Traveling to Scotland – Part I

About a month ago my wife and I traveled to Scotland for about a week. I was looking forward to getting away and visiting a country I had never seen before. I had read a couple of travel books, a website or two, and looked through several travel websites. I sort of knew what to expect – a country with big cities as well as small cities. A country known for it’s Scotch, for it’s history, and for it’s Loch Ness Monster. A country known for it’s clans, for it’s kilts, for it’s sheep, and for it’s mountains, and stone formations. And as I learned for very good shortbread biscuits and a good rail system as well. One other thing I knew about Scotland – they drive on the left side of the road, and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. Both opposite of the United States, where I have been driving for several decades.

We flew into Edinburgh and took a train to St. Andrews. The home of golf and this year the home to The Open Championship. The weather was typical for Scotland – which means it drizzled and rained. But, it didn’t matter – we were in Scotland on vacation. The Old Course Hotel was quite nice with a mix of new and old. We didn’t stay but after a short walk around town and the course, we had a nice relaxing tea looking out over the course. The train was delightful and rolling along through the countryside was a great way to travel and see the country. We rode along the coast and watched the small farms go past. The mountains, the hills, the green fields, and the sheep. All of which I was to learn where plentiful in Scotland. 

 We spent Friday night in Aberdeen near the airport so that in the morning it would be a quick walk to pick up our rental car. Yes, this was the start of a two day adventure behind the wheel of a car. The best way to describe driving in Scotland for me was – awkward. But, I got used to it and just had to keep telling myself – turn right, stay left. It was something we joked about doing, but I really enjoyed it. Mostly. And got used to it rather quickly. And even my wife – not a great passenger – said I did well. Saturday was to be “Gordon” day and it turned out to be so much more. And the weather turned out to be very un-Scottish – warm and sunny.

In the morning we went to visit the Gordon Highlander museum, as they are known for their military and strategic prowess. It was amazing to see the uniforms from Napoleon’s days and from all of the wars since. It was interesting to learn more about the history of the Clan. Everyone was so incredibly nice and helpful – especially Jeffrey Gordon (not my son). Words and sayings such as “When you burn our kilt you roast our pride. You can take away the tartan but you cannot quench the spirit of the Gordons.”

  

From there we drove to Glenfiddich (pronounced Glenfidick) Distillery which I really enjoyed. We did a two and half hour tour of the distillery and I was surprised to find that they still do a lot of things in the traditional ways. Something a lot of distilleries don’t do as much. One interesting note is that while it was formed by the Grant family, the Gordon’s married into the family and have been a large part of the success and growth of the distillery. It was a Gordon who started the “Single Malt” category of scotch. And it was a Gordon who took the scotch to the world. At the end of the tour we got to not just sample different barrels of 15 year old scotch, but got to blend our own.

A few notes about the distillery – they go through 400 tons of barley in a day. The land around the distillery was purchased specifically because of the fresh spring that ran through it. They use American oak – bourbon barrels and Spanish Sherry barrels.  Both of which give the scotch a very distinctive taste. And blending the different barrels makes for a very unique taste. I was also honored to share the tour with a descendent of the Grant family, and since the next day was my birthday he gave me his blended scotch.

   
 

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Another Cutter – Exciting News

I am very excited to announce that we have finalized the dates for book two. ANOTHER CUTTER will be released in the month of May.

PLEASE SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS!!
The cover will be released on May 13th, the book on May 20th, and a blog tour from June 29th to July 3rd. Claire Allmendinger and Bare Naked Words will be hosting and managing these for the bloggers.  I will also be making book 1 CUTTER available for review.  And both Robert and I will be available for interviews.

Synopsis:

Fortune, family, love…

Secrets, hidden pasts, dangerous liaisons…

How much would you risk to protect the people you care about the most?

Self-made billionaire Robert Cutter made his money investing in struggling companies. When one of his most valued and trusted employees begins to act erratically it pulls Robert into a swirl of dangerous situations. Things escalate quickly and not only put his life in danger, but that of his family and close friends. 

Robert now has the life and the family he never imagined for himself. He has to choose between protecting his immediate family, and those he considers “family”. As the past and secrets are revealed Robert finds himself questioning things at his very core – his decision making.
And protecting his family may just mean losing the family he never knew he had.
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Cover Reveal
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The Shore

This past Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day. The sun was shining the clouds were a nice white fluffy mix. We hemmed and hawed about what to do. Garden work or relax and enjoy the gift. We opted to relax. 

My wife recently got a convertible and we have been waiting for just such a day to drop the top and go for a ride. Here in New Jersey we don’t go to the beach. We go “down the shore”. And even though the forecasters said it would be chilly and cloudy we went. A day at the shore beats any other day. 

Driving down the highway, hair blowing across my head – not enough hair to blow through it – felt rejuvenating. So refreshing. Even when we got stuck in traffic at one of the few lights it didn’t matter. The sun was shining and oh so relaxing. 

Of course everyone else had the same idea so there was no place to park. We had intended on just grabbing a bite and walking around Cape May. But instead did the next best thing. We drove to the lighthouse. Parked and walked out onto the beach. 

I guess for April it was crowded. Ok not really. There was about 20 other people around us. But we didn’t notice. Christine took a nap while I sat down near the water enjoying the peace and serenity of the crashing waves. And a good Cuban cigar I bought in Scotland. 

I looked back over my right shoulder and then she stood. The lighthouse. All white with the red top. There is something about this place that relaxes me. Not a little bit. But a lot. I can sit and watch the waves roll in. The ducks float by. The occasional cruise ship far off on the horizon. The sun shimmering off the blue water. 

The joyful shouts of the kids chasing the waves lost in the peacefulness. Even the seagulls cries add to the feelings. My mind wanders to my book and I jot down some thoughts. It was a perfect way to spend a sunny day in April. 

    

New Year 2015

Now that it is February I decided that I should break the mold and write a blog about the new year. We all read blogs and posts about people setting New Year’s resolutions – to eat healthier, work out more, stop smoking, or whatever they think will make them happier. And we always hear about people who break their resolutions by February. So, I figured I would reverse it and make my resolutions in February.

There is just one problem – I don’t do resolutions exactly. Yes, this year I am going to try to eat healthier. Have a salad or two, maybe skip the chips for a healthier snack. But, my biggest resolution is to make this year a better year than last year. Which is going to be very hard to do because last year was monumental.

Looking back at 2014 there were just a few “small” things, but they have changed my life. The most obvious was having my novel published and getting good reviews. I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely amazing it is to have someone say “hey, I read your book and really enjoyed it”. I also finished my second book last year. Hopefully to have it published by Memorial Day this year.

I also started a new job, which has carried it’s own challenges. But, what job doesn’t come with challenges? Except for being a Wal-Mart greeter which was plan b. Just kidding honey!! But the new job has been really enjoyable and I love working in the city again. Even if it has a longer commute. Every job has it’s pro’s and con’s and this one does also. But, so far I am still smiling.

One of the other things we are doing this year is celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. And we have already started it off right. With a trip to Disney World. Shocking I know right, since as you know we go fairly often. But, this one was a little different – because the kids came with us. And that always make the trip a little more fun.

Hard to still call them kids when my 16 year old is taller than I am. Just let’s me know how much I appreciate my daughter not being taller than me also. But, they are awesome and we always have so much fun with them. Who else could get me to ride Rocking Roller coaster twice in a row, or Space Mountain three times in a row. Just because we could. For a guy who isn’t a huge roller coaster fan, I still enjoyed every minute of it.

So – how do I make this year more than last year? Simple. I focus on my happiness. And accepting those things which make me happy. Or more importantly focusing on those things which make me happy. I think some times we get so caught up in the stressors in our lives, the small and the big issues that we forget to do that. To focus on those things which make us happy. Then maybe we won’t spend as much time on the challenges.

I have no idea what the next eleven months will bring. If you asked me in February 2014 I would not have said – I will have a book published and sold and have a new job. But that’s what the year brought. So whatever 2015 brings my way I will accept it and if it’s a challenge then I will determine to make it something I can be happy about.

I know it’s a month late… but, I wish you all the best. A year full of joy’s, happiness, good health, smiles, and the strength to make the tears less painful. Happy New Year world… bring it on!!!

Book Release – WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE By Victoria L. James & LJ Stock

Please join me in celebrating the release of WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE by Victoria L. James and LJ Stock.

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Book: Without Consequence

Author: Victoria L. James and LJ Stock

Genre: Contemporary M/C Romance

Synopsis:

There are two kinds of prison sentence that try to break us: the ones served behind iron bars and the ones served through a lifetime of guilt. Some people are handed just one. The unfortunate are given both.

Drew Tucker, despite his formidable reputation, was a man shrouded in darkness who had been dealt every kind of sentence known to man. His only path of survival was to fight and conquer. After five years of solitude, with nothing to keep him company but old ghosts and relentless demons, Drew was finally out, and he had a plan in mind to reign supreme once more.

But everything had changed since he’d left the small town of Babylon, Texas, and where he once fit into the world around him, he now felt misguided, misplaced and misunderstood. Freedom wasn’t free anymore and it sure as hell didn’t come cheap.

That only got worse when he crossed paths with Ayda Hanagan. Legal guardian of her teenage brother, over worked, underpaid and clinging onto sanity by the skin of her teeth, Ayda should have been easier for Drew to beat down and manipulate. She should have been easier to keep quiet. But, as with everything in his life since he got released, nothing seemed to make any damn sense, and the walls were caving in on Drew now more than ever before.

Determined to stay on the road he was born to travel, he was willing to fight whoever got in his way or blocked his path to the top. Even the blue-eyed blonde who seemed to have more mouth than sense. His actions were about to shake up the whole town again, and Drew didn’t care whether that came with or without consequences, or what the hell that meant for the likes of Ayda Hanagan.

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Buy The Book

Amazon.com – http://amzn.to/136EkbK

Amazon.co.uk – http://amzn.to/1wxFtpF

Goodreads Book Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23512238-without-consequence?ac=1

Author Bio: 

L.J. Stock on Victoria L. James ~ What can I say about Victoria L. James? Loads actually, she’s an amazingly talented author and I had the absolute distinct pleasure of writing with her. I also call her a friend. When we first met, we bonded instantly over our love of music, Victoria tends to be as eclectic as I am with her tastes. She finds stories in lyrics and feels the moods in the melodies.

When we first started writing together, I’ll admit I was intimidated. Here is this woman with a huge passion for putting words onto paper and painting pictures so clearly that you are completely immersed in them. How was I going to keep up with that? I’m not sure I ever did, but over time we’ve built up a repertoire. We bounce off one another and bring our characters to the forefront and hope that the interactions are as real as they appear for us.

On a more personal note, Victoria is bright, smart, kind, intelligent, funny, caring and witty. She can see so much in the world around her and always has time for anyone. Victoria lives in sunny ole Yorkshire with her family and her cats – had to mention them – and can normally be found in the playground of her imagination, listening to the Foo Fighters.

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A Cruise to Remember

As you know, my wife and are big Disney fans and would just as soon go for a long weekend or more than just about anywhere. We are Disney Vacation Club members – sort of a timeshare concept, but much better – so we can go as often as we like. And we do. This past weekend we took our third Disney cruise. They have all been great four-day cruises in true Disney style, but this one will definitely be remembered.

First, the bad part of the trip – it was quite windy on Saturday, and the boat was rocking a lot more than usual. Considering it was the Dream, one of the larger boats that is saying something. It wasn’t enough to make me nauseous, but my wife was glad she had her sea-sickness patch. Mostly it was just a light rock, but several times there was a lot of sway and pushed me to one side or the other.

Disney had decorated the entire ship for Christmas and as expected by Disney, it was amazing. The characters all had Christmas outfits on, and there was Christmas music mixed in with the normal Disney classics. Plus there were special events – like Santa arriving on board and making it snow. Yes, only Disney would make it snow inside of the ship.

Since it is a four-day cruise, one day is at Nassau and one day at Disney’s private Island Castaway Cay. There are no hotels there, and it is an extension of the cruise ship. But, done to the Disney extreme which means there is a place for small children, a family beach, and even an adults only beach. There are plenty of activities for people of all ages including bikes to rent, tubes, stingray feeding, boats to rent, and para-sailing. Just to mention a few.

The food and the service is also up to Disney standards and that is why we are such Disney fans. Because we always know the service, the food, and the entertainment will be amazing. This cruise did not disappoint, and in case you are thinking it’s just for kids – the whiskey tasting (we had to miss) the tequila tasting (we did not miss), or the champagne cocktail tasting (also missed) might change your mind.

But, the thing that made this cruise more memorable for me was the people. A couple of months ago my wife found a group of people on Facebook all going on the same cruise. So, we joined the cruise and interacted with these folks. They all seemed nice, and we did something called a “fish extender” group.

Basically you put up a stocking outside of your door and everyone exchanges small gifts. Each group – I think there were three – had about 15 families in them. So you give 15 gifts – knowing the ages and special likes or dislikes – and get fifteen back. Sounds like a nice idea, especially around Christmas. And it was a lot of fun exchanging the gifts and sneaking over to rooms to drop them off.

But, the really fun part of joining this group was eventually meeting the people. At first, it’s just people on Facebook and you can look at their photos, or read about them. But that doesn’t really tell you who they are. And since it is such a large cruise ship, out of the many people – I don’t know, a hundred or more – in the group, you don’t really expect to meet them or realize what great people they are.

We met people from Kentucky, Nebraska, California, Manchester in the UK, and many other places around the country. We met people who had just gotten married the week before, people on their first cruise, and people who were continuing on to Disney afterwards. People with kids and people without – or at least not on this trip. One who was in a wheelchair and two others who had to use scooters to get around.

On Sunday, Disney has a 5k they run on the private island. It’s not a race although some do run it. I had plans to power walk as I did the last time we were there. But, instead I took it easy and ended up walking with an amazing group of ladies. We didn’t break the land speed records, although Kim tried with her scooter. But, we all finished. Including wheelchair bound Rhian who doesn’t let a wheelchair slow her down.

She has the spirit, good nature, and energy of anyone else I know. And her new husband Seamus is a good man. Although he did not seem to complain too much when I grabbed her wheelchair and took off running. We were both too busy laughing and flying with arms outstretched to care. And at the end of the race, her strong will got her out of the chair so she could put Seamus in it and push him across.

Sandwiched between Scooter Kim, Jalene, Kimmie, Dol, Rhian, and Seamus was the only way to cross that finish line. The Disney cast members were cheering us on also, and handed us each our medals. They may have been plastic, but they were pure gold to me. And will always remind me of this great group of strong, fun, people.

Thank you Disney for a great cruise!!!

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Release Day Blitz – REDEMPTION CREEK by Abbie St. Claire

Please join me in celebrating the release of REDEMPTION CREEK by Abbie St. Claire!!!

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Synopsis:

Never underestimate the power of a woman…

Money can’t buy every girl in town…

Nice guys finish last…sometimes.

Between trying to sell the company and fixing his private life, Dane Lawrence underestimates Wrenn’s stubborn streak and seeks out the help of his grandfather. Little does he know, he’s being seriously played, but by whom?

Wrenn fights her attackers with everything she’s got and she’s grateful that Stephan taught her to shoot, but there were bullets that even she didn’t see coming.

When the nightmare’s return, Wrenn’s physical health in in serious danger. Dane whisks her off to France to save her from herself. Can Wrenn finally put the pieces of her life together and find the redemption she deserves?

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Author Bio: 

I’ve spent many years crafting stories in my brain. Finally, after the encouragement from those that love and support me the most, I put my first story out by self-publishing in 2013.

That first milestone created a writing monster in me that couldn’t be stopped and filled a void I cannot explain. Each story is a true gift from my heart and a sacrifice from my soul, since I find it difficult to let the characters go.

At home in Texas, my husband and I share our life with children that mean the world to us and include a couple of fur babies. When we aren’t busy watching sports and betting on the game, we are entertaining with friends.

I do have a writing cave, but honestly, most of my work comes from the kitchen, the heartbeat of any home. Since noise doesn’t disturb me too much when writing, I can write and keep the pulse on the family at the same time. And… Possibly enjoy my favorite, sinful treat… Cookie dough!

The writer-reader world is my lifeline. I’m addicted and each time I get a message from a reader, I’m thrilled. There’s quite a few stories planned for the next several months. I’m hoping the readers fall in love with my next series, The Creek Series. A story that is guaranteed to bring out all the emotions.

Social Links: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abbie.stclaire

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorabbiestclaire

Website: www.abbiestclaire.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/abbiestclaire

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Abbie-St.-Claire/e/B00JQGICZY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/AbbieStC

Buy Links:

Amazon.com – http://amzn.to/1waRcps

Amazon.co.uk – http://amzn.to/1stGJEU

Other Books in the Series:

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Broken Creek  (Book 1)– OUT NOW!

**FREE 24/25TH NOVEMBER**

Amazon.com – http://amzn.to/101vXwr

Amazon.co.uk – http://amzn.to/1pg8pK8

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Forgiveness Creek (Book 2) OUT NOW!

Amazon.com – http://amzn.to/1ryHUz2

Amazon.co.uk – http://amzn.to/1stGGZZ

Giveaway:   http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/95cb028290/