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Archive for July, 2012

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(This is my Malachite bead next to a carving by one of my kids.)

Malachite is my favorite stone in all the world. It’s absolutely beautiful and carries great lore as stones go.

I read that one of its many powerful properties is the ability to produce a deep love when worn next to the heart.

Perfect!

I also read a little known fact about Malachite. It has been found on the Isle of Skye.

Perfect!

So of course, I wrote this into my story. Kathryn finds a primitively carved malachite necklace. Not just any ordinary necklace, as she learns when she first visits the stone manor. You’ll find out what she discovers when you read the book. I don’t want to spoil it for you now.

I’ve been looking for a rounded piece of Malachite since I wrote about it. I needed the stone to be somewhat abnormal in shape, to give the illusion it was hand-carved. In the novel it has a Celtic Love Knot etched around it and a hole through the center so it can hang on its silver chain.

Since I had only imagined it, I decided it was time to take it from the printed page and have it made. Well the good news is I found the stone! In France, of course. I bought it, and now I’m waiting for one of my talented kids to volunteer to carve it for me. Any one of them, they’re all artistic. (This is where I’m hinting to said kids. Hint. Hint.)

I’ll let you know what happens.

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Skye Day Two 08 010

(Armadale Castle Ruins, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

If you’re looking for ancestors from the Isle of Skye and their last name is Macdonald, the place to go is the Clan Donald Library on the premises of Armadale Castle. The castle itself is a little drafty, as you can see from the above picture. The grounds and the view are beautiful. There are the formal gardens—lovely, but the wooded area was my favorite.

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(Path into the Armadale Castle woods, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

As you enter through the vine tunnel, the spider tree appears. It creeped me out to walk under, as you can imagine, but I must say I’ve been considering a story to accompany this creepy spider tree standing guard over the woods.

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(Spider tree in the woods near Armadale Castle, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Terri Hale)

Jim wandered around the grounds taking photos and well, wandering, while I made my way to the library to do a bit of research. I was met by a delightful woman, Margaret Macdonald, in charge of the library. She was as helpful as the records allowed. By that I mean my ancestors immigrated to America around 1774, a time when very few written records were kept on Skye. I did have the father’s name of my ancestor, but not his mother’s. I also had his three brothers who came to America with him. The names were common to the Sleat area (southern Skye). Of course, I think they only used about six first names during that time period, so how would anyone know really?

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(View of the Sound of Sleat and the Hills of Knoydart from Armadale Castle, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

I did read a great book while in the library about the Macdonald Clan and the various surnames associated with this clan through blood kinship or allies. I found that the two families my Macdonald ancestors married into when they came to America were from the West Marches of Scotland. The Littles and the Carruthers were basically run out of the country by the English king because they were UNRULY.  This explains so many things. I could have claimed heredity for my unruly early years. But I’m getting off course here (see there it is—unruly story telling), In spite of all these fascinating family discoveries, I found nothing about what part of Skye my Macdonald ancestors originated from. So I made it up! There it is. That’s why I love writing fiction. I took a few facts and turned it into a fairy tale. So even though my ancestors were probably from southern Skye, I decided to place the Macdonald’s in my novel up north, near the Faerie Glen. And why wouldn’t I?

Of course, the dream of the stone manor (the premise for this novel) as I’ve written in an earlier post is not on my mother’s side of the family (Macdonalds), but on my father’s (Sherrills). Since Dad’s the one I share the dream with, it’s very likely that the stone manor of MY dream is actually in southwestern England, where my father’s ancestors were from. Also a tad unruly in their own right. The original ancestor was being transported to Barbados to work on a sugar plantation, but for some reason, which we will never know but I intend to write a whopping good story about, the ships captain put him and four other prisoners off the boat in North Carolina. My ancestor, a weaver who was imprisoned for we don’t know what in England, became one of the original Conestoga Fur Traders of early American history.

Okay, so much for the genealogy lesson. I read somewhere that every fiftyish-year-old woman is either writing her first novel or researching her ancestors. Always being one to follow the crowd (note sarcastic tone), I decided to do both. Party on!

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(Saucy Mary’s Lodge, Kyleakin, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale.)

In the first draft of my novel, my main character, Kathryn, arrives on the Isle of Skye and stops at Saucy Mary’s for some fish and chips. It’s one of the first places to eat once you cross over the bridge from the mainland. I loved the name, and I loved the story behind the name even more.

The feisty Norse Princess Mary married Findanus Mackinnon. He was Lord of the Isles around 900 AD. Local legend says she laid a chain between the mainland and the Isle of Skye to collect a toll from passing ships.

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(Castle Moil, aka Saucy Mary’s Castle, Kyleakin, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale.)

As you cross the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin you can see the remains of her castle. There is a Hostel Guest Lodge that bears her name complete with a pub. It was here I had Kathryn stop to eat her first meal on Skye.

Because of this, I intended to do the same when my husband and I took our trip to the Isle of Skye in 2008. I was following the story line to see if what I’d written worked. After driving the long five hours from the Glasgow airport to the Isle of Skye, we were ready for dinner…fish and chips from Saucy Mary’s. We’d stopped at Loch Lomond and Glencoe along the way, and unfortunately, had a flat tire on our rental car just before reaching the Skye Bridge. It was twilight. It was also our first encounter with the tiny vampires of Scotland…also known as midges. Once my handy husband changed the tire, we were off to the Misty Isle. I was so excited! After several years of writing and research I was finally going to experience Skye for myself. And search for my long lost ancestors…the Macdonalds!

As we rounded the final bend in the road, Skye came into view. I screamed, followed by uncontrollable clapping and laughing. Jim was undaunted, as this is a typical response when I’m really excited. I had him stop the car for a photo-op of the bridge, with the Cullin mountains in the background. Beautiful view! I still remember the awe of seeing it for the first time. The drive from Glasgow through the rugged landscape of western Scotland was fantastic, but the Isle of Skye was truly breathtaking.

With camera in hand we continued across the bridge and looked for Saucy Mary’s. Now here’s where my fairy tale trip took its first detour. (Cue impending doom music.) It was 8:05 when we pulled into the car park at the pub. We walked in and took a seat. I was doing the silent clap and giggle so as not to draw too much attention to myself. Someone said we had to order at the bar, so we walked over and asked for fish and chips. DENIED! The kitchen had closed at 8:00. (The cook had just left the building.) Are you kidding me? I wanted to scream, “I just flew over an OCEAN, and drove (technically Jim drove, but you get the point) for five hours to eat fish and chips at Saucy Mary’s for our first meal on Skye!” Instead we asked where we could find a place to eat. Jim was really hungry! It was Sunday evening, and as Skye is very Presbyterian, lots of places were closed on Sundays. They suggested the Indian Restaurant just up the road, as they are not Presbyterian. Now this is where I tell you how much I do not like Indian food. And it just seemed wrong on so many levels to eat it as our first meal on Skye. But alas, it’s what we did. We paid fifty dollars for some really, really bad Indian food. I’ve heard there are lots of great Indian dishes. We evidently did not choose any of these.

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(Peter and Jane Macdonald’s Bed and Breakfast, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by the Hales.)

Well anyway after let’s call it “dinner,” we drove to our bed and breakfast. Tired and hungry. But when we arrived and met the Macdonalds and saw the beautiful view of the Sound of Sleat with the Hills of Knoydart in the background, the fairy tale took a turn for the better.

As I lay in bed that night my mind would not rest. It was off on all kinds of adventures, searching for a stone manor, lost ancestors, and a faerie or two.

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I save movie stubs. Just my favorites.I look at them periodically, and they make me smile. Or I’ll find one randomly, and it’ll make my day just remembering how much I loved the movie. That being said, I’ve been waiting…anxiously waiting for BRAVE to open in theaters. Then, I had to wait even longer till we were able to actually go see it. FINALLY, a few days ago, Jim, our kids in Austin, and I went to the 7:37 showing. I was so excited when the previews were over and the movie actually began I giggled, like I was five years old. Then I did that silent clap with my shoulders scrunched up around my ears. Still giggling.

So what’s up with the stub from SPIDERMAN I’ve displayed above? (And of course it doesn’t say SPIDERMAN, it says SPIDER! Are you kidding me? And yes I know, I could use a manicure.) The guy working the window at the theater gave us tickets to the WRONG movie. We didn’t notice till we were already inside. I was so upset. You have no idea! Of all the movie ticket stubs in all the movie theaters in all the world, I REALLY wanted this one. I wanted to look at it and have it say BRAVE. I wanted to open my wallet in a couple of weeks or months searching for my insurance card or the right change and find it…and smile…and maybe giggle. Our son Sean said not to worry, this would make a good story. He was right, I guess.

The problem is I HATE SPIDERS! I don’t even want to put this stub into my wallet. I don’t want to touch it because it has the word spider on it. I don’t even like having to type out the word in this blog post. Just sayin’. I’ve been learning to be brave lately. But there comes a time when a person just has to put their foot down and say “no sir.” I will never conquer my fear of spiders. If you knew how quickly I just typed the s word you’d say, “Wow, that was really fast.” I’m telling you they totally creep me out. Okay, I’ve talked enough about “them.”

Just so you know, BRAVE was a beautiful movie. The animation was beautiful, the music was beautiful, the accents were beautiful. It was a little short on story content, but hey, I left wishing my hair was bright red and curly and I could speak in a Scottish accent. (I’ve been secretly practicing the accent.) If you haven’t seen the movie…GO.

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Skye Day One 08 066

(Waterfall in the gardens of Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim and Terri Hale)

I love waterfalls. Always have. I love the sound they make, the roar of the waters crashing over the rocks, the mist that fills the air and kisses my skin, the wonder of what might be hiding inside the mountain underneath the falls. This wonder led to a chapter in my novel. I have woven a tale of Skye in the 1740s throughout the contemporary story. This scene takes place in this backstory. Alexander and Mari, two young lovers, ride through the Druid Wood near Uig. Alexander is taking her to a secret place. Secret because few people ever venture into this enchanted wood. He asks her to close her eyes as they reach a clearing. As she steps out of the trees he tells her to look.

Mari squinted as the brightness of the sun flooded her eyes. She lifted her hand to her brow and sheltered it. Her mouth fell open, and she let out a tiny gasp as she walked forward, dropping her grip on Alexander’s arm. Before her lay a beautiful waterfall, surrounded by green ferns and wildflowers. Wild purple rhododendrons bloomed along a path that led to a cave opening beside the waterfall. At the base of the falls was a wee loch, clear and deep. The water was a beautiful shade of turquoise.

Alexander walked up behind her and whispered. “There is someone I’d like you to meet.”

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(Waterfall with ancient Roman bridge near Loch Tay, Scotland. Photo by Jim and Terri Hale)

Waterfalls can evoke a myriad of emotions. Giant falls suggest great power, cleansing, redemption even. Smaller falls can lead to more tranquil feelings, bringing about more contemplative thoughts. All falls are romantic! The photo above was taken while on our first family trip to Scotland. We were camping near Loch Tay, and a local told us about several things that were MUST SEE in the area. These, he said, were not necessarily to be found in our travel guides. So we were all in! We found the oldest Yew tree in the UK, Macgregor’s Leap, and this beautiful Roman Bridge complete with an enchanted waterfall. I was sure that the stone manor I’d dreamed of would be just down the road. We drove, and drove, and drove. However, no stone manor. I’m still looking!

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(Small waterfall on the roadside in Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim and Terri Hale)

While thinking about writing this post, I wondered if there might be a link between waterfalls and dragons. (In light of  my ongoing quest.) THERE IS! I found this wonderful Chinese lore about the Dragon’s Gate. Legend has it that carp (and in Japanese stories koi) will find their way to a waterfall and attempt to swim/climb/jump to the top. Those few who make it turn into dragons. Not our scary Western dragons, but powerful, magical, beautiful Eastern Dragons! Symbols of perseverance, strength, wisdom. In fact, in China when scholars passed their literary exams they were said to have “passed thru the Dragon’s Gate.” Love it!

We’ve all heard or read stories of people attempting to go OVER the falls and survive. I believe those that are truly brave and strong are the ones who start at the base and make their way to top!

I often feel like I’m swimming upstream. I tire when I focus on the current I’m battling against and lose sight of my ultimate destination. Of course, in my mind I’m imagining a peaceful pool at the end of the struggle, crystal clear waters…no fish to nip at my legs or snakes to slither toward me. However, it appears there is, in fact, a raging waterfall at the end. (Of course!) In the past few months I feel like I’ve made it to the falls, where I’ve been attempting in my own meager way to jump to the top. However, when I step back and consider what lies ahead, I know when the time comes I will have the strength I need to make it to the top of the falls and become a DRAGON. No riding, no slaying, only becoming!

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(Small falls on Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Terri Hale)

I’ve found a secret path to the top. I can’t make it there in my own strength. I’ve taken hold of my Creator’s hand, and together we will climb to the top of the falls, where I imagine myself becoming a beautiful turquoise dragon…with wings, of course. Oh, and fire-breathing. That might come in handy.

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