Oh, the Places I Write!

Our Kaysersberg flat

I’ve been taking every spare moment of late to finish my second novel (and begin the sequel to THE STONE MANOR), so my blog has sat dormant. With Book One of my YA Fantasy ready for an agent, I thought it might be interesting to backtrack a few of the many enchanting places I sat creating this fairy tale. It began in our cozy flat in the Alsatian village of Kayserberg, the setting for the novel. The village, not the flat. That’s our building. The ground floor is the restaurant, the next three floors are apartments. Ours is on the top floor, sitting up under the eaves. It was the old family flat, so lots of room, full kitchen, lovely antique furnishings, fantastic views.

Jean Jacques restaurant

This is the enchanting restaurant on the ground floor of our building, Le Capucin. It was home to my writing fits on numerous occasions. I ate more tarte flambée than should be allowed, but then I was in Alsace. If you are ever in Kaysersberg, which everyone should be at least once in their life, stop in and eat. Tell Jean Jacques and Gabrielle, I sent you. They are enchanting! More about them later.

Me writing in front of Kaysersberg apartment

When not writing inside the restaurant, I might be found outside in their sidewalk cafe area.

Me writing in kitchen in Kaysersberg

Some days I chose to stay in our flat and write at the kitchen table.

Me writing at bakery in Kaysersberg

Just down from our building was a trendy little French cafe. If the weather was nice, which it was often, I could be found here, trying to focus on my writing and not on the people around me.

Me writing at favorite bakery in Kaysersberg

A bit further down the street is my very favorite pâtisserie, Au Péché Mignon. Have you noticed a pattern? I eat, and I write. Why wouldn’t I? Right? The chocolate pastries are legendary. It’s a good thing our flat was on the 4th floor. Lots of walking, climbing, walking some more. And then we eat.

Me writing on bench Kaysersberg

Another of my favorite places to write was on this bench, above the village, near the chateau ruins. I would say this one does not have to do with food, but I think we actually picnic’d here.

Me writing at apartment in WF

When I was first diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2012, we got an apartment in Wichita Falls, Texas to be near our daughter and her family and near my oncologist in Grapevine. When we weren’t in Europe training and traveling for Young Life, I was here. And when I had moments of clarity and small windows of creativity, I would write . . . this fairy tale. I believe this story, this Alsatian tale, has been a therapeutic exercise for me, a means of escape through difficult times. There were days I killed off characters, and it was the right thing to do. I felt guilty the first time it happened because, as is often the case, she didn’t deserve it. I loved creating a world of my own making, some parts of it drawn from history, some drawn from folklore told me by people from our village, and some from my own imagination. I love being a writer!

My writing studio

We are no longer in that little apartment, a place that became my sanctuary. We now live right around the corner from our daughter in a lovely home. A gift to our family from God when we weren’t looking for it because we didn’t know we needed it. A few months after buying the home and moving in, our daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, this is where I write in those spare moments when we are in Texas and not in Europe, my very own space. It is as quirky and eccentric as I am.

The End screen Amélie

It is where I typed this. Book One of my Alsatian trilogy has come to an end and is waiting to be discovered and given wings. I am very attached to this story because of the life I lived while writing it. Amélie and I have gone through a lot together. I am so grateful she introduced herself to me in that enchanted village in France. I have loved telling her story so far, and I can’t wait to continue the adventure that is her life in Book Two.

The smoke rising from lavender candle

And now, we wait.

 

Fairy Tale . . . Shoot!

IMG_2749

Fairy Tale Shoot was my January 2015 post. My first and only post of the year. The reason being, our daughter Rachel was diagnosed in February with breast cancer. The dreaded C dragon swooped into our realm and darkened our family fairy tale.

11050735_10204213258631629_3489075642887217819_n

(Before things went dark.)

2014 had been a difficult year for our family, so I was happy to say goodbye to it and welcome 2015 with open arms. Rachel traveled to Nacogdoches with me to be my personal assistant, (a.k.a. hairstylist, make-up artist, photographer, cheerleader), as I attended my very first Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend. I met Kathy Murphy, the founder and Queen Herself, along with many fabulous authors and book club members. It was a fun, enchanting time. At the end of the weekend. Rachel and I went to a wooded spot and did a magical photo shoot of my Fairy Godmother persona. ( Rachel is a fantastic professional photographer. Score.)

Then February came along and on our granddaughter’s birthday the dreaded news came, and our world turned upside down. It is still upside down as she is still in treatment, but the prognosis looks good, and we are grateful for God’s presence with us in these hard days, weeks, months, and now year.

IMG_0279

(Siblings: Sean and Rachel)

IMG_0862

(Family Racing for the Cure!)

This has been her personal fight, but not without the support of our entire extended family and many, many friends. We have all surrounded her with every ounce of love and strength and courage we could muster, and then, we abide. It’s a helpless feeling to watch your child fight for her life. There are no words to truly describe the depths of these emotions, so I won’t even try. But, I have watched her stand strong, and on those days she could not stand, I watched her husband carry her . . . I watched her brothers lean in . . . I watched her family and friends circle up around her . . . I stood with her dad on her behalf.

IMG_0919

And yet . . . there are days when no one else can stand up for her, and she fights on because she is a warrior. She is strong and brave and beautiful. And I love her with all my heart.

IMG_1028

The battle continues. It requires the drinking of poison for an entire year, but she has beaten the C dragon, and she has the scars to prove it. Fairy Tale . . . shoot! This is real life!

IMG_1031

And because this is real life, I write fairy tales. There are days I cannot gather one creative thought, and I sit. Then, I am carried away by my own emotions and I write. Several characters lost their lives in 2015. It was a dangerous year. However, no matter how dark and desperate things appear, I will bring light to my story, and my heroines will be strong and courageous, ever-flawed, but heroes just the same.

I have come to realize I cannot wish away bad years, bad months, bad weeks, bad days. What I can do is embrace each day as a gift. I have to take it as it comes and do with it what I can. I have to live in the middle of the pain and the mess and feel it completely. And, I am grateful for the days that are full of joy and beauty and light, because I have those as well. Life is an adventure! Grab your sword, your bow, your wand, your pen, whatever weapon you use and join in.

18091_10150505631434984_4205084225847047819_n

This hangs on the wall in my writing studio as a reminder.

(Original quote by G. K. Chesterson: “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children dragons can be killed.”)

 

Virtual Book Tour of Skye: Day Three

 

Celtic Cross

(Celtic Cross in the cemetery at Kilmore Church.)

It’s another lovely day on the Isle of Skye. Thank you to Jane for our delicious breakfast. Shall we go?

Sheep

Time for our final day of touring Sleat, the southern region of Skye. It’s also referred to as “the garden of the Isle.” In times past, this area was covered in woods. Now it’s covered in sheep. Being as we’ve time traveled to spring, it’s covered in lambs. Aren’t they cute? I do realize they’re being raised to eat. I personally cannot bear to eat any young animal. My husband doesn’t share this burden. I know. I hear you. The meat is so tender. That would be because it’s a baby! Just sayin’. But let’s not argue about that. We’ve wonderful things to see. More magic tales to tell.

Sabhal

Our first stop is Sabhal Mór Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic College. It was established in 1973. Courses are taught in Gaelic. (Kathryn took Gaelic for Beginners and a course on the history of the region here in THE STONE MANOR.) If you’re interested, the college offers summer courses, in addition to year around classes.

Chruch ruins

Just down the road is Kilmore Parish Church and cemetery. It is believed that this was originally a site of pagan worship. In 585 AD, St. Columba is said to have arrived here and preached to the local inhabitants. There is a reef just below the church grounds known as Sgeir Chaluim Cille, St. Columba’s Rock.

Tombstone

The original church was built in the early 1100s and lasted till the 1600s, when it burned to the ground during a battle between the MacLeods and the MacIntyres, a sept of Clan Donald. When the MacIntyres took sanctuary in the church, the MacLeods barricaded the doorways and set fire to the thatch roof, burning it to the ground along with all inside. Such a violent tale.

2nd Kilmore Church

The second church was built around 1681 by Sir Donald MacDonald of Sleat. It was this church Dr. Johnson and James Boswell visited on their tour of the Hebrides almost a century later. It was used until 1874 when it fell into ruin.

3rd Kilmore Church

A third and final church was built in 1876. It is still standing and in use to this day. It is part of the Church of Scotland. A Gaelic service is held the third Sunday of each month.

Knock Castle

Leaving the church grounds, let’s travel a wee bit further to Knock Castle, also known as Caisteal Chamuis. It was originally the site of an Iron Age fort, Dun Thoravaig. The first castle was built here in the 1300s by the MacLeods. As was the way of most castles on Sleat, in the early 1400s it came under the control of the MacDonalds. James I seized it in 1431 to impose his authority on the Lord of the Isles, but it was recaptured by the MacDonalds and remodeled in 1596. By 1689, it was abandoned and became a quarry for other building projects in the area, a common practice. The current occupants are said to be two ghosts, the Green Lady, associated with the fortunes of the former residents of the castle, and a ghost that cares for cattle. Since the castle is in ruins, and most cattle were replaced by sheep, it appears these ghosts have very little to do these days.

Sheep video

Turning off the main road, let’s cut across the island and head north on a single track road. Look more sheep. It’s cool and windy! But, no complaints on our part because the sun has decided to shine. Rare, indeed.

Ord

After stopping several times for sheep crossing, we’ve finally made it to the village of Ord on Loch Eishort. You can see the Cullins across the Loch. Let’s stop for a walk on the sandy beach, one of the few on Skye. It’s low tide so we might find treasures along the shore. Keep your eyes open.

Druid Wood

Back in the Rover, and we’ll head south along Srón Daraich, the Durid Wood, named for the oak that grow among the hazel and birch. These were considered sacred woods in ancient times. They covered much of Skye. However, there were terrors in the woods. Wolves. Lots and lots of wolves. Many of the trees were cut down for firewood, boat-building, and as a way to remove the home of the wolf.

Dunscaith Castle

Look, our final castle ruin for today. We’ll park and walk to the point. Take care. Castle of Dunscaith is more correctly known as “Dun Sgathaich,” the Dun of the Shadow. Legend states this Dun was built in one night and was home to Sgathach, the mythical Amazon queen who instructed Cuchullin, a young Fingalian hero, in the martial arts. It was said to be protected by a pit full of snakes and beaked toads. Between the powerful goddess, the snakes, toads, and wolves, this was quite a fearsome spot. As I said before, take care and watch your step.

Loch Donald

Alright, are we all accounted for? Good. Let’s load up and head back across the island  on yet another single track road toward our B&B. This time we’ll be driving through much of the Donald Land Trust. The loch to your left is full of all manner of fish. It’s possible to get permission to fish here, but I’ve been told there is a Waterhorse that lives in the loch. A Waterhorse is a mythical creature. And, this one isn’t friendly. I’d be inclined to take my fish from another loch.

Lamb

Look. We’re returned safe and sound. No encounters with wolves, since the last wolf in Scotland was said to be killed in 1680. And, we escaped the Waterhorse. Hungry anyone? I say we find some local fish. No lamb, please.