October News 2018

Hi Everyone!

OUT AND ABOUT:

Spent a week in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Never been before, glad to have gone. The highlights were the Tudor Merchant’s House, Tenby; Barafundle Bay, and Pembroke Castle. Had the best Chinese meal we may have ever tasted. Stopped in Hay on Wye on the way home and like the look of the Brecon Beacons so may consider a trip there.

TELEVISION:

Patrick Melrose proved to be an unexpected watch, namely for the excellent performances. The first episode doesn’t quite prepare you for the serious undertones of the rest of the show, and a viewer may be forgiven for wondering what they’ve let themselves in for, but gradually, Cumberbatch’s portrayal of drug-taking Melrose reveals the father’s dark past in a way that makes a person realise people can fall into bad habits through an ordeal.

READING:

It may have occurred to some I’ve been reading a lot of horror. I think I covered before that it may surprise many to know was one of the first genres I was drawn to. Lately, it’s also a genre I’ve gyrated back toward, mainly owing to one of research — I am trying to write what I describe as a Dark Fiction Novel and I wanted to see what was out on the market. Much of what I’ve come across proves to me what I’ve said before: King is not a horror writer (and I don’t mean that as an insult). Clive Barker is. Jack Ketcham is. Brian Keene is. Graham Masterston is (someone I’ve not read in years but a scene in one of his books turned me cold and I rarely have such a reaction). King is a storyteller and much more the level of horror (if that’s what one wishes to call his work) that I prefer. I’m not into a gore-fest, and like most stories to at least raise some questions. King is always ‘comfortable’ even if he scares, which for me he doesn’t, much, if at all: the one time he surprised me was with the foot scene in Misery (the book not film as they changed it). I often read horror in October but stumbling across Adam Nevill made my return to horror worthwhile. His vocabulary and story weaving raises the (forgive the pun) stakes.

It may (or not) surprise you to read the list of ‘The Ten Best Horror Authors Alive Today’, as listed by booklaunch. Few surprises:
Stephen King — an easy choice.
Clive Barker — I agree, though his work has been more scarce in more recent years.
Dean Koontz — one I consider a paranormal/thriller writer rather than horror.
Anne Rice — once a favourite of mine and still much appreciated though I sometimes find her style a little too tell over show for me.
Peter Straub — a writer whose work I’ve not read extensively but have always enjoyed when I have.
Jonathan Maberry — a surprise on the list. I came across Maberry’s YA Zombie novels and picked one up because I wondered how the YA market handled such stories. Next thing I know I was reading him. He does also write adult books much focused on the zombie market and I’m happy to say he accepted my friend request on Facebook and Goodreads.
Mylo Carbia — a surprise because I’ve no idea who she is. It’s disappointing to see the only two women who made the list way down in spots 7 and 10, and neither being names I’ve heard. Booklaunch says Mylo is considered ‘The Queen of Horror’ by Hollywood insiders, and her latest release ‘Violets are Red’ ties with King’s ‘The Outsider’ for best novel out this year.
Ramsey Campbell — a well-known name and another Facebook ‘friend’.
Neil Gaiman — Hmm…is he a horror writer, though? Maybe my second favourite writer of all time after Pratchett, but though his stories have dark elements, I wouldn’t call him a horror writer.
Ania Ahlborn — Born in Poland, but I know little more about her though I’m hearing her books are worth the read.

Dodger, Terry Pratchett

I have the guilty pleasure of not having finished all of Terry Pratchett’s books. I’ve loved his work ever since I picked up The Colour of Magic more years ago than I care to recall. I have my favourites but never have I been truly choked over the death of a writer, possibly over anyone I didn’t personally know. Pratchett was a genius of satire. A friend of mine always took his work to be about ‘little wizards running around’. Like many it escaped her notice that the Discworld was our world, that the University of Magic was our Parliament, the wizards there our Government. I’ve a few books of his left unread. About 4 set on the Discworld, I believe; a couple of factual books, the fantasy series he wrote with Stephen Baxter, and the last book he ever wrote. They’re rare treasures awaiting my attention because once I’ve read them there will be no more.

Dodger stands alone. It’s loosely set in the first quarter of Queen Victoria’s reign as stated in the Author Acknowledgements — a section worth reading even if you pick up the book in a shop and stand there while you do. Pratchett wrote a number of books for younger readers and though the wordage in this book is an easy read and the plot rather uncomplicated, Terry gave it the spins only he could, setting up questions any decent society should ask itself, and showing how much has changed. Not my favourite of Pratchett but a thoroughly entertaining read.

WRITING:

I subbed a semi-new work to JMS Books, which comprises two of my previous releases at Changeling together with a third title creating a trilogy in one volume: Hounding the Beat, and Mistletoe and Whine, now concludes in Paws for Thought, under the combined title of Ruff Trouble. Yes, it’s erotic romance and a menage pairing but with a good deal of humour thrown in. Those who have read this will know two of my characters are shape-shifting huskies. I don’t intend to re-release all my ex-Changeling titles but this one has always been well received and is harmless fun.

Other than that, not a lot of news. Once again all I can say is I ‘do’ have a piece of writing news I had hoped to reveal by now, but not only do I not have permission yet, though I think no one I know would ‘blab’ I don’t want to jinx it. I’d say I’m not superstitious, but I like all my T’s crossed and I’s dotted.

Happy Reading!

Sharon xxx

Update June/July Part 2

Books read…

I discovered Adam Nevill this year, a horror writer not afraid of using more than a few words from the dictionary. I’ve read two of his books: The Ritual (back in March), and Banquet of the Damned (in June). The Ritual is a book of two halves. I so wanted to give it 5 stars, but I preferred the first half of the book to the second, and, although I’m unsure what might have been a better conclusion, the end felt a little abrupt. What I love about this book is the atmosphere the author creates capturing my interest in a way many books of this type have failed and making him an author I want to read regularly. I imagine some readers may like to know the characters a tad more—that occurred to me on some level—but in a horror story it’s not always necessary to know these men are little more than regular guys doing their best to get by in their average lives and who don’t deserve the situation thrust upon them. A wonderfully atmospheric lost in the woods horror story.

For Banquet of the Damned, I easily understand why this book receives mixed reviews, and it’s purely owing to stylistic preference. I sank into a rich vocabulary and longer sentences so often lacking in modern fiction. I don’t want to use the term literary as it carries an unfortunate modern-day connotation of dusty libraries and mildewed books written by notaries of a by-gone age (a sad view of the classics that were part of my childhood reading and nowadays occasionally termed ‘too difficult’). This definitely isn’t that, but one can say this book is a more stylish horror. Another way to describe it: I can imagine a few editors returning the manuscript circling the occasional sentence as purple prose. Thank goodness the publisher ignored them if they did. The carefully chosen style to weaves a delightfully successful spell on any reader able to appreciate the opulent seductive description spiced with the ‘creep’ factor; the sense that something is coming and might be present on the next turn of a page. This seems to be where Adam Nevill excels.

The Night Clock, Paul Meloy. First, I have to say I like this book. I need to say so because it may not be obvious. Paul Meloy’s imagination packs a punch. Unfortunately, the story is vastly superior to its execution. On a purely grammatical basis there are so many instances of ‘it, was, and were’ sentences to bog the story and make it drag. I took way too long to finish this. The book suffers too much tell instead of show (too many instances of the type such as ‘he was standing’ required the simple improvement of ‘stood’), and I’m unsure if the writer has any real understanding of tenses or tried to be artistic in the use. Again, I can see a few people complaining over the ‘purple prose’, though that doesn’t always bother me if used well. There’s a greater book here and fantastic ideas that sadly do not gel in this length of a novel. I wanted to know more of the characters and to care for them. The various threads read more as perplexing even unnecessary tangents though mostly draw together, but left me feeling the narrative strove to be clever instead of engaging. Instead, the promised level of threat never manifests and I didn’t much care whether anyone survived by the conclusion. Which is a pity, as this visionary setting promised much and had me enthralled. I love the overlapping story threads and blending of genres.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King, proves what I’ve always said, that King is labelled wrongly as a horror writer. He’s a storyteller. I can see where this collection may be labelled as self-indulgent but then, as a storyteller, he no doubt wants to share these tales and has earned some forbearance. Not that there’s no other reason to read this collection. I liked it. I didn’t adore it, but a number of stories I liked more than others, a few I loved, and there were none I hated so I’ve given the book 4 stars where I might prefer to give it 3.5. Short story collections are books I dip in and out of and often take me weeks, even months, to complete, while I soar through novels; but I found King’s writing so familiar and familiarly ‘comfortable’, I finished the book off without setting it aside. A portion of these stories are a tad silly, others fun, some questioning…I won’t say any are scary but then I’m seldom scared by King’s work, by anyone’s, so I’m not singling him out in that regard. As a ‘constant reader’ adding this to my bookshelves was a no-brainer and while it’s not the best of his work, I wasn’t disappointed.

Writing-wise…

I contracted the re-release of A Not So Hollow Heart with JMS Books, this version edited and lengthened. The only real complaint I had from critics was that they wished it were longer…so now it is where I felt it needed it, though I’m uncertain it’s a length to satisfy readers. Yes, there’s always more to fledge out, to explore characters deeper, but there’s a point where all the information needed to ‘tell the tale’ is on the page. I’ve tried to deepen characterisation.

I’ve also been contacted to work on another project…I can only say ‘sci-fi’ related, but there’s no way I can know if anything will come of that at this point. Had a bad feel moment when doing research for a disaster, natural or otherwise, where people died. Had a ‘not enough casualties for my purposes’ moment. I’m not a terrible person, just a writer, honest.

Speaking of writing…when a reviewer drops in words like ‘rips you up’ and ‘grab a box of tissues’ I know I’ve done something right. A jaw drop moment for Flowers for the Gardener. I put much thought into this book and the reviewer is spot on that I wanted to show life is short and what comes from poor communication and assumptions, which is what many arguments (particularly those between family and friends) are. The reader is crying and I’m left smiling. Such is the life of a writer.

Book Review: Flowers for the Gardener by Sharon Maria Bidwell

Update June/July 2018

Hi everyone.

Trying something a little different. I’ve been lax with keeping everyone up to date and sometimes I’ve much to tell, sometimes a mere trickle. There are times I’m resting, other moments when I’m planning, days when I’m writing (not always much to impart then), and occasions when other things interrupt the best-laid plans. I’m trying to do something of a more involved ‘update’, an exercise which also stretches the old writing muscles.

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We were away in June to Norway so for this time only this update will include both the months of June and July.

One can say every country is a land of contrasts and Norway has its cities, but what I always take away is the memory of the sheer immensity of the landscape. To stand surrounded by mountains almost defeats the ability to take everything in, numbs belief to what the eye takes in. I don’t recall ever visiting any place where the air is cleaner, where a person doesn’t struggle even on the hottest day to breathe. If it weren’t for the long, dark winters, it’s one country where I could imagine living.

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Enough concerning my holiday. Films I’ve watched these months include the new version of Stephen King’s IT, which is my favourite book of his although there’s a whole section I would have deleted as both reader and writer. I didn’t realise the film would be told in two ‘Chapters’ and that another is coming in 2019, though this makes perfect sense when one knows the story takes place in two stages with the characters as children, and, later, as adults who discover they failed to vanquish the horror.

It’s refreshing to see a book featuring children treated this way. There’s a rule in the publishing industry most readers won’t even consider: if the protagonist is a child then the book is for children. This line has blurred owing to the popularity of Harry Potter, read and watched by more adults than kids or so it seems, and with many YA (Young Adult) books making it to the big screen. There are many excellent YA novels out there. When I was a teen no such genre existed: there were simply ‘books’ and while there were categories and age groups, largely one’s parents decided whether to police reading material. I confess I read King long before I should have, and my teen years were filled with Mills and Boons (it’s what the other girls were reading), the ‘classics’ (which had been part of my childhood), John Steinbeck, Stephen King, and James Herbert. There’s a reason my reading has always been, and remains, eclectic.

IT is undoubtedly a horror film. While I’ve a soft spot for the first try to put it on the screen back in 1990, mainly because of Tim Curry’s appearance as Pennywise, the book at last has the treatment it deserves. It’s decidedly creepy in places. Scary? Hard to say. Fright like many things is subjective and I struggle to choose a film or a book when I was last ‘scared’. Something unexpected might make me jump but that can happen in any genre. Films, books, any media that has made me peep into dark corners to check whether shadows are something more are rare. Still, I loved the creepiness of this version, particularly as the impression left by a book is difficult to transfer to screen. Reading is often far creepier than watching.

Other noteworthy (and one or two not) films would be Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman deserved recognition for his role as Churchill), a film I admired for the acting, and because it kept a war film interesting without turning it into another bombardment of huge explosions. The scenes are to do with what went on ‘behind’ the war and engaging. Victoria and Abdul is another instance of historical ‘dramatisation’ though I sense this one is with more liberty. Still, it’s interesting, and Judi Dench’s performances can seldom be faulted. Something we started and stopped after twenty minutes was The Brits Are Coming. Despite the well-known cast, it came across as chaotic and decidedly unfunny. Atomic Blonde was better than expected. Mostly we’ve been catching up with all 7 seasons of The Game of Thrones, the series and books I both recommend.

More next week where I’ll get to a few book titles…

Celebratory Gift for Flowers for the Gardener

THIS POST AND ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED. AS YOU CAN SEE (BELOW) MY WINNER WAS CHAD. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO STOPPED BY. THANKS FOR PERUSING THE SITE.

Take part in a Draw for a chance to receive this Gift as custom made by Enchanted Elegance to celebrate the release of my latest book. Entries to be made between the 21-30th April 2018 GMT.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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So…what do YOU have to do? Simple. Pop over to my page on JMS Books to find the answer to the question of how many titles I have on sale there (Note: count print and ebooks versions as two). Then pop the answer into Rafflecopter from the 21-30th (not in the comments). And, though not mandatory, do stop by to say hi. Let me know if you’ve read ‘any’ titles of mine you liked, and/or, if not, what genres you like to read.

***

When I signed a contract for Flowers for the Gardener (available for pre-order now) I immediately knew I wanted to offer a celebratory Gift. The only question was what. I popped along to Enchanted Elegance and got lost in the many pretty things. Hearts and flowers were an obvious choice but when I contacted the owner who offered to create a custom-made item, I did not envision something quite so lovely. But then I’m a writer, not a jewellery designer. On this occasion, I required someone else’s imagination to make what I wanted reality.

Though I cannot imagine Ethan giving Richard a bunch of flowers or vice versa (not with straight faces, anyway), I can picture the beautiful garden Ethan is capable of designing for them both to enjoy…if they get their act together and overcome the conflicts and vendettas they’ve clung to for far too long.

My sincere apologies. Because this item has been made in the United States and can only be posted within said country, the draw is open only to US entrants.

***

Warmhearted rich man’s son, Richard Gardener, needs to overcome three obstacles. To find a way the family business can run without him, help his mother cope with grief, and stop butting heads and other parts of his anatomy with the gardener.

Ethan Fields has worked for the family for many years. He’s struggling with debt, the desire to leave, and has loved Richard far longer than the man would believe. Ethan can cope with most things, but his anger with Richard’s mother won’t fade. Until that and his feelings over Richard are resolved, he feels trapped and, alas, the idea sex will get Richard out of his system isn’t working.

To make the situation worse, both assume too much, aren’t saying the right words, and Ethan’s offer of ‘just sex’ grows more complicated by the day. How can Richard and Ethan stop getting their wires crossed before their paths diverge?

1. Eligibility: This giveaway is open only to those who respond as requested at The Author’s website and only open to legal residents of United States of America, and is void where prohibited by law. Immediate family members of The Author are not eligible to participate.
2. Agreement to Rules: By participating, the Contestant (“You”) agree to be fully unconditionally bound by these Rules, and You represent and warrant that You meet the eligibility requirements. In addition, You agree to accept the decisions of the Draw as will take place on Rafflecopter as final and binding as it relates to the content of this Gift.
3. Period: Entries will be accepted online starting on 21 April 2018 GMT and ending close of day 30 April 2018 GMT. All online entries must be received by end of 30 April 2018 GMT. Rafflecopter will not accept entries outside of this time.
4. How to Enter: The giveaway must be entered by submitting an entry using the online form provided at The Author’s website. The entry must fulfill all requirements, as specified, to be eligible to win the gift. Entries that are incomplete or do not adhere to the rules or specifications may be disqualified at the sole discretion of The Author. You may enter only once. You must provide the information requested. You may not enter more times than indicated by using multiple email addresses, identities, or devices in an attempt to circumvent the rules. If You use fraudulent methods or otherwise attempt to circumvent the rules, your submission may be removed from eligibility at the sole discretion of The Author.
5. Giveaway: The selected participant (the “Winner”) will receive the necklace and earrings pictured, as created by, and supplied directly from Enchanted Elegance. The Gift is supplied by this 3rd party and should there be any unexpected and/or exceptional delay The Author reserves the right to substitute the Gift with a substitute of equal or greater value eg: book vouchers or credit from The Author’s publisher; this will only come into effect if the original Gift cannot be supplied owing to extenuating circumstances beyond The Author’s control. No cash or other prize substitution shall be permitted except at The Author’s discretion. The prize is nontransferable. Any and all prize-related expenses, including without limitation any and all federal, state, and/or local taxes, shall be the sole responsibility of Winner. No substitution of Gift or transfer/assignment of Gift to others or request for the cash equivalent by Winner is permitted. Acceptance of Gift constitutes permission for the author to use Winner’s name (or some form of identification eg: a nickname) for purposes of announcing the end of the Draw.
6. Odds: The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
7. Winner Selection and Notification: Winner will be selected by a random drawing. Winner will be notified by email within five (5) days (but likely sooner) following selection of Winner. The author shall have no liability for Winner’s failure to receive notices due to spam, junk e-mail or other security settings or for Winner’s provision of incorrect or otherwise non-functioning contact information. If Winner cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim the prize within five (5) days from the time gift notification was sent, the prize may be forfeited and an alternate Winner selected.
8. By entering this content, You represent and warrant that your entry is an original work of authorship, and does not violate any third party’s proprietary or intellectual property rights. If your entry infringes upon the intellectual property right of another, You will be disqualified at the sole discretion of The Author. If the content of your entry is claimed to constitute infringement of any proprietary or intellectual proprietary rights of any third party, You shall, at your sole expense, defend or settle against such claims. You shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless The Author from and against any suit, proceeding, claims, liability, loss, damage, costs or expense, which The Author may incur, suffer, or be required to pay arising out of such infringement or suspected infringement of any third party’s right.
9. Terms & Conditions: The Author reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Draw should virus, bug, non-authorized human intervention, fraud, or other cause beyond The Author’s control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, or proper conduct of the Draw. In such case, a Draw may be made from all eligible entries received prior to and/or after (if appropriate) the action taken by The Author. The Author reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or website or violates these Terms & Conditions. The Author has the right, in its sole discretion, to maintain the integrity of the Draw, to void votes for any reason, including, but not limited to: multiple entries from the same user.
10. Limitation of Liability: By entering, You agree to release and hold harmless The Author and its subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising and promotion agencies.

 

Flowers for someone…

When I signed a contract for Flowers for the Gardener I immediately knew I wanted to offer a celebratory giveaway for one lucky person. The only question was what. I popped along to Enchanted Elegance and got lost in the many pretty things. Hearts and flowers were an obvious choice but when I contacted the owner who offered to create a custom-made item, I did not envision something quite so lovely. But then I’m a writer, not a jewellery designer. On this occasion, I required someone else’s imagination to make what I wanted reality.

Though I cannot imagine Ethan giving Richard a bunch of flowers or vice versa (not with straight faces, anyway), I can picture the beautiful garden Ethan is capable of designing for them both to enjoy…if they get their act together and overcome the conflicts and vendettas they’ve clung to for far too long.

Coming end of April 2018. Check back next month on how to win!

(Note: this will be open to US entrants only as the item is in the US. My apologies.)

Warmhearted rich man’s son, Richard Gardener, needs to overcome three obstacles. To find a way the family business can run without him, help his mother cope with grief, and stop butting heads and other parts of his anatomy with the gardener.

Ethan Fields has worked for the family for many years. He’s struggling with debt, the desire to leave, and has loved Richard far longer than the man would believe. Ethan can cope with most things, but his anger with Richard’s mother won’t fade. Until that and his feelings over Richard are resolved, he feels trapped and, alas, the idea sex will get Richard out of his system isn’t working.

To make the situation worse, both assume too much, aren’t saying the right words, and Ethan’s offer of ‘just sex’ grows more complicated by the day. How can Richard and Ethan stop getting their wires crossed before their paths diverge?