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Tuesday, April 26, 2022



Travel The Two Realms to the Bosta Iron Age House

 Bernera, near the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Photo by Ariella Moon


Your steps will quicken when you cross the short wooden bridge that leads to the Bosta (Bostadh) Iron Age House, a must-see experience for travelers in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. As you take note of the babbling brook, and the emerald upward sloping glen dotted with daisies and buttercups, you may feel transported to a Tolkien shire.

The Bosta house is semi-subterranean, with only the tops of the double walls and the timber roof visible above ground. These were covered with sodded peat during my visit. The peat, the knowledgeable docent explained, had proven to be quite delicious to the hungry local rabbits. From some angles, the dwelling blended so well with the surrounding glen, one barely noticed it. Small details like this is why, as a novelist researching settings for The Viking Mist Great Bernera (often referred to as just Bernera) proved to be such a treasure trove.

Photo by Ariella Moon

Photo by Ariella Moon

The only door is accessed via a few stone steps that curve downward toward a very low opening with a heavy stone lintel. The design was meant to prevent wind from blowing the door open. But for my novel, I imagined the semi-subterranean structure, with its hidden-from-sight door, as excellent camouflage and defense against Viking intruders. But what if the design inadvertently blocked a Halfling on a desperate quest to find a potion stolen by the human mother he never knew?

Excerpt from The Viking Mist

He had almost missed the low, oval farmhouse, cleverly hidden behind a berm and topped with a sod roof. Had the sun’s last rays not glanced across the sheep in their hidden pen, he would have leapt past it. His sudden appearance had set the sheep crowding and bleating. Certain he had landed in the right garden next to the pen where he had seen his mother, he now waited, hoping it was her behind that door.

Shivering from nerves, he drew his cloak tightly around his body. The breeze iced, carrying the musty, metallic stench of Cold Iron. His chest tightened, and his skin beneath the serpent bracelet burned.

Author Ariella Moon. Photo by Kenzi Morison-Knox
Bernera, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Thank you for visiting the Two Realms with me! There is so much more to see, but for now I must return to writing the sequel to The Viking Mist.

Until next time, be kind and magical. Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Standing Stones: Places of Power, Pilgrimage, and Ritual


Travel The Two Realms: The Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis, 

Outer Hebrides, Scotland


Photo credit: Ariella Moon

Have you ever noticed faces in boulders or seen standing stones that resembled people? Spirits embedded in stones may appear alien, their faces distorted like a Picasso Cubist painting. There may be multiple faces and figures on a single standing stone. Some, like some of the Callanish* Stones on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, unmistakably resemble humans who, while gathered in ritual, were struck by a malevolent or accidental spell and turned to stone.

The Callanish Stones were first mentioned in print around 1680 in A Description of the Lewis by John Morisone Indweller There:


“There are great stones standing up in ranks, some two or three foot thick and 10, 12, and 15 foot high; It is left by traditione that these were a sort of men converted into stones by ane Inchanter…”


I made my first pilgrimage to the Callanish Stones years before writing The Amber Elixir (Book 1.5 in the Two Realms) and returned there in 2017. On both visits, I was so struck by the human-like appearance of some of the megaliths, that I created a subplot in the novella where Merlin’s spell turned two handmaidens of the Lady of the Lake into stone. 

The Lunar Standstill


In 2017, famed amateur archaeologist Margaret Curtis was scheduled to meet with our small tour group to discuss her findings at Callanish, which encompasses four sites. I was anxious to hear more about her theory about the Lunar Standstill, which inspired a major plot point in The Viking Mist. Alas, she was ill and unable to join us. Ms. Curtis’s photos of the Lunar Standstill at Callanish, which occurs every 18.61 years, can be seen here. The next opportunity to see this phenomenon will be in 2025. 


Ritual at the Callanish Stones


A druid friend once told me that standing stones are like acupuncture needles in the earth—they conduct energy, the universal life force known as chi. Having visited major standing stones complexes including Stonehenge, Avebury, and the Callanish Stones, as well as minor stone circles that dot the English and Scottish countryside, I have noticed that many stones feel energetically walled off—shut down.


How can you awaken the energy? Enter these sites as the ancestors during the Bronze Age might have—ritualistically. Some stone circles have two obvious Guardian Stones that you must pass between, leaving behind the mundane realm and entering the mystical. Not so at Callanish.

Photo Credit: Dr. Gail Higginbottom and Roger Clay/RCAHMS


The Callanish Stones form a Celtic cross (cruciform or dragonfly) with a central stone circle. To enter the main site as the druids might have, access it from the north, away from the car park and visitor center. With this approach, you walk between two rows of standing stones that form a long avenue. (Imagine a cathedral’s nave.) By the time you reach the stone circle with its imposing central stone and cairn, you will have mentally and physically transitioned from the ordinary to the non-ordinary realm.

Photo Credit: Ariella Moon




Like most pilgrimages, the journey to the Callanish Stones is, for most, long. First you have to reach Ullapool on mainland Scotland, then take 2-hour, 45-minute ferry ride (Climb to the top, front room for comfortable seats and a spellbinding view!) to Stornoway, then a 12 mile drive. Or travel to Uist on the Isle of Skye and ferry to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris, and then drive north. Both ferry services accept foot passengers and vehicles. As always when you travel the Two Realms, the journey is well worth your time.



*Historic Scotland uses a Gaelic spelling, Calanais.

Next Tuesday we travel to Bernera to discover an Iron Age House. 

Until then, stay kind and magical.

Copyright 2022 Ariella Moon

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Red Bard and the Loch Ness Monster

                         Travel The Two Realms, Part Three
                                       Loch Ness, Scotland


Loch Ness, Scotland

The ruins of Urquhart Castle overlook the blue-gray waters of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, located about twenty-three miles southwest of Inverness. Reports of a monster living in the great depths of the freshwater loch have surfaced from ancient times until as recently as April 7, 2022 (Monster Sightings Register). 

Saint Columba and Nessie

Even the Irish monk Saint Columba, best known for Celtic Christianity, the isle of Iona, and having been found guilty by the High King of illegally copying a religious text, claimed in 562 AD to have encountered the water beast. While staying near the mouth of the River Ness, Columba heard rumors of the monster. So he directed a follower to swim into the river. According to Columba, when the monster appeared, he banished the creature to Loch Ness.

Alas, when I visited the famed site, “Nessie” was nowhere to be found, except as brightly colored toys in the Nessie Shop at the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. At the time, I had little thought of including the famed loch, or its monster, in my Two Realms fantasy book series.

Years later I realized Loch Ness, geographically and historically, was an ideal fit for my fictional Scottish landscape. So I gave “Nessie” a fresh twist. But what truly clinched my decision to feature Loch Ness monster in The Viking Mist was a historical figure named “The Red Bard.”


As William D. McEachern describes in his book, Caledonia: A Song of Scotland, a dispute in the 1400s over ownership of Urquhart Castle eventually led the rightful, but impoverished castle owner, the Earl of Huntly, to lease the castle to Sir Duncan Grant of Freuchie. Upon Grant's death, the castle was bequeathed to his grandson, John "the Red Bard," who returned the castle to its past glory, "and ran the estates efficiently and with justice."

No writer could pass up a great name like the Red Bard. So I created  a contentious fictional backstory between my characters' ancestors and the prior owners of Urquhart Castle. 

Tensions spike when the Thaness of Thorburn finds herself not only on enemy land, but face-to-face with the famed monster of Loch Ness.

            KINDLE            KOBO

Should you find yourself traveling the Two Realms, venture to Loch Ness and drink in its beauty. Who knows? You may spot something unusual in the water!

In next Tuesday's Travel The Two Realms, we will explore the mystical Callanish Stones (Gaelic: Calanais) on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Meanwhile, you can visit The Two Realms on my Pinterest board.

Until then, stay kind and magical.


Copyright 2022 Ariella Moon

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Happy National Tartan Day!


Cameron Tartan,
Crown Copyright, Scottish Register of Tartans

April 6 is National Tartan Day in North America. But I wanted to include fans in the UK with a special Kindle Countdown Sale. After all, the Two Realms series takes place in medieval England and Scotland, and Fairy.

UK lovers of fantasy, shape-shifters, Arthurian legends, fairies, and strong heroines can find The Beltane Escape Kindle Countdown HERE until April 9, 2022. 

But National Tartan Day is celebrated in North America. So in recognition of my Scottish heritage, I featured (above) the ancient Clan Cameron tartan (my mother's clan).

The Scots are great storytellers. My mother was a wonderful writer. As a child, I loved to sit behind her as she tapped away on her typewriter, spinning a new novel or crafting her African memoir. What a satisfying sound when she pulled a finished page from her ancient Corona. 

Here's to Scots everywhere, and to magical lands and legends. And if you'd like to binge on a series inspired by the Motherland, I invite you to explore The Beltane EscapeThe Amber Elixir, and The Viking Mist.

Make your mum proud!

Happy reading, 


Copyright 2022 by Ariella Moon

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

The Paranormal Cave Guardians of Iona

                                                    Travel The Two Realms: Iona, Scotland

Part Two

The chilly June morning promised rain as my daughter and I joined a few of our fellow travellers and our guide Scot to the landing where the sailboat Birthe Marie and Captain Mark awaited us. While sailing around Iona, we pulled into a quiet cove, disturbing a colony of seals resting on a narrow island. A few disappeared into the water as we approached. A delightful young seal kept a consistent distance from us as it swam in a half-circle around the boat, popping up here and there to check on us.

Captain Mark of the
Birthe Marie


After tea and shortbread thins to warm us, we reversed course. Now heading against the wind, Captain Mark switched from sail to motor to propel us through the choppy blue-gray, green-tinged waves.
Eyeing the coast, a sinister sight skipped my pulse. Where two rocky hills almost met, stood the blackest of black caves. The downward point of a giant boulder wedged between the two hills stabbed the cave opening. Malevolent eyes set in a circular, seemingly disembodied face, stared at us from the cave’s dark maw. 
Not a human face. Not an animal face. Something else.
What is it? I wondered, my knuckles whitening as I tightened my grip on the ship rail.

I had to find a way to include this frightening sight in The Viking Mist. Here is a brief excerpt from the published novel:

Barely visible in the mist-dimmed light, and hunched in the depression between two rocky peaks, nestled the blackest of black caves. ’Tis as I remember, Disa thought when she spied the long, narrow boulder wedged into the cave’s roof; its distinctive downward point, as pale and sharp as a dragon’s fang, impaled the darkness just inside the hollow’s inky maw.

Beneath the stone tooth, two glowing amber eyes popped open, piercing the impenetrable gloom.

Disa stiffened and held her breath.

The disembodied orbs scanned the calm sea within the island ring. Then, as if sensing her human presence, the predatory eyes narrowed and searched beyond the inner waters, halting to fasten their malevolent gaze upon her.

In the fixedness of that stare, the monster and years faded, and as though bewitched, Disa saw instead the half mad glare of the Norse slaver and the smear of blood across the man’s knuckles when he grabbed her wrist and little Bree’s arm. Fear stole the strength from Disa’s limbs, and the oars clattered at her feet as a silent scream rose from her core.

                         AMAZON KINDLE                 KOBO

As we continued back to Iona, Captain Mark steered us into another quiet cove, where we encountered a giant boulder wedged between two cliffs. To the right of the gap, a naturally formed basalt staircase named "the Fairy Stairs," rises to nowhere. Magic is all around us!

In next Tuesday's Travel The Two Realms, we will explore Scotland's Loch Ness. Meanwhile, you can visit The Two Realms on my Pinterest board.

Until next week, stay kind and magical.
Copyright March 2022 by Ariella Moon