Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ciotogachs - Left-handed people

      Left-handed people, or Ciotogachs in Irish, have always comprised 10% of the population. In medieval society they were considered evil, sinister, carrying the mark of the devil, the left hand of God theory. Aiofe, one of the main characters in my work-in-progress novel, is both left-handed and a healer, a juxtaposition in 12th century Ireland. This inaccurate and antiquated belief that right-handed was better carried us well into the 20th century where left-handed children, particularly in European countries, were ridiculed, considered clumsy, awkward and slow.
     Today, we know better. The practice of “encouraging” children to use their right hands has virtually disappeared. Handedness is determined in the womb, runs in families, cannot be changed and gives children an advantage when it comes to spatial relationships although the tie to mathematics, musical ability and art has not been verified.
     In the days of sword and shield, left-handed gallowglass, mercenaries, were considered more valuable. The typical castle staircase was built in a spiral, clockwise design for the purpose of repelling right-handed invaders, thereby giving the defenders the advantage. In Scotland, the clever Kerr family circumvented this practice by training their warriors to fight with their left hands. Whether the Kerrs actually had a predisposition to fight in ciotogach fashion is still to be determined.
     As for my interest in the subject, I’ve always thought left-handed people were fascinating, probably because I am so completely and irrevocably right-handed to the degree that I can’t even pull into a parking space with my non-dominant hand. My father was left-handed, as was my late-husband, as is my fiancĂ©, my closest friend and my brother-in-law. Left-handed people recover from strokes more quickly and completely, they manipulate with their right-hands much better than right-handed people do with their left. They also play a mean game of baseball.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Salmon, Spinach and Ricotta en croute

The first time I enjoyed this delicious recipe was at the house of a friend in Kilflynn, Ireland. It's not only simple and delicious, the presentation is beautiful.

1 bag of baby spinach
3 1/2 oz. ricotta cheese
2 garlic cloves chopped finely
6 sheets filo pastry
1 lb. 10 oz piece of skinned salmon fillet
low fat cooking spray
2 Tbsp. parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wilt the spinach in a pan for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in the ricotta, garlic, salt and pepper. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and place one sheet of filo (you may need to overlap more than one to accommodate size of salmon) on the parchment. Mist with spray and repeat with 2 more layers of filo. Lay the salmon on top and spread the spinach mixture over the salmon. Season. Top with remaining 3 layers of filo misting with spray between layers. Trim around the edges with a sharp knife and seal the edges. Place in the oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the salmon is just cooked. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into 2 inch slices and serve with mashed carrots, turnips and boiled potatoes.

 336 calories per serving unless you have banoffee pie for dessert.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Business of Publishing

     Writing is an art form, publishing is a business. There is no business I know of where you get all of what you would like all the time. Even those in business for themselves must compromise with clients. If you want to write for money, if you want your writing to be read, you must compromise with editors, agents and the public. Nothing comes out right for even the best of us the first time around. Even Mark Twain had an editor.
     Writers must disengage emotionally and look at writing as a product. Otherwise, they'll be writing for themselves. You can do it all yourself, the writing, the editing, the publishing, the marketing, but I don't recommend it. The road will be longer for you because you will come up against reviewers and readers who won’t hesitate to tell you your work is unpolished and amateurish. It takes a lot more effort to change that image than it does to do it right from the beginning. Exposure to a critique group is much safer and easier than exposure to a reader or reviewer who has ordered your book online and feels compelled to shred it. Do yourself the favors of attending writing classes and conferences and finding people to meet with regularly who genuinely want constructive criticism, ie. a critique group. You won’t regret it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Glimpse into Hannie Rising

My latest endeavor, a contemporary Irish paranormal, is finally finished after years in the making.

           Mickey Enright is not ready to be dead. His life on earth has been more than satisfactory. He is an icon in Tralee, a “typical Kerryman,” an easy-going, life-of-the-party jokester, a man’s man, a decent, although unexceptional, provider who took for granted the faithfulness of his wife, the love of his children, Kerry football, and a few pints with the lads in Betty’s Pub on Rock Street.
Convinced there has been a mistake, he demands, of a cigar-smoking, wise-cracking, irreverently humorous St. Peter, another chance at mortality, insisting that he shouldn’t have been forced to leave so quickly, that too many people depend on him and, more to the point, he deserves it.  Doesn’t he go to Mass every Sunday and donate a generous amount to the collection plate? Hasn’t he given up the fags, restricted his drinking to Friday nights and, within reason, kept to his marriage vows? St. Peter, with an agenda of his own, sends Mickey back to Tralee in the form of a stranger, a man named Patrick.
          Meanwhile, in Tralee, a year has passed since Mickey’s death. Fifty-year-old Johannah Enright, “Hannie” to her friends, has surfaced from the strangling depression that held her in its grip for months after her husband’s wake. Having stifled her independence for years, she is ready for a fresh start to her life until, one by one, her extended family descends upon her, each with compelling reason for invading Hannie’s privacy: a daughter questioning her marriage, a son unemployed by the downturn in the real estate market, a mother suffering from dementia who insists on bringing her large, untrained and temperamental dog. Once again, Hannie finds herself perilously close to her cast-off roles as care-giver, counselor, banker, babysitter and dog-walker. She brings her resentments to her new friend, Patrick, a man she meets at the Internet CafĂ©.
          And so, Mickey, his original purpose to win back his former life, finds himself in the unique position of attempting to make amends to a woman he is only beginning to know and, in so doing, plays directly into the hands of St. Peter.