Not Leaving, Just Changing Focus For a While

Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been blogging nearly as regularly as I used to. (Most of you will have not noticed, and that’s fine, because we’re all mega-busy and drop in and out of blogs when we have time, both as readers and writers.) I just wanted to do a little update on what’s been happening, why I haven’t been around, and why I may continue to not be around for a while.

The Day Job

This is taking up more brain power! That’s not to say I didn’t use my brain before, ha ha, but the new role I’ve taken on, training the actual instructors, requires a bit more energy. This means that when I’m at home in the evenings, I’m often too tired to write much. I’m sure that’ll change as I get more used to the new bit of my job, but for the time being, it’s having an effect.

Also, as of the end of August I’m going to be covering the Regional Business Manager’s role while they’re off for a few months, so that’ll take up extra time as well!


The New Project

Project Health! Of course, my day job is extremely sedentary. I’ve been aware for a while that I need to take more exercise, eat healthier and therefore lose some weight. Well, it’s now happening.

One of the perks of my job is I get to meet lots of different people. One of my ex-pupils is a fitness instructor. When I was teaching him to drive, he was just starting his own business. In the spirit of supporting local small businesses, and because we get on great, I’ve joined his gym, started doing fitness classes and met a whole lot of lovely other clients along the way. I’ve also been inspired, of course, by my hubby, who has done amazing things improving his fitness over the last couple of years. (See My Running Man for details.)

Inspirational hubby!

Inspirational hubby!

I started this at the beginning of May, and I’ve lost over a stone, gone down from a size 16/18 in clothes to a size 14, and I’m feeling great. After my summer hols, which are a week away, my short term goal is to lose another stone, and get down to a size 12. I’m also taking part in Supernova, a 5K running event in Falkirk at the beginning of November. My long term goal is to take part in the Tough Mudder event in 2017. I’ve signed up, and will be joining the M.K.Fitness team in all their muddy glory.

So getting fitter is taking up some of my time, too. But it’s a good use of time. Although I’m a firm believer in ‘having it all’, I don’t believe you can have it all at once – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. At the moment, I’m focusing on my day job and on getting fitter, so writing has had to take a bit of a back seat. I was stressing about this for a while, but then I realised that was silly. My priorities have changed, for the time being at least. Writing is meant to be fun. If I’m forcing myself to do it when I’m tired, or should be doing something else, that’s not fun.

This blog post is as much for me as for you, lovely readers. I’m giving myself permission to not write.

That said, I’m sure I’ll simply not write as much. I’ll still blog about fun things I’ve done. I’ve got a couple of short stories already written that’ll be appearing on here. And I’m sure that, having permitted myself not to write, ideas will jump into my head that I simply have to write about!

Okay, I’m off to make dinner, feed the cats, and all those kind of necessary tasks. Oh, and see if hubby needs any help – he’s up a ladder fixing something! 😀

I’ll see you when I see you, folks.

Karen xx

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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

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!

Women in Horror Month

I’m gruesomely delighted to be featured today on Nina D’Arcangela’s blog, Spreading the Writer’s Word, for Women in Horror Month. Join me as I chat about my favourite horror books and films. And don’t forget to check out the other posts – Nina has been doing at least one a day, the tireless lady. You may discover some new favourite writers.

Oh yes, and here’s a link to find out what else is going on for Women in Horror Month.

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…

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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…

My Random Camera

I was recently asked to supply some photographs for a magazine. I was very flattered and started trawling through my collection for suitable pics (there was a theme). I was flabbergasted to discover I have over 4000 photos on my phone alone! For the more professional photographers among you, I’m sure that’s a mere drop in the ocean, but I was astounded. I was also surprised by the wide variety of things I take pics of. Basically, if I like it, I snap it.

I always use pics on my blog posts, and where possible I like to use my own. So you’ve seen images from my holidays, gigs I’ve been to, my cats (duh), spooky locations around my home…you name it. Here are a few random ones that haven’t fitted with any particular theme so far, but I found them when trawling and thought ‘I like these, let’s share them.’

I’ve also been practising using a programme that puts a watermark on photos. Thanks to my good friend Coral McCallum for reminding me of the name of the programme again. 😉 (Fotor, if anyone wants to know.) And check out Coral’s blog too, for some great photos from her part of Scotland. As I don’t make my living from my pics, I haven’t put my name across the image so it can’t be used. I just thought I should start putting my name on them somewhere, as they’re going out into the big wide internet world. I respectfully ask that if you use a photograph of mine, please don’t crop my name out of it. 🙂

The pics are all from Scotland, taken on random walks around the places featured.

Bank Street, Stirling. Too lovely a building not to photograph.

Bank Street, Stirling. Too lovely a building not to photograph.

Stirling chimneys, taken from Stirling Castle esplanade.

Stirling chimneys, taken from Stirling Castle esplanade.

These two photos were taken during the summer, when I was waiting for a tyre to be changed on my car. I walked up the steep hill to Stirling Castle, and then promptly ruined my calorie-burning efforts by having an enormous ice-cream!

I’m amazed I actually took the above photos, as the aforementioned Coral will testify to the fact that I was suffering horribly with a cold that day.

Edinburgh Moon

Edinburgh Moon

Scott Monument, Edinburgh

Scott Monument, Edinburgh

Taken in December when hubby and I were visiting Edinburgh for the Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens. The eerie light is actually coming from the Funfair.

Playing around with black and white for these last two. Airth is my home village, with lots of lovely walks and old markers, such as the Headless Cross. This is said to have been the Mercat Cross of High Airth, an older version of the village which was built on a slightly different site.

Hope you enjoyed this photographic wander with me! I’m sure we’ll be going on some more in future…

Goodbye To 2015

Hi folks! Hope you all survived the festive season, however you chose to celebrate it (or not celebrate it). Mine was quite low key, which suited me (and long-suffering hubby) just fine, as the second half of 2015 was rather manic. We are partying at New Year, though, so I’m gearing up for that, and trying to decide if I can brave the shops to buy a new sparkly top in the sales.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, as I think it’s just a way to put pressure on yourself and then feel extra bad when things don’t go as planned. One thing I’ve realised over the past few years is that life loves to throw curve balls at you, and sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Take 2015. Nothing much happened in the first half, apart from helping my mum move into her new bungalow, and a fun mini break to Liverpool in May. Then: bam! All at once, our plan for major house renovations came together, and we took a holiday to Turkey, including a trip to Istanbul, right in the middle of it all. When we got back, it was full steam ahead to get the renovations finished – and then my mum had a stroke and spent four weeks in hospital. She has made a pretty full recovery and is back in her wee bungalow, but that gave everyone a bit of a fright. No sooner had the house been put back together, than I started my Open University degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. I’d also joined the local Writers’ Circle in September, which I’m very much enjoying. And to cap it off, early in December I heard I’d got a promotion at work, so I’m going to be even busier in 2016. Eek!

Me studying... ;)

Me studying… 😉

I fully admit I’ve struggled a bit to keep up this blog during 2015, simply due to lack of time – and with my OU degree, the Writers’ Circle, and more of the day job in 2016, I’m certainly not going to have any extra time next year! But I DO want to keep blogging – I love the community of readers, writers and all kinds of people I’ve met through doing it. So I’m telling myself here not to mentally beat myself up, and if my blog is a little less regular than weekly or even fortnightly, that’s okay. Some of the stuff I write for the Circle or for my OU course may end up as a blog post as well, killing the proverbial two birds with one stone. 😉

In spite of my lack of time, when I look back I’m pretty pleased with my writing achievements for 2015. I’ve had short stories and articles in two magazines and one newspaper. I’ve featured on a flash fiction podcast. I’ve read some of my work at my Writers’ Circle and I think the latter has improved my skills at reading a story out loud. And I have blogged quite a bit (most of you will have noticed my shameless links to some of my posts in the second paragraph). As well as those, my top posts for 2015 were:

What Is A Kelpie, Anyway?

What Goes On Tour (WARNING: this is naughty!)

Is That Really..? Yes, it is. The Pineapple.

There you go, shameless plugging of own work over. 😀 How about you? What did you achieve in 2015 that you’re proud of? Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? Whatever you’re doing, have a great last few days of 2015 and a super 2016!