Auto Draft

This past weekend the annual Highland Games were held on Long Island.

What a difference a year makes. Last year Hurricane Irene put a tiny bit of a damper on the gathering…

…but this year the weather was perfect and the clans were out in full force.

Who knew there were so many Scottish-Americans on Long Island??? I only go to the Highland Games for two reasons: One, to oogle men in kilts, and Two:

To score some Scottish soul food. Which is basically sugar, in butterscotch fudge and liquid form. That soda is pronounced Iron Brew and is the most popular soft drink in Scotland (because it’s an alleged cure for hangovers), even outselling Coke. It tastes like neon-colored bubblegum. You can buy a six-pack of it for $14 at the Highland Games but that’s a stomach-turning amount of IRN BRU even for me. So I just got the one bottle, just enough for my yearly toast to my Scottish heritage:


OK, that last one, strictly speaking, isn’t all Scottish. But it is all Vivianish. It’s the only book I know of that I did not write that has a main character named Vivian Swift. In Heart of Deception Vivian Swift rules a cutthroat gang of thieves in Elizabethan London. That fella with the bare chest is Rafe, who finds “Viv” [ this Vivian Swift, the one typing here, does not like to be called "Viv", by the way] he finds her irresistible because she’s all proud and daring and “awakens in him a fire deeper and more consuming than any Rafe has ever known.”

In case you’re wondering about that last sentence, about that fire that “awakens” [pray tell, how do you wake up a fire?] inside Rafe [huh?] and is “deep” [I thought fire was only shallow] let me assure you that the stuff I’ve been slaving over the past week for the Garden Book is nowhere near as bad as that. Oh, yes, what I’ve been writing is pretty crappy and I’m going to delete a lot of it today,  but it’s crappy in a jesus is it possible to come up with less interesting drivel way, not crappy in the incomplete metaphor with chintzy buss words on top way. (And that sentence is not Taylor Chase’s fault, by the bye, it’s cover copy ,probably written by an intern at her publishing company, if I know anything about how publishing works.)

My writing has SUCKED this past week because I got sidetracked from my Edinburgh garden essay by this pile:

…called Holyrood House, home to Scottish and English monarchs for 500 years.

Specifically, I spent two pages discussing this part of Holyrood House:

The North Tower, the oldest part of Holyrood House, the part where Mary Queen of Scots had her apartments and the part that my mother’s great-great-great-etc grandfather built in 1501 for the Scottish King James IV. There are written records of payment to a stone mason named Marlioun (French Huguenot) whose surname eventually morphed into the somewhat more Scottish-sounding Marlin…see? See? I bet you’re falling asleep even now. And this is how I jabbered on for two pages, adding DATES like 1499 and 1532 into the story. And then I took the reader up the road from Holyrood to show her a church and an old wynd…see? SEE?

The writing process is messy. It’s so easy to stray off topic, to over-think and over-complicate. Thank DoG for re-writes:

So today I have to edit the crap out of my Edinburgh garden chapter, because I know that you, as a reader, would rather NOT have to hack your way through this:

And that you would prefer to stroll through this:




10 comments to Good for the Soul

  • Mary

    Ive been reading your blog for years, and I never realized, before YOU, how terribly difficult it is to write or create on a day to day basis. To write is truly a gift. To be able to paint AND write is a double gift.

    By the same notion, its also a responsibility to do it for the benefit of others. You have done that superbly. Although you don’t hear it often enough, NOW I realize how hard it is to live by these wonderful ideas in your head all the time.

    You pass them on to us once a week in the finest way possible. And in the meantime, you are creating in your art room constantly, not to mention keeping us aware of what’s happening in your yard and neighborhood.

    I commend you, dear Vivian.

  • Nadine

    I was in a New Jersey diner last Saturday morning and a motorcyclist came in wearing a kilt! I wish I had seen him drive up because that’s gotta be tricky. He had the full kit on, plus a leather vest for safety. He was on his way to the Scottish Games somewhere in upstate NJ. I’ll have to check them out next year.

    And thanks for passing on the hangover cure!

  • Deborah

    This post reminds me of one of my favorite Vonnegut quotes: “Writing allows people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something resembling intelligence.” You are definitely patient and industrious (because you’re a Capricorn), and your books and blog definitely resemble something intelligent.

    I laughed at your category for this — ‘vaguely Scottish’

  • Mary

    Deep fried Mars Bars…..mmmmmmmmm

  • Nicole

    Highland games! Haven’t visited such an event for decades, but I remember really liking a very funny mystery novel once, “Highland Laddie Gone” by Sharyn McCrumb. Thanks for sharing your pictures!

  • Your 1st picture is a heart-stopper!
    The bodice ripper I don’t know about, ahem
    As for ripping up and tossing out..who can say?
    My neighbors dumpster dived my tossed out watercolors and they now hangs on their walls scotchtaped together.
    That’s the reason we have Labour Day to take a breather (if you know how…)

  • Joan

    I don’t believe for one tick minute that you’ve written nothing but drivel…I think you must be terribly hard on yourself. That you can write 2 books and have them published and then sucked up by your faithful readers of books and blog attests to that fact: you can write AND paint! What a lovely gift. I would not want to hurt the Muse’s feelings by calling what you write, drivel. She might vanish altogether so be careful what you say!

    I’ve only seen the Scottish games on TV…men heaving huge former trees into the air like they were popsicle sticks. Eating that nasty stuff called Haggis…blek! They showed how that gross stuff is made. I nearly had to leave the room. That anyone could get that past their nose, let alone into their mouths is beyond me. OYE!

    I’m anxious to see more picks from the Damn Garden Book. Are you using your gifted watercolors at all?

  • Dee

    Holy @*€%! I did not see any men looking quite that hot in kilts when I was in Scotland! Is he available? Can you get his number for me?

  • I have my own in house Scotsman, so I’m digging this post. Oddly, no kilt to be found here. That picture of the office of disarray makes me faint and sweaty. How do people work in that?

  • Carol

    Put EVERYTHING IN!! I love Scotland and I love your work!

You must be logged in to post a comment.