An NC Highlander Descendant Returns to Kintyre

7th Generation Highland Scot Pens Novel on Stone of Destiny

A rock. A sword. A crown. Letters. A Scots legacy.

Beautifully staged and guarded at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, the rock with a dozen names and at least that many legends of provenance–the Stone of Destiny–returned to Scotland in a cavalcade of royal limousines on November 30, 1996. The Scots’ Coronation Stone will have resided there for thousands of daily viewers for twenty-one years on its anniversary this year.

In a note of interesting happenstance, Prince Andrew himself returned the Stone to Scotland, November 30th, an official holiday named since 1320 St. Andrews Day, a commemoration of the martyrdom of Andrew the apostle in circa 70A.D. The cultural and official exchange took place in Edinburgh Castle. Although accompanied by much pomp and circumstance, the return of the Stone purloined by England’s monarch Edward as war spoils in 1296 from its home at the Palace of Scone in Scotland, is a nominal gesture since it was ‘given’ on a string. The Scots must return it when the next royal is crowned in England. See more photographs on Pinterest.

Kenna Alford believed seeing the Stone’s return firsthand worthy of supreme effort in the novel Stone of Her Destiny, worthy enough to make her life obsession. Positioning Stone’s return with private agendas abroad, she catapulted all to the land of her ancestors. Her knowledge of Scottish forebears bracketed seven generations and encased the very land on which she had lived in North Carolina on the Cape Fear, land acquired by them and kept in family possession since circa 1736. And gave her letters tracing back all the way to that first generation emigrating from Tarbert, out of Campbeltown.

Together, she and Lane, the heir apparent and lord of the castle Blackheart Heights cover this event and many to come. Just like in real life, royals, processions, regalia, all are quite seductive elements to the commoner to watch, follow, and enjoy. If you are close, you can participate in the festivities. And the intrigue.

Kenna thrives on intrigue. The Gothic mansion she grew up in, a Southern ghost-ridden plantation house, has prepared her for the extended stay she begins at gloomy Blackheart Heights with its strange visitor, a little girl, a doll, happenings, and weird presences going bump in the night.

She finds that she has competition in the romantic department, however, and that her lessons in falconing given by Lane at Blackheart are not the only inroads into his life and heart, but that he has something going with a raven-haired beauty named Tarra Montfort. She finds out that the elite family of Montfort’s are highly-placed Masons that plumb the depths beyond their own estate into the castle where she stays. She finds they have a vested interest in that castle, as well.

With the rug pulled out from under her at home, freed to follow the Stone to Scotland and back and if necessary, over the whole world–to her own destiny, she does just that. Freed to love and to marry. Freed to look under rocks, trace the journey of the Stone, and stir up a world of controversy. Free to learn the enhanced significance of the Speaking Stone to international groups bent on acquiring it for themselves. And so many of these groups think the wrong one lies in Edinburgh. So many think she knows something that the rest of the world does not.

She learned the price of her obsession, endless stalking and intrusion, fear for her life and that of her loved ones too late to withdraw from the grim trek her curiosity and resultant knowledge set her out on. She is driven, drawn, and determined, like any self-respecting redhead of Scottish descent. And like most women, susceptible to a romantic relationship.

Stone of Her Destiny is a Gothic suspense slated to appear as an E book on November 30th this year: St. Andrews Day.

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Writing in Wilmington–Work Vaycay 2017

Highlights of a Writer’s Retreat

Today I was thinking about my three week work vacation. That’s right, vacation not away from work but purposed to work.

Nothing like freedom from trivia connected to a place–sweeping, framing, entertaining salesmen unawares, dealing with computer problems, functioning as Dunn’s Welcome Center–to get to the guts, the meat, and for this A-D-D child, to keep the thread going. A novel of 400 pages, let’s face it, requires some concentration.

And the distractions in Hilton Homewood Suites were the kind of distractions which built me up–the occasional morning poolside beside palm trees, close to refreshments, under umbrellas, the ride to Wrightsville Beach for a seafood supper, mostly oysters, sitting by yatchetts (lol) and feasting on seaside beauty. All of that only eased me into a grueling schedule of writing, hard editing, and final spots of intensive research. The hotel was generous in their help with their business center printouts and outlets, connections, and even, printer.

Because this time, although I took painting supplies with me, and even a French easel for plein air painting which I fully intended to pursue, and a beret just because–I didn’t. Go figure. My internal editor and the One to whom I trust my steps functioned beautifully, totally in sync.

Oh, and did I mention free breakfasts and 4 nights a week suppers?

My husband even came to help me edit the book. Folks, you can’t imagine the benefits of an interpreter/translator’s editing and the precision of his words. We are not talking elementary rough exchange of words in a language, here, but fine-tuned, way-beyond-thesaurus moments of expertise. Not to mention his gift of geography and history. I appreciated his dogging my tracks immensely. He grounds my fantasy in real roads and streets, many of which we actually traveled in Scotland. Stone of Her Destiny milks that wonderful trip we made to Scotland a few years back, staying in castles, taking falconing lessons, and happening into Campbell and McAllister history and territory that figures into the novel’s structure and fabric.

We just went through all those slides again–for my husband, for the first time. I think I may have neglected seeing all 6,000 as well, but now I am quite stoked and prepared with wonderful exemplars of the Gothic experience that is Stone of Her Destiny, my soon to be forthcoming novel.

I’ve discovered an awesome new editing technique which enhances and builds upon having done 3 edits already. Going over the novel with a reader/editor, discussing by paragraph what is needed. My friend Sandra Mowery is excellent at this; we covered a lot of ground. She helped me ramp up action on celebratory events, menus, and clothes. Wendy McLeod challenges my love scenes. And Sandy, word choice, history, and geography. Well, they say it takes a village. I would be so missing a great opportunity not to use available friends, oops, I mean resources.

And the very last night we were there, July 4, we worked the whole holiday on it until 9p.m., doing some poolside and some in the front lobby to ease the pain of working while others played. And as providence would have it went up on the elevator to fourth floor with a man who held it for us to climb in.

I looked at him and said, “You look like the English TV actor.”

He looked at me and replied, “Well, that’s because I am!” It took me a second to realize he really was Charlie Shaughnessy in our brief convo, but when I did, said, “Well, you have to give me your autograph!”

“Don’t you have a camera? Just take a picture!” he replied. So there we are in the photograph, I am standing with the man who played “Mr. Sheffield” in one of my all-time favorite sit-coms, The Nanny.

He told us, I think I remember correctly, he was on location working on a film. To which I responded I was working on a book. “Fiction?” he asked, actually waiting for me to respond, and so for the first time in my life after having been taught it over and over by RWA and their wonderful writing conferences, I delivered my perfect elevator pitch. “Yes, Gothic romance–with a little Armageddon 7 thrown in.”

We said goodnight. I imagined he looked interested, an interpretation I’ll hang onto fiercely.

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