Not the most sophisticated of inclusions but this is my latest acquisition. I got him at the Brecon Beacons National Park centre. One of those instances where this little guy seemed to shout, “Pick me, pick me!” And as a red welsh dragon was one thing my collection lacked and I wasn’t taken with any of the ornaments, I brought this one home with me.
OUT AND ABOUT:
Got away for a weekend which was a much-needed break and a test of my present health for which I coped well but not brilliantly. Saw the new and mostly disliked Tintagel bridge. A controversial topic to be sure. I won’t walk across it for three reasons, possibly four. On principal, because I want to use the old steps, and because it wouldn’t surprise me if it gave me vertigo. The possible fourth reason is I don’t trust it. Maybe more on that another time but for now, this is what the first section looks like. There will be a one and a half-inch gap between the two halves. Most locals and visitors seem to admit the design is out of keeping with the area and it cuts across the face in the rock often referred to as King Arthur’s face.
Watched AFTER LIFE written by and starring Ricky Gervais owing to recommendation. With his share of successes and failures, this series shows the best side of his personal take on life. Though, at first, one could be mistaken for thinking he’s portraying a horrid character, the truth is he’s merely saying a lot of things people think but don’t say, a flood of dislike and brutal honesty from someone who is
I also liked Netflix’s series, DEAD TO ME, because of the way they present the story with slow reveals in a non-chronological order, constantly twisting what you believe about the characters.
Please, Sir! Jack Sheffield
While it’s true, these books get a little repetitive, after reading a few it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the lives of those at Ragley School. Charming and touching,
The Living, Isaac Marion
The last in the Warm Bodies trilogy, a far superior Zombie novel that I would have loved to purchase in print to add to the two titles I already own. Alas, postage to the UK and import duties prohibited this (I purchased the ebook).
My favourite in the series is, and shall always remain, the first book, a title which perhaps says enough, but this takes the exploration further, giving us a beautiful, painful, and sad view of the world. These books are about so much more than a horde of walking dead — it’s about life, love, relationships, politics, society, racism, religion to name the most obvious, though I’m certain that to each the books will have something different to say. With each title the books grew darker in context. The writing felt poetic, at other times surreal, but always undoubtedly philosophical, which perhaps explains why the author has had to self-publish the third title. This is the most literary use of the zombie genre I’ve stumbled across, one that would be hard to exceed, and therefore publishers may have feared its lack of potentially purely commercial value.
I won’t deny moments where the story lost its grip on me, perhaps because each of the books has a decidedly different feel and the tone of the third was different to what I expected, but the way the author writes, the world he’s created, the intellectual significance behind the books are too eloquent to ignore. Though I enjoyed the last book the least, and it perhaps has some flaws, it completes an exceptional story arc, strong enough to be keepers for me.
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
When I started this my first thought was OMG (the protagonist) is Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) but while it’s difficult for fans of the show not to see the inevitable similarities, it didn’t (as some people have pointed out) put me off reading but added another layer of amusement to the read. There’s a love story here with a difference. Intelligent, witty, at times throwing a light on human interaction in a way standard romances might not, this book is often joyful to read. I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would though the ending seemed a little rushed, perhaps explained because the book has sequels. I kind of prefer this as a standalone read but, if not for my to-be-read mountain, I might consider perusing the other titles.
Educating Jack, Jack Sheffield
Another in the ongoing teacher
The Funhouse, Dean Koontz
A re-read as part of an attempted book clearance, this one was fun to revisit though in the worst way. I’ve said a few times that early Koontz books seem much of a product of the time in which he wrote them. The Funhouse, with its matriarch that would give Carrie’s mother a run for her money, and carnival monstrosities, is the most dated yet. This book is for those who like B-movies so bad they are good…which is exactly what this is as it’s the novelisation of a film of the same name, directed by Tobe Hooper. Never having seen the film I tracked down the trailer and even from the one and a half minutes of excerpts I can tell the book is better. Not a keeper for me but a nostalgic look back at 80s horror. Too much tell rather than show but my biggest complaint with the book is the lack of payoff. To me the conclusion was less than satisfactory and somewhat abrupt when taking the amount of backstory into account.
Finished a basic edit of an older work, which doesn’t sound like much but it’s in a shape for me to re-edit/rewrite should I now choose to. Off on a break soon and when back I plan on starting something new though I’m not sure in which genre. Also signed the contract for another Lethbridge-Stewart book, this one part of a spin-off set of books heavily featuring supporting characters. Mine features Anne Travis, (now Anne Bishop).
OUT AND ABOUT:
Got out to a knitting and wool fest, amazed by the number of people there but worth going if only to see the giant knitted dragon — not one I think I can add to my collection.
Dirk Gently has to be one of the strangest programmes we’ve watched but as they’re based on books by Douglas Adams, we had to look. He didn’t write as much as his success would have many believe and now, I must check out the books.
The last season of Game of Thrones began and we’re having to keep avoiding spoilers.
The Searching Dead, Ramsey Campbell
First in a trilogy I’m working my way through. More of a slower pace than many modern day novels plus the protagonist is a teenager, unusual in a horror story though some may like to call this more supernatural than horror. It’s certainly not horrific, more creepy with some touches of sadness — the older generations do not seem to fair well, from Mrs Norris missing her deceased husband, to Mr Noble’s father and his dark memories of war. While I would have liked to discover more about the strange haunting presences (can’t say more without giving too much away), this is the foundation for a hoped-for deeper story. The setting makes for a nostalgic read, both good and bad, and I particularly felt the helplessness of being young and having no one believe or even listen to fears unfounded or otherwise.
Born to the Dark, Ramsey Campbell
In the best sense this book is an exercise in frustration. Carrying on the story begun in The Searching Dead but now several years in the future when the protagonist is now an adult encountering the strange Christian Noble again. The threat, now largely aimed at his son, Dom is still unable to shake off the vexation of having no one believe him, least of all his wife. With more of insight to the great overall peril, a deeper mystery dragging Dom and his family and his friends into an impossible darkness…I hope the third book in this trilogy has the payoff the series deserves.
The Way of the Worm, Ramsey Campbell
First, I have to draw attention to the cover on this one. The more one delves into the story the more I realised how well suited the cover design is. The eyes grew creepier the more I progressed with the plot. Where the first of this trilogy portrayed the protagonist, Dominic Sheldrake, as a teenage, the second an adult, the third instalment enters his twilight years, which reflects the semidarkness that has plagued his life. His son is now an adult, but this only exacerbates both Dominic’s fears and the frustration the reader shares. The result convenes on a colossal scale and, if any parts of the tale come across as vague, or dreamlike, or illusory this fits with the tale we’ve followed, the half-truths and semi-falsehoods Dominic continues to battle. This reads as a modern Lovecraftian tale of a warped universe and fragile dimensions of tenuous existence. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the disquieting subtle horror.
The Silence, Tim Lebbon
An excellent apocalyptic thriller, well plotted and disturbing, tugging the heartstrings in all the right places. The simple writing does nothing to reduce the tension but makes this accessible for most ages from young adult to adult in part because the story is told by two main protagonists, father and daughter. The Netflix film based on the book does not do the book any justice.
Finished editing Cosmic but needs a lot more work if I’m ever to salvage it. Undecided as of this moment. Edited more short work.
You’d have to spare 10 minutes for this but this video dealing with information for writers on promotion goes a long way to explain what it takes to be successful these days. Though aimed at self-publishing the same applies for any writer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.