Writing

‘The Curse of Marsden Hall’ is Now Available!

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

The day has finally arrived! My novella, The Curse of Marsden Hall, is now available!

Many thanks to those of you who pre-ordered a copy. I really appreciate it! 🙂 Your support means so much to me. It’s nerve-wracking releasing a book into the world, but knowing that my stories are being read (and enjoyed) is what keeps me going.

Here is the blurb:-

Some things are better left alone.

Australia, 1875.

Successful businessman, Richard Marsden, is going to marry his sweetheart and has built the house of his dreams. Despite the scenic location, Richard’s house in the Wolfrose Mountains sits on land with a chequered past, one full of violence, witchcraft, and murder. He does not believe in curses or superstition.

When something unexpected happens, he wonders if the land he built on is indeed cursed and begins to question his own sanity.

Meanwhile, someone or something is watching… waiting.

Get your copy here!

It is available through Amazon for only $1.20AU ($0.93US).

Thank you for your support and have a lovely weekend! xx

My Books, The Curse of Marsden Hall

‘The Curse of Marsden Hall’ Available for Pre-Order.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Hi everyone! I hope you are well.

Just a quick post to let you know that my novella, The Curse of Marsden Hall, is now available for pre-order.

It will be released on 21 May, but you can order your copy NOW. It is available through Amazon for only $1.20AU ($0.94US).

Thank you for your support and have a great weekend! 🙂

My Books, The Curse of Marsden Hall

‘The Curse of Marsden Hall’ is Almost Here!

Here it is everyone! I can finally reveal the cover for my upcoming novella, ‘The Curse of Marsden Hall.’

With this book, I decided to experiment and do something a little bit different. I asked for opinions from some friends on Facebook and was pleased with the feedback I received.

That experiment was putting my other creative side to the test and creating my own cover. As this is the first book in a series (I have two more in the pipeline), I will be creating the covers for those as well. I hope you like it!

Here is the blurb: –

Some things are better left alone.

Australia, 1875.

Successful businessman, Richard Marsden, is going to marry his sweetheart and has built the house of his dreams. Despite the scenic location, Richard’s house in the Wolfrose Mountains sits on land with a chequered past, one full of violence, witchcraft, and murder. He does not believe in curses or superstition.

When something unexpected happens, he wonders if the land he built on is indeed cursed and begins to question his own sanity.

Meanwhile, someone or something is watching… waiting.

* * * * *

‘The Curse of Marsden Hall’ will be released on 21 May. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for pre-order. 🙂

Movies/Television

The Horror of ‘Seven’.

Recently, I was prompted to revisit the film ‘Seven’. I have not watched the film in years, so had therefore forgotten how good it is.

After the opening credits with a nod to Nine Inch Nails, we are quickly introduced to the jaded Lieutenant Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and ambitious Detective Miller (Brad Pitt). The film is set in an unknown city, a place where Miller wanted to transfer to, surprising Somerset and perhaps also, the audience. The city is portrayed as a dark, miserable place full of crime and drug users. Miller and his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) having recently moved to the city, live in an apartment where trains pass and rattle their living quarters whenever they go by. The local library is seen as the only redeeming feature within the city, a place where Somerset is a frequent visitor.

The film is certainly gruesome as the killer works his way through the seven deadly sins; gluttony and sloth, in particular. It is not just the imagery of the victims themselves, but also what we learn the killer does to them, that adds to the horror and the tension.

I don’t want to give anything away in case anyone has not seen the film, but the killer (Kevin Spacey) is patient and methodical, and as Somerset points out ‘he’s not the devil, he’s just a man.’

In the final scene, where we really get to see the killer, known as John Doe, we are taken out of the city to a remote desert location. It is here, where both detectives and the viewer are transported into the unknown, that culminates into a memorable gut-wrenching scene, making John Doe a notorious on-screen villain.

What I’ve been watching this past month: –

John Wayne Gacy: Killer Clown’s Revenge (Foxtel)

I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers and John Wayne Gacy has always been high on my list. This show is in four parts, covering his childhood all the way to his arrest. It was interesting to hear tape extracts of Gacy’s interviews, as well as hearing from detectives on the case. Although the narrator’s voice and the occasional ‘clown laugh’ irritated me, I found this compelling viewing.

The Dark Crystal – Age of Resistance (Netflix)
I admit to having watched this show before; in fact, this is my third viewing. I enjoy the plot, the characters, and the little snippets of humour. I never tire of the sheer magic of the puppetry and set designs, that there are moments I get so caught up in it, I forget I’m watching puppets. I’m really looking forward to the second season (and hope there will continue to be one).

What have you been watching? Have you been preparing yourself for Halloween? Have you revisited some favourites lately?

Movies/Television

The Silent Fear of ‘A Quiet Place’.

‘A Quiet Place’ is one of those films that I had heard about, but it took a while for me to get around to seeing. These days, when it comes to watching horror, I tend to be a bit selective. I am after a good story, not just shock value.

*This comes with a spoiler alert if you haven’t already seen the film.

I’ve watched ‘A Quiet Place’ a couple of times now, and I foolishly have to admit that when I watched it the first time, I missed out on one very vital piece of information. I don’t know how I missed the fact that the daughter, Regan, is deaf and it left me confused for a little while. I couldn’t figure out how these people knew how to speak sign language*. Eventually, it twigged, but if you miss that scene where the viewer sees Regan’s hearing aid for the first time (I picked it up on my second viewing), it can make the story a bit confusing during the early scenes.

The viewer is immediately thrust into a dystopian future, and one is left wondering what had happened. We are given hints through various newspaper clippings and posters of missing people, as well as how long it has been since the first day it all took place. This is the only background the viewer is given, so hopefully in ‘A Quiet Place II’, this question will be answered.

Although a horror film, ‘A Quiet Place’ focuses on family and how they need to work together to survive. The title also suggests that after the tragic death of one of their own, each of them is struggling with their grief and have difficulty in expressing their feelings.

I liked the idea that their survival depends on sound (or lack thereof), and that the family’s survival depends on their daughter, Regan, being deaf. That, I thought, was an interesting approach.

Visually, these alien creatures reminded me of the demogorgons in ‘Stranger Things’. As with ‘Aliens’, they are intelligent and fast-moving. I found them to be more weird-looking than frightening. I think the horror lay in the build-up of tension throughout the film, knowing that even the slightest noise attracts them. This is what had me on edge.

Added to the tension was the fact that the mother was pregnant and due to give birth at any time. This poses new difficulties, not only after the baby’s birth but during delivery.

My only real issue with the film was the ending, although I get why it was done. No sooner does the audience get some resolution, we jump straight into the next problem and that is where it ends. Cliff-hanger ending in anticipation for the next film.

I watched ‘A Quiet Place’ earlier in the year in preparation to see the next one. Sadly, COVID-19 put an end to that. Cliff-hanger ending indeed!

*Yes, I know – ‘Duh!’ 😉

What I’ve been watching this past month: –

Lost Girls (Netflix)

This film is based on the true story of one mother’s quest to find her missing daughter, and in the process, uncovers a connection to those of the Long Island serial killer. This story reveals what a strong woman Mari Gilbert was, and is even sadder knowing what happened after these events.

Ice-Cold Killers, Seasons 1-4 (Foxtel)

This is a true-crime documentary series, set in the harsh climates of Alaska and other states of America where it can get quite cold. I found the first two seasons, which were based in Alaska, to be interesting due to their remote location.

Abducted in Plain Sight (Netflix)

This documentary is about the double abduction of a young girl by a trusted friend of the family. I found this difficult to watch, and at one point, literally had to cover my mouth in shock. A remarkable true story of trust, betrayal, and manipulation. Quite extraordinary!

Have you watched ‘A Quiet Place’? What are your thoughts on cliff-hanger endings? Are you selective of your viewing habits these days? What have you been watching lately?

Legacy & Other Short Stories

Release Day – Legacy and Other Short Stories.

release day Legacy and other short storiesToday is release day of my short story collection Legacy and Other Short Stories!

Jonathan befriends the new boy in class, but Jonathan has something sinister in mind.

A young boy tests his skills to continue his father’s legacy; a young woman goes to great lengths after a betrayal; a woman confronts her stalker. These stories, along with those of obsession, revenge, and teenage tragedy, explore the dark side of human nature.

LEGACY EBOOK smaller

Legacy and Other Short Stories is available as an eBook on Amazon for $1.99AUD, as well as other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

If you purchase a copy of Legacy and Other Short Stories, please visit me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let me know so I can thank you personally. Please don’t forget to leave a review.

I hope you enjoy it!

Debbie Johansson xx

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Gothic Fiction, Inspiration, Movies/Television

What is Australian Gothic?

Recently I watched my favourite film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. I make sure I watch it at least a couple of times a year. With its constant sense of dread, this film made a big impact on my life and as a result, my writing tends to naturally gravitate towards Australian Gothic.

So, what is Australian Gothic?

The Gothic genre came to Australia as an imported genre (you’ll find a helpful post here on the ten elements of Gothic Literature) and took on many qualities of the traditional gothic, including the supernatural, romance and gloomy atmosphere. Like traditional Gothic, Australian Gothic has an element of mystery and fear.

Within Australia, the Gothic soon developed its own characteristics. The unique landscape of the country became an important element, therefore, becoming a character all of its own. The Australian bush transformed into a monstrous, spectral place, becoming the setting for nightmare and terror.

During the colonisation of the country, earlier stories were tied to the violence of settler life, including stories of death and brutality where murder victims returned from the dead, and burial grounds were uncovered. Stories involved the protagonist becoming lost or disorientated, sometimes even abandoned, so that the protagonist is isolated from others in order to be confronted by events. Such events either took place on the edge of civilisation or within the colonial homestead.

Australia ‘was a world of reversals, the dark subconscious of Britain. It was, for all intents and purposes, Gothic par excellence, the dungeon of the world. The familiar transposed to unfamiliar space. Nature, it seemed to many, was out of kilter. From its inception, the Gothic has dealt with fears and themes which are endemic in the colonial experience: isolation, entrapment, fear of pursuit and fear of unknown’.*

In an article on Australian horror films, The Sydney Morning Herald describes Australia as ‘a scary place. The size of the United States but with only the population of greater Los Angeles, its outback means you can get about as far away from civilisation as it’s possible to get.’

“We call what we do ‘Australian Gothic’,” says Everett DeRoche, a key figure in Australian horror who wrote the scripts for classics such as Patrick (1978), The Long Weekend (1978) and Razorback (1984). “Australia doesn’t have that iconic ‘haunted house’ that we are familiar with from American movies. But it does have the outback, and people’s fear of that, that agoraphobia.”

If you have ever watched such films as Mad Max and Wolf Creek, then you are familiar with the horrors such a landscape can represent. For me, the combination of the traditional Gothic with elements that are uniquely Australian make for an intriguing mix, full of many possibilities.

Do you enjoy Gothic Fiction? Do you have a favourite book or film within the Gothic genre? What film has made an impact on your life?

*Turcotte, G. The Handbook to Gothic Literature, Mulvey-Roberts M. (Ed.) New York University Press, 1998, pp.10-11.

Movies/Television

The Horror of Marianne.

Recently, I watched the Netflix horror series Marianne. It has proven to be a much talked-about series on the internet, as well as garnering good reviews.

Famous French horror writer, Emma Larsimon, has decided to put an end to her series with her character Marianne. However, she is soon forced to return to her hometown after an absence of fifteen years. Here, she is confronted with the knowledge that the nightmares from her stories are coming to life.

I like the fact that in this series, the main character of Emma, is a writer. Yes, it has been done in horror before, but part of this attraction comes from the character herself. When we first meet Emma, she comes across as an obnoxious, rude and at times, childish character. However, we do get to see another side to her, so that we start to feel for her.

Like Emma, the rest of the cast of characters is compelling and well-developed. Emma gets to meet her old school friends and we become engaged in their secrets and histories and we get to care about them. There are some dark and disturbing moments throughout this series, which can at times be hard to watch, and it’s because of these relationships between the characters that we remain invested.

Located on a coastal town, the scares are maintained throughout the entire series. There were moments when even I was gripped and wondered what to expect next, but such tension is released with humour. This series even met with Stephen King’s seal of approval (and yes, I’m one of those sickos 😉 )

The cinematography and imagery are wonderful to look at and there is also a great musical score. During one scene, the music reminded me of Halloween and in another scene, the imagery reminded me of It, so there is homage to the classics of the horror genre. And yet, it does have its own unique style. The narrator has a suitably eerie voice and I really like the use of flipped pages of a book to illustrate flashbacks, for example.

Of-course, there is one character above all that really stands out and that is Madame Daugeron, the mother of one of Emma’s schoolfriends. This woman is seriously creepy and is played so well by Mireille Herbstmyer; her facial expressions, combined with the dubbed voice and laugh create some scary scenes. Yes, this show is dubbed in English, although I have heard some people have managed to watch it in original French. I would have loved to have seen that version. Not only do I love the French language, but it would help to get another feel for the series.

The twist ending may come as a surprise however, the narrator does hint at what’s to come. Such an ending means that there is scope for a second season. Given the positive reception, one can hope that we shall see that soon.

Have you watched Marianne? Did you find it scary or did it not grab your attention? What have you been watching recently?

Movies/Television

American Horror Story: Freak Show.

Recently, thanks to Netflix, I have been catching up with American Horror Story. Some years back I had watched the first in the series, Murder House, and that’s where I left it; I didn’t know back then that every season told a different story.

I really enjoyed season two, Asylum and thought that was even better than the first, however, I was disappointed in season three, Coven. The story just didn’t interest me as much as the first two seasons and I didn’t finish watching it, so went straight on to Freak Show.

After watching the first episode, I was hooked. Maybe it had something to do with the characters and their stories; feeling empathy for the ‘freaks’, fascination for the wealthy but spoilt Dandy, a serial killer on the loose and the dark humour. I really enjoyed the storyline in this one, as well as the setting and the acting. A credit to everyone in this season, but I couldn’t help but feel that Jessica Lange really steals the show.

I had some personal favourites when it comes to characters. I thought the ‘freak’ Ma Petite was gorgeous, played by Jyoti Amge, the world’s smallest woman, and I enjoyed the character Edward Mordrake whenever he made an appearance (there are two episodes dedicated to him). And yet, it was the spoilt Dandy and his dark personality that I really enjoyed watching. There was never going to be a happy ending for him and neither did I wish it but there is something about the dark side of our humanity that fascinates. The final episode where he erupts into a psychotic rage was truly horrifying.

Although Jessica Lange believes that she is not a singer, her cover for the song ‘Gods and Monsters’ became popular. One of the things I like about this song in the video is Edward Mordrake’s entrance and departure, which is really well done. If nothing else, this version introduced me to Lana Del Ray. 😉

Yes, I have yet to watch more in this series (Hotel and Roanoke are currently on my list), but I have to wonder if they will be anywhere near as good as Freak Show. Time will tell!

Do you have a favourite season from American Horror Story? Is there a particular season in this series that didn’t work for you? Are you fascinated by dark/bad characters?

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