Happy 3rd Blogiversary To Me!

Pic courtesy of littlebcakes.com

Pic courtesy of littlebcakes.com


It is 3 years to the day since I published my 1st blog post. Woo hoo! *stuffs face with cake* *chokes* *swigs champagne to wash it down*

Right, now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time for my usual ‘what have I achieved in this last year of blogging and writing’ bit. GROAN – long-suffering hubby and everyone else

Oh shush, you lot. I’ll rattle through the list, and get back to posting cute cat pictures asap. Number 1 definitely has to be…

I kept blogging! And writing!
It turned out to be a much busier year than expected. Mum and I sold the house I grew up in (I inherited my Dad’s share), and hubby and I helped Mum move into a lovely bungalow. From my share of the house sale, hubby and I were able to undertake some major renovations to our house. All this took up most of the summer. Then, in the autumn, I unexpectedly got not one, but two promotions at work. Eek!
The promotions would have been no problem…except because not much had been happening at work prior to this, I had undertaken two new writing-related projects in September, so suddenly everything was happening at once. Aarrgh! In the face of all this, I’m delighted I kept up my blog, and my short story writing. Although in all fairness, the latter was helped by one of the aforementioned projects, namely, me joining…

Falkirk Writers’ Circle
This turned out to be a great idea. The Circle has a busy programme of events, so I’ve attended workshops, read my work aloud, written new stuff, and will even have a chance to perform some of my work in front of an audience during a Words and Music evening in May. The latter is part of the Falkirk Tryst, an Arts Festival which takes place every year. The music part is supplied by a local folk band.

On the subject of those writing-related projects I undertook, the other one was me deciding to do my…

Open University Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing
I’m nearing the end of my current course, as I write this post. I have enjoyed it – but I think I may miss out next year and resume my studies in a year’s time. Work, and the Writers’ Circle, is making fitting in studying difficult, and to be honest I’d rather concentrate on those first two for now.

And finally…

Published work
Short story ‘Cu-sielge Dubh’ in The Sirens Call eZine (Issue #22 Supernatural Horror).
An article in Divine Magazine, an LGBTQ publication, on a topic that’s close to home for me.
I’ve been featured on the Flash Fiction Podcast ‘No Extra Words’, with my story The House.
I have also, through my work with Falkirk Writers’ Circle, had three short stories published in the local newspaper, The Falkirk Herald.

So all in all, not a bad year! In the coming year, I intend to:

Keep blogging, and publishing short fiction on my blog (of course!)

Continue working with Falkirk Writers’ Circle

Keep submitting stories to magazines and anthologies

And of course, keep posting cute kitty pics! I promised you some, didn’t I? Here they are:

Thanks and big hugs to all my readers!

Karen xx

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3 Years Of Blogging!

Gosh, it’s 3 years since I published my 1st blog post! I can still remember my finger hovering over that ‘publish’ button, wondering if anyone would be remotely interested in my ramblings. To my astonishment, many of you were, and I found a community where I got encouragement, help, and advice – and made many wonderful friends. Some of you I’ve now met in person! Big thanks to all my readers, across all the social media platforms I pester you on. 😀
For those of you who haven’t known me since the beginning, here’s the story of why I started blogging, and writing ‘seriously’ (whatever that means 😉 ).

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Well I’ve finally done it! Set up this blog, that is. So what will I be writing about? My life, I guess. Trying to be a ‘career woman’ (ugh), a wife, a friend, read a lot, keep fit, go to gigs and shows, travel, and now write as well?! Obviously I’m crazy.

I also write fiction. That will probably appear on here at some point in the future.

I’ve used the words “light and dark and funny and serious” in the tag line for my blog, because I think my writing, like me, will be a mixture of all of these. Be warned, there probably will be funny pictures of my cats. Did I forget to mention I’m also a crazy cat lady? If you can’t handle that, best leave now. But to begin with, I thought I’d explain what led me to set up this blog, and that’s a little bit on the ‘dark’ side of things.

Pretty much exactly one year ago, my elderly father, who has suffered from dementia for a few years, took a fall down the stairs and was in hospital for several months. During this time, my mother went into hospital for a routine procedure which went wrong, and the upshot was that the doctors discovered she had oesophageal cancer. There was already some doubt about whether or not my dad could ever live at home again; this news about my mum was the deciding factor. My dad was admitted to a nursing home in the summer, and in the autumn my mum had surgery to remove her whole oesophagus. She came through the surgery, but is still recovering six months on; it was a major procedure.

Due to my mum’s ill health, it fell to my husband and I to choose a nursing home for my dad, deal with getting him moved there and all the subsequent paperwork (there’s a lot; it’s still ongoing). We also had to deal with my mum undergoing such a huge operation, visit her in hospital and help take care of her afterwards. The hospitals involved, the nursing home, our house and my mum’s house are in completely different towns, so we were run ragged. This inevitably led to a lot of strain between my husband and I, some major arguments, and on one or two occasions, nearly the breakup of our marriage. An awesome summer holiday to visit friends in the USA had to be cancelled, we hardly saw friends or went anywhere as we were either busy, arguing, or knackered. All in all, 2012 was not a good year.

But…it made me realise that I didn’t want to be in the position my mum and dad are in now and think “I wish I’d done that when I had the chance” – the chance is NOW. I’ve always enjoyed writing, I’ve done it for fun, for my company newsletter, that kind of thing, so NOW is my chance to take it a step further. I was also inspired last year by some of my favourite musicians – I know I sound like a teenager, but I found an album where pretty much every track seemed to suggest an idea for a story, or just be about my life at that time. I love music, and l believe that, like a good book, it can help get you through the dark times. So big thanks to…well, more on them later.

Phew, that was a bit heavy, wasn’t it? That’s quite enough of that! Anyway, that’s the story of what led me to start writing again, set up this blog, and in the process, become completely addicted to Twitter. Oh well, I suppose there are worse things I could be addicted to. Many thanks to the authors I’ve met on Twitter who have inspired or encouraged me to do this. Also, many thanks to my husband for all his support (yes, he’s still here, I did say we nearly broke up). I promise my next blog will be more light-hearted. Now, where did I put that picture of my cat upside-down in a saucepan?

Not in a saucepan, but in the clean washing!

Not in a saucepan, but in the clean washing!

Things I Can’t Do Now I’m Over 40

A bout of illness which totally floored me this week got me thinking about this. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not about to give up screaming at rock bands, dressing up for Doctor Who events, and all the other things SOME people say I shouldn’t be doing. This is a lament for the toughness and downright elasticity of my youthful self. Here is a list of stuff I just don’t cope with now I’m no longer in my twenties or thirties:

1) Being ill. I remember being at University and getting infections, colds, and all manner of ailments, and just shrugging them off and getting on with it. I sniffled through lectures, added my own germs to lab work, and still went out on the town of an evening. Nowadays, I retreat under the duvet and feel sorry for myself until I feel better. (Maybe I’m a man?) 😉

2) Lack of sleep. This does depend on what my day involves, but generally – forget it. I can get by on 6 hours for a day or so, but any less than that and I don’t make it through the day without a nap.

3) Hangovers. Nope. If I’m so foolish as to drink enough to get one, the whole next day is lost. I’ve surfaced to find the cats staring at me, trying to work out if I’m dead. This usually leads to a trail of clothes and jewellery that I’ve drunkenly discarded en route to falling into bed the night before, and if I’m lucky, a scattering of change left over from the pub and the taxi.

4) Getting Having a suntan. Newly discovered, this one. Getting it wasn’t the problem – and yes, I tanned very sensibly: high factor sunscreen, staying out of the midday sun, and all that. But I’ve gone through 3 vats of moisturiser and I only got back from my holiday 2 weeks ago. My skin obviously doesn’t cope with drying out that much any more.

5) Eating any damn thing from any damn vendor. Kebabs, suspicious hamburgers, greasy chips…you name it, I could eat it and my cast-iron stomach just sucked it up. Now, the tiniest dodgy molecule and all hell breaks loose. Literally. Too much information.

6) Not writing things down. I don’t remember making lists when I was younger. Okay, that was partly because I had nothing to do except: go to lectures (maybe), eat (any old crap from the takeaway will do), go to pub (definitely), go on to club (if legs still working after leaving pub). These days, I can barely remember to brush my teeth if it’s not on a list. Ho hum.

So, ladies and gents of a certain age, do any of these sound familiar? (Please say yes). Would you add any? I’m sure I’ll think of some more – I’ll have to write them in a list as I go along, though, otherwise I’ll forget… 🙂

The good old days - ah, how I miss them. Yes, that is soon-to-be-long-suffering-hubby with his head in his hands...

The good old days – ah, how I miss them. Yes, that is soon-to-be-long-suffering-hubby with his head in his hands…

I’m back! (What do you mean, you didn’t notice I was gone?)

Hello! Vacation is over (sob). It was super. Very relaxing in the most part – mainly because it was too hot to move. 😉 When I did move, it was from the sun lounger, to the pool, to the bar, to the beach, to the sun lounger…you get the picture. However, hubby and I did venture out and about a few times.

Our holiday resort was Port El-Kantaoui, on the east coast of the small North African country of Tunisia. This coast is a popular tourist destination, with sandy beaches and turquoise seas. But you don’t have to go far to find a different landscape altogether. Inland, there are lush olive groves and date gardens, stunning mountain ranges, and ruins of the many civilisations that have occupied Tunisia over the centuries. We went on a 4 wheel drive adventure that showed us all these things. The only place we didn’t get to was the Sahara in the south. The UK had stopped letting tourists visit there due to unrest on the country’s border with Algeria.

I will now bore you with a few holiday snaps. Feel free to doze off on the couch. Firstly, here’s our resort.

On our 2nd day, we celebrated our 16th Wedding Anniversary, with a visit to the hotel spa in the morning, and an a la carte meal, with champagne, in the evening. Aaww!

Our 4 wheel drive trip enabled us to get to some inaccessible places. The Berbers are the indigenous non-Arab people of North Africa. Mostly nomadic, when they did settle in the north they chose defensible locations in the mountains.

The Romans were in Tunisia. They got everywhere.

Of course, we met some cats. The cheeky cheese-eating puss is at a restaurant we visited. Before you start screaming, yes, it was summarily removed from the table and the cheese replaced. The restaurant was on a farm, so there were cats to control the vermin. However, they had worked out that mooching around the gullible tourists was more fun. Cat number 2 belonged to the hotel, and soon discovered what a sucker hubby is. She sat like that for 2 hours.

And lastly, a bit of nonsense. I rode a quad bike for the 1st time! Not a flattering photo, but I’m having fun!

So that’s my vacation. Now back to real life: work, cooking, cleaning…sigh. Oh, and writing, of course. Better get to it! 🙂

Who says social media isn’t real?

As some of you may know, I took a short holiday last week, to Yorkshire. Long-suffering hubby came too. We did all the usual British holiday stuff: visited historical sites, ate too much, and complained about the weather. But at the end of the week, I left hubby playing online snooker, looking in sports shops, and doing other ‘man’ things, and went on a little adventure of my own.

A few weeks ago, my online friend, author and rock chick Nicky Wells , had noticed that I was going to be in Yorkshire and had mentioned that I would only be about an hour or so’s drive away from her. This got me thinking – could I meet another of my awesome social media friends in ‘real life’? I asked hubby what he thought and because he’s easy-going as well as long-suffering, he said ‘Yeah, whatever’ or something like that. He then said that he wouldn’t come along (even though he was welcome) as he didn’t want us ladies to be worried we were boring him to bits, talking about books and such. I think what he meant was he didn’t want to listen to us drooling over various rock stars. As if! 😉

After some to-ing and fro-ing over what we would do and when, the visit was organised. Nicky graciously invited me to her home, as kids needed to be collected from school, fed and watered, and made to do homework. I obviously didn’t look like too much of a nutter, as she let me in when I landed on the doorstep. Over a cup of tea, a scone AND a glass of Buck’s Fizz, we chatted about our history with the rock music world. Queen, Europe, Bon Jovi – all the influences from our childhood and our teens were discussed. We talked about first gigs, following bands around, and being in the front row and TOUCHING rock stars – wow! Then we took a brief walk to meet the boys, and I was treated to a quick tour of the village, with expert commentary from said boys. We also discussed snakes, spiders, and giant snails, as ‘The Rainforest’ was the school subject of the moment. Eldest boy had got to handle some of these creatures that day, and delighted in telling us about it. Fine for me (you know I like creepy things), but not so good for Nicky, who’s not keen!

Hmm - maybe selfies aren't our strong point...

Hmm – maybe selfies aren’t our strong point…

Homework was tackled once we got back, with promises of Chinese takeaway if it was completed. I was quite happy to help with homework if there was a Chicken Chow Mein at the end of it! That was another thing Nicky and I found we had in common – a fondness for Chicken Chow Mein. Delicious it was, too. In between homework, eating, and me fussing guinea pigs (in the absence of cats), we managed to talk lots more about writing, blogging, music, juggling life and writing, reading…you name it. As darkness approached, I reluctantly said goodbye to my sister-in-rock and drove back to my hotel, leaving Nicky to tackle boys’ bath and bedtime. Long-suffering hubby didn’t escape the girliness, as he got a detailed account of my visit once I got back. (He got his revenge by doing the same to me the next day on the journey home. Apparently he had McDonald’s for lunch AND dinner while I was away – good grief).

So…who says social media isn’t real? I’ve now met up in person with two online friends. I hasten to add that we had interacted A LOT before meeting up, and it may not be something everyone would feel comfortable doing. But the world of Facebook, Twitter and the like CAN lead to friendships as genuine as those formed in more ‘traditional’ ways. Among the trolls, arguing, and other nonsense, this is a great thing. Thank you very much, Nicky, for a lovely visit, and rock on, all you online friends!

Nicky’s bit:

What a fabulous account of our day! May I just add that I was honoured and touched that Karen decided to drop by. It felt both surreal and completely normal to suggest to this total stranger, who wasn’t really a stranger after hours and hours of social media interaction, that perhaps we might be able to meet ‘for real’ when the occasion of her trip to York shortened our day-to-day distance from six hours (give or take) to just one and a half (give or take).

As fate would have it, Karen was only around during the week and, of course, my husband had to go to Israel during that very same time. All plans to clear the day and do proper sister-in-rock girlie things went straight out the window when I realised that I’d have to be on mummy duty. Hence the to-ing and fro-ing that Karen mentioned: I was fretting whether I could subject my known-yet-unknown friend-from-afar to a dose of my daily life. But if I’d been just ever so slightly concerned that Karen would be put out, or put off even, I worried for no reason. She took our hectic routine completely in her stride and fitted in as though she was, in fact, a favourite old-time friend. It was wonderful to sit down and chat amongst the kids running ever-so-slightly riot, the guinea pigs demanding food and cuddles, the telephone ringing, and the Chinese takeaway requiring pick-up from the store rather than being delivered. (Karen drove, of course. Bless you!)

We talked non-stop and considered, briefly, whether we should finish up the bottle and have Karen crash out in the guest room for the night. And then we thought, heck, no, we’ll simply have to do this again one day soon.

So thank you Twitter and Facebook—and Julie Valerie!—for brokering the introduction between two soul-sisters who might otherwise never have met. Rock on, Karen, and thanks for letting me add my two-cents-worth to your feature. See you soon!

Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.

Excuses, excuses…

Here is a list of reasons why I didn’t blog last week:

Easter chocolate hangover

Practising Road Safety presentation for Commonwealth Games drivers

Having meetings re Commonwealth Games presentation

Sending a million emails re Commonwealth Games presentation

Shopping for new clothes in order to look amazing when giving presentation

Doing next Creative Writing course assignment

Panicking about said assignment

Doing more of assignment

Finishing first draft of assignment

Trying to stop Frodo cat pooping in plant pots

Anything else I can think of

So, as you can see, I’m still busy, dizzy and fizzy! Very much enjoying it all, though.

I would say normal service will resume soon, but I have no idea what normal service is. 😉

Anyhoo…my assignment is due in a week’s time. The Commonwealth Games stuff starts for real a couple of days after. Then I’m going on a short break with long-suffering hubby (who really has been suffering, as he’s been my presentation guinea pig). I think we’re going to York, but it’s not quite decided yet…

After that, my final assignment is due at the end of May. Phew!

THEN…I shall quietly pass out in a corner.

‘You never do anything quietly!’ – Long-suffering hubby

Thank you, darling.

Okay, then I shall not-very-quietly be working on more material for this blog, including short fiction. I’ve loved my course and it’s taught me a lot, but it’ll be great to get back to writing more of the genres I like, and not having to worry quite so much about word count. I’m dying to do a big tidy up of this site, and I’ve got some bits and pieces to add to it. I’ll also be featuring some Vampire stories on Mari Wells‘s blog in the summer, if all goes as planned.

However, at the moment my mind is mostly being boggled by the size of the transport operation for the Commonwealth Games. (The Olympics would have been even bigger – ye Gods!) I and my colleagues have 2000 volunteer drivers to train during the month of May. Advanced driving techniques, radio and satnav use, Games routes, protocol when dealing with VIPs and other passengers…the list goes on. Hats off to all who volunteer for such work.

I shall Keep Calm and Carry On – or as us Scots say:

Shut up and get on with it

Shut up and get on with it

Busy, dizzy, and a little bit fizzy

Just like Frodo the cat, who is really old enough to know better, I’ve had one of those ‘chasing my tail’ weeks. Entirely self-inflicted, due to taking on exciting new projects (as well as all the stuff I was originally doing). 😉

Frodo pausing mid tail chase - daft cat.

Frodo pausing mid tail chase – daft cat.

So: on the driving/road safety side of things, at the weekend I took part in an Under 17s Driving Experience at Knockhill Race Course, Fife. What a day of fun for the kids and the instructors. These experiences are designed to give 14-16 year olds a taste of the basics of driving, before they come to do their on-road lessons. Family and friends can watch and take photos, happy in the knowledge that their little darling is off-road, in a safe environment. I would be doing another one in May, except…

I’ve been chosen as the lead trainer to deliver road safety presentations to the Commonwealth Games volunteers! I had a busy few days last week preparing for the ‘audition’, and was well chuffed to hear that I was successful. So my May weekends will be full with this, but I don’t mind as it’s a great opportunity, and I’m fizzing with excitement about it! 🙂

On the writerly front, last week I agreed to be a reviewer for a friend’s music website. Why not? A few more hundred words per week won’t kill me! Just completed my first one and sent it off. Of course, I may be no good as a reviewer at all. But it’s great to try new things.

As well as that, I have another assignment to do for my Creative Writing course. That’s where you can help, writer and blogger friends. I need names of magazines (e-zine or print) to which I can submit short stories of approximately 2000 words. I’m ideally looking for publications that accept fantasy, paranormal, or horror. If you have any suggestions, please leave me a comment.
Also…if any of you naughty writers know of magazines accepting erotica stories, let me know. I’m sitting on a story that really needs a home other than my blog. I’m not allowed to use erotica as part of my course assignment (and the story is too long at over 3000 words), but for my own research I’d love to hear any suggestions. I’ve been investigating possible publications myself, but would be very grateful if anyone has any ideas. Mwah! in advance.

Now to get back to writing all these stories I intend to submit, and practising my road safety presentation on the cats, since hubby’s at work. If I bribe them with treats they’ll sit on the couch and pretend to listen. Only thing is, they may chase the moving cars on the slide show. Not the kind of audience participation I’m expecting, but never mind!