This Writer's Life · Writing

A Sweet Competition.

Recently, I have been working on a project that managed to catch even me, completely by surprise. I stepped out of my comfort zone and wrote something different from what I normally write.

As a member of Romance Writers of Australia, this year, I thought I would enter a short story competition. This year’s theme for the Sweet Romance category is ‘Cupcake’. Being a writer of paranormal, I began to wonder how I could possibly fit such an item in as an integral part of a short story. Using one of the many meanings for the word, I did manage to come up with an idea and went with it.

Halfway through though, I began to have my doubts. I wondered if it was going to work, let alone if I could manage to write something completely different to what I normally write, but I managed to get it finished. I sent it off to a beta reader, who is a romance writer and fellow RWA member. They returned it saying they thought it was ‘a fabulous story’ and ‘can’t believe this is only your second romance’. I’ve struggled with writing romances for quite some time, but now I feel I may be on to something. I guess it has always been a case of never say never! 😉

So how does this all fit in with the stories I have already written and self-published? I believe the paranormal is the common thread. I grew up on both horror and romance; Dragonwyck being my favourite novel, which introduced me to Gothic, a genre in which I love. Recently having read a blog post about the appeal of Gothic Horror, only confirmed this for me.

Before Christmas, I read a post on Anne R Allen’s blog about the 3 Things You Need to Become an Author and it made me think about an issue I had thought about for a while. As writers, we need to learn to be adaptable, and lately, my writing tends to be going down a slightly different path (either that or I’m finally going down the right path). I’m following where my muse is taking me and it’s currently leading me to such stories as Dragonwyck, Jane Eyre, Rebecca and even Crimson Peak. Of-course, it’s not stopping me from writing other things, which I plan on publishing this year. 😉

This past weekend, I went over my short story entry for the last time and submitted it to RWA. Not only is this the first time I have entered a competition through the RWA, but the first writing competition I have entered for quite some time. If nothing else, at least I will be getting feedback, which is something I have never had before from a competition.

And yes, this is the second romance I have ever written. Talk about jumping into the deep end!

Do you plan on entering any writing competitions this year? Did you ever receive helpful feedback from entering a competition? Is your muse taking you into a different direction? Have you jumped into the new year by stepping out of your comfort zone or do you plan to?

Main image curtesy Unsplash

This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal

A Country on Fire.

This post is a little different from what I may usually write because what has been happening lately here in Australia is far from normal. I’ve been trying to be upbeat on social media through all of this, but sometimes it’s hard. Given the subject matter, it is not an easy one for me to write, so I’ll keep it as brief as possible.

So far, the New Year hasn’t exactly been a happy one for me, and fellow Australians. As you may already know, Australia is on fire; the worst in our history and it has been truly terrifying.

Fires have been happening since about August (our winter) of last year and now that we’re in the middle of summer, every new day poses a new threat. I live in country New South Wales and thankfully nowhere near the fires, but we have been getting a lot of smoke and like many Australians, remain ever vigilant.

The news and images have been horrific; parts of the country and animals destroyed that may never be the same again. The South Coast of NSW, where I frequented during my childhood holidays; the Blue Mountains where I once lived; Jenolan Caves where I’ve been a regular visitor over the years; Kangaroo Valley where my family and I stayed for my 20th wedding anniversary; a rainforest we visited up north a few years back that had never seen fire. It makes me wonder how much of my State, let alone my country will be left after this.

Australia and its environment play a large influence on my writing and I’ve seen the effect it has had on my fellow Australian writers; some unable to write because of it. For me, being a Highly Sensitive Writer, it finally came to a head one day last week where I had to take a step back from everything and give myself some space. Thankfully, I felt much better afterward.

Through all of this though, there is hope; the kindness and generosity of strangers, both here and overseas, the sheer bravery of our firefighters, and in more recent days, cooler conditions. When this is all finally over, I hope our firefighters receive the recognition they deserve and we as a country can enable change and move forward.

How does tragedy affect your writing? Does your environment play an important role in your stories? How has 2020 been for you so far?

Images courtesy Pixabay

IWSG · This Writer's Life

ISWG: Did You ‘Know’ You Wanted to be a Writer?

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to another year of reading, writing, and blogging.

Did you just suddenly ‘know’ you wanted to write? My writing journey did not start with a particular book, movie or story; that would come later. No, my writing journey started simply by attending school. In primary school, one of my favourite things to do, was when the teacher wanted us to write our own story (or comprehension as we knew it) as a special project.

Whenever we were asked to do these, I would get an inner thrill, my imagination would take hold and I was always eager to begin writing. I remember receiving good marks on a story about a slater (of all things)! I remember it was about a family of them and the father was killed by someone stepping on them. I guess I had morbid thoughts even back then. 😉 In sixth class, we needed to write a story set during the Australian gold rush, and I wrote it out neatly in an exercise book, where my mother did the cover art. I even had a poem pinned to the school noticeboard for everyone to read. I was embarrassed by such attention.

I was about ten years old when I remember I was talking to my teacher one lunchtime. I don’t recall exactly what we were talking about, but it must have had something to do about my writing because I thought to myself how great it would be to write stories for a living. That was my moment; that was when I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Uncle Fester was always a favourite. 😉

As I grew older, despite having a family that mocked my writing aspirations, I continued to persevere. I learned how to touch-type, did courses by correspondence, read writing magazines whenever I could and joined professional organisations. It wasn’t until I met my husband and left home that I began to feel comfortable with who I truly am.

It took a long time to get to this point (insecurity being my biggest hurdle), but I am finally published. It’s taken a lot of persistence and hard work to be able to call myself a writer. I have always been one really; it’s just taken me a long time to own it.

Did you always ‘know’ you wanted to be a writer? What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story or series? Was it a teacher/friend/coach/spouse/parent?


The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy Pixabay

This Writer's Life · Writing

2019: Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone.

Usually, at this time of year, I look back at the year that was and think about all the things I could have done differently; namely, getting published. This year, however, I look back at 2019 a bit differently. 2019 was a year I decided to step out of my comfort zone and finally swallow some of those insecurities.

This is what I did: –

  • I had my short stories professionally edited. My editor loved my stories, saying she would be happy to work with me again and wants to know if I’m writing any novels. 😊
  • Re-joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
  • Prepared short stories for publication, including contacting professional cover designers, and setting up an account with Amazon.
  • Attended a local readers and writer’s festival.
  • Entered a short story competition with the Romance Writers of Australia. Although I didn’t win, I did get some great feedback.
  • Enrolled in five – yes, five! – online writing courses.
  • I became an indie author, by publishing a short story and a collection of short stories.

Yes, that last one makes me look back at the year and I feel happy knowing that I finally did it!

Pressing that ‘publish’ button for the first time was more difficult that pressing it for the second time, but I’m feeling greatly relieved at having accomplished that. Now, however, is the ongoing battle of ‘discoverability’ and marketing, but that’s a whole lot of new insecurities and a completely different post right there! 😉

I’ve already made plans and begun working on, my upcoming projects for the new year, so there’s plenty to write and re-write!

Yep, all year round!

Of-course, I wouldn’t have got this far without the continual love and support from my husband and the online writing community. I can’t thank you all enough!

I’ll be taking a break from blogging over the next few weeks and return on 8 January 2020, posting for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

I wish you all a Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. Stay safe!

Did you step out of your comfort zone in 2019? Is there anything you would have done differently this year? Do you have any big plans for 2020?

Main image courtesy Pixabay

Legacy & Other Short Stories

Release Day – Legacy and Other Short Stories.

release day Legacy and other short storiesToday is release day of my short story collection Legacy and Other Short Stories!

Jonathan befriends the new boy in class, but Jonathan has something sinister in mind.

A young boy tests his skills to continue his father’s legacy; a young woman goes to great lengths after a betrayal; a woman confronts her stalker. These stories, along with those of obsession, revenge, and teenage tragedy, explore the dark side of human nature.

LEGACY EBOOK smaller

Legacy and Other Short Stories is available as an eBook on Amazon for $1.99AUD, as well as other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

If you purchase a copy of Legacy and Other Short Stories, please visit me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let me know so I can thank you personally. Please don’t forget to leave a review.

I hope you enjoy it!

Debbie Johansson xx

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Inspiration · IWSG

IWSG: Living the Dream.

This month for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I thought I’d join in on the fun for the optional question. The question being: – how would you describe your future writer self, your life, what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream?

Firstly, if I were able to live my writing dream, I would be living off my writing, my husband could finally retire (his dream in life) and we would buy/build our dream home in Tasmania. This dream home would consist of a few acres and preferably (for me, at least), be near the coast so I can go for long walks along the beach, swim, and listen to the sound of waves crashing upon the shore as I go to sleep at night.

Yes, okay, this isn’t me.

Gone will be the days of having my desk set up between the living room and the kitchen because my dream home would also consist of a suitable office. Of-course this room will have a gorgeous view, complete with window seat, to help my muse find inspiration (okay, daydream), and where I will no doubt leave papers scattered everywhere so that I can just leave them ready for the next day and close the door. No interruptions!

Why yes doctor, I would like some privacy.

I would be able to afford trips around the country and overseas whenever I felt the need to explore, research and meet new people. My ideal destinations are too numerous to go into detail here, but I think you get the idea.

The muse can take some time to kick in!

And of course, I wouldn’t be able to afford such a lifestyle if I wasn’t a prolific, nationally and internationally bestselling indie author. 😉

This reality won’t change though!

How would you describe your future writer self? What would your life look and feel like if you were living the dream?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Gothic Fiction · Inspiration · Movies/Television

What is Australian Gothic?

Recently I watched my favourite film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. I make sure I watch it at least a couple of times a year. With its constant sense of dread, this film made a big impact on my life and as a result, my writing tends to naturally gravitate towards Australian Gothic.

So, what is Australian Gothic?

The Gothic genre came to Australia as an imported genre (you’ll find a helpful post here on the ten elements of Gothic Literature) and took on many qualities of the traditional gothic, including the supernatural, romance and gloomy atmosphere. Like traditional Gothic, Australian Gothic has an element of mystery and fear.

Within Australia, the Gothic soon developed its own characteristics. The unique landscape of the country became an important element, therefore, becoming a character all of its own. The Australian bush transformed into a monstrous, spectral place, becoming the setting for nightmare and terror.

During the colonisation of the country, earlier stories were tied to the violence of settler life, including stories of death and brutality where murder victims returned from the dead, and burial grounds were uncovered. Stories involved the protagonist becoming lost or disorientated, sometimes even abandoned, so that the protagonist is isolated from others in order to be confronted by events. Such events either took place on the edge of civilisation or within the colonial homestead.

Australia ‘was a world of reversals, the dark subconscious of Britain. It was, for all intents and purposes, Gothic par excellence, the dungeon of the world. The familiar transposed to unfamiliar space. Nature, it seemed to many, was out of kilter. From its inception, the Gothic has dealt with fears and themes which are endemic in the colonial experience: isolation, entrapment, fear of pursuit and fear of unknown’.*

In an article on Australian horror films, The Sydney Morning Herald describes Australia as ‘a scary place. The size of the United States but with only the population of greater Los Angeles, its outback means you can get about as far away from civilisation as it’s possible to get.’

“We call what we do ‘Australian Gothic’,” says Everett DeRoche, a key figure in Australian horror who wrote the scripts for classics such as Patrick (1978), The Long Weekend (1978) and Razorback (1984). “Australia doesn’t have that iconic ‘haunted house’ that we are familiar with from American movies. But it does have the outback, and people’s fear of that, that agoraphobia.”

If you have ever watched such films as Mad Max and Wolf Creek, then you are familiar with the horrors such a landscape can represent. For me, the combination of the traditional Gothic with elements that are uniquely Australian make for an intriguing mix, full of many possibilities.

Do you enjoy Gothic Fiction? Do you have a favourite book or film within the Gothic genre? What film has made an impact on your life?

*Turcotte, G. The Handbook to Gothic Literature, Mulvey-Roberts M. (Ed.) New York University Press, 1998, pp.10-11.