not really Irish either

I am told that I have some small Scottish heritage, though I suspect “lineage” is the better word, and “small” should be in italics. I know of no cultural influence from my distant Scottish ancestors (on my mother’s side) that survives in me. It’s not that I would object to having this influence. Rather that it may as well not be listed in my pedigree since it doesn’t seem to affect who I am.

Even less do I have any Irish influence, though my best friend in high school was a first generation Irish American and whose father I could rarely understand because his brogue was so thick. I did understand him, though, when he said St. Patrick’s Day was for people who wished they were Irish.

But neither of these flaws in my makeup has prevented me from working on two stories with strong Irish influences. One I’ve mentioned before is a short story that may or may not have a leprechaun in it. And the other is an entire novel that is set in an Irish-American community and in which Irish heritage plays an important role.

I had “finished” the short story last fall and sent it to an editor who had accepted two of my stories in the past. I thought the possible supernatural angle was risky for the sports theme of the journal, but it had to do with running, so I gave it a try. The editor sent it back to me saying that it was pretty good but not quite there. He actually wanted more of the supernatural element. So I rewrote it and tried to play that up without being obvious and then sent it to him again. And he returned it again, saying he wanted me to be more obvious.

And so I’ve been working on it, not sure just what more I can do with it without giving away the hinted-at leprechaun element. In part because I like hinting and letting readers make the connections themselves but in larger part because the runner will get his wish through a means other than a magical beneficence from a demigod. That’s kind of the whole point of the story. And so I dither. Is this rewrite far enuf to satisfy the editor yet not so far as to give away the store? Is there more I can do to refine this truly fine point? Or is it just not going to get to the shape the editor wants? The fact that he’s given me two chances at rewriting tells me that I should put serious, worthy effort into it. And so I will anguish and wring my hands and let it incubate for another week or so to see if any revelations come my way.

The other Irish-y piece I’m working on, the novel, is one of the Finnegans cozy mystery novels I’ve been dabbling in for the last decade (and what I had begun this humble blog for originally back in 2007). The story is set in a small city that had a strong Irish history. That’s changing now, and that’s where a great deal of the tension in the story comes from. A new ethnic heritage is supplanting the Irish history of the town, and while some embrace this new reality, others (for reasons beyond the obvious) are resisting it.

I can mitigate my lack of authentic Irish cultural knowledge when I write about this community with the fact within the story, the town has existed in the American Midwest (in a state called Illinois) for nearly 200 years, so it is truly more American now than Irish. Thus my deficient Irish portrayal is actually more authentic since the community is not that much Irish any longer.

I have one more chapter to write to finish the first draft, and lest you think I’ve written all of this in the last two weeks, let me say that I had begun this novel more than a year ago when I (foolishly) believed I need to take a break from the One-Match Fire novel that was consuming me with no end in sight at the time. Even so, this Finnegans novel, which is one chapter away from being finished in first draft, is only 49,000+ words. I’ll o’er top the 50,000 word count barrier with the last chapter, and there are a couple of substantive characters/interactions I’m thinking of adding to what’s already written that will swell the word count, but I think it will come in at the minimum word count needed to qualify as a cozy mystery novel.

And that’s what I’ve been working on in recent weeks.

Explore posts in the same categories: Finnegans, short stories

One Comment on “not really Irish either”

  1. markparis Says:

    I passed through your neck of the woods recently. I waved but I don’t think you saw me.


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