All posts by Jacky Dahlhaus

I am, since August 2015, a fiction writer!

Lost!

For some reason or another, I googled Ian Somerhalder today (to be honest, does one need a reason?). You know, Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries. To my surprise, I found out that he was a character in the series Lost. He played the character Boone Carlyle and died in the twentieth episode due to his injuries from being crushed inside a falling plane.

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Now, I didn’t watch all the seasons of Lost. I think I managed to get to the end of season two, by which time I was fed up with the non-endings and unrealistic happenings. The only reason I watched season two was because I wanted to know what was in the hatch. Maybe, deep down, I was no longer interested because Ian Somerhalder was no longer in it.

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My kids don’t know the series Lost, they are too young. I think I need to watch season one again with them. You know, because it’s good for their all-round knowledge 🙂 .

It’s the Season of the Witch

Yesterday, I had to play the Wicked Witch of the West, a mother’s prerogative. We booked tickets to see the second Kingsmen movie. As they’re working on the freeway to go around Aberdeen, we were guided along a detour that almost got us to Aberdeen via Inverness, but we managed to get there just in time. I got my phone out and showed the lady the Q-code. “Okay,” she says after scanning it, “Can I see some IDs please.”

Now you must know that we are regular visitors at the cinema. Not that I’ve seen this particular lady before, but we are visiting this place about twice a month.  Never before have we been asked for IDs. I have, however, since my kids turned fifteen, told them to bring IDs to the cinema. We buy them student tickets and to see a 15-rated movie they need proof of studentship and being older than fifteen.

I turned to my children and they are both shaking their heads. They didn’t bring their IDs. The woman said we couldn’t go in without proof they were students and older than fifteen. I browsed my whole photo gallery on my phone, but she wouldn’t accept any photo of my kids in school uniform. Of course, I didn’t have any proof of their age either. My son looks like he could be eighteen and my daughter could pass for twelve (they are twins nevertheless).

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I ‘lost the plot’ and reacted very badly, cursing at anybody who tried to get my attention. We got a refund and drove back again. I didn’t speak a word the whole trip. I even refused a chocolate as a peace offer and the kids know it’s bad when their mother refuses to eat chocolate. My husband didn’t get it. He even tried to soothe me. I was laughing on the inside but put up a wicked face until the end. When we got home I gave everybody a hug and told them to never to forget their IDs again. We then watched the first Kingsmen movie from the comfort of our home instead.

Sometimes, you just have to let your kids know they screwed up big time for them to remember not to make that mistake twice 🙂 .

 

Images from NMgnCP.com

Nostalgia

In case you’ve been wondering what happened to my posts these last few days; I’ve been visiting my family in Holland. My sister was coming over from Curacao and my nephew had graduated and was embarking on a three-month-long trip, so it was good to be there when the family got together as these gatherings are rare happenings. I left Monday morning and returned this Thursday morning. It was a flash-visit and also a very late decision. Hence I was traveling on my own, which was a shame, but it was great to catch up with everybody. Tuesday, my Mom and I took a short trip through memory lane. We walked past my old primary school. It was being rebuilt and the whole terrain was different. We continued to the place where my Mom’s auntie used to live, to the place she was born, and to the place her Nana used to live. We walked past shops I used to do the grocery shopping as a child. Some of them were still shops but no longer the shops I visited. 20171017_171551When my Mom showed me where her Nana lived, a memory popped up in my mind. It was of an old woman in black clothing (including a very big, black skirt), sitting in the middle of a small, dark room. My Mom said that her living room was indeed a very dark one and that she did wear black clothing (as her husband had died years before). The funny thing is that I must have been only one-and-a-half to remember this as she died when I was about that age and there are no photos of her (as far as I know). I also thought there were stairs in the room, but Mom said this was untrue. My Nana, Mom’s Mom, did have stairs in her little apartment and I must have mixed up the two houses in my memory. Mom also said that whenever we passed her Nana’s home, I, as a toddler, would always point to her Nana’s house and say ‘Opoe, Opoe,’ which is the Dutch word for Nana. That, I can’t remember.20171017_170644.jpgAs we walked through memory lane, I thought about how familiar it all looked. The streets, the buildings, their style. The fact I had spent my youth here, ran around, had fun, did some mischief, it all had an impact on me. That time is gone. It will never come back. Only in my memory of course. Where I live now, my kids don’t run around in the street. They don’t visit friends on their own. I have to drive them everywhere. They will never enjoy the fun we had when hanging around in the neighborhood, meeting other kids, secretly setting fires, pulling people’s doorbells, and other kinds of naughty stuff. I felt sad, but I am so glad I have those memories. They will always make me feel good. Sad as well, but a good type of sad.

 

 

 

Twisted50 Vol.1 & Twisted’s Evil Little Sister

It’s almost Halloween and you may have been invited to a Halloween party. Not sure what to bring the host as a gift? Why not a creepy one?

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Twisted50 is a compilation of 50 contemporary horror stories.

‘A great mix of truly twisted stories to suit all horror tastes, from the psychological frighteners to the stomach-churning gore fests. Each tale brings a modern spin on horror, each author leaves their own unique imprint in your mind. It’s hard to pick a favorite as there are so many great ones to choose from.’

Mark Renshaw

Or, if you’re invited to your sister’s party, why not give Twisted’s Evil Little Sister?

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‘This second anthology from Twisted50 again showcases more wonderful writing from different writers. The range of stories – style, subject matter, and tone – is excellent; there are ‘tales of the unexpected’ moments; moments which pack an emotional punch; horror presented as something personal; there are stomach-churning moments and moments of dread. And so it goes on… In a busy world, these stories provide a quick ‘reading fix’. You’ll find, with the range of stories, there is something exhilarating, dreadful, unexpected and absorbing to tickle your horror fancy.’

M. Thomas

Both books are available here.

 

Living Like A Vampire

Just in case you don’t have anything to read during the Halloween Holidays…

Living Like A Vampire is available on Amazon and KOBO.

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Chapter 1

On Friday night, October 15th, 2004, Sue, Charlie and I, three new teachers at Bullsbrook high school, sat in The Celtic Frog, the local bar. We occupied the corner booth that we had made our own since we had arrived in town two months ago. The bar was the only place that appeared to continue as usual since the start of the sucker pandemic a week ago. The bar owners, a couple called Abby and René, still served drinks and the usual patrons hung off the bar or sat in their usual seats.

There were, however, a large number of new customers. They were refugees escaping the city. The first ones arrived six days ago, but their number had steadily grown. In the beginning we didn’t think anything of it, just an unusual time of the year to get vacationers. As the news reports became increasingly scary, more and more arrived and today the biggest wave hit. Their conversations were hushed and anxious. We could hear snippets of horror stories about people being chased, herded, and slaughtered like cattle. We, too, sat huddled in our corner booth, whispering, discussing what to do next.

All of a sudden, we heard a commotion. I had heard a man talk loudly minutes before, but now people shrieked and cried. The three of us raised our heads to find out what was happening and I could see a cluster of people had gathered around one of the newcomers.

“They’re watching a camcorder,” Sue said.

I pushed her to move as I wanted to know what was on the camcorder that would make people cry like that. “Come on,” I said, “get going. I want to see it too.”

She stood up, followed on her heels by me. Charlie got up as well and followed us to the wailing people.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Oh my god,” said Abby. She wiped tears from her face with one hand as she grabbed my shoulder with the other. “You’ll have to see it to believe it.”

She pushed me to the front of the crowd. An old man, I guessed in his sixties with a rather saggy build and a haunted look on his face, was holding a camcorder with its viewing screen out. More people tried to see the recording, but the ones who had already seen it were reluctant to move. They apparently needed to see the footage for a second time to convince themselves that what they had seen wasn’t a figment of their imagination. The old man backed up the recording and restarted it. What I saw scared the hell out of me.

It started off with a younger couple in a happy pose at a restaurant. The camera was then handed, I presumed by a waitress, to the man of the couple.  He continued filming the woman. It must have been her birthday or some other celebration as the man gave her a present and, after a big hug to the man, she began unwrapping it. I couldn’t hear what was being said.

From that one scene of happiness, it turned into one of chaos and slaughter. Suckers stormed into the restaurant, their fangs clearly visible, grabbing customers and waiters alike. The lucky lady who had been unwrapping the present screamed when one of the suckers grabbed her arm and tried to pull her away. She struggled. The camera movement became erratic, as if it was being used to hit the attacker of the woman. I saw the arm of the sucker move in the direction of what I think was the camera man’s neck. The camera then followed the movements of the man’s hand as he fought to get the arm off himself. You could see the sucker laugh, he actually laughed, before pulling the woman he was still holding in front of him. Her eyes were glazed over, she was in shock. The sucker then sank his teeth into her neck, watching the man as he did it. The camera movements became more erratic as the sucker dropped the woman and turned his efforts to the man holding the camera. We couldn’t see what happened next as in the struggle the camera was launched and landed on one of the other tables, in a plate full of pasta. Over the top of spaghetti, I saw the people in the restaurant become the dish of the day.

“Where did you say you found the camera?” someone in the crowd asked.

“Two days ago in Needham, halfway down the road to Portland,” said the old man loudly. “I was looking for food and found it lying there, in the pasta. Nobody but dead bodies there anymore, the suckers had already left.”

“Why didn’t you stay there? How’d you get past the suckers?” someone else asked.

“With a big, fast car,” he replied. “I was lucky to have missed the sucker attack, working in my cellar and my hearing being bad, but my wife didn’t survive.” There were tears in his eyes now. “I’ve come to warn you. I’ve lost my reason to live, but you still have a chance to save yours. I want people to know what’s coming for them. Y’all have to get outta here! They’re coming!” His voice was thick with emotion, his eyes wild, as he frantically looked around at the gathered crowd.

I glanced over my shoulder at Sue, then at Charlie standing beside me. They seemed as shocked as I was. More questions were called out to the old man, but I wasn’t interested in them. I’d heard enough. We returned to our corner booth, too traumatized by the images to speak for a while.

School had been suspended until further notice earlier that day and we didn’t have to worry about teaching. Most people had taken their children out of Bullsbrook during the past week anyway. So far the threat had seemed far away and we all thought it would be dealt with before it spread. These people and these images told a different story. It wasn’t going to be safe here for much longer.

“We have to get away,” I said. “We have a better chance of survival if we get away from the crowd.”

“Are you sure? Wouldn’t it be better if we stayed here?” Sue’s dreadlocks bounced as she spoke. She shifted in her seat.

I scanned the bar’s customers. “You saw the tape.”

So many new faces. So much fear.

“I think,” Sue said, her southern accent thicker than usual, “that we have a better chance if we stand with the people from the town. More manpower.”

My eyes went back to Sue. I let her words sink in and pursed my lips.

“I don’t agree. What do you think Charlie?”

Sue and I both turned to look at Charlie. Being a dwarf didn’t diminish his presence and, being ten years our senior, I gave his vote more weight. The low lighting cast dark shadows on his face, accentuating his dark mood.

“I agree with Kate. Even if all the people in town worked together, we could never stand up to the numbers that the suckers must have gathered by now. Let the army take that fight. We need to get out of here and hide until this is dealt with by the authorities.”

I followed Charlie’s stare and waited for Sue to respond. Finally, she nodded, dreadlocks bouncing again.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, he’s right. Better to hide than to fight.”

“Okay, so where do we go?” Charlie asked.

I put my lips on my thumb as I’d bitten too much skin off next to my nail while I was listening to Charlie. It was bleeding. I shut my eyes to deal with the pain and the image of my parents and sisters flashed by. I still didn’t know their fate. Last night I’d hardly slept, being tormented by nightmares of possibilities, and the resulting tiredness didn’t make me think any clearer. There was nothing I could do for them at the moment, so I tried to concentrate on deciding where to go. Even though Charlie, Sue and I had lived in Bullsbrook for over two months, we still didn’t know the town or the surrounding area well.

“Hey, maybe we can go to the campground!” Sue burst out. Charlie and I raised our eyebrows at her.

How in heaven’s name does she know a campground? She’s not what you call ‘the camping type.’

“I’d asked around about where to find an affordable place for my parents to stay. They want to come and visit me over the Christmas break,” she explained.  “My neighbors told me about it. They said it’s along the river north of town. It has cabins for rent at reasonable prices and a small cabin could easily sleep the three of us.”

My face lit up. “That’s a great idea. They might have a camp store too, with long-lasting food supplies.”

My thoughts drifted to movies with underground fallout bunkers. God only knew how long this sucker pandemic was going to last. When my attention came back to the conversation, I realized both Sue and Charlie didn’t comment on my practicality. They were too excited about the campsite.

“Yeah. Best of all it’s off the main roads,” Charlie said, staring into his own private universe while rubbing the stubble on his chin. Then his eyes snapped back to us. “We better go there as soon as possible. We probably aren’t the only ones who came up with the idea.”

“Are we going right now or tomorrow morning?” Sue asked. She shifted in her seat again.

I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. A surge of fear gripped me. It was as if a giant hand squeezed my insides, pushing adrenaline into the far corners of my body. This was really happening and it wasn’t a figment of my imagination. The idea of leaving Bullsbrook, my beautiful new hometown, made the whole dreadful situation so much more real. However, Sue’s question was pressing and a decision had to be made.

“I’d sleep better if we left tonight,” I said.

Charlie slammed his hands flat on the table, making Sue and I jump.

“Okay,” he said. “Let’s go home, pack our stuff and meet at Kate’s. She’s the only one with a car.” He stared us down until we both agreed. “And only pack the essentials!” he added as he leaned toward Sue. I turned my head to see Sue’s reaction.

“What?” she asked innocently, shifting her eyes from Charlie to me, seeking back-up against his insinuation.

“Don’t get carried away, Sue,” I said. “My car may have five doors, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lot of space in the trunk.”

Sue opened her mouth in protest but couldn’t find a good excuse. Charlie chuckled.

The two of them hurried to finish their beers while I left mine untouched since I was going to be the driver. We paid our bill and went on our way.

Living Like A Vampire is available on Amazon and KOBO.

Let the Horror Begin!

It’s Friday the 13th and what better time to get you into the Halloween mood? I’ve gathered some websites for you with horror movies for you to watch until the end of the month. Enjoy!

Movie Insider lists movies for you to watch, at least one for every day

Paste has a list with 70 best horror movies this month on Netflix

Horrorfreak News has trailers of new horror movie releases this month

Movieweb actually put a My Little Pony movie on the list. How wicked! 🙂

 

How to begin writing a novel

Yesterday, I had a meeting with the local Writers Club again. One of our new members wants to start a book but doesn’t know where to begin. When I  myself decided to write, I just started. The first scene I wrote happened in the middle of the story (which I only discovered later), but this doesn’t work for everyone (and I wouldn’t suggest it either). Fortunately, I recently read about the snowflake method and could recommend it.

The Snowflake Method of Writing

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With this method, you start with one sentence which depicts the core of your story. In the next step, you expand that one sentence into a paragraph, outlining what happens in your story. Setup, major disasters, resolution. Next, you do this for each of your characters. If you don’t have a development for your characters during your story, your readers will find your characters flat and can’t connect with them which you don’t want. It also will give you more to write about as the direction of development for each character won’t always go along the same line, pace, direction. The fourth step is to expand each sentence into a whole paragraph. Next, you will be expanding what you’ve got even further. Once you’ve got the basic storyline, make a chart of the scenes. Each scene will have to depict a development. If there is no development in a scene (good turns bad, ideas change, emotions change), delete it as it is just page filler. You now put in more and more details, until you have a full story. An article in which it is explained in more detail can be found here.

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This is how I sort of began my third book, Killing A Vampire. I know the characters in it, I know what is going to happen, and how it’s going to end (I must admit this took me a while to figure out), but I didn’t know what was going to happen in between the major plot twists. I used Scrivener’s corkboard and note cards to layout the chapters/scenes.

I actually used the word count as a basis. Both my other books are about 72K words, so I wanted my third book to be at least this size. They both have about 60 chapters, so I created 60 note cards. It also meant that each chapter/note card needed to be about 1200 words. Then I started filling in on each card what would happen in that chapter. Sometimes I write more words, sometimes I write less. The good thing about Scrivener is that you can move the cards around as you please. Overal I want to stick to the 1200 words, so readers can read the short chapters while they have a little time to read and not have to cut off their reading while something major is happening.

It’s perhaps not as creative as some ‘on the fly’ writers write, but I’ve been thinking for a long time about this story and, even though I know in advance where the story is going, the how is still created only once I sit down and write. I just don’t have to think about the why and where anymore, which I feel is like a weight off my shoulders.

If you have a different way of starting a novel, let me know. I’m all ears 🙂

PS: Talking about ears, my hearing aids are working fine again after the swimming pool disaster last Monday!

 

How do we stop Sexual Harassment?

The big news at the moment is the Weinstein saga. So many actresses are coming out about being sexually harassed by Weinstein, it’s not funny anymore. It’s never funny, of course; one harassment is already one too many. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s still happening. To men and women alike. And people know about it but do nothing. When is it ever going to stop?

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Women think they are safe because they live in a civilized country. Define civilized. Women still earn less than men for the same job, they still are expected to stay at home and raise the children (in most Western countries), and they are still asked sexual favors in return for moving up the ladder career-wise. I don’t think this is civilized. No sir, not at all.

I’ve had this happening to me first hand. I’ve had a boss who thought he could get away with it (and unfortunately he did as I decided to resign). And I’ve been put down by a film director because I was a woman (I think, can’t prove it of course). It sucks when it happens. And worst of all, women (like me) condone it. They keep their mouths shut, afraid of being called a slut, afraid of losing their job, afraid of making an elephant out of a mouse. If there is one thing I like to teach my daughter, it’s that she never ever tolerates this behavior and will always speak up when it happens to her or knows it’s happening to others.

If we want to change men’s attitude to women, it’s up to us women. We’re 50% of the world population after all. We need to speak up. Not afterward, not to other women, but right there and then, to the men doing it. Tell them they are demeaning, that they are cruel, that they are barbaric. Tell them you won’t have it happening, not to you, not to others. Expose them for what they are; sexual predators who are misusing their position. If you keep quiet about it, you risk them doing it to others. Would you want that on your conscience? What if it’s your friend, your sister, or your daughter? Would you keep quiet then?

Can you believe it?

 Vampires are real!

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I had to read it twice, but it appears that there are people in this world that think vampires are really real. And it’s causing mass hysteria. Read all about here.

 

Monday Moaning

I know, it’s Tuesday, but yesterday was such a horrible day that I thought I’d tell you about it. As mentioned yesterday, my day started with a whole episode of IKEA contact issues.

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Once that was out of the way, I continued the saga that my husband and I were having regarding a proposed visit to the family in Holland over the October school holidays. My sister is over from Curacao and my nephew and his girlfriend are embarking on a three month trip around the world. I thought it was a good time to visit them. The initial idea was to go alone, but then I thought it would be nice for the kids to come along and see their relatives. After all, that was the reason we moved from Australia to Europe. Of course, the prices for air travel soars around this time of year and my husband was very reluctant to part with such an amount of money in return for only three days with the family (and five days of not being able to work on the house). So I made the decision yesterday. Family first. I filled in all the details and was about to enter my bank card number when my husband texted ‘what about the dogs?’ Completely forgot about them. Called the kennel, but they were fully booked already. Bummer. So I booked the trip for myself. As planned in the first place.

Then I thought it would be a good idea to ‘quickly throw out an ad campaign for my first book.’ Wrong. Took me several hours. I thought I’d try the new Canvas option of Facebook. Looked okay, until I wanted to put my images in. Didn’t want to work. the images were accepted, just not displayed. No matter what I tried, different sizes, different format, they would not show. Contacted the helpdesk. They took thirty minutes to respond and by that time I was over it. I decided to go with the one-image ad. I put in my bank details and lo and behold, my computer stalled. I’m still not sure what happened, but the screen remained blank. I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I pressed the ‘back’ button. Big mistake, because now my bank account was blocked. Yay. Fortunately, I could make it work via another route.

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To top the whole Monday disaster day off, I took my son swimming to exercise his ex-broken leg… and forgot to take my hearing aids out. They’re now in front of me on my desk, drying. A continuous reminder of my stupidity. I say drying, insinuating that they’re going to work again, but I’m not sure if they ever will. I haven’t turned them on yet. I’ll keep you posted.

Thank heavens I’m a writer and can breathe easy when I realize my characters (and many other people for that matter) are having a far worse time than I have 🙂

 

 

Header photo by Kari Shea, edited by Jacky Dahlhaus