Opinions. Everybody Has 'Em.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Happy Halloween, Humans!

I love Halloween. Always have. As a kid, Halloween probably outdid Christmas for me in the excitement stakes ( if only pressies were included in Halloween, I might never have given Christmas a second thought ), and even then I was a little bit obsessed with all things dark and supernatural. The darker and creepier the better. The notion that on All Hallows Eve a supernatural veil between worlds was at its thinnest, that doors or portals opened up temporarily allowing the dead to rejoin the living, was fascinating and thrilling to me. It still is. My beloved homeland Scotland is a land awash in magic and mystery, and much gory history too, all perfect Halloween fodder for anyone with a little darkness to their imagination. In Orkney, Halloween has long been refererd to as 'Devilment Night' in reference to the pranks played, often on unwary 'outsiders', including showering them in eggs, flour, and treacle! Recent years, however, have seen a clamp-down on these pranks by the ubiquitous Fun Police. The origin of the pranks lie in much darker, superstitious rituals played out to keep the bad spirits and the evil Fae away at this time of year when those veils-between-the-worlds were so thin. The eggs, flour, and treacle used now have replaced the somewhat less savory ingredients of days of yore, which were then designed to expose the Fae to human sight, or to keep the spirits "stuck" within the bounds of cemeteries.

Halloween is, of course, all about dressing up ( "guising" in Scotland ) and parties. Although I've never been one for large social gatherings and tend to give all manner of parties a wide berth, including Halloween ones, my sometimes odd and generally inventive parents made certain that I never missed out on Halloween fun growing up. One year Dad took it into his head that we should dress up and drive the 20 miles to surprise Mum's sister at home. Dad, done up in Nora Batty-style drag complete with curlers and headscarf, floral pinny, and wrinkly stockings ( a long-running UK television sitcom from the 80s, Last of The Summer Wine, produced the infamous Nora Batty character ) certainly gave the guy on duty at the toll bridge a good laugh. After that it became a family tradition on Halloween and the adults competed even more keenly than me and my cousins to outdo each other with costumes. Another year, stuck in hospital over Halloween, a group of mothers also stuck there doing dialysis training, got together an impromptu party on the ward. They raided the ward kitchen for bread and jam to make sticky jammy pieces, and made novel use of IV poles and tubing to string these dripping, sticky offerings from. We each took a turn being blindfolded - using a couple of paper surgical masks - twirled around until slightly disoriented, and then we had to grab a bite from the jammy pieces. Not as easy as it sounds, especially when you have a couple of giggling nurses continually moving the IV poles further and further away from you! And I'm pretty certain that cardboard bedpans were not intended for use in apple-dooking, but hey, when in a childrens' hospital...I daresay that in today's too often cheerless world the bean-counters who have overrun the NHS and the dreary Health & Safety Executive would all have had a fit and a bad turn at our cavalier use of supplies and scanty regard for jam-slippery floors!

I still put up Halloween decorations - sometimes I like them so much I'll leave them up year-round so that most of the rooms in my house have ended up looking a bit like a leftover Haunted House attraction with screaming skeletons and red-eyed bats hanging from the ceilings, and Grim Reapers at the windows. I don't need an excuse to eat too much candy ( or chocolate cake ) or to spike the punch bowl, but if ever you wanted a good excuse for doing so, Halloween is definitely it! Neither do I need a reason to watch hours of horror movies, but there's somethign a little extra-spookily special about watching them at Halloween...just don't expect any reassuring cuddles from me if you're the scaredy-cat sort. You'd be more likely to get a cushion thrown at your head for distracting me from the movie than an arm to cling to!

But if you absolutely insist on something a little more - bleeech! - romantic for Halloween, try this ancient Orcadian tradition...at midnight on October 31st, any young un-wed lass should go to the barn or other outbuilding, taking with you a sieve, a pair of scissors, and a knife. Whilst facing away from the door of the barn - which should be left open - you must 'winnow' the scissors and knife in the sieve, doing so three times whilst repeating the magical words "three wechts o' naitheen" ( no, I don't know what it means either ). Then you should turn around and the first person that you see passing the open barn door will be your future spouse! NB. If the first person you see pass happens to be your father or brother, I'm afraid you may be the victim of a Fae prank! Better luck next year, sweetie.

A wee Halloween greeting from The Dog...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Family vs Future. Decisions, choices, and finding the one-size-fits-all solution.

Today I had the unsettling experience of feeling a sense of relief and a little bit bad all at once when I realized that moving away from my current island home to go back to where my mother stays, may not be as easy as everyone anticipated. I love my mother. She is one of the most courageous, resourceful, and calm-under-fire people I have ever known. She has passed some wonderful qualities to me, including the ability to see a glimmer of light in even the most hopeless and/or frightening of situations which, at various times in my life, has come in very handy indeed.

But we also remain chalk-and-cheese in many respects as far as our personalities go. This is particularly noticeable in matters of household affairs where I have inherited my Dad’s laidback approach ( “ The dust bunnies are relatively tame and so long as they only grow to a certain size, don’t worry too much about ‘em” ) and Mum is, well, Mum is a house-proud control freak. Most of the time I forget where the iron lives day-to-day: Mum can recall the day it was purchased, where it was purchased from, and often the name of the salesgirl who sold it to her. I find this trait in her bewildering but vaguely amusing. She finds my lack of household skills/care disappointing at best and little short of scandalous at worst. We can laugh about this so long as we don't have to live with the results of one another's differing household approaches. 

Mum's physical health is failing. She has carers and home helps, and a few friends who help out, but there are some matters to which she would prefer to trust a family member - and that would be moi. There are always a host of problems associated with caring for an elderly, physically frail relative, no matter how much you love and respect them, and just one of those can be the clash of ideals. For two very different people from two very different generations - the one of whom is years used to looking after the other, to being a mother to them with everything which that role entails - to suddenly switch roles can be a traumatic experience for both. Mum is clinging to what control she has left; clinging to it with a grim and strident determination which sadly and seriously is coming to more and more lack the humorously tempering input of my Dad, who is almost 20 years dead now. Where once the rougher edges of Mum’s insistence that everything be done ‘her-way-or-take-the-highway’ could be smoothed out by some gentle teasing and cajoling from Dad, those rough edges have now hardened into sharp, cutting, deadly barbs that will snag the wary and unwary alike and tear them to shreds. What was once a minor discordant note in her nature has become a major symphony of clashing, jarring noise, and I don’t think I could stand to listen to it for a prolonged period ( okay, I went a bit OTT with the similes and whathaveyous there - I’m a writer, for fuck’s sake, sometimes I take artistic license wherever I want to find it ). Well, not without taking a longing look at the sharpest knives in the kitchen. Probably whilst secretly swigging from a bottle of Captain Morgan, or maybe Grey Goose would be better since vodka has less scent and Mum has a nose like a fucking bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out alcohol on a person. It is for good reason that Mum and I get along better when we have a considerable geographical distance between our lives and homes. If I gave my space up now, I would also - very realistically - be giving up the pleasures of my life as they are. And I like my pleasures as they are. Put it this way, I don’t see myself swapping ‘em for knitting patterns and ‘Coronation Street’.

Also, there is an equally realistic business opportunity for Housemate and I right here on the island. It may take several months, perhaps a full year even, to bring to fruition, but it could well provide us both with a nice little nest-egg for our own golden years, and in the meantime it’s something which we’d thoroughly enjoy doing. If we left the island to return to the place where my mother ( and Housemate’s remaining family ) live, we could kiss that opportunity goodbye. Unfortunately, they live in a place where socio-economic deprivation has reached such a state as would’ve shocked even Charles Dickens in his day. A snowball would stand a better chance in Hades than we would of making our business fly there. Perhaps it is selfish of me to even look at it this way, but I can’t help thinking how it has taken me nearly 42 years to reach the point in my life where I could feasibly set this business up and run it successfully, and well, fuck me, but the thought of having to let that opportunity go just kills me. Even if it were for my mother. Nonetheless, when the one option which would’ve caused this to happen was effectively removed from the table today, I felt that sense of relief. Followed by feeling bad for being relieved. All of which bothers me, even though people have assured me that feeling this way is pretty damned normal and it doesn't make me a monster.

Given that I also have inherited my mother’s ability to find ways either around or out of a problem, I daresay I shall eventually come up with a solution to this dilemma which suits the needs and wants of all. Or die trying, as they say. Well, maybe not that - but I may get very drunk on Grey Goose before it’s all done and dusted!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

First Blog Tour Was Sure Fun Times!

So my first-ever blog tour came to an end yesterday, and what fun it was! My thanks to Roxanne Rhoads, Bewitching Book Tours, and all the lovely bloggers who hosted me and my book, 'Dante's Awakening ( Vampires of Hollywood #1 )'.

A little bit of thinking outside of the box brought me the idea of approaching Bewitching Book Tours to ask if they could arrange a tour for a book which is primarily lesbian fiction. Roxanne was happy to do so, having had arranged LGBT tours before with success. The experience was made not just painless but even pleasant by Roxanne who handled everything, inlcuding the giveaway. In 7 stops I got the opportunity to reach out to a whole new section of potential readers through promos, guest blogs, and some very intelligent interviews. I also got sweet reviews from The Book Maven and Butterfly-o-Meter Books. For the relatively small cost of the tour, I think it was all very worth it indeed.

I know that blog tours are just one more matter in which writers often disagree as to value, but for my money ( both literally and figuratively ) a well-organized book tour via blogs can be an invaluable resource in expanding your readership and getting your name as an author out there.

See my interviews at:

Roxanne's Realm

Books and Other Spells

The Creatively Green Write At Home Mom

And my guest posts at:

Nomi's Paranormal Palace - "Come Over To the Dark Side"

Butterfly-o-Meter Books - "The Enduring Lure of The Vampire"

Smart Mouth Texan - "My Inspiration"

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

My First Blog Tour Now Showing At A Blog Near You!

Yes, my pretties, my first blog tour is now underway. Brought to you courtesy of Bewitching Book Tours, it runs from 15th - 22nd October ( fittingly close to Halloween ), and is helping to promote both 'Dante's Awakening ( Vampires of Hollywood #1 )' and to extend my reach as an author to a new readership. There are guest blogs, starting on the 16th Oct with this piece at SMARTMOUTHTEXAN where I talk about finding my inspiration to write, some promos, reviews, and a few interviws where you can find out more about me, my writing process, and what I do when I'm not writing...oo-er, missus! The whole deal has been beautifully organized and orchestrated by Roxanne Rhoads at FANG-TASTIC BOOKS where you can visit to find the full tour schedule. There's even a giveaway of goodies that you can enter! Just go to the Home page at Fang-Tastic and scroll on down...See you all there!