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Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

Drum Castle

Drum Castle, Scotland

 “Are some people destined for a great fate, or to do great things? Or is it only that they’re born somehow with that great passion — and if they find themselves in the right circumstances, then things happen? It’s the sort of thing you wonder…” Diana Gabaldon, Voyager

I think this is a most interesting question. In my opinion, certain people find themselves in the right circumstances and they have the bravery, passion, faith, or foolhardiness to step into the eye of the storm. I do include ‘foolhardiness’ as an attribute, because sometimes only a fool would step into harm’s way!

What do you think – are certain people destined for greatness, or do circumstances call forth the best from men and women?

And for you fellow Diana Galbadon fans, here’s a link to her blog.

I hope you’re enjoying my blog posts and links. Want to show some love? Visit my Amazon page and consider buying a book. 🙂

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Oct 2013 import 459 “Character, I think, is the single most important thing in fiction. You might read a book once for its interesting plot—but not twice.” – Diana Gabaldon

I agree with this quote. I return to books to revisit the characters I’ve grown to love. I enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books as a girl because of central character, Laura, and her family and friends. I re-read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, because I wanted to be like Jo. I’ve twice-read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and its sequels because of Katniss Everdeen. And I’m currently caught up in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress because of the characters.

Today’s quotable author, Diana Gabaldon, created two wonderful central characters: Claire and Jamie. And let’s be honest, most women would fall for Jaime.

Here’s another Gabaldon quote which would send many women into a swoon: “When the day shall come that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.” – Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

How about you? Do characters draw you into a book? Do they make you re-read books?
(BTW, this photo and all others posted with Diana Gabaldon quotes were taken by me in Scotland).

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Author Diana Gabaldon “I stood still, vision blurring, and in that moment, I heard my heart break. It was a small, clean sound, like the snapping of a flower’s stem.” – Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber

Sigh. I wish I’d written this quote. I’m a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s books, and had the good fortune to be in Edinburgh in 2009 when she was speaking at The Gathering.

Many of the attendees at that event sprawled on the hillside listening to Celtic musical performers and wandered through the tents set up by the various Scottish Clans. I, too, heard many of the musical acts, visited the Irvine/Irwin tent, and even spotted Prince Charles walking about with his bodyguards.

But the highlight of The Gathering for me was listening to author Diana Gabaldon talk about her writing, books, and central characters: Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser.

After her talk, I was also able to meet her and have her autograph several of her books for me. The quickly-snapped photo shown here is of Diana. She, I assure you, is much lovelier in person.

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I write this to you as I prepare to board a plane back to the USA after spending 2 weeks in Scotland. Truly, this lovely country feels like it’s the home of hobbits, wizards, goblins, and more.

But even as I leave the island that gave us J.R.R. Tolkien, I cannot help but wish all I see a Happy Hobbit Day – celebrated on September 22, birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

For all you Tolkien fans, take a look at my Hobbits Day post from 2011, and enjoy breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper in honor of hobbits on this most wonderful day!

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 Folks often ask me how to find the magical, and today’s response is, “Get off of the bus!” Let me explain… In 2009, I visited Scotland with my mom, sisters, and about 45 distant cousins that were part of a Scottish Clan Irwin tour. One afternoon we were scheduled to make a last stop at Balnuaran of Clava before heading back to our hotel. It was late and rain was beating heavily on the roof of our bus. We pulled into the parking area (which seemed to actually divide one of the circles of standing stones), and the tour leader asked, “Does anyone want to get out and walk around? It’s just a bunch of stones.”

 I raised my hand. Luckily, a couple of the other members of the group wanted to see the Neolithic graves with their Bronze Age standing stone circles, too. So a handful of us got off the bus bundled in raincoats and toting umbrellas. And the place was magical!

Balnuaran of Clava is one of a number of prehistoric cemeteries built more than 3,000 years ago in the Inverness region of the Highlands near the River Nairn. It’s surrounded by woods and farmlands — and on that gray afternoon, it was quite lonely. I took out my camera, doing my best to shield it from rain, and snapped a few pictures before the bus driver beeped the horn and summoned me back. But I could have stayed much longer in that misty woods.

 There were 3 stone cairns or graves. The one closest to the parking lot was a passage cairn. The central grave was a ring-cairn with no entrance into its pile of stones. And the grave furthermost from the parking area was also a passage cairn. According to authorities, each grave was constructed for a single individual, and as I touched the moss-covered, lichen-riddled boulders, I felt the ancientness of the site. And I felt it was alive with the unseen.

When I stood at the entrance to the far Southwest passage cairn, it became evident that it aligned with the entrance to the Northeast passage cairn. Later, I learned that alignment marked the Midwinter sunset. Perhaps the astronomical meaning was part of the magic I felt.

 The construction of the cairns seemed a bit haphazard at first glance, but upon looking closely, I could see stones were carefully stacked without mortar of any sort. To help stabilize the smaller rocks, large boulders had been placed around the outside of each grave as kerbs. As I examined the interior of one of the passage cairns, I could swear I heard a murmuring of voices along with the raindrops pelting rocks, leaves, and my raincoat.

Then, I noticed one of the standing stones that surrounded each cairn was split. For what purpose? I had no idea.  But the writer part of me imagined it was a gateway to Faerie or the past or another dimension. So I snapped a quick picture as I realized I was the last person at Balnuaran of Clava.

“I’m sorry I can’t stay longer,” I whispered to the spirits that seemed to hover nearby. I did not take a pebble or even a blade of grass away with me. To do so seemed wrong. Later, I heard one of the locals say that a tourist once took a rock from Balnuaran of Clava home and suffered so much misfortune that he later mailed the rock back to the Inverness Tourist Board. Perhaps the story is a bit of foolishness — but I had known not to take from the unseen amongst us.

 Because I got off of the bus that day in Scotland when others chose to remain warm and dry — I saw the magical. I experienced the mystical. And perhaps, I even caught some of that on film! The images published here have not been altered. The blurred areas in some of the pictures are most certainly raindrips or condensation or faulty photography of some sort. Or perhaps not.

I leave it to the viewer of these photographs and others who’ve visited the ancient burial and astronomical site of Balnuaran of Clava to decide for themselves. As for me?  I still believe the mystical and magical are all around us. And I write about it in my books: The Greener Forest, Owl Light, The Enchanted Skean, and elsewhere. (And here’s the Link for UK readers).

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Bonshaw Tower & Estate

Several people have asked me of late  why I chose The Greener Forest as the title of my first book of fantasy short stories. The title actually comes from a trip I took to Scotland with my mom, 3 sisters, and a bus full of distant cousins in 2009. These cousins are all associated with the Scottish Clan Irwin Association — and yes, if you go back a few generations, one of my ancestors was the American Revolutionary War hero, General William Irvine.

Drum Castle

The trip included visits to numerous historical and cultural locations: Edinburgh, Isle of Iona, Culloden, Fort George, Aboyne Highland Games, Urquhart Castle along Loch Ness, Glencoe, Aberdeen City Hall, Stirling Castle, Wallace Monument…

One of the most unique things about this trip was a tour of Bonshaw Tower & Estate in the border area led by present laird, Christopher Irving, and a tea hosted by his lovely wife, Claire. The second very special part of the trip was a tour of Drum Castle & Gardens given by David Irvine, 26th Baron of Drum and Chief of the Name and Lady Carolyn.

Drum Castle Greener Trees

It was while visiting Drum Castle, that I wandered into the woods near the small stone Drum Chapel. This little bit of Irvine woods seemed greener and more steeped in myth & Faerie than almost anywhere else I’d ever been. I was quite certain that if no one else was about, a hobbit or elf or other shy Tolkien creature might pop his head around the side of a tree and motion for me to follow them into the even greener depths of the forest. Or I’d stroll between an arch of branches and find myself in Narnia chatting with a faun.

More Drum Castle trees

And that’s when I decided the book of fantasy stories I wanted to put together should be titled: The Greener Forest.

My stories are certainly not equal to those of JRR Tolkien or CS Lewis, but I nevertheless try to put a little of the same magic into them. Readers, if you like fantasy, I hope you’ll give The Greener Forest a look. Writers, if you have the good fortune to travel — keep your ears and eyes open. You never know when inspiration will be standing in front of you. 

 And writers, remember Cold Moon Press: http://coldmoonpress.com  is actively looking for new authors. What do they want? Buy my book and you’ll see!

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