Friday, September 20, 2013

Whatcha watchin?

Early fall brings many good things, nestled in among the bad. For me, the negatives are shorter days, increasingly cooler temperatures and more time spent indoors than out. The positives are many: more time for reading (another blog topic to come), more time for writing, more quiet time for introspection and hopefully growth after the wonderfully manic pace of summer.

One of my favorite things about early fall is the start of the new T.V. season. I know it sounds shallow, and it probably is, but I LOVE good visual storytelling and recently T.V. has gone from good to really great, better even than most of the movies I’ve seen in the last year. I thought I’d share some of my favorite shows with you and hear what you love to curl up with in your down time.

I just started a new series from PBS called: “Last Tango in Halifax“. It is about two people who reconnect on FaceBook after a failed date sixty years before. It stars Derek Jacobi, who is wonderful and has a cast of really messed up family members who threaten this new love that’s actually been decades in the making. I’ve only seen two episodes, but they’ve been great. I love quirky families and these characters don’t disappoint.Image
Foyle’s War is back and it has some of the best writing and acting on T.V. Michael Kitchen is a master and Honeysuckle Weeks is captivating. For those of you who like WWII period pieces and mysteries, this is great.
I’ve also enjoyed Ripper Street and am looking forward to the new season. It’s set in Jack the Ripper’s London, but it’s not really about him. There are three main male characters and the interplay among them is what makes the show for me. Watching Mathew McFadden is no hardship, either.
Since I started with the Brits, here’s some more worth seeing if you get a chance: “Inspector Lewis” is set in Oxford, is well written and the relationship between Lewis and his younger partner, Hathaway, is often wickedly funny; for those of you who enjoy cozy mysteries, “Rosemary & Thyme” is easy to get hooked on; “Sherlock” is FANTASTIC! I can’t wait for that to begin again, although I’ll be waiting until the new year. The writing and acting in SHERLOCK has no peer. It’s that good.
Now onto American and Canadian T.V. I really enjoyed the first season of “Newsroom” a lot. I loved the fast pace, the odd, yet uniformly genuine, characters. I’m still loving “Supernatural” after so many seasons, probably because it’s one of those shows my son and I share an affinity for.  We watched the pilot for “Sleepy Hollow” and although I’m not sold yet, I’m hopeful for the promise of where it could go. “Person of Interest” is intriguing. I didn’t think anyone, no matter how good the writer, could get me to empathize with artificial intelligence, but these writers have. I also like looking at Jim Caviezel. Who knew he had a sense of comedic timing? “Strike Back” is great if you’re into international espionage thrillers, which I am. Both of the male leads are continual eye candy, but it’s the surprises that make this show special. And for those of you who like westerns, and who if they’re honest doesn’t, “Longmire” just gets better with every episode.
The new show I’m most looking forward to is: S.H.I.E.L.D written by Joss Whedon! I love his writing and am so happy Agent Coulson is back among the living. He made the Avengers movie for me. Hope this new show is as good. FIREFLY was one of the all time greats in my opinion and still has a loyal fan base. If you haven’t seen it, it’s on NetFlix, check it out!
Shameless Plug……..I’m excited to watch the second season of VIKINGS from the History channel. I enjoyed the look and the feel of the show as much as the acting, the writing and the story lines. It isn’t due out until winter 2014, which is excellent for me because I’m currently working on a Scottish historical set during the Viking period in Scotland, circa 900AD. I’m loving the story and hoping that the second season of VIKINGS helps draw interest!
So, what do you love to watch? What are you most interesting in seeing this fall? What about T.V. grabs your imagination and holds on? I’d love to hear about some shows I haven’t discovered yet!


Festivals, Fishing & Fun.....Summer 2013

Summer and early fall are my favorite times of the year. When winter hits hard in Wisconsin, usually between December 15th and March 1st, I dream about Spring daffodils, summer festivals, and Scottish Highland Games. Every year we spend four days at Irish Fest in Milwaukee, the largest Celtic festival in the world. We have a team for the Run/Walk on the Saturday morning of the fest. All proceeds go to finding a cure for arthritis, something one if four Americans suffer from. It feels good to help fund research while communing with wonderful people and the greatest festival I’ve ever attended.
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This year has been a little nuts for me. I tested for my 5th degree black-belt in karate this Spring and then for 5th degree in weapons on June 1st, which also happened to be the day of the Spring Highland Games.  Talk about a whirlwind entry into the season. I literally blinked and now it’s the last week before my daughter goes back to UW in Madison. That fast, and the chaos of a new school year is quickly upon us; my son starts High School the day after Labor Day.
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We try to pack as much wonderfulness into our summers as we can. This summer has been no exception. One of my favorite parts of it we spent in the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. I love fishing and we never get to do enough of it. Last month I posted about the brown and cutthroat trout we caught at the dam in the Tetons and cooking them on the camp stove. Yum!
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The summer isn’t over…thank the goddess…and there’s still so much to do. We haven’t taken the bikes out yet and are set to this week. This is the first time we’ll have our daughter on her own motorcycle, she’s so excited and so are we.
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This year I’m running the dog tent at the end of summer Wisconsin Highland Games over Labor Day. Cian, our son, is helping with ax and knife throwing and my daughter will be taking a turn in the St. Andrews Society (the oldest charity group in Wisconsin) tent. It’s our last summer weekend and one we look forward to all year. It’s too bad it coincides with Harley Davidson’s 110th anniversary celebration which is bound to be a fantastic event! So if you’re up for a trip to Milwaukee, check it out. If you’re not going to be here this year, come see us the third weekend in August next year for Irish Fest. I’d love to have you on our MACSKI’s Highland Food Team for the run/walk to Irish Fest, then stick around for one of the biggest and best cultural festivals in the world. A walk through the Milwaukee Art Museum after is definitely in order :) . Bristol Wisconsin, right over the Illinois border, is also worth a stop for the largest Renaissance Fair in the country.

I sound like a walking advertisement for my state :) . I guess I am. Summer and fall in Wisconsin are magical. Which leads me to my WIP (work-in-progress) part 1 of my Scottish Historical Damselfly series which takes place during the Viking age in Scotland, circa 900 AD. Merlin, from books 2 & 3 of my contemporary Warrior Chronicle series plays a leading role and I get to explore the beginnings of my Scottish secret society dedicated to preserving and sharing Celtic artifacts. It’s been fun exploring this imaginary world of myth and magic interwoven with bits of Clan Donald history. For any of you who have read FIGHTING FATE or DEFENDING DESTINY (just published last month and soon to be free on Amazon) if you’d like to see something special in the Damselfly Society lore, let me know and I’ll see if I can incorporate it. Could be fun  :)
2013 Defending Destiny Fighting Fate Warrior
By far, the best moments of this summer have been the quiet ones spent with my family. The second best have been the moments writing a world I’d love to visit in this new series. Going to each and every festival along the way is like collecting bits of inspiration, some of which even make it into my books!

So I raise an imaginary glass and say, “Slainte” friends! Here’s to living every summer moment while the sun is long and high to the fullest whether your journeys take you across the continent or just outside your front door, may every step bring joy.


Cooking in the Mountains

(originally posted at my Authors of Main Street blog on 7/17/13)

BBQ or any kind of meal preparation that involves fun and the outdoors is always more about enjoying the company of those I love than the food itself, although that is important too. This season, summer into early fall, is perfect for outdoor life and outdoor cooking.
I'm typing this from the Starbucks in Jackson Hole, WY with very little battery life left in my husband's computer. We've been hiking and fishing and wading in alpine lakes and streams as we bond as a family. And we've been camping in tents and preparing most of our meals on a gas stove or directly over a campfire.
My favorite so far has been our dinner of Cutthroat trout which we all took a hand in catching under the dam in the Snake River. I'm happy to say I caught four of the nine we consumed! The best way to cook mountain trout is fresh with butter. That's it. That's all. Just butter, mountain air and flame until they are no longer raw. No salt. No pepper. No lemon. Just a whole lotta love and an appreciation for the atmosphere and the fish who presented themselves for our dinner.
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When I get home I will be posting more recipes in the comment section of my post. Mainly because I LOVE to cook and I LOVE to share. :)

Below please find a link to my latest book in the Warrior Chronicles: DEFENDING DESTINY. It is available exclusively on Amazon's KDP Select until Oct. 7th, and will be widely available after that date.


Happy Reading. Happy Eating. And Happy Trails, My Friends! Love from the Tetons,


Wednesday, May 15, 2013


RT 2013 was an exceptional experience for my husband and me. Vince and I did an interactive workshop on how to write realistic fight scenes for your female characters. I hope we get a chance to do it again next year and get more people from the audience to try some of the techniques. It's always easier to describe something when you've done, felt, seen or in some other way experienced it. No one wants to experience an attack, so this offers a safe and entertaining environment to see how it may play out for your heroines.

DSCN3195I loved it. Vince loved it. I think the audience loved it.  
Vince also had the opportunity to present on Cathy Maxwell's panel: Hunks, Haggis & the Highlands, with Susanne Saville, Kimberly Killion, and Jody Allen (Scottish History Scholar). Last year we took our Scottish food business, MACSKIS HIGHLAND FOODS, national. Our flagship food is HAGGIS. Vince and Jody attended Cathy Maxwell's session on the Highlands at RT 2012 and piped in when some of what was presented about haggis wasn't accurate. Far from taking offense, Cathy asked them both to join her in 2013. The presentation rocked, not only because all the presenters were wonderful, but because Cathy Maxwell is so darned funny! And, Yes, there was Haggis to Taste! AWESOME....

DSCN3252 DSCN3296   I got the chance to meet and get to know Cathy Maxwell, which pretty much made the conference for me; that and tossing my husband around :)  I also got some quality time with Mia Marlow, Bobbie Smith and Heather Graham. One of the highlights for me was meeting fellow Authors of Main Street author, Jill James, in person. How wonderful of her to come to our workshop!
The last year or so has been one of jumping in the deep end for my husband and for me. I'm writing full time, attending as many Highland events across the country as I can while we develop more food and gear for MACSKIS and market it to high-end restaurants, grocery stores and venders at Scottish events. I'm also working with historical researcher, Jody Allen to organize a national conference for writers of Scottish and other Celtic historical romance.
Sometimes jumping in is the way to make things happen. Yes it's scary...believe me, we live that. It's helpful when you jump in together. I am thankful for my best friend, the man who lets me take him to the ground in front of a group of mostly women shouting, "Kill him again." And he does it with a smile and sense of humor that never fails to crack me up. He didn't balk when I said I needed to see how the lambs where treated before we took our haggis nationwide. He flew me to Colorado to tour the meat processing facility. Not only did this vegetarian go, I saw the animals. (No antibiotics, No growth hormones, These animals weren't scared or jammed into tiny spaces, they were treated ethically.) He also helped develop a vegetarian version and a gluten free version of haggis. Many die-hard haggis makers wouldn't even consider that.
The best thing about going to RT or any of the conferences within the writing community is the people you meet. I've had the opportunity to meet some fantastic people. The thing that makes this wonderful ride so filled with joy is that I'm on it with Vince. Thanks to best-friends everywhere. You make our worlds, which as writers can be filled with solitude, complete.
DSCN3138   Thanks to everyone who came to our presentations! We had so much fun participating! If anyone would like to get a group together for next RT, I'm all over that :). It would be wonderful getting to know you.
Here's to jumping in with both feet no matter what you decide to jump into,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Karate, Storytelling & Life…it’s ALL Art, Baby!

Have you ever wanted to be really good at something? Have you ever worked your tail off getting really good and then worked harder to be great? I’m guessing that for most of you the answer is a resounding, “YES!”.

For me, I want to be good at everything I do, great at the things I love, and truly excel whenever I can. But, as my grandmother still says in my head whenever illusions of grandeur pop up, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” I never knew what that meant growing up.

I do now.

“Seek perfection, and you just might achieve excellence.” Sensei Daniel Schroeder, 9th Dan Okinawan Shorin-Ryu. (center below)


Sensei Schroeder is my teacher. He has been for the past 22 years. This Saturday, I will test before him for my 5th Dan (5th degree black-belt). Preparing for Saturday’s test is scary, thrilling and exhilarating; it’s also taken continuous training for almost half of my life to get here. I’m happy to say, no matter what happens Saturday, it’s been worth every sweat-filled-muscle-screaming day.


The physicality of the journey is important. It’s also the most obvious aspect ~ it’s what the outside world sees. Karate is much like writing in that respect (many other respects too ~ the corollaries abound). The outside world sees the finished book and the author is judged on the product of her work…Does the cover grab the reader…Do the characters resonate long after the last line…Is the plot compelling…Is the writing fresh…?

These judgments are made of the finished product ~ the book ~ and rightly so as this is what the reader sees.

What is NOT seen in Karate or in Writing (and yes here I believe writers earn the capital “W”) is the blood and guts and sweat of the process. That is where the soul lies, in the pursuit of perfection. That is also the personal, spiritual journey.


Karate is physical, mental and spiritual. So is writing. All three aspects of the art need to be present in order to form a harmonious and fluid whole. Physically we produce a product. To produce a great physical product, mentally we have to make it so. Mental discipline keeps bottoms in chairs and fingers tapping out words. Without mental discipline the practice and the product wouldn’t happen. The mental aspect of writing also involves research and craft. Both can be learned and both are necessary for storytellers.

Spirit can’t be taught. It’s not learned. It’s a gift, unique to each of us, given before we take our fist breath and I hope with us after our last. It’s that intangible bit of magic that makes our art sing. Spirit breathes life into everything we do. Writing is real and tugs at our hearts when it taps into our own spirit…when everything else is solid and then the spirit rises up, tails are kicked and names are taken. It’s a beautiful thing, in and out of print. :)

So, as I gear up to release my fourth book (DEFENDING DESTINY) and as I kick my training up a notch or ten in anticipation of Saturday’s test, my heart is pounding, my throat is dry and I’m focusing on what I can control on these paths I’ve chosen.

can control how hard I work. I can strive for perfection with each new chapter and be satisfied with excellence. I can take a breath and enjoy the journey along the way. No matter what happens on Saturday…no matter what happens on Defending Destiny’s release day…the journey so far has been worth the trip. And the day after…well then, I’ll get back to work!


It’s taken 22 years to prepare me for Saturday’s test. So far, it’s taken three years for me to release four books. I can’t wait to see where my writing path to perfection (hoping for some bits of greatness) leads me in 18 years. One thing I do know, is that when I hit 22 years as an author, I’ll still be training in Karate and weapons! Hopefully with a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, all three of these arts.

So, my friends, no matter what your journey is, may you seek perfection, find excellence and enjoy the rollicking waves of life along the way. Peace be the Journey!  :)


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's All About Character

vaticanWhen I woke up this morning I had no idea what I was going to blog about. Oh, I’d thought about it, albeit in the back of mind, all month. I’ve been hitting the edits and re-writes for Defending Destiny pretty hard the past few weeks and honestly I was gearing up to begrudge the time blogging takes…yea right…it’s fun and it only comes around once per month, sometimes twice if I’m feeling engaged in the process. That’s when it hit me, like a SHASZAM LIGHTNING BOLT, to the brain.

taking a bow

It’s in the rewrites that I actually fall in love with my characters. TAH-DAH…BLOG!

About a third of the way through any Work in Progress — WIP — I begin to really feel who my characters are. Their motivation for what they do, and don’t do in some cases, gets more nuanced and textured as I get into the rhythm of the story.
I begin with a rough character profile for every character…before I ever start typing. Some characters get added as the story goes because they write themselves in. I know I’m the one writing, and yes I know they aren’t real, but sometimes these characters push until they are on the page. For me that generally means a future book of their own and I welcome them. They get a profile too.
Profiles for me include: Name, sex, age, race, distinguishing characteristics (scars, tattoos, etc.) body type, educational background, social/family background, hobbies, employment, fears (if I know them), aspirations (short & long-term), financial status, favorite food (sometimes this plays into quirkiness), favorite shows/entertainment, religious alignment/spirituality, eye color & shape, facial structure, voice, languages, prejudices, what they love…  This list can go on, but basically it’s less than a page and gives me an idea of who they are before I start and it also makes keeping track of details easier. Most of the time I find a photo or image that represents my hero to me as well. Here’s Magnus in Defending Destiny. YUM!
These profiles I make at the beginning are rarely who my characters turn out to be when the edits and re-writes are complete. Most of the physical description is the same, but that’s about it. I learn as I go, I guess. Not the quickest way to complete a novel, that’s for sure.
So as I’m gearing up for deep edits, something that’s more conducive to a deep sigh and a “here we go again, when ARE you going to get this right the first, second or third time, Woman?” This morning I’m thankful that this is when I really get to fall in love with these larger than life, flawed, yet sincere characters. This is when the magic happens. And magic is hard work, my friends!
So, I’m curious. If you’re a writer, what’s your process? (I’m hoping that book five finds mine more streamlined) If you are a reader — and we all are — what makes a character worthy of your love? Is it the small quirks? Is it his or her kindness or sense of humor? Who are your favorite characters? What makes them resonate with you? As you can tell I write character driven stories…I love a good plot, but character is why I turn the page when I’m reading, so it’s why I write like I do.
I can’t wait to share Defending Destiny with you. Here’s a sneak peek at my cover in progress:

Defending Destiny Cover

Happy Writing. Happy Reading. And here’s hoping that we create magical worlds readers want to return to again and again! Happy Wednesday, my friends! May February find you steeped in romance :) ,

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Living your Bliss: Romance & Haggis at RT in 2013!

“My mama told me there’d be days like this…” What she didn’t say was that following your bliss was going to be filled with chaotic days and restless nights fraught with emotion, not all of it good.
So what does that have to do with forgetting Wednesday’s blog?

Everything. (In the chaos of the week, I sincerely thought my Wednesday to blog, on the Authors of Main Street blog site, was this coming week.) Let me explain.

My last name is MacDonald. I am very Scottish; by heritage and more importantly, by inclination. I’ve been immersed in Scottish culture, lore and traditions since birth with the passionate ferocity reserved for American transplants generations removed from the Highlands. I am a generational Highlander, if you will :) . Trust me, the most Scottish Scots reside right here in the good ole’ USA.


 Just ask a native Scot. (I’ve heard this so many times on my trips to Scotland. They think we’re bloody-hilarious with our avid kilt-wearing and caber-tossing).

Right here, in Milwaukee, we have the world’s largest Celtic Festival. We celebrate Highland Games, Highland Flings, have a diverse and energetic St. Andrew’s Society, and this month all across the globe, people of Scottish descent or inclination will be celebrating the life of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.

Robert Burns is most famous for his song: Auld Lang Syne, which we sing on New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year. But it’s his ‘Address to a Haggis’ that ties to my BLISS.

My husband and I are HAGGIS makers – Macski’s Highland Foods.


Our HAGGIS will be featured at RT this year ~ more to come in another blog about that.

So, did Haggis make me misjudge my blog date???  YES!

On Thursday the 10th, my husband and I were interviewed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel food editor, Nancy Stohs; who is a wonderful, funny and engaging person. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday we met with new potential vendors. Tuesday the online article came out and Wednesday the paper version hit the stands.

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Hence the blown blog…sigh followed by happy dance…HAGGIS ROCKS!

Following my passions, my bliss, at this stage, is a life choice. It’s like nose-diving from the cliff of relative comfort; exhilarating, frightening, and while you’re taking that leap, you don’t know how you’re going to land.

As for me, I’m adjusting for wind shear, turning so I land on my feet poised to take off writing romance ~ mostly with a tie to Scotland ~ and bringing Scottish culture to life, with a distinctly American flair. I plan on spending as many days a year as I can in a kilt right along side my kilted family. Here’s to the romance of tilting cabers in the wind and following your Bliss. Live Well and Eat HAGGIS.

So what are your passions? How do you incorporate your Bliss into your daily life, especially when your bliss isn’t being so blissful? I’d love to hear from you!