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The Clouds of History July 5, 2019

A gray and weeping sky greeted us Thursday morning, which fit our exhausted spirits. We were thankful to have a slower day planned and dawdled over breakfast in the hotel restaurant before meeting our guide for a taxi tour of Belfast’s iconic murals.

 

As much as I’ve read about Belfast, it was still startling to see how close together Shankill and Falls Roads are. The physical divide between Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods isn’t much at all. Our guide had a first-hand perspective of the “Troubles” as his grandfather had been a member of the IRA and served time in jail.

 

Much like we in the U.S. are working to rewrite history by tearing down monuments, some of the historical murals in Belfast have been painted over or modified to alter their meaning. We learned that any mural with a face on it couldn’t be painted over, but could be altered. History should be something that is objective rather than subjective, a statement of facts. If we don’t learn where we come from and the mistakes that were made, how can we learn and avoid repeating those mistakes? I wish now that I’d purchased a book on all the murals.

 

 

I’m fascinated with the whole Brexit situation, particularly how it will impact the people of Northern Ireland and if this shift will be what leads to the island being reunited. I asked the guide about this and he seemed to agree that reunification was likely, if only for economic reasons. Brexit will likely lead to a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, causing goods being transported from north to south to be subject to border checks. (Some roads cross the border numerous times within a few miles!)

 

Additionally, the Catholic population is growing; the demographic that has most wanted reunification all along. Where they once were a significant minority, they are forecast to be the majority within the next couple of years. If you live in the UK, particularly Northern Ireland, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Our guide dropped us off at Belfast City Hall so we could do a little more exploring. It’s the most impressive City Hall I’ve ever been in! The rain was only a light sprinkle by this time and we enjoyed our walk back to the hotel. The train ride back to Dublin went quickly and we were greeted by Tricia’s friend, Dan. He guided us to our hotel on the River Liffey to drop off our bags and we walked to Trinity College, just a few minutes away. Trinity is a beautiful campus.

 

 

We had tickets to see the Book of Kells, a 9th century manuscript, created around 800 AD, that documents the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ. We reached the exhibit and flowed from one informational wall to another, learning about the art of illumination, until we reached the actual book in a glass case.

 

When we finally reached the Book, I experienced a feeling of deflation, much like I felt upon seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Both are much smaller than I expected and the colors of the Book weren’t as vibrant as I anticipated. It’s beautiful, for sure, and it’s obvious the work to create it must have been painstaking. I was so deflated I forgot to take a picture of the actual thing, but I did have a photo of a copy housed at the Dublin Writer’s Museum, which is a pretty good replication. Sometimes we build things up in our mind so much we are bound to be let down when we do finally experience them.

 

Copy of the Book of Kells

Dan was going to take us to a fish & chip shop, but after wandering for close to an hour, stumbling on icons such as Molly Malone, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, and Dublin Castle, we stopped at the Bull & Castle. Dan was brave and ordered an appetizer of bone marrow. It was strange in every way, but the taste wasn’t bad. The steak I ordered was one of the best I’ve ever had.

 

 

Dublin definitely comes alive at night. The streets were crowded as we walked back to our hotel and music poured out of many pubs we passed. We had a good chuckle at the line of American franchises- Kentucky Fried Chicken, Papa John Pizza, TGIFriday’s, Subway, Burger King, and McDonalds- practically on top of each other. I admit we did enter the McDonalds, but only so Tricia could use the facilities. Don’t worry, I purchased a coffee.

 

Come back next week as Tricia and I pick up our rental car and hit the road!

 

Who is this John Snow guy? June 28, 2019

Since I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, it might sound strange that a Game of Thrones tour changed the whole route of our itinerary for this trip and yet it did. Tricia really wanted to do a specific tour (there are dozens to chose from in Ireland) and it was only offered on certain days. I had planned to visit Belfast at the end of our trip, allowing us to travel in a loop around the island. However, the only day the tour was offered during our visit forced us to head north on Tuesday night so we could do the tour on Wednesday.


While I’m not a morning person, my job requires me to be in the office very early and I’ve become conditioned to move quickly once the alarm goes off. When my phone began strumming the wake-up music, I popped up to start getting dressed; Tricia did not, She groaned and pulled the blanket tighter.

 

Once I managed to get her up and dressed we popped into the Starbucks across the street and then made our way to the end of the block where the tour was meeting. Tricia and I made our way to the back of the bus so she could surreptitiously finish eating the muffin she’d been told she couldn’t bring onboard as the company was worried about messes.

 

We had to drive about an hour out of the city and the countryside was lovely. Unfortunately, Tricia had taken the wrong medication that morning and it put her to sleep so she missed most of the views. I was surprised at how the Mourne Mountains seemed to rise up from nowhere just outside the city. I’m used to the rolling foothills that precede most of the mountains here in the US. Maybe I didn’t notice the land rolling upward because of the city bustle.

 

We arrived at the ferry stop and I realized we were in the town of Portaferry. Now I was excited to be on this tour. I mentioned in my first post Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country Doctor series of books. Well, Portaferry is mentioned in them from time to time so I felt a connection to the place. I looked around, wondering which pubs Doctor O’Reily may have visited. Yes, I know he’s a fictional character, but as a writer, there’s something exhilarating about seeing a place mentioned in a book. Of course, we were on a tour to visit places of complete fiction anyway so why I am defending myself?

 

Portaferry as we departed on the ferry.

Tricia was still pretty sleepy on the ferry, but I enjoyed the crossing of Strangford Lough, watching as the town of Strangford grew closer. I watched for birds and wondered how far from the town the good doctor would have been when he went fowling.

 


Soon we arrived at our first stop, Castle Ward, which was used for Winterfell in filming Game of Thrones season one. There isn’t much left standing besides a tower and some courtyard walls, but the tour guide played us video clips that showed how the tower had been replicated and some other computer imagery added to create the castle.

 

Then we walked around the grounds to several other filming locations. The brisk walk helped wake Tricia up. We passed the Strangford Sailing Club and I thought about young Doctor Barry Laverty’s interest in sailing. We trekked close to three miles, mostly along the shores of Stranford Lough, which, even with gray clouds pressing in, was beautiful.

 

After our tour of Castle Ward we returned to Strangford for lunch at The Cuan followed by a visit with the “Direwolves”. They are beautiful animals. The story of the owners and how the dogs were cast on the show was interesting. It sounds like the directors/producers of the show took time to invest in the locals, casting many of them as extras rather than bringing in tons of people from Los Angeles or some other film-centric location.

 

From Strangford, we drove to Inch Abbey, a beautiful ruin on the banks of the Quoile River. We were given capes and swords, which we playfully swung around. Those swords weigh a ton! We all did our best to look menacing, but no one could stop grinning with delight. While the rest of the group engaged in mock battle, I wandered around taking pictures. The tour guide provided interesting information about lighting techniques used during filming here to make it look like the scene was taking place indoors as well as how the crew managed the changing light as the sun moved through the sky.

 

 

Our last stop on the tour was Tollymore Forest. A number of scenes were filmed here, I remember something about a dead stag being found in the road and the discovery of the Direwolf pups. Our hike through the park almost made me want to watch the show just for the scenery. If you visit Ireland and love the outdoors, I highly recommend spending a day in Tollymore, exploring the more than 630 hectares of forestland.

 

Entering down into Tollymore Forest

It had rained every day for weeks before we arrived, so the Shimna River running through the park was quite high and rushing downhill in a torrent of frothy rapids. One part of the trail crossing the river on large stepping-stones was completely covered and another section had been flooded as well, but there were enough dry patches to pick our way through without getting too wet.

 

We hiked another 3 miles here and one section was little more than an animal trail. I found it thrilling but Tricia wasn’t very fond of this section.

 

We returned to the hotel around 6:00pm, exhausted from both the lack of sleep and the exertion of the day. We debated going across the street to the pub, but ended up ordering room service and collapsing for the night.

 

I apologize if you were hoping to get more behind-the-scenes insights into Game of Thrones. I think the guide did an excellent job, I just didn’t retain much of what he said since it wasn’t the big draw for me. We used Game of Thrones Tours, Ltd and their guides have all been extras on the show, which allows them to provide first hand experiences.

 

Next week we face our first truly rainy day and meet up with one of Trica’s Facebook friends. I admit I was a little scared of getting together with a stranger.

 

One for the bucket list June 6, 2019

Filed under: Authors,Books,friends,travel — itsrebekahlyn @ 8:15 AM
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I know, it’s been ages since I posted a blog and you’re shocked to be hearing from me now. Why don’t you make a cup of coffee or your favorite tea and come sit with me so we can catch up?

cup of hot coffee with milk stands near the window and a bright colored bouquet of flowers (more…)

 

Celebrate the journey August 30, 2018

Filed under: Authors,Books,Family — itsrebekahlyn @ 8:14 AM
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Time in the mountains of North Carolina is a balm to my spirit. The birds sound happier, the water is more refreshing, the air smells sweeter and I feel at peace. This trip was planned to celebrate my parents birthdays, enjoy the comedy of Jeanne Robertson and indulge in my love of Michael Bolton. At the time I booked the flight, I had no idea when my new book would be completed, so it was extra sweet to have a proof copy awaiting me when I arrived at my parents’ house. Getting to show this off to my family, particularly so close to their birthdays, was exciting.

 

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A Cheesy Celebration February 9, 2015

Filed under: Baking,Books,Recipes — itsrebekahlyn @ 7:20 AM
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I love cheese. I’m fascinated with how many different types of cheese there are and want to try them all. A couple of years ago, when it was just me and my parents for Christmas, we started a new Christmas Eve tradition. We went to Candlelight Service, came home to a spread of hors d’oeuvres-chocolate caramel popcorn, spinach dip, cheese, crackers, and glog- then watched a movie. It’s a nice quiet evening to reflect on what Christmas is really about.

 

The first Christmas spread

The first Christmas spread

Cheese galore

Cheese galore

This year, I noticed that the Aldi I shop at started having specialty cheeses a few weeks before Christmas. I bought up every one of them for our Christmas Eve nosh. We had Jarlsberg, Parmesan Regiano, Prima Donna, Tomato Basil, Jalapeño Jack, Fontina, and Cranberry White Cheddar. I’ve been wanting to try the Parmesan Regiano since I read about it in one of Frances Mayes’ books. It wasn’t my favorite as a stand-alone cheese, but it is great in cooking.

 

As you might imagine, with all of this cheese we couldn’t possibly eat it all in one night. Mom found a recipe that used the Fontina along with a Marscapone cheese, to make what is basically a fancy mac & cheese. The recipe sounded so good, I used it in the book I was working on, Spring Dawn, and when I finished the first draft we made a batch to celebrate. Shredding all of the Fontina seemed to take forever, but it was worth it. Next time I think I would add some bacon bits though, to give it a little more kick.

The left over Jarlsberg has made a wonderful evening snack and now I have three more varieties to snack on from Ireland, Wales, and Britain. I better have a few slices then get back to work.

Fontina & Mascarpone Baked Pasta

Fontina & Mascarpone Baked Pasta

Grating the Fontina

Grating the Fontina

 

Guest Post: Publishing 101 August 5, 2014

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My writing has brought some of the most generous and interesting people into my life, both virtually and in person. I think that may be my favorite perk of this adventure.  I was put in touch with author Brooke Williams through my dear friend DiVoran a couple of months ago and I’ve enjoyed learning more about her writing journey. Brooke was kind enough to be a hostess on my new release blog tour for Jessie and I am happy to introduce you to her today.

 

 

 

 

 

Publishing 101 – What You Should Know Before Becoming an Author

When I tell people I am an author, they think wow, how glamorous! You get to sit and make things up all day! In part, this is true. I DO get paid to make things up! However, it’s not the glamour most people would imagine.

 

There are a lot of other things that go into being an author outside of just writing. In fact, writing is just the beginning! Once you write the book, you then have to go back through and fix things…whether it’s grammar and punctuation or holes in the plot or both! Then you have to find either an agent to represent the book or a publisher to publish it. If you go the self-publishing route, you have to think about cover design and format and all of those details on your own.

 

Skipping ahead, once you have things set up and you’re ready to move forward with the publishing aspects, you have to think about your audience. It doesn’t matter if you have written the best book ever, if no one knows you, no one will read it. You have to network, get to know other authors, build a public persona and platform. Today, a lot of that can be done online by creating facebook and other author pages and talking with other authors. Just forming relationships.

 

Marketing is one of the hardest parts about being an author. If you want to continue to write, you need your books to do well or getting them out there will be a moot point. You’ll need a nice author photograph and bio and any and all ideas you might have in your head on how to get the word out about the book.

 

While many people who are not authors or who have not made it very far yet think that writing the book is the beginning and the end to the “author story,” they couldn’t be farther off from the truth. The book is the beginning. It might be the most fun, but it’s just the start. There are so many books out there today that authors have to work just as hard, if not harder than they did on the book in order to get word out about the book.

 

It is also a misconception that if authors sell a book for $15 or whatever the price is that that is what they make. Even a self-published author does not make the full price of the book with every sale. Authors with publishers make even less per sale because the publisher gets a cut for all they have done in the process. It takes lots and lots of sales to make a living. Many authors do it more as a hobby or a small side supplement to their real jobs.

 

All that being said, if you’re thinking of becoming an author, all you need to have is a passion for writing. If you have that passion and nothing else satisfies it, you don’t have a choice! You have to become an author. That’s what happened to me! I spent 12 years in radio and I enjoyed some aspects of it. But when my first daughter was born and I left my full time job to stay home I realized that salycoverthere was something else out there that I’d rather do…write! My only regret about my past career was that I did not leave it sooner to pursue writing. I am grateful to my daughter for forcing me to consider my options!

 

 

“Someone Always Loves You” is the first book I ever wrote. I wrote it because the characters that formed in my head bugged me to get them out onto paper. They wouldn’t leave me alone! The story is emotional and has more twists and turns than even I can describe. My goal with this book is that readers enjoy it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you want to be an author, read this book and see where it takes you. If you enjoy reading family dramas with tinges of romance and plenty of questions and answers, this book might be for you as well.

 

I hope you learned a little bit about what it takes to be an author. It’s not a job anyone could, or at least should do, without a huge level of love for writing. If you have that, keep at it!

 

About Brooke

Brooke Williams is an award-winning author and freelance writer. She began her career in radio, both on the air and behind the scenes. She did a brief stint in TV news and then took on her most challenging job as a stay at home mom. During the few quiet hours in her day, Brooke writes articles for a number of clients as well as fiction creations such as “Someone Always Loved You.” Brooke has also written “Beyond the Bars,” a thriller, “God in the Kitchen,” a Christian novel, and “Taxi Delivery,” a Christian Romance. Brooke looks forward to the December 9th release of “Wrong Place, Right Time,” a romantic comedy and the February 2015 release of “Accept this Dandelion” inspired by the Bachelor TV show. Brooke has been married to her husband Sean since 2002 and has two daughters, Kaelyn and Sadie.

If you’d like to learn more about Brooke you can find her on:

Website:

http://www.authorbrookewilliams.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBrookeWilliams

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/151184.Brooke_Williams

Someone Always Loved You amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Someone-Always-Loved-Brooke-Williams-ebook/dp/B004H8GBYK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404240094&sr=8-1&keywords=someone+always+loved+you

Email:

authorbrookewilliams@gmail.com

 

 

A Week of Celebration July 25, 2014

Now available from your favorite book retailer

Now available from your favorite book retailer

The past week has been exhilirating and exhausting. My new book, Jessie, launched on July 16, in honor of the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11. I was fortunate enough to secure a slot on the Indie Books Show for my release weekend and had a wonderful chat with the host Will Wilson. You can download it from the archives if you missed it. I also participated in a blog tour July 16-19 and visited so many blogs I lost count. It was fun to share excerpts and talk about the book to so many different people around the world.

 

My fabulous Assistant Publicist, Pam, came up with an idea to do a giveaway through some of our local restaurants the weekend of the launch. Pam called me in a panic when four of the restaurants she’d approached all called back and said they were interested only five days before the launch date. A flurry of emails flew back and forth as we designed posters, entry tickets, and menu inserts. We became regulars at our Staples copy center over the next couple of days. Many thanks to the owners of Caffe Chocolat, Dixie Crossroads, Louis’ BBQ Shack, and Shiloh’s Steak & Seafood for your wonderful support.

 

One of the most exciting and completely unexpected things that happened during this time though was an opportunity to be a part of #NASASocial, which is a program to provide opportunities for NASA’s social media followers to learn and share information about NASA’s missions, people, and programs.

 

On the evening of July 14 my mom sent me an email about an event being held at Kennedy Space Center to rename the Operations and Checkout Building in honor of Neil Armstrong, who passed away in 2012. I was already in bed, checking mail on my iPad, but I clicked the link and filled out the application. Almost exactly 48 hours later I received an email saying I’d made the first round of approvals. I then had to go through some more forms and several more layers of approvals. Then on July 18, after I finished my interview on the Indie Books Show, I checked my email and found I had officially been approved. I was estatic!

 

The event included Neil Armstrongs fellow astronauts from the Apollo 11 mission, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as well as Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 fame, and two of Amstrongs sons, Mark & Rick. The event was held in one of the hangers originally used to prepare the Apollo capsules, which is now being used to prepare the new Orion capsule. Another section of the building is used for astronaut barracks, which I read a lot about in my research. The history in that building is inspiring. If only those walls could talk.

 

There were 23 other social media reporters along with me, and we snaked our way through the growing crowd closer and closer to the front of the room. We jostled with members of the traditional media for places where we could see past all of the NASA TV cameras. I was excited to see one of my friends from church working one of those cameras. Seeing a familiar face helped calm my racing heart.

 

Our @NASASocial leader, slowly moved us to better positions and I found myself pulled out of the tightening clutch of bodies and placed on a dias to the side of the stage with four or five others. I may not have had the front on view, but I was only ten or fifteen feet from three astronauts that I had come to respect in an entirely new way through all of my research. Of all the speakers, I think Michael Collins was my favorite. He was hilarious. If you have some free time, you can watch the entire ceremony here.

 

After the ceremony we had a break for lunch then went on a tour of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The building is 524 feet tall and divided into four high bays and a transfer aisle. My dad worked in all four of the high bays at one time or another and I had a chance to visit one in 2008. Then the Space Shuttle Atlantis was in the bay being prepared for another launch. Now, three of the bays have been stripped down to their bare bones and all of the Apollo era offices are being demolished. On this visit I had a chance to go to the 35th and 16th floors for a view down into all four bays, and a closer look at the cranes used to lift the space craft from the processing bay to the transfer aisle so they could be rolled out to the launch pad. It never occurred to me that the vehicle needed to be lifted and moved from one side of the building to the center in order to exit through the tall doors.

 

I was sad to see the Space Shuttle program come to an end and believe it was put to rest too early, but I hope  we will continue to explore space. The support of the country during the early days of the space program was key in the incredible progress that was made. I hope my book will inspire a new generation to reach for the stars and seek to go even farther.

 

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