An Arresting Weekend (yes, that’s a really bad pun)

Some people think my day job consists of me careering around on two wheels, shouting at unfortunate learner drivers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Being a driver trainer is not as exciting/terrifying as folk believe. And sometimes I get to do different stuff. Last weekend I was privileged to be part of the Road Safety Scotland Village at the Royal Highland Show. My colleagues and I spent the weekend:

Promoting Road Safety in all sorts of ways

Engaging with and educating the public

Having fun

Taking silly photos of each other

Oh dear...

Oh dear…


So what is a Road Safety Village? Well, ours consisted of:

Police Scotland, with a variety of cars, a ‘seatbelt convincer’, and the mobile speed camera van

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

The Fire Service, with their cutting tools

AA Driving School (that’s me!)

…and many more organisations dedicated to making our roads safer for all users.

We spent the weekend talking with people about such things as:

The importance of driving at an appropriate speed

The effects of drink driving

What to do if you’re first upon the scene of an accident

Why it’s important to use seatbelts, and VERY important to make sure child seats are correctly fitted and secured

All extremely serious stuff, which can be very dry. If a little bit of light-heartedness can be introduced here and there, it actually benefits the message, as people just switch off if you’re preachy. Hopefully we gave people some valuable information, as well as lots of useful freebies such as tyre tread checkers, reflective stickers (kids loved those), and all kinds of pens, keyrings, posters and whatnot.

The kids had their own Safety Mascot, Ziggy. (There’s a pic of me with him, below). This meant some unfortunate person had to wear the Ziggy suit over what was a VERY hot weekend. On Saturday, we had some lovely young helpful Police Volunteers. They all got bundled into the suit at one time or another. That’s what teenagers are for, aren’t they?

We grown ups love playing with police cars as much as the kids. I was told by a colleague to get in the back of the car and look sad. This didn’t work very well, as I was having too much fun. We also had a look in the speed camera van, sat on the quad bikes (quad bike safety was being promoted, giving that the Highland Show is primarily a farming event), and in my case, chatted up some firemen. My penchant for firemen has become a standing joke among my Road Safety colleagues. 😉

The event lasted for four days, and at the end I was tired, with sore feet, but pleased it had gone well. However, tiredness got me last Monday, and I had to have an extra nap after work. Then I had a busy week – hence no blog post last week, and not much other writing got done either. I’m catching up now, though!

Next, on 2nd July, I have the amazing writer Joseph Pinto on my blog, with his new book, Dusk and Summer. And keep an eye on Mari Wells‘s blog during July, as it’s Vampire Month! I’ll have a serial story featuring over there.

In the meantime, drive safely – or I’ll come and get you! *evil cackle*

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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!

New challenges on the horizon

I went for a 6 mile walk today. The main purpose of this was training for my Miles for Macmillan walk, which takes place in a week’s time (eep!) But it was also a great way to have a think, about a few decisions I’ve made and new challenges I’ve taken on.

Number 1: I’ve signed up to do a Creative Writing course with the Open University. This was something I was considering before I went on holiday, and after a chat with long-suffering hubby about finances and the time needed to study, I decided to go for it. Some of my family and friends have studied, or are studying, with the OU and highly recommend it. Also, a few writers I know have done the course and enjoyed it. So here I go: back to ‘school’ (as my American friends say. It’s called ‘Uni’ over here, you know). I always swore I would never do this. I last did University-style study over 20 years ago, so it’s going to be interesting… The course starts on 5th October, so you’ll hear more about it soon!

Number 2: With the aim of expanding the work I can do as a driver trainer, I’m going to do the highest civilian driving qualification there is. It’s called the RoSPA Advanced Driving Test – Gold standard. I won’t bore you with the details but basically, you have to drive to the standard detailed in the Police Driver’s Handbook, and the test is conducted by a serving or retired Police Officer. This will ultimately give me more work with companies and qualified drivers. Another challenge and of course, another source of income.

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a wobbly moment this morning, thinking “What have I done? I’ve taken on too much!” After all, I sadly still have one parent ill with cancer and one in a nursing home. I need time to do my current job, see friends and family and of course, hubby. I’m also one of these people who has to have time to themselves, just reading or listening to music. Aarrgh! Anyway, I’m glad I went for my long walk, as I had a good think about how I was going to organise all this stuff. Also, I saw 4 deer running and bouncing very fast through a field, as though they were racing each other, so that cheered me up too.

Ultimately, all this is part of my ‘If not now, when?’ philosophy. I don’t talk much on my blog about my relationship with my parents, as I find it really hard. I have often thought it would be cathartic, but the fact is, I just get really angry when I start doing it, and have to stop typing. Maybe the writing course will help unlock this block? For now, I’ll say this. My mother put her life on hold because my dad was ‘difficult’, and now she is too ill to do the things she always wanted to do: travel, join a choir, go walking all over Scotland, see old friends from her early years in Yorkshire and London. I NEVER want to look back and think “I COULD have done that, but I didn’t”. Hubby has the same philosophy. His dad died when he was just 10 years older than hubby is now. There might not be a ‘later’. So both of us are determined to do as much as we can while we are fit and able.

This whole post has turned out very serious! It wasn’t what I intended to blog about this week at all, but hey ho. I was going to mention the Creative Writing course, but the post was supposed to be more about writing in general. Never mind one’s characters taking off in unexpected directions, my own brain can’t be trusted to stay on course. Ah well, I guess this just needed to be written. Next time, I will try to get back to cats in washing baskets… 😉

Light reading...

Light reading…

My holiday in numbers (this is the last one, I promise)!

Last holiday related-post, I swear! I will start waffling about other stuff in the very near future. This post just wraps up the shenanigans we got up to when we weren’t in Boston and New York.

Also, I want to say thank you once again to our friends Red and Shorty for having us to stay. You are awesome!

Many people have commented that all we did was eat and drink – boy, did we drink! So here is a summary of food and beverage facts:

Number of visits to:

The Roundabout, an All-American diner: 2 (once for breakfast, once for lunch)

The Redhook Brewery: 1 (although we did stay most of the afternoon)

Lollycandy, a super-duper sweet shop in Dover, NH: 3 (buying American sweets for us and British sweets for Red)

Lone Oak Ice Cream, Rochester, NH : 1 (I wish we had time to visit this place more!)

Number of barbecues: 1 (although we ate the equivalent of 3 barbecues’ worth of ribs and pulled pork)

Number of restaurants eaten in: lost count

Number of pints/cocktails/glasses of wine drunk: enough to merit an intervention (Red’s words)

New delicacies discovered on our visit to the USA: Fried dough!! Eaten once at Lake Winnepesaukee, NH and once at Quincy Market, Boston

Other non-food-and-drink-related stuff (there’s not much ;-)):

Number of times in Red and Shorty’s hot tub: 4 (quite restrained, I thought)

Number of trips to a baseball game: 1 – and the Red Sox won! Woo hoo! Also, thanks must go again to Red, who patiently explained what was going on. I understand baseball now, which is more than I can say for cricket (much to my mum’s disgust – she’s from Yorkshire, the home of cricket)

Hubby and I at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox

Hubby and I at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox

Well, there you go. That about wraps it up for our holiday to the USA. As I’m sure you’ve all gathered, we had an amazing time. Suffice it to say, we are already planning to return, hopefully in a couple of years’ time. We are considering various places and plans for our agenda:

Toronto (yes, I know that’s in Canada, but it’s a city we’d love to visit)

San Francisco

Road trip to visit all my mad rock chick friends

Road trip to visit all my mad writer friends 😉

Hiring a muscle car for this road trip (Red’s done it before, lucky so-and-so)

So look out USA, I may be terrorising your roads in a couple of years! In a Ford Mustang!! Fast and Furious, here I come!!! Okay, okay, calm down, woman. For the moment, get back in your Ford Fiesta…

Sigh…

Karen xx

Taking stock…Part 2

As EVERYONE must know by now, I’m off on holiday at the beginning of next week. In spite of the fact that I’m quite well organised, I will still be in an over-excited flap next Monday. So I’m pretty sure this will be my last ‘proper’ blog post until after my hols. By ‘proper’, I mean more than a few words interspersed with photos. That’s what you’re all probably going to get over the next few weeks, along with cries of “Oh my gosh I’m in the USA!” or “Oh my gosh I’m at a baseball game!” or “Oh my gosh I’m in Times Square!”… You get the idea.

Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to have a little recap of what’s been happening over the last few weeks. I did a post called Taking stock… before my last holiday, which was at the end of April. Almost three months have passed since then and I’m really pleased with what I’ve achieved in my writing world. I’ve been developing that side of things much more than my other job, quite intentionally. But that may change – more on that later…

So, writerly achievements over the last three months:

In the last two weeks I’ve had the most views and likes ever on my blog. Thanks to #MondayBlogs on Twitter for help achieving this.
I’ve done my first author interview. Thank you to K. Nycole Lee for being my first interview subject!
I’ve been nominated twice for both the Sunshine Blogger Award and the Liebster Award.
I’ve added a few pages of my fiction to my blog.
I’ve learnt lots more about WordPress, and figured out how to use it from my iPhone and iPad, which brings me to the fact that…
I’m in a serious relationship with my iPad, and his baby brother, the iPhone. Long-suffering hubby has been relegated to number three. Seriously, I lo-o-ove my iPad. I can do everything on it, including write. 😉
I’ve made many new writer and blogger friends.
I have more than 1250 followers on Twitter, and counting..!
And finally…I’m about to submit a story to feature in a new magazine! What an exciting thing to happen just before I go on hols. I’m so pleased.

When I read over my previous Taking stock… post, I realise how much has changed even in these three short months. Many thanks to all the writers who’ve encouraged and advised me. So what do I have planned once this summer trip is over and done with? Well, I intend to:

Take another driving course, as I must not allow myself to get stale in my ‘day job’.
Possibly take a creative writing course with The Open University.
Submit more short stories to magazines and anthologies.
Change the title of my blog. It’s just my name and nothing else at the moment. I need to be more creative.
Make some more tweaks to my blog: more pages, more customisation. Hubby is very impressed, as I have resisted learning about this stuff for years, and now I’m well into it!
And of course…keep writing my novel! The poor thing has also been neglected recently, so it’s time to knuckle down.

You all have my permission to nag if you catch me shirking off any of this list when I get back. Just give me a few days to get over jet lag and bore you with holiday snaps, then I’ll be right on it!
I have two other people to thank for making the first half of this year so much better than any of last year:

My bestest bud/mad pal/lemon friend – you know who you are. We are the sisters we never had. Love and hisses (she knows what this means). 😉

And of course, my wonderful hubby. Thanks for sticking with me last year through the nearest I’ve ever come to a meltdown. And thanks for being supportive of this writing malarkey. In New York, in just over two weeks, we celebrate our 15th Wedding Anniversary. Cheers babe!

Right, that’s the soppiness over with. Back to my fiction writing, and treating ‘em mean and keeping ‘em keen…

See you soon!

Karen xx

Places that inspire me – all within 10 miles of my home (posted using iPhone and iPad)

This is just a fun little post to test my iPhone skills! One good thing about my day job is that I do get out and about in a beautiful and interesting area. I hate rushing between driving lessons; I always give myself time to stop and chill if I can. When I get a long break I’ll do some writing – if I can park somewhere inspiring so much the better! At the moment, I’m practising using WordPress on my iPhone and iPad in preparation for my holidays! So, from my iGadgets, here’s a selection of places I get to see when I’m driving.

The Falkirk Wheel (the world’s only rotating boat lift) – beautiful night pic. Amazing engineering

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Witches’ Craig (or Carly Crag) just outside Stirling – inspiration for spooky tales

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Swan and cygnets on Stenhousemuir pond – just because they’re cute!

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The Pineapple at Dunmore – yes, it is a building in the form of a fruit! Built in 1761, you can now stay here in holiday flats

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