Sunday, March 21, 2010

Off the Rails

I've been reading a lot about tarot cards lately because a friend bought me a book on it, suggesting it might help me with some ideas in the novel. I've decided to insert a tarot card reading scene, serving the functional purpose of (a) Eva seeking answers/actions that are quick, (b) one of many possible, wacky solutions to her wacky, paraweirdo predicament and (c) foreshadowing.

Tarot cards have been used for centuries. They used to be playing cards before they became fortune telling cards. Basically, there are 78 cards in a deck, each with a different, illustrated picture. There's the Major Arcana (these cards depict scenes with a lot of symbolism) and the Minor Arcana (four suits, more like regular playing cards, consisting of Wands, Coins, Cups and Swords). I've decided to go with the tarot reader giving Eva-as-Jade a reading called a Celtic Cross spread: ten cards, each placed in a certain position in relation to each other, each cards standing in for a specific reason. For example, Card 1 represents the theme of the reading. Card 2 are obstacles in the way. Card 3 is the subconscious, etc.

Tarot cards are illustrated, so cards like The Fool or The Magician or The Hanged Man all have various interpretations based on where they pop up in the spread--and all of it is fairly vague, you know? I think it can work as a good character-revealing-foreshadowing element in the book, but I don't know the first thing about tarot beyond the book and a few websites I've found. Deciding which card should go where in the spread for Eva-as-Jade has been time consuming. This is the kind of thing you don't think about when you start writing paraweirdo novels. Seriously, next book: normal. No ghosts. No soul movements. No souls!

I'm more familiar with astrology. In Chinese astrology, I'm a tiger (though, not strictly, since my birthday is before Chinese New Year). In Western astrology, I am an Aquarius. *cue Age of Aquarius*

Here are my supposed characteristics, from:
  • Fixed Sign. Air Sign.
  • Aquarius likes: fame and recognition, personal privacy, rainbows, dreams, magic, change for its own sake, eccentricity, surprises, and living within their means despite the many temptations which constantly surround them every waking moment.
  • Aquarius dislikes:emotion and intimacy, people who show off, being taken for granted, being pinned down, violence and fighting, and senseless or purposeless extravagance of any sort.
  • Aquarians are supposed to get along well with other Air Signs (Gemini, Libra). Best love match is a Libra.
  • The best sign for an Aquarian to get married to, besides another Aquarian or a Gemini or Libra, is a Leo, the opposite on the astrological wheel, however, I'm also seeing that Aquarians and Leos can totally hate each other, depending on individual charts and things.Who knows. I'll deal with people rather than their signs. Although my dear college roomie is an Aquarius and several close friends are Libras.
There is a side of me that is intrigued by psychics, astrology, fortune telling and dreams. I believe in past lives, for instance, and I think things happen for a reason. It's the same part of me that likes The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and FlashForward.

I still can't believe I'm actually researching this kind of fantastical, slightly off-kilter kind of stuff. It's fun, but also inspires head scratching and lots of thought bubbles that would read, "Really?"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

100 Pages of Revision

Oh, yeah! I've reached a small milestone--100 pages of revised novel. Woo-fucking-hoo!

I'm in Chapter 9. Two more scenes to go and then I'll be in Chapter 10.

I'm at 27, 001 words of a total 72, 554.

And Brix is starting to become suspicious of camera-liking, coffee-drinking Eva-as-Jade.

So now, I can plan a trip into the city to eat Cajun food. Why? 'Cause it's research! Catfish and gumbo and collard greens, here I come!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Family Records: Anna, Ann, Anne, or Annie?

With St. Patrick's Day approaching, I always tend to think about the ancestors who left Ireland and came over here. In my family's case, we are not Potato Famine immigrants. We are early 20th century immigrants. I've watched episodes of Henry Louis Gates's Faces of America on PBS. com and am now an avid watcher of Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC--both historical, genealogical shows.

I'm a history geek, so that kind of thing is fascinating to me. I tried a quick, free subscription on Ancestry.com today--it's rainy, so it's perfect to look up Irish relatives, don't ya think?--to see what I could find. Here are some facts that I already knew about my family :


  • The Athys are from Belfast, Northern Ireland. The McManuses (my paternal grandmother's family) are from the West, like County Mayo.
  • Both sides settled in the Bronx. Hence, we are Yankee fans.
  • My first ancestors to set foot in the U.S. were Edward and Ann Talbot, the parents of Annie Talbot McManus, my great-grandmother.
  • Annie Talbot was the first of my ancestors born in the U.S. She was sent back to Ireland as a child, then came back in 1912 (almost getting on the Titanic in the process).
  • I was nearly named Winifred, after my other paternal great-grandmother, on the Athy side.
I am, all told, a fourth generation Irish-American. Knew that already. But here's the thing: tricky, tricky female ancestors. Grandma was born Anna Mary McManus. Then she became Annie Mary. Then she became Ann Theresa (her Confirmation name). Her mother was pretty much the same way. Do you feel like an Ann, Anne, Annie or Anna today? Granted, this is also the woman who made bathtub gin in her Bronx bathroom during Prohibition, so...flexible, to say the least.

I found the great-grandmother who made bathtub gin (Annie Talbot) in a 1900 Census, listed as age 6, living in Newark with her father and an older brother. I knew her parents died and that was why she was sent back to Ireland. Her father, Edward, is already listed as a widower in 1900. So when did her mother, Ann(e) Cassidy Talbot, die? I don't know. Couldn't find a viable record on her. I'm not even sure when she and Edward married, though the 1900 census says that he came to America in 1890.

I found a ship manifest listing Annie Talbot coming into New York in 1912--on the Oceanic, a ship owned by the White Star Line.

I found a few conflicting records on Winifred Skelly Athy. The 1920 Census says she was 29, single (my grandpa was born in 1921), living in Manhattan, working as a servant, and that she came to this country in 1904. Another record lists Minnie Skelly coming into Boston, 1912, from a town in County Roscommon, where I believe Winifred may have been from. So, really, I don't know which is which.

I don't expect to find royalty or even a minor lord in my family tree. We're farmers, laborers, alcoholics. But I want to know what my family was doing during the Famine. Why didn't we leave? I guess being near an Irish holiday makes me think of the possible stories that I don't know about.