"O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent;
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content"
Robbie Burns

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


HAPPY “almost” NEW YEAR or in Scotland HAPPY HOGMANAY

I know this blog is supposed to deal with all things Scottish and I promise not to disappoint. Despite the content of this posting I will show you there is a connection between the University of Wisconsin and Scotland… wait for it.

This is an exciting week because our University of Wisconsin Badgers will be representing the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl football game on New Year’s Day. Though the Badgers are no strangers to post season bowl games, earning the right to participate in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000 is exciting. Wisconsin has appeared 7 times at the Rose Bowl with a record of 3-4 with their last win in 2000 against Stanford. With a student body of about 49,000 students, the campus is the “premier” public university system in Wisconsin. As an alumnus of the university that is the ugly stepsister to this school, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin has never had to be designated by its city… Madison (or the People’s Republic of Madison). The following is a bit of an introduction about University of Wisconsin that is known for so much more than just football. Their football program aside, they are a noted powerhouse in Hockey bringing home the national NCAA title; 6 years in the men’s program and three in the women; one year 2006 when both the men and women held the NCAA title with a brother and sister on each team respectively. They have also earned 8 NCAA titles in Boxing, 1 in Basketball, 7 in men and women’s Cross Country, 1 in men’s Soccer, and 1 in Track and Field. The NFL has had hundreds of former Wisconsin students in their ranks as has the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and even Basketball. And if you take a look at the last two Olympic women's hockey teams from the US and Canada you will find many former and current players who are members of or were past menbers of Badger Hockey women hockey teams.

Sometimes Wisconsin is nicknamed the “Alabama of the North” but having attended college in Alabama I can assure you that getting in to the University of Wisconsin is much more difficult. And like the excellent university it is has a lot of pride in the accomplishments and contributions of its alumni: (to name but a few)

11 Nobel Laureates


  • Joan Cussack, actress
  • `Don Ameche, actor
  • Dale Chihuly, world class glass sculpturer
  • Rich Dahm, producer and head writer of Stephen Colbert
  • Ben Karlin co-creator of Stephen Colbert and John Stewart
  • Jane Kaczmarek, actress
  • Fredrick March, actor
  • Frank Lloyd Wright, architect
  • David Susskind, TV producer
  • Boz Skaggs, musician

Other Notables:

  • Charles Lindberg, renowned pilot
  • Laurel Clarke and James Lovell, astronauts
  • Lynne Cheney, former second lady (Dick Cheney also attended but didn’t complete his PH.d degree)
  • Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo
  • Donald Goerke, inventor of Spagetti-Os.
  • Joyce Carol Oates, author and professor
  • Peter Straub, author
  • Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of THE YEARLING ( side note my dad was reading this book when I was born and I was named for the male protagonist)
  • Walt Bogdanich, editor NY Times
  • Michael Feldman, NPR’s “Whad’Ya Know”
  • Iajuddin Ahmed, former president of Bangladesh
  • Gaylord Nelson, former gov. of Wisconsin, US Senator but more importantly the founder of EARTH DAY!!
  • Lawrence Eagleburger, former US Secretary of State
  • Howard Engle, physician in the landmark lawsuit against the Tobacco industry
  • Russ Feingold, US Senator
  • Herb Kohl, US Senator
  • S.I. Hayakawa, former US Senator of California
  • Frank Anders, Medal of Honor recipient
  • John Atanasoff (Ph,d) inventor of electronic digital computer
  • Michael Dhuey, co-inventor of Mackintosh II and the ipod!!
  • John Muir, naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club ( more on him in the next post as he is one of the Scottish connections)
  • Elroy “crazylegs” Hirsh, NFL football
  • Harry Steenbeck, Vitamin D researcher
  • Paul K. Link, UW alumni who as biochemist in his lab at the University of Wisconsin discovered the antiqoagulant WARFIN (by the way he spend time in Scotland at the University of St. Andrews.

And then there is their world renowned Marching Band…

And now what is the Scottish connection?

Well while working on my latest project I have been researching the history of the Scottish Earl of Morton, who was Lord Dalkeith before he married a Stewart princess in 1458. As part of the research I have been looking at all the possible holdings that the Earl and subsequent family members may have had in Scotland. Well there was a Dalkeith Castle from the early 12th century held by the Graham clan and then in the 14th century by the Douglas family of which James, Earl of Morton was a member.

Dalkeith castle as it may have looked like in 14th century
In 1548 a new castle was built by the Regent Morton but was later sold to the Scott family (Duke of Buccleugh) who have had it ever since. The new castle is a palace that was built for grandeur and not defense. As the Buccleugh family has not lived in the palace since 1914, the palace has been used during WWII by Polish troops stationed in Scotland, and in the early 70’s and 80’s it was home to a computer company. However in 1985, Dalkeith Palace was leased to the University of Wisconsin’s study abroad program and has been home to about 80 students and staff per semester ever since. The program is in cooperation with the Scottish parliament where students work with members of the Scottish parliament as student interns. At the moment this is an undergraduate program, but I hope in the future it will be open to graduate students.

Dalkeith Palace today

On Friday’s post I will be sharing the story of one of Wisconsin’s most notable alumni who began life in Scotland, naturalist John Muir.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010



Well with a few days until Christmas I know you are busy, some may be to the point of exhaustion. Boy am I glad those crazy days are gone for the moment. When my kids were little, Christmas took on mythic proportions. I was just happy to make it to the first day of their break after weeks of Christmas parties for all the activities they were in as well as the school concerts and church concerts. Having two children eight years apart meant one year I was at a Kindergarten music concert in the morning and a seventh grade music concert all in the afternoon. One of the things as a reader of romance I did to keep my sanity was to read when I could, but there was never enough time to sit down and read a whole book, so thank God for Christmas Anthologies. Just enough story to read while hiding in my bathroom in a soak before the hungry hoards came home from school or from hours of sledding or snowman building. The following are some of my favorites: Though keep in mind the covers may have changed with subsequent publishing years. I can’t say I have liked all of the stories in the books but even if you got one or two great feel good reads it was worth the price. Though some are now out in ebook formats, most can be found in a good used bookstore.

The first book is A STOCKINGFUL OF JOY, which included stories from some of romance’s leading ladies: Jill Barnett, Mary Jo Putney Justine Dare and Susan King. This is the book I pickup every year because of the King story (“Snow Rose”) not because it is set in Scotland but because it is just one of those “curl-your-toes-feel-good-this-time-of-year “kind of stories. That it continues from one of her earlier books THE RAVEN’S WISH, makes it all the more enjoyable. Here is what is says on Amazon:

“Susan King's Snow Rose, set in 1573 in the rugged highlands of Scotland, tells the passionate story of Catriona MacDonald and Kenneth Fraser, prominent members of opposing clans. Catriona is in desperate need of help, and the snow rose--a cherished brooch given to seal a sacred pact made long ago by a Fraser family member--guarantees help from the Fraser family, or so Catriona believes. When the Frasers must regretfully deny Catriona her one wish, Kenneth Fraser swears to protect her, but he never dreamed he would lose his heart in the process." A total YUM read!!!

The next anthology is A GIFT OF LOVE includes such heavy hitters as Jude Deveraux and Judith MacNaught, but also Kimberly Cates, Andrea Kane and Judith O’Brien. It was the Kimberly Cates story “Gabriel’s Angel” that tore at my heart and I read this one each year. It is the tale of a kindness from a wealthy child to one the city's countless London waifs that kept the dream of kindness alive for 16 years for our heroine until the young girl had to grow up and put those dreams away or can she? I love this story. Other stories in the anthology include: DOUBLE EXPOSURE (McNaught), JUST CURIOUS (Deveraux), YULETIDE TREASURE (Kane) and FIVE GOLD RINGS (O’brien).

The next anthology has all of the books set in Scotland in different periods of time, again from some of the leading ladies of romance in that period in A SEASON IN THE HIGHLANDS. The stories include : UNFINISHED BUSINESS (Jude Deveraux), FALL FROM GRACE (Jill Barnett- a revised version of a previous published story of same name) COLD FEET (Geralyn Dawson), THE MATCHMAKER (Pam Binder) and THE CHRISTMAS CAPTIVE (Patricia Cabot, and for those who don’t know this Meg Cabot/Jenny Carrol who writes all the Princess Diaries and YA books- yes she got her start in writing Romance). I had two favorites in this book, first the one by Jill Barnett, which was a revised with more filling of story from the Highland Fling anthology. The story had me laughing at the ineptitude of the Grace and her band of misfits and comments from them like “Look I have nabbed a Mcnab.” Just plain fun the kind you want to relief the stress of the holiday. The second one liked was Pam Binder’s THE MATCHMAKER because it has contemporary opposites thrown back in time to Queen Mary of Scotland’s court.

The final anthology I would mention, and believe there are so many more I could metion, are from two of Romance’s senior leading ladies Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux in SIMPLE GIFTS. Each author has two books: one an historical and one a contemporary. The titles of the stories (that may have appeared in other published anthologies) include: JUST CURIOUS (historical) and CHANGE OF HEART (contemporary) both by Jude Deveraux and MIRACLES (historical) and DOUBLE EXPOSURE (contemporary) both by Judith McNaught.

Of these four stories I especially enjoyed CHANGE OF HEART because this stars a member of Deveraux’s signature family, the Montgomerys of Colorado. A 12-year-old geek of a boy match-makes his mother with a stern powerful member of the fabled family, much to the delight of the rest of the Montgomery family. My other favorite is MIRACLES by McNaught because it is the story of two of her favorite secondary characters, Nicki and Julianne Skeffington from her Westmorland books. Though I wish she had given this couple a longer story to enjoy.

And finally a little holiday cheer, I gave the socks the week off, enjoy….

Thursday, December 9, 2010

NonFiction Friday

Unfortunately this week I have no new titles of romance books set in Scotland. Though this week Susan Fraser King’s QUEEN HEREAFTER was released. I first mentioned this book back in September. This is the story of Margaret, queen to King Malcolm III as she helps Scotland move from the Celtic church to one that will embrace the Roman church. She must navigate the intrigues of Malcolm’s court where there may be those who would be a happy for a return to the old Celtic ways. Though personally, Margaret is not one my favorite women in Scottish history there is no denying the influence she had on the country and the church. She was the wife of a king and the mother of three Scottish kings. QUEEN HEREAFTER is a book worth checking out, if only because the professional treatment that Ms King’s writing will provide.

Now with Christmas just around the corner and with so many of you writing books set in Scotland I wanted to continue my Scottish Books recommendations. This posting will be for books on the language of the Scots. According to the Scottish Parliament website there are three official languages in Scotland: Scottish Gaelic (Gâidhlig), Scots and English.

Scottish English: the language of formal communication and administration

Scots: a closely related language used or understood by the majority of the population

Scottish Gaelic: the Celtic language traditionally associated with the Highlands and Islands. Scottish Gaelic is closely related to Irish. Over the centuries it has been pushed further and further to the northwest and the Western Isles, but is now enjoying a revival with more support from the public, government, and education.

Writers are always looking for good dictionaries of these languages to help enhance their dialogue. The following books are some I have in my own library and others are ones that have been recommended to me by my college instructors and fellow writers. Most can be found used or new from either Amazon/ or the Book Depository (free worldwide shipping) or found in your local large community or college library.

I am going to begin with the Scottish Gaelic because though it has the fewest speakers today in Scotland (about 60,000) it is the fastest growing language of learners. Gaelic is the longest surviving language in Scotland and was once the language of most of Scotland but from the time of King Malcolm and the influence of Queen Margaret, the Saxons and Normans. Scottish Gaelic was quickly overtaken by Scots which is a Germanic language akin to English. With so many Scottish romances set in the Highlands, especially in the medieval period, the most burning language question on many of the writer’s loops is how to say something in Gaelic. Using online dictionaries are not always the safest because many site use the Irish and Scottish Gaelic interchangeably. Having a good reliable dictionary at your fingertips is a must for those who place their stories in the Highlands and Islands. I would recommend the following books, though some can be a bit pricey.


A Scottish history professor recommended this dictionary as a comprehensive modern Gaelic dictionary, easy to use with good appendixes, modern phrases, and an uncluttered layout. The only draw back is the ticket price $65.82 (new) and $55.95 (used)


This dictionary in a paperback format is good for the student and traveler and would be ideal for the romance writer. It provides about 15,000 entries including common phrases. Though not as in depth as the previous one, which shows the origin and location for the word usage, it is not as expensive as the other book. This is one by the Hippocrene Practical Library who does a wonderful children’s picture book of English and Gaelic terms for common objects. Price: $11.01 (new) and $8.28 (used) Amazon


This dictionary also was recommended as a good Gaelic dictionary but it isn’t clear if one needs to know Gaelic to use it or if it has an English to Gaelic but apparently it has modern word usage as well. The good thing is that it is more practically priced at $30.40 (new) and $19.76 (used) Amazon

Now the most common language, and yes it is a language, is Scots. Scots is the historic language of the Lowlands, Borders and now most of Scotland. The language has its origins in the Germanic languages of the Saxons but was influenced by the Brythonic language of the Britons of Strathclyde, the Cumbrian language, Norse, Gaelic and Norman French. Today it is the language of all of Scotland though it hasn’t been embraced as a written language, which is still English. Many people believe that Scots is just a dialect of English but the European Union has recognized it as a language. Many authors confuse Scots (kinnas and dinnas ) as being the language of the Highlands but historically this would not be correct. If you are writing a book set in Edinburgh or Glasgow or southern Scotland, as well as the north East (Aberdeen, Dundee, St. Andrews) they you want to use Scots. Rather than the easy and over done “kinnnas and dinnas” the following books will help you find the just the right words.

SCOTS THESAURUS by Scottish National Dictionary Association

I really like this book and use it often when I am looking for just the right word of all the books offered today I would put this at the top of my list of purchases. The book is set up in themes with English words as the lead with Scottish words for those entries. This is an easy book to use and should be in everyone’s library. $30.00 (new) and $5.85 (used) Amazon

THE CONCISE SCOTS DICTIONARY by Scottish National Dictionary Association

The role of the Scottish National Dictionary Association’s goal is to promote the use and understanding of the Scots language and has been doing so with dictionaries such as this one since the 70’s. The most current edition of this dictionary was published in 2000 but it is as useful now to the write despite it being 10 years old. The Concise Scots Dictionary contains meanings, spelling variants, pronunciation, information on when and where words are used, grammatical information, idioms and phrases, etymologies and details of Scottish life then and now. I have used this book in a number of my college classes through the University of Dundee, especially the class on paleography when trying to decipher documents from the 1500’s forward. $30 (Amazon new) and $1.00 (used ABE Books)

CONCISE ENGLISH-SCOTS AND DICTIONARY by Scottish National Dictionary Association

Like the book above this is an English to Scots dictionary but is much less detailed with about 15,000 entries. I have this book but if you can’t find the two above then this is a good third choice. Its layout is easy to use in alphabetic format but not as detailed as the other ones. $24.00 (new Amazon-overpriced for what you get) and $5.50 (used Amazon).

And finally, for those of you writing stories set in the Northeast of Scotland the dialect of Scots unique to this area is called Doric. This book would be especially useful A DORIC DICTIONARY: Doric-English, English-Doric by Douglas Kynock. This book has a copyright of 2006 ( a reprint with an original of1996) but is difficult to find. I found on copy at ABE books used for $9.26. The book is easy to use and looks as if it may have been a result of someone’s Master’s degree from Aberdeen.

There is also the Scots/Irish language of Northern Ireland (Ulster) a result of the Scots/English transportations/plantations of the 17th century. Unfortunately I have yet to find a definitive book on Ullans or Lallans as it is called. Any suggestions?

And now a bit of Christmas silliness, you know I couldn’t resist…

Monday, December 6, 2010


After finally taking the time to catalog my own Scottish research library I thought over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas I would share some of my favorite books that should appeal to those of you who are writing Scottish romances. I know the cost of books is getting more and more expensive but with this list of books I am going to touch on some themes that I have in the past been asked to research. For the most part the books listed are my books in my own library so if someone needs to know if a certain topic is covered I would be happy to check it for you.

This first posting will include very basic books on Scottish history. But basic doesn’t mean simple or shallow. These books are the ones that I have used in my college classes. Some are scholarly and others read like popular history. But don’t be fooled they provide a great foundation for an understanding of the history and events that have changed Scotland from a Celtic nation, to a feudal kingship to a modern industrial nation. At least one of these books should be at the foundation of your Scottish research library.


This book was written in 1992 but the information is timeless. It includes 25 chapters starting with the Picts and moves up through the centuries defining the Scottish identity by exploring the historical, cultural and political events. The book is easy to read and can be used as a research book, using only the chapters of most interest. Mr Lynch has also has a companion book called THE OXFORD COMPANION TO SCOTTISH HISTORY. Though it doesn’t’ read like a dictionary it is more theme oriented rather than linear history and is a nice companion to his other book. Cost: New about $16.00 used: $1.17 (Amazon)


Magnusson’s approach is to tell the story of Scotland by answering the question…”What does it mean to be Scots?” His is not a pure scholarly approach thought he does provide the reader sources, he is looking at themes and events most heroic and warfare history. His book is easy to read and will provide enough excitement for the reader to seek out more in depth research. I especially like the chapter on the REAL MacBeth. He provides the reader with a Scottish king who suffered character assassination from Shakespeare that many a Scot doesn’teven know that Macbeth was probably their last Celtic King. He reigned successfully for 17 years on the cusp of the feudal age in Scotland. Cost: $15.30 new and $5.00 used (Amazon)

SCOTLAND: A HISTORY by Jenny Wormald

This was the text used in a recent class on Scotland at my local university. I found the book to rather boring to read, though I already had a pretty good foundation in the basic history of Scotland. The book is a series of thematic articles from Scottish scholars and though it provides a overview of Scottish themes it falls far from the in depth history from either of the ones previously mentioned. Though there are those who find it a useful source to start your Scottish studies. I can’t agree but I offer it here to provide choice. Cost: New $19.95 (amazon) used; $3.97 (abe)


Don’t be fooled by the title though the purpose of the book is Medieval Scotland the author provides a really good overview of the history from the times of the Roman invaders, the early people (Picts, Britons, Angles and Scots) as well as early Christianity and the Viking invasions before he even gets to the history of the 10th century and forward. What I like is that he provides sources that can be check for the serious researcher but the book is written in a way that is not overly scholarly. Throughout the book he keeps the people, the monarchy and the church at the forefront of the history he is telling the reader. For the many medieval storytellers this is a must book. Cost: New $29.97 and used $23.04.

Another book you might consider on Scottish history is A HISTORY OF SCOTLAND by Scottish archaeologist Neil Oliver who also produced the 10 disk DVD series for Scottish TV of the same title. Though books make better sources for information this DVD series by Oliver would make a wonderful addition to anyone’s library. The visuals in the video are sometimes a bit too dramatic and there are large chunks of Scottish history missing but what is shown is well researched and the audience will be captivated if only with the scenery, which is to die for.

Another book worth looking at if you like history told through the eyes of those who lived during an event or period, you might enjoy a new book recently published… SCOTLAND: THE AUTHOBIOGRAPHY 2,000 YEARS OF SCOTTISH HISTORY BY THOSE WHO SAW IT HAPPEN by Rosemary Goring. What I like about the book is you can start anywhere in the book by choosing a period and get a first hand account of an event in that period. Though not a traditional history book, this is the type of book that prods the muse into going in new directions with characters who reflect the events told by primary sources.

Other books often found in a writer's library of Scottish history books include the following, but given their copyright dates may be outdated. This is because Scottish studies have seen, in recent years, a resurgence in active scholarship. In large part because of the increase in Scottish Nationalism: many see themselves first as Scots and then as British.

  • A HISTORY OF SCOTLAND by J D Mackie (1984)
  • SCOTLAND: A CONCISE HISTORY by Fitzroy Maclean (2000)
  • SCOTLAND by John Prebble (1984)
  • THE BIRLINN COMPANION TO SCOTTISH HISTORY by Ian Donnachie, George Hewitt (2007)

The next posting will include books on the different Scottish languages.

Your Christmas treat from the PNW:

Friday, December 3, 2010


Wow just think it is only 22 days until Christmas, have you gotten your shopping done? Not me; not even close. Though it doesn’t help we have birthdays this month either. But for those of you looking for great stocking stuffers for your reading friends the following are new titles set in Scotland this month. Not as many as I had hoped but understand unless the book is a hardcover, mass market titles kind of get lost in the shuffle. But now you know what you can spend your bookstore gift certificates on.


Finally Ms. Howell has gifted readers with another installment of her popular Murray Family. Here we have the story of Ilsabeth Murray Armstrong who is framed for the murder of one of the King’s men and it is Sir Simon Innes whose heart won’t be swayed by a mere woman that must save her from a fate that is not of her making. That is if she can prove it beyond the touch her effect has on Sir Simon. Other books in the series include: HIGHLAND DESTINY (1998), HIGHLAND HONOR (1999), HIGHLAND PROMISE (1999), HIGHLAND VOW (2002), HIGHLAND KNIGHT (2001), HIGHLAND BRIDE (2002), HIGHLAND ANGEL (2003), HIGHLAND BARBARIAN (2006), HIGHLAND SAVAGES (2007) AND HIGHLAND WOLF (2007). Though it is important to note that all the books in the series are clearly stand alone books and can be read out of order. Though Ms Howell has done a great job of getting her backlist out in ebook format recently so check sites like Smashwords and the online bookstores for ebook formats.

THE RANGER by Monica McCarty December 28th

Author Monica McCarty has the third book out in her Highland Guardian series which to me reads like “Medieval Navy Seals” with each member of the Guard having a particular skill. For me I have a lot of trouble suspending the known Scottish history of the period knowing that Bruce’s closest confidents were lowlanders like Sir James Douglas as well as the St. Clair family and wasn’t it a Highlander Lord Ross who allowed the Bruce women to be taken by the English? . Though Ms McCarty’s books are always well written, if you love the period of the war of Scottish Independence you should try this series. The other books in the series include: THE CHIEF (Book I) and THE HAWK (Book 2). Ms McCarty has two other trilogies set in Scotland that are well written and should be read by serious Scottish historical enthusiasts.

THE SCENT OF JASMINE by Jude Deveraux (December 28th)

Ms Deveraux’s new book is set in the American south, Charleston 1799 and our heroine is southern gentlewoman Catherine (Cay) Harcourt who has been asked by her godfather to attend a ball and on the way take a packhorse laden with goods for an old friends son. That son just happens to be Alexander McDowell, a Scot who is a fugitive. When Alexander’s captors get too close he has to escape and takes Cay with him on the adventure of her lifetime while they flee to the everglades of Florida. Dare she believe his innocence when she learns he is accused of killing his wife? It is nice to see Ms Deveraux returning to her historical roots.

Now for a bit of holiday whimsy

The following are some books to look for in the New Year:

SINS OF A HIGHLAND DEVIL by Sue-Ellen Welfonder (January 3)

This is a new series by Ms. Welfonder with the premise that three knights promise to ensure their clan is the surviving clan of the three who the king has determined must fight to claim the glen of Many Legends. If you haven’t read Ms Welfonder’s books and she has an extensive back list, this would be a great series to start with. This first book is the story of James Cameron and Catriona MacDonald.

HIGHLAND MASTER by Amanda Scott (January 28 )

This is a new series called the Scottish Knights and after the last series set in the Borders, Ms Scott has returned to the Highlands with a story of conflict between a Mackintosh lass and a Cameron and a need for vengance. I have been looking forward to this new series.

THE IRISH PRINCESS by Karen Harper (Feb 1)

Ms Harper’s books are not usually romances but often are historical fiction with romantic elements. Though this book is not aScottish historical, it takes place in the court of Henry 8th and the female protagonist is an Irish princess, Elizabeth Fitzgerald (of Irish and English ancestry) who seeks the protection of the English court where she secretly plans to avenge her father, the Earl of Kildare.

Devil’s Own by Veronica Wolf (March 1)

This offering by Ms Wolf is the second book in her MacAlpin series, the first being DEVIL’S HIGHLANDER out this past August.

HER SCOTTISH GROOM by Ann Stephens (March 1)-

She has an excerpt of the book at

Ok I couldn’t resist…. I promise no more until maybe Hogmanay…