Once Upon a Rainy Solstice

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Riley recommends starting your morning right every day by enjoying the warmth of sunlight on your ears. This, along with naps and a Kong full of kibbles and peanut butter, is how he’s celebrating his winter solstice. I think it’s a lovely way to welcome the return of the sun upon the world.

The birds, too, are enjoying this day. The light rain and unseasonable warmth (70 degrees today!) has them hunting in full force, storing up for the winter that we’ll eventually see in March. Their raucous songs – full of territory and love – play the melody to the staccato drizzle, and I have all the windows of this house open to let nature’s music in. When the evening comes I’ll set a candle to burn next to the sprig of rosemary which is my saved piece of evergreen. And through the mutual magic of this time of holidays, the seasons will continue to turn. So I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the use of existing belief systems in literature.

When I first thought of placing an indigenous tribe of people in Hollow Thunder, my intent was to honor the trials of the historical native tribes local to Williamsburg that were forced into extinction during the Colonial period. I did not give the People a name for two reasons: 1) because most tribal names genuinely translate to “the people” within the language of that tribe, and 2) because I did not want to call out one specific group of peoples. Similarly, New Attercliffe is at times very obviously meant to be Williamsburg, but it is also crucially different. This change of names allows me to combine, rearrange or relocate events from history without being obliged to follow the exact progression of the time. I can tell the story that I want to tell, while still giving a nod to the history that inspired it.

The same philosophy applies when speaking to cultures. Still, there are some guidelines that must be adhered to in order for such a blend to be successful and not overt or fake.

  • Always Be Respectful. Whenever you share someone else’s stories, no matter how many things you change to make them unique in your world, you must always be respectful. There is power behind words, and an intent behind every story. To use these flippantly or casually is not good practice and will cheapen your own story.
  • Give Credit. Whether for the peace of mind of those descended of the culture, or simply for good moral practice, give credit and explanation when you directly pull on an ideal or detail. In Hollow Thunder and in The Loyalty of Dew, the People speak Irish Gaelic and Welsh and I take a moment to explain why at the end.
  • Research. Especially if you directly name or call out the culture or historical aspect that you are using as inspiration, do your due diligence and research fully. This means experiencing that culture first hand if you can, or at least accessing sources that are local to the source. There is nothing like primary evidence to give your story the real spice of genuine local flavor.

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