Monday, March 21, 2011

Picture in the Sidebar: Linlithgow

Be sure to scroll down for the bloghop!

Elsewhere, I have mentioned that I planned my trip to Scotland carefully in order to visit all the locations in Blue Bells of Scotland.  But I made several unplanned stops.  It was our first full day in Scotland, after sleeping off the jet lag, and the battlefield of Bannockburn was on the itinerary.  However, on the drive from our hotel in Edinburgh to Bannockburn, we saw the sign for Linlithgow.  It had such a pleasant sound, who could resist?  So we went.  I think sometimes the unplanned and unexpected turn out to be the highlights.  Linlithgow was certainly one of them, and as I later learned that it plays a part in Bruce's story, I was especially glad I took a detour from my careful itinerary!

Of course, what I walked through is not what Bruce walked through.  The present Linlithgow Palace was begun by James I in 1492, and took roughly a century to complete--giving a whole new meaning to 'they don't build 'em like they used to!'  What stood there before had been destroyed by fire sweeping through the town that same year. 

Previously, David I (1124-53) built a royal residence in this location.  In 1296, Edward I (Longshanks, or Hammer of the Scots) invaded Scotland and in 1302 began the building of a defense around the royal residence.  Bruce himself, following his habit, had much of the palace destroyed after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, so that it couldn't be used by the English against Scotland.

Today, Linlithgow is 'a ruin,' but a very complete one.  It lacks a roof.  It is not refurbished or full of displays or re-creations of past life, like some other castles.  It is a large quadrangle, with a tower at each corner.  You can walk the halls, much like you see here, and go through the chambers and ante-chambers, empty, but full of sunlight from large windows.  You can go up to the walk along the rooftop and go into a stone gazebo at the top, where medieval graffitti can still be seen, suggesting Margaret sat in the bower by the hour, carving where she probably should not have been.  (At least when my boys used to write on the walls with crayon, it scrubbed off!)

The palace stands on the shores of a loch, with beautiful stretches of green grass and parkland--a perfect place for a picnic!

What I found most interesting about Linlithgow was the way voices echoed and could be heard from quite a distance.  As I wandered the halls at my own pace, I became separated from my party.  I would turn a corner and suddenly hear them talking--but they were nowhere to be seen!  And it was difficult to tell from which directions the voices came, or how near they might be.

The scale of the whole place is awe-inspiring.  In our current houses, our ceilings are fairly low.  It is an experience to walk through halls and stand in rooms with ceilings soaring 15 or 20 feet above your head, and hearths big enough to walk into!

We also went deep into the bowels of Linlithgow, to the kitchens down a long, dank flight of stairs.  In one chamber was not only a hearth, but a great circular stone brazier in the center of the room.  Windows high above let in light, although not enough that I'd want to be the cooks who worked there all day.  I suppose the fires would have brightened the place quite a bit.  Going further down from the kitchens, I found the dungeons.  I use something very like this layout for the castle of the thieving MacDougall's son in book 2 of the trilogy, The Minstrel Boy, when someone--we won't say who--goes where he's told not to!  (However, I found Linlithgow to be a very light and airy place, whereas the home of MacDougall's son is not!)

I definitely hope to visit Linlithgow on my next trip to Scotland.  In the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed a little bit of a virtual tour, and if you ever get a chance, go!

Now for the blog hop:  Click on my follow button and leave a comment here with your contact information for the drawing for a signed copy of Blue Bells of Scotland.  Then, just pick another site and go sign up for the next giveaway!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Blog Hop and the Scottish-Irish Connection

Be sure to scroll to the end of the post to learn about the Lucky Leprechaun Blog Hop and your chance to win dozens of books or book-related products! 

**Please note that I got an early start due to my schedule, and many of these blogs may not have their posts up until midnight**

The Scottish-Irish Connection

For hundreds of years, the Highlands of Scotland shared more culture with Ireland, across the water, than with England, on its southern border. For 18 months in the early 14th Century, Ireland even had Edward Bruce, brother of the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce, as its High King.

Like the best stories, it all started long ago, and far away. Of course, that’s relative. For those who lived in ancient Ireland, the story was neither long ago, nor far away. At the end of the 2nd Century, there lived an Irish prince, Cairbre Righfada, who distinguished himself in battle. In reward, he was given what is now County Antrim, Ireland, and the Argylshire area of Scotland, both of which he named Dalriada. The Picts of Scotland, however, were powerful, so Cairbre Righfada and his descendents remained in Antrim for another two hundred years. In the 500’s, his descendents, Loam and Fergus, became the first kings in the Scottish Dalriada. Fergus’s descendent, Kenneth MacAlpin, united the Scots and Picts in the 9th century to become the first king of all Scotland.

Through these years and beyond, thanks to their common history, the two countries shared a great deal. Even the name Scots derives from scoti, the Roman name for the Irish people, which Fergus and Loam brought with them. The languages of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, although distinct today, both derived from Middle Irish. The music of harp and bagpipes, the myths and legends, and forms of dress were all similar in the Highlands and Ireland. Even their saints passed freely from one country to another: Columba and Fillan, two of the great Scottish saints, were both Irish, while some say St. Patrick, the most famous saint of Ireland, was born in Scotland. Family trees stretched their branches wide across the Irish Sea.

The line of Cairbre Righfada continued more than a thousand years, to Scotland’s Alexander III. It is his death, in 1286, that precipitated the Wars of Independence, and brought Robert Bruce, King of Scots, a descendent of the great Irish king Brian Boru and the kings of Leinster, back to his Irish roots.

In 1314, Robert the Bruce led Scotland to resounding victory over England’s might, yet Edward II of England continued to hold Scottish castles and assert his right to rule. Like Scotland, Ireland had long suffered English occupation. The Ulster chiefs, encouraged by Bruce’s success at Bannockburn, and regarding him as part of their own nation, thanks to his heritage, invited Edward Bruce to lead them against the English and become king of Ireland. With such strong familial and cultural ties, it is no wonder the Bruces attempted to unite militarily against their common oppressor. Bruce wrote to the Irish kings: Whereas we...share the same national ancestry and are urged to come together more eagerly and joyfully in friendship by a common language and by common custom, we have sent you our beloved negotiate with you in our name about permanently strengthening and maintaining inviolate the special friendship between us and you, so that with God's will our nation (nostra nacio, referring to Scotland and Ireland as one nation) may be able to recover her ancient liberty.

In May 1315, Edward Bruce sailed to Ireland with 6,000 men, landing on the coast of Antrim from which his ancestors had come. After a year of successful battles, he was crowned High King in May 1316. However, the Irish chiefs beyond Ulster were not so enthusiastic about Edward Bruce. They regarded the situation not as military unity, but as a Scots invasion, not so different from English occupation. In October 1318, Edward’s brief kingship ended with his death in the Battle of Faughart. Ironically, or maybe not, considering the long history of shared culture , Ireland’s last High King was a Scot.


Now, for our Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway.  The rules are simple.  For my blog, just click follow in the right sidebar and leave a comment with your contact information and telling me who you are among the followers.  You're entered for the drawing of one signed print copy of my book!  (Or an e-copy if you prefer.) Easy!  Don't forget to leave contact information, so I can let you know if you won.

Now, click on the the blogs below.  Each one is hosting a giveaway.  Each one should have the same list of blogs at the bottom of their page, so just keep clicking through.  The more you enter, the better your chances of winning...or winning multiple items! 

Have fun! 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Join us at the Dynamic Short Story Contest

Stop by Pia Bernardino's book blog, So Many Books, So Little Time, So Here's Mine for a fun contest and giveaway.  Pia invited me and three other authors, Chantel Simmons, Irene Zutell, and Jane Porter, to take turns adding 3-5 lines to a story.  That story is posted at Pia's blog, and now it's your turn!  Those who help add to the story have a chance to win signed books and a $20 gift card.  Join the fun!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Advice from Phillip Thomas Duck

Dear (Newbie) Writer,

1. Starting your story in the wrong place is without a doubt the biggest problem for newer writers such as yourself. Your story opening is peppered with ‘backstory’—providing all of the details that most readers would prefer to discover over the course of a well-paced story instead.

2. Responding to bad reviews is not a good idea. The writer’s life is one of both criticism and approval. The writer focused on a long career had best learn to deal with the highs and lows with the same level of detached understanding—some will appreciate your work and some won’t.

3. What do you mean the last book you read was by Dr. Seuss? And your mother actually read half of it to you? Great writers were first great readers. Period.

4. Not focusing on the marketing and promotional aspects of your writing career is akin to suicide. Publishing, like most things, is powered by an economic engine. If you don’t understand the business demands of success, of which marketing and promotion is likely the greatest variable, you are doomed for failure.

5. Not taking pride in your grammar/spelling and editing is yet another mistake. Beta readers and editors are crucial to the development of a well-conceived product, for certain, but leaving all of the corrections to others is sloppy and unprofessional. You should be ashaimed of yourself.

6. Not having a clear theme for your story doesn’t inspire my confidence in your ability to tell it. If you don’t know why you’ve written your story, or the greater significance of the events that unfold during its telling, then why should a reader invest their time? Quick answer: they shouldn’t.

7. Everyone should have a “drawer” manuscript, including you. Remember that very first novel you wrote? The one with flying rabbits and talking pigeons? The one your mother and significant other have told you, time and time again, is absolutely fabulous? It isn’t. Learn from it. Drop it in a drawer to collect dust. And begin again.

8. Writing that isn’t sensual misses the mark. Give me something I can see. Something I can feel on my fingertips. Something I can smell, taste, and hear. And give me these things every few pages.

9. Not understanding the market, what genre you’re going to write in, and what are the expectations of the readers in that genre labels you as an amateur. Once wrote a story about a boy wizard that fell in love with a vampire. After more than a hundred years of courtship they finally married and our lovely vampire gave birth to a son that looked suspiciously like Fabio. Because of the Fabio thread and the length of the relationship that produced him, you’re inclined to pitch this story as a romance. Not.

10. Kill your darlings! See # 7. Everything you’ve written is not Hemingway. Revising is the most wonderful part of the process in creating a publishable story. Of course it isn’t easy to excise that fantastic chapter that no longer fits with the flow of the story, but it must go. Let go and revise. Go ahead…you can do it. Let go…


Phillip Thomas Duck straddles the line between two worlds. For paranormal fans, no he isn't a vampire or werewolf, but instead an accomplished author that has published works with traditional publishers (Harlequin and Simon & Schuster) as well as independently. The author lives in New Jersey with his daughter.

One Quick Kiss (Sexy Short Stories) 99 cents -
Excuse Me, Miss (Romantic Suspense) (EMM #1) 99 cents -
Modesty (Romantic Suspense) (EMM #2) $2.99 -