Monday, January 22, 2018

Up Helly Aa - the modern Viking fire festival with Pagan roots

Up Helly Aa

A New Age Viking-Scottish Tradition

Up Helly Aa  takes place in Lerwick, Shetland on the last Tuesday in January every year, with only breaks for the death of Queen Victoria (1901) the First and Second World Wars, and postponements for two weeks in 1900 for influenza outbreak and for the death of George V, and  one week for the death of Winston Churchill.
Though the festival has a very ancient Norse feeling, Up Helly Aa is a tradition that only originated in the 1880s. Since that time, the fire festival has been an annual event in the Shetlands.   The current festival held in Lerwick grew out of the older Yuletide tradition of Tar Barreling, which took place at Christmastime and New Year.   

Rowdy lads would drag barrels of burning tar through town on sledges and making mischief.  As this grew out-of-hand, the rites were abolished around the mid-1870s.  After a few years, people began to miss the festivity so they obtained permission to have a torch procession, the first one taking place in 1876.  

Soon, that was expanded into Up Helly Aa Day in 1881.  The first Viking galley was burned in 1889 at the end of the parade at the Market Cross.   Early Galleys were made from a light timber frame of discarded wood, and covered with canvas.  Modern Galleys are built and painted by local tradesmen.  Work starts at the end of October and continues two nights a week until completed.  

The torches in the parade are constructed from hessian sacks, with concrete “shoulders” to ensure they stay in place during the procession.  The Monday before Up Helly Aa, all the torches are soaked in fuel to ensure they burn well and last long.

Each year sees it grow in popularity.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thinking Outside of the Box - Authors' Promotion 101

For years I've heard authors complain that nothing they do seems to improve their sales.  After thirteen years in the business, I have come to the conclusion no single thing will.  There is no magic biffity-boppity-boom and suddenly you are selling like hotcakes.  So what do you do?  Work.  Sorry, that is the raw truth.  Another sad truth?  Indy published, Small Press or Tradition published, it doesn't matter.  It's all going to fall on you.  Your money, your time.

Writing THE END is truly just the beginning of your journey as an author.  If you are a hobby writer (and I am not putting that path down) then marketing probably won’t be pressing for you.  But to the career writer, you must accept that you will likely spend as much time promoting as you do writing.  It’s a hard fact all new authors have to face.  There are days I do nothing but  promote...promote...promote.  It’s not fun, it’s grinding, and often you simply have no idea if any of it has impact.  So lose the idea I am going to offer you a golden key or a witch’s recipe to help you sell more books.  What I will do is impart some ideas to make you think about how you promote.  Most of this is old ground, but I continually see authors asking these same questions, even from authors a decade in the one more time.

(Full Page Romantic Times ad 2009)

Paid Promotions —

There are various venues, which promote books for you.  I have gone that route with full page ads in The Romantic Times, Realm of Fantasy, and even history and Scottish magazines.  Did they help?  To this day I am not  Sad fact.  Actually, I did see heavy traffic to my website the day The Romantic Times came out.  So the ads I did with them drove traffic to my door.   

(Half Page Ad for Romatic Times 2007)

All my novels had high sell-through.  Sell-through is that point where your book begins to earn the publisher money, after all their expenses are covered.  My novels all have gone into third printings, and the Historicals are now in the fourth printings.  Was that because of the magazines ads?  I simply do not know.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Frustrating, eh?  Maybe the ads were just a brick in the wall to building your brand.

As I said, most venues of PR leave authors scratching their heads.  So unless you have a $1000 or more to toss around you may not wish to consider this option.  If you do think you might want to opt for magazine ads, consider going in on ads with several authors—from the same publisher/ have the same subject matter.  I have done several of these.  Did they help?  Same redundant answer.  Possibly.

Positive side—you reach a lot of people all over the country.

Downside—high cost with no real assurance of a return.

(Double Page Ad in Realm of Fantasy Magazine 2009)

Reviews and Review sites—

There are a lot of places that offer reviews for free (NEVER pay for a review!).  Some also offer other author services, such as a web page on their site, or special showcase, chats, etc.  There have probably been fifty—maybe a hundred—over the last decade.  A lot didn't survive a year or two.  If you are looking into promotional packages with an author’s promo site, ask questions.  How much traffic do they have?  How will they promote you?  How often? 

Many have come and gone, but there are some solid ones that were there when I began and are still going strong.  Romance Junkies is one of the best.  Another top one is The Romance Studio.  I have done individual PR promos with them, but have also bought full service packages and have been very pleased with them.  Night Owl Romance is another I used and felt gave me plenty for my money.  As with print PR—be sure to weigh how much you are comfortable with spending for advertising.  Maniac Readers and Long and Short Reviews are two more I would recommend.  Two others I recommend that are more professional writing communities that let you promote all you need: Booktown and Authors Den.

Plus side—some of these venues have a big following, message board on Yahoo, website and social media presence.  Side Note:  Many of the social media pages are open to join free.  So check around.  You can find a lot of PR groups or pages on Facebook you can use.

Down side—they often are heavy with authors, too, so are not reader groups.  Meaning you are preaching to the choir.  Authors are there to promote their books, too, not buy yours.

Blogs and blogging—

Blogs were super hot ten years ago.  Now, everyone has them.  An author’s web site and blog are losing their importance in PR scheme of things.  Several reasons.  Most people seek out authors on spots like Authors Central on, or Facebook and Twitter.  These are updated frequently so they get fresh information and have a more personal feel.  Also, the average reader doesn't have time to read the blogs of 20-30 authors every week.  Generally, I use my blogger account as a personal showcase of what is happening in my life.  When I post about going to the Renfaire, or special restaurants or happenings in my town, I get as many if not more hits on those posts.  I give people a personal hello, what is happening, what books are out or coming.  I post excerpts or promotions.  Image intensive posts tend to get more attention.

Plus side—you can post daily where a website is more static.  You can get information out there quickly, run contests, and get PR rocking.

Downside—when you are doing frequent postings on a blog, requiring long articles, organized with images etc.—that is time away from your writing.  Since PR is already a big drain on your time, you have to make choices of what is more important.  Using your words takes those words away from your novels.  It has also been proven people respond to quicker, sharper posts, than long reading.  So keep that mind.

Social Media --

You might say well, duh.  Everyone knows about Facebook and Twitter.  So I won’t spend a lot of time pushing them.  But are you using Google Plus?  Google has groups and chat options, but I mainly use it as an information site, doing promos and such.  I often get more hits off postings there than either Facebook or Twitter.  Are you using Linkedin?  It’s less social and more business feel, but you can promote.  The neat thing about Linkedin is I can set it so my account reposts all my posts to Twitter—neat way to save a little time.

Right now my Linkedin account posts to Twitter.  My Blogger posts to Amazon Central, Booktown and Goodreads.  Twitter can be set up to post to MySpace and Facebook.  Word of warning--if you do that watch promo posting.  You are likely already posting to Facebook, but if you set up Twitter to post there too, you end up with double posts and someone will scream you are spamming everyone.  You can create a professional page on Facebook.  With a professional page you can add more people than you can on a personal page, and you can actually set your books up to sell right from the page.

Yahoo Groups

they are showing some age after two decades and really no improvement for about ten years, but they still work to find reader groups and promo groups.  Again, you will run into the authors stampede, but you do what you can at times.  There are two means of postinggoing to the individual group and posting on the message forum.  This is sent out to everyone on their list, and remains on the forum board.  Or you can be an mail box memberallowing you to post and reply through your own email, but if you chose this option you cannot post on the forum boards.  If you join at the Yahoo Groups site itself, you will have both options available.

Authors Central on—

They provide you free of charge an author’s page.  You can load about half a dozen photos, bio information, and set up your book list.  You use their claiming option to claim your books, and they will place them on your page, so when a reader checks in, they will have every thing about you in one spot.

Book signings—

Book signing are another option.  Personally, I do not enjoy them, but I know many people who love doing them.  The downside is getting people into the bookstore (which requires PR to do!)  Unless you or the store promotes the event, don’t expect a line like Stephen King gets.  You might try to organize a multiple author signing.  That tends to be a bit more fun.  Also, check and see if you have any big book fairs near you.  Don’t just offer to do a book signing at the local bookstore.  Offer to give a master class in romance writing, or how to realistically write a specific time period.  This will draw people in that are interested in learning to be a writer.  

But all these options are in the box thinking, and by my title I said we would be thinking out of the box.  Here is where you have to put your thinking cap on and see what venues are out there where you could do signings.

What events are happening in your area?  A farmer's market?  A craft fair?  Small shop Saturdays or events around holidays?  See if your local tea room might want to have a book signing.  Your local library branch?  You might combine it with a talk on how to get into publishing, or something along those lines.  One I have suggested to Historical writers—Renfaires.  There is a natural target.  They are into history, reenacting, costumes—you have someone who speaks your language.  I once discussed this targeting your audience, and Jacquie Rogers decided to go after rodeos, which is perfect for Western writers.  So is your county fair.  Many offer booth space for very a reasonable price, and often can do multiple days.  

One of the best book signings I did was at Keepers Seafood and More, just outside of my town.  I went there expecting not to sell a book.  I was totally surprised, selling hundreds of dollars of books in just three hours.  

The point being, you simply don’t know what will work until you give it a try.  You could organize a book launch party.  Tea rooms or cafés are a great place to hold a launch party.  Have a sheet cake and several pots of tea or punch, and invite people in to help you celebrate.

Craft fairs are another place.  These tend to pop up around late autumn and holidays.  They are generally merchandise orientated, but most are very open to you having a booth to promote your books.  Splurge on Vista Print poster—sometimes you can get them for $10 or less.  So far, I haven’t found authors going in this direction so you generally have a good showcase.  Books, especially, sell well around Christmas, since they make great presents.

Getting your name out there— 

Not just as you are a romance writer—get you name into various other venues.  There are a wide variety of options.  Some might even pay you.  Consider penning an article for a magazine.  Today it is easy enough to check out magazines on-line.  Writer’s Digest accepts articles.  But don’t just focus on  romance writing venues.  Pen a short story for Alfred Hitchcock Magazine or Ellery Queen Magazine for example.  By getting into a different genre you widen your exposure.  Look at area magazines.  There can be a wide range of different focuses, from ones covering a whole area such as Southern Writers Magazine, to others more localized.  There is a monthly magazine that covers my county.  Maybe you have a historical society that puts out monthly pamphlets.  Consider doing an article for your local newspaper.  Consider doing seasonal recipe story about what people ate then and include recipes.  Same for Western writer – especially good in the summer—Cowboy tips to open-fire cooking.  Look for a fashion angle.  See if you can tie in your period clothing to an article about women’s changing fashions.  These are just a few suggestions to help you think outside the box.  Getting your name—your brand—out there can be done outside of the normal perimeters of fiction writing.  Check out the magazines or news sites you haunt next time.  See what submissions they accept, how to submit.

(Romantic Times Half Page Ad - February 2007, shared with Cynthia Breeding)

Bottom line, it’s ALL work.  Sorry, there is no way around it.  Writing The End isn’t the end of your dream.  You have birthed you baby, now you must continually feed and nurture, and like all children they require a balanced diet.

Several bestselling authors I know were not big overnight successes.  It took years for them to sell.  Years to build an audience.  Most will tell you without a strong backlist they would have never made it to the top.  That means never stop promoting all your novels, stories and novellas.  Keep your works in print so the readers can find you.

Selling takes three things 1) talent/skill.  Talent you are born with.  Skill can be learnt.  Never stop honing your craft.  2) Opportunity, being at the right spot at the right time.  An editor may want a Scottish novel now, but two weeks from now the door has closed.  3) Determination—it’s grinding work, but if you don’t do it, what happens?—generally nothing.  Marketing is not hard, it’s persistence and time.  It takes a bit of imagination.  Don’t look at other authors and say, “What are they doing?”  Ask instead, “What they not doing?”

Don’t be afraid to try some PR venues that haven't been done before.  You just might surprise yourself.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Riding the Thunder - Sisters of Colford Hall, Book 2

  Asha’s grip on Jago’s waist tightened as the voice filled her brain.  Not now, she prayed.  

  Before, when she’d been assailed with the memories of Laura Valmont at the pool and the drive-in, she had totally zoned out.  At the pool Jago had been there; he would've caught her if she’d fallen.  In the car, she had faced no physical danger, but here, losing consciousness, and slipping into a past that happened over four decades ago, could be costly.  She might fall from the bike, or cause Jago to lose control.  The prospect was scary.  She gritted her teeth and tried to fight the images.  

  Oh, please not now.  Her mind tore in two.  Part of her was on the back of the motorcycle with Jago.  Another part was channeling images from Laura and the 1960s.

Tommy, I’m scared.

Asha was scared, too.  She faintly shook her head as if she could dispel the overpowering recollections of Laura, but the insular feel of the helmet made it harder to fight the flashes.  The narrow, winding road Jago had taken seemed familiar, so familiar, though she’d never been on it before.  However, Laura Valmont had, in a fire engine red Ford Mustang.

Pulling back from the past sucking at her, she grew aware Jago had picked up speed.  The sense of everything zooming by in a blur was dizzying.  Her arms tightened about him and held on for dear life.  Please, stop!  Oh, bloody hell, please stop!  She wasn't sure if the thoughts were hers or Laura’s.  

  She tried not to squeeze Jago too tightly, yet it was hard to judge.  Instead of bringing the motorcycle to a halt, he gunned the engine.  The bike almost jerked on the back wheel.  She gasped as the Harley roared down the road.  They were nearing the cliffs.  Have mercy, Jago surely wouldn’t take the old abandoned road?  Glancing up, Asha caught sight of the reflection in the review mirror; she then risked turning her head to see.  A dark truck bore down on them, keeping pace with the motorcycle’s flat out speed.  As the pickup gained on them, Jago again goosed the Harley, nearly causing the back wheel to spin out on the wet pavement.  The monster leapt forward, keeping them out of harm’s way.

Asha held her breath as the truck inched closer and closer.  Her heart racing like the motorcycle engine, the sound of the tires on the wet pavement, the rumble of the Harley―all blended into part of the nightmare from the past.  She swallowed her own panic.  It doubled as she tasted the terror of Laura Valmont.

A scream ripped through her brain as she struggled for the last vestiges of reality.  She could not lose consciousness at this high velocity.  She would die.  Jago would die.

We’re together.  We’ll always be together.  Just like the song, our love will never die.
Never die…Never die…Never die…

Just as Asha opened her mouth to let her scream meld with Laura’s, Jago cut the bike to the left and shot down a narrow side road, barreling down the dilapidated lane.  The truck thundered on past.  Jago skillfully spun the bike in a 180-degree turn, so that he sat, legs braced, facing the mouth of the small road.  He waited, gunning the Harley, clearly fearful the idiot driver might come back.

  Shocked by the experience, and still being drawn into the past, Asha climbed off the bike, barely aware of what she was doing.  Some part of her mind recognized Jago’s concern; even so she couldn’t stop as her steps carried her toward a strange, deserted building at the back of the nearby lot.  It called to her.  Without knowing why, she had to go to it―was compelled to go to it.  Strange, the structure being out here in the middle of nowhere...similar in fashion to The Windmill.

The damp weeds of the field were up to her thighs.  Most were dead, except for the creeping honeysuckle and wild rose briar on either side of a faint path, some patches nearly over her head.  Several long canes reached out, almost snatching at her; she dodged as her steps carried her on.  Broom Sage, Queen Anne’s Lace―all dead, long dead, and not just from this past summer, but the summer before that and likely several summers long ago.  Judging by the looks of the derelict land, it hadn't been cleared this decade, possibly a decade or more before that.  Who knew when the last time it was used? 

  The building wasn't cared for, only half-heartedly secured against vandals.  As if no one ever came here; no one cared if they did.  So weathered, the wood of the plank siding was a colorless grey.  Plywood had been nailed across the front of the place, covering the windows and doorway.  Someone had spray painted a peace sign and the words Hell no! We won’t go! in red on one warping board.  The Vietnam era?  The paint was fading away.  

  Asha paused at the bottom of the steps, contemplating if the porch was safe, but then decided to go around to the back instead.

Behind her, she heard Jago calling, but his words were carried away on the waves of memories fighting to surface within her.  As she circled around the side, she heard a flapping noise.  Her steps slowed as she neared.

The sound came from an odd addition to the building.  Originally, she’d judged, the structure was a simple L-shaped house.  Possibly someone had lived here once.  At some later date, the extension― what looked like a small pavilion―had been grafted onto the back.  There were no walls to this part of the structure, just sheets of unpainted plywood covering the two open sides.  One wooden panel had been pulled half down, hanging diagonally by a single nail.  Behind the boards was a heavy circus tent quality canvas, gray from age and ripped in a couple places.  The wind caused the end to flutter, the metal grommets of the rings knocking against the wooden post.

Asha hesitated for a moment, uncertain if she wanted to pull back the sailcloth and see what lay beyond.  Just as she worked up enough nerve, Jago touched her arm.  Her mind snapped back.

“Asha, are you all right?”  He reached out and brushed the back of his hand to her cheek.
She offered Jago a fleeting smile, trying to reassure him, only her attention remained divided.  The clanking of the metal grommets against the poplar wood post was a siren’s song, calling her.  

  In a sad voice, she told him, “It seems so small now.”

“What’s small?”

She heard his words―ignored them.  Moving forward, she grasped the canvas and lifted it back.  In a flash, everything about her surroundings shifted, changed―as they had by the pool.  Instead of the dingy, forlorn pavilion, the white canvases were rolled up to the roof and tied back, leaving everything open to the night air.  Colored Christmas lights were tacked along the poplar wood rail that ran along the outer edge of the small skating rink.  Eydie Gormé’s Blame It On The Bossa Nova played over the speakers hung on the walls.  The skaters could rock to the music while going around and around.  Laura loved the dizzying sensation, loved the spinning colorful lights, similar to the feeling of being on a merry-go-round. 

  No, no, the bossa nova…

Then she saw him, standing by the post, watching her.  Tommy.  So handsome.  And she loved him more than she loved life.

“Asha, damn it.”  Jago jerked her around by the arm to face him.  “What the hell is wrong with you?  And don’t bother telling me you need a soda.”

With a faint shudder, Asha’s mind returned to the present.  She glanced about the dingy building.  No Christmas lights.  The hardwood floor was ruined by the decades of the lack of care and intruding rain.  No music.  No skaters.  No Tommy and Laura.  However, Tommy Grant and Laura Valmont had once stood here on a hot summer night over four decades ago.  For some strange reason she was being shown their young lives, their special passionate love.  

  Though all about her was now back to normal, an oppressive air of sorrow lingered; it pushed against her mind to where a tear came to her eye.  She wasn't sure why seeing a beautiful memory like the one she had just experienced should leave her so profoundly shaken.  The couple’s love was so clear, so beautiful.  Laura and Tommy were extraordinary people.  Though these flashbacks left her rattled, she felt Laura was giving her a gift.  That gift should bring joy, happiness.  Instead, she was overcome with a poignant, heartbreaking sadness.

Silent tears streaming down her face, she smiled at Jago, trying desperately to hang on.  Just hang on.  “I wish I had known them.”

Poor man, he stared at her, totally confused, fearful.  “Who?”

“You’re now sorry you went to bed with me, eh, Jago?  You’re scared I’m crazy as a loon.”  She reached up and touched his beautiful face, cupped his cheek.  “I’m not sure I can explain, since I don’t really understand myself.”  Dropping her hand, she walked in a small circle.  “This used to be a skate rink.  They came here on summer nights.  Played music.  Mostly the girls skated.  The guys just watched them in their tight Pedal Pushers.  They decorated with strands of Christmas lights, made it festive.  Others would park their cars out here, and would sit on the hoods observing, too.  The nights would flicker, alive with lightning bugs, turning everything magical.  It was a gentle time.  A happy time.”

As she talked the images grew so strong, the music filtered around her.  “’I wonder what went wrong, with our love, a love that was so strong,’” ― she sang the lyrics to the tune she could hear.

“Del Shannon’s Runaway,” Jago identified.

Asha’s head whipped back to him, almost hopeful.  “You hear it?” 

  If he could hear it, too, maybe she wasn’t going insane.  She gave him credit.  He listened for a minute, but then shook his head no.

“You’re hearing Del Shannon?” he asked solemnly.

She chuckled, trying to make light of the bizarre situation.  “Actually, no.  You’ll think I’m totally nuts.  I’m now hearing Alley Oop.”

“Alley Oop?”  Jago huffed a small laugh, but concern filled hid dark green eyes.  “Sorry, I missed that one.”

“I’m sure it’s on the jukebox at The Windmill.  I’ll play it for you when we get back.”  She smiled, fighting the tears.  Her tone sobered.  “I’m not crazy, Jago.”

“You just go around hearing Alley Oop?”  He shoved his hands in his back pockets and looked at her, guarded.  “I read once about a guy, his tooth was turning his mouth into a radio.  Somehow, he was receiving music through his filling.  Maybe you need to have your fillings checked.”

She shrugged.  Walking to the rail, she put her hands on it and gazed out at the abandoned property.  “It might account for the music.  Only, it doesn’t cover Tommy and Laura.”

“Tommy and Laura?”  he echoed, his disbelief rising.  “The lovers from that song on the demented Wurlitzer?”

“Yeah, Tell Laura I Love Her by Ray Peterson.  It was very popular in the early ‘60s.”

“Maybe you’re fixing on that song for some reason?”

“Tommy Grant and Laura Valmont.  They used to come here.  They were very much in love.”

“Used to?  Were?” he challenged.

A flock of birds were suddenly flushed from the stand of trees, the crows’ caws filling the late afternoon sky.  Jago took her elbow.  “Come on, we can figure out Tommy and Laura later.  We need to get out of here.  Now.  The sun is already starting to go down and I don’t want to be out on the bike after dark.  Do you know anyone with a black pickup truck?  A Ford.  Not a new one.”

“Around here?  Half the farmers, most likely.  There are some trucks that are from 1940s still in use.”

“I think we were being followed.”

“That nut in the truck?”

“Yeah.  This morning I noticed a black truck in the drive-in, parked in that corner where it could look down on the bungalows.”  Jago encouraged Asha to sit in front of him this time, clearly not trusting her to safely hang on behind him. 

“I wouldn’t worry about that.  Colin drives an old Ford truck.  It’s black.  That was likely him cleaning up the trash left from the night before.”

“Any reason to think Colin might mean you harm?” he asked as he handed her the helmet.

She shook her head.  “Sorry, you’re barking up the wrong tree there, Jago.  Colin would never hurt me.  There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me.”

He shrugged, unwilling to let go of his doubts.  “Colin is in love with you.  Maybe he resents you letting me into your life.”

He gunned the engine and set the Harley wheeling down the road.

Inspiration - Summoning Thunder

Original 1950s postcard for The Windmill 

Where Inspiration is Found or How to Summon Thunder
Deborah Macgillivray

I leave pieces of myself in my contemporary paranormal romances. In The Invasion of Falgannon Isle and now Riding the Thunder I draw heavily on memories of growing up, of places and people that touched me in some form. Most of these people and many spots are now long gone, though they still live in those shining memories dear to me. In The Invasion of Falgannon Isle, it was the Scots and their wonderful humor, the ability to accept there’s more to this world than just what we see, their ability to laugh at any situation. Not just at, but with. I took those wonderful memories and spun a fantasy that created an imaginary isle with 213 bachelors and with only three unmarried women―two were gay and the remaining one was a woman the males couldn't court because of an ancient curse! It’s a Brigadoonish romp that came straight from my heart.

When I moved to the second book in the series, I wanted to do something fresh, not a carbon copy of the first book, so I looked to the other half of my roots―Kentucky. One reader who recently read Riding the Thunder said she loved the book so much she wished there really was a place called The Windmill. Well, in truth there was. There actually was once upon a time a small restaurant with that name on Lexington Pike, that was about halfway between Lexington and Nicholasville. Long ago, the suburban sprawl of Lexington saw the distance between the massive college town and the small southern community fade. My parents were separated, then later divorced; Father lived in Britain, while my mum lived in Kentucky. I stayed with her during the school year, but holidays and summers I spent in England and Scotland. Sadly, my parents still cared about each other, so it was too painful for them to face each other when they ‘handed me over’, so for a week or two I was sent to stay with Mum’s step-sister, until I was collected by the other parent. I always enjoyed those stays.

I got to see the beautiful horse farms in the bluegrass area. I enjoyed the small town pace, where everyone knew each other, where eccentrics and oddballs were relished, much in the same manner the Scots did. These out of way places have their own pace, and it touched my imagination. So, yes, the Windmill did exist. A horse farm was across the road from it. It had a Wurlitzer that tended to play the wrong tunes at times. There was a swim club, a motel and a Drive-in. And there was even a young man nicknamed Oo-it!

Over the years, I visited the area less and less. It hurt to see the city sprawl, the giant Lexington pushing closer and closer, until finally consuming the tiny town of Nicholasville. All its special flavor, its quirkiness was lost. Only those images, those seeds lived in my mind. I wanted to capture that timeless feeling, so thus my stage was set for Jago Mershan and Asha Montgomerie.

My stories always evolve with the questions of who and why. I see a scene in my head, such as the opening of Chapter One. I saw Jago sitting at the bar, waiting, and drinking a beer.
Who is he? Why is he there? Whom is he waiting for? Why is he waiting? He’s waiting for Asha naturally. Then when Asha enters, it’s more questions. Where did she just come from? I knew who she was basically, since she was the little sister of the heroine in the first book in the series, but the questions then moved me to defining Asha and her quirky world.

Cats seem to wander into my stories, so I wasn't surprised the nameless cat appeared and took up with Jago. I kept trying to name the black cat, only he defied being named, so that became a part of the story as well.

As for the tune Tell Laura I Love Her―the song was very popular when I was a child and it seemed play endlessly on the Jukebox at the real Windmill Restaurant. Everything is so sharp in my mind. I recall the beautiful Wurlitzer, the wallet changers on the walls by each booth, the way the sun came through the plate glass windows that ran across the front. The Drive-in showing Vincent Price movies, the scent of baby oil and chlorine from the swim club, the smells, the diner’s chatter, the Kentucky River, Lock 8, all of these elements created vivid memories within me that lived and were nurtured within my heart.

The one day, Riding the Thunder was born.

Available in Tradesize Print and Kindle

#ParanomalRomance #KentuckyRomance #ContemporaryRomance #TheWIndmillKY #BobbyBorisPickett

Saturday, January 13, 2018

RavenHawke, Book Two of the Dragons of Challon - excerpt

Dragons of Challon 
 Book Two 

Lovers in a Dream . . .

. . . Damian St. Giles has awoken with a sore head from too much drink before; only imbibing in Pictish Mead proves to be a different experience. Once he comes to, he finds himself naked and leg-shackled to a bed post, and no idea where he is or how he got there. When the flame-haired beauty comes to him in the moonlight, he hardly knows if she is real, or a fantasy born of his deepest desires.

Be Careful What You Wish For . . .

Lady Aithinne Ogilvie has an urgent need to get with child to protect her lands from the greedy King Edward. So she sends forth her brothers to fetch her a man—one to do the deed. Instead of finding some common serf, they abduct the cousin of the feared Black Dragon—Julian Challon! Now, she has more troubles than she can handle. She knows she must treat this handsome stranger as little more than a stud. Yet, she cannot deny the instant bond between them—one that speaks to her heart.

“Like a bard of old, Macgillivray spins a tale of myth and magic, sexual tension and classic captive/captor romance.” —The Romantic Times

“Deborah Macgillivray enchants romance fans and Medieval enthusiasts alike. As readers, watching this series unfold in the Dragons of Challon and the Ogilvie figures, we see the birth of a Medieval legend being created in today's world.” — Medieval Book Reviews

A scream split the storm-darkened landscape.  He turned the corner, hand going to the hilt of his sword.  His eyes looked out over the wall trying to see where the call of distress came from.  Only silence greeted him.  Just as he began to wonder if he dreamt it, the plaintive squeal suddenly rose again.

Only this time, his mind experienced some sort of slippage.  He had heard the same screams before.  Only when?  Where?

One of the guards on regular patrol came around the opposite corner.  He nodded in deference.  “Good eve, my lord.  ’Tis only the Peacocks.  Fool birds sound like a woman being strangled.”

Damian finally spied the ridiculous peafowl streaking across the pale after the peahen.  As he stood watching, the landscape from this angle evoked a familiar chord within him.  The soldier moved on, but Damian paid little heed as he pinpointed how the scenery was different, why this should seem so memorable when he had never seen it before.  Feeling as if it were part of a dream, he spun around and looked upward behind him.  The North Tower dominated the fortress, a giant sentinel of the glen.  Anyone approaching Lyonglen could be easily spotted from up there.

He leaned his hips back against the crenellations, then stretched out his legs, crossing them at the ankles.  His right hand rubbed the back of his neck as he contemplated the tower.

Not sure why he felt compelled to it, he pushed off the wall and started into the fortress as lightning cracked, followed by the deep roll of thunder.

His mood almost summoning the storm to break overhead.

Rounding the turn of the first floor, he hesitated at the stairs curving upward.  Damian was unsure what drew him.  Nothing familiar about the winding staircase.  Nothing causing that echo in his memory as the view from outside had.  Urgency to see the tower drew him forward, propelled him to take the stairs two at a time.

At the pinnacle he came to a stop, facing the long hallway that ended in the huge black-oak door.  Closed.  His hand on the latch, he could almost envision the room in his mind’s eye.  Without bothering to knock, he shoved it open.

Mixed emotions filled him as he stood, his eyes taking in the richly furnished room.  A fire burned lowly in the huge fireplace, with bearskin rugs before it and again on the floor by the bed.  The large wood-canopied bed had plaid curtains of red, which were tied back, long drapes nearly covering the heavy, ornate bedposts.  A wolf-pelt cover was folded cross the foot of the thick mattress.  A bed fit for a king.  The sense of disquiet rising, he leaned against the post, trying to isolate images crowding in on his mind.  This room seemed so familiar, yet different.

Going to the large fireplace, he plucked a long straw from the broom propped there and lit the tip from the flames of the peat fire.  He walked back to the table by bedside, and used the straw on the wick of the candles.  Once there was more light, he studied the bed more closely.  Her bed.

On impulse he knelt by the foot post, running his fingers over the base.  A shiver crawled up his spine as he felt the gashes in the wood.  Marks gouged all around the circular post.

“One thing for certain, I am not dreaming these.”

Available in Kindle and Library Quality Print
#ScottishRomance #MedievalRomance #HistoricalRomance

Burns' Night Celebration - all you need to know

Every January 25th, Scotland and Scots all over the world come together to celebrate the life of the national poet, Robert Burns.  There are many Burns Night Celebrations throughout Scotland, and you now see them spreading through the USA.  You haven’t been to one?  Well, like on St. Paddy’s Day and the wearing of the Green, everyone has a wee bit of Irish in them?  You might say the same about Burns Night.  So, reach down and find that thread of Scots heritage in your background and get thee to the nearest Burns Night.  You won’t regret it.

Burns Nights begins with The Piping In The Guests.  A piper is positioned to welcome incoming guests, and he plays until the high table is ready to be seated.  (If there is no high table set up, then it’s when all the tables are filled and the evening is ready to be called to order.)  The evening is called to order by the Captain, Chair or Host, and he warmly welcomes all to the gathering.  Next, he outlines what will happen in the evening ahead and in what order.

The Piping In The Haggis kicks off the celebration.  All guests normally stand as the Haggis is carried in on an ornate silver platter—the piper leads, then comes the Haggis bearer, the chef and the person who will provide the address to the Haggis.  A whisky-bearer comes at the end and moves through the gathering to ensure all glasses are filled for the toast.  Guests clap in time to the music, until the procession finally reaches the head table.  The music ends and everyone is seated again, and is silent in anticipation of the address to a Haggis. 

The honored reader holds the crowd’s attention as he offers an entertaining rendition of Burns’ ode to the dish.  He will hold his knife or sgian dubh, poised above the Haggis.  On cue (His Knife see Rustic-labour dight) he cuts the casing lengthwise, making sure to allow the meaty dish inside the casing to spill out.  

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
       Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
       As lang 's my arm. 

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
       In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
       Like amber bead. 

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
       Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
       Warm-reekin, rich!

Next comes The Toast to the Haggis.  The reader prompts the guests to join in, giving their toasts.  Then, it’s time to serve the main course, generally with tatties and neeps (potatoes and turnips).  When the meal is served to all, the people partake of the traditional Scottish fare.  Background music is played.  Wine or ale are served liberally with the dinner.  Some add a dash of whisky sauce on the Haggis, which true Scots know means whisky neat!  lol

After the meal, it's time for connoisseurs to taste and compare notes on the wonderful selection of malts served by the generous Chair.  Each Single Malt has its own distinct taste and smell, and no two are alike.  The proper way to drink whisky is to put two fingers into an on the rocks glass, and then add a few drops of water.  This releases the bouquet of the malt and increases the flavor.  (For those wondering what a dram of whisky is, it’s a bit more than a shot glass.)

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties - Traditional Burns Night Menu

Haggis - Ingredients

1 sheep's stomach cleaned and thoroughly scalded, turned inside out, and
   soaked overnight in cold salted water
1 Heart and Lungs of one lamb
1 pound of beef trimmings, fat and lean
2 large onions, finely chopped
8 oz oatmeal
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground dried coriander
1 tsp mace
1 tsp nutmeg
water, enough to cook the haggis
stock from lungs and trimmings


1.  Wash the lungs, heart and liver.  Place in large pan of cold water with the  meat trimmings and bring to the boil. Cook for about 2 hours.  When cooked, strain off the stock and set the stock aside.
2.  Mince the lungs, heart and trimmings.
3.  Put the minced mixture in a bowl and add the finely chopped onions, oatmeal  and seasoning.  Mix well and add enough stock to moisten the mixture.  It should have a soft crumbly consistency.
4. Spoon the mixture into the sheep's stomach, so it's just over half full.  Sew up  the stomach with strong thread and prick a couple of times so it doesn't explode  while cooking.
5. Put the haggis in a pan of boiling water (enough to cover it).  Cook for 3 hours  without a lid.  Keep adding more water to keep it covered.
6. To serve, cut open the haggis and spoon out the filling.

Tatties and Neeps

1 1/4 lb potatoes (peeled and chopped in cubes)
1 1/4 lb turnips (peeled, chopped in cubes)
1 pinch nutmeg
4 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons butter
Sea salt and pepper to taste

For the Potatoes: Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt, cover the pan with a lid.  Bring the potatoes to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (approximately 20 minutes). Drain the potatoes and keep to one side.  Add half of the butter and half the milk to the pan the potatoes were cooked in.  Melt the butter and warm the milk, add  the cooked potatoes and mash.  Add the nutmeg and stir well to create a smooth, creamy mash.

For the Turnips: Place the turnips in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt, cover the pan with a lid.  Bring the turnips to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (approximately 20 minutes).

Drain the turnips and keep to one side.  Add half of the butter and half the milk to the pan the turnips were cooked in.  Melt the butter and warm the milk, add the cooked turnips and mash until smooth and creamy

To Serve:  Once cooked remove the haggis from the water.
Place on a serving dish and cut it open with scissors or a knife
and serve with the tatties and neeps alongside.  And to drink,
a wee dram of Scotch whisky would be traditional.

As the evening becomes mellow and the meal is done, it is time for The First Entertainment.  Generally, this is a singer or musicians who will perform Burns’ songs.  If a singer isn't provided, you will get someone reciting poems by Burns.

My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose;
Rantin', Rovin' Robin;
John Anderson, my jo;
Ae Fond Kiss, and Then We Sever. 

After the singers or poetry recitation, the keynote speaker takes the stage, and delivers a talk on who Robert Burns was, speaking of his literary genius, his politics, his personal achievements, and disappointments in life.  He explains why Burns is so rooted in Scottish nationalism.  The speaker‘s bard ability is very important to paint the full picture of who the man was, why his memory is so enduring.  The speaker concludes with a heart-felt toast “To the immortal memory of Robert Burns!”

The evening’s The Second Entertainment is introduced—more songs or poems to round out Burns’ extensive works.  Once that is done, you come to The Toast to the Lassies.  A more  lighthearted part of the evening.  The toast is offered to praise women and their roles in the world today, but it should be done with quotations from Burns’ works—and hopefully in a positive tone.  This can be a general toast to females, or more specific to those females in attendance.

The Final Entertainment for the evening comprises more songs and poems of Burns, sometimes with dancers.  Upon conclusion, it’s time for the women

to get a wee dram of revenge in their chance to give The Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, as the females have a turn to address males with Burns’ quotes.  Generally, there is a wee bit more bite to the chosen quotes.

As the evening draws to close, the Host thanks everyone for coming and sharing the festivities.  He closes the proceeding by inviting guests to stand and sign Auld Lang Syne.