Thursday, August 27, 2015

Little Red Wagon Full of Hope

Dear Readers,

Today I bring you something a little different from my normal posts on medieval history, Scotland, music, and time travel.  Today, I would like to introduce my friend of more than twenty years, and fellow author at Gabriel's Horn, Kathy Opie.  I met Kathy when our oldest children--her daughter and my son--were in pre-school together when they were only three.  At the time, she was pregnant with her second child, Patrick.  It has been a long and enduring friendship through raising our children and a great many life changes, a friendship that has lasted the eleven years since I moved quite far away.

Kathy, along with my friend Micki, stands as one of my role models and inspirations in life, as someone who takes the straw that life hands to each and every one of us at times, and spins it into gold, always being there to think of others and help others, living with grace and dignity when some people might use those same difficulties as excuses.

She recently released her first book, Little Red Wagon Full of Hope, a book for caregivers, that stems from one of the very severe crises she has faced: her son's battle with cancer.

The book started as a memoir of her son Conner's experience with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, diagnosed when he was just thirteen.  It evolved into a caregiver's book, designed to help others in long term care situations, or those helping such people.

Today I bring you a short interview with Kathy.

Tell us about learning Conner's diagnosis.

Well I speak about my reaction or rather our reaction in the first chapter of my book, but essentially we were in shock. Nobody ever imagines a cancer diagnosis, especially in a child. I spent the first several weeks waking up in the morning just thinking it was all a very bad dream and then reality would hit. There were lots of tears and asking myself “why my child?” Thankfully we had an amazing support system.

You have always been a giver, helping others. I remember my grandmother talking about how hard it was, in her last illness, to be the one to finally have to accept help from others. Can you talk a little about that adjustment, to having to accept help?

I remember one of my neighbors thanking me for allowing her to help me. Initially, I thought that was strange, but upon reflection it was very difficult for me to relinquish control and admit we needed help. When a life threatening illness takes over your family you are rendered nearly powerless in its wake. Past coping mechanisms of hard work, tenacity, and just getting it done won’t work in this situation, and it can be almost shaming to admit you can’t just do it yourself. Yet, finally reaching that point is extremely liberating. I think it allows you to become more understanding and compassionate of yourself and others. Looking back it helped me to understand that when I give to someone that that person isn’t merely in need or that I’m doing them a favor or being magnanimous but that they are accepting and relinquishing a part of themselves to you- it is a dear and tender relationship.

How did your faith help you through the year of chemotherapy?

I don’t know how we could’ve gotten through that year or the years following without it. There were times when I knew I couldn’t do it alone and thankfully I didn’t have to. I remember when Conner was first diagnosed, the lyrics to a popular Christian song by 10th Avenue North,  By Your Side, would play in my head:

'Cause I'll be by your side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don't fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

I remember just weeping and feeling God’s presence, knowing that we were never alone. It was an incredible faith experience. The hospital had a chapel that I would go and visit during our chemo weeks, either to sit, pray or attend services. Those times were invaluable to me.

One of the things I learned from your book is that remission is seen as the happy ending...but in some ways, it's really the beginning of rebuilding life. Can you talk a little about that? 

We call this in cancerland “a new normal” because you can never go back to your old way of life. There are things you can never unsee or unexperience. Plus, the cancer is in remission. It is now referred to as no evidence of disease or NED rather than “cancer free” because the cancer can always come back. You chose to move forward and live a life without fear and with that reality. It’s a way of coping because too many of our friends have lost their lives after the cancer has returned. That being said, there is hope and a beautiful fresh life of gratitude, new friends and renewed and stronger former relationships. You don’t take things for granted and each day is a blessing with the choice to make a difference, alleviate some pain and add joy whenever you can.

To learn more about Kathy, visit her website, twitter, and facebook, and listen to her interview with Psychology in Seattle.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Who was The Cout of Kielder?

Today, I research a scene in which the evil Simon Beaumont, seeking a way to return to his own time, visits Hermitage Castle and the nearby grave of the Cout of Keilder...or Kielder, depending who's writing.

The cout of Keilder is one of the very lesser known historical figures, which means that it takes relatively less time to research him and his grave site (say, a few hours, a day) than to research all that is known of Robert the Bruce.  This makes it easier, of course, and yet, we get only little glimpses of who he was, and they tend to conflict.

As an author, of course, I can choose: does Simon remember the Cout who was the innocent victim invited to dinner and murdered? Was he young and brave as one report says, or a vicious, brutal man who terrorized the countryside?  (Brave and terrorizing don't go together in my mind.)  Most stories, if they mention his size at all, agree that brave or terrorizing, he was a giant of a man.

So, collected here from around the web, a number of views of who the Cout of Keilder was:

The Cout who was murdered after being invited to dinner:

The cout (colt ) of Kielder was considered a brave young man who was also headstrong but was admired for his physical prowess. While out with a group of other young lads he ignored the local legend that one would be tempting fate if they were to ride counterclockwise (widdershins) around the Kielder stone. With a helm festooned with holly and rowan and the belief he wore a suit of mail that was magical, he tempted fate. The young men were caught by de Soulas and invited to Hermitage Castle.  Though they were treated with Border hospitality, soon it became apparent that de Soulas was going to murder them. With the prowess of the young, the cout was able to fight off de Soulas and the youngmen escaped on their horses. But de Soulas and his men were quickly in hot pursuit.  De Soulas summoned up a Border demon… the Brown Man, who told him that the Cout’s magic would not protect him in running water and they chased the young men to the Hermitage water where the cout stumbled and fell and as he tried to scramble to the other side with their spears they held the young man under the water and he drowned.  Where this happened is now called the Cout of Kielder Pool. 

Or, the same image from Geograph:

The Cout of Keilder's Grave

giving the following information:
Information plaque by the grave, between the Hermitage Water and the site of the chapel. Keilder vs Kielder? It has been suggested that the latter, like the forest just over the border, is correct. In those far off days, however, the locals then as some do now, pronounced Kielder as Kylder, so they would probably spell it as Keilder and the plaque is almost certainly correct. 

Another version of the Cout is found at Most Haunted Castles dot com:

The final chapter of this reign of terror has a touch of ambiguity as is common with most tales associated with Hermitage Castle. About a quarter of a mile to the north-west of the castle there is a small mound next to the ruins of a chapel. This mound is said to be the grave of a giant of an Englishman, a Tynesdale baron called the Cout of Kielder.This cout is said to have terrorized the area wearing magical chain-mail armor which was impervious to blows. He was finally killed by drowning in a deep pool of water in the river. This pool, which is very near to the grave, is known as the Drowning Pool. Whether he was the one and same man as the Cout of Kielder massacred by the Bad Lord Soulis is open to conjecture.A visitor had once experienced the eerie sensation of being pushed toward the water when he was near the Drowning Pool. Whether there is a ghost lurking in its depths or there is other paranormal activity is open to investigation.

The Forestry Commission site puts a slightly different spin on it:

From his base at brooding Hermitage Castle, the Scottish noble vied and eventually murdered the Cout of Kielder for sway over the land, but for his wicked ways he was boiled alive! 
Haunted Palace Blog dot Wordpress gives both portrayals of the Cout, both as one who terrorized the land, and the champion of the land who tried to stop the wicked Soulis:

The tale of a terrifying knight possessed of magical armour is sometimes linked to Clouts grave site bwthe Wicked Lord Soulis, sometimes not.  In one version of the tale the Cout of Keilder, a giant, comes as a champion to kill the sorcerer, but the sorcerer knowing the Cout has magic armour and cannot be killed by weapons tricks him and drowns him in Hermitage Water.  Other versions say the Cout was wicked himself and terrorised the inhabitants of the castle until he was drowned.
A grassy mound just outside the nearby chapel purports to be the burial-place of the Cout.  It is sited outside the graveyard on unconsecrated ground.
Rainy chapel bw

Keys to the Past dot Info reports that:
 Old Kielder was the home of a 14th century border chieftain, the Cout (or Colt) of Kielder. Legends claim that his prowess in battle was due to his magical armour, and the mystical holly and rowan leaves he wore in his helmet. 

Keys to the Past also links to some very interesting historical maps of the areas.

A view of Hermitage Castle from the chapel, near which the Cout is buried:

At Georgraph dot org dot UK we find a picture of the Cout's gravestone, which other sources specify is near the river where he was drowned by being held down with spears:

The Cout of Keilder's Grave

Discover the Borders tells us that the mysterious Cout may have been:
Description: Remains of a 13th or 14th century chapel and graveyard are enclosed within the defensive earthworks of an earlier farmstead. A low mound known as the "Cout o' Kielder's Grave" may be the grave of Sir Richard Knout (Knut) of Kielder, Sheriff of Northumberland, who died about 1290. Ownership: Public access on moorland. Situation – OS ref: NY 493960 How to...

Here's an image of the map showing the area in which the Cout's grave is found,and the chapel earthworks, from Canmore:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Talking with the Time Travel Trio: Part Three

Tell me about your characters.
DENNIS: Katya Sevnik is my main character from Katya and Cyrus Time Pilgrims, Almost Yesterday and my latest, (not yet released) Tomorrow’s Borrowed Trouble. Katya is a strong, independent young woman plagued with a condition known as temporal amnesia. She has no clue what year she is from and is trying desperately, to locate her family. Because of Katya’s time displacement and amnesia, she has not matured beyond the age of twenty, although it is revealed that she has lived for over ninety years. Her life experiences include dancing the Charleston as a 1920s flapper girl and experiencing the rock-and-roll era of the 1960s. She becomes a sponge in every time period she visits, soaking up the culture and instantly becoming one with the period. Katya and fellow Time Pilgrim Cyrus are lovers. Before Katya came into his life, Cyrus (the bosses' son) was all business. Katya enjoys showing him that time can sometimes be traveled just for the sheer fun of it.
Another fan favorite character is Hickory Dickory Doc (Doc), the most powerful canine Time Pilgrim of them all.
LAURA: I love the sound of your characters! Like Andrew and Drew in Time for Andrew, Shawn and Niall are identical, if cross-century, twins. There, however, the resemblance ends. Shawn and Niall have both had trauma and loss in their lives. Both, for instance, have lost their fathers to violence. However, they've reacted very differently to it. Shawn, living in modern America, drove himself. He worked hard and played harder. He became a gambler, a drinker, a lady's man, liar, and cheater. He has more confidence than ten men combined. He's generous, showering his girlfriend's young cousins with gifts, and throwing fantastic barbecues and parties on his twenty acres. He loves his mother, buys her a house, and gives her the Great Dane she loves. He lifts an orchestra to great heights with his drive, marketing, personality, and sheer will. He lives by the motto Life is about having fun! 
Niall Campbell, by contrast, is a Highland warrior, raised in the tough world of Scotland's wars of independence, in a time and place where you may get whipped for kissing the Laird's daughter, where faith surrounds his life as powerfully as the walls of Glenmirril Castle, where if you want to eat, you may have to face the MacDougalls, who have once again stolen your cattle, where if you want those you love to live, you may have to stand between them and Longshanks' charging warhorses.
Surrounding Niall and Shawn are Allene, Niall's betrothed and later wife; Amy, Shawn's pregnant girlfriend who sees the good in Shawn, who believes he's more than the party-boy public persona he shows, until she finally has to face his bad side; Angus, the inspector assigned to Shawn's 'missing persons' case who falls in love with Amy; Christina, who helps Shawn and Niall in a daring rescue at great risk to herself and becomes part of life at Glenmirril; the Laird who rules Glenmirril and hides away in a secret dungeon to do the woodwork he finds soothing, but which is unseemly for a laird, and his giant of a brother, Hugh, and Brother David and the boy without a name, Red, whom Shawn and Niall find in Roman ruins that are ancient even by Niall's time.
DENNIS: Laura, I love the idea of cross century twins. I have twins in the Time Pilgrim stories as well. Cyrus and Cathy Callahan are very close twins but the twist is, Cathy decides to stay in 1906 when she falls in love with a man that helped her in the San Francisco earthquake. When he finally comes back to the present, it’s seventeen years later. Now Cyrus’s baby sister is old enough to be his mother.
LAURA: How strange to see your twin sister so much older than yourself!  Niall and Shawn have a discussion about Niall being his elder, which exasperates Allene, as they're the same age.  Although, of course, Niall is technically 700 years older than Shawn.
ANGELA: In my first time travel/romance, All Bottled Up, the heroine is jilted by her fiancĂ©e the day before her wedding.  She actually wishes for the perfect man, and poof out comes a sexy highlander in a kilt. 
LAURA: Yep, that sounds about right!
ANGELA: In my first full-length time travel/romance, Once Upon A Highlander my hero, Alec MacLean is tossed into the 21st century at the behest of his eccentric grandmother to retrieve a missing deed, and appears just as the heroine, Caroline Hughes is attacked by thugs.  The pair is brought back to 17th century Scotland just in time to stop the Earl of Argyll and England’s king from taking his lands. 
DENNIS: I own All Bottled Up on my Kindle. The genie is a hoot. I will have to check out your full length novel.
What era do they go to?
DENNIS: Too many to list them all, but here is a sampling:
Chicago Fire 1871
Kennedy assassination 1963
1980s party
Great San Francisco Earthquake 1906
Gold Rush 1849
Summer of Love 1967
World Trade Center 2001
Titanic 1912
2001 theme party
Chicago World’s Fairs 1933, 1893, 2033
Many more in the upcoming book, including the American Civil and Revolutionary wars, Native American village, 62 B.C., The great Dust Bowl of Oklahoma, 1935, the horrific tornado in Moore, Oklahoma from way back in 2013…
LAURA: Very exciting! Lots of times to research! Maybe your characters will bump into Lisa Mason's characters in the Summer of Love! The Blue Bells Chronicles covers both the present time, and Scotland in the time from June 1314 up to May of 1318. The medieval half of the story is set against the backdrop of the Wars of Independence, in which Scotland fought for years against England's attempt to take over their country.
DENNIS: I was very surprised when I learned of Lisa’s book, Summer of Love. I had already written my segment. When I spoke to her, she thought it was cool that we had the same interest. 1314 to 1318 was of great historical importance in Scotland.
ANGELA: Personally, I’m a medieval girl. However, I love my highlanders in kilts….so I have no choice to go beyond the 16th century in order to be historically correct!
DENNIS: Ah yes, the kilts. Being a man, I always wondered what appeals to woman so much about them.
READERS: Why do women like kilts so much?
For More on the Authors: See Parts One and Two of our Time Travel Conversation.
Coming next: Part Four