Thursday, 24 May 2012
Author Spotlight and Guest Post: Erin O'Quinn
The Wakening Fire follows Storm Maker as the second in The Dawn of Ireland series.
Even though married life for young Liam and Caylith O'Neill is just as sensuous as their stormy courtship, both of them still need to learn a whole new language - how to show each other their deepest, most secret passions. Liam finds ingenious ways to teach his still-naïve wife about his urgent needs, and she surprises him with her own instruction.
In the midst of their quest of each other, they find themselves on another, deadly search - for the dark secrets of their old enemy Owen Sweeney, confined to an invalid's cart and seemingly just as dangerous as ever. Their search for the truth of the brooding half man leads them back to the history of Ireland's most famous high king, to the astonishing vengeance of a jealous woman, and finally to the hills of sacred Tara, where a high king and St. Patrick himself compete for men's hearts and souls.
Storm Maker is available from Siren BookStrand here, and from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)
The Awakening Fire is available from Siren BookStrand here. It will be available from Amazon soon.
Thank you so much, Erin, for writing this very interesting post about the standing stones.
The Standing Stones of Celtic Ireland
As seen in O’Quinn’s Dawn of Ireland Series
Cairns and all manner of sacred stones abound in Ireland and Scotland. In fact, the word 'cairn' is the plural form of 'stone' in Scottish Gaelic. Ancient Gaels somehow transported stones, many weighing tons, and erected them in certain alignments clearly imitating some sacred rite or calling forth a religious belief.
The three most important stone formations that figure in the Dawn of Ireland novels are first, the famous Lia Fáil, or Stone of Destiny, erected on the sacred Hill of Tara in Co. Meath, Ireland. Second is the Tirnoney dolmen, near Maghera in present day Co. Derry. Third is the evocative group of stones sitting in a farmer’s field near Claudy, near the city of Derry.
The Lia Fáil is perhaps the most unforgettable sight to a visitor viewing the famous hill of Tara, home of Old World Ireland’s high kings. It stands fully six feet high and is a pale grey, a phallic symbol of such undeniable potency that it is said high kings could not hold office until the contender for the crown stood at the stone and everyone in attendance could hear the stone roar.
This stone is the site where, in Caylith’s vivid memories, her husband’s father High King Leary erected his public throne and pronounced judgment on Owen Sweeney; and where he awarded Caylith her new provincial land, former holdings of the criminal Sweeney. In a later novel titled Warrior, Ride Hard, one of the main characters uses the Stone of Destiny as an unerring reference and later as a focal point in his quest to bring down a group of scheming druids.
A dolmen, in general terms, refers to two stones with a third (lintel stone) erected on top. Thus most of the stones on the Plain of Salisbury are said to be dolmens. In Storm Maker, as Caylith and Liam are traveling to her new holdings in Derry in company with his cousin Ryan, the three stop and marvel at such a formation. In the book, I have the stone placed roughly where it stands today, near a copse of ashes near the town of Maghera.
In the novel, as in reality, the stones have obviously been brought to that place, and the lintel stone is not flat. It is almost as imposing as the balancing stones, and tipped to face the rising sun. Actually, the group of stones had been subject to vandals in some past age and have been brought close to a modern highway so that folks in passing vehicles can stop and marvel at the sight of stones almost six feet high with an even larger stone balanced on top.
Seeing these stones opens a deep place inside Caylith - and in Liam too, for both of them feel stirrings of a being far greater than themselves, a might that reaches back into the dawn of time.
I felt Liam next to me, and Ryan, too. He spoke through his cousin. “What do ye feel?”
“I feel the old bones. And I hear them singing.”
“Are ye a believer in the gods of old?”
“No. I believe in Christ. And I believe in the life everlasting, as he taught.”
“Then the ancestors still live?”
“In a way, Liam, yes. They speak through these stones.”
“Then Pádraig’s beliefs differ not so much from our own,” he said, and I looked at him then. He, too, had reached out to touch the ancient stones, and his finger traced the fissures and cracks that seemed old as the earth itself.
“Me father has warned me about Pádraig. The druids have told him that the priest means to destroy our beliefs. Do ye think that be true, Caitlín?”
I had to be careful here, for I did not want to go against Father Patrick’s teaching. I knew he welcomed many of the old beliefs of the people of Éire, as long as the teachings of Christ were carefully layered over old superstition and shown to be superior.
“I do not believe the druids. I think they will do or say anything to discredit Father Patrick. I think he wants what the people want - to be protected and loved by almighty God.”
“If that be true,” Liam said slowly, “then I could follow Pádraig’s words and not be damned by the almighty powers.”
The third set of stones to play an important role for Caylith and her friends is the group sitting in a farmer’s field near Claudy, about six miles south of modern Derry. You will see in the photo how the farmer has carefully mowed the field all around the stone. It may seem strange to those of us in the USA that the stone is not the site of a souvenir stand and a photo-op sign. Thankfully, the Éireannach people are more sensitive than we about their culture.
These stones, to Caylith, represent a mighty king surrounded by his subjects, and she has taken Owen Sweeney to gaze on the formation in a closing chapter of The Wakening Fire.
I stood with Liam regarding a stone as tall and wide as he was. It was light gray and weathered. Like the one we had seen near the Lough Neagh, it was crisscrossed with feathery strands of lichen. But one entire side of this stone was streaked and almost bloodred.
At first I thought the red was the stain from some ghastly druid sacrifice. And then I realized that the stone itself on this side was a bit different from the rest. Instead of looking like thousands of bits of shiny dwarf dust, this side was rougher and darker. I thought the red might be the way the sun and the rain played upon its surface over the countless years it had stood here.
From the moment I had seen it yesterday, I imagined it as a solitary, proud king. The several stones that stood or lay nearby were his sentries, his minions, watching over him as he stood on high ground and beheld his realm—the low, pretty valley where two rivers flowed together.
I, like Caylith and some of my other main characters, am drawn like a lodestone to the ancient stones. They call me back to the beginning, even before the stalwart men who placed them in prominent places throughout the British Isles. I look, I marvel, and by the grace of God, I write about them.
I earned a BA (English) and MA (Comparative Lit.) degrees from the University of Southern California. My training almost demanded that I pay close attention to the interplay of culture, language, and folklore. I am retired from an active life and I look out at the sprawling brown hills of Central Texas - far from the Emerald Isle - as I write my novels.
You can find out more about Erin and her writing on her Blog and Facebook. You can also contact Erin by email here.