"Writing a book is the art of listening to oneself."-Brad Cameron

Friday, August 30, 2013

Origins of the Korrigan

In Book One of The Zeke Proper Chronicles: Odin’s Light, I introduce readers to a creature that temporarily occupies the deep dark waters of the Stick River. A meandering river located near the ocean side town of Alder Cove, the Stick is a place shrouded in darkness and mystery. Its location is considered haunted. None of the inhabitants of the town of Alder Cove go there - well, almost none of them. It is a site to be shunned and has been for centuries. Why? Because it’s where the Korrigan goes to lie in wait for its payment for years of prosperity - the sacrifice of Alder Cove.

So what exactly is the Korrigan and what are its roots?
Much of what I include in the stories of Zeke Proper are references to Norse mythology. Sort of a retelling of the stories with slightly different characters and circumstances. The Korrigan, however, finds its beginnings in Celtic mythology. Originally found in Irish literature, most of us are probably aware of references to banshees, which actually means "woman of fairy mound" or just simply as "fairy woman". Ban or bean meaning "woman".
Photo Credit: (c) Wikipedia Commons
(c) Wikipedia Commons
In Irish and Scottish Gaelic folklore traditions the banshee came to mean a female wraith or spirit, whose terrifying howls foretell the death of a particular person in a specific household. This banshee was tied to a person or family, sort of like an attendant fairy. (Note how this coincides with the Proper Family).

In my telling of Odin’s Light, I have taken the myth of the Banshee and combined her with the Breton fairy woman known as the Korrigan, a type of banshee that not only foretells a death, but also causes it. Then, I took this a step further, relating the banshee to the Washer or Washer-woman at the Ford, known in Scottish folklore as “bean nighe”.

"Bean nighe” was a Scottish Gaelic name for the Washer at the Ford. The Washer or Washerwoman can be found in almost every Celtic culture. In the Scottish Gaelic tradition, the washer is the harbinger of death.

According to the Scottish Gaelic tradition, the bean nighe was a woman who died at child birth. She was described as a woman dressed in green, but can be recognized by her webbed feet standing next to a stream or lake, washing bloodstained clothes of those who would die.

Of course there are Celtic myths that surround these creatures and they carry with them the same kind of foreboding that the Korrigan in Odin’s Light carries with it. In this retelling, I take my information from www.timelessmyths.com.

The most common female fairies in the Breton tradition are the korrigans that resided in the woods, especially at Broceliande, often near a stream, spring or fountain. She was a fairy that seeks a mortal lover.

The korrigan was probably a pagan druidess originally. She was equated with gwragedd annwn – the Welsh fairies of the lake and streams.

She tried to seduce mortal men who would drink from her water. Finding them unawares she would attempt to lure a weary traveler to sleep with her. If the man refused her advance or seduction, she would angrily curse him to a doom. This is what happened to the Seigneur of Nann.

The Seigneur was married to a woman whom he loved. One day, his wife asked for some May-blossoms from the forest. The Seigneur rode out, but during his ride, he became thirsty and drank the water from a nearby fountain. Here, the Seigneur encountered the Korrigan who demanded that he sleep with her. But the Seigneur angrily refused because he was faithful to his wife and rode away after hearing that he would die in three days. He turned and rode from the woodland as a man possessed. As he drew homeward he was overshadowed by a sense of coming ill. At the gate of his ch√Ęteau stood his mother, anxious to greet him with good news of his bride and the child she would soon bear him. But with averted eyes he addressed her in the refrain so familiar to the folk-poetry of all lands: 

"My good mother, if you love me, make my bed. I am sick unto death. Say not a word to my bride. For within three days I shall be laid in the grave. A Korrigan has done me evil."

The priest, his mother and other people kept the secret of his fate from his wife. Three days later, the Seigneur's mother finally told her daughter-in-law the truth. The wife died of broken heart and was buried beside the Seigneur.

The tragedy that surrounds the evil summons of the Breton Korrigan is also the kind of tragedy that encompasses the lives of Zeke and the rest of his family in Odin’s Light. As you read on in the books that follow in the Zeke Proper Chronicles, you will discover that the appearance of the Korrigan is only the beginning of a very long and arduous journey for the story’s hero.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Guest Blog- Courtney Pierce

This week's guest blog is by a friend and fellow author.  Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer and lives Milwaukie, Oregon, with her husband of thirty-four years and bossy cat. Her passion to write came from sitting in a theater seat. She studied what moved audiences as incredible stories unfolded on the stage. After a twenty-year career as a marketing executive in the Broadway entertainment industry, she made the leap to full-time fiction writer in 2011.
A Boomer Couple’s Magical Legacy

So, is my book happy speculative fiction?

Possibly peppy Baby Boomer paranormal?

It’s magical realism. The real can be magical.

In my trilogy series, the ghosts give guidance outside of the boundaries of life; a reach-out with answers of right and wrong beyond the lessons of their long-ago earthly upbringing. The immortals are sweeter than Leave it to Beaver; more honest than All in the Family.

The first book, Stitches, introduces two childless Baby Boomers who want a little magic in their lives after thirty-two years in the corporate grind. They’ve sold out to corporate America, and corporate America, in turn, sold them out. That’s when they discover a magical piece of fabric in an old chest from estate sale.

Heirlooms really do have a life of their own, and so do their former owners in the afterlife. The fabric holds the key to immortalityand it takes the couples’ lives from ordinary to extraordinary. While my books are not without their deadly moments, my protagonists embrace the magic in their lifereal magic. They are life spies with secret information and use it to solve crimes with the FBI. They want to get the bad guys. But the underlying theme is this couple’s struggle with the choice of becoming immortal with the fabric. For them, the prospect of immortality ignites a quest for adventure, to right the wrongs in society, and also to create a lasting legacy in this life.

They use their magical power to help people, choosing to make the most of the here and now against the ticking clock.

In life’s third act, leaving a legacy is important. And it becomes even more important when you don’t have children. Who wants to fade away with a remote control in their hand without having done something significant? My characters want to help people one person at a time. No fanfare. No recognition. And they don’t want their names on a building. In fact, they want to stay anonymous.

What would you do if you had the choice to become immortal? Would you make the most of what you have today? Or, would you live for the eternal life that’s waiting for you on the other side?

Hmmm...questions to ponder.

Baby Boomers are retiring at a rate of over ten thousand per day. I’m one of them, smack in the middle at fifty-four. My husband is sixty-two and still believes that vinyl records are superior technology to anything else out there. I think he might be right. We think of ourselves as immortal, stuck in a time when we stood up for what’s right and pounded our feet on the pot-holed pavement of wrongs. Like the music we listened to, we’ll never die. We’re spurred on to victory by Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, and Iggy Pop.

Oh....and we believe that animals know more than people do.

It may sound Pollyanna, but look at the courage of those in Egypt who are fighting for a better life. Not so Pollyanna. Not so far off from society’s turning point in the 1960s.

Leaving a legacy is not easy. What’s going to be yours? 
Stitches is the first book of a trilogy about a boomer couple’s journey of living with magic. It’s a little Antiques Roadshow and History Detectives combined with the sparkling relationship of Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man series—with a magical twist.

Stitches is available at Amazon.com in soft cover and as an e-book for the Kindle. Other e-book formats are available at Smashwords.com.

Brushes, the second book of the series, will be released in September, 2013. The third book, Riffs, is due out in 2014.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Viking Influence

It has been a wonderful summer. The weather has been warm and pleasant and my days away from the classroom have been dotted with scattered book signings in bookstores and at renaissance fairs and festivals. My summer has also been marked with a remarkable tour of the British Isles. During my two-week sojourn, I had the opportunity to visit many historic and pastoral locations in England, Ireland, and Scotland as well as a brief stopover in Paris. I was particularly amazed by the beauty of Ireland and Scotland, but most importantly, I was impressed by the deeply ingrained history of these locations. I marveled at the fact that I could enter a building that was over a thousand years old, one that was still being used. I often consider the idea that here, in the Pacific Northwest, we have nothing that even comes close to that. Occasionally, while I’m out riding my bicycle in the rural areas near my home I’ll come across a farm that has a sign marking it as a century old establishment, but that’s about as close as we come. I was also impressed by the varied influences that still exist in these countries from past conquerors, from the Romans all the way back to the Vikings, whose first recorded raid on the Celtic inhabitants occurred somewhere around 793 AD. Many of the tour guides that I met during my travels seemed to perk up when they began retelling the tales that included the ferocious manner of these attackers from the far north. The way they swept into peaceful communities completely unannounced and left nothing behind them in their wake, appeared to set the stage for a land that would witness carnage and supremacy for control for the next one thousand years. The Vikings, it seems, were among the first to set the stage for the nation’s bloody history.

It is perhaps a morbid curiosity of my own that draws me to the study and appreciation for the Vikings. In book three of The Zeke Proper Chronicles, The Gates of Asgard, I do a lot of retelling of the old myths. I have spent many hours perusing the stories. In doing so I believe I have identified the relationship between the real lives of the Norseman to his myths. Within the stories I can see the spirit and confidence of the Viking, his boundless curiosity, extreme bravery, clannish loyalty, generosity and discipline. However, I also see the arrogance and lack of compassion, his treachery, ruthlessness and his cruelty, a fact that is embodied in the figure of Loki, a character that is portrayed prominently in both books two and three of The Zeke Proper Chronicles.

So many of us are familiar with the tales of the Greek and Roman gods, but amazingly, we are mostly unfamiliar with Norse myth. What I have discovered on my journey to the British Isles is that the Viking is in fact a part of my own tradition and anyone else whose ancestors hail from the old country. The myths are part of our folklore, too, and we should be no less familiar with them than with the classical myths. The Norse myths speak for a dynamic culture and they speak of human longings and mysteries. So, allow yourself some time to explore The Zeke Proper Chronicles and let them speak for themselves.