Romans and Riesling – Our Trip to Trier

In my last blog post I mentioned that hubby and I had recently visited the German city of Trier. This was a surprise trip for me, and had been sneakily organised over Facebook by hubby and our friend Iris, who lives in Trier with her hubby Christof. (See, another example of the good side of social media!)

Trier is a Roman city, the oldest city in Germany, and an architectural extravaganza. Cue lots of photographs. Last lot until after our summer holiday, I promise!

We explored quite a bit over our three days there, starting with the very imposing Porta Nigra (Black Gate), the best-preserved of Roman city gates in the world.

The Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra

The Basilika started out as Emperor Constantine’s throne room, and is now a church, with a magnificent organ. There was no way to fit the whole exterior in the picture!

Trier Museum has so many Roman finds they can’t display them all, and if someone discovers something new in the city, the archaeologists take a photograph and say: very good, now put it back where you found it! 😀 I think if I’d found those coins I’d have sneaked a few away…

There are many Medieval buildings and remains in Trier, too. Note where the ‘door’ is on the House of the Three Magi. Yes, it’s meant to be up there. This house was built before the medieval city wall was finished, and so the door was accessed by a ladder which could be pulled up in case of attack. Clever, huh?

There was a lovely open air market selling all kinds of things, all gathered around the Market Cross. Poor Christof was chained to the Pillory by angry townsfolk! 😉 Luckily he didn’t have any rotten fruit and veg thrown at him.

The Cathedral displays architecture and artwork from 1650 years of history. Hubby and I spent a whole morning in there.

Trier Cathedral

Trier Cathedral


So, we’ve seen the Romans – where does the Riesling come in? Well, Iris and Christof know the owners of the local winemaker Zilliken. We spent a very enjoyable afternoon wine tasting at their lovely premises, with the expert knowledge of Patrick Zilliken to guide us. We sadly couldn’t bring any back as we only had cabin baggage, but rest assured we shall be ordering some!

Wine tasting! L-R: Patrick (the owner), hubby, me, Iris

Wine tasting! L-R: Patrick (the owner), hubby, me, Iris

I’ll finish with a pic of Iris and me. We had just finished eating schnitzel, after the wine tasting. Hence why I’m a bit pink. 😉 Hubby is taking the pic, and drinking the local beer.

I can heartily recommend a visit to Trier, especially if you love history (and beer, and wine)!

Our wonderful host Iris, and me

Our wonderful host Iris, and me

Social Media Friends Are Really Real!

About three years ago I met a lady on social media who has become one of my best friends. Coral McCallum is a fellow writer (among other things like fellow cat lady and fellow rock chick), and today she publishes her second book, Impossible Depths (Silver Lake series Book 2). (Find out more about Coral’s books at the end of this post). I am a proud friend, and plan to spend a great part of today reading said book! Just for fun, here’s the blog post I wrote after our first meeting in person. We have met many more times since then, for gigs, for shopping, and for lots of coffee. 😀

**********

I took a jaunt down the west coast of Scotland this weekend, to meet a friend. Namely, one Coral McCallum, who I’ve been chatting to on Facebook and Twitter for months. Coral is a writer, and decided at the beginning of the year to join in the blogging world. Do visit her blog for short stories, poetry, and mad anecdotes involving rock music and cats (do you see why we get on? 😉 )

Coral and I met online through our shared love of rock music, and in particular, Mr Myles Kennedy, lead singer extraordinaire with Alter Bridge and Slash. Once we got chatting properly, we discovered we also both liked cats, coffee, and carrot cake. As we are only about an hour’s drive from each other, we started talking about meeting up in person. I hadn’t visited Coral’s neck of the woods for many years and thought a wee road trip might be in order. Coral had also been bigging up her local coffee shop, so with the promise of caffeine and cake, I pointed my little car west on Saturday afternoon.

The morning had been very wet and windy, but by the time I set off it was just windy. The sun was even making an attempt to come out. It was a pleasant drive down the edge of the river Clyde, even if the view was still a bit obscured by cloud. I followed Coral’s very clear instructions to the coffee shop, and was rewarded by the sight of her waving at me as I approached (I have a very distinctive car, covered as it is with bright yellow AA stickers). After parking on the sea front and nearly being blown away, we dived inside and began chatting. It’s slightly weird meeting someone face to face after you’ve only spoken to them online. We’d had some pretty in depth chats but it’s different doing it in person. Fortunately neither of us decided we couldn’t stand the other, so over a delicious Latte for me and Americano for Coral, we talked cats, music, family, and more cats. We both had carrot cake and I have to say, the coffee shop lived up to expectations. Yum!

Coral had very kindly invited me for dinner, and had obviously decided during our coffee shop meeting that I wasn’t a nutter (well, not too much), and I was safe to invite to the house. After a quick tour of the town shops (during which I bought the first of this year’s Christmas presents – go me!) we made a small convoy to her home. I got to meet the human family and three out of four of the cat family. The missing one was off on an adventure and hadn’t been home for a few days, the scamp. (He has since returned safe and sound). Cue more coffee drinking, listening to said rock music, and general chit chat about everything under the sun. I admired Coral’s book collection. Unsurprisingly, very similar to mine, with classics, time slip/historical stuff, and fantasy – including Mr Tolkien, of course. After being fed lasagne and two helps of cheesecake for dinner (not in the same bowl), I set off home after a very enjoyable, cake-filled day.

I like to think of this as one of the good examples of using social media. It’s unlikely Coral and I would have met otherwise, and we’ve each discovered a new friend. We’ve both made friends overseas due to our shared interests, and it may be that more of us will meet up one day. Several of the friends want to visit Scotland, so no doubt there will be more coffee and dare I say, wine drinking, if that happens!

Strangely enough, the one thing we didn’t chat about as much as you might think was our rock star crush, the lovely Myles Kennedy. So we’ll have to rectify that on our next meeting. I also completely forgot to take any selfies of our day together, so people will just have to take our word for it that we did actually meet. We’re going to a rock gig in Glasgow together next month, to see the fantastic Halestorm. Must take some pics then. Roll on many more coffee shop visits together!

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Happy Book Birthday, Coral! xx

Impossible Depths (Silver Lake series Book 2):

After a successful tour, Jake, Lori and the rest of Silver Lake are busy making plans for the future – new arrivals, new business ventures, new music and a new tour.
An unexpected turn of events throws these plans into turmoil.
Life for Silver Lake will never be the same again.
Can Jake and Lori maintain their relationship, gruelling schedules and overcome tragic losses?
Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find how strong you truly are.
Friendship, love, family and music dominate this contemporary romance as the Silver Lake family rise from seemingly Impossible Depths.

To purchase Impossible Depths (Silver Lake series Book 2), click here (UK), or here (US).

Some stock pics above from the west of Scotland, since I neglected to take any photos. 🙂

On Recent Events: Thinking Too Much (Can Lead To Not Blogging)

Hi there folks, a friend commented the other day that I’d been very quiet recently. Online, she meant. I guess, like many others, I’ve been suffering a bit from not knowing what to say about recent events in Paris and other parts of the world. Should I say anything? Do I have something to say that others haven’t already said? I came to the conclusion that the answer to that last question was no. But it seemed frivolous to be waffling on about writing stories and what my cats were up to and all that stuff, when such terrible things were going on. So I kind of stopped saying anything about anything.

And that’s exactly playing into the hands of the terrorists. Yes, in a very small way, and I’m only one little person – but I stopped doing what I normally do. I thought it seemed wrong to keep having fun – and to be talking about it. Well, SOD THAT!

Hubby and I have always said that we won’t be put off from travelling or doing things. Hell, we were all set to still visit Tunisia in August until the tour operators stopped going altogether. We stand by that. And I’ll keep posting about cats and dragons, because that’s what I do. Others have made tributes and statements far better than I could.

So, here is a contented cat to cheer us all up. I’m off to write something spooky or sexy or scary…or maybe all three, who knows? 😉

Love to my friends all over the world.

Karen xx

Frodo reminding me of the little but important things in life

Frodo reminding me of the little but important things in life

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

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.

Happy 1st Blogiversary To Me!

Pic courtesy of pinterest

Pic courtesy of pinterest

It’s one year since I posted my first blog entry!

How time flies.  I could never have imagined where it would lead.

I started out with the aim of doing at least one post a week, and I’m pleased to say I’ve achieved that (and often more).

I wanted to publish some of my fiction on my blog, too – and I’ve done that.

I wanted to learn more about the craft of writing. Thanks to the support, encouragement, and advice from fellow bloggers and writers, on WordPress, Twitter, and Facebook, I have learnt a lot (I hope!)

It also led to me starting an Open University Creative Writing course in October, which runs until May and which I’ve a) enjoyed and b) found very useful.

First pic I ever posted - Sam in the clean washing!

First pic I ever posted – Sam in the clean washing!

Some things I never expected:

Writers wanting to guest on my little blog. I didn’t know about blog tours, cover reveals, and all that stuff when I started. I sure do now!

Guesting on other people’s blogs, and having them actually ask me to write articles or fiction for them. Wow!

Blog Awards. Thank you to all those who nominated me.

The amazing friendship and support from other writers. I know I keep going on about this, but I never dreamt I would meet so many great people and receive such encouragement. Thanks for your patience in answering my daft questions!

Pic courtesy of freelancedream.com

Pic courtesy of freelancedream.com

My future bloggy/writerly plans:

One thing that doing my course has taught me, is that I CAN be disciplined and make time for writing every day, unless I’m doing something extra special. So, I intend to devote just as much time to writing once my course finishes, but next year I shall be:

Writing more short fiction and flash fiction

Submitting more of the above to magazines and anthologies

Working on my novel

Still blogging at least once a week, and posting fiction on my blog

The kind of dark stuff I like

The kind of dark stuff I like

Finally, I wish to thank *gets hankies out*:

My Long-Suffering Hubby, for being there for me, supporting me in this writing venture, and bringing me cups of tea

My Bestest Bud, for the same (without the tea, but with lots of wine)

My Freaks, as hubby charmingly calls them – this refers to my rock friends and my writer friends, sometimes interchangeable. Some are online, some offline, and some both, and they are all awesome!

My Muse

And finally finally, some highlights from the past year, if you like that sort of thing:

Top post: My Writing Process (I’m supposed to have a process??)

Top fiction, which also happens to be sexy, you naughty people: Wickedly Wet

Top non-sexy fiction: The Summoning

Thank you all so much!

Karen xx

An Unexpected Journey (with apologies to Tolkien)

Actually, it wasn’t that unexpected, just a little bit impromptu. I took a jaunt down the west coast of Scotland this weekend, to meet a friend. Namely, one Coral McCallum, who I’ve been chatting to on Facebook and Twitter for months. Coral is a writer, and decided at the beginning of the year to join in the blogging world. Do visit her blog for short stories, poetry, and mad anecdotes involving rock music and cats (do you see why we get on? 😉 )

Coral and I met online through our shared love of rock music, and in particular, Mr Myles Kennedy, lead singer extraordinaire with Alter Bridge and Slash. Once we got chatting properly, we discovered we also both liked cats, coffee, and carrot cake. As we are only about an hour’s drive from each other, we started talking about meeting up in person. I hadn’t visited Coral’s neck of the woods for many years and thought a wee road trip might be in order. Coral had also been bigging up her local coffee shop, so with the promise of caffeine and cake, I pointed my little car west on Saturday afternoon.

The morning had been very wet and windy, but by the time I set off it was just windy. The sun was even making an attempt to come out. It was a pleasant drive down the edge of the river Clyde, even if the view was still a bit obscured by cloud. I followed Coral’s very clear instructions to the coffee shop, and was rewarded by the sight of her waving at me as I approached (I have a very distinctive car, covered as it is with bright yellow AA stickers). After parking on the sea front and nearly being blown away, we dived inside and began chatting. It’s slightly weird meeting someone face to face after you’ve only spoken to them online. We’d had some pretty in depth chats but it’s different doing it in person. Fortunately neither of us decided we couldn’t stand the other, so over a delicious Latte for me and Americano for Coral, we talked cats, music, family, and more cats. We both had carrot cake and I have to say, the coffee shop lived up to expectations. Yum!

Coral had very kindly invited me for dinner, and had obviously decided during our coffee shop meeting that I wasn’t a nutter (well, not too much), and I was safe to invite to the house. After a quick tour of the town shops (during which I bought the first of this year’s Christmas presents – go me!) we made a small convoy to her home. I got to meet the human family and three out of four of the cat family. The missing one was off on an adventure and hadn’t been home for a few days, the scamp. (He has since returned safe and sound). Cue more coffee drinking, listening to said rock music, and general chit chat about everything under the sun. I admired Coral’s book collection. Unsurprisingly, very similar to mine, with classics, time slip/historical stuff, and fantasy – including Mr Tolkien, of course. After being fed lasagne and two helps of cheesecake for dinner (not in the same bowl), I set off home after a very enjoyable, cake-filled day.

I like to think of this as one of the good examples of using social media. It’s unlikely Coral and I would have met otherwise, and we’ve each discovered a new friend. We’ve both made friends overseas due to our shared interests, and it may be that more of us will meet up one day. Several of the friends want to visit Scotland, so no doubt there will be more coffee and dare I say, wine drinking, if that happens!

Strangely enough, the one thing we didn’t chat about as much as you might think was our rock star crush, the lovely Myles Kennedy. So we’ll have to rectify that on our next meeting. I also completely forgot to take any selfies of our day together, so people will just have to take our word for it that we did actually meet. We’re going to a rock gig in Glasgow together next month, to see the fantastic Halestorm. Must take some pics then. Roll on many more coffee shop visits together!


Some stock pics above from the west of Scotland, since I neglected to take any photos. 🙂