Brigadoon

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Last Friday, my husband took me and our children to see Lerner & Loewe’s Brigadoon at the Goodman Theater in Chicago as a surprise for our wedding anniversary.

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To truly understand how wonderfully thoughtful this was, you have to understand how Scottish—by choice and clan affiliation—my family is. We were re-married in Scotland for our 20th anniversary, we man the Clan Donald tent at all the Scottish events in Wisconsin as well as the Celtic Canine tent, and just because we don’t get enough of it through the year, we started a Scottish food business.

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Yes, we make haggis. My husband will tell you it’s the best in the U.S. His vegetarian wife eats our veg haggis.

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What does any of this have to do with Brigadoon? A lot.

In the play a mythical Scottish village goes missing and is protected from the woes of the outside world in 1746 during the Jacobite Rebellion, after Bonnie Prince Charlie and his band of Highlanders were finally defeated in Culloden April 16, 1746. The battle weary inhabitants of Brigadoon go to sleep in 1746 and come to life, every 100 years after that, for one glorious day. In 1946, two WW-II battle-weary men travel to Scotland for a bachelor-hunting party, and stumble upon the village of Brigadoon in full preparation mode for a wedding.

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The men are jaded, and risk adverse; finding solace in the fact that true love doesn’t exist. For the townsfolk of Brigadoon, nothing else matters. They love deeply, fully, and completely, if only for a day. And only true love can wake the gatekeeper, once the town has fallen back into its 100 year slumber.

Brigadoon is a mythical place ~ in Scotland no less (que huge grin) ~ where anything can and does happen. It’s a place where dreams come true if they’re based in love, and if you’re brave enough to jump in with both feet, because here’s the catch….when you commit to Brigadoon, its community, that’s it, that’s all, you can never leave. All in Baby!

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Well that’s how I feel about life these days, all in. I’m all in at Authors of Main Street. As a side note, I spent the second-half of the play in the hall as bagpipes thundered, doing a radio interview with Ashley Fontaine and two fellow Main Street authors: Kelly Rae and Stephanie Queen, both of whom know how to tweet and how to rock live on the radio. Me, I’m still learning :). We pumped our Authors of Main Street box set: WEDDINGS ON MAIN STREET, available here…..

Here’s a link to the radio interview. Thank you, Ashley Fontaine, you are lovely!

I’m all in as a writer as well. What a scary, rollercoaster, wonderful leap into the Brigadoonesque-ether that has been. I’m putting in the hours, learning as I go, and loving my community of fellow writers, artists and others who add all the various aspects required to turn a story into a book that someone wants to purchase and read.

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We’re all in with HAGGIS and our Scottish Food. Here’s a link to MACSKI’S Highland Foods.

I’m all in when it comes to romance. I write heroes I wouldn’t necessarily want to live with every day, but that make my chest expand, my knees go weak, and my heart beat a little stronger. I live with a man I don’t want to see leave when goes to make the figurative donuts so our family can eat dinner. He fills my heart, my life, my spirit…and that makes everything better.

So does everything work out in Brigadoon? No. Is it a place without strife and loss? No. Is it a state of being where wonderful things can and do happen, where dreams, aspirations and love to last a lifetime can and often does come true? Yes.

Brigadoon is in each of us and there’s no going back for me, I’m all in!

How about you? What wonders await in your Brigadoon?

This one’s for you, Kelly:

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Thanks, honey, it was a thoughtful and well received anniversary gift. You couldn’t have done better.

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Thanks again to Ashley Fontaine for her warm reception and graciousness during our radio interview.

Leigh

LOOKING TOWARD THE LIGHT ~ Yule, Christmas & Hogmanay Celebrations~aka:WE SCOTS HAVE FUN

This Friday is the Winter Solstice, the close of the dark half of the year and the rekindling of the light half, which begins on Saturday. I love this time of year, not only because Yule & Christmas celebrations are in full swing, most of which are joyous, but because the resurgence of the light fills me with renewed energy and more than a little hope that the New Year will bring more blessings.

I am a light person. I wouldn’t fare well in Alaska where there is no respite from the light during the sun season, but I’m not one for complete balance either. I like more light than dark. Yule, Christmas and Scottish Hogmanay are all celebrations of light and hope, love and joy.
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In Celtic traditions, evergreen boughs are traditionally brought in to decorate the home and remind us of the greenness past and to come. Fires are lit to capture the essence of the sun and to celebrate it. Holly is traditionally venerated because it stays green year round and its berries, red and white, are seen as representative of the Deity. I love the symbology, the richness of the season and most of all sharing it with those I love.
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I come from Scottish and Norse traditions and love everything about them. HOGMANAY is a uniquely Scottish celebration. There are some loose translations for the term, including: “Great love day”, “New Morning”, “Man is Born-or-ReBorn”. Yule is a Norse festival and the New Year is called, “Yules”.  As many of you know northern Scotland, especially the Isles, has a strong Norse influence, making their festivals a dramatic joy to behold. I embrace it all!
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Here’s a photo of the Norse Up-Hella-A held in Scotland (Shetland) as part of the Yule Fire Festival. The farther north (Shetland and Orkney are far north) the more noticeable and powerful the coming light is and the fire festivals hold huge significance. In southern Scotland fireballs are thrown into the air for Hogmanay. Hospitality is always huge, but especially on New Year’s Eve when a “tall, dark, handsome stranger” at your door carrying a piece of coal (prosperity-comfort) and cake (fulfillment) is a good omen. Blonds…not so good (left over from Viking raids). This is the tradition of “first footing” and although no one much cares about hair color anymore, gifts of warmth, food and probably whisky are given to all those entering the home.

Cleaning is still a Hogmanay tradition. The idea is to say goodbye to the old year and its sorrows by sweeping away the old and those things no longer needed and welcoming in the new with a clean heart and the open arms of hospitality.

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More recently (1788) the singing of Scottish poet, Robert Burns’, Auld Lang Syne is sung to an even older (1700 or so) Scottish tune. In the last 20 years the Loony Dook has been practiced on New Years Day morning when people get dressed up in their finery, go down to the River Forth, strip and take a dip. I won’t be doing that, no matter how much Scotland’s bonny river banks may be calling.

We will celebrate the Solstice, Christmas and Hogmanay with those we love this year. We will each light a home-made candle and help lay the fire. We will sing and dance and welcome the New Year with joy in our hearts and hope for even better days. We will eat Krumkake (Norwegian cookies) and Macski’s Haggis (National dish of Scotland) and  smoked salmon. And I think more than one glass will be raised to you and all those we hold dear.
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Merry Christmas, Happy Yule and a “Guid New Year” at Hogmany to you All!

Krumkake Recipe (handed down by my grandfather):

3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup flour. Beat eggs until light and gradually add remaining ingredients. Drop 1 Tbs into the center of a heated krumkake iron. Savor the goodness.

Scottish Haggis, Neeps & Tatties:

Simple and delicious, prepare one Macski’s hagggis per instructions and serve with buttered mashed potatoes, boiled & mashed rutabagas or parsnips, and a wee dram of your favorite Scotch whisky.

A traditional Yule Ball plays a part in A Potters Woods Christmas, a Christmas short story that is part of Authors of Main Street Christmas bundle.

RT~Girl Power, Hunks, Haggis & the Highlands

RT 2013 was an exceptional experience for my husband and me. Vince and I did an interactive workshop on how to write realistic fight scenes for your female characters. I hope we get a chance to do it again next year and get more people from the audience to try some of the techniques. It’s always easier to describe something when you’ve done, felt, seen or in some other way experienced it. No one wants to experience an attack, so this offers a safe and entertaining environment to see how it may play out for your heroines. DSCN3171DSCN3173DSCN3181

I loved it. Vince loved it. I think the audience loved it.   DSCN3195

Vince also had the opportunity to present on Cathy Maxwell’s panel: Hunks, Haggis & the Highlands, with Susanne Saville, Kimberly Killion, and Jody Allen (Scottish History Scholar). Last year we took our Scottish food business, MACSKIS HIGHLAND FOODS, national. Our flagship food is HAGGIS. Vince and Jody attended Cathy Maxwell’s session on the Highlands at RT 2012 and piped in when some of what was presented about haggis wasn’t accurate. Far from taking offense, Cathy asked them both to join her in 2013. The presentation rocked, not only because all the presenters were wonderful, but because Cathy Maxwell is so darned funny! And, Yes, there was Haggis to Taste! AWESOME….

DSCN3252 DSCN3296   I got the chance to meet and get to know Cathy Maxwell, which pretty much made the conference for me; that and tossing my husband around 🙂  I also got some quality time with Mia Marlow, Bobbie Smith and Heather Graham. One of the highlights for me was meeting fellow Authors of Main Street author, Jill James, in person. How wonderful of her to come to our workshop!

The last year or so has been one of jumping in the deep end for my husband and for me. I’m writing full time, attending as many Highland events across the country as I can while we develop more food and gear for MACSKIS and market it to high-end restaurants, grocery stores and venders at Scottish events. I’m also working with historical researcher, Jody Allen to organize a national conference for writers of Scottish and other Celtic historical romance.

Sometimes jumping in is the way to make things happen. Yes it’s scary…believe me, we live that. It’s helpful when you jump in together. I am thankful for my best friend, the man who lets me take him to the ground in front of a group of mostly women shouting, “Kill him again.” And he does it with a smile and sense of humor that never fails to crack me up. He didn’t balk when I said I needed to see how the lambs where treated before we took our haggis nationwide. He flew me to Colorado to tour the meat processing facility. Not only did this vegetarian go, I saw the animals. (No antibiotics, No growth hormones, These animals weren’t scared or jammed into tiny spaces, they were treated ethically.) He also helped develop a vegetarian version and a gluten free version of haggis. Many die-hard haggis makers wouldn’t even consider that.

The best thing about going to RT or any of the conferences within the writing community is the people you meet. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some fantastic people. The thing that makes this wonderful ride so filled with joy is that I’m on it with Vince. Thanks to best-friends everywhere. You make our worlds, which as writers can be filled with solitude, complete.

DSCN3138   Thanks to everyone who came to our presentations! We had so much fun participating! If anyone would like to get a group together for next RT, I’m all over that :). It would be wonderful getting to know you.

Here’s to jumping in with both feet no matter what you decide to jump into,

Leigh