Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Readers familiar with my books know I love the woo. And, no, I don’t mean old-fashioned courting. The woo is how I think of paranormal light. To me, that means ghosts, time travel, and Celtic lore. My Scottish medievals written under my real name, Sue-Ellen Welfonder, always have a touch of woo. My Allie Mackay Scottish-set paranormals really let me indulge this particular passion.
I don’t think I’ve ever visited a Scottish castle, ruined or otherwise, without wondering what it would be like to encounter the ghost of dashing medieval Highlander. Of course, he’d seem real. He’d also be ready and eager to sweep me off my feet. Another wish I have in such places is to slip back in time and land in the arms of a medieval hottie Scottie. He, too, would be keen on ravishing me.
Of course, he would. These are my fantasies, after all.
As for Highland magic … I really do believe.
Scotland is magical as I’ve seen again and again when spending time there. Take a peek at the Tomnaverie stone circle in northeastern Scotland. I took this photo on a chill and drizzly November day. Tomnaverie – believed to be 4,500 years old - is remote, small, and you can almost be guaranteed you’ll be alone when you visit. To me, that makes its magic so much stronger than an over-run site like Stonehenge.
Scotland abounds with places like Tomnaverie.
Places that are steeped in a magical, otherworldly feel.
And there enough tales and legends about each such place to fill centuries of long and dark winter nights spent around the peat fire.
I have great fun exploring such themes in my Allie Mackay titles. My upcoming release, TALL, DARK, AND KILTED ~ NAL ~ Nov. ’08, has the kind of sexy medieval ghost hero I’d love to meet. And the setting, Scotland’s wild and remote far north, is just the kind of place where staunchest disbelievers might think twice before they rumple a nose at Celtic whimsy and the unexplained…
A good man is hard to find.
Cilla Swanner has been jilted by her lover, and she is struggling with a jewelry business that’s far from sparkling. She needs a getaway to someplace quiet and remote. Someplace like Dunroamin Castle in Scotland where her aunt and uncle run a retirement home in the majestic Highlands. But what she finds there may be more than she can handle.
Or is it the other way around?
Centuries ago, the roguish Scots knight known as Hardwick was renowned for his swordsmanship, both on and off the battlefield. But a traveling bard cursed him to wander the world forever, pleasing a different woman each night with no hope of fulfillment or true love. Then Hardwick meets Cilla, who may be his only chance for salvation.
Cilla - being my creation – is up to the challenge of a ghostly hero. She’s enchanted by Dunroamin Castle. A place where the past embraces you the instant you step through the door. She loves the sense of slipping into an older, less harried world, even if her room reminds her of the set of an old black-and-white Dracula movie. Cilla also falls under Scotland’s own spell. She learns that the Highlands are more than hauntingly beautiful. And she discovers that this world holds things that can’t always be explained.
But not everyone is Cilla.
Some people struggle with the woo.
They can’t wrap their minds around Highland magic. Drifting mist is scenic but not supernatural. The beautiful luminosity of a Highland summer night is just that, beautiful. The smooth, perfectly round and white pebble found on a Hebridean strand will never cure terrible maladies. There aren’t any sprites in the woods and certainly not a water horse in the river. Heaven forbid someone mention a water bull. That wasn’t a faint skirl of pipes out on the lonely, night-bound moor. It was the piercing cry of a bird. Everyone knows it’s impossible to catch a glimpse of the past if you step – all by your lonesome – into the tumbled walls of a castle ruin. Ghosts are out of the question.
There are many people who agree with the above.
I am not one of them.
But such a skeptic lives in the pages of TALL, DARK, AND KILTED. He’s Cilla’s Uncle Mac who owns Dunroamin. As you can see in the following exchange that takes place not long after Cilla’s arrival at the castle, Uncle Mac wouldn’t acknowledge a ghost if one floated right past him. In this snippet, Cilla has just asked him if Dunroamin has ghosts….
“Ho! Not here an hour and already you’re asking what every American wants to know.” Uncle Mac’s face split in a broad, twinkly-eyed grin. “The only ghosts hereabouts are my creaky knees. If you count both together, they’re well over a hundred.”
Cilla smiled. “If your knees are creaky, I would’ve noticed.” She crossed the room and hugged him. “I’d rather hear about ghosts.”
“Would you now?” Uncle Mac lifted a bushy brow. “Truth is you won’t be seeing any. I took my first breath in these walls. If there were bogles flitting about, sure enough and I’d know it.”
Aunt Birdie sniffed. “What about the gray lady on the main stairs?” She came forward to join them, her purple-and-blue watered silk dress swirling around her like an exotic, perfume-scented cloud. “Or the little boy who sits on a stool in a corner of the kitchen?”
Her husband hooted. “The day a misty lady floats down my stairs, I’ll shave off my beard.” He rocked back on his heels, amused. “The offer stands for any spook that might care to put in an appearance.”
“Have a care, dear. There’s always a kernel of truth to any legend.” Aunt Birdie tapped his chest with a red-tipped fingernail. “Bucks County back home is steeped in tradition and ghosts. Here ….” she let her voice tail off. “Let’s just say that you, as a Highlander, should know better than to scoff at such things.”
Uncle Mac huffed and waved a hand.
“Tell me” – he winked at Cilla – “do you believe in such foolery? Ghosts, tall tales, and plaid-draped, sword-packing beasties that go bump in the night?”
Cilla bit her lip.
From what she’d seen of Scotland so far, she doubted Uncle Mac would like her answer.
That’s Uncle Mac. A wonderful character – always kilted, by the way – who is full of life, bluster, and good humor. He doesn’t believe in the woo.
There are lots of Uncle Macs in the world.
I encountered one early in my career. This reader found it ridiculous that my heroine was gifted with second sight. She ended her online commentary by asking: “How many people do you know with second sight?”
Well, … err, ahem….
It just so happens that I know quite a few. My own grandmother had it in spades. So much so that she scared me sometimes. And I have many Highland friends who have someone in their family who is so gifted. Or they know someone in the village who is. Or they have the sight themselves. I don’t know a single Highlander who’d deny its existence.
But there is so much more to Celtic legend and lore.
Second sight is just the tip of the iceberg. Highland Scotland is a treasure trove of the woo and the farther back in time that you go, it just gets more fascinating. People really did believe in sacred wells, charmed stones, mystical creatures and fairies. Sea monsters swam in the waters around the Hebrides and every Islesman kept a watch for Selkies. Trolls were greatly feared by Shetlanders and Orkneymen. Everywhere, the evil eye was dreaded, the local seer (usually a man) was highly respected, and the powers of wise women were in great demand. Omens were carefully sought and studied before any clan embarked on an important venture. Clan elders knew such signs could foretell the outcome of a raid or a battle and acted accordingly. Childbirth brought its own array of precautions and charms, the wealth and variety of which is beyond mind boggling.
Now look at the other two photos. This is Smoo Cave in Scotland’s far north. Legends abound about this cave, one being that it is a dwelling place of fairies. Another tale claims Smoo Cave hides an entrance into the netherworld. Could be those orbs surrounding me are fairies. Or spirits of the many souls said to have met their doom in the cave. Or they might be droplets of spray from the waterfall behind me.
Either way, Smoo Cave is a place where you can believe in anything.
Truth is Gaelic Scotland has an incredibly rich heritage of folklore, tradition, and beliefs. There were customs and superstitions that touched every aspect of daily life. It would take many more words than suitable in this blog to discuss them all.
Thanks to the Highlanders’ fierce pride in ancestry and culture, this amazing tapestry of lore has been well preserved. Those fortunate enough to visit Scotland can see living traces of this legacy. I sometimes think each blade of grass, clump of heather, and stone has a story.
Wonders are everywhere. Sometimes in the most unexpected places. Here’s one example: Glamis Castle is a huge tourist draw. It also brims with mystic and legend. But! Those who care to look beyond the well-known, and are willing to tramp down a steep, wet and weedy riverbank, can find an ancient pagan well beneath the old church in Glamis village. The well is just a few feet from the river’s edge and hidden behind a tangle of ivy fronds.
But it is there.
Testament to the old ways and … no surprise, really … if you peer into the peaty water, you can see a fairly modern looking tin cup. It would seem the ancients aren’t the only ones who trusted in the well’s healing abilities.
Highland magic is alive and well.
And it was more than that in medieval Scotland. It was everything. A part of daily life as natural and accepted as eating, sleeping, and breathing.
I cannot imagine writing a Scottish-set book (no matter the century) without including these traditions and lore that are so tightly woven into Scotland’s heritage. Yet I know some of my colleagues would rather sit on a tack than include anything ‘paranormal’ in their historicals. And (see above) I know there are readers who feel the same.
Sooo … how do you woo?
Do you enjoy threads of Celtic myth and legend in your Scottish reads? Can you push the envelope enough to enjoy a sexy medieval Scottish ghost hero? Or do you prefer your tales wholly de-wooed?
All views are welcome.
Please comment to win:
3 signed ARCs of TALL, DARK, AND KILTED (or wait until Nov. for the actual book – winners can decide)
1 signed ARC of SEDUCING A SCOTTISH BRIDE – my next (Welfonder) Scottish medieval, coming from GCP in March ‘09
3 signed copies of my reader favorite, DEVIL IN A KILT
1 pipes and drums CD as a special bonus prize
Readers can visit me at:
http://www.welfonder.com/ (Scottish medievals written under my own name for Grand Central Publishing, formerly known as Warner Books)
http://www.alliemackay.com/ (Scottish-set paranormals written under my pen name, Allie Mackay, for Penguin/NAL)
Thanks so much, Wendy and friends, for inviting me to guest blog. I appreciate it!
To everyone else … Alba gu brath! (Scotland forever)
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Hope everyone is having a great weekend.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I thought I'd pass on something. Although if you read Genn's blog you'll already know it. But Jenn has been has been released from her contract with Mira. They published her first book in her Virtual series over a year ago, May 07, and were supposed to have released book 2 by now. But they kept pushing it back. They blamed Walmart for not buying enough of Jenn's books. But regardless she is now released from her contract and can look for another publisher. The bad part? She will have a hard time getting another publisher to release book 2 and 3 in a series, meanwhile us fans of the series are left without a book. She's considering self-publishing, but we'll just have to wait and see how it goes.
If you'd like to read her words on the matter visit her blog here:
It's sad and yet it's not. Those of us in her group have known about ongoing issues and concerns for awhile, but I really hate it for Jenn. Please send her good thoughts and prayers that she finds a new publisher soon and will see her books once more in the hands of fans, both new and old.
I think Mira has made a mistake and realize it at a later date, but that is my personal opinion on the matter.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
PUMPKIN AND BEAN SOUP
2 cups Water
2 tablespoons Dried Haricot Beans
1/4 Red Pepper
1 Small Onion, chopped
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Curry Powder
250g Pumpkin, peeled, chopped
2 cups Chicken Stock
1/4 cup Grated Smoked Cheese
1 tablespoon Sour Cream
Combine water and beans in a bowl, cover, stand overnight.
Transfer undrained beans to pan, simmer, covered, about 1 hour or until beans are tender; drain.
Cut pepper into thin strips, cut chives into 6cm lenghts. Heat butter in pan, add onion, garlic, and curry powder, cook, stiring, until onion is soft. Add pumpkin and stock, simmer, covered, until pumpkin is soft. Blend or process pumpkin mixture until smooth.
Return pumpkin mixture to pan, stir in beans and pepper, bring to a boil. Add cheese and sour cream, stir until heated through. Serve soup topped with chives.
Recipe can be made a day ahead.
Storage: Covered, in refridgerator.
I hope everyone tries this!!! You can probably just get canned haricot beans instead of soaking them, etc...I think that is what Mark does to save time and do it all in one day. But it is DELICIOUS!!!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The NASCAR Library Collection
Vicki Bradford might work for the most ruthless sports agent in the business, but she's no quitter, even when she hits the lowest of career lows—acting as a glorified babysitter to NASCAR's disruptive newcomer, Brandon Burke. But his devilish grin and the gleam in his eye tell her he won't be so easy to tame.…
Brandon isn't about to let his wild ways on and off the track be tempered by a buttoned-up stunner hired to make him behave. And he's not above a little pulse-pounding game of seduction to send her running. But one kiss ignites something powerful between them. And now it's a matter of how to avoid the crash and burn of two opposites steering recklessly toward love.
WendyK *BTW this is a great story and series!*
If you have questions about the group or it's cause please ask away.
I deleted it. I hate sad stories. That's probably why I write romance novels for a living. Besides, these days cancer doesn't have to be scary. It doesn't have to be sad. It can be cured, especially if we're talking breast cancer here.
I'll be honest. I'd never had a mammogram when I first joined Think Pink. I'd volunteered my services after my father died having made the commitment to do whatever I could to help fight his awful disease. He didn't have breast cancer, although men can get it, but I figured one cancer was as good as another to try and sucker punch. So I joined. Unfortunately, I made the mistaking of mentioning my lack of a mammogram to one of Think Pink's founders, Melody Christenson. We were at her work--a place that does medical imaging--and so you can imagine what happened next. She trotted me over to the receptions desk and said, "Get Pam an appointment today." I remember mentally screaming, "Noooooo." I didn't want my breasts squished, especially on such short notice. I needed time to psych myself into the deal. But I didn't think it was right tell one of Think Pink's founders that I was too scared to do the very thing that Think Pink is all about: early detection. So I swallowed my fear and did it. And you know what?
It wasn't that bad.
It wasn't that bad at all. In fact, I feel like silly baby for thinking it would hurt. I didn't.
So I chose for this blog to be a positive account of my first breast screening. And a reminder to all of you to CHECK YOUR BREASTS. And, failing that, to get a yearly screening. Cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence. Especially breast cancer. In fact, it now has a 97% cure rate if detected early.
Get out there, girls! Get your ta-tas mashed. It just might save your life.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Teacher Isabelle Carson is grief-stricken, angry, and scared. Three of her childhood friends have died. The police say they’re suicides, but Isabelle knows they would never, ever take their own lives. Her past binds her to every victim, and she knows it’s only a matter of time before the killer comes after her. Only one man can help her now, the only man she’s ever trusted, the man who saved her so long ago . . .
No Place to Hide
For Grant Kent, Delta Force vet, just being near Isabelle brings back old memories and desires, and stirs longings he’d rather deny. Yet he can’t deny the real terror in her eyes, or resist the thought of holding her again. But even as their friendship begins to blossom into a passionate affair, a killer continues his deadly rampage, and plots his next move, the “suicide” of Isabelle Carson.
I’ve read them, but never actually participated in blogging until now. I’ve heard several smart people say that if you’re not a “blog person” you shouldn’t try to be one. It would come across fake and unpleasant for all involved.
Not having any innate knowledge as to what constitutes this elusive blogging nature, and having even less time, I decided the smartest thing I could do was avoid blogging altogether. Besides, I always figured that I don’t have anything to say that someone would find so interesting they’d feel the need to stop their day and read it. Heck, half the time I can’t even get my family to stop what they’re doing long enough to hear me yell it’s time for dinner. Perhaps that’s more a commentary on my cooking than anything else, but I digress. We were talking about my clever plan to avoid blogging so as not to induce any fake unpleasantries -- a plan that is clearly doomed to failure.
It’s becoming increasingly evident to me that avoiding blogs is akin to avoiding cell phones or ATMs -- not smart. So here I am, throwing myself upon your mercy, hoping that some of you brilliant “blog people” might enlighten me as to what draws you to certain blogs so that I will no longer feel compelled to avoid participating in the future.
Thanks for helping deflower this former blog virgin. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.
Shannon K. Butcher
Monday, October 13, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
An Amish Romantic Suspense Novel from Million-selling Award-winning Novelist Colleen Coble.
Hannah Schwartz slipped away from her Amish family to meet with her beau, Reece Ericson. When she returned, she discovered her parents murdered and their handmade quilts stolen.
Years later, a shunned Hannah returns to the scene of the crime in hopes of restoring her family and her faith. But while much has changed in Hannah's life, the danger at home now threatens with a vengence.
In the quiet safety of the Bluebird Ranch, old promises resurface and unexpected love brings new hope.
Though tragedy has wrecked her life, Allie Siders holds on to the hope that her five-year-old daughter, Betsy, will speak again. But with a stalker out for revenge, all Allie can think about now is their safety. She must sever all ties and abandon life as she knows it. She heads to the peaceful Bluebird Ranch, nestled deep in Texas hill country, and to the only person who can help them.
The ranch is a sanctuary for abused horses, and also for troubled youths: the perfect place for Betsy to grow and recover. Ranch owner Elijah DeAngelo eagerly welcomes the duo. But Rick Bailey-the ranch foreman and DeAngelo's right hand man-hasn't decided to let his guard down . . . yet.
Promises made long ago soon force Rick and Allie to work together to escape danger. Will they discover love along the way?
Okay, I admit it. My characters are real. No really. They have to be real or they wouldn’t take over the story the way they do. I can be typing along with a destination for my character in mind. The next thing I know she’s off doing something I had NO IDEA would happen. Before I was a writer, I heard authors say crazy stuff like that and thought it was a publicity ploy. Um, no. It’s real. Characters have minds of their own, and I often can’t fathom them.
The very best characters live on it in the minds of readers. My readers’ favorite character is Bree from the Rock Harbor series. She eats pistachios and has a search-and-rescue dog. She is crazy about Elvis music. She lives in a restored lighthouse on Superior’s south shore. I had so many requests for more books about her that I recently had to write another one that will be out in February called Cry in the Night. I’d intended to write a normal murder mystery and embroil her in it. She and I had no idea where the story would head once I got started. Bree is in big personal trouble. Very big personal trouble that threatens her son and her marriage. Poor girl.
See, she is a real person that I feel sorry for. That didn’t keep me from putting her in terrible difficulties, but I did feel a twinge of regret. And really, part of the trouble is her own fault. She veered off into new directions and I had no choice but to follow. She can’t blame me for the mess she’s made of everything. I told her I was washing my hands of it all.
Now you see why authors are thought to be a little demented. We talk to people in our heads. Mostly because we’re alone all day with a computer and it’s talk to our characters or to ourselves. I recently went on a big author bus tour. It was a luxury bus with 26 other authors, most of them romance writers, put on by Levy and Meijer Supercenters. Great fun! I had almost forgotten how to talk to real people, but it’s like riding a bicycle and it soon came back to me. The good news is that we were all a little twisted and could talk about our characters like they really exist.
And the weird thing is, we all KNOW they do.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Lets start with Evelyn Rogers' GOLDEN MAN published in 1999, the hero is the President of the United States and the heroine a lowly wage earner that stumbles into the wrong room at the absolutely right time. STATE SECRETS by Linda Lael Miller has a secondary character as the newly elected president, he is the cousin of the heroine, and it is her brother the secret service are after, so they put an agent on her. STATE SECRETS was re-released By MIRA in 1995. For those that are Merline Lovelace fans, PERFECT DOUBLE, part of the Code Name Danger series features the head of the OMEGA agency, sexy Adam Ridgeway and covert operative Maggie Sinclair who in PERFECT DOUBLE poses as the vice-president of the United States.
Among the fictional Silhouette Desire families are the Danforths. Their family dynasty was presented to readers in 2004 and one of the main heroes, Abe Danforth is a newly elected US senator. The romance of course is with his campaign manager, a very pregnant campaign manager who leaves before the scandalous secret is revealed and senator's private life becomes very public. Author Kathryn Shay also has a political romance in the offering, SOMEONE TO BELIEVE IN, where the hero is Senator Clay Wainwright and the heroine is a community activist. Flip the coin and author Vicki Hinze gives us a female vice president named Sybil Stone that is the lead character in HER 2002 romantic suspense LADY LIBERTY.
These are only a few of a very long list of books that feature political themes under the romance genre. these also just happen to be my personal favorites, but I'm sure some of you out there have a few you can add, if so let's here from you.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Chosen to be the ultimate secret operative, Helen Roston has become the
most dangerous woman in the world. Two years of training and she's now ready for
the final phase—a risky combination of virtual reality and a mind-altering
serum. When her mysterious and faceless "trainer" syncs his mind to hers using
the program, she's amazed at her sizzling response to his virtual touch. But
Helen likes to be in control. She's not going to beg for more. Helen's final
test is a challenging mission, picked by the other government agencies whose
candidates lost out to her. To succeed, she has to put herself completely in the
hands of her trainer, a man she's not sure she can trust. But all of COS Command
are counting on her. She cannot fail.
*taken from Barnes and Noble website.
Read my review of Jenn's great book, VIRTUALLY HIS here:
*just a note VIRTUALLY HERS release date is wrong within the review. For more information on the correct release date and updates on Jenn's writing please visit Jenn's website at www.gennita-low.com*
Have you read VH? Did you love it? Are you eager for more?
This was pre-Internet days, so I did a lot of my research by buying books and going to the library. When I finally started, I fell in love with the act of writing, sitting for hours happily scribbling the story long hand. I finished my masterpiece in a mere few months, without any idea about things such as first draft, revision, or that the big pile of typed papers was called a manuscript. I just wanted to tell the story.
It took me a while before I realized that, even though I read up everything I could about medieval life, there were a few things wrong with my masterpiece:
1) That book wasn't a historical; it was a his-te-rical. It was really, really bad.
2) My knights all spoke like Navy SEALs on horses
3) My heroine, who was a Viking slave girl, could wield a sword like a "berserker" because the bad guy, the Viking madman wanted her to berserk for some reason by practicing this mind-control thing on her
4) There was a final kungfu-like scene in which the hero/knight duels with the really bad-ass Huge Viking Bad Guy with my heroine in a berserker rage by his side against her lover.
Oh yes, this his-te-rical really exists and it's hidden in a safe place never to be discovered. At times I think of shredding it. Better still, burning it and spreading its ashes in different places so that no spirit on earth can bring it together again. I cringe at the memory of having allowed a few friends and literary agents read it. Those poor folks probably haven't ever recovered.
But you know what? I did discover something about my writing. I found out that I love writing action scenes, especially those involving bawdy men speaking like they were spec. ops. warriors, and that I enjoy showcasing heroines who are capable of taking care of themselves. I discovered that I like weaponry and their usage in warfare and defense systems. I didn't know it, but in those early years, I was, in my own mind, developing my own super-soldier-spy, a theme that is the basis of my current three-book Virtual series, the first one being VIRTUALLY HIS (http://www.eharlequin.com/).
After studying the craft and the writing business more, my first "serious" manuscript was called Big Bad Wolf. It was as much a surprise to me that I could write this spy romance novel because really, at that time, I never enjoyed spy books that much. They were okay, lots of bang-bang, and then more boom-boom. Then, I read Linda Howard's Diamond Bay. Oh. My. God. Something just clicked on in my head. I've found my favorite genre, that dark-souled hero with the darker-souled heroine. And I've never looked back.
Big Bad Wolf (link:http://www.gennita-low.com/GEMS/gems3/BBW1Authornote.rtf) *visit here to read the first chapter of this great story for free* is my first spy novel. It contained all the nuggets/seedlings to my COS commando and GEM verse/mythos. Besides winning several major competitions, it also finaled in RWA's Golden Heart, a contest for the unpublished, twice. Yes, I'm very proud of it ;-) because this manuscript was the beginning of my discovery of myself as a writer.
I hope that you enjoy the free ebook.(http://www.rooferauthor.blogspot.com/ visit here to get all the chapters of this great book for free) Please answer my question at the end of the book because it'll help me make a decision. I hope I gave readers a little insight into the growing evolution of a writer. For writers, I hope I gave you the encouragement to look for your strengths and to go with it in your work.
I also love to hear from readers, so please ask your questions here or email me at Jenn@Gennita-Low(dot)com (sorry, I hate trolling spambots too. Damn tech-spies ;-P).
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
It's been a mess for me. I'm still not in a great mind right now so I'll keep this short and sweet.
Hope everyone is having a great day and reading something fun and great.
Any new books added to your piles today?
The website has been updated today as well: