‘Return to WordPress’ Ramblings…

Wow, a blog post! Finally! Woo hoo! Yay!

Hi there everyone, I’ve been meaning to get back on here for WEEKS but finally managed to sit my a**e down and do it today. How are you all?

My last post was in August 2016?! I know I said I was going to take a break but even I wasn’t expecting it to be a year long. A bunch of important stuff happened, though. I’ll give you a brief rundown and then get on to cat pictures and Scottish scenery, which, let’s face it, is what everyone would much prefer… 😉

So, as it turned out I didn’t enjoy my new roles within the driver training industry as much as I thought I was going to. As 2016 wore on I was getting more and more unhappy, and wondering what to do about it. Then, I had a wake up call…

In December, hubby’s step-brother died of a sudden heart attack. He was 46 years old, the same age as myself.

I decided life is too short to be stuck doing things that make you unhappy, if there’s any way out of them. After a heartfelt discussion with hubby, I began to make some changes in the New Year. I left The AA, and became an independent driver trainer. I stopped training instructors, and went back to learners and a few qualified drivers. I also went part-time, and acquired another job for three days a week. I am now a Steward for Historic Environment Scotland, based at Inchmahome Priory on the Lake of Menteith. I’ll do a blog post just on this in due course, as there is LOTS to say about it: beautiful scenery, nature, and loads of history, of course!

Although I’m still ironing out a few life niggles (who isn’t?), I’m much happier in my work. It’s a juggling act balancing the two jobs, but I LOVE my Steward’s role. It gets me out of the enclosed environment of the car and into the fresh air, I get to chat Scottish history with lots of people, and – I get to sail a boat! 🙂

The upshot of these positive changes has meant that I actually feel like writing again. So here I am! Also, I need to get back into the way of writing, as I’ve enrolled for my third year with the Open University, continuing with my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. That starts in October, so I’m getting prepared!

Whew! I think that’s pretty much everything. As promised, here are some photos of what I’ve been up to…

As you can see, the cats are all fine…

Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome bluebells back in May

Ducks and my little boat in the background

Oh, and the keeping fit has been going pretty well, too. More on that in future. Here’s me looking sweaty after running round the Kelpies. 😀

So, that’s the (abridged) story so far. Hopefully, I’ve found my mojo again and I’ll be back on this blog more often. Tell me what you’ve been up to, readers! Has anyone else made big changes? Or small ones?

Karen xx


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

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

Writing About Not Writing

It’s very annoying, but I’m finding it hard to hit my writing groove again after the holidays. At first I was all like ‘Why the heck can’t I get back into it?’ and mentally beating myself up. After a think about it, I’ve decided to stop that. Why? well mainly, because my writing is supposed to be FUN. I’ll explain.

One thing I have been writing is my diary. Until my Creative Writing course last year, I’d never kept one, and I’m a bit sporadic about it. But since I’ve been struggling to write fiction and blog posts, it’s been a great way to ensure I write something. It’s been helpful in pinpointing what the problems are:

1) I’m getting busier with the day job. This is intentional. I’ve neglected it over the last 2 years with my dad dying and my mum being unwell, and I really want to give it the attention and hours it deserves. But more day job inevitably means less writing time.

2) Hubby changed jobs, so he’s in and out at different times, and we’re still adapting our routines to suit that.

3) I was starting to put pressure on myself to write, or more accurately, to write specific things, which was self-defeating. Suddenly, it wasn’t FUN anymore, and so I’ve been finding excuses not to do it.

So: I’m taking a little step back. I know deadlines are sometimes necessary, but all they’re doing at the moment is stressing me out. I feel like I’m in danger of falling out of love with writing – and I don’t want that to happen!

I’ll continue to write in my diary, and hopefully still blog regularly, if not weekly, until I get back on track. I’ve also been doing more planning for future stories, and working on characters’ backgrounds. I’m not going to pressure myself to submit to magazines and anthologies, or to work on my novel. I’m going to spend some time writing as the mood takes me, which was how it all started in the first place. 🙂

Fellow writers – have you ever felt like this? Did you find ways to get over it?

An Arresting Weekend (yes, that’s a really bad pun)

Some people think my day job consists of me careering around on two wheels, shouting at unfortunate learner drivers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Being a driver trainer is not as exciting/terrifying as folk believe. And sometimes I get to do different stuff. Last weekend I was privileged to be part of the Road Safety Scotland Village at the Royal Highland Show. My colleagues and I spent the weekend:

Promoting Road Safety in all sorts of ways

Engaging with and educating the public

Having fun

Taking silly photos of each other

Oh dear...

Oh dear…

So what is a Road Safety Village? Well, ours consisted of:

Police Scotland, with a variety of cars, a ‘seatbelt convincer’, and the mobile speed camera van

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

The Fire Service, with their cutting tools

AA Driving School (that’s me!)

…and many more organisations dedicated to making our roads safer for all users.

We spent the weekend talking with people about such things as:

The importance of driving at an appropriate speed

The effects of drink driving

What to do if you’re first upon the scene of an accident

Why it’s important to use seatbelts, and VERY important to make sure child seats are correctly fitted and secured

All extremely serious stuff, which can be very dry. If a little bit of light-heartedness can be introduced here and there, it actually benefits the message, as people just switch off if you’re preachy. Hopefully we gave people some valuable information, as well as lots of useful freebies such as tyre tread checkers, reflective stickers (kids loved those), and all kinds of pens, keyrings, posters and whatnot.

The kids had their own Safety Mascot, Ziggy. (There’s a pic of me with him, below). This meant some unfortunate person had to wear the Ziggy suit over what was a VERY hot weekend. On Saturday, we had some lovely young helpful Police Volunteers. They all got bundled into the suit at one time or another. That’s what teenagers are for, aren’t they?

We grown ups love playing with police cars as much as the kids. I was told by a colleague to get in the back of the car and look sad. This didn’t work very well, as I was having too much fun. We also had a look in the speed camera van, sat on the quad bikes (quad bike safety was being promoted, giving that the Highland Show is primarily a farming event), and in my case, chatted up some firemen. My penchant for firemen has become a standing joke among my Road Safety colleagues. 😉

The event lasted for four days, and at the end I was tired, with sore feet, but pleased it had gone well. However, tiredness got me last Monday, and I had to have an extra nap after work. Then I had a busy week – hence no blog post last week, and not much other writing got done either. I’m catching up now, though!

Next, on 2nd July, I have the amazing writer Joseph Pinto on my blog, with his new book, Dusk and Summer. And keep an eye on Mari Wells‘s blog during July, as it’s Vampire Month! I’ll have a serial story featuring over there.

In the meantime, drive safely – or I’ll come and get you! *evil cackle*

Notes from a mad household

This is supposed to be a quick post (ha!) as I should be finishing up my final assessment for my Creative Writing course – due in three days. Hello, last minute panic! Just kidding, it’s mostly done. Then I have a long wait for the result – boo. Haven’t had to wait for exam results for a great number of years. It’s weird being back there again… 😉

Other news from this week:

Had the sad duty of attending the funeral of best friend’s grandpa. But it was a lovely celebration of a great and long life. At the lunch afterwards, we were all entertained by best friend’s number two son having too much coffee, and looking like this:

My mum actually managed to go into hospital for a routine procedure and have it all go smoothly. Yay! She stayed with me for a day after, which was nice. Then, as I was driving her home, I discovered…

A crack in the car windscreen. On the day of a driving test! Oh super. Fortunately, the examiner allowed the test to go ahead. New windscreen arrives today.

Did my second-last week of road safety presentations for the Commonwealth Games volunteer drivers. I’m really going to miss it when we finish up next week. Everyone involved has been great to work with and it’s been enormous fun. Unfortunately, on Saturday, this meant I had to miss…

Long-suffering hubby running his first 10K run! Luckily his mum and her partner were there to cheer him on. He was very happy with his time, and it can’t have been too awful an experience, as he’s signed up to do two more races later this year. He also raised money for Macmillan Cancer Support, a great cause dear to both of us. Here he is with his medal (and his mum) at the finish:

So after that, the rest of hubby’s weekend was a well-deserved lazy one. As it’s a bank holiday weekend, the original Star Wars trilogy is on TV, so we’ve been having evenings on the couch watching those. Well, may the force be with me as I complete this writing assignment! Have a great week, everybody!

(Apologies to Bill Bryson for the title of this post. 🙂 )

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