Update March 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

Slowly gathering the supplies we need for the garden. Plants ordered. Have one more thing to track down and buy. Now we depend on the weather; however, as the world reopens after Easter, we’ll be staying home for the foreseeable future. If we go out for a walk, we’ll be playing things safe and certainly not even considering going abroad until 2023, being sadly realistic. Still, we’ve enough to do in and around the house… and I would love to get in the garden over Easter, but it looks as if winter will be back by then. Don’t mind it cold, but don’t relish working in the pouring rain.

FILM/TV:

We’re still watching The Black List and Resident Alien as episodes appear. Tuned into the few appearing episodes of The Walking Dead. Really, this series has carried on too long, but having stuck with it this long, with one season to go and one film, it seems a waste not to finish. I’ve read all the graphic novels.

Continuing with Black Mirror and it’s still not disappointing, and reaching the end of the comedy show, Community. I’d watched the first season of Virgin River, but not the second, so now we’re watching it all together. If I lived in a place with that kind of scenery, I think I’d cry, especially during a pandemic.

Irresistible, a film starring Steve Carell is an open look at politics which turned out to be far better than we expected. Highly recommend. We also sat through all of almost 4 hours of the Snyder cut of Justice League. Definitely better than the far more humorous theatrical cut, though to be fair they called Joss Whedon in the last minute to take Zack Snyder’s place; as much as I like Whedon’s work, and although the CGI still isn’t the best, it’s much more gratifying to see Snyder’s take.

READING:

The Duke and the Lady in Red, Lorraine Heath

Not the usual book I read, I picked this up on a friend’s recommendation and found myself pleasantly surprised. I can see some readers might complain about certain aspects, but this is historical romance for a modern audience so political correctness or errors of the era (and I’m not attesting whether there are any) will be toyed with for entertainment, much as the protagonists Rosalind and Avendale toy with each other. Their misconceptions and mutual attractions are well-played, but it was the perhaps unlikely but heartwarming way in which the story treats Harry that provided the greatest emotional impact. Alas, there’s no way to explain why without spoilers.

Twilight Eye, Dean Koontz

A re-read as part of a book clearance. When I started this, I couldn’t even recall reading it the first time around. The author rarely writes in first person, and perhaps this is why. The idea of someone with a second sight which allows them to see the ‘goblins’ among us starts off well, and overall is a decent book. Alas, it feels as though it goes on too long within a few pages, possibly to the sometimes enjoyable, sometimes eye-glazing descriptions. There are a lot of subtexts to this story of resistance to the evil among us, a perfect analogy of the evil in humans. Too much, perhaps, another of its faults. There’s meaning here that’s ultimately lost in what feels like an overly long book to get the point across. The book works as an allegory to human behaviour, particularly in how we treat each other, but doesn’t especially tell us anything new. The book suffers from excess. Well worth reading once, but not to revisit.

Malorie, Josh Malerman

The end of Bird Box led me to believe this book would take an entirely different route, that the reader would learn about a different section of Malorie’s life than the one in this sequel’s pages. That the story is so unlike what I expected isn’t a bad thing, making this tale a complete surprise. We continue to follow Malorie and the children, now grown, and inescapable hope in the bleakest of times. Malerman hits an emotional tone in this book that feels deeper than the one in Bird Box, driving Malorie on to face danger at the moment in her existence when she has even more to lose. Like most great suspense stories, both these books are not about the monsters, but those who struggle to survive against the odds.

Lassie Come Home, Eric Knight

What can be said of this original classic? Some situations In this book may strike younger generations as strange if they don’t know their history. The way of life, the cruelty, women’s work being very much a part of the home, but the only real warning this book requires for animal and dog lovers, is a box of tissues required. A beautiful keepsake featuring one of the most famous dogs of all time.

Finders, Keepers, Stephen King

Although Hodges doesn’t feature so heavily in this second book of the trilogy, each containing separate, tenuously linked stories, I preferred this to the first. Perhaps because the subject is an obsessed reader. Not only a more than decent thriller, this entire story is a disquieting examination of obsession. Though fiction is a way to explore the actual world, this throws an uneasy light on the reader/writer relationship, questioning expectation vs dictatorship of the writer’s imagination.

The Castrato and His Wife, Helen Berry

A fascinating factual account of Tenducci and his bride, Dorothea Maunsell, this is not only a great insight to the life of a castrato and those responsible for the mutilation of young boys (unsurprisingly, in part the church), but a peek into the influence of opera on London and the lives of women back in the 1700s. Perhaps most amazing is the rebellious and staunch Dorothea during a time when a modern audience might expect a woman of that age to cower in fear. History may look at her two ways, either conniving or resourceful, the lengths women needed to go to in order to have any control of their lives, being the property of a man, either that of their fathers or husbands. It also throws a light on society of the time, revealing an inclination to live above one’s means even with the threat of debtor’s prison. Well, written and engaging, there are many reasons to read this book.

Slade House, David Mitchell

A house that only appears every 9 years with two of the strangest ‘ghosts’ ever sounds like the recipe for a true scare, but I never found this book frightening. The story’s told in 9 year breaks by each consecutive visitor, and like the one who believes she’s on a drug-induced trip, that’s how much of this book came across. Perhaps a little too surreal for me with too many obscure references in parts, though nothing that stops you from understanding the basis of what’s happening. Still, there’s something persuasive about the story and the writing which acts like glue. I’ve heard it’s a companion piece to The Bone Clocks, and as I’ve not read that, perhaps it’s why this fell short for me; alas, this didn’t entice me to pick it up the other novel (maybe one day but not immediately). Much of Mitchell’s writing has a dreamlike quality that pulls me in both directions, offering both something fascinating and yet inexplicable, leaving me uncertain as to my level of like/dislike. I guess the best word I have for this is intriguing.

WRITING:

I finished re-editing and adding to an older book and would have subbed it already had I not run into a word processing issue, namely that Mac’s current edition of Pages has a problem changing straight quotes to curly quotes after the writing. In Word (or Scrivener), you can do a simple search and replace, and the programme alters both forward and backward quotes in the right way. In Pages it makes them all face the same way so that half of them are wrong. So, I need to transfer the file to the Window’s computer and deal with this issue first. Then I’m going to work on a new idea.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Update January 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

As it’s still lockdown and you’re not meant to go further than your immediate town, we’ve got exercise from walking round what are some rather bleak roads this time of year, and for far too short walks up on our meagre bit of common. We realised the other day there is one garden we can reach and use our RHS membership to only pay for one of us, but it’s not our favourite and particularly not this time of year. This weekend just gone was miserable with icy rain. We’ve decided to make the best of this continued lockdown by giving our dining room a slight makeover, which only comprises painting two walls, and moving some furniture around. Maybe I’ll tell you the exciting details next month. Yes, that’s sarcasm. We may appreciate the necessity of staying in, but it wears thin on those of us even obeying the rules with the best intentions.

I’ve also had a few days struggling with pain. One of those days when acupuncture needles start looking good, even though I’m not going right now because of the Covid situation, and because it seems a bit of a waste trying when I don’t need to go out as have no one to visit and no travelling allowed. I’ve felt like a bouncing ball these days, which when you have to live with pain is understandable. I’m thinking there are few life lessons greater than living with pain. Focuses you on what’s important. So far, doing a little better as we roll into February. Missing a couple of friends as I could so do with a good vent, and I know they could, too.

FILM/TV:

We got through season one of Fortitude, a British horror psychological thriller television series the first season of which first aired in January 2015. Set in a fictional Arctic Norwegian settlement of Fortitude, I found the first series often beautiful in terms of scenery, very watchable, well-plotted, an eco warning in the sub-plot, with my only criticism being too many characters seem to suffer from the terminable illness of TSTL (Too Stupid Too Live). On to season two next.

Been watching a lot of old films at the weekends, like westerns or thrillers. Just watched Once Upon a Time in the West. You can see where Tarantino picked up ideas from. I’m fairly sure he’s mentioned work like this in the past, but even if he hadn’t, it’s definitely the same vibe. Also, made me think of my aunt who loved a) Doug McClure (got a signed photo from him and an invitation to drop by his place if she was ever nearby; alas, she never had the chance), b) Charlton Heston, and c) Charles Bronson (who is in this film).

READING:

How to Stop Time, Matt Haig

Sometimes you come across books with emotional meaning and theme tightly woven into the narrative, and this is one of them. Time is the enemy. Time is our friend. Maybe we don’t need to be told that (I see some reviews that seem to find this preachy), but I can’t help thinking we do (need reminding) in this modern world where we waste so much of it, and Matt Haig reminds us of what’s important superbly. The historical parts are vivid and highlight the stupidity of what we deem to be so important now. And I felt there was so much more to Tom’s life and experiences that we can alas only glimpse for the purpose of the story. The only flaw for me is I would have liked to have seen more page time spent between Tom and his modern day love interest. The book lacked the depth of love needed to make Tom want to live; his love for his daughter felt more real and a greater motivation, so if you’re looking for a hidden love story, it’s only vaguely there. Still, this is a superb book.

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson

I really wish I could love this ‘Groundhog Day’ reflections of a life. Alas, it took me close to 300 pages to care about Ursula in any deep way, possibly because this is the page mark where the reader has the privilege of the longest (so far in the book at this point) chapter of her life without a restart. This happened at least three times — moments where I became engrossed only to get jerked away. Admittedly, there are joys and delight amongst the pages, and I cannot fault the writing or research, although the style is rather distinct in a way that doesn’t particularly appeal to me. Neither do I fault the author’s reasons for writing this novel, as detailed in the author’s footnotes at the end of the book. This may be for anyone who wants to ‘experience’ a historical reflection of English country life and wartime, of which this gives a real flavour. But sadly for me I felt this was time lost, reading a story that seems rather pointless other than several ‘what if’ snippets of life with no conclusions. Odd, how a book can be both excellent yet unsatisfactory, but that’s the only way I can refer to this. I have another book by this author featuring a character from this book, but though I’ve tried, I’m not sure I will read it.

Last of the Wilds, Book Two Age of the Five, Trudi Canavan

The second book in a trilogy, which I prefer over the first. This book is tough to review without giving major plot points away. Where the first book appeared to deal with a direct story of good vs evil, the second book has more layers, complicating the plot in excellent ways, making the reader ask the same questions as many characters come to debate. I often reserve 5 out of 5 scores only for books I adore and cannot stand to part with, but this book escalates the tale in book 1 to a new and more satisfying level. Whereas when I finished Book 1, I mostly delved into the second book out of curiosity, I now need to read the last of the trilogy to learn the outcome. With one or two perfect twists, I’ve enjoyed this much more than I expected to. An excellent blend of religion, and politics, and the dangerous quality of blind faith.

Incubus, Joe Donnelly

The first book I’ve read by Joe Donnelly, but it won’t be my last. Though distasteful things happen to women in this book, without them the story wouldn’t work. One might call this the ultimate in evil child tales, but it passes beyond into true monster territory. For some, the book may feel too long, but the strength comes from the inexorable build. The power comes from the writing, the sustained sense of menace, which creeps under the skin and into the mind. A brilliant idea for the horror genre, expertly executed.

The Door to December, Dean Koontz

Re-read as part of a hoped-for book clearance, though often listed as a horror writer, Koontz is really a supernatural thriller author. I’ve heard some complain about many of his recent books (of which I’m behind on), but it’s too easy to forget some of his old works are superb. Whether you like his work, many are well-plotted, well-written, create tension with simple sentences, and get in more than enough character development. Those who know about story structure can see in which books it shines out. Alas, the surprise twist is terribly simple to work out, and the ending, after a long but absorbing journey, seems to happen too fast. Still worth reading.

WRITING:

Well, I just finished the edit/partial rewrite of what I wanted to complete in January and in time for the last weekend. I’ll shelve it a little while now, but I think it’s okay to republish. I know it’s a lot of work but I’ve learned so much and changed my writing so much it does me a disservice not to improve things where I can. I know that’s not much news for now, but I am picking things up.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Update Dec 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

Though it would usually be our year at home, anyway, considering everything happening we stayed in. If nothing else, we expected the long trip we would have to take becoming gridlock, and I did not cherish the thought of stopping in motorway services for a break. The shops heaving have been bad enough. Then, of course, the rules changed and we couldn’t have made such a long trip to relatives in a day. Have spent a long, relaxed, peaceful time at home together, the only downside has been the almost constant rain, gusting winds from storm Bella, and waking up to a smattering of snow, quickly melting.

FILM/TV:

I thoroughly recommend Netflix’s Night on Earth series. I have relatives no longer here who would have cried to view such outstanding photography. Also, the more you learn about the planet and the creatures we share this world with, the little you realise you know. For writers everywhere, strange and wonderful creatures don’t have to be alien. They are right here.

We started the Christmas watching rundown with Netflix’s Jingle Jangle, a fine example of the quality viewing the service provides and why it’s giving other filmmakers migraines. We followed this with both films in The Christmas Chronicles. And watched all our seasonal favourites, of course.

I picked up a cheap copy of How Green Was My Valley on Blu-ray and cannot recommend it enough in a cleaned-up version. It’s like never having seen it before and a story I cannot help but love. Have also been watching an old British television series, Life on Mars, about a man hit by car catapulted in reality or his imagination back to the 70s. The series is full of nostalgia, both good and bad, especially a reminder of how sexist society was back then.

READING:

The Complete Tales of Edgar Allan Poe

I began The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe back in May 2019, an enormous book I’ve had awhile and, as I thought, it took me ages to get through. Very much a book I intended to dip in and out of over several months. Many hidden gems here, though I have to say the reason his most loved and best-known poem is The Raven shines out. The cadence and emotional response it invokes never ceases to impress. In the story section, the first touch of the true Poe I know came with his story Berenice. The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether has to be one of the oddest tales in the book, aided by a modern day imagination. Once again, the reason his best-known works stand out becomes clear, for they are the most compelling. Yet if you think you know all there is to know about Poe in things macabre, think again. Some of his stories are light, even possibly satirical and intended to be humorous. It feels sacrilegious to give Poe less than 5 stars, but I have to be honest. Some work I adored, some I liked, and some I hated. As someone who has always been a great admirer of classics, even I struggled when the content failed to hold my attention. But there are many gems here, and one has to recognise Poe’s talent and influence, so I’m glad to have read through to pay homage to an amazing body of memorable work.

Dan Leno & The Limehouse Golem, Peter Ackroyd

I like how each chapter within the book jumps from one perspective to another, told in various styles. Alas, the parts that were far more tell than show made portions of the book less interesting, in particular because some information made me feel as though I was undergoing a lesson. I also feel having previously seen the film somewhat diminished my experience. Still, this is a wonderfully woven Victorian melodrama, perfectly historically blended. Both an excellent book and film, but not one needs to revisit.

The Other, Thomas Tryon

I’ve only read one other book by Thomas Tryon, many years ago, loved it, and still own. So I thought it way past the time I read another. I’d heard good things about The Other, and overall this is excellent. The trouble stems perhaps from the dated feeling of both the writing, setting, and how distanced a modern audience often is from subconscious scares. I wouldn’t categorise this as horror, though for those who like evil child stories, this undoubtedly deserves to be a classic. The construction that will meet with dislike from some was ingenious at the time it was written and remains good today. Most profoundly, a subtle unease exists within the pages that creeps into the mind. Unfortunately, the surprises didn’t feel all that big; again, perhaps because a modern audience is harder to shock.

Black Mad Wheel, Josh Malerman

While reading this I didn’t feel I was reading horror, more a dark thriller, yet as I neared the end I realised how insidious the horror is. This is a story of what happens to a man thrown in at the deep end, morally abandoned, and used. The novel reads as a multilayered allegory; much of Malerman’s work seems to. For me, this one perhaps tries to illuminate the futility of war. I couldn’t help a rather bleak thought at one point, that the only way to stop war was to kill everyone. Readers who like crystal clear details and simple endings may find this writer’s work is not for them, but like poetry or a song, it leaves some details for self-interpretation. Still, the second part feels like no ‘part’ at all, and over too fast considering the tremendous buildup. Despite this, and some question left hanging, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins

One book that defies description. Though it has dark elements, it’s not listed as horror but as fantasy, but I cannot help feeling it’s all these things with a blend of an intellectual type of bizarro fiction. This is one book that acts as a lesson to writers everywhere, not to worry about reining in their imagination. Disbelief needs shelving. I couldn’t help feeling the opening section is almost designed to throw the reader off balance, though whether this was the author’s intention, it’s impossible to tell. The rest of the book is an easier if peculiar read, giving just enough away to hook the reader from beginning to end. For every revelation, there are bigger questions hanging over the story. Towards the end I felt the book (for me) was essentially about the pain of sacrifice (there’s a lot of pain throughout), though, like poetry is open to individual interpretation. I found it compelling and haunting despite being fantastical and confusing. This has to be one of the strangest books I’ve ever read, yet that’s why it’s amazing and completely unforgettable.

WRITING:

I came across a wonderful comment praising the Lethbridge-Stewart series of novels, and mentioning that my book, The Shadowman, evoked very strong emotions in one reader. Stunned me, frankly. A multi-authored series is hard work but lovely as ever to hear some readers find the effort worthwhile.

I’ve been doing some relaxed editing with a view to releasing an older work, editing that’s turned mostly into rewriting. Sometimes it’s a shock to realise how much you’ve improved.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Update Oct 2020

Hi Everyone!
AT HOME:
I didn’t blog last week, too involved with a major sort out and tidy up in the house and the garage. I think this was in part to take my mind off things, but it also proved more exhausting than expected. It’s what comes of climbing up and down steps and lugging boxes around. The garage also has some pretty large spiders.

Not much in the way of walks to report and now we’re all in for another lockdown.

FILM/TV:
Been watching a few comedy series, and some horror films for October. Bit of juxtaposition, but suited my mood. Tried the BBC series, Ghost, and am in two minds. Quite dry humour, with a childish bent; the series really interested me because it’s so similar to something I wrote as a child. Of course, the characters and outcomes were different. My writing wouldn’t have been up to scratch, and I never completed it, but the inherited house full of ghosts and only the woman can see them was so my idea. I remember writing it in an old school textbook.

Though it received a love/loathe response from many I enjoyed The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix, not that I didn’t have issues with it. Not truly scary, it’s mostly a bittersweet love story. I had problems with at least one plot point (spoiler alert), namely what happened to the ghost that the principal character took with her? He served a purpose to give her a reason for taking the job, trying to start anew, and to let us know she could see ghosts, but then he vanished from the story to serve no other purpose. At one point, I thought he might have helped save her from one of the other ghosts, but the creators completely overlooked this possibility.

READING:
Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff
I love books that blend genres surprisingly. With richly portrayed characters and a real feel of both fantastical magic, and the more frightening and bitter horror of racism, the historical setting adds an uneasy depth that’s all too realistic. My one criticism is that I felt a little detached from the true cruelty of the era, and would have liked more emotional insight to the characters’ feelings; saying that, it’s all too easy to fill in the blanks. The book is easy to read in a series of individual but linked stories with a noir pulp feel running through them. (Side note: the book is not the same as the series, with a subtle tone down of the magic and mayhem, and with less blatant sex.)

The Witcher: The Lady of the Lake, Andrzej Sapkowski
As this is the last of an 8 book read I committed to, I was looking forward to this. Felt a little disappointed at the start. Ironically, one character close to the start of the book states she doesn’t like legends that mix fables with reality. While we can hardly quote tales of King Arthur as reality they are of our world, and I’ve always preferred The Witcher to exist completely apart, not linked to famous myths and legends as we know them. The book also felt somewhat padded, but there are plenty of personal stories, and fabulous, bitter and sweet endings. Without spoilers, the most I can say is the conclusion felt a little nebulous, but the story of Ciri, Yennifer, and Gerait is a journey worth travelling.

Disappearance at Devils Rock, Paul Tremblay
An author who writes in his own style and created his own genre bridging the supernatural and real life paranoia. Horror? I’m not sure I would categorise his novels in that genre, but horror covers such a wide spectrum these days. Sometimes his work has a Young Adult flavour, but then as many of his characters are teens or children, this is fine. This novel sums up a mother’s terror over her missing child well, yet the true horror here comes from the way Tremblay captures the flavour of social media, and journalism, the criticism and blame aimed at victims.

Relics, Tim Lebbon
I’m a little torn with this book. On the one hand, I love the human characters, Angela, Vince, even Fat Frederick, but when this seeming thriller becomes supernatural, the reader must completely suspend belief to accept the magical world surviving in the shadows around London. Unfortunately, I think other writers have done that better, which isn’t to lessen this book. It’s urban fantasy with believable characters, an array of villains, and a sometimes blurred line between good and evil. I enjoyed the read, but I did not realise this was a series and I’m uncertain it’s hooked me enough to continue.

The Troop, Nick Cutter
I would have finished this book sooner had time allowed; I didn’t want to put it down. At first, I wasn’t sure of the narrative. Being that the plot involved teenage boys, much of the tone expressed that initially, but then as things progressed so did the style grow more lyrical and tighter, edging along the sense of well-constructed doom. Scary? Yes, owing to the subject alone, the sense that one day this or similar could happen under humankind’s egotistical restructuring of the natural world. This is an amazing book. I’ve seen negative reviews and understand the dislike of animal abuse portrayed, but sometimes it’s necessary to reflect reality. Even then the story is painfully sad, making the reader feel for these boys. Other negatives, I don’t understand as there’s little point moaning about extremes when reading horror, as long as it fits the story without be gratuitous. The various personalities build a rich tapestry of human nature, good and bad. For me, the book ends on a perfect note.

WRITING:
I’m in the last quarter of the draft for my horror novel. Not that I’m anywhere near finished. I’ve been getting many more ideas I want to incorporate, and it won’t surprise me if the book ends up being longer than I expected. This book is important to me and I won’t rush it just to get it done, but I will shelve it, and work on something else next, likely around the end of the year.

Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Update Sept 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

We got out for two walks and spent some time planning others where we can keep to ourselves as much as possible. The garden earned a little attention, even though spider season started, and I’m still dabbling with artwork with lots of ideas. And we learned they’re getting round to at long last laying tarmac on some local roads, but apparently with no regard to waste collection getting through. Oh joy!

FILM/TV:

We finished Season 1 and 2 of Star Trek Discovery with mixed emotions. I liked some characters, but after season 2, I’m torn whether to bother when season 3 arrives. I felt quite satisfied with a partial open-ended storyline, especially as this should fit into earlier events around the time of the original series. I’m unsure where it’s going interests me all that much. May well shelve it until/unless there’s little else to watch.

Like many others we tuned into Ratched, the Netflix series based on Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The series didn’t have quite the punch I expected, but I like how the line between good and bad blurred and they gave the storylines deeper consideration than they might have. And, although they directly took one element from Stephen King’s ‘The Green Mile’, they used it to startling effect. Not for anyone squeamish.

READING:

Darkness Comes (aka Darkfall), Dean Koontz

Very much a mixed offering, and even though this is an early example in this author’s career, it feels weaker than some others that came before. There was as much I liked about it as I disliked. I wanted to care about the characters more. It’s fun in a B-Movie way. The monsters of the story come straight out of Lovecraft. Whether this is a bad thing it’s hard to say. There are a few creepy moments but not as many as in other novels and the threat seemed diminished by introducing the antagonist who seemed rather cartoon-like to me. Still, I’m not knocking a novel that was perfectly acceptable at the time it released, but I reread this as part of a book clearance and have no problems letting go of it.

Lost Innocents (ebook), Jacquelynn Luben

This reads at first like a well-plotted standard detective story, but I especially liked that a journalist undertakes the detecting. The stories don’t at first appear to connect, but, of course, they do. Also, it’s towards the end of the book the subtext truly comes to light.

The Witcher: The Tower of the Swallow, Andrzej Sapkowski

This series reads as a set of three, and a set of five. The first three have an entertaining, jumpy, short story feel, with the following five more serious books making up a set of novels. The first three are much more fun. Book four of that five is the best yet with Ciri coming into her own and going through the worse trials, Gerait and Yennifer pursuing her for the right reasons with plenty of villains snapping at all their heels. Though the way the author writes and presents these stories receives mixed reactions, I like the non-chronological story telling. There were a few slower sequences that felt like a bit of an info dump, but otherwise I loved all the story elements.

Revival, Stephen King

This is one example of an author choosing a perfect title. The theme resonates throughout the book. Scary? Overall, I would say no, though the payoff is potentially terrifying. I found the story absorbing and well written.

Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder

A magical, mystical blend of fact and fiction that makes for an excellent teaching aid for anyone wanting to learn about philosophy. I felt a little disconnected with the book at first — as though the letters to Sophie were a bit too much like sitting in a classroom, but as it progressed, I became swiftly hooked. The ending also felt a little too long, but overall the experience is not unlike falling down the rabbit hole, and I wish I had read this many years ago. Though I knew some facts, I didn’t know them all. The book even touches on the subject of natural selection, and implications of more artificial selections/mutations caused by pesticides and disease control. The book is just as relevant today as when first written. It’s a lot to take in, but if you want a whirlwind tour of history and how philosophy has helped to shape our lives, this is an amazing book.

WRITING:

I must begin by saying that I heard at the beginning of September of the sad, sudden death of Celina Summers. She was a strong and talented woman. She, and the people she introduced me to when she ran Musa Publishing, taught me so much, and she was inspirational. She spoke up for others and I recall her work came close to attracting the attention of one of the Big Six publishers on two occasions, rejected once because they had recently published something similar. Having read her work, I can honestly state she was an excellent and imaginative writer who deserved recognition. I was disheartened by her near miss and am truly choked by her passing.

I’m reaching the end of the third quarter of my first draft of my first horror novel. I stress draft, purely because my novels to date haven’t had to joggle the cast in quite this fashion. I will shelve this for a while when complete before I rewrite some passages and edit. And as I stated last month, Night to Dawn magazine releasing in October will feature reprints of my short story The Wolf Moon, and my poem, Ichabod, Ichabod, Ichabod.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Update August 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
To start on a sour note, as I read a reference of people dying from the 1918 pandemic until 1923, it seems we all need to make the best of a bad situation and, though the onus is on the individual to keep themselves safe, we went for a walk with close friends, ‘together’ yet as separately as possible. Life won’t be without risk for no one knows how long. It’s hard to live in a tourist area with this going on, though some spots are less populated, so it’s safer than if we were still living in London. I would ask every visitor to remember that wherever they go, it’s where someone lives and to treat that area with respect.

Sadly, like warnings against piracy of books, music, films, etc., those who pay attention wouldn’t do it, and the rest don’t care or happily steal. So asking people to bin their litter or take it home is likely a wasted effort. I can’t help thinking we need to go back in time and run those Keep Britain Tidy campaigns once again. When I was a child, you dropped litter in the street and you could expect a clip on the back of the head from a parent. Rubbish and human waste are always a problem but have been a particular bane in the South West this year.

FILM/TV:
Nothing particular to report. We’ve started watching Star Trek Discovery but can’t say we’re taken with it. (Warning for spoilers.) Finding it slow and love…not…

…how the main character is getting her end away while the bad guys torture her captain. I’m afraid I fell about laughing. Also, major plot hole when doctor alerts the person who may not be who they think to their face without first telling the captain and ordering a security detail. I understand ‘why’ they did it that way, but if I could think of at least two alternative scenarios to bring about a similar outcome, I would expect writers of such a series to do the same. I would have previously voted Voyager to be my least favourite Star Trek series, but this may be a close call.

We watched to the end of the current series of The Blacklist — a series we’ve always enjoyed — that alas they had to finish partly by animation because of the pandemic. May be some time before we see the next season.

For fans of the actor and of Marvel, it stunned many this week to hear of the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the role of Black Panther with a quiet regal dignity the character needed. Characteristics which seem to describe the man himself from what his closest friends say and the fact that he quietly battled colon cancer for 4 years.

READING:
The Witcher: Time of Contempt, Andrzej Sapkowski
While I’m not saying these books contain the best writing (perhaps a little becomes lost in the translation), they continue not to disappoint. In this volume, the situation heats up with all out battles and portents of war greater than the world of the Witcher has experienced to date.

Allotted Time, Robin Shelton
Not a laugh out loud read but still pleasantly humorous memoir/diary of two hapless gardeners who still made something grow. The only thing the book lacks is photos of the shed and the greenhouse which I would have loved to see.

Audrey Rose, Frank De Felitta (ebook)
The classic story of reincarnation. I’m unsure what genre I would place this in. It’s not scary and, for me, goes on too long, though it’s a perfectly excellent telling of a series of logical events including a court room enactment. Though some may say farfetched and it likely wouldn’t happen today, I particularly like how those in authority, including the judge, all put their own careers above the possible mental or physical safety of a child. Something rings true about the media circus and ‘trial of the decade’ debacle to this day.

Dead Trees Give No Shelter, Wil Wheaton (ebook)
The story of two boys, one who died young and one now an adult, still haunted by the mysterious circumstances of his brother’s death. While many could write this story, it’s expertly told, and, like most monster stories, the true face of the fiend may not be all it seems.

The Wise Friend, Ramsey Campbell
This story has the warm, welcoming tones of Lovecraft feeding on a sense of something otherworldly and disturbing. Worlds within worlds, and secret universes glimpsed but seldom seen. Disquieting in style rather than scary. I felt a few sentences were awkward and would have liked more dialogue tags but enjoyed the read.

The Witcher: Baptism of Fire, Andrzej Sapkowski
Though I’m not so taken with the tell rather than show sections of this series, I’m still absorbed in the world of The Witcher. This book reveals a new take on a classic monster and an ironic surprise at the end. On to the next…

A Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay
Feels wrong to say I enjoyed this book because of the subject and the outcome. Alas, this novel suffers from reader expectation, tainted by what the book’s blurb and endorsements promise, especially if the reader has loved a previous work of the author more. I would call this a book of suspense, or psychological horror…though, as Tremblay expertly questions in the end notes that may depend on your definition of horror. At times, the book has a Young Adult flavour, though that’s understandable as the main character imparts her story to another. Well written and constructed the unease (for me) comes filtered through the mind of an ill child… or does it? That’s for each reader to decide, but I know where my conclusion lies. It’s a fine novel and quality read, but never scared me. Still, I like Tremblay’s work and will read more as he seems to write subtle fiction open to question that lingers.

WRITING:
I’m approximately halfway through my first draft of my first horror novel. And I received my author copy of Night to Dawn magazine which features reprints of my short story The Wolf Moon, and my poem, Ichabod, Ichabod, Ichabod. It’s due for release in October.

Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Public vs Private

During this pandemic crisis, with political tensions running high, this may be the perfect time to ask when should a writer (or anyone with a public persona) keep their beliefs private and when should they make them public?

Not all of us share the same beliefs. I’m glad of this. Not only would it make for a boring world but imagine if we all believed something horrible, such as cruelty to children or animals was fine and the fate of the planet wasn’t our concern. Strong beliefs make us stand up, speak openly, defend and protect those who cannot do so for themselves. Standing up for one’s beliefs can lead to changes for the better. Differences of opinion lead to breakthroughs.

Alas, the sad, simple fact is that not of us can agree to disagree. That’s why the advice to be careful what you state publicly can be perfectly understandable. They say never discuss sex, religion, and politics…considering some things I’ve written there’s at least one of those topics that’s occasionally been unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean I have to let the public into my private life. Besides, what do you want to know? I’m a normal person, like my readers. I crawl out of bed in the morning, brush my teeth, stumble into the kitchen in search of that first coffee. I also wash clothes, clean the house, cook, shop…have friends and family. In addition, I make mistakes, apologies, laugh, cry, get sick, heal, and hurt, for myself and for others.

There are some things that are unavoidable. I can hardly write romance without declaring that I believe people should be free to love whom their heart tells them to love. I can’t write darkness without delving into the mysterious and questioning justice. You only have to read my work to know that. I realise there are those who will vehemently disagree with me and may even hate me for it. All I can say is that there is more than one element to my personality. I feel a view that dictates because our beliefs differ we cannot be friends is short-sighted.

Do I agree with all the things my friends believe in? Do I agree with all their decisions? No, of course I don’t. I have friends who are homophobic and rather than attack them for this, if they wished to discuss the topic I would hope we could do so sensibly and intelligently. I would like to know why they feel the way they do, and I would be open to explaining my viewpoint. Ultimately, they are entitled to their beliefs as long as they don’t victimise others for it. I don’t expect all my friends to like each other, but I expect all of them to respect they are all my friends and to be civil should they ever meet, especially if it’s under my roof. I don’t believe to like another person you both have to share the same sexual, religious or political belief. I’m capable of agreeing to disagree, and that’s one thing I wish was more widespread.

There are limits. There are some things in this world I couldn’t tolerate but they are usually in extremes and no one should want someone around who feels certain forms of abuse are fine, but I’m not talking about that level of animosity. I’m a different person to you. If we all wanted to love thyself to this extent, there’d be no reason ever to say hello to another human being.

Therefore, don’t assume that because I’m friends with someone in my private life, or elsewhere, is someone with whom I share the same beliefs, especially in this world of social media. I don’t know what may lurk in all those dark hearts, though the horror writer in me likes to explore this question. Never assume all the viewpoints in the stories I write are from my personal viewpoint. One aspect of a writer’s job is to show all sides of the argument, without getting into a public, personal disagreement.