Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Novels: A Thrifty Way to Travel

Hubs wanted to take me on a trip this year to the one place I have always wanted to visit: Britain. But Paris happened. And more recently, Brussels.

Paris motivated me to nix his travel plans. Brussels reinforced my decision to stay on home turf as solid. But that does not mean I cannot travel where I want to go from the comfort of my desk chair.

Research, and one of my favorite Facebook Pages, has opened doors and windows to time and vistas I would not otherwise see.

My most recently completed WIP (work in progress) is set in Scotland, the lowlands, close to the border between Scotland and England. In the interest of authenticity, I am researching topography, vegetation, weather, and customs in the 18th century.

Topography, weather, vegetation are easier to determine. Mountains, or Munros as they're called in Scotland, trees, heather, streams/rivers/firths and estuaries, deer, mice, rain, wind, bogs and peat...they exist as they as always have with variation in course/depth dependent on human diversion/building, but they exist, and that is all I need as an author to include such elements in a novel. Customs and language are a little different, as is population location and density, medical practices and beliefs...these require more diligent investigation to ensure historical accuracy.

A 1990s man on horseback in Scotland is just as realistic as a 1790s man on horseback in the same region; they'll dress and speak differently, but the chill and general dismal experience of riding into biting wind and rain translates across centuries. However, a VW Beetle chugging up that same mountain in 1790 is impossible, and entirely plausible in 1970. The same is true of clan associations and density.

The early 18th century saw Scotland fiercely cohesive, if divided by clan borders; the size and fighting strength of a clan decided the size and richness of the holdings and lands. Mid-century saw many of those borders fall, and almost all the clans divided.

1746 was cataclysmic for Scotland. Clansmen faithful to Bonnie Prince Charlie who fought on his behalf and eventually lost in a final clinching battle at Culloden were disbanded. Lucky ones were exiled, many to America, while lairds and faithful fighting men were beheaded, shot, or hanged. It was a brutal time. A devastating time. And a time of great opportunity. For the English.

The upheaval and transfer of large tracts of lands from Scottish to English hands provides the back story for one of my novels, and the origin of my hero Justin Bradshaw's guilt that walls him off from those that might love him.

His mother was Scottish. His father English. Their marriage a forced merger designed to spare her life and cede her family's extensive ancestral lands to a minor English Baronet elevated to Duke in honor of his military accomplishments, and fealty to the Crown.

Justin owes his life, lands, and fealty to both his mother and father, yet he finds it difficult to reconcile he and his brothers' rich rewards with his mother's brutal sacrifice that extended beyond the wedding day through to her death almost two decades later. But reconcile it he must, if he is not to lose everything she paid so dearly for, to a different man whose grudge transcends time and death and familial ties, even if it means Justin must do as his mother did, and marry against his wishes.

Clans today are not as fierce in defending prescribed borders, nor are they as geographically condensed as they were in the 18th Century, but they are regaining cohesiveness. Many clan associations exist to provide descendants a place to anchor their roots, no matter where in the world they live. One I stumbled across yesterday during my research is of particular interest to me:

Clan Anderson.

Frugal budget? Unstable country? Physical limitations? No problem.

Read a novel. Or write one. And travel anywhere, in anytime, you wish.


Too many people miss the silver lining because they're expecting gold. ~Maurice Setter

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