A New Irish Experience

This  time in Dublin much was different. I’d already visited Ireland three times for fun and once for business between 2002 and 2011, so I was surprised.

In 2004 we met a family on the west side of Ireland who were raising their children to speak only Irish. The desire to regain Irish roots resonated with us, but the approach seemed a bit extreme. Speaking English is an asset, whether one likes it or not, and all bilingual children have a brain-wiring advantage that can’t be duplicated later. Yet, to each their own.

In 2019, that desire to reclaim linguistic roots has taken hold in Dublin, but in a gentler way. Signs are in Irish first, and announcements in public places are made in both languages. I find this new pride to be wonderful, and I am happy a few words stuck with me.

Dublin itself has also undergone quite a transformation, or at least the downtown area has. There is a beautiful convention center along the River Liffey, now, and new construction is everywhere in the area. I’m sure it is a mixed blessing to the residents, like all such things are, but I hope all this new growth will bring Dublin more than it takes from it.

The bus system seems vastly improved, with easy to find and use express buses running to and from the airport and a handy tram running along the river. An affordable and well publicized LEAP card made it easy to buy all the transportation I needed for a week for 40 Euros.

The Irish may have been making gin for a long while, but the push to sell it to visitors was new to me. I found myself passing on the ever popular Guinness several times in order to enjoy the new flavor I fell for — rhubarb gin. Paired with a pink pepper tonic and served with a slice of grapefruit, it was  an amazing drink.

Other things were very much as I remembered them, thankfully. The fish and chips remained wonderful and the Guinness was every bit as easy to find as it has always been. Plenty of Irish still seem to like to talk about politics, and they have a fine way of not holding ones opinions against them. It makes our hostile environment here in USA seem all the more childish.

The World Science Fiction Convention I was attending found many ways to feature Irish myths, including this eerie and beautiful representation of a legendary monster from the River Liffey. And the bridge linking my lodging to the convention center used Ireland’s ancient symbol of the harp in an exquisite way to form a thoroughly modern path across a river.

It was a wonderful week in Dublin, and I was happy to see a country I’ve enjoyed so much so many times doing so well.

(Read more about my Worldcon 2019 adventures in Dublin at And the winner, she is …., at  An Irish Worldcon: I’m here! , at Fast Forward into the Past and at Feeling at home.)

That’s her!

The appearance of main character Ariel was always well formed in my mind. She had long, thin, straight red hair. She was tall and slender, with an athletic body. She was confident, with a bit of attitude. She is the only character I captured on one of the original covers,  although it was from the back.

When I decided to rename my books, I needed new covers. Current fashion is to show the main character (from the front), so  I needed my new designers to keep my vision of what Ariel really looked like.

By the time we started the cover for Flickers of Fortune, the fine folks at Deranged Doctor Design had already implemented their way of dealing with people like me, who are picky about their MC’s physical appearance. On the previous book, they sent me six potential models to choose from. I expected to see a half dozen or so redheads auditioning to be Ariel. I was surprised when I only got one.

They were spot on. She was Ariel. Not a single modification needed.

When it came time to create the last cover, we needed Ariel to make a second appearance, but not with an identical face. This particular model had other photos to choose from. DDD selected one in which she looked similar, and it would have worked fine.

Looking at it forced me to see other photos of this model, however, and I found several I liked so much better.  Doesn’t she look so much more interesting in the other three photos?

I persuaded DDD to try an edgier look and I was happy with the result. So were most people in my informal focus group, although one person thought she now looked slutty. Sigh …. Not what I intended.

Other people’s opinions aside, I decided to go with this vision of Ariel. I think it’s really her.