Ring around the rosaries

    Authors do strange things sometimes to get in touch with their characters. A lot of us become so close with the people whose lives we write that we end up talking to them in our heads — or even out loud. Yes, I've done that, and when it happens in public it's a bit embarrassing.

    When I start a new novel, I try to find ways of invoking those special characters, of bringing them closer to me. I always create a playlist on i-Tunes that evokes the "feeling" of the novel and its characters, but there's more. When I wrote Carnal Gift, I burned a Virgin Mary candle, saying the novena on the back and lighting it each time I sat down to write in honor of Bríghid's defiant Catholicism. When I wrote Ride the Fire, I had the diaries of the soldiers from the siege of Fort Pitt to bring home the daily experience of my characters. I also had — and still have — a painting of Fort Pitt as it looked that year. (It's visible to the viewer's left of the photos with the Gansgta Bitches taken in front of my desk, posted below.) For Surrender, I used mostly music, particularly Old Blind Dogs.

    For Untamed, I knew I wanted something that I wished I'd had while writing Surrender — the little wooden rosary that hung around Iain's neck and which, I presumed, hangs around the necks of his brothers, Morgan and Connor, and a great many of their fellow Rangers, all of whom are Catholic. So I went hunting...

    Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a plain, wooden rosary with no adornment on it? I finally found one on a website that sells Polish religious goods to immigrant communities in the United States.

    The plain wooden rosary worn by the MacKinnon brothers, specifically Morgan MacKinnon.

    Of course, in the process of finding Morgan's rosary, I looked at a great many rosary websites and saw some truly beautiful rosaries. I decided I'd like to have Amalie's rosary, too. Raised by the Ursulines in Trois Rivieres in Canada, she is French Métis and very Catholic. The daughter of a French officer, it seemed she should have something a bit more upscale than Morgan's simple carven rosary.

    Amalie Chauvenet's rosary. The white fresh-water pearls represent her innocent nature to me.

    By then, I had decided these things were very pretty and that I now collect them. Then I saw that Anglicans pray with rosaries, too. This came as a pleasant surprise, as I am officially Anglican. So I looked around to find one I loved, and bought this:

    Notice that it has a cross instead of a crucifix. It also has a different number of beads than the Catholic rosaries.

    I hang Amalie's and Morgan's together on my computer, and I must say they look good together. The soft pearls and bright crystals contrast nicely with the more masculine wood. I hold them when I'm writing and pondering my words, and I think they do invoke the characters nicely.

    I actually use my rosary. Though officially Anglican, I follow the Red Road — Indian spirituality — in practice. The two aren't incompatible by any means, so that's nice. But anyone stepping into my house would be perplexed and confused about what religion I am. And that's fine with me.

    There's Bríghid's Virgin Mary candle on my mantle. There's a menorah on my kitchen shelf. There are several bundles of sage and an ear of dried corn from Black Mesa in my kitchen and a Sun Dance crown on my bedroom wall. There's a Celtic cross on the wall near my desk, and three different rosaries — two Catholic and one Anglican — on my computer, next to a necklace of turquoise turtles. A turkey feather, the words of a Psalm, a Bible, Buddhist meditations, and a book of Cherokee spritual writing round it out.

    You gotta love the First Amendment. It protects my fiction, and it ensures that I can pray (and write) in any wacky way that works for me.

    In other spiritual news, my beloved friend Kat is leaving the Rez and moving back to Denver! Thank GOD, and hurry the hell up, will you, Kat?

    Next post: Torture by excerpt!

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