Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Highland Fling

Last night, my husband and I went to Bangor to see The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. They are Highland pipes, drums and dancers. Women in the crowd actually cried when they heard them play a few of the more traditional tunes like Amazing Grace. I'm not the weepy type, but I do love to hear the pipes.

Now, Dragoons are a calvary unit, so when the man came out to introduce the band, he was wearing spurs that clicked on the concrete floor of the auditorium. The woman in front of me said breathlessly, "Oh, I do so love a man in spurs." It was all I could do from letting one of my famous belts of laughter out. I think my husband was proud that remained restrained (he embarrasses easy). I mean, what did she love about spurs? Was it the old cowboy adage of keeping his boots on even when making love? Or was it some other fantasy she had of the silvery stars on a man's boots? Many ideas flew through my mind, all of which were a bit risqué. I think what was most amusing was that she never once mentioned their bare legs under their tartan kilts!

The rest of the program was very good and the sword dancers were terrific. Lithe and limber men in flying kilts. All too short of a performance, though.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Animal Symbology

There aren’t many places around anymore where, on the way to the post office, you can see a deer, a bald eagle and a murder of crows (actually it was more like a execution of crows, as there must have been 75 or more!), within the span of 5 minutes. ‘Course the deer was dead, hence the reason for so many scavengers, but still, I was one of just few people who saw the scene, as walkers scared all but a few of the hardy crows away from their meal. And, crows, being as territorial as they are, probably chased the eagle as he took flight from the human intruders. I have no doubt that all will be back, since it’s hard to pass up such a bounty in the middle of winter.

Imagine a superstitious person seeing such a gathering of our black-winged brethren. They would surely have turned and run the other way. After all, who would chance getting that much bad news from the messengers of the dark side! They really symbolize creation and magic, and are one of my favorite birds because of their intelligence. As for the bald eagle, it is said that they are symbols of spiritual power and illumination. We can all use a little of that in our lives, can we not? I feel it helps in my writing as a kind of go-ahead-and-do-something-different story line. So, of course I added it to a scene in the third book I'm working on. Catrìona just so happened to have see further without being seen. Thank you eagle!

I have always noticed birds and animals and tried to apply their symbolism in my life. There are those who live in Maine and have never seen a moose. I can’t fathom how that can be possible, but then I look at myself, who has seen a bear only once, even though I lived outside Yellowstone National Park for three years. Perhaps their meanings don’t pertain to us, therefore, why would we see them? Something to ponder.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Language Barrier

To me, there's no better way of sending a reader to 18th century Scotland than by the use of language. Yes, I know, some people are offended by the fact that I have my characters speak similarly to how they would have spoken back then. It does take a little getting used to, but I am rewarded by many more readers who actually appreciate the vernacular. They say it feels like they're there, and they thank me for sending them back in time more authentically.

I have had some agents tell me that to use anything but how we Americans speak is childish. Na bi gòrach! (Don't be daft!) They go on to say that the American public isn't intelligent enough to follow along, and will not read further into the story if they are made to work a little. Shame on them for not giving the public enough credit to want to learn something new. I wonder if that's why Diana Gabaldon is a world-wide best-selling author with literally millions of ardent fans. Me included! That many people can't be wrong.

I do go a step further than Diana by putting a glossary of gàidhlig terms and how to pronounce them in my books. There's no way to please everyone, so all I can hope for is that some of you appreciate the fact that I write for ALL the senses. And just for the record, the way gàidhlig (pronounced gaah-lic) is spelled here is Scottish. Gaelic is the Irish spelling. Two different languages, but with many similarities, though I'd not care to be in a pub differentiating them!

So when you pick up Sightless to read, you will notice different dialects among the Scottish vernacular. For instance, Glaswegians (those folks from Glasgow) have much more of an accent than Highlanders, whose first language was gàidhlig, and English was their second. Highlanders had a softer brogue. Anyway, I hope this helps you to understand my thought process.