I’ve just retired. From my fulltime job, not my writing. I’ve written, rewoven, restructured, and finalized four stories within the Remy Lane Mysteries. I’m returning to the U.K. for fresh inspiration now that my days are free and easier. I am also learning about self-publishing with deep gratitude to those authors who have traveled down that road before me, leaving videos and blogs to guide my efforts. Later this summer, I’ll open my laptop and begin the fifth novel. I hope you will keep visiting to find out what lies ahead in Barrington Bay.
“Keep in mind that hundreds attended our seminary a century before we arrived there. They became missionaries, traveling the world, enlightening the masses, and no doubt having a jolly good time abroad. They brought back curious objects—gifts from tribesmen, items used in odd religious rituals, and unique cultural trappings they picked up along the way. These oddities were amassed in the seminary’s basement, serving as a museum. This all happened well before television exposed us to the indigenous people of other continents. As young seminarians, we toured the collected relics to glimpse heathen cultures and gawk at their ritualistic tokens. Such dated collections were common teaching tools in seminaries across Europe and the U.S. The display broadened our knowledge and challenged us to follow in the footsteps of our alumni.”
Rosemont recalled the many good men who traversed the seminary halls over time. “Inspector, it was all well and good until 1970 when the United Nations developed an agreement against the trade of cultural properties. You see, people were losing their history to tourists and invading military forces. They strongly opposed the taking of their homeland antiquities.”
“I studied that act in college,” Remy said. “The multi-national agreement prevented looting during military coups and slowed the international trade of stolen relics. It won staunch support. Many countries passed even stricter laws to protect their unique heritage.”
Rosemont leaned forward; his voice cut with excitement. “Exactly. But back then, it meant priests and seminarians sat on top of illicit property. A vast collection of relics taken from multiple countries during colonial imperialism; historical tokens of unique religions and indigenous cultures. Of course, the missionaries had not intentionally stolen anything. Up until the early 1900s, everyone returned from abroad with such relics as souvenirs. But imagine how it appeared in the culturally awakened 1970s. That populace perceived it quite differently: Thou shalt not steal. And you know how that goes—people’s perceptions become their realities. Bear in mind that in the 1970s, people began questioning priests’ activities. What the Church couldn’t explain, it buried. Rather than risk embarrassment or arrest for hording cultural treasures, holy men nipped down to their collections and emptied the museums into skips in the dead of night.”
Excerpt from The Sheltering Stones
You are no doubt thinking: What a fantastical story. Well, it’s true. My husband was one of those dumpster-diving seminarians back in the 1970s. He and several classmates rescued a broad range of cultural antiquities, sparing them from a landfill rubble. The oddities are still guests in my home. Pre-Columbian pieces of architecture, a cup with a gruesome face, Roman coins, a scrimshaw tusk, cuneiforms, a figurine head of a bird, chainmail purse, and a tiny, sculpted bust of a Nubian woman are all on display. These cultural antiquities resonate with history. Each object’s uniqueness draws your attention and then forces you into quiet contemplation of all that has transpired before you. The oddities are portals to the past that breathe life into marginalized or extinct cultures and somehow still add magic and meaning to our lives. We are honored to be the temporary custodians of these touchstones; torn between our desire to protect and preserve the antiquities or repatriate them. It’s not an easy decision.
Wishing Wells Revisited
Holy wells are a key feature in The Sheltering Stones. There were once thousands of these sacred sites throughout the U.K. The natural springs were contained by stone structures built by pagans who believed that water had healing powers. Their steadfast popularity led the early Roman Church to embrace the watery temples, attributing the shrines to Christian saints in their drive to convert pagans. If that didn’t work, the sites were destroyed. This habit harkens back to Sterling Rosemont’s observation: What the Church couldn’t explain, it buried.
Most holy wells are small and subject to neglect, making an accurate count sketchy at best. It is often easier to spot the accompanying cloutie tree decked with cloth tokens and trinkets left by travelers who still hope for a touch of magic to heal the wounds they’ve gathered in life.
Inspiration for The Sheltering Stones sprung from a medieval holy well I visited while in Cornwall. The Dupath Well (as in Dean Dickie Dupath, one of our four seminarians) features a fascinating and unusually large structure over the sacred pool. This pre-Christian shrine still exists on a working farm. It captures the magic and mysticism embraced by Celts, Picts, and Romans seeking cures from holy water.
Lost & Found
They abandoned the pasture and trekked into the bordering woodland. Rays of light pierced the dense canopy, illuminating white-barked trees, and casting elongated shadows. The poplar forest was ancient. The air, laden with a primal atmosphere. Songbirds fell silent as if holding their breath in the timeless vignette. The intruders grew pensive, and their earlier frivolity fled back to the sunny meadow.
Excerpt from The Sheltering Stones
I stepped into this jaw-dropping scene when traveling through Wales. We were quite lost – something that frequently happens when I travel. I drove along narrow rural roads bound by 9’ tall hedgerows with rare sightings of cottages, no signage, and inadequate GPS. Stumbling into the village of Nevern, we crossed a humpback stone bridge and parked beside a church. My daughter needed to recalibrate our GPS. I needed to calm my nerves. After admiring a meandering stream and a flock of chubby sheep, I walked past the churchyard’s stone wall. Such walls always make me wonder what is on the other side. This time my curiosity led us into a 10th century kirk. Tangled vines gusseted crumbling headstones. The forgotten names of the dead illuminated by translucent rays of light that barely scaled the surrounding walls. An avenue of 700-year-old yew trees cast spidery branches across the canopy, blotting out the sky and aging the air itself. And, yes, the birds were silent. We grew pensive. Ambling through the cemetery we discovered the ancient stones decorated with 5th century Latin script and Irish Ogham carvings. Then we admired a finely carved 10th century cross with chiseled knotwork, ringwork, and elaborate geometric patterns. There was no need for GPS in that timeless vignette.
Ironic that we stumbled upon this hallowed ground quite by accident. I can only recommend that everyone gets lost in their travels.
Sightings and Symbols
Like so many others, I kick off the New Year with a list of goals: the resolutions. I prefer “intentions.” (A bit more leeway there, don’t you think?) I opened up last year’s file and discovered that I had forgotten my 2022 intentions. A year later, I was way off the mark. I felt incredibly disappointed in myself. My intentions are usually accomplished each year or at least much closer to accomplishment. Somehow, I lost my way this past year along with those goals.
Feeling defeated and unable to think of any new intentions, I stared outside. To my amazement, a mature hawk stared back at me. The hefty predator was patrolling my backyard in search of a morning snack. It was shocking on two levels. First, I’ve never seen a hawk in the backyard. We’ve lots of small birds that are fed seed daily but not the big hunters. Second, he was walking on the ground. I’ve only see hawks soaring across the sky, perched on telephone poles, or silhouetted on a weather-beaten farm fence which can sometimes still be found in the countryside; not strutting across a clipped lawn. Distrusting my vision, I stepped outside and approached the bird. The hawk didn’t fly off – just stared back at me, certain of his strength. His deadpan stare, spooky. His size, formidable. I wisely retreated and spent the next hour watching him scour our backyard for breakfast. Fortunately, he didn't find the rabbit who often visits.
I hopped online, asking what such a sighting means. The psychics were all over that question: When you have a close hawk sighting, it's a sign from the spirit realm that you are ready to take on a larger, more powerful expansion and vision of your world. The hawk symbolizes a need to start looking forward, envisioning your path ahead, and perhaps preparing for a greater role in life. What an amazing portent, delivered to me just when I was grappling with this year’s intentions. I happen to be on the cusp of retirement from a lengthy career and here is this hawk telling me to look forward! Envision my future path! Prepare for a greater life role!
Oh, do stop rolling your eyes. Like my protagonist, Remy Lane, I don’t need the stars or psychics to tell me when to stop or when to go. I do very well living on my own, thank you very much. But I sure as hell am not going to ignore the universe when it slaps me in the face.
Envision my Future Path
Prepare for a Greater Role in Life
What are your New Year’s resolutions?
Lost in the Surf
They sat in comfortable silence, watching the sky catch fire when the sun approached the sea. Clouds swirled in a mewling pink, then flamed in hot scarlet, before melting into creamsicle orange. The water mirrored the blaze in breathless closure of the night. When the sun slipped beneath the horizon, a gibbous moon and stars claimed the sky. Scant light pierced the darkness. The seaside seemed so placid, yet it was twisted with trauma.
Excerpt from The Tide Turns
The Madness of Murder
Paul tossed aside the rusted hot plate. Useless. “Sir, it’s madness to think anyone who knew Evie would kill her.”
Excerpt from The Tide Turns
This is the madness of murder. When I first wrote this passage, I was channeling Agatha Christie’s marvelous Belgium detective, Hercule Poirot, as portrayed by David Suchet for twenty-five years on PBS television’s Masterpiece Mystery series.
I found tremendous pleasure during my travels to the U.K. but none as magnificent as when I visited the Greenway Estate and stood where David Suchet posed before the cameras for the series' episode entitled, "Dead Man's Folly." You’ll find bits of Poirot surfacing in DCI Tremaine’s kindness, humility, and integrity—all essential qualities which offset the darkness that both detectives face in their work.
The victim may be one of the good God’s saints or - on the contrary - a monster of infamy. It moves me not. The fact is the same. A life—taken! I say it always—I do not approve of murder.
Hercule Poirot, Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
This blog is where I post my inspirations for each book in the Barrington Bay series as well as behind-the-scenes tips, pics, and other tidbits. Feel free to click 'Read More' for in-depth posts.