Update July 2023

Had a horrendous trip to the in-laws. Traffic jams, roadworks, diversions, reports of animals on the road and people throwing things from a bridge. Could anyone have thrown anything else into the mix? If I put all this into a story readers would say I’m being melodramatic or unrealistic, proving life is stranger than fiction. All this added a good couple of hours onto the journey, which did me no good at all.

Once back home, we continued with our ‘refresh’ of the house, repainting one wall in the guest bedroom, and touching up any marks. It’s never looked so good. I’ve now moved on to the room’s ensuite shower room, but discovered the wall needs a little attention once I pulled off the paper. I think it’s because we papered over bathroom paint, so we’ll put a different base coat on the wall we intend to re-paper once it’s repaired. Otherwise, there’s not much to do in there with snagging (small cracks in new builds) only over the shower.

We finished the Netflix limited series Midnight Mass, which turned out to be a questioning religious take on vampire mythology. The arguments presented and the thought-provoking dialogue were exceptional. About to finish watching the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films, which have been a nostalgic joy. And we watched series 4 of Stranger Things (Netflix), which we enjoyed the most of all the seasons. The way Netflix enhanced the sound was excellent and I hope they make this a more regular feature.

I now know why I’ve not written much since breaking my wrist, having received my latest edits. Many were stupid mistakes because I was typing with one hand and using dictation. However, surely my brain was also scrambled, as I should have caught most, if not all, of them during the last read. I must have gone over it too many times by then, so my eyes filled in the blanks, which is why writers need an editor or at least a second set of eyes. Fortunately, I have a fab editor. Wildest Dreams this will re-release in the autumn.

I also received my copy of Night to Dawn magazine #44, also out this autumn, containing my short story Brain Dead. More on that nearer the time.

Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Update June 2023

Glad to say we had a lovely holiday in June and it was the best we’ve had in a long while. I managed to ‘cope’ despite health issues. Also, the week away allowed us to visit a friend’s grave at long last, and to meet up with his wife. We spent a fabulous day together including a wonderful lunch concluded with a cheesecake that was surely death on a plate but truly gorgeous. We also got in plenty of coastal walking, the longest walk of three hours being on the South West coast path.

At long last finished watching Bones having missed the last three seasons on its first televised run. Supernatural (another missed series on its original run) and Dark Shadows is ongoing. Catching up now on Netflix shows, we began the limited series Midnight Mass which, though slow in parts seems to have some memorable moments including excellent dialogue. It’s promisingly spooky, though we’ve only watched 2 of 8 episodes so far.

Have had little time for films. Watched Don’t Worry Darling, which is a modern twist on The Stepford Wives. Good, but nothing exactly new. We also came across 12 of the 14 old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films, which have been remastered and watched one of those. So short as to be hardly called films today, but we watched one and may watch more. Guess I’m showing my age, but I still like Rathbone’s version of Sherlock and they’re great nostalgia.

I know I’ve been quiet — I feel like I’m forever apologising for breaking my wrist — but I’ve managed a little self-editing and have spoken to my publisher about releasing another older, previously published title, so I will be submitted Wildest Dreams this week.
Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Update April 2023

Hi Everyone!

Managed the long trip to visit relatives but not been out and about much owing to never-ending health issues and the weather. Despite all the rain, shortly after local authorities announced a hosepipe ban from now until December, naturally some of the southwest had flooding. News for the area showed footage of a river of water and mud flowing several feet up past doorways — something of a spectacular show when seen through glass. Fortunately, our area was spared.

I finally got to see a physiotherapist for my wrist paid for by me, of course. I figured by the time I argued with the NHS to see one, and then had to pay for a cab to and from the hospital, it was cheaper and less time-consuming to pay for one locally.

He said I’m doing all the right things, and in the second appointment said I’m ahead of what he would expect at this point. That’s encouraging although it doesn’t feel like much when he also told me I can expect a year of exercise to regain full movement, if I even do — although he can’t spot anything to say I definitely won’t at this point, it’s far too soon to tell. It also doesn’t feel as though I got much physio as there was no actual exercise. He suggested a couple of things, but aside from that, I’ve mostly had my arm massaged, which thank goodness took down 95% of the swelling, and a back massage. Having said that, I think I needed it as it wiped me out. He said other muscles get damaged during a fall, and also that I’ve been overcompensating on the opposite side.

Still ploughing our way through Bones but now on season 9. We also sped through the acclaimed series airing on Sky, The Last of Us. Wasn’t sure at first, and admit to a small eye-roll of ‘not another zombie series’, but I can see why there was a buzz about the show. It doesn’t waste a moment of storytelling and knows how to pull on the audience’s emotion. Restarted Dark Shadows as introducing my husband to it, and watching Supernatural for the first time. Although the show was over sometime ago, it was always on at a strange hour and we never got to see it. Another of those that’s so popular we wanted to see why. Anyway, anything supernatural is kind of my thing.

I’ve watched a couple of quirky films lately, one of which was The Duke starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren based on a legendary British true story — the theft of Francisco Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington painting from the National Gallery. As to what is and isn’t real in the story for those who want to know more, go here: https://www.radiotimes.com/movies/the-duke-true-story-exclusive/ But it’s good to say a fair amount of it is true, as pitched by the grandson.

The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty (audio)
Well read by the author. Definitely better than the film. Still, I’ve never been sure why people find the story so frightening. The only scary elements are the suffering of a child, or the demon’s strength. I also shake my head when characters react so strongly to something said. I can’t help thinking that the scares don’t work as well as they should because it’s a different society now, but I saw the film in my teens and still think of it as one of the funniest movies ever made. Would Regan’s insults and torments really bother a modern adversary so much? Despite these wonderings, this remains the quintessential possession story. Well worth the time spent with it, even though I don’t find it frightening.

Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch
A good start to what promises to be a fun series; however, I fell out of love with the protagonist somewhat when he threatened to use the dog in a magic ritual even if intended as a joke. Was it? I’m not sure. Things like that can quickly alienate a reading public, and are usually best avoided even in jest. The protagonist is also a little too bland, but I hope it fledges him out in the following books. The author has a fantastic way of weaving a story of magic into a believable London setting almost making London a character in and of itself — in fact I fell in love with London more than anything else in the book, but I’m not sure that’s a recommendation good enough on its own. There are many amazing creatures here, including gods and goddesses, vampires and ghosts, and I’m sure there will be more to come in the following stories. Having said all that, the book felt a little muddled to me, almost too frantic in parts, with a lot to take in, some convenient happenings, and a twist of an ending I’m not sure quite worked for me. But then, as a reader, I appreciate I’m buying into the writer’s imaginative journey, and a review is all semantics, anyway. I own the first three books and, having read the first, I found this entertaining enough to carry on with the other two, hoping they will improve.

The White Road, Sarah Lotz
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I would have to say it’s because of the writing. I usually prefer a book told in third person rather than first, but this is an exception. There are definitely creepy moments, although the thought of crawling through tiny tunnels many feet under the Earth is perhaps the most scary moments, expertly claustrophobia inducing. A rather strange atmospheric ghost story with a protagonist who is more of an anti-hero. Despite this, you can’t help following Simon’s journey and even rooting for… I’m not sure what. Not Simon as such — although I’m not sure he deserved all that happened to him — but you still want something good to come of this. The story contains several threats and battles, including the climbing of Everest and questioning mental health. Not everyone will find the ending perfect, but I’m not sure how else the author could have concluded the book; for me, the biggest negative is that it felt almost too abrupt. As Stephen King has said, some books are best enjoyed for the journey rather than the destination and I can’t help thinking perhaps this is one of those, but I’m glad to have spent time with it and will read more by this author.

The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson
When I first began reading I wondered why make the protagonist — a decidedly flawed human being from a flawed background — part of the porn industry, but it’s the perfect irony that this man who once easily wooed women suffers such physical destruction, burned in a horrendous car crash. If the author has his research right, the burn descriptions should haunt you. But just when you think the story is one about a damaged man awaiting the chance for suicide, events take an unbelievable twist when a possibly mentally ill woman, Marianne, walks into his life insisting that they have known and loved each other before. The writing has the feel of an aged classic, yet references and details set the story in modern times, an imbalance that’s perfect for a tale reaching across centuries. On the one hand, it’s quite beautiful, but I repeatedly asked, What is this book about? Like poetry, it will mean different things to different people. Ultimately, I dare say it’s about sacrifice and redemption, but something remained off key for me. Although an emotional book, I never quite believed the love that supposedly holds the two main characters bound over time, whether real or imaginary. The love felt more like obsession. And why the author bothered to include a dog and the events surrounding it, escapes me and made me dislike the characters. I want to rate the book higher than I have because it stays in the mind, and I would have done so had I been able to believe what they felt for each other. I’m also left questioning whether the protagonist’s actions are of love or criminal. Is what Marianne tells this unnamed man real, or are they both delusional?

Carnival (Firefly), Una McCormack
One of the shorter Firefly novels, solidly plotted. I found this to be a fun read, mostly because the author understands the character voices, something sadly lacking in the previous book. Those voices bring a true feeling of nostalgia for fans of the series.

No news on the writing score, mostly because, although I’m almost typing again, my wrist is still at an angle, which makes it tiring. Here’s to more improvement.
Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Update Feb/Mar 2023

No update last month as not much to report, so a longer Reading section to cover two months next week. In the last weeks, the husband finished setting up the wall cabinets with ‘slight’ help from me, and I cheered to type a few sentences, albeit at an awkward and tiring angle, and to wash up and cut vegetables. Small conquests. I’ve improved some, but have booked some physiotherapy. Ironically, it’ll be cheaper for me to pay locally than to get cabs to and from the hospital if I could put up a strong enough fight to get an appointment. Remember, I’ve been told the wrist has healed however it’s healed and to go home and use it. I’ll keep exercising until I’m seen, but I think I could do with some help now, or at least advice. I’ve had my first story acceptance in a long time, which was pleasing as so much has been/is on hold. More on that at the end.

We’re ploughing our way through Bones as we never saw them when our Sky Box melted years ago. Sky insisted we still had a box and would do nothing, so we dropped them. Have to say we’re enjoying the show much more this time without the interruption of adverts.

We’re also working through Hotel Del Luna, a South Korean series blending horror, comedy, romance, and fantasy thanks to the supernatural setting of a hotel which acts as a kind of limbo for those spirits not ready to pass on to the afterlife. Loving it, and especially like the look of the show, but the episodes are long and need attention owing to the subtitles, so it’s taking some time.

Also watching Beyond Paradise on BBC iPlayer, though it’s strange to see Looe in Cornwall as the fictional village of Shipton Abbot in Devon. Amazed there wasn’t a riot as the Cornwall/Devon divide is real.

If you only had hours to live, would you want to know exactly how long you had left? Night to Dawn Magazine will publish a short zombie story of mine entitled Brain Dead. More news when I have it.
Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Reads of 2022

Owing to unforeseen circumstances, namely having broken my wrist, I won’t be blogging much, and my publishing plans will change a little this year. For now I’ll leave you with my 2022 reading round-up. I set myself a goal of 75 books and, including audio, I managed 80. Noting some of my favourite books, here goes:

Cunning Folk, Adam L.G. Nevill
Having experienced bad neighbours, this book contained some personal horror for me, so much so, I found it hard to switch off after reading one section. Yes, this is supernatural horror, but the twin joys of moving in a money pit of a house next door to the worse neighbours one can imagine makes for a memorable folk horror. I must admit, the ‘folk next door’ presented a greater horror than what might be out in the woods for me. Maybe disturbing more than scary, but, though horror is a favourite genre for me, I’ve yet to find a truly scary book. I found a few of the descriptive sentences a little too much, perhaps excessively flowery, needing to read them twice, but I find Nevill’s style of work compelling, so even an occasional awkward sentence would never deter me. Opinions are just that, anyway, with no true right or wrong. I’m a reader who appreciates an author who takes me on an unexpected journey, and I also appreciate Nevill has an extensive vocabulary. The descent into madness (neighbours driving a person crazy), is spot-on and disturbingly delightful.

Thud, Terry Pratchett
A less humorous book than many other Discworld novels, but so intelligent. There’s a lot of subtexts here covering government, racism, human nature, among others, with all the stupidity that comes along with these failings. An education in erudition with Sam Vimes, the teacher of the decade. And most of all, a book where every reader will root for Sam to get home on time to read ‘Where’s my Cow?’

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.

Operation Wildcat and Other Stores, Edited by Tim Gambrell
Not sure I should review this as it contains one of my stories, so let me just say my favourite idea in the book is Honourable Discharge by Chris Lynch, though I also liked Old Fowlkes’ Home by Martin Parker as it’s an Anne Travers story.

The Mangle Street Murders, M.R.C.Kasasian
Best described as a black comedy, the novel deals with a series of grisly murders and a seemingly unsolvable crime, but the most criminal thing about the story is the unrepentant and awful personality of Grice — a detective far more cutting than Sherlock and darkly comic because of it. The type of blunt and terrible temperament, one cannot help but laugh at and cringe while doing so. I loved to loathe him, though loathe is too strong a word. The tale’s told through the viewpoint of his ward, March Middleton, and it is as much about her having to put up with Grice as her strength and determination that makes this book amusing. And like any good detective story, there’s a meandering puzzle that only the warped mind of Grice could easily work out. I’ll be reading more of these.

Crazy for You, Jennifer Crusie
Loved this immediately. Quinn’s fury over the dog is priceless, and understandable to pet owners everywhere. The author well worked the overlapping relationships in this story. Women everywhere will get the issue the women have, and men reading this might become enlightened. Nick and Quinn are excellent characters for a romance. One word of warning: this book could contain triggering issues for abuse victims, though dealt with well toward the end. A few viewpoints may also seem outdated, but then all books are of their time.

Who Censored Roger Rabbit, Gary Wolf
When a book makes you laugh in the first few sentences, it’s a good sign, but I know not everyone feels this way. I suppose it depends how attached to the Disney film you are. The book’s different, written in a more serious tone. I have to say I liked both versions. I found the noir detective feel and ‘heard’ an occasional sentence as spoken by Bob Hoskins. This book isn’t the film. Anyone expecting that is bound to feel disappointed. Roger’s in no way as zany, but I liked the character’s development and grew extremely attached to him, though in a completely different way from the film. I can’t say more without giving away the ending, but it even plucked at the old heartstrings. I own the other three books and will read them.

The Sleeper and the Spindle, Neil Gaiman
A short story of a re-imagined fairy tale from one of my favourite writers brought to life with the meticulously illustrated works of Chris Riddell. I know it’s aimed at children but had to have it as part of my Gaiman collection, and it’s a beautiful book to look at and handle. I would have loved this as a child and still do as an adult.

Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie
This fast-paced, hysterical romance has to be one of Crusie’s best books. I’ve always loved her banter, but here almost every line is perfect and funny. A story about a commitment phobe, a woman who has viewed herself through her mother’s eyes for too many years, and a shabby cat that loves Elvis Presley’s music. This might be classed as a big beautiful woman book, though truly Min is a perfectly normal woman. After reading this, many women will want their own ‘donut pusher’. This doesn’t beat my favourite book of hers, but it’s close, winning on the laughs alone.

The Vessel, Adam L.G.Nevill
All the way through this book, I kept thinking this book should be a film, which makes perfect sense once I got to the end and read the author’s notes. The old woman struck me as the harbinger of evil, and there didn’t have to be anything supernatural about her to make me shudder. But this is horror, so nothing is straightforward. Present tense omnipresent isn’t really a style I love, but for this book, it’s perfect. We see the action from a wide camera lens, which does a good job rocketing up tension. I wasn’t terrified, but found this satisfying creepy with a conclusion I adored. A short but entertaining read that’s a perfect example of dark fiction, which I feel has a broader connotation than horror.

A Short Stay in Hell, Steven L.Peck
How does one even describe this novella of only 100 pages? At first I found it somewhat tedious, but that only seems right considering the events in the story. Slowly, I found I couldn’t put it down. As a lover of books, I thought eternity in a library doesn’t sound like such a bad thing… until I learned the truth of those books. Then the truth of love found and lost, which seemed even greater punishment. A truer horror was the inevitability of some human natures. Though a simple idea, here, the author proves hell doesn’t have to contain hellfire to be torturous. A horror novel? No. And certainly not horrific. But insidiously horrifying.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake, Josh Malerman
Some books defy definition and this is one. Some will love this; others loathe it. I honestly don’t know what I just read. I know I enjoyed it, but was it good, or was it bad? There are some creepy moments, in part (I feel) owing to the strange setting. The underlying sense of threat in being able to drown down in the dark is present like a character all its own, but drown in what? In water? In horror? In the hope and hopelessness of love? The book reads like an allegory of love. There is menace here, but those expecting a true horror novel may be disappointed. Those approaching the story with an open mind may be better rewarded.

Last Days, Adam Nevill
Asked to film a documentary about a defunct cult is a job Kyle will come to regret. A bold idea exceedingly well-written. My only negative isn’t that it’s a long book but that it also felt a little overlong. Would take an experienced editor to know what to cut, though, as there’s a lot to take in, but I feel the length diminished the deliciously creepy suspense some. Not enough to affect my enjoyment, but for me the book loses a star because of it… which isn’t drastic criticism by any means. Had I not read the book, I would have missed a wild ride and much scary imagery. Extremely imaginative and well worth spending time with.

Piranesi, Susanna Clarke.
A strange book that made me question what in the world I was reading. It’s certainly memorable. Like it or not, this story may well stay with the reader for a long time, if not forever. All the number of day in the month of the albatross in the number of hall got rather monotonous, which made me feel uncertain at first, but the more I read the more engrossed I became. The best thing about this book is the way the author reveals the mystery, and the way she builds Piranesi’s world in the mind. To my mind, this is no Strange and Norrell epic (the first book for which the author’s so well-known), but it’s still impressive, mostly in its construction. On a minor note, though a small volume, the hardback is a lovely-looking book to have on the shelves.

Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?, Gary K.Wolf
At the start of this book, I felt I would not enjoy it as much as the first, but as soon as a short relative of Jessica’s was introduced, I laughed all the way to the end. Gary has the witty patter down p-p-p-perfectly. I have such fond memories of the film, but feel as though the rabbit written here is worth loving all over again. I’m also left feeling a mite sorry for him, which only adds to the charm of these stories. Another surprise to enjoy was a whole new take of how Gone With the Wind was cast.

Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Del Toro & Cornelia Funke
If you’ve watched the film, there’s no real reason to read the book, though I wanted to, and the lovely illustrations, and the stories within the story, which aren’t told on screen enhance the experience. The book’s a charming keepsake and complements the film somewhat as it’s always nice to get internalisations which almost no film provides. Also, the book is English, whereas the film is Spanish with English subtitles (not that I find subtitles a problem). Neither the book nor the film is a fairy tale for young children owing to the violence and imagery, but is a wonderful fantasy for some teens and adults alike.

Ending with my outstanding reads of the year I have to go back to a classic and to an audio dramatisation:

Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
I thought I’d read this when young, but I remembered little of it. It’s more likely someone told me the story, because had I read this, there’s no way I would have forgotten the writing. I can’t help thinking had I ever turned in a story written in such a style, my teachers would have thrown fits, siting grammar rules until I grew dizzy. But this is the indomitable Bradbury and not only does he know how to break the rules, he does it so well. Some of my teachers would have cited that many sentences don’t make grammatical sense, and they don’t in a purist way, but what they do is conjure up sensations and emotions. Take the title alone, which at least one teacher would have told me should read Something Wicked Comes This Way… but it would never have been so memorable; would never be so visceral. Plus, there’s the multi-layers of subtext: a book about good and evil, being young, growing old, accepting these things, not harping on them, not worrying about them and not fearing them so much one forgets to live, to enjoy and feel blessed every day. It also speaks of friendship and family, of love, and of laughing in the face of despair as a way of pushing back the darkness — the sorrows of life and the eventual darkness. I’m sure others will find their own interpretations, but for me, this book covers the gamut of life and death in all its joys and woes. Chilling, full of dread, atmospheric, mesmerising, thrilling, captivating, and masterfully executed.

The Sandman (Volume One), Neil Gaiman and cast (audio dramatisation)
Thoroughly loved this. Maybe you need to be a fan of the source material, but this is an enjoyable and faithful representation of the graphic novels. Some purists may not agree, but I feel this added to my appreciation of the books and Gaiman’s work. With a great cast, including Michael Sheen, Andy Serkis, and Bebe Neuwith, James McAvoy is the perfect choice for Morpheus. It’s a lovely thought that this production also brings the story to the blind.

Update Nov 2022

Hi Everyone!

Got away to visit relatives and then broke the homeward journey with a stop in Winchester, which makes for a decent city break especially when the Christmas Market is on. This year it ran from 18th November to the 22nd December, but there was some mixup on our last night when we intended to pop back just to have some chestnuts and the like. The website distinctly says it’s open for part of the week until 8pm from Thursday, but we found it closing at 6. We weren’t the only ones caught out. One woman who arrived the same time as us exclaimed, “But the email I got this morning said 8.” We had at least been and seen it in both daylight and in the dark, but had we gone there for only one evening to find it shut, we wouldn’t have been pleased to make a wasted trip. Now I feel the information’s untrustworthy. Still, we enjoyed ourselves, walking a tottering 7.5 miles on the first day, seeing the sights and staggering up to the viewpoint.

We’re nearing the end of Star Trek Deep Space 9 at long last. I had forgotten Dax died and oddly enough, recently discovered the reason was the actress wanted less screen time, so in a fit of pique they wrote her out entirely. Can’t help feeling it harmed the series a little. Out of all the series, we’re always felt DS9 was the most consistent.

We were undecided whether to watch Netflix’s film Don’t Look Up, but while away after an exhausting day, we put our feet up and watched it. Enjoyed it much more than we thought we would. Enjoyable satire not just on politics but on modern society and social media.

Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities on Netflix garnered mixed reactions and I can see why. People expect so much from him. I enjoyed especially the Graveyard Rats episode.

Aside from my personal project, I’m taking a break from writing until the new year, though I’m also reading for research, so it’s all related. Next year, I plan to do better.

Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x