Saturday, April 24, 2010

St Andrews Castle

The city of St Andrews was the headquarters of the Scottish church in the middle ages. Its great cathedral was the largest in the land and the castle, among the strongest of fortresses. The castle was the setting for many important events.

In March, 1309, Robert the Bruce stayed there while presiding over his first Parliament. James I received his education there as did his son, James II.

Little remains of the stone castle today that was built by Bishop Roger around 1200. The present complex dates from the late 14th century.

Bishop Trail (1385-1401) rebuilt, but his residence was subsequently altered, mostly during the first half of the 16th century, a time of growing tension between church and state.

A crisis began upon the death of Archbishop Alexander, illegitimate son of King James IV, on the battlefield of Flodden in 1513. His untimely death led to a scramble. The victor, Archbishop Forman, was swiftly succeeded by Archbishop James Beaton. He transformed Bishop Trail's castle into a formidable artillery fortress with towers bristling with guns.

In 1538, James Beaton had been succeeded by his nephew, David Beaton, who later became a cardinal. He rejected Protestantism and was unyielding in his opposition to the proposed marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to the son of Henry VIII of England.

In March 1546, Beaton had the Protestant preacher burned at the stake, right in front of his castle. This act only made him more enemies. A band of Protestant lairds contrived to get into his fortress disguised as stonemasons. Once they got into the fortress, they seized and murdered the cardinal, dangling his naked corpse from the battlements.

The cardinal's murder was the beginning of Scottish Reformation.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Inside the Psychic Realm

When I turned 18, I told my mom that I wanted to go to a psychic for my birthday. It sounded like fun. Especially since my birthday is October 31st!

We pulled up to a spooky, old house and my mom looked at me and said, "Are you sure you want to do this?" I laughed and told her if I saw a black cat I was so outta there. No sooner did I speak the words when a big, black cat ran across the porch. Omen? *shrug* I went anyway.

An older woman greeted me and we sat at her kitchen table. She had me touch a normal deck of cards and I made it a point not to ask her anything. She just started rambling. "I see you play the guitar," she says. I got the chills, but thought my mom talked to her just to freak me out. 

These were her exact words to me and I remember them to this day. "You're going to meet a guy named Eric. He's a drummer in a band. He has sandy, blonde hair and hazel eyes. Stay away from him. He's on drugs and he'll cause you nothing but trouble." Three days later, I returned to school. A friend of mine was in a band and had me over to his house. Imagine my surprise when he said, "Hey, Vic. We got a new drummer. This is Eric..." Yep, sandy, blonde hair and hazel eyes.

"Two guys are going to ask you to go to NJ with them, but no one is going to want you to go. You'll have a great time. Go." Three years later, my future husband and his boss asked me to go to Englishtown, NJ with them to the drag races. I went and had a great time.

"Your future husband is gorgeous. He works some kind of construction. He is constantly outside. Wow. Big muscles," she smiles. My husband of almost 17 years is a bricklayer.

"You will have three children. A boy, a girl, then a boy." I was pregnant three times, but miscarried my first. I then had my daughter and my son.  

She looked over my shoulder and smiled. "Do you know you have a guardian angel?" I could not help but ask questions on this one. "Who is it?" She gave me a sly grin and said, "Why do you ask me questions you already know the answer to?" My little secret.

Then my mom had her reading. The psychic told her to call her sister, my aunt, because she has a tumor in her stomach. We freaked out! What would you do? Should we call? Should we not? She's going to think we're nuts, but if it was one of us, we would want to know. 

After thinking about this a lot, she decided to call. My mom gets my aunt on the phone and says, "I know this is going to sound crazy, but..." and she tells her what the psychic said. There is absolute dead silence on the other end of the phone. My aunt replies, "We haven't even told anyone. I just found out I'm pregnant." *shiver*

How about you? Have you ever been to a psychic and has anything ever come true?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Highland Savior Sneak Peek

Eliza Knight had a great post over at Mama Writers today and got my wheels turning.

So often I have also heard the phrase, "Don't piss me off or you'll end up in my next book!" I think anyone who has a creative craft uses real-life experiences to influence them. Whether you're a musician or a writer, I think real-life experiences play an integral part in what you do. 

Eliza's post had me reflecting on my current manuscript, Highland Savior. I would like to say all of my characters are real, but most were masterfully created out of this writer's head. Can you tell I've been editing a lot lately? Yes, yes, only to avoid synopsis writing! 

My heroine, Lady Rosalia Armstrong, was based loosely on my great-grandmother. My great-grandmother, Rosalia (pronounced ro-zal-yah), was a 16 year-old mail-order bride from Czechoslovakia. Her husband, my great-grandfather was 30+ years old. That could be a story in itself!

James Montgomery, Lady Rosalia Armstrong's BFF, was based loosely on my own childhood BFF, Jimmy. To this day, he still blushes when I thank him for all of those years of friendship!

I even threw in some pets!

Magaidh, Lady Rosalia Armstrong's dog, is the name of my sister's dog. Magaidh is Gaelic for Maggie. 15 minutes of fame, Maggie!

Noonie, Lady Rosalia Armstrong's horse, was loosely based on stories I gathered about my mother-in-law's first draft horse.   

Before I give you a sneak peek at Highland Savior, I need to seriously thank my CP, Mary Grace. Your brutally honest critiquing keeps me on my toes. From battle scenes to bedroom scenes, no subject is left unturned! You are awesome!

Highland Savior-Sneak Peek. I pulled out a few lines for your enjoyment! Please note: All material is copyrighted by me. 

* * *

The raucous sounds of laughter and snatches of song filled the air. As he glanced around the hall, men socialized and were dressed in their finery. To him, they all looked like exotic birds—peacocks mayhap. The heat was so unbearable he did not know how the women managed with so many layers of clothing. He pulled at his restricting silk doublet at the thought.

Ciaran and his men stayed within their inner circle and were not interested in courtly conversation. Having no tolerance for nonsense, he tried to blend into the woodwork with Aiden.

A raised, scolding voice caught his attention.

“How many times have I told you to watch that Highland tongue of yours, Rosalia? It makes you sound daft. I will not tolerate your deliberate attempts to thwart your chances with an English gentleman. You are a score and one. How many chances do you think you have left? No one shows interest in you. Did you notice your waistline is much larger than the other women in attendance? I will not tell you again—do as I say or suffer the consequences.”

Ciaran watched the English dragon scamper off, but not before she pinched the woman in the arm. Stains of scarlet appeared on the woman’s cheeks. When her heightened color subsided, her features were arresting. Loose tendrils of tawny hair softened her face. She had more curves than most, but she was a wild beauty.

For a brief moment, her azure eyes met his. He attempted to ease her embarrassment by offering her a gaze that was as soft as a caress. She offered him a small, shy smile and inclined her head in a small gesture of thanks before she walked off in the wake of the fiery beast.

“Och, I pray fer a son,” said Aiden, a suggestion of annoyance hovering in his eyes. “We need women as that on the battlefield—aye, brother? Her venom alone would bring a mon to his knees.”

Ciaran shrugged dismissively, but his eyes still followed the woman.

* * *

Lady Rosalia Armstrong of Mangerton was crimson with resentment and humiliation. She prayed no one heard her mother’s tongue. When she looked up to ensure no one was in earshot, he stood there, devilishly handsome. He exuded masculinity. She did not know who he was, but his profile spoke of power and ageless strength. Even in a crowd, his presence was compelling.

The muscles rippling under his silk doublet had quickened her pulse. She found it impossible not to return his captivating smile. That was the moment she realized he overheard her mother’s words. She became keenly aware of his scrutiny and knew he pitied her. Rosalia had to step away from his observant eyes.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Escape the Madness

"What's for dinner?" Some days I hate that question more than others.

There are days I don't want to work at ABC Company and be someone's corporate dog on a leash. There are days I don't want to come home after my full-time day job and be a wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, niece and cousin. I don't care what's for dinner! I just want to be me.

There are days when I even forget my name. Someone calls "Mommy" and I turn my head. Someone even had the nerve to call me ma'am the other day. *cringing* 

There are days when I just want to escape the madness...

I'll pick up the latest Sabrina Jeffries romance and be a member of the ton. I'll pick up the latest Lynn Kurland romance and be swept away to some far away, mystical land with Mage's and time-traveling Highlanders. Oh, the possibilities.

When I get really adventurous, my own stories fight their way out of my head and my fingers do not leave the keyboard until they are out. I love to escape. *happy sigh*

Then reality comes crashing down upon me. My son runs into my office wearing only his  Batman underwear, wielding his sword. He does a few thrusts and yells, "I am Spartacus! Champion of Capua!" Then my daughter yells up, "What's for dinner?"

What do you do to escape the madness?