Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Among the many wonderful Celtic legends is that of the selkie, a creature that can become human by removing its seal skin, and return to its life in the sea by once again donning that skin.  A selkie who cannot find its seal skin is doomed to stay on land in human form. 

A common element of the selkie myth is that of a man who sees a selkie become a woman and hides her seal skin, so that she must become his wife.  Typically in these stories, she loves her husband, and loves the children she bears him, but one of those children unwittingly finds the seal skin her husband has hidden for so many years, and she will without hesitation return to her life in the sea.  It infallibly calls to her more strongly than her husband and children, despite her love for them.

A selkie man is said to be unusually handsome, with great powers of seduction over women, in their human form.  They have the power to cause storms and sink ships.

There are several ideas about where the stories of the selkies originated.  One is that shipwrecked Spanish sailors, washed up on the Celtic shores, looked at a glance like seals, with their jet black hair slicked back with seawater.  Another theory revolves around the Sami of Northern Norway, traveling the sea in kayaks wearing sealskin coats.  Some stories say they are fallen angels (those that fell on land became fairies, and those that fell in the sea became selkies), while others say they are the souls of people who committed suicide or those who had drowned.  Regardless of where the stories originated, they are known throughout the Celtic world, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, and the Orkney, Faroe, and Shetland Islands and Scandinavian countries.  Some claim the stories are of Scandinavian origin while others claim they come from the Orkney Islands.

In addition to the ancient legends, there have been numerous modern novels and movies involving selkies.  The Secret of Roan Inish is a great favorite around my house, but there is also Selkie, made in 2000 and featuring Shimon Moore of the Australian band Sick Puppies, last year's Ondine with Colin Farrell, and the upcoming animated movie, Song of the Sea.  There are far too many novels, songs, and even television depictions of selkies to list.

An old ballad call The Great Selkie of Skule Skerrie tells the story this way:

I heard a mother lull her bairn,
and aye she rocked, and aye she sang.
She took so hard upon the verse
that the heart within her body rang.
"O, cradle row, and cradle go,
and aye sleep well, my bairn within;
I ken not who thy father is,
nor yet the land that he dwells in."
And up then spake a grey selchie
as aye he woke her from her sleep,
"I'll tell where thy bairn's father is:
he's sittin' close by thy bed feet.
"I am a man upon the land;
I am a selchie on the sea,
and when I'm far frae ev'ry strand,
my dwelling is in Sule Skerry.
"And foster well my wee young son,
aye for a twal'month and a day,
and when that twal'month's fairly done,
I'll come and pay the nourice fee."
And when that weary twal'month gaed,
he's come tae pay the nourice fee;
he had ae coffer fu' o' gowd,
and anither fu' o'the white money.
"Upon the skerry is thy son;
upon the skerry lieth he.
Sin thou would see thine ain young son,
now is the time tae speak wi' he."
"But how shall I my young son know
when thou ha' ta'en him far frae me?"
"The one who wears the chain o' gowd,
`mang a' the selchies shall be he.
"And thou will get a hunter good,
and a richt fine hunter I'm sure he'll be;
and the first ae shot that e'er he shoots
will kill baith my young son and me."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Midsummer's Day: St. Bee's

With Midsummer's Day and the Midsummer blog hop on us, it seems a particularly good day to tell the story of St. Bee's.

St. Bee's is actually a church in northern England, but it was visited by James Douglas and his raiders in the years following Bannockburn, in the course of trying to force Edward II to accept a peace treaty.  With this connection to the Scottish Wars of Independence, it makes an appearance in The Minstrel Boy, book two of The Blue Bells Trilogy.  So as to avoid spoilers for those who have not read Blue Bells of Scotland, I won't say who goes there or why.  Or even in which century, for that matter.  But somebody does visit it, and it has an interesting story.

Hundreds of years ago (and all the best stories seem to start with some variation of that line), there was a princess (oh, this is getting better and better, or more cliched, depending how you look at it!)  No, really, there was a genuine, real-life princess from Ireland, named Bega.  Now the thing about princesses is that, while it's easy to think they must have had it made, they really did not.  Arranged marriages were among the possibly less-pleasant aspects of the life of a princess.  Bega was promised in marriage to a Viking prince, a son of the king of Norway, a medieval manuscript says.

I would guess that most pre-medieval princesses, unlike their modern fictional renditions, did what they were told.  But in a story that would play well to twenty-first century movie-goers, this particular princess ran away, crossing the Irish sea to what is now northern England.  Her desire was to start a convent.

Convents need land.  So she asked a local landowner to grant her some, on which to build her convent.  It is easy to imagine the landowner thinking he was quite funny, as he told Bega, who was most certainly a fairly young woman at most, that he would give her all the land covered by snow the next morning.

Late June.  Snow.  Right.

If I were writing the story, I would show the landowner, in the very next scene, chortling it up with his friends at the local tavern about his promise.  I suspect the next scene of Bega would be that she spent the night praying.

When the landowner awoke the next morning, did he maybe think he'd drunk too much while bragging to his friends about his clever promise? 

For three miles of his land was covered in snow.

On that land, Bega built her convent, and it is today the parish of St. Bee's.

This is one version of the story.  For some interesting reading and a very different version, take a look at the official St. Bee's site.  For more information on St. Bega herself, they have this page.

Happy Midsummer's Day, and may it not involve three miles of snow!  Unless, of course, you're an avid downhill skier!

Want to join the Midsummer Day Giveaway?  Follow my blog, click like on my facebook page (both are in the right hand sidebar) and leave a comment with your contact information, for an entry into a $10 amazon.com gift card giveaway.  EASY!  Then click on any of the many blogs below to enter their giveaways, too!  Have fun.

And if you like giveaways, don't forget to stop by yesterday's guest blog by Kelvin O'Ralph for a chance to win copies of his books, Fast Forward: Into the Future and LS: The Beginning.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kelvin O' Ralph on Time Travel

Today, I am pleased not only to welcome Kelvin O' Ralph, author of Fast Forward: Into the Future and LS: The Beginning, but to kick off his first official blog tour, with his post on time travel and a giveaway, two copies each of each of his books.  All you need to do is leave a comment here with your e-mail, and he will be doing the drawing at the end of his blog tour.  Also, I kick off another week of blog hop giveaways Monday night, so don't forget to stop by for the giveaways here and at a couple hundred other blogs!

Time Travel

by Kelvin O' Ralph

The word 'time travel' is self explanatory. It means moving into the future or past. In the world of writing, time travelling is classified under the science fiction genre, because writers believe there's a scientific reason on how it works. For example, 'The grandfather paradox' is a hypothetical situation in which a time-traveler goes back in time to kill his grandfather at a time before his grandfather and grandmother met. If he did so, then his father or mother never would have been born and probably the time-traveler himself never would have travelled to the past to kill his grandfather. Confusing right? Yeah, but that's time for you. Also, some interpretations of time travel also suggest that an attempt to travel backwards in time might take one to a parallel universe whose history would begin to diverge from the traveler's original history after the moment the traveler arrived in the past.

However, this has all been philosophized meanings. Now, let's talk about time-traveling in writing. Time travel in fiction can ignore the possible effects of the time-traveler's actions or can choose to use the aforementioned situation (grandfather). Some people misunderstand the difference between time-travelling as a science-fiction genre and as a fantasy genre. I'll explain that now. Books that involve time travel devices and technologies that take people backwards and forwards in time and space are considered part of the science fiction genre, whereas stories that involve time travel through supernatural, magical, or unexplained means are considered part of the fantasy genre. For example, The Time Traveller's Wife is under the science-fiction genre, but Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is under the fantasy genre.  (When Hermione and Harry travel to the past to save Sirius Black and the other creature).

In all, time-travel has been and will always be a significant theme in fiction. I for one may be compelled to release another book that has a touch of time-travel like the HP3 book.

Q&A with Kelvin O' Ralph

What made you start writing?

Although I've always loved the art of writing, I became a writer the moment a stranger praised my short stories.

Tell us about your other books.

Presently, I have published two books on Amazon. One's a romantic sci-fi novella, titled Fast Forward: Into The Future, and the other is  a paranormal romance novel, titled LS: The Beginning. The latter is the first book of a paranormal series, and it's about two college kids who receive mysterious super powers from an unknown source, and how they travel on a journey filled with romance and danger. Whilst, the novella is about a young writer who's able to travel into the future, and how his visions affects his decisions in the present life.

Who is your favorite of all your characters and why?

Hmm, this is a bit difficult. Well, I'm going to go for Lisa Morgan, the female MC in LS: The Beginning. I love her sense of humor, and the way she relates with the male main character, Stephen Wilson.

When and where do you write?

I started writing in 2009, professionally that is. The previous years were done as a hobby. As for the location, as a college student, I write on my reading table in my room.

What other novels can readers expect from you down the road?
Presently, I'm working on the sequel to LS: The Beginning, which would be released sometime in September. However, this doesn't mean readers should wait for it before reading the first book. You'd enjoy the first one as it is. Also, I'm contemplating releasing the first book to my magical book. It's almost done, but there are a few contradictions I need to sort out first. And again, I recently began working on a romance comedy book. I wouldn't say much about this because it's a surprise to my readers. I hope to get this published before the year ends. 

I noticed you added a dedication to your page on Amazon. Tell us a little about it.
Haha. Yeah, unlike most writers, I didn't dedicate my book to someone I know. I dedicated it to my future girl, hoping she's worth the sacrifice. I used the word sacrifice, because I know what I've given up to become a writer, and I don't regret it so far.

About the Author:

Kelvin O'Ralph is currently studying for a bachelor's degree at a university in England. He has always preferred writing to speaking, because he believed more could be said with the use of a pen. Kelvin wrote his first novel in three months, and edited it in nine months. Meanwhile, he searches for a literary agent to represent his first book. It seems really difficult for the young aspiring author, and he prays that one day his prayers would be answered.
During the editing process of his first book, Kelvin  began writing a novella. He couldn't do without creating a story. Presently, that novella is published on Amazon kindle, in the attempt to make a name for himself. People who have read Kelvin's stories are compelled to believe the young author will someday make it in the publishing industries.

Please do follow me on Twitter via @KelvinO_Ralph or like my Facebook Page. Again, to learn more about my recent works and future projects, follow my blog, Kelvin's World.