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Dinner for Four

It’s an age old question that seems to be important to a lot of people. You most likely would have been asked it in your life in some shape or form and that question is, ’if you were to invite anyone in the world (living or deceased) to a dinner party who would those guests be?’

I like this question because to me it highlights the human want to connect with others, no matter the barriers. It shows we like to connect in an intellectual way. The purpose of this exercise is to show who you would like have around your table for the purposes of hearing what they have to say. A dinner party, by nature, is a way of sharing discussion and opening up. Those you would chose to sit around your table says a lot about your personality. So for the purposes of this discussion, my pick of dinner party guests would be as follows:

Charles Dickens

Not only is he one of my most favourite authors and a huge inspiration of mine, he was also a critic of the moral evil that was present in Victorian London. He used satirical writing to bring attention to these injustices and he was effective in doing so. This undoubtedly influenced writers who came after him to approach their work with the same boldness. I know that certainly was the case for me. From what is told he was a kind hearted, intelligent man who paid close attention to what was going on around him and for that reason having a chat with him would be an opportunity I would hate to miss.

Harry Houdini

Escape artist, circus performer and spiritualist debunker. Houdini is already an admired figure of mine so he would naturally make for an exciting presence at my table. I would love to ask him all about his escape acts and his performances. His thrill seeking presence would keep things lively and I’m naturally engrossed by people who have a performance flare. He spent a lot of his later career debunking spiritualists. Discussing this could make for a lively debate. Also, after some wine has flowed and bellies were filled he could grace us with a demonstration of one of his tricks.

Anne Frank

If there is ever a girl with a story to share at a dinner table it would be this one. She lived through great adversity and it was of no fault of her own. She was just a young girl who had no control over the devastation that was arising around her. She already had a fascinating story to tell as is evident in her famous diaries. Learning about this young girl’s remarkable experiences from her own mouth would have the discussions going on well into the small hours.

Those are just some examples of the fascinating figures I would invite to my dinner party. Given the opportunity to reach out to anyone, who would you choose? Funny? Inspirational? Intruiging? What would you look for in your dinner party guests.


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The dark parts of your mind

My ten year old niece is hitting that stage of life where she is observing the world around her and developing her mind into her own tastes. She has found herself fascinated by the darker side of literature, movies and art. She knows her aunt is very much the same so it is a beautiful bond we share in that respect. I was much the same when I was her age. I read macabre books, I watched horror movies and Edvard Much’s Scream was my favourite painting and still is one of my favourites to this day. With that in mind we came to a discussion on the line between fiction and fact. We discussed how throwing yourself into a dark mindset can require you to know that there is a firm difference between creative licence and reality. I’ve already discussed the influence media can have on the temperament in a previous blog which you can read HERE but I’d like to revisit the topic from the perspective of those of us who create dark material.

All roads lead to the same place in the end.

I told my niece that some of the work that I write requires some dark thoughts that you of course wouldn’t even consider normally. In order to write characters with despicable intentions you have to think like that and it can be a little mentally exhausting. Creative licence is important and I don’t believe in hindering yourself if you really want push boundaries in art but as a young person I wanted my niece to realise that as okay as it is strive for some dark art, to listen to those nasty songs or to watch those horrifying movies you need to be prepared to pull self back and take stock of reality again. She is just a young kid and as a youngster she is influenced by things around her as she finds her own creative voice. However, I have personally seen people completely lose themselves in a mindset and it doesn’t take much searching to find stories of others where this has happened to.

What is art if not to influence? What are the dark reaches of the world if not to explore? What is curiosity if not a little on the morbid side?

It’s fun to lose yourself in twisted imaginations. By all means enjoy those things that can manifest when you give way to the darker emotions. The important thing is to remember that the world is generally a great place to. Find your happy spot. Don’t let it consume you. I guess what I’m really saying is let the light in every once and a while.

VIOLENCE IN MEDIA

A question was raised to me the other day that really does bear thinking about. And that question was, ‘do you think violence in movies, books and video games creates more violence?’ Given the nature of my own work this is an interesting concept.

Violence and a whole lot of curse words can flow quite readily in my books. When this kind of material is available not just in books but everywhere you turn does it desensitise folks? It would be difficult not to become immune to the horrible things you see in media. But for a moment let’s take a look at the real world. The news is filled with images of war torn countries. That’s not a video game or a movie. That is real life. Those people you see on the screen are real people, with real lives that have been destroyed.

There has been a trend lately where more and more people are becoming obsessed with serial killers and their antics. Those aren’t made up characters. They are also real people who committed real atrocities. To me that is true desensitisation. I’m not suggesting that the world shouldn’t have these things brought to their attention and I’m drawn to serial killer documentaries with as much morbid curiosity as the next girl but it is all violence isn’t it? The difference is, you can play Call of Duty and gun down fictional enemies in your own living room knowing you were immersing yourself in a digital (i.e. not real) world. Or you can switch on the 6pm update and see that same thing happening for real.

Shock and disgust are two very captivating emotions when you’re a writer. It turns heads and it gets the audience talking. It is with these same sentiments photo journalists opt for the most dreadful pictures they can get and why they will chase the stories that are sure to get people talking. Just as sex sells and always has, people will be more likely to be grabbed by a headline that reads something along the lines of:

TEACHER CAUGHT WITH SNUFF FILMS

than they would be for something that said:

TEACHER RECEIVES AWARD FOR TEN YEARS DEDICATION

I do believe that violence in fiction can have a detrimental affect on people. If you shut yourself off from the world and live nothing but a violent world where you know there are no real life restrictions on your behaviour it can’t help by make you a little less human in thinking. However, that being said, most people know how and where to draw the line between fiction and reality. I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s ‘Misery’. Both the book and the television adaptation were fantastic in my opinion. I can be a bit fanatical about things myself and as much as I loved the character of Annie, portrayed beautifully by Kathy Bates, I’m not going to hobble anyone.

Yes, violence in the media can be a bit encouraging to those with an already violent disposition but to counter this my sister in law has taken to reading a lot of non fiction about medieval history. There was no internet then or video games but if those weren’t violent times to live in I don’t know what was.

As a writer I like to push boundaries. My books are dark, violent and horrific but when those pages turn and the book closes I would encourage it as a means to realise what damage we would do to our world if we let that violence take over. Be good to each other and give those journalists something nice to write home about.

What are your thoughts? How much influence to you think violence in media plays in our society?

“If you can handle that violence check out these titles.”

Nightmare Fuel

“To sleep—perchance to dream.”

Hamlet

I’ve had many strange dreams throughout my life. Maybe it’s the symptom of having an over active imagination. If you follow me on Twitter you may have heard me discuss this (@VivikaWidow).

The dream world has always fascinated me. Those little stories that your mind tells you as you sleep can be vivid and memorable. They can be akin to some of the best experiences of your real world and they can also make you realise worst. Since I’m a lover of all things macabre I’m going to take a look at some of the darker moments I have experienced in the dream world.

Spider child!

Yes you read that right. The earliest dream I can remember must have occurred when I was about six or seven. In the dream I had heard my mum wildly exclaiming at the news. (In real life this was no rare occurrence. She was an excitable sort). She was crying to my dad to get me away from. Whatever was on the news would be too much for my childish sensibilities. It didn’t work though. I saw the report. In the news report the journalist was discussing the spread of an unexplained phenomenon that was effecting children just like me. The footage showed a large spider in a box. This spider was unusual in that it had the head of a child. His name had been Ricky before. Now he was spider boy and not in a friendly neighbourhood spidey kind of way.

This was so upsetting for me. However, before I could process anything this dream was telling me I found myself at an indoor carnival. Who doesn’t hate clowns, right? I just happened to have watched Stephen King’s IT at the time and my elder brothers, the darlings that they were, told me Pennywise hid in my closet and waited for me to go to sleep so he could eat me. So as fun as this carnival was with all the lights, music and rides I was deeply concerned. I was on my own. I was lost. Then I saw a clown. (He was remarkably like Pennywise – no surprise). He was handing some candyfloss to a little girl with blonde pigtails and little pink glasses. The clown turned his attention on me. I knew better. My brothers had warned me so I ran away. I didn’t want any of his damn candyfloss.

Running away I stumbled into a storage room. I could hear the clown and all his clown friends looking for me. I could hear a rattle of something tapping against glass. As my eyes adjusted I could see hundreds of jars, each containing a child with a spider body. Including the little girl with pigtails!

“Come e’re!” The clown cried.

That’s when I woke up. I was so startled by this dream I was crying. It sounds like childhood fantasy now mixed with the unfortunate placement of being the youngest sibling in a household of wind up merchants.

Ducks in a row!

I was just a young teenager when I moved 200 miles away from my home to attend medical school. Needless to say it was a time of stress and big changes. It is common to experience vivid dreams during times like this.

During my first week of classes I had a dream whereby I was walking past a river and saw a group of baby ducks. A raft of ducks I believe is the proper term. These baby ducks were struggling to get back to the river so being the caring soul that I am I decided to lend a hand. I gather the ducks in my arms and start to head to water. One slips out and splats on the ground (complete with side effects and everything!). Then another slips. SPLAT! Then another. Before I know it all the ducks have splattered on the ground. With there being no real logic in dreams I scoop those splattered ducks up in my arms and still take them to the river. The ducks just fill with water …

This dream obviously speaks to my anxiety of beginning a new part of my life and moving away from home at a young age but it was really vivid at the time. It played on my mind for some time afterwards. Well, having just recounted it for you it seems it still plays on my mind …

Dream big!

Dreams aren’t all bad. There have been some where I’ve been rested on a beach with a bronzed hunk. There have been some where I’ve achieved impossible odds or met my idols. There have also been some where my devious sister in law has tried to send me into space or billions of years into the future. My point is, anxiety and hopes, fears and ambitions all reveal themselves in the dream world. When time comes for us to wake again it’s up to us to do decide what to do with that.

So tell me about your dreams. What’s some of the wildest you’ve had?

Speaking of nightmares … The circus is in town and there’s no coincidence home invasion robberies are on the rise.

Performers of Stoker Circus can slip in anywhere. When fresh money making opportunities are offered it may be their downfall.

Motto In Life

Can you be over prepared?

On a Sunday evening I have a whole host of rituals I go through to make my week ahead more positive and more creative. I write out my to do lists, I tidy, set alarms and check out my clothes for the day ahead. All these little things help give me a restful sleep and by extension a good start to Monday morning filled with coffee, brilliant ideas and a strength that is ready to take on anything.

I have a motto in life. Knowing the little things are taken care of makes you ready for all the big things that might strike. It’s not the prettiest or hard hitting of mottos but it’s one that usually steers me well.

Life gets in the way.

it seems no matter how much you prepare there are natural anxieties that are always get in the way. As the quiet of night set in there were those doubting voices.

“What good are you?”

“Who cares anyway?

“You are nowhere near where you hope to be.”

When you are alone in the dark these voices ring really loudly. You can’t sleep for them because they have caused your adrenaline to rush and your heart won’t slow. You can deny all these doubts but they don’t go away because they are your own doubts and you have to believe them, right?

With the result you finally drift off in the small hours resulting in very little sleep and waking the next morning not only feeling miserable, having battled yourself all night but feeling tired.

It’s okay to doubt.

Everyone faces those self doubts. It is true that we can be our own worst critic. What is most important is how we handle them. Personally, I have had some real self destructive episodes over the years as a result of this. I have also seen loved ones fall foul to it as well. So, now when those niggling voices start to get louder I note to myself three things I am looking forward to doing that day. These don’t have have to be any major events. They can be something simple like taking a walk in the park, or reading a few chapters of a good book or having a chat with a partcular someone.

Knowing the little things are taken care of makes you ready for all the big things that might strike. That is my motto and knowing there are little things to enjoy throughout the day goes a long way to easing the stress.

So I urge you to enjoy the little things. I urge you to ignore those doubts and I hope you all have the best week ahead.


If you have been suffering from anxiety or depression visit mind.org.uk for more information on the support available.


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As a cult deprogrammer, John Reynolds has brought many a lost soul home. When someone close to him joins the Church of St Wigan, every skill he has ever garnered will be called upon to face its zealous leader.  

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Am I the A**hole?

Recently I’ve found a hobby of the ‘Am I the asshole?’ subreddit. If you’re not familiar it’s where people put scenarios they’ve found themselves in and they ask the internet whether they are the asshole or not for whatever it is they’ve done. We all know how much of a forgiving place internet forum comment sections can be but there are those rare gems that actually offer some real insight. That’s not the reason I’m addicted to it though. The addiction comes from getting the popcorn and reading the mightier than thou responses.

Either way it got me thinking of some scenarios in my own life where I may have been the asshole and not realised it. One particular event in mind happened some time back. Someone mentioned his disapproval of James Bond being played by a black woman to me. I explained that 007 was a codename anyway and it didn’t really matter all that much how the character was portrayed as long as the writing was good and the actor fulfilled their role. Sounds reasonable, right? Where I might be the asshole was how I responded. I was already in a foul mood about something else (what that is is irrelevant) and so I snapped. I had no patience for listening to what was no doubt going to be a racist, misogynistic argument against ‘ruining the classics.’ This person had never watched or read anything James Bond so their opinion either way was kind of moot.

So there you have it. I felt I was just making my point. Internet strangers may say I was nipping someone’s head off when they were just offering an opinion.

So what do you think, folks? Was I the asshole? Do you have any instances you would like to put to the court of public internet forum opinion?


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time to kill

“All roads lead to the same place in the end.”

A question was posed to me the other day from a friend. If you were told that you only had until the end of the week to live the rest of your life, what would you do?

This isn’t a new question. What we would do with the hypothetical time we have left is something humans have pondered for a long time. However, given just a week, what would I choose do?

First and foremost I would obviously want to see my loved ones. I would want to do everything that makes me happy. Usually I find these are the simple things like my favourite books, movies, walks. A week is not a lot of time and although the big bucket list experiences like sky diving or bungee jumping are great for considering, I believe to make that week the best ever it wouldn’t be spent rushing around trying to find some last minute thrill. It would be found by doing the things that I’ve always done that made me smile.

You don’t have to look far outwith your own surroundings to find those things that are worthwhile. The truth is there isn’t just a week. There is a lifetime. If you want to seek those big thrill bucket list items then now’s your time. Now’s your time to do the things that you’ve always wanted to do. Given the current lock down situation obviously things are limited but you can plan those experiences. You can do all those things you always wanted to do. In the meantime, take a look around yourself. If you had the week how much of what you do now would you still do? Look for the things in your daily life, the small things, that make you smile. They are the most important.


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responsibility to others

Turner’s Syndrome occurs in 1 in about 2500 live female births across the globe.”

I count myself blessed in life. It is a pleasure to be able to do what I love most. With those blessings comes a responsibility. I believe it is my responsibility to play my part and support my TS sisters in achieving their full potential. When I was a little girl, heading into hospital for my second surgery I was terrified. My gran knitted me a rag doll to cheer me up and keep me company. So it was the charity Ragdolls UK was born from this same sense of comfort and support we are hoping to bring to as many TS girls and their families.

As a small charity Ragdolls UK has raised awareness and provided support groups across the UK but there is still much to be done. 2020 provided its challenges to say the least and 2021 is still going tough. However, it has made us more determined than ever to extend our reach, expand the support we can offer and do our part in assuring girls with TS receive the friendship and advice they need. With your help we can fight against the restrictions caused by COVID19 and be there for any and all who need us.

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Despite occurring in 1 in about 2500 girls and women across the world there are still so many who have never heard of the condition. The doctor’s waiting room can be a terrifying place when you have been diagnosed. There are so many questions to ask. There may be so many things you are told you can’t or won’t be able to do. Ragdolls UK aims to be a friendly environment away from that where we look at what you can do because one thing I’ve learned over the years is that my TS sisters are some of the most resilient people there are.

“Turner’s Syndrome is caused by the partial or complete loss (monosomy) of the second sex chromosome.”

So whilst I am blessed I have a responsibility. I can’t do much but I can certainly do my part and be there for the TS sisters and family members who need me.


For more information visit www.ragdollsuk.com

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My Life Changing Event

We all have those moments in life where we are taken on a completely different path. Some life events have the potential to change our points of view and some have the opportunity to wipe us out completely.

With everything going on in the world at the moment it makes me nostalgic. Thinking back I take time to consider those life changing moments. For me it was when I was aged twelve and I was just starting my second year of high school. As per usual I had arrived late and the first session was P.E. Across the road from my high school were playing fields where most of the outdoor classes were held. The few other stragglers and I got dressed into our kits and headed across. Between the school and the playing fields is a very busy road. Already a little shaken by the speed of the traffic and anxious that I was already late I crossed the road and was (perhaps inevitably) knocked down.

I spent months in the hospital recovering from the injuries, watching the opening game of the 1998 World Cup from my bed. Even to this day I don’t remember what happened. All I can go on was the stories told by my family as they were given the news and my school mates who were there to witness the event. The point is that when I came round some weeks later I was in a strange hospital with absolutely no clue as to how I got there. It was strange to not recognise the hospital because as a youngster I had pretty much toured all the medical facilities of the city.

As I recovered I was reminded by the physical pain I was in, the reactions of my loved ones and by the gifts and well wishes I was inundated with that I had come so close to no longer being around. To this day I would have been but a memory of some little girl who had once been part of the family. This sounds really morbid and I do have a morbid fascination with death but In times of trouble or when things get me down I think upon that moment and remind myself that there is still much life left to live. I am still here and as such I can still contribute. It stops me from wasting time and it helps me gain the confidence to reach out when I need help.

So I put it to you to think about those moments that changed you or changed the world around you. Let’s use those moments to push ourselves to do better and to remind us to make the world around us a better place in whatever ways we can.

Inspiring words

“And you ask

What if I fall?

oh but my darling

What if you fly?

Erin Hanson

Words are powerful things, aren’t they? They have the power to put down but they also have the immense potential to lift up. The above quote from a poem by Erin Hanson is one of my absolute favourites. The words are powerful and the message is one that speaks to me. We all have those missed opportunities and to be encouraged to pursue your dreams no matter how scary it seems or how vulnerable it makes you feel is something I will always champion.

“No one is useless in this world that lightens the burden of another.”

Charles Dickens

Not only is Dickens one of the great masters of literature, he is also a passionate speaker for those with little voice. With his masterful story telling techniques he challenged the Victorian elite and opened their eyes to social problems. Knowing this about him makes all of his words more powerful to me and the above quote in particular. Even over two centuries after since his birth the world still needs to be reminded that success in your own pursuits but the importance should lie in what we can do for others. A charitable man, a tremendously talented wordsmith and his words stand the test of time.

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Walt Disney

Imagination is such a powerful tool. This is evident when I spend time with my niece and nephew and enjoy how they lose themselves in their imaginations. The world around us can be whatever we want it to be. Our imagination is what would make long lasting and positive changes to our own world and to the greater world too. For the young this is an important reminder but I also think it is just as relevant to those older too. Use your imagination and let a better world fall into place.

“Even the darkest nights will end and the sun will rise.”

Victor Hugo

These words are simple yet capture a sentiment that can be put to so many different things in life. When you struggle or when you are facing tough challenges personally or professionally these words have the power to help you push though. It is a reminder that the world may seem like a scary place sometimes but never forget the sun does eventually return to the skies.

So those are just some of my favourite inspiring quotes. Thanks to the internet there are a whole host of beautiful words out there and with the power to compose, share and inspire let’s use the power of words to help others, imagine the positive impact we can have on the world around us and remember tomorrow brings a new day.

What are some of your favourite quotes?


Vivika Widow is an author of thriller books and graphic novels. Her latest novel HARBOUR HOUSE is available now. The complete season 1 of the Knock Knock graphic novel series is free to read here on Vivika Widow online or download for Kindle Unlimited.

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