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IWSG, Writing, Writing Process

Writers: Have You Ever Participated in NaNoWriMo?

Free image courtesy Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash.

Recently, I had been working on the edits for a couple of projects and planning what to write next when this month’s question for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group appeared. It was certainly good timing, and I thank the group for the question, because I had forgotten all about NaNoWriMo. In fact, when I visited the site, I was shocked to discover I hadn’t participated in six years!

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo about three times in the past, making it over the finish line of 50k twice. I can honestly say that both times, those ‘successes’ were both steaming excrements, and I have not revisited either of them. Having said that though, they were both learning experiences. I learned that for me, at least, when it comes to writing novels (or even novellas for that matter), I need to have an outline.

So, why has it been so long since I participated?

I’m not sure if it is just me, but each time I participated in NaNoWriMo, I would get bad headaches. Maybe it was the stress of pushing myself to reach a certain word count every day, or other factors, like the computer screen, or needing to get my eyes tested. This time, though, I’m prepared: I have a new computer with a bigger screen, and I’ve been wearing reading glasses for some years now (the joys of getting older). I’m devoting the entire month of November towards this project, as well as trying to meet a deadline for my editor. At least now, I have an excuse to binge on Netflix! 😉

In the past, I always worked on something new, but this time I’ll be doing something different by writing a new draft of an existing project. Don’t worry, I won’t be cheating, as this project is in dire need of a re-write (it hasn’t been touched for some years). But by doing this, my outline is already there after a few tweaks, and my world and characters are a bit more fleshed out. I usually work linear as well, but in NaNoWriMo you don’t have to, which is a great help in getting those words down. Because this project has been bubbling away for some time, I’m keen to get started.

If you’re participating this year, let me know, the more the merrier. I wish you the best of luck! Let’s cheer each other on!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this month? Have you worked on your novel after NaNoWriMo? Are you a plotter or a panster, or somewhere in-between?

Australian Folklore, Ghosts & The Paranormal, History, Spooky Stories, Strange but True

The Lure of The Devil’s Pool.

Free image courtesy TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay.

In far north Queensland, surrounded by lush rainforests, sits The Devil’s Pool, part of Babinda Creek. Large granite boulders fill the creek bed, making it a popular swimming and picnic area. Beneath its natural beauty lies deep channels, and a popular myth that is both haunting and terrifying.

According to legend, a young Aboriginal woman, named Oolana, was selected to marry a respected elder of her tribe. However, she had fallen in love with a young man from a rival tribe. Knowing they could not possibly remain together, they ran away, but were eventually found. He was banished, but as Oolana was escorted back to her tribe, she managed to wrestle free. Oolana threw herself into the waters of Babinda Creek, crying out for her lost love, and there she drowned.

Since then, it is believed she haunts the waters, luring young single men to their deaths in the hope that one of them is her lost love.

There is startling evidence to suggest there might be some truth behind this local myth. Police records, dating back to 1959, reveal that twenty people have drowned at Babinda, although the figures could be much higher. Each of the victims, except for one German tourist, have been single men, and the majority have all been tourists or ‘outsiders.’

Free image courtesy kazuend on Unsplash.

One such victim was 24-year-old Patrick McGann. A couple of hours before the tragedy, a photo was taken of him with a cigarette in his mouth. Police photographed the area after Patrick drowned, only to find that when the photos were developed, his face could clearly be seen in the water, complete with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

Today, a plaque lies at the site to his memory, and as a warning to others.

‘Pray for the soul of Patrick McGann. He came for a visit on 22.6.79 and stayed forever.’

Whether the events to this story are mere coincidences or there are actual supernatural forces at play, you can’t deny The Devil’s Pool certainly makes for one compelling, spooky story.

Gothic Fiction, IWSG

What Do You Like Best About Gothic Fiction?

Free image courtesy Larisa-K on Pixabay.

It’s time for another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), and as October is Halloween month, it seems appropriate that I’ll be talking about my favourite genre.

Haunted houses, eerie landscapes and forbidden secrets: ever since the publication of The Castle of Otranto in 1764, Gothic Fiction may have received its fair share of detractors, but it has gone on to become a very versatile genre.

For many years, I could never work out exactly which genre I wrote in. As I read in multiple genres, my writing would gravitate towards a variety of genres as well. Horror, romance, historical, mysteries: I tried them all. It’s only in more recent years that I’ve come full circle, returning to the genre that I was drawn to from a very early age (although I do still write in other genres).

I think I’ve managed to avoid my characters doing this. I might have to try it sometime!

One of the reasons why I enjoy Gothic Fiction so much is because it incorporates other genres, and therefore gives it more scope to tap into various themes. Two recurring themes for me are mental illness and gender issues, such as the status of women in society (which works well in a historical setting).

I grew up watching horror films and have always been fascinated by the paranormal (ghosts being my favourite), so I am naturally drawn to stories that contain these elements. I enjoy the suspense built within them, eager to keep turning the pages or watching to see what lurks within the shadows. As the setting is an important characteristic of the Gothic genre, this helps heighten the feelings of dread.

Gothic fiction is also highly emotional, which is why it works extremely well with romantic elements. Throw in a flawed, brooding hero and I’m sold. 😉

The BBC production of Jane Eyre is my favourite.

Death is a constant companion within the genre. I’ve had a morbid fascination about the subject from a young age (regular family visits to the local cemetery may have something to do with it). It is one of life’s great mysteries, and being naturally curious, I really enjoy a good mystery too!

Gothic Fiction has many characteristics, and as you can probably tell, I’m fond of all of them! Recently, I’ve heard that the Gothic novel is ‘coming back.’ For me, it never left.

For those who celebrate – Happy Halloween! 🙂

What do you consider the best characteristics of your favourite genre? Have you struggled to find your genre when it comes to writing? Do you have a favourite production of Jane Eyre?

Book Reviews, Books

September Quarterly Book Reviews, 2022.

Free image courtesy Anrita1705 on Pixabay

My favourite time of the year is back. Spring has finally arrived! It’s a good opportunity to get outside and enjoy the sun before sneezin’ season well and truly kicks in. With all this rain we’ve been getting lately, it’s perfect conditions for weeds and hay fever.

These past few months I’ve been reading and listening to a mix of horror and Gothic fiction – two of my favourites. I’ve also found some new authors. 😊

Immortelle by Catherine McCarthy

I really enjoyed this ghost story, set in a coastal town of Wales, with its combination of superstition and the art of ceramics. I enjoyed how the plot and Elinor’s grief combined to create each unique immortelle to decorate the graves of the dead.

This book starts off with two different viewpoints, but it is ultimately Elinor’s story, which is of a mother’s love for her child. There are hints of Elinor’s past, which I would have liked to have read more about, tragic deaths, ghosts, a mysterious character, and the occult.

This story is beautifully written, and some phrases you need to stop reading just to admire them. The ending is both surprising and touching. This is a deeply moving story, and one I highly recommend.

Many thanks to fellow author and blogger, Priscilla Bettis, for the recommendation! 😊

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

I’ve read this book half a dozen times now, and it has become one of my favourites, placing it alongside The Turn of the Screw.

Eel Marsh House is an unusual, but eerie location, isolated and surrounded by marshland, creeping fog, and has its own graveyard. Strange noises frequent the marshes and the nursery, and while the woman in black appears on occasion, her presence is constant. As Arthur Kipps works alone at the house, it is refreshing to read of the dog, Spider, keeping him company. Spider is a lovely addition, and the reader also becomes concerned for her welfare.

I think listening to the audio version helps draw the reader in. It is told in the style of an old-fashioned ghost story, where Arthur tells his experiences as one would a friend in front of a warm fire on a cold winter’s night. It feels intimate with a slow build and the narrator does a great job of reading the book, which culminates in the shocking final scene, making it both chilling and heart-wrenching.

Well written, suspenseful, and atmospheric, it is highly recommended for readers of Gothic horror.

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

For me, this book started slow, but it wasn’t until the main character, Beatriz, began walking the house alone in the dark, did it really draw me in. The author creates an eerie atmosphere with some beautiful phrases, so that the house itself becomes a character, and the ghost is more than a shadowy figure.

I listened to the audio version, which alternated between Beatriz and Andres. The narrators did a wonderful job. They helped make the characters come alive, so that in the end I could have been mistaken for believing they were Beatriz and Andres. The only downside to the audio version was not knowing the meaning of some of the Spanish words. After hearing some of them being repeated, though, I got to understand their meaning, while at other times I was so drawn in by the story, I let them go.

I can understand the comparisons to Rebecca, but I think the setting and some of the characters helps make this unique within the Gothic genre. This is a wonderful debut, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

The BEK Curse by Jonathan Pongratz

Early retirees, Richard and Maria Wilcox, have settled into life on a farm, but talk of strange children lurking the neighbourhood shatter their privacy. The author does a good job of building the suspense as these children visit Richard and Maria at night, their intentions escalating. The children are creepy, especially the young boy, who I found capable of anything.

The ending surprised me. I wanted more and left me with questions. I am unfamiliar with the legend of black-eyed children, and I’m curious to find out more. The ending felt rushed, but that may be because I needed to keep turning the pages. By this stage, I was suspecting everyone!

A quick read that sure packs a punch, it is the first time I have read a book from this author, and it won’t be the last.

What have you been reading these past few months? Have you found any new authors lately? Do you have any book/author recommendations to share?

 

Movies/Television

A Return to ‘Crimson Peak’

I originally watched Crimson Peak on its release some years ago and had always considered giving it another viewing. This time around, I managed to pick up on a few things I hadn’t before.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers*

The setting of Allerdale Hall (Crimson Peak) is situated in a remote part of England. Despite its dereliction, it’s a visually stunning house with its tall ceilings and grand staircase. Yet it is the gaping hole in the roof that gives the viewer pause for concern. The hole is uncovered, bringing with it the elements of the weather, including autumn leaves, chill, howling winds and winter snow. The red clay that lies beneath the house, seeps into the floors, walls, and water pipes, and is both unusual and ominous.

Butterflies and moths have also made Crimson Peak their home, entering through various open spaces and nestling within the rooms. It is a strange arrangement of co-habitation, and butterflies feature heavily within the film, even before Edith steps foot in the Hall. Butterflies are a symbol of transformation, change and rebirth, and this theme features in other aspects of the film.

I’ve always been a sucker for set designs. 😉

The clothes are not only gorgeous, but they also show the differences between Edith and Lucille. Edith is a more modern woman, independently minded with hopes of becoming an author, so the clothes she wears are modern Edwardian with puffed sleeves. Lucille is happy within the home, clings to stability and her dependence on Thomas. Rooted in the past, her clothing demonstrates that, as she wears the Victorian bustle (these are the dresses I personally prefer within the film).

Although his machine is designed to help save his home, Thomas reveals his tendencies towards change through his inventions. Creative and forward thinking, he is willing to embrace change by choosing Edith as his wife, and begging Lucille to stop what she is doing – something she has done for years. This then reveals Lucille’s obsession, and a standout performance by Jessica Chastain. Her portrayal is both intense and frightening, and every inch the ‘mad’ woman.

The ghosts within the film are creepy, skeletal figures with long outstretched hands. Edith’s mother is a frightening, black presence (she died of black cholera), while those at Crimson Peak are as red as the soil. They float, walk and crawl throughout the Hall. There is only one white ghost, and they are a sad, lonely figure.

I thought the dog was a sweet addition to the film and I loved to watch it play ball and run through the house, so what happened to it didn’t please me at all. 🙁

I enjoyed the film, but my favourite part would have to be the ending (no, not the gory bits). I love what was said about ghosts in those final minutes where the camera returns to the house. The writing and imagery combine to make something sad, but beautiful. The images during the end credits are gorgeous, and the final image brings a happier, satisfying conclusion.

What was it about Crimson Peak you enjoyed the most? Did you love it or hate it? Do you embrace change? Are you a sucker for gorgeous set design and/or costumes?

IWSG

What Genre Would You Find Difficult to Write?

Free image courtesy 8385 on Pixabay.

Firstly, I’ve returned to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), where writers get together to share and encourage others. It’s good to be back and I look forward to reacquainting myself with fellow writers and meeting new ones along the way. 😊

The answer to this month’s optional question was a bit of a no brainer for me. As much as I enjoy watching science fiction, this is one genre I would find difficult to write. Despite my interest in science in general, I can never get my head around all the terminology and complex workings (the subject was not my best at school). I have a brain that’s wired to what my husband likes to refer to as ‘arty-farty’ (I’ll leave the hard-core science stuff to him).

I grew up in a household where we watched a lot of sci-fi shows on television: – Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Lost in Space, Space 1999, Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, The Twilight Zone. So, it’s not as if I am suffering from a lack of influence! The funny thing is, it was not until after we got married that my husband discovered I was a Trekie (bonus brownie points, I guess).

I admit I have never tried writing anything in the genre, because, if I’m being honest, my interest is not strong enough. By that, I mean I don’t feel passionate enough about it, and realistically, we should be writing in genres where we feel the most passionate. And that, for me, is in the horror genre (The Twilight Zone helped play its part here).

Yes, I remain interested in science, I mean, how cool is the sound of a black hole? Sounds like something out of a horror movie! But I’ll leave the writing of the genre to others. I’m happy to just keep watching it and be introduced to more great shows, like Firefly. 😉

What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why? Which genre do you feel the most passionate about? Do you enjoy watching sci-fi?

 

Life Lessons, This Writer's Life, Writing, Writing Process

Writing with Chronic Pain.

Free image courtesy Enrique Meseguer on Pixabay.

When it comes to my writing this year, I began with optimism; I had another novella to write, and I was full of new ideas. Of-course, life doesn’t always go according to plan, and as the year went on, I found myself facing my biggest challenge yet.

The previous year (2021), I had taken a couple of falls, landing on alternate knees, causing injury, but thankfully no broken bones. Normally a healthy person, this was frustrating, but I managed. However, it was not until the end of the year that another health problem arose.

As the months passed, pain in my legs and lower back intensified. I had trouble sleeping and went to ‘bed’ on the lounge. To make matters worse, our family doctor of twenty years eventually retired, leaving me anxious and receiving three different diagnoses from three different doctors. Eventually, when at my lowest ebb, things worked out and in early July, I finally received my diagnosis. Sacroiliac joint pain – inflammation in my lower back, pelvis, and thighs. Yep, when I get sick, I make sure I do it properly!

Although I could go the quicker route to recovery by having a cortisone injection in my back, I’ve decided to go the slower route (an injection some months earlier in my left hip left me with a bad experience and I swore I’d never go through it again). Now, I have the right dosage with my medication, I am regularly seeing a chiropractor, and having regular acupuncture and massage. Some days are better than others, and after sleeping on the lounge for three months, I am now back in my bed again! 🙂

Throughout all of this, I naturally backed away a bit from social media, and as you’d expect, my writing has been seriously impacted. I have always been a slow writer, and living with chronic pain has made me accept that it’s part of my writing process.

I’m normally not one to talk about such personal issues, but I mention it to demonstrate that setbacks do happen; nobody knows what’s going on behind the scenes in a writer’s life. Not everyone can write fast, whether it’s through circumstances and/or their genetic makeup. You shouldn’t have to feel like a ‘failure’ if you don’t (and I’ve been there too many times to count). If you can write fast, that’s great, too! Everyone is different. It’s okay to write at your own pace, you shouldn’t have to feel shame either way.

Right now I’m on the slow road to recovery, and that also means the slow road when it comes to writing. We all have our own paths. Unfortunately, it can sometimes take dramatic changes in our lives to come to terms with it.

Has 2022 turned out differently to what you had planned? Have you come to accept your own writing process? Have you ever felt pressured to write faster?

This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

Have You Ever Felt Cursed?

Have you experienced so much bad luck, you felt that you were cursed?

This is exactly how I felt on my tenth birthday, believing that I must have done something terribly wrong. Okay, so I was prone to having an overactive imagination and seeing the dark side in everything even at a young age. 😉

The day had gone well, despite having to spend it at school, but I guess that was the calm before the storm. I had some friends over to help celebrate in the afternoon, and wanted one of them to stay overnight, but they were not allowed. Despite my disappointment, as it would turn out, that was the best decision.

I was on the bed playing with my new toys, when what sounded like stones were being thrown against the side of the house. I thought it was the kids next door, but thought it strange, as they had never done such a thing before. When I heard the same sound on the roof, I went to ask my dad what was going on.

It was the beginning of a hailstorm, which would go on to cause major damage to our home. Our roof was so bad, you could look up and see the sky from our lounge room. My sisters and I moped the kitchen floor to no avail; the water just kept coming, and the hail was deafening.

My concern was for my guinea pigs. The mother had recently given birth to two little ones. They were outside under an awning, and I had wanted to bring them inside for the night. My mum thought they’d be fine under there.

When the storm was over, we crossed the white, icy road, where the hail was as large as golf balls, to our aunt’s house. We ended up living with my aunt and uncle for some months while our house was being repaired. The following day, I sat in my auntie’s lounge room in front of a heater with the mother guinea pig in my lap, trying to keep her warm. Cold and in shock, she died, joining her two babies that had died during the storm.

It was a night I will never forget.

That day I felt cursed, but at least that was something I eventually grew out of. These days, however, hailstorms are something I have come to dread.

Have you experienced a lot of bad luck? Did it ever make you feel so overwhelmed you thought you were cursed?

Australia's Historical Places, Australian Folklore, Ghosts & The Paranormal, Spooky Stories

The Ghost of Lady Elliot Island.

Free image courtesy ImaArtist on Pixabay.

Lady Elliot Island, located off the coast of Queensland, is a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. Known for its diversity of seabirds and marine life, the island is also the site of a small graveyard, situated near the imposing lighthouse.

Susannah McKee, a native of Ireland, accompanied her husband, Tom, and four sons to Lady Elliot Island, where Tom took up the position of lighthouse keeper. Due to its location, food and medical supplies would arrive late, and living conditions were cramped. It was an isolated and desolate existence and would eventually become too much for Susannah.

In April 1907, Susannah dressed in her best clothes, walked to the jetty at the end of the lighthouse and threw herself into the ocean. Rumours circulated that her husband, Tom, had pushed her, but this could never be proven. He buried her next to the lonely grave of the daughter of a previous lighthouse keeper, who had died of pneumonia some years prior.

Image courtesy Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, Wikimedia Commons. No changes made.

Over the years, sightings of Susannah would appear to visitors and staff; the first sighting taking place in the 1930s. The lighthouse keeper at the time, reported to have seen a woman in white ‘half walking, half-floating’ between the lighthouse and the keeper’s cottage. His daughter encountered a presence in the lighthouse, fearing it wanted to push her down the stairs.

In the mid-1980s, when the lighthouse became automated, the disturbances intensified. In one of the three empty cottages, the resort manager heard phantom footsteps, but could not locate the source. Two resort staff would later occupy the cottage, one being hurled from his bed with great force, and onto the floor. Some nights later, he woke to see the transparent figure of a woman standing by the front door.

There have also been stories of a woman’s face peering through cottage windows, and a white clad woman wandering the island’s airstrip.

It’s uncertain if sightings of Susannah continue to this day, but being a tortured soul, her spirit may well still wander the island she once called home.

First Christmas

‘First Christmas’ in July.

Free image courtesy pixel2013 on Pixabay.

When one conjures up images of Christmas, it usually consists of snow, warm fires, and hearty dinners. Here, in the southern hemisphere, Christmas is a time of sun, surf, and barbeques. This is why Christmas in July has become popular in Australia; so that we can enjoy a traditional Christmas.

I’ve written two short stories that portray two very different Christmas’s, and lately I’ve been experimenting with creating book videos. They’re time consuming to make, and at times frustrating, but I’ve had fun working with another creative outlet. I’m even thinking of making some more! 😉

Here’s the video for First Christmas. I hope you like it!

Christmas spirit comes in the most unexpected ways.

In 1916, young newlywed, Caroline Owens spends her first Christmas alone. Or is she?

Shy nurse, Linda Graham, struggles with a tragic loss. Can a ghost help restore her broken heart?

‘Lots of emotion packed into a short story… I was left wanting more.’

Amazon Review

First Christmas is available on Amazon.