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…

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Spirit Slips Away

Another flash fiction tale for you lovely readers. This one started life as an Open University Creative Writing course exercise, and then grew into a story for the local newspaper. Rock fans may guess who the fortune teller sees from the title and the image…

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Eva stared at the tattered card. ‘Gypsy Petulengro’ it read. ‘Fortune Teller to the Stars’. Of course, nearly every woman by the name of Petulengro called themselves that. You fell over them on every seaside pier and promenade. She had been the real thing. Both the famous and the ordinary had flocked to her for readings. Until it all went wrong.

She didn’t remember what she had been looking for when she went to the desk. Scrabbling in the drawer, pulling out pens, paper clips – and then the card. She used to have hundreds of these made up. She glared at the picture next to the writing. The woman in the photograph mocked her. The knowing smile. The hooped earrings – how predictable. The auburn mane framing a face that was more striking than pretty. The chin was too pointed, the nose too long. Yet the bright green cat’s eyes, sparkling with mischief, had fooled many an admirer into calling her beautiful.

Eva coiled a strand of grey hair round her finger. A brittle end snapped. Something snapped inside at that moment, too. Why was she hiding here, alone in her flat with only spiders and dust for company? It wasn’t her fault. Nobody except herself had thought so. Most people didn’t even believe in what she did. But she had never seen anything as clearly before. And when it happened…she couldn’t face something like that again.

Where had hiding away got her? Maybe it was time. She searched the drawer again. Yes – there it was! Still in date, thank goodness. The box of hair dye, luxuriant brown. That would be a start. There was something stuck to the box. She tugged the piece of paper away from the cardboard, and unfolded it. Her breath caught.

She remembered it as though it were yesterday. The curly haired young man, a musician, like so many who came to visit her. Laughing and asking: would he make it big? She had answered truthfully: yes, yes he would. His band would be huge, respected throughout the industry. But then she saw what came with the lifestyle: the partying, the indulgence. And after that…

How she had hidden the vision from him she would never know. He was getting ready to leave then, having heard what he wanted. He didn’t notice her face go white, her hands grip the table edge. Her body swaying with horror and pity.

Squeezing her eyes shut for a moment, she steeled herself, then opened them and faced the newspaper clipping. It was a story that had happened before, and since. Except this one was her bright young star. No more laughing. No more singing. No more music.

ROCK STAR, 27, DEAD OF LETHAL COCKTAIL OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL.

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!

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. 😀

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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. 🙂

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…