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Above is a photo of a flowering shamrock, which some may never have seen. Below is what's called a St. Bridget's Cross. While St. Patrick is probably the most familiar of the Irish saints, St. Bridget is probably the second most famous, being the patroness saint of Ireland. Her history seems to begin as the goddess of grain in pre-Christian Ireland, and only later did the history have her become a saint due to her good works. The cross was meant to be hung over doorways to prevent the entry of evil and to bring good luck into the home. There is also some thought that it later was meant to identify a Catholic house during the Protestant Reformation. The cross, along with the shamrock and Celtic harp has become emblematic of the Irish.

In California, I lived in a house that was built of stacked 2 x 4's of old-growth redwood. It was built by a former mayor of Eureka who owned a joinery (for decorative woodwork), but it was at a time when those who worked the mills could bring home leftover wood for their own use. My house, garage, and the six-foot fence surrounding the lot were all of stacked redwood when a 2 x 4 was a true 2 inches by 4 inches. As I did renovations on the house, I used reclaimed materials for my own woodworking. The photo below is a photo of the top of a coffee table I made, where the rails and inlay of the cross were of Port Orford cedar from a closet that was enlarged, while redwood shelving from my old garage provided the table top and legs.

This month, I thought I'd give you all a little update on my own writing, but first I wanted to also introduce you to an Irish mystery writer who is new to me:

John Banville - April in Spain (2021) is the eighth novel in the Quirke series about a Dublin pathologist who is definitely quirky. I don't know how I missed coming across his mysteries, but it was a great read. This author also has a wide reputation for his short stories.

As to my own work: I'm finishing up a novel I wrote about in several newsletters in 2022---my great aunt "Toots"---which will be the title of the book. She emigrated from Ireland at the age of 10 with my grandmother who was only 12. They came alone and worked as house servants, first in New York City, and then in Chicago, where my grandmother married a man who was second generation of Irish immigrants. He in turn introduced my aunt to a homesteader from Nebraska. How this happened was amazing to me. I don't want to give away the whole story, but my aunt had a fascinating history leading her from Ireland to Chicago to Nebraska to Florida before she came back to Chicago.

In the past year, I also finished the first draft of another Nora Brady mystery taking her from the north coast of California, all the way to Boston. There she is involved in helping to stop an errant group of firefighters in an arson-for-hire ring.

People often ask writers where their ideas come from. I don't think there is any simple answer. For "Toots", it was idly thinking about a story I had heard growing up, about a fire in her past where she had lost her family, which I thought was incredibly sad. For the arson novel, it began with a murder...that's all I'll tell you.

People often ask if I work with an editor. I haven't because I self-publish, where publishing is not without costs, and having an editor is a significant cost. There are different types of editing, but in general, copy editing is the cheapest, but can still run $0.04 or more per word. My novels are usually between 50 to 80,000 words = $2,000+, but there are different types of software to help with editing when it's DIY.

Finally: why self-publish? There are many reasons for this. Most people don't realize that publishing has gone through much downsizing in the last twenty years and many publishers won't work with an author unless there's an agent, so it's a multi-level process to find both the agent and then the publisher. Then, if you have a publisher, it may take several years for your book to be published, once it's accepted. Furthermore, there are limited perks to what was once offered. Writers often still must do much of their own promotion. All of this takes away from actually writing. Even self-publishing has become very competitive. Amazon published over 1000 new ebooks last year, and there are over 65,000 available there. One has to write because one has to write!

That's it for today's lessons. Hope you all have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!


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Mar 08

Thanks for the history. Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!😀


Sally Handley
Sally Handley
Mar 06
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you, Peg! Totally enjoyed this post. Love the Shamrock photo and I do have a St. Brigid's Cross hanging above my door! Slainte!

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