Dragons of Challon series

Dragons of Challon series
Dragons of Challon

28 March 2020

Remembering the Anniversary of the birthday of Dawn Thompson

Portrait

portrait done from Dawn's last photo

We were so close, it's hard to think we never actually met.  Dawn Thompson breezed into my life, the belle of the ball - or so everyone thought.  Despite losing her eleven years ago, she lingers, still very much alive in my thoughts. 

And she gave me her sister Candy to watch over, to be my pal and constant companion.  I am facing losing another person dear to me--my husband--and Candy is right there at my elbow, giving me strength and support.

There is so much of Dawn in her novels.  I have discussed this with Candy--was she aware of how much of her was the fabric of her tales?  We both agree Dawn was totally unaware of these elements.  I recall our shared editor, Hilary Sares, saying she cried when she read the scene of the trees that were alive in Lord of the Deep.  A tree that ached to be a part of life, but with limbs rooted to the ground.  Or the angel in Lord of the Dark -- a poor thing couldn't sleep because his wings wouldn't retract.  Again, only to someone who knew Dawn closely would that make sense.  Dawn had the hardest time getting into bed every night, hard time sleeping because of the legs that no longer worked, the pain that dogged her every moment.


Dawn's high school graduation picture
Dawn's high school portrait

Never have I known someone so valiant in the face of adversity, never have I heard someone laugh at all that life flung at her.

I miss you, Dawn Thompson, but you “gave” me your sister.  Your last words to me was "Do not forget me."  How could I ever forget such a bright light in this sad sorry world?

Happy Birthday, special lady.

  


 


  

  



 


  


 



 

Coming Soon for her fans








08 February 2020

video of Dunvegan


The Mystery behind the Masks of Carnival




The History and Meaning Behind the Masks of Carnival

The Venice Carnival dates back to the 1300s, but has changed in purpose and style over the centuries, even banned by the Church at points.  Not just a time of festivities, it saw a period of social change by the people, outside of government and Church.  It was often used for political purposes, allowing the common man and nobility to move and navigate the troubled times without revealing their identities.  In ancient years, the lengths of observances ran much longer, often months—sometimes nearly half of the year—as it permitted people to hold votes and work political machinations, giving voice, albeit anonymous to the common citizen, and allowing the nobles to work outside of their sphere to affect change.  It often allowed romantic assignations, as the masked revelers moved from party to party, even indulged in the gaiety in the streets.  Yet, it was so much more.  Carnival was the budding of political and religious change that happened outside normal channels of government and Church.



Currently, it runs the ten days before Ash Wednesday.  On first glance, The Carnival of Venice shares many characteristics with the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.  New Orleans is the Big Easy, with a party on down, Cher that sees less emphasis on the traditional costumes, and focuses on enjoying the best time ever.  The Venice celebration still draws heavily on their Medieval roots and customs of their elaborate costumes.  The fancy attire slowly evolved over the centuries, yet remained firmly rooted in the Medieval origins.  Venetians generally started holding their masked parties on the 26th of December—the start of Lent.  Masks were created to conceal identities, thus reflecting a social change, allowing the lowest classes and nobility to mingle.  Peasants and aristos alike could indulge in grand balls, dancing and partying throughout the long winter nights.  The anonymity of masks permitted a freedom to let their inner wishes and fantasies take life.  Gambling, drinking and indulging in clandestine affairs happened with no repercussions, which soon proved advantageous for furtive political aspirations.  Soon, it was obligatory to wear masks at certain governmental decision-making events, where all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers.  Through the masquerades the divisions of aristo and serf lines blurred.  The protected processes, in truth, were the first steps to a democracy. To see this balloting was fair and secure, men were not permitted to carry swords or guns while wearing masks, and the police enforced this law religiously.  Thus, you see the masks and their meanings carry a more involved significance that just hiding who you were and having a good time.




The original mask was named the Batua.  It was always white, and made of ceramic or leather.  The name comes from behüten, meaning to protect.  The mask fit over the whole face, completely concealing the wearer’s identity.  To further hide who they were, a hood of black or red covered their heads and reached their shoulders, and was topped by a black tricono—a tri-corner hat.  A long black or red cape finished the costume.  While designed for a man, women soon were taking advantage of the opportunity the outfit afforded them.  The mouth on the mask was very small and expressionless, with oval slits for eyes, and two air holes on the nose.  While the mask afforded complete protection, it did not allow the wearer to eat or drink without taking it off.



The Volta was the next style to rise.  It completely cover the face, but often held a ghostly or more sinister expression.  Also called the Larva Mask—Larva meaning ghost—it was a slightly unnerving countenance, though it did let the wearer eat and drink easily. 



Usually worn by men, again they came with black hoods covering hair and shoulders, black capes and the black tricorno hat.

Women quickly saw disadvantage to the full covering, and adopted the Moretta.  Originating in France, the Moretta, allowed their feminine features to be showcased with less coverage.  The design quickly saw this mask losing favor.  Also called the Silent Mask, women held the mask before their face by clenching a tabbed button between their teeth.  I can imagine they quickly wanted changes to this style!  Surely, a man invented this one.  




Disenchanted with the Moretta’s enforced silence, women soon flocked to the Columbina masks.  Inspired by Commedia dell’arte.  The art form was improvised plays, very popular from the 1500s.  Each held a set stock of comedic characters for the actors, a few basic plots—such as troubled love affairs—but often they reflected current events and political protests in the guise of comedy.  Much like political cartoons of today, these street plays poked fun at politicians and the Church, all in the perimeters of comedy and entertainment.  The female standard in the plays had a demi-masque, only covering part of the forehead, eyes and upper parts of the nose and cheeks, revealing, yet more flattering to the female face.  These were decorated with gold, silver, crystals, and colorful plumes, especially peacock feathers, and tied with ribbons to hold them in place or carried on a baton.  Today, the costuming has been taken to a high art form.  



One of the more bizarre ones you will see is the Medico Della Peste (Plague Doctor).  These startling bird-beak style masks were created in the 1600s by a French physician Charles de Lorme, and not for the purposes of Carnival celebrating.  Just the opposite, de Lorme formed them to protect doctors treating plague victims.  By this time, foul airs were suspect as the cause of spreading the plague, and in response, naturally physicians wanted to guard themselves against infection.  De Lorme decided plague tainted the air with these noxious fumes, so then if the physicians breathed perfumed air they would escape catching the disease.  He created this grotesque mask that looked like a larger-than-life bird head.  The exaggerated beak was filled with herbs, and the eye slits were covered with rose tinted lenses.  Literally, several pieces of common knowledge have passed into our consciousness from this horrible period.  The term looking through rose colored glasses, now meaning viewing the world in a beautiful tone, instead of facing reality, came from the creation of these physicians’ masks.  The other was the old tome Ring Around the Rosie—a child’s rhyme that speaks about the mass spreading of deaths from the Black Death.  Children of future generations repeated this morbid singsong without ever understanding what they were chanting.  To further the protection of the healers, physicians wore hoods covering their head and shoulders, long gowns and capes, with huge white gloves that went all the way up their upper arms.  The Japanese used the figure of Godzilla, first to explain the bombs that were dropped on them during WWII, and then through making Godzilla the protector of their island, they faced their terrors and made the nightmare less disturbing.  The Venetians did the same in adopting this bizarre costume as part of the collection of characters. They were saying that death walked amongst them, and they mocked and laughed at mortality.



Arlecchino was a later addition.  Coming from the French Arleguin—this evolved to the more familiar Harlequin.  He was a fool, depicted dressed in diamonds of black and white, or a rainbow of colors.  Another version on this theme was the Pulcinella—a crook-nosed hunchback, that you typically saw as Punch in the Punch and Judy street puppet theatre performers.



The final two you will see are La Ruffinathe Old Woman.  She is usually the mother or, grandmother, sometimes with Gypsy portrayals, who takes great delight in trying to foil a lovers' tryst.  Scaramuccia, again comes from the French Scaramouche.  He was a total rogue, who dashed about with a sword causing mischief, and challenging other males to mock duels.  Rounding out the costumes were ones of the Moon and Sun, religious popes and bishops, kings and queens, or sometimes animals such as cats and wolves.



By the 1800s, Carnival began to fall into decline.  It had changed from the period of Lent, to lasting for six months of every year.  In 1797 Venice became a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, after Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio.  The Austrians quickly took charge of the city, and afterward the celebrations all but stopped.  It was a long absence before Venice saw a true Carnival again.  In 1979, the government decided to revive the traditions of the celebration, using it to draw tourists.  The move worked as over three million visitors come to Venice each year for the colorful pre-Lent parades and parties.  A centerpiece for the ten day festival is the la maschera più bella—the most beautiful mask.  A panel of international designers pick the most stunning mask for each year.

So, even if you have experienced the unforgettable Mardi Gras of New Orleans, you might still wish to indulge in the extravagance, pageantry and historical display of Carnival in Venice.


© Deborah Macgillivray, February 2019

Remembering a dear friend


Hard to believe Dawn has been gone twelves years. I miss her and her caustic NY humor, I miss discussions on books, television shows, and memories. But she left me  her sister Candy...so I have a bit of Dawn still. I hear in the way the giggle, or phrases they say. The stubbornness.

Still keeping my promise, Dawn.

07 February 2020

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Had the music stopped, or had she just ceased to hear it? All she could do was stare into the dragon green eyes. Drown in them. This man was her destiny. Nothing else mattered. He removed the netting from her grasp and then dropped it.


Shaking, Challon took her face in both hands. The hunger in his eyes rippled, tangible. So strong, it nearly robbed her of breath. With a need, tempered with reverence, he took her mouth with his. Lightly at first. Then deeper, more desperate, more demanding. The primitive male desire to mate unleashed. Beneath it all was his need for her—in ways she knew he did not begin to understand.

She smiled. He would.

Lost in the power, Tamlyn was not aware of the hundreds of other people around them or their celebrating. To her, the world stood still, narrowed, until there was nothing but the star-filled night.

And Challon.

“Deborah writes as if she’s been in Medieval Scotland and can somehow, magically, take you back there with her to stand amidst the heather and mist of another time. This is breathtakingly beautiful, award caliber writing.” — New York Times bestselling author, Lynsay Sands.

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Check out this three day Free spree!  My book A Restless Knight, Book 1 of the Dragons of Challon™ series.



Had the music stopped, or had she just ceased to hear it? All she could do was stare into the dragon green eyes. Drown in them. This man was her destiny. Nothing else mattered. He removed the netting from her grasp and then dropped it.


Shaking, Challon took her face in both hands. The hunger in his eyes rippled, tangible. So strong, it nearly robbed her of breath. With a need, tempered with reverence, he took her mouth with his. Lightly at first. Then deeper, more desperate, more demanding. The primitive male desire to mate unleashed. Beneath it all was his need for her—in ways she knew he did not begin to understand.

She smiled. He would.

Lost in the power, Tamlyn was not aware of the hundreds of other people around them or their celebrating. To her, the world stood still, narrowed, until there was nothing but the star-filled night.

And Challon.

“Deborah writes as if she’s been in Medieval Scotland and can somehow, magically, take you back there with her to stand amidst the heather and mist of another time. This is breathtakingly beautiful, award caliber writing.” — New York Times bestselling author, Lynsay Sands.


27 January 2020

Month months since surgery


via GIPHY


Today is two months from my surgery. Seems like a long time, seems like yesterday. Everything is healing well, and yet surgery was harder than I anticipated.  My immune system is tired of this BS...lol

A wonderful review for One Snowy Knight

Book review: One Snowy Knight by Deborah Macgillivray

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Blurb:

ONE LAST HOPE…
Beautiful Skena MacIain, Lady of Craigendan, is on the verge of losing everything she holds dear. With her husband killed at the battle of Dunbar, and the men of Craigendan slain or captured, her small holding is protected by only the women, young boys, and old men who are left. A neighboring chieftain has set his sights on Skena, and she fears that he’ll take Craigendan by force during this coming Yuletide season. Skena needs a miracle, a wish-come-true granted by Cailleach, the Lady of Winter…but things are never so easy as just making a wish…

A WISH GRANTED…
When Skena’s young son and daughter find a wounded knight in a blinding snowstorm, she fights against the hope she begins to feel. They’ve wished for a protector—but can Noel de Servian be that man? As Skena nurses the handsome warrior back to health, even she begins to believe he might be the salvation for her little keep…and more, he might hold the key to her heart.  In a season of joy, Skena soon learns he carries a dark secret that could shake her home—and her heart—to the very core...

My review:

Give me a knight in battle-scarred armor with a dream he refuses to give up, and I'll be his damsel.

There is so much going on from the first pages of the story, you can feel the overwhelming burden that lays on Skena's shoulders and empathize with her struggles to keep hold of her dreams and desires.  However, just like any true warrior woman, despite the mounting struggles, she refused to give up and give in.  I adored her as a mother, and melted with her as she fell for her knight, and identified with her as a strong woman.

Noel de Servian survived years of war clinging to his humanity and future wishes, only to find his own weighty burden from the last battle may destroy all he clings to.  However, just like any true warrior, the moment he sees the opportunity presented before him, he goes above and beyond to lay claim to his reward of family and home and peace.  I loved his confidence in claiming Skena and her children, and his powerful desire to protect and provide for them... no matter the enemy.

So much was happening in the story with all the adventure, adversaries, worries, and intrigue, but through it all you could also clearly discern Noel and Skena's deep desire grow beyond their instant attraction and solidify into something strong and beautiful.  All the trials served their purpose, to meld the two together stronger than before.  Noel loving on Skena's children was also shown in a variety of ways that left little doubt just where he stood with them, and it's always heartmelting to see a big strong man be gentle with little ones. Another thing that stood out to me was the family bonds with the Challon men.  Brotherhood like theirs was something unique, and they cherished and nurtured it like the treasure it is.

I savored my time back in Scotland with the Dragons of Challon and I'm looking forward to discovering who's story is up next.  In the mean time, I have some novellas to check out.

Purchase links:
Kindle               Trade Paperback
  

31 December 2019

Happy New Years the Scottish Way




Ever heard of Hogmanay?  Well, it is Scotland's New Years celebration.  The celebrating runs longer and has many traditions that find their roots in ancient times.  They echo back to the Twelve Days of Christmas, where you held Christmas Eve, Christmas and Boxing Day, and celebrated through Twelfth Night.


My family kept Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for family only.  On Boxing Day, we would get out the sleighs (used to be more snow back then!) and go visiting.  We took gifts to neighbors and friends.  I thought this day more fun.  Riding in the old-fashioned sleighs, and being welcomed into homes for eggnog or warmed cider to shake off the chill, were such wonderful memories.  Sadly, the sleighs haven’t been used for years, as we see fewer and fewer White Christmases.  Also, the family has scattered and finds it harder to come together like we used to.


With the end of Christmas, the celebrations in America basically slow.  Decorations are taken down and stored for another year.  On the other side of the Pond, amazing Hogmanay parties in Scotland are just getting underway, and in some instances lasting over several days.



The Hogmanay name first showed in written records around the early 1600s, but many of the traditions come from a time much older.  Some suggest the name stems from be old Norman French of hoguinan (New Years gift).  Since the Auld Alliance saw France and Scotland sharing trade and cultures it seems reasonable.  A more likely explanation is it could be a variation of Scots Gaelic og maidne (young morning).  Still, the Flemish hoog min dag (great love day) might also be the source.  Whichever, it shows perhaps several cultures developed the holiday along the same lines, and that it wasn't just confined to Scotland.  One has no stronger provable claim to the name than another.
There are many celebrations or simple street festivals, but also you can discover the great, awe-inspiring fire-festivals—of interest to people who love history, but also eye-opening to those unfamiliar with the ancient traditions.  These festivals still practice rites and rituals that go back to Pagan times, maybe thousands of years.  It’s not hard to find concerts, parties, fireworks and balefires, as well offer a wide range of Scottish fare to satisfy your culinary tastes.



First Footing is one of the customs I always enjoyed.  It was considered very unlucky for a redheaded man or women to cross the threshold after the final stroke of midnight.  Not wanting to start the year off on the wrong foot, it was hoped a tall, black-haired, handsome man would arrive at the stroke of twelve.  This leads to a wee bit of mischief, such as picking a likely lad who fits the bill, handing him a bottle of Single Malt, and sticking him outside, to cross back over at the appointed time.  After all, who wouldn't want a tall, handsome, black-haired man to come a calling on the stroke of New Years?

Redding the House is a tradition of a “clean sweep”.  It is easy to understand where this one aims—sweeping the house clear of influence of the departing year, and giving you a fresh start.  You sweep out the house and clean the fireplaces.  Taking out the ashes can see the practice of a scrying skill of Reading the Ashes, foretelling the future much in the manner of reading tea leaves.  You are sweeping away all the negative influences that have held sway through the departing year.  Once that is done, all brooms and brushes are taken outside and burnt.  Keeping old ones invites the negative back in, so you start the year with new hair bushes, mops, small sweeps and brooms.  Once that is done, you use lavender, cedar and juniper branches to purify the house, dragging these over windows and doors to protect the house and seal it away from evil spirits.  Then, you burn them in the fireplace, the final step to purify the chimney.  Thus, you start the New Years all anew.



The bonfires and fire-festival are rooted in Pagan Pictish, Celtic or Norse origins.  As reflected in the burning of the lavender, cedar and juniper clearing the air of negative influences, these fire-festivals are a purifying of the land.  When the fires died and the ashes cooled, they were spread on farmland.  In truth, this potash a fertilizer that helps keep the land arable, promoting good root growth and higher crop production.  As with many ancient Pagan traditions, there is a rite, but also a logical purpose behind it.  A newer celebration, but gaining more and more attention worldwide—is Up Helly Aa in the Shetland Isles.  What an amazing festival!  There is nothing like it!  However, you can still find fire festivals at Stonehaven, Comrie and Biggar, and even Edinburgh has added this element in their Hogmanay celebrations.


Do you sing Auld Lang Syne at New Years without truly understanding the tradition is Scottish?  All over the world every year people sing Robert Burns’ version of the traditional Scottish Air In Edinburg’s Hogmanay, people join hands for what is reputed to be the world's biggest Auld Lang Syne singing.



Another odd tradition is the Saining of the House.  You find this mostly in rural areas, a tradition that involved blessing the house and livestock with holy water from a local stream.  After nearly dying out, you are seeing a revival in recent years.  Not surprising since Annis, the goddess of wells and streams is one of the oldest Pagan deities in Scotland.  You still see her Clootie Wells dotting the landscape, wells dedicated to her honor (where wishing wells come from).  After the house, land and stock are blessed, the females of the house, once more, perform a purifying ritual, of carrying burning juniper branches inside to fill the house with the cleansing smoke.  Notice, the commonality with the Redding the House?  Once the house was filled with smoke, driving out the evil influences, the windows were opened and whisky would be passed around.



These festivals grew in popularity after the banning of Christmas  in the 16th and 17th centuries. Under Oliver Cromwell, Parliament banned Christmas celebrations in 1647.  The ban was lifted after Cromwell's downfall in 1660.  However, in Scotland, the stricter Scottish Presbyterian Church had been discouraging Christmas celebrations  as having no basis in the Bible, from as early as 1583.  Thus, even after the Cromwellian ban was lifted elsewhere, Christmas festivities continued to be discouraged in Scotland.  In fact, Christmas remained a normal working day in Scotland until 1958 and Boxing Day did not become a National Holiday until much later.  Slowly, people began to go back to memories of olden days to find ways to make merry and celebrate.  Thus, Hogmanay became a mid-winter celebration to chase away the darkness and welcome the light.



On a personal note, I hope the coming 2019 is bright and full of blessings for us all.  My husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer and he is undergoing Chemo now, and will for the coming month.  Him, most of all, I wish a miracle.


I cannot feel sorry for 2019 fading away.  It was a horrible year, begining with my husband going through chemo, only to die in March from Stage 4 Pancreatic cancer.  After I came home from the hospital, I fell and broke my jaw.  That trauma lead to a massive ameloblastoma forming inside my jaw and eating away at the bone.  I went through surgery last month to remove it, and I am still healing, and face the possibility of three more surgeries if things don't go right.  My friend Candy sprained her hip and couldn't walk well for months; there was a broke furnace, Candy's water heater had to be replaced,  car repairs; I had to go to court and have The Tenant From Hell evicted (thank you to my lawyer Barry Baxter); and gutter guards installed on three houses since I won't be able to clean gutters....lol.  My kitty Boots died two weeks before my husband, and Loki nearly died on a trip to the vet a month after.

It was not a good year.  I am wishing everyone a peaceful 2020 where all is bright and hopeful, where this nation can learn to heal.

Especially sending prayers for Jon Paul, the wonderful artist,
 as he is dealing with health issues.

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr