Friday, May 28, 2010

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle stands on the very edge of Scotland where the swift-flowing waters of the River Nith enter the salt marches of the Solway Firth. The Dumfriesshire countryside lies to the north. 

For over 400 years, from around 1220 up to the castle's last siege in 1640, the powerful Maxwell lords held sway from the mighty castle.

The name Caerlaverock means 'fort of the skylark' and derives from the British word caer 'fort', from the Latin castra and the Old English laewerce 'lark'. In the mid-12th century, when Dumfriesshire and Cumberland were under one ruler, David I of Scotland, Radulph son of Dunegal, lord of Strath Nith, granted lands to the monks. After the death of King David, Sir John de Maccuswell (Maxwell) came into play.

Caerlaverock has not one, but two medieval castles. The older of the two was built by the Maxwell's soon after they arrived in the region in the 1220's. Archaeologists believe the first castle had been built too close to the salt marsh of the Solway Firth and became unstable and prone to flooding.

The second castle was quite different from its predecessor. It was triangular in plan and its shape is as a shield.

Oh, the beautiful rolling moors of Scotland....

Friday, May 21, 2010

Writing Good Luck Charms

Yes, yes....I know I have said it more than once. Sabrina Jeffries is my Regency God.

For all of us aspiring authors, we know how important advice can be from published, well-established writers. We literally hang on their every word, waiting for them to pass on some brilliant piece of knowledge or experience our way. 

When I initially started writing Highland Savior, I tried to gather as much information as I could on how our writing heroes/heroines go about doing it. What do they actually do when they sit down to write? Do they plot? Do they strategize? Do they outline? Do they say a silent prayer before they begin? What are their writing rituals? You get the picture.

It got me to thinking...Did you ever go to a Bingo hall? Did you ever see the Bingo Gods playing with miniature troll dolls displayed around their cards? Colorful trolls with purple, green, yellow and orange hair are strategically placed around their cards--their good luck charms. Does it work? I don't know, but it's their ritual. 

My Regency God actually has William Shakespeare and Jane Austen miniatures next to her work area for inspiration. I think she also has a few others, but I can't remember them all off the top of my head.

Anyway, my poor CP is mentally abused and it's my fault. She has read (and re-read) Highland Savior so many times that I think she recites lines in her sleep. I'll have to ask her husband! Imagine my surprise, when she handed me this Scottish doll today and told me he's for luck. He's even donned in the MacGregor tartan in honor of my hero, Ciaran MacGregor. 

He now stands proudly next to my daggers for inspiration and good luck!

What about you? Do you have any good luck charms? And more importantly, do they work?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Scottish Birthing Custom or Superstition?

If you ever heard someone say writing a book is easy, they're lying.

If you are my friend, family member or even a frequent reviewer of this blog, you know this writer loves everything Scotland. I can't seem to get enough of their rich history. I love reading about their customs and traditions. It was tremendously helpful while I was writing Highland Savior. Sometimes the best ideas come from these books.

Whether researching the Campbells or MacGregor's, I came upon some pretty interesting customs along the way. One of them that stood out to me was a birthing custom or some would call it a superstition. I'll let you to decide.

There was an ancient custom in the Western Isles around the 1600's. A man would carry fire in his right hand and form a fiery circle around the belongings of a particular family i.e. houses, corn, cattle. The same concept was used around children until they were christened. This ritual would repeat both morning and at night.

It was spoken that this ritual was an effective means to preserve both the mother and the child from the power of evil spirits. Some people thought that evil spirits were always around during that time to cause mischief and sometimes carry away the infant. Once the spirits carry away the child, they replace them with a changeling. Changelings are an idea that fairies stole children and left changelings in their place. These "replacements" were only supposed to live 18-20 years.

In order to keep the evil spirits at bay, some believe the bairn was never to be alone. Someone would always sit by the cradle because once you left the bairn unattended, the evil spirits may pull an old switch-a-roo. Silver was also used as a deterrent in the cradle to keep these evil spirits at bay. Mmmm...I thought that was just for werewolves.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Wonderful World of Dreams

20 years ago...

It was the same as any other time...or was it? 

I was walking in my grandmother's bedroom as I have done so many times as a child. I reach out and touch the lace doily on her dresser, smiling at the feel of it upon my hand. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. It's so...her. I feel comfort here.

Glancing around the room, the porcelain statue is next to her bed. It has been there ever since I can remember, but I feel something What is it? Something is not right here. This is her room, but it looks different somehow. I'm not afraid, but it's if I'm looking at her room through a reflection in a mirror. Now that's odd. Oh, I'm dreaming. Is it odd that I actually know I'm dreaming? Well, I might as well enjoy it.

I glance at my grandmother's nightstand. Strange. The picture of my grandfather who passed away in 1980 is not there. It's always there. I wonder why it's not there. Turning, I take another look at the dresser behind me. The picture should be on the nightstand, but it's behind me on the dresser. This is really strange.

Looking at the picture of my grandfather, I notice my grandmother's rosary is not draped over it. Again, this is weird. The rosary has been there ever since he passed away. Well, it is a dream. Who knows? I'll just go with it.

I look at the picture again and sigh. "Oh, Pap. I really miss you." Touching the picture, I immediately draw my hand back. The picture is becoming...distorted somehow.


My grandfather, who passed away in 1980 from cancer and who weighed 90 pounds at the time of his death, was standing in front of me just as I remember him--standing to his full height of over six feet and clearly weighing over 200 pounds. 

Suddenly, his cologne is overwhelming my senses. How in the world can I smell in a dream? It doesn't matter. He is here.

I throw myself into his arms. "Oh, Pap. I miss you so much."

Warm arms embrace me tenderly. "Vicki, I do not have much time." He pulls back and holds me at arm's length. "I need you to do something for me."


"I need you to tell your dad not to let him get the glass necklace. I don't want him to have it?"


"Tell your dad," he instructs.

I laugh. Having so many ridiculous dreams in the past, I realize my dad is going to think I am absolutely nuts and this dream is making no sense. "Pap, you need to tell me more. There is no way he is going to understand what you are saying. What glass necklace and who do you not want to have it?"

He squeezes my arms gently. "Vicki, I do not have much time. I cannot tell you. You just have to tell your dad what I told you. When the time comes, he will know. I'm out of time. I have to go."

"Wait!" I call out. I pull him close for one last bear hug. "Oh, God! I love you, Pap!"

"I love you," he whispers.

A black dog appears at his side. Sort of looks like a Rottweiler, but not. It does not have any features such as mystical red eyes or anything. It looks like a normal dog--one I've never seen before, but a normal dog. It barks once. I knew it would not hurt me, but knew we were out of time. I did not move, but the black dog somehow places his body in between me and my grandfather. Again, I did not move, but I am pushed back through my grandmother's bedroom door and the door slams shut in my face.

Did you ever see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? When Harry opens Tom Riddle's journal and gets hurled back in time, he approaches Hagrid who's having a conversation with the spider. When that is all Harry is allowed to see, he's pummeled out of the room and the door slams shut. It was exactly like that!   

I awaken from the dream and the scent of his cologne is still in the air...

I know you're all asking the question. Did I tell my dad? Of course I did! My dad had no clue what I was talking about. After thinking upon this for several years, I concluded the glass necklace was my grandmother's rosary that she was buried with. I still have my grandfather's rosary though. It must have been only a dream...

You actually think I'm done? Not by a long shot...This story continues.

18 years ago...

As you know from my prior posts, my DH watches a lot of Discovery, etc. He's watching one of those channels and it's a documentary on American Indian Mythology. I'm yawning as I normally do, but something catches my ear. Black dog, dream. It goes to commercial. How typical is that?

One of the Native American Indian tribes (I continually kick myself to this day because I did not write it down) believes a mystical black dog is the gatekeeper to the dream realm. It is responsible for keeping "balance." They show the dog. I scream. It's THE dog! After several OMG'ds and my future DH thinking I've lost it, I tell him the dream as clear as I am telling it to you. Remember, he's my FUTURE DH. He just gives the polite nod and doesn't commit to anything.

It gets spookier...

10 years ago...

Deep in my heart, I knew, my grandfather would never talk to me in another dream. Don't ask me how, but I knew if I ever had another dream about him, he would never talk to me.

Oh, no. I recognize this feeling again and know I'm dreaming. I see my grandmother in a crowd and I don't recognize anyone around her. Oh, God. There is my grandfather. What is he doing? He's just standing there...watching. Watching what? I do not want to wait to find out. 

My chest is heaving. I'm running towards my grandmother. I have to reach her. Just as I reach her, she falls backwards. She's on the ground now and my grandfather is standing beside her with his hands folded in front of him. Oh, God. I don't see any blood, but she is so...lifeless.

I look up and scream at my grandfather. "Why are you just standing there? Do something!"

He does not speak. I didn't expect him to. He offers me a comforting smile. What is that around his neck? Is he wearing a gold necklace? What is that? There is some kind of time piece attached to it resting on his chest. I have to see it. He's going to turn away. This is important. Move! I struggle to see the time piece. There! I got it! 3:20. I'm awake.

What the hell was that?

Several weeks later...

My grandmother is over at my house for a visit. Time for a chat. Without going into too much detail i.e. she's lifeless on the ground, I tell her about my dreams. She sits back and listens, quietly taking it all in. Oh, God. I think I know that look. My grandmother wants to have me committed. After I unburden myself, I sit back and take a deep breath. 

She sits forward and smiles. "Your grandfather used to dream all of the time, but he always would dream numbers. I don't know why."

"That's interesting, but knowing I had to look at this time piece around his neck was really bizarre. It was if I had to see it before the dream would end. 3:20 means nothing to me anyway."

"But it means something to me," my grandmother speaks.

I'm sure I paled. "What?" I ask.

"3:20 is the time your grandfather died. There is no way you could have known that."


Have you ever had a dream that was so intense you would swear it was real?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Love of Pets

This is Zoe. She's part Lab and part ???

Growing up, my family had a mixed black poodle named Sammy. I would have loved to known what she was mixed with since she never acted like a true poodle. She was extremely smart and a great family pet. When she died at 12, I never thought another dog could replace her.

Imagine my surprise when my future DH surprised me on my 21st birthday. He had wrapped up a chocolate lab pup in one of his flannel shirts. Her big, floppy ears and big feet were so adorable on her small frame. We named her Cassius. My entire family has a habit of giving male names to female dogs!

I have never seen such an intelligent dog. She could throw away garbage into the garbage can, fetch shoes (believe it or not, matching shoes), bring her bowl to you at feeding time, fetch the Kleenex box without tearing it or pulling them out and all you had to say was, "Could you do me a favor?" She would jump down on her front paws and slightly lower her head which was her way of saying, "I'm waiting! What do you want me to do?" She was amazing.

We had 14 wonderful years with her. When she died, my DH and I vowed never to get another dog. What we did not realize was how that decision impacted our kids. They begged for a pet--relentlessly. We discussed it some more and realized it was unfair to the kids since we were both raised with dogs in the family. Besides, it was important they learned responsibility and the love of caring for a pet. 

With all of the abused and abandoned animals out there, we decided to go to a local animal shelter. Since we had such a good experience with Cassius, I was hell-bent on getting another lab. When we arrived at the shelter, we found a black lab. When we pulled her out, she was buck-wild, jumping and pouncing on the kids. We tried several other mixed breeds and this was not going to work. The dogs were not good with the kids.

The kids were extremely disappointed and just as we were walking out the door; we saw Zoe and my daughter fell in love. We pulled her out and she was a very calm dog and did great with the kids. One of the workers told us that she was just dumped on their doorstep the previous night.  This was her. This was the one

When we brought her home, we could not believe how she barely had accidents in the house. She did all of her business outside. Could it be? Could we have another Cassius on our hands? Zoe was a great fit.

We made her vet appointment. When the vet came into the room, he asked how she was doing. I told him we were blessed with another smart dog. She is only 8 weeks old and already going outside.

Upon examination, he started to laugh. "How old did the shelter tell you she was?"

"6 weeks when we took her home."

He concentrated on her teeth and laughed. "This dog is not 6 weeks. Try about 5 months."


Apparently, Zoe was about full-grown at the time. To this day, she still looks like a yellow Lab pup. It didn't matter to us. Zoe was home. She was welcomed into the family the only way my kids new how to welcome her...


What about you? Do you have any pets that are special in your life?