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

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

This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal

A Country on Fire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images courtesy Pixabay

This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal

Do You Have a Pet as a Writing Buddy?

After eight years, the time has finally come to get another writing buddy of the four-legged variety. It has been something I had put off for a while because I just wasn’t ready and I never thought I would get another dog after our last one, Dana, had to be put down.

We got Dana as a puppy, back in 1995 and after my son was born, they were great playmates. Both my children grew up with her and I wondered how they would take the news. Dana had become disorientated, blind, deaf, walked into walls and sometimes would fall off the back ramp. She was going downhill rapidly, and I had no wish to remember her that way. My son, being the eldest, took it pretty badly, which upset me even more. The night we put her down he wrote her an epitaph on a piece of paper: ‘3/1/11 Dana was and always has been a good FRIEND’.

It took all of us a long time to get over it (hence the eight years), and with an awful lot of pestering from our son, we have finally buckled.

We now have another dog of the same breed (a Pomeranian) and is a male puppy, which we have yet to name. The first few days had certainly been a bit chaotic, and in all honesty, I wondered if we had made the right decision. I can see the same or similar characteristics with this dog as Dana had so it may take me a bit longer to adjust as she was my baby (yeah, I’m a big softie). Perhaps once we get past the toilet training phrase, things might get better. 😉

My writing routine has certainly been put out of whack, but I think (I hope) things are beginning to settle down. As my kids are now older and this is really my son’s dog, it’s good to know that they can share some of the responsibilities.

If nothing else, it’s a good way for me to get some writing breaks. 😉

Do you have a pet as a writing buddy? Did it ever take you a while to adjust to a new pet?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Blogging · Up Close & Personal

Liebster Award.

When it comes to blogging, there can be times when you wonder what it’s all for, but every now and then something happens that makes it all worthwhile. It came as a surprise to be given an award for my blog once again, so a big THANK YOU goes to Adam at Write Thoughts for giving me the Liebster Award. I really do appreciate the recognition and it’s a great motivator to continue blogging. It’s good to know that my blogging efforts are appreciated. 🙂

Adam has asked me a couple of questions and some had certainly given me pause for thought! So this week, in answer to these questions, it’s time to get to know a bit more about the person behind the keyboard.

1.We’ve all heard of comfort foods. Do you have any comfort stories? Stories you go back to when you’re feeling vulnerable and you just need to laugh, or be reassured?

I have a couple of comfort books, which I go back to every now and again because I really enjoy them and it feels like visiting old friends. One is Dragonwyck by Anya Seton, a gothic novel set in New York during the 1840s; another is Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, an Australian mystery/gothic set in 1900 that has basically gone down in Australian folklore and the last is the Poldark series by Winston Graham, set in Cornwall during the end of the 18th century.

2.Do you have any stories you generally recommend?

When I think stories, I think of the short story, so there are a few authors I recommend. As I grew up on Stephen King, I really enjoyed his short stories. More recently I’ve read some good ones from Daphne du Maurier, Susan Hill and Ramsey Campbell. As these stories are of the horror/paranormal/suspense genres, they may not be for everyone, but they are good examples of how to master the craft.

3.Have you ever found yourself in a situation so absurd that you had to stop and take a moment to recognize the absurdity of it? Or just burst out laughing?

Too many to mention! It doesn’t help that I can sometimes be the cause of it all as I have a tendency to either say or do something stupid. This usually happens when I’m amongst other people I may meet for the first time or still trying to get to know. I can have a tendency to say things before thinking things through and then laugh at myself. So I guess, when people first meet me they may think I’m a bit of an air-head, but I’d like to think I’m getting better at it as I get older. This is why I’m much more comfortable with writing. 😉

4.When having fun with friends, would you rather get up early and get started, or linger late into the night?

That has certainly changed over the years! After I left High School, I was a bit of a night owl and I would come home late at night (once arrived home after partying at 6am), and sleep until midday. These days though, I’m the complete opposite and prefer to get up early.

5.What was the last song that you heard for the first time and went, “Wow, this is something special”?

This is a tough one, as I haven’t listened to the radio for years (yes, it’s true) and can be a bit behind the times when it comes to music these days. However, after having heard ‘Chandelier’ by Sia for the first time I couldn’t get it out of my head.

6.What villain, super or otherwise, do you most feel a kinship with?

I’ve always been a strong advocate for the underdog, so ever since I read Frankenstein, I’ve always been sympathetic towards the monster. All he ever wanted was love and friendship, but instead received rejection through fear and misunderstanding. This kinship has only been strengthened by his portrayal on the television series Penny Dreadful.

7.Would you rather have the power to stop time (and not age during those frozen moments, but be able to interact with things), or live forever (not growing older, and gradually healing from any injury/malady)?

Given those two choices, I would have to say live forever. By stopping time, you might not always be in a good place (emotionally), so it would be nice to keep moving forward. By living forever, you have more time to do things/visit places and hopefully have a far lesser chance of regrets.

8.What’s a hobby or interest that most people would be surprised to learn you have?

I would have to say true crime; of special interest is murder and serial killers. I’ve always been fascinated by people’s reasons behind committing such acts, how their minds work, their M.Os, etc. This is why I watch a lot of crime shows and listen to podcasts and why I chose to work within the NSW Police Service upon leaving high school. During my first year of study at University, I even did a subject in criminology. The legal side of it put me off, whereas I prefer the psychological aspect of crime.

9.After writing, what would you say is your second passion?

That would have to be the paranormal, which is as much a part of me as writing. I’ve always been interested in the unexplained. I’ve inherited a belief in the spirit world from my Scottish father and I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), so I have a tendency to pick up on things a bit more than others. As a child, there was an incident that left me wondering if I had some special kind of ‘ability’ and in more recent years have had some ghostly encounters.

10.What first led you to consider/try blogging?

Back in the late 2000s, when blogs were really taking off, I read that in order to help build your platform, you ‘had’ to be on social media and that included having a blog. I began blogging in early 2009, but stopped shortly after, wondering if it was worth my time. However, a few short months later, I picked it up again and have continued to blog ever since.

* * * * *

So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed finding out a little bit more about me as it certainly put my little grey cells to good use coming up with some of these answers. My thanks once again to Adam for this award and giving me the opportunity to share.

Are there any questions from Adam’s list that you would like to discuss? Have you ever been given an award for your blog? What do you consider some of the best aspects of blogging?

This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal · Writing

The Fear of Failure.

Before I begin with this post, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Here’s hoping it will turn out to be a happy, healthy and prosperous one for all of us!

Recently I read a blog post by Kristen Lamb on the 5 Areas We Need Permission for Success. One of those was to allow ourselves the permission to fail. This is a big one as I believe that for me at least, this one area works like a domino affect as it creates all the others that she mentions.

Being the youngest of three daughters, I was labelled ‘different’ from an early age. I was imaginative, observant and a bit of a loner. The quiet one, or ‘shy’ as some would call it. My mother would call me ‘different’ as if it was a bad thing (yeah, still does). It’s as if there is something wrong with me. I always had the feeling that I didn’t quite fit in because I’d be compared to my sisters. When I started high school, teachers also started comparing me to my elder sisters, but it didn’t last long; I was ‘different’. There was always a level of high expectation. If I didn’t meet them, I was a ‘failure’, causing low self-esteem. I was afraid to try new things.

This fear of failure has resulted in being a perfectionist. I grew up with the belief that everything had to be perfect the first time around. It has become ingrained. During my University studies I would stall at starting any assignments which were all essays. The thought of writing something made me anxious, but I had a deadline to meet and once I began writing, I was fine. It’s the same these days when it comes to writing, only I don’t have any deadlines. Right now, I’m doing this for me. Perfectionism is the worst form of procrastination there is as I use different things to distract me; go on social media, play on the ipad, listen to podcasts, watch Netflix (yeah, I think you get the picture). I fail to try because I don’t want to fail.

The thing is though failure can be good for us. We learn what our strengths and weaknesses are. We learn through our mistakes and in order to make ourselves better, we work on them. We put in the hard yards until we are satisfied with the results. There can be times when mistakes can even take us down paths we never would have tried otherwise. Without making the effort to try, we’ll never know what we are capable of. We may live the rest of our lives with regrets.

I believe that I will be taking the path to self-publishing. That now is my biggest challenge. In all honesty just the very thought of it frightens the living daylights out of me. It is revealing myself to the world, revealing what has been private for so many years. Just writing this post is a frightening prospect, but this is why blogging has been such an enormous help. If I fail, then at least I know I’ve tried. And that’s all anyone can really ask for.

Are you afraid of failure? Has the thought of failure made you a perfectionist? Do you plan to step out of your comfort zone and do something different in 2018?

Side Note: Just a reminder that in 2018, I’ll be spending less time on social media and more time writing. I will continue to blog, although there may be times when my posts may become somewhat erratic, but it’s all in a good cause, so stick with me (pretty please). 😉

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Life Lessons · This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal

Walk Away From Toxic People.

As writers, we need to develop a thick skin when it comes to rejection. The more we expose our writing to others, the more we learn to ‘toughen up’, realising that it is in fact, our writing and not ourselves that is being judged. However, there is also the rejection on a more personal level that we need to be aware of; being surrounded by people who are negative when it comes to our writing goals or just us in general.

Recently, I had such a wake-up call. Unfortunately, I’ve been down this road before once too often, even a long time ago (and is the spark of one of my works in progress) and once again, involves people closest to me. I’ve taken hit after hit for so long that I am reminded of this famous quote:-

It is because they are so close, that we endure their negativity, their bullying and even their desire to ignore us. No matter how hard we may try, sometimes people cannot change what they don’t acknowledge. However, there comes a time where we can only take so much and tell ourselves enough is enough. We need to do this in order to gain some level of self-respect. Sometimes we have to walk away from the negatives in our lives, and that can include certain people. It’s not always easy, but it is necessary for our own happiness and peace of mind.

So how do you overcome the pain of rejection? Focus on the positive; surround yourself with like-minded people and those who encourage you, do things that make you happy, listen to music, exercise. Use such negative experiences and turn them into positives by focusing on what you can do to improve your writing goals and/or yourself as a person. Enrol in courses, join the gym, find ways to further your employment prospects.

Perhaps it goes down to that old saying ‘nice guys finish last’ because it always seems to be the nice guys that get walked on – or perhaps it’s just that I’m not a narcissist. 😉 Unfortunately, rejection is a part of life. How we deal with it is one of the many ways we learn to grow and such blows can make us stronger when facing that next challenge.

Have you experienced rejection at a personal level? How do you overcome rejection? Have you had to pull away from friends and/or family for your own peace of mind?

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Life Lessons · Up Close & Personal · Writing Process

New Writers: Developing a Thick Skin.

As writers, we are told one of the things we need to have in this writing venture is a thick skin; especially when we are just starting out. The sooner we start giving our work to beta readers and submitting, the better our chances of developing this thick skin. There are, however, certain obstacles that prevent us from doing so. One in particular comes instantly to mind – fear.

For years, I spent the vast majority of my time happy in my little writing cave; my work never seeing the light of day. I had grown accustomed to the outward negativity towards my career choices, be they writing related or otherwise. My best defence was to keep quiet, but continue writing regardless. The only disadvantage to this was that I knew that one day, for me to become published; I would have to let others see my work eventually.

It became a gradual metamorphosis. I attended writing groups, where I always preferred to be the last one to read my work. My hands would shake and I could feel the heat rise in my chest and quite a few times people would ask me to speak up. Yet in the end, I found the others in the groups to be helpful and saw the potential in my writing. It was around this time that I began blogging, gradually putting myself out to an even bigger audience. By doing these two things, I began to grow that thick skin and submitted my work to publications and entering competitions. I had some poetry published in a small publication and won a writing competition. Things were looking up, but I still had a long way to go because the feeling of fear never left me.

The feeling of fear I felt (and still do) was not one of failure, but actually one of vulnerability. Putting myself out there for all the world to see would leave me exposed, open to abuse and ridicule. This was always the dilemma. It was a Catch-22 that I had to come to terms with and develop that thick skin sooner or later.

It has only been within the last twelve months that I might finally be getting better at this. I have some new beta readers who are helpful and encouraging and are only too keen to read more of my work (so thank you). 🙂 Recently, I submitted a short story to an anthology, but received word that I was unsuccessful. Usually I would be down in the dumps for a few days at least, but not this time. This time, I accepted it, shrugged and moved on. I was quite surprised at how calmly I had taken it. Years of study at University taught me that writing is subjective.

I’m still working on developing that thick skin as I have yet to have my stories published, but it has taken me years to reach this level. I usually find, more often than not, whenever I’m afraid of something, things usually turn out better than what I had expected. There is a lot of truth in the saying ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’.

What steps have you taken to develop a thick skin? Does fear prevent you from sending your work out or getting critiqued? Have you allowed the negativity of others to control your life?

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Main Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Inspiration · Up Close & Personal · Writing

Writing and the Keeping of Secrets.

How good are you at keeping secrets? Some people can hold a secret for weeks or possibly months before feeling the need to tell someone, while others can keep a secret to themselves an entire lifetime.

People keep secrets for a multitude of reasons. Shame, guilt, fear are just some examples. Sometimes we have been hurt so much that we keep it locked away in the back of our minds, trying desperately to block the pain away. Some experts believe that our greatest fear is not death, but humiliation and judgement. We are afraid of being rejected, of being kicked out of the social group. We are afraid of being abandoned. We keep secrets in order to ‘keep the peace’.

Certainly there can be times when we feel that some things are personal and nobody else’s business (hello, social media), but there can also be times when keeping secrets can affect our physical and mental health. We may feel vulnerable if we expose ourselves to others. We don’t open ourselves up and try to seek the help we need. In some cases this may be caused by a lack of trust in others.

Recently, I began thinking about secrets and it suddenly occurred to me that I have been keeping a secret from those closest to me. In fact, when I come to think about it, I don’t think many people know about it all. An event took place in my life a long time ago that I have since buried quite deep, but the memory is still there. Sometimes I see or hear something that reminds me and the memory of it all comes flooding back and it can be incredibly strong.

I guess this is one of the reasons why I turn to writing; I can open myself up and ‘bleed’ upon the page. Writing allows me the freedom to put my thoughts down on paper and express any feelings I may otherwise find difficult. Writing can force you to be honest with yourself. It is believed that for some people, writing can help with the healing process. Even for non-writers, keeping a journal can be good for your mental health, such as depression.

I’m currently working my way through my first novel that I wrote some years ago. It’s one of those stories that keeps coming back to me; that needs to be told simply because the initial spark for this novel has been that ‘little secret’ (and keeping secrets can be a good plot device). It needs quite a bit of work and I know I have been avoiding it for some time. I guess like many of us, I have to face my daemons someday. I guess the time has finally arrived.

Have you got a secret you’ve never shared with anyone? Do you find writing helps you with the healing process? How good are you at keeping secrets? Do you think some things are better left unsaid?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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