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A week back in Oregon and my suitcase still lies on my bedroom floor. Clothes spill from its gaping maw, and I have to climb over it all en route to the bathroom or closet. I haven't been able to bring myself to unpack until today, and then discovered something odd. I brought back a few gifts, only to find that the St. Bridget’s Cross made of rushes that I bought at Newgrange had been stolen from the case! Everything else had been turned over, bags torn open and items lying loose. It wasn't the TSA, because no note had been left inside to inform me it had been searched. A couple of things got broken, but nothing important. I’m lucky the St. Bridget’s Cross is the only thing missing.

I’m really going to have to stir my stumps and get this mess tidied up. Particularly as my schedule is going into overdrive this month and next, and I won't have time after this week. I’ve got several signings around the Portland Metro area, and the huge annual Willamette Writer’s Conference in August. I’ll post actual dates and places when I get myself organized. I'm still recovering from the journey, really. The plane from Newark to Portland was delayed by four hours, so I finally crawled into bed at 4:00AM Thursday evening, after a grueling 30 hour journey from Northern Ireland. Still, it beats a covered wagon without suspension eking its way across the Oregon Trail.

I think I’m always a little crazy for about a week after I travel back or forth between Northern Ireland and the States. I’ve learned not to contact anyone until I begin to feel more human. Yesterday was the first time I drove since coming back. That was fairly entertaining. As I pulled out of my driveway I told myself emphatically to drive on the left… which I did for about a hundred yards before realizing I wasn’t in Kansas….er, Northern Ireland anymore. Fortunately, I didn’t meet anyone, and corrected myself before getting onto the Freeway.

So, now I’ve more or less got the rest of myself together, I look forward to catching up with everyone.

celtic goddess

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The inevitability of time

It’s hard to believe I’ve been back in Northern Ireland for three months, exactly. Where did the time go?

Let me see... I finished the book and am now editing it and filling in bits and pieces; I’ve visited family here and in Scotland; traveled to Edinburgh for research purposes; gone to see some of Ireland’s ancient sights; climbed into the heart of the Mourne Mountains; traveled to Croatia and Bosnia; and met friends, old and new.

To my delight I’ve discovered yet more about myself that I didn’t know. It’s great when you can surprise yourself, just when you thought you knew who you were! Not all of it’s good, mind you, but as long as you walk away a little wiser, then I can live with it. I just said to my brother yesterday that I’m happier now than I ever have been. That amazes me. The past few years have not been easy, but this proves that time does make things better. My father, who is 88, says that time wasted on trivial matters is the one regret in life he has. He says you can replace lost money and possessions, but you can’t replace time. You can’t replace people either, I reminded him, but he had no comment on that.

I love time travel stories and movies. Back to the Future is one of my favorites along with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Doctor Who also, of course, who says, “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.”  :-)

Others of note: The Butterfly Effect, and the television series Continuum.  HG Wells’ The Time Machine, book and film, and Jana Oliver's Time Rovers Series. Then there's Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. There are so many, it's hard just to pick a few. How about a time travel (sort of) song? Brian May's '39 (Queen).

I love the what if factor, and the layer upon layer of changes that could occur from one tiny alteration in events. I suppose that’s why I wrote Time Twist, and why a time travel theme seems to run through a lot of my stories.

If you could go back in time, at least throughout your lifetime, what would you change?

timetravel

Heading south: 5,000 years into the past

Yesterday I woke up at 6am with the sun streaming through my bedroom window, and couldn't get back to sleep. The morning beckoned; too gorgeous out there to stay in bed. I’ve been wanting to drive south of the border to visit Newgrange in County Meath for some time. Here was the perfect excuse: I’m compiling an anthology of lesser known Irish myths, which will be available later in the year, so what could be better than visiting a 5,000 year old Neolithic (New Stone Age) passage tomb?

I got ready to go and as soon as Dad surfaced from his room I informed him I was off on another wee adventure. “Are you right in the head?” he wanted to know when he found out what Newgrange was. Probably not. But, at least it's only a couple of hours away by car. I took the now familiar high mountain road through the Mournes to Newry, where I’ve been back and forth a few times on my researching forays into Armagh. In Newry I headed south and picked up the M1 to Dublin. In minutes a sign by the roadside welcomed me to County Louth, and I was already in another country! Not that you could tell. It’s all beautiful.

The speed limit signs showed 120. All right! I put my foot to the accelerator... let’s see what my little Sputnik capsule (Ford Ka) was made of. It roared into delighted overdrive and zoomed past all number of trucks and RV’s. Then I remembered it was 120 kilometers per hour, not miles. Oops. Not that I reached that high, of course! I slowed down, but not before I found out that wee Sputnik definitely has warp drive capability.

At my exit not far from Drogheda I had to pay toll to leave the freeway, but had forgotten they use the Euro down here. The lady in the kiosk gave me a pitying look and accepted my two pound sterling coin for the €1.90 and handed me back 10 cents as change.

A few miles west and I arrived at the visitor centre. Coaches filled the parking lot; a popular tourist spot, obviously. To my surprise (but shouldn't have been) I discovered the majority of visitors to be American. Busloads of them! Now, here’s an odd thing. When I’m in the States I don’t hear anything out of the ordinary about the way people talk. But here I noticed immediately how loudly most of them spoke; forcing everyone around to hear whatever crossed their mind at any given time. It somewhat spoiled the atmosphere of Newgrange. Not that I expect people to talk in hushed tones of reverence, but I was there to see part of Ireland’s ancient history, not listen to folks bellow about the minutiae of life.

I am a person between worlds. The Irish treated me like an American visitor, and the Americans treated me like a local. I am both, of course, which is confusing at best. I stayed silent most of the time. I do have a lot on my mind and this trip south afforded me time to think and hopefully get perspective. But I was the only single visitor there at the time, and it appeared to disconcert the others. Strange.

But I digress. I took both of the tours available, to the Knowth site as well as Newgrange. The only time I got a feeling for the ancient majesty of these passage tombs was when I was able to steal away by myself and take photos of a standing stone in front of a parallel line-engraved kerbstone. That was brief, but at least I felt it. It was fascinating to crouch down low and follow the long passageway into Newgrange to the inner chamber, but it was devoid of any ambience. Just too many people and too many loud conversations. The guide used lighting to emulate the sunrise as it flooded through the roof box into the chamber, which was the highlight of the tour.

At the end of the afternoon, as everyone else piled into their coaches to head back to their hotels, I got into Sputnik and drove back up north. What a lovely way to spend such a glorious sunny day.

Solstice sunrise at Newgrange
(nicked from Google Images - all the other photos I took myself!)

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One of the kerbstones
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Passage entrance, with roof-box above
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Standing stone at entrance, Knowth
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View of River Boyne from top of passage tomb, Knowth
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Passageway into Knowth
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A whole other book....

I'm back from Croatia almost a week. Hard to believe that yesterday a week ago I spent the morning searching for a place other than the hotel pool to swim, and found a tiny isolated cove with no one but shoals of fish to share the Adriatic with. What a glorious experience, having the sea to myself like that!

By comparison, it was drizzly and gray in Northern Ireland yesterday. I found myself feeling a little gloomy, so closed down the computer and headed into the seaside town of Newcastle to do the one thing guaranteed to soothe the troubled female heart: shopping! I came home with some new clothes and a handbag/purse… and feel marvelous!

I had intended to write about my trip to Croatia and Bosnia, but you know something? No one honestly could care less about someone else’s vacation! So I won’t bore you. Anything of particular interest I already posted on my Facebook page. If you’re feeling generous of spirit this weekend, please go there and like the page, pretty please.  I am suffering from like envy. A lot of my compatriots’ pages have a lot more likes than me! (Whine whine whine. I guess we never get out of high school, right?) Click HERE to link there.

What I will say about life in general, is that I have learned more about myself in the past couple of years than I ever thought possible. I mean, we all think we know ourselves, don’t we? Well, I obviously didn’t. Quite honestly, I wonder how the heck I managed to get through life this far without being murdered. I’ve done so many risky things, such as traveling through Africa alone. One day I’ll ‘fess up some of the more outlandish things I’ve done… but that’s a whole other book. ;-)

The view from Mirabela Fortress in Omis, Croatia

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Bridge that links the two halves of the old town in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina
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View from the bridge. (Isn't there a song called that?) :-)
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Out to dinner in Dubrovnik, Croatia, overlooking the old town and castle
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Sampling some of the local wine
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Dubrovnik Castle
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Yin and Yang

I am once again scrambling to catch up with things, including this blog. And once again have a good excuse as to why I’m behind! All last week I was in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. I will write a separate blog about the trip, including some photos. For now I’m just checking in. You know me, if I waited to write a longer entry, it might never happen!

During my trip, back in the States my dear friend Jay Lake finally lost his battle with cancer. Reading the email from Lisa on my phone, sitting in the late afternoon sunlight as it sparkled on the azure Adriatic, I found it nigh on impossible to believe he had gone. His will to survive was so fierce I thought he might do so through sheer willpower alone. His passing was doubly sad, as another friend was already on my mind… one who was killed in Bosnia in the 90’s. Both of these men had a great zest for life and knew how to live it to the fullest. Both were taken from this world much too young. Their passing presses home to me how very precious and fragile life is.

Yin and Yang. The two opposite principles in nature. How can you truly appreciate one without the other?

yinyang rattatattoo

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"Know the place for the first time."

Last week was momentous, in that I was able to type The End on the latest book. Of course, as all you writers out there know, it doesn’t really mean the end. Not yet. I call this the fun part. (But it’s all fun, really.) Now I get to fill in the details, emotions, thoughts, and all the scene transitions where necessary. It’s a bit daunting, so the only way to do it is like most things… one page (or day) at a time!

I feel elated that the end is in sight. But also a bit gloomy. This has been my total focus since last October. Not a day has passed that I haven’t worked on it to some degree, whether it be a full day’s writing or just a tad of editing. I have run the entire gamut of emotions with this book; if anyone could peek through my webcam while I've been writing I’d have been committed to an asylum long since. I have found myself breaking out into those hysterical girlie-giggles, and have also wept with profound grief as well as laughter. I have walked every step of the way with my characters as they face the joys and ravages of life, and I've been inside the twisted mind of a sociopath. Soon it will be time to let them all go, but thankfully, not today!

The rain pours here, like it did last Sunday. Only in Northern Ireland do we go out for a wee drive and an ice cream on a day like that! Sitting in the car eating the most delicious vanilla ice cream I’ve ever tasted… the texture was glorious. And listening to 70’s music for book research while looking out at teaming rain. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

My coming back here and rediscovering Northern Ireland makes me think of one of my favorite quotes - it's well known and used for many, many things, but I first saw it on a framed poster in the Kennedy Space Center in Florida:

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."   T.S. Eliot


Rainy-Day-Girl

Dog and a Whoopee Cushion

I spent a very fun and relaxing time this weekend visiting a friend. A welcome oasis from work, although we did do some practical book related research. I learned, amongst other things, some basic electronics. Probably something anybody who did physics already knows, but as I flunked that in my first year at school, all I remember is how to make an electric current flow through water via crocodile clips!

Not really knowing what to bring as a host gift, I opted for a toy for the dog, Baxter. While out shopping earlier in the week I found a small Whoopee Cushion, made especially for dogs to play with, and couldn't wait to see it in action.
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I have to say it’s a joy to give a gift that’s really appreciated! Baxter, tail wagging furiously, enthusiastically took it from my hand and raced straight to his bed so he could guard it. He was so adorable, spending most of the weekend doing that in between playing with it. It didn’t matter how often he made it do farting noises; it was hysterical every time. I couldn't get a good video of him in the act, so instead for a laugh just posted
a Youtube video below of another dog actually sitting down on a real Whoopee Cushion.  Our poor pets... what they have to put up with from us!

We watched the movie, Man on a Ledge, which was released in 2012. It got a lot of hype prior to airing on Saturday night, so we thought we were in for something original and entertaining. Sigh. That’s another couple of hours we’ll never get back again! A review from the Chicago Sun-Times summed it up in one sentence: "The movie cuts back and forth between two preposterous plot lines and uses the man on the ledge as a device to pump up the tension."

Mental note to self:  make sure to read reviews ahead of time!  Then I can make an informed decision whether to watch it or not. :-)


Dog sits on a Whoopee Cushion


I appear to be on a roll with exploding food. Following the other day’s impromptu stew IED, today I managed to create almost as much of a mess. Heating up a couple of bowls of soup for lunch, I opened the microwave to lift one out. I don’t know how it happened but the bowl slipped from my grasp, breaking in two on the kitchen floor, and spraying vegetable soup over the microwave, counter, fridge, washing machine, wall, floor, rugs, and me…. Have you ever seen the aftermath of a vegetable soup spillage? It’s not a pretty sight.

I let out a string of curses and Dad came to investigate.

"What'd did you do that for?" he demanded.

All I could reply was, “No soup for you!” quoting the Soup-Nazi (not my description!) in Seinfeld.

Emergency! All hands on deck! Dear Dad mucked in immediately and in minutes we had everything scraped off the surfaces, sponged down, sprayed, and in Cooper’s case licked up. I went off the notion of soup after that so gave mine to Dad.

Abandon hope all ye who expect hot soup for lunch!

Here is what the leg of my sweats looked like:

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Building bombs... the organic way!

Recently, as part of the latest book I’ve been researching improvised explosive devices (IED’s). A most awesome person has been extremely generous with their time and expertise in this and in other pertinent matters, but for very valid reasons prefers to remain anonymous.

So, left to my own devices (pardon the pun!)  today I got an impromptu hands-on experience. The afternoon started innocuously enough… I put a basic Irish beef stew on to slow-cook so it’d be ready for tonight’s dinner, and retired to my workspace to do some writing. I’m in the midst of another difficult scene, which requires a lot of concentration. Time slipped by until a strange scent brought me back to the present. I couldn’t identify what the smell was, and hurried out of my office to investigate. A gray haze shrouded the hall, and I started running for the kitchen.

A loud bang that practically burst my eardrums stopped me in my tracks. I waited, but hearing nothing further, gingerly opened the kitchen door and peered inside. The stew had apparently boiled dry, and the Pyrex saucepan it had been in had cracked, exploding a mess of potatoes, parsnips, stewing steak, carrots, and onions over everything. A grayish lumpy muck covered the walls, stove, counter top and everything on it, and most of the tiled floor. Some had even reached the ceiling, making an arterial-type spray.  Cooper the dog was very generous with his time and expertise in licking a lot of it up for me.  :-)


La Tomatino, the world's biggest food fight
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It's a mad, mad, mad, mad house

I’m back from Edinburgh, and have walked into a madhouse! The next door neighbor, who appears to be a self-absorbed pr*&ck (technical term) continues to play his horrendously loud music as he works in his garden. I usually have no problem with people listening to music while they work, but it’s a bit of an imposition when his neighbors can hear it, too.


From a hundred yards away.

In an insulated house made from bricks and mortar...

and double-glazing in all windows and doors…

with their own music turned up…

and wearing earphones!

DOH!!

I try not to get upset about it. He doesn’t do it in the morning or at night, but Dad gets pretty riled up. His method of dealing with it is to switch on a police-type flashing lamp with red and green bulbs that has built-in Christmas carols blasting at full volume. Then he opens up the doors and windows to make sure it’s heard next door. As the neighbor’s music was particularly loud today, Dad also switched on his amplified television at a rap radio station, and periodically set off his personal alarm while standing next to the open window. I have attached a (brief!) video below -- it’s got to be heard to be believed. Not sure how the neighbor will react; we’ll see.


(This is Cooper at the beginning, hiding on his chair from the noise!  And then Dad looking very pleased with himself.)