A Little Trip to London and Scotland

I was in beautiful sunny Scotland for the last week or so, with a few days in hot and sunny London as well. I tend to visit those isles during freakish weather. When I visited Ireland, we had thirty minutes of rain. Don’t tell anyone, lest they kidnap me and stick me in a dungeon to keep the clouds away. It was a lovely trip. That word was said quite a lot on the trip. That and delightful. Scotland’s natural landscape truly does evoke powerful emotions which obliterate the brain’s thesaurus. Or perhaps it’s the whisky and the beer.

sunset ruins
Sunset and Ruins on the Isle of Skye

We arrived in London for a friend’s wedding at the Naval college, went on a great Jack the Ripper tour with London Walks, then met writer Ian Ayris at The Grapes pub in the East End and talked until closing. Great fellow, that Ian. His novel Abide with Me was released to rave reviews, and he has a great story in Protectors as well.

Rob Roy's Grave
Rob Roy’s Grave

Then we took a train to Scotland with a crowd of loud children in the quiet car, and I drove 848 miles on the wrong side of the road and survived several near-death experiences across the roundabout infested, wind scoured kilt-scape. Firs stop: Oban, where we met the magnanimous Fiona “McDroll” Johnson for fish and chips. The best of the trip. McDroll has several story collections and a novella series out, and we edited the Lost Children anthology together. She writes with great power.

Fiona "McDroll" and me
Fiona “McDroll” and me

Next to Skye. A gorgeous isle of castle ruins, unique geological protuberances and wildlife, we crossed its 20 miles on a one lane road among oil trucks and tour buses. The beautiful setting made up for the stark raving terror. We had a terrific meal of fresh seafood in Portree, along with a few glasses of smoky Talisker’s scotch, the Port Righ port-barrel finished being my favorite. We also visited the Dalwhinnie distillery and enjoyed their distiller’s edition and 25 year very much.

Eilanan Donan castle
Eilanan Donan castle

On the way out we stopped at Eileanan Donan castle, one of the biggest and most evocative, but also where Highlander was filmed, which was the important thing. Here I am, the master of your destiny:

The Kurgan in his natural habitat

From there to Loch Ness, where we caught some rain and ducked into a pub to enjoy a night of traditional music at Ghillie’s rest, where local musicians wander in and join the band. The next day took us to Inverness and the coast, where we hopped a boat to see a dozen plump north sea bottlenose dolphins settling down to lunch. We hugged the coast and stopped in Aboyne to see the Highland Games, where I regrettable didn’t join the shotput event despite having set the record in my Freshman high school year, thanks some pestering old injuries. That and I had no kilt. Maybe next time. I do want to learn to toss the caber.

Castle Pat Benatar
Castle Pat Benatar

South we hit Castle Dunnotar, one of the last fortresses to hold out against the British invader, then St. Andrew’s cathedral, whose tower has existed since the first millennium. Saw the RSS Discovery, which explored the Antarctic.  From there we drove straight to Edinburgh.

St. Andrew's cathedral
St. Andrew’s cathedral

In Edinburgh we saw Mary Read’s Close, which is an alley from the old city that was built on top of in the 1900’s. Much of it remains and it is a curious if dank window into the city’s past. We also saw the Military Tattoo play outside the castle, and met up with Allan Guthrie, Nigel Bird, and Tony Black & family in Portobello, and spent a fine evening chatting over pints and chai. Overall it was a great trip and I can’t wait to return to Scotland and the East End of London, visit my friends once more, and have more time to relax and explore.

Nigel Bird, myself, and Allan Guthrie
Nigel Bird, myself, and Allan Guthrie

Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT is out!

The anthology I’ve been working on since January, to benefit PROTECT and the National Association to Protect Children, is now available.

PROTECTORS includes a foreword by rock critic Dave Marsh, and fiction by Patti Abbott, Ian Ayris, Ray Banks, Nigel Bird, Michael A. Black, Tony Black, R. Thomas Brown, Ken Bruen, Bill Cameron, Jen Conley, Charles de Lint, Wayne D. Dundee, Chad Eagleton, Les Edgerton, Andrew Fader, Matthew C. Funk, Roxane Gay, Edward A. Grainger, Glenn G. Gray, Jane Hammons, Amber Keller, Joe R. Lansdale, Frank Larnerd, Gary Lovisi, Mike Miner, Zak Mucha, Dan O’Shea, George Pelecanos, Thomas Pluck, Richard Prosch, Keith Rawson, James Reasoner, Todd Robinson, Johnny Shaw, Gerald So, Josh Stallings, Charlie Stella, Andrew Vachss, Steve Weddle, Dave White, and Chet Williamson.

The book is now available for Kindle, and the pages at Barnes & Noble and Kobo will be live soon.

For updated order information, including how to order it directly through Paypal (generating the largest donation; you can upload the Kindle or ePub file to your reader, or read it on your PC) go to the PROTECTORS Official Web Page.

The book will also be available for the Apple iPad and on Smashwords. Our designer is working on the print edition, which will be available at Amazon and in bookstores.

The wait is over… go be a Protector!

The Protectors Anthology is coming…

For a year, I’ve been working on a follow-up anthology to Lost Children, the charity anthology inspired by Fiona Johnson‘s flash fiction challenge, hosted at Ron Earl PhillipsFlash Fiction Friday. It is nearly complete, and will be available September 1st. Here is the full list of contributors. 100% of proceeds will go to PROTECT and the National Association to Protect Children – the army fighting what Andrew Vachss calls “the only holy war worthy of the name,” the protection of children.

Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT

Stories by:

Patti Abbott
Ian Ayris
Ray Banks
Nigel Bird
Michael A. Black

Tony Black
R. Thomas Brown
Ken Bruen
Bill Cameron
Jen Conley

Charles de Lint
Wayne D. Dundee
Chad Eagleton
Les Edgerton
Andrew Fader

Matthew C. Funk
Roxane Gay
Glenn G. Gray
Jane Hammons
Amber Keller

Joe R. Lansdale
Frank Larnerd
Gary Lovisi
Mike Miner
Zak Mucha

Dan O’Shea
George Pelecanos
Thomas Pluck
Richard Prosch
Keith Rawson

James Reasoner
Todd Robinson
Johnny Shaw
Gerald So
Josh Stallings

Charlie Stella
Andrew Vachss
Steve Weddle
Dave White
Chet Williamson

40 stories. One cause: PROTECT

In a few weeks, the e-book will be available across all formats. The print edition will follow.

Cover art by Kim Parkhurst. Interior design by Jaye Manus. Cover design by Sarah Bennett Pluck. Print design by Suzanne Dell’Orto. Edited by Thomas Pluck.

I would like to thank everyone who submitted stories for the collection, and everyone who assisted me with this project, and everyone at PROTECT.