Thursday, June 30, 2016

Iona: A New Look at the Very Old

Recently, in my research, I stumbled across a blog I loved, because it was easy to see a number of posts at a glance.  I discovered my platform supports this style and had a decision to make.  At the time, it appears there is no way to keep information clearly visible in the sidebar, which is something I wanted.  However, there's a clear benefit to the reader being able to see at a glance what the variety of offerings is at a site, and choose what looks appealing.

I also like the ability of the viewer to easily choose how they would like to look at the blog.  I like the 'snapshot' layout, so have chosen that as the default arrangement.  However, a click of the button in the upper left takes the viewer to flipcards, magazine style, mosaic, and more.

The sidebar information is not as obvious, but it's still there, if you move the cursor to the right of the screen.  A vertical row of dark gray boxes with symbols should slide out, giving you access to the same information that was on my site before the change--statistics, links to my books, photographers' collaborative, and other sites, and more.

I realized, as I hunted high and low for a good backdrop picture, and discovered reason after reason why various pictures just didn't work with this system.  I expect I will change the background picture now and again, always with pictures of Scotland.  But I have started with the columns in the cloisters at the abbey on the Isle of Iona.

While Amy and Angus, and later Amy and Carol, and Amy and Shawn, do travel to Iona, I am going to give an excerpt, not about any of their trips to Iona, but Amy and Angus's trip to Monadhliath, the mysterious 'thin place,' the monastery that has been home to the monks of Monadhliath since the land was given to them by Malcolm MacDonald, when Niall was just a child--because when I wrote about Amy's walk out through the covered walkway to the church, it was the cloisters of the abbey at Iona that I was really seeing.  Monadhliath's cloisters has a cemetery off to one side, which Iona's abbey does not, but it was largely based on what I knew of Iona.

Her boots brushed the flagstones silently.  Moonlight shone through the window.  Distant chanting echoed down the hall.  A dozen monks appeared from the right.  They turned the corner and filed through a wooden door.  She stopped, feeling like an intruder on something private.  But Brother Fergna had invited them. 
The night snaked icy fingers around her arms, drawing her out into a cold, silver patch of moonlight in a cloistered walkway, empty and silent.  James sighed.  She patted his back.  Mist curled across the grass and twisted like vines up the columns supporting the covered walkway.   
The chanting grew, dozens of basses and clear, floating tenors.  The hair rose on her arms. She continued down the cobbled walk, past a black iron rail.  Beyond it, tombstones and Celtic crosses pierced white mist.  A body floated above the gloam.  Cold shot down her arms.  With her breath coming in cold gasps, she realized it was just an effigy. 

~ The Water is Wide
Book Three of The Blue Bells Chronicles

I think most readers will remember very well what happens when Amy enters the church with James.  It is a pivotal moment for her and for Angus.

Stay tuned for further news of upcoming events: a new Blue Bells book I'm working on (in addition to Book Five, The Battle is O'er), an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and a radio interview on 950 AM's Food Freedom show.

At Gaelic Word a Day, a bit on past tense.

  • February 19 and 26, 2017: I'll be reading on the Vehicle of Expression, part of the Art Shanty Project
  • February 25, 2017: I will co-host Food Freedom on AM 950 with Laura Hedlund and Karen Olson Johnson.  Guests: Michael Agnew, craft beer expert and Ross Fishman on Russian literature.  We'll taste Russian beer: listen to the whole program from last month.

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Dan Blum in Psychology Today
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Eating Medieval: Chestut Medley

In the past weeks, I've been putting a great deal of focus on researching the foods eaten throughout The Blue Bells Chronicles.  Modern foods are just as easy to find as I expected--especially Minnesota hotdishes!  (Yes, there's a recipe for Carol's favorite ham and noodle dish!)

What I didn't expect was how very easy it is to find medieval recipes online.  In fact, the trick is to narrow down a vast wealth of information, to sort through authentic medieval and medievalesque-inspired, and to decide whether to publish authentic recipes or redacted versions, or both.

To study the feasts and foods of the middle ages is to begin to feel that we, today, live a very limited culinary existence.  The variety of foods they ate was stag...stagg....staggering.  (Get it...stag...venison?  Never mind!)  On the flip side, however, in reading recipe after recipe, it also seems that much of what they ate would be very familiar to us.  There are only so many ways to cook chicken, after all.  As one medieval blogger said of cheese:

The main problem, then with medieval cheese, is that if you try to serve cheese to people who are interested in having some medieval cheese, they're likely to be underwhelmed.  Modern cheese, being reasonably similar to its medieval counterpart, isn't going to feel medieval enough to satisfy the craving for authenticness or exoticness.

Having recently made a medieval walnut-in-honey treat, and bought the ingredients for Hildegard von Bingen's Cookies of Joy, I have to agree.  The walnuts in honey (which I will soon get around to posting the recipe for) were delicious--and not remotely exotic.  They tasted quite a bit like a Payday bar made with crushed walnuts instead of peanuts.  When the honey cooled and hardened, they tasted like peanut brittle made with walnuts instead of peanuts.

Looking at the ingredients for the cookies and the pictures online, I suspect they will also be tasty, and very much like today's sugar cookies or ginger snaps.

However, in my research yesterday, I found one recipe that looks quite interesting: chestnut medley.  This is a medieval-inspired recipe, so perhaps not strictly authentic medieval.  However, would like to try it.

3.5 ounces dried mushrooms
7 ounces chestnuts
7 ounces chestnut, or black poplar, mushrooms (if these aren't available, try a white button or portobello, or any brown mushroom with plenty of flavor)
1 glass of white wine
7 ounces chickpeas
2 sprigs of rosemary
olive oil
4 sage leaves
salt and pepper


  1. Crush the garlic cloves; fry them in a pan with oil, mushrooms, rosemary, and sage.
  2. When the garlic is soft, add the wine.
  3. When the wine has evaporated, add chickpeas.
  4. Add salt and cover with water.
  5. When the chickpeas are cooked, use a hand blender to puree them with the mushrooms
  6. Return puree to the pan; add chestnuts and dried mushrooms.
  7. Boil until the mixture is reduced.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Shule Aroon

Taking a break from I'm back to posting music.  Today's song is Irish, not Scottish, but the two countries are quite close culturally, and, regardless, I've always found it to be one of the most beautiful melodies.  So here it is.

It is filmed at Glenluce, a Cistercian abbey in the Galloway region in the southwest of Scotland.  In Westering Home, although we never see the scene directly, Simon visits Glenluce Abbey.  Glenluce, a 'daughter house' of Dundrennan (which I also visited on my trip in April) is today serene ruins set in a peaceful atmosphere of broad green lawns and scattered trees, and the starting point of a 50-mile walking trail called Pilgrim Way, that leads to the Isle o f Whithorn.

Simon Beaumont (hear his voice in the Water is Wide trailer!) seeks it out hoping to find the books of Michael Scott, reputed to be left either there or possibly at Burgh-under-Bowness, near Carlisle.

Glenluce Abbey was founded in 1192 by Lochlann, Lord of Galloway.  Not many years later, in 1214, Abbot William wrote to the then-abbot of Melrose Abbey, telling of two of his monks seeing a strange vision in the sky.

In the 13th century, Michael Scott lived there for a time.  One report says that in 1200, he lured The Plague with his spells, and then walled it up in Glenluce's dungeons, thus starving it to death.

It was also one of the Bruce's resting places as he made his last journey to Whithorn.

The chapter house, in which I'm playing, did not exist in the time of the Bruce, not being built until the late 15th century.  Watch the video to see some of the 'green man' faces at the tops of some of the posts.

Musicians will no doubt appreciate the acoustics of the chapter house, and we were told that many musicians go there specifically to play in it.

On Gaelic Word a Day: Who is Dancing in the Streets?  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Eatng Medieval: Oatcakes

Dawn rose on the third day, pink rays streaming over the eastern mountains, lighting the night’s mist into a magical morning landscape. Shawn sat against a tree halfway up the slope, staring down the mountainside. He hadn’t expected anything, he told himself. 

Through days of climbing the hill, traipsing through the valley, exploring the old Roman fort at the top, and searching for anything unusual, for anything to explain Thomas the Rhymer’s disappearance, he hadn’t expected anything. The story was too ridiculous. 

And yet—he’d hoped. Images of Amy had burned before his eyes and in his heart, as he climbed each slope, and searched rocks, and followed streams, as he hunted with Niall and gathered berries and fixed more oatcakes. Thoughts of her home in the States with Rob had plagued him. That he’d never see his child, never even know if he had a son or daughter, haunted him. That they were heading into enemy territory to spy terrified him. If they both ended up in a dungeon, there was no one to rescue them this time...

~~The Water is Wide
Book Three of The Blue Bells Chronicles

Much like the American colonies fight for independence, the story of Scotland's Wars of Independence under Robert the Bruce were a David and Goliath story, as a small, poor country fought against what was then the most powerful nation on earth, larger, wealthier, with greater population and better arms.

England's knights were more likely to have armor and massive warhorses, whereas the Scots' units were more likely to be seen in leather 'armor' and quilted gambesons, using long spears--the famed schiltrons--against these warhorses.  Their cavalry often consisted of a smaller, lighter animal often called the garron.

However, a good general knows how to use everything he has.  The Scots succeeded, against these great odds, in part because they knew how to travel light.  Their garrons could maneuver their hills in ways that the English armies, with their long supply trains could not.

At least one account describes how the Scots traveled with their bags of oats under their saddles.  No chuck wagons for them, but oatcakes or bannocks.  Here are a couple options if you'd like to try making your own--after making your Cookies of Joy, of course!

#1: Traditional Oatcakes in the Oven

3-1/2 cups rolled oats (not the quick-cooking type!)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
fresh berries
pine nuts, chopped

Preheat oven: 350 degrees  Lightly grease a baking sheet.

  1. Mix oats, salt, flour, and honey.
  2. Rub in butter until it all has a crumby texture
  3. Add just enough water to dampen the dough
  4. Divide the mixture into two--pour half of it into a second bowl
  5. Add berries to one bowl, pine nuts to the other--mix well
  6. Form dough into rounds, no more than 1/4 inch thick
  7. Place on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until they're a light brown
Serve plain, or with jam or butter.

I would think the Scots could have easily added what they liked to their oatcakes--whatever they found in the forest or along their path while traveling.

Obviously, however, they didn't carry ovens with them--especially not ones that could be pre-heated to 350 degrees!  So here's a recipe for cooking bannocks over an open fire.

#2: Bannocks over a Fire

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter

1-1/4 cups water

Preheat the fire to hot coals.  I suppose this would be more like post heat?  Let it die down to hot coals?

  1. Mix the ingredients, adding the water slowly so that you get a consistency firm enough to wrap around a stick.  (Flour on your hands will help prevent the batter sticking to your hands as you shape it around the stick.)
  2. Stick edges of dough together well!
  3. 7-10 minutes over the coals, slowly rotating.
If you have one at your campfire, the bannocks can also be cooked in a frying pan or on a griddle.  Just make sure to flip them to prevent burning on either side.

As an added bonus, if you care to discuss dancing, talking, or listening--on the table or on the plane, on the street or on the plane--while you cook your oatcakes, stop by my Gaelic Word a Day blog.

A Feast of Ice & Fire by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer

Thursday, June 23, 2016

More on Hildegard of Bingen and Her Cookies of Joy

Hildegard von Bingen, the twelfth-century mystic, author, composer, playwright, diplomat, visionary, abbess, and author wrote a great deal on the healing properties of food.  Yesterday I gave a modern adaptation of  her "Cookies of Joy."

Today, from her Physica, I give you something closer to her original words (which would have been in twelfth-century German, which I'm guessing few of my readers are fluent in). A translation is:
Take equal amounts of nutmeg and cinnamon and some cloves and pulverize them.  With this, and  fine whole wheat flour and water, make small cakes.

She goes on to give further directions to eat these small cakes often, to calm bitterness of heart and mind, to open the heart and impaired senses, and to foster cheerfulness.

Hildegard's Physica--which contains nine 'books' and is only one of her many written works--discusses the properties of a number of plants, including herbs, spices, vegetables, classifying them according to hot and cold and discussing their benefit and harm to people.  In some cases, that benefit or harm depends on the individual person.  Radishes, for instance, will cure and cleanse a strong fat man, but will harm one who is sick and lean.  (For one who is lean but strong...?)

Of the ingredients in the Cookies of Joy (or should we call them small cakes of cheer--no, cookies of joy has a better ring to it even if it is a bit anachronistic), individual results are listed:  Cinnamon, which is very hot, increases good humors and decreases bad humors.  Nutmeg opens the heart, makes one's judgment free from obstruction, and granta s good disposition.  Cloves diminish any stuffiness in the head, cures dropsy, and stops gout from progressing.

All in all, these sound like very good things to me, and as soon as I find cloves, I'll beg my daughter to make us all some Cookies of Joy.  (Believe me, if I make them myself, nobody around here is going to be too joyful.  I'll go play medieval cantigas on my harp and forget my medieval small cakes are in the oven.)  Won't my boys be surprised when I start ordering them to eat cookies every day!  In the meantime, I'm happily downing my Bengal Spice cinnamon, ginger, and clove tea and happily sprinkling cinnamon and nutmeg on everything I eat! (Okay...not really.  That was just my, um, humor.  Hopefully good humor!)

As an interesting coincidence, Hildegard of Bingen's feast day is September 17, which happens to be the day I'll be interviewed live on AM 950's Food Freedom program, talking about medieval food, and quite likely about Hildegard herself.  Not to make a shameless plug or anything.  And also not to make a shameless plug, but since we're talking about food, I have posted In the Kitchen today at Gaelic Word a Day.

SOURCES: Hildegard von Bingen's Physica: The Complete English Translation of her Classic Work on Health and Healing by Priscilla Throop

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Eating Medieval: Cookies of Joy

The GIVEAWAY is still going.  Leave a comment on the GIVEAWAY post to enter for an 8x10 photograph of misty Glenmirril, where miracles happen.

Yes, Cookies of Joy--a medieval cookie purported to have healing properties.  Now this is my kind of cookie!

The Cookies of Joy come from Hildegard of Bingen, a Catholic mystic nun who lived from 1098 until 1179.  Hildegard--often called Saint Hildegard, though some sources say she was never formally canonized--was a remarkable woman who wrote plays, invented an alphabet, composed music, founded monasteries, wrote books on science, medicine,botany, nutrition, and theology, went on mission trips, preached, healed, and spoke with popes and emperors.  She is one of four women to be declared a Doctor of the Church, of whom there are only 34 total.  .

She is no doubt someone with whom Niall, in early 14th Century Scotland, would have been familiar.

She also had extensive ideas on food, nutrition,dietetics, and the healing properties of food.  These tied in with her four rules of life:

  1. Strenthen the soul (through prayer and meditation, by developing talents and virtues and eliminating weakness and vice).
  2. Regular detoxification through treatments designed to strengthen the body (bloodletting, fasting, purging, and more)
  3. When body, soul, and mind are equally strong, there is balance in the bodily elements.  This balance is easily upset by poor habits in eating, drinking, and 'lusts.'
  4. Sharpen the senses (live with purpose and good cheer, love life, use your senses well, and live responsibly)

Her Cookies of Joy contained foods she believed helped with this balance and good health.  The recipe* is as follows:


3/4 Cup butter (1-1/2 sticks)
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup of white/cane sugar
1 egg--fresh from the hen house if possible  (for me, it's not)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 Cups of flour (may include part or all whole wheat or spelt)
1-1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon 
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon of cloves
~  Add up to another teaspoon of each spice, to taste


Mix the butter and sugar until fluffy
Add egg and mix it in well
Sift the dry ingredients together and mix well

Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick and use a cookie cutter to cut out cookies...OR
Roll the dough into 1 inch circles, place on cookie sheet, and press flat with the bottom of a glass


375 for 10 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to turn brown

Hildegard recommended that bakers make and eat these cookies frequently to 'reduce the bad humors, enrich the blood, and fortify the nerves.'  I don't know about you, but I'm all for a prescription for eating cookies often!  I might even say it gives me joy!

And for sharpening the senses and living with joy, I recommend a composition by Hildegard of Bingen, hauntingly beautiful.


German Food: Health and Nutrition in the Middle Ages

At my other blog, Gaelic Word a Day: On the...Go  Planes, trains, and automobiles.

* Edited to Add: this is a recipe adaptated from Hildegard of Bingen's words.  More on that tomorrow!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Boar's Head: Excerpt

[I have a giveaway going on: Leave a comment on the giveaway post to enter.]

As I work on a 'table companion' for The Blue Bells Chronicles, this song goes through my head.  (Warning!  It may be in your head all day if you listen to it!)  As with many songs, I find this group sings this song too slowly.  It seems to me it should be a very up tempo song.  But I love the pictures that go with it.

With this upcoming book, I'll be including scenes from the Blue Bells Chronicles, and the recipes that go with it.  Here's the scene that goes with the recipe for a boar's head.  And yes, it will be in this book!  So start looking now for a place to buy one!

Picture credit below
In this excerpt, Amy has told Shawn, returned from his night in the castle ruins, suffering from a mysterious arrow wound and resulting infection, which has caused him to behave strangely, that he can take her out to dinner at the nicest place in Inverness.  She is unaware that she is not with Shawn Kleiner, modern trombonist, but with Niall Campbell, medieval Highlander:


"Having?" he repeated.

"It's a restaurant. What do you want?"

"I can...choose?" He had expected tables laden with repast, or a stream of servants bringing food as they did at the castle.

"Of course you can." She smiled. "You're paying."

"A loaf of bread, then."

"A loaf, sir?" the servant asked.

"A whole loaf?" Amy repeated.

"Soup, eel."

"Eel? Did you say eel?" the servant asked. The black-suited man hurried over. He must be the steward, Niall decided.

"Where did you find that?" Amy searched her menu.

The servant looked to the steward, who nodded furiously.

"Pigeon pie, woodcock, salmon," Niall added, thinking of all his favorite things at the Laird's table.

The waiter scribbled swiftly. Amy would certainly be pleased with him for providing this fine feast!

"Can't you make it easy and order off the menu?" Amy whispered, a little fiercely.

"Of course," Niall said obligingly. "Venison and trout would be good! And as we're celebrating, a boar's head!"

"A boar's head?" Amy asked in disbelief.

"A...boar's head, sir?" The servant swallowed.

"Anything you like, Mr. Kleiner," the steward said loudly. He nudged the servant, who scribbled, frowning.

"Aye," Niall agreed cheerfully. "And plenty of ale!" At another table, a man handed his menu back to a servant. Niall did likewise.

"I'll have the chicken salad," Amy said.


From Blue Bells of Scotland

Book One in the Blue Bells Chronicles

Stay tuned: 
Tomorrow I'll bring you some information on preparing the boar's head.

NOTE: Picture credit.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Medieval Music: Cantigas

GIVEAWAY CURRENTLY GOING (12.30.16) for a 252 piece puzzle of Misty Glenmirril.  Leave a comment to be entered.)

The Song:

Medieval music was often, especially in the earlier medieval years, monophonic, meaning a single line of melody--no harmony.  One thing that often surprises my music students is that songs in earlier eras were not given descriptive or unique 'names' the way pieces are today.  We have A Midnight Train to Georgia, Always on My Mind, Sunshine on My Shoulder, Stairway to Heaven.  Earlier ages had Cantiga, Cantiga, Sonata, Allegro, Largo, Sonata, Syumphony Number 1, Estampie.  Rinse, wash, repeat.

They typically named their pieces after the form or style of music, or after the tempo (largo, allegro)  Hence we have over 400 pieces called Cantiga from Alphonso X (the Wise, in case you're wondering which Alphonso X) alone.  There are many, many more pieces called Cantiga, however.

What makes a song a cantiga?  One sources says cantiga simply means song in the words of Alphonso the Wise.  One dictionary gets more specific: it is a Spanish or Portuguese folk song, typically with love or religion as its topic.

Even more specifically, cantigas are very often hymns of praise to the Virgin Mary.  This particular Cantiga is from 13th Century Spain.  It is, therefore, a song that may have made its way to Scotland by the early 14th Century, and therefore a song Niall may well have known and played,

The Setting:

The song is being played at Carlsluith Castle, on Wigtown Bay in southwest Scotland, on the Galloway Coast.  I usually visit places that date all the way back to the early 1300s, Niall's time, but this trip was specifically to the Dumfries and Galloway parts of Scotland, the home of Robert the Bruce.  Carlsluith happened to be right there, on our way home from a medieval site.  It remains open and accessible at all times, so we went in.

Dating possibly to the late 1400s, it is still very similar to the castles inhabited by Bruce and Niall, and a great setting for playing medieval music.

  • January 28: I will co-host Food Freedom on AM 950 with Laura Hedlund and Karen Olson Johnson.  Watch for details.
  • I'll be reading and signing books February 10, 2017 at Magers and Quinn with Genny Kieley
  • There is currently a giveaway going on at my facebook page for a 252 piece puzzle of misty Glenmirril (aka Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness.)
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other posts under the MUSIC or CELTIC MUSIC labels


Wednesday, June 15, 2016


In the next two weeks, I'll be choosing a winner from comments left here and at my facebook page.

The gift is an 8 x 10 print of Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle, also known as the north tower of Glenmirril, where Niall and Shawn fell asleep.  In the foreground is Loch Ness, on which Urquhart and Glenmirril sit.

Just leave a comment to be entered.  Comments are moderated, so please be patient.

Late at night, Niall leaned on the tower parapets, gazing over the dark loch, far below. Its soft murmur reached him, and an occasional splash as a fish leapt for a night insect. A rich baritone melody floated up the tower stairs. "The Laird's own bard to war is gone."

Niall smiled, and sang back, softly, "His harp and sword at hand."

Iohn appeared in the arched doorway, crossed the small space, and rested his arms on the wall beside Niall. "Feeling better?" he asked.

"At times." The summer breeze lifted Niall's hair. He tugged his cloak closer. "Suppose it were true." He turned to Iohn. "Suppose you fell asleep and woke up hoondreds o' years on?"

"Go 'won," said Iohn. "Doona tell me ye believe in fairies!"

Niall laughed, not bothered by his ribbing. "I'll no tell ye sich. But 'tis no the only story, what Rabbie told, o' hoondreds o' years passin' when a man thinks 'tis but days or hours. Ye've heard the things Thomas the Rhymer claimed?"

"Aye." Iohn nodded. "Being whisked away by the fairy queen for three days and findin' seven years had passed. And they say there was ne'er a more honest man."

"What would it be like, d' ye think?"

"To wake up and find hoondreds of years passed?" Iohn mused, staring out at the loch, resting his arms on the tower wall beside Niall's. "Mayhap the forests would be gone, as the story says? More villages?"

"Does aught ever change?" Niall asked. "A few villages more or less. But life goes on as always, no? We fish and hunt and rescue our cattle from the thieving MacDougalls."

Book One of The Blue Bells Chronicles

Medieval Poetry: When the Nightingale Sings

Very little is known of When the Nightingale Sings other than that it dates back to roughly 1310.  It is a love poem lamenting lost love.  The observant reader might recognize this as the poem to which Angus listens, which leads him to one of his realizations, in The Water is Wide.  In fact, it was no doubt this very video he was watching.

Given the dates, it's possible Niall himself was familiar with this poe

Harley MS. c. 1310. 

When the nyhtegale singes,
    The wodes waxen grene,
Lef ant gras ant blosme springes
    In Averyl, Y wene ;
Ant love is to myn herte gon
    With one spere so kene,
Nyht ant day my blod hit drynkes
    Myn herte deth me tene.

Ich have loved al this yer
    That Y may love na more;
Ich have siked moni syk,
    Lemmon, for thin ore,
Me nis love neuer the ner,
    Ant that me reweth sore;
Suete lemmon, thench on me,
    Ich have loved the yore.

Suete lemmon, Y preye thee,
    Of love one speche;
Whil Y lyve in world so wyde
    Other nulle Y seche.
With thy love, my suete leof,
    My blis thou mihtes eche;
A suete cos of thy mouth
    Mihte be my leche.

Suete lemmon, Y preye thee
    Of a love-bene:
Yef thou me lovest, ase men says,
    Lemmon, as I wene,
Ant yef hit thi wille be,
    Thou loke that hit be sene;
So muchel Y thenke vpon the
    That al y waxe grene.

Bituene Lyncolne ant Lyndeseye,
    Norhamptoun ant Lounde,
Ne wot I non so fayr a may,
    As y go fore ybounde.
Suete lemmon, Y preye the
    Thou lovie me a stounde;
Y wole mone my song
    On wham that hit ys on ylong.

When the nightingale sings,
    The trees grow green,
Leaf and grass and blossom springs,
    In April, I suppose;
And love has to my heart gone
    With a spear so keen,
Night and day my blood it drains
    My heart to death it aches.

I have loved all this past year
    So that I may love no more;
I have sighed many a sigh,
    Beloved, for thy pity,
My love is never thee nearer,
    And that me grieveth sore;
Sweet loved-one, think on me,
    I have loved thee long.

Sweet loved-one, I pray thee,
    For one loving speech;
While I live in this wide world
    None other will I seek.
With thy love, my sweet beloved,
    My bliss though mightest increase;
A sweet kiss of thy mouth
    Might be my cure.

Sweet beloved, I pray thee
    For a love token:
If thou lovest me, as men do say,
    Beloved, as I think,
And if it be thy will,
    Make sure that others see;
So much I think upon thee
    That I do grow all pale.

Between Lincoln and Lindsey,
    Northampton and London,
I know no maiden so fair
    As the one I'm in bondage to.
Sweet loved-one, I pray thee
    Thou love me for a while;
I will moan my song
    To the one on whom it is based.

And here is part of the poem in even more original English:

When þe nyhtegale singes þe wodes waxen grene.
Lef ant gras ant blosme springes in aueryl y wene,
Ant love is to myn herte gon wiþ one spere so kene
Nyht ant day my blod hit drynkes myn herte deþ me tene.
Ich have loved al þis er þat y may love namore,
Ich have siked moni syk lemmon for þin ore.
Me nis love never þe ner ant þat me reweþ sore.
Suete lemmon þench on me—ich have loved þe ore.
Suete lemmon y preye þe of love one speche,
Whil y lyve in world so wyde oþer nulle y seche.
Wiþ þy love my suete leof mi blis þou mihtes eche,
A suete cos of þy mouþ mihte be my leche.
Suete lemmon y preȝe þe of a love bene
ȝef þou me lovest ase men says lemmon as y wene,
Ant ȝef hit þi wille be þou loke þat hit be sene,
So muchel y þenke upon þe þat al y waxe grene.
Bituene Lyncolne ant Lyndeseye, Norhamptoun ant Lounde,
Ne wot y non so fayr a may as y go fore ybounde.
Suete lemmon ypreȝe þe þou lovie me a stounde!
Y wole mone my song
On wham þat hit ys on ylong.

  • January 28: I will co-host Food Freedom on AM 950 with Laura Hedlund and Karen Olson Johnson.  Watch for details.
  • I'll be reading and signing books February 10, 2017 at Magers and Quinn with Genny Kieley
  • There is currently a giveaway going on at my facebook page for a 252 piece puzzle of misty Glenmirril (aka Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness.)
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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Excerpt: The Battle is O'er

Eamonn speaks: 

I had read of a knight in the fourteenth century, a faceless young man distant and removed, with no background, with no mother or siblings or father to worry about him. Just a name.

Now they stood before me: A mother and son.

I knew who would win. But I also knew, looking at the young lass before me, cradling her child, what the cost would be.

A mother who loved her son, whose purpose in life, as for all mothers, was to protect her son.

A mother who would be told one day that she could no longer protect him, that she must give him up to the world.

~The Battle is O'er, Book Five of The Blue Bells Chronicles
Due late 2017

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Amazing Grace at the Hermitage Castle Kirk

This is Amazing Grace, filmed last Augst at the ruins of the Hermitage Castle kirk.  In Westering Home, the evil Simon Beaumont (my continued thanks to Mithril Weaver for so wonderfully capturing his voice in the trailer!) goes to Hermitage Castle, the home of his one-time friend who has come down through history known as the Bad Lord Soulis, hoping to find some way to return to his own time.

Last summer's research trip actually began with my frustration in trying to write that scene (small as it is) via online research.  Online, it was difficult to really get a perspective for the distance between the castle and church, or exactly where the Cout of Kielder's grave really is.  (If anyone else happens to need to know that--it's about two feet outside the stone wall surrounding the kirkyard.)

The almost continual wind, too, is something that I just never really get a feel for through online research.  This video gives an idea of the constant wind.

More later on Hermitage Castle perhaps.  Today, instead of history, I'll give an excerpt from the book, regarding this particular setting.

In the morning, when the woman unlocked the doors and disappeared again, Simon left through the soaring entrance, glad to be out of the evil place.  He extended his search to the surrounding moors and hills, the chapel ruins and graveyard.  He walked the Hermitage Water, through high grasses and flowers, searching, and stood at the stone marking the resting place of the Cout of Kielder, a giant of a man, buried outside the protection of the churchyard.  He stared down at the smooth green grass for a long time, remembering the giant of a man, and feeling disoriented.  Everyone he knew was dead.  When he returned, they would spring back to life.  And he would know when and how and where each of them would die.                       

~Westering Home, Book Four of The Blue Bells Chronicles

Available in all e-book forms through Smashwords, and in print from amazon, BN, or any brick and mortar store through special order

Monday, June 6, 2016

Updates on Gaelic Word a Day

About six years ago, I began my Gaelic Word a Day blog.  Having been raised by a military officer, of course, I could never manage to do just one word.  As I got deeper into grammar, and I had a lot more on my plate with my own writing, editing and publishing for others, managing many sites, continuing to teach lessons, and of course, kids, cats, and a very large and affectionate dog, it became too time-consuming to keep up with.

I'm beginning to get back into my study of Gaelic, and have had time this morning to do a great deal of updating to the site.  I updated the blog roll with new links to my various sites that might interest Scotophiles. (Is that a word?  It is now--I just used it!  Wait, I have a bad feeling I'm quoting Shawn.)

Those links include:

  • Travelpod where you will find my travel blogs as I have gone on my five trips to Scotland.  At the moment, it is not fully updated, but I do hope to finish that, too
  • Pinterest where I collect images of castles, abbeys, medieval weapons, clothing, and manuscripts, and more, which I use when writing
  • YouTube where I keep playlists of music associated with my books: Scottish, medieval, and the orchestral, jazz, and big band music that Shawn knows, and also playlists of things like medieval weapons, tours of Scottish castles and abbeys, and my own playing of Scottish and medieval pieces in Scottish locations
  • Emmanuel's Light, my photographers collaborative, which includes a growing number of Scottish- and medieval-themed photographs, taken in Scotland
  • Gabriel's Horn, my publishing company, which currently has nearly 40 books by about a dozen authors, in print, and more coming.
I have also done a lot of updating to the index of lessons, and to the Learning Gaelic Online page, adding a few online courses, and getting things better organized.

I am amazed to see, as I've gotten back to my Gaelic blog that I loved keeping, to see that it has continued to get dozens of hits a day in the years I have updated it--now standing at well over 64,000 alltime hits--and has over a thousand e-mail subscribers.  I see this as a testament to how many people have a deep love for Scotland and a desire to learn the language.

I hope to once again be able to update it on a more regular basis, and maybe some day be able to do some Scottish immersion courses and really make a giant leap in my own fluency.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Excerpt: The Battle is O'er

A third clap of thunder shook the stones, as Simon threw himself from the monk’s lunge. He stumbled, hitting the stone wall, backing up, slamming into another wall. Dark closed in around him. The passage! He stumbled forth, deeper in, far from the men with weapons. He heard the squeal of the child, a deep shout, men’s voices raised in anger. Another man shouting, “Amy!”

He turned, running in the dark, deeper and deeper into the tunnel, feeling his way. He stumbled as his feet hit the sharp edge of stairs. He slowed, feeling his way, moving with what haste he could. The cold grew, as he descended the stairs. The voices faded behind him as the dark pressed in. The dankness grew, a damp smell in his nose. He came to a twist in the passage. His heart pounded in the utter pitch black pressing in on his eyes, the cold chilling his bones now, and mustiness filling his nose.

This was Glenmirril of Shawn’s time. It was Glenmirril of Niall’s time. Anyone might be following him. He pushed himself to move faster in the blinding dark, his hands on damp stone walls. He heard a voice behind him, muffled, agitated, and forced himself to go faster, feeling with his leather boots. 

~~ The Battle is O'er, Book Five of The Blue Bells Chronicles
Coming December 2017