Good morning, all. I hope you are enjoying the holiday season. We're trying hard this year to spend more time in front of the fire playing Scrabble and Yahtzee, rather than running around buying stuff. Sure, we're giving presents, but we've toned it down a lot. We want to savor the season, not have to be hassled by all the craziness out there. So I hope you manage to carve out a few moments of quiet family time, too. Blessings to all.
Today please help me welcome thriller writer D. Pat Thomas to Murderby4. Pattie and I have been writing friends for a long time. When I read about her experiences in Scotland, they thrilled me, and I asked if she'd share them with us here today. She graciously agreed. ;o)
I hope this sends a shiver up your spine like it did to me. (and how DO you explain those upward flying "raindrops?")
Aaron Paul Lazar
OUT OF THE MIST
copyright 2011 by D. Pat Thomas
OUT OF THE MIST
We authors all know that when you do research, it’s to find out what you don’t already know. Thing is, you never know where that will lead you, and in my case, it came as a whale of a surprise.
The heroine of my first novel, Any Given Tuesday, is Scottish. Her name is Audrey. Having always been intrigued by Scottish history and culture, my second novel will have Scotland as one of its key locales. Attempts to research the history I was interested in were proving useless; local libraries had very little, the Internet was not getting me there and even Amazon didn’t have what I was looking for. There was but one thing to do: burn through some frequent flyer miles and go see what I could dig up.
As exotic as that sounds, the trip started out with whole days at the Scottish National Library in Edinburgh, sitting at a table, prohibited for using anything other than a pencil to record what I found. But the inventory of books was mind-boggling, and I sat with stacks of them piled in front of me, feasting on more information than I could hardly digest.
The Picts were a people who mostly inhabited the northeastern part of Scotland, then mysteriously disappeared leaving only an array of carved stones and some metal work behind for the rest of us to try to decipher. It wasn’t until my third day in the library that I learned something I never imagined: modern day witchcraft derives from Pictish religious practices. Say what? Of course, my research at night consisted of going on ghost tours and visiting graveyards, underground passages and dungeons. Edinburgh is like that.
Oh, my friends, that’s just the beginning. At this point I should make it clear that I have never written or aspired to write paranormal fiction. But I digress.
From Edinburgh I drove north into the misty highlands to Perth and stayed at a B&B on the River Tay. The owner was a garrulous bookworm, much taken with having a writer to pass time with. She told me stories. Like about the friend she’d had for over 20 years who just recently floored her by divulging her sideline as a medium.
Now I’m from Ohio, and things like that just haven’t happened in my neighborhood. It seemed everywhere I went, the supernatural preceded me.
I had picked out a small village for Audrey to be from. The local museum was rich with information about nearby Pictish stones, and the helpful and friendly librarian turned out to be (get ready) a past practitioner of the very witchcraft I’d been reading about!
Are you beginning to think this is all a bit odd? Me too. She introduced me to her friend, who sold jewelry and crystals and had just opened up a back “healing room” in her store.
I quite surprised myself by being totally comfortable with my new friends. And curious, I was very curious. Before I left, my new friend took me for a walk through the "Fairy Glen." She said she had seen pictures taken there that showed orbs glowing amongst the trees. I didn’t disbelieve her. But my pictures only showed lovely autumn woods with waterfalls in a heavy rain.
From there I drove along narrow roads curving through empty fields, on through moor and valley and along Lock Ness, gray and unsettled below. It was stark terrain with burgeoning, jagged rock outcroppings. At times I was sandwiched by soaring cliffs smeared with rust colored ferns, pressed deep inside narrow valleys with rushing streams crashing down from above. From Oban I took a ferry to the Isle of Mull and wandered there, lost from civilization, wrapped in foggy mist, dwarfed by the stark expanse of the desolate moor.
I’d read about a prehistoric stone near the B&B where I stayed on Mull. So I went there, and in a darkening drizzle, I lept across widening puddles in a broad field and squinted against the rain drops, trying to pick out the white stones marking my approach from the scattered sheep dotting the pasture.
Just as I started wondering if I should turn back, I saw it. An old mossy stone slab, sticking up from the soggy turf, making a statement that could no longer be understood.
I approached, stood transfixed, finally took a picture. I almost turned back but decided I needed to see the other side of the stone. Something about this decision felt very daring. I circled around, reverent before the ancient silhouette framed against the looming mountain across the pasture. I took another picture. For some reason, a part of me was magnetized, wanting to stay, to be still and assimilate this amazing prehistoric mystery, perhaps even to gain understanding.
I stood for a moment, pulled in. Then I took another picture and with indistinct but quickly increasing discomfort, I turned away to hurry back to the dry warmth of the car.
Now, cynic that I am, the “orbs” you see could probably be explained by the rain. Maybe there were droplets on the lens and they caught and reflected the flash that went off in the dimness of dusk. (Or not.)
But the last picture stumps me. They show the droplets, if that’s what they are, moving upwards. Last time I checked, it just doesn’t rain upside down. I have not altered these pictures; I wouldn’t know how to “create effects.” They were taken with a Canon PowerShot SD700 Digital Elf. (No pun intended)
You are invited to explain, comment, opine and educate me and others in my guestbook. If the orbs and streaks are supernatural, what are they? If they aren’t supernatural, how did they come to be in my pictures?
D. Pat Thomas is a budding author from Cleveland, Ohio who harbors a fascination with reading and writing blood-thumping thrillers. Her first novel, Any Given Tuesday, takes the reader deep inside the reclusive culture of North Korea to expose a galling threat to the free world. Her second novel, Stone of Destiny, is in process and delves into the mysterious disappearance of the Pictish people of Scotland. To find out more, go to www.d-pat-thomas.com.
Pattie, thanks so much for sharing your adventures with us. I love this piece, and still wonder about those photos of fairies... unless your camera was being held upside down... I can't figure it out! Very cool. Great research for what will I'm sure be a wonderful new book!
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