Dolly and Angus MacAngus here. We’re taking over Mary’s Blog today!
We knew we’d made the right decision to come to the US as soon as we saw the wee American writer. All we had to do is give “the look” and Mary was hooked. She couldn’t help but bring us home with her.
And now we’re in Texas!
Poor Angus is still trying to wrap his wee brain around the culture here. Did you know that in Texas it’s illegal to shoot a buffalo from the second story window of a hotel? So many questions. Like are there issues with people shooting buffalos from the second story windows of hotels?
Ah, but we’re here to talk about the Romance Writers of America conference in New York City. When we learnt that Mary was off to New York, I says to Angus, “We have to go. It might be our only chance to see the bright lights of the big city.”
It was amazing!
We attended workshops in the day and did what Mary calls “networking in the bar” at night. That was when the real fun began. So many writers. So much fun. So much single malt scotch!
We can’t divulge the details of what went down, but there
Mary wouldn’t have survived her signing if we hadn’t brought people to her table. It just took our big eyes to draw them in.
It was a fantastic trip and our first year here in the US has been wonderful. Full of friendly faces. Now we’re off to the highlands for a wee visit. Maybe we can convince Mary to increase the herd.
Just one more questionable Texas law before we hit the road. Did you know in Texas it’s illegal to milk another person’s cow?
Today’s new rule: There are some words that contain a “d” in one dictionary and a “t” in another. It depends on who writes the dictionary and what the trend is at the time.
Ha! (which means “Yes!”) We’re learning a more interesting rules and words and it’s wonderful. I love every brain wrinkling minute.
By the way, I don’t know if I mentioned it, but while the Gaelic classes are happening, there are also vocal and fiddle classes.
Tomorrow they will perform. I’m really looking forward to hearing them. What I’m kind of excited about and kind of dreading is that our little Level I class is also going to sing a song in Gale (Gaelic.) It’s a Puirt.
If you’re an Outlander fan you may remember the scene where Clair urinates in a bucket and then the ladies dipped the cloth they were working in the pee. They sang a song while stretching the fabric. That song is called a Puirt. It helps them keep the rhythm. But trust me, there will be no buckets of pee or stretching of cloth—unless it’s me nervously pulling on my sleeve or something.
Speaking of music, tonight we had a concert by Old Blind Dogs. They were fantastic. I’d love to insert a you tube video but those things are rarely good. So instead I added a link to their website. They are Celtic music at it’s finest. If you like reels, or sad Gaelic songs, check them out!
And because I stayed out late I’m going to end here.
Last night we had a meet and greet wine welcome. There are eleven of us in Level One. Most of us sat together commiserating on how nervous we were about class. United in our fear and excitement and sat together again at breakfast.
To our relief, we have a wonderful and patient instructor, Coinneach—Kenneth in English. We all mess up equally so we moved quickly past the nerves and embarrassment. I am the only American. Most of our class is from Scotland but there is a German and a French woman and nobody laughed or gave stink eye to anybody.
Even the upper level students seem to remember what it was like to be a fledgling in the language.
Things I’ve learned about Gaelic so far:
It was a spoken only language for many many years. Then linguist tried to write it down but apparently they had either an evil streak or a wicked since of humor because there is no correlation with another language.
The letter h seems to be randomly thrown into words and sometimes it’s silent, sometimes it’s not.
If the letter T appears before a word, then it kills the first letter of the next word. For example,
D`e ‘n t-aimn a th’ ort? Is pronounced Je t inim a horst. It means Where are you from?
The Scots surnames are often Mac – something which means son of. MacInnes means son of Angus. But, if Murchadh MacInnes gets married, his new wife, Margaret, is now called Mairead NicInnes. Simple right?
My name, Mary, is M`airi unless you are speaking directly to me, then it’s a Mh`airi pronounced
A vadi. See, it’s those h’s again.
Is your head spinning? Imagine 8 hours of this.
Actually, it’s been fun. Sort of like reading a fantasy novel, you have to suspend disbelief or in this case suspend logic and just go with it. Coinneach’s wise words to us. Learn to say the word before you see it. Because if you see it first, it’ll mess you up forever. You have to forget all you know about English.
Other things I’ve learned about the Scotts besides that they are the most lovely people on the planet:
It’s just a wee walk, means at least 2 miles and probably 10. I learned this last year but after one of my classmates discussed taking a wee walk to the next village—6 miles away—I felt it was important to include here.
It’s a wee breeze, (Ha i gaothach beagan)means there are gale force winds coming off the water.
Highland Dance is super fun and great for the legs and cardio. How do I know you ask? Well I attended a highland dance class after dinner (also called tea here.)
Forget bar, put away palates, don’t even think about Zumba. I think it should be the new fling—er thing. CAUTION! If you’ve just consumed a large plate of Lamb stew, it might not be a good idea to go jumping about in a crowded room. All that action could cause a couple of farts to escape—just saying for a friend.
I’d hoped to post a picture of the Highland Dance class but forgot my phone. You know, the one I upgraded to because it had a fancy camera. Yeah. I’ll try to get some new pictures tomorrow. Afterall, the evening’s entertainment is a concert by Old Blind Dogs!
Anyway, after dance class, it was up to the pub for a wee dram and Pub Quiz. Trivia in another country is difficult. Trivia in Gaelic in another country is impossible. English translations were thrown in but it was so mixed in with the Gaelic it didn’t help much. Score one for me, I managed one correct answer for our table. I picked up the word Twilight and guessed Stephanie Myer. Whoop!
Day One was everything I’d hoped and more. I can’t wait for tomorrow! Until then.
I made it to Skye! I’m in my little dorm room and in a couple of hours I’ll meet the rest of the people attending classes here.
Excitement has built over the months, weeks, and days as time neared for me to go on this crazy adventure.
I’ve diligently studied Gaelic via the short course Sabhal Mor Ostaig ( The University of Highlands and Islands in Sleet, Skye) recommended. I’ve spent way too much time wondering what the classes will be like and if I’ll really catch on to this difficult language.
As T-3 months became T-3 weeks I decided to upgrade my phone to an X. Yep I did it, I went for the better camera and the app that allows you to send a text as a talking unicorn. I mean, after all, the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland. It’s true—look it up!
And then, while I was upgrading my phone, my gotta-have-it brain kicked in and I purchased an Apple watch. It’s super cool with all sorts of important built in bells and whistles—like the Breathe app. With a gentle vibration it reminds you it’s time to breathe. And if you engage the app, it will take you through a 1 minute exercise.
So with watch on hand and I-phone X in purse I packed my bags and made my way to Scotland.
Other than discovering in Denver that I needed 4 new tires, everything has gone right on schedule. I even scored a business class upgrade on my Denver to London flight!
But as I lay on that fancy bed trying to sleep, anxiety crept into my daydreams of Skye.
What if I can’t learn the language? I’d been at it for weeks and every time I’d turn from the computer screen, I’d forget what I had just learned. What if I’m the oldest person there? What if everybody else is Scottish and gives me the stink eye when I butcher their language. Holy Cow! What was I thinking?
In London, I handed the customs agent my landing card and stepped up to the booth. I shoved away my anxiety and smiled brightly as I prepared for him to ask a few simple questions, stamp my passport, and allow me into the UK. The first thing he did was look at my occupation and ask if I was really an author.
A question I’ve asked myself over the years. But I smiled and with my strongest fake-confidence said, “Yes, sir. I am
Agent: Well, I’ve never heard of you. Is it really your job?
Agent: Well I don’t read much so I guess that’s okay. Why are you here?
I straightened my shoulders and said, “I’m going to the University of Highlands and Islands in Skye to study Gaelic.”
Agent: Are you really going to study Gaelic?
I could hear the squeal of my false bravado escaping like a leaky balloon. “Yes-s-s, s-sir.
Agent: Do you have proof?
I handed him my class schedule. I thought he’d take one look and let me pass. Nope. He studied for about an hour – or a minute. At this point time was wonky.
Then he looked up and said, “I can’t read this. It’s in Gaelic.”
“The English is beneath the Gaelic.”
I’m not sure he understood that my statement was not a commentary on his mother tongue. Because, he removed his glasses and studied scheduled harder. People in line behind me began to dance around either in hopes or in dread that I was about to be hauled away to wherever they take slightly over middle aged writers with a desire to learn Gaelic. At last he let out long exaggerated sigh, stamped my passport, and allowed me to cross the boarder into the UK.
Once across, I should have been relieved. Instead, all of the anxiety that had settled in the base of my belly awoke. It hit me full force choking my airway, churning my gut, and screaming into my brain that I was a fool for doing this, that I was going to be laughed at.
And then…my watch jiggled my wrist and purple letters scrolled across the screen.
Time to breathe.
And I did. I followed my little watch’s instructions and I thought about what an adventure I’ll have. Even if I leave only slightly more educated, I’ll have tried. Even if I am laughed at, it’ll make a great story.
I’ve made it to Skye and I’m sitting in my little dorm room waiting for time to meet the others. I’m still nervous but as long as I have my watch to remind me to breathe, I know I’ll be okay.
It’s the first day of March. Spring is on its way. Soon the ski season will come to a close, the snow will melt, and wildflowers will blanket the mountain side. And, just as mother nature is making way for a new season, there are changes in my life too.
First off, Welcome to my new website! I want to give a big shout out and thank you to my web designer, Nate Whidden. I couldn’t be happier. It’s beautiful!
Secondly, I’d like to introduce you to my new fantasy series.
I haven’t left my small town Texas books behind but I’m taking a break to focus on these exciting new books.
The first book, Magic Harvest, is about fairy trafficking in the human world. Think Taken meets Tolkien. I’m anxious to show off the cover but we’ll all have to wait until the big reveal on May 29, 2018.
The release date is September 18, 2018.
Set in Scotland, these books have fed my obsession with Scottish folklore or should I say, have increased my obsession. I’ve added a Creature Companion page to my website to feature Scottish mythical critters. The first few are from my imagination but soon I will post traditional folklore creatures as well.
My passion for Scottish folklore led me to The University of Highlands and Islands in Skye. I will be traveling to the university in a few weeks to take an immersive Gaelic class. I hope to be accepted into the Celtic Heritage MA program as well. Wish me luck!
Don’t forget the release date of Magic Harvest. September 18! Pre-orders will be available soon. To celebrate this new series, I will be giving away great prizes straight from Scotland. I hope you can party with me! More on that later…
If you have questions or would like to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.