15 December 2009

A calm, quiet heroine is a challenge to write

I'm at Long and Short Reviews today, talking about the heroine of TIES THAT BIND, Tess, Lady of Bridswell. While Aedan is wild and reckless, she is centered and thoughtful, and somehow able to calm his restless. Come meet her.
Keena TIES THAT BIND--from The Wild Rose Press http://keenakincaid.com

12 December 2009

It's time to hit the reset button

A friend celebrated a milestone birthday yesterday, and as her "gift" she asked everyone to a lesson learned (or "what I know" to quote Oprah) and a resolution moving forward. 

What I know is we all need a reset button.

Like a computer, there are times when we become overwhelmed by demands on our time, health and wallet, by attempts to multitask, by disappointment, loss and heartbreak, by life. We freeze up. We stop working, and worries just spin through our heads like a Mac's color wheel when the computer stalls out.

A restart fixes the Mac. It's not so simple for us, but in these moments, we too need a reset button--a touchstone that reminds of us a basic, incontrovertible fact that helps us find perspective.

For me, the reset button is the Scarborough epiphany.

Several years ago, while standing amid castle ruins worrying about being 40, single, broke and unemployed, I had an amazing, unexpected moment of insight. The early Saints--God-touched and made mad by it--would have called it an epiphany. It was nothing earth-shattering, just one of those moments when head knowledge becomes heart knowledge.

I, like most people, want assurances that everything will be all right. We strive for security in work, in money, in relationship, but there is no such thing. It all comes with risk.

This thought rolled through my mind as I looked around the promontory defended and lost by neolithic peoples, Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans. No matter how secure their defenses, they eventually fell. And no matter how hard we try, we will, too.

The epiphany was:  Life IS the blessing; everything else is the cherry on top. And my attitude is a matter of faith. I either believe life without a safety net is an adventure for the soul or I live in the smallness of fear and worry all my days.

I'm glad my friend's request reminded me of my reset button. I've been letting worries get to me--and that is no way to live. So... excuse me while I restart.

10 December 2009

The accidental Christmas

On Sunday, I dug out my Christmas boxes to find my wreath. Door decoration is a competitive sport among my neighbors, and I fall way short of the mark most of the year. This season I wanted to try and meet minimal standards.

But I didn't stop at the door.

No, after I hung the wreath, I decided a bowl of ornaments on the table would look festive. Then I set out the mitten cookie jar, which meant I had to bake cookies to put in it. Then the ceramic medieval Santa. Then the Nativity (and somewhere my old Sunday school teacher is wincing at the order). Then the...well, you get the idea.

Days later my place is festooned for the holidays, a brand-new tree lights up my window, and most of the ingredients for Bohemian tea--a traditional winter drink in my family--clutter the kitchen counter (I need to buy oranges). But I can no longer go into my office because the unchosen decorations wait in ambush from their tissue-paper nests, determined to join the fun.

So now I'm staring at a huge ornament that I hung over the mantle when I lived in Charlotte and wondering if it's gauche to decorate the bathroom. Is it?

06 December 2009

Meet my hero: Mad, bad and dangerous (apologies to Byron)

Writing a book is a funny experience. I spend hours and hours trying to craft the perfect story, but in the end my characters tell the stories--and I am no more than just the scribe with modern equipment.

As many of you know, I hadn't planned to write my current book, TIES THAT BIND.  But Aedan, the younger brother in my first book, just wouldn't let "The End" be the end. He wasn't a small, nagging voice in the back of my head. He was loud, demanding and indignant. 

As a descendant of druids, one of Aedan's magical abilities is the gift of words. He can talk anyone into anything—including this author. The downside to his gift--and there's always a downside--is after a while, no one believes he's sincere.

He also is a minstrel. Music is both his curse and his salvation. He must play, but when he does, his regrets, hopes, joys, sorrows and anger are reflected in the music for anyone to hear.

Here's an excerpt of Aedan and his music from ANAM CARA:
As he waited in the lesser hall for his audience with the king, Aedan fumbled through the fingering of the chalumeau, setting his mind to the notes rather than his fate. Worry faded to the background as he concentrated on recreating the song that had almost pulled him from this world.

The tune idled in his mind, the sound pitch perfect in his imagining. He tested the reeds of the small pipe, blowing softly as he sought and found notes to match the ones in his head. He picked his way from note to note, until he'd replicated the song. It had been fuller, richer, more complex than his instrument could manage, but it was the beginning of his first composition.

Sitting on the floor, knees bent, he experimented with the pitch of the melody. He added a trill, surged toward the crescendo and slowed the beat to the rhythm of a dirge. With growing confidence, he played the tune again, adding his own swoops and flourishes until it swirled and dust motes danced like fairies at midsummer's twilight.

TIES THAT BIND isn't the easiest book I've ever written, but it's one of my favorites. The challenge of taking a self-centered character who always gets what he wants and thwarting him at every turn was fun, as was using the power of a woman's love to make him a better man.

It's release date is Dec. 18, although it's out now in paperback from The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.