Fairy Tale . . . Shoot!

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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.

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(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.

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(Siblings: Sean and Rachel)

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(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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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 Skye Book Tour: Day Five in the Fairy Glen

Wide view of me in Fairy Glen

I’m beyond excited for our tour today! We’ve traveled north from Sleat through the middle of Skye. We’ve seen the Black Cullins, such beautiful mountains. A lovely lone lighthouse sits near Dùn Beag, an Iron Age fort. Continuing north, we came to Dunvegan Castle, home to Clan MacLeod. Being MacDonalds, we made a quick stop there being as it’s a lovely castle, still occupied, and it houses the famous fairy flag. Always been a bit jealous of the fact that they had their own fairy flag.

After Dunvegan, we cut across the northwestern part of the island and up toward Uig. We took a right on the road to Sheader. It’s a single-track dead-end road. As it should be, since it leads to the magical Fairy Glen.

Me standing on knoll in Fairy Glen

Here’s a small area to park the Land Rover. Follow me to the knoll overlooking the wee loch and hillsides. We’re the only humans here at the moment. So enjoy the peace and quiet of the glen. Watch your step and try not to disturb anything.

Me standing beside loch in Fairy Glen

Look. Sheep on the hillside and a fairy inviting us to walk the path along the loch and up the hillside. Remember, don’t pick up anything from the glen as a keepsake. If you take anything with you, the locals say it will bring you very, very bad luck. Just wanted to warn you.

Path leading to Portal and Castle in Fairy Glen

This is the path leading to the Portal to the Otherworld on the right and Castle Ewen on the left. The portal is where Kathryn left her Box of Terrors (buttons) in THE STONE MANOR.

Portal to Otherworld in Fairy Glen

Here’s a closer view of the Portal. Feel free to leave a gift or something of yourself in the entrance. Just don’t lean in too far or you might be snatched away into the deep fairy mound. If you leave a knife blade stuck in the ground of the opening, you can enter the portal and return at will. Otherwise we might not see you again.

Castle and Portal View

Castle Ewan is the site where Beth and the boys climbed. There’s a great view of Glenconnan from the top.

Mossy knoll in Fairy Glen

If you glance to the right on the moss covered ground you might see a fairy. But don’t let them know you’re looking for them. They like to surprise you.

Path on top of Fairy Glen

Walking past the portal and the castle, we’ll take this rocky pathway to the stone spiral. There are many stone altars up here with various gifts left for . . . well someone.

Stone circle on hillside in Fairy Glen

On the far right side up ahead you can see the stone spiral. This is where Mairi returned the Snowdrop her grandmother, Margaret, had taken from the Fairy Glen. It’s also where, Kathryn, Beth, Ian, and Sean made their wishes.

Close up of stone circle in Fairy Glen

Go ahead. Walk through the spiral to the center, turn three times, and make a wish. Be careful though. Don’t disturb any of the rocks. There are several missing. This could not have gone well for the person who removed them. We don’t want to suffer their same fate. I know it couldn’t have been good.

Enclosure ruins in Fairy Glen

Let’s walk down the road to the end. There’s something I’d like you to see. First, we’ll pass these stone ruins. Such a lovely peaceful place.

Rowan tree with sheep

Oh look! It’s the rowan tree where Mairi practiced her shooting skills with her bow. And her sheep are resting under the tree. Just around the bend we’ll come to a farm and a view worth seeing.

Falls view across glen at Fairy Glen

Breathtaking, isn’t it? I’ve been told the falls are normally much bigger. This spring was unusually dry. They’re still amazing. Glenconnon is massive. Looking back toward the bay and Uig you can see some houses. These belong to the Graham clan. Billy Graham’s family came from here.

Wizard Hat conical in Fairy Glen

Alright, everyone back to the Fairy Glen and the Rover. Say your goodbyes to this magical place and those who live here. I thought the final view of the Wizard’s Hat conical would be fitting. Now, on to Uig to see the standing stone and the pier where Duncan and Kathryn had an up-close encounter.

So tell me, who was fortunate enough to have a fairy sighting?

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.

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(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.

 

New Novel: Setting the Stage

43 Writing Desk at Christmas

My writing nook…

While fishing for an agent for my novel, The Stone Manor, I’m beginning work on a new story. As is always the case, I need to regroup, leave Scotland behind for the moment and move my imagination and soul into Alsace, France. I find it helpful to surround myself with items and photographs from the setting of my new novel.

44 Pics Above Writing Desk

FOR EXAMPLE…on the wall above my desk are frames filled with pictures from the village where my story takes place. Top left being my heroines home. I will change out photos as the writing progresses with my many pictures from visits to this beautiful Alsatian village. Eventually, I plan to spend some extended time in the village writing. For now, photographs will have to do.

Sitting atop my desk are two wine bottles, which I’ve turned into candle holders. Yes, I do light these while writing. Ambiance, ambiance, ambiance. The bottle on left was purchased from Kaysersberg, Alsace, France, my story setting.

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In fact, if you look closely, my main characters house is on the label. Even better. The house is now a winery. The magic continues. The bottle on the right is a California wine called Bohemian Highway. I just love the name and label. Just a personal statement here.

The stack of books are the beginnings of my research. Life in a Medieval Village, Life in a Medieval Castle, A World Lit Only by Fire, Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel to name but a few. Writing a book well takes lots and lots and lots of research. The magic comes in the ability to take all this research and fold it seamlessly into a story, a story worth reading.

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The final touches to begin my writing…fairy dust. No, really. I’ve got my feather pen from HP, my enchanted mug filled with delicious hot tea, and no writing desk would be complete without a holder full of all manner of pens and pencils, a pirate flag, and two, count them, fairy wands for good measure. Yes, that should do it.

By the the time you read this post, I should be well on my way to finishing the first chapter of this new adventure. A first chapter that will inevitably get cut, trimmed, or moved before it’s all over. But, I must start somewhere…and I have found that chapter one is a very good place to begin.

In a land of light and shadow, a very long time ago, there lived a girl. Her name was Amelie.

Prague: Medieval Magic and Majesty

 

40 Charles Bridge Prague Night

(Walking across the Charles Bridge.)

One of my favorite European cities is Prague, Czech Republic…

I love standing in the center of the Charles Bridge at night with smoke rising from the rooftop stacks and mist hanging heavy in the air. Medieval spires pierce the darkness evoking a sense of magic and mystery to the night. I imagine the yellow light cast upon the rooftops to be from oil lamps. Is there any wonder, Prague has been the setting of cryptic legends and espionage through the ages?

41 Lennon Wall Eye

(John Lennon Peace Wall near Charles Bridge, Prague)

It’s also a city of love with the hope of peace. The John Lennon Peace Wall located at Mala Strana across from the French Embassy is a symbol of this sentiment. It is ever changing, a living work of art and personal expression. It began during the 1980s, when Czech youth covered the wall with lyrics of peace and freedom from Lennon’s music. They also wrote anti-communist words of protest. It became a war for freedom of speech in a time and place where there was none. The authorities would white-wash the wall only to find it full the following day. The Velvet Revolution brought about freedom for the Czech people…and the graffiti continued with words of love and peace. Check it out and leave your own message.

42 Me and Jim Kissing at Lennon Wall

(Jim and I making our magic.)

Or if you’re fortunate, you’ll share the experience of this awesome place with someone you love. I did!

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.