Once upon a time there was a girl. A beautiful, bright, talented girl. She played harp, and she cared about other people and she had a dog. And she grew up into a beautiful, talented, sweet young woman, and then a tragedy occurred, and she died.
But that’s not the end of the story. Most stories end there but this one goes on. Because the girl had two wonderful parents and this story is actually about them.
The girl’s name was Jan Pennington Gray, and her parents, in her honour, set up a scholarship fund for harpers. And later they started a harp camp that’s become more popular with every succeeding year.
I first attended the Jan Pennington Gray Harp Camp in 2009, but I had met the Penningtons a year before that. They strongly encouraged me in my musical pursuits. They were a huge influence in getting me to compete; and they are the only reason I’ve had any formal music instruction whatsoever.
But wait, I can hear you say. You’re a writer. You’re writing about supervillains. What does that have to do with harps and singing and Scottish heritage?
The answer is that it doesn’t, really. It has to do with courage and about growing up into a person. When I met the Penningtons I’d only barely begun to be interested in harping seriously. I knew I wanted to; I wanted to perform and to play music, but I was afraid I couldn’t. I was afraid of people I could. And I didn’t know where to go, who to turn to, or what opportunities awaited.
The Penningtons did far more for me than just provide means and opportunity for me to further my musical pursuits. They told me that I could further those pursuits. They gave me an opportunity to leave home for the first time. Year after year they tell me that I’m amazing, but they also tell me that I can do better. They gave me confidence, and strength, and hope. Hope for a future in which I played some part.
And so Book 2: Fire and Ashes is respectfully dedicated:
To Jim and Jo
Because you gave me courage
And told me I could do anything.