IWSG, Writing

IWSG: Write What You Love.

Some years ago, I woke up from a very strange dream. It was so strange, that I kept thinking about it throughout the day, and decided to write the idea down. It was a horror story, and it became my first attempt at a short story. My husband read it and called it macabre, which I naturally took as a compliment. 😉

Originally, I never intended to write short stories, nor paranormal fiction. When I first started writing, I wanted to write novel-length pieces, but I always fell short. I also think this was due, in part, to the fact that at the time, I wanted to write romances. I fell I love with Jane Austen and continue to admire her work. As a teen, I read a lot of sweet romances and even tried writing a novel for Mills and Boon. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t do it. Anything romantic would need to have a dark side. I was well and truly into Bronte territory.

My muse was clearly taking me down some dark alleys.

I grew up watching a lot of film and television. Horror, suspense, and mysteries really caught my attention. I was also fascinated by the paranormal. What was staring me in the face, I chose to ignore, until only a few years ago. I finally gave in to my muse and I believe I have now finally found my ‘voice’.

From that strange dream, I went on to write more short stories, entered short story competitions, and even self-published a couple of them. Later this year, in time for Christmas, I will be releasing a couple more. I am also currently working on a series of novellas.

I love the short form and will continue to write them. Meanwhile, with a lot of trial and error, my novel drafts are slowly beginning to take shape. 😉

Have you written in a form or genre you hadn’t planned writing in? Do you choose a form/genre in advance?

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.

Image courtesy Pixabay

Movies/Television

The Allure of ‘My Cousin Rachel’.

Some years ago, I listened to the audiobook of ‘My Cousin Rachel’, and like her previous work, I was drawn into Daphne du Maurier’s world. As Olivia de Havilland celebrated her 104th birthday this month, I felt it appropriate to watch one of her films.

One of the things that drew me in straight away was seeing Richard Burton as Philip Ashley, which was his first Hollywood role. I’ve always liked Richard Burton and absolutely love his voice and he does well in this role. He plays a convincing angry, tormented, even obsessed character which shifts from revenge to love and back again. Olivia de Havilland portrays a friendly, charming widow, where on occasion, the audience sees another side to her, leaving one to question if she is all she appears to be.

Suspicious of his cousin, Philip enters Rachel’s bedroom, searching her drawers for evidence. Here he discovers seeds. Sadly, though, I think more could have been made leading up to this discovery. Perhaps the hints were too subtle, like when Rachel makes tea. Other than the mention of a tree in Italy in passing towards the end of the film, there is no indication of Rachel’s interest in botany or of laburnum and its poison.

I was impressed with both the film’s costumes and set design. The sets include a couple of scenes in Italy, but mainly those of Ashley House in Cornwall. The architecture within Ashley House, with its timber and stonework, give it a very Gothic atmosphere.

Overall, though, my takeaway from the entire film was Richard Burton’s performance. Perhaps it may also have to do with the fact that he is the main character and the story is told from his point of view. We see his anger and mistrust turn into an obsession so that at times he verges on madness.

This 1952 film version is a good adaptation of the novel, filled with atmosphere and suspense. I just think more could have been made of the possibility of poison to further heighten the suspicion towards Rachel for the viewer, as it had done for Philip Ashley.

What I’ve been watching this past month: –

Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix)

Netflix has resurrected this series I used to watch in the 1980s, once hosted by Robert Stack. This season of six episodes involves disappearances, shocking murders, and UFO encounters. I love a good mystery and I binge-watched this show. I’m really looking forward to a second season. It’s made me want to revisit the original series, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Dark Angel (Amazon Prime Video)
This is a drama miniseries, based on the life of Mary Ann Cotton. Played by Joanna Froggatt (of Downton Abby fame), she portrays Britain’s first female serial killer. I enjoyed this show, and Froggatt does well in the role. Maybe it’s because I have seen her in other more ‘nicer’ roles, seeing her in this one made me feel uneasy.

Doc Martin, Season 8 (Netflix)

For something a bit lighter this month, I returned to Portwenn. I really like the Doc (his lack of social skills included), and this fictional Cornish town with its quirky characters. I especially enjoyed the final episode, with a special appearance by Sigourney Weaver, and her interchanges with Mrs. Tishell. 🙂

Do you enjoy watching old movies? What have you been watching this month? Have world events inspired you to watch something lighter or has it made little difference to your viewing habits?

IWSG, Writing Process

IWSG: Dealing with Re-writes & Feedback.

This past month, my insecurities have involved the re-writes to my first novella, and feedback from beta readers.

Fortunately, my beta readers came back with positive feedback, although it can get confusing sometimes when opinions vary. What one thinks needs some work, others might think it’s fine the way it is. It can take a little while to digest it all, but at the end of the day, it’s our stories and we take the suggestions on-board that resonate with us.

The re-writing itself though is a different matter.

Faced with doing re-writes for the novella, and incorporating the feedback, I felt overwhelmed by the challenge. It can be quite daunting, and I began to doubt if I could do it. I was beginning to feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights. This is pretty much the same reaction I used to have before writing an essay assignment for University. I know now, this is just part of my process.

I broke the re-writes down into smaller parts, working on one scene a day, which was much more manageable. I will probably use the same technique when I write my first novel.

I currently have two more novellas to re-write, as well as a couple of short stories I plan to self-publish in time for Christmas, but at least I know how to tackle it.

By the end of this year, I should be very experienced with the re-writing stage! 😉

How do you tackle the re-writing process? Have you found the feedback from beta readers beneficial to your writing? What have you been insecure about this month?

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.

Image courtesy Unsplash

Movies/Television

Revisiting the film ‘Rebecca’.

A few months ago, I listened to the audiobook of Rebecca, which was the perfect excuse to watch the 1940 film version all over again. This film introduced me to the book when I was a kid and has been one of my favourites ever since.

The film stays reasonably close to the book, where the young, nameless protagonist marries Maxim de Winter, owner of Manderley. Here she is witness to constant reminders of Rebecca, his former wife so that she believes Maxim is still in love with her. The constant reminder of his first wife is strengthened by the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. Played by Judith Anderson, she does a brilliant job of portraying a cold, vindictive, and jealous character. Mrs. Danvers is loyal to Rebecca, almost to the point of obsession.

This obsession is revealed in its full glory during the scene where Mrs. Danvers shows the new Mrs de Winter around Rebecca’s bedroom for the first time. The room has not changed since the day Rebecca died and is immaculate. The curtains, the furniture, even down to the embroidery, it truly is a beautiful room. Like many of the other sets, a lot of work went into making this one. So much so, I wouldn’t have minded a room like that myself. 😉

Joan Fontaine does a great job as the shy, tormented Mrs de Winter and Laurence Oliver also portrays a convincing Maxim de Winter. Perhaps it was due to his portrayal that I have always seen Maxim and the new Mrs de Winter in a father/daughter relationship, rather than any great romance.

The suspense in this film has a slow, gradual build, heightening the tension and the mystery surrounding Rebecca. You do not see any images of her, but one does not have to because the characters help to build a picture in the viewers’ minds, adding to the suspense. This is what Alfred Hitchcock excelled at.

The special effects are of-course dated, but it still helps with the overall mood of the film, especially when it comes to Manderley itself. Despite this, I think the film is a masterpiece of the Gothic genre and one of Hitchcock’s greatest works.

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

Supernatural, Season One (Amazon Prime Video)

This series follows brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they search for their missing father, who is on the trail of the daemon that killed their mother over twenty years ago. I had watched this season of Supernatural some years ago, but then somehow forgot all about it. I enjoy the stories, which include urban legends, as well as the banter between the brothers, and the efforts they go to when it comes to involving themselves in investigations. I now have a lot of catching up to do with the Winchester brothers!

Deadwater Fell (Foxtel)
After a house fire kills a mother and her three children, the only remaining survivor is her husband. Investigators discover all five were drugged, and that this ideal family was far from happy. There are a few twists in this show so that the viewer questions who is responsible. With David Tennent in the lead role, he plays a character I was not at all expecting.

Downton Abbey, Season One (Amazon Prime Video)

The first series of this popular drama follows the lives of the Crawley family and their staff after the sinking of the Titanic, leading up to the events of WWI. I have watched the first five seasons of this show before, but have never seen the sixth, and final season. I am watching them all again for this very purpose, as well as taking note of the first couple of seasons for research. My favourite characters were always Sybil Crawley and the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith.

What have you been watching this month? Have you been re-visiting some old favourites? Do you have a favourite character from Downton Abbey or Supernatural?

IWSG, Up Close & Personal

IWSG: What Would Readers Never Know About You from Your Work?

For this month’s question, I was really struggling to find an answer.

Honestly, I don’t know if it is due to the weather (we are officially in winter here in Australia), current world events, or because I have been struggling with some depression lately. It could even be all three! Either way, I came up with a couple of different things that readers may not know about me from my work.

I enjoy some science fiction

I’m a hopeless romantic

Okay, they might get to learn this!

I like cute things and I’m a dog person

I enjoy fantasy (especially when it looks like this) 😉

What would readers never know about you from your work? Have world events started to take a toll on you? Have you been struggling with your writing lately?

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 Unsplash

This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

My First Author Interview.


I don’t normally post twice in one week, but this is a special occasion. I have had my first author interview!

Today, I speak with fellow blogger, Jonny Pongratz over at Jaunts & Haunts, about my writing process, film and television, and my short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek. I really enjoyed the interview and found it to be a lot of fun. Many thanks to Jonny for taking the time to do this, I really appreciate it.

You can read the full interview here at Meet the Author: Debbie Johansson

Does this make me a ‘real’ author now? 😉

Main image courtesy Pixabay

Movies/Television

Revisiting the film ‘Dragonwyck’.

In a previous post, I mentioned watching the film Dragonwyck for the first time when I was younger. This was shortly after I had read the book. It was only a few weeks ago, that I happened to come across the film once again.

Dragonwyck is based on the historical novel of the same name, set against the backdrop of the anti-rent war in New York during the 1840s. It tells the story of a young country girl, Miranda Wells, and her marriage to her cousin, the rich patroon, Nicholas Van Ryn.

Watching the film a second time around, now as an adult, I discovered that this was apparently Vincent Price’s first major movie role. When I was younger, I didn’t fancy him in the role of Nicholas Van Ryn, but now, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in it. The character of Nicholas has a commanding presence, one which Vincent carries extremely well.

The character of Miranda Wells is a young, naive, country girl, and I liked Gene Tierney in the role. Perhaps having to condense a book into a film, the change to Miranda’s personality was not entirely gradual. Hints of an inner strength do appear early on, which comes to great effect during one particular scene in the film. This event dramatically changes her, both in the film and in the book.

There were scenes within the book that never appeared or had changed dramatically. This was a shame because this would have given the viewer an even better understanding of Nicholas’ character. Some of these scenes and issues may well have been too sensitive during the time the film was made (1946). As a result, some of the events that took place felt a bit rushed to me, denying a build-up of character, like Dr. Jeff Turner, for example, and his relationship with Miranda, as well as his views against the establishment.

I was disappointed with the ending, for it was very different from that of the book, which again, revealed more to Nicholas’ character. I remember feeling this disappointment when seeing the film for the first time as a child after reading the book.

On the whole, I still enjoyed the film, after all, with Vincent Price in the main role, really, how could I not? 😉 The film manages to reveal Nicholas’ arrogance, his cruelty, and his descent into madness. It’s a good introduction to the novel for those who have never read it before.

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

Tiger King (Netflix)

Words fail me on this one. This was a show I had to watch a little bit at a time, for it was like watching an episode of Jerry Springer. Joe Exotic, Tiger King, is being investigated by the FBI. By the time this show comes to the inevitable conclusion, we learn that some people are beyond redemption, and the only real victims here are the animals.

Big Little Lies, Season 1 (Foxtel)

Based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, this tells the story of five women and their involvement in a murder investigation. I came a bit late to this one, and never having read the book either, I was impressed with it. I was appalled by the teacher’s actions at the start concerning an incident between two students, making me question her skills, and I had to look twice at Laura Dern, as I haven’t seen her since Jurassic Park. I found this show addictive, well-acted, and having just the right amount of humour thrown in around the subject matter. I’ll be sure to watch the second season.

Safe (Netflix)

This is another show based on a novel by Harlan Coben. It tells the story of a widower, Tom, and his frantic search for his daughter, Jenny, who goes missing after a party. It took me a few episodes to get used to Michael C. Hall, of Dexter fame, speaking with an English accent, and despite the plot devolving into some strange territory, it was another binge-worthy show. This murder-mystery has plenty of twists, with the ending being the biggest one of all.

What have you been watching this month? Do you prefer to read the book before or after the film? Do you think reading the book before the film ruins the experience for you?

IWSG, This Writer's Life, Writing Process

IWSG: Writing in Obscurity.

Last year, I finally ventured into the world of indie publishing. I had read that writers should make the most of their time before publication and this worried me, for I am not comfortable with change. The biggest change has been the need for a shift in mindset, for now, I am running a business, which is a steep learning curve. Otherwise, I remain a small fish in a big pond.

It is now six months since I took that giant leap. My sales may be low, and although disappointing, I am not overly concerned. I never expected anything different. Right now, I am being realistic, knowing that I am only getting started and that I have a long road ahead of me. I am in this game for the long haul.

Of course, one hears stories of debut authors ‘making waves’, which is great as it gives the rest of us hope, but it also gives us pause for thought. We need to keep in mind that when it comes to writing, everyone’s road is different.

Keeping with that analogy, I haven’t made a ‘big splash’, but I am truly grateful for it. I continue to work in small steps, building up a body of work as well as my platform. I still feel, very much, within my comfort zone, knowing that some things take time. Like writing in general, being an indie author is a learning experience. I’m planning to make the most of it.

This is not to say that some good, and quite unexpected changes haven’t happened. 😉

In February, I decided to try the Kindle Unlimited program. My biggest takeaway from the entire ninety days? My short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek, made the Amazon Top 10 Bestseller list in Australia.

Last month after an awful lot of apprehension, I stepped out of my comfort zone once more and created a Facebook author page. I felt like a pretentious fraud. After all, who am I, and why would anyone be interested? I was pleasantly surprised to watch the numbers go up as people began to like and follow my page, and in a matter of weeks, I have come close to one hundred followers.

It was around this time that I received another pleasant surprise, which completely floored me. I received a request from a fellow blogger for an interview. Soon, I will be having my very first author interview, so watch this space!

I have been experiencing a lot of insecurities these past few months. Stepping out of our comfort zones is not without its challenges, but it also comes with some satisfying results.

Are you happy being a small fish in a big pond as an indie author? Have you had some pleasant surprises when you began self-publishing? What insecurities have you been experiencing lately?

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

Movies/Television, This Writer's Life

How are You Coping with Life in Isolation?

Life has begun to settle down here in this ‘new normal’. The reality is this was pretty much what my life has been like even before COVID-19. Being an introvert now has some advantages. 😉

Of course, I’m not immune to what is happening in the world and what is happening in some other countries is truly shocking, but in order to not let it overwhelm me, I have cut down my news intake. And I make sure I get my news from reliable sources as there is a lot of misinformation going around, which doesn’t help.

Fortunately, my family and I have not come into contact with the virus, nor faced any real issues of unemployment (although I do naturally worry about the future of my children). I try to keep myself as busy as possible, focusing on my writing and my health and those of my loved ones. Trying to be positive and keeping a sense of humour is also helping to get me through.

I’m gradually returning to early morning walks and yoga, and now that we’re in autumn, I can get back to doing some gardening. When I’m not writing I’m reading, watching Netflix, et al and playing Animal Crossing (both New Horizons and Pocket Camp). I’m finding Animal Crossing a happy place to be during these uncertain times.

As far as writing goes, I have been focusing on doing some on-line courses and learning as much as I can, as well as experimenting with Canva and Book Brush. I am currently undergoing re-writes on two novellas before finishing off the first draft of a third. It’s a series of novellas, which I’m really getting into at the moment and has been a great help during this crazy time.

I also need to get back into blogging. There has been so much going on of late, that some things have fallen through the cracks. I hope to remedy that situation because, without social media, I probably would be going crazy right now! During this time, I want to make my blog a happy place as much as possible (although that has always been my intention). And writing a blog post keeps me happy!

Today, I’ll leave you with what I have been watching this past month. I aim at making this a regular feature, so if you’re ever stuck for something to watch in isolation, I’ll be giving you some recommendations. I watch just about anything, but mainly crime and paranormal. 😉 Stay safe everyone!

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

The Stranger (Netflix)

Based on the novel by Harlan Coben, a mysterious woman tells a man a secret concerning his wife. When his wife goes missing, he undertakes a desperate bid to find her. Uncovering more secrets along the way, this was a show that hooked me in, so I was guilty of binge-watching. With Richard Armitage in the lead role, it’s all the more reason to watch! 😉

The Valhalla Murders (Netflix)

Murders take place in Reykjavik, Iceland, where those killed reveal they have become victims of a serial killer. Delving into the murders, as well as the personal lives of the lead investigators, the story has some interesting twists. This series threw me a bit at the beginning as the voices have been dubbed (I’m used to reading sub-titles), but I soon went with it. The story also captured my attention due to its location, as I’ve rarely watched shows from Iceland.

Haunted Hospitals (Foxtel)

Hospitals are places of birth and death; we are told in the introduction to this series. This docudrama tells the real-life stories of experiences by medical staff within the UK, US, and Canada. Whether you are a believer or not, this series raises the possibilities of what happens to us after death.

Murder Wall (Foxtel)

This docudrama of true crime cases focuses on how a visual murder wall can work as an aid to help police investigations and eventually solve the crime. There were some interesting cases here that I hadn’t heard of before.

How are you coping with the isolation? Have you been writing lately or taken up a new hobby? What have you been watching lately?

Main image courstesy Pixabay

IWSG, This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

IWSG: How are Things in Your World during Caronavirus?

These past few weeks have been surreal. It’s certainly been an emotional roller coaster for many of us.

In late February, I had to see to a family issue. My mother has dementia and is going downhill fast, struggling to cope with even the basics. On my return, I had some minor surgery which then became infected and took a little while to get better. During all this, the coronavirus was in the background.

Where some people had difficulty in fully grasping the situation, like those on Bondi beach, we also had the complete opposite where shopping hoarders made it look like something out of a zombie apocalypse. Fear does strange things to people.

Since then, in Australia, things have been moving fast; social distancing, travel banned, state boarders closed. News can change on an hourly basis. Here in New South Wales, there are now fines if someone is caught outside their house without a ‘reasonable’ excuse. Reasonable is essential grocery shopping, exercise, a medical reason, compassionate grounds, or work or education which cannot be done in the house.

Only this week, my husband started working from home after trying to make it happen for some time. It has been during this past week that his offices began taking things more seriously, due to Government intervention.

During this difficult time, people need hope and humour to help get them through.

This made me wonder about my writing and my chosen genres, which are not exactly happy places. And yet, my muse tends to go down dark alleys. Lately I am once again plunged into darkness. Of-course, I like to come out into the light every once in a while!

As writers, right now we have the opportunity to write and share our stories with the world. Whether they are of love, hope, comfort, or to help others face their fears, we need tales of humanity and connection. Now more than ever, more people will want to delve into the world of fiction*.

These times are tough, but we need to remember to just keep going, one day at a time. Tomorrow is a new day and a chance to start afresh, we will make it to the other side. Stay safe everyone!

How are things in your world during caronavirus? How have you been coping during this time?

*Amazon’s Kindle is currently offering two free months to its unlimited e-book service to new users. Both my short stories, The Ghost at Willow Creek and Legacy and Other Short Stories are available through Kindle Unlimited for FREE. Now could be a good time to try stories from new authors. 😉

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