Iandra: Australia’s Very Own ‘Castle’.

I’ve always loved castles. When I was a kid I used to envy the Europeans their castles (still do). They always interested me and I was fascinated by their history. Growing up in Australia, the closest we were likely to get would be a castle at a theme park, which doesn’t quite have the same appeal. It was only recently that I discovered that here in Australia, we actually do have a castle and it is situated closer to my home that I realised.

Situated near Cowra, a country town in Central Western New South Wales is Iandra Castle. Technically, it is not a castle, but a homestead; it is referred to as ‘The Castle’ by the locals. Built between 1908 and 1910, it is made of concrete with Tudor influences. Iandra is only open a couple of times each year and is popular amongst the locals.

Walking around the castle is like walking into a maze with numerous doors and corridors. With two storeys, it consists of almost sixty rooms. Situated in one of the downstairs hallways is a detailed floor plan of the castle. I couldn’t help but think of the difficulties new house staff must have felt during their first weeks of employment.

During its heyday, Iandra employed about 350 men to work the 32,000 acres. It also had its own store, post office and school. Iandra even had its own church, which still stands today. Inside, the castle includes its own games room, observatory and a smoking room for the gentlemen of the house. My husband was surprised to see more than one fireplace within the large stables, situated behind the house. With a clear distinction between the servant’s quarters and that of the gentry, it is believed Iandra is a rare example of the manorial system within Australia.

My only disappointment was not going into the turret, which, like some of the other rooms in the castle was inaccessible to the public. Who knows? Maybe we were inside the turret and we didn’t even know it! I may well have had a chance to play Rapunzel and let down my hair after all. 😉

Are you fascinated by castles? Have you spent some time in one – or even more than one?

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Child’s Play: When Horror’s Not So Scary.

Back in the 1980s, I had never seen the movie Child’s Play and recently when it aired on television, I thought I’d have a look. Sure I knew of Chucky, but the film itself I had no interest in.

I watched the movie with my teenage son. Years earlier, he had been at a friend’s place and they had a Chucky doll in their bedroom. When my son pointed it out to me I shuddered.

‘Eww, Chucky’, I said.

‘Told you’, he said to his friend.

I guess creepy looking dolls rate high up on the list with clowns for me. Hate clowns, hate creepy looking dolls. My mum has a creepy looking puppet in her house and one day I told her what I thought of it. Of-course she thought I was mad. Maybe, but I can’t stand looking at it. So when I began to watch Chucky, it met my expectations.

Just looking at the doll even before it was taken over by the guy gave me the horrors. How that kid desperately wanted one was beyond me. It’s horrible! That kid looked like he had a struggle walking around with it too; they were pretty much the same size. Then there was the horror element. Hardly scary; in fact I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In the end, I did laugh. What made me laugh more than anything was watching Chucky run. I loved that!

‘This is supposed to be a horror movie?’ my son said at one point, but I was too busy laughing. Well, it was the 80s!

I know there have been other Chucky movies since then, but one was enough for me. I don’t think I could tolerate anymore. After watching it at long last, I think it’s hardly scary. When I look at Chucky now, I just think of those little legs running and his arms swinging by his side (even if he does have a knife in his hand).

Chucky just might have made creepy looking dolls appear somehow less creepy. Well, almost. 😉

Have you watched Child’s Play? Did it scare you or make you laugh? Have you watched all the Chucky movies? Do you hate creepy looking dolls too? What’s a horror movie you’ve seen that actually made you laugh instead?

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5 Similarities Between Writing & Weight Loss.

Recently, I read an interesting article regarding the health risks of being a writer. Like any desk job, it is a helpful reminder of the need to get out of the chair and get active. Yes, this can be particularly difficult to do when working to a deadline, or being in the ‘zone’, whether it be writing or from studying, but getting away from your desk every 30 minutes is good for both your body and your mind.

The article was also timely, because only a few short weeks ago, I went on a diet. Winter is a difficult time in which to lose weight; your progress can be hampered by weather conditions. I also have a tendency to hibernate, be a couch potato and curl up with some good books. In the winter months, combining weight loss and writing can sometimes be difficult. It made me think of the similarities between the two and the different ways to get through it*.

1.It Takes Time: In a world where everyone wants instant results, it’s just not possible when it comes to both writing and losing weight. Years ago, I joined one of those famous weight loss programs and lost 10 kilos in 6 months. Great result, however, no sooner did I stop the program, but I gained all that weight again (and more). I learned the hard way that doesn’t work; instead slow progress is still progress. When it comes to both writing and weight loss, little things over time do add up.

2.You Need to Stick to a Routine: It may sound monotonous, but the only way to make any real progress is to have some kind of routine and stick to it. Writing and exercise every day should be as much of a habit as cleaning your teeth. It becomes so common place that when you don’t do it, you’ll notice. Once the habit is broken, it’s difficult to get back into the way of things again.

3.It’s Hard Work: Learn to push yourself. There will be days when you won’t feel up to it. Those days can be really hard because writing (and sometimes exercise) can be a solitary endeavour. Once, I was so tired from exercise the previous day, yet I forced myself to go out for another walk. After doing so, I came back refreshed and energised once more. Times like these, you have to learn to be your own motivator. In both writing and weight loss, you need to be in it for the long haul – it’s so easy to give up when you are not seeing instant results. That’s when you need to ask yourself how badly do you want it?

4.Sometimes You May Need Support: Have one or more people encourage you to reach your goals. Find someone who is prepared to undertake fitness with you, become a beta reader, accountability buddy, mentor, or perhaps join a group of like-minded people (a gym class, writers group). As keeping fit and writing requires determination, sometimes a little encouragement from others can go a long way.

5.You May Need to Try Something Different: Sometimes we can grow stale; things that used to work and give us results may not work anymore. We may grow tired of a particular genre or writing longer works. We may not see the same progress walking every day used to give us. We need to change – our mind/body demands it. Broaden your outlook and try something different; experiment. Step out of your comfort zone. It will give you renewed enthusiasm and a reason to keep you motivated.

Do you struggle with writing and/or exercise during the winter months? What routines do you have? Do you find it hard to keep fit/write on your own? Do you need to use a timer to get you out of the chair?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

*This is an updated version of a previous post I had written two years ago.

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What’s The Coolest Thing You Ever Had to Research?

When it comes to research there are some things that I would call cool, while others would consider weird. For example, I’m currently doing a plot outline for my next WIP, which involves research into such things as talamaurs and The Hellfire Club. Because I write both paranormal and suspense, well, anything goes I guess!

My stories are usually set some time in the past and as some of them are set during the 1980s, I believe this to be the coolest thing I’ve had to research (so far). In some ways, the rough draft of my first novel goes by the rule of ‘write what you know’, as I spent my teenage years growing up during the 1980s. Naturally, I thought that era was pretty cool. 😉

It’s been fun remembering things like music (some of it not so much), the fashion (again, some of that was pretty horrendous) as well as the progress in technologies, gaming, movies, television and world events. Of-course, things were happening during that time that I had no knowledge of (hey, I was young!), and from doing the research it really helped me remember things I may well have forgotten – especially when it came to a particular year.

One of the reasons why researching the 1980s has been cool is that it has involved my entire family one way or another. It’s been fun for my husband to talk and play games of that time period with the kids. My husband and I have been playing our taste in music (which can cause some debates), as well as watching movies and television shows together. Doing these kinds of things and visiting museums and exhibitions, can make research all the more enjoyable. Whoever said research is boring?

What’s the coolest/weirdest thing you ever had to research for your story? How do you make research fun? Have you included your family in your research projects?

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Image courtesy of Unsplash

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Have You Re-Worked An Old Story?

stack-of-books-1001655_1280When it comes to writing, I’m a bit of a hoarder; I don’t throw anything out. Next to my desk is a chest full of notebooks, manilla folders and scraps of paper containing story ideas, incomplete manuscripts and research notes. It’s what some people like to call ‘an organised mess’. However, this mess could be a goldmine for a writer.

Every once in a while I go through this collection, surprised to see how long it has been since I’ve looked at some of these pieces, seeing the possibilities in a many number of them. I keep asking myself why I’ve never bothered to continue working on them. There is one in particular that stands out.

89f02ba9c66e17313a433a4b6daba917About ten years ago, I wrote a young adult novel. It was complete in that it had a beginning, middle and end – only trouble was it was less than 30,000 words (and contains a number of subplots not suitable for a novella). Clearly more work needed to be done. At the time I gave it to a beta reader for feedback. The feedback I received was: – ‘This story was great – no – brilliant!’  And this was just in its very first draft! So, with positive feedback such as this, what did I do? Being in a group of insecure writers, I think you all know the answer that that one – I let fear get the better of me.

Over the years, I have worked on it, believing that this story has potential. It has only been within the last year or so that I have thought of the possibility of turning this into a series. For now though, I just need to concentrate on this one, making it the best I possibly can and worry about the other possibilities later.

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and re-worked it? Did it work out? Are you a hoarder when it comes to your writing? Does fear hold you back from working on a piece you think has potential?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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A Visit to the Versailles Exhibition, Canberra.

key-to-versaillesOver the Christmas holidays, my family and I spent a few days in Canberra; we had arranged to visit the Versailles Exhibition. Some months previously, I had been watching Season 1 of the series Versailles and have been thoroughly enjoying it, so I jumped at the opportunity to catch a first-hand glimpse of what life was like within the palace walls (who knows how long it will be until I get to see the place in its entirety?)

hall-of-mirrors-lightThe opulence struck me immediately, which I suppose was always its original intent. A bust and various portraits of King Louis were just some examples of his self-indulgence (after all he did call himself the ‘sun king’). Despite the fact that on a personal level, the style of that period is not to my liking, I did not fail to appreciate the craftsmanship and level of detail that were involved in the objects on display.

There are numerous paintings, including family portraits and pictures depicting scenes of the exterior of the palace throughout its various stages. There are also various items of furniture, as well as tapestries and rugs – some of which had never been used. The exhibition marie-antoinette-harpdoes not neglect the palace grounds, for on display are various sculptures and water features, including sculptures once belonging in the children’s garden depicting animals from Aesop’s fables.

I spent the longest amount of time in the last room of the display; the room showing items that once belonged to Marie Antoinette. I had learnt back in High School about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution, read A Tale of Two Cities (and I always, always, always cry at the end of the movie with Dirk Bogarde) and could understand why the people rebelled. However, it was not until I had seen all these items first hand (which are only just a small amount of items coming from the palace of Versailles) that I understood it better. I don’t blame the people for having a revolution, yet at the same time seeing that the king and queen were living in some kind of bubble. It was a situation that could hardly be sustainable.

marie-antoinette-itemsHave you visited the Versailles exhibition? Have you visited the palace itself? What did you think? Have you had a better understanding on a certain period in history once you have seen some of it yourself? What did you do over the Christmas holidays?

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Header image courtesy Ticketek, other images by Debbie Johansson.

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What Writing Rule Do You Wish You’d Never Heard?

heart-480367_1280There are quite a few writing ‘rules’ to wade through, so it took me a while to come up with one writing rule in particular that I wish I had never heard. Author Anne R Allen has written a blog post about writing rules that can (and should) be broken, and has even added to the list in a further post. So I guess rules are meant to be broken. 😉

The one rule that stood out the most to me was the rule of ‘write what you know’. That is one rule which I’ve always been conflicted about. Writing what you know is a good starting point for beginners, but writing what you know can, let’s face it, get a little bit boring. I’m sure there are many events in my life that would make people want to claw the walls if they ever read about it, yet there have also been moments that can be used to write about.

So I was glad to see some years ago one writer stating that instead of writing what you know, writers should write what you want to know about. It makes sense, after all, there are professions and periods in history for example that we may not have experienced, but would like to write about. We need to grow as writers and research for our stories becomes a part of that learning process. Perhaps when it comes to the ‘write what you know’ rule, it really applies to our emotions. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a whole gamut of emotions throughout our lives, which would help build our characters and strike an emotional response with our readers.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year! I don’t know about you, but 2016 felt like it was never going to end and yeah, there were times when it really did suck. I’ve got some high hopes for 2017 (positivity is key, people) and I hope you do too. Here’s hoping the best is yet to come!

What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard? Being a writer, are you happy to ignore some of the rules and experiment? Did you accomplish any of your writing goals in 2016? What do you have planned for the New Year?

Side Note: I’ll be away from my computer for a few days in early February, due to a short stint in hospital, so I won’t be posting for a while. All going well, I will return to posting in March.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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