Message From The Author
No one with an ounce of sensitivity can walk among the ruins of a medieval castle or abbey, amble around a long-silent battle site, or touch the cold, grainy texture of a lichen-covered standing stone and not feelsomething. As if by magic, a strong sense of some emotion, an emotion not your own, fills you so completely, you can almost taste the past.
What memories linger on? What emotions yet stir beneath the surface? Whose voices would call to us if they could? And what would they say?
While visiting Eilean Donan Castle, near Skye, my hero Duncan MacKenzie of DEVIL IN A KILT appeared dark, proud, and handsome, he strode into view with his entire story in hand. A man befitting the strength of his castles walls, he embodied the irresistible lure of the distant past. Boldly assuming I wouldnt dare defy him, he relayed his tale. A story of passion, danger, and secrets, set in the early fourteenth century when the MacKenzies of Kintail held sway at Eilean Donan and the Clan MacRae, their staunch supporters and the castles present day chatelaines, were known as the MacKenzies Coat of Mail. Though Id already known MacKenzie was the primary family name associated with the castle in this early period, I was surprised to discover that there had indeed been a Duncan among the castles former owners.
I believe memories can linger, that with Duncan I caught a rare glimpse into a long-past world, hidden only by a thin veil separating then and now. But other atmospheric places were waiting to share their tales, too, such as the Knocklearoch Standing Stones on Islay, which formed the basis of the fictional Marriage Stone in DEVIL IN A KILT. Legend claims the Islay stones are petrified priests, and those seeking refuge need but to gain the inner area between them.
The Celts believed stones were magical. Whether the tiniest pebble or a true megalith, sacred stones are thought to hold the blessings of the old ones, the influences of a distant past. Their magical powers can be called upon to bless wedding vowsthe variant I chose to useor in a myriad of other ways: to cure illnesses, foretell the future, or to negate curses. They could also represent a boundary or be a part of a burial site. Holed stones, also known as swearing stones, possessed their own special powers. Hands clasped through the hole or fissure in these ancient stones confirmed a pact or ensured a positive outcome. Crawling through large openings healed wounds, reversed infertility, or worked miracles.
Indeed, the magnificently carved Pictish standing stone, one of the Aberlemno Stones in Tayside, that I used for the physical characteristics of the Marriage Stone quickly took on life and meaning of the past. In the Celtic legend I created in DEVIL IN A KILT, the old gods, angered by a kings misuse of the Marriage Stones sanctuary, swore to guard and bless all newly-wedded MacKenzies who clasp hands through the stones hole.
As fiction took on its own life, it became clear Duncan needed all the help he could glean from the ancients A proud and forbidding widower, rumored to have murdered his first wife, he seeks the hand of a renowned seeress, hoping she can reveal the truth behind his tormented past and determine if young Robbie is truly his son. But his new wife refuses to accept the constraints he places on their union. Keeping secrets of her own, she stubbornly follows her heart, replacing the darkness in his castle with light and laughter, encouraging him to look into his own heart for the answers he seeks, and tempting him to feel what he fears most of alllove!
Scotland is my wellspring of inspiration, the fusion of past and present. The next time you happen across a historical place, slow your pace and listen deeply. You might be surprised by the wonders that come to light.
To share your love of all things past or your comments on DEVIL IN A KILT, write to Sue-Ellen at PO Box 3246, Sarasota, FL 34230-3246 or e-mail: welfonder@ msn.com. Or visit her website: www.welfonder.com.
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