Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Year of the Horse

    Happy Chinese New Year, the year of the horse. The year of the wooden horse to be exact. To honor this wonderful creature, here are a list of some well-known horses and how we got to hear about them.

The Trojan horse      - Greek mythology
Silver                       - The Lone Ranger
Black Beauty           - Anna Sewell books
Meg                         - Robert Burns (Tam o'Shanter)

Bess                        - Dick Turpin (Famous
                                    English Highwayman)

Tornado                    - McCulley's (Zorro)

Rocinante                 - Cervantes's (Don Quixote)

Black Nell                - Wild Bill Hickok

The Black (Stallion)  - Walter Farley books

The Kelpie               - Celtic folklore


Monday, 27 January 2014

My Gothic Interest

York Minster, York, England
      Death, Heaven, Hell, angels and demons feature in my published novel, Salvation No Kissing Required and in my current works in progress.

La Seu, Palma, Mallorca, Spain
    Therefore it won't be any surprise to you I'm sure, that I like to read books where death has a habit of cropping up. I'm especially a lover of Gothic or fiction with Gothic influences. Some of my favourite authors are Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Edgar Allan Poe, Daphne Du Maurier and Stephen King.

York Minster, second largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe

    So, searching through my stock of photographs the other day I don't know why it came as a surprise to me, that my love of the Gothic style doesn't stop at literature. It seems I have a great interest in Gothic architecture too. After all the years I've been around, I had no idea until now. It goes to show you can learn something new every day, even about yourself.

    La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Friday, 24 January 2014

A Bard's Tale

A celebration supper to Robert Burns, haggis and whisky included.
        I couldn't let the 25th of January come and go without mentioning Robert Burns, Scotland's famous bard, in my blog. Last year I shared some facts about him along with various photographs of Scotland, but this year I wanted to do something a bit special.

    So I made the 120 mile round trip to his birthplace in Alloway, Ayrshire. While I soaked up the atmosphere, I took lots of photographs in the hope that you could share some of the experience with me.

    My first stop was the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, where I found a fantastic exhibition of the belongings and works of the man himself. His chair balancing on its back legs and pages of a manuscript floating eerily above his desk where he penned some of his famous works, instantly caught my eye.

Tam o'Shanter being chased by a witch

    Paintings depicting his colourful characters, bring the collection of handwritten manuscripts alive.  A 3D, digitised version of the book known as the Kilmarnock Edition, is also displayed in the museum. Allowing the visitor to sample Burns's, Poems Chiefly in the Scots Dialect, as though it was written yesterday.  

    The limited edition, published by John Wilson a firm based in Kilmarnock in 1786, showcased Burns's talent for writing and led him to stardom. Each display cabinet certainly has a story to tell about this celebrated individual and the recordings of his poems and songs that you can listen too create an electrifying ambiance.

Alloway Auld Kirk

    After lunch we set off on foot to explore the rest of the site. A short walk and we found ourselves at Alloway Auld Kirk, which famously features in Burns's poem Tam o'Shanter.

William Burns's grave

    Inside the gates of the Auld Kirk, a group of young school children gathered around Burns's father, William's, grave. They were listening to their guide, who was reading aloud the inscription on the rear of the worn headstone which was composed by the poet.

Burns Monument
     On leaving the grounds of the Kirk and looking left, the skyline is dominated by the Burns Monument. Entering through a turnstile iron gate, we found ourselves surrounded by beautiful memorial gardens, pathways zigzagging here and there.

Tam o'Shanter (Left) Sooter Johnie (Right)

    The path we chose led us to a building that houses life size statues of Tam o'Shanter, Sooter Johnie and Nance Tinnock. Leaving here we went straight to the monument itself, however it is in need of some restoration inside, but a worthwhile visit nevertheless.

Inside the monument
    With Tam o'Shanter's image and poem now in my mind, we headed for the Brig O'Doon. The bridge where Tam on the back of his trusted grey mare, Meg, crossed the river to escape the clutches of chasing witches. Luckily, both Tam and his mare successfully escaped with their lives. Unluckily for Meg she lost her tail in the process.
Brig O'Doon

    Our last stop was the cottage that Burns was born in, with its whitewashed walls and thatched roof. Built by his father, two of its four rooms were used by the family themselves, Burns being born in the box bed in the kitchen.

Burns's Birthplace
    The remaining rooms were utilised as a byre for their animals and a barn to store the tools needed on the small holding. He lived here for the first seven years of his life before his Mother, Agnes and father  moved the family to Mount Oliphant Farm, near Alloway.

The bed Burns was born in
        This was the end of my trail, but the tales and poems of the Scottish bard will live on forever. 
River Doon


Monday, 20 January 2014

It's Official


    There are times when I read the findings of surveys, I wonder what real conclusions the research reached. However, I read two the other day with interest and although I wasn't particularly surprised by the outcome, I think some people might be.

    Firstly, I looked at the recently published results of a survey that Digital Book World and the Writers Digest did towards the end of last year. Approximately 9200 authors contributed to the questionnaire, including authors awaiting to be published, self and traditionally published, as well as hybrid authors. Amongst the questions put to the participants, was one that asked about their actual earning's. The end result concluded that a majority of authors earn less than $1000, (£600) per year.

    The second one I read was compiled by the actors union, Equity (UK). They put the same question to their members and it found that half of their membership earned less than £5000, ($8300) annually. Often working for not just low pay, but no pay at all.   Now whilst it seems that actors are a little better paid than us authors, I think we can hardly call them rich.

    In this instance I believe this research makes it official, a majority of us with creative tendencies definitely aren't motivated by money.



Friday, 17 January 2014

Thursday the day after Friday


    I try to stay ahead of the game and I normally prepare my blog on a Thursday. But Thursdays recently have turned into the most annoying days of the week. Something always turns up and interferes with my routine.
    It's not that I haven't been motivated to get started, I'm chomping at the bit to write. However there seems to be little gremlins living in my home that only come out to play on a Thursday. They stir up mischief for their fun and my irritation.

    Three Thursdays in a row my server crashed and after contacting the telecommunication company involved they could give me no reason as to why my broadband failed to work on a Thursday. The customer service representative on the help desk, giggled and suggested that my house may be haunted.

    So when yesterday morning arrived and my broadband was working I cheered. Until ..... the gremlins asked the cold callers to call me. Firstly they tried to sell me solar heating panels. Then came along the central heating companies with their great sale, one time offer of gas heating boilers. Hmm. Problem there, we can't get gas where I live. Then.... on and on and on. Yawn... if I told you the endless list of everyone who called me, boredom will set in.

    Yes I could have ignored the telephone or left the answer machine on, however I was expecting a couple of  important calls. The communications did arrive much later in the day, but by email. Thank goodness the gremlins hadn't decided to tamper with my hub this week.

    Over the weekend I'm going to try and hatch a plan that will fool those little tricksters into believing that Thursday is the day after Friday. Any ideas?

Monday, 13 January 2014


Adding a picture or pictures to my blog is as important to me, as my words. For me it adds some depth and variation. But, being a regular blogger it can be difficult to keep my supply going. Yes, there are stock photography sites, but I decided right from the outset that I wasn't going use them.

    Whilst I know my own supply may not always be perfect or seem relevant, they're original. Apart from wanting originality, there were also other reasons as to why I felt cautious about using stock sites and they are:
  • There may be a cost.
  • There maybe copyright restrictions.
  • I may need permission to use the picture.
    Luckily, but maybe not so lucky for you as a reader I now find myself taking my camera most places I go; just in case a photo opportunity comes along. The good news is, I do draw the line at pushing the trolley around the supermarket with a camera fixed to my eyeball.

    So,  if today is one of those days that the photographs don't appear to be relevant, you now know some of the reasons why.




Friday, 10 January 2014

Where the Similarities End


Castillo del Mar, La Gomera
    Last year I told you about my vacation on the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands, Spain and informed you that film director Ron Howard was going to be filming scenes of, In The Heart of the Sea there.
Beach on the coastal area of Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera
    Although his cast and crew members have been and gone now, the Canary islands are still buzzing with excitement as it seems that scenes from the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson are going to be filmed on the neighbouring island of Tenerife in the coming months.

The coastal town of Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera
        The two islands are heavily dependent on tourists and like the rest of the world they've been finding things a little tough going in the last couple of years. Therefore the money generated by these visitors is welcomed.

    Beach, Puerto De La Cruz, Tenerife
    Both films are due to be released early 2015 and the production teams chose locations in the Canaries, but I think I can safely assume that's where the similarities of the two films will end. Don't you?   

    The Lido, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife



Monday, 6 January 2014

Who will you snuggle up with?


    For many, today is scheduled to be the first day back at work after the Christmas break. However, in lots of areas on both sides of the Atlantic the weather is causing havoc and travelling anywhere, even a short distance is not advisable. So in these locations unless you have a snow plough or a canoe, you should plan to have a duvet day.

    At this time of year the kids want to be outside on their new bicycles, scooters and roller blades that Santa delivered. Unfortunately the experience of zigzagging down the pavements, frantically trying to stay upright, clad in the must have accessories of crash helmet and knee pads may also have to wait for another time.

    If you're  bored with the board games and jig-saw puzzles that have became a permanent fixture on the dining table for the last couple of weeks, this is the perfect day to read the best-seller that Auntie Jane gave you. Maybe even use the Amazon gift voucher from your best friend Sara, to purchase an eBook to download onto your tablet. You know, that tablet that sneaked its way into your Christmas stocking.

    It's also a time to teach the kids that their new iPad mini isn't just for playing games, or listening to music. They too can access a whole new world, reading books.   Hopefully whatever horrible conditions are outside, you're all able to stay safe and snuggled up in front of the fire in your own home. If you're snuggling up with a good book today, who's it going to be?





Friday, 3 January 2014

Somewhere Only We Know!

Callendar Park, Falkirk
    When the elasticated waist trousers feel as though they're ready to ping under the strain, I know it's time to get motivated. After a week of over indulging, with not much exercise fitted in, my bathroom scales are edging towards a place no woman wants to go. Not if she wants to be able to come back easily.

Woodland Paths

    So my partner and I put on our wellies (wellington boots) and warm clothing yesterday and set out for a walk in a nearby park. Because in Scotland, the second of January is still a public holiday we were anticipating that we would be the only two people there.

Callendar House, Falkirk

    Whether others needed to burn off calories, or just wanted to take advantage of a day which had started without rain and high winds, I don't know. But it was a little naive to think that a beautiful place such as Callendar Park, in Falkirk was somewhere only we know.

    However we didn't really mind sharing, because the winding paths through the woodland and the magnificent chateau style house overlooking the lake are something that should be shared and enjoyed by all.