Sally Mackenzie

I’m so pleased to welcome my good pal and fellow historical romance writer Sally MacKenzie to the blog. She’s got a new book out, and she’s here to chat with us about it.

Hello, Jaunties! Thanks for letting me stop by again to celebrate my newest release, What to Do with a Duke. Vanessa and I toyed with the idea of doing a video interview—we even went so far as to plan a meet-up at RWA last month—but then I got dreadfully ill and had to cancel that entire day. Ugh. But perhaps you’re lucky I couldn’t budge from my sickbed. While I like the idea of video interviews—and I like it when other people do them—I’m not exactly video ready. I always want to make faces at the camera or scratch my nose.

So here we go—and thanks, Vanessa, for the questions.

- Okay, so what is it about dukes? They’re practically tripping all over each other in historical romances. Why do readers love them so much?

Fantasy! Don’t we all want to think the wealthiest, most powerful man in sight, the man all the other girls want, wants us? It could be a billionaire, a CEO, a quarterback, a movie star, a Navy SEAL. Fantasy is also why heroes are usually tall, dark, and handsome—well, at least handsome. That’s not to say someone couldn’t write a book about a middle-aged, short, portly, balding night soil man—it’s a man’s character, not his appearance or position, that really counts, right?—but I do think such a hero would be a hard sell.

- WHAT TO DO WITH A DUKE is the first book in your new Spinster House Series. Can you tell us a bit about the premise of the series?

Yes! Or at least I’ll try. I was never good at “elevator pitches.”

In the village of Loves Bridge, not far from London, there’s a house where a single woman can live out her life unencumbered by a husband or father. In the prequel novella, In the Spinster’s Bed, the current Spinster House spinster runs off with her childhood lover—she’s the first woman in two hundred years to vacate the premises for her wedding rather than her funeral. The Duke of Hart—the Spinster House landlord—must come to Loves Bridge to select the new spinster from the three good friends vying for the position. There’s also a curse—until the Duke of Hart marries for love, no duke will live to see his heir born—which may nor may not be real, and a mysterious, meddling feline.

I usually don’t know where my story ideas come from, but this series was inspired by my last trip to England. In Exmouth we toured A La Ronde, an usual house built in the late 18th century for two spinster cousins and passed down through the terms of the surviving cousin’s will to spinster kinswomen.


Then in Moretonhampstead, we stayed at The White Hart Hotel where we met Poppy, a very opinionated calico cat. The moment I saw her, I knew she had to be a character in a future series.


- Your books have awesome titles. How do you come up with them?

Beats me!

Well, no, I do know how I came up with the title for my first book, The Naked Duke. A summer swim team mom, who had once been a New York editor, read an early draft of the book and pointed out the working title—and no, I’m not going to say what it was—was terrible. So I put on my thinking cap. What sells? If we’re to believe common wisdom, sex and power. My hero happened to be a duke and he happened to first meet the heroine when he was naked. So there you go!

The Naked thing carried me through seven books and two novellas, but then we ran out of aristocracy. (I did want to title The Naked Gentleman, A Naked Lady, but that didn’t fly with my then editor. I’m also sort of partial to The Naked Butler—perhaps that’ll be the title of some future story.)

So I had to put on my thinking cap again. I like titles to follow a pattern and I like short titles—easier to remember and to fit on a book cover. That’s how the Duchess of Love titles came about. The novella is simply The Duchess of Love, but the others are Bedding Lord Ned (bed rhymes with Ned, and there is a bed involved—and not, at least immediately, for the obvious purposes), Surprising Lord Jack (that’s my “chick-in-pants” book), and Loving Lord Ash, which, when I was planning the series, was going to Loving the Duke, but then I decided not to kill daddy off.

My Spinster House series uses rank and alliteration: What to Do with a Duke (my current release), How to Manage a Marquess (May 2016), and When to Engage an Earl (2017).

I have to say, I thought editors and publishers were the ones to come up with titles, but so far that’s not been the case with me. They do send me back to the drawing board, though, if they don’t like my suggestions.

What To Do With A Duke final

- What’s your favorite thing about the Regency period, and do you bring that into your books?

Well, it’s not history. The Regency period saw a lot of interesting changes in England—the Napoleonic wars ended at Waterloo in 1815 (200th anniversary this year!) as just one example—and I do indeed do my research and try not to get things wrong, but history and historical events are not my focus. My obsession with the Regency is really Georgette Heyer’s fault. I read my first Heyer book in middle school when a friendly neighborhood librarian introduced me to her stories. I’ve been hooked ever since.

So my favorite thing about the Regency is perhaps more my favorite thing about Georgette Heyer’s books—wit and language. I’ve been known to slip Regency words into daily conversation quite unconsciously, even before I started writing. And I do love words. I’m always consulting my Oxford English Dictionary and other sources to see when a word or expression entered the language.

I also like the Regency’s social mores—or at least how I interpret them. My heroes and heroines are always aware that Society is watching them and, should they step over the line of what was considered proper, they flirt with scandal and social ruination. But, of course, they still misbehave!

For more about me and my books, check out my web site at Find me on Facebook at and Twitter @Sally_MacKenzie.

And now for a giveaway. Do we have any Regency readers out there? What’s your favorite thing about the Regency? Or what’s your favorite sort of Regency hero—a duke or a dustman? Or if you’d rather have wombats waltz on your head than read a Regency, why? I’ll be giving a copy of What to Do with a Duke to one commenter—a signed paper copy if you’re in the USA or, if international, a copy through the Book Depository. 

Vanessa Kelly
Vanessa Kelly


Jaunty Guests, Jaunty Post



Please welcome Mary Behre to the blog. She’s a lovely person and a wonderful writer. Mary also has a really cool book-related hobby.

Hi Jaunty Quills! Thank you for inviting me back. Today, I’m going to talk about glass tile pendants. If you went to RWA Nationals this year, you may have seen folks walking around the hotel with unique book cover necklaces. Chances are if you saw them, you saw my handiwork.

Tidewater Pendants

It started back in 2012 when several of my writing friends in the LaLaLa sisterhood had debuts. Most of them were digitally published. I wanted to give them a lasting memory that they could wear. Voila! The book-cover pendants were born.

Since then, I’ve branched out to include friends from my multiple RWA chapters. In fact, I made two necklaces for Vanessa this year. One for her latest Regency and one of the cover of her latest novel as V.K. Sykes.

The pendants do have a few unique qualities. The first of which is that they are NOT waterproof. I had to remake one after someone wore hers into a shower. Lol. The second quality is that since they are handcrafted they are subject to subtle flaws. Most people don’t notice the blemishes, but as the creator and artist, I see every single one. <g> Finally, in order to make the pendants, I have to start with a high resolution photo for the pendant to be its best and brightest when the work is finished.


Making the pendants is a stress reliever. When I have a particularly difficult scene that won’t work, I’ll often take a break and make a few charms while I try to solve the puzzle in my head.

The one thing I’m really bad at is taking pictures of my pendants. Vanessa was nice enough to include hers in this post. Other than that, I only have a couple of other photos of the hundred or so necklaces I’ve made over the past three years.

Since this blog is part of my Energized tour, I’ll use some of my own creative energy to make a cover pendant for the winner of today’s question! What’s your all-time favorite book cover? Jaunty will select the winner and I’ll work with her on creating a beautiful pendant of that favorite cover.


ENERGIZED (A Tidewater Novel #3)

All it takes is a single touch.

She’s searching for a sign . . .

Hannah Halloran has always believed in her gift. The things she sees through her psychic touch have never led her wrong before. Not when they led her to an unforgettable night with a sexy marine at a bar. Not when she felt a need to leave her home and find the sisters she barely knows. And not now, when she is an unwilling witness to a brutal murder . . .

He’s ready to show her . . .

All Niall Graham wants is some peace. He’s recovering from the horrors of war, struggling to save his family’s restaurant, and desperate to forget Hannah, the beautiful woman who left him with memories of a mind-blowing night together and a bogus phone number. But a quiet life is hard to manage—especially when Hannah strides back into his restaurant with the news that a serial killer is on the loose and lurking closer than anyone could have guessed . . .

For more info on Mary and her books, please visit her website!

Shana Galen
Shana Galen


Bring a Friend Friday, giveaway, Jaunty Guests, Shana Galen


The Jaunty Quills are excited to welcome Sarah Lyons Fleming, author of the Until the End of the World series, which I’ve heard called “zombie chick lit.” Margo Maguire, a former Jaunty and the author who recommended these books to me, calls them “Friends Meets the Zombie Apocalypse and Kristan Higgins in Zombieland” (hi, Kristan!).

Sarah Lyons Fleming- author photo

I’ve totally been stalking Sarah since I started the series. I read all three books and the novella in rapid succession, and I CANNOT RECOMMEND THEM HIGHLY ENOUGH. I was completely engrossed in the story, the characters, and the world Lyons created. Even if this isn’t your typical read, give it a try. There’s romance, suspense, laughter, tears. Keep reading to find out how to win a DIGITAL copy of UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD series (3 books!).

Shana: Welcome, Sarah! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. I’m so thrilled to be able to ask you all my questions. First of all, tell our readers a bit about your books.

 UTEOTW cover 300(1)

Sarah Lyons Fleming: Thanks, it’s my pleasure! I think you nailed the books in your great description above, but here goes: The series is about Cassie Forrest and her friends surviving in a world brought to its knees by a zombie virus. They must escape NYC for the safety of the cabin that belonged to Cassie’s parents, who were preppers (people who store food and supplies for emergencies). Add in a little lost love, sarcasm, clashing personalities and undead altercations, and there you have book one. The other books are a continuation of their journey to survive.

I know, I know. Some of you are thinking, “Eww, zombies? And romance? Why is she even on this site?!”


But I don’t really write about zombies. I write about the people facing the zombies—their fears, their strengths, their weaknesses. It allows me to explore how a devastated world and the fight for survival can change a person for the better or worse. No character is perfect. They argue and laugh—they laugh a lot—and they can be petty and generous and loyal and weak and brave at any given moment, just like us. They’re human.

The main theme of my books is love—romantic, platonic, familial, and everything in between. They’re about finding hope even when it seems impossible.

Shana: I agree 100%. The series is really so much more about hope than zombies. Can you tell us about your inspiration for the series? Did you know you were writing a “zombie chick lit” when you started the trilogy?

Sarah: My dad handed me Malevil—a novel about survivors of a nuclear holocaust—when I was ten, and I’ve been hooked on post-apocalyptic stories ever since. But, aside from YA novels, there weren’t a lot of books that featured females as the main protagonist. Most were men, and often they were military men.

I wanted so badly to read a book with an older character like me (or me ten years ago, when I was thirty *sigh*), that I decided to write it myself. And, because I’ve always loved chick lit, it was a no-brainer to include the friendships and humor often found in that genre. Also, I’m the kind of person who’ll crack a joke at any moment (or at least think of one and have to bite my tongue), so there had to be humor even at the darkest times. You can blame my Irish half for that.

Shana: I love Cassie’s humor in the series.

During the zombie apocalypse, your characters have to learn to survive without modern conveniences. How do you know so many survival skills? For example, in So Long, Lollipops, Peter is trapped in a house and dying of thirst, so he taps the hot water heater. How do you know that kind of stuff?


Sarah: Short answer—I’m a little crazy.

Long answer—I was the girl who grew up in Brooklyn, NY and read survival books on the subway ride home from high school. Even growing up in the city, I spent a lot of time in the woods during the summer, and it’s always been something I’ve felt a burning desire to know. Plus, I really like having a lot of food in my pantry, and water filters and Swiss army knives make me happy.

I guess the long answer is quite similar to the short one, eh?

Of course, I do need to research at times, but I admit I know a lot of random survival tips. I’m ready for the zombie apocalypse! Okay, maybe not ready…but I might not die until the second week.

Shana: I would so die on the first day! Wait…maybe after reading this series I could make it two days.

I loved how you used stargazing to draw Cassie close to Dan in And After, and then how you used it again in All the Stars in the Sky to bring Cassie and her “family” full circle. Are you an amateur astronomer or did you research constellations?

ATSITS Cover Final

Sarah: That required research. I can pick out the Big Dipper, and then I’m lost. Even with all my research (of course I can now find Cassiopeia) I still get turned around up there. But I love the stars, as well as their stories, and I’ve made it my mission to find and memorize them all one of these days.

Shana: You definitely know how to figure out the worst thing that can happen to your characters and then make that happen. Avoiding spoilers, did you know from the beginning who was going to survive and who wasn’t?

Sarah: I started Until the End of the World as a standalone, so I didn’t have the whole trilogy mapped out by any means. Without giving anything away, there was a character who was slated to die when I first started Until the End of the World. And then s/he didn’t. S/he surprised me by becoming a more important character than I’d ever dreamed, so that 100 pages into writing book one, the course of the entire book changed and became a series (with a novella thrown in).

As for the other characters, they were goners from that moment on. ;)

Shana: I read that you have kids (see, I said I was a stalker). I know the challenges of writing with a busy family. What’s your writing schedule like?

Sarah: I love stalkers! Wait…you know what I mean.

Yes, I have two kids, ages five and eight. It can be challenging, but now that they’re both in school I have more time. Because I work at home and am self-employed, I guard those six hours as much as I can. That means I ignore errands and cleaning and many times I don’t answer the phone—my boss is very strict about personal calls during work hours. And I hate cleaning, so it’s not as if that’s a hardship.

I work school days, a few hours on some weekend afternoons while my husband, Will, entertains them, and I set aside a couple/few nights a week to write when they’re in bed. The other nights I hang with the husband—can’t neglect him either!

Also, headphones are very, very wonderful inventions.

Shana: Finally, tell us what you have coming next.

Sarah: I’m at work on a zombie series that takes place in NYC, in the same world as the Until the End of the World books. Many people have written me to ask what became of some of the characters, and this will be their chance to find out!

Shana: I can’t wait! Seriously, I am tapping my fingers impatiently.

Readers, now it’s your turn. Do you have any skills to survive a zombie apocalypse? How long would you make it?

One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win the entire series of ebooks (Three books, plus the novella). You must be able to read on Kindle, Nook, or iBooks. The winner will be announced Sunday.

Until the End of the World (Book 1)



Barnes & Noble

Cassie Forrest isn’t surprised to learn that the day she’s decided to get her life together is also the day the world ends. After all, she’s been on a self-imposed losing streak since her survivalist parents died: she’s stopped painting, broken off her engagement to Adrian and dated a real jerk. Rectifying her mistakes has to wait, however, because Cassie and her friends have just enough time to escape Brooklyn for her parents’ cabin before Bornavirus LX turns them into zombies, too. 

This is difficult enough, but Cassie’s tag along ex-boyfriend and her friend’s bratty sister have a knack for making everything, even the apocalypse, more unpleasant. When the two attract a threat as deadly as the undead to their safe haven, Cassie’s forced to see how far she’ll go to protect those she loves. And it’s a lot farther than she’d anticipated. This, coupled with Adrian’s distant voice on Safe Zone Radio and, of course, the living dead, threaten to put Cassie right back into the funk she just dragged herself out of. 

Survival’s great and all, especially when you have leather armor, good friends and home-brewed beer, but there’s something Cassie must do besides survive: tell Adrian she still loves him. And to do that, Cassie has to find faith that she’s stronger than she thinks, she’s still a crack shot and true love never dies.

Sarah Lyons Fleming is a Laura Ingalls devotee, wannabe prepper and lover of anything pre-apocalyptic, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic—or anything in between. Add in some romance and humor, and she’s in heaven.

Besides an unhealthy obsession with home-canned food and Bug Out Bag equipment, she loves books, making artsy stuff and laughing her arse off. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, she now lives in Oregon with her family and, in her opinion, not nearly enough supplies for the zombie apocalypse. But she’s working on it.



Jesse Hayworth
Jesse Hayworth


giveaway, Jaunty Guests, Jesse Hayworth

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You’ve Got A Friend (Or Two Or Ten Or Twenty)

Regina Kyle2Hello, again, Jaunties! I’m so excited to be back. I was here in October talking about my debut novel, Triple Threat, and it’s hard to believe I’m already back talking about the second book in the Art of Seduction series, Triple Time.

Last time I was here my friend and CTRWA chapter mate Kristan Higgins hosted me, and this time it’s my friend and chapter mate Jesse Hayworth. Which got me to thinking how many new folks have come into my life in the three short years since I started pursuing my writing seriously.

People always say writing is a lonely profession, and I guess that’s true for the time I’m sitting BICHOK (butt in chair, fingers on keyboard). I mean, no one can write my books but me, right? (Unless I’m James Patterson. Which I’m not.) But I’ve met so many wonderful people along my writer’s journey that my circle of friends has increased exponentially.

Like the (mostly) ladies at CTRWA, where I met Jess and Kristan. These folks have, in a short time, because a ginormous part of my life and an amazing support system. Just yesterday, I was signing books for the very first time EVER at BookCon, a HUGE convention at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York City. Talk about jumping in with both feet! Boy, was I nervous. Would anyone want my book (even though I was giving it away, LOL)? Would I be sitting there for an hour twiddling my thumbs watching the crowd go by?

Nope. Not with Kristan shilling for me (literally standing in the aisle holding up my book and corralling folks over), and chapter mates Katy Lee and Patty Blount stopping by.

Then there’s the friends I’ve met on line. When I first started writing, I joined the Harlequin forums for aspiring authors. Some of the (again mostly) ladies I met there and I then migrated to a private Facebook group (primarily because some of the snippets we were posting were too, um, racy for public consumption LOL). Believe it or not, I’ve still only met a couple of them in person. That’s going to change this summer in New York, as many of us are going to the RWA national convention. But the fact that we haven’t met face-to-face hasn’t stopped us from offering each other advice and encouragement long-distance, courtesy of the worldwide web.

I suppose it helps that I’m not exactly shy, and I’m always open to new faces and new friends in my life. The more the merrier is my motto. I like to be surrounded by a large, rowdy group of compatriots, and I always feel badly when, for one reason or another, a friend drifts out of my life, even though I know it’s totally normal and natural for friendships to evolve and even fade away as our lives and interests and activities change.

Not so for Devin, the heroine in Triple Time. She’s been burned one too many times by friends and family who’ve deserted her when the going got tough. If she had a motto, it would be more like “I’d rather have no friends than fake friends.”

US CoverOnly a couple of people have managed to break through her barriers, one of the being her best friend Holly, the heroine in Triple Threat. I really enjoyed their dynamic in Triple Threat, and I was glad I got to explore it further in Triple Time. As you can see from the excerpt below, they’re pretty much polar opposites, with Holly all sunshine and sweetness, like a modern-day Pollyanna, and Devin more edgy and dark (the hero’s best friend refers to her as “Elvira, mistress of the night”). Sometimes I think it’s easier to be friends with someone who’s a bit different from you, and that’s how it is with Holly and Devin. Their differences create a balance, with each giving something to the other that they need in their lives.

How about you? Are you more like me, wanting a large group of friends and acquaintances? Or are you like Devin, content with a small, close-knit circle of trusted companions? One lucky commenter will win their choice of a signed paperback (U.S. only, please) or e-book of Triple Threat, the first book in the Art of Seduction series.


Book Blurb:

How to unravel your straight-laced lover . . .

Gabe Nelson would be a great district attorney, but his public image is too boring to get voters’ attention. Tattoo artist Devin Padilla can help him show off his fun, sexy side, but she needs something in return—Gabe’s legal expertise to track down her missing brother. She’s not his type, but they can’t keep their hands off each other, whether it’s good for his image or not.

At first, Devin thinks she got the easy end of the bargain. Gabe’s the sexiest stuffed shirt in Manhattan, and his kisses practically set her on fire. But every deal has its fine print. As their relationship goes from business to pleasure, Devin realizes this one won’t cost her soul…it’ll just steal her heart.

Buy Links:


Barnes and Noble:

Author Bio:

            Regina Kyle knew she was destined to be an author when she won a writing contest at age ten with a touching tale about a squirrel and a nut pie. By day, she writes dry legal briefs, representing the state in criminal appeals. At night, she writes steamy romance with heart and humor.

A lover of all things theatrical, Regina lives on the Connecticut coast with her husband, teenaged daughter and two melodramatic cats. When she’s not writing, she’s most likely singing, reading, cooking or watching bad reality television. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and her local RWA chapter. Triple Tine is her second novel. She is also the author of Triple Threat, the first book in her Art of Seduction series for Harlequin Blaze.

My Links:



Devin ended the call, tossed her phone on the bed next to her and swung her feet onto the floor. The sound of running water told her Gabe was already in the shower, and she licked her lips at the thought of his magnificent, wet nakedness, slick and soapy, ready to play.

Oh, yeah.

She was about to ditch the sheet in favor of some smexy shower action when someone pounded on the door.


No way was that Mateo so quickly. Either someone had the wrong apartment or one of her neighbors needed to borrow something.

“Hang on,” she called. “I’ll be right there.”

She threw on a tank top and shorts, not bothering with anything underneath, and answered the door.


Holly wrapped Devin in a bear hug, her just‑showing baby bump grazing Devin’s stomach.

“You’re home.” Devin cast a panicked glance around the apartment, her eyes falling on Gabe’s khakis in a heap by the television, his shirt hanging over the bookshelf, one of his shoes peeking out from under the bed. “Early.”

Holly released her and brushed past through the door. “Nick finished filming ahead of schedule.”

“Where is your handsome husband?” Devin followed, kicking the offending khakis behind the TV and stuffing the shirt between two books. “You’re usually inseparable. Nauseatingly so.”

“His agent’s in town. They’re meeting at Pastis for a business breakfast, and I’ve been meaning to return my spare key to the super.” Holly sank into the armchair in the corner. “Man, I’m beat. I don’t even want to think about what this little bugger’s going to do to me in the third trimester.”

Holly toed off her espadrilles and lifted one foot to massage the arch, and Devin groaned inwardly. She’d never get her friend out now. And it was only a matter of time before Holly noticed the water running in the bathroom. Or Gabe’s loafer, which Devin couldn’t shove under the bed now without rousing suspicion.

Her only option was to come clean, admit she had a guy stashed in the can and get Holly out the door before she figured out it was Gabe. Not that she was embarrassed, but this was so not how she wanted Holly to find out she was boffing her brother.

“Listen, Holls, I’m dying to catch up with you, but I’m kind of in the middle of something right now.” She eyed the bathroom door. As if on cue, the water stopped.

“Ohmigod, you’ve got a man in there.” Holly squealed. “I can’t believe it. The love‑’em‑and‑kick‑’em‑to‑the‑curb queen actually let a guy spend the night. Who is it?”

“Just…a guy. We’re keeping it on the down‑low.”

“Oh, please,” Holly huffed. “As I recall you practically shouted to an entire coffee shop that I was doing Nick.”

“I promise I’ll tell you. Let me deal with him and I’ll meet you at the deli up the block in ten.” Maybe she could intercept Mateo on the way over and grab her sandwich and coffee.

“Fine, be that way.” Holly slipped on her espadrilles and stood, rubbing her belly. “For now. But I’m warning you, I want to meet this paragon who got you to break your no‑sleepovers rule. Soon.”

As though they were living in a bad sitcom, the bathroom door creaked open and Gabe stepped out, his hair still wet from the shower and a towel fastened around his waist.

“I heard voices. Is breakfast here?”

“Gabe?” Holly’s mouth fell open and she pressed a hand to her chest.

“Holly.” He hiked up the towel, which had slipped to his hips. “You’re supposed to be in Istanbul.”

Devin shrugged a shoulder and gave her friend a wry smile.



Please welcome historical romance author Madeline Martin!

The best part of doing research for Deception of a Highlander was my trip to Scotland where I got to stay overnight in castles, see plenty of beautiful ruins and explore, explore, explore! I could fill up an entire blog on all my adventures from that two week trip.

Today, however, I’m just going to talk about my stay on the Isle of Skye where Deception of a Highlander is set.

The Isle of Skye is on the Eastern side of Scotland, set in the Highlands. It’s a beautiful, magical place where lochs mirror the endless sky and tender, lush grass splits to reveal craggy rock beneath. The winds there are so strong, they make the waterfalls on the cliffs flow backward and billow up into the air in a spray of steamy white. It’s absolutely incredible.


While there, I did two really cool things:

1. I went to my hero’s castle, Caisteal Camus (now called Knock Castle). 
It was quite an adventure getting there at all. After driving up and down the road several times. (I saw the sign…but I didn’t see the castle, then I saw the sign…but didn’t see the castle, then I saw the sign…yeah, you get it….)
I finally just parked and hiked a ways and then I saw it!!
On the other side of a five foot stream. 
It was RIGHT THERE. I could have chucked a rock and hit it. Don’t worry, I didn’t. Nor did I give in to the temptation to wade across it since the middle of October is pretty chilly in Scotland. 
But I was determined. I marched back up and found a new way to go through a path set by a nearby hotel. 
I reached the end of the path and there was the castle…just about 12 feet above me. Seeing no denoted path, I began to climb over rocks. They were black and wet and so, so slippery.
It’s here I confess (shamelessly) I fell. Hard. Truthfully though, it really isn’t a vacation unless I come away with a war wound – CHECK!


It was when I finally got to the top that I noticed a gentle sloping walkway I could have leisurely strolled up. (But then I wouldn’t have this story, now would I?)
The view was worth the effort (and mild contusion) because it was breath-taking the way it overlooked the water. There’s one part that holds the remains of a window facing out to the sea and I could just imagine some lady staring wistfully out as she waited for her love to return (yes, that’s hopelessly romantic, I know.)
There wasn’t much left of the castle to explore, but I have enough of an imagination to make Caisteal Camus hit the top ten list of my Scotland trip highlights. 


2. The most interesting man in the world is not the Dos Equis guy – he’s actually a blacksmith from the Isle of Skye who still uses an anvil (passed down through his family) and has stacks of books all around his house that he’s memorized and can pinpoint knowledge from by page number.
He was in the middle of making a historic dagger/sword collection for a history demonstration somewhere in Scotland and showed me everything from fancy eating daggers to wicked blades. He even made targes by hand and demonstrated how they were used in combat. 
The biggest influence he had on my writing was in a black-purple opalescent blade on his desk. I asked what it was and he said it just hadn’t been finished yet. Apparently forged steel is that way when it first comes out, before its ground clean to the shiny silver we know. 
If the black-purple is left as is, it eventually gets silvered with nicks and scratches, but for the most part remains that awesome color.
I just had to put that in a book!
So, Alec, my hero of Enchantment of a Highlander (introduced in Deception of a Highlander), has a black sword. 


There was so much more about my trip to Scotland than just the short, two day visit to the Isle of Skye, but those memories are for other posts…and other books. ;)

For the opportunity to win a signed copy of Deception of a Highlander, please tell me your favorite vacation war wound (or memory if you have the good fortune to not be so clumsy).

Vanessa, here. You can find out more about Madeline and her books on her website!

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