Excuses, Excuses…

Bloomin’ heck, nearly a month since my last blog post! Why’s that, then? Well, I’ve been kind of busy with a variety of things – not to mention catching THE COLD FROM HELL a week ago. Here’s a rundown:

New instructor training role in my driving day job is great, but it’s keeping me busy with more paperwork, planning, etc.

Paid a visit to deepest darkest Aberdeenshire to see my mad best friend (for what that’s like, read my post Pictures From A Wild Weekend). Except this time we weren’t too wild – we went to the ballet. Scottish Ballet’s new production of Swan Lake, to be exact. Very contemporary and very beautiful in a stripped back sort of way (if you’re looking for tutus and feathers, don’t go…)

Started PROPERLY trying to get fit again. One of my ex-driving pupils is a personal trainer, and together with his wife, runs a mix of personal training sessions and classes, together with a lifestyle and nutrition plan. So I’ve signed up (there may be more on this in the future, let’s wait and see…) 😉

Somewhat throwing in a spanner into the works of the latter, I caught THE COLD FROM HELL just over a week ago and was basically out of action for most of last week. No energy, no voice, sniffly nose…you get the idea. Worse than any cold I had during the winter – and it waits until May to turn up! Bah! It’s still hanging around, although it’s going…slowly. Too bloody slowly.

In spite of this, managed to hand in my end-of-module assessment for my Open University degree on time last week. Phew! No studying again until October.

So that’s my feeble list of excuses for not blogging. Hopefully now my OU coursework is finished and my head not full of tiny annoying germs, things’ll get back to normal. And after next week, I’ll definitely have something to blog about, because I’m off on a mystery holiday. What? Yes, hubby has organised a trip somewhere, and it’s a surprise. I will need euros, apparently. I think I’ve figured it out, but sshh, don’t tell him. I may be wrong though, so you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to find out where I’m going and what I did there. How exciting!

(For those of you who may be concerned about this, thinking I could be getting carted off to The Museum Of Running Shoes or The Exhibition Of The World’s Greatest Kit Car Parts, don’t worry. Hubby is actually pretty good at surprises. I’m confident that wherever we’re going, it’ll be enjoyable and interesting. And apparently there’s beer involved, so there’s a plus point already.) 😀

Hope you guys out there are all well and enjoying some good spring weather, in between rain showers. Or autumn weather, if you’re on the other side of the globe. I’m off now to study a map of Europe to get more clues…

Advertisements

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

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I first published this post on St.Patrick’s Day 2014. Here it is again, featuring one of my favourite Irish songs. And Guinness. 😉

**********

If this blog post is full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, blame the Guinness. I’m writing this after a couple of pints of the lovely stuff.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As a fellow Celt, I love the Irish and their beautiful country. I have visited the Emerald Isle, but not nearly enough – must go back soon.

A much younger me on the top floor of The Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

A much younger me on the top floor of The Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

I’m actually typing this the day before, but we’ve had an early celebration in our house, as hubby is working all of St. Paddy’s Day itself. Hence the reason I’ve had some Guinness. I love Guinness – I’m not just drinking it for St. Paddy’s. It’s been my pint of choice since my University days. I used to be able to get through a lot more of it, but never mind… 😉

Great music and musicians of all sorts have come out of Ireland. One of the things I enjoyed when I visited was just wandering into a pub, and finding people playing and singing. Some of you may know that I love folk music as well as being a rock chick. So we’re having a traditional Irish number today (although I first heard this performed by a Scottish singer. Hello, Steve Eaglesham). ‘Star of the County Down’ is an old Irish ballad set near Banbridge in County Down, in Northern Ireland. The words are by Cathal McGarvey (1866–1927) from Ramelton, County Donegal. This song has been widely performed and recorded, but I’ve gone for the version by Van Morrison and The Chieftains.

When I visited Dublin, many years ago, one of the singers in the Temple Bar area asked for requests, so I chose this – and got complimented on my smile by a smooth-talking Irish musician. He was lucky I was still standing, never mind smiling, as I’d had about eight pints of Guinness by then. I’d be in hospital if I had that many now. Ah, the foolishness of youth…

The video is a leetle cheesy (apologies to its maker), but has some good pics from the Emerald Isle. Sláinte! 🙂

This Cat Is On Something

No, not catnip. Well, yes, sometimes. But Arwen (even more so than most kitties) has to sit ON or IN everything possible. Here I present, for your amusement, a photo journey through Arwen’s preferred sitting places. Enjoy!

All boxes must be sat on:

And in (however small):

Once on the box/in the laundry basket/on the printer, shout really loudly to let everyone know you are there:

Or just look cute, wherever you are:

Sit on the builder’s saw and other items until he stops work and fusses you:

If disturbed when actually in a proper cat bed, give human the stink eye:

When sitting on mum, be prepared for her to take photos that make your bum look big:

Finally, when sitting on dad, be prepared to share him with other kitties!

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!

**********

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. 🙂

What’s In A Meme?

I’m up to my eyeballs just now in essays, articles and all kinds of things. But here’s a bit of fun I couldn’t resist. My blogger friend Suzie Speaks gave me this idea with a post of hers. You type your first name and the word ‘meme’ into Google, and see what comes up. So for a laugh, I tried it. And what came up? Mainly Ryan Gosling! Result! 😉

Hey, Ryan

Hey, Ryan

Ryan then elaborates further:

Well thank you, handsome

Well thank you, handsome

Oh, and now Sean Bean’s turned up, too:

Well, quite. I make the jokes, thank you very much. Lord help you if you steal my punchline. Anyway, Ryan and Sean, what shall we do now? I have a few ideas…

Go away, hubby. I'm busy with Ryan and Sean here!

Go away, hubby. I’m busy with Ryan and Sean here!

Damn, hubby’s turned up. Better shove Ryan and Sean into the wardrobe. 😀

There were a few others, but I liked these the best. Oh well, better get back to my essay now. As for the other stuff I’ve been writing, more on that soon. Have a great week everyone!

Robert Burns, Tam o’ Shanter, and Other Things…

Since today is the birthday of our famous bard, here’s a post I wrote originally for Mari Wells‘s blog. It was part of a series on Scottish Witches (read the others here), so of course Tam o’ Shanter had to feature…

**********

I can’t believe we’ve come to the end of this series of guest posts already. I couldn’t go without mentioning that famous son of Scotland, Robert Burns, and his epic poem, ‘Tam o’ Shanter’, written in 1791.

‘Tam o’ Shanter’ is set in Ayrshire, the area of Scotland where Burns was born and brought up. Tam is a hapless (okay, drunk) young man who comes across a coven of witches in Auld Kirk Alloway (an old kirk – surely not?), while riding home from Ayr one night. These witches are having a ceilidh, which basically means a party with music, dancing, and usually, fighting. One of them in particular catches Tam’s eye, being young and pretty – and because she’s dancing in her ‘cutty sark’, ie: short petticoat. Tam shouts words of encouragement at her from his spying place at the kirk’s window. He then gets his just desserts for this foolishness, and is chased by the witches to the bridge over the river Doon (Brig o’ Doon). As witches cannot cross running water, he escapes, but ‘Cutty Sark’ manages to pull the tail off his horse Maggie, just as she leaps across the bridge!

Moral of this tale: don’t get drunk and get distracted by ladies in short skirts. You may get more than you bargained for.

Auld Kirk Alloway

Auld Kirk Alloway

The poem is written in Scots, so can be a little hard to read for those not familiar with that language. It’s well worth a go, though. In it, Burns describes some extra-grisly trappings of a Black Mass: coffins standing open showing the dead within, and gruesome artefacts on the altar: murder weapons, and bodies of unchristened children. The Devil is also described as being present in the shape of a large black dog (he must like appearing in this form). Although at this gathering, ‘Auld Nick’ is providing the music by playing the bagpipes – a very talented dog indeed!

If you want to have a go at reading the poem, it can be found here: http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poems/tam-o-shanter-tale It might be handy to have a Scots dictionary open as well!

The places described in the poem are real. I’ve visited all of them. Auld Kirk Alloway is a little bit spooky. My husband has seen me cross Brig o’ Doon, so he thinks I’m not a witch (ha!) But unlike the stories in my previous posts, I can’t find any evidence that a coven did meet at this kirk, or chase any drunken young men to the bridge. It seems Burns did that writerly thing of taking facts from other places, and weaving them into a fantastic story set in his home. I’m glad he did, as it’s one of my favourite poems.

Brig o' Doon

Brig o’ Doon

In my last post, I mentioned the fact that most of the ‘witches’ executed in Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries were probably not performing black masses and summoning the devil at all. Many of them would be what are now generally referred to as ‘Pagans’ – worshippers of the old, pre-Christian gods. I’m not going to go into Paganism and its many branches here – that would be a whole other series of posts! Suffice it to say that many of these women and men would know how to heal wounds and treat the sick using natural remedies, and possibly a chant or two – all things the authorities were very suspicious of. Others may have been gifted with ‘second sight’ – a talent particularly prevalent in the Highlands of Scotland.

Seers had to be careful in the 15 and 1600s, as their gift could be denounced by the church as being from the devil, although Highlanders generally believed second sight to be unconnected with witchcraft. This belief, however, did not help the most famous of all, the Brahan Seer. He naively told the Countess of Seaforth what her husband was really doing on a trip to Paris, ie: entertaining other ladies. If you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger. Although not tried and executed as a warlock, this did not stop the poor man being thrown into a barrel of burning tar. As his fiery end approached he accurately prophesied the fall of the house of Seaforth, and told the Countess that he would go to heaven, but she never would. So the Brahan Seer had the last word, although I don’t imagine this was much comfort as he went up in flames. Don’t tell people the truth; tell them what they want to hear – a trick most seaside clairvoyants have cottoned onto today!

I’ve really enjoyed doing this series of posts for the Witching Hour. Most of the stories have been from Central and Lowland Scotland. Talking about the Brahan Seer has made me realise how many tales of the supernatural there are from the North. So I may be back one day, with more spooky stuff from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland…