Guest Blog about Research
Researching Culture and Setting: Viking ships, Abbeys, and Enchanting Castles
I love research. I think many of us who write books have this inclination toward research—poring over books, websites, museums, stories—extracting minute details that take us hours to find but we end up sharing in eh, a sentence or two? Or we ditch it completely? Ha! But I digress.
Back to research…A Hundred Breaths highlights the [end of the] Norse culture that reigned from the 750-1300 A.D. and I was fortunate to tour an actual Viking ship, the Draken Harald Hårfagre, last year. When I heard this ship was coming to a port near us (Mystic, CT), I messaged the Norwegian captain and booked myself tickets. The researcher in me squealed with delight. The ship did not let me down. It was impressive and teleported me back in time. I asked questions, walked along the deck, and my sons got to “steer” with the steerboard. This ship was built as a fully-working replica based on much research of Norse vessels. The crew was handpicked and sailed it cross the Atlantic Ocean. Exploring the vessel gave me a taste of what it must have been like to sail the ocean as a Viking.
Gwyn and Simon’s journey in A Hundred Breaths also takes them to Dryburgh Abbey. I love Scotland and visited the place of my daydreams (and books) about ten years ago. One stop was to visit the lowland abbeys. I’ll admit Dryburgh Abbey was an idea from a previous manuscript (ahem, a “practice one”). With a bit of brainstorming, and since I had already done the research and visited the rosy stone abbey, I worked this setting into part of the story. Though much in ruins, a few of the sidewalls remain. Echoes of yesterday blew on the wind (wet wind…did I mention it rained during our entire trip to Scotland?) as we explored this ancient landmark. It was eerie, exquisite, and inspiring.
Aside from the moors and machair of the Western isles, the other key location for my series is Eilean Donan castle. This castle originated in the 13th century, becoming the future seat of Clan MacKenzie, and has been burned, attacked, and rebuilt numerous times. The sun shone on us during this visit, and right before a tour bus unloaded, we snapped some picturesque shots of this highly photographed romantic Scottish castle. Rounding out our trip: Highland games, numerous castles (one on a loch we kayaked to, and one with a ghost), hikes up craggy peaks, winding on one one-lane roads through green hills and along a rocky coast to a lighthouse, eating haggis, and chats with friendly Scots.
Next on the wish list? To get to Uist, Lewis, and Harris on our next trip to Scotland (we made it to Skye, and it was a soaker), visit some standing stones, and for the hiker in me, I would enjoy the multi-day trek along Hadrian’s Wall.
Simon MacCoinneach’s vengeance runs deep. The blade is the only way to end the blood-thirsty Nordmen’s reign upon Scottish soil. His soul might be lost, but the mystical Healer he kidnaps from the isles could be the answer for his ailing mother…and his heart.
Isles-born Gwyn reluctantly agrees to a marriage alliance with this heathen Scot in return for the sanctuary of her younger brother from her abusive Norse father. Her brother’s condition is beyond the scope of her Ancient power, for larger healings steal breaths of life from her own body.
As Simon and Gwyn fight to outwit her madman father and a resentful Norse betrothed, Gwyn softens Simon’s heart with each merciful touch. Gwyn’s Seer sister foresees a bloody battle—and an end to the Nordmen—but Simon will also die. Will Gwyn save Simon on the battlefield even if it means losing her last breath?
Here’s a Taste
“I’m your wife, and still I am guarded?”
Simon shrugged though she couldn’t see. He’d given up on excuses. “What must I do to prove I won’t flee? I signed your marriage contract. I said my vows.” Her voice broke on those words.
Was she crying? He laid the tray of food on her table and approached. He didn’t touch her, as much as he wanted to link his arm within hers as they’d done during their walks. He reached inside his ganache and withdrew her small, simple dagger. Unadorned with jewels or carvings, it possessed a bone hilt and a blade worn from use. Likely from tree limbs, flowers, and household use. His smith had sharpened it and cleaned the hilt.
“Here,” he said, placing it in her lap. Gildy had retrieved the sheath from Gwyn’s laundered gown.
Gwyn stared at it, her fingertips dancing butterfly wings hovering over the hilt. After a moment, she drew her hand around it and pulled it from its leather sheath. She rose and whirled on him, the dagger pointed out before her, barely pressing into his chest.
He didn’t retreat as he met her fiery, misty gaze.
She made no move to remove the dagger’s tip.
“A smidge to the center, Gwyn, and you’ll be square over my blackened heart.” He held her glower. The heat blazed in her entrancing blue eyes like the devil. He fought a smile.
More about the author
Jean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.
Social Media links:
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Jean-M.-Grant/e/B0728KFXP9/
The Wild Rose Press
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