Ceud mìle fàilte – A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Happy Mother’s Day!

Welcome to my blog! A hundred thousand welcomes, actually! That’s what they say in Scottish Gaelic. Isn’t it lovely? Nach eil i alainn? I’m learning Gaelic using the free Duolingo app. Today is my 88th day in a row of practice. (In full disclosure, I purchased several Streak Freeze tokens that saved my butt on those few days I forgot to practice.)

Why, you might ask, would I be trying to learn a language that throws vowels and h’s around like birdseed? It’s for authenticity in my WIP (work in progress). For those who don’t know, The Patterner’s Test is set mostly in Scotland, so I wanted to capture the phrasing and even use some Scottish Gaelic words.

My husband and I in Edinburgh, Scotland

Several characters have names from Gaelic: Coille and Meanglan (hero, Birk’s mother and father). Their names mean “forest” and “branch” respectively. I also use neamh (heaven) as the name of the supernatural deity,and cridhe (heart) for the place Fallen Beings store their essence which is the power granted them at creation by Neamh and the Patterner.

My heroine, Rowan, has felt called by Scotland all her life. Her parents believe it is only because she is born there, but she knows it is deeper than that. Here is an excerpt from The Patterner’s Test (I changed the working title from The Patterner’s Key) that tells how she felt.

A free trip. To Scotland. Her breaths came faster as adrenaline kicked up her heart rate. She’d obsessed about all things Scottish for as long as she could remember. Her parents passed it off as an association of her birth, since they’d been missionaries there when she was born. Her father once told her he’d chosen Scotland because of a cultural bridge. His fourth great grandfather had emigrated from the Highlands. Rowan steadfastly denied their rationale, though she didn’t know from where that certainty sprang.

The land of Scotland called to her. Like that poster, anything Scottish drew and pulled. Scottish melodies played in her sleep with stone circles and faeries dancing by moonlight. Her feet itched to hike the wooded slopes of the Cairngorm Mountains. Just as she hungered to wade in the lochs, smell the heather, and explore the castles, moors, and glens.

Here is an excerpt from my work that illustrates how Rowan feels when she finally sets foot on Scottish soil.

Gerard led the group castleward on Queen’s Street explaining the layout of Edinburgh, and the best ways to navigate the city. Every word resonated with Rowan as the map in her head filled with streets and landmarks that felt oddly familiar. Her pulse evened, her feet light and sure over the cobblestones. Had she been alone, she would have greeted the monuments like old friends. Her heart swelled with the feeling she’d come home.

When I visited Scotland with my family a few years ago, I felt much like Rowan – like I’d come home. Once this quarantine is over, I’m looking forward to again traveling there and staying longer. Since I can’t go to Scotland right now, I found this beautiful website that lets me see the land and even hear it. Check out this link for sounds of Scotland. We were fortunate to take a boat ride around Loch Ness. Rowan and Birk do this also, but they actually get to tour Urquhart Castle.

Castle Urquhart at Loch Ness, Scotland
Urquhart Castle along Loch Ness in Scotland on a beautiful summer day, United Kingdom

Where do you want to travel once traveling is allowed once more? Do you have a place where you feel called to visit, or that feels like home every time you are able to go there?

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