Skye Book Tour: Day Two

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Good morning! I hope your sleep was wonderful. Step outside now that it’s daylight. This was Kathryn’s view, and it’s ours as well. Veiled in the mist are the Hills of Knoydart just across the Sound of Sleat. Isn’t it lovely? A wee bit of heather here and there. By the way, someone left their sunglasses in the rover. You’ll not find a lot of need for them here.

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Here’s a magical bit of information. First one of the day. When my husband, Jim, and I first came to Skye this is where we stayed as well. I chose it from the internet solely based on the names of the proprietors being Macdonald and the fact, he was a top tour guide. When we awoke, and I saw the view my first morning here I squealed (ever so softly as not to terrify Jim or the Macdonalds). This was the view I had written into my novel for Kathryn to see when she rented her very own cottage. I know! Magic.

Enough about the view, let’s head to Armandale Castle, home of the Lord of the Isles, the MacDonalds.

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Failte! Welcome to my ancestral home! Of course, I’ve been unable to locate just exactly where my Skye MacDonald ancestors lived. But, I think this might have been a nice spot. So why not?

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Much of the castle was burned in 1855, but it is formidable. In the 15th century, the Clan Donald was established on the Isle of Skye. From the 1650s, the MacDonald chiefs began to stay at Armandale in addition to their other castles around the island. In 1925, the MacDonald family moved to a smaller house, abandoning Armandale to the elements.

25 Sound of Sleat from Armandale

The gardens surrounding the castle and the wild woods adjacent to it are wonderful. The plantings seen around the castle grounds were started around 1790. The view from the front lawn is breathtaking when the mist chooses to lift. I’ve seen pictures of lovely weddings here.

23 Armandale Forest Path

Let’s take a walk through the woods. But beware. We will have to pass the guardian of the wood. Prepare yourselves. First, we’ll pass through the Dreamcatcher. Watch your heads . . . and well, just watch it.

47 Spider Tree Armandale Forest

Here we are. The guardian of the woods. You’re welcome to take photos while I speak with her. There now. All are welcome to pass. What did I say to her? That would be between me and the guardian. Wee bit of magic and all.

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The forest path is lined with wild flowers and ferns. Can you detect the scent that hangs heavy in the air? Yes, you’re right. Wild garlic. And there are orchids and blue bells of Scotland aplenty. Giant fir, beech, and birch trees fill the woods.

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The Clan Donald estate is home to red deer and golden eagles. And if we’re lucky we might spot a sea eagle. Oh look! A Viking boat in the middle of the woods. I’d say this is a good time to leave in case there are any lurking in forest. On to the gardens.

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The gardens are filled with beautiful Rhododendrun bushes in full bloom. What a sight! In East Texas we have Azalea gardens that are beautiful, but these plants are fantastic. There are many exotic plants from around the world planted in the castle grounds, as is only right for the home to the Lord of the Isles.

A visit to the Donald Library on our way out is always a good idea. My family tree is housed in this library. My actual personal family tree with the names of my children and grandchildren included This makes me so happy.  After we take a quick look in the library, we will tour the Museum of the Isles. It’s fascinating! We’re sure to be ready for a bite of something chocolate and a cup of coffee after the museum. The former stables of the castle are now a gift shop and restaurant. All the tartans of the MacDonald Clan hang on the walls around the dinning hall. I’ll be sure to point mine out!

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I hope you enjoyed the visit to Armandale. It’s a short drive along the Sound to the end of Sleat. There’s a story to be told along the way. I promised you yesterday. Are you ready?

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Local legend says there were three young men swimming in the small bay on the southern shore of Sleat. Three seals were watching them and magically transformed into three beautiful young women. They swam over to the young men, who had no idea they were Selkies, and instantly the boys fell in love with the young women. Once they all reached shore, the young men saw the seal skins on the beach and realized who these girls were. Two of the boys told the third to take the skins and hide them while they distracted the girls. Reluctantly, he did this. They all three married the girls soon after their meeting. A year passed and one of the wives tricked her husband into showing her where the skins were hidden. She took them, and the three wives returned to the sea with their skins and became seals again. The three young husbands were heartbroken and followed them into the sea. The young men turned to stone. If you sit along the hillside to this day you might catch a glimpse of three seals sitting on the three rocks. There’s the final bit of magic for today’s tour.

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We’ve had a full day. With the sun setting, let’s stop at the Ardvasar Restaurant for dinner. It was one of Kathryn’s favorites. Who knows? Sarah might be working. If so, she’ll be happy to see us. Haggis anyone?


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.