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!

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The Best Of Both Worlds?

I was recently given the opportunity to write for Divine Magazine, by my Facebook friend and great writer of M/M romance, Susan Mac Nicol. Divine is an online magazine and social networking website, tailored for the LGBTQ community and anyone who supports the rights of its members. Check it out for info on books, music, lifestyle – you name it.

Follow the link below to read my piece. There’s plenty of humour, as well as some more serious stuff. The information in it may surprise – even shock – some of you. Some of my friends will know already – or have suspected. Ooh, piqued your interest now, haven’t I? 😉

The Best Of Both Worlds?

Happy Belated 2nd Blogiversary To Me!

Good grief, it’s been a month since my last blog post. A month! I know I said I wasn’t going to be posting as much due to work commitments and whatnot, but really…

I did catch a horrible bug 3 weeks ago, which wiped me out. Only felt properly better this week, so that’s my excuse. Every time I sat down to write it felt like my head was stuffed with cotton wool. How is this different from normal? – Long-suffering hubby 😉

Also, my mum has decided to move out of the big old house she’s rattling around in, into a lovely bungalow. Hubby and I have been helping her pack, choose new furniture (she’s enjoying that bit!), and generally get ready for the move.

My 2nd Blogiversary has come and gone! Poor thing, it didn’t get a cake, a couple of candles, or even a card. So: Happy 2nd Birthday, My Blog.

Did I achieve what I wanted to in my 2nd year of blogging? Hmm, let’s see:

Write more short fiction and flash fiction, to post on my blog and other blogs.
Yes! I did that. It’s petered out a bit recently, but I still managed to write a lot of short stories last year. And I have many more unfinished/in need of editing. 🙂

Submitting the above to magazines and anthologies.
I didn’t do as much submitting as I hoped to, but I did do some. I was pleased to have a flash fiction story in December’s issue of The Sirens Call eZine ‘Scriptum in Morte’. Read my short story of Death, plus many others, here: http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/pdfs/SirensCallEZine_December2014.pdf

Blog at least once a week.
This went well until the beginning of this year, when work schedules and commitments changed. I’m going to keep blogging, hopefully every 2 weeks (if you don’t count this last month!)

Working on my novel.
Umm, aah. This is the one that hasn’t happened. I have looked at it, and I’m coming to the conclusion that I need to make some large-ish changes to the story. I planned it, and starting writing it, before I began my blog, learnt so much from you guys, and did my Creative Writing course. In the light of what I know now, revising is required. I don’t know when I’ll get back to it at the moment – but that’s okay. I started this writing malarkey for fun, and it’s going to stay fun. Other stories need to be told, so novel is on the back burner for now, simmering.

I did also complete my Open University Creative Writing course, which I enjoyed very much. I wouldn’t rule out further study (if you’d said to me a few years ago that I’d go back to Uni, I would’ve laughed in your face), so it shows how much things can change.

Aims for this year? Well, until my mum is moved and her house is sold, I can see this year continuing in a similar way to the last few months. I’ll try to keep up my blog, post some fiction occasionally, and maybe submit some more pieces for publication. I hope to be able to change my schedule in the 2nd half of the year to include more writing again, but let’s not count those pesky chickens!

Pic courtesy of perezsolomon.com

Pic courtesy of perezsolomon.com

I also hope to start keeping up with everybody else’s blogs and writing again. I’m off to get reading your posts now. Byeee! 😀

Creative Blessings (Or, Thank Goodness My Brain Works)

I heard some news from a friend this weekend, that led to this post. The friend in question is going through a VERY tough experience (not my place to say more). I guess as well as offering comfort, we all count our blessings when we hear of other people’s hardship. It got me thinking about the things I would call blessings, and of course I have all the ‘usual’ ones, and I’m very glad of them:

A loving and supportive (if occasionally annoying) husband 😉
An always-there-for-me best friend, and a little team of other great friends
Four mad cats that always cheer me up
A lovely house
A paying job
Pretty good health

But what blessing am I most grateful for? My MIND. Let me explain.
For a start, it works. Mostly. 🙂 It’s wired up reasonably well. I don’t suffer from any mental health issues.
I’m quite intelligent. (What? – long-suffering-hubby). Yes, I said it. I can understand forms and do sums and even fill in a tax return correctly!
But I’m most grateful for my IMAGINATION. It’s got me through some of the darkest patches in my life.
I didn’t have a particularly happy childhood. I was bullied at school for being clever and ‘different’. At home, I had an emotionally (and occasionally physically) abusive father. I escaped into books, but also into worlds I created for myself. Sometimes I wrote stuff down, sometimes I didn’t, but there was always a story being told inside my head.
Many years later, when I was forced by circumstances to deal with my father once more, I started this blog and began writing fiction again, and I swear that those things went a long way to keeping me sane during that time.
If I have money worries or job stress or whatever, I write down what I can do to sort the problem out (I’ve always been a great maker of lists). Then, I escape into my head and compose a story, or scribble something in my writer’s notebook, or type away on my iPad or computer.
I know there are many other ways to take one’s mind off problems: go for a walk, watch a movie, vent to a friend – and I’ve done all these. But in the middle of the night, when my brain won’t switch off, I can always escape into an imaginary world. Some of those worlds have seen the light of day on this blog, others haven’t. But they’re always there.

Occasionally, I got told off as a child for ‘having my head in the clouds’. Or a book. As an adult, I can balance the real world and my creative one. I like the real world, mostly. But sometimes, the one in my head is better. 😉

Image courtesy of news.stanford.edu

Image courtesy of news.stanford.edu

An Apology In Advance

I discovered last year that this is the time when blogging goes a little bit askew. For someone without a large family, I do a surprising amount of stuff over the festive season. I am lucky to have a group of lovely friends to visit and who come to visit me. Then there’s the usual round of gigs, shows, carol concerts (several friends, and my mum-in-law, sing in two separate choirs). This year, a couple of extra things are happening, one good and one not so good.

I’ll start with the not so good thing: my mum has to go into hospital for an operation in December. Now, it should be straightforward, but my family doesn’t have a very good record when it comes to illness. If something can be complicated, it will be. Fingers crossed.

The good thing happening is that my cousin is getting married at the beginning of December. So I’m going to a winter wedding. At a venue up in the hills of central Scotland, overlooking a lake – it will be beautiful, but definitely cold and possibly snowy! Think my outfit will involve a dressy-but-warm coat of some kind.

The only bad thing about this wedding is the timing – it’s the day after I see Slash, Myles and Co. in concert. Yes, again. The other one was an extra; this is the official tour date. Fortunately, I’m booked in for hair and make-up the morning of the wedding. Good luck to my beautician on making me look presentable after a night of dancing, sweating and screaming at a gig. 😉

Anyway, with all this going on, my presence in this world called the blogsphere may be a bit erratic. I’m also trying to get a short story completed for entry in a magazine, and I have vowed to myself I will have the first draft of my novel finished by February.

Fellow bloggers: apologies if I’m not around commenting and taking part in things as much as usual. I’ll be dropping in and out, just not as regularly as before. If I don’t speak to you, have a lovely Thanksgiving and Christmas and Winter Solstice and any other festival you celebrate. Or if you don’t, look after yourself and snuggle under a blanket with a good book. 🙂

Karen xx

The winter wedding venue. The Vu, pic courtesy of humanistweddingsinscotland.blogspot.com

The winter wedding venue. The Vu, pic courtesy of humanistweddingsinscotland.blogspot.com

Holiday/Vacation/Summer Break Begins – See Ya Later!

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I’m about to disappear for a couple of weeks. I’m very fortunate to be visiting Tunisia, a fascinating country on the continent of Africa. Long-suffering hubby is coming too, of course. 🙂

I intend to:

Read lots of books

Laze about and get a suntan

Visit places of interest

Play in the pool and the sea

Eat local foods, and enjoy a drink or two. 😉

Oh, and shop. I like haggling in markets.

I may pop up on social media from time to time, or I may not…

Be good while I’m away!

Karen xx

Dusk and Summer Blog Tour – please welcome my friend Joseph Pinto

DuskAndSummer_JosephAPinto_PostCard

Joseph Pinto has been touring the internet, supporting his novella Dusk and Summer. Dusk and Summer was written as a tribute to his father, who he lost to cancer in 2007. Joseph was one of the first fellow writers I met online, and he has been wonderfully helpful and supportive of my writing. So please help me in welcoming Joseph as he shares his post…

A Rare Tribute

Joseph A. Pinto

Dusk and Summer is unlike anything I’ve ever written before. Once I read my draft over for the first time, I realized it was also unlike anything I’d ever read before. I’d managed to share something very rare and special…

Dusk and Summer is based on my father’s life; a tribute written for him over six years ago after he passed away from a fifteen month battle with pancreatic cancer. I’d never experienced a loss of such magnitude before, and it tore a huge hole in my very being. I’d stayed strong for my father as he waged his war, but watching him struggle, his suffering… it eroded me. Little choice existed but to keep it all inside; I could not let him see me suffering as well. He was fighting the monster known as pancreatic cancer, and I was fighting it with him – all the while fully aware of the eventual outcome. Once he passed, a dam broke loose inside me and the pain nearly swept me away.

Eventually, after six months of being grief stricken and not knowing how to process my loss, I came to the realization that I had to do something to make sense of it all, if such a thing even existed. I sat down to write what I’d initially believed to be a vessel of sorts for my emotions, but it unexpectedly transformed into a fantasy story. Inspired by my father’s passion for the sea, Dusk and Summer was born.

When I was a boy, my father was an avid diver. He belonged to a New Jersey diving association and took to the water as often as he could. For a man who worked so hard to provide a good life for his family, this was his release; his place of freedom and transformation. After a day out at sea, he would return home with trinkets and baubles he’d found while diving; they kept me mesmerized. The thought that my father, who was already a hero in my eyes, could conquer the bottom of the ocean and bring back its treasures made him larger than life – greater than Poseidon; a Zeus in his own right. The diving association had presented him with a sweatshirt covered in patches from the wrecks he’d dived; it became a magical and mystical thing to me, the stuff legends were made of. Little did I know that as a man, while chasing my own transformation and dream, I’d be immortalizing him in the legend he himself inspired within me.

Dusk and Summer is a book of love and loss; it’s a tribute to a man that lived his life larger than any man has a right to.I It’s the raw inspiration that grants me that same right, one that I hope to pass on to my daughter. It is also a book of hope, of dreams made real, and a fantasy world beneath the waves that is my gift to the man who did one simple thing – inspire me to fight for my own dream and never quit – no matter how bad the odds may look.

If you decide to read Dusk and Summer, you’ll experience a blend of fantasy and reality that allows a son to realize the man he knew as his father was indeed larger than life. A realization that not only did his father belong to this world, but another as well; one found in the soft, fading light between Dusk and Summer.

Thank you Joseph. Now let’s take a closer look at Dusk and Summer… And there will be an excerpt too!

DuskAndSummer_JosephAPinto_FrontCoverOnlyDoes Heaven await beneath the waves? One man needs to know.

When his dying father whispers a cryptic message to him, he has no choice but to summon his courage and begin the quest of a lifetime. It’s a race against time to realize his father’s wish and fulfill his own destiny; it’s a discovery of the unbreakable bond between father and son. It’s a journey of the heart that unfolds where only the Chosen exist – in the moments between Dusk and Summer.

“A poignant, metaphoric conversation between son and father. A story that will warm your heart.”

–Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., bestselling author of The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

The author will be donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

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Purchase Links:

Amazon:

US |UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | India | Brazil

CreateSpace

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

iTunes (Apple)

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JosephAPinto_HeadShot_3x4_9702_SeaLightAqua_5contrast_borderABOUT THE AUTHOR – Joseph A. Pinto is the horror author of two published books and numerous short stories; he is a member of the Horror Writers Association as well the founder of Pen of the Damned, a collective of angst and horror driven writers. Indulge in his unique voice on his personal blog josephpinto.com and PenofTheDamned.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephAPinto. Joseph hails from New Jersey where he lives with his wife and young daughter.

Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Goodreads

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There’s a Giveaway too!!

Sirens Call Publications will be giving away digital copies of Dusk and Summer by Joseph A. Pinto to 5 (five) lucky winners! Follow the link to enter for your chance to win!

Win 1 of 5(five) copies of Dusk and Summer by Joseph A. Pinto!

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And now an excerpt from Joseph Pinto’s Dusk and Summer…

The Good Fight

I lost my father between dusk and summer.

Perhaps he left me long before I care to admit, long before he refused his last meals, long before his spent eyes flickered like candles behind cracked panes of some forlorn, abandoned house. Before his neglected muscles jellied into the folds of his stark white hospital sheet, and the rise of his chest grew shallow and weak. Maybe it was plain selfishness on my behalf; sitting at his bedside all those times, soothing his ears with encouragement as I squeezed his hand, desperate to impart the very courage and determination he had infused into me over my years. Even as he relied on me to raise a flimsy plastic cup of ice water to his parched lips. Had I become too scared to realize or just too blinded to ask: whose fight did this now become?

“…find me… from Tolten…”

I could have dismissed the words from his cracked lips as merely disoriented chatter, but his mouth pursed them too purposely, his tone too firm. Still, my father’s words jolted me from my bedside vigil. I bent over his thinning form, promptly taking his hand into mine.

“…go… now,” he croaked, his strength fading.

I held my breath, dared not speak. Gently, I massaged his fingers, marveling how thick and calloused they remained; my own always a child’s within their clasp. Typical blue collar hands, fearless of toil and grime. My father squeezed back, eyes widening. His candlelight flared, sparked brilliantly a moment before blinking away. I knew then I had been wrong. Someone remained home inside that deteriorating body after all. My father hung on, refusing to surrender. But what little had spilled from his lips now hung heavy between us. The message became clear. My father would not leave me.

Not until I finished his business.

My throat constricted as a terrible heat swelled within my chest. I gritted my teeth, blinked furiously and choked back the tears best as I could. Eventually, I eased him into continuing. A corner of his mouth curled. It gained momentum, spreading across his lips, his smile warming me. From within his cocoon of pillows, my father nodded his approval.

I leaned close, carefully straightening the air tube dangling from his nose. Caressed his cheek, returning his smile as his short, white stubble tickled my palm. Swallowed another blistering lump deeper into my throat. “Tell me what you want me to do, Pops,” I whispered.

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I listened very intently to the scarce words my father pushed from his lips. Go. 141 Sea Cargo Drive. Manasquan. You’ll know. Go now. He did not tell me what I would find or even what I needed to do. He held the obvious trust that I would just as soon figure it out, and I was not about to question or let him down. I kissed his forehead, told him I would leave, that I would see him later. From the moment my father became sick, goodbyes no longer existed. Only see you laters. As I forced myself from his sallow room, he cleared his throat. Must find me… she… come back from Tolten. I froze, deluged with fear and for the very first time a sense of hopelessness as I questioned, but for a moment, the sanity of his words, the tenuous grip he maintained upon his own reality. No; I would have none of that. I squared my jaw, turned and measured my father. I did not see a sick and dying man. The matted wisps of white hair that returned after his last bout of chemotherapy were gone, transformed into thick, luxurious curls of chestnut locks brushed back in heaps. The sagging skin of his arms now tight, bulging with muscle, the tattoos acquired while stationed in the Air Force as crisp and fresh as the day they were etched. Shoulders squared, again capable of carrying the world as he had done so many times before. Chest, wide and broad—within, the power of a Titan, the pride of a lion. Skin so vibrant and pure. His sickness did not diminish his stature. My father grew before my eyes, every day becoming more the man I had known. I nodded, determined to accomplish what he needed of me.

I nearly collided with the nurse as I left his room. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed.

“No, it was me. I should’ve watched where I was going.”

Her thoughtful eyes washed over me. “How are you holding up?”

My father’s nurse was one of the better ones and tended to him with sincere compassion. Painfully, I had encountered too many who believed my father was just another room number. I regarded her nameplate, my gaze lingering. Dawn. Normally I would have little difficulty remembering. I had seen enough of her—every day for the past week, too many, many times over the past months. All that while, I found it easier to address her with simple hellos, with downcast, fleeting glances. I disassociated myself from the moment she entered his room. For my own self-preservation, I could not bear to voice her name. I had no choice. To do so would have thrown me under the remorseless incandescent glare of reality and I liked it where I was, alone, lost within ignorant shadows. There I could disguise life; the curtained obscurity made things not so real. It took all I could do from dropping my head upon her shoulder and weep. The shrug I managed in response drained all that remained of me.

Hesitantly, Dawn lifted her hand, carefully rested it along my arm. Gave me a soft but reassuring stroke, then slowly pulled away. “The morphine drip you requested is working as well as it could right now. Your dad has been unbelievable, you know. Joking nonstop, up until…”

My features shifted. She read it well. No luxury of morphine existed to mask my own pain. Dawn stole a look down the hall. No one approached. “Has the doctor seen you recently?”

“No more than he needs to, I guess.”

She offered a sad smile. “You should know your father’s kidneys are failing. His… the truth is his entire body will eventually shut down. That’s why his arms… they flop when he tries to raise them. His speech—”

“Incoherent,” I interrupted. Tolten. Tolten. Come back from Tolten. “That is, when he can speak.”

An uncomfortable moment passed. An eternity gutted my soul. “We’ve done all we can. But this is… you need to know this is the last stage. We’re keeping him as comfortable as we can right now.”

She must have believed I was strong enough to handle it. Wise enough to see the writing upon the wall. She knew little of my father’s resolve however, nor of the spirit I lent him all these months, and I was not about to quit.

Eventually, even a fool must realize when one’s own hand cannot bend fate. No matter how hard you try. “I appreciate all you’ve done. I really do.” I gritted my teeth. “That’s a tough sonofabitch in there.”

She nodded. “And a good son out here.”

Tolten. Come back from Tolten. My father’s words haunted me. It was time for me to go. “Can I ask a favor of you?” I said.

“Yes, anything.”

“You have my cell phone number in your contact list. Call me first should… should you need to. But not my mother. Please, spare my mother.”

“Of course,” she answered slowly.

Shuffling away, I whispered, “Thank you, Dawn.” It was at that moment I was dragged from the shadows. Things suddenly became all too real.