Guest Blogger: Jeanne Barrack
The winner of Jeanne's book is: s7anna! Congratulations! I'll send your info along to Jeanne. Thanks to everyone who participated.
Here, for the first time, is the entire saga of my love affair with Ireland. I've shared bits and pieces at different places, but since the story has a strong touch of the paranormal, I felt Paranormality would be the perfect place to tell the full tale.
Music has always been an integral part of my life. In my day job, I'm a music therapist and singer. My mother teased me that I could sing an entire song by the time I was three years old and indeed, my folks had an old 45rpm record (yes, I'm that old!) made in one of those recording booths at Coney Island in Brooklyn of me and my mother singing a ballad from the fifties. You can hear me sing every word on key with her in my childish voice. My mother also shared that even before I was born, I had a connection with Ireland. When she was pregnant, her neighbor, a recent immigrant from Ireland, placed her hand on my mom's bulging belly and predicted that I'd be born looking like a little Irish lass with big blue eyes and a little turned up nose. (I did. Folks were convinced I was switched at birth.) I was born in May and my birthstone is the emerald -- like the "Emerald Isle". And, then, my mom used to sing "An Irish Lullaby" to me during and after her pregnancy.
So I was primed to fall under Ireland's spell.
My parents bought me a transistor radio for my thirteenth birthday and I now could listen to whatever stations I wanted without my older brother switching the stations! During the sixties, folk music was very popular and there was a station in New York that carried mostly this kind of music.
One day I heard a song that immediately caught my attention. The song was "Singing Bird" performed by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. As I heard the soft sounds of their beautiful Irish accents and the lilting and haunting melody, I fell in love. The song called to me as if I had heard it before in another place and time.
I had to hear more. I had to learn more about the place from where this song came. I had to learn more songs. As I studied Irish literature, culture, history, language and of course, music, I felt more and more as if Ireland had been my home in some other life. The connection continued. I performed Irish folk songs all over NYC and environs in pubs, winning medals at fleadhanna cheoil (Irish music competitions) and singing at weddings and special events.
One time I performed at a St. Patrick's Day party in Manhattan sponsored by the English Speaking Union, a group that supports the teaching of the English language in countries around the world. As part of the event, they showed a travel film about Ireland. Each time the scene changed I knew before the narrator spoke where the scene took place. I'm not talking about Blarney Castle or Dublin City, but the hidden byways and off the beaten path places. It was as though I had wandered those roads before.
Fast forward to my honeymoon -- in Ireland, of course. For two magical weeks we put on over 1600 miles traveling from the northernmost tip of western Ireland in Donegal to a weekend in Dublin City. And we never got lost once even though some of the roads were little more than unpaved cow paths. I knew every inch of the miles we traveled. I felt like I was coming home.
We took over two hundred pictures along the way.
And everywhere we went I experienced some strange or magical event. All the places we visited were mentioned in either Irish songs or poetry. We clambered through ruins and towers, castles and cathedrals, Bronze Age forts and St. Patrick's Mountain (Croagh Padraig) -- even cemeteries. We visited the gravesite of William Butler Yeats, one of Ireland's most famous poets. Every place was welcoming except this one old cemetery where members of the English landed gentry were buried. I could feel the presence of ancient ghosts and somehow knew we weren't wanted. I shrugged it off even though my husband also had the same feeling.
Our next stop that day was at a Georgian mansion lived in at one time, by a rich British family. Even Queen Victoria had visited there. I watched from the second floor as my husband stood at the bottom of the double stairway taking a picture of a beautiful statue on the landing above him. Suddenly, as if he were moving in slow motion, I saw him turn around and whip open the back of the camera and tear out the roll of film from inside, exposing the pictures and ruining every one on the roll. And he stood there, immobile while I raced down the stairs to him.
"What happened? Why did you do that?"
He looked at me and I still remember his answer that stunned me.
"I took a picture and when I started to wind the film, it caught. I knew what I should do -- go into a darkened room and try to save the picture by manually advancing the film -- but suddenly I felt as though I didn't have control, like someone else was moving my hands and forcing me to open the camera and get rid of the film. I'm sorry."
On that roll were pictures of the cemetery.
Of all the pictures we took, that was the only roll that was ruined.
There were other unusual incidents, but that one was so perhaps the most weird.
We came home with my love for Ireland reinforced by our time there. Seeing and hearing and stepping on Irish soil was truly like coming home for me. All of my stories with Liquid Silver Books are Irish themed. I have a wip about a very special leannan sidhe coming out next year. My first book about Ireland was A Song of the Sidhe
Here's the blurb: The place: Ireland, a long, long time ago when the Sidhe walked among mortals Donal Bawn was the most handsome man in all of Tipperary with a voice that could lure the birds from the trees. But that all changed when he angered Ogma, High King of the Tipperary Sidhe. Doomed to wander as a hunchback with a voice as thin as a reed, Donal keeps to the forests away from human companionship until one day he hears a melodious female voice singing a fragmented tune over and over. Ceoleen, a beautiful female of the Galway Sidhe has also been cursed for her vanity and foolhardiness. Blinded and exiled to a fairy ring deep in the woods, she can only repeat a broken phrase of music until that fated day when Donal finishes the song for her. But their curses are only partially broken. It will take a great deal more than music to decide their fate. Will their love be strong enough to finally free them?
You can read an excerpt at this link:
Jeanne will give away a download of A Song of the Sidhe to one commenter. The winner will be selected and posted on Tuesday evening. Stop back by to see if you won!