Normally, I don’t write anything with a particular theme in mind, but this one has a bit of history behind it. And let’s face it, 2020 has been a pretty crappy year.
Before Christmas, 2019, as part of the Romance Writers of Australia, the aspiring group held a competition. We were given prompts in which to write a 1,500-word short story, which was to be judged and awarded prizes. My short story did not get a prize and I didn’t have a problem with it, as I was stepping out of my comfort zone. I was, however, encouraged by the judge’s feedback: –
‘Such a beautiful, evocative story. An emotion-filled tale that would appeal to many readers who like historical novels too.’
After this, I decided with some hesitation, to enter my first RWA ‘Sweet Treats’ competition. There are three judges to this competition and ‘the third judge’ is well known for being not only the deciding factor, but brutal. I called them ‘the hanging judge’ and the feedback I received was indeed harsh. As a result, I can honestly say that: –
It took me a few months before I could look at my story again, as well as read the feedback with a critical eye, and
I won’t be entering any RWA competitions in a hurry. 😉
I, therefore, chose to focus on the positive feedback from the other two judges, which basically said that it showed promise.
‘Plot and characterisation great! The reader wants the MC to be happy after so much sorrow, and that matters. Tightening up the story will let these lovely characters shine.’
Like my first story, I believed in this one too. I didn’t wish to be put off by one judge’s opinion. I wanted readers to decide.
If I worked on it and did a bit of tweaking, I could put them both into a book and publish it in time for Christmas. The end result is First Christmas.
These stories are a bit different to what I usually write, but 2020 hasn’t been the best of years, and I wanted to write something with a bit of hope. Both short stories have a paranormal bent but are romantic in nature.
I’m working on having First Christmas released in November, so watch this space. 😊
Have you received negative feedback in a writing competition? Do you write with particular themes in mind? Given the current COVID-19 situation, have you written something different than usual this year?
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.
Over dinner, we listened to some history about the house and stories of ghostly encounters by the current owners. Afterwards, we then watched a short film. By this time, it was now completely dark, and we commenced our tour of the house.
We were in a group of around twenty, so there were times when it became a bit cramped and within the first two rooms we visited, it had been uneventful. As we began to progress further throughout the house, some of us began to feel a sudden shift.
Whilst standing in the breakfast room, as our host was speaking there came a loud noise from the room above us, as if someone had dropped something heavy. I looked over at my husband and pointed to the ceiling and he nodded to indicate that he had also heard it. I’m uncertain if anyone else did, as our host was talking at the time and before we left the room, we asked him if he had heard it, which he did not. Remember, we were the only people in the house during this time and we were all standing within the same room.
We were told that some people experience feeling heavy in the legs upon the stairs, and it certainly did feel that way to me. I was having a struggle walking up them and with each step I could feel they were getting heavier, even when we entered what is known as ‘the boy’s room’. This was the room that the original owner, Mr. Crawley, was said to have died in. This room is also the room in which our guide, the current owner’s son, slept in between the ages of five and thirteen. These days he doesn’t like to enter that room and refuses to sleep in the house.
A couple of women later stated that within this room, they felt someone pulling at them, one stating that she felt the bag over her shoulder was being pulled. There was definitely a heavy atmosphere within that room.
The following day, before opening to the public, we were allowed to go through the house and grounds again. Some people had stayed the night and had not experienced anything, but my husband and I slept elsewhere, and we returned early the following morning.
At one point, my husband and I were alone in the house, as the other guests had gone to breakfast. It was at this time, upon entering ‘the boy’s room’, where Mr. Crawley had died, I began to feel something. The heaviness that I had felt the night before came over me again and I sat upon the edge of the bed. The feeling began to climb up my body and around my stomach, almost to the point of feeling nauseous. I felt as if I were being drained. When I stood up, I felt my legs begin to collapse from underneath me and I had to quickly hold on to the bed post for support. During this time, my husband, the skeptic, remained standing nearby with no effect.
About half an hour later, I went in to see the owner’s son and told him what had happened. I informed him the feeling felt as if someone was trying to pull me down into the bed. This he found interesting because he then stated that when some people lie on the bed, they get the feeling that someone is above them, trying to push them down.
Apart from feeling some coolness, the loud noise in the room above us and smelling cigar smoke in Mrs. Crawley’s chapel room (she used to smoke cigars), this was the strangest thing that had occurred to me during my visit this time to Monte Cristo.
While that feeling came over me when in ‘the boy’s room’, my husband told me that I might be a ‘sensitive’ or ‘empath’. This was something I had considered after our visit to Quarantine Station in Manly. Perhaps now might be a good time to look further into it before venturing on my next ghost tour. 😉
Have you ever visited or lived in a haunted house? Have you experienced something you can not explain? Have you been on a ghost tour? I’d love to hear your stories!
Some years ago, despite not being a big fan of poetry, I tried my hand at writing a few; even going so far as to get a couple of them published in a small publication. I even wrote a bush poem. This bush poem would ultimately go on to become my first published short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek.
Some years ago, while visiting relations on their property, I encountered an old grave of a six-year-old boy. Apparently, he had drowned in a nearby creek during a flood. This child was no relation of ours, but my cousins had planned on doing up the grave and taking care of it. Straight away all sorts of questions came into my head. The writer within me thought of the many hardships encountered by our pioneering women and no sooner had I returned home, but I was jotting down ideas.
The loss of a child had attracted me, for having two children of my own (neither one of them easy births), I became empathetic to the parents of this unknown child, especially the mother. The history and the landscape drew me in, and as it would always seem, my fascination with death and the afterlife. I have always had an interest in graves and cemeteries, often finding inspiration amongst them.
As luck would have it, a writing competition soon came up and I thought of writing a bush poem inspired by this piece of history. Before entering, I had even sought the advice of a local poet. After reading my piece, she had suggested that the poem could become a short story. In the back of my mind, I had to agree with this idea because I felt there was more to this story than what could be relayed in a bush poem. In that respect, I was grateful that my poem ultimately, was unsuccessful.
As I wrote The Ghost at Willow Creek, it was not only the death of a young child that got to me, but the effects such a tragic loss would have upon the parents and their marriage. Being a wife and mother, I was following the old writing advice of ‘write what you know’.
The Ghost at Willow Creek is ultimately a story of love, loss and things that go bump in the night. A story my husband labelled my best yet, so I’m pretty happy with that! 😉
Have you ever turned a poem into a story? Do you experiment with different writing styles? Where do you get some of your writing inspiration from?
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.
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?
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! 😉
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.
When it comes to the paranormal, I have always maintained an open mind, however for some people it can be a case of seeing is believing. The same can be said for fortune tellers, psychics and clairvoyants. Over the years such abilities have been used by charlatans to prey upon the vulnerable and therefore has long been a cause of ridicule. It is therefore understandable why these pursuits have been given a bad rap. However, there are those who I believe, do possess that ‘sixth sense’ because, after all, there are some things in this world that cannot be explained.
Some years after I left school, I had the idea of wanting to have my fortune told as I was always fascinated by the such things. When I was a child, an incident happened to me that to this day I cannot explain and left me wondering if I myself had certain ‘abilities’. Such an event did leave me curious and since that time, I have maintained an open mind.
One of my girlfriends knew of a woman that some of her co-workers had seen, so she came highly recommended. I thought why not, so nervously one day I went to see this woman in her own home. I was probably there for about an hour and she recorded the whole session. I was glad she was willing to do this as there were quite a number of things she said that either were proved to be correct or later did in fact occur.
I didn’t need to tell her anything about myself, so without any prompting, one of the things she told me was that I would make money from my writing.
Of-course, from the very moment she said this, it became etched in my memory. Years later her words would prove correct, when I received a cheque as payment for a small piece I had published in a major Australian magazine. I never cashed the cheque in, but it has stayed on my dressing table, where I can see it every day as a constant reminder.
Even when told of my writing future, whether it is true or just coincidence, I continue to hold myself back. However, I’m not content to leave my earnings as a writer to a mere couple of dollars! If nothing else, her words combined with the cheque gives me hope, which is all one can really ask for.
Have you ever had your fortune told? If someone were to tell you that you would make money from your writing, would you believe them? Do you believe in a ‘sixth sense’?
Because of my fascination for all things paranormal, it is my habit of watching paranormal investigation shows. I come with an open mind; I am interested in the techniques used and what proof, if any, is found. After having experienced some ghostly encounters of my own, I am even more curious as to how such things are portrayed on television.
Recently, I binged watched some Netflix, including three seasons of Most Haunted. I have never seen this particular show before, so for those of you who have, bear with me. There are quite a few I haven’t seen and only Seasons 14-16 were available. Performing séances was probably as technical as it got during Season 14, however, the other two seasons they began using EVPs.
There was one episode in particular that really caught my attention. It was during the investigation of Annison’s Haunted Funeral Palour in Hull, England (you can read more about it here). During a séance, they believed they had picked up the spirit of a murdered girl who told them the name of her murderer. Not only did they pick up her spirit, but that of her murderer as well. When they mentioned the name, Fredrick Bailey Deeming, I was somewhat baffled as serial killers are of a particular interest of mine. Deeming murdered his first wife and four children in the U.K and is suspected of being Jack the Ripper. He murdered his second wife in Melbourne, burying her in one of the fireplaces in their home. He was convicted and executed for the crime and his bust is on display in Old Melbourne Gaol. How the spirit of a man who died here in Australia could travel back over to the U.K to haunt a building was beyond my comprehension. Maybe it’s just me, but I have to say I have never heard of that one before!
The last episode I saw was a two-part episode, which involved the investigators spending the night in a haunted suburban house. This particular house and its haunting was the basis for the movie When the Lights Went Out. The house was lauded as having the most ‘evil ghost in the world’. One was led to believe therefore that something really bad was going to happen. Sure a few things may have ‘happened’, but nothing quite as dramatic as one might have expected from such an evil entity. As the spirit is believed to be a priest, then why did he turn so bad? This was never explained and therefore made no sense to me. There is also a demonologist amongst the crew and if this house is supposed to have a real bad spirit there, I couldn’t help but wonder why he was not part of this particular investigation.
No actual spirits were caught on camera (although in a more recent episode, the team apparently filmed one, so I’ll let you be the judge of that) however some objects were shown to have moved. This can easily be explained away by trick photography. Objects were also thrown, but were usually done off camera. At one point, I thought it interesting that when an object fell from the ceiling, the cameraman did not point the camera in that direction – anywhere else but there it would seem.
All this this then begs the question that if these are actual haunted locations then where are the ghosts? Wouldn’t they have caught at least some real evidence while they were there? And if they did, would they be taken seriously? Yes, I do believe in the paranormal, but I also like to think rationally. I had previously watched a few seasons of Great British Ghosts, and I am therefore aware there have been reported incidents and sightings from people at some of these locations. I guess we may never know.
Yes, Most Haunted is not to be taken seriously and if given the chance, I probably would watch more of them, however, when it comes to more serious investigations though, I think I’ll look elsewhere.
Do you watch paranormal television shows? Do you keep an open mind when it comes to the paranormal or are you a sceptic? Do you find a lack of research jarring? Do you watch certain television shows for research purposes?
Last week, I wrote about some of my ghostly encounters at Quarantine Station. Due to the long post, I have broken it up into two parts and this week covers both the Caretakers Cottage and the first class shower block. Both these buildings left me with a rather uneasy feeling and I was quite surprised that in one of them at least, my sceptical husband has been left wondering that there’s ‘something not quite right about that place’.
Further along our walk away from the morgue, we approached what the tour guide referred to as the Caretakers Cottage. As we approached, I thought it looked like a nice old house and I imagine it would look rather ordinary during the day. Our tour guide informed us that we were going to go inside, but told us very little about it. Some of the records regarding the Quarantine Station had burned in a fire and there was very little information to go by regarding the house, other than it had been used as a staff quarters. We were to go through the house in the dark and see for ourselves if we could pick anything up. Once again, my husband and I were the last ones to enter.
As we walked through the first few rooms, our eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and found there was nothing out of the ordinary. The house was quite warm and stuffy after being locked up all day and with twenty odd people walking through the house, things got a little bit cramped. At the back of the house were a sunroom, bathroom and laundry, which was north facing. The tour guide began calling everyone together into the lounge room at the front of the house, but my husband and I had not finished our viewing. My husband decided to go to the laundry, while I go to the bathroom and then swap before heading back towards the group.
Once I stood at the doorway of the bathroom, I was rather hesitant to enter as I had a bad feeling about it. Even though there was no light and my eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness, somehow, the bathroom was darker than the other rooms. Despite my hesitancy, I entered the room and on my left was the bath which had a window over it. As I approached the bath, the temperature dropped and I put out my hands towards it. I could feel a breeze circulating around my hands and it was then that my husband came up behind me. I asked him if he could feel anything and once again he said no. I told him I had to get out of there as I didn’t like the feel of it. I went straight towards the laundry, which turned out to be the coldest room in the house. It felt like walking into one of those walk in freezers. I didn’t waste any time in leaving the room and together my husband and I joined the group in the lounge room.
Being the last of the group, we stood in the doorway facing the lounge room with our backs to the back of the house. No sooner had we arrived, I felt something touch my back and from that moment, I stood side on with my back against the doorframe. At this point, I noticed my husband had done the same. From such a position, I could see into the lounge room as well as keep a constant vigil towards the back of the house.
The tour guide explained certain things about the house, including the belief from various psychics that someone had been murdered in the bathroom (in the bath) and that there was a bad spirit named Samuel. Some tour guides refuse to enter the house or take tour groups inside. During his talk, the EMF meters were said to have been going off the whole time and one of the group members asked to leave the building and was the only one to do so before the rest of us left. My husband later told me he was one of the other sceptics.
Standing in the doorway, I had the feeling that someone was watching and they weren’t very nice. I felt they were angry and wanted us to leave. I felt most uncomfortable and kept looking towards that back room, where at one point I heard something drop upon the wooden floor. I said nothing about it; the tour guide did not notice it either, but it wasn’t until talking it over with my husband a few days later that I discovered he had heard it too. I left the house shivering with cold, with goose bumps upon both arms. As we walked away, I couldn’t help look over my shoulder towards the house, but I could not see anyone in the windows watching us leave (which has been reported to have happened once).
The last building on the tour was the first class shower block. When people came off the ships they were required to have a shower, which were supervised and each shower cubicle had tiny holes placed in each one to make sure the people showered properly.
Once again, we were to wander this building in the dark and foolishly, I was the first one after our tour guide in which to enter. It was only after taking a few steps inside that I didn’t like the feel of it and I was overwhelmed by the strong smell of urine (the tour guide later told me this was the chemical, carbolic acid, that was used on the patients). We were to stop midway and after we were all assembled, I saw a dark figure coming towards me. I instinctively moved back and the figure continued coming towards me, only to discover that it was our tour guide. He then proceeded to inform us about the various spirits within the building, including a ‘Gollum- like’ creature that if you walked into it, feels as if you have walked through cobwebs.
Given its history, I was not at all surprised to feel like I was being watched in here and I felt exposed and vulnerable. This was why I needed my husband with me and he took my hand as we walked in single file around the showers. He walked in front of me and I told him to slow down as I looked in at the shower cubicles. Down one in particular, I caught a quick glimpse of some dark shape that didn’t look completely human.
Before leaving the building, one couple believed they saw something white in one of them. I went with them to help them try to find it, but could see nothing. I heard the tour guide tell them once we were outside that a woman has been spotted in there. One other couple said they had also seen something, but it was different to what this other couple had seen.
‘I saw something too’, I replied. ‘I’m not sure what it was. It didn’t look human’.
‘That sounds like what we saw’.
‘It was a small, dark, shadowy figure. Broad shoulders and it was hunched over, like this’, I replied as I demonstrated (it was very much like the image of Gollum in his cave in the picture above).
‘That’s it!’ the woman exclaimed. ‘That’s what we saw’.
‘Oh good’, I said. ‘I’m glad I’m not the only one who saw it and not going mad’. I had asked my husband if he had seen it and he had not.
It was with that final note that our tour had ended. Of-course in the light of day, I began questioning what I had seen and experienced. Did that really happen? Did I really see what I thought I saw? From the experience I learnt something about myself that I had suspected from childhood and am interested in finding out more.
When we arrived home, my husband looked up the Caretaker’s Cottage on the internet to see if it had been investigated, but it had not. It had certainly piked his curiosity.
‘So’, I said. ‘That was a good start. When are we going back?’
Did you ever experience a ‘bad vibe’ about a particular building or place? What was the scariest place you have visited and would you go back? Have you ever experienced something you can’t explain?
Recently, as part of my birthday celebrations, my husband and I visited Quarantine Station in Sydney. Quarantine Station was established in the 1830s for migrants arriving in Australia who might have had infectious diseases, such as Spanish influenza, tuberculosis and bubonic plague. It ceased operating as a quarantine station in the 1980s. Q Station is now used as a hotel and conference centre. It also has a restaurant and caters for both weddings and ghost tours.
My husband and I were in a group of about twenty people and the first building we came to was the Inhalation Chamber, situated near the Boiler House. Patients were placed here every day to undergo special treatments, using steam infused with zinc sulphate to protect them from such cases as Spanish influenza. Basically, they looked like two cement sheds joined together and our group was broken up into two halves and spent some time within each one of them in the dark. Unfortunately, we weren’t inside for very long before having to change rooms. Once finished, the tour guide spoke to us outside and gave us some information regarding this building. Some people in previous tours, he said had been known to experience smells. It was then I looked at my husband.
‘Yeah, I smelt something’, I said to him. ‘Didn’t you smell something?’
‘The moment I walked into that first one, there was a really strong, sweet smell. I couldn’t smell anything in the second one, but definitely the first’.
My husband simply shook his head. It was at this point, that I interrupted the tour guide and asked the people in the group if they had smelt anything. Their responses were the same as my husbands. Okay, this is weird. The tour guide looked at me and told me that I had passed the smell test. Trust me to be the weirdo amongst the group, I thought! Since my visit to Monte Cristo and being the only member of my family to have experienced something, I had become increasingly suspicious of a long held belief (since childhood) that I may be a ‘sensitive’. As we walked our way towards the hospital, my husband told me he believed that may well be the case.
Within the hospital we were told of some interesting stories experienced by other people during the tours and some of the spirits that occupy the hospital, including a couple of nurses and the matron. As I sat on one of the beds, I felt something prick my hand and looking down I thought it may have been a mosquito, but saw no evidence of one. The tour guide informed us some people have felt the same, as if being pricked by a needle. My husband, the eternal sceptic, who stood nearby said he felt something cold brush up against him.
Later, my husband and I were amongst the last to enter the morgue, which was a small building, so it was difficult to find a place to stand. People stood against the wall and in the middle of the room was the mortuary table. This was the only available spot for me to stand and it was here that I could smell the horrible stench of rotten meat. It was so bad I had to cover my nose and mouth with both hands, but I could not see anybody else picking up on the smell. The mortician, nicknamed Mr Slimy by the staff is believed to frequent the place. Eventually it went away and when the time came to leave the room, I was frightfully cold. I know it sounds cliché, but there were literally goose bumps on both my arms and I had to rub them in order to keep warm.
Our tour then continued within the Caretakers Cottage and the first class shower block, so rather than make this an extremely long blog post, I’ve decided to break this up into two parts. I look forward to telling you more about our ghost tour next time. 😉
Have you ever been on a ghost tour? Did you ever encounter anything unusual? Are you a sensitive? If you’re a sceptic, have you experienced anything that made you question your beliefs?