Wednesday 10 April 2019

Hunting Jamie Fraser... (because Richard Rankin wasn't available!)

After a stressful couple of months, I decided I wanted to do something fun. Something for me. I’ve been obsessed with Outlander since the first episode and my latest Mills & Boon medical romance is set on a private estate somewhere outside Glasgow. 

My soundtrack while I was writing this was Caledonia, sung by Richard Rankin, on a loop. We all love Jamie Fraser but after following Richard Rankin, who plays Roger, I've realised he's my kind of people. He's funny as fook! Coincidentally, my heartbroken Scottish doctor occasionally wears a kilt, plays guitar and sings. (Therefore I thought it only fair to acknowledge my hero inspiration in the dedication!)

When I saw news that filming was about to begin on season five I decided to book myself a spur of the moment trip to Scotland. There were posts of the cast doing a table reading so I told myself the chances of seeing anyone were small. Then, on Monday all hell broke loose! They were filming on location!!!!

Okay, it was a longshot, but I love Scotland and knew I’d enjoy travelling the country regardless of whether or not I spotted Jamie Fraser in the wild. Up until my mum died ten years ago we used to holiday there every year and I thought I knew that area fairly well. 

Although Richard didn't appear to be in attendance, Sam Heughan kept us up to date with pics from on set.

With a little investigation I was told Callendar and Loch Katrine were possible locations.

The weather was beautiful and the scenery breath-taking, but as I drove aimlessly around the area I had to concede defeat. I had no clue where to begin looking. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the Frasers in the fudge shop I visited in Callendar either.

It had been an early start in Belfast, up at 5am to get the ferry, with little sleep due to my excitement. Determined not to go back to the hotel empty-handed, I tracked down the studios in Cumbernauld for a quick pic. Tomorrow, I was going to be more focused in the planning.

I trawled the net practically begging for some information. In the end I reached out to a lovely woman through social media and she shared the tips she’d been given that Dunblane was a possibility. There also seemed to be a consensus of opinion that Gleneagles was in the frame. Excited with a new lead, I set off bright and early for Gleneagles.

Now, it’s a much bigger place than the golf course if you don’t know exactly where you’re supposed to be looking. Around and around, we circled the hotel grounds until I was sure there was a possibility of being reported for suspicious activity. Every time I spotted any trucks nearby I was convinced I’d found Nirvana. Unfortunately, I hadn’t.

At the end of a very long morning there was a sighting of some trailers parked down the road from the hotel. Cue much clapping of hands. Only to be met with disappointment to find that’s all that was there, along with a security guard. I’d missed them filming by a day. They were long gone. 

Sensing my disappointment, he agreed to my request for a photo. Although, as he put it, “I don’t see the fascination with taking photos of an empty trailer.” I explained I wanted something to show for having driven around for hours like an eejit.

On to Dunblane then. Again, with no actual idea of where exactly filming might be taking place. I consoled myself in the lovely tearooms with a slice of hummingbird cake.

By this point I’d heard from my new best friend that they’d been tracked down to Doune. Security was tight and those who had inside knowledge and made it to the site, couldn’t get past the end of the road. They’d stood for hours and seen nothing. As it turned out, Sam Heughan had the day off and had been snapped in Glasgow with a lucky few.

I know they’re all simply trying to do their jobs and get the show made, but we’re only human, right? We're fans and we know where they are – well some people do – and we wanna seeeeeee.

I’d given up at this point and met up with my writing buddy, Raven McAllan, for several glasses of wine in the sun. So it wasn’t a total waste.

Okay, last morning and with no further reports we set off for Callendar. News began to filter in that this was a possibility but after so many false leads I made the decision not to stay.

Instead, I thought Doune Castle would make a good stop. It was used as the setting for Castle Leoch and there were plenty of photo opportunities. Having Sam Heughan talking to you on parts of the audio tour was memorable too.

At the end of the visit I found the gift shop, stocked with Outlander goodies and a chance to dress up. I don’t usually make a tit of myself on purpose, it just happens. However, I couldn’t miss the chance of indulging in some fancy dress. God, those dresses are heavy. The shop provides a castle background for taking pics but was that enough for me? Hell no! Thankfully I was allowed to prance about the castle steps and play make believe for a while, totally not caring about anyone watching.

Best of all, as I was leaving, a guy in a kilt walked in. He was wearing Fraser tartan. He matched my bag. I had to have my photo taken with him, my fake Jamie Fraser. It was as close as I was going to get. Of course, I had my eyes closed. Can I get a do-over?

Last stop before heading home was Cumbernauld Glen, where they have filmed in the past. Not only is it a vast nature reserve, as I realised, most trees and streams pretty much look alike. They literally could’ve filmed anywhere and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Mission failed.

Regardless, I had a bloody good time and laughed and carried on like an eejit for the first time in ages. I’ve booked another trip in a few months so watch this space.
Oh, and if Richard Rankin and Sam Heughan are available, call me.

Friday 10 August 2018

A Little Bit Of Honesty...

*Dome to Dawn Charity Walk For Mental Health*

It's been a year since I've blogged and in that time I've been through a lot and learned so much about myself as a result.

Mental health is something a lot of us are struggling with yet feel embarrassed about telling anyone. I'm one of those people, having struggled with depression and anxiety since high school. Things came to a head this time last year for me where I had no option but to deal with it. Well, there was one other option which I came very close to...

For the past couple of years some of my loved ones have been dealing with health problems and as a result I've found myself in the role of carer. It's been a total role reversal for me as I've been suffering from lupus for over twenty years and relied on other people to prop me up. Suddenly I was the one who had to organise multiple appointments, talk to health professionals, and argue with those making our lives even more difficult than they already were!

When it was pointed out to me that I should look after myself they were met with the reply, "It doesn't matter about me," because that's exactly what I thought. I wasn't the patient here, it was my job to support, not think about myself. Except gradually things became too much for me. One more little setback or problem and I'd be in floods of tears. No help to anyone.

I did recognise the signs of depression as every now and then I do descend into that black pit of despair but I always know I'll pull myself out of it. This was different. There didn't seem to be any way out of the misery we were enduring and when I went to sleep at night (which was rare due to the insomnia!) I often wished I wouldn't wake up again. When the newspapers were declaring it was the end of the world I was hoping it was true. Without ever actually saying the words I just wished I was dead.

I took myself to my GP who, through trial and error, got me on some medication to improve my mood and help me sleep. I truly believe if it wasn't for his understanding and that of the counsellor he referred me to, I wouldn't be here today.

The first questions my counsellor asked was about my support system. How often was I seeing my friends or family? The truth was I'd pushed them all away. Circumstances had meant I couldn't leave those I was caring for and hadn't gone out without them for nearly two years. I didn't tell anyone how bad things were and even when I was able to get away for a coffee or a chat, I declined. As I told my counsellor, I didn't want to depress everyone else because that was all that was going on in my life, all I had to talk about and there was nothing anyone could do to fix it anyway. She pointed out that that's what friends are for, to listen and understand, and there were probably times I'd been the shoulder to cry on but I didn't want to see that. I turned down a lot of invitations I now regret.

It took a while for me to turn things around. I was seeing my counsellor for over a month before I eventually opened up about how low I was, by which time I believe I was having some sort of breakdown. My GP had warned me it was a matter of 'when, not if' I'd have a breakdown and suggested I should make arrangements for going into hospital. Thankfully, I didn't get to that stage but there were days, weeks, I was doing nothing but lying on my bed crying and sleeping. Somehow, during all of this I still managed to write a book. It was late and probably chronicles a lot of what was going on in my life at the time but I insisted I had to do it. Just as I insisted I had to look after everyone on my own, adding more layers of stress until I eventually collapsed under the weight of it all. I will add here, I didn't tell my editor what was going on and she only found out after the fact, as did my friends and family.

Thankfully, because I'm a stubborn cow and wanted to 'get fixed', I was able to open up to my counsellor and you know what, all that stuff we think we've put behind us is really still there. Years of emotional abuse, grief, low self-esteem and all those low-lifes who take advantage of it were still lurking in the background compounding the stress and anxiety I was already struggling with. This is the point where I advise everyone to get therapy. It's not until you talk through all this crap and can see it from a different perspective that you can finally move on from it.

It was tough to go over the past but it needed to be done, dealt with once and for all and the light began to creep back in. This is why I wanted to write this post. This is deeply personal stuff here but I know so many of us go through this. I want to tell you that you do come through the other side. My motto which drove me through the worst time of my life was, 'You have to go through all this shit to get to the good stuff,' and it's made me appreciate what I have.

We're not in much better circumstances than we were but I'm better equipped to deal with whatever problems crop up. I can honestly say I'm in a happier place than I was a year ago and have talked several other people down from the ledge too by sharing my experience.

This post is already longer than I anticipated so I'll add a follow-up later about what I've done to improve my daily life. Feel free to add your own experiences or coping mechanisms so we can help each other where we can.

The most important lesson I ever learned was the importance of self-care. We do matter.

Karin xx

I don't want to make this a tacky promo piece but the theme of this book I was writing at the time is about making time for yourself and it is only 99p.

From Fling To Wedding Ring

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Adventures in Physio

It’s been a while since I blogged as my family and I have almost bankrupted the NHS between us this past year. I'm trying not to be a 'Debbie Downer' so I thought I might share my experiences at physiotherapy recently since it seemed to amuse the people I recounted them to (and I happen to have a new book about a sexy Canadian ex-ice hockey pro turned physiotherapist in Northern Ireland!)

I’ve come to accept the fact that my body has decided to give up on me now that I’m past forty and it seems I'm not the only one, middle age was a common feature for all of us waiting in that dingy room for perky, young physiotherapists to collect us.

I was feeling rather smug that I’d thought ahead and worn a vest top under my clothes so I wouldn’t have to suffer the humiliation of having to strip down to my underwear in front of **James who didn’t look much older than my son. Less so when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

*Note to self: Vest tops should only be worn by toned, tanned young girls and not pasty, middle-aged women. Otherwise you look like an under-cooked, over-stuffed sausage.*

All too soon it was the poking and prodding stage to find out what could be causing the pain in my shoulder. I’ve never had a ‘spa day’ or felt the need for a massage and now I know why. I have never felt as awkward in my life.

My friend once told me she’d toyed with the idea of physiotherapy until it was pointed out to her she would have to touch people who might be less than hygienic. Despite the knowledge I’d showered only an hour earlier, I couldn’t get that thought out of my head. Whilst **James spent the next few minutes manipulating the joint I spent that time cringing for him that he had to touch my rolls of fat, wondering if my skin was clammy or if I’d shaved my pits that morning. Then, as he bent my elbow up round my head I took a quick sniff to make sure I didn’t have BO.

The massage table didn’t improve the awkward atmosphere. Probably because I thought it polite to ask if I should take my boots off before I climbed into a strange man’s bed.

**James tried to massage the knots in my neck – “You’re very tense.”
Because you’re touching me, **James.
“Relax, Karin.”
I can’t, **James. YOU’RE TOUCHING ME!

I tried to make up for my inability to lie down and be massaged like a normal person, by being a good student and mirroring the exercise regime he showed me with a torture device called a resistance band.

“Er, you need to do it with your left arm. You know, the one that’s giving you the problem…”
“You need to stand on the knotted end, Karin, so it doesn’t fly up and hit you in the face.”

I needed a pictorial reference in the end since my goldfish brain couldn’t recall one exercise to the next. The man had the patience of a saint.

Bless him, he took to making small talk about my books to cover my embarrassment. Then I remembered my next novel was about a sexy, male physiotherapist. AAGH! He’s going to think it’s about him.

This pattern continued for several months. Except for those occasions when I was perched under some sort of heat lamp for the duration and managed to convince myself he hadn't turned it on and I was sitting like a lemon for twenty minutes.

Unfortunately physio didn't work for me and I've had two cortisone injections since. The lady treating me now is lovely but I'm not any less awkward around her. I recently purchased these which explains everything about me and think I'll wear to future ventures outside of home:

I am thankful for small mercies though. The person who persuaded me to post this blog told me her physio includes the phrase 'roll over so your ass is in the air'! I think I'd have combusted from sheer embarrassment.

And people wonder why I prefer fiction to reality…

**Names have been changed to protect innocent physiotherapists

Reforming the Playboy

From playboy…to father and husband?
Hunter Torrance, ex-Demons ice hockey star, is back—now as the team physiotherapist! And while team doctor Charlotte Michaels doesn’t believe he’s changed his playboy ways, the attraction between them is undeniable!

Hunter has worked hard at becoming a father to little Alfie, his newly-found son. With Charlotte’s help, he knows he can be—though she guards her heart as fiercely as he does his. He’s sure they could be a family—if only they can take the risk!

Buy Links:

Tuesday 7 June 2016

When Life Kicks You In The Nuts...

I've severely neglected this blog but I'm hoping you'll excuse me, we've had the year from hell.

As a writer I'm supposed to maintain a presence on social media, to interact with readers and other writers. Although I've tried to do that, it has been very much at a distance since January. I'm probably guilty of Vague-booking - you know, venting about how unfair life is without spilling the beans - but the truth is life has been so scary I wasn't ready to share it with the world. I also respect my family's privacy and I've asked permission to post the few details I'm willing to divulge here.

My husband took suddenly ill at the start of the year and it instantly turned our lives upside down. He's the glue which has held us together for so long it was frightening to contemplate what the future might hold. We've always worked as a team in raising our sons but he's always been the main breadwinner and my emotional support. Now it's the other way around.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm useless in a crisis and suddenly I was the one organising us and getting him the treatment he needed. I'm an introvert who prefers to sit at home behind my keyboard. So the countless meetings, appointments, phone calls and emails I've had to arrange has tested me almost as much as my husband's illness has tested him.

Strangely enough, the experience has changed me from a glass-half-empty person to a 'we'll get through this' warrior queen. The truth is I'm too scared to accept otherwise. Somewhere beyond all this pain and stress there has to be a place of peace we can look forward to.

Illness doesn't stop the world going on around you and we've had to carry on with the usual everyday stresses too. Our boys have just finished their exams, with the eldest now waiting to find out about university. And somewhere amongst all this chaos I managed to write a book. It's only a rough draft and deadline's not very far away but it's a miracle I've managed to write anything to be honest. In some ways it has been my escape from reality and it reminds me why I do this for a living. Working from home has enabled me to be with my husband through every step of his treatment and writing is fun, even when I'm sitting in a waiting room scribbling into a notebook.

It's been five months now and though circumstances haven't changed that much, we have settled into a routine. We've also both learned to appreciate the small things in life. Material possessions aren't important and it's true when they say the best thing you can have in life is your health because boy do you miss it when it's gone!

We've just celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary and we decided we didn't need to buy each other presents. Through the worst days of our lives, our love for one another has been the one constant. We still have a long road ahead of us and this is basically a pre-warning for the next time I go MIA. My family will always come first.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

One Today!

 As today officially marks one year to the day since I received 'The Call' from Charlotte Mursell at Harlequin Mills & Boon ® I figured it was about time I set up a blog. Okay, it's a work in progress but I really wanted to get a giveaway going to celebrate.

You see, writing romance was always my dream. One which drove me, and everyone around me, to distraction over the years. I'm not what you would call ambitious - if I can get through the day without losing my pen I call it an achievement - but I was stubborn on the issue of writing. It was all I ever wanted to do from a very young age. Hence years of submitted manuscripts and subsequent rejection letters.

I had some success with short stories and small articles published over the years but that only made me more determined to get that elusive book contract some day. After reading up on the craft of writing and entering every competition Harlequin had going, I started to make progress and my dream seemed to actually be within my grasp.

I spotted this ring on a trip to London a couple of years ago and promised myself I would use it for a giveaway WHEN I hit the big time. 
(Surprisingly optimistic for someone who spent more time whinging about not being published than actually finishing a manuscript!) 


You could've knocked me down with a feather when I reached the final of the So You Think You Can Write competition last year. The next time I visited London was to celebrate the release of my medical romance, French Fling to Forever. 

One year after getting my long awaited contract I'm working on book four and true to my word I'm celebrating with a giveaway - a signed copy of the 2-in-1 version of my book (with the fab Sue MacKay) and that precious ring.

All you have to do is enter the rafflecopter draw and a winner will be chosen at random. Competition is open to all! :) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway