Tuesday, December 10, 2013

T. J. Wooldridge: Dark Waters of Scotland--Kelpies and other Water Hazards

My guest this week, and the last one for the year, is Therese Wooldridge, otherwise known as T.J. and she has a new novel out this week! Welcome to her world!

Scotland is a very dangerous place when it comes to its various fey inhabitants--particularly those who live in the water. If you look up evil types of faerie from Scotland, more than half are associated with water. Besides kelpies, which I'd done plenty of research on for my novel, The Kelpie, there are several other water horses from the various regions of Scotland: Doonies are shape-shifting water fey who look like ponies, the each uisge is a water horse specific to the highland seas and lochs, the noggle or nuggle is the Shetland version of a water horse, and shoopiltees are small water horses also from the Shetland islands. A quick search on Google will reward the seeker with plenty more harrowing water-based faerie who thoroughly enjoy hunting, killing, and eating humans. Possibly with some healthy torture thrown in.

But why are there so many frightening water monsters?

Well, for one, it's not unlikely that an awful lot of people have died or do die regularly due to the natural water hazards in Scotland. Or at sea, since it is surrounded by the ocean.

For purely research reasons, my husband and I vacationed in Scotland last summer. It
happened to be the end of June, the proper time of year I was setting The Kelpie, and a large portion of our trip was spent exploring the region I would set the novel. Neither of us had been to Scotland before, so there was an awful lot to explore, even in the few small areas we covered.
Here are some of our adventures:
  • Stranded in Islay due to heavy rains and flooding.
  • Puddle of Indiscernible Depth was a square on our homemade Roadblock Bingo card (also in Islay)
  • Trails at Traquair House under water due to flooding of the Tweed river, a normal occurrence.
  • Waterfowl that thrashed in trees and SOUNDED LIKE DINOSAURS!
  • Secretly submerged trails by Loch Mire near St. Abbs. (The plants made it look like solid grass).
  • Ocean trails to so dangerous that natives very firmly suggest tourists avoid them...down to having trail maps that mislead travelers away from the dangerous part.*
  • Sheer cliffs into the ocean on the "forbidden" trails that the stubborn tourists found thanks to smartphones + Googling the adventures of other stubborn tourists.**

Needles to say, it took a reasonable amount of effort to avoid injurious and lethal water hazards in modern day Scotland.

But evil water horses?

First, let me say that I volunteered with horse rescue for almost ten years and ended up adopting my own horse. In fact, a percentage of all my royalties from The Kelpie sales will be going to the Bay State Equine Rescue. I can tell you without having gone to Scotland that horses are freaking scary!

An angry horse is dangerous and can kill you. The entire opening scene of The Kelpie was inspired by having a horse rear up on me and throw a temper tantrum while I was exercising him (instead of bringing him to meet the new mares that moved in across the street). This was a small horse, but there was no measure to the terror in my heart to see his front hooves beating the air above me and his lips pulled back in a sneer, baring his teeth.

It wasn't a huge jump, in that moment, to think, "Holy crap--and what if this was a predator animal that wanted to eat me!"

Furthermore, horses are especially surefooted animals. They can navigate some of the most impossible trails and if their natural habitat is one full of water hazards, they learn to navigate those well, too. Historically, horses have been an important part of Scottish culture, from farming to travel to fighting. Even now, as we were driving around, there were still quite a few horse stables, trail rides, and paddocks. In times when horses were even more prevalent, it would be a statistical improbability that horses didn't escape and lead those trying to catch them to their death simply because they knew the land better.

I had an awful lot of fun exploring Scotland and its myths for The Kelpie, and I hope you enjoyed this little journey into those adventures...as well as the result of that research in the novel's pages.

* One may argue that this is pure conjecture on the author's part; that one may also feel free to wander aimlessly in fields of sheep crap for hours on end trying to follow the trail map.

** I spent over an hour trying to find the picture-by-picture blog my husband had found on his Blackberry to no avail. :( He is the Husband-of-Awesome for many reasons, including his ability to find anything online.
The Kelpie is available through all online and brick & mortar bookstores, big box or your favorite independent store. 

About the Book

ISBN: 978-1-937053-78-9
ISBN (ebook): 978-1-937053-79-6
Appropriate for ages 11 and up
Price: $7.95

About the Author:

T. J. Wooldridge is a professional writing geek who adores research into myth, folklore, legend, and the English language. Before delving full-time into wordsmithing, she has been a tutor, a teacher, an educational course designer, a video game proofreader, a financial customer service representative, a wine salesperson, a food reviewer, an editing consultant, a retail sales manager, and a nanny. While infrequent, there are times she does occasionally not research, write, or help others write. During those rare moments, she enjoys the following activities: spending time with her Husband-of-Awesome, a silly tabby cat, and two Giant Baby Bunnies in their Massachusetts home hidden in a pocket of woods in the middle of suburbia, reading, riding her horse in the nearby country stables and trails (not very well), reading Tarot (very well), drawing (also not very well), making jewelry (pretty well), making lists, and adding parenthetical commentary during random conversations. She also enjoys dressing up as fey creatures, zombies, or other such nonsense at science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions.

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