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Posts Tagged ‘Isle of Skye’

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I now have a new and improved blog site! I’m self-hosting for more options. One of these is being able to use my .com name. Sadly, I’ve been unable to transfer all you lovely subscribers to my new site. I would love for you to continue following me on the new site. I apologize for the inconvenience of having to resign up.

Below is a link to the new site!

http://www.terrihalebooks.com

See you there!

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Sometimes you just have to pack your bags and go there…

My husband and I have taken a week of vacation and driven to Kaysersberg, Alsace, France. As I’ve said so many times before, it is my favorite Alsatian village. The people are enchanting! It’s the perfect place to set a novel in the Middle Ages, which is just what I’ve decided to do.

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1. Restaurant LE CAPUCIN, 60, Rue du Général de Gaulle. 2. View from our window.

We found this fantastic apartment online. The ground level is the restaurant. The next three floors are apartments to rent. Our apartment is on the top floor. The views are amazing, enchanting, transporting. I look out the windows and am taken back to a much earlier time. When there were no cars, no telephones, no internet. At first this can seem fantastic until I take a deep breath and remember there was no sewer system, and I see the woman below me dumping the waste from her bed chamber pot onto the street below. The horses have left their deposits in the streets, as well. Hmm. Snap out of it. Back to the enchanting view.

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View from my writing spot.

As I sit and write this post, the church bells are chiming. They’re beautiful. A few days ago, it was Pentecost Sunday, and the bells rang long and loud. It’s was a beautiful call to prayer. This is sweet music to write by. When we first arrived in Kaysersberg, our landlady met us at the bridge to show us the way to the apartment. We parked on the street, which was filled with tourists (It being Saturday.) and quickly unloaded our things. After finding a parking spot nearby, we returned to the restaurant and met the owners in their private garden in the back for a glass of wine. This was the only warm sunny day we’ve had. It was perfect. Gabrielle speaks English quite well. She’s delightful. Her husband, Jean-Jacques, grew up in Kaysersberg in this very building! It was his home, and he has inherited it. They turned the garage into a restaurant. And his father’s dentist offices into apartments. Their family living quarters are also now apartments.

When I told them I’m a writer, and I’ve come to research and write, they got very excited. Gabrielle said, “Oh, my husband will be so happy. He started a book about this area, but his computer died, and he lost it all. You must talk to him and help him.” And, talk we did. Over several glasses of wine and as many hours. Jean-Jacques’ English is not as good as Gabrielle’s. But that didn’t stop him. He did drink quite a bit of wine. He said he also speaks Chinese, but only after the 7th glass of wine can anyone understand him. So as our conversation went along, he would pour himself another glass of wine, saying, “Oh, I need another glass to lo0sen my tongue so my English will improve.” It was such a fantastic afternoon. He told me that Arthurian legends really began here. Lancelot in particular was from here. I gasped when he said this and told him I had already written this into my novel. They both looked at me and said, “We have been waiting for you to come!” Magical!

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Local delivery truck.

So you’re asking yourself, Is everything in this village cute? The answer is a resounding YES! Even the delivery trucks are cute. I wish I would have stood next to this one so you can see how tiny it really is. And it has a stork hanging from the rearview mirror, a symbol of good luck in this region.

When I wrote my first novel, The Stone Manor (which will be published at a date soon to be announced), I had been to Scotland before, but not to the Isle of Skye, which is the location of the novel. I did all my research from books, libraries, online, and memory from my first trip. Then, when I had finished writing we took a trip to Skye, and I retraced the steps of my novel to make sure it was all accurate. Or as accurate as a work of fiction should be. It was wonderful walking through my novel so to speak.

This is a similar feeling but in reverse. I’ve come here many times. But I’ve written very little so far. This week is a “jump start” for my novel. It ‘s incredible to sit here in this village and write my story. To hear the characters speak to me as I walk through the narrow cobblestone streets. I love living in the middle of my story. I’d love to bring you along as I write and explore. Stay tuned for A Night at the Museum.

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(My great-grandfather’s fiddle. He’s the man in the photo.)

My mother inherited her grandfather’s fiddle quite by accident. We found it in the drawer of a dresser that had belonged to her mother. It seems our grandmother had been given the fiddle by her father and had taken lessons in high school, but no one ever heard her play. She was shy.

What you need to know about this discovery is, this is the grandfather who descended from the MacDonald’s of the Isle of Skye. So, when Jim and I visited Skye in my search for the ancestral home and to double-check my writing for The Stone Manor, the Skye Accordian and Fiddle Festival was a must see. It takes place yearly in Portree.

On day five of our trip we drove up to Portree and wandered into the Royal Hotel, formerly MacNab’s Inn, the last meeting place of Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746. The Festival was in full swing, and it was standing room only. Later that evening, we walked down the street to the Skye Gathering Hall for the Ceilidh Dance. What a wonderful way to experience a bit of the local culture. It was a blast!

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(Isle of Skye Accordian & Fiddle Festival in Portree)

In my novel, Kathryn attends the festival and dance. This whole scene, which was great fun to write, was added after our experience there. Before going to Skye, my novel was like a detailed pen and ink drawing. After the trip, I added color to the drawing! Writing this scene was definitely a splash of color.

I made another decision after the trip to Skye and attending the festival. I wanted to learn to play the fiddle. Just enough to play a highland reel on my great-grandfather’s fiddle…in honor of the ancestors. I realize it’s a bit late to be picking up the violin, but I was determined. A good friend from New Zealand graciously agreed to give me lessons. Of course, she usually taught violin to five year olds, but I told her that would be perfect!

She found some music and the lessons began. I read music and play the guitar, so at least I had a bit of a head start. But nothing could have prepared me for the difficulty of this instrument. I bought a violin off the internet for 20 Euros (made in China) in case things didn’t go well. But I am happy to say that I can now play a reel. It’s short and sounds a bit like a dying cat, but I can play it none-the-less. Now I just have to get my great-grandfather’s fiddle repaired and the magic will happen. I promise to post the video!

For more information about the Skye Festival go to http://www.skyemusic.co.uk/festival.asp.

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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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(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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(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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