Sassenachs and Broomsticks

We just got back from a trip to Scotland. I mean just. Like last night. I’m still muddle-headed, both from jet-lag and from the cold we shared while there. Despite the fog in my brain, I had to start writing about our time there. It really was incredible.

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Gorgeous scenery in the Highlands

I know some people go to Scotland to trace their clan connections, but I’m Irish, so no family connections there. When we went to Ireland two years ago I blogged HERE about how it was a terrible beauty – wild, desolate, lonely, and lovely beyond words – all wrapped up together. Scotland was much the same. I know America’s history is bloody, but Scotland’s seems more so. I think maybe part of the mystique about Scotland is that there’s so much more of it.

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A not-so-wee Highland bull

We’re kind of Outlander fans, but not nearly as rabid as we are Harry Potter fans. The fun thing is, there are lots of signs of both everywhere! We were blessed to have found the services of a wonderful guide, Kirsten, who runs Secret Scotland Tours. She is a real Outlander fan, and the number of local sites they’ve used for filming is absolutely amazing! I think we’ll find the series more interesting to watch now that we can say we’ve seen and been to some of the locations they’ve used. Still not into hunky Highlanders, though… but Claire on the other hand!

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Doune castle, which serves as Castle Leoch in Outlander

We saw all kinds of places and things that helped inspire JK Rowling as she wrote the Harry Potter books: the statue of St. Mungo at Kelingrove in Glasgow; the closes and crooked buildings of Edinburgh; the wild hills and lochs as you travel north into the Highlands. It was so easy to see where the inspiration for Daigon Alley and Hogwarts came from.

When I wrote The Dragonmage Saga, I did a LOT of research into Irish history and geography. But when I wrote the third book of the trilogy, in which Caymin and Péist travel beyond Ireland, I had to dig more into Scottish history and geography. It was gratifying to visit these places and have it feel familiar enough that I got it right.

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The Standing Stones at Clava Cairn

Our last day touring with Kristen took us to Culloden, the somber moor where the Jacobite rebellion brutally ended. It’s a sad, beautiful place.

We got to other places as well, Stirling and Rosslyn Chapel. I’ll blog more about those soon, but for now, wanted to share these thoughts and images with you.

Thanks for reading!

Pax

 

 

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An Even Dozen!

I cannot even believe I’m writing this blog to announce that my twelfth (12!) novel, The Standing Stones, is now available for pre-order HERE. It will go live on June 6!

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This is the third novel in The Dragonmage Saga, and it wraps up this part of Caymin’s story. I did the leave the door open a tiny crack to revisit these characters and their further adventures. I probably will after I get some other books written that have been squirreling around in my head for a while.

But it is hard to leave Caymin and her friends and the world they inhabit. They’ve all inhabited my head and my heart for a long time now.

I wasn’t sure I could pull off a venture into fantasy, but this trip has been more than I thought it could be. I have learned so much. In practical terms, I’ve learned tons about ancient Ireland and Celtic folklore (and badgers!). In writerly terms, I’ve learned even more about how to create action and how to plan a story arc over multiple books.

I hope you like this third entry to the Saga and find it a fitting continuation of Caymin and Péist’s adventures.

Here’s the blurb:

Caymin and Péist, the young dragonmage and dragon who helped to end the last dragon war, have returned from that conflict longing only for peace. But peace is not to be found. Éire is on the brink of being torn asunder as Christians battle pagans, raiders from the north attack the coast, and their enemies—the power-hungry dragonmage and dragon they fought in the otherworld—have escaped from their prison.

Caymin and Péist are the only ones who can thwart them but, in order to do so, they’ll have to do the unthinkable—bring all of the dragons and their mages back to this realm. The dragons can only be summoned and controlled by one who holds the Méarógfola—the Bloodstone. The problem is, the Bloodstone hasn’t been seen since it was stolen a thousand winters ago.

In a race through time, Caymin and Péist will have to go back through the Portal, back a thousand winters, back to set in motion everything that must unfold as it was meant to. Finding the Méarógfola is only the beginning of their challenges. Old factions among the dragons make them as difficult to control as the human clans. Destroying the Bloodstone is the only way to end this once and for all, but there are those who will do anything, anything, to get their hands on it.

The Magic Starts Here

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows that I am an author. I know we all got gobsmacked by the results of our national election last November, and we’ll be dealing with the fallout from that for years, maybe for the rest of my life given the speed at which the world I know is being dismantled right before my eyes.

Anyway, for that reason, I’ve decided to write this blog post about writing.

I am now (trumpets blaring) at 92,000 words and nearing completion of the third book in my fantasy trilogy-that-may-not-stop-at-three-books.

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For any of you who haven’t read Rising From the Ashes and The Portal, what in the world is wrong with you? For those who have, thank you!

So, for the uninitiated, this trilogy (we’ll stick with that for now) is set in ancient Ireland, about 700-800 CE. This era in Éire’s history is fascinating. Christianity had been introduced only about 300-400 years previously. We really don’t know how stubbornly people clung to the old ways because the monks who wrote the histories had their own agenda. (And we thought fake news was a new thing…)

In my world, the old ways and magic aren’t giving up that easily. Mages and keepers of the old ways are still finding children born with magic, training them and teaching them the old traditions.

We know the Romans never bothered to cross the Irish Sea to conquer Ireland. Too much trouble, I guess. So the Irish Celts were left to the rival clans fighting things out amongst themselves although they had a High King… sometimes. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of agreement on just how widespread the High King’s influence was, and there’s a lot of evidence that the rival clans continued to war with one another.

I took a bit (or more than a bit) of liberty with the political environment of Éire in my stories in terms of which clans were Christianized versus which still straddled the line between the old ways and the new.

And then, just to make things interesting, enter… the Vikings! These seafarers from the north countries – modern-day Norway, Denmark, Sweden – were expanding their territories, either for trading, raiding and/or settling. The Viking invasions of Ireland began in this same era that my stories are taking place. The invasions were sometimes successful, sometimes thwarted. The Irish gave as good as they got, and the fighting was by all accounts pretty brutal. We know monasteries throughout Éire and Britannia were sacked repeatedly. Eventually, the Vikings did manage to conquer enough territory in Ireland, that they had their own settlements, such as Dubhlinn, now the capital city of Dublin, as well as Cork, Waterford – mostly coastal settlements.

So the factual part of the history was all stuff I needed to research. See the folder in this photo?

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This is where the magic begins!

This is my treasure trove of most of the research I’ve done for this trilogy. There are tons of bookmarked websites as well, but this folder has traveled with me daily for well over a year and a half. It has all kinds of scribbled notes, lists of Irish names, tons of maps of which clans ruled where in which era.

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It even has a page detailing the sexual habits of badgers. They are horny little critters and apparently quite loud while doing it. They love sex almost as much as they love digging! And female badgers can hold their embryos in a kind of suspended animation so that they implant in the uterus when conditions are favorable for the cubs to survive. They really are fascinating. As we all know. Broc and Cuán were two of my favorite characters in this trilogy.

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Anyone who writes historical fiction can tell you how much research goes into tracking down authentic details. You really have to get it right, because someone out there knows more about everything than you do, and if you mess with the details, they will let you know about it (hopefully kindly).

Not everyone enjoys doing research, but I do. I’ve learned so much in the historical novels I’ve written. Only a tiny bit of the research actually makes it into the stories, but hopefully, the knowledge base that is there comes through in a feeling of authenticity when you read the books.

The magic comes when  readers say they felt transported into the world you created. When that happens, it all comes together.

Soon, you’ll be able to delve into The Standing Stones, the third book in The Dragonmage Saga! I’ll reveal a cover and blurb soon.