiny details to the detriment of the “big picture”. I believe I’ve done everything in my power to make this manuscript the best it can be and I’m still not getting the response rate I want. So I’m willing to listen to any advice that will get me closer to my goal of traditional publication.
2. That’s not to say I’m a pushover. I won’t compromise my vision for the novel, but I will work – and work hard – wherever necessary, to create compromises we can both live with.
3. I will consider and appreciate every single bit of feedback you offer, even if it’s harsh, but
4. I won’t scrap the whole thing and write a shoot-em-up!
In conclusion, here are a few things about
Who I am:
1. Gifford MacShane is my pen name, but you can call me “Giff” (many do). It’s comprised of a family surname and a loose translation of “descended from John.” There are three important men with that name in my family: my grandfather, John Patrick Sr; my uncle, John Patrick Jr.; and my father, John Francis.
2. I’m addicted to traditional folk music, including Irish, American, Appalachian, cowboy songs, and African-American spirituals. I’m often singing or humming… anywhere, really, or any time… but if you were to ask me what the song is, I probably wouldn’t know as I might not even realize I’m singing. I’m a typical Irish soprano: if you like the Celtic Women sound, you’d like my voice. There are many snippets of traditional music contained in my works: life without music would be just too hard to bear.
3. My first library was a Book-Mobile. My grandmother lived in a tiny hamlet called Herbertsville (now part of Brick Township NJ, if you ever find yourself out that way), and my sister and I would visit her for 2 weeks every summer. The Book-Mobile came every week and parked at the village grocery store. Granny (pronounced “Grah-nee”, emphasis on the first syllable) would bring us to pick up books for my bed-ridden grandfather, who read voraciously.
Tired of kids’ books by the time I was 11, I asked the librarian to recommend something, and thus became acquainted with The Virginian by Owen Wister. Slam! Bam!! hooked on Westerns as a literary form. As a result, I read through my father’s entire collection of Zane Grey novels by the end of that summer, and still have and read those wonderful books. (If you think all there is to Zane Grey is shoot-em-ups, let me recommend The Vanishing American, The Shepherd of Guadalupe, The Light of Western Stars, or Riders of the Purple Sage. Read one and experience the depth of characterization – I’ll bet you get hooked, too!)
4. I won a puppy at the school fair when I was 12. I don’t know who was more surprised – me or my father! I do know who was happier.
5. Because of my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, theaters are too cold for me; the last movie I viewed within one was The Search for Spock. Yes, I’m a Trekkie – one of the originals – saw them all before they were re-runs. Now, I watch limited TV, and in fact lived for over 6 years without one. The only shows I make sure to see are The Daily Show and Major Crimes. I usually record them and watch them later. I love black & white movies, and anything starring Katherine or Audrey Hepburn, or Vivien Leigh. I love to see Lucille Ball in a dramatic role, don’t think much of slap-stick comedy or spoofs. I also enjoy cooking shows and TV talent competitions, as well as Yankees baseball.
6. I read every day, averaging 3 books a week. In addition to #HF and #HR, I enjoy mysteries, especially vintage noir, Dick Francis & J. D. Robb. There are over 2,000 books in my personal library. Books I read recently that I considered “GREAT” were The Time Between by Karen White, and What Boys Are Made Of by S. Hunter Nisbet. I highly recommend both.
7. I love Sudoku, but no matter how easy I find Levels 1, 2 & 4 – and I occasionally breeze through the Challenger level as well – I just can’t seem to solve the mystery of Level 3. And I love those puzzles where you have to find the hidden word after you’ve crossed off all the used letter clues.
And that’s probably more than you ever wanted to know. But if you’re still interested – please, Mentors, pick me for #PitchWars!!!
And if you’d like to check out some other hopeful contestants’ blogs (they’re amazing!) the #PitchWars Blog Hop is here.

7 Reasons Why You Should Outline Your Novel DURING Revision

Some absolutely pertinent advice, especially for Pansters like me!

A Writer's Path


by Kelsie Engen

Today we’re going to talk about how to approach the next revision step: developmental edits. Basically this means addressing the major, structural issues of your WIP before moving on to the minor things.

This step comes after you’ve read your first draft, made some comments or jotted down ideas.

Of course, whether you’ve merely jotted down ideas, or come up with new pacing suggestions, or discovered some character motivations, etc., at this point you should create a new outline.

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