!Hi Wendy – Thank you so much for inviting me today. I rarely guest blog (I’ll reveal why below) but when I do, this is one of my favorite places.
Some of you may not know me and my bio is missing from SOME LIKE IT KILTED (I’ll mention this in the text – in relation to good old Murphy and his Law) So here’s a photo and the bio….
Allie Mackay is a card-carrying Scotophile whose burning wish to make frequent (free) trips to the land of her dreams led her to a twenty year career with the airlines. Bi-lingual, she flew international all those years, working her flights as foreign language speaker. Her flying career allowed her to see the world, but it was always to Scotland that she returned.
Now a full-time writer, she’s quick to admit that she much prefers wielding a pen to pushing tea and coffee. She spent fifteen years living in Europe and used that time to explore as many castle ruins, medieval abbeys, and stone circles as possible. Anything ancient, crumbling, or lichened caught her eye. She makes frequent visits to Scotland, insisting they are a necessity as each trip gives her inspiration for new books.
Proud of her own Hebridean ancestry, she belongs to two clan societies and never misses a chance to attend Highland Games. In addition to Scotland, her greatest passions are medieval history, the paranormal, and dogs. She never watches television, loves haggis, and writes at a four-hundred-and-fifty year old desk that once stood in a Bavarian castle.
Readers can learn more about her and the world of her books at: http://www.alliemackay.com/
(Allie Mackay is the pseudonym for Sue-Ellen Welfonder who shares the same bio stats and writes Scottish medievals for Grand Central Publishing. http://www.welfonder.com/ )
So that’s me, in a nutshell.
I’m delighted to introduce you to Bran of Barra, one of my favorite heroes. His book, SOME LIKE IT KILTED ~ NAL ~Feb. 2010, has been out a few weeks. WendyK kindly asked me to guest blog some while ago and I should have popped in here a few days before Bran’s release. But I have a deadline/release date curse that usually bogs me in some kind of chaotic mire around these dates.
So I’m here now.
Que Sera, Sera, and all that.
Better late than never, right? Here’s the original blurb for SOME LIKE IT KILTED. The back cover copy was trimmed, so this version gives a rounder view of the story:
A ghost’s home is his castle—and she’s about to storm the gates…
A woman’s heart needs a loving home…
Swept off her feet by a wealthy first-class passenger, ex-flight attendant Mindy Menlove finds herself living in a castle transported stone-by-stone from Scotland and rebuilt in Pennsylvania. But when her cad of a fiancé dies in the company of his mistress and Mindy decides to sell the gloomy estate, her plans to start anew soon unravel. Instead of escaping to her dream destination of Hawaii, she’s bound for the Hebrides, the one place she’d hoped to avoid forever. And rather than putting the past behind her, she must face another complication: her castle’s original builder – who just happens to be maddeningly irresistible and seven-hundred-years young.
But a man’s home needs a loving heart…
Centuries ago, Bran of Barra was a legendary Highland chieftain. Since then, the proud and burly Hebridean has enjoyed the ghostly realm, throwing feasts and carousing nightly in his great hall. But his high-spirited existence is disturbed by the feisty female who crosses the Atlantic, claiming she’s demolished and now intends to restore his ancestral home. It’s a task she hasn’t accepted willingly and if the roguish Bran doesn’t find a way to change the fetching American’s mind about his bonny homeland and him, neither of them will ever find the peace—or passion—they didn’t know they’d been searching for.
But love can be most powerful when it comes unexpected, and a happy ending that’s well-deserved is always the sweetest…
SOME LIKE IT KILTED was one of those joy-to-write stories. There were probably three major reasons I love this book so much.
Firstly, this book has a wonderfully atmospheric setting: the windswept Isle of Barra in Scotland’s remote Outer Hebrides. My own ancestral ties are to the Hebrides and that’s a reason I set a lot of books there, including my Scottish medievals. I just love writing the Hebrides. And as Hebridean settings go, Barra is pretty special.
Bran is another reason I love this book. He’s as wild and untamed as the rocky, wind-blown world around him. He’s big, strapping, and proud. He lusty and roguish, and speaks with a sexy burr (what woman can resist a Scottish accent?). He has a fierce love for his home, a rollicking sense of humor, and a grand lust for life. Even though he’s a 14th C. Highland ghost, he loves his ‘life’ and lives it to the fullest.
Bran first appeared in HIGHLANDER IN HER BED ~ NAL ~ Nov. 2006, and has since had roles in all my Highlander/Kilted titles. I always looked forward to writing his tale and when I finally got to him, he didn’t disappoint me. His book’s ending is one of my favorites. I cried through those last pages – good, happy tears – and that’s always my measure of how I wrap up a story.
Bran’s heroine, Mindy Menlove, is another reason this book was fun to write. I usually have my working class, down-on-their-luck, Pennsylvania heroines loving Scotland from the first line. Like me, they live and breathe their passion for Scotland. They’re thrilled to travel to the land of their dreams and even more excited to get to stay there, always in the arms of a hunky Highland ghost hero or time travel back to 14th C. Scotland and being swept off their feet by a sexy medieval Highlander.
Mindy is the exception. She thinks of Scotland as a place of rock, bogs, sheep, and mist, and little else. The thought of cold and rain and long dark winters gives her the hives. She craves tropical beaches, sun, and soaring temps. And you don’t want to hear her opinion of kilties. Bad experience with a man of Scottish descent left her with a poor opinion of Highland heroes.
Everything Mindy is sure she’ll dislike about Scotland is exactly what I love there. Cold, misty days? Oh, yeah…. Sideways, slanting rain and howling wind? Angry gray seas and salt air touched with a whiff of peat? My heart starts to pound, madly. Rugged cliffs and wild, empty moorland? Oh, please, take me there now. (the photos below show you my kind of place – I took these while picnicking in a favorite spot in Shetland)
I had fun with Mindy. She needed her mind changed about Scotland and watching her come around made each day’s writing really enjoyable. Of course, I knew she’d capitulate. It’s impossible to visit Scotland and not fall in love.
But Mindy was special for another reason.
Like me, she’s an ex-flight attendant. As is noted in my bio-that-isn’t-in-the-book, I flew for many years before I became a writer. Lots of Mindy’s thoughts on her ex-career, or experiences she recalls, come from my own 23 year airline career. This aspect of Mindy made her fun to write.
It also leads to the other slant of this blog. The Murphy and Mayhem side of writing. I believe in writing what you know and what you love. For instance, I always use settings I know well and visit often. I like returning there in my mind as I write. I know it’s possible to use research to create engaging atmosphere. But I need to know the place personally. Doing so, helps me bring the setting to life.
In SOME LIKE KILTED, I also had a heroine with a career that was my own for over two decades and that I’d enjoyed so much. Of all my books, I was really happy that the bio mentions my airline career. My flying background helped me write Mindy. Those airline years were my credentials. But Murphy zapped the bio. When the books arrived and I looked at the back, I blinked. The bio was missing.
I’ve had worse things happen in my ten-plus years of being published. But isn’t it typical Murphy’s Law that the one time I write an ex-flight attendant heroine, the bio citing my own flying career vanishes?
Murphy loves to strike like that.
I also believe he has it in for writers. Looking back to my flying years, I never experienced the weirdness that always zaps me around deadlines and release dates.
If Murphy struck during my airline career, good things happened:
~ The portable stairs rammed our 747 at London’s Gatwick Airport, gouging a car-sized hole in the plane. Because of that mishap, a layover that should only have lasted 24 hours, turned into 3 days. The airline gave us extra spending money and put us in a posh London hotel, rather than lodging us in the usual airport hotel. Those 3 ‘freebie’ days in London were wonderful.
~ A similar ‘problem’ happened in Cairo. Because of a serious mechanical issue and the delay getting parts flown in, we were stuck in Egypt for ten full days. We took advantage.
~ The Fiji Isles… a visit to a remote beach turned interesting when a male flight attendant removed his bathing trunks (he was in waist-high surf) and twirled the trunks over his head. The keys of our rental car went sailing through the air, disappearing beneath the waves. Returning to the hotel on foot meant hours trekking through the rain forest. It was already getting dark. Locals were picnicking (and spear fishing) on the beach. They offered to drive one of us to the hotel to fetch a spare car key. They also invited us to join their evening cook-out on the beach. The experience remains a hallmark of my flying days.
Murphy is good to airline crews.
He’s hell on wheels to writers.
Murphy leaves me alone during much of a deadline. I assume he’s then making life crazy for other writers. But as soon as a book’s due date looms (or a release) he’s on my doorstep. And then things around me get scary.
Here’s how Murphy works. I once rented a time at a lovely waterfront home between the sale of my former house and the purchase of a new one. Sounds cushy. But there was a catch. A man I shall call Ken, who kept a sailboat at the house’s boat dock. I never saw Ken except when I had a looming deadline. Then he’d appear as if by some weird voodoo magic. His path to his boat took him past my office window. I swear I’d see his head bobbing back and forth past the window a thousand times in those racing-to-a-deadline days. This was bad news because his skulking about (as it seemed to me) made my dog bark.
Ken was a fussy sort. On these oh-so-crucial-for-me days, he worked, too. On his sailboat. His favorite pastime was cleaning his boat with a pressure washer. And he always put the compressor near my office window. Between his bobbing head, the pressure washing noise, and his compressor, he could easily have driven me to madness.
Yet he only appeared at deadline. When I sent off the book, he’d vanish into the mysterious place such nervy people disappear to. I suspect Murphy arranged Ken’s timings.
Other Murphy-isms have been when neighbors rent their homes to holiday-makers at deadline. All of a sudden, the house next door would fill with (large) families who only wanted to have fun, often until the wee hours and always at the top of their lungs. As usual, as soon as I typed The End, the noise-makers would slip off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Until the next deadline.
Some deadlines, Murphy invades my own space.
This twist on his evil has included time-and-nerve robbing disasters such as a bathroom flood and other suddenly-necessary household repairs (which always include workmen underfoot), to having a blanket disintegrate in the washing machine so that teeny blue bits of fluff quelled everywhere when I opened the lid at the end of the cycle.
If a book is due, chaos will come.
Mayhem is Murphy’s cousin. No, make that twin brother.
And Mayhem is a big reason I don’t blog. Or tweet, or visit reader message boards, or have a MySpace or Facebook page, or whatever.
You see, I believe in word energy.
And I also believe there’s only so much word energy in a writer’s head on any given day.
Things like blogging, tweeting, friending, etc, eat up word energy.
And I need all my word energy to write my books and meet deadlines. I also need a clear, undistracted head to work effectively. For that reason, I avoid anything that might cloud my mind or take my thoughts away from the book that is due soon.
For example, I don’t read reviews (the good ones are sent to me and I don’t care about the others), I never visit my books’ amazon listings, and I’d sooner cut myself than google my name or titles.
I think Murphy knows this, which is why he sends Mayhem when he (Murphy) has to be elsewhere.
Mayhem isn’t mean like Murphy. In fact, Mayhem often wears beloved faces. He comes in these guises to distract you just when you really need to focus on wrapping up a book. (or revisions, copy edits, whatever)
In my house, one of Mayhem’s sneakiest ploys is to use my dog. I have a Jack Russell and he is my world. I love him so much! But he wears Mayhem’s horns at deadline. By then, he’s fed up with my long hours and then employs his canine wiles to get my attention off the book and onto him. Let it be said, even on deadline, I never neglect him. He gets his daily walks and cuddles and all that. But when Mayhem rules, my little darling wants more and he pesters me ceaselessly until I leave my desk.
You can see why I can’t resist him:
Mayhem can also be dear friends (or family). If you haven’t heard from someone in ages, you can bet they’ll appear like magic when you only have a week left to wrap up a deadline. You’ll receive lengthy emails and feel guilty when you don’t/can’t respond in kind. You’ll be invited out and feel bad because you can’t go. Someone, somewhere (often everyone you know) will need, want, and require you.
Even those you do keep in touch with will feel neglected or miffed when your attention is absorbed by The Deadline. A familiar phase is, “I know you’re busy right now, but….” No one (except maybe other writers) understands that ‘in the cave’ means just that: the writer is hibernating from the world and trying desperately to wrap up a fire-breathing, man-eating, all-consuming deadline.
Mayhem doesn’t see himself as ‘the world.’ He doesn’t think he’s meant by those snarky writer door hangers that say things like: “Writer at work! Do not enter unless there is blood or fire.”
And speaking of snappy slogans, the only one I recall from my flying days was, “Marry me, fly free.” Which makes me wonder – again – if Murphy and Mayhem really do have it in for writers? Neither of them plagued me when I flew.
Both of them have been badgering me a lot in recent times, hence not being around when SOME LIKE IT KILTED released. Life has been chaotic and those two buggers are riding my tail.
So I’d like to know if they ever pester you, too? If so, how do you deal with them?
I’d like to let anyone who has emailed me recently know that I’ll respond when Murphy and Mayhem (and raging deadline demons) give me some peace. The same goes to anyone waiting on my overdue newsletter.
I’m giving away a signed copy. Leave a comment and WendyK can pick the winner. I’ll post to anywhere, so International guests are welcome.
Thanks again for having me here, Wendy! I love visiting you, always.
Dream of the Highlands, everyone! (there’s no sweeter place on earth…)
*As an added benefit and because I was delayed posting this as well…….I’m offering a copy of SOME LIKE IT KILTED as well. So there will be two winners and because I love Sue-Ellen so much and her work so very much, I’m following Sue-Ellen/Allie and offering my copy to anyone, so international guests have a chance to win this second copy as well! Thank you Sue-Ellen for being my guest, it’s always a PLEASURE to have you visit!*