Friday, May 18, 2012


Once again this weekend my blog will be open to Celtic and historical writers, to post promotion or chat in the Comments section of this post.  By all means, introduce yourselves and leave us some blurbs, excerpts and links.  If someone is looking for a read, feel free to browse.   No pressure.  If you want a closer look at a book, just copy and paste the buy link in your browser.  Authors,  show us your stuff!  :)  Readers, feel free to comment and let us know what you're looking for.   

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Caylith and the Almost-Villain

(Or, Why an author should never hold onto a b&w snapshot of the bad guy . . . He just might  take on colors and dimensions that even the author had not anticipated.)

In my first romance Storm Maker, readers learn about a frightening man named Owen Sweeney, one whom Caylith had already met and vanquished, but who pops up in SM to plague her and Liam.

The secret that I'm divulging today is that Sweeney started out as an typical villain, a man who once frightened Caylithy to the marrow. I saw him as a dark force against the sunshine of Caylith's pure hope for the future. And then, vile-tempered and apparently evil as he is, he began to grow on me.

In the next novel of the trilogy, The Wakening Fire, Sweeney looms large again.But this time, the reader begins to get a hint that the man has hidden layers. Why would a scholar well-versed in the classics of antiquity, a man who sired six children by a woman he loved, a cattle baron with a vast fortune--why would such a man murder his wife and hold women in slavery?

And now the truth can be told. I changed my mind about Owen Sweeney. I had to ask myself those very questions, and easy answers would not do.
In TWF, Caylith and Liam go in search of Sweeney’s hidden past. Their journey leads them to discover forty year-old secrets and why those secrets have been hidden so long. His biggest secret is one even he would give his life to discover--and he almost does give his life trying to find the answer. That secret will lead eventually to the creating of the history and geography of northern Ireland. 
The Greeks used wheelchairs several centuries before Owen Sweeny did . . . .
In the following excerpt, Caylith manages to overcome her suffocating fear of Sweeney and approach him for the first time since she had him captured and imprisoned. A cripple confined to a wheeled cart, he is being watched over by a monk at the behest of Father Patrick.

Sweeney had once been a tall man, at least as tall as Glaedwine, and he was still as broad through the shoulders and as brawny of arm as my Saxon vassal. When last I had confronted him, his hair was long and matted with months of neglect. Now cut almost to his ears, I saw it was the deep color and glow of my steel war hammer, a black so deep as to be imbued with blue lights.

He was as clean-shaven as ever, his face betraying no dark afterthought of whiskers under the skin. His jaw was clenched, his mouth a thin, jagged line. His short-sleeved tunic revealed muscles bulging and moving as his arms guided his personal chariot across the floor. Inside the cart, his legs were splayed out, useless as sticks, covered with a blanket.

The invalid’s chair was large, at least two feet tall and four feet long, and it sat on four wooden wheels like a small oxcart. Sweeney himself would have been the size of an ox, I thought, if his legs had not been somehow ruined, for his immense forearms propelled the cart as easily as if it were a toy. With a slight pull here or a tug there, he had learned through long use to move the contraption as though it were part of his own body. In a way, it was an extension of him, I thought, as he moved and whirled in rhythm with his own taunting words.

“Well, who have we here? Caylith the Duchess, out to seduce me with her bodice of jewels?” He wheeled the cart to within six inches of my feet and grimaced up at my chest. 

Then he spun the cart to my left. “Caylith the ravening supplicant, devouring my property at the behest of the high king?”
Sweeney's cart was not so much different from this ox-cart, except that his had four wheels.

And then, in mock fury, Sweeney raced his cart around the fire pit and came to a rest near my right side. “Perhaps Caylith the vengeful goddess with her corvine minions eager to peck out my very eyes? Or are you an entirely new and different Caylith today?”

I flushed deeply. Sweeney was right. Each time he had seen me, I had showed a different side of myself. I decided to be straightforward with him. Settling onto a bench near the door, I looked at him with what I hoped were passive eyes.

“Today I am Caylith the curious. I would know more about you. I would set aside my prejudice and listen.”

“And what prejudgment do you speak of, you immature brat? You admit that you have already judged me and found me guilty, but you allow me to speak on my own behalf before the noose is tightened around my neck? Pahgh!” 

A great glob of spittle hit the polished floor, a foot from where I sat. I did not move. If he had spat on me, as he had done to Liam, would I still have sat immobile? I tightened my mouth, glad I did not have to decide, unwilling to answer his anguished question.

“Very well. You wish to know how it happens that a wife-killing, slave-holding criminal speaks like a member of royalty? Why he knows how to read and write Latin and Greek and several other languages besides? Why he had access to untold wealth yet chose to live like a sod puller? Why his own mother would condemn him to death? Is that what you want to know?”

I blanched from the blistering heat of his attack. “Please—I—”

His steel-dark hair fell onto his forehead, partially obscuring his stony glare. He gave a sudden swing with his head, sending the lank hair flying backward again. “I will not be subjected to the gaze of the pitying priests, nor made into a spectacle before the idly curious.”
Will Caylith's preconceptions of Sweeney go up in smoke? Or is he even more evil than she could have guessed?

The Wakening Fire is available at a discount until May 22 at this link:  

Thanks for your interest! 

Slán, Erin O’Quinn
Who is the villain, pray, and who the hero?

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Tale of the Nether Horn

Many followers of Celtic lore know that for centuries, The Cattle Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúailnge) has been hailed as the Iliad of ancient Ireland. 
Like Homer, the singer of the Cattle Raid was not one man but scores of men--poets, ollahmhs, filí--whatever we call the people who sang the great meadhall ballads of warriors and maidens, gods and goddesses, those creative people with no name who spanned centuries.
While writing all the Dawn of  Ireland books, I was drawn to the rich folklore of Éire, and throughout the novels I attempt to capture some of the music, the heroism, and above all the bawdy spirit of the original tales.
In the following excerpt from The Wakening Fire, Caylith’s erudite friend Brigid has a plan to arouse her husband. She tells the company sitting around the campfire the tongue-in-cheek female version of the famous Cattle Raid.

 “It is time for a tale,” I said to the company at large. 
Abair scéal,” said Brigid. “The ages-old cry for a story. What shall we hear tonight?” She settled back on the raised knees of Michael, her head thrown back and all her golden hair spilling over his legs.
“A tale of cattle,” I said.
“Then the teller must be me wife,” said Michael, stroking her soft curls. “Her namesake, the goddess Brigid, is the protector of cows.”
“Yes,” said Brother Jericho. “And tonight is her night, of all nights of the year. Um, to the local people, that is. Father Patrick is hoping to alter those old folk beliefs.”
She looked up dreamily to the top of the pines, where a few stars stood out against the black of the sky. “Tá go maith. I shall tell, for the many thousands of times over, the story of the great cattle raid. But from the point of view of a woman—the powerful queen Maeve.”
I knew the story, of course. It was one of the oldest in Éire, told by men as they quaffed their beer, recited by poets in the great mead halls of kings. For it was a tale of manly conquest, of warrior against warrior. The cattle raid itself was a mere excuse for a tale of bloody might versus might. I would enjoy a female version, and I settled back in the hollow of Liam’s shoulder to hear her story.

We all know that Maeve was a beauty, and she was the queen of all  Connaught. Her fortunate husband, Ailill, enjoyed a life of sensual gratification because of her ready thighs; and a life of ease because of her bounty. And he knew it. She was loath to remind him, as long as he remained loving and true—and as long as he did not challenge her wealth.
One night, Maeve and Ailill were lying back on their golden bed strewn with mink furs and nosegays of lavender, basking in the glow of their lovemaking.
“Darling,” said Maeve, “the size of your loins is as great as that of my strong, red- eared bull.”
“Really?” he murmured. “I would see this bull. For I say my great shaft is more like that of my own white-horned bull.”
“Challenge me not on this point, dear husband. How are you qualified to judge the nether horn of a bull?”
Ailill was rankled at her teasing. “Because I am a man,” he said. “Because White Horn belongs to me, and his size is a matter of pride.”
“Say you that your possessions—even a single bull—are greater than my own? Say you that my Red Ears cannot measure his horn against that of your White Horn?”
“Yes,” he said, convinced of his own manly prowess, blind to his wife’s growing vexation. For he was beginning to feel again the stirrings of desire, and his words amounted to an invitation to prove his proportions were worthy.
Now Maeve was no fool. She knew exactly what Ailill was doing and she, too, craved his nether horn for the second time that night. But she was also very competitive. She thought she would have his bull, and her own, too, thereby increasing her wealth and enjoying his dimensions at the same time.
“I propose a raid,” she said with a fire in her eye. “If you capture my red bull, I will give you the debate, and you may use that bull in any way you see fit. But if I capture yours, you must yield it to me any time, night or day, in any way I see fit.”
To unquenchable Maeve, this challenge was not just a competition—it was a way to ensure unheard-of gratification from her prodigious husband. But to Ailill, suddenly stubborn and proud, it was a way to best his overweening wife.
“By tomorrow night,” he said rashly, “your red-eared bull shall be mine.” 
He turned his back then and slept, much to Maeve’s disgust. When he was snoring loudly, she crept from their fine bed and donned her leather slippers. Drawing her silken tunic around her ivory shoulders, she walked to the byres of Ailill where she knew a large white bull lay sleeping.
“O White Horn,” she murmured. “I have come to take you to my prize heifer, she of the lovely red shoulders, she who has never known the nether horn of a fine young bull.”
He opened one eye, loath to rise from the shelter of the byre and the plenty of the hay haggard.
“And,” said Maeve, “to sweeten the feast, my second virgin heifer waits for you, she of the deep black coat and milk-white chest.”
At these words, White Horn heaved himself to his hooves and began to beat his shaft against the sides of the byre in anticipation.
“Follow me,” she said sweetly, and he did. For Maeve knew the weakness of every male—and that is the promise of yielding thighs with no payment on the morrow.
As soon as White Horn entered her own byres, she shut the paddock firmly and called her strongest guards to stand sentry. “So that none may disturb you,” she told him with a broad wink.
And then she returned to her mink-soft bed to exact her payment.
Brigid stopped speaking, and she and I started to laugh—first softly, then louder, until I felt tears at the corners of my eyes. “Brigid, you are a poet. If you were not a woman you would stand by the shoulder of the high king himself as his ollamh.”
“Ah, I think the woman’s perspective may rankle even the most benign of kings,” she said, raising her eyes to look at her husband.
Michael looked as if his dinner were not quite settled in his stomach. “The next tale at this fire, young Brigid, will be told by Ailill.” He seized her shimmering hair and pulled her head toward his, and I could see that her story had aroused him deeply. 

The Wakening Fire follows Storm Maker  and is available beginning May 15 at the link below

my blog:
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on SirenBookStrand:   (buy link)

Friday, May 11, 2012


For Saturday, May 12 I've opened my blog to the talented authors of Celtic Rose Writers.  This may also repeat next Saturday, May 19 as well if we do not get in everyone who would like to post.  In the comments section, they are welcome to leave blurbs, short excerpts and buy links for their many wonderful romance books--contemporary, historical, fantasy, even some Medievals (for which I know we have many readers, including me).  So for anyone who wants to post, browse, look for a good read--have a cup of tea and settle back.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I hope everyone is having a lovely and satisfying week.  I'm taking a short break to plan a trip to Ireland, but next week my nose will be back to the grindstone--not that I mind!  On May 15, Erin O'Quinn will bring you a special tale from her forthcoming release, "The Wakening Fire."  This is book two in her series about Ireland in the time of St. Patrick and I'm falling in love with the books as I read them, planning a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick for late in September or early October.  Whether or not I make the entire three-hour climb is another matter!

Then, on the weekend of the 19th, The Celtic Rose Blog will be open to promotion from Celtic and historical authors.  We will feature a running list in our Comments section on which you can post or browse for contemporary, historical and/or fantasy books in Celtic or closely associated genres.  So if this is your interest, feel free to join us.

Meanwhile, here's a picture which is one of my all-time favorites and if I keep looking at it and reminding myself I'll be there in the fall...well, it helps!

DOES ANYONE WANT TO SHARE THEIR FAVORITE ATTRACTIONS, PLACES TO STAY, FOND MEMORIES OF IRELAND??  Many of us would love to hear them!  Feel free to share in the Comments section.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


And how is everyone doing this lazy Sunday morning here in the U.S.?  It's damp and drizzly in my little corner of the world, the perfect time for a second cup of coffee.  Second breakfast wouldn't be bad, either, come to think of it.

This fall, I plan to head back to Ireland once more, this time researching prehistoric Ireland on the beautiful Dingle Peninsula.  I expect that research will find its way into another of my books!  Meanwhile, this video from my first book Confessions of the Cleaning Lady always makes me smile.  Maybe it will do the same for you.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


        Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes

Brilliant and sassy Elizabeth Trumpet fantasizes starring on the London stage, but to become an actress in 1803 is tantamount to losing her virginity in the most debasing way.
After watching her mother die and her father lose his mind, the courageous sixteen-year-old must find a way to save her family. She scores her first acting job as a fencer - the deadly skill she learned from her brother training for the military. Blessed with talent and a rare singing voice, Lizzie pursues her career, learning from theatrical characters high and low.
When reckless actor Jonathan Faversham sets eyes on Miss Trumpet, he knows he's found the partner of his life. But Faversham carries ruinous baggage from a dark past. Entangled in lust and ambition, Lizzie gives him her heart and they reach the heights together. Until Lizzie gets more applause than he.

From the magnificence of Regency palaces and the Theatre Royal Covent Garden to the sun-baked pyramids of Egypt and the arms of a real-life Samson, Lizzie is never far from trouble. As her brother rides to glory with Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars, great events threaten her survival. Danger lurks behind stage curtains, when a madman sets fire to take her life and she lifts a sword in revenge.

Will this once innocent girl, with her rise to stardom, be remembered for her art? Or for her shame?

Authors: Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes
Publisher: Decadent Publishing
Hello, Susan and Bill Hayes. Thanks for joining us today.

(1)  Your new release sounds amazing. How long did it take you to research and write?  We spent a total of seven years on TRUMPET, traveling the world from Waterloo to Egypt.  In London we spent long hours researching in the library of the London Theatre Museum, actually holding the newspaper clippings and playbills of Sadlers Wells, 1803. 
(2)  Do you have a set idea of how your work will turn out before it’s complete?  Always having an ending in sight, we still covered eighteen years of very eventful British history in this story. Whew!
(3)  Can you tell us about your muse? Does he/she have a name? Can you always call upon your muse to help you? Our muse calls us to put bottoms in chair, face to the keyboard, shoulder to the wheel. Months spent waiting for inspiration to fly in the window are months wasted. Work is our ethic. Of course we love it.
(4)  How did you come up with the title for the book?  Trumpet is the heroine’s family name, a fine old name having nothing to do with brass bands. It is the Anglicized version of Trombetta, her father’s Italian heritage transformed to fit into British society of the period.
(5)  If the heroine in TRUMPET was a cocktail, what would she be and why?  A rum fizz, tall and richly flavored. Because this lady is both.
(6)  Did you listen to music when you were working on the book?  Yes, Mozart and Handel. Of course we often listen to them, but during the final edit we noticed the combination of background music and our dialogue was very moving.
(7)  Who has the best line in the book and what is it? My dears, many of our characters are actors. They are loaded with good lines! Think of the egos, the grasp on unreality that show business invites. We read all our dialogue aloud to make sure it’s natural and sparky. Like the best soap opera (which is where we come from), the story is full of tears, spice and plenty of laughter. And, dare we say it? Wit.   
(8)  What is your desk area like?  Our desks are piled with papers, books are stacked knee high on the floor. Cascades of photos teeter in every corner, all snapped by us in museums. You see, in those portraits of people, long forgotten, we have found the faces of our characters.
(9)  What current advertisement on TV do you love or hate?  We love to read and enter other worlds. TV adverts interrupt the best drama, destroy concentration and generally ruin the mood of any show. We, unlike the audience TV favors, are not perpetually in a mood to buy.  (However. If there is a dog in the commercial, Susan will always watch).  
(10)        What is your favorite alcoholic beverage? Champagne for Bill.  Beer for Susan.
(11)        What would you say is your one addiction?  Chocolate. 
(12)        How many cities have you visited and which was your favorite? Hundreds, truly hundreds. Remember we are two mature actors who toured for business  and traveled for pleasure, with a big family spread all over the place. Not to sound predictable, but we love Rome, Venice and—for downright delirious pleasure—London. Susan feels at home in Sarasota, Florida, too. However we’ve lived happily in Los Angeles, basking in the sun and sampling the guacamole   for more than forty years.


     “Elizabeth, you must perform. I will teach you a style of acting that is revolutionary. You have seen my work. You understand the art I worship.”
     She took a step closer. “Since I was a child, watching my father on stage, I longed to be there with him.” Jack watched Lizzie struggle to go on. “You have just described the dream of my life. There is nothing I want more, but…Mr. Faversham—Jack…I am not free.”
     He reached for her hands and pulled her down beside him on the stump. “Explain why you are not free.”
     In a long and tearful soliloquy, Lizzie told her story of the past year. She was too candid for propriety and too wrought-up by his presence to withhold anything. In this soulful state, she was so beautiful and vulnerable that Jack had to fight to keep his hands off her.
     “You need, as in a play, an ailing uncle to leave you a great inheritance,” Jack suggested with sympathy.
     “Indeed, I have just been offered ‘protection’ by a gentleman.”
     “It must be Dampere, the creature! I guessed as much! That’s why I broke in upon your privacy in such haste. Listen to me, Elizabeth. I promise you a weekly income, not of shillings, but of pounds. From the sound of it, your first concern is caring decently for your family. Join me and you will be able to provide for your father and aunt and whoever else you are carrying on your lovely back.”
     The emotional girl looked at him as though he were a god.
     Jack turned on his serpent-of-Eden charm. “Why take up with that toad Dampere? Come with me and live your passion while you keep your reputation. I can turn you into a real princess, Pocahontas—a princess of the stage.”
     That did it. Dazzled, Lizzie said something irrational that meant yes: “The honor…do all I can…prove your faith.” It was the grateful garble of a person saved.
     Satisfied to have gotten his way, Jack sealed the bargain by taking her head in his hands and kissing her full on the mouth. “Gad, we’ll be good; I know it.” He bowed and strode to his hired horse. “I have urgent business in the city. Be glad, Elizabeth. I certainly am.”
     He leaped into the saddle and cantered away. Actually, he was off to a backstage intrigue at Covent Garden. Waiting in his dressing room, another would-be actress, of no performing ability whatsoever, was ready to audition what talent she did have on the chaise lounge.
     Lizzie watched Faversham until she could see him no more. A freshening breeze lifted the leaves of the oak tree. She touched her tingling lips and thanked God for escaping a sordid life. He is my savior. Now I won’t have to do as Octavia does.


We have autographed copies of our memoir "Like Sands Through the Hourglass" and my CD "This Is Bill Hayes" as prizes for our giveaway.  Two names will be drawn randomly from this blog stop!