This Writer's Life, Writing

Goodbye 2021 – A Year I’d Rather Forget.

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Another year is almost over and it’s beginning to look like we’re stuck in a perpetual time loop. It’s been another crap year with lockdowns, COVID-19 in its various incarnations, and I’ve had two falls injuring both knees, which I am only now slowly beginning to recover from. After all this, it’s not easy to end the year on a cheerful note and stop being a ‘Debbie Downer!’

To be honest with you, I’ve become physically and emotionally drained, and I’m sure I’m not the only one! 2021 has been a very long, exhausting year, a year where I have really had to push myself to get any writing done, finding my motivation somewhat lacking (and that’s another post in itself). But having said that, I did manage to publish two novellas, so it’s not all bad! 😉

If nothing else, COVID-19 has revealed what’s important in life, which for me is my health, family, and writing. After having read The Relaxed Author by Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre, I believe that as an indie author, the writing is the main thing, and that there is nothing wrong with taking the slow and steady approach.

I feel this way every time I publish!

It’s also been a time to take a step back, analyse, and enjoy the little things. Going out to be amongst nature can be beneficial both physically and mentally. Ever since I was a kid, this has always been my ‘escape,’ and the opportunity to let my imagination run wild.

The epidemic, so far, has taught me not to take anything for granted and to take one day at a time. The future is unpredictable, but it has always been that way. We learn to adapt. The new year brings with it new opportunities and a chance to start afresh.

I hope you have a happy Christmas, and a safe and healthy new year! Here’s to new beginnings!

What things have you done to cope during 2021? Do you have any big plans for the new year, or do you intend to take things one day at a time?

This Writer's Life, Writing Process

Celebrating Two Years as an Indie Author.

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Last year, I wrote a post listing what I learned during the first twelve months of being an indie author. Now, two years after hitting that ‘publish’ button, those points basically remain the same, but with a few added caveats.

Marketing can overtake the writing.

Yes, we want readers to find our books and read them, but sometimes the marketing side to indie publishing can become all-consuming. We can focus too much on all the different ways to market, hop on to the latest trend, spread ourselves too thin, and become obsessed with sales figures, and wonder what we are doing wrong. I’ve mentioned before that writing is a marathon, not a sprint, and the same can be said for the marketing side of publishing. Find something that you enjoy when it comes to marketing, even if it’s just one or two, and start your following from there. Too often, the focus can be on having large numbers, but there are many benefits to having a smaller following.

You need to remember the writing is what’s important.

A few years back, I spent a lot of time blogging, and my writing took a bit of a back-seat. My husband told me ‘I thought you wanted to be a writer, not a blogger.’ As much as I enjoy blogging (I’ve been doing this for twelve years now), he was right, and so I started taking a small step back. Lately, I’ve found myself doing the same thing with other social media – we crave the immediate attention it can bring. We need to find the right balance between writing and marketing, and remember our priority should be our stories.

Trying to maintain work/life balance.

As an indie author, we’re running our own business. We are in control of what we do, which includes our working hours. This can become a business where we work 24/7, if we let it. I admit to working evenings, weekends, and even waking up during the night or the early hours of the morning thinking about it. The thing is, I love what I do and that’s a good thing. Not many people can say they love their work, however, we still need to take breaks for the sake of our physical and mental health. COVID-19 has taught me that this, along with family, is what’s important. This year, I’ve also had two falls, landing on alternate knees about six months apart. I am still not fully recovered, and I guess the long recovery process is one way to tell me to slow down (as well as to unfortunately remind me how old I am)!

Recently, I’ve been reading The Relaxed Author by Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre (I’ll now have to start getting some of his books 😉 ), which has been very timely and confirms what I have been thinking for some months now.

Lately, I have been making plans for the next twelve months, but one thing is certain – the ‘slow but steady’ approach works for me.

What have you learned on your writing journey this year? Has COVID-19 made you reassess your priorities? What writing process works best for you

Life Lessons, This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal, Writing

The Writing Journey: Persistence Matters.

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In November of 2019, I self-published my first short story. Since then, I have published two more short stories and recently published my first novella, the first in a series. I have learned a few things along the way, and being an author is an occupation where you are always learning. But I think one of the biggest things I’ve learnt is that indie publishing is not for the faint of heart.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the most determined and obstinate people you will ever find (just ask my husband), but one of my biggest weaknesses is comparing myself to others. I’ve been telling myself (and you here on this blog), that everyone’s writing journey is different, and this is my way to remind myself of this reality. In her book Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, Becca Syme has an entire chapter on the subject – ‘Quit Trying to Be Like Everyone Else.’ It’s good to know that there are other people out there who feel the same way I do. Even though my husband has been telling me this for years, I guess I needed to also hear it from others.

However, back in September 2020, things started to fall down around me. Despite being in a network of other writers, I felt alone. Even though they are lovely people whom I’m happy to have as writing friends, it began to dawn on me that they were not my ‘tribe.’ What I write does not necessarily gel with theirs. I started to pull away and even though I published another book of short stories a couple of months later, I began to go through one of the longest bouts of depression I have ever experienced.

Throughout this period and into a new year, I spent months setting up and sending out newsletters, and preparing my first Gothic novella for publication. I wondered what the point was because nobody cared, no-one was interested. I felt like a complete failure, but I persisted. As recently as April, a month before publication, my husband told me that if I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, then don’t do it. Do something else. I couldn’t stop because writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do. ‘This is me,’ I told him. ‘This is who I am.’ He just didn’t get it.

I like to keep this quote on my desk as a constant reminder.

It was also around this time, that something started to happen, a kind of shift. A fellow writer put me onto David Gaughran’s course ‘Starting from Zero.’ As I prepared my next book for its release, I began to use what he taught me. Shortly after release, a Facebook friend sent me a request to join a group for indie horror writers. From that group, I was asked to participate in a competition for Gothic writers, as well as join a group for Gothic readers (which also included writers). I had finally found my ‘tribe.’

Together, these two incidents, helped make the launch of The Curse of Marsden Hall, my most successful. It reached as high as No.4 in one of its categories on Amazon Australia and was one of its ‘hot new releases.’ This then helped one of my other short stories, First Christmas, reach No.2 (yes, you read that right) in one of its categories on Amazon Australia.

A rare moment of seeing two of my books side by side in the Top 20.

Of-course such a high is short lived and it was a good couple of weeks while it lasted, but it gives me hope that maybe – just maybe – things might be starting to change on my writing journey.

For eight months I struggled with self-doubt and depression, but it was also a journey of self-discovery. I’ve learned who I am as a writer, both in my genre and my process. I’ve come to the conclusion, that although I may not become a big name, what’s important for me is the writing itself, and making my readers happy. Who knows, I might become an ‘overnight success’ by the time I’ve published my 20th book! 😉

Yes, I’ll continue to doubt myself and make mistakes along the way, but I’ve managed to overcome this hurdle. Persistence (and a healthy dose of stubbornness) pays off.

Being an indie author is hard work but there’s no point in worrying about things out of your control. Keep showing up and put yourself out there. Have fun, and love what you do!

It’s been some months since I last posted about writing and my writing journey (and reading this post, you’ll understand why). This hasn’t been an easy post for me to write, but I do so because I prefer to be honest with you and maybe help others who are struggling with their own writing journey.

Looking for spooky stories? Subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates and receive an exclusive flash fiction. I’d love it if you could join the discussion! 🙂

This Writer's Life, Writing Process

Home is Where the Heart Is.

Free image courtesy David Mark from Pixabay.

This time last year, I entered my first RWA short story competition. Although my entry didn’t place, I managed to step out of my comfort zone. That story, along with one other, would later go on to become ‘First Christmas’, my first foray into the world of sweet paranormal romance. Even though I had fun writing both those stories, when my book was published in November, I felt happy to go ‘home’.

And where is that, exactly?

They say ‘home is where the heart is’, and for me that place is a spooky old mansion, full of dark shadows and forbidden secrets. My home, my real home, is among the darkness. Like many journeys we take, we sometimes need to spread our wings, but we always return to our roots.

In her book ‘Dear Writer, You Need to Quit’ (which I recommend for all you writers out there), Becca Syme says that we need to quit focusing on our weaknesses. Instead, we should focus on our strengths. Once we know what they are, development is the next step.

I recently finished reading Stephen King’s ‘Full Dark, No Stars’, and one of the things he had to say in the afterword resonated with me. ‘When it comes to fiction, the writer’s only responsibility is to look for the truth inside his own heart’.

Yes, I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, but the dark side is my comfort zone. I have always been drawn to the horrors of what human beings are capable of, as well as the supernatural. I have come to accept it and learned to embrace it.

As we head into 2021, my path leads me into the shadows. I hope you’ll join me.

Where is your natural ‘home’ as a writer? Do you plan on writing in a different genre this year? Have you experimented with other genres, only to return where you’re the most comfortable?

This Writer's Life, Writing Process

Celebrating One Year of Self-Publishing.

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November is an important month for me, but this year, it is even more special. This month marks my one-year anniversary of being self-published!

It’s hard to believe a year has gone by already, and what a year it’s been (hello, 2020). When I first hit that ‘publish’ button, I thought I knew what I was in for. I had spent years reading up on self-publishing, but it wasn’t until I actually began my journey that I found there was still so much to learn. The best way to learn about anything is by doing!

Here are the biggest take-aways I have learned these past twelve months: –

Learn from our mistakes and be prepared to experiment

In some respects, I’m fortunate that I began self-publishing without a big bang. There have been plenty of highs and lows, and yes, I’ve made some mistakes, but we learn from them and try to do things better. It also helps to keep a bit of an open mind and experiment. It’s a matter of learning what works and what doesn’t.

Keep Finding Your Audience

Not everyone is going to like what you do, and that’s okay. We all have different tastes. We just need to find ways of locating our audience – they’re out there somewhere! You just need to keep rolling up your sleeves and put in the work.

Do What is Right for YOU

There is a lot of advice out there about the ‘best’ way to self-publish, but what works for one author won’t necessarily work for you. Some authors can do a ‘rapid release’ and produce quality work, but some may be like me and be in the ‘slow and steady’ camp. Neither one is right or wrong, you just need to do what fits with your personality.

Everyone’s journey is different

Having said that, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. I’ve been doing this long before I hit that publish button and it still hasn’t changed. Whenever I compare myself to others, I take a step back and focus on my own writing and genre. I look at what I have accomplished so far and what I need to do to achieve my next goal. The writing journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep moving forward one day at a time.

Love Your Network

I don’t think I would have got this far without my existing network. Apart from my husband, my support team has been entirely on-line. The writing community has been wonderful in their support, both for craft and morally. They have provided publicity for me, so I can reach readers that I would never have had access to, nor even considered. Cherish these people and reciprocate!

I love this quote! And I love getting creative with Canva & Book Brush too. 😉

Fellow writers, what have you learned this year on your writing journey? If you’re self-published, what was your biggest take-away during your first year? Has COVID-19 made you reassess your outlook and/or your goals?

This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

Author Interview – Halloween Edition.

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Hi everyone! I’ve had another author interview, this time with a Halloween theme.

This week I speak to fellow RWA member, and author/blogger Davina Stone. It’s a short, fun interview, with myself and two other authors of paranormal romance. I talk about my inspiration, my upcoming release, and a Halloween party guest of honour. Many thanks to Davina for letting me be a guest on her blog!

You can read the full interview at Davina’s website Spellbound! Fall in love with Spooky Romance this Halloween. Oh, and I also dress up for the occasion! 😉

And for those who celebrate it, Happy Halloween!

This cracks me up every time!
IWSG, This Writer's Life

IWSG: Do You See Yourself as a Working Writer?

I have been writing for years, and it wasn’t until late 2019 that I became an indie author. Despite this, I did not really see myself as a working writer until only a few short months ago.

I could never understand those television shows where authors go about solving crimes, yet somehow manage to write books and be successful authors. To me, the term ‘working writer’ is someone glued to their chair doing a lot of writing with an assortment of pens and papers scattered around their desk. What I like to call ‘an organised mess’.

To me, a working writer is also someone who takes their writing seriously, are prepared to be in it for the long haul, learn new things (as well as from their mistakes), and adapt to change. Sometimes we can be doing all these things, but what is really required is a shift in our mindset.

When I released my two books of short stories in 2019, I put them out into the world with little fanfare. These were stories I had been holding onto for a number of years, so when I pressed ‘publish’, it was with a great deal of relief (and a lot of trepidation) that the job was finally done.

Recently, as I have been working on the release of my next book, my mindset has changed. Within the first six months as an indie author, I managed to learn more about the business – don’t we learn more by doing? I have learned from past mistakes and this time I am trying a different approach, and I’m sure I will try different ways of doing things with each book.

Looking back, despite having some knowledge of indie publishing, I was a bit naïve. I need to work harder and smarter if I want to be successful in this business, and I do! With that shift in mindset, I now see myself as a working writer.

This is something you will never see on these shows because it makes for boring television! 😉

Do you see yourself as a working writer? What do you think it looks like? Have you had a change in mindset and how has it worked for you? Are you an aspiring author or a hobbyist?

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

IWSG, This Writer's Life

IWSG: Remember Why You Started.

Recently, during these crazy days of a world pandemic, I was fortunate to spend some time away from home. My husband referred to it as my ‘writing retreat’. We had no access to the outside world, which was very relaxing. It was the perfect way to pause and reflect.

I came to think about why I started on this writing journey in the first place. Back to my childhood, using my imaginary worlds as a way to escape reality. Writing about the things I loved, what I was passionate about.

I preferred to be left alone, and nature was always the perfect environment. Either in the bush or on the beach, my imagination would take hold and there were always stories to tell. I was able to express what could not be said in the real world.

Taking that time away, feeling slightly cut off from civilisation, the days became slower, calmer. It allowed me to focus on the things that were important in my life, and writing has always been a part of that. I had become too caught up on all the other things that are part of the writer’s life when it comes to indie publishing.

My husband told me that without social media as a distraction, I was able to get more work done. What I really needed was discipline. What I needed was to remain focused on the act of writing itself, to tell my stories.

That’s why I started writing in the first place.

Do you remember why you started writing? What do you do to keep disciplined in your writing and avoid distractions? Do you create your own ‘writing retreats’? Have you managed to get some time away from the ‘real world’ 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.

Image courtesy Pixabay

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

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