Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tom Hanks, move over!

Girls Play Bach on a Giant Piano

Remember in the movie BIG, when Tom Hanks played the giant piano keyboard at FAO Schwartz?

Tee hee. These two girls would put him to shame. Fascinating!



Monday, June 29, 2009

This and That . . .

I wrote yesterday's post in faith . . . that apparently was misplaced. Yes, my new refurbished iMac did arrive at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and by 5 p.m. the Apple dude and I had declared it DOA. Dead on arrival. I spent all day waiting and prepping--moved the son's upstairs computer to the closet (decided to salvage it for parts as needed), moved my old office computer upstairs cleared and cleaned off my desk (mostly), and waited for the Fed Ex man. When he finally arrived, I pulled out the new computer, plugged it in, watched the lovely welcome screen explode into a million colors . . . and then turn green. Pixelated green.

Never got it to recognize my other files, never got rid of the green. So Apple is going to take the refurb back, and I broke down and bought a new one AND paid for overnight delivery . . . which I hope actually arrives overnight. Hope to have it Tuesday.

But I've kept working. I'm always hesitant to disclose details on the WIP unless the contract is signed and sealed, even though I keep working toward the deadline because I know deadlines are important to publishers. And I have a reputation to maintain. :-)

So I will probably soon tell you exactly what I'm working on, but for now, I'll tell you that I'm writing a woman's story--and it's one of the most amazing stories of grace I've ever heard. I hope it sells a zillion copies because I think this book will affect lives and marriages and churches. I can hardly wait to sit down at the computer and work each day.

So--for now, I must get to work. Hope your day is lovely and your computers are all bug-free.

P.S. Did you hear about Billy Mays, the Oxy-clean infomercial guy? Dead at age 50. Looks like he was hit on the head when his plane had a rough landing in Tampa. No one knows the cause of death, though.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

The MacBook

You know how I'm always saying, "Get a mac, get a mac, get a mac, mac, mac?" (to the tune of Bethoveen's Fifth):
well, the above video may convince you though I cannot! :-) Hat tip to Deb Raney for the link.

I ordered a new Mac desktop the other day because my old one was beginning to stagger beneath the weight of the latest programs. I love it! Too cool.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Speaking of cats . . .

This video reminds me of that crazy young man who lived with grizzlies . . . until he and his girlfriend were eaten by them. Shaking head here. Lovely to watch, but I wouldn't try it. Besides, my dogs are almost that big, and they're tame. Mostly. :-)


Friday, June 26, 2009

For you cat people . . .

Oh, my. Yesterday was a strange day in terms of celebrity.

First Farrah Fawcett dies. Then Michael Jackson (who is a wee bit younger than I am).

And then I hear that Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick name their new (through a surrogate) twins: Marion Loretta Elwell and Tabitha Hodge Broderick. "Both Hodge and Elwell are family names on Parker's side," the statement explains.

So . . . is Sarah Jessica my cousin or something?

I'm still working hard--did 10,000 words yesterday and nearing the end of a first draft of my current project.

Now to today's topic:

Moscow Cat Theatre

In honor of Clyde, Belinda, and those of you who love cats . . . enjoy. Who knew you could teach cats to do that?


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Slow News Day

Okay, I'll admit it's a slow news day here in Hunt-ville. I'm hard at work on my project, my computer almost died, but the Apple dudes helped me fix it . . .

and I found this truly strange web page. (Hey, only the best for my readers). After scrolling through it, you'll be so grateful God designed the human body . . . right side up. :-)


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Okay, Here's something to Unsettle your Breakfast

Visit this page: U.S. Debt Clock.

Read the background information found at the "about" link at the bottom of the page.

Now ask yourself how we can afford nationalized health care.

That's all I'm sayin'.

Back to work--


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Got a minute?

For today's blog post, I'm sending you on a shopping spree. In Denmark. And no, you don't have to have any money.

Just click on this link, let the page load (it takes a moment), and look at the products page. Wait a minute . . . and let the products entertain you.

A hat tip to Michael Garnier for this entertaining link. :-)


Monday, June 22, 2009

What I'm Reading

The other day I started reading THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett, after a friend recommended it. I'm about halfway through, and it's great! It's about Southern women (from Jackson, Mississippi, to be precise) in the sixties and their relationships with their black maids.

Well, my family never had a maid while I was growing up, but I remember one family on my street did. I always thought it'd be kind of strange to have someone in the house who wasn't family--someone who would clean up your messes for you. In my house, we always had to clean up our own messes. :-)

In any case, I've always enjoyed reading about African American culture. In high school I did a term paper on "Black Literature," and had my eyes opened to a host of authors I'd never read before (and I'll bet most of my classmates hadn't read, either). I had my eyes opened to urban life, a far cry from the life I knew as a suburban white kid.

Maybe that's why I enjoy those Tyler Perry movies so much--because, to the best of my knowledge, he is accurately portraying a culture he loves and respects. And while it's a bit different from my own, I can respect it, too.

Anyway, read THE HELP. I think you'll enjoy it.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

I'm on a Tyler Perry kick

Actually, I've been on a Tyler Perry kick for some time. The first time I saw one of his movies--I think it was "Madea's Family Reunion"--I was shellshocked. I'd never seen the juxtaposition of Jesus and real life like that--I mean, usually if you hear so much about Jesus in a movie, you don't hear the occasional curse word or bawdy joke.

But Tyler Perry movies are like real life. Real people who make mistakes, slip with their vocabulary, and go to church for encouragement. Madea is over the top, of course, but the issues in these movies are very real and very touching.

Lately I've watched all the Madea movies (Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea's Family Reunion, Madea Goes to Jail, etc), and then I watched "Daddy's Little Girl," "Why I Got Married," and the one with Cathy Bates--the title escapes me, but it was wonderful.

I love the way his characters talk about Jesus in a natural way . . . and I love the way they are real people. If you've never watched a Tyler Perry movie, give it a try . . . and let me know what you think.

Photos: Tyler Perry as himself, and as Madea.

P.S. I am working hard on a rush project, so if I fall behind on the blog, forgive me, please. I'll catch up as soon as I'm able.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ed Dobson

I knew Ed Dobson, or "Dean Dobson," in former days, when I was a student at Liberty. We all loved him--loved his Irish accent, the way he would preach, "If thou faint [pronounced 'feint'] in the day of adversity, thy strength is small."

Odd that my mind should supply that memory now, because surely his days are filled with adversity.

Thanks to fellow Liberty alum Kay Day (that's her real name) for pointing me toward this video.

Someone at the Glen Eyrie Writer's Workshop proposed a provocative idea--take one of those life expectancy tests that you find online, and then fill a bowl with the number of marbles that corresponds to the number of weeks you have left to live. Then remove a marble each week, so you can see how many weeks you have remaining.

Of course, no one knows how accurate those life expectancy tests are, but the principle is sound: we have a finite number of days in our account, and God is withdrawing a marble each week, whether we're aware of it or not. How, then, are we spending our days--thinking about trivial things or pointing people to Jesus?

Lots to think about.


Friday, June 19, 2009


While at Glen Eyrie, I had to step outside the castle to call my husband. (Apparently cell phone reception isn't too good inside a stone mansion.) While standing out on the porch, I spotted a tree with an empty nest inside. A moment later I saw a female robin fly down, so I assume, perhaps wrongly, that the nest was hers.

How fitting to discover this collection of photographs on the web. Adorable baby hummingbirds. The best part is the last frame, where you see how small the hummingbird nest actually is! Makes me want to run outside and grab a camera, but I honestly don't think I've ever seen a hummingbird in flight before (except in a video). God is an amazing creator!


Photo credit: Kevin Feldotto

P.S. I wrote the post above while at Glen Eyrie. And on our last morning, I stepped outside, spotted a hummingbird feeder, and saw three hummingbirds feeding from it! LOL! How God loves to delight us.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Post-It Pandemonium

Kudos to this design student! I wonder how many packages of post-its he used to make this video?


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cool crop circles

Count me in with the "human effort" group, but I still think SIGNS is one of the best--and most spiritual--movies ever made. If you ever want to see the theme of God's sovereignty illustrated plainly, rent SIGNS.

And enjoy this imaginative crop circle.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Face Book Apps

I have enjoyed Facebook--but I'll admit that I'm not into joining many groups or adding many of those cutesy apps to my page. First, I don't have time. Second, I worry about exposing my online privacy to too many strange computer programs.

But CNET has assembled a group of facebook applications that might actually be worthwhile. Check them out here and see if any of them are right for you.

And I'll see you on facebook!


Monday, June 15, 2009

The Computer Man

Before the Mac and Apple guys, there was . . . computer man? LOL!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Don't Try this at home . . .

I don't know if this is real or fake, but it's pretty entertaining, nonetheless. Ouch! Wonder how many times he hit himself while he was learning to juggle?


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Home again, catching up.

Photo: Clyde's picture of our first meeting at Glen Eyrie last year. :-) She's quite the artist, isn't she?

I'm home again, and catching up on all the things cluttering my desk.

First--it looks like my agent and I have found a new publishing home for my novels. I will soon, Lord willing, be signing a contract to write three new novels that will keep me busy for at least the next year and a half (I'm forcing myself to slow down these days). So that's an answered prayer and good news.

Second--the collaborative book I'm doing on a rush deadline is coming along. I spent three days in Chicago with my client, and found her absolutely delightful. She also has such a riveting story that I find it hard to break away from it once I sit down to write. More details to come about this once I get the book handed in.

And later today, after my much-needed visit to the hair salon, I have to pack for Glen Eyrie and our annual writer's summit. This is a WONDERFUL and unique writer's workshop unlike any other, plus it takes place in the beautiful mountains and in a castle. Can't beat that. :-) Plus, we've already been given (tentative) dates for next year: June 6-9, 2010. Mark them down!

And finally, I'm thinking about getting my Th.D. --that's a Doctorate of Theology. The online school through which I got my doctorate in biblical literature is offering a new program, and it looks interesting, so I'm definitely going to check it out.

As I said on my facebook page recently--I'm so grateful I have so much to learn! I'm leaving for Colorado Springs tomorrow morning, so I'll try to post a few interesting things while I'm gone.


Friday, June 12, 2009

A tip of the hat to Clyde, for sending this link. So powerful and so true!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Squirrel Acrobatics

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

And you thought you had smart squirrels . . . .

I don't know who to be more impressed by--the plucky rodent or the woman who set all this up. But the next time you're grousing because the squirrels won't stay out of your bird feeder, keep this experiment in mind . . . and graciously give up. :-)


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Piano Choir

I really like this idea, too, EXCEPT--people are fallible, and it sounds like some of Dan's piano's keys could use a bit of tuning. Plus there's the question of how all those people managed to remember the pitch from the note they sang. Did they all have perfect pitch? Perfect recall? Inquiring minds want to know . . .

In any case, a lovely and odd experiment to spice up your day.


Monday, June 08, 2009

How to Become a Model

Photo: A Jeff and Laura picture I spotted on a financial services web site.

You may remember me mentioning Jeff Calenberg, the photographer/model who took my new publicity pictures.

Seeing Jeff last month reminded me of something, so I thought I'd mention it today. I'm pretty sure that if you stepped outside your home and looked a mile in any direction, you'd find at least one young person who would like to become a model. Trouble is, a lot of young people are so desperate to fulfill that desire that they do things they regret later--like pose for nude or semi-nude pictures, spend a small fortune on portfolio shots, etc.

The truth is that people don't HAVE to do these things to become professional models. (I see the same thing happening in the publishing field. Some folks are so desperate to be published that they'll spend a fortune on agents, self-publishing, "book doctors," and the like, when they don't have to do that. In fact, if a manuscript is good, the publisher pays YOU, not the other way around. But I digress.)

Several years ago, Jeff and his wife, Laura, started an organization called Models for Christ. Laura and I even wrote a book together, Beauty from the Inside Out. (That's Laura on the cover.)

One of the things Laura stressed in the book was that a young person doesn't have to spend a lot or compromise their values in order to pursue a career in modeling. The folks at Models for Christ have put together a web page to help young people get started in modeling--legitimately. It's here, on the Christian Talent Network page.

So if you know a young person (or an older person, for that matter) who is interested in modeling, send them to this website.

The other day when I was shopping for my Heavenly Bed linens, I looked up and laughed. One entire row of comforters was plastered with a picture of Jeff and Laura and an adorable blonde baby laughing on a pristine bed. You never know . . . . one day, you might look up and see someone you know on a shelf!


Sunday, June 07, 2009

The flowers in my yard . . .

I'm posting a picture of a tree that epitomizes at lot of things in life: feast or famine. (And a random picture of a lily.)

This tree, called an Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia), is either the loveliest thing in my yard or the ugliest. When it's in flower, it's beautiful. When it's not, it's a knobby, scrawny, baldish looking thing.

The other day it was in the latter condition and I offered my neighbor a cutting. He looked at it, made a face, and said he'd get back to me later. He never did. But then it bloomed. :-)

So the moral of this story is . . . in time, it blooms. Hang in there through the scrawny days.

I'm heading out of town today--going to spend a few days in Chicago, working on a project. Will be in touch later. :-)


Saturday, June 06, 2009

**Writer's Workshop at Glen Eyrie

Last call for the writer's workshop at Glen Eyrie!

Photo: some of last year's attendees lounging around in one of the castle bedrooms. And the castle.

I wanted to take a moment to tell you about a truly unique writer's workshop. It will be held this year in Colorado Springs at the beautiful Glen Eyrie location--and in a castle! The dates are June 14-17, and if you are interested in writing or if you're writing already, the experience will be one of a kind!

This is not a conference where people are always buzzing around and trying to impress editors and agents. This is a writer's workshop, where a small group breaks up into even smaller groups and attendees are mentored by published writers who have been in the business for years. Nancy Rue, Alton Gansky, Kathy Mackel, and I have been holding this conference for the past four years, and we do our absolute best to give attendees lots of individual and personalized attention.

For a printable brochure about the conference, visit this link. If you come, bring your work in progress, or an idea you're eager to work on. You won't just sit around and listen--you will write and get feedback on your work.

Feel free to tell your friends and send them to this link. I promise, there's not another conference like it, and Glen Eyrie is a bit like heaven on earth. :-)


Friday, June 05, 2009

BOM: Questions and Answers

First, I'd love to give away a copy of this book. If you'd like to be entered in the drawing, just leave me a note to that effect in today's comments. I'll announce the winner tomorrow and get a book right out to you!

Okay . . . questions?

Dana asked: Do you wish to write more historical fiction in the future? Do you prefer writing modern or historical fiction (i.e. which is more fun)?

I enjoy writing historical fiction because I enjoy research and learning new things, and I think it's fascinating to put people in historical situations. But contemporary fiction is just as much fun (if writing is fun at all).

As to whether I'll do any more of it . . . . that depends. Right now the market is very tight, and publishers are wanting authors to stick close to what they do best (i.e., what has sold the most for them in the past.) For me, that's character-driven contemporary stories like THE NOTE, so I'll be writing more of those, Lord willing.

If you have any other questions, be sure to leave them below and I'll try to pop in today to answer them. I'm going to be out of town for most of next week, so I'll be busy making a few preparations . . . . and trying to get over another bout of bronchitis. Ick. :-)


Thursday, June 04, 2009

BOM: The Writing and Editing

I'm going to have to beg off here--I wrote The Silver Sword about ten years ago, so my memory is a little foggy. I do know that I loved learning about Jan Huss and church history--I learned so much that I had not known about that time.

I also loved handling the challenge of how to have a female character pass for male in a time when men lived together constantly. As a knight, Anika would have faced an incredibly tough challenge--first, her strength was no match for a man's. Second, how did she attend to her personal feminine needs? Third, how could she even walk wearing all that armor?

I took what I had learned about knighthood, chivalry, and daily life and tried to be as logical and rational as possible. What Anika lacked in brawn, she made up in brains, so I ran with that angle.

And, of course, you'll notice that the castles in this book are guarded by mastiffs! That, too, is an accurate fact, as mastiffs were bred to guard castles and keep their masters company. :-) In other words, exactly what they do today.

Tomorrow: questions and answers. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments box so I can answer them!


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

BOM: The Research

For The Silver Sword, of course I had to find out everything I could about life in pre-printing press days, Bohemia, Jon Huss, and the conflict in the Catholic church. Fortunately, I had already done a lot of research on medieval times, so I knew about lifestyle, clothing, housing, etc. I was fortunate because many manuscripts still exist from that period. In fact, the scenes of Hus's trial and martyrdom are taken directly from transcripts.

I should add this--the book is not intended to be anti-Catholic. I have many dear friends who are members of the Catholic church, and I know their faith in Christ is sincere and genuine.

But Jesus said the church would be filled with "wheat and tares," and during the Dark Ages, some of the popes, cardinals, and bishops were greedy, grasping men. These are the men who confronted Jon Huss. I didn't deliberately paint any of the historical figures in negative colors; they painted themselves by their reprehensible actions and words. Those actions and words have been recorded in documents and preserved for history.

[And I could tell you a hair-curling story or two about protestant preachers, too, so you can find "tares" in any denomination. Or, as one of my pastors used to call them, "snakes in the grass." Their existence doesn't disparage the teachings of Jesus. Their existence confirms his words.]

Tomorrow: the writing


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

BOM: How the Idea Germinated

My book club met last night to discuss Sandra Dallas's PRAYERS FOR SALE. (If you like Jan Karon's Mitford books, you'd love this one, I think. ) We had a great time, but I've caught some kind of cold, so I kept struggling to speak, my eyes ran, my nose ran . . . and it wasn't even a sad story! :-)

Back to the topic at hand.

The Cahira O'Connor series was born when Lisa Bergren, novelist and editor extraordinaire, was acquiring fiction for WaterBrook. She knew I was writing historicals, so she contacted me to see if I'd want to do a historical series for them. I was interested, but I told her I'd be bored setting an entire series in just one time period. So I suggested historical books that were linked by a theme . . . maybe from the medieval time period? (Since I'd already written three from that time.)

And she said yes, that would be fun. In fact, she'd been thinking about maybe a female knight. And I said that'd be really hard to pull off, seeing as how knights pretty much lived together round the clock. And all those feats of strength, you know . . .

And then that lovely serendipity thing kicked in and we started brainstorming. Maybe an entire series of women who leave the traditional female role to survive by their wits in a male world. Lisa laughed and said we could call it the "women in drag" series. And so we did (but only in a whisper).

And so was born the Heirs of Cahira O'Connor. Cahira is an Irish princess who, on her deathbed, begged God that her descendants would do amazing things . . . and so they did. Every 200 years, an O'Connor woman (marked by red hair with a white streak) leaves traditional womanhood in order to:

*become a female knight and fight in the Hussite Wars (1400s)
*sail the world in a voyage of exploration (1600s)
*fight in the Civil War (1800s)
*and record their adventures (year 2000).

From the back cover: The auburn-haired O'Connor women share a bond far deeper than their striking physical appearance. These courageous, high-spirited women all push against societal limits in this exciting historical, romantic novel that spans generations and countries from 13th-century Ireland to the excitement and mystery of 15th-century Prague.

For the Silver Sword, I looked for something interesting in medieval times . . . and discovered Jon Huss and the Hussite Wars. I'd never heard of them, but as I read about the struggle, I found myself in complete agreement with those who were rebelling against the corruption in the church. Jon Hus lived and preached during a time in which indulgences were bought and sold with impunity, and dissidents were punished with spiritual consequences. It was a fascinating and dangerous time, and I was eager to write about it.

Most of the dialogue in the scene of Huss's trial comes directly from eyewitness manuscripts--the actual history was so fascinating and complete that I didn't have to invent many details. And so I began to write and research a time before the invention of the printing press, a time when men and women who dared to disagree with the church leaders could pay for their differing opinion with their lives.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Cheryl Wyatt's Latest book

A Soldier’s Reunion by Cheryl Wyatt-Wings of Refuge Series

Steeple Hill Love Inspired

Despite a decade apart, this isn't the reunion Mandy Manchester expected! She thought she'd put high school sweetheart Nolan Briggs behind her. Now he's back…and the pararescue jumper literally sweeps her off her feet. He's ready and willing to rekindle what they once shared. Mandy, though, isn't prepared to put her heart at risk. He left her before—she won't trust him again. Can Nolan teach this grounded girl to take a leap of faith.

Author Bio:

Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books lists.

Cheryl’s Blog:


Book of the Month: The Silver Sword

June's book of the month is an oldie but goodie. WaterBrook Press is repackaging some older titles, among them the Heirs of Cahira O'Connor Series. The first book, THE SILVER SWORD, has just been released . . . and the price is a bargain (only $6.99!)

Here's a review from the Amazon.com page:

Anika O'Connor of Prague is clothed in armor and carries a sword, as one of the knights of Chlum. Her disguise protects her from the lecherous son of Lord Laco, who would never think to search for her among the men at arms. Prague is on fire with religious reform, and Anika joins the struggle for religious freedom that cost her father his life. When Lord John of Chlum learns of Anika's deception, he agrees to allow her to continue as a knight until a time of his choosing. Then she must don the garb of the woman she is. Can Anika give up the life she has come to cherish? And will the love in her heart be returned by the Master of Chlum? The Silver Sword is the first book in the series The Heirs of Cahira O'Conner. Kathleen O'Conner is doing research for a college project when she discovers the legend of Cahira O'Conner and her descendants. Kathleen herself bears the mark of Cahira, a mark that has appeared every two hundred years since Cahira's death in 1235. And each bearer of the mark has left the traditional roles of womanhood to fight for right. Kathleen studies her ancestresses and wonders what she might be called to do! Angela Elwell Hunt has intrigued the reader with a modern heroine in pursuit of her roots, and delivered a heroine from the past whose life stands taller than her black warhorse! Hunt's attention to historical detail makes Anika's actions believable and entertaining. And the teaser at the end for Book Two holds out a promise of equal pleasure! The Silver Sword sings from beginning to end!" The Hunt name on the cover promises quality, and The Silver Sword more than delivers! Linda Fitzner -- Copyright © 1998 Literary Times, Inc. All rights reserved --From Literary Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

And a sneak peek at the prologue:

Even from across the library I could feel the stranger’s eyes upon me. “Just ignore him and he’ll go away,” I muttered to myself, clicking furiously at the computer keyboard. From the corner of my eye, I could still see him—a soft little man of late middle age, with features delicately carved with lines of concern and a small round paunch bulging over the waistband of his trousers.

The screen before me flickered a moment, then brightened as the slow modem received its transmission. When in the world had the college installed this computer, anyway? Nineteen ninety-three?

Despite the modem’s glacial slowness, the good old World Wide Web had not disappointed. The search engine pulled up twenty-eight references to “piebaldism,” the topic I’d chosen for my research project. I only had to investigate the most promising leads, and maybe I’d have enough information to keep my writing prof happy. I hoped these links contained something useful, because twenty-eight references were not exactly a lot of material. Just for fun, a few minutes earlier I had typed in my name, “Kathleen O’Connor,” and the Internet search engine had pulled up over sixty-six thousand references to “O’Connor” and/or “Kathleen.”

“Excuse me, Miss O’Connor?” I looked up. The strange man stood beside me now, his shoulders hunched in a touching sort of dignity, his wool hat in his hand. A thin, carefully clipped mustache rode his upper lip, and his face seemed firmly set in deep thought.

“Yes?” I gave him a polite smile. No use in letting him know I was ready to scream for security if he turned out to be some kind of kook.

“I pray you will pardon what must certainly be an untimely intrusion,” the man said, a note of apology in his voice. “Let me introduce myself. I am Henry Howard, a professor of European History here at the college. And though you must pardon my inquisitiveness, I asked the librarian for your name. She said you come here often.”

Didn’t all English majors live in the library? Not knowing quite how to respond, I nodded. “Nice to meet you, Professor Howard,” I said, glancing back toward the computer screen. “But I’m in the middle of researching my semester project and there are others waiting to use the computer.”

“I don’t mean to intrude.” He tightened his hold on his hat. “But I couldn’t help noticing your hair. It is quite lovely. And quite. . .unusual.”

Was that some sort of pickup line? Murmuring a quiet “thank you,” I turned back toward the computer and typed my name, hoping to convince him I had things to do. I’ve heard comments about my hair for most of my life, and if this man had some sort of hair fetish, I didn’t want to encourage him. Most people either love my hair or hate it, depending upon whether they consider redheads temperamental or spirited.

Professor Howard had not taken the hint. “That streak near your temple—“

I cut my gaze back to him, ready to blast him with a withering stare.

With one hand he pointed toward my head in a tentative gesture. “I know this may be a bold question, but is that discoloration natural? It appears to be, and it is quite distinctive, but you never can tell with young girls these days. One of my nieces has painted a black stripe down the center of her head.” He shrugged helplessly as his voice drifted away, but his gaze remained locked with mine. Didn’t he have enough sense to be embarrassed by his bad manners?

“The streak is natural,” I answered quickly, determined to be done with him. “I’ve had it since childhood.”

“Did your mother—“ The professor hesitated and gripped his hat again. Maybe he did realize he was being nosy. “Did either of your parents have such a discoloration? Or one of your grandparents?”

“I don’t think so,” I answered. In spite of my annoyance, my confounded curiosity—the character flaw my mother always predicted would get me into trouble—rose up like a kite. Did he want to interview me for some kind of genetics study? No, he had said he taught in the history department, not the college of sciences.

“I wondered.” A smile found its way through the mask of uncertainty on his face. “You must think me terribly rude, badgering you with questions of such a personal nature, but I couldn’t stop myself when the librarian told me your name. The O’Connor clan of Ireland has a bit of lore attached to it—mythological lore, really—but when I saw you and heard your name—well, I thought it would be lovely if the story were true.”

I leaned back and crossed my arms, still studying his face. I hated to admit it, but this rambling professor had really intrigued me. I have always been interested in genealogy, but since returning to college I stayed so busy trying to juggle my part-time job with writing assignments that I scarcely had time to read a newspaper, much less research my family tree.

Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to indulge the professor for a moment or two. “What lore?” I rested my elbow on the table, then propped my chin on my hand. “I know very little about my family.”

“Ah. If you’ll permit me--” The professor pulled a chair from the empty carrel next to mine, then sat down, resting his hat on his knees. “The O’Connors ruled over medieval Ireland as warrior kings of Connacht. From the day the Normans first entered Ireland the O’Connors served as faithful allies of the English sovereigns, but in 1235, treacherous Norman foot-soldiers and archers crossed the Shannon River and killed the ruling O’Connors in their ancestral home. That much we know as fact. But it’s what we don’t know for certain that fascinates me.”

He lowered his voice and leaned forward as if he were divulging a great secret. “It is said that Cahira, daughter of the great king Rory O’Connor, lay in childbirth as the attack began. She was delivered of a son on that fateful day, and as the murdering Normans entered the castle a serving maid spirited the baby away. The men had been dispatched to the towers and defensive positions; most were dead or dying. Cahira, still weak from childbirth, chose to defend her home rather than flee with her child.”

Slowly and deliberately, the professor removed his glasses, then began to wipe them with a handkerchief from his jacket pocket. “According to legend, Cahira picked up a sword to defend the chamber in which she and her ladies had taken refuge,” he said, critically examining the lenses of his glasses before returning them to the bridge of his nose. “They resisted in a valiant display of courage, but the women were no match for the professional knights. And as Cahira lay dying of a wound from a Norman blade, she lifted her hand toward heaven and beseeched God that others would follow after her, ‘bright stars who would break forth from the courses to which they are bound and restore right in this murderous world of men.’”

The professor told the story in a smooth, almost soothing voice, but I felt my heart rate increasing with every word. Why did the story move me? And why was I sitting here listening to this fanciful and melodramatic professor when I had a project to begin? This warrior princess and I had the same last name, but surely we had about as much in common as an apple and an oyster.

“That’s an interesting story.” I smiled at Professor Howard and picked up my pencil. “But I really need to get back to work.”

Apparently not one to be easily dissuaded, Professor Howard straightened himself in his chair. “There is more to the tale, Miss O’Connor. Cahira had red hair, too. In fact, seeing you made me think of her.” He gave me a slightly reproachful look. “I had hoped you might be acquainted with her story.”

Did he think all redheads pledged themselves to some kind of secret club? “No, I don’t know much about Irish history,” I answered, waving my pencil and hoping he’d take the hint. “I’m an English major. And I have this project to do—“

“Cahira also had a streak of white hair near her left temple.” His eyes gleamed with a curious intensity. “I have seen an artist’s rendering of the princess. If I believed in such possibilities, I would think you could be her sister.”

That remark left me speechless. All my life I have been teased about the sprout of white hair that grows from my left temple. As a kid my friends called me names ranging from “skunk head” to “Cruella DeVil.” As a teenager I tried everything from dye to lightening the rest of my hair to match the streak, but that area of my scalp had a will of its own. Lately I’d learned to leave my hair alone. I had finally reached a place where I could just roll my eyes at what the world thought of my looks; too many other things demanded my attention. Sometimes I almost forgot I had a freakish white sprout growing from the side of my head.

But people like Professor Howard were always reminding me. And he wanted me to believe I might be related to some Irish princess who apparently cursed her descendants to roam in the stars or some such silly thing.

I shook my head and protectively tucked my strand of white hair behind my ear. “Thanks for sharing that story, professor, but this streak is a result of piebaldism. That area of my scalp doesn’t produce pigment. My situation isn’t as pronounced as someone with albinism, but the condition is similar.”

“I know,” Professor Howard answered, a small, fixed smile on his face. “Piebaldism is inherited. And yet you say neither your parents nor your grandparents share this condition. Is there, perhaps, an aunt or an uncle, probably on your father’s side—“

I held up my hand, cutting him off. “No one. But the gene could have come from some great aunt, for all I know. O’Connors are everywhere.”

“As scattered as the Irish.” He stared at me in silence for a moment, his eyes gleaming with interest, then pulled a card from his coat pocket. “I believe, my dear, that you may be directly descended from Cahira O’Connor. I know it sounds unlikely, but what’s the harm in a little investigation? If you’d like some guidance, here’s my office number. If I’m not in the office, one of my student aides will take a message.” He leaned forward and clapped his hands to his knees. “Call me if you have any interest in learning more, Miss O’Connor. I have several books which should interest you.”

Not knowing what else to do, I took the card. Professor Howard stood, nodded regally, then threaded his way through the carrels until he disappeared from sight.

The card he had placed in my hand was simple and direct:

Henry Howard, Ph.D.

Professor of Medieval European History

New York City College

212 555-2947

I stared at it for a moment, then felt a blush burn my cheeks. If this was Professor Howard’s technique for introducing himself to young women, I had to admit his approach was unique. Of course I had no intention of contacting him again, but in the space of a few moments he had spun a story that brought me from complete disinterest to fascination.

“Excuse me, but are you about finished here? I need to use the computer.”

A grungy-looking guy in a tee shirt and jeans spoke up behind me, and his question caught me off guard. “Um, I’m just starting,” I said, glancing at my watch. “And I’m signed on for another fifteen minutes. Check the reservation sheet at the reference desk.”

The guy snorted and moved away, but I knew he’d be back, circling like a hungry trout. I had to get to work.

I was about to crumple the professor’s card and toss it toward the nearest trash can when a sudden thought struck me. Since I was researching piebaldism, why not focus my topic a little? What could it hurt? Almost without thinking, I entered the command for a new search. “Find piebaldism and O’Connor,” I murmured as I typed. If the gene really did run in the O’Connor family, there might be some record of other O’Connors with piebaldism.

Searching. . .

I drummed my fingers on the desk, waiting for the ancient modem to search and report. The professor had made Cahira’s story sound romantic and dashing, but her curse or prophecy or whatever-you-want-to-call it hadn’t made a bit of sense. What was that bit about bright stars in their courses? Total drivel. Poetic, yes, but drivel nonetheless. Maybe the professor had overdosed on his morning coffee and caffeine had kicked his imagination into high gear.

Search results. . . four.

I took a quick, sharp breath as the computer screen flashed again:

Piebaldism and O’Connor:

Rory O’Connor, the last king of Ireland, killed in the Norman Invasion in 1235. . . Survivors in that bloody attack included a grandson, who was spirited away from his mother’s arms as the Normans attacked. According to legend, the child’s mother, Cahira O’Connor, rose up from her bed of travail to wield a sword against the enemy, but scholars believe this may be an anecdotal myth fabricated to ennoble the sufferings of a murdered Irish princess. Cahira was noted for her exceptional beauty and a bold white streak through her red hair, one of the earliest recorded instances of piebaldism. . .

The Hussite Crusades: holy wars launched by Pope Martin V against the followers of Jan Hus, a Bohemian reformer. Among Hus’s more influential followers was Anika of Prague, a fifteenth century woman who fought as a knight prior to the Hussite Crusades. Annals of that time record an unusual white streak through the hair situated over her left ear, probably the result of piebaldism. Several chroniclers report that she claimed to spring from the ancestral throne of the O’Connors, ancient kings of Ireland.

Pirates and Seafaring, women at sea: Aidan O’Connor, a seventeenth century woman described by her contemporaries as a “spirited lass with flaming hair marked by spout of gold,” undoubtedly a case of piebaldism. The daughter of a cartographer, she disguised herself as a common sailor to go exploring, fought pirates, and eventually commanded the vessel.

Civil War, women in battle: Flanna O’Connor, a nineteenth century Georgia woman who disguised herself as a soldier and fought in the Civil War at her brother’s side. Commonly known as the Pale Ghost, she was as well known for her ability to rescue captured comrades from behind enemy lines as for the singular pale streak which ran through her red hair. See piebaldism.

All my previous plans faded like a bad radio signal. Could Professor Howard’s story be true? Could there really be a link between these O’Connor women and the unusual physical characteristic we all shared? What were the odds that three women—four, counting Cahira herself—would share the same physical characteristic and risk their lives in war?

The idea was extremely far fetched, and yet there was a certain symmetry to it. What had the professor told me? A dying woman had begged God to allow bright stars to break forth from the courses to which they were bound and restore right in the murderous world of men--

My thoughts halted as abruptly as if they’d hit a brick wall. Of course! The bright stars were women! Cahira had barricaded herself in that chamber with the women of the castle. And, knowing that the men had gone to defend the fortress, she had stepped out of her roles as mother and daughter and princess in order to pick up a sword and fight. In that hour of weakness and fear, she may have regretted her feebleness and femininity.

My imagination caught the image. I could almost see this woman, drenched in sweat, her limbs still trembling from the exertions of labor and childbirth, her husband’s heavy sword in her hand. Her maidservants were doubtless around her, some crying, some cowering, a few helping the nurse and infant escape through a tunnel or window. And Cahira, knowing that her situation was hopeless, begging God to allow her descendants to live and grow strong in order to restore right in a savage world.

And they had! Or had they?

The back of my neck burned with excitement while a curious, tingling shock numbed both my brain and my fingertips on the keyboard. Professor Howard had slipped his little story into my fevered imagination, and now I was delirious with discovery, having validated his so-called myth.

But it was too easy, far too simple. Had I really stumbled onto something the professor did not know—or had I been set up?

I cleared the computer screen and reran the search through a different search engine, this time reversing the order. “Search for O’Connor and piebaldism,” I muttered, typing. I hit the enter key and clicked my nails on the desk in a flood of anticipatory adrenaline.

There was no way Professor Howard could know that I’d actually run a computer search to test his little story. And if I had searched only for O’Connors, I would have pulled up thousands of references, too many to fully investigate. Maybe the link of piebaldism had never occurred to anyone else. I did have a special interest in the subject, after all.

Searching. . .

The computer beeped as the screen filled with the exact four references I had seen earlier. Cahira of the thirteenth century, Anika of the fifteenth, Aidan of the seventeenth, Flanna of the nineteenth. All warrior women descended from the O’Connors, and all similar in appearance.

The possibility of a link between them seemed crazy, absolutely fantastic, but what if my hypothesis were true? These four women had each lived two hundred years apart, in different countries, under vastly different conditions. None of them would have known the others existed. And yet they were all O’Connors, they had all fought as men for at least a brief span of time, and all of them had red hair marked by a streak of white--

Just like me. My mouth flew open in numb astonishment. I am about to enter the twenty-first century, two hundred years after Cahira’s last warrior descendant. Could I be. . . the next one?

The thought was too incredible to comprehend. My fingers began to tremble as fearful images built in my fevered imagination. Were the histories of these women somehow tied into my future? I was a student, not a soldier, but did some global tragedy or struggle lie beyond tomorrow’s sunset? The idea seemed ridiculous, totally implausible, but I’d still be in my twenties at the turn of the century, young enough to bear the blessing—or curse—of Cahira O’Connor, if such a thing really existed.

Whoa, Kathleen! You’ve read too many books, seen too many far out movies. You asked the computer for entries with two terms in common. Out of thousands, no, millions of web pages on the Internet, you shouldn’t be surprised that something surfaced. Professor Howard’s odd devotion to that myth spooked you, that’s all. And it’s late. You’re tired. And you’re facing a deadline.

I put my hand on the mouse and cleared the screen, but thoughts of Cahira and her descendants persisted. How could the strange timing—every two hundred years—be explained by mere chance? And how could four women have the piebald patch in exactly the same place? And I hadn’t searched for links about women who lived as men, that fact had simply come out of nowhere.

I whipped open my spiral notebook and turned to a clean page. If I couldn’t let it go, I could investigate. I’d change my topic for my semester project, and instead of researching piebaldism, I’d explore the histories of Anika of Prague, Aidan of Avonmore, and Flanna the Pale Ghost. And maybe, if I had time and my professor approved, I’d do a background check on Cahira herself.

And if by chance I discovered that Professor Howard was a lonely man pulling some sort of academic scam, I’d publish my findings in the college newspaper and expose the creep. But if he had told the truth, he might have just changed my life.

The first red-headed wonder was Anika of Prague, the woman who fought as a knight—in an actual suit of armor?—in Bohemia.

Bohemia? In my adolescent days, my mother had often accused me of being bohemian, but I don’t think she intended it to be a compliment.

I entered the name “Bohemia” into the computer’s reference book program and pressed the enter key. Thirty seconds later, there it was:

Bohemia, (bo-hê¹mê-e) an historic region of 20,368 square miles bordered by Austria (SE), Germany (W, NW), Poland (N, NE), and Moravia (E). The traditional capital is Prague. With the dissolution of Czechoslovakia (1993), the region became part of the Czech Republic. In the 15th cent. Bohemia was the scene of the Hussite religious movement . . .

Bingo. According to the other search, my girl Anika followed a man called Hus. As excited as a cat at a mouse show, I hit the “print” button and skimmed the entry again. I could look up “Hus” and do a bit of checking on this Hussite movement. And maybe there’d be something under “Czechoslovakia” about this Anika of Prague.

And that’s how it began—a quirk of fate, if you believe in such things, I tend to think it was a divine appointment. But in that minute I just knew I had to find all I could about Anika . . . because in learning about her past, I just might learn something about my own future.

I typed her name into another search program and snapped the enter key.

Searching. . .

Tomorrow: how the idea germinated.