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Archive for June, 2012

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(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.

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(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!

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(Photo above: Armadale Castle, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo taken by Jim Hale)

I’ve written a novel. It began as a dream, which turned into an idea, which found its way into words in a short story April 14, 2006. Lady of the Glen, as it was called then, was 3,800 words short and an assignment for my second Creative Fiction class at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Dr. John McDermott was my first ever writing professor, now good friend. In the Fall of 2006, I took a Fantasy and Magic Realism class from John’s wife, Dr. Christine Butterworth-McDermott. my second ever writing professor, now good friend. By November, Lady of the Glen had grown to 5,700 words and Christine planted the seed that this could be something bigger. A novel. I’d never seriously considered writing a novel. I continued working on the story and expanding it. Spring 2007 found me in my fourth Creative Writing class with Writer-in-Residence, Joe Lansdale teaching. He continued to encourage me to pursue writing seriously and helped with the “business” end of the craft. I am forever indebted to these three amazing writers. I decided this was a dragon worth riding. It’s been a LONG HARD ride, but well worth it. I’ve loved almost every minute of it. Apart from the dreaded query letters and synopsis. My novel now stands at 81,000 words and is titled The Stone Manor. It’s Women’s Fiction with strong elements of romance and magic realism. I think my favorite part about this novel is it’s based on a dream I had. A recurring dream that began when I was eighteen years old…of a stone manor. As I started to write this novel, I decided to search for ancestors in Scotland. I’d heard we had lots of Scots blood on both sides, and I just knew the manor of my dream was somewhere in the Highlands. I’ll never forget the day I was researching on Ancestors.com and hit the jackpot. Macdonalds from the Isle of Skye! I screamed out-loud. The plot thickened and characters were born. A trip to Skye followed. But I’ll save that for another post…another day.

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I’ve decided to get serious about this blog o’mine. Instead of waiting for a clue as to which direction I should go…I’m going to be true to myself and be random! At first this was going to be a blog about the process of writing/publishing a novel. Then, there was this crazy little interruption this spring in the form of a cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, I decided I should blog about that. However, I’m in a holding pattern of sorts with my cancer, thank God for this. So, in light of my always unpredictable life, I’ve decided my posts should follow the same pattern. Welcome to my world.

Are there things you’re afraid of? I have a VERY long list. Topping the list is SPIDERS. I don’t even like typing the letters that form the word. I can feel them creeping onto the page and just hanging there. (Shiver.) I have high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease. So, I also fear having a heart attack. I’m kinda afraid of passing out in public, the dark, creepy movies, and merky lakes, which leads me to alligator gar! I could go on, but I’ll stop for now. I’ve been known to say things like, “I wish I knew what the future holds.” Word to the wise, don’t say this unless you’re ready for the answer!

I never ever really worried about having cancer. I mean, maybe skin cancer from my sun-worshipping days, but that’s it. Well, I know in part what my future holds. And the funny thing is I’m not really worried about the heart thing anymore. (I do still worry about spiders.)

We all have dragons in our lives. The problem is deciding what needs to be done with them. I have one hiding in a cave (my body) waiting to rise up and devour me. What this dragon doesn’t know is that I’m a dragon slayer when I need to be. I have Follicular Lymphoma, Grade One. Its a waiting game. I’ve been told it’s a very slow going game at that. It could take ten or even fifteen years before it moves to Grade Two. A lot can change in ten years. Who knows what the treatment might be by then. Maybe less destructive than chemo or radiation. I’m willing to wait, and hope, and pray for something better. But, even if the treatment in ten years is the same as today, I will not despair because I’ve been told “this is curable.” When this sleeping dragon awakes, we’ll fight fire with fire. It will be slain! Till then, I’m in training to get ready for the battle. A battle that is inevitable.

The day I received the call from the surgeon that the biopsy was positive for Lymphoma, my father said, “We have lived in fear. Now we can live in hope.” It was true. All the tests, all the waiting, all the not knowing was over. And now, we would hope. He told me this was a quote. When I asked him what it was from he said, “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Anne’s father said this as the Nazi’s were knocking on their door to arrest them. Hmm. I’m hoping for a more hopeful ending.

So, enough about slaying dragons. Tomorrow’s post is about riding them. Which, in my opinion, is a heck of a lot more fun than slaying! them. Tomorrow we’ll talk about a stone manor…not a cave!

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