IWSG and A to Z Challenge: My Bucket List! – Past, Present, and Future: A is for Ancestral Castles

Today’s the day for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) where, on the first Wednesday of every month, writers get together to share their insecurities and offer encouragement. The IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

For me, insecurities come and go, but the one that seems to be hanging around the most right now, as I work on the third book in the Trouble series, is: What if this book doesn’t live up to the first two books in the series? I’ve had people tell me they love the series so far (which I love hearing!), and sometimes I worry that maybe future stories won’t be as successful. But I keep telling myself there’s no way to answer that question until I get the book done, so I need to push those worries aside and keep on writing.


Now on to the A to Z Challenge!

I’m taking the long way around with A to Z this year. My plan is to post every couple of weeks, so I will have time to visit other blogs in between and still have time to write.


A is for – Ancestral Castles

I had always wanted to go to Scotland. My heritage, and that of my late husband, both lie in that beautiful isle. Her wild, purple-heathered moors, centuries-old castles, and rugged Highlands still call to me, and the sound of bagpipes is music to my soul. Twenty-five years ago this summer, we visited Scotland and went in search of our ancestral castles.

Clan MacLachlan hails from the lands of Strathlachlan on Loch Fyne in the county of Argyll on the west coast of Scotland. It’s one of the oldest Scottish Highland clans. According to clan history, the clan is descended from Lachlan Mor, who lived on Loch Fyne in the late 13th century. Old Castle Lachlan dates back to that time. The MacLachlans were Jacobites, whose goal was to restore the Stuart line to the throne of England and Scotland. According to the Old Lachlan Castle website (http://www.oldcastlelachlan.com/about/clan-maclachlan):

“Lachlan, the seventeenth chief of Clan Maclachlan, supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and died leading the clan at the battle of Culloden in 1746. Following the defeat a Government ship is believed to have sailed up Loch Fyne and shelled Castle Lachlan, forcing the chief’s family to abandon it.”

When we visited, the castle was a pensive ruin, overgrown with grass, trees, and vines. I loved imagining what it must have looked like in its heyday, the stories it could tell.







My family traces back to Robert the Bruce, seventh lord of Annandale, who was crowned King Robert I of Scotland in 1306. In the war for Scottish independence, he and his forces defeated the English at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Clan Bruce lands lie in the Lowlands of Scotland in the county of Dumfries and Galloway. One of the seats of the lords of Annandale was Lochmaben Castle, originally built in the mid-twelfth century by the first Robert Bruce as an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. Scottish history describes the castle this way (http://www.castlesfortsbattles.co.uk/dumfries_galloway/lochmaben_castle.html):

“Once a mighty Royal fortress at the forefront of the Wars for Independence, Lochmaben Castle changed hands between English and Scottish forces over a dozen times as the fortunes of each side ebbed and flowed.”

The castle ultimately fell after being bombarded by the English in a two-day siege in 1588. A few of the walls still stood when we were there, a tribute to the stubbornness and indomitable spirit of the Scots.







Our trip around Scotland was amazing, full of adventure, discovery, laughter, and love. Scotland is a truly magical place, so it’s not surprising that her National Animal is the Unicorn. Alas, I didn’t see any while I was there, but maybe next time…


And now for the Writing Update:

I added almost 6,000 words to my WIP, Trouble Times Three, during the month of March. That’s way more than I’ve been accomplishing, so I’m excited about my progress! Crossing my fingers I can keep it up!


Anyone else have any bucket list items beginning with A?


© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2020. All rights reserved.

find the cost of your paper

Shuffle An Array

Today’s exercise comes to us from Leetcode via Reddit:

Given an array consisting of 2n elements in the form
[x1,x2,…,xn,y1,y2,…,yn], return the array in the form [x1,y1,x2,y2,…,xn,yn].

The Reddit poster claims to be new to Scheme and functional programming, and was thinking of a solution using length and list-ref, but couldn’t solve the problem.

Your task is to show the student how to solve the problem. When you are
finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

Blog Tour Review: Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather

Haunting the Deep (How to Hang a Witch, #2) by Adriana Mather

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Series: How to Hang a Witch, #2
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Source: Publisher

The Titanic meets the delicious horror of Ransom Riggs and the sass of Mean Girls in this follow-up to the #1 New York Times bestseller How to Hang a Witch, in which a contemporary teen finds herself a passenger on the famous “ship of dreams”—a story made all the more fascinating because the author’s own relatives survived the doomed voyage.

Samantha Mather knew her family’s connection to the infamous Salem Witch Trials might pose obstacles to an active social life. But having survived one curse, she never thought she’d find herself at the center of a new one. 

This time, Sam is having recurring dreams about the Titanic . . . where she’s been walking the deck with first-class passengers, like her aunt and uncle. Meanwhile, in Sam’s waking life, strange missives from the Titanic have been finding their way to her, along with haunting visions of people who went down with the ship. 

Ultimately, Sam and the Descendants, along with some help from heartthrob Elijah, must unravel who is behind the spell that is drawing her ever further into the dream ship . . . and closer to sharing the same grim fate as its ghostly passengers.

Haunting the Deep is the follow up to How to Hang a Witch which follows Sam on another ghostly mission to break a spell that could quite possibly send Sam to watery grave. Anything and everything Titanic related intrigues me and the fact that this book follows Sam as she tries to navigate the mysterious workings that kept luring her onto the Titanic was just as spellbinding. Mather continues to impress by magically weaving a fascinating tale which was inspired by her own relatives surviving the voyage.

This book kept me immersed in its wonderfully woven mystery and never let go. I couldn’t put this book down no matter how many times I knew I needed to get some sleep before work. I couldn’t be more satisfied with how everything unfolded in this book. It was so great to live and experience with these characters. Fans of How to Hang a Witch will be thrilled that this book is just as captivating.

Haunting the Deep is a great follow up to How to Hang a Witch. The history, the magic, and yes the ghosts are just as enchanting. I would recommend this book to readers of all ages! It’s just that impressive!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Check out the book trailer!

Traveling West Virginia – Hawks Nest – New River Gorge Trail

We don’t do as much traveling as we used to. But we recently took a day trip to southern West Virginia.

Our first stop was Hawks Nest State Park. If you have traveled there before, you know where they get the expression half the fun is getting there – that is unless you are prone to motion sickness. If you are, then I would advise you to sit in the front seat of the car.

We have been to Hawks Nest many times, but this is the first time we ever rode the tram down to the river.

We wanted to ride the jet boats, but they were all booked up.

 So we did the next item on our list. We went on a hike. My husband has a bad knee, so he didn’t go with my son and me. He loves to talk, so he stayed and talked to the tram guys.

The hike was beautiful – a path filled with large rocks, rhododendron, foot bridges, caves, snakes . . .

Of course, my son had to climb up onto the first big rock we came to. Boys will be boys.

And speaking of snakes. This is where I encountered a baby snake wriggling under my shoe. I didn’t stay long enough to see what kind he was, but he wasn’t a black snake.

On the way back down the trail on this neat little foot bridge.

Our next stop was at a trail we had never walked on before. You drive over the New River Gorge Bridge, which is an experience I never tire of, and then travel a local road to a set of trails that take you to a great place for a photo op of the bridge.

I never took any pictures along the trail because we were in a hurry. We even sprinted in a few places. I never walked a trail so fast in my life. It was late and given the length of the trail we were going to be walking back in the dark. Thank goodness for cell phone flash lights!

The first mile and 3/4 was a fairly easy walk. But the last 1/4 mile was a heavy breather. This is approaching the end of the trail. And believe me when I tell you the view was well worth the huffing and puffing. 

This was as far out as I would venture. My son said that I couldn’t fall off unless I just walked off the edge. I said different — You could trip. You could slide. You could get woozy. So I played it safe.

We still got some great pictures. My son even took a few selfies.

After enjoying the view and taking a bunch of pictures, we started back. And yes, it was in the dark. I kept imagining encounters with wild animals, but none appeared.

My son said, “If we see Big Foot, shine the light while I take the picture.”
I told him, “Please make it a clear picture.”
For some reason all the pics people take of Big Foot are blurry. 😊

Press this link to a list of trails in the area. I would like to try them all out. The name of the trail we took is the Long Point Trail.

 Hope you enjoyed this Traveling West Virginia.

Have you ever been to either of these places?

If not, I hope you get to visit some day.