Cover for New Book: ‘In Dreams Begin’

I’m so excited! The brilliant Craig White, who created the and Falling, Fly cover, has created another gorgeous image for the cover of my next book, In Dreams Begin:

'In Dreams Begin' front cover 825x1238

“Close your eyes tightly—tightly—and keep them closed . . .”

From a Victorian Ireland of magic, poetry and rebellion, Ida Jameson, an amateur occultist, reaches out for power, but captures Laura Armstrong, a modern-day graphic artist instead. Now, for the man or demon she loves, each woman must span a bridge through Hell and across history . . . or destroy it.

“Every passionate man is linked with another age, historical or imaginary,
where alone he finds images that rouse his energy.” W. B. Yeats

Anchored in fact on both sides of history, Laura and Ida, modern rationalist and fin de siècle occultist, are linked from the moment Ida channels Laura into the body of celebrated beauty and Irish freedom-fighter Maud Gonne. When Laura falls—from an ocean and a hundred years away—passionately, Victorianly in love with the young poet W. B. Yeats, their love affair entwines with Irish history and weaves through Yeats’s poetry until Ida discovers something she wants more than magic in the subterranean spaces in between.

With her Irish past threatening her orderly present and the man she loves in it, Laura and Yeats—the practical materialist and the poet magus—must find a way to make love last over time, in changing bodies, through modern damnation, and into the mythic past to link their pilgrim souls . . . or lose them forever.

Excerpt

Halloween Night, 1893, in Samois’s small graveyard . . .

In Paris, Halloween festivities would be mocking the rites and devils Ida and Maud hoped to make real tonight, in the little village of Samois. Through the provincial streets to its tiny cemetery, Maud had walked, a priestess or a secret witch cloaked and hooded with Ida, her familiar bird, wing-in-elbow beside her. But inside Georges’ little burial chapel, Maud shrunk to an Irish crone, her ritual robes a weathered shawl wrapped over curling shoulders and the hollowed-out hole where her heart had been, and Ida, her carrion bird behind her.

She plucked the pins from Maud’s hair. “Let’s prepare you,” she whispered.

Maud did not move while Ida’s pecking fingers unwound the braided skeins of rust and shadow. It slithered free over Maud’s shoulders, and she absently pushed back the strands snaking into her face. She caught Ida’s hand in an icy grip. “Ida, I’m frightened.”

Maud choked on the blood-scraped whisper, but Ida had heard, and her smile broke like a towering thundercloud. Maud’s deathbed promise to her father broken—to never to be afraid of anything, not even death—and Ida here beside her. She sank down beside Maud’s shuddering shoulders and wrapped her robe-winged arms around them. “Shhh,” she murmured, cheek in flowing hair, lips to sunken throat. “You must master your fear. There is no other way. The moment Lucien arrives, we must begin.”

Coming from Berkley Books in December 2010

In Dreams Begin

In Dreams Begin has officially begun — I turned the finished manuscript over my editor today. I started research on Yeats a year and a half ago. Now, a teetering stack of books, two weeks across the ocean in Ireland, England and France, four false-starts, seven drafts, 111k words and a deep breath later, it’s out of my hands. It feels a little like putting a complicated recipe in the oven. I think I’ve done everything right, but I won’t know for sure until it’s out, cooled and on the table.  In the meantime, for anyone who likes to lick the bowl:

In Dreams Begin

“Close your eyes tightly—tightly—and keep them closed . . .”

From a Victorian Ireland of magic, poetry and rebellion, Ida Jameson, an amateur occultist, reaches out for power, but captures Laura Armstrong, a modern-day graphic artist instead. Now, for the man or demon she loves, each woman must span a bridge through Hell and across history . . . or destroy it.

“Every passionate man is linked with another age, historical or imaginary,
where alone he finds images that rouse his energy.” W. B. Yeats

Anchored in fact on both sides of history, the women are linked from the moment Ida channels Laura into the body of celebrated beauty and Irish freedom-fighter Maud Gonne. When Laura falls—from an ocean and a hundred years away—passionately, Victorianly in love with the young poet W. B. Yeats, their love affair entwines with Irish history and weaves through Yeats’s poetry until Ida discovers something she wants more than magic in the subterranean spaces between Laura’s time and her own.

With her Irish past threatening her orderly present and the man she loves in it, Laura and Yeats—the practical materialist and the poet magus—must find a way to make love last over time, in changing bodies, through modern damnation, and into the mythic past to link their pilgrim souls . . . or lose them forever.

Excerpt

Halloween Night, 1893, in Samois’s small graveyard . . .

In Paris, Halloween festivities would be mocking the rites and devils Ida and Maud hoped to make real tonight, in the little village of Samois. Through the provincial streets to its tiny cemetery, Maud had walked, a priestess or a secret witch cloaked and hooded with Ida, her familiar bird, wing-in-elbow beside her. But inside Georges’ little burial chapel, Maud shrunk to an Irish crone, her ritual robes a weathered shawl wrapped over curling shoulders and the hollowed-out hole where her heart had been, and Ida, her carrion bird behind her.

She plucked the pins from Maud’s hair. “Let’s prepare you,” she whispered.

Maud did not move while Ida’s pecking fingers unwound the braided skeins of rust and shadow. It slithered free over Maud’s shoulders, and she absently pushed back the strands snaking into her face. She caught Ida’s hand in an icy grip. “Ida, I’m frightened.”

Maud choked on the blood-scraped whisper, but Ida had heard, and her smile broke like a towering thundercloud. Maud’s deathbed promise to her father broken—to never to be afraid of anything, not even death—and Ida here beside her. She sank down beside Maud’s shuddering shoulders and wrapped her robe-winged arms around them. “Shhh,” she murmured, cheek in flowing hair, lips to sunken throat. “You must master your fear. There is no other way. The moment Lucien arrives, we must begin.”

In Dreams Begin will be published by Berkley Books in December 2010.

Why I Went to Samois

W.B. Yeats
W.B. Yeats

On a Child’s Death

You shadowy armies of the dead
Why did you take the starlike head
The faltering feet, the little hand?
For purple kinds are in your band
And there the hearts of poets meet;
Why did you take the flatering feet?
She had much need of some fair thing
To make love spread his quiet wing
Above the tumult of her days
And shut out foolish blame and praise.
She has her squirrel and her birds
But these have no sweet human words
And cannot call her by her name:
Their love is but a woodland flame.
You wealthy armies of the dead
Why did you take the starlike head?

W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne met at his father’s house at 3 Blenheim Place, New Bedford, London on January 30, 1898. He fell immediately in love, referring to that moment later, in his autobiography, as when “the troubling of [his] life began.”

3 I got there on a Tuesday after noon having spent the morning at the Chiswick Library poring over blueprints of the house’s interior.
I got there on a Tuesday after noon having spent the morning at the Chiswick Library poring over blueprints of the house’s interior.
Maud Gonne
Maud Gonne

Maud did not remember the meeting, claiming to have met Will at some later point.  She left London a few weeks later for France, where she shortly became pregnant with  her married French lover, the political radical Lucien Millevoye.  Will proposed to Maud (for the first of many times) two years later, in Howth, where they “walked the cliff paths at Howth and dined at a little cottage near the Bailey Light House.”

Bailey Lighthouse
Bailey Lighthouse
I walked along the pier by the lighthouse, but there’s no longer any cottage there.  There are some adorable restaurants on an adjacent dock, but this picture is taken from the beach..
I walked along the pier by the lighthouse, but there’s no longer any cottage there. There are some adorable restaurants on an adjacent dock, but this picture is taken from the beach.

“Suddenly she was called back to France, and she told me in confidence that she had joined a secret political society, and though she had come to look upon its members as self-seekers and adventurers, she could not disobey this, the first definite summons it has sent her.”

In reality, she’d gotten word that Georges, the son she’d had with Millevoye, was ill with meningitis.  She raced back to France, but the child died.  She had him embalmed and buried him in a crypt in Samois-sur-Seine.

Samois Crypt
Samois Crypt

“The idea came to her that the child might be reborn, and she had gone back to Millevoye, in the vault under the memorial chapel.  A girl child was born, now two years old.”

Samois Crypt Interior
Samois Crypt Interior

Sixteen years later, this child, conceived in the crypt of her dead brother, would turn Will down when, in a one-month span, her proposed to her, her mother (again) and Georgie Hyde Lees.  Georgie, whose initiation Yeats had sponsored a few years earlier into The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, having physically fought Aleister Crowley over its future course the previous year, was the last asked to join, and the only one to accept.

Blog Post # 13 :: Welcome to my blog

I’m ten years old when I travel.  Everything is exciting, new and interesting.  I talk to strangers.   I read street signs.  I excuse myself from all adult obligations.  I don’t cook beyond boiling instant coffee water or do laundry beyond socks and undies. I can’t balance my checkbook or answer mail.   I only experience and see, learn and touch.  At night I try to take a few notes, but I live more than I write down, which feels opposite to usual.

It was my intention to start blogging from Ireland because it had a sort of emotional and poetic logic.  Ireland is origin for me.  I come from there, but like a book comes out of me – in a way I can’t articulate or map, because I’m adopted and have no genealogical roots to trace.  Sure, I’m looking.  I’m looking, but not knowing which county my people hale from makes every county mine. Because nothing is certain, everything is possible. And I like that.

The summer I came home from my first solo Irish trip, I sat down with my husband and my best friend, and re-plotted my life. I started writing.  “Falling,” is implicitly based on that original trip.  “In Dreams Begin” is explicitly based on this one.  A lot changed between the two trips, but I’m still, apparently,  not grown up enough to make good on all my intentions.  I didn’t start my blog there.   Scott cobbled posts together from emailed photos and IM transcripts, but the artfully crafted Original Blog Post from the Place of My Own and My Stories’ Origin never got written.  Which has a certain characteristic logic to it all its own, as a negotiation between the ideal of regular and polished posts and the reality of who I am. This is my blog.  And I’d like to welcome you to it.

“An island almost all castle”

These are all shots of  what Yeats described as “an island almost all castle” in Lough Key (pronounced Lock Key!)  near Boyle. I rented a little rowboat, paddled out and knocked around the island, completely alone, for the better part of two hours taking notes. It’s an amazing structure — parts of it connected to other parts only by second story doors, part completely incomprehensible. Yeat fell in love with it and planned an ambitious Castle of Heroes on the site, a place to educate the future poets and mystics of Ireland. And the idea stayed with him all his life, and was probably behind his purchase of Thoor Ballylee.

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Lough Key 007

Lough Key 003

“Our shadows wander the garden gravel still…”

I’m sitting by a peat fire (and I know it’s peat in the grate, because there’s a big basket of the stuff on the hearth) in an honest-to-god thatched cottage eating brown bread and oysters at Moran’s Oyster Cottage in Galway. It’s the kind of food that makes you close your eyes to eat it. The only thing that could make it any better would be a half of Guinness, but I don’t trust myself on the Irish roads enough to risk that. The fire is warm, the food nourishing and I still have the mud of Coole Park on my boots. It’s been a very good day.

Moran's Oyster Cottage, Galway, Ireland
Moran's Oyster Cottage, Galway, Ireland

Yesterday was work — good work, but tiring and a little scary. Today was work, too, and driving the rental car into Dublin airport traffic was a touch intimidating, but once I was out into the countryside, I remembered how much I love the interior of Ireland. I have to keep up my mantra of “empty on the edge” to remind myself to put the yawning space of passenger seat on the left of me positioned against the (mostly non-existent) shoulder, but the land is relentlessly beautiful and truly the greatest road hazard is rubbernecking at the scenery.

Coole 047
Coole 054

I arrived at Coole in a slow rain, but the sun obligingly broke through as I wandered Yeats’ refuge, lighting the lake and park, the grazing deer and the fabled autographer tree. It was so dramatic, even a dyed-in-the-wool romantic like me thought it was really just a bit much, until four women came jogging towards me down the Seven Woods Path in black and aqua and neon pink spandex. I couldn’t help thinking, “What would Mr. Yeats say?” He’d laugh, I think, at the wonders of my world, just as I do at his.

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Coole 014
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Irish Beginnings – and Endings

and Falling, Fly is implicitly based on a 2005 trip I too to Ireland. After I came home, I started writing, and many of the settings in the book come from notes I kept on that trip. In Dreams Begin is explicitly based on my current trip. I’m here to deliver my daughter to her German foreign exchange family and to learn as much about the Ireland, London and Paris of Maud Gonne and WB Yeats as I possibly can in a meager but packed two weeks.

With that goal in mind, Kaki and I flew into Dublin and headed to Bewley’s. It’s a magnificent old tea room that echoes the Egyptian interests of Maud and Yeats, in both name and décor.

Bewley's Oriental Cafe
Bewley's Oriental Cafe

Well fortified, I tromped off to spend the day at the National Library, which was very considerately hosting a Yeats exhibit. I spend two hours crouched in front of display cases, taking notes and ogling artifacts. It was wonderful.

Irish National Library during Yeats exhibit
Irish National Library during Yeats exhibit

The actual library is intimidating. I got a special badge, stuffed my giant bag into a locker and, armed only with my notebook and a pencil – can’t take your pen – went to battle the fearful microfiche. It doesn’t take long to go from lofty researcher to lowly Idiot.  But I got the Oct 16, 1891 edition of the Irish Times loaded into the archaic projector and read the entirety (early and late edition) for the day Parnell was buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery. It was interesting to see Parnell’s wife’s letters to the editors, but I think I’ll end up using the quote from Maud’ diary for the endmatter of chapter three. The newspaper doesn’t mention the comet.

Thoroughly done in by library technologies (or jet lag), Kaki and I ate an early dinner of incredibly satisfying soup and the miraculous Irish brown bread that almost makes you believe in transubstantiation, and went to bed. We didn’t actually sleep, but we went to bed in our hostel bunks over the pub where the traditional Irish music of Paul Simon and Queen is followed by the street-sweeping trucks which are followed by the Changing of the Kegs (by alternately dragging and throwing the metal canisters over the cobbled streets) which is followed by the alarm clock.

Spire in Glasnevin Cemetery
Spire in Glasnevin Cemetery

It’s cold and wet and moody and we take the bus to Glasnevin. I find the perfect setting for 3.2 and leave a flower – wonderfully, the kind I carried in my wedding – for Maud.

Maud Gonne's grave
Maud Gonne's grave

We’re cold and wet and tromp back towards Dublin hunting a converted church I’ve read about where we can get wi-fi and a meal. We find it and have lunch, tea and dinner, all at one go. We were hungry.

As we eat, the rain stops. We laugh about being dry out once we’re in, but when the sun comes breaking through the massive stained glass windows of the church, we stop complaining and change our plans. We take a train north out of Dublin to Howth and fall in love. It’s unbelievably beautiful, with the wind blowing the water into little fountains, and the houses clinging to the fierce risings of land out of ocean. Maud and Yeats spend some of their happiest days there, both individually as children, and as a couple, before they were lovers, before her son died, when he, at least, believed she might return his love. It was gorgeous, and austere and sad. I found a shell on the beach, a little white clam-like thing, and washed it and pulled the still-connected halves apart. I gave one to Kaki and kept one. I can already feel her going away.

Kaki on the beach at Howth
Kaki on the beach at Howth

On our final day in Dublin, I left her with a wi-fi connection, and ran out to the museum. Got some wonderful notes on beautifully preserved Irish clothing and furniture, picked up Kaki and the luggage and got well soaked again walking to the bus for the airport. Across the street was the Gresham hotel, where Maud had stayed, so we popped over and ordered high tea. God. There is nothing like hot tea with milk and sugar to warm everything but your feet. We felt so good, just sitting in the beautiful old lobby, drinking our tea, eating the little cakes and talking to the waiter about the history of the hotel. Turns out it had celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 1964, and he knew where they had a stash of the little bound books made to commemorate the occasion. We left feeling full and well-documented to boot!

And I’m going to leave off the first part here, as we depart Ireland. Scott has been good enough to post some pictures and notes as I send them, and I will write more from London or Paris, where I am going next. But just as it made sense to start here, it makes sense to stop here too. Because Ireland is nothing if not a paradox, and if it is a place of beginnings for me, it is also because it is where other things have ended.

The Tomb

Quick update from the cafe below my hotel in Avon, France.

Walked both ways form Avon to the tomb of Maud’s child, six miles each way. Legs hurt. The tomb itself was small, blank and almost wrecked – you could barely read the name. Tragic, given that Maud had paid for its upkeep in perpetuity. There’s a much cooler tomb belonging to le Familie Seconde nextdoor; may tape the two together a bit.

Made some time at the end of the day to scope out places where Maud lived around Paris.

Last night was a little too much of an adventure. Got badly lost walking from the train station to the hotel. Badly lost, and it was late, and dark, and I was dragging all my luggage. First time in a while I was hoping for the police. Quoth my mother (blissfully unaware of the above): “I am amazed at all you’re including in the trip–quite gutsy, I would say.”

I bought French marshmallows today. At least, I THINK that’s what they are. No idea, really.

Need to conserve battery power now. Hope to post longer updates once I retrieve my power cord from the hotel in Dublin later this week.