Ghosts & The Paranormal · Research

Contacting the Dead: The Ouija Board.

Ouija Board. Two words that can send some people to recoil in horror. Realistically, they appear harmless enough, after all it is just a piece of wood containing letters and numbers, but they have been used in numerous horror movies over the years that they can sometimes be seen as instruments of the devil.

Is there any truth in the Ouija Board being an instrument of contacting the dead? In an article on The Weird and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board, the answer to that question remains elusive.

Designed as a parlour game in the late 1890s, the ouija board is now owned by Hasbro, who still market it as such and have even recently put out a Stranger Things edition.

During childhood, my sisters and I once made our own with paper and a glass for a bit of fun, but I don’t think I’d be doing that these days. After watching so many horror movies and television shows regarding the paranormal, I now err on the side of caution. Perhaps it’s warranted, perhaps not. Over the years, the ouija board has managed to have a stigma attached to them.

Sometimes I think about trying one out for the sake of research, other times I think of the bad juju surrounding it and chicken out. Either way, it is certainly an object that has aroused curiosity. 😉

Do you think Ouija Boards can help communicate with the dead or is it just a load of rubbish? Have you ever used a Ouija Board?

Main image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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IWSG · Writing

IWSG: What Is Your Favourite Genre to Write In?

I’ve always followed the old writing advice that in order to write, you need to read – a lot. Over the years I’ve read so many genres, that when it came to actually writing, I could never decide where I actually fit. It wasn’t until recently when I had my short stories professionally edited that I may have realised what was staring me in the face. I was told I had a ‘knack’ for horror.

Growing up, I watched a lot of television and movies. Watching the Gothic horror and mystery of Picnic at Hanging Rock at the cinema (yes, showing my age now), fascinated me and I leaned heavily toward lots of horror movies, including anything from Alfred Hitchcock. I fell in love with The Addams Family and anything Gothic. I was about ten when I accidentally discovered the Gothic Romance novel Dragonwyck and I was hooked. From there I went on to devour any book from Stephen King that I could get my hands on. And the 1980s was very big for horror! 😉

I guess horror was a natural fit as I was always fascinated by the paranormal, especially ghosts. In more recent years I have visited some haunted places and have come away with experiencing something.

It’s the thrill of being scared; an adrenalin rush. Like being on a roller coaster – it’s a high! Monsters can be scary, but also fascinating. It’s the unknown that makes one curious and question our existence. It’s not just monsters either as horror can also take the form of mankind, leaving us to wonder what we are truly capable of. Horror can also lurk within the natural environment too.

Horror is surrounded by suspense and mystery; you’re too frightened to know what lurks beyond, but at the same time you’re curious to find out. Alfred Hitchcock is famous for building suspense, which is a handy skill to know when it comes to writing. We really want our readers to keep turning the pages and not put our stories down until they get the answers they seek.

My writing may be a mix of genres, but so too is horror. And besides, I think it’s a fun genre to write in and shouldn’t we be writing what we enjoy? 😉

Do you enjoy horror? Are you fascinated by the paranormal? What is your favourite genre to write in and why?

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 of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

5 Lessons from James Patterson’s Masterclass.

Before the end of 2018, I was given an early Christmas present. It was for James Patterson’s Masterclass. I had heard about this course for some time and had been wanting to do it for a while. I was introduced to James Patterson some years back, when I read his first book, Along Came a Spider, the first in the Alex Cross series. Since then he has produced so many books, it’s been difficult to keep up! It’s no wonder he has gone on to become the world’s bestselling author.

The course covers a lot of information and is great for new writers and for writers like myself, who already have some writing knowledge, but could do with more advice. With that in mind, here are five of the best things I learned from the Masterclass:-

1. Write Fast

In order to get the story down, you need to crash through. If you’re struggling, don’t torture yourself, just write ‘to be done’ and move on. This is helpful to avoid the dreaded writer’s block. The more you write, the better you get.

2. Work with an Outline

Everything needs to be in the outline. The outline should have lots of promise, so you can’t wait to write each scene. When you’re writing an outline, you’re thinking about the story. Write the story! James demonstrates this process in a detailed outline guide, and you will need to do the course in order to learn more.

3. Create Complex Characters

You want readers to love your characters or hate them; make the reader ‘feel’. Create characters the reader is not going to forget. In order to understand your character, you need to see the other side to that character by making them more complex and well-rounded. Villains need to be smart, clever and need to surprise you. The more you humanise the villain, the better.

4. Keep Raising the Stakes

Know your genre – know what’s out there in order to avoid it. Don’t write stuff that’s already out there, put a new twist on it. Find something that’s fresh and new. One of the biggest secrets of suspense is setting up questions the reader must have answered. Keep raising the stakes. Keep the reader guessing. Don’t give the answer away too quick; give it away slowly. Don’t assume that anyone is safe.

5. Stay Positive While Editing

Don’t start re-writing until you’ve written one draft. With the first re-write, try to get to the heart of your story. Keep moving forward; make it so that the pages turn themselves. Stay positive during the edit, break it down into parts to make it manageable. Think of editing as making it better. You didn’t make a mistake; you’re making it closer to what it should be.

The biggest take-aways for me were writing fast and working with an outline. Because I tend to think too much over my ideas, by the time I get to write them down, I can sometimes lose interest and look for the new shiny. 😉 Outlines have always been a part of my writing routines, but after doing this course, I’ve been using James’ method ever since.

The course comes with video and workbook, and you can work through them at your own pace. The video contains about twenty-four lessons and the course also contains access to the Masterclass community, so that you can share work and join the discussion with other students.

Because the course covers a wide range, some information you may have heard already, but it does contain advice you may never have heard of before, let alone considered (the gender breakdown of his readership, and how that influences his content is one example).

I felt one of the drawbacks was that James focused on writing thrillers, which is understandable as that is his genre, but it may not be what writers of different genres want to know about. Also, the course covers the topic on writing for Hollywood, which may be interesting, but not necessarily helpful to writers who don’t plan on going down this path.

If you haven’t done the course and you want to know more about it, you can read this helpful post to find out if it is worth your money or you can jump right in and sign up for the Masterclass.

‘If you don’t love it, you’re not going to finish the book. That’s okay. That’s telling you that’s not what you’re going to do. You have an interest in it, but you’re not that passionate about it. If you are passionate about it, you can’t help yourself; you have to write it. You’ve got to write that book’.

Have you done the Masterclass with James Patterson or are you thinking of doing so? What were your main take-aways from the course? What course have you done recently that you found beneficial to your writing?

Movies/Television

A Visit to The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition.

Recently, on a visit to Canberra, I visited the National Film and Sound Archive. They were holding a costume exhibition from the movie The Dressmaker. I had never been there before, and I was fortunate that the exhibition had recently started.

The costumes were created by award-winning designer and vintage specialist Marion Boyce. I’ve admired her work after seeing the costume exhibition a few years ago for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I have to admit that I haven’t seen this movie, however, seeing this exhibition was quite fitting as the 1950s is one of my favourite eras.

The exhibition included clothing worn at Gertrude’s/Trudy’s wedding, including the wedding dress, Sergeant Farrat’s clothing and kimonos from The Mikado. Just like Miss Fisher’s exhibition, the level of detail that went into making these outfits is quite remarkable. I couldn’t help but have a few favourites.

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If you’ve watched the movie or are interested in the 1950s or vintage fashion, I highly recommend seeing this exhibition.

I may have to watch this movie now. 😉

Do you have an appreciation for vintage fashion? Have you visited the exhibition – what are your thoughts? Did you ever get it back-to-front and watched a movie/television show after seeing an exhibition?

IWSG · Writing Process

IWSG: Working With an Editor.

This month for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I thought I’d talk about doing something I have been putting off for a long time because of my doubts and fears.

This year, in an effort to step out of my comfort zone, I am looking at self-publishing. It’s a huge undertaking, but I’m gradually working my way towards that ultimate goal (I guess you could say I’m being overly cautious). One of those steps I undertook recently was working with an editor.

The first thing I needed to do was to find one and this demonstrated one of the advantages of social media. I asked for recommendations on Facebook and I received a number of replies, including both recommendations and others offering their services. I went through them all and eventually settled on one once I received a sample edit and seeing that their price was reasonable.

Giving my work out to a professional editor made me nervous for a number of reasons: – I was allowing someone other than my beta readers to read my work, and a professional may confirm my belief that I might not be very good at this.

As they are short stories, she emailed each one back to me once she had finished and I was pleasantly surprised with some of the comments I received. Such comments included ‘I liked this one’, ‘you have such a knack for horror’ and ‘what a beautiful story – loved it’. High praise from a well-known Australian romance author, so yeah, I’ll take it! 😉 She said she loved my work and would be happy to work with me again. She also hoped that I was writing a long book and encouraged me to keep writing.

I discovered that editors are there to help you to improve your own editing skills and make your writing stronger, even though it may take some time to find the right one. It also goes to show that sometimes our fears can be misguided, that the old saying is true:- ‘there is nothing to fear but fear itself’.

Have you been fortunate with your choice of editor? Did it take you a while to find one? Are you looking at self-publishing? Do you have any big plans for your writing this year?

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 of 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

IWSG · This Writer's Life

IWSG: Withdrawing from a Conference.

This post is my first in a return to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It’s been a while, but I look forward to reacquainting myself with some old friends and making new ones. 🙂

The Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) hold a conference every year and this year it will be held in Melbourne. In my efforts to make 2019 a year to step out of my comfort zone, I made arrangements to attend my first ever RWA conference. I had the accommodation all booked and when the programme came out, I looked to see what seminars held the most appeal. The only trouble was I hit a snag.

I want to make it clear that this is not in any way being critical of RWA; I have been a member for almost a year now and they have been one of the best organisations I have encountered. The problem was mine; the more I learned about the conference, the more I realised I could not afford to go.

I guess you could say I’m a struggling writer; that person living frugally as they pen their works. I have read a few blog articles from different sources of late that suggests this scenario is just a myth. I don’t know how they came up with that idea, but speaking from experience, the struggling writer still exists. Being a one income family and raising two kids, it’s not exactly easy.

When telling some fellow writers that I have had to withdraw from attending the conference, they have been very helpful and understanding. It was suggested that I could attend local author talks or other conferences closer to home. These don’t have to be in my genre, just as long as I’m immersed in the joy of writing. Also setting myself another writing goal would be beneficial. It was a good reminder that there are plenty of other writing opportunities I could focus on.

I have stewed over my decision for weeks. I came close, but unfortunately, it is not to be. After having come this far and then having to cancel, I feel as though I have let myself down as well as others. I have met some lovely people online through RWA and I was really looking forward to actually meeting them, but unfortunately, it is not going to happen.

Stepping out of my comfort zone this year will not involve the RWA Conference. Instead, I will have to remain focused on my other goal, which is self-publishing. And that is my biggest challenge of all.

Have you ever had to back out of something you said you would do? How did that make you feel? Do you have plans to try something different this year? Have you stepped out of your comfort zone recently?

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 of Pixabay