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

A Lovely Month

I skipped last week’s blog but hope I’ll be forgiven as I was away for a break in Pembrokeshire in Wales enjoying what has surprised us all: a gorgeous autumn. There are warnings that with the roses still in bloom and some days feeling like summer we’ll pay for it with a harsh winter. As there’s nothing we can do to alter whatever is in store, I’ve been enjoying every moment with long walks in forests and on beaches, with some clambering about the occasional castle thrown in.

Continuing my autumn celebration here’s another little poem, this time an Haiku entitled Rust. Although the word is most associated with a type of decay it’s the perfect description of the colour of some of the leaves on the tree and notes a decomposition that creates one of our most lovely seasons.

September 2018 update

A breeze through September…

OUT AND ABOUT:
The weather forecasters got it wrong one weekend meaning we went out on the worst day where we would have felt more at home in an ark than a car. That was one Saturday. The Sunday was supposed to be worse, so we were wondering how much worse it could be so, naturally, the sun came out. This meant we at least got work done in the garden clearing out the Strawberry bed, which had seemed like a good idea but turned out not so much. They spread far too easily. There’s more work to do in that area but at least we made a good start. Gardens are organic in more ways than one. Some plants are planted in error.

We also visited our now nearest IKEA, which proved simple to get to, but take my advice. If you intend to have a meal there if asked, “Do you want peas?” it’s a definite no. Not until we got to the till did we realise they weren’t included in the meal and at 50p a scoop I can do without. The meatballs… everyone said, “You’ve got to try the meatballs at IKEA.” We’ve heard this recommendation so often we thought, fine, we’ll try the meatballs (I believe you can also buy these in bags to take home). Well, they taste exactly the same as the ready-cooked meatballs you can buy in Lidl or Aldi, only theirs are better. Just be warned. And if you have an IKEA family card, you’re no longer considered ‘family’ on the weekend so no free drink. That’s changed, too, though some drinks come with free refills for everyone. I might stop for a drink if shopping and desperate but I won’t eat there again.

TELEVISION:
Nothing much to report film wise this month. We’re watching the Marvel films in order. Seen them all more than once but never in the order intended. We watched the last few episodes of Jonathan Creek and began ‘Touch’ starring Kiefer Sutherland. The pilot was well conceived though the format seems a little compressed in the second episode. An interesting idea where a widower learns his son’s autism is a rare ability where numbers connect patterns of seemingly unrelated people. There were only two seasons and I hope we stick with this but I can understand why it was cancelled —  an amazing idea that may be difficult to maintain to a high standard and enduring interest.

READING:
Between, Clarissa Johal
I love this writer’s work. I feel her stories deserve a place in a far larger market. Her imagination cannot be faulted, though I’m sometimes left feeling her books are one edit or two away from being perfect. I found Between to be a little disjointed and the ending felt a little rushed compared to the rest of the pacing but as always, a bright spark of an idea and powerful imagination is at the heart of the story.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote
A perfect example of how different a film can feel from the book it’s based on. Hepburn’s performance and the alterations made for the screen gave Holly Golightly a pained aspect to her existence that doesn’t seem to so readily come across in the book. While I can admire it as a classic work and well-written, I found none of the characters likeable, not that I found them much better in the film, but they showed a few saving graces that seems lacking in the narrative.

Toast, Nigel Slater
Nigel Slater’s memoir told around the meals he shared with his family may be unique in its style and the childhood’s remembrances of joy at the simple pleasures instilled by food. For anyone of a certain age it will spike the memory, and for those too young to know what people used to eat it will be a history lesson told with real humour. His recollection of the dreaded crates of (often warm) yucky milk that would arrive at school is one I share, only had it been me made to stand at the front of the class until I drank it all, I would have happily stood there all day rather than even make the attempt. It’s hard to believe we used to consume even half these things, even more difficult to believe some still exist. Along with stories of how children caught diseases such as measles and mumps (not in the book but when one child caught something, the others were sent round to make sure they caught it too so they all got it over and done with) with no talk of vaccinations may sound shocking now, but was a commonplace occurrence then. Some memories are told with the innocent callousness only a child can muster; as an adult Slater has said he regretted being so harsh, but I think it’s forgivable as these are childhood recollections not tempered with time and understanding, more real for all that.

Monsters, Emerald Fennell
A book I picked up in a charity bin with a few others, I think this one caught my eye because it’s set in Fowey. I believed it to be a children’s book because of the ‘golden rule’ in publishing that if a book’s main protagonist is a child, the book is for children. With that in mind this black comedy first struck me as surprising. I thought this would be a story about two children who commit murder, not murders that captured their interest leading them on a downward spiral that seems to more often delight them than scare them or bring about the ‘change’ most plots put in place for their protagonists. It’s surprisingly funny in places, well-plotted and worked out. I’m uncertain the tone quite sat well with me for 13-year-olds. At times, some of their vocabulary seemed too sophisticated, at other times their behaviour too immature, but I’ve only personal experience on which to base my assessment and others may feel differently. This is an entertaining quick read, sort of like a child’s book for adults. As for two children you wouldn’t want to meet (the tagline), I couldn’t help thinking I wouldn’t want to meet any of the adults either. I’m happy to say I’ve come across none of these characters in Fowey.

WRITING:

My longing-to-work-on Dark Fiction novel has taken yet another back seat. This seems to be the year of getting side-tracked. When asked to take part in a series of any kind the writer faces dreaded deadlines. There are other times in publishing but when commissioned, I’m feeling those are the worse deadlines of all. I had to stop what I was doing to write a book proposal and, as I’m mostly a pantser (stories come often as if I’m reading a book), I had to do a little writing to get going. This is opposite to most fiction publications where the writer must finish the book before submission (factual books work a different way). With the big six publishers a writer may then be commissioned to write another two books, so it’s a three book contract, but often it’s a one book at a time deal — the finished article put forward for consideration. This time I had to work out a story beforehand — a job more suited to writers who prefer to pre-plot.

I also ended up editing an older work for re-release to which I’m adding a third title and turning three novellas into one full-length work. And there was all the paperwork that goes with the submission: the blurb, the cover art request form etc. I also polished off a longer short story I hoped a publisher could make use of. More on all this as and when. And there‘s another short story I’m still not in a position to discuss. For now, this month, the re-release of my LGBT romance ‘A Not So Hollow Heart’ happened, re-edited and with about 3000 words added.

Roses, roses, everywhere

Once a year for several years we’ve visited RHS Rosemoor in June when the roses are in bloom. Technically, the season lasts until the end of July but we’ve always found June a good time. We’re a bit later than usual this year but there was still much to see. The question was one of which photos to share:

Though we’ve not many and nothing like these fabulous flowers I do wish there was such a thing as sharing fragrance online as I would love to be able to share one of our latest roses with you. Roses can smell like ‘true’ rose, or they can have hints of coconut, melon, even tobacco. This climber is in it’s first year. Will love to see it when more established.

Velkommen til Norge!

I’ve been missing in action, mostly because I’ve been out of the country, and then, when I did return, I spent several days running to catch up. I have…almost. Definitely by next week if not before the end of this, I’ll return to my WIP. For now I’m editing a story for a re-release end of this year.

But let’s get back to why I neglected to blog the last three weeks. Blame these little beings:

That’s a Norwegian Troll, this one flying the flag outside of a souvenir shop in Hellesylt. It’s difficult to move more than a few streets without spotting one of these beasties in their various forms. If you’re looking for something to bring home these pop up everywhere. Most people seem to love them or loathe them (I heard one woman say on this trip, “Such big noses; I just don’t get it.”) Maybe to ‘get it’ you need to look back into Norse Mythology but there’s no question the Norwegian people have taken Trolls to their hearts. We’re told daylight turns them to stone so all those mountains in Norway are Trolls taken unaware by the sun.

Trolls or not, there’s nothing quite so breathtaking as the scenery. It’s a place I’ve visited more than once and hope to do so again. Here’s a lovely photo of the mirror-image type it’s possible to take on the lakes in the beautiful area of Stryn. The mountains may or may not be trolls but this kind of landscape makes me want to believe in all possibilities.

Velkommen til Norge! Welcome to Norway.

Images: (c) Sharon Bidwell

To the Moon and Back

I’d like to introduce you to an artist.

Last summer friends took us on a long drive out for the day along the top of the North Devon coast. Our main destination was Dunster Castle, but we wandered and meandered for a long stretch of the coastal highway. One of our stop off points was Lynmouth, a place I hadn’t visited for more years than I can remember. There I discovered Maurice Bishop and wanted one of his paintings at first glance. Not until several weeks later did I return to buy one, my most difficult decision, which one to choose.

Maurice speaks of being in a perfect location for a creative environment and he’s not wrong. The wild and rugged terrain of Exmoor with deep valleys of wood and moorland skirted by the sea is a walker’s paradise.

There’s no need to travel to enjoy Maurice’s work as he has an online gallery, though it’s not a delightful as wandering around his labyrinth of a shop with new delights at every turn. With our grey/blue themed living room and my favourite colour being red I had to choose one from his Red Trees in the Moonlight Collection. After a long deliberation we chose To the Moon and Back and it is now looking fine on our wall.

As much as I love his more contemporary paintings, the traditional works were difficult to pass by and I have my eye on at least one. I wouldn’t refuse this one of Clovelly but I’m undecided.. I’ll happily pop into his shop when that way again to buy some of his wonderful scenes on cards to send to friends, if nothing else. It’s a good thing I have only so much wall space.

Want to play Chicken?

Living in the countryside is not all joy. One thing I’ve had to come to terms with is the degree of roadkill, most of which are pheasants. Trust me, they are not the brightest of creatures. A friend once hit one and rang to tell me the accident had killed the car’s radiator and decapitated the bird. Said friend stressed his unhappiness. My reply was, “I’m sure the bird wasn’t too happy either.”

At the time I didn’t understand how they ‘pop out’ onto the road. It’s amazing and heart-stopping. Blink and you’d miss it, might not even know you’d hit something or what. If you make eye contact, the bird blinks back and ignores the tonnage of metal bearing down on it as if its never been startled and has the assurance of immortality the like of which humans only dream.

Yes, I’ve visited the countryside many times, but when it’s a holiday, we choose the best of weathers; maybe we never came when there were many pheasants about, or maybe we never stayed where they were so prevalent. In one small stretch of road a few weeks ago we counted at least 10 dead pheasants, all recently killed. While I believe many drivers need to slow down and stop over-taking (particularly on blind spots — I never realised how dangerous driving in the countryside can be, road-wise, until living here), there are moments when killing an innocent animal going about its business cannot be avoided, of course. This happens in towns, but it’s the sheer number of dead things we’ve seen that’s eye-opening. We slowed for a pheasant the other week and had drivers staring at us as if to ask why. My question is, why not? Accidents happen but if we can avoid an animal without danger to ourselves or anyone else, we will. It’s called compassion and respect, a thing lacking in all society. Quite a few pheasants owe their continued existence to my husband’s keen driving. The closest we’ve come was to push one along as it tried at the last second to fly away. We stopped; it continued across the road…though I’d be surprised if it didn’t have a bruise or two.

As for the tradition of the Boxing Day hunt, we’re told by laughing locals that’s an excuse for those who take part to have an annual ‘p***-up’. Before anyone objects and contacts me to dispute this or in anger, these are not my words but the words of those whom I don’t know, have lived here far longer than I have and were likely even born here. Doesn’t throw a better light on the hunt even if it alters perspective. I’m also informed by these same folks that the ‘rule’ with pheasants is if you do run one over, you can’t stop and go back to pick it up, but the person behind can have it. I’m guessing this is to stop people running them down on purpose.

And as for altering viewpoints, let’s link back to the friend and the radiator.To those who are in so much of a hurry that the risk of hitting a wild animal doesn’t make the driver take it just a little bit slower…the damage and expense to the car proved extensive; all because of a pheasant. Imagine what the damage could be if it were a deer. Might be an accident from which nothing walks away. Now does anyone want to play chicken?