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).
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
Another winter has arrived in Australia. On the first of June, we received our first snowfall, and the weather has been chilly ever since. Perfect conditions for staying indoors and doing some reading (as well as writing)!
For a few years now, I tend to read mostly from my Kindle or listen to audio books. It’s rare for me to read a paperback these days, and even then, it’s usually an old favourite. Speaking of which, I recently listened to the audio version of an old childhood favourite to lighten up my usual darker books of choice. 😉
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
This is a favourite classic that I sometimes like to return to, and I really enjoyed this audio version. Narrated by Dan Stevens, of Downton Abbey fame, he does a great job. Each character voice is distinct, his performance of Victor Frankenstein is filled with anguish, and his portrayal of the monster is particularly moving. These are two characters that I both pity and despise; Victor who plays God yet avoids responsibility for his actions and suffers the consequences, and his creation who seeks revenge, but yearns for love.
Beautifully written, this is a sad and tragic tale. A remarkable piece of literature, penned from the author at such an early age, it is highly recommended.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Mary Katherine (Merricat) and her older sister Constance live with their Uncle Julian, survivors of a family tragedy and outcasts within their community. Eighteen-year-old Merricat has a childlike quality, but there is another side to her. The reader is drawn in by this unreliable narrator, so that they feel the tension and fear as Merricat visits the town. Her home is a safe haven, one where the reader gradually learns about the tragedy and the effects it had on the rest of the family; Constance who is agoraphobic, and her Uncle Julian, crippled and suffering dementia. When their cousin, Charles, arrives, their sanctuary is shattered, taking on a darker, menacing tone.
This is a beautifully written, eerie, psychological horror story. A story with characters that stays with you long after you’ve finished the book.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
It’s been a long time since I read this book, so re-visiting Anne Shirley and Green Gables is like visiting old friends. Anne is a lovable character, despite her faults, but it is these faults that help make her so enduring. Her tragic past does not hamper her enthusiasm and outlook on life, which is contagious. It’s also a pleasure to spend time with other characters, such as Marilla, Matthew, and Diana Barry. Gilbert Blythe hovers in the distance, but he is a constant presence, and it’s pleasing to see the blossoming of his relationship with Anne.
The descriptions of Prince Edward Island and nature throughout the various seasons, as well as Green Gables itself, creates a nostalgic image of a simpler time. It’s a place the reader is drawn to and would happily inhabit.
This is a heart-warming story, which will make you laugh and cry, but it is also one where you would happily return to to spend more time with these characters.
What have you been reading lately? Do you have any recommendations? How do you prefer to read these days?
Recently, I spent several days in the Blue Mountains, a location that inspires some of my stories. Rather than splash out at attending writing retreats specifically tailored for writers, I create my own.
I’ve been doing this for some years now, which initially started with me going it alone, but these days, now that the kids are older, it’s whenever my husband and I go away. I’m now in the habit of packing my laptop and writing notes with me, so I can continue writing and gaze out the window admiring the different scenery.
The past three trips away, I’ve worked on the first two novellas in my Marsden Hall series in their various incarnations. I’ve thought about plot outlines while soaking in an outdoors hot tub, edited by the beach, as well as editing while being snowed in in a log cabin.
This is not to say that I won’t knock back the opportunity to go on a writing retreat to meet other writers if ever I get the chance (I was lucky to have been chosen to participate in one back in 2009), but it’s having that control of where and when I choose to write. Being alone or with one other person, also allows me to focus and not be too distracted by others.
New places and experiences are always great fodder for stories. We may look forward to a bit of R&R, but then, a writer never truly switches off! 😉
*And the good news is, the first draft of Marsden Hall 3 is done!! Watch this space!*
Do you create your own writing retreats, or have you ever been on a professional one? Have you found them beneficial? What’s your idea of an ideal writing retreat?
In the early 1990s, I visited the Princess Theatre in Melbourne for a performance of Phantom of the Opera. It was a memorable evening, and the theatre itself is a magnificent building, but behind the glamour lies a different story. The theatre’s history has a tragic past, one that has its very own ‘phantom of the opera.’
Federici was the stage name of English baritone Frederick Baker, who enjoyed success in musicals such as The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. In June 1887, Federici arrived in Melbourne, with his wife and children, to give a series of performances.
In March 1888, the production of the opera, Faust, premiered at the Princess Theatre, where Federici was to play the role of Mephistopheles. During the final act, Mephistopheles wrapped Faust in his scarlet cloak, surrounded by smoke, dragging him into the fiery depths of hell. A trapdoor had been created on stage for the dramatic effect, but as the trap was reaching the cellar floor, Federici collapsed and died of a heart attack. Despite efforts from a doctor, and yes, even the use of galvanic batteries, he could not be revived.
Shortly after he was buried, stories began to circulate of cold spots on and beneath the stage, and people being touched by invisible hands. Over the years, there had been numerous reported sightings of a man’s dark figure within the theatre, either on stage or seated in the dress circle.
One sighting was by a wardrobe mistress and a fireman who was patrolling the theatre in 1917. At 2.30am, they saw a man in evening dress sitting in the middle of the second row of the dress circle, staring at the stage. He sat motionless, his white shirt glowing. They watched him for some minutes before returning to work. About an hour later, the wardrobe mistress returned to the dress circle to find the man still sitting there.
Throughout the years, numerous staff and performers have had encounters, leaving some investigators to believe there may be more than one ghost.
In the early 1980s, The Princess Theatre closed and was eventually bought and restored to its former glory. Despite continued incidents, the owner is happy for Federici to stay, believing he’s a friendly ghost and is considered part of the family.
These days, for every opening night performance, a third-row seat of the dress circle is left empty for Federici, as a sign of respect.
This year, as I’ve decided to spend less time on social media, it has meant I have more time for reading. As much as I love books, I’m a slow reader. Try as I might, the number of books I read each year can be pretty low (this is one of the reasons why I enjoy audio books so much)!
To help spread the word on what I’ve been reading, I thought I’d share my reviews here on the blog, and hope you’ll be interested in reading them too. These past couple of months I’ve been reading shorter works, which are a mix of audio books and e-books. My taste is usually eclectic, but lately, it comes as no surprise, my books of choice are of the Gothic/horror persuasion. 😉
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Even though I had seen the various film versions, this was the first time I read the book. I really liked it and was surprised by its humour. I pictured the Disney version of Ichabod Crane more than any other.
I enjoyed the setting and descriptions, especially those leading up to the introduction of the headless horseman. I listened to the audio version, which I also highly recommend. This is such a fun, quick read, and a perfect story for Halloween.
The Hay Bale by Priscilla Bettis
I know Priscilla Bettis through blogging, so when I heard she was releasing her first book, I had to get myself a copy. The Hay Bale is a quick read, and it’s one that hooks you in from the very beginning. Her use of imagery places you beside the main character, Claire, so that when we reach the final scenes, we are in suspense and horrified in equal measure.
The ending I suspected, but the events leading up to that conclusion was altogether creepy and disturbing thanks to the peculiar quirks of the local townspeople. This story packed an emotional punch and stayed with me long after I had finished reading. Highly recommended for horror fans. I look forward to reading more from Priscilla.
Later by Stephen King
I’ve always enjoyed reading Stephen King’s shorter works, and this one certainly packs a punch. Combining crime and horror, it’s a coming-of-age story, where young Jamie Conklin can see dead people. He’s a sensitive, intelligent child with a good sense of humour (I had some laugh out loud moments). I felt drawn towards this character, so that when his naivety is gradually chipped away, it is truly heart breaking.
This is a story with memorable characters, some frightening scenes, and one that you can’t put down. I listened to the audio version, read by Seth Numrich. His reading helps draw the reader in, especially when Jamie is confronted by the character, Kenneth Therriault. Highly recommended.
Among the Headstones: Creepy Tales from the Graveyard. Edited by Rayne Hall
This collection of short stories is a lovely mix from new and established writers, as well as from classic authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe. Each story takes you on a journey to graveyards throughout the world, so readers can experience different cultures and various forms of burial.
There are 27 stories in this collection, which range from creepy to unusual, as well as humorous, so there’s something for everyone. At the end of each story are the author’s comments, which is a nice way to find out more about them.
As with any collection, some stories will stand out more than others and demand a re-read, and there are many in this book. For me, some of these include The Shortcut, Another Oldie but Goodie, Lucretia’s Hum, The Legend of Merv the Swerve, The New Catacomb, Respects, and Heart Music.
If you enjoy a spooky story, this collection does not disappoint.
What books have you been reading this year? Do you have any recommendations to share? Are you a slow reader?
There are reports throughout the world of ghosts haunting locations to avenge their deaths, or anxious that their remains be cared for. One report, set in Australia during the early 19th century, would go on to capture the public’s imagination.
Frederick Fisher came to Australia as a convict, but would eventually be released for good behaviour, earning what was known as a ‘ticket of leave.’ He acquired 30 acres (twelve hectares) of land in Campbelltown, about 56 km (34 miles) from Sydney.
He became good friends with neighbour, George Worrall, a fellow ‘ticket of leave’ man. At one point, Fisher got into a fight with another man and pulled a knife. The man was not badly hurt, but Fisher was arrested. Fearful his land would be seized; Fisher gave power of attorney of his property and possessions to Worrall. He served his sentence and was released six months later. Shortly after, Fisher disappeared.
George Worrall informed the locals that Fisher had decided to return to London, a story that was believed for a little while. Doubts began to surface when Worrall tried to sell one of Fisher’s horses, using a forged document as proof of purchase. The police became involved and issued an award for the discovery of Fisher’s body.
When questioned, Worrall changed his story, saying he witnessed Fisher’s murder, but was not involved in his death. He named the killers, and they were eventually released due to lack of evidence.
One night, a short distance from Fisher’s home, a farmer by the name of John Farley, saw a figure sitting on the top rail of a fence. Drawing nearer, he discovered it was Frederick Fisher. He was pale, with a blood dripping down his face from a head wound. He let out a loud moan, raised his arm and pointed in the direction of a nearby creek.
Shortly after, a police search was conducted with the aid of an aboriginal tracker. A body was discovered in a shallow grave. It was a gruesome find, for the man’s head was battered and the back of the skull had been struck with a sharp object. The body was later identified as that of Frederick Fisher.
George Worrall was arrested and found guilty. Before his execution, he confessed to the murder, stating that he had acted alone.
There was no mention of the ghost in any documentation, but the story was quickly circulated and became folklore. Sceptics believed that John Farley invented the story as he knew the whereabouts of the body, but on his deathbed, he swore his story to be the truth.
Whether John Farley saw the ghost of Frederick Fisher or not, the incident has gone on to become Australia’s most celebrated ghost story.
Seeing in a new year always brings with it a clean slate and endless possibilities. For 2022, I’ve been making plans for my next writing projects, as well as my publishing plans for the year. So far, I feel as if I am starting from scratch and therefore, willing to try something new.
Last year, I wrote about the struggles I was experiencing and how persistence matters when it comes to writing. I had reached a point where I gave serious consideration to giving up writing altogether, as I was no longer getting any pleasure from it. I was in a dark place, but then, given the nature of what I write, I needed to be. While writing my novella, The Stranger Within, I needed to stay there.
I wanted the novella published before the end of 2021, so I had a deadline to meet as well. I made it, but by the end, I was mentally and physically exhausted. That year, I had two falls, causing injury to both knees, as well as the anxiety over COVID-19 and going through lockdowns. I had also lost my spark for writing and needed to find it again. What I needed was a break!
For 2022, I have made the decision to spend less time on social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram. For me, this is where a large part of the ‘comparisonitis’ comes from (and I’m sure you’ve all heard the stories the effects these networks can have on young girls, especially). Besides, being an introvert, I am much more comfortable blogging and writing newsletters.
It’s only early days, but so far, I believe I have made the right decision. I have taken the time to relax, read, plan my writing projects for the year, and come up with a business plan. I’ve even given my desk a long overdue clean out!
Perhaps this may lead to a more permanent arrangement. 😉
What plans do you have for 2022? What changes are you making to help reach your goals this year?