NWW Photo Prompt: DIMPLES

Now that I’ve gotten a handle on this “blogging” thing, I’ve decided to participate in a Photo Prompt challenge.  This prompt was created by North West Writers and new photos are posted bi-monthly.  The current photo is near and dear to my heart.  As this is my first “assignment”, I thought I’d try something with characters I was already familiar with; the scene, and the lyrics contained in it, will fit beautifully into my second novel, THE WOODSMAN’S ROSE. The setting is the 1880s Arizona Territory; a masquerade dance is given for Irene Donovan’s eighteenth birthday, which falls on Hallowe’en.

Dimples

The band took a break and the dance floor was cleared for the children, who ran and jumped and chased one another merrily until many of them fell into exhausted heaps in the corners.  Sixyearold Kathleen Flaherty was still going, though, and approached Daniel with a request.

“Would you play your fiddle for us?”  Several voices chimed agreement.

“I don’t have my fiddle with me, but maybe I could borrow the band’s.  Would that be okay?”

“Sure.  But you’ll have to be careful not to break it.”

“I’ll be real careful.  Let’s go ask them, shall we?”

Kathleen did the asking and the band’s fiddle was delivered into Daniel’s hands.

“What should I play?”  he asked Kathleen.

“Rory and me can jig.”

“Well, you go get him and I’ll play a jig for you.”

RORY!  Startled, her brother jumped up from the floor.  “C’mon, we’re gonna dance!”

They took their places in the middle of the floor, Kathleen in her velvet dress, Rory in his kilt.  He was several inches taller and as dark as she was fair.  They stood perfectly still while Daniel tuned the instrument, and were ready with the first note.

Their little legs flew so fast it was hard to tell when their feet touched the floor.  Their arms hung unmoving at their sides.  They faced their audience, then each other, then turned and danced in a circle –- hop, skip, fling out the legs in perfect time with the music.  Suddenly Norah Riley joined them in her petticoats, her brother Tim in his kilt, and they missed not a beat as they took on their new partners. Their faces were stiff with concentration.  Kathleen’s curls were flying around, Norah’s petticoats looked like a bright, everchanging rainbow.  The boys skipped back to let the girls have the limelight, then took their own turn front and center.

They were dancing together again when the music ended.  They were so still when the last note sounded, it seemed that they had never moved at all.

“Hurrah!” shouted Brian, clapping his hands against his massive thighs.  Every voice echoed in praise for the children.  “Start it up again, brother!”

As Daniel began to play again, Brian grabbed Irene by the arm and hauled her out onto the floor.  Brian’s dancing had more energy than grace, but his sister matched him step for step, her long slender body lithe as a fairy’s, her feet touching the floor lightly each time he landed with a thump.  The fringed hem of her dress flew up with each step, revealing the knees that had captured Jeff Scott’s attention. Yet it was her feet they watched – so quick, so light, so graceful in movement.  She seemed to be dancing on clouds.

Her parents joined the dance, then Frank led Patricia to the floor.  John Riley asked his new bride, who laughingly refused him, then turned to Moira Flaherty.  Daniel picked up the tempo and when he finished the song, they were all redfaced and panting.

Daniel saw his wife beaming at him, the tiny dimple in her chin deepened by her smile, and he began to play again.  Sweet and soft, slow and loving, came the old Welsh ballad, and he played it for her alone.  Though the floor was filled with dancers and a score of bodies moved between them, she heard the words from his heart to hers,

Of all the proud fellows, the proudest I’ll be
When the Maid of Llanwellyn smiles sweetly on me.

It was the song that had won her heart, the song he had courted her with.  That he had played for her at their wedding.  And her heart responded now.

I love you, arrah. All will be well. Believe in it. All will be well.

Blogging 101 & what’s it’s done for me …

Being new to the Blogosphere and not making too much progress on my own in terms of readers and comments garnered with each post, I decided to take Blogging 101, a free class offered by WordPress. I needed to discover what I was doing wrong, and how to do it right. Or if I was doing it right, how to do it BETTER. Here’s what I learned:

1.) A blog is like a book. I put my blog out there on a virtual shelf like it was a book I had published. And then I waited for readers to come and pick it up. I had subscribed to a few other blogs, but I hadn’t really joined in on the community.

Wait a minute! I wouldn’t have put my book out there without any support — why was I trying to do that with my blog? Who will know it’s there without at least a little bit of prompting from me? Community — that’s the ticket! And though I’m still a bit behind the curve in that respect, I now have the tools I need to catch up (whenever I complete my initial round of queries and the last round of edit on my second manuscript).

2.) Tags and categories. They’re both important, but they’re not the same thing: categories are broad and tags are more specific. And the WordPress system will ignore any post with more than 14 tags and categories combined.

Who knew? I had one only post with the “over 14” offense, but most of the other posts were suffering from cross-contamination in the category/tag fields. Time to clean it up!

3.) Widgets are wonderful! I didn’t even know they were called widgets, but I’d seen them on other bloggers’ pages and I knew I needed some.

I learned how to get them as well as how to make them work for me.

4.) I’m not sure this was covered per se, but in reading the creative ways people were coming up with titles for their blogs, I realized that the titles for my posts were pretty “blah”.

I published a new post on St Patrick’s Day (if you’ve been following, you know I’m part Irish). I was going to call it something like “St Patrick’s Legacy”. Blah, blah, blah. What I actually published was “St Patrick and the Slave Trade”, and the new title not only more directly described the post, but it garnered me more views than I ever had before.

I’m going to try to come up with some new titles for my previously published posts (and if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!)

5.) Restricting myself wasn’t working. More than one task on Blogging 101 recommends expanding the focus of your blog.

“But how?” was my first reaction. I’m blogging about a book, and a bit about the research I’ve done to create that book. I don’t want to talk about my sewing projects, arts and crafts, or how I trained my pig of a cat to wait for his sister to finish her dinner before he scarfed down the left-overs.

I want to talk about my books.

So I did some really serious thinking and decided to keep on posting about things I found during my research. Maybe to add a sample of my writing here and there. But that was really all I came up with.

Then I was cutting a scene from the manuscript I’m editing. It was a Welsh legend about Olwen, daughter of the giant Ysbaddaden, and Culwych, the cousin of King Arthur. It’s considered one of the earliest recorded Arthurian tales. As I cut it from the manuscript, I thought, “Why don’t you put that on your blog?”

So I says to meself: What else is in my books that I can use? Well, there’s a lot more Celtic lore, along with many rarely-heard traditional Irish songs, and other Irish songs that were adapted to America like “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”. Plus, there’s 19th century poetry; cowboy songs from the American West; Native American lore; herbology; etc., etc., etc. All included or referenced in my manuscripts.

By the time I had finished the list of inclusions, I’d come up with 10 additional subjects that I could write about — and all of them are related to my Donovan family saga! I can create new pages for some, find new examples of others — and all of a sudden I’m so excited about the blog that I now have to convince myself every day that writing the books comes first!

6.) Last but not least, I realized that I absolutely love photography blogs!

All of this from Blogging 101. So if you’re on WordPress and stuck on your blog in any way, shape or form, or even if you just want to make your successful blog better, let me HIGHLY recommend this course — tons of good info and bright ideas!

Slainte!

BTW, you can expect to see the legend of Culwych & Olwen some time next week. There’s this little matter of reformatting the blog that needs to come first.

Tuesday Trivia #4: What’s in a Name?

Today’s trivia concerns some new words I’ve learned during my research, as well as one that’s often misunderstood.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to match the words A through D to definitions 1 through 4:

A.  Porter
B.  Hogan
C.  Laager
D.  Kiva

1.  A camp defended by a circular formation of wagons.
2.  An underground chamber used by Native Americans for ceremonies
3.  A traditional Native American dwelling made of logs and mud
4.  An Irish drink made from malt that’s been charred

Now, now, no googling. Go with your gut! I’ll post the correct answers Wednesday evening.

UPDATE: The correct answers are:

A4, B3, C1, D2

How many did you get right?

The Goal

Ever since the New Year, it seems everyone has been talking about “The Goal”. January was a month of promises and optimism; in early February the glitter started to wear off; and now at the beginning of March, so many lament.

With writer friends, specifically, the goals set up were so many words and so many chapters, so much editing and so many queries. The goals were strenuous, Herculean, all but impossible unless every other little thing fell into place. Then life happened.

Now, the laments are for too few words/chapters, not enough editing, too many rejections. In a word, failure.

One lament in particular made me look inside myself and wonder: where was I when all these goals were being established and paraded around? Why am I sitting here now with no lost goal to lament?

The answer is both simple and complex.

I find that I don’t understand the “goal” as a calculated end result. I don’t sing because Pharrell is going to make me a superstar. I sing because the song is in me. I write because the stories leap to my throat and must find their way to reality.

For me, the “goal” is the writing. Yes, I’d love to be published and I’m working on that as hard as I can. Writing is like singing the song — publishing is winning The Voice. Being too old, too sick, too “retro” to appear on The Voice will never make me stop singing. Being rejected for (insert reason) is not going to make me stop writing.

Perhaps it’s me. Perhaps my world is upside down. Or backwards. All I know is that I’m going to make my story the Chateaubriand of stories. Clean my plate, polish it off, and maybe I’ll get Publishing for dessert.

But the goal remains the same — the story must be told.

I understand weariness. I understand the urge to surrender. I understand getting up every day wondering how on earth I’ll find my way through the pain today. And, yes, every once in awhile I give in. I lay in bed and wallow in it. But I. will. not. let. it. win.

Will I find an agent? Maybe. Will my stories be published? Could happen. I’m doing my best every day to make that dream come true.

But, agents and publishing aside, and whatever the pain (physical or metaphysical) is, there is still just this one goal: the story needs to be told.

Slainte!