The Maquisarde: Background and Other Interesting Notes

The French resistance fighters of World War II called themselves the maquis, after a hardy shrub native to the island of Corsica. A member of the maquis (ma-KEE) is called a maquisard (ma-kee-SAR.) If it’s a woman, and there were many, she’s called a maquisarde (ma-kee-SARD.)

This novel was inspired by the entrance into our community at St. James Cathedral of a precious baby girl, born in one of the provinces of China, and abandoned beside a road on the day of her birth, in January. It seems to me, and to my friend, her American mother, a miracle that Rachael is now happily growing up, and giving great joy to her mother and to all of us who know her. In the last ten years, there have been more than ten thousand such miracles in the United States, and three additional ones have occurred in my own immediate circle.

Rachael, the dedicatee of The Maquisarde, attended the inaugural event for the novel at Third Place Books in December. She’s only six, but so wise and warm! A gift to America, indeed.

Because the Chain has its home in space, I needed to learn how that might work. I always like young adult books for research, because of their clear, concise, and compact form. These were two of my favorites:

  • Space Station Science, life in free fall by Marianne J. Dyson
  • To Space and Back by Sally Ride, with Susan Okie

Because Ebriel Serique had to learn to fly a helicopter, I did too:

  • How to Fly Helicopters by Larry Collier. There are lots of books on flying rotary aircraft, but this one’s clear and easy to read.

For The Maquisarde, I made my library get busy with interlibrary loans, and I’m grateful for them. These make it possible to study books you could never afford to buy, and that your local library system doesn’t have on its shelves. For example, I found a book on the flora and fauna of Tibet, on the peoples of northern China, and videos on the adoption of Chinese babies in America, who are overwhelmingly female. I also made extensive use of the Harper Collins Atlas of the World.

The Glass Harmonica: Background and Other Interesting Notes

Do listen to a brief Mozart piece written for the glass harmonica: Adagio for Glass Harmonica, Mozart

Here’s a charming example of glass music.

If the psychic elements of The Glass Harmonica intrigue you, look up these books:

  • Tune Your Brain, by Elizabeth Miles
  • Miracles of Mind, Russell Targ and Jane Katra
  • Mind Trek, by Joseph McMoneagle

Readers of The Glass Harmonica who are interested in history might want to check out the following works:

  • Franklin, the Autobiography
  • The Devious Dr. Franklin, Colonial Agent, by David T. Morgan
  • Mozart, by Peter Gay
  • Costume 1066 – 1990’s, by John Peacock
  • English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh; an indispensable source for writing dialogue of another age
  • London, the Novel, by Edward Rutherford

If you’re interested in musical aspects of the novel:

  • Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, by Robert Jourdain; a marvelous book full of scientific, artistic, and historical tidbits.
  • Visit William Wilde Zeitler’s excellent web page at for pictures, sound bites, history, and a wealth of links.
  • The Finkenbeiner web page has lovely Sound samples of the glass harmonica. Don’t miss the exquisite fragment of “Shenandoah.”
  • Check out the Brussels Virtuosi’s recording, if you can find it, of the Mozart Flute Quartets for a lovely reading of the “Adagio in C.”

The Terrorists of Irustan: Background and Other Interesting Notes

The Terrorists of Irustan was published in 1999, two full years before the events of September 11th. The book was, in fact, inspired by the takeover in Afghanistan by Taliban and the subsequent appalling treatment of women and girls; I was no less moved by the fate of young boys pressed into military service, and also by the effects on men whose mothers and wives and daughters lost their freedom to work and study, and move about unescorted.

The characters in The Terrorists of Irustan are not Muslim, but in preparing to write the book, I read several excellent books on Islam and the lives of women who are veiled. These are worth checking out:

  • Beyond the Veil, by Fatima Mernissi; a magnificently written work examining all sides of the issue of women who live a secluded life.
  • Nine Parts of Desire, by Geraldine Brooks; a courageous visit to the hidden world of Islamic women by a Western journalist.
  • What Everyone Should Know about Islam and Muslims, by Suzanne Haneef; a short book by an American Muslim woman explaining her feelings about the Islamic life style.

Because the world of Irustan is an analog of a Middle Eastern society, I tried to understand something of the Arab peoples and their culture.

  • A History of the Arab Peoples, by Albert Hourani; offers insights such as: ” . . . although the depiction of living forms was not explicitly forbidden by the Qur’an, most jurists, basing themselves on Hadith, held that this was an infringement of the sole power of God to creat life . . . Surfaces were covered with decoration: forms of plants and flowers . . . highly stylized . . . patterns of lines and circles . . . “
  • Tales, Hazrat Inayat Khan; teaching stories in the Sufi tradition, drawn from parables, fables, legends, and stories of prophets and saints.

The Child Goddess: Background and Other Interesting Notes

Mother Isabel Burke is a member of the Priestly Order of Mary Magdalene, an order of celibate women priests devoted to the search for truth in all things. Mary Magdalene is their patroness because she was a woman maligned by untruths for centuries.

Oa of Virimund has her ancestral roots in the African country of Mali, a region called Sikasso, where French is spoken along with Bambara, a dialect of Mandikan, which is the unofficial language of Mali.

The liturgical calendar used by Isabel is based on the one in use today in the United States. Liturgical calendars change over the years, and according to the region and its ethnicity. Probably in half a millennium, the calendar would change, but except for the addition of the solemnity of Saint Teresa of Calcutta (who is not yet in actuality a saint) the calendar has been used as it currently exists.

For more information on fact, speculation, and research about this mysterious and intriguing woman, here are some resources to seek out:

  • Mary Magdalene
    A website full of pictures, links, quotes.
  • Mary Magdalene, Beyond the Myth, by Esther de Boer.
    An exploration by a Dutch writer of the facts and the fiction surrounding Mary Magdalene.
    Another exhaustive website with information on a host of fascinating topics, including a “Body of Myth” section.
  • Mary, Called Magdalene, Margaret George.
    A highly individualistic fictional interpretation of the Magdalene story, rich with convincing historical detail.
  • The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, translated from the Coptic by Jean-Yves LeLoup.
    The Gospel of Mary was discovered in 1896 in Cairo, fifty years before the Nag Hammadi discovery of the Gnostic Gospels.  This is fascinating reading, with in-depth commentary, and is important in understanding what is actually known and simply surmised—or invented, as in the best-selling Da Vinci Code—about the historical Mary of Magdala.

Singer in the Snow: Background and Other Interesting Notes

  • The American Library Association 2006 nominations for the Best Books for Young Adults, include Singer in the Snow.
  • The book was discussed at the ALA Conference in New Orleans in June, 2006

This is a picture of the dedicatee of Singer in the Snow, a gifted young musician I’ve known since she was a baby.

The Singers of Nevya: Background and Other Interesting Notes

I’m frequently challenged by my readers over the requirement for celibacy for the Singers of Nevya. It’s an important feature of any system of special power that there be a cost, and of course, in that cost, whether it’s the price of magic or the energy drain of a speeding space ship, lies the potential for conflict and tension. The Nevya books are, in the end, about what it is to be an artist, to live as an artist, to have the discipline and make the sacrifices that are required. Celibacy is only one of these sacrifices.