Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Springtime in Ireland

I can't believe it's been so long since I've updated my page. A lot has been going on behind the scenes though, so this message will undoubtedly be longer than usual.

My sister visited earlier this month. We drove up to Dublin City for a few days, which was great. We visited the National Gallery again and finally, after all the other times it never worked out, I was able to see one my most favorite paintings in the world...Meeting on the Turret Stairs by pre-Raphaelite-influenced artist Sir Frederick William Burton, a native County Clare man. The painting was inspired by the Danish ballad called Hellelil and Hildebrand, which is a love story between a Danish princess and one of her twelve personal guards.

I can't begin to say how amazing and beautiful this painting is. It's listed as a watercolor, but it's actually a type of watercolor called gouache. Basically, gouache is a water based paint that is very thick so it looks opaque rather than translucent like traditional watercolor. This particular piece comes over as oil based because the colors are still so vivid. The detail is incredible. It's difficult to really tell in most pictures I've found online, but the texture of the knight's tunic, the etching on the scabbard, the feather lining on the dress, the chainmail...it all has been intricately painted...every link, every stitch, every feather, every hair...so that it takes on a lifelike quality. The detail on the knight's tunic resembles that from the Book of Kells, which is housed in Trinity College. And the lighter blue band around the lady's dress is a wonderful Celtic weave, as is the etching on the scabbard.

One normally has to make an appointment to see this painting in the National Gallery, but we lucked out to be in the gallery early enough in the day that there were workers in the office where this painting is on display. It's a restoration/file/research/etc room in an upper floor of the original gallery building.

The National Gallery also houses the famous once-missing Carravagio painting called the Taking of Christ, and another of my most famous paintings, the Marriage of Strongbow by Daniel Maclise. The figures on this painting are almost lifesize. The canvas takes up most of one wall in a grand ballroom in the gallery.

I emailed with a researcher at the gallery not long after returning home and one of the things I was told was that
Maclise enlisted the assistance of friends who specialized in Irish history, architecture and such and used their research to create this stunning painting. I would have loved to have been in his studio when he was painting this one. Every person has a "soul", if that's the right way to say it. It's like each person was a real person. No two faces are the same or even remotely similar. Each costume is unique, and there is a lot of detail in some of the fabric, too. It's really quite incredible.

Anyone wanting to visit the National Gallery can do so 7 days a week. The gallery is open almost every day of the year and admission is free. And they have a great cafe and a store in the new Millennium Wing where you can buy prints of some of the most popular paintings, as well as books, notecards, blank books, and anything else to do with art and the works on display.

May has been a busy one, as I mentioned. I've had another short story published with
Highland Press newest anthology called Blue Moon Enchantment. It's the second volume to Blue Moon Magic which was also published this month, both of which are available through Amazon. My story is called Moondance and is set on the Dingle Peninsula here in Ireland. I don't have an excerpt up yet or a publication date, but as soon as I do, I'll make a note here. Should be soon though.

The theme of the Blue Moon anthologies are things that happen once in a blue moon...blue moons are months with two full moons in the one month. If conditions are right, the second full moon takes on a blue tint, which is where the phrase comes from...blue moons are rare. Moondance is based on a lovely quote I found that says. "Love that's true happens only once in a blue moon." This story is based on a couple finding true love in an unsuspecting place.

I've submitted a story called Constant Craving for Highland Press's next anthology called A Recipe for Love, due out in July. For those who have emailed me about
Just You, Constant Craving is a visit back to Kate and Mick in Connemara. I'm hoping this story will be included, but if it's not for some reason, I just might post it on the website as a freebie read.

Next up is a short story for Highland Press's anthology for the holidays called Christmas Wishes. The working title for my story is Last Christmas and will be a story of Christmas miracles.

I'm still working on
The Diary and hope to have that finished this summer. I've submitted the "Just" novels to Poolbeg Press in Dublin City and hope they come back with some positive comments. Currently, chicklit dominates the Irish shelves. However, I believe Irish readers are getting tired of cookie cutter plots and shallow characters that all read the same from book to book. I think Irish women are ready for a good ol' traditional love story...a relationship story between a monogomous couple. That's probably a topic for a future message though. Suffice to say, I'm hoping to hear something positive from this publisher.

I've also been doing some reading. A favorite read this month was by Kathy Lette called
How to Kill Your Husband (and other hand household hints). I don't think it's available in the US yet, but Amazon.co.uk sells it. Although it's chicklit, which I don't normally read, this one was really funny. I love Lette's caustic sense of humor. I was able to find Lette's backlist in a shop in Dublin City while there and read through those, too, but they're just not as good as How to Kill Your Husband. I also picked up another Linda Howard and a couple other authors that are in the TBR pile.

I have a sad confession. I don't ever normally jump on bandwagons, but with all the hype over the Da Vinci Code, I finally started reading the book by Dan Brown. It's OK, but I'm only about 80 pages into it and I know how it will end...mostly thanks to the press, but it's kind of obvious. I know I'm right because my DH read the book and told me I was right. I just can't believe what poor editing the book got before it was published. As a writer, reviewer, line editor, all I want to do is red mark all the mistakes as I'm reading. It's really distracting. As far as the story goes, aside from being predictable and poorly edited, it's interesting to see how so many could get the wrong end of the stick about fiction turn fact,. It's easy to see how people could believe what Dan Brown wrote is true. Anyway, I'm sure my feelings of the book may change when I get to the end, but this is what I think at just reading as far as page 80.

Just for fun, for those Ireland-philes out there, Spring is springing around Ireland. The pastures are green, the gorse is still blooming yellow, and the hawthorne is blooming everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Here's a picture of a tree in a park we take our dogs to. You can see how big the tree is by the little picnic table under it on the left...it's just barely visible on the left of the tree behind the boulder. The boulders are as big as our dogs, both of which are Border Collies, as many will know.

I think that's me caught up.

As usual, I love to hear from readers. Just click on the contact me link above and drop me a note, or use the comments link below to leave a commenton the site itself.

Thank you to those readers who have emailed me these past months. Your encouragement and kind words have meant a lot and give me the courage to keep writing.

Until next time...