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Friday, July 16, 2010

Highland Games: A Research Opportunity

Guest Blogger - Nancy Lee Badger

When my first Scottish historical novel was released last month, I knew researching historical facts had been worth the effort. Even though DRAGON’S CURSE is a paranormal romance, I still filled it with fact-based occurrences and real live settings. In choosing a time period, I discovered a band of Macleod’s had massacred an entire village of MacDonalds in 1577 by smoking them to death in a cave on the Scottish island of Eigg. I made my hero, Draco MacDonald, accused of causing their deaths. He has lived alone for fifteen years in a huge cave on the real Scottish island of Staffa when he meets Brianna Macleod.

I wanted to use my love of modern Scottish Highland Games to weave another tale full of witches, time travel, and ancient Highlanders. Since my family volunteers annually at the New Hampshire Highland Games, I filled notebook after notebook with my interpretation of the sights, smells, sounds, and history of the games. Research added to my list of possible story ideas. I have since completed a tale I call SPELLBOUND HIGHLANDER, which I hope will catch the eye of an agent and be published. What do modern games have to do with a story of ancient Highlanders? Well, my heroine volunteers at the games and her witchcraft accidently sends her back in time. When she sees our hero, dressed in an ancient plaid with a long sword across his back and a dirk at his side, she thinks she is still at the games!

Besides the costumes and weaponry people wear to these festivals, there are sports, food, craft displays, music, and venders beneath tents selling everything under the sun. The aroma of meat pies mingles with the tang of fresh-squeezed lemonade. Sheep, herded by a border collie, run near tent-covered platforms where pretty girls dance a Highland fling. Bagpipers march while craftspeople spin wool or tell tales to kids. A recent trip to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, North Carolina gave me dozens of ideas, which I carefully noted. The modern games are so much more than an athletic competition yet watching burly, kilt-wearing men tossing a tree called a ‘caber’ end-over-end is a favorite sight.

Historically, the games were a way to hone skills. Coming together once or twice a year gave a community a sense of camaraderie during a time of upheaval in Scotland. Skill, stamina, and determination easily kept young Highlanders ready for war or any threat to their livestock…and women. Foot races kept messengers ready should they need to spread the word of a battle. Using simple tools such as stones, hammers and the occasional sack of hay kept their back and leg muscles ready for hand-to-hand combat. Same with wrestling and the tug-o-war. All events sharpened a warrior’s body and kept him ready and able to answer the call to war. All these events were the object of periodic royal bans because they might encourage the practice of military skills, which scared whoever sat on the throne. Things changed when both Edward II and, later, Henry VIII considered the events as essential training.

Nowadays, people of Scottish descent gather all across America and in many Canadian provinces for a few days of fun and pride while wearing festive kilts and Highland dresses. Clan tents share a wealth of information, listing the many ‘septs’ included in each clan as well as books on tartans. Each clan may own several patterns. Rumor has it that the Irish gave Scotland the bagpipes…something more to research!

Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games in WA http://www.sshga.org/ July 31-Aug 1

Celtic Roots Festival in Ontario www.celticfestival.ca/ August 6-8

The Main Highland Games http://www.mainehighlandgames.org/ August 21

The Vermont Highland Games http://www.quecheescottishfestival.com/ August 28

The New Hampshire Highland Games in NH http://www.nhscot.org/. Sept. 17-19

Williamsburg Scottish Festival (Virginia) www.wsfonline.org/ Oct. 1-3

Richmond Highland Games & Celtic Festival http://www.meadowceltic.com/ Oct. 23-24

Central Florida Scottish Highland Games http://www.flascot.com/ Jan. 15-16 2011



Sometimes a special gift and an unwanted curse cannot keep destined lovers apart.

Brianna Macleod has accompanied a shipload of her guardian’s friends to a remote island off the coast of Scotland. She eludes these Highland hunters to keep her innocence…and her gift of sight. Her attitude against falling for womanly desires changes when she nearly drowns. Saved by the talons of a terrifying winged beast, she awakens—naked—in a cave, beside an unusual man.

Cursed by a vengeful witch to transform into a dragon at inopportune times, Draco MacDonald hides on this deserted island to live alone: until he plucks a servant girl from certain death. Fueled by jealousy, and tempered by fear for her safety, he succumbs to an unfamiliar desire to mate. Her kisses propel him to dare to make her his own.

Set in 1592 Scotland on the Scottish island of Staffa, the cursed hero battles a ghostly witch, a hunter set on rape, and his own growing desire for a young woman with premonitions of his death. Her kisses propel him to dare to make her his own.


Nancy Lee Badger writes fulltime and lives with her husband in Raleigh, NC. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, Celtic Heart Romance Writers, and Sisters in Crime. She also writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense as Nancy Lennea: http://www.nancylennea.com/.

Nancy’s website: http://www.nancyleebadger.com/

Nancy’s bog http://www.RescuingRomance.nancyleebadger.com/

DRAGON’S CURSE is available from Whispers Publishing at http://www.whispershome.com/ and the buy link is: http://bit.ly/93hRiM

It is also available at http://www.Amazon.com/ for Kindle


  1. Great,informative article, Nancy. Good luck and I hope an agent will be intrigued enough to look at your latest manuscript,Spellbound Highlander.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Nancy. In terms of historical romance, Scotland is my first love. We can thank Julie Garwood for that! I didn't realize that there were places in the U.S. that you could go for modern day Highland Games. I'll have to see if there's anything similar in Texas, because I'd love to experience them for myself.

  3. That looks like loads of fun....Matthew's family and mine have Scottish ancestry on each of our mothers' sides...maybe one day we'll be able to attend a Highland Game.


  4. Fun post and awesome pictures! I've always wanted attend the Highland games in my area, but have never made the trek. It's in Sept and still quite warm. I'm hoping once my varmits are bigger and can handle the heat better we can make a family trip of it. Sheesh! My hubs is portuguese and we're at the local festa every year. LOL To my way of thinking I'll be do some ancestor time. :)

    ps- I adore Julie Garwood, too! Ransom will always be my all time fav! *sigh* Brodick. What a man! LOL

  5. Welcome to the Lady Scribes, Nancy. The Highland Games look like fun, but the only ones near me (Pacific Northwest) take place at the same time as Nationals. Oh well, maybe next year.

  6. Nancy,
    Thanks for all the great links and the wonderful information on the highland games. Your book sounds wonderful. I look forward to reading it.

  7. Thanks for the wonderful comments. I enjoy going to the games and we lucked out this year at the Grandfather mountain Games. It rained friday night only. The rest of the time was hot and sunny, yet the mountain breezes kept all those wool-kilt-wearing guys comfortable.

  8. Very cool, Nancy. My father's family is Scottish and I've always wanted to do something like this, but I've never gotten the chance.

  9. It is so easy to do. There are so many places holding Scottish festivals and Highland Games this summer and fall. Everyone, no matter their heritage, should visit one.