To Love a Scotsman

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If you read my blog, you’re aware I’m reading the Outlander series. Time traveler Claire meets Jamie the Scottish Highlander in the 1700s.  I’ve also read other historical novels with a Scotsman as a lead character for comparison.

Here are the things I’ve learned about these men.

They always wear their plaid. It involves much draping around the body with a brooch as a finishing touch. Taking it off is much easier. Just loosen the pin and the entire outfit falls to the floor. Very convenient.

Speaking of convenience, the plaid can be used as a sleeping bag and even wrap up two people for warmth and comfort. Also, since the kilt is made a certain way, when nature calls just lift the skirt. (P.S. No underwear.)

The men love to say “verra” a lot. I think you can figure out it means very. The word pops up a lot as I read. I sometimes find myself slipping and using the word when I speak.

The Scots are either dark-haired, handsome and strong or red-haired, handsome and strong. What’s not to like?

They speak Gaelic. I’ve tried to phonetically sound it out as I read but finally stumble over the words until I, hopefully, get to the translation. The women in the book are usually English so they have no idea what their man is saying. They usually think it’s something quite romantic or complimentary. He could be telling her, “I’m going out to shoot a deer and I’ll be back in time for supper. After that you can help me skin and prepare the animal.”She nods, smiles and fawns all over him because it sounds so wonderful. He leaves thinking he has a pretty awesome wife.

The men end up using their dirk in some way. Now, it’s not what you’re thinking. A dirk is a knife they carry at all times. It may be used when fighting to defend oneself or kill food for dinner. It comes in verra handy.

So how could you not love a Scotsman? He is a perfect heroic figure for a romance novel or a historical book. And as you can see, I’ve learned a lot. Reading can take you so many places. I’ve enjoyed meeting-and loving-these Scotsmen.

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Sometimes You Just Gotta Go There

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As a writer, I think it helps to have been to the places you write about. I wrote about the Grand Canyon and New York City in my series. I’d been to both places. Research is a big part of any book. The more you do, the more it helps the book come alive.

Add in history and you’ve got your work cut out for you. As you know, if you follow my blog, I’m reading the Outlander series. The author had to do a massive amount of research. She started with Scotland and the Highlander uprising and ended in North America pre-Revolutionary War. And that’s only in the four books I’ve read. I’m sure there’s more to come.

Since I like to read historical fiction and am considering writing one myself, I just had to invite my author friend, Mysti Parker, to guest blog today. She has recently released a historical romance novel. She has visited the places she wrote about and it’s an interesting journey. Love the cover, Mysti!

Travelling for Research

By Mysti Parker

I’ve never been what you’d call a history buff, but I had to become one when I wrote A Time for Everything. The idea came to me in 2010, and I began a very rough draft. I decided that I really should see these places where the story was to take place. That’s what researchers do, right? We took a trip to middle Tennessee, just the husband and I (always nice to be alone) and spent a weekend touring Franklin, Nashville, Brentwood, and Lebanon. These four towns all played parts in the story. But what I found in them truly fueled the fire of the book’s plot.

Middle Tennessee, like much of Kentucky where I live, is a beautiful symphony of rolling hills, green meadows, small farms and cozy communities nestled in quiet valleys. But during the Civil War, this area was anything but idyllic. Take Franklin, for instance. One of the bloodiest battles of the war swept through the town on November 30, 1864, leaving behind a trail of bullet-riddled soldiers, houses, and even civilian casualties.

Today, this horrific period in history is commemorated with historical sites that offer tours. We visited many of these, including the Lotz House, where German immigrant and master woodworker Johann Lotz and family had to evacuate before the battle reached their home. They sought shelter along with a couple dozen neighbors in basement of the Carter house across the street. In this beautiful historic home turned museum, you can still see the bullet holes in the original woodwork.

Just a short drive out of town is Carnton Plantation, where the McGavock family’s home became a field hospital. If you ever get a chance to visit, make sure to take the tour. It’s a fascinating and enlightening story of just how bad things could be when a battle is literally raging at your doorstep. In the home, you can still see the blood stains on the wooden floors upstairs. Here, you’ll see the window where a field surgeon tossed out amputated limbs. Arms, legs, hands, and feet of these unfortunate men supposedly formed a pile as high as the smokehouse.

The story of Carrie McGavock, however, was the most compelling. Once the war was over, and bodies buried hastily in shallow graves across the countryside, she decided to dedicate a parcel of their land as a Confederate cemetery. She began the arduous task of identifying these men when possible, and relocating their bodies to a proper, marked resting place. Her story inspired Robert Hicks to write Widow of the South, which I bought in the Carnton Plantation gift shop.

That book, along with several others like the real-life diary of a Confederate widow, A Woman’s Civil War by Cornelia Peake McDonald, helped me fill in the gaps of Portia’s story. Accounts of the Tennessee men who fought for both sides, and walking the ground they lived and died upon, helped bring Beau to life.

I think I could have written A Time for Everything without ever having stepped foot into Tennessee, but it wouldn’t have been the same book. Without touring the places firsthand and hearing such memorable and personal accounts, I don’t believe the story would have felt real enough. But I’ll let you readers decide that for yourself.

Profile Pic 2015 150x226  Buy her book here.           A Time for Everything  

What are You Reading Today?

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I just finished the third book of the Outlander series, Voyager. I can’t stop thinking about these books and am holding back on buying the next one. There’s a lot to absorb in these novels. The first in the series was 560 pages, but Voyager was over 1,000.

The author tends to go into quite a bit of detail. In fact, I could use less details. Get on with the story! I’ve learned a lot of history, too. Mostly about the failed attempt of the Scottish Highlanders trying to regain the throne for Bonny Prince Charles in the 1740’s.

The book is a time travel novel, too. Clair Randall accidentally steps through one of the stones at an ancient stone circle while visiting Scotland with her husband. It takes her back to 1743 where she meets husband #2, Jamie. There is too much story to sum up in a few sentences, so I won’t try.

If you’re not a reader and think the story line is interesting, Starz has turned the books into a series. My husband has watched and liked it. Although, be forewarned, I had to skip over some scenes in the book and knew I couldn’t watch during the series. There are highly mature themes of a sexual nature in these books–Outlander especially.

The story of Jamie and Clair continues on for eight books. I thought I could stop after book one. But the need to read the next kept gnawing at the back of my mind. The characters stayed with me. Such a good lesson for writers. Shouldn’t all good books do that?

So tell me, what are you reading today?