Update March 2022

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

Started and finished a decking project. Nothing too fancy but welcome, as we can now step out of the living room on a clean, flat surface. We’ve also booked a couple of breaks for later this year. Will try to keep ourselves safe, and I will struggle through with health issues as best I can. We need something of a life. Still carrying on with acupuncture, though learned it could take weeks or months to help, which has eased my frustration somewhat as there’s still hope.

FILM/TV:

At long last finished Castle, then dipped into the last series of Peaky Blinders, and the 4th season of The Rookie. Can’t say there’s been much in the way of films. I’m not up to sitting through an entire film at the cinema (don’t know if I ever will be able to again), and what with the pandemic still very much running wild, I’m not overly interested in sitting in a closed room of any kind with people I don’t know.

READING:

Hell House, Richard Matheson

I usually love Matheson’s work, but feel rather disappointed in this. Although I didn’t expect the book to be scary — what scared people fifty years ago differs from what scares them now — I was unprepared for the sexual content and violence against women in this. Some sentences, dialogue, and character reaction also come across as clunky, though a few became clearer as the story progressed. It’s amazing how much incredible detail four candles reveal in a ninety-five foot room. I enjoyed much of this, but it seems largely a story of possession rather than a haunting.

The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones

I want to like this book. It’s got a plot with potential; a blend of an ill-conceived elk hunt, a vengeful spirit, and generations of faith and heritage, though I’m not sure I’d classify this as horror. Sadly, I feel I had to drag myself through its pages, so I took weeks to read this in small snippets, and skimmed most of the basketball sections, which is one of the many passages that go on too long. Many of the sentences are ropey, and, at first read, aren’t clear, requiring they be read as a whole to guess or piece together what’s happening. Many scenes are simply muddy owing to the convoluted style, which made the book rather boring. I’m sorry to say this writer’s style simply isn’t for me, but it seems to garner polarising reviews, so I’d suggest trying a sample and making up your own mind.

What the Lady Wants, Jennifer Crusie

Not Crusie’s best, but her work is always good, and this one is as fun and witty as others. This time, the relationship is between Mae and Mitch, who couldn’t be more different. Mae, a niece to three questionable characters, and Mitch a Private Investigator… or is he? The best thing about this book is the banter, which Crusie never seems to get wrong.

The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman

I thought I should get around to reading this as someone bought it as a present for me, shortly after I had bought a copy for someone else who I knew wanted it. Which makes it sound as if I didn’t really want to read this… and I have to confess I was at least on the fence. Richard Osman seems like a nice guy, but so many celebrities were penning books and obviously having little or no trouble getting them published during lockdown, it became a little depressing. Still, this is a light, fun, and well-plotted read. Not usually my kind of book, but perfect for those who like a lightweight, humorous murder mystery. And there’s one chapter in which we learn Bernard’s story that’s entirely heartfelt.

Fan Fiction, Brent Spiner

Apparently fiction despite the ‘men-noir’ line on the front suggesting otherwise. What strikes the reader is Spiner’s ability to poke fun at himself as well as his co-workers/friends, though never meanly. Ultimately, the book seems to be about the dividing line between actor and character, and a person and fandom. Enjoyable and unexpected.

Hex, Thomas Olde Heuvelt

This book may well be unique in terms of a haunting. The setting is not a haunted house but an entire village, and the ‘ghost’ is that of a witch which has corporal form yet the ability to wander at will. Something of a slow burn in places it’s received a few mixed reviews, though fans who love not to be rushed and like Stephen King, might get on well with this. I hated every moment I had to put it down. Written in mostly omnipresent head-hopping viewpoints, the novel suffers from an overuse of cliches, but the story blows these minor issues aside. There’s so much subtext here, dealing with all we know about violence and fear, and of how humans don’t need true evil to misbehave. The revelation of evil is inspired, and the ending is a simply perfect conclusion, pulling all threads together. I’ve seen reviews from those who feel otherwise, but it comes down to what the reader wants from a horror story. I’ve yet to find such a book that truly scares me. Some have come close to disturbing me, but for me, that’s not quite the same thing. Hex does neither, but I loved this book, found it insidiously fascinating. This story will always be with me, as will my copy, and that’s what the best books have — an unforgettable quality. Would make an excellent film if done well.

Charlie All Night, Jennifer Crusie

Light summer reading, but a great deal of fun. I enjoyed the characters of Charlie and Allie, the rest of the cast, the little town they’re living in, and especially the puppy. Not sure all their disagreements were perfect, but then that reflects life. People say things they don’t mean, and can be misinterpreted, and that shows well here. An enjoyable read, perfect for a holiday or a lazy weekend. Though not as deep as some of her later works, there’s nothing wrong with that. This is another book showing an author’s developing style. Worth it for Crusie fans.

WRITING

Good and bad news.

Sweet Temptations released, and I also had a lovely surprise in the post — my contributor’s copy of Operation Wildcat featuring my short story, The Gift. So, this should be a wonderful month.

Alas, with Amazon’s refusal to do anything about the return of ebooks, they’re becoming more of a lending library than a seller, resulting in an active campaign on TikTok telling readers to read and return, that it’s an author problem, not a reader problem. Writers I know are reporting higher and higher returns, sometimes the same reader returning a whole series, so clearly reading and enjoying. Although the notion that if a reader isn’t 100% delighted with a book, the book is somehow faulty goods must stop. We (being publishers and writers) tried to talk Amazon into refusing returns once a percentage of a book has been read. Some are even happy for this to be 50% of a book.

The Kindle format allows them to know what page a reader has reached. They also allow for a sample to be downloaded before purchase, so there’s no excuse. As one writer said, you can’t buy a coffee, drink the liquid and return the empty cup for a full refund. The same should apply to a book. In short, right now, many of us are having half the books we ‘sell’ returned and making so little that many are thinking of giving it up. One author reported her average of returns going up from 1 to 3 copies to over 60. The idea of it not being a reader problem soon may be if the writers stop writing. Of course, what we really need is for it to affect the big names enough that Amazon has to listen. Either that or authors need to find another platform that doesn’t have to include Amazon.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

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