Saturday, February 26, 2011

Picture in the Sidebar: Castle Tioram

During my two week trip to Scotland, I visited thirteen castles.  I'd be hard-pressed to say which was my favorite, although I can narrow it down to Tioram, Finlairig, Linlithgow, Urquhart, and Eileen Donan.  If I absolutely had to, I could probably narrow it down to Tioram and Finlairig.

This week's (or month's, depending on my schedule) picture in the sidebar is Castle Tioram, pronounced Cheerum, and Gaelic for dry.  Yes, this is Castle Dry, surrounded by water.  It's named after the tidal island, Eileen Tioram, on which it sits in Loch Moidart in the western Highlands of Scotland, the former stronghold of the MacDonalds.  Winston Churchill called it  one of the most beautiful places he knew.  It was once important, not for beauty, but because it guarded important waterways.

Tioram sits on the lands of the great Somerled of the 12th Century.  On his death, his territory was divided among his sons, with the Moidart section becoming part of the Garmoran lands, and eventually being inherited by Christina MacRuari, one of Bruce's supporters, in the 14th Century.  It is mentioned in a charter by Christina, which rewards an Arthur Campbell for the service of a 20 oar galley.  However, the Garmoran lands, including Tioram, were also later given by Christina to her half brother Ruari.  Tradition says that Christina's niece, Amy, built Tioram, though many sources say it is more likely she upgraded an existing structure.

Tioram seems to have housed a fascinating cast of Clanranalds over the years, until it was burned in 1715 on the orders of the last chief of the direct line, when he joined the Jacobite Rising.  His intention was to keep it from being used by the Hanoverians.  It has been an unoccupied ruin since that time.  Currently, the entrance is barred, due to the danger of falling masonry.

Pictures of the interior of Tioram were one of my first inspirations for the image of a man waking up in a foreign time, surrounded by ruins when he'd gone to sleep in a complete castle, so it was high on my list of must-sees as I planned my trip to Scotland.  Unlike Urqhart or Linlithgow, there is no visitors' center, no placards, nothing but the castle sitting alone on its rocky outpost.  I don't think I was aware, on the drive to it, that access is completely blocked by the incoming tide during part of the day.  However, luck was with me, and I reached the castle at exactly the right time, when the tide was out and the sandbar was exposed so I could walk across.  (The sandbar can be clearly seen in the picture.)  The castle itself sits high on a grassy hill.  It was a cool day, but wonderful to be able to climb all around, look into the entrance, and look out along the water routes the castle guards. 

Visit Dark Isle for more pictures of Tioram, including a couple shots of inside the walls.  Or take a virtual visit to Tioram!

In the world of Site News, the new design is hard to miss.  I haven't found quite the parchment-like design I've been looking for, so I thought I'd try something completely different, and all the leaves and green seemed right for the great month of St. Patrick coming up.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stop by for a Chance to Win

I am guest blogging today at Suzanne Adair's Relevant History on how our circumstances shape us--if we let them.  What does a man raised in luxury do when he finds himself king in nothing but name, living in the wilderness, and little more than a fugitive?  What would you do?

Stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win an e-copy of Blue Bells of Scotland.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Just a brief note: I see amazon has dropped the price on Blue Bells of Scotland to $12.06 from the usual $15.99. They do this every once in awhile, and it doesn't last long, so if you were waiting for a sale, now's the time!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day to the Good Sir James

The first Valentine's Day thoughts, as we know them weren't sent until hundreds of years after the death of the Good Sir James.  Nonetheless, it seemed a good title for a piece on how James spent February 14, 1316.

He spent it fighting what he later called the hardest fight of his life, the battle of Skaithmuir (SKAY-mur), near Coldstream in the Borders region of Scotland.  It becomes a scene in The Minstrel Boy, Book 2 of the Blue Bells Trilogy.

Setting the stage for Coldstream, we'd have to back up to 1286, the year when Alexander III ended his peaceful reign over what many see as a golden age of Scotland, by dying without a clear heir.  (Ironically, as if an author had foreshadowed James's destiny, James was that same year.)  Into this void stepped Edward I of England, claiming his right to be overlord of Scotland.  On March 30, 1296, after his failed attempt to rule Scotland through a puppet-king, John Baliol, who didn't dance on his strings quite the way he'd expected, Edward attacked Berwick, thus launching the revolts led by William Wallace.  This fight against the English invasion culminated, or should have culminated, in the great Battle of Bannockburn on June 24, 1314, in which Robert the Bruce's small army routed the much larger might of England. 

It was not the culmination because, although Edward II failed to inherit his father's military skill, he more than made up for it with a double dose of the stubborn gene.  Though soundingly and humiliatingly defeated, he refused to give a peace treaty agreeing to Scotland's very mild terms which were, essentially, to acknowledge Scotland as the independent nation it always had been, and Bruce as her rightful king.  In short, a promise to leave Scotland alone.

Thus, the First Wars of Scottish Independence continued. 

Shield of the Good Sir James in 1316

Scotland, lacking the wealth and large armies of England, chose instead to launch a series of guerilla-style strikes into Northumbria.  These raids, led most often by the Good Sir James (or The Black Douglas as the English called him) and Bruce's nephew, Thomas Randolph, the Earl of Moray, served the dual purpose of harrying England into accepting a peace treaty and collecting money to fund the continued fight, which Edward II's refusal to treat made necessary. 

In the winter of 1315-1316, Douglas besieged Berwick, still held by the English.  Heavy rains the previous spring and summer had already led to the beginning of the Great European Famine.  Throw in a little siege, and Maurice de Berkeley, the commander of Berwick, was reduced to begging Edward II for help by October 1315.  Few rations could get through the Scots' blockade, however.

Finally, on February 14, 1316, a company of Gascon soldiers decided they would go get food for themselves.  Under the leadership of a Gascon noble, the knight Sir Edmund Caillhau (or Raymond,  in many sources), this company ventured into the rolling farmland along the River Teviot.  They spread out, looking for cattle. 

One Sir Adam Gordon saw some of them and raced to Douglas to report that there were a few cattle raiders out and about.  Douglas accepted the report and went to intercept them.  Instead of a few cattle raiders, he found a host of well-armed fighting men.

There are relatively few accounts of this battle to be found on the internet.  The most detailed account I have found comes from David R. Ross's wonderful book James the Good: The Black Douglas.  He reports that the incident happened at Skaithmuir (SKAY-mur) a few miles north of Coldstream.  Douglas came upon Caillhau's brigade in the flat, open country of the Merse, perfect for cavalry, but with no natural defenses.  Just the sort of situation James Douglas typically avoided. 

With only seconds to decide whether to retreat or attack, he made the decision he would not run on Scottish soil, on his own marches, of which he was warden.  His men were seasoned fighters, having spent the previous ten years and more fighting the English, and he had great faith in them.  He stationed his men behind a small ford before unfurling his famous white banner with the blue band and three white stars, signaling his intent to fight.

The Gascons charged.  They no doubt expected to easily overcome this small group.  John Barbour, in The Brus, tells about the fight:
The Scotsmen bravely fought them back
There one could see a cruel fight.
And strokes exchanged with all their might
The Douglas there was full hard pressed
But the great valor he possessed
So lent his men courageousness
That no man thought on cowardice.

The Border Magazine, Volume 12, 1907, adds the picturesque touch that old tales say so much blood was shed in the battle that the river ran red for three days afterward. (The author of the piece seems to doubt it, but it is interesting that such stories would continue for centuries.)

John Barbour, interviewing men who knew Douglas, says Douglas later called it the hardest battle he ever fought.  But, like Bannockburn, it resulted in sound defeat for the larger English force with amazingly few losses at all on the Scots' side.  Douglas himself fought his way to, and killed, Caillhau.  With their leader dead, the Gascons lost heart, and were quickly beaten.  James himself learned a lesson from this, and from that time on, always went for the leader of the opposing armies. 

Most reports on Skaithmuir say there are no records of the size of James Douglas's force, except that it was significantly smaller.  David R. Ross says that Caillhau had 80 to Douglas's 40.   Maurice de Berkeley reported four days after the event that twenty men-at-arms and sixty foot soldiers were missing.

In the wake of Skaithmuir, James Douglas disappeared back into the Ettrick Forest, but afterward, the tale was told by Englishmen of how he fought and won against overwhelming odds, and he was spoken of with awe. 

Happy Valentine's Day, Sir James!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Scottish-Welsh Connection by Sarah Woodbury

History has always fascinated me, but some eras could have ended better. The thirteenth century is full of these unfortunate events. It ended badly for Scotland, but even worse for Wales, which lost its prince and its independence to King Edward I of England.

Edward had his eyes on Wales for thirty years, ever since Llywelyn ap Gruffydd's forces had swept through his lands (held custodially by Edward's parents and guardians) in 1256. Llywelyn's army marched all the way to Deheubarth that summer and fall, and set the stage of Llywelyn's twenty year supremacy in Wales. However, it wasn't until 1267 that Edward's father, Henry III, acknowledged Llywelyn as the Prince of Wales, a title he inherited from his grandfather--and another ten years after that before things fell apart for the Welsh prince.

Edward participated in the Ninth Crusade and despite the fact that his father died in 1272, he didn't return to England until 1274, at which point he immediately turned a covetous eye on Wales. Why Wales instead of Scotland? It seems likely that Wales looked the easier target. Scotland had always been a separate kingdom, whereas Wales had fallen under the jurisdiction of England as a principality since the turn of the 13th century. Thus, invading Scotland meant attacking the rule of a reigning monarch; attacking Wales meant reining in a rebellious prince--a different matter entirely. In addition, in the winter of 1274, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, Llywelyn's brother, conspired to assassinate Llywelyn and only a sudden snowstorm averted the attack. Dafydd, a long time friend of Edward from childhood, fled to England, and to Edward. Perhaps Edward believed if he unseated Llywelyn, he'd have a malleable prince in Dafydd.

For Scotland's part, when King Alexander III of Scotland married Margaret of England in 1251 (Henry III's daughter), Henry tried to insist that Alexander give homage to him. Alexander refused. By 1261, Alexander was well on his way to having as grand a plans for Scotland as Llywelyn had for Wales. He maintained a firm grip on power until his death in 1286.

By then, Llywelyn had been murdered (in 1282) and Wales had fallen finally, and permanently, to Edward. Subsequently, in 1283, Edward hanged, drew, and quartered Dafydd, the first man of standing to die such a heinous death. Edward inflicted the same death on William Wallace in 1305.

With King Alexander's death, Edward saw Scotland as ripe for picking. With no obvious heir (all of Alexander's children had died by 1284), only a granddaughter, Margaret, remained. When she died in 1290, upwards of fourteen different magnates claimed the throne, and they turned to Edward to arbitrate the dispute. He, of course, wanted whoever was crowned to swear allegiance to him. They all refused and eventually John Balloil was appointed king. Still, Edward maintained that he was the rightful overlord--and when he demanded the Scots join him in a war against France, the Scots instead allied with France. Unfortunately, this gave Edward the excuse he needed to invade Scotland, which he did in 1296.  This led to William Wallace's rebellion in 1297.

Unlike Wales, Scotland fought off England's attempts to subjugate it for another few hundred years, ending finally with the defeat at Culloden and the razing of the Highlands.

One of the great things about writing historical fantasy is getting to change history--usually for the better!

My After Cilmeri series, Footsteps in Time and its sequel, Prince of Time, follows the adventures of two American teenagers who stop the English soldiers who intend to murder Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, and save Wales from over 700 years of English oppression.

About Sarah Woodbury:

With two historian parents, Sarah couldn’t help but develop an interest in the past. She went on to get more than enough education herself (in anthropology) and began writing fiction when the stories in her head overflowed and demanded she let them out. Her interest in Wales stems from her own ancestry and the year she lived in England when she fell in love with the country, language, and people. She even convinced her husband to give all four of their children Welsh names.

She makes her home in Oregon.

To find out more, visit Sarah's site.

Find Sarah's books at: Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Harps Then and Now

I'll just write a quick piece on medieval harps, I said to myself.  Simple stringed instruments, not much to say.  Ha!  As with everything in life, the more you look into it, the more interesting the subject gets.  The world of the medieval harp explodes exponentially, the deeper you dig.  Are we talking medieval harps of the British Isles, or medieval harps of the European continent?  Are we talking about the small medieval harps only a couple of feet tall with ten or eleven strings, or are we talking about the taller, slenderer, more elegant Gothic harp of later medieval years?

Much of what we know about harps of so long ago comes from the few surviving pictures, so really, we know relatively little for sure, but in the years covered by the Blue Bells Trilogy, (1314 to 1318) Niall's harp would have been small enough to be held on the lap, with anywhere from seven to twenty-five strings.  It would have been strung, most likely, with wire, although gut, hair, and even plant material were also used.  About a century or two before Niall's birth, the upper neck of the harp had begun to take on the harmonic curve with which we are now familiar.  This is the shape that contours more carefully to the length of the strings.  The harp itself may have been carved from one solid log.

These pictures of something very like a medieval harp, or a Scottish clarsach, were taken in 2008 at the visitors' center of Urquhart Castle.  As we do today, you can see the decorations on the harp.  Of all instruments, I have found harps to often be as much a work of art as a musical instrument.

In addition to the standard tuning pins, some medieval harps were equipped with 'bray pins.'  These were pins, usually L-shaped, that not only attached the string to the soundboard of the instrument, but could be adjusted either to touch the strings lightly to create a loud buzzing, or moved away to allow what we today would consider a more normal sound.

Today's harpist typically has several instruments in varying sizes, while the troubadour and traveling minstrels of Niall's time would have had only one, relatively small and easy to carry, as they traveled either on foot or by horse, from town to town, earning a living with songs, news, and stories, often accompanied by their harp playing.

My own modern harps, by contrast, are much larger. Although only considered medium or medium large by today's standards, one stands 4' 8" and the other just over 5' 3". The larger one, a Camac Mademoiselle, has 40 strings and weighs in at 42 pounds. My 'small' harp has 33 strings, stands 4'8" and weighs 22 pounds. Clearly, even the small one would be a problem if I had to carry it on foot from one town to another.

The biggest harps, concert grand pedal harps, would be virtually impossible for a medieval troubadour.  They stand over 6' tall, have 47 strings, and weigh over 80 pounds.  I suppose a war horse wouldn't find that too much weight in comparison to the hundreds of pounds of knight, armor, and weapons they typically carried, but I suspect not too many troubadoursokay, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, I bet no troubadourshad their own personal war horse.

The pictures of modern harps are from a demonstration I did recently for the third graders at a local school, in which I talked about some of these things, played a few pieces, and gave them a chance to come up and pluck the strings and see for themselves the difference between gut, nylon, and wire strings, and just how big the instruments are close up.  Contrary to appearances, I am not kicking my harp (I never have and never will, unless it kicks me first) but was telling them about the pedals around the base of a concert grand.

Just a side note, they were a great audience.  When they first came in and I had to ask for quiet so I could finish tuning the Camac, they sat like statues while I finished up.  For 90 3rd graders, that's amazing!  Kudos to their wonderful teachers.

Coming on Thursday, I'm excited to have found another novelist of time-travel stories set very close to 'my' time and place in the world.  Dr. Sarah Woodbury has written several books set in medieval Wales, shortly before and overlapping the events that gave rise to the Scottish Wars of Independence.  Her After Cilmeri series is the story of two American teenagers who travel back in time to save Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the Prince of Wales, rather than allow his ambush and murder by English soldiers. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Author Interview: Tammie Clarke Gibbs

Tammie is the author of Island of Secrets, yesterday's book review.  Born in South Georgia, Tammie Clarke Gibbs developed an early love of the excentricities of being a "Southern" Girl and a true love of the written word. She's spent long afternoons on a pallet in the woods reading books and exercising her vivid imagination. While she loves helping others learn how to do a variety of things through her non-fiction writing, she is most at home writing fiction. "Island of Secrets" a time travel romance is her debut novel.

 She is with us today to talk more about being an author.  Thanks for being here, Tammie!

1. How long have you been writing?

For around 27 years

2. What was the best writing advice someone gave you?

Keep writing.

3. If you have a day job, what is it?


4. What’s your writing schedule?

Whenever I can..LOL

5. What other time period besides your own would you like to experience?

 I love the 17-1800's

6. What do you do when you are not writing?

I'm usually showing houses, reading, promoting or cleaning house...LOL

7. What is the one thing your hero would do that you wouldn’t?

Jump in front of a bullet???? Well, I hope I never have to find out..

8. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

This book has a lot of plot... I enjoyed weaving the plot twists and just seeing how things came together when it was finished. I am usually my worst critic so when I go back and enjoy the story and think "How did I write that?" it's pretty cool.

9. Who is your favorite character in your book?

I plead the 5th.. I have a lot of favorites because the are all different. I have some I don't like, but then all good books have to have those characters too.

10. Where do you write?

Anywhere I can find a pad, a computer, an Alpha Smart....

11. What was your favorite scene to write?

That's tough too... I really did enjoy writing this book... I love the scene when Lila is telling herself to wake up... I also love...well I should stop I don't want to give away too much...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Island of Secrets

A secluded island turned romantic resort, murder, a mysterious ring, an unknown woman in white, secret passages, cliff top struggles, old family legends of bloody hands, a locked room and missing key, romance and love that lasts beyond a lifetime.  These are the elements you'll find in Tammie Clarke Gibbs' Island of Secrets.

Shane Alexander is a rich man with a private island and a big problem.  After renovating his centuries-old family mansion into a private resort for the wealthy, his first guests flee the island complaining of ghosts, and spreading the story to news outlets.  He summons a group of reporters to come to the island and see for themselves that it is not haunted.  One of them, he promises, will spend a weekend at his luxury resort, all expenses paid.

Lila Fitzpatrick is a young woman who owes Cassie, her roommate and one of the invited reporters, a big favor.  Laid up with a broken leg, and unable to take advantage of Shane Alexander's offer, Cassie calls in that favor.  Lila reluctantly assumes her identity and takes her place on the boatload of journalists going out to the secluded island.  She figures she'll take the boat ride over and come straight home, debt paid.

However, Shane Alexander chooses her as the reporter to spend the weekend and dispel the stories of ghosts.  She soon finds herself in an eighteenth century carriage with an old purse containing a note of warning dated in the 1700's and addressed to...herself!  She slips on the ruby ring that is also in the purse, and enters Mr. Alexander's renovated mansion, to find a group of what appear to be period actors, including Shane, discussing her.

Shane, having left her in the hands of his assistant, returns from his errands to find the reporter missing.  She reappears briefly in the locked room, with the missing key.  They find themselves drawn to one another, feeling as if they've known one another longer than a few hours, when Lila suddenly disappears before Shane's eyes again.

Romance blossoms between Shane and Lila in the eighteenth century as they try to untangle the mystery of what is happening to Lila and Shane, who murdered Uncle Gustavus, and who wants to murder Lila, while the Shane of the present day struggles with the issue of the disappearing 'Cassie,' the real Cassie calling accusing him of kidnap and possibly murder, a police investigation, and his own flashbacks to memories of Lila and things he's sure have never happened.

I found beautiful prose and imagery in Ms. Gibbs' writing, such as The haunting silhouette of Winship Manor towered above like a savage animal, crouching in the darkness waiting for its prey, which made it easy to imagine the island, the old mansion, the roaring fires, dark passages, and clifftops.  A compelling story line kept me guessing and pulled me along with several fascinating and unexpected twists.  This was a fun story to read, and I look forward to more from Tammie Clarke Gibbs.  If you like Gothic romance with a time travel twist, give this book a try!

Find Island of Secrets at Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tammie Clarke Gibbs on Writing Time Travel

The Evolution of A Novel

By Tammie Clarke Gibbs

Well, I certainly cannot presume to know how every author determines what they will write or how they will develop their premise. I can tell you how my debut novel, ISLAND OF SECRETS evolved. If there is one question I believe authors are most often asked, I’d have to say it’s “where did you come up with the idea for your book.” That question is commonly a part of interview questions, in chats and comes up frequently in casual conversations.

ISLAND OF SECRETS was inspired by a very unusual family crest I found in a family history book. It was pretty morbid and had a gruesome story to go along with it. I won’t go into the details because that would be a spoiler. Let’s just say the crest was a bloody palm holding a ship up to land. When I saw it and read the story attached the premise for my novel began to form.

I had a problem. I love to read and I love to read most anything. Deciding what genre to write first was a bit challenging. I absolutely love time travel romances. The very first time travel I read was A KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR by Jude Deveraux. Since then I’ve heard many readers complain they didn’t like the ending, but as disappointing as it might have been, I was hooked on the genre. I believe time travel romance is a special form of fantasy and offers the reader an opportunity to connect with a bygone era through the experiences of the hero and heroine.

But, as much as I love time travel, I also really enjoy a good gothic romance. I read my first Gothic Romance shortly after I graduated from high school. I met a lovely lady at a writer’s conference I attended just two weeks after high school graduation. Her name was Andrea Parnell and she was unpublished at the time. We became fast friends and she let me read a sample of her work-in-progress. That was my first glimpse at a gothic romance novel and again I was hooked. Fortunately for me, Andrea became published shortly after the conference and I had the privilege of finishing the novel I’d read the sample of.

Later, I started trying to decide what I wanted to write. I read across many genres, but still came back to my love for time-travel and gothic romance. Then it occurred to me how interesting it would be if a modern heroine traveled back and ended up in a very gothic feeling period of time and circumstance. My mind went back to that haunting crest and the story I’d read about it. I soon discovered what a perfect fit my idea was. My debut novel is my effort to blend the two genres into a very unique book.
Of course, I love a good mystery and crave suspense that will keep me turning the page. It was natural for me to want my readers to have that same experience. ISLAND OF SECRETS is a wild ride and I don’t know of another novel anything like it. It absolutely breaks most of the rules and blurs the lines between the genres. In other words if you look for novels that barely pull you along, those that are predictable, ISLAND OF SECRETS might not be the one for you.

So now that I’ve shared with you how ISLAND OF SECRETS evolved into the novel it is, I’ll leave you with a few things to think about…What would you do if you found a note of warning dated hundreds of years before you were born and it was addressed to you? What would you do if someone time traveled and you were left behind to face the consequences? What would you do on an ISLAND OF SECRETS?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Last night was the official drawing in this month's giveaway, for a smashwords copy of Blue Bells of Scotland.  I sent a message to the winner, Kelly.  Enjoy! 

This has been an unusually busy couple of weeks, between a much busier teaching schedule this quarter, a full read-through of The Minstrel Boy (Book 2 of the Trilogy), getting back to my Gaelic Word a Day blog, an author talk, and practicing for two harp performances, in addition to the usual work that life involves.

I finished the read-through last night and sent off for proofs.  I will be taking a brief break from my own medieval Scotland to finally get to Island of Secrets, which I have been eagerly anticipating reading and posting about here.  I try to stick with books that have similar themes to my own, and in that spirit, it is time travel, but in the United States, and to a much more recent era than the 1300's.  The author, Tammie Clarke Gibbs, will also be here with a guest post and interview.

The first harp performance was Friday night for The Red Show at the Maple Grove Arts Center.  (In the Red Show, art work may be any media, as long as it has some red in it.)  Lorrie and CJ put on a very nice opening night, with wine, champagne, meatballs, cheese, and crackers.  John Stanton did a performance of spoken word and a reading from Byron with a guitar accompaniment, I played harp, and Brian Beck and Justin Knauss of the Hallstoos Trios played guitar and sang.  Justin informed me that in the spirit of guitarists everywhere, I would jam with them.  Hm.  Do harpists jam?  He promised me my only job was to 'look cool,' which hopefully I did, because I'm pretty sure I wasn't always playing the same chords they were!  As a musician of more of the classical persuasion, I'm very used to having notes in front of me.  But we had fun.  John has put together a video with the art and music, which hopefully will be available soon.

The second harp performance was this morning for a crowd of ninety.  Okay, so it was ninety 3rd graders at my sons' school, but it was fun!  It motivated me to remove the cover from my larger harp, a 40 string Camac Mademoiselle, after longer than I care to admit playing only my smaller 33 string harp.  I brought both to the school so they could see a little bit about how different harps can be, although I have neither a small lap harp nor a concert grand pedal harp to show the real extremes and variety.  The kids were a great audience with lots of good questions and comments about harps. 

I do have another harp job coming up in March, but in the meantime, I'm glad to have a little extra time, and hopefully get back to more regular posting here, and back to more posting about the history of Scotland.