Friday, December 24, 2010

Season's Greetings!

I wanted to take a moment and wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I hope you have success with what ever endeavors you accomplish in 2011.

Be safe traveling this holiday season!

Best wishes,

Sarah Hoss



Please click on link below for your Christmas "gift":

Sunday, December 19, 2010


At home in Pennsylvania, I know pretty well what the Christmas holidays will bring.  It will probably be cold, although statistically I believe our chances of a White Christmas are usually only 3-5%.  But the ground is rock-hard, the landscape sere, and when I go up the road to Wade's Christmas Tree Farm, tree saw in hand, frozen fingers and toes will expedite my cutting of just the right tree to put in my Victorian cottage.  It can't be more than five feet high because my ceilings aren't high at all.  In fact, my hand-dug basement is only about six feet deep and people have been known to burn their heads on light bulbs hanging from the ceiling down there!  My horses will be spending a lot of their time in their stalls, trying to get away from the cutting northwest wind.  Even the dogs won't want to stay outside for long.  Instead, they'll snarf their way through my kitchen, looking for Christmas chocolates they can drag down and eat so I'll have the pleasure of doing my own version of stomach-pumping:  one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide, to be repeated in twenty minutes if there are no...results.

It is at moments like that when I begin to hear "Christmas in Killarney" running through my head and to get a longing for a mere Force 10 gale.  Just the kind of day that makes you long for a cup of Bewley's tea in the hotel lobby at the Killarney Towers.  When the rain lets up, with water pooling in the streets but people already starting to emerge from stores and pubs where they've taken shelter, I envision a slow trickle and then a brisk rush of shoppers darting into Dunne's and other department stores decked out for the holiday.  I would suppose the stores aren't on Irish time now, but remain open later during the Irish twelve days of Christmas.

I would also think Killarney on Ice has been booked and will be appearing nightly, since ice skating and winter walks are always popular but never more so than at Christmas.  It's still not too cold for open air markets offering every possible inducement from woolen sweaters to precious green Connemara marble to lovely Inis perfume from Fragrances of Ireland and maybe even the heather and moss soap of which I'm so fond.  And food, ah, yes.  Not just the hearty Irish fare which I seem absolutely, perhaps genetically predisposed to like--chowing down happily on the classic Irish breakfast:  Irish bacon which puts our to shame, fat sausages, eggs, fried tomatoes, black and white pudding and potatoes, toast and tea.  But there are also lovely little fish and chips shops featuring the sweet white plaice I never had till I went to Ireland.  And shops with some of the hottest chicken curry this side of India.  And pub grub--washed down with Guinness Stout.  Lots of it, since I only seem to get mellow when I drink in Ireland.

As much as I ate there, though, I never gained any weight and it was actually difficult to find extra large sweaters to take back to some of my friends in the States.  Since I'm no Skinny Minny myself, it was pure, unadulterated bliss to be able to put down three real meals a day without counting every calorie.  People walk in Ireland...a lot.  I wouldn't mind walking past Santa's Lodge where children are perched on Santa's knee, asking for gifts, just as they are in the States and so many other places.  I could take in the concerts and shows at night.  During the day, once the skies clear, I suspect I'd rather put on one of my Aran sweaters against the damp chill and hike on down to Killarney National Park or to Muckross House and Abbey to see the buildings artfully decorated for the holiday.

And then back for tea--or maybe something stronger at The Laurels Pub.

Someday...someday, I swear...this is going to happen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The first indication of humans in the area which now comprises Killarney dates from about 2,000 B.C., when Bronze Age "Beaker Folk" mined tin as so many others would do.  They were supplanted by Picts from the north a little later; legend has it they were descended from Queen Mebh's son Cair and that the name of the Ring of Kerry is derived from his name. In 400 B.C. the Picts were supplanted by the Fir Bolg, the "Bag Men" who shipped bags of Irish earth to Greece to keep away snakes!  Of course Ireland doesn't have snakes because it's an island, so I think this constituted the first known case of blarney.  Tales of the ancient heroes and figures such as Deirdre of the Sorrows, who figures in one of my books, come from this time.

But the beautiful area with its abundant lakes and natural resources would always attract settlers, and next  around 100 B.C. came the Gaels, or Milesians.  It took them 500 years to subdue the fierce Fir Bolg, but then in 400 A.D. St. Alban established a cell at Aghadoe and people were rather easily converted to Christianity.  Their festivals were incorporated into the Church calendar and a bloodless coup of sorts resulted.

The native O'Donoghue/MacCarthy family defeated the Gaels and in turn was attacked from 1,200 A.D. onwards by Anglo-Normans who coveted their lands.  In 1261, the O'Donoghue/MacCarthys defeated them, one of the few people to do so.  But then in 1583 came powerful English troops and Ireland was subdued for the first time in its history.  The territory in and around Killarney was given to Sir Vincent Browne, appointed Earl of Kenmare.  His influence was so far-reaching that even when English Protestant settlers arrived and began hanging Catholics, the Brownes remained Catholic and never totally lost power.

It was Viscount Browne, descendant of Sir Vincent, who first recognized Killarney's potential as a tourist attraction.  Eventually he transferred lands to the Herbert family, who became copper barons.  Both families built grand estate houses at Muckross and Knockreer.  Even today, Muckross House is arguably the main tourist attraction in Killarney--a lovely mansion now open to the public.

Both families were also among the few proactive landlords who supported their workers through the Famine of 1845, thus gaining the respect of the Irish who still speak well of them as representatives of what the English upper class should have been and so often was not.  Elsewhere in Ireland, when the potato crop failed, vitally needed foodstuffs were exported while the Irish died of starvation along roads and in poorhouses.  It was this event which spurred the first great influx of Irish immigrants to America. 

By 1861 things were settled enough for a group of prominent English ladies to visit with Queen Victoria.  They made famous the site of Ladies' View, named for them, where they took in one of the more panoramic vistas in Ireland.

In 1899 the lands of the Herbert family, concentrated around Muckross, were sold to a member of the Guinness family.  He, in turn, sold them in 1910 to William Bourn, an American who gave them to his daughter who married an Irishman but died tragically in 1929.  Her husband, not wishing to maintain his ties with her property, donated them to the government, thus creating the first Irish National Park--Killarney National Park--comprising 26,000 acres.  I have been there many times, riding its grounds on Thoroughbred/Draft Horse crosses, exploring Norman ruins and and feeding the swans.

Join me again later this week for a taste of Christmas in Killarney.

Friday, December 10, 2010


First, let me state clearly that I have never spent Christmas in Killarney.  Wished to?  Yes.  Planned to?  Ditto.  Done it?  No.  The call of the holidays always pulled me home to the States even during the three years when I spent as much time as possible in Ireland.  There's just something about family.  But I longed to see Killarney as Christmas approached, with Dunne's Department Store decked out in lights, horses hitched to jaunting carts, covered with blankets of red and green, and well-insulated swans still sailing peacefully on the increasingly frigid waters of Muckross Lake.

At least, that's how I pictured it.  Never saw it, though.  The closest I came was spending Halloween there.  That was a still-warmish time of muted fall colors when tinker children begged money from me and earned a good scolding for "bothering the Americans."  Funny, at the airport in Newark several travelers to Ireland  thought I was Irish (it's the face, you know), but as soon as I got to Ireland I was pegged as indisputably American.  Maybe it's because Irish women of a certain age don't wear jeans, but American women apparently don them until shortly before they shuffle off their mortal coil.  I rather expect to be buried in mine unless I can talk someone into tossing my ashes from the Cliffs of Moher, thus retracing my grandmother's journey to America.

Next week:  a history of Killarney.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


My retelling of this classic tale, sometimes known as "Deirdre of the Sorrows" will appear in an anthology by Victory Tales Press in early 2011.  In the meantime, I hoped you might enjoy this excerpt from my story, "Deirdre."  Part One can be located under Older Posts.

And Fergus descended into deep bitterness and grief for the loss of his lands, saying that he must have sight of them again before he died.
                In time, Conor heard of his distress.  Ness had died, some said of a broken heart, and Fergus asked that he might return to Ulster to mourn her.  Conor’s own heart had been softened by time and the loss of his mother, and Fergus once had been kind to him, before he took the throne.  And so Fergus was welcomed once again to the court at Ulster and given high honors, but it soon became apparent that certain of the older chiefs would have been glad enough to see him back on the throne.  Privately, Conor began to seethe with anger towards Fergus and to regret that he had ever permitted him back.  And Conor bore a cold black anger that caused people to turn away from him. 
                While Fergus sought refuge at Queen Medb’s court, the old Ulster custom had sprung up once again whereby each chief presented a great banquet for the king and his retinue.  At length it became the turn of Felim, Conor’s chief story-teller, to hold this feast.
                No effort or expense was spared; indeed preparations took the fullness of a year.  A great hall of oak was built next to Felim’s castle, with shining inlays of precious stone, and every care was taken for the comfort of the guests the better to host and impress them.  For Felim was determined that never would his vast entertainment be forgotten.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

MYTHOLOGY of Scotland & Ireland

Myths are often considered an aspect of folklore. Even so, mythology might include the belief in the supernatural, where as folklore and folk tales derived when people had the need to explain mysterious events. Pre-Christianity might have had a hand in old world myths and folklore. A people’s yearning to believe in the hereafter, or in some type of entity, lived on through stories passed generation to generation. Once Christianity became widespread, faeries, brownies, and even the belief in the Loch Ness monster faded away.

With a rich Celtic History going back over 2,000 years, it is not surprising that Scotland has an extensive heritage of myths and folklore. Many objects have accumulated their share of myths and legends; circles of stones, cairns, and even castles.

Some believe that religion was an adaption from stories and memoires or evolutionary biology. In other words, religion evolved as byproduct of psychological mechanisms that evolved for other reasons. These mechanisms might have told early people how to watch for things that could cause them harm (omens). This morphed into an ability to come up with causal narratives for natural events (folk tales) while other people had minds of their own with their own beliefs, desires and intentions (mythology and the precursors of organized religion).

Some scholars concluded that unexplained observations like thunder or lightning were the basis of stories. These word-of-mouth explanations changed with the frequency of their telling which is why one myth could have many different descriptions or endings. Even the distinctive features of Scotland’s varied scenery fuels these beliefs. Deep mountain lochs, creeks, mountain peaks, and the moor, reflect in their folk tales and myths.

Scotland and Ireland share some basic land similarities. In Scotland, mythical Selkies are shy marine creatures in the shape of a seal, usually found near the islands of Orkney and Shetland. A female can shed her skin and come ashore as a beautiful woman. If found, a man could force her to be his wife. Of course, as the legend goes, if she recovered the skin, off she’d go. Male Selkies are said to be responsible for storms. What better explanation for the sinking of a ship?
Selkies of Irish lore are said to come from Co. Donegal in Ireland, which happens to be where many people made their living from the sea. Living by the sea might cause people to craft stories as a way to explain its mysteries. The Irish considered the Selkies to have the same characteristics as those of Scotland, even though they considered other sea creatures more malevolent. Most scholars believe the seals and sea lions from which these myths evolved had sweet, non-threatening dispositions. This might have allowed them to easily be transformed by myth into non-threatening Selkies. At least, the females!

Religion changed everything. Popular Christian beliefs were the norm. Myths and folklore slipped to the back burner, but never disappeared. Many tales are quite popular today. Think of the legend surrounding the Blarney Stone in Ireland or the Loch Ness Monster. Even Girl Scout troops around the world call their youngest recruits ‘Brownies’ after helpful creatures that do good deeds.

Myths and folk tales live on because people need to believe in them. There are hundreds of wonderful stories out there about kelpies, fairies, banshees, and the like. I recommend the following websites if you would like a taste. You might even recognize one or two stories!

Interested in reading my take on dead witches, a heroine with the secret gift of premonitions and a hero cursed to turn into a dragon at inopportune times?
Check out my book DRAGON'S CURSE by Whispers Publishing & Amazon for Kindle. Learn more by visiting my website: and my blog: