Things I Can’t Do Now I’m Over 40

A bout of illness which totally floored me this week got me thinking about this. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not about to give up screaming at rock bands, dressing up for Doctor Who events, and all the other things SOME people say I shouldn’t be doing. This is a lament for the toughness and downright elasticity of my youthful self. Here is a list of stuff I just don’t cope with now I’m no longer in my twenties or thirties:

1) Being ill. I remember being at University and getting infections, colds, and all manner of ailments, and just shrugging them off and getting on with it. I sniffled through lectures, added my own germs to lab work, and still went out on the town of an evening. Nowadays, I retreat under the duvet and feel sorry for myself until I feel better. (Maybe I’m a man?) 😉

2) Lack of sleep. This does depend on what my day involves, but generally – forget it. I can get by on 6 hours for a day or so, but any less than that and I don’t make it through the day without a nap.

3) Hangovers. Nope. If I’m so foolish as to drink enough to get one, the whole next day is lost. I’ve surfaced to find the cats staring at me, trying to work out if I’m dead. This usually leads to a trail of clothes and jewellery that I’ve drunkenly discarded en route to falling into bed the night before, and if I’m lucky, a scattering of change left over from the pub and the taxi.

4) Getting Having a suntan. Newly discovered, this one. Getting it wasn’t the problem – and yes, I tanned very sensibly: high factor sunscreen, staying out of the midday sun, and all that. But I’ve gone through 3 vats of moisturiser and I only got back from my holiday 2 weeks ago. My skin obviously doesn’t cope with drying out that much any more.

5) Eating any damn thing from any damn vendor. Kebabs, suspicious hamburgers, greasy chips…you name it, I could eat it and my cast-iron stomach just sucked it up. Now, the tiniest dodgy molecule and all hell breaks loose. Literally. Too much information.

6) Not writing things down. I don’t remember making lists when I was younger. Okay, that was partly because I had nothing to do except: go to lectures (maybe), eat (any old crap from the takeaway will do), go to pub (definitely), go on to club (if legs still working after leaving pub). These days, I can barely remember to brush my teeth if it’s not on a list. Ho hum.

So, ladies and gents of a certain age, do any of these sound familiar? (Please say yes). Would you add any? I’m sure I’ll think of some more – I’ll have to write them in a list as I go along, though, otherwise I’ll forget… 🙂

The good old days - ah, how I miss them. Yes, that is soon-to-be-long-suffering-hubby with his head in his hands...

The good old days – ah, how I miss them. Yes, that is soon-to-be-long-suffering-hubby with his head in his hands…

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Excuses, excuses…

Here is a list of reasons why I didn’t blog last week:

Easter chocolate hangover

Practising Road Safety presentation for Commonwealth Games drivers

Having meetings re Commonwealth Games presentation

Sending a million emails re Commonwealth Games presentation

Shopping for new clothes in order to look amazing when giving presentation

Doing next Creative Writing course assignment

Panicking about said assignment

Doing more of assignment

Finishing first draft of assignment

Trying to stop Frodo cat pooping in plant pots

Anything else I can think of

So, as you can see, I’m still busy, dizzy and fizzy! Very much enjoying it all, though.

I would say normal service will resume soon, but I have no idea what normal service is. 😉

Anyhoo…my assignment is due in a week’s time. The Commonwealth Games stuff starts for real a couple of days after. Then I’m going on a short break with long-suffering hubby (who really has been suffering, as he’s been my presentation guinea pig). I think we’re going to York, but it’s not quite decided yet…

After that, my final assignment is due at the end of May. Phew!

THEN…I shall quietly pass out in a corner.

‘You never do anything quietly!’ – Long-suffering hubby

Thank you, darling.

Okay, then I shall not-very-quietly be working on more material for this blog, including short fiction. I’ve loved my course and it’s taught me a lot, but it’ll be great to get back to writing more of the genres I like, and not having to worry quite so much about word count. I’m dying to do a big tidy up of this site, and I’ve got some bits and pieces to add to it. I’ll also be featuring some Vampire stories on Mari Wells‘s blog in the summer, if all goes as planned.

However, at the moment my mind is mostly being boggled by the size of the transport operation for the Commonwealth Games. (The Olympics would have been even bigger – ye Gods!) I and my colleagues have 2000 volunteer drivers to train during the month of May. Advanced driving techniques, radio and satnav use, Games routes, protocol when dealing with VIPs and other passengers…the list goes on. Hats off to all who volunteer for such work.

I shall Keep Calm and Carry On – or as us Scots say:

Shut up and get on with it

Shut up and get on with it

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

Writing creatively (and reading it aloud in class!)

My Open University Creative Writing course started this weekend, with a Day School. I was looking forward to it, and I wasn’t disappointed. A really useful experience, both for meeting my tutor and others in my tutorial group, and for practising writing exercises. I even came out of it with the beginnings of a story which my tutor thought I should develop. Result!

The day took place at the grandly-named Stirling University Management Centre, which is only 20 minutes or so from my home. I’d been to Stirling Uni plenty of times: for other courses, to drop off driving pupils, and to the theatre that’s on campus. I hadn’t been to the Management Centre before, and we all commented that it was very posh. We seemed to be having more fun than a lot of people. It looked like there were lots of dry conferences taking place in other rooms, with bored delegates sitting in a circle doing team-building exercises. Urgh.

We had a general chat about what we all liked to write (and read), asked any questions about the course, and then got down to writing. I did more handwriting that day than I’ve probably done in a year. I could have used my tablet, but I decided that for short exercises I’d be just as quick using my notebook. We did some prompted freewriting, and then some exercises on creating characters. I found the latter very useful, as I hadn’t tried that kind of thing before. We then had to start building a story around our character. After a break for lunch (and chocolate, to feed my flagging brain), we continued the story and introduced some dialogue. Ahead-of-herself-as-usual me had used dialogue in her piece already. So I wrote more dialogue, developed another character, and now I have the makings of a story which I hope to continue with. As a teaser, it involves the following:

An elderly gentleman

A historic location

Two cats

A young woman and her daughter (both with unusual ‘gifts’)

A mystery

Are you intrigued? I am! Let’s see where it goes…

We were encouraged to read our pieces out loud so that our tutor and fellow students could comment. Shyness is not one of my qualities, so I got stuck in, as did most people, especially after a little encouragement. We were kind to each other and mentioned all the positives, leaving it to our tutor to be the villain and offer any criticism! She was lovely, however, and only had small points to make. We finished the day with another chance to ask questions, and then headed off to start putting what we’d learned into practice.

It was a great way to get fired up for the course, and I take my hat off to our tutor for making it interesting and enjoyable. The only problem I can foresee is that I’m going to have even more ideas for stories now, but no extra time to write them! (Yes, I know this is a good problem to have. I’m kidding). But wouldn’t it be great if things like Time-Turners, from Harry Potter, actually existed? I could write for a few hours on one project, then go back and write for the same few hours on a different one. I know I’d end up going crazy, from exhaustion and brain overload, but still… Hubby has just stated that no-one would notice the difference. Thanks, darling. *makes mental note to base a character on hubby, then kill said character off in a gruesome way* 😉

More from the Creative Writing classroom soon! Now, since All Hallows Eve approaches, time to write about witches! I’ll be guesting on my friend Mari Wells‘ blog soon, talking about Scotland’s rich history of witchcraft. Mari knows all about vampires, werewolves, and witches and I’m very flattered to be featuring on her blog. More news on that in due course…

One Funeral, One Friend, and Far Too Many Calories

Last week was difficult, no two ways about it. Some of you already know why. For those that don’t: my father died ten days ago, and last Wednesday was the day of his funeral. I’ve realised as I’m writing that I don’t want to go through the ins and outs of the week. I’m just setting the scene for why I spent most of Friday crying, which is not like me at all. Hubby, on the other hand, cries at cute animals, sad bits in films, and if he can’t get the lid off the peanut butter. See, that’s a lot more like me, making up a witty one-liner so I don’t depress the hell out of everyone. 😉

Anyway…my best friend was driving down from Aberdeenshire while I was having this crisis, with the main aim of cheering me up, and not allowing me to brood all weekend while hubby was at work. A bit like cleaning your house before the cleaner comes, I decided as her arrival got closer that I didn’t want to be a blubbering mess when she turned up. So, I put on loud music, jumped in the shower, and successfully revitalised myself. I put aside all the tasks of dealing with my father’s estate, which was what had started my bad day in the first place, and did girlie things like lighting scented candles and putting out nice towels. By the time my bestest bud arrived, I was a lot more together, although this didn’t stop her from giving me a) a hug and b) a lecture about trying to do too much, too soon. She is an awesome friend.

Friday evening saw us eat a pizza, drink a bottle and a half of wine, eat a whole box of Thornton’s chocs and watch an action movie to keep sad thoughts at bay. Now before you say it, I don’t advocate drinking as a way of coping with problems. If I’d been on my own and/or in the same state of mind as earlier, I wouldn’t have touched the wine. But in the company of my mad friend and long-suffering hubby, who was faced with two giggling girls by the time he came in from work, it was fine. Apart from having to take two painkillers for a headache in the early hours of next morning (though I blame that on too much sugar). 😉

On Saturday we had a shopping trip to Glasgow. On the purchases front, this went pretty well; I came back with a new hat, some perfume, and a pressie for hubby. However, it wore my poor friend out, as she damaged her Achilles tendon a few months ago and is still suffering from that. Walking on flat ground was fine, but you don’t realise how many steps Glasgow has until you have a friend who can’t go up and down them! The poor girl had to put her foot up on a cushion when we got back, and I ended up doing her a favour by going upstairs for her whenever she wanted something from her room. (She lives in a bungalow, so this hadn’t been an issue until she came to visit me). Never mind – we took her mind off it with fish and chips, more wine, more chocs, and another movie. She set off back home on Sunday morning leaving me in a much better frame of mind.

Now I need to try and get back to normal – whatever that means. It’s daunting. I have to deal with my father’s estate. My creative writing course starts in two weeks. I have to earn a living. But I do have a supportive hubby and friends, which many people don’t have. I have an outlet in my writing to share my feelings and maybe even turn them into something creative. I have cats to cuddle. And if I make it through the next four weeks, I have two gigs and a mini break in Blackpool to look forward to. Roll on the 21st of October…

Karen (A bit sad, but still slightly bad and definitely mad…) xx

the image represents dad's flowers, and me and best friend's wedding bouquets, although our roses were cream

the image represents dad’s flowers, and me and best friend’s wedding bouquets, although our roses were cream

Yay, I can work technology! Plus other news from my week.

As you may have guessed from the title, this is me checking I can work WordPress on another of my gadgets, this time my iPad. In just over four weeks (but who’s counting? ;-)) I’m off to visit the USA for the very first time! Okay, I’m not going to be doing long, well thought out blog posts while I’m away. What do you mean, you didn’t realise any thought went into them? It takes a lot of effort to be as crazy and random as I am, I’ll have you know. But I will want to update (bore) you with a few snippets of what I’m up to while on holiday. I’m likely to be using the iPad to do that. Hence this test.

So what’s been happening over the last few days? Well, some of you will know I had a limping cat last week. When I wrote my last piece I said I was probably going to take him to the vet. I did and guess what? Yes, his limp mysteriously disappeared the moment we got there. Typical. One of my mum friends commented that children do this when taken to the doctor’s. Anyway, I got some anti-inflammatory medicine and brought the yowling beast back home. Either it was extremely fast-acting stuff or the b****r WAS faking it, as 24 hours later there was no sign of the limp. Grr.

For my rock fan friends, Halestorm drowns out shouty Bengal cats in the car very well. Especially when the driver is singing along with Lzzy Hale. For non-rock fans, yes, I have spelled her name right.

In other news…I am currently trying to read three books. No, not all at the same time – even I can’t multitask to that extent. I am switching between a romance, an action thriller and a memoir. I’m hoping that the vast difference between the three will mean I don’t get confused. Then again, this is the girl who last week went to the wrong branch of a business where she had an appointment, even though the correct address was written in her diary. Airhead moment! Cue driving like a maniac – I mean, driving swiftly but sensibly to the other branch. Much laughter from the staff (who are all my friends as well) but I was completely frazzled. I spent the rest of the day in a bad mood with myself for being so stupid.

So, back to trying to read three books. This is the only problem (and it’s a good problem to have) with meeting all these great authors through my blog and Twitter. Too many books, not enough hours in the day. There is an ever growing virtual pile of e-books to read. Hey, my holiday involves a ten hour flight there and back. Generally I can read a book in two hours as long as it’s not War and Peace length. Five books each way? I’ll give it my best shot!

I’m mildly annoyed that I haven’t got more fiction writing done this week. However, I am now well into the mad season with my other job. Lots of people wanting to take crash courses *ahem* in driving while they are on holiday in the summer months. That plus a couple of excellent nights out (and therefore lost mornings to recover ;-)) meant a rather busy week.

As it’s apparently also Music Monday, my pics this week are of my favourite rock chick Lzzy Hale in action, and Sam the rock kitty singing along. I may even progress to adding video here one day! But let’s not get too ambitious considering this post was mostly done on my iPad. Listen, it’s taken me a while to get into all these gadgets. Ask long-suffering hubby, who has always loved technology. It’s amazing that I can even switch this i-thingy on…

Interview with K.N. Lee, author of The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld

A few weeks ago K.N. Lee released her debut novel The Chronicles Of Koa: Netherworld, which is already gathering great reviews. I first met K.N. Lee on Twitter and thought this book looked like just my sort of thing. I was busy trying to order a copy when lo and behold! Up she popped on Facebook as well looking for people to read and review the book. I jumped at the chance and we’ve been chatting ever since. I was very flattered as a new blogger and writer when she agreed to be interviewed on my blog. Here’s what we talked about:

Where were you born, and brought up? Where do you live now?

I was born in Chicago, Illinois. My mother and I moved to Atlanta when I was four and later to Charlotte, N.C. when I was 13. I really dreaded moving to North Carolina, but it quickly grew on me.

When did you start writing, and what led you to do it?

I started writing when I was in the second grade. I was obsessed with books and felt like I could create my own. So, I started cutting up cardboard boxes, wrapping wallpaper around it and voila, I had hardcover books. I drew my own pictures and started creating my own fairy tales.

I used to create my own books that way too! You say you are an avid world traveller. Why do you enjoy travel so much?

I enjoy exploring new lands, cultures, and languages. I’m an adventurer, and I have an insatiable desire to absorb as much new experiences as I can. My trip to South Korea was a huge changing point in my life. There was a moment of total culture shock, but the people were so friendly that I fell in love. I think that trip made me a little less shy.

Who and/or what influences you as a writer?

Terry Goodkind, Stephen King, and Anne Rice are big influences of mine. I was introduced to fantasy by Mr. Goodkind, when I picked up his novel, The Stone of Tears. Later, Tolkien also inspired me to create my own creatures instead of recycling the same ones we’ve seen for centuries. Also, my dreams are huge influences on my writing. I’ve been keeping a dream journal since high school. Most of my stories come directly from the elaborate nightmares that I have.

How do you balance writing, travelling and other life commitments?

No matter how busy I am, I always find time to write. I always keep a notebook and pen in my purse for those times when I get an idea or see something interesting. From 14 hour writing days, to half an hour after work days, I never sacrifice writing.

You have just published “The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld”. Introduce us to Koa and her world…

Welcome to a world where vampires must register, humans sell their services as pets, and angels patrol the Earth. This is Koa’s world. As a half-blood (half human and half vampire) Koa and the other agents of the Netherworld division keep order in the mortal world. Prepare to be introduced to a new species of vampire, and original creatures created from my darkest nightmares. Prepare to embark on a journey to the Netherworld.

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

The idea actually came from two dreams that I had. One of the dreams was of a girl who was home alone with her cat. Someone knocked on her door and when she answered it, he tried to hurt her. The twist was that this intruder had made a mistake. This was the wrong girl to mess with. The girl in my dream in turn killed the intruder, turned to her cat and nonchalantly said, “Now look at this mess that I have to clean up.” Then, the cat talked back to her. Amazing dream! The first chapter was pretty much laid out for me right there! I love the idea that people aren’t always what they seem. Koa is that kind of girl. You do not want to mess with her. The second dream was pretty much the chapter with Raven and Al!

Are any of your characters based on you or someone you know?

Koa is the girl that I wish I was. Decisive, feisty, independent, and fearless. Halston is my dream guy. Raven is based off of my black cocker spaniel…named Raven. Everyone else has a measure of personality traits that come from nightmares, friends, and family.

Koa’s world is filled with amazing and scary creatures. How did you come up with the fantastical inhabitants of the Netherworld?

I absolutely loved creating the creatures of the Netherworld! I feel like vampires, werewolves, and the like are so overused nowadays, that the world is craving something new. Syths, Scayors, Jems, War-Breeders, and my version of ‘vamps’ are original creatures that came from nightmares I’ve had.

You mention getting ideas from dreams and nightmares a lot. Are your nightmares scary at the time? How do you cope with them?

Yes, my nightmares frighten me most of the time. I sometimes wake up crying and afraid to go back to sleep, but I’ve learned to embrace them. How can I not appreciate my mind handing me cool stories while I sleep? I tell myself that they are not real, and hurry to write them down before they fade from memory. Once I write them down, it further reminds me that the nightmare was nothing more than my imagination giving me literary gold!

The book ends on a cliffhanger. Can you tell us anything about the second book (without giving too much away, of course!) Do you know how many books there will be in The Chronicles of Koa?

The second book, Lyrinian Blade, will be released Christmas 2013! I honestly cannot wait. I would love to release it today, but alas, I must send it to the editor and revise it again. In this book there we will finally meet Greggan, the king of the Central Dominance in the Netherworld. Bund will cause major havoc, and Koa will be tested in new ways. I’m sure everyone is curious about what happens to Halston, and I don’t think anyone will see what I have in store coming! I also look forward to developing the secondary characters a little more…especially Ian. There is a huge surprise about Ian!

I’m looking forward to finding out more about what happens to Ian! Did you plan the book meticulously? Did your characters or the story ever go off in an unexpected direction?

The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld started as a web series. I would write and release a chapter a week. Then, I figured that it would be much better as a book, so I started filling in Koa’s background and events leading to her journey to the Netherworld. I did use an outline, but more of the time the characters steered the plot away from my outline!

Who is your favourite character – besides Koa of course?!

Halston! By far, Koa’s boss is my favourite character. He has such an interesting backstory that I cannot wait to explore in the upcoming books! I think I’ve created my dream guy. He’s blonde, British, and creates cool weapons. I’m sure other girls will agree 😉

Being British myself, I would have to agree! What other writing do you do? Any other novels in the pipeline?

I also write short stories (mostly horror) and poems. My high-fantasy trilogy, Rise of the Flame is complete. Welcome to a world divided. There are seven races, four realms, and one human girl meant to bring them all together in peace…or war. Meet Lilae, a fire manipulating warrior that has been hunted since the day she was born. I cannot wait to introduce my life’s work to the world!

I can’t wait either! What is your writing routine? Do you have any writing rituals?

I try to write 1000 words every day. Most of the time, I can write more. I usually turn on Celtic music, or movie soundtracks, such as Braveheart and Inception. I’ll even burn incense or candles whenever I’m writing about a foreign land. It actually helps!

I often feel I need to step away from writing as I’m going cross-eyed! How do you relax when you’re not writing?

I know what you mean! I admit, I am a big gamer…so I’ll play Sims 3 or Lineage (my favourite MMORPG.) I also love taking long walks with my dog, going to yoga classes, or riding my bike. Sometimes I’ll even paint or sketch.

I love your website writelikeawizard.com, where you set other authors writing challenges. What led you to do that?

I’m glad that you love it. It has become pretty popular. The concept started with my daily writing prompts on http://www.facebook.com/knycolelee. I would put up a prompt every morning and my friends would write creative stories with them. I would then post those stories to my website. Soon, actual authors would participate and I got the idea that it would be an excellent promotion strategy to help other authors out!

Do you have any advice for other writers or would-be writers?

Easy! Keep writing. I hear that so much from fellow authors that I interview, but it is so true. Writers must write. Never give up what makes you happy. Also, if you’re writing a novel, it’s never too early to start working on your author platform.

Who are your favourite authors? (I’ve made this plural because I can never name just one favourite of anything!)

For fantasy, my favourite authors are Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Terry Goodkind. However, I am also a huge classic British literature fan! I love Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, (She’s also Koa’s favourite author) and Charles Dickens.

How did you go about getting your book published? Do you have an agent?

I am in the process of finding an agent! I want to go the traditional route for Rise of the Flame. Lilae’s story has been in my head since I was a child, and I feel that she deserves the best! Nonetheless, I am quite impatient, and securing a publisher takes a great deal of time, therefore I decided to use Amazon KDP to publish The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld. Still, I wanted my novel to be as polished as possible, so I have an excellent editor, Ann Wicker of East Oak Media, an awesome graphic designer, Brandon Jackson, and a few great girls in my critic group. The amazing author of the Roswell series and former writer for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, Melinda Metz is one of my beta readers. To have her call my characters and weapons cool, blew my mind!

You are having a release party for The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld on 15th June. What does that involve? Can I come? 😉

Yes! I am so excited. Of course you can come. All are welcome. There are details on the website, http://www.thechroniclesofkoa.com. I will have local media, a photographer, and catering. More importantly, I will be signing paperback copies of The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld. Yippee!

Unfortunately as I’m in Scotland I won’t be able to make it to the party in person, but I’ll be there in spirit! Thank you so much to K.N. Lee for this very enjoyable interview.

Buy The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld from Amazon here

For more on K.N. Lee go to:

thechroniclesofkoa.com

writelikeawizard.com

facebook.com/KNycoleLee

twitter.com/knycole_lee