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

IWSG · Legacy & Other Short Stories · The Story Behind the Story

IWSG: Have You Put Family Traditions into Your Stories?

Before the end of 2019, I entered a competition, where I managed to write my first Christmas short story, but I have also written a short story that included a more family tradition. The story is an account of a fictional event that happened at a seaside location.

When I was younger, my family and I would regularly spend our holidays at the same caravan park on the south coast of New South Wales. First, we camped and then had a caravan down there and would go down at least three or four times a year. Most often, our visits would be during the Christmas school holiday period, a usual Aussie summer.

We would spend our days on the beach, in the water, bushwalking, fishing or exploring rock pools. Lazy days!

On one part of the beach was a lagoon, which was an ideal spot for younger children. Hanging on the branch of a large gum tree in a corner of the lagoon, was a Tarzan rope, where older kids would swing over the lagoon and fall off into the water. My family and I never did that, nor did we know anyone who did, but I always watched the older kids as they took up the challenge. All these years later, this scenario became the idea behind my short story ‘The Lagoon’. It is included in my short story collection, which I published late 2019.

My ‘tradition’ is more a location than anything else, but nevertheless, one that evokes fond memories to this day.

Other than obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs into your stories?

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

A Ghostly Love Story: Revisiting ‘Ghost’.

With Valentine’s Day almost upon us (just let that sink in), I thought it was a suitable time to revisit the movie Ghost. And if you’ve never seen it, this comes with a spoiler alert!

What might start off as a romantic movie soon turns to tragedy when Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is shot and killed. Finding himself between worlds, his only hope is ‘medium’ Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg).

Spirits are said to inhabit our world if they have some unfinished business to attend to, and following this assumption, Sam wants to see justice done. By doing so, he also wishes to ensure the safety of his girlfriend, Molly (Demi Moore).

Watching the scene of them both working on a slab of clay will never be the same again, I think, after all the humourous send-ups that have been done to it over the years.

Who could forget this version?

The movie gets a bit weird when Sam inhabits Oda Mae Brown’s body in order to touch Molly again, but the audience gets it – it’s Sam’s last and only chance of physically being with Molly.

The movie introduced to a whole new audience at the time (myself included) Unchained Melody from the Righteous Brothers. Released in 1965, even listening to the song today, it has stood the test of time. As for the movie, itself, it was released in 1990, so the special effects have become a bit dated over the years as has, of course, the computers and the fashion. It’s times like these when I really start to feel my age! 😉

I have nothing against the other actors, and I really miss Patrick Swayze, but personally, I believe that Whoopi really steals the show in this one. Her comedic skills helped lighten the subject matter and it looked like she and Patrick had fun working together.

If not for Oda Mae Brown, Sam would be stuck between worlds and Molly could have ended up with the guy who betrayed Sam (eek). Thank heavens for Whoopi!

Do you have a special Valentine’s Day movie? Is there a ‘ghostly’ romance that you recommend? Do you think Whoopi stole the show in Ghost?

Legacy & Other Short Stories · This Writer's Life

Calling Yourself a Writer & Book News.

Sometimes, when I peruse social media, I encounter people who call themselves ‘aspiring’ writers. I have never referred to myself as an ‘aspiring’ writer. If you write, you simply are a writer.

But I get it though because it was only in recent years that I called myself a writer. I’m finally admitting to myself and to others that I write. It’s taken a long time to own up to it. It was just that I was too insecure to admit it. After years of being mocked or derided for creating stories (yeah, let’s not go there), I quickly learned to keep quiet about it and keep it all to myself. It was safer that way, ensuring that my dreams and my stories remained intact.

Perhaps, what these fellow writers really mean when they say ‘aspiring’ is calling themselves author. Now, that, I can understand. Sometimes, I feel I don’t wish to call myself an author until I have a published novel, as I guess it sounds more ‘authentic’ that way. Maybe it’s a matter of whatever term we feel comfortable with. And that’s what really matters. 😉

* * * * *

Speaking of being comfortable, I was recently thrown out of my comfort zone in a very unexpected way. This was such a surreal moment I couldn’t believe it happened!

My short story The Ghost at Willow Creek made it into the Top Ten Best Seller List on Amazon in Australia over the weekend.

*picks self up off the floor*

Good thing I decided to take a screenshot for prosperity! 😉

Does this make me a ‘best-selling author’ now? 😉

In other news, Legacy and Other Short Stories is now available as an eBook through Kindle Unlimited. It will be available for FREE from 10-14 February 2020 in Australia, as well as other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

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 and revenge, explore the dark side of human nature.

‘Quirky tales that will stay with you after you’ve closed the book.’
– Amazon review.

* * * * *

When did you call yourself a writer or are you still struggling to call yourself that? Do you prefer to call yourself an author or you don’t think either term really matters?

Main image courtesy of Unsplash

IWSG · Writing

IWSG: Has Your Writing Ever Taken You by Surprise?

As writers, we can tend to become emotionally engaged with our characters and what happens to them. There are times when a theme or topic can move us so deeply, that sometimes we may need to step away.

While writing my short story The Ghost at Willow Creek, my husband and I were having a few issues at the time (which thankfully have been resolved and was nothing really too drastic), but I began to really feel for my main character, Eleanor, and what she was going through. I had put myself in her shoes. In one of my stories for my collection Legacy and Other Short Stories, I wrote about an incident where I began crying. I was going through the same hurt as my main character. Once again, I had put myself in their shoes, and I needed to walk away and spend some time to gather my thoughts.

A few years back, during a session of National Writing Novel Month (NaNoWriMo), of all times, I was doing fine, until I hit a rather awkward moment. I just had to stop, because what happened to my character caught me completely by surprise. I know some characters can tend to take over the stories we create, but as the creator, I did not want my character to go down this route. Although I did manage to finish NaNoWriMo that time by writing other scenes, I have not returned to that novel. It has since evolved into something a bit different, but what happened to my main character in that scene won’t be repeated. It is a subject that I find too disturbing. I wouldn’t want to impose it upon my characters and I would find it too difficult to write.

We need to put ourselves in our character’s shoes in order to empathise with them and if we feel that emotional bond with our characters, then our readers will too. Our characters then become real people to us and sometimes they may even surprise us with their actions.

It is for these reasons that being a writer can be a roller-coaster of emotions, but when we get it right, it can be very rewarding.

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? Do you become emotionally engaged with your characters? Have you had to step away from your writing when it becomes too emotional?

*Side Note: My short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek is now available as an eBook through Kindle Unlimited. It will be available for FREE from 3-7 February 2020 in Australia, as well as various other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

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

The Ghost at Willow Creek · The Story Behind the Story

Poetic Inspiration & Book News.

After the release of my first short story The Ghost at Willow Creek, I wrote a post about the influence behind it. It had started life in the form of my first bush poem, which I had entered into a competition. I felt compelled and was encouraged, to turn it into a story.

Here, then, is an excerpt of the poem: –

A Mother’s Love

Magpies sang their mournful song as she stood and waved goodbye,
The blistering sun bore down upon her back amongst a clear blue sky.
She did not smile, or yell, or weep as she saw him ride away,
For she knew he would return to do it all again one day.

She watched him disappear into the distance, this stoic drover’s wife,
‘Alone; always alone!’ she cursed this God-forsaken life.
‘If only I were a man with freedom where to roam,
I would sooner go back to England, than call this country home’.

And so, she walked back towards the homestead with its walls of wood and stone;
A haven full of spiders with holes for vermin free to roam.
The furniture covered in dust; the floorboards of red soil,
No amount of cleaning could save her of its toil.

She stopped when she entered the cleanest room of all,
Her eyes took in every item ‘til she saw the picture upon the wall.
Her husband’s face in miniature, full of boyhood charms,
She felt her heart race once again of holding his dead body in her arms.

© Debbie Johansson

I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at a bush poem. As a teaser, it gives you some background into my first published short story.

Having said that,The Ghost at Willow Creek is now available as an eBook through Kindle Unlimited. It will be available for FREE from 3-7 February, 2020 in Australia, as well as various other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

Australia, 1886.

Eleanor Mitchell can’t move on after the death of her young son. She begins to question her sanity due to noises in the middle of the night of a child at play that only she can hear.

Has Eleanor lost her grip on reality or does she really hear the ghost of her dead son?

‘A beautiful story. Loved it!’ – Annie Seaton

* * * * *

Many thanks to fellow blogger and author, Priscilla Bettis, for her review on Amazon. It’s very much appreciated! xx

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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