Thursday, November 20, 2014

New Release: Just in Time for a Highland Christmas -- Read Prologue

I'm very excited to announce the release of my new holiday novella from the Highland Gardens series, Just in Time for a Highland Christmas...

Just in Time for a Highland Christmas
A Highland Gardens Novella
Book #2.5


e-Book available from Amazon
for an introductory 99 pennies
until December 1st.

Can a determined brownie craft a perfect match in time for Christmas?

When the Chief of Clan MacLachlan travels to the stronghold of his feuding neighbors to fetch his betrothed, she is gone. A year later, she is still missing. Making life more vexing, a band of reivers are stealing clan cattle, leaving behind destruction. Archibald MacLachlan determines to capture them and administer harsh punishment.

Though once in love with the man, Isobell Lamont refuses to wed her clan's enemy. After running away, she joins the band of reivers set on revenge.

Can Archibald forgive the raven-haired beauty? Will a journey through time bring them together for a Highland Christmas?

Just in Time for a Highland Christmas, a Scottish historical time travel romance, is 101 pages of Highlanders, scheming faeries, a mischievous brownie, magic, adventure, and romance set in 16th century Scotland and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Read the prologue... 


Fir-wood, Strathlachlan, Scotland, 1511

They weren’t alone on the land. Branches rustled and cracked, the sound amplified by moist Highland air. Archibald signaled the men to silence.

A lone rider broke from an adjacent clump of trees, glanced around, then galloped through the amber grass, leaning low against the stallion's black neck. The slight figure looked over a shoulder once before darting into the wood at the far edge of the meadow and disappearing through autumnal foliage.

Archibald released a loud hiss. The path the fool had taken at risk to both horse and rider was nothing more than a narrow game trail, a dangerous track to approach at such speed.

“Ach, that ragged lad rides well,” the redheaded Duncan exclaimed.

Archibald eased back in the saddle and threw his cousin a sideways glance. "He rides a fine piece of horseflesh, I grant you that. He is likely one of the Campbell's rash, young grandsons."

“Without guards, and on MacLachlan land? Nae Campbell would dress in such tatters.”

Duncan's aghast expression brought a smile along with a forgotten memory to Archibald. As green lads, he and his twin brother Patrick had dressed in servants’ castoff garments and snuck away from Castle Lachlan for a jaunt in the Fir-wood. They later received a memorable scalping when Da caught them roaming about without escort.

“Must be a Campbell lad unaware of the border to our land. I am sure he will feel his father's disfavor across his backside before this day is through. That is, if he avoids breaking his neck first.”

“Aye. For a fact, Chief.” Duncan laughed. A hearty sound that never failed to cheer Archibald.

Poor lad. Duncan braved his temper on this frustrating journey. He'd owe the man a boon upon their return to Castle Lachlan after they fetched Archibald’s bride.

“Let us be on our way, I want my lady ensconced within our keep before winter sets in.”

He reined his horse to the left toward the more traveled trail through the Fir-wood, eager to reach Toward Keep, the stronghold of the Lamonts. Duncan rode at his side as captain while the rest of the Lèine-chneas, his hand chosen guard, followed a short distance behind.

The image of laughing violet eyes urged Archibald to a faster pace. He couldn't wait to hold the raven-haired Isobell in his arms again, inhale her intoxicating scent, caress her ivory skin, and kiss her pouty lips.

* * *

The sun set on the horizon. Crimson colors faded to mauve, a beautiful end to the day after its wet and trying start. Isobell Lamont spurred her horse to greater speed. She would escape the dictates of her overbearing father, even if she might die in so doing.

Her aunt in Glasgow would surely hide her, if Isobell avoided capture. Before she reached the burgh, however, she must cross the land of her unwanted MacLachlan betrothed, the hated Campbells, and other clans she didn't ken. She reveled in the knowledge her journey might be fraught with peril.

She'd always dreamt of doing something truly adventurous.

The doing is never as grand as the dream. With a shake of the head, she ignored the nagging voice admonishing her and rode into the wind, the scent of fir in the air and an invigorating chill on her cheeks.

After risking discovery by crossing yet another open meadow, she eased the reins and sought the wood. Thank the good Lord the weather had cleared. She coaxed Dealanach Dubh into the shelter of a thick cluster of firs and slid from the stallion's massive back.

“Good lad,” she crooned as she patted his sweaty flank, a horsy odor prickling her nose.

Isobell's stomach rumbled. Should have raided the larder before running off in a rage. Dealanach Dubh could graze on the sparse grasses, but what could she eat? Would she never learn to think before reacting to Da in anger?

She'd needed to escape, though, before Archibald MacLachlan arrived to fetch her. She wouldn't marry her clan’s enemy even if she once thought herself in love with the man. It didn’t matter that his once-beloved silver eyes, cleft chin, and chestnut hair still haunted her dreams, or that the thought of his warrior’s body made her feel achy. She squeezed her eyes tight, refusing to shed a tear over a man who wasn’t what she once believed him to be. Grrrr. And Da intended to force her hand. He’d signed the betrothal agreement with the blessing of the king, giving her no choice but to run away. What had changed Da’s mind?

She jerked her eyes open and stared off into the wood. For the past year, he’d raged about the evils perpetrated by Archibald and his clan. She couldn’t wed such a despicable man even if Da changed his mind and thought the match a good one. The men's plans would come to naught. She leaned against a large tree and smiled. Soon she would be in Glasgow, away from their schemes.

Wrapped within the false security of the dense trees, men's voices startled her. Everything within stilled. What have I stumbled upon?

After tying Dealanach Dubh to a branch, she crept closer to the voices, taking care to stay well hidden in the trees. In a wee clearing, a group of ratty men sat around a fire deep in discussion. She worried her bottom lip. Had she inadvertently stumbled into grave danger?

A sudden change in wind direction blew acrid wood smoke into her face. She sniffled, wrinkled her nose, and when she suppressed a sneeze, sagged against a tree in relief.

Gloaming was upon them, and Isobell strained to better see the men. Reprobates all. She started to scoot away— Wait. She recognized a few of them. Lamont warriors who’d left the clan in disgrace and, if rumors were true, taken up with Da’s banished henchman Malcolm Maclay. The warriors must have joined this band of ruffians after Maclay died during a fight with one of Archibald’s men.

She leaned forward to better hear the conversation. Perhaps glean something of import.

Most of their words were spoken in muttered whispers. With a frown, she edged closer, but then had second thoughts. Now would be a good time to leave before they learned of her presence. Too late. One man rose and paced toward her hiding place. Isobell fingered the dirk in her belt, ready to flee, but when he strode back to his cohorts, she held position.

“If we raid the MacLachlan encampment on the northeast border, we can make an escape across the disputed land with at least five head,” the man spoke in a deep voice.

Humph. They were planning—

A large hand gripped her shoulder from behind and yanked her around. She froze, breath stuck in her throat, too shocked by the familiar face to pull free her blade.

"What have we here?"


Just in Time for a Highland Christmas available HERE.


~Dawn Marie

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Available Now: Scotland: Stunning, Strange, and Secret: A Guide to Hidden Scotland

SCOTLAND: Stunning, Strange, and Secret: A Guide to Hidden Scotland
Christy Nicholas

Length: Full
Genre: Travel Guide
Price: $9.99

Get your copy here: Tirgearr Publishing

Do you find yourself drawn to the magic of Scotland? Would you like to see places beyond the typical tourist traps? Come, join me on a journey through the mists of legend, into the hidden places of mystery. Immerse yourself in the legends and myths, the history that has made this island precious in the hearts and minds of millions. Along with the tales and history, there is practical information on planning your trip, budgeting your costs, and finding the best places to while away the magical hours of your holiday.

Introduction
History and Myth
Superstitions and Beliefs
Gods and Saints
Highland Hospitality
Ceilidhs and Flings
Stunning Shots
Haggis and Cullenskink
Plans and Mechanics
Discounts and Deals
Hidden Gems
Conclusion
Maps and Resources

Visit Heart of Fiction today. Leave a comment or question with your email address, and enter a chance to win a free copy of this book.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

SAMHAIN

Credit to Irish Central.com:

1. Halloween comes from the ancient Irish festival of Samhain, a day when the undead are thought to walk among the living, and we must ward off the evil spirits.
2. Samhain marks the end of the long days, and the drawing in of winter. In the same way the Celts celebrated Lughnasa, the festival bringing in the harvest, Samhain represents the beginning of winter, the "darker half" of the year.

3. An old favorite Irish Halloween game was to blindfold a person and have them place their hand on items spread across a table. Landing in a bowl of water meant emigration, a piece of earth meant a death in the family, a ring meant a wedding was coming soon, and so on.
4. One of the greatest short stories by James Joyce, ‘Clay,’ refers to this custom – the main character, the spinster Maria, wants her hand to land on a ring, but touches a lump of clay instead, which implies death.
5. In a similar game, a ring was also hidden in the "Barmbrack," which is a bread-like fruitcake specially made for the occasion. The person who got the ring in their slice – if they didn't swallow it – would have a happy marriage ahead.

6. The symbolism behind appleseeds, and bobbing for apples, is fertility in the year ahead. The Celts believed that the pentagram shape represented fertility, and when an apple is cut in half, the seeds form a pentagram-like shape. When couples bobbed for apples together on Halloween, if one of them caught one, they would soon be blessed with a child.

7. In Celtic legend, orange and black, the colors of Halloween, are the colors of death.
8. Because of number 7, meeting an orange-haired woman was thought of as a bad omen, especially for fishermen. Legend further has it that for a man to meet an orange-haired woman on Halloween was even more dire. He had to turn around and go right back home.

9. Druids were especially powerful on Halloween, when the spirit world and human world was closest. Their visions and predictions were listened to quite closely at this time.
10. The custom of Halloween was brought to America by Irish famine emigrants in the 1840s. The use of pumpkins for Jack-o-lanterns only started in America, as they are native to the country. In Ireland, they usually used turnips instead.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Return To Ballycashel...

Hi Miriam, and a special greeting to all lovers of Celtic romance! It's so lovely to be back at the Celtic Rose. And I'm so thrilled to announce the publication of Everlasting, Book IV of the Claddagh Series!


Everlasting is Shannon Flynn's story, and it's set once again in that tiny, wind-swept west-of-Ireland village of Ballycashel that was the setting for the first two books of the Claddagh Series. Ballycashel, and all of its residents, are very dear to my heart, and when Shannon Flynn visited my dreams one night, whispering her story to me, I could hardly refuse to write it.

Everlasting is a story of revenge and redemption, of fathers and daughters and the love that draws them together...and tears them apart.

Blurb:

Where does justice end and retribution begin?
She was driven by anger
When her fiancé died trying to feed his family, Shannon Flynn vowed to punish those responsible…even if it alienated her from her family, even if it put her—and them—in danger.

He returned to exact revenge
Eight years after he was forced to flee his beloved Ireland, Liam Collins returns to Ballycashel to find his family devastated and the person he holds responsible for his exile dead.

Can these two wounded spirits come together to battle a common enemy? Or will anger and pride destroy them both?

Excerpt:


Ballycashel, Ireland, Off Galway Bay
January, 1874

“I see them! Sweet Mary be praised, they’re safe!”
Shannon Flynn gripped her mother’s hand so tight she felt the bones crack. On Ma’s other side, her sister Peggy let out a harsh sob. Little Fiona stood a few feet away, white-faced, hands pressed to her mouth in silent horror.
Icy needles of rain slashed Shannon’s face, and though they stood well away from the waves, she could still feel the sting of the sea, taste its sharp, briny tang. She blinked hard against the cloying mist. Was that really the Noreen, Da’s currach? That tiny craft bobbing over those vicious waves, helpless as a cork?
She flinched as the little fishing boat disappeared from view.
“They’ll be fine.” Nora Flynn’s voice rang out, stern and bracing even as she kept her gaze riveted on the storm-tossed sea. “Sure, yer da knows these waters better than anyone. He’s been through many a storm worse than this. He’ll be fine.” Her voice teetered on the edge of despair as wind and rain scored them with merciless claws.
He’s never had Mike with him.
The boat reappeared, teetered at the crest of a towering wave and tumbled sideways. Nora cried out once, pressed her fist to her mouth. The anguished sound echoed in Shannon’s heart. Before she could react, Nora drew a deep breath and set her shoulders. “Come ye, now. They’ll be needin’ us.” She threw a sharp gaze to her two younger daughters. “Peg, look after Fiona. Shannon, come with me.”
Hand in hand, they raced into the sea.
Shannon’s breath gushed from her lungs in painful gasps as icy water clawed up her legs and tangled in her long skirts. Had the sea ever been so vicious and cold? The waves so high? Oh, where was Da? Was he safe?
Was Mike safe?
She clung to her mother’s firm, strong hand as she slipped and almost fell on the sea-drenched shingle and sand. Thick strands of seaweed twined about her legs. Ma pulled her to a stop, her hoarse cry snatched away by the shrieking wind. Could Da and Mike triumph over the furious sea?
Sweet Mary protect them. Keep them safe. Bring them home.
Two heads, one dark and the other fair, burst from the waves, went under, surfaced again. Oh, God, was it possible? Could they really be farther out? The sea clawed greedily at them, pulling them under, down and down. Away from her. The wind tore her hair from beneath her red headscarf, and she lost sight of them for a moment. She swiped the flying strands away, staring harder through a stinging mixture of rain and fog and tears.
Dear sweet Lord, where are they?
“I see them! There’s Da!” Fiona appeared beside them, fighting to stay on her feet as a wave broke over her shoulders. She pointed a trembling finger. “Look, there’s Da!”
“Fiona, get back!” Shannon fought to make herself heard over the crashing waves and the devil’s howl of the wind.
“But I see him, Shannon! I see Da!”
Mike can’t swim! Even as icy realization swept over her, Shannon knew her father would fight to the death to save him.
To the death
She squeezed her eyes shut, fighting back the tears.
“They’ll be all right.” Peggy clasped her hand, swaying against the fierce current. “Please God, they’ll both be all right.”
Please God…
“Tom, look out!” Her mother’s scream reached above the greedy fingers of sea foam just as a mighty wave knocked Da under once again.
Please God… Please God…keep him safe. Keep them both safe.
Moments, hours, days later, Shannon stood frozen under the leaden skies. Da stumbled into the shallows and fell into Ma’s waiting arms.
Da stared into Ma’s eyes, touched her cheek. “Noreen. Ah, Noreen. The currach’s torn to pieces, so it is, but sure, we’re all right now.”
“Ye are, thank God.”
“Da?” Her own eyes wide and dry and burning with salt, Shannon searched her father’s beloved face, saw his anguish.
Fissures shot through her heart.
“Mike?” Shannon scanned the beach in desperation. The gray sea roared and frothed wildly. The broken currach lay on the strand like an exhausted shark. Rain and tears blurred her vision. “Da? Where is he? Where’s Mike?”
Her father’s dark eyes filled with sorrow. “He’s gone, love.” Tom Flynn blinked away tears. “The sea took him.”
“Gone? No!” Her heart ceased to beat. Something was strangling her. Ice held her feet frozen to the beach even as she swayed drunkenly.
“I’m sorry, a storín, so sorry, my dearest. I did everything I could.” Dimly, she saw her father release her mother, move toward her. “But I couldn’t save him for ye.”
He reached for her, his big hands open, his face etched with grief. She flung up her hands, shook her head. Denying. Denying. No. No!
Nonononono!
Then she spun away, ran from her father to mourn alone the loss of the man she loved more than life itself.


I hope everyone enjoys reading Everlasting as much as I enjoyed writing it!

You can buy Everlasting at Barnes & Noble





Monday, August 4, 2014

The Saxon Bride - the story behind "Abigail"

As some of you may know, my sister passed away a year ago July. She was really the impetus for me finally publishing my first book, The Bruised Thistle. How that came about is a great story-the "gives you goose bumps" kind. I hope you'll check it out at my blog (www.ashleyyorkauthor.com) but my latest release, The Saxon Bride, is connected to her as well.

I think it was just the two of us staying at our family's cottage in Maine. It was a great visit, we were getting close again. She told me about her boyfriend and his "hanger on" girlfriend that was making the relationship really hard. His name is irrelevant but her name was Abigail. Needless to say, my sister had some pretty strong words for Abigail.

I had been kicking around the idea of a story about a forced marriage between a Saxon and a Norman where he leaves her untouched only to return years later, meet her but not recognize her, and try to seduce her. I had already come up with my favorite line - "You know me not!" (little play on words there)

The idea of someone nasty like Abigail as a secondary character made the whole story come together.
I like to think Carol, my sister, would appreciate my characterization of the woman.

Here's an excerpt from The Saxon Bride when Rowena, the heroine, first meets the woman. 

"My lady!" Joan's voice preceded her flinging open Rowena's bedchamber door. "My lady!"

"What is amiss?" Rowena held her breath as she stepped toward her. "You look as if you've seen a ghost!"

On a whisper, Joan found no additional information much to Rowena's irritation. "My lady!" Shaking her head in disbelief, she stepped out of the door just as a tall woman would have pushed her aside. 

"So you're the wife my lover is saddled with."

Rowena was unable to exhale the gasp that had been sucked into her belly. Her eyes bulged as she tried to process what the woman had said. She couldn't possibly have heard her right. Like a tempest, the woman stormed into Rowena's private chamber as if she'd every right to be there. Her disdainful gaze did not miss a thing as she looked around the room. "I'm a little surprised he has stayed away from me this long."

Joan's mouth gaped open in disbelief as she looked from the regal woman with the black hair and green eyes and back to Rowena. The petrified look on her servant's face finally broke the spell.

"And who are you, pray tell?" Rowena stood a little taller as she addressed the woman who seemed to tower over her. The woman blinked as if discerning whether Rowena truly had the audacity to speak directly to her.

"No. Better you tell me." She paused, no doubt for effect, assessing Rowena from head to toe, finally lifting the corner of her lip and raising one eyebrow. "Are you 'the wife'?"


I think I succeeded in making Abigail pretty unlikable and obnoxious. What do you think?

Available at Amazon.com The Saxon Bride

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Dark Rose, by Cynthia Owens

Hello, Miriam, and all lovers of Celtic Romance! It’s so great to be back at the Celtic Rose on the eve of the summer solstice. And I’m very happy to announce the release this month of My Dark Rose, Book III of my Wild Geese Series and Dary Greely’s story.

If you’ve read the first two books of the series, Deceptive Hearts (Shane’s story) and Keeper of the Light (Cathal’s story), you might remember Dary. He’s the easy-going member of the group. The one who smoothes things over between twins Kieran and Cathal Donnelly. The solid friend who sat quietly with Shane MacDermott after the loss of his wife. He’s a likeable guy, and he’s everyone’s friend.

He’s also the lucky one. Everyone says so. He alone among his siblings survived the coffin ship fleeing famished Ireland. His father made money in construction and he was able to go to college. He returned from the War virtually unscathed.

But it’s not until Róisín Donavan comes into his life that he really believes it. She’s an Irish girl who lives in a Five Points tenement room. She dreams of a future as a great diva and sings comeallyes (Irish songs) at Paddy Ryan's Pub, the preferred pub of the Wild Geese. But her stubborn Irish pride won't allow her to abandon her family, even if it means sacrificing everything for them.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Sally Malone, Black ‘47
On the Atlantic Ocean
They slid into the water with scarcely a sound.
Dary Greely clung to his father’s hand, watching as the bodies, clad in little more than rags, were tossed over the side of the ship. The children first: his little brother and two sisters. Then Mrs. Morrissey, his new friend Declan’s ma. Shane MacDermott’s da, and the twins’ ma and their granny.
His ma’s thin fingers bit into his shoulder. She was sobbing into a threadbare handkerchief, her eyes red and swollen from crying. He looked up at her, then at Da. A shudder ran through him that had nothing to do with the cold wind blowing in from the sea.
Da’s eyes were dead. Their bright green was dimmed with sorrow. His dark-red hair blew across his face, but he made no move to shove it back with his big, callused workman’s hand. He stared out to sea, a muscle in his jaw jerking rhythmically.
Dary swallowed hard, glancing around him. He saw Shane, clutching his wee brother’s hand, one arm about his ma’s shoulders as she tried to soothe the fussy gossoon in her arms. Kieran and Cathal Donnelly stood close together, drawing silent comfort from each other as tears ran down their da’s face. Declan, self-controlled as always, stared into the water, his face full of sorrow, tears in his eyes that he refused to shed.
When the last victim of the ship’s fever sank to the bottom of the sea, the steerage passengers turned away, their muffled sobs and soft keening carried away on the rising wind. They’d left Ireland for a better life in America, but would any of them survive to see that land of promise?
As they turned to go, his father suddenly knelt before him, clutching Dary’s shoulders and staring into his eyes. “Ye are the last one, Dary.” His deep voice shook with the intensity of his grief. “The last o’ the Greelys. ’Tis ye will live on to tell the stories o’ us all. Ye’re the lucky lad, Dary, so ye are. Always remember that.”
The words rang bitter in Darys ears. The urge to vomit clutched at his throat with ruthless fingers. But he managed a nod. “Aye, Da. I’ll always remember, I promise. I’m the lucky one.”
At that moment, Dary made a fierce, silent vow to himself. He would survive to see America. He would go to school in America, make something of himself, just as Da had told him he could. He’d learn to read and write and do sums. He’d make his parents proud.
He was the lucky one.