At the end of The Last Sunset I wrote that the story was conceived amongst the empty glens and ruined townships of Lochaber. The events of the 18th and 19th centuries still scar this land. In fact there are glens within ten miles of Fort William where a person can walk all day and not see another living soul. Once heavily populated, these places have now been left to the wind and heather. The past hangs heavy here, and occasionally - just occasionally - moments from those days can be sensed. A brief scent of peat smoke in a ruined settlement. The tang of manure amidst the green swathes of a shieling that haven't seen cattle in two hundred years. Sam's tale from Gettysburg, as told in The Last Sunset, is closely based on a story told to me by a rational, well educated woman, who watched the spectres of ragged clansmen materialise around her campfire by the shores of a remote loch some years ago. On the eve of publication I thought it might be an idea to contact this good lady and let her know what had become of her story. A few clicks on Facebook, and we were in touch again for the first time in years. She was not only delighted about the book's publication, but retold the tale:
7. The Real Magic
When invited to contribute to the 7 Blogs series, I considered memories, humorous anecdotes, and any number of other ideas. What came to me instead was a passage from the novel I’m currently writing. As Christmas Eve is nearly upon us, it seems especially apropos. I hope it touches you.
"He reached down to the bottom of the bed and felt around in the darkness until he encountered the filled stocking he knew his father had left there. Then he reached over to his brother's side of the bed and located his stocking, reassuring himself that one was no bigger than the other.
He knew what was in there. The sole bulged with the inevitable apple and orange. In the heel he could make out the unmistakable shape of a pink sugar mouse, that little jaw breaker which only seemed to appear in the shops at this time of year. There would be a handkerchief, or something equally useless, then something that felt like a pencil case, or perhaps one of the packets of Edinburgh rock his mother had brought with her on her last trip home from the hospital. At the top of the stocking would be the usual chocolate hollow Santa Claus.
Individually there wasn't a lot there on which to base the special magic of Christmas Eve. Collectively the filled stocking was the manifestation of the season, a little sack of wondrous delights that had materialised out of the darkness of the night before Christmas. He knew the only way to preserve the magic was to leave the stocking untouched. He knew the true essence of Christmas lay in its anticipation. Somewhere in the precious darkness of Christmas Eve, when the stocking at the bottom of the bed had not yet been explored, and the presents under the tree had still to be opened. When the carol singers still sang about the glorious imminence of Christ's birth, before he had begun his journey to the cross.
Somewhere in there lay the real magic of Christmas."
Bestselling Author Bob Atkinson writes time-travel/alternate reality novels set in the magical Scottish Highlands he calls home. His first two books, The Last Sunset and its sequel Red Sky in the Morning, predict a very different America, had the Scots beaten off the English in a great deciding battle.
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Bestselling Author Bob Atkinson lives in the wilds of Scotland where he weaves tales as tall as the standing stones.