Saturday, December 31, 2016

Auld Lang Syne

The turn of the year is always a time to take stock of the past and look ahead to the future.  My last 5 years have seen a lot of change, personally and professionally, good and bad.  In September 2006, I started with Night Writers and tomorrow, January 2, is the 5th anniversary of the creation of Gabriel's Horn, which has really taken off this year.

Thank you to all who have made the years good!


The Poem by Robert Burns


Should old acquaintance be forgot
And never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
And fully past and gone
Is thy sweet heart now grown so cold
That loving breast of thine,
That thou canst never once reflect 
On old lang syne?

CHORUS:
On old lang syne my Jo
On old lang syne
That thou canst never once reflect
On old lang syne?


The Lyrics as We Know Them Today:

Should old acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot
and old lang syne?

CHORUS

For auld lang syne, my dear
for auld lang syne
we'll take a cup of kindness yet
for auld lang syne

And surely you'll buy your pint cup
And surely I'll buy mind
And we'll take a cup of kindness yet
for auld lang syne

CHORUS...NEXT VERSE...

We two have run about the slopes
And picked the daisies fine
But we've wandered many a weary foot
Since auld lang syne

CHORUS...NEXT VERSE...

We two have paddled int he stream
From morning sun till dine
But seas between us broad have roared
Since auld lang syne

CHORUS...NEXT VERSE...

And there's a hand my trust friend
And give me a hand o' thine
And we'll take a right good will draught
for auld lang syne



COMING SOON:
  • 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
CURRENTLY:
  • 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.)
To learn more about my books, click on the images below.

If you would like to follow this blog, sign up HERE
If you like an author's posts, please click like and share
It helps us continue to do what we do

If you liked this article, you might also like
Kingdom without Castles by JR Tomlin, Braveheart: William Wallace by Eliza Knight or
other posts under the AUTHOR INTERVIEWS label

 

Friday, December 30, 2016

April Holthaus: Heart in the Highlands

Please welcome today April Holthaus, whose book Heart of the Highlands: The Wolf will be released January 8 2017.   


April is offering a free e-copy to one lucky reader!  Please leave a comment to be entered.



Rylan has spent most of his life keeping his identity secret, even from those he loves.  But in order to secure his future, he has to face his past.  On the run as an outlaw, trying to clear his name, Ryland comes across a woman whom he discovers has dark secrets of her own.

Living a simple life with her young son, nothing seemed as if it could go wrong, until a Highland drifter shows up on her doorstep, dragging her into his world of chaos and deception.  Fallon finds herself at a crossroads that may impact both of their lives.

As secrets become exposed, will Fallon choose the right path to change her life, and will it be enough to save Ryland from the noose?

Heart of the Highlands: The Wolf is the second installment of the Protectors of the Crown series.  For hundreds of years, Scotland has battled the English for their freedom.  Now, they face a new enemy.  In a divided world between politics and religion, the young King James V faces the threat of his own people rebelling against him.  As civil war breaks out among the Highland clans, James recruits a secret group of warriors for protection.  He calls them the Protectors of the Crown.

This series follows a group of five warriors who live their lives protecting king and country.  The historical setting is Scotland 1537-1538 during the reign of James V of Scotland.

The third book, Heart of the Highlands: The Dragon will be released summer 2017.

Currently, the first book, Heart of the Highlands The Beast is ON SALE for only $.99!  It was a 2015 RONE award nominee.

1.How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I have always loved writing ever since I was in high school. I used to write short stories and poems to express my feelings, but never shared any of them with anyone. It wasn’t until 2012 that I actually began writing my first novel, The Honor of a Highlander. At the time when I started writing, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from it and I certainly did not think I would ever get it published. After writing the book, I had several people critique it for me and encouraged me to get it published.

After befriending many indie authors through Facebook, many of them offered advice and gave me direction as to how to go about the self-publishing process. And on September 22, 2013, The Honor of a Highlander, was live on Amazon for the world to read.

As you can imagine, it was the most terrifying day of my life, but I was a newbie and never thought I’d sell more than 10 copies and maybe get a 3 star review. Then by October, it hit the Top 100 best-selling books on Amazon. I was in shock, but most importantly, it gave me the motivation I needed to keep writing. And now over the past 3 years, I have published 7 books just writing part time!

2. Congratulations!  That's a great accomplishment!  Many of your books are, like my Blue Bells Chronicles, are set in Scotland. What drew you to Scotland?

All my life, I’ve had an obsession with Ireland, as my great-grandparents came from Ireland to America in the early 1900s. From there I developed a love for anything and everything Celtic which then drew me to Highlanders and Vikings. I have read hundreds of Medieval-era romances and I always found the “Highland Hero” to be the perfect hero. Much different than English Knights, to me, they represented honor in the most sincere and passionate way. They fought for land, king, country, and love. They lived fiercely, loved fiercely, died fiercely, and that is how I wanted my heroes to be in my stories.

3.What eras are your books set in, and what drew you to those particular times?

My books range from 1350’s-1550’s. The Medieval era I like is the most romantic, yet fascinating time period. Think of the lives they must have lived, and the challenges they faced. They struggled, but persevered.

4.Yes!  And I think that's a compelling message for us today.  Niall, in my book The Water is Wide, makes the comment to Shawn from the modern age, that our lives are easy and we expect them to be easier yet.  They knew how to handle tough times in ways many people no longer do.  
Your books tend to have paranormal or fantastical elements--a 700 year old ghost, Merlin, a dragon, the fae. What inspired you to write in this genre?

True story…I get, I’d say, about 95% of my book ideas while either in the shower or taking a bath…I don’t know why. I’d like to think that it is because it is the only place in the house where I get 5 minutes of alone time. (I have a 2 ½ year old)

My book, Legend of the Fae, I came up with the idea after seeing an image of a sorcerer someone had posted on Facebook earlier that day. As the Fae are Scottish mythical creatures, I began playing around with ideas about this woman’s back story and came up with an evil fae queen. I was going to write Legends as a dark fantasy, but turned it more into a romance as that is kind of my niche. I have yet to write the second half of that saga, which will end in a fierce battle. Many lives will be lost. I will also be introducing new characters, such as a dragon and other mythical creatures as well.

5.Tell us about the research that goes into each book.

Research…my favorite word. I actually love doing research. I started when I took on the task of researching my family tree, which I now use in my spare time to help others explore their family history as well. As I am a huge history-buff, I have purchased books, googled everything I can find about the eras I write in, and use a ton of sticky notes!

With each book, once I settle on the time frame, characters, and plot, I start researching the events of that year to make sure they coincide with my story. Generally, I want the history to be as factual as possible. I make a time line of events, research the battles, the royals of that time, and even the geography. I have even researched how long it takes a horse to travel from one destination to the other to make it as realistic as possible. As with all historical books, whether fiction or not, you want to generally be as historically accurate as possible.

6. I'm with you on the research, including horse travel time.  I wish Google maps would add that to their choices of travel mode!  Are your stories set in real or fictional locations/castles?

Both. As I mentioned above, I try to be as historically accurate as possibly when it comes to the clans history, but there have been a few occasions when I have made up a name of a town/castle/clan.

7. Same here.  I based Glenmirril, Niall's home on Urquhart.  Knowing the history of Urquhart itself too well, I just couldn't bring myself to take it over, so to speak, and write a 'wrong' history of it.  What is your favorite, or most interesting thing, you've learned about Scotland in the course of writing your books?

Scotland is rich in legends and traditions. One in particular is Clan MacLeod. They have heirlooms that have been passed down for centuries, such as the Fairy Flag, the Dunvegan Cup and Sir Rory Mor’s horn. These are items that had been “inherited” by either a great battle or a gift that was crafted just for them and the clan had created new traditions for each one. They hold their traditions with very high value.

8. I went to Dunvegan on my first trip to Scotland.  The story of the Fairy Flag is truly amazing!  Now, because one of your series is set in the time of Robert the Bruce, I have to set all seriousness aside here and get to the vitally important question: the Bruce or James Douglas?

The Bruce of course!

9.  Oh thank goodness we won't have to fight over James! Have you been to Scotland? If so, what was your favorite experience there? If not, what is the place you most hope to visit?

I have not, but am planning a trip as soon as my son is a little older. He is only 2 ½ and this momma has a hard time leaving him for 2-3 days. If and when I go to Scotland, I would like to spend a good week or so there to be able to really take in all the sights and leaving him so young for so long would be extremely hard on both me and him!

Thank you, April, for being here today!  Where can readers find you?



COMING SOON:
  • 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
CURRENTLY:
  • 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.)
To learn more about my books, click on the images below.

If you would like to follow this blog, sign up HERE
If you like an author's posts, please click like and share
It helps us continue to do what we do

If you liked this article, you might also like
Kingdom without Castles by JR Tomlin, Braveheart: William Wallace by Eliza Knight or
other posts under the AUTHOR INTERVIEWS label

 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hogmanay: a Fiery Night

In previous posts, I've talked about Hogmanay and some of its customs.  Those which involve fire could be quite a lengthy post unto themselves.  There's keeping the home fire, there are bonfires, fire--torchlight--parades, and fire balls, and more.

Starting with the home fire, it was important not to let the fire in the hearth go out.  That would be bad luck, and as nothing is to leave the home at the turn of the year, for fear of luck going out of the house with it, neighbors were unlikely to give any fire from their own hearth.  For extra insurance, numerous candles might be lit to keep the flame.

Only trusted friends and family would be allowed near the fire, and charms would be said near it, as the switch from old year to new was believed to be a time when supernatural forces abounded.  And the brighter the flames, the better the luck for the new year.  Oh, to have a chemistry student tend the fire!

In Lewis, the youngest child of the house would be put on a lambskin and carried three times around the fire.  The symbolism was that the child was the Christ Child, or Lamb of God.

More detail is available, and more traditions regarding the family hearth at the Tairis site.

Torchlight parades, which can look like a river of flame from a distance, and fireworks are common.  Less familiar to some of us might be a fireball parade.  In this event, in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire--practiced there for over a hundred years--a piper leads men swinging fire balls.  These fire balls consist of chicken wire balls, about 2 feet in diameter, stuffed with flammable material, and attached to a three foot non-flammable chain.  (That part is important!)  At midnight, the balls are lit and swung over heads as the parade progresses up the High Street and back.  Any that are still ablaze at the end of the procession are thrown into the harbor.

Saining, an old custom practiced in the Highlands, is the blessing of home and livestock.  Early on New Year's Day, 'magic water,' that is, water from a 'dead and living ford,' (we don't mean the car) is sprinkled in every room, on the beds, and on all household members.  The house is then closed up tight, and branches of juniper set ablaze.  These are carried through the house (and byre, if you happen to have one) until the inhabitants begin to cough and sneeze.  At this point, the woman of the house flings open the windows, letting in cool air, the whisky bottle is opened, and New Year's Day breakfast is eaten.

Raise your hand if you'd love to go to Scotland and see some of these events!  I'm guessing I'd get arrested for swinging fireballs on my suburban street, no matter what night of the year I do it!

COMING SOON:
  • 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
CURRENTLY:
  • 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.)
To learn more about my books, click on the images below.

If you would like to follow this blog, sign up HERE
If you like an author's posts, please click like and share
It helps us continue to do what we do

If you liked this article, you might also like
The Medieval Christmas Season, Easter Carols, or
other posts under the SCOTTISH TRADITIONS and HOLIDAYS labels

 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Story of Your Life

The Christmas story has been called by some The Greatest Story Ever Written. Not surprisingly, I've heard the Nativity story every year during this season, and so, not surprisingly, it was on my mind today.

There are a great many parallels to be drawn between stories and life. There are lessons to be learned from the act of writing. Stranger than Fiction, a 2006 movie, tells the story of Harold Crick, who hears his life being narrated.


Harold comes to realize the author plans to kill him off, and begins a search for her, to talk with her. When he finds the author, he tells her, You have to understand that this isn't a story to me--it's my life!


I really liked this movie--and I feel there's some truth to it. Angus speaks to Amy of the Author taking great care with every detail. Yes, there are good things put in place for us that we didn't cause, and there are other aspects of our lives less pleasantly dictated by events around us, and things we can't control.

Emmanuel's Light, Scottish photography, life choices, choosing wisely
Photography: Emmanuel's Light. Quote: Anonymous

And just like with books, sometimes we are in a beautiful story we hope will never end. My neighbor tells me he will read only a page or two a day on books he loves, because he wants them to last forever.

Stories always do end, of course. Chapters end. Books end. And sometimes--contrary to the quote above--we have no control over how. Cancer is diagnosed. A tornado destroys a beloved family home. Contrary to the quote above, and contrary to what some seem to think today, we really can't control everything.

But sometimes, a beautiful story ends because of choices. A drunk driver serves on the highway. A spouse lies and cheats and steals money and has no intention of stopping. Drugs and addictions of all sorts are chosen over a relationship. This is perplexing to those on the outside looking in, and moreso to those on the receiving end of those choices, left with no control over their own stories as a result.

Why do some people choose stories of beauty, grace, and peace, while others choose stories that are dark, loud, brash, crass, tawdry, or violent? Why do some people choose to walk out of a beautiful story that could have continued?

The answers are rarely simple, and that's what makes people--and stories--so fascinating. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction, and the greatest stories are great because they all have something to teach us about our own stories and the endings we're writing--whether intentionally or not.

Where do you want your story to end?


COMING SOON:
  • Watch for a big update regarding January 28.
  • I'll be reading and signing books February 10, 2017 at Magers and Quinn with Genny Kieley
CURRENTLY:
  • There is currently a giveaway going on at my facebook page for a Team Shawn or Team Angus t-shirt.  Leave a comment here or there to be entered
To learn more about my books, click on the images below.

If you would like to follow this blog, sign up HERE
If you like an author's posts, please click like and share
It helps us continue to do what we do

If you liked this article, you might also like
Building Character: Understanding Others, Where Is Everyone Going, or
other posts under the WRITING WORKSHOP and WRITING TIPS labels