Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ollie and Andy

    Considering the overall premise of my book as a narrative comparison of the impact of the persecution of individual members of two cultures, (Irish and Choctaw) by powerful leaders with strong military credentials, a discussion of those leaders seems inevitable.  Although these leaders occupy different times in history, the impact of the earlier tends to be the predilection of the impact of the latter.
    Neither 'Ollie' (Oliver Cromwell) the earlier, nor 'Andy' (Andrew Jackson) the latter, are characters in the book, the world conditions that flourished under their similar leadership resulted in both being documented as heroes by one segment of society and villains by another.  Both were sole surviving sons from common stock, landed, but not aristocratic.  Both were brilliant, but not academic.   
    Ollie ascribed his military victories over Royalists and Irish Catholics to 'divine intervention', while Andy was a firm believer in 'manifest destiny', God's will that the native peoples be removed so that their land be given to white invaders.
    Ollie ordered Irish Catholics to 'Hell or Connacht', which meant to move west of the Shannon River and occupy land which for generations was peopled by clans of Western Ireland.  Andy had the same mind set in ordering Eastern Woodland tribes, (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Shawnee, Seminole and Creek, et. al., to Oklahoma, land already occupied by  Caddo, Osage, Quapaw, Comanche, and others.
    In the 17th century, under Ollie's leadership, the Parliamentarians beheaded Charles I, then his New Model Army slaughtered or enslaved Irish fighters and Royalist officers at Drogheda and Wexford as a warning for other besieged cities to capitulate.  Andy did pretty much the same in the 19th century slaughtering Creek warriors who had sided with the British in 1812 war.  The other tribes knew his reputation when he ordered their removal.
    Both Ollie, a Puritan and Andy, a Scot-Irish Presbyterian, shared a hatred of British Anglicans.  Both men rose to high levels in their respective countries.  Ollie declared himself, not 'king', but 'Lord Protector of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  Andy, as you know, became the President of the United States.

Monday, December 21, 2015


  • Is there any other job out there where you would get paid for not being on the job because you're out looking for another  job?  Only the Congress of the U.S.A. grants that privilege to those trying to become president.
  • Can you believe that Congress, which gets almost unlimited days off with pay would vote against giving working Americans at least one week off?
  • Does anyone in the  Republican Congress deserve to be president when their main agenda for the past eight years has been to work hard to assure that the president fails?  And then consider that they failed at that, and they refuse to admit the successes that have been accomplished.
  • And more locally... How many executives and managers of Dominion would be willing to move their families to Drum Point in proximity to their LNG export facility?
  • And by the same token, would any of the Calvert County Commissioners be willing to move their families to Drum Point?
  • And what is wrong with a country's leaders when it takes a retired comedian activist to get Congress to pay for the health problems suffered by 9/11 first responders?


Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Bad Sign

The rhetoric of hate and fear that is filling the media is reminiscent of Germany 1938.  The fire bombing of a mosque in California and the cowardly attacks on Muslim women is shameful, and should be recognized  for what it is.  Those of us old enough to know the meaning of 'Kristallnacht' will understand.

There is a gentle, yet powerful song called 'Yellow Triangle' sung by Christie Moore.  Jews in Germany were ordered to wear the yellow triangle on their coats.  Then blue triangles for the gypsies, pink for the gays and so on.

The song warns:  first they came for the Jews, then the gypsies, then the gays, then the mentally ill and so on, until the last line:

'Then they came for me'


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Ongoing Dilemma of Writing Historical Fiction

What's a writer to do?  There are things in history that I never learned in school.  Important things that I believe people should know about.  But they need another way to know, because these things never found their way into the history books; at least not the history books that I studied.  As a writer, I struggle and work hard to show more and tell less.  The dialog and the action show these things happening because they are salient pieces of the story.

Extensive research provides strong validation of events included in my narrative.  Fact checking and cross referencing, I work to be careful not to misappropriate information. (Covered in detail in earlier blog) And even with these extra steps and discipline, as a writer, I still am aware that there are those in the publishing world who will still declare my work as didactic or preachy despite all my efforts to not be neither.  Any historical fiction writers with any advice?  Input welcomed.

I find it interesting (and somewhat amusing) when reading advice from agents and editors about do's and don'ts of fiction. And yet, reading great fiction one often finds many examples of successful books just full of things from the "don't" list.

I was chided by agents for entering a where and when, place and date on my first page.  So I wonder if Ken Follett got the same gaff when he submitted "The Pillars of the Earth"?  And I recently read what a writer should never do at the beginning of a novel. i.e. Have the protagonist introduce themselves by name.  Gee, I guess that if Melville would have left "Call me Ishmael" out, maybe "Moby Dick" would have been a bit more successful.

So, I repeat, What's a writer to do?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It Should Come as No Surprise

The murder of innocent civilians in Paris attributed to ISIS is an atrocity to be sure, but sadly it is one more  event like so many others throughout history.  Atrocities against innocent victims, whatever the motivation are a disturbing part of the history of humankind.  Greed for land, resources and power, acute differences in spiritual beliefs, lack of trust and the egomania of leaders who feel they must impose their will to 'civilize' others, fill the history books.  And often the history books portray the victims as deserving of the atrocities, and glorify the perpetrators as advancing the cause of civilization.

The crusades sent soldiers, with the approval of religious leaders, to make war against the 'infidels' in their homeland.  And a little known sidebar is when English crusaders were sent to Ireland to rid the land of 'heathens'.  History is rife with examples of genocide, extermination, annihilation, imposed famine and disease and forced removal of indigenous people.  Man's inhumanity to other humans has always been with us, and does not seem likely to go away anytime soon. It is a sad commentary, and I wish I had an answer.  I don't.  But one place to start would be to have history books tell the whole story of figures like Henry II, Strongbow,  Christopher Columbus, Cortez, Pizzaro, Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.

The so called advancement of civilization has been achieved by a long string of barbarous acts.


Monday, November 9, 2015

I Don't Get It

I know this is a little off message for what this blog is all about, but I feel the need to say it.

When I was in the work place (and I was for 50 years) I got paid for being on the job.  I didn't get paid for being somewhere else looking for another job.  So what I'd like to know is this:

Are the current Governors, Senators, and any others who are paid by the tax payers and  that are running president, still collecting their salaries?  I mean, how can you govern New Jersey or legislate for Vermont or Florida or Texas from Iowa or New Hampshire.  If they are not on the jobs they were elected to, why should they be paid?

Most employers would dock their pay, and some companies might even fire them if they were not doing their current job and were out looking for another job and still collecting their pay. 

How can we trust anyone who cheats their employer and has not the decency and ethics to suspend their salaries when they are not on the job?

I just don't get it.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Who Can You Trust?

One lesson in history is particularly true with the Irish and the Native Americans.  Be careful of your allies.  The lies and betrayals are many.  

The Irish in the 17th century allied with Royalists to fight against Cromwell's Parliamentarian New Model Army.  Money raised by both sides in the English Civil War came from 'adventurers'.  The debt was repaid with Irish land.  Lucky enough to survive the battles, and avoid slavery, many Irish soldiers returned to what was once their home to find that their land now 'legally' belonged to some English Earl.  And once victory came through Cromwell's terrorism, Irish Catholics were removed and pushed west of the Shannon River.
Likewise, later in the American colonies, what the history books call "The French and Indian War" took place with similar tactics. The war was actually between the French and the English, both of whom coerced natives tribes to join them.  And like in Ireland, the tribes were not rewarded, but driven from their land, which was given to white settlers.  Andrew Jackson, like Cromwell, mandated the removal of the tribes from the Southeast, and forced them to move west of the Mississippi River.  (And he never asked permission from the native tribes who had lived there since ancient times.)

So beware of your enemies, and keep a close eye on those who say they are your allies.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Why not me?

Been off line for a while pondering many things.  One ponder was asking myself, 'What right do I have to write about Irish history?'  I've yet to travel to Ireland.  I am only somewhat confident that I even have Irish DNA in my bones.  Am I an intruder?  Will I come across as the proverbial 'Ugly American' assuming entitlement to having my work accepted by Irish and Choctaw peoples? Will they be offended by my invasion into the privacy of their culture?  

My research has occupied more time than my writing and what I've learned has only added fuel my passions for my topic.  Reading history, I accept that most of it was written by people who weren't there about things which may or may not have happened.  And my work is characterized as 'historical fiction'.  So, 'Why Not Me?'  I have been disciplined enough to understand misappropriation and have worked hard not to fall into that trap.  Some historical fiction can can be misconstrued as 'accurate' and perpetuate dishonoring certain cultures through clumsy writing by uncaring authors.

As I cluttered my creativity with these ponderings, once again, my muse of serendipity came to my rescue.  Random searching with the TV controller landed me on a PBS 'American Masters' presentation already in progress.  The focus was on an American playwright, August Wilson.  With biracial parents, i.e., only 'half black', he went on to pen a series of plays that have been called the 'capturing of the African American experience'.  His plays have become world famous and been awarded the highest honors in theater.  With only half of him considered African American, he has been accepted as the spokesperson for the total experience of the black race in our country.  Some of his early works were scorned by the critics, but scholars later recognized his brilliant understanding of that segment of American culture.

Wilson had the passion to understand and the talent to articulate the high and low points of the black experience, and earned the respect of all races.  So, why not me?

Yeah, why not?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Irony or Vengeance?

For the past 60 years or so, I've explored, studied and been ashamed of the injustices the white invaders of our continent, nay, our hemisphere have imposed on the indigenous cultures and civilizations they found here.  The history books mostly say, 'discovered', sometimes say 'conquered', but seldom say 'invaded, annihilated or destroyed.

The character currently emerging in my novel is a Pequod.  His name translates to 'enters quietly'.  His character and behavior match his name and give credence to the plight of his people.  He comes to the story with a history of being defeated and enslaved.  His survival depended on his acceptance of his situation, and the flexibility to adapt. He realizes that self pity weakens the spirit and drains the will to survive.  Matty has much to learn from the heretofore silent Pequod.

The Pequod or Pequot, were warriors.  Their very name translates to 'destroyers'  They are a sub tribe in the Algonquian nation.  Warriors know that to win, you must be brave enough to suffer.  And suffer they did.  At the hands of the English settlers, and their Mohegan enemies.  Overwhelmed in battle, the survivors enslaved, the stoic nature, strong spirituality and self image of defeated warriors, guaranteed the Pequod future.  A guarantee that did not come easy or quick.

Piyo, in my story, lives in the 17th century.  The strength and tenacity of his blood line, over time, were compensated after many trials, with recognition of their land losses and a cash settlement in 1987.  Reaching an agreement with the state of Connecticut, finally in 1992, the Foxwood Resort and Casino opened and soon became more profitable than any casino in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. 

Vengeance?  Entitlement?   Your call.

My take:  The land greed of the white invaders led to the near demise of the Pequod.  Now the Pequod profit from the continuing greed of those who want instant gratification for themselves alone.

I'm going with 'irony'


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Challenge of Historical Fiction

When I opted to start writing about things of interest and a passion to explore, I was not aware of the impact that the research would have on me.  Having read other historical fiction works, I was both inspired and dismayed.  Talented authors wove the lives of their fictional characters into the times, places joys and turmoils of an era.  My favorites include Follett and Llewellyn.  Reading their books is both an adventure and an education.  Others I've read do neither.  Ignoring plot continuity and with no commitment to avoid misappropriation, their works are quickly forgotten.

Each character that I invent for my story opens yet another research quest.  From what culture did they emerge?  How did they come to be in my story at this point in history?  What did they bring to enhance the major focus of my work?  How are they dressed?  What do they eat?  What can they do?  How does that help or hinder my protagonist? 

I have invented some characters and invited them into my story only to find there is really no place for them to help my story move forward.  So, I fire them.  But I do not completely discard them.  I must have had a reason to invent them and perhaps they belong in another story that has not yet risen from my subconscious.  Let those discarded characters join others and perhaps their interactions might invent yet another story.  That is not really a new concept.
Luigi Pirandello explored it in his absurd metatheaterical,  'Six Characters in Search of an Author'.  So I keep a character development file.

Writing historical fiction, for me, demands respect for the characters, and the actual historical figures that influence the fictional character's behavior. I always ask, is there anyway possible way for my character to interact with someone from the history books?  I go deeper than 'Wikipedia'.  There are so many other , more reliable sites to drill into.  Libraries, and my own book collection, an ever growing source.  And conversations with real people when ever possible, is on my agenda.  The value of face to face conversations is incredible.  One good contact usually leads to two more. Examining resources from museum curators, the Library of Congress, Facebook friends and academic stacks occupy as much time as the actual writing of words into the story.  I have perused rare books and found access to depositions of people who allegedly witnessed the 'massacre of 1641' in Ulster.

So my approach to historical fiction is focused more on my personal thirst for learning and crafting a logical story that fits the times and a plot that has continuity and becomes a learning experience for the reader.  More that than on finding a gimmicks to get past an agent's gatekeeper who only scans first pages before tossing a work into the scrap heap or worse, the circular file.

So, considering historical fiction in the literary genre?  Be prepared for hard work, and a learning adventure.  Searching for quick success?, Look elsewhere.  


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Turned the Corner

The novel has turned a critical corner.  Matty, my protagonist, is casting his lot with the Chahta.  As I invent his further challenges and accomplishments, I ponder a title for the work.  The most fitting title, "The Dispossessed" has already been used.  A line from W.B. Yeats' poem, "The Curse of Cromwell", laments, 'Oh, What of That?'  Taken out of context, it has little impact. Other titles considered revealed clues of the outcome of the story, so they didn't make the cut.  The Rowan Tree is an important symbol, and may find its was into the title.  For Irish History buffs, I've considered, "Goslings Too Shall Fly" or "Celtic Diaspora".  Lots of others are on the table.

I find it interesting that as I invent the story, title options are revealed to me. I take on the role of the messenger who must note the story my characters are telling me.  This never  happened while writing poetry.  I am in command of that genre, but the novel has taken on a life of its own, and the characters residing in my brain direct me to get their way. I struggle to still retain some modicum of control.

So as Matty embarks on the final chapters of the book, (or the final part of the final book in the series). The tempo will shift, the maturing process and exposure to a new culture will result in a more contemplative character whose survival skills will change his knowledge and experience to wisdom.  Making wise decisions is critical. . . . .

Live Ireland Reconnect

Just rejoined One of my favorite web sites.  Live Ireland - internet radio  Good music and friendly people

You'll hear current and traditional music, and chat with new friends with common interests.

Check it out.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Pitch

O.K., I 'bit the bullet' and followed the advice in the writer's mags and such, and put my ideas into a business plan.  I cobbled a business plan, identified my market, listed what influenced me and talked about my 'platform'.  I did all of this to clear my mind so I could get to writing what is pitched below.  My novel in a nutshell.

                    What would it take for two farm boys to abandon their simple life and their family and put themselves in harm’s way in an army of rebellion?  This is a  coming of age tale of growing up in 17th century Ireland. The horrors of the rebellion hit home with the return of two uncles, both wounded in a battle in Ulster. The brothers are swept up in the action when they are secretly involved in stealing arms from a Scottish outpost in Sligo.  Though their involvement is not exposed, a family friend is murdered for his part in the raid.
            The boys say nothing at home, but choose to leave rather than give the family guilty knowledge of their crimes.  They intend to join the Irish rebels to avenge their friend and their uncles fighting against the royalists, but the confusing political and religious loyalties of the times find them working as draymen in the confederation army, under the leadership of royalist officers fighting for the King against Cromwell’s ‘New Model Army’.
            In the siege of Drogheda there were few survivors.  Those that did survive were sent to Barbados as slaves.  In Barbados the Irish interact with black Africans bought in Brazil and Choctaws enslaved by the Spanish and sold to the English planters.  The war between English Royalists and Parliamentarians finds its way to Barbados, and forces some planters to leave the island with some of their slaves.  Their escape leads to the American colonies where the Irish go into the forests of Alabama with the Choctaws and are assimilated into the Woodland Indian culture only to discover that the Choctaw are on the same path to destruction that Ireland experienced.

So there it is, with all the trappings of a literary historical work of fiction  Fictional characters  interacting with real people who existed in the period and sharing experiences that really happened.  (Or so it is said in some history books)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Old Writer's Angst or Why Bother?

Accelerating energy trying to corral profusions of ideas to capture in writing life long passions on a collision course of similarities.  Looking around, no one has written about it yet.  Some have skimmed the edges, but have not immersed to the level I have.  I check out the skimmers only to learn their work is of no use to me.  I review to tell them so, only to discover some writers have egos so fragile that to critique them is tantamount  to threatening their first born.
      But the writers who write about writing tell me to interact with other writers.  So, is interacting joining a mutual admiration writer's group?  Tried it a couple of times, most were short lived and died a merciful demise.  Read about writing.  Some good stuff out there.  Easy enough to get swept up in it, even to get enthused when you think you're actually learning something.  Then you notice that while you're reading about writing, guess what?  You're not writing.
       Same goes for the writing mags.  All the dope on the genre du jour that agents are seeking, or how to query, or what absolutely must be in your first pages, gets a little old.  And the new agents seeking someone to represent, to me would be like being represented by my grand kids (all of whom are twenty somethings).   And some of the mags suggest, and not so subtly, that without an MFA in writing, or some time spent in a mountain or island retreat, you need not submit anything because it will go right to the slush pile and maybe be read some day by some intern (aka MFA candidate)
         And then there is the 'platform'.  Writer's Market says I should have one.  So here is the latest post.  But, once again, guess what?  While I writing this post, I am not writing or researching my novel, I am not editing or compiling my poetry collection, and I am not fleshing out ideas for my other writing thoughts.
          So, if you are visiting my blog, thanks for stopping in, and if there are no new posts for a while, just assume that I am off to an island writing retreat, or to some big city writer's conference getting my first pages shredded, or my ego shattered at a pitch session, or away enrolling in an MFA program at an obscure university, or perhaps, just maybe, I am actually WRITING SOMETHING! 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Irish - Native American Parallels - 8

The indigenous people of Ireland and the entire western hemisphere share many commonalities.  One of the most obvious is that they reside in a land of invasions.  The small island got its name from early invaders, the Firbolgs, who called their new home 'Eueriio', which evolved to Eire, Erin, and finally Ireland.  Each invader was subsequently defeated by subsequent invaders, and some, like the Tuatha De Dannan, were absorbed into the mythology of the island.  Invasions continued with the Milesians, Norsemen, Normans and English. The friction of invasion remains today, with differences in language, military strategy, politics, land ownership, and the most turmoil, the differences in religion.

Likewise in the Americas, (a name given to the land by invaders), the Spanish, Portuguese, the Dutch, French and English invasions continued for centuries.  Their agendas were mostly the same: Acquisition of land for resources and military advantage, the religious conversion or the annihilation or enslavement of the indigenous population.  The invaders imposed similar changes on both cultures.

  • Law systems: Imposing English law over Brehan law in Ireland gave an excuse for persecution.  European law systems over tribal values and traditions is part of the reason for failure of every treaty.
  • Destroying food sources:  As a military tactic to overcome resistance to invasion, the English burned crops, or stole food and exported it.  Likewise as an ongoing tactic in the U.S., crops were burned, the prairies were plowed and the buffalo were exterminated.
  • Land ownership:  English and Scottish royalty granted Irish land to peers and adventurers who financed their wars, totally ignoring familial or clan ownership.  For the people of the western hemisphere, 'owning' land was a new concept totally alien to all of their beliefs and values  For both cultures facing the military advantage held by the invaders, land was ceded for survival.  Better to give up land rather than die trying to keep it.
  • Ignoring social hierarchy: Invaders negotiated with lower level leaders who had no right to speak for all of the people.  An Irish clan leader could not speak for all the other clans.  Likewise, no tribe could speak for the entire nation of tribes.
  • Religion:  Pagans with long history of Druidic spirituality were slowly converted to Catholicism and subsequently persecuted by Anglicans, Presbyterians and Puritans.  Catholic missionaries from Spain and France and Dutch and English Protestants made it their mission to convert all of the indigenous people of the Americas.
  • Sanctity of trees: The mystical beliefs of the druids about oaks and rowans were ignored as the English stripped Ireland of trees to keep the British navy afloat.  The sacred forests of the southeast U.S. were stripped for cultivation, and for the construction of a growing invasion population.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Irish - Native American Parallels - 7

Some of the parallels are subtle, and likely could be true of most cultures when considered with another. But I looked deeply into the Irish and the indigenous people of the western hemisphere, ( I will reluctantly use the term of common usage, i.e., "Indian"), simply because they have long been of interest to me.  This posting will consider some of the lesser similarities which I found intriguing.

Both cultures were highly social, and gatherings were enhanced with music and story telling.  Both the Irish ceilidhs and the Indian 'pow-wow, are joyous events.  For the Irish, story telling was the oral process of passing the culture to the next generation.  And each new generation with evolving creativity embellished the stories of heroes and saints, fairies and banshees, and they would never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  Mystical beings populated the stories of both cultures  Leprechauns and the sidhe,fallen angels, harbinger of doom filled the Irish tales, just as the Iroquois tales told of shape changers and little people.  The Indians held that stories help 'shorten the night', and many of the tribes had similar creation stories embedded in their culture over generations, so conversion by early missionaries was a daunting task.  But more on that later.  

The ceilidhs and the pow-wows had to have music.  Singing and chanting added sophistication to the story telling, and instruments added aural enhancement.  And the music helped create a mood for acceptance of spirituality. For the Irish, harps and whistles, bodhrans and fiddles celebrate life and mourn death, and as a call to arms.  Similarly, Drums and whistles, rattles and bells raised the spirits and motivated the Indians to hunt or fight.  And both cultures used music, chanting or keening to aid in entering a state of meditation.  Food at the socials would find bread without yeast. Soda bread for the Irish, and from the woodland tribes in the Southeast, maize bread mixed with a dash of wood ashes.

The gatherings were also to celebrate the changing seasons.Beltane and Lughnasadh festivals in Ireland, and corn dances, rain dances and a dance for a successful hunt in the tribes of the Americas.  The elders at these celebrations were held in high esteem, for it is they that hold the treasured stories. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Shift in Focus

In addition to having a strong passion for Irish History and the plight of the native people of our continent, I have been an avid fan of the game we Americans call SOCCER, and a strong supporter of women's rights.  So given that the FIFA Women's World Cup matches commenced in Canada yesterday, the same day the FIFA EUEFA Champions finals were held in Berlin, guess which event got the most coverage in the press.  Let me guess.  Was it the two top men's football squads in Europe, Barcelona and Juventus? Or perhaps the matches between some of the top female athletes on our planet?  No contest.  Canada's victory over China was relegated to the bottom of page 5 in the Washington Post, below the headline of the FIFA scandals, and a team picture and article covering BARCA'S  victory.

Nowhere to be found was the bracketing of the WWC (Woman's World Cup). Nor any hype for our U.S. Woman's championship records in world competition.  Our men's national team got more coverage in their  futile attempt last year in Brazil.  Our women have done more to promote soccer in the USA than any other TEAM.  I accent 'team' because our WWC has been the epitome of what teamwork is all about.  The documentary on ESPN2 was a tribute to the 1999 champions and their story.  If it's rerun, check it out.  They are champions!!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Irish - Native American Parallels - 5

The Legacy of Land Grabbing

The lies and greed and treachery continue even today. Arizona Senators have sneaked a provision into a military funding bill.  The bill is important and will likely get passed without much scrutiny.  The hidden rider would steal more land from the Apaches and lease it to an Australian- British Company to come in and start mining on sacred land. It's the first time that land grabbing Americans have opted to offer Native lands to a foreign entity.

McCain and Flake have joined the legacy of America's greedy leaders (I use the word loosely).  They have joined the infamous ranks of treaty breakers and removal champions like Jefferson, J. Q. Adams, and Mr. Manifest Destiny himself, Ole Hickory, Andrew Jackson.  Our land grabbers follow the traditions of the Tudors, the Stuarts, and the British Champion of removal, Oliver Cromwell.  All firm believers that they possess some divine rights given by a god that those truly entitled to the land do not recognize.

The 'grabbers' included Henry Clay who is thought to have said, "Your theology is wrong so you must give way.  My religion entitles me to take your land, so you must leave."

Part of the 'grabbers' assumed entitlement was for military purposes.  Elizabeth I confiscated Irish land to protect her vulnerable western shore against the Spaniards.  And Ole Hickory quickly removed southern tribes who were allies of the British in earlier wars.

So McCain and Flake continue the shameful tradition, and ironically do so under the guise that it is critical to some military agenda. Gentlemen, I am ashamed of you.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

My New Hero of the Mounds

Continued reading Silverberg's "The Mound Builders", and finally someone emerged that was not enamored with the old myths of mysterious, highly advanced vanishing mound builders. John Wesley Powell , born in 1834, a self taught scientist and enemy of slavery grew up in Ohio amid many of the mounds.  By age 17, Powell was teaching school.  He would study science and mathematics texts at night and then teach the subject the next morning.  He turned away from college when he discovered that science and math were not a part of their curriculum.  His spare time activities included field trips excavating some of the mounds he located as he rowed the length of the Mississippi.  He dropped in briefly on classes at numerous colleges, but was mostly self taught.  He enhanced his knowledge of geology, archaeology, and natural history.

The artifacts he discovered in the mounds raised his suspicions of earlier declarations of the origin of the mounds.  Glass beads and tooled copper objects he found supported a hypothesis that the mounds were not as old as others had stated.  These objects were only proof that the builders had obtained trade goods from invading Europeans, hence the chapter that Silverberg calls "Deflating the Myth". Even the Civil War, and losing an arm at Shiloh did not distract Powell from his research.  His discoveries and his accurate documentation shifted the study of the mounds from archaeology to ethnology; the study of living people.  He declared in one of his essays, there is no reason to continuing to search for a lost race of mound builders.  At last a man who fought against the racist spin of earlier mound explorers, and declared that if knowledge of the mounds was to be obtained, stop digging in the mounds and start a conversation with the descendents of the builders. This was critical. Their story must be told before their annihilation. Alas, the destruction of the indigenous culture prevailed as part of an American tragedy known as 'Manifest Destiny'

John Wesley Powell went on to head the Bureau of Ethnology and the Geologic Survey, and influenced Congress to fund the collection and preservation of artifacts at the Smithsonian.  The history books laud Andrew Jackson and Manifest Destiny, but fail to mention brilliant heroes like John Wesley Powell.  My own research has discovered a large blank page in our history books.  I am still searching for documentation of Choctaw life between De Soto in the 1500's and Andrew Jackson in the 1800's.  How many other blank pages are there?  Sad.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More on the Mounds

Today I surrender to my penchant for alliteration.  More on the mounds, including myths, misappropriation, miscellanies, mistakes and the mystical Mormons.

The mounds:  As mentioned earlier, mounds prevail in the landscapes of Ireland (Tara, Newgrange) and the U.S. from Ohio to Mississippi.  These structures have been studied and probed by archaeologists, anthropologists, astronomers, theologians and fortune hunters.  Some Irish mounds proved to have significant importance in the Druidic equinox ceremonies.  Beams of dawn sunlight channeled through strategic openings in the mounds illuminated sacred carvings on interior walls. Myths abound of the heroic Tuatha De Danann relegated to rule the underworld by the victorious, yet merciful Gaelicians.  Oral histories and Irish story tellers have kept tales alive.

Not so in America.  Many of the curious were intellectuals with no scientific credentials, but their literary skills brought them notoriety and misappropriated fame as experts. Most immediately discounted the possibility that the indigenous people here would have the skill to construct the mounds or the intelligence to know their origin or significance.  So they didn't bother to ask.  The imaginative accounts of the source and purpose of the mysterious mounds influenced the many that followed and added their own creative spin to the stories. One such creative author was Joseph Smith, a farm boy born in Vermont  in 1805.  As a man, he incorporated his theory of the mounds into stories of ancient explorations by Jaredites from Jerusalem and subsequent battles between Nephites and Lamanites, who buried their war dead in the mounds.  These stories became a part of the Book of Mormon.
Joseph Smith was lynched in an Illinois jail in 1844.

Throughout the 19th century, white archaeologists were digging up old civilizations in Egypt, Syria, Greece and many other sites, including the United States.  With little input from indigenous populations, and no apparent concern for the sanctity of the sites, using the search for knowledge as their mission, they accommodated their egos by digging and digging and digging.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Irish - Native American Parallels - 4

One important parallel between the cultures that is proven by physical structures still in existence are the mounds.  From Tara and Newgrange to Carthage, Alabama and Circleville, Ohio, the evidence is there.  The  presence of the mounds ties in with another cultural similarity.  Both the Irish and the Choctaw have a reverence for their elders and their ancestors.  Burial cairns in Ireland and Choctaw burial mounds are holy places,revered and not to be disturbed. 

Just begun reading Robert Silverberg's book, "The Mound Builders".  One theme that was early evident to me was that settlers in the U.S. colonies were quick to surmise that such structures as the mounds found all over the east of the new land could not  have been built by the native people peoples they encountered.  Theories and myths abounded to attempt to explain the source of the mounds.  Since the indigenous people and their ancestors were immediately discounted as the possible source, the only 'rational' explanation was that the mounds ere built by early invasions by a 'superior' (read 'white') race. Detailed treatises were published offering theories of the mounds being built by Vikings, Romans, and even the lost tribes of Israel or extraterrestrials.  All indicating white supremacy, embedding the belief of entitlement, leading to the racist position of white privilege that is stuck in many minds today.

Amazing how theories based on little or no research, presented as fact can influence beliefs that lead to behaviors centuries later in a culture fraught with race riots.

Monday, May 11, 2015

"Oh, what of that?"

"O, what of that?
 O, what of that?
 What is there left to say?"

So wrote W.B. Yeats in his "Curse of Cromwell"  Curious what ol' W. B. would write of the current situation of the English Parliament.  The victory of the Conservative Party over Labor and the Tories, indicates a tremor which has Scotland thinking of nationalism once again.  Haven't read of reaction from Dublin and Ulster, but there is sure to be some thoughts of crossing the Boyne and removing July 12th from the holiday calendars.  Hopefully not.

Stay tuned, as England and Scotland consider remaining or leaving the E.U.  should be interesting.

Meanwhile, Matty O'Doole has been becalmed in my mind and in the tale's critical part three.  His loyalty to the Chahta is being tested.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Novel: Where, When and Why

The story of the life of Matty O'Doole begins in County Leitrim in the west of Ireland for a somewhat selfish reason. The little genealogical information I have, and a bit of history I've learned suggests that Leitrim might well have been the source of my family name.  One of my favorite Irish singers, Sean Tyrrell, first told me of Tiernan O'Ruairc, Prince of Breffni.  The site of O'Ruairc's Castle, (now called Parkes' Castle) on Lough Gill in the County Leitrim presented an opportunity to set Matty's story there while concurrently doing some 'roots searching'.

So much for the 'where and why'.  But why in the first half of the 1600's?  Ireland's tumultuous history never lacked for tension, stress and turmoil, but that period offered what I determined to be the best starting point for a converging path to ultimately intersect with the Choctaw culture.  And the confusion of the period presented a challenge for Matty's coming of age.  From the plantation of protestants in Ulster to the 1641 Rebellion, to the execution of Charles I during the Civil War in England.  Matty and his family were constantly torn in terms of their allegiances to Ireland and the Catholic church.

First fighting against the king and later fighting against the king's parliamentarian enemies kept the Irish off balance.  Being allies with former antagonists ignited old clan rivalries.  Confusion and disagreement among the people about who were heroes and who were traitors continually inflamed the culture.  In a conflict where many of the leaders changed sides, the common foot soldiers had no problem justifying desertion, and it was difficult to be motivated to fight for an officer who was not a countryman, and had nothing but disrespect for the Irish.  English generals on the winning side won a bonus of ownership in Irish land.  Adventurers who financed the winning armies were also repaid with Irish land, and colonial lands in the New World..

The same confusion was evident in Choctaw history.  The native people were exploited and enslaved by the Spaniards, leading to total mistrust of any European invader.  The bribery of trade goods motivated tribes to engage in intertribal battles, and to pick sides in what came to be called 'the French and Indian War'.  Again, risking life for leaders who had no respect for you.  And the land occupied by the native people, (they had no concept of 'owning' land), was taken by 'Manifest Destiny'; A high sounding term meaning 'entitlement because you are a white Christian'; meaning really license to steal.

Ecology of Art - Another Spin

In the May third edition of the Washington Post, the Arts and Style section focused on how the behavior of people in the digital age have evolved as they interact with art.  From rich theater goers in Elizabethan times, who paid extra to be seated 'on the stage', to current theater goers who are addicted to their cell phones, "Decorum in the Digital Age" has demanded a new set of rules. I guess 'expectations is a better word than 'rules'.

More that one stage artist has stopped the show to insist that a cell phone user, "Turn the damn thing off !".  Then there are those who go to movies and must discuss, criticize,or even pull a spoiler alert and reveal the plot in loud conversation with their friends.  Audiences are more and more annoyed by rude, self centered people, who perhaps have damaged their hearing from high volume ear buds, and have lost their ability to whisper.  An attitude of behavioral entitlement earned by the price of admission can ruin the experience for an entire audience.

As technology evolves, many humans are losing their interest and ability for social interaction.  How many times have you had someone with their attention totally engrossed by a smart phone or tablet collide with you on the sidewalk and glare at you expecting an apology?

Most artists create their art out of a desire to share their ideas, beliefs, and skills with others.  Consequently, most art is shared in public places.  Public in this context is 'people sharing a common interest'.  If your only interest is taking a 'selfie' with a celebrity, or to prove you were there at the event; if you are so engrossed with your own image, stay the hell home and look in the mirror, and leave art lovers in peace.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Irish - Native American Parallels -3

Assimilation and Imposition of Invaders:

The history of Ireland and America is fraught with invasion, but the invaders had an assortment of objectives.  Norse raiders came to pillage and collect the spoils of war, and soon recognized that establishing ports in Ireland, where most settlements were clustered around the churches, gave them the opportunity to establish supply depots to allow their ships to sail inland for more riches.  The long term opportunity for trade emerged as cities grew around the coastal Norse settlements.  Waterford, Wexford, and Dublin too grew from the imposition of the Vikings, who, over time were assimilated into the population of Ireland.  Norse invasions into North America never quite took hold.  Some artifacts prove they were here, but establishing settlements so far from home perhaps proved too expensive.

Historical Irony continues to fascinate me.  Columba, an Irish monk was said to convert early Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, while the son of a British Roman magistrate, enslaved in Ireland grew up to become St. Patrick.

Normans invaded Ireland as mercenaries fighting under the leadership of Richard De Clare, AKA 'Strongbow', and he became the King of Leinster.  The Norman Catholics were slowly assimilated into the Irish culture until, it is said 'they became more Irish than the Gaels'. They were , in time to be called the 'Old English'.  The House of Tudor planted English Anglicans and Scottish  Presbyterians to impose protestantism on Irish Catholics, and at the same time, for military purposes, protect their western flank.

European invaders of the western hemisphere where more apt to try to annihilate the native peoples.  As Spanish, Dutch, French and English were planted in the Americas, their assimilation was limited to intermarrying.  Their agenda was to impose their culture, including language, religion and laws.

More on that later.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Revisiting the ecology of art

In 2013, I posted a piece called "The Ecology of Art"  I first said:

Art and ecology both consider composition, energy flux, niche diversity, adaptations, interpretation, structure, interdependence, change, permeable boundaries of interdisciplinary applications and resource management.

I also established that, "Living organisms, interacting with their environment. . ." as the definition of 'ecology'."

Here's another piece that was stimulated by an article in Smithsonian Magazine entitled, "Speaking Volumes".  The subtitle is, "An Iranian Artist finds her voice in images."

All artists, I believe, strive to be seen, heard, recognized, and valued for what they present to their communities.  In some societies today, artists are experiencing the repression of expression through strict censorship.  In such an environment, artists must dig deep into their creative essence to find that "voice".  Ms Shirin Neshat,an Iranian born photographer and film maker has found a way to be "heard"  In the current oppresive environment of all women in Iran, other channels of creativity emerge, like the adaptation of a species changing to survive and flourish in an environment turned harsh.

The subtle, yet powerful metaphorical photo by Neshat, soon to be displayed in the Hirshhorn Museum, captures the oppression, and beautiful artistic rebellion.  The close up existential photo of a woman's hand held to her lips denoting the silence that is expected of her isolated experience in her hostile world.  Contrary, and in open rebellious metphor, her hand is inscripted with a passage from a poem by Forough Farrokhzad, a celebrated Iranian poet.  The passive gesture of silence with the 'in your face' poem on the hand, shows that art through metaphor will evolve in harsh environments.

The ecology of art runs deep.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Irish - Native American Indian Parallels -2

Lack of Unity:

Old rivalries and commitment to vengeance by the septs,clans and tribes of Ireland and similar hierarchy of Choctaw society, gave an advantage to conquering invaders.  Many invaders used those old rivalries to their advantage. The polity of tribes, subtribes, and clans, each with leaders who could not agree to work together created a weakness and a lack of cohesion to fight a common enemy.  Ancient differences between tribe blocked any unity to stand together.

Names of people and places were changed:

Conquering invaders forced the changes upon the vanquished.  Examples in both cultures are many, to cite a few:  Grainne Ni Mhaille became Grace O'Malley in Ireland, while in America, Metacomet, chief of the Wampanoag, became 'King Phillip in the history books.  Place names were also forcefully changed.  Cloneen became Manor Hamilton and Learga became Blacklion.  And in America places were named after places departed with the addition of the word 'New' to Jersey, York, Hampshire or Amsterdam.  Another popular practice with invaders was to name places after their royalty, like Virginia or Maryland

Monday, April 27, 2015

Irish - Native American Parallels

Not all of the similarities I am citing can be said to specifically apply to the Choctaw, but enough of them do, so I feel confident in the premise of my story.

Defeat by Superior Weaponry:

The Irish lost many battles when overcome by Norman knights in armor, or later by the strength and size of the Tudor navy, and later still when Cromwell's Parliamentarian siege guns crumbled the walls of Drogheda. In the 1640's, the Irish held a slight, but short lived advantage by the length of their pikes. Veteran Roundhead soldiers were known to shorten their pike poles to make them lighter to carry during invasions.  They paid the price of the shorter poles in close combat.

Firearms, artillery and mounted cavalry, gave white invaders a definite advantage over native bows arrows and blow guns.  But something else brought by the invaders had a more devastating impact on native populations..


European invaders of Ireland brought with them diseases not experienced on the island.  The famines resulting from war exposed both military and civilian populations to influenza and dysentery.  The same was true for the native people of our hemisphere.  Entire populations have disappeared from diseases like measels brought by Europeans who were immuned.  And sadly, there is evidence that disease was also used as weaponry.  Controversial accounts of biological warfare through the distribution of typhoid infected blankets sent as 'gifts' to native villages. And even more diabolical, slaves, sick with typhoid or typhus were 'set free' to go and mix with native populations.

Man's inhumanity to man continues.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cultural Parallels: Ireland - Choctaw 2

In an earlier post, I alluded to a workshop I attended.  During the lunch break, I wandered around the public library where the workshop was held, and browsed around in their periodical section.  I stopped at a pile of 'Irish America' magazines.  I grabbed a few and sat down in a comfortable chair for a little in depth browsing.  Casually leafing through the December/January 2015 issue, I was delighted to find an article by Matthew Skwiat entitled, 'Celebrating an Irish - Choctaw Thanksgiving'. 

 He wrote, "Eye witness accounts of the Trail of Tears that the Choctaw had suffered through in many ways mimicked those that came out of the Irish Famine. Ironically it would be this event where the two people's met.  Upon hearing of the famine in Ireland, many Choctaw leaders banded together and raised $170 as a generation donation to the Irish people."

This act of kindness led to the organization of the Irish -Choctaw Thanksgiving, a special two day event featuring from both cultures, music, dancing, art, speakers, films, and joyous interaction between the people.  The similarities of the their suffering had, in the past. led to 'Famine Walks' at Doolough in County Mayo, and a 500 mile trek from Mississippi to Oklahoma.  These events raised money to feed the hungry.

This article was an energy jogger for me.  I started my novel in 2011, and this validated the concern and interest I had in the two cultures.  My firm belief in serendipity was also validated and strengthened, convincing me that my recognition of the plight of the Irish and indigenous people of this hemisphere was more than a figment of a novel writer's imagination.

My challenge becomes finding similarities when my characters meet in the 17th century, long before the famine and the Trail of Tears.  To date I have found fifty-one.  I'll share them over time.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cultural Parallels: Ireland - Choctaw

The similarities between Irish history and the history of American Indians is one of the prime movers in the writing of my novel. Using 'American Indians' as a descriptor of the indigenous people of the western hemisphere has become popularized even though it is a poor choice.  I focused on the Choctaw tribe as the participants in my story, and opted to use the term 'Chahta' That choice was not arbitrary.  I chose the Chahta because their history tracks so similarly with that of the Irish.  Also the choice of the 17th century as the setting was a conscious decision which resulted in some road blocks.  I have found very little documentation of the experience of the Chahta between 1600 - 1700.  Brief accounts in history books tell of Hernando De Soto's expeditions in 1540, but very few tell of earlier explorations which produced false accounts of treasure.  Those reports were issued in an attempt to gain favor with the crown.  So my choice of that period of time with the Chahta was because two things added tension to my story.  First, there is evidence of De Soto and the Spaniards who remained in the Southeast, continued to exploit the Chahtas and send some as slaves to the Caribbean plantations. And the proximity of the Southeast was appropriate for my story.

I will begin to share some of the similarities of the Irish and Choctaw history which, when validated, motivated my writing.  The first two are big ones.

  • Both cultures suffered from continuous invasions of foreigners. The English, French, Dutch and Spaniards all invaded North America, stole land and planted settlers. In Ireland, the list of invaders defies historical recording. Formorians and Firbolgs, DeDannan and Milesians, Gauls, Norse, Norman, Scots and English, all invaded Ireland, stole land and planted settlers. 'Plantation' has come to mean the planting of crops like sugar or cotton, but historical events indicate that 'plantation' really means planting people on land they did not own.
  • The mandates of the invaders:  Oliver Cromwell demanded that all Irish Catholics needed to migrate west of the Shannon River.  "To Hell or Connacht", was his command.  Connacht, the western rocky province, was the least favorable land for farming, but 'Hell", in this context, meant slavery in Barbados.  Barbados even became a verb, saying that "the survivors were 'Barbadosed'"  The Chahtas, by the demands of Andrew Jackson, were sent west of the Mississippi, for reasons of "Manifest Destiny".  This ideal, over time, morphed into the false belief of 'white entitlement'. That belief still keeps our country off balance.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Existential Crossroad

Convinced that building a platform is for attracting an audience for my novel, but concurrently convinced that without a complete novel, there is no need for the platform.  The whole 'chicken and egg" conundrum again.  There is a secondary project on my plate; a collection of poetry, essays and short stories that I feel is ripening for publication.  I work on fine tuning that when the novel gets stuck in the peat bogs.  Funny how switching focus to another project engenders ideas for the novel.

The collection is of 'Tides, Trees, and Time', and start planting Mattie in those milieus.  They are familiar places for him.  He sails the seas in numerous situations; some voyages forced upon him, some of choice.  The trees of Irish oak and rowan are important in his life, so I am reminded to revisit the wisdom of the trees and Mattie realizes he needs to embrace that wisdom.  And time, oh how joyful time seems to race, and then not move at all in agony.

At the existential crossroads, I let my novel characters visit my poetry and then carry lessons learned back to their tale. I visit other works too.  SOme of my own and som ein my research, and it helps to change focus, then carry lessons learned back to the tasks at hand.  Such excursions help decide which road to take for now.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Yesterday's post was a catch up piece that I left in a draft mode back when when I was totally clueless.  I've found a few clues since then.  I'm still scratching my way up the internet learning curve.  Anyway,  back to first pages. . .

Been reading a lot of first pages and thinking like an agent.  I totally get it. (Did I just use 'totally' again? My god, two identical adverbs within two paragraphs.  I'll never get published writing like that.)

 Anyway, back to first pages. . .   There are many scenes in the tale where Matty is pressed with important decisions, many when he is in danger, many where he is helpless; but just as many where he wins, overcomes,avoids or solves the situations.  Throughout the story, he is disciplined by his father, grandfather, aunt, older brother, rebels from Sligo, he is chased by gallowglasses in th employment of an Anglo-Norman Earl, again by Scottish soldiers, and yet again by Roundheads.  Tension?  Hell, yes!  But where to start.  Should I work chronologically and start with an early threat during Matty's childhood? Or later perhaps, when he is working with his brother on the lake fishing to help the family income. But some falshbacks in the story to get the family's back story?  Too cliche?

I'll figure it out.  Any suggestions?  Comments welcome. . . very welcome


Friday, April 17, 2015

The USA enters the Space Age

This was originally carried in a Jaycee newsletter, I wanted to start the blog with this a long time ago, but somehow failed to post it.  Computer literate, yet computer stupid.

Random Thoughts Recorded During the Week of July 20, 1969 During the Flight of Apollo 11

The LEM touched down on the lunar surface
A commercial pilot, stacked over O’Hare heard the news and was glad

All men on Earth witnessed as the Eagle landed.
Nearby, Luna 15, on an unexplained mission, also landed.

Armstrong and Aldrin placed their footprints in the dust and their names in the history books,
While 240,000 miles away, earthmen watched every step.
69 miles away, Cooper, flying Columbia, didn’t have a video monitor.

The whole world watched, awe struck, and waited.
Many Americans missed their regular TV programs, and complained.

The crime rate was down.  Criminals became interested viewers.
The AFS students at Lindenbaum’s called a recess to their love-in, and for a while, they too were interested.

While the Astronauts work on the moon, five ghetto children sit with their mother in a bare flat (third floor rear) watching on a color TV.
They do not understand.  Their fathers are not there to explain it all to them.  They are bored.
They go to bed ----- hungry!

Eagle came “in peace for all mankind”.
Both sides counted their dead in Viet Nam

Over a million in tools is left on the moon.
Another child starved to death in Biafra.

The return cargo, a priceless box of dirt, rocks and secrets.
Another rock, bearing the secrets of a black man’s soul, smashes a window in York Pa.

The Hornet crew earns their “E” for a flawless recovery.
During reentry and splash down, had a crisis arisen, would the crew or the cargo be saved?

A family in a hospital waiting room watches through wet eyes, the elaborate decontamination process to protect the earth from possible lunar bacteria.
Nearby, in a clean darkened room, one of their own, numbed by drugs, quietly succumbs to cancer.

The door to the universe swings open, and rushing to go through, man stumbles on the clutter of his world