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Toxic Free Zone

I have hit on this subject matter before but since it is something that really resonates with me and it seems something that so many people have to deal with in their daily lives I am going to broach the subject again. Since we are now heading a little further into 2022 (I can’t stop myself still writing 2020. Where did 2021 go?) we are leaving behind the holidays that force you to interact with relatives and acquaintances that, shall we say, aren’t the most positive influences in your life. That means that you may find yourself a little freed from toxic people. I hear all to often good people putting up with toxicity because ’they’re family’ . Toxicity is toxicity regardless of blood. It doesn’t matter if she birthed you. It doesn’t matter if you shared parentage. It doesn’t matter if some DNA test would confirm you are related, toxicity is still toxicity.

Just the other day I was having a zoom call chat with a friend and they were telling me just how anxious and upset they were because their elder sister had been staying with them and she was making their life a misery. Now, if someone came to you and asked, ‘can you put me up for a little while? In exchange I’m going to take over your whole house, I’m going to treat your hobbies and interests like a joke and I’m going to make your life a misery to the point your stomach starts to rumble with nerves as you reach your own front door, you would say Hell no. However, when they come flashing that magic DNA access pass it seems to make the whole situation more difficult. It shouldn’t be. You have to prioritise your own well being. Being related is no excuse to disrespect you. Your home is your haven and you can’t let it be invaded by noxious forces.

Maybe you have that friend from school that their very company leaves you emotionally dehydrated. You listen patiently for hours as they list off the problems they face and their hatred of the world around them but never ask how you are doing. Life is tough enough. You need people who lift you up not put you down. Knowing someone for a long time and them still behaving like putrid ponce should tell you all you need to know about them. I’m no expert and I dare say I have my own share of behaviours some would consider toxic but to me any relationship is a partnership of sorts and requires mutual respect.

In ode to this I say to all of you have the best 2022 there can possibly be for you. Clear out those cupboards, wash up those messes and dry those tears because every day is another chance to start something new and it can start right now.


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Holiday Hums and New Year Bugs

Welcome to 2022 folks!

I can almost hear the collective moan as we recover from a year long hangover of lockdowns and all sorts of other struggles. Regardless of that I hope you all had a great holiday. This time of year tends to bring a lot of stress on people (most of it unnecessary). We are conditioned to want to spend money on elaborate gifts, debt rises and the pressure of having to enjoy ourselves really takes it toll.

I for one like a quiet holiday with those nearest and dearest to me. I grew up in a raucous household so nowadays I like things more subdued. It makes me sound like an old woman but life is tough enough without some overly commercialised holiday forcing you to spend time with people you can’t really stand throughout the year. We’re told to grin and bear it, they’re family. They’re blood. Like Hell they are! Family are people who come into your life to make it easier, to support you. If Uncle Jim across the table is on his fifth glass of wine and demanding everyone listens to his racist tirades then that’s not family. When Grandma is guilt tripping you because you’d rather spend your Christmas day happy than crying in the bathroom because she hated your gift then that’s not family.

As someone with no kids I can only imagine how dreadful the approach of the big man with the beard must be for those who do. It has to be tough seeing all those photos of bragging parents with the mountain of gifts they bought their little precious when you are worried if you can even scrape enough together to get those shoes they really wanted. It’s unnecessarily showy. ‘What are you trying to prove?’ I always wonder.

I don’t want to put a downer on Christmas. The truth is I do find it a fabulous holiday. It’s message is to be kinder to each other, to bring joy and cheer to each other and to spend some time in celebration with those close to us. That is a principle I will always champion. I guess my point here is don’t let yourself get bogged down with the pressure of it all. Remember, toxic people are toxic people and don’t deserve a seat at the table even if they are blood and Aunt Kate will be really put out if not invited. Screw you, Aunt Kate. If you force yourself in then cousin Derek will have to come too and he can start a fight in an empty house.

We all have them. This time of the year is always a real test. But it can also be a marvellous opportunity of new beginnings. A new day, a new month, a new year. When you are given the chance of complete revival it doesn’t matter what came before. Look forward and make this the best year ever!

I love you all folks and I sincerely wish you the best time ahead.


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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.

Mothering Instinct

I have been ranting about my illness on Twitter because frankly I don’t make a great patient. However, for those of you who aren’t aware I have been ill for the past couple of days with a stomach bug. The reason I mention this is because it unfortunately coincided with a visit from my niece and nephew, making it even more frustrating that we couldn’t do all the fun things I had had planned. Instead we spent the time in bed watching movies so I guess it wasn’t so bad. Anyway, finishing that rant and onto the real point of this …

I don’t have my own children. I don’t care to have my own children. My niece and nephews give me all the joy of motherhood I could ever want. With that said I’m so used to living my life a completely independent person, people tend to react to me as such. I can’t help but notice though people tend to respond slightly differently when I’m pushing the buggy or chasing the kids around the park. People are more helpful, they are more understanding and when visiting my hometown of Glasgow you will not be allowed to struggle anywhere with a pushchair without someone offering assistant . Strangers brighten when they see the kids. My youngest nephew has such an angelic face he would have anyone smile and wave as he passes. My niece is such a strong minded, intelligent and witty ten year old people are often taken aback by how great a conversationalist she is so I can see (through a biased aunties eyes) why the reactions would change when this grumpy, hoody wearing author has them with her. But it’s more than that though. I like to think there is still a really decent part of our society that sets out to help mothers with young kids. It’s always a pleasure to see.

Travelling back home my toddler nephew was starting to become a little frustrated with the train rides. There were two women nearby and rather than becoming frustrated at the sound of a grumpy child they sparked up a conversation about their own toddlers. For a moment it was like being part of a unique group. I’ve had those, ‘got your back sister,’ moments in my life but this was really something else.

It gave me cause to think about other areas of our society where if we just treated people they way we do with mothers with young children in tow how far we would go. Think about it. Someone is struggling with work: Need some support there? Someone is going through difficulty with their family: Need someone to talk to? There are plenty of great resources out there don’t get me wrong but I’m talking about that natural supportive instinct we show young mothers being more ingrained. Is this a pipe dream or am I still ill? What do you think?

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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.

Witnessing History

“If you could witness any historical event which would it be?”

This is a difficult question. After all there are so many that would have been life changing to have been around to witness. The moon landing, the abolition of slavery, great battles of old (Bannockburn anyone?) but to chose but one you would have to consider which event draws your attention most. Perhaps it’s because this event had a huge impact on your own life. Perhaps it’s because it’s the one that simply fascinates you more than others. Taking all these things into consideration I think I would have to choose seeing Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ being played at the Globe Theatre for the first time.

“To be or not to be!”

– William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

Five years after the plague had closed theaters, The Globe took shape and performances of some of Shakespeare’s most notable works were played there. I choose Hamlet in particular because it is one of my personal favourites. It also has the tragic events of his son’s death and that of his father surrounding it so as a writer it stirs my morbid imagination with the dark beauty that the play became.

As a young child I was a bit of an odd ball. (I know, shocking, right?). I would much rather read than play games with the other children and the library was always my favourite place. One particularly gruelling day of primary school I was losing myself in books as usual when I came across a copy of Hamlet. As I opened it up and began to read I was completely overwhelmed with awe in the daring story telling, the dark ambience and those immortal words, “TO BE OR NOT TO BE.”

I was completely besotted just finding a dusty old copy of the play in the library. I can imagine the thrill of stepping into the Globe with the backdrop of London at that time and having the play brought to life by the actors as the Bard himself intended. Not to be all fan girl or anything but it was surely a thing of beauty to behold.

“The right to vote!”

Honourable mention has to go to some historical events that do have a huge impact on my life. Women being given the right to vote is a victory that would have been amazing to have witnessed. It paved the way for little old me to make her way in the world and I am eternally grateful to the ones who made that happen. The work of Dr Henry Turner who first described Turner’s Syndrome in 1938 which is a cause close to my heart and opened up a beautiful sisterhood for me and other TS women.

So what would your choice be? If you could bear witness to a historical event which one would you choose?


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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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The Soundtrack Of Life

I am such a person that I spend a lot of my time stuck inside my own head. I’m either focusing on work, relaxing from work, adding some noise to my surroundings or I’m adding some joviality to a situation. Either way all of these instances involve music. I spend a huge part of my day with headphones on. When I’m trying to focus I use music to drown out all else. When I want to take a walk I put on headphones and can ramble for miles. What better way to keep the boredom of a long train journey at bay than by – yes, you guessed it – putting on headphones. With this in mind it gave me cause to think of the part music plays in all our lives.

What kind of music do you like?

It’s hard to find someone that doesn’t like music. it’s such a varied thing that there is surely something for everyone. From cheesy pop to death metal and everything in between there is a soundtrack for all kinds of situations. I guess that’s why movies and television shows use soundtracks to really capture the mood of the scene. Have you ever taken a scene and given it a different kind of soundtrack? it really changes the tone of the scene. Music can be beautiful audible poetry. It can also offer such lyrical genius as, “Who let the dogs out? Woof, woof, woof woof.” Or, “let’s do it like they do on the discovery channel.” (Probably showing my age with those examples there but you get the point).

What does that song make you think of?

Another thing about music is it can be a great memory trigger. Those carefully constructed notes go a long way to bringing all kinds of images to your head. They can make you remember a person or a place. As you listen along all the other senses are called into action. You can taste it, smell it, feel it. You can see the face of someone you haven’t seen for years as though they are standing right in front of you. For creative writers like myself it’s a great tool for picturing scenes, giving characters their personalities and really locking down what kind of emotion you want a scene to portray. I do this now quite habitually. It was on advice from my fellow writer, great friend and mentor that I do this. He himself is a director and musician so he knows all too well the importance of soundtrack.

Dance to your own tune.

The most important thing about music, for me, is how much it lets you explore. Sure you can be stuck on a crowded train into the city but stick on those headphones you can be transported to a memory of a night out with friends. If you’re at the gym and down want to be distracted by how slow the timer on the treadmill is going you stick on those headphones and suddenly you’ve ran your way through three whole songs. If you are hurt, push play on that song and let it guide your emotions. Music is a wonderful thing I can’t even begin to imagine the cold, silent world we would live in without it. So tell me, what does music do for you?


When, cult deprogrammer, John Reynolds, loses someone close to him to the Church of St Wigan, he will stop at nothing to bring them home. He’ll have to call on every skill he has to pull from the clutches of the zealous church leader. A pandering con man is all he has to help him. How far must a man fall before the climb back up becomes too steep. Praise Wigan!

AVAILABLE MAY 14TH

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Words of Encouragement

Have you ever heard a word and felt inspired by it?

It doesn’t matter what language, how it is said or who says it it is a word that sends your mind into a chain of thought. Words are influential. It’s easy enough for me to appreciate that being someone for whom words are bread and butter but everyone can be inspired them.

When you’re feeling down and you need to pick yourself up what runs through your head but a sequence of words that make you feel better or inspire you to action? If you turn to someone for help what are you looking for from them but their words? Words are what can make or break a situation. Words, after all, are the tools of communication. They are powerful things. In the wrong hands they can be hurtful at the least, destructive at the most.

Bottle.

Bottle is one of my favourite words. It has lots of connotations. It could mean celebration. it could mean refreshment. It could also have a sinister tone to it. We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘bottling up your feelings.’

Either way it always makes me think of a glass bottle in my hand. My mood at the time determines what this bottle contains but it always gives the illusion of something physical to clasp onto. There’s also the proverbial message in a bottle with all kinds of romantic prospects. There’s the adventure. There’s the fun sound of the cork popping and the glug glug glug as liquid is poured. This is just my own example of a favourite word. I’m sure you have your own. Think of that word right now. What is its meaning? What power does it wield? Good, bad, ugly.

On it’s own, one word can be highly charged. Assemble them carefully into a phrase or sentence and they become downright divine.

The cork was popped and the contents of the bottle were poured onto the sand.

Do you get a sense of hopelessness from this? Maybe it can be seen as a new beginning. Personally, I see a struggling alcoholic on a shore taking control of their life. A sea of opportunity lies before them. My point is words paint a picture. When they are thrown around with the intention to hurt they can paint an ugly picture indeed.

Don’t say something you might later regret.

This is a tired old platitude we’ve all heard many times but it still holds some merit and perfectly illustrates my point. Bullying and name calling are just one example of this. Words here are intended to hurt quite deeply and they do. What are arguments if not a carefully constructed formation of words intended to destroy an opponent? Words are filled with emotion and should be considered carefully.

I see, almost everyday, instances online where people have made ‘comments’ with intention to hurt, demean or downright attack. Celebrity culture, dirty politics and easy access to everyone you could ever possibly want to comment on allows this. Not only that it promotes it. People don’t seem to be taking responsibility for those words they are firing like a great cannon. For some it’s as though the don’t even care which target the cannon is aimed at. Complete strangers find themselves throwing in those words deliberately to stir a reaction. Maybe it’s because we’ve had very little face to face contact over the past year and it’s making people bolder with their words but in a world where everyone’s opinion should be valued we need to take some responsibility for the words we use to voice that opinion.

I love you.

I’m going to finish with this phrase because whilst overuse can reduce it’s value it is always nice to hear. It’s always nice to see the look in someone’s eyes when you tell them. Each word has it’s own significance. I – me, myself, my own declaration. Love – one of the strongest emotions experienced as a human being, far surpassing anger or hate. You – this declaration is for you and you alone. I love many things but on this occasion I want you to know. I LOVE YOU.

It’s a nice phrase isn’t it. I’m not much of a romantic soul but I do appreciate the power of words. So what is your word that inspires? If you haven’t thought of one maybe now would be the time to think about it.


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