Ah, I love research and travel. Among my suggested list of ways to research (books, library/online research, in-person resources/interviews, museums, etc.), my favorite is to actually go to the source...to touch, smell, and breathe it. Living only 3 hours away from my next book's locale (central Vermont, in the quiet, rustic, gorgeous Mad River Valley), means one thing...road trip! The hubs and I planned a getaway with the kids north for Memorial Day weekend so I could do some hands-on research. And take time off from our busy schedules.
More familiar with the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the coastal towns and mountains of Maine, I now know why the Green Mountains are called such. Not only is Vermont a very "green" and environmentally-conscious state, it is in fact, quite green in late spring through summer. Granted, I'd visited Vermont once before to tackle a climb up Mt. Mansfield, but this time my goal was different: research. We planned a relaxing, low-expectations itinerary with plenty of down time.
Our explorations included visits to the historical, small towns of Waitsfield, Warren, and Iraville, and a few others along the way. No visit to Vermont would have been complete without a tour of Ben and Jerry's and cheese tasting at Cabot Creamery (yum!). Rounding out our trip: a 20-ft cliff jump into a water hole (brrr...I took the pictures and kept my shoes dry!), long country drives, waterfalls, and a climb up Mt. Stark. Note the mud in the fourth picture below...Vermont is known for it's 5th season in early spring, "Mud Season," and we got to experience the tail end of it.
Our days were filled with overcast skies, some sun, and rain, but that's to be expected over Memorial Day weekend in New England. The Warren Lodge was a splendid find! The courteous staff provided us with s'mores fixings and we enjoyed nightly fires by the Mad River while our kids went for a dunk (with clothes fully on -- why not? -- and also with bathing suits later once they realized they had them). It was a lovely respite from the daily grind of school projects, chores, and work assignments (okay, okay, I did do some writing over the weekend!).
Farms, meadows, long drives
Cheese, ice cream, chocolate
Rivers and waterfalls
Hikes or skiing
Rustic small towns
How do you actually do the research?
1. No matter what you do, make sure you have fun. Take in the moments and cherish them.
2. Take lots of photos!
3. Chat it up with locals - ask questions about anything! There are always stories to be heard, or some interesting facts only locals know.
4. Get trail maps, brochures, road/park maps, etc.
5. Visit places off the beaten path.
6. Observe people in their everyday routines (parks, restaurants, etc).
7. Eat the local cuisine.
Well, that's all from here! Hope you enjoy the photos, and always remember to follow your heart and have fun while on this ride called life. And when researching, take it all in...and write detailed notes.
Recently a friend asked me if I would put a glossary in the back of my newest book release, A Hundred Kisses, to help with the Scottish words. That got me thinking…how does one pronounce some of those mixed vowels and perplexing consonant-vowel duos? Admittedly, during my writing journey when I came upon the names, towns, and phrases while researching, I found myself googling their pronunciation as well.
In my opinion, there are 3 types of readers and approaches when a perplexing foreign word comes along. Let’s use an example from my novel. The isle of Uist. Seems simple, doesn’t it? Och, aye, maybe not.
The Three Types:
1. Glossers: People that glide right over it (you fast readers, you know who you are) and they just assign it some arbitrary sound – or heck they just see the word and are like “U-something”, moving on… You readers are speed-readers and oh, how I envy your nonchalant approach!
2. Ponderers: People that stumble and look at it for a longer time and come up with how they think it may sound. YOU-IST. Okay, got it. Or no wait, maybe it’s UHST. Okay, that’s what I am going to say in my head even if it’s not correct.
3. Seekers: And then there is group three. These readers want…no, NEED to know how it sounds. So, they look for the glossary. Darn, not included. Okay, then… off to google or Wikipedia they go. Ah, now they know what it sounds like. Got it. And they also know all about it. Uist just happens to be an isle in northern Scotland, has some standing stones, and actually there is a North Uist and South Uist, and at one point it was inhabited by the Norse (Norwegian Vikings). So this group knows more than just the pronunciation.
And yes, the pronunciation is YOU-IST.
Depending on my mood and the book, I can be any one of those three types of readers. Word pronunciation can be a great discussion point between friends reading the same book, with groups on Facebook pages, and between people commenting on blogs.
Ever hear of a character named Leg-Hair? Well, if you are an Outlander-phile (ahem, yes I am!), you have. That would be the bonnie Laoghaire in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Look at that name! I can see why many of us called her Leg-Hair (it also went along with her conniving, prissy character). But really, it’s pronounced LEE-ree. Whoa! Mmphmm! We were way off the mark, huh? To help with the Outlander-addiction, the current Starz television series which has brought the book to the screen, had put out a series of lessons on “Speaking Outalnder”, videos on word pronunciations from the series. It was entertaining.
Now, given that A Hundred Kisses takes place in 13th century Scotland, my use of Scots vernacular is minimal; I use just enough to set the story. There is a mixture of traditional Gaelic words, Scots slang, and regular Scottish vocabulary that has its own unique challenges. A contemporary story could be vastly different, as Scots phrases are commonplace, much like those in any other country or culture. Granted, my thesis advisor, who hailed from the land of pointy crags, sheep, magnificent stone castles, kilts, golf, and whisky, did teach me a phrase or two – but those couldn’t be repeated here. They are a bit colorful, to say the least. However, he also taught me how to understand the lilted “r” and to appreciate the tunes of a fantastic Scottish folk band.
And just for fun, I threw some Norse into my book, as the isles are rich in both Scottish and Norse history.
Which one do you fall under, my fellow lovers of words? Glosser, Ponderer, or Seeker? Come on over to my Facebook page and share your reading approach to befuddling and fun words.
Thistles and heather. Kilts. Castles. Ruins. Craggy mountains. Rain. Lots of rain. Sheep.
My trip to Scotland fulfilled a bucket list goal and it also fed my imagination for writing about this windswept, mystical place. It was a memorable trip indeed!
When I finally made a trip to Scotland in 2008 after reading books set there (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, or Judy Garwood’s books, anyone?), I was not disappointed. Those books were just teasers. I was going to see the real thing. They don’t call me a Daydream Believer for nothing (although I was not a homecoming queen, but the Monkees got it pretty close). Kilted Highland lairds (and Jamie Frasier), castles, mountains, and enchanting romances…ah, yeah, I was hooked. And as luck would have it, I even married a man with Scottish ancestry, who – drum roll, please – wore a kilt for our wedding (round out with a bagpiper for entertainment). So, for our anniversary a few years later, it only seemed logical to set off on a fairy tale trip. My husband had studied in Scotland for a semester in college, so he brought a wealth of insider knowledge.
Oh, but did I mention that it rains in Scotland? A lot. Even though September is supposed to be a drier month, many of our supposedly breathtaking sights were shrouded in a gray cloud of heavy precipitation. Aside from our mishaps (which I'll elaborate upon in a moment), Scotland fulfilled my preconceived notions, with my own Scottish knight by my side to escort me through the perils of winding highland roads, haunting castle ruins, and dark alleyways to questionable hostels.
Lone sheep wandered down the middle of a meandering country road. Windswept moors, heather fields, and green rolling hills flanked our drives. Wild rocky trails and impressive mountains greeted us on our hikes. Blue lochs were aplenty (yes, Loch Ness is a deep beautiful loch and no, we didn’t see Nessie – but we did see the ghostly remains of Urquhart castle) on our two-week trip in this geological gem of a country. I think I gasped on the tarmac when I emerged from the plane in Glasgow.
My husband and I packed our itinerary because when we go tramping, we set the bar high and want to soak it all in! What can a couple do in less than two weeks? Well…
Visit a dozen castles and palaces (Threave castle required a rowboat ride across an overflowed River Dee)
Kayak on the astutely named Loch Awe to the ruins of Kilchurn Castle
Hike through Highlands and mountains
Watch a Highland game
Partake in culinary delights such as haggis and fish and chips
Carry on conversations with locals (about the upcoming American presidential election)
Drive over sketchy bridges to reach Rua Reidh, a lighthouse hostel on the North Minch of Wester Ross (no, not the Westeros of Game of Thrones fame, but I can see the striking similarities)
Expand our navigation skills on double-roundabouts (like a figure 8), one lane roads, and left-side driving
Meander through abbey and church ruins
Take a moment of reflection at the remains of Culloden battlefield
Stay at the haunted (yes, there's a ghost) 14th century Borthwick Castle