Virtual Book Tour of Isle of Skye: Day One

Me in archway of Armandale

I believe a great way to promote my new novel, THE STONE MANOR, is to promote the Isle of Skye. Allow me the privilege of being your personal tour guide to the Misty Isles. I promise it will be informative, with lovely photos, numerous anecdotes, and a wee bit of magic.

For your riding pleasure, we will be traveling in Kathryn’s blue Land Rover. It’ll be a blast. I promise to remember to stay to the left. So buckle your seat belt because the roads and the rover are a bit bumpy. Keep your eyes open for sheep, especially lambs. I’ll be driving slowly, as is the rule on Skye to protect not only the sheep, but all God’s creatures. The wee bit of magic part of this tour has to do with time. Even though it’s November in real time, we will be flashing forward to late May. It’s a lovely time for a tour of Skye.

Blue Land Rover

Our tour begins not on Skye but on the mainland of Scotland where the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe and the escape of Mairi Macdonald’s grandmother, Margaret took place.  The drive from the airport in Glasgow up through the Trossachs is breathtaking. The scenery is wild and desperate looking. Be prepared to feel quite small as we walk through Glencoe. The massive glen and jagged peaks dwarf even the tallest among us. The rugged landscape carries with it the story of a people whose spirit matched their environment.

Me in Glencoe

Walking along the stream the silence is deafening. Only the occasional cry of a bird of prey interrupts the quiet. You can, if you listen carefully, hear voices carried on the wind as it blows through the valley between the mountains. And just so you’ll know, these are not fairy songs or sounds of laughter. The voices you hear are grief stricken, haunting. You will never forget the emotions this single glen evokes. One minute we stand in awe of the landscape, marveling at the expanse of it all. The next, there is an overwhelming sense of pain and sadness.

Waterfall in Glencoe

If you’ve never read the history of Glencoe, and the massacre that occurred here, I suggest you do so. Check out the website: www.glencoescotland.com. It’s a story of political treachery, clan rivalry, and honor and hospitality compromised with sword and fire. On a lighter note, because I feel we need one, scenes from Harry Potter were filmed here. Hagrid’s Hut with all the pumpkins, and the high wooden bridge to name two. This can also be found on the above mentioned website. See, I promised you a wee bit of magic.

Leaving the tragic history of Glencoe behind, let’s journey on to the Isle of Skye and look for better days. We’ve driven for five hours now and are minutes away from the Skye Bridge. Bump, bump, thud. What’s that? An unplanned stop on the side of the road. It can’t be. A flat tire. We were warned about the roads and the pot holes. It’s really my fault. I’m so anxious to show you Skye, I’ve been driving too fast. If you’ll just stand to one side, we’ll get it changed in a flash. It’s dusk, so we need to hurry before it’s too dark to see. What are all those small swarming bugs you ask? I know. They bite! They’re called MIDGES. Tiny biting bugs from Hell. Jump back in the rover. I’m about finished here.

Skyebridge

(Photo courtesy of Wiki Library.)

Back on the road, rounding the bend and there it is! Sure, I’ll pull over for pictures. The Skye Bridge was built in 1995. Before that the only way to cross the strait of Loch Alsh was by ferry. The charm is gone, replaced by convenience. If you ask a Skye man or woman, you’re sure to find varying opinions on the subject.

21 Castle Moil Kyleakin Skye

In the bay, you can see the ruins of Caisteal Maol, also known as Castle Moil. Around the year 900, the Mackinnon clan chief married a Norse princess nicknamed “Saucy Mary.” One can only imagine the reason for this nickname. They put a large chain across the strait and extracted a toll from all boats passing through. I’m sure there’s a great story just waiting to be told about this mysterious Nordic princess!

20 Saucy Mary's Lodge

It’s Sunday evening. I don’t know about you but I’m starving. Let’s stop at this pub for fish and chips. I’ve heard it’s fabulous and the atmosphere is fantastic. Live music. Backpacker’s sharing stories of their adventures.

This can’t be. It’s 8:00 pm, and the cook just left. Most restaurants are closed on the island on Sunday evening. There is an Indian Restaurant just up the road. Not my favorite, but let’s try it anyway. I realize you didn’t come all the way to Scotland to eat Indian food, but such is life.

Dinner is over. I’m glad you enjoyed our meal. All I can say is, I’m glad I bought the bag of peanuts at the airport. This is no reflection on the restaurant, only on my finicky taste. I’m afraid you’ll have to get used to this if you’re traveling with me. But, it’s okay. I also have a bar of chocolate . . . always.

22 Macdonald B & B

Finally, we’ve reached our destination. A lovely B&B owned by a Peter and Jane Macdonald. I’m sure we’re cousins. He’s the number one tour guide on the island. He took us on a private tour of Skye on our first visit. It was amazing.

16 Hills of Knoydart at Sunset

We’ve had a full day. Get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we’ll explore Sleat, (pronounced slate), the southern portion of Skye. We’ll visit Armandale Castle and Grounds, the Donald Center, and take a drive along the coast. I’ll even tell you the tale of the three young men and their Selkie wives. See you in the morning.

 

THE STONE MANOR IS HERE!

Book Cover

After almost three months of working on updating this blog site, it’s finally up and running. (Thank you, Andrew Hale and Andy Fronius!) AND, after beginning my novel, THE STONE MANOR, over six years ago as a short story, it’s finally published! I’m beyond excited. It was a very long pregnancy. The labor was intense, but a labor of love. Now that my baby is here, I just sit and stare at it.

I attempted to have it published by October, but realized it just wasn’t going to happen. Things always take longer than you think. I started looking at dates in November, as in, what happened in history, famous people’s birthdays, famous and infamous inventions. You know me. Why wouldn’t I? Suddenly, a thought came to mind. I should look at the birth dates of my MacDonald ancestors, since the story is partially based on them. AND GUESS WHAT? The first MacDonald in my line born in the US to my Isle of Skye ancestor was born on November 6, 1788. There it was!

28 Violin and Fam Pic

(This is a photo of my great-grandparents. My great-grandfather, James Rueben Little, was the great-grandson of our MacDonald ancestor. This is also his fiddle!)

I realized I had very little control over the exact date my novel would be for sale. I knew November 6th was a long shot. However, my novel is all about ancestral dreams, fairy glens, and fate. In keeping with the fairy tale theme, it was, in fact, published on November 6th. This just makes me smile.

IMG_1971

(Your dreams are worth your best efforts to achieve them.)

Last night, Jim and I went to our favorite Thai restaurant in Percha, Germany (near Munich) to celebrate my dream finally coming to fruition. This was my fortune at the end of the meal. The dream theme continues. This also made me smile . . . and laugh.

Dreams do come true. I’ve loved the journey, from putting the first words to paper to pressing the PUBLISH button on my laptop. I know newbie novels don’t sell themselves. I’ve a lot of work ahead of me. But, I’ll be doing it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart, a fairy song I once heard in my dreams.

 

Fiddling Around: Name that Tune

28 Violin and Fam Pic

(My great-grandfather’s fiddle. He’s the man in the photo.)

My mother inherited her grandfather’s fiddle quite by accident. We found it in the drawer of a dresser that had belonged to her mother. It seems our grandmother had been given the fiddle by her father and had taken lessons in high school, but no one ever heard her play. She was shy.

What you need to know about this discovery is, this is the grandfather who descended from the MacDonald’s of the Isle of Skye. So, when Jim and I visited Skye in my search for the ancestral home and to double-check my writing for The Stone Manor, the Skye Accordian and Fiddle Festival was a must see. It takes place yearly in Portree.

On day five of our trip we drove up to Portree and wandered into the Royal Hotel, formerly MacNab’s Inn, the last meeting place of Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746. The Festival was in full swing, and it was standing room only. Later that evening, we walked down the street to the Skye Gathering Hall for the Ceilidh Dance. What a wonderful way to experience a bit of the local culture. It was a blast!

68 Skye Fiddle Festival Band

(Isle of Skye Accordian & Fiddle Festival in Portree)

In my novel, Kathryn attends the festival and dance. This whole scene, which was great fun to write, was added after our experience there. Before going to Skye, my novel was like a detailed pen and ink drawing. After the trip, I added color to the drawing! Writing this scene was definitely a splash of color.

I made another decision after the trip to Skye and attending the festival. I wanted to learn to play the fiddle. Just enough to play a highland reel on my great-grandfather’s fiddle…in honor of the ancestors. I realize it’s a bit late to be picking up the violin, but I was determined. A good friend from New Zealand graciously agreed to give me lessons. Of course, she usually taught violin to five year olds, but I told her that would be perfect!

She found some music and the lessons began. I read music and play the guitar, so at least I had a bit of a head start. But nothing could have prepared me for the difficulty of this instrument. I bought a violin off the internet for 20 Euros (made in China) in case things didn’t go well. But I am happy to say that I can now play a reel. It’s short and sounds a bit like a dying cat, but I can play it none-the-less. Now I just have to get my great-grandfather’s fiddle repaired and the magic will happen. I promise to post the video!

For more information about the Skye Festival go to http://www.skyemusic.co.uk/festival.asp.

Malachite: The Stone of Love

26 Malachite Stone and Glyph

(This is my Malachite bead next to a carving by one of my kids.)

Malachite is my favorite stone in all the world. It’s absolutely beautiful and carries great lore as stones go.

I read that one of its many powerful properties is the ability to produce a deep love when worn next to the heart.

Perfect!

I also read a little known fact about Malachite. It has been found on the Isle of Skye.

Perfect!

So of course, I wrote this into my story. Kathryn finds a primitively carved malachite necklace. Not just any ordinary necklace, as she learns when she first visits the stone manor. You’ll find out what she discovers when you read the book. I don’t want to spoil it for you now.

I’ve been looking for a rounded piece of Malachite since I wrote about it. I needed the stone to be somewhat abnormal in shape, to give the illusion it was hand-carved. In the novel it has a Celtic Love Knot etched around it and a hole through the center so it can hang on its silver chain.

Since I had only imagined it, I decided it was time to take it from the printed page and have it made. Well the good news is I found the stone! In France, of course. I bought it, and now I’m waiting for one of my talented kids to volunteer to carve it for me. Any one of them, they’re all artistic. (This is where I’m hinting to said kids. Hint. Hint.)

I’ll let you know what happens.

Unruly Clans or Whose Castle is it Anyway?

72 Armandale Castle Skye

(Armadale Castle Ruins, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

If you’re looking for ancestors from the Isle of Skye and their last name is Macdonald, the place to go is the Clan Donald Library on the premises of Armadale Castle. The castle itself is a little drafty, as you can see from the above picture. The grounds and the view are beautiful. There are the formal gardens—lovely, but the wooded area was my favorite.

23 Armandale Forest Path

(Path into the Armadale Castle woods, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

As you enter through the vine tunnel, the spider tree appears. It creeped me out to walk under, as you can imagine, but I must say I’ve been considering a story to accompany this creepy spider tree standing guard over the woods.

47 Spider Tree Armandale Forest

(Spider tree in the woods near Armadale Castle, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Terri Hale)

Jim wandered around the grounds taking photos and well, wandering, while I made my way to the library to do a bit of research. I was met by a delightful woman, Margaret Macdonald, in charge of the library. She was as helpful as the records allowed. By that I mean my ancestors immigrated to America around 1774, a time when very few written records were kept on Skye. I did have the father’s name of my ancestor, but not his mother’s. I also had his three brothers who came to America with him. The names were common to the Sleat area (southern Skye). Of course, I think they only used about six first names during that time period, so how would anyone know really?

25 Sound of Sleat from Armandale

(View of the Sound of Sleat and the Hills of Knoydart from Armadale Castle, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

I did read a great book while in the library about the Macdonald Clan and the various surnames associated with this clan through blood kinship or allies. I found that the two families my Macdonald ancestors married into when they came to America were from the West Marches of Scotland. The Littles and the Carruthers were basically run out of the country by the English king because they were UNRULY.  This explains so many things. I could have claimed heredity for my unruly early years. But I’m getting off course here (see there it is—unruly story telling), In spite of all these fascinating family discoveries, I found nothing about what part of Skye my Macdonald ancestors originated from. So I made it up! There it is. That’s why I love writing fiction. I took a few facts and turned it into a fairy tale. So even though my ancestors were probably from southern Skye, I decided to place the Macdonald’s in my novel up north, near the Faerie Glen. And why wouldn’t I?

Of course, the dream of the stone manor (the premise for this novel) as I’ve written in an earlier post is not on my mother’s side of the family (Macdonalds), but on my father’s (Sherrills). Since Dad’s the one I share the dream with, it’s very likely that the stone manor of MY dream is actually in southwestern England, where my father’s ancestors were from. Also a tad unruly in their own right. The original ancestor was being transported to Barbados to work on a sugar plantation, but for some reason, which we will never know but I intend to write a whopping good story about, the ships captain put him and four other prisoners off the boat in North Carolina. My ancestor, a weaver who was imprisoned for we don’t know what in England, became one of the original Conestoga Fur Traders of early American history.

Okay, so much for the genealogy lesson. I read somewhere that every fiftyish-year-old woman is either writing her first novel or researching her ancestors. Always being one to follow the crowd (note sarcastic tone), I decided to do both. Party on!

Indian Food and Presbyterians: A Skye Tale

20 Saucy Mary's Lodge

(Saucy Mary’s Lodge, Kyleakin, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale.)

In the first draft of my novel, my main character, Kathryn, arrives on the Isle of Skye and stops at Saucy Mary’s for some fish and chips. It’s one of the first places to eat once you cross over the bridge from the mainland. I loved the name, and I loved the story behind the name even more.

The feisty Norse Princess Mary married Findanus Mackinnon. He was Lord of the Isles around 900 AD. Local legend says she laid a chain between the mainland and the Isle of Skye to collect a toll from passing ships.

21 Castle Moil Kyleakin Skye

(Castle Moil, aka Saucy Mary’s Castle, Kyleakin, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale.)

As you cross the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin you can see the remains of her castle. There is a Hostel Guest Lodge that bears her name complete with a pub. It was here I had Kathryn stop to eat her first meal on Skye.

Because of this, I intended to do the same when my husband and I took our trip to the Isle of Skye in 2008. I was following the story line to see if what I’d written worked. After driving the long five hours from the Glasgow airport to the Isle of Skye, we were ready for dinner…fish and chips from Saucy Mary’s. We’d stopped at Loch Lomond and Glencoe along the way, and unfortunately, had a flat tire on our rental car just before reaching the Skye Bridge. It was twilight. It was also our first encounter with the tiny vampires of Scotland…also known as midges. Once my handy husband changed the tire, we were off to the Misty Isle. I was so excited! After several years of writing and research I was finally going to experience Skye for myself. And search for my long lost ancestors…the Macdonalds!

As we rounded the final bend in the road, Skye came into view. I screamed, followed by uncontrollable clapping and laughing. Jim was undaunted, as this is a typical response when I’m really excited. I had him stop the car for a photo-op of the bridge, with the Cullin mountains in the background. Beautiful view! I still remember the awe of seeing it for the first time. The drive from Glasgow through the rugged landscape of western Scotland was fantastic, but the Isle of Skye was truly breathtaking.

With camera in hand we continued across the bridge and looked for Saucy Mary’s. Now here’s where my fairy tale trip took its first detour. (Cue impending doom music.) It was 8:05 when we pulled into the car park at the pub. We walked in and took a seat. I was doing the silent clap and giggle so as not to draw too much attention to myself. Someone said we had to order at the bar, so we walked over and asked for fish and chips. DENIED! The kitchen had closed at 8:00. (The cook had just left the building.) Are you kidding me? I wanted to scream, “I just flew over an OCEAN, and drove (technically Jim drove, but you get the point) for five hours to eat fish and chips at Saucy Mary’s for our first meal on Skye!” Instead we asked where we could find a place to eat. Jim was really hungry! It was Sunday evening, and as Skye is very Presbyterian, lots of places were closed on Sundays. They suggested the Indian Restaurant just up the road, as they are not Presbyterian. Now this is where I tell you how much I do not like Indian food. And it just seemed wrong on so many levels to eat it as our first meal on Skye. But alas, it’s what we did. We paid fifty dollars for some really, really bad Indian food. I’ve heard there are lots of great Indian dishes. We evidently did not choose any of these.

22 Macdonald B & B

(Peter and Jane Macdonald’s Bed and Breakfast, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by the Hales.)

Well anyway after let’s call it “dinner,” we drove to our bed and breakfast. Tired and hungry. But when we arrived and met the Macdonalds and saw the beautiful view of the Sound of Sleat with the Hills of Knoydart in the background, the fairy tale took a turn for the better.

As I lay in bed that night my mind would not rest. It was off on all kinds of adventures, searching for a stone manor, lost ancestors, and a faerie or two.

Waterfalls and Dragons: Who Knew?

69 Waterfall Dunvegan

(Waterfall in the gardens of Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim and Terri Hale)

I love waterfalls. Always have. I love the sound they make, the roar of the waters crashing over the rocks, the mist that fills the air and kisses my skin, the wonder of what might be hiding inside the mountain underneath the falls. This wonder led to a chapter in my novel. I have woven a tale of Skye in the 1740s throughout the contemporary story. This scene takes place in this backstory. Alexander and Mari, two young lovers, ride through the Druid Wood near Uig. Alexander is taking her to a secret place. Secret because few people ever venture into this enchanted wood. He asks her to close her eyes as they reach a clearing. As she steps out of the trees he tells her to look.

Mari squinted as the brightness of the sun flooded her eyes. She lifted her hand to her brow and sheltered it. Her mouth fell open, and she let out a tiny gasp as she walked forward, dropping her grip on Alexander’s arm. Before her lay a beautiful waterfall, surrounded by green ferns and wildflowers. Wild purple rhododendrons bloomed along a path that led to a cave opening beside the waterfall. At the base of the falls was a wee loch, clear and deep. The water was a beautiful shade of turquoise.

Alexander walked up behind her and whispered. “There is someone I’d like you to meet.”

18 Roman Bridge Near Kenmore, Scotland

(Waterfall with ancient Roman bridge near Loch Tay, Scotland. Photo by Jim and Terri Hale)

Waterfalls can evoke a myriad of emotions. Giant falls suggest great power, cleansing, redemption even. Smaller falls can lead to more tranquil feelings, bringing about more contemplative thoughts. All falls are romantic! The photo above was taken while on our first family trip to Scotland. We were camping near Loch Tay, and a local told us about several things that were MUST SEE in the area. These, he said, were not necessarily to be found in our travel guides. So we were all in! We found the oldest Yew tree in the UK, Macgregor’s Leap, and this beautiful Roman Bridge complete with an enchanted waterfall. I was sure that the stone manor I’d dreamed of would be just down the road. We drove, and drove, and drove. However, no stone manor. I’m still looking!

17 Waterfall Roadside Sleat Skye

(Small waterfall on the roadside in Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim and Terri Hale)

While thinking about writing this post, I wondered if there might be a link between waterfalls and dragons. (In light of  my ongoing quest.) THERE IS! I found this wonderful Chinese lore about the Dragon’s Gate. Legend has it that carp (and in Japanese stories koi) will find their way to a waterfall and attempt to swim/climb/jump to the top. Those few who make it turn into dragons. Not our scary Western dragons, but powerful, magical, beautiful Eastern Dragons! Symbols of perseverance, strength, wisdom. In fact, in China when scholars passed their literary exams they were said to have “passed thru the Dragon’s Gate.” Love it!

We’ve all heard or read stories of people attempting to go OVER the falls and survive. I believe those that are truly brave and strong are the ones who start at the base and make their way to top!

I often feel like I’m swimming upstream. I tire when I focus on the current I’m battling against and lose sight of my ultimate destination. Of course, in my mind I’m imagining a peaceful pool at the end of the struggle, crystal clear waters…no fish to nip at my legs or snakes to slither toward me. However, it appears there is, in fact, a raging waterfall at the end. (Of course!) In the past few months I feel like I’ve made it to the falls, where I’ve been attempting in my own meager way to jump to the top. However, when I step back and consider what lies ahead, I know when the time comes I will have the strength I need to make it to the top of the falls and become a DRAGON. No riding, no slaying, only becoming!

19 Waterfall through Tree Window

(Small falls on Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Terri Hale)

I’ve found a secret path to the top. I can’t make it there in my own strength. I’ve taken hold of my Creator’s hand, and together we will climb to the top of the falls, where I imagine myself becoming a beautiful turquoise dragon…with wings, of course. Oh, and fire-breathing. That might come in handy.

Fishing For An Agent: The Hook

16 Hills of Knoydart at Sunset

(Looking across the Sound of Sleat toward the hills of Knoydart. Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by the Hales)

A broken heart is not the end of all things. It can, if mixed with a hint of magic and a large amount of fate, lead to a life beyond ordinary dreams. Kathryn Trent, obsessed with a dream about a stone manor, leaves her failed marriage behind in Texas and embarks on an adventure. She escapes to Scotland in search of ancestors and the elusive manor. The wild and rugged landscape of the Isle of Skye, often shrouded in mist and shadow, is the perfect backdrop for Kathryn’s quest.

Woven through this modern day tale is the story of young Mari Macdonald, who lived on Skye near the Faerie Glen in a small farmhouse in the 1700s. She meets a young Alexander Macdonald, son of the clan leader, in the Faerie Glen and they fall in love. A promise to marry is made, but due to unforeseen tragic events this is a promise that will never be kept. Kathryn soon discovers the tie that binds she and Mari in a tapestry woven by Fate. What she finds on the mysterious island will change her life forever.

Kathryn’s new Scottish friends are as varied as the landscape on Skye. They include Donald, a Gaelic professor at the local college—who’s interested in more than linguistics when it comes to Kathryn, Jane, the genealogist at the Donald Library on the grounds of Armadale Castle, Angus, the rugged storyteller whose pub sits near the Faerie Glen, and Laird Duncan Macdonald and his sister, Lady Flora Macdonald of Glen Rowan. Kathryn’s two college age sons and her carefree younger sister, Beth, join her on Skye for her search for the stone manor.

There is a saying in Scotland, “The blood is strong.” Through a portrait and a promise, the magic of Kathryn’s ancestors illuminate her future. Once this future is revealed Kathryn must decide to take hold of it or walk away.

This is my initial book blurb. Does it grab you? Do you want to know more? I hope so.

After several years of working on my own (with input from friends and family), I felt my manuscript was as far along as I could take it without professional help. And I was SURE I needed professional help. I had been reading about self-publishing versus traditional publishing. I decided no matter which direction I chose to pursue, hiring an independent editor was worth the money. I did my homework, researched the top independent editors in New York City, and chose an editor from two different groups that sounded like they might be a good fit for me. I queried both, and as fate would have it, they both asked to talk by phone. After the phone interviews, they both offered to work with me on my manuscript. I was SO excited! This was going to be a significant monetary investment, so I took a day to reflect on the conversations I’d had with each editor. One took over an hour and we really clicked. The other was twenty minutes tops. She was very professional and straightforward, and I knew she would be fantastic but there just wasn’t the chemistry. I chose door number one.

Let me just say, “I LOVE MY EDITOR.” She’s amazing! I’ve gotten so much more than I paid for. First, there was the initial read through multiply times, then a detailed developmental edit with pages of the good, the bad, and the ugly. We talked by phone about it, and I began revising. This took months. She’d made some radical suggestions, but they felt right. After I’d completed the revision I sent it back for a line-by-line edit. Once I’d revised again we talked about agents, writing a query letter, and the dreaded synopsis. She is currently looking over my second attempt at the letter and synopsis. Once I revise these I’ll begin the process of seeking representation.

Taking a story from inception to publication is a lot of hard work. But I’ve loved every minute of it…thus far.

Enough about the “process” my novel’s been through. Let’s talk about the lovely picture at the beginning of this post. I took this from the driveway of the B&B we stayed in on the Isle of Skye. What you have to know is I’d never been here before. As I said in an earlier post, I’d only researched Skye on the internet. I chose this particular B&B because it was near Armadale Castle and the Donald Library, where I would be doing a bit of research on my ancestors. That, and the proprietor of the B&B was a Macdonald. I thought, “Hey, maybe we’re cousins…very distant cousins!” When we first arrived, and I saw this view, I was speechless. Really, I was. Below is an excerpt from my novel. Read on.

Kathryn set the phone on the seat next to her as she pulled into the cottage drive. She parked the car and sat looking out across the Sound to the hills of Knoydart. Life is as it should be for the first time in months, Kathryn thought. She leaned her head back against the seat and smiled.

DO YOU SEE IT? Look at the picture again. I was looking across the Sound of Sleat to the hills of Knoydart. UNBELIEVABLE!!!! It was the same view as I’d written in my novel. Coincidence? I think not. Lady Fate, I think so. I’ll introduce you to her in a later post. Her name is Rhan, and she lives near Uig, not far from the Faerie Glen.

Until next time.

Faerie Glen: Dragons Not Allowed

14 Me at Wee Loch Fairy Glen Skye

(Faerie Glen with wee loch, portal to the Otherworld, and Castle on Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

While writing my novel, I searched the internet for photos of the Isle of Skye. I’d never been there, and since it was the main setting for “The Stone Manor” I needed to find out all I could about the island. I came across a couple of pictures of the Faerie Glen and a short travel post. I was hooked! I googled it and began reading all I could about it, which at the time wasn’t much. It became the focal point for my back story that takes place in the 1700s.

I’ll never forget the feelings I had when we first drove into the wee glen with our personal tour guide, Peter Macdonald. It was 2008, and my husband Jim and I were spending a week on Skye so I could research my ancestors and check out all the places I’d written about in my novel. Like the actual time it took to drive from the Glasgow airport to Skye. Did I guess correctly? And did it really look like I said? That kind of thing. I’ll elaborate on this more in a later post. Lots of craziness happened. Anyway, back to the Faerie Glen. Peter didn’t normally take people there. In fact, I had to tell him how to get there…and that wasn’t easy. It was tucked away down a one-track road just outside Uig. He humored me and we found the road. As we rounded the corner there it was!!!!! I gasped and yelled, “Stop the car. Stop the car.” He did. I jumped out  and stood next to the miniature loch, crying and laughing at the same time. It was MAGICAL. It was BEAUTIFUL. It was ENCHANTED. And I was there!

15 Me in Fairy Glen Skye

(Me walking along the sheep trails in the Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

As I wandered off up the hillside toward the Portal to the Otherworld and the Faerie Castle, Jim tried to explain to Peter (a former police officer/faithful Presbyterian Skyelander) that I was off in search of the faeires. After a short visit in the glen I made my way back to the car, and Jim promised we’d return and stay as long as I’d like. When we did return several days later I wandered and searched and dreamed to my hearts content. It was glorious. Really! As we were leaving I picked up a tiny stone from the loch, as I am in the habit of doing. (I have a collection of memory stones from around the world. Doesn’t everyone?) But as I climbed into the front seat of our rental car I remembered what I’d read. It had to do with taking things from this faerie land. I even wrote about it in my novel. How could I have forgotten?! If you take anything…anything at all from the Faerie Glen you’ll bring very, very bad luck on yourself. The faeries will not take kindly to it. Not at all. So I got back out of the car and returned the stone to the loch, placing it exactly where I’d found it. I apologized and walked back to the car. (I’m serious people.) I was really sad not to take a part of this amazing place back home with me, but I just couldn’t. As I reopened the car door I looked down and on the ground by the car was a coin. I smiled. I picked it up. I thanked the glen…and the faeries for the gift. This did not belong in the glen, so it was a compromise of sorts. I still have the coin. It sits in the coconut-hull bowl filled with all my tiny treasures from the many places that are special to me.

So, there it is. Just as you’ve always suspected. I’m a bit of a nut. Actually, I’m a romantic…a romantic with a universe size imagination and a love for all things enchanted. Which is why I wrote my very own fairy tale. And someday, I hope you’ll be able to read it. Till then, I’ll keep blogging.

I Am My Father’s Daughter

12 Me and Dad Andes Chile 1974

(Dad and me, in 1974, in the Chilean Andes outside Santiago.)

My dad commented yesterday, Father’s Day, how great it was to share “the dream” with me. Let me explain. The recurring dream I have about the stone manor is evidently an “ancestral memory.” Don’t mean to sound creepy or heretical. Just stating the facts, ma’am. Besides many of you know how much I love faeries, fantasy, AND if I could have only one Super Power it would be flying!

Back to the dream. I was watching a Discovery Channel program a few years ago with Dad about Scotland. There was a beautiful one-track road with breath-taking views surrounding it, and Dad made the comment that it looked a bit like a dream he’s had for years. He began describing it, and I told him I’d had the exact same dream, beginning when I was eighteen years old. Crazy, we thought. Then later, I was in the car with my husband and our three sons, and I began to tell them about the dream and before I could explain what it was about our eldest son, Trevor, said, “You mean the one about the castle? Well, it’s not really a castle more like a great stone manor.” He was eighteen. He’d had the SAME dream. Can we all just let out a big CRAZY SCREAM right now? (Thanks for that.) Anyway, this dream helped form the main  “magical” element of my novel.

We took a trip to Scotland in 2002 with our three boys, all teenagers, and spent some of that time looking for the “dream” manor. No luck. We DO have a lovely daughter, but she was married and did not make this trip with us. Another time!

When I found ancestors from the Isle of Skye, I was elated. The fact that they’re on my mother’s side did not dissuade me. I KNOW my dad has ancestors from south-western England, Ireland, and Scotland. Somewhere there is a stone manor, and someday I will find it! In the meantime, I’m borrowing my mother’s ancestors, the Macdonalds, who immigrated to America around 1774 from Skye and grafting them into the stone manor dream. Sometimes I forget I’ve mixed the two. Like when Jim and I spent a week in Skye in 2008, researching for my novel. I was actually looking for the manor. Hey, it could happen!

A couple of years ago, my husband graciously agreed to accompany me on a search to the far south-western edge of Wales to look for a stone castle where one of my dad’s ancestors had lived. It had been described as a Fortified Manor House. Hmm. Could this be the one? It was awesome! We drove up in the rain, which is the only way one should see a castle in ruins in Wales. Alas, it was not our dream manor, but will make for a great setting in another novel.

13 Woebley Castle, Swansea, Wales

(Weoley Castle, Southwestern Wales. Photo by Jim Hale)

My dad is a STORYTELLER in the truest sense of the word. I’ve inherited this from him, and I am grateful. I love you Dad. Thanks for the FANTASTIC heritage.