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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

I’m Really a Wimp

Hi everyone! A special thanks to my host, Chris Longmuir, for having me as a guest today! Chris has assured me that she’s never had a guest before, so I’ll try to be a well-mannered first guest.

This is me - Stephanie Keyes
Okay, so let’s get on with the post. I have a deep, dark confession to make. I do. How’s that for kicking off our relationship? Anyway, here it goes. I’m a wimp. No, seriously, I am a complete wimp. After I read Chris Longmuir’s Ghost Train, I had to sleep with the lights on. You can only imagine how ticked off my husband was!

That being the case, the question that I get all of the time is this: How do you write such scary stuff if you’re such a wimp? Now you’re getting curious, huh? I’d hoped you would.

Let me give you an example. In my YA Fantasy, The Star Child, there is an Upside-Down Ocean that is filled with the souls of the unforgiven that hovers over a black hole, waiting to suck you in and make you one of them.

I’ve also got Soul Snatchers, who depress you so much that you kill yourself, after which they claim your soul. They lie in wait for any unsuspecting travelers in Faerie.

Oh and don’t forget the evil Celtic god that keeps appearing in mirrors and scaring the pants off of everyone. Not literally, of course.

Maybe there are just a few somewhat scary things in The Star Child after all. But to answer the question, here is how I can write that “stuff”.

Because it isn’t real.

In Chris’ brilliant books, where serial killers stalk the streets and gangs rule the land, those things can truly happen, whereas mine are a product of my imagination or pulled from mythology.

How can I write it? Simple. I just close my eyes and imagine the scariest possible situation. What would terrify me and how could I step that up a notch, keeping in mind that I write in the YA genre. That’s where I pull in the creepy stuff.

But it’s okay, because none of it is real. Right? Mmmh, can I still reach the light switch?

Thank you, Chris, for having me as a guest today! I am still reading Dead Wood, with the light on, and love it.

If you’d like to learn more about my book, The Star Child, check out the information below!

About the Book

The world is about to be cloaked in darkness. 
Only one can stop the night.
Kellen St. James has spent his entire life being overlooked as an unwanted, ordinary, slightly geeky kid. That is until a beautiful girl, one who has haunted his dreams for the past eleven years of his life, shows up spinning
tales of a prophecy. Not just any old prophecy either, but one in which Kellen plays a key role.

Suddenly, Kellen finds himself on the run through a Celtic underworld of faeries and demons, angels and gods, not to mention a really ticked off pack of hellhounds, all in order to save the world from darkness. But will they make it in time?

About the Author

Stephanie Keyes holds an undergraduate degree in Management Information Systems as well as a Master's in Education. A seasoned, facilitator, Mrs. Keyes worked in Training and Development for an international telecommunications corporation for twelve years; spending the first eight years of her career as a Software Trainer and Technical Writer and the last four working in Human Resources and Employee Development.

In May of 2012, Mrs. Keyes left the corporate world to focus on her family and her writing full-time. She also operates a freelance graphic and instructional design business, Sycamore Road Design.

Inkspell Publishing will release her first novel, The Star Child, on September 21, 2012. She is now currently at work on the second book in The Star Child Trilogy, The Fallen Stars.

Keyes lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two children, and Riley the dog.


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Whoopee Crutches Away

I thought I would give you an update on my previous blog where I submitted you to the horrors of the bunion procedure when I kept my date with the man with the scary knife. But before I start here is a photo of me wearing the latest design in footwear!
I bet you'll all be queuing up for a shoe like this - it's the latest fashion
So here it is – since the operation 13 days previously I’d been doing the heel walk on crutches. It’s the latest thing in dance techniques and I’m thinking of offering the choreography to Strictly Come Dancing. But on Thursday I was back at Ninewells Hospital for the next stage in the treatment. It’s an ouchy bit again – I was getting my stitches out.
So, I was up at an unearthly hour to get me there for my 9.15am appointment. Ninewells is between 35-40 miles from Montrose and we were going in with the early morning traffic which meant we left at 7.30am, which also meant I had to be out of bed at 5.30am to make the 5 mile walk to the bathroom and back – washing and dressing takes an eternity, never mind getting breakfast. So off we went, and due to travel delays I was only 15 minutes early for the appointment.
However, I was taken straight away, and it was into the plaster room for me with some lovely nurses, one of whom cut off my bandages and dressings to reveal a rather puffy foot with two rows of stitches. One row pointed towards my big toe, and the other to one of my other toes at the other side of my foot. Gulp! I thought I only had one set of stitches. The nurse advanced on me with some scissors and tweezer like instruments and I immediately turned my eyes away to look at the wall in the corner of the room. Amazing how fascinating walls can become at times like this. Then there was the snip and pull and a sharp sensation – Ouch! Then the same again on the second row of stitches. One of the nurses kindly offered to hold my hand, but by the time I thought about it the stitches were out.
Phew! I was glad that was over. The next thing was a creamy coloured bandage type sleeve was put on my foot, and then I was asked what colour I wanted my plaster. Colour? I thought plasters came in basic white. So I said, ‘What colours have you got?’ She gave me a choice of white, black, green, pink or purple. So I had purple.

My beautiful purple soft plaster bootee

Now I always thought plasters were those solid white concrete looking things that encased you from hip to foot. But she explained it would be a plaster bootee. Mmm, that didn’t sound so bad, much preferable to what I had imagined.
 Got my shoe on now but you can only see the velcro fastenings from the top
 Next thing I was expecting some kind of mini-cement mixer to make the plaster, but it was nothing like that. She produced what looked like a roll of netting bandage, immersed it in a bowl of liquid, and proceeded to wrap it round my foot. It was lovely and warm. I was then asked what colour of shoe I would like with another choice of colours, better match it up to the trainer on my other foot, I thought, which was grey and not a colour they did. So I wound up with a black one.
The latest in fashion footwear, the black plastic shoe (flip flop)
But did I say shoe? More like flip flop, and it is the most awkward thing imaginable to put on your foot because, until you fasten the Velcro straps on the top, it keeps flipping off and is the most difficult thing to get to stay in place long enough to fasten the straps. I’m starting to get the knack of it now, but it’s still awkward.

Then with strict instructions not to put my foot to the ground for half an hour to allow time for the plaster to set, I was ejected from the clinic. Luckily we’d brought along my daughter-in-law’s wheelchair, so we proceeded out of the hospital with my foot stretched out straight in front of the chair so it didn’t make contact with anything solid. Then it was a hop into the car, again keeping the foot in the air, and we were off.
The good thing was that when I got home I found that I could walk easily with the walking stick they gave me, so I got rid of the crutches. And boy, was I glad to see them go.
Anyway, after all my hopalong antics I’m thinking of taking up a second career as a circus acrobat.
Roll on the next five weeks when I can get rid of the cast completely.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

OOPS! Doing a Balancing act with my Laptop

This blog is for all my friends, virtual and otherwise. You see lots of them have taken a real interest in my welfare over the last few days, and I’ve been overwhelmed with the loads of good wishes that have been coming my way. I feel blessed that so many people care. I’ve also had queries about the surgical procedure I’ve undergone and what it entails, so this is for you.

My new glamorous shoe

For those of you not in the know I’d like to explain. You see, on Friday this past week (luckily it was Friday 12th and not the 13th) I had a bunion operation. Glamorous it was not, but necessary it was, because it had got to the stage where it pained me to walk.

I took a while to make the decision to have this operation because I’d heard all the horror stories about it being a nasty, painful procedure. I did my research on the web about what it entailed, and read a few blogs, none of which reassured me in any way. However the decision was made and I asked my GP to set things in motion. That was in June and I expected an acknowledgement at least. However, everything went quiet and I was beginning to think the referral had got lost in the system, but then in September, there it was, an appointment letter for the orthopaedic clinic.

On the appointed day I attended the clinic, had my foot X-rayed, and saw the surgeon. He was a lovely, gentle man, and when I queried how painful the procedure would be, he reassured me that it was more like a ‘bit of discomfort’ rather than the painful procedure I’d been led to expect. I must admit that at that point I was tempted to say ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire’, but of course, being the polite person I am, I restrained myself.

Next thing was the pre-op assessment which was done at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, and I was left with the expectation that I would be admitted for the procedure in November or December, and I could have it done at Stracathro Hospital which is nearer home for me. However, the next day my admission letter plopped through my letterbox, and yes, you don’t have to guess because I’ve already told you, it was October 12th, barely 2 weeks away, and it wasn’t Stracathro Hospital, it was Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, further away therefore not so convenient.

The two weeks sped in and although I had a date I didn’t have a time. So I waited for the hospital to contact prior to admission, but that didn’t happen until the last minute on Thursday afternoon. Then, horror of horrors, I was told to check into the ward at 7am. That meant I would have to leave the house at 5.30am. My granddaughter, who was my designated driver on the day, thought I was joking when I told her.

Anyway, Friday morning we set off in the pouring rain. Tayside had an amber warning that day, but although the roads had a lot of really large puddles we got there all right. Although on the way home my granddaughter had to take detours because by this time the main road was closed due to flooding.

Okay, now for the nitty gritty. I was signed into the ward and put to bed. The surgeon came to see me about 8am. He explained what would happen and drew a lovely arrow on my leg pointing to my foot, plus a couple of daubs of black pen on my big toe nail and the one next to it. These were the toes which required to be straightened. Notice, this is important- 2 toes required to be straightened – no more, no less. I lay back in my bed and waited – and waited. Then at 9am a porter came and wheeled my bed to the theatre, so I got a lovely scenic tour of the hospital corridors. I met some more lovely people who came and talked to me, checking they didn’t have the wrong person. Oh, I forgot to say, I was asked over and over again for my date of birth, hospital staff are fixated on that. However, at my age I don’t really want to dwell on my age or date of birth, so if you find yourself in this position I would advise you to memorise this crucial piece of information.

Notice at this stage I am still wide awake and I can see into the theatre every time someone enters or leaves through the swing doors. I’m starting to get a wee bit worried here. I don’t really want to be awake when they do this, you know. But a nice man who had previously put a wee tube thing in the back of my hand, stuck a needle into it and I reckon it must have had an instantaneous result because I knew no more until I started to wake up in the recovery room and it was all over.

I don’t know how long the operation lasted, all I know was that I was taken to theatre at 9am and was back in the ward at 11am, and that included the time I spent both before and after the op. Oh, and one other thing, when the surgeon popped in to see me later on he told me he’d straightened all 5 toes, and there were pins in 3 of them, so I reckon I got a bargain, just no one told me there would be bargain offers. It was even better than BOGOFF (buy one get one free) in the supermarket.

What my foot looked like after the op complete with artwork

So, how did it affect me? Well, it wasn’t nearly as painful as I expected it to be. Uncomfortable yes, but the pain was bearable, not all that bad really. So now I believed the surgeon’s statement about it being a ‘bit of discomfort’. The anaesthetic didn’t hang around and I was now wide awake and ready for my lunch, and believe me, I cleared my plate – nothing left for the starving children in Africa my granny used to tell me about. However, I suppose I must have been hungry, after all I’d been fasting since the previous night.

Later in the afternoon I was issued with crutches and given a rudimentary lesson on how to use them. I was also told I could go home. The only problem was that the roads were still flooded. No problem, I was told, I could stay overnight and go home the next day when, hopefully, the weather would have cleared up.

I slept as well as anyone can sleep in a hospital ward, and there was no pain to get in the way of that, although sleeping with my leg propped higher than my body was a new experience for me. And before I leave the hospital I need to say the care was excellent and the hospital staff were all great and couldn’t do enough for me.

So now I am home you’ll want to know how things are. Well, I’m certainly not in lots of pain. Things are more awkward and uncomfortable rather than painful, and it’s a nuisance having to keep my leg elevated. However, I manage to hobble a bit on my crutches, there’s a knack to this heel walking which I haven’t fully mastered yet and my progress can be a bit hit and miss, as well as excruciatingly slow. Oh, and the laptop keeps sliding, because it’s balanced at an angle on the leg which isn’t pointing to the sky.

Oh, and one other thing – remember to stay downwind of me, because showering is something I haven’t yet mastered in my current situation.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Melanie Robertson-King in the Hot Seat

I’ve known Melanie Robertson-King for several years now. I met her initially when I was researching an article based on the children who were shipped to Canada in the 19th and 20th century by many of the altruistic charities including Barnardo’s, Quarrier’s, the Salvation Army, and even the Church and Scout movements. These children are often referred to as The Lost Children, and in Canada are known as Home Children.
In the course of my research I stumbled across a Canadian website devoted to these children and what happened to them. I emailed to request permission to use some of the photographs and that was how I met Melanie. She is one of the nicest and most helpful persons it has been my good fortune to meet, and therefore it gives me great pleasure to see the publication of her first book, A Shadow in the Past, and it’s definitely on my list of must have books.

Have a look at Melanie’s book cover, isn’t it fab
When I met Melanie, I didn’t know she was a writer, but then she started to publish articles in various magazines, and now she has produced a novel. I feel proud for her because it is quite an achievement to get a novel published in today’s hard climate. So I really wanted to know how she did it, and she obliged me with an interview. So without further ado, I’ll launch straight into the interview.
Photo of Melanie and her husband in their kitchen at home in Canada. She’ll probably slay me for publishing this
Interviewing Melanie
Melanie, I’ve known you for quite some time now and we first met when I was doing some research on the Canadian Home children who had been shipped to Canada by several charities in Britain. So my first question is related to that.
Do you still have an involvement with the organisation related to the Canadian Home Children and can you tell me something about that?

Yes, I’m still involved with the Quarriers Canadian Family. I’ve done presentations at area genealogical and historical societies on the subject. I get a number of e-mails from people looking for assistance in tracing their ancestor’s roots once it’s discovered they’ve come from an agency such as Quarriers (then known as The Orphan Homes of Scotland). If anyone is interested, the Quarriers Canadian Family maintains a website. It’s located at
Tell me something about your writing career. When did you start writing? And how long was it before you published your first article? And are you still writing and publishing articles?

I wrote stories when I was a teenager and then after I finished my education, stopped writing for a number of years. It wasn’t until about 1999-2000 that I started up again. I enrolled in a creative writing course and the first assignment was to seek out publications and find out their guidelines etc. So I chose The Scottish Banner and our local free weekly paper The St. Lawrence EMC. Then I wrote an article for each of them for my next assignment. No surprise, it was on Home Children. I wasn’t out and out rejected by the EMC (they had made some formatting changes – titles in various sections of the article) but they never printed it. The Scottish Banner; however, did without as much as a bye your leave so you can imagine my surprise when I opened up my Dec 2001 issue and there was my article!

I would never get rich on the money I’ve made with my articles but it was a niche that I felt comfortable in. I’d written the occasional short story for local contests but that’s as far as my fiction writing went.

The last article I had published was about the abandoned railway that ran from Brockville to Westport and it was printed in 2011.
It was a long time before I knew you were writing a novel, so when did the urge to do this, grab you? Did you tell anyone what you were writing? If you didn’t, when did you come out of the cupboard?

Well, we go back to the short stories and around the time that Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series was big. A friend thought I could write something every bit as good so I came up with an overgrown short story (I think around 16,000 words) and called it Sarah’s Gift. While I was taking my creative writing course, my instructor asked why I didn’t write a novel because in his words “I could write a cracker.” Not knowing where to start, I thought why not resurrect Sarah’s Gift? So I did and over the duration of my course turned it into a novel... not a well written one I can honestly say looking back on it. I think I e-mailed you in the early days and told you that one of the publishing houses I had submitted to, wanted me to send the full manuscript. I can’t remember what year that was now but suffice it to say I received a number of rejects before finally landing the contract with 4RV Publishing.
How did you find the transition from article writer to novel writer? Was it difficult to change your writing style? And how long did it take you to write A Shadow in the Past?

Actually, the transition was easier than I expected it to be. It could have been because I wove a number of factual events into my writing. I always tried to keep my articles somewhat light rather than dry and clinical so the change in style came relatively easily.

How long to write A Shadow in the Past? Over all, with work and the occasional not writing funk because I thought my work was terrible, a very long time. I would think likely 4-5 years maybe 6 especially if you count the fact it started as a short story.
Now you are a published novelist, tell me what it feels like?

I have so many emotions right now about being a published novelist – surreal, thrilled, scared – being at the top of the heap. Every now and then, I think that I’m going to wake up and discover it’s all been a dream.
Have you started the next book? And can you tell me anything about it?

Yes, I have a couple more in the works. Originally, there was a Part 2 to A Shadow in the Past but I decided it would work better as a sequel so I’ve got it written, although with the changes that have been made, there will be some heavy-duty rewrites to be done.

I have another manuscript completely finished called The Anniversary (again started as a short story) which I originally thought would be book 2 of a 3 book series. But I’m not sure how that’s going to fit now. And I have another one in the works. I’d written the beginning and ending but no middle. It’s about a helicopter that ditches in the North Sea. Well shortly after I started it, helicopters started falling out of the sky off the eastern coast of Canada and in the North Sea, so I stopped. I posted a snippet from it in the loveahappyending Facebook group back in the summer and got some interesting feedback.
Well, that’s been very interesting Melanie, and you’ve whetted my appetite for the book. Good luck with the sales, not that I think you’ll need it, and I look forward to seeing the next book come out.
About Melanie
Melanie Robertson-King author of A Shadow in the Past
A Shadow in the Past is Melanie Robertson-King’s debut novel. Prior to turning her hand to fiction, she wrote articles and has been published in Canada, the US and the UK. In addition to writing, her interests include genealogy, photography and travel. On one of her trips to Scotland, she had the honor of meeting The Princess Royal.
Melanie is a member of Romance Writers of America and their Ottawa Chapter.
She lives in Brockville, Ontario, Canada along the shore of the majestic St. Lawrence River with her husband, son and oldest grandson.

About the book
A Shadow in the Past
When a contemporary teen is transported back through time to the Victorian era, she becomes A Shadow in the Past…
When nineteen year old Sarah Shand finds herself in Victorian Era Aberdeenshire, Scotland, she has no idea how she got there. Her last memory is of being at the stone circle on the family farm in the year 2010.
Despite having difficulty coming to terms with her situation, Sarah quickly learns she must keep her true identity a secret.
Still, she feels stifled by the Victorians’ confining social practices, including arranged marriages between wealthy and influential families, confronts them head on and suffers the consequences.

When Sarah realizes she has fallen in love with the handsome Laird of Weetshill, she faces an agonizing decision. Does she try to find her way back to 2010 or remain in the past with the man she loves?

Where to buy:

Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC
Author Website:
Author Blog: Celtic Connexions
Facebook Author Page:
Twitter Account: @RobertsoKing!/RobertsoKing


Monday, 8 October 2012

Woohoo - It's Party Time

I am not here today. I have put on my party shoes and can be found at the fabulous Surfing in Stiletto party at Come and join me for some fantastic prizes, surprises, and desirable shoes.

I'm having a fab time at the party so pop over and join me. You won't be sorry.