Update March 2020

Hi Everyone!

OUT AND ABOUT:
Well, without the need of hindsight, we’d have preferred not to have gone away. Alas, rules stated that holiday companies have the right to insist you go so at the time of travelling we had little choice other than to lose a lot of long-saved money for a holiday we’ve been planning over several years and trying to take for the last three. The first year we couldn’t get a flight, the second I was too unwell, and, this time, though I’ve issues I now have to deal with the rest of my life, I struggled through and reached the Caribbean…only to have our holiday cancelled mid-trip. The good news is they brought us home on time and no one became ill. I still didn’t reach the islands I hoped to and now don’t know if I ever will.

On that note, and in this bleak time, I’ll leave you a view of what certainly looks like paradise.

FILM/TV:
As we’ve been away, we’ve not done much viewing but as we’re spending a great deal more time inside we quickly caught up with The Outside, Avenue 5, and Locke & Key. I enjoyed Locke & Key but had to cringe a little in episode 9 over several characters’ stupidity, and in episode 10 I guessed the outcome and all the ‘surprises’. Maybe it comes from being a writer, although I think I’ve always been a little like this.

READING:
Lanny, Max Porter
While it may not be for everyone, there’s no denying Max Porter has his own style. Written in an abstract, patchy way, Lanny reveals the story of a child gone missing, throwing an ugly light on the duplicities of human emotion and reaction. Though I found this style of storytelling a little too fragmentary, the book’s ultimately unsettling and effective in parts. Yet I can see how the style will frustrate many rather than seem artistic. Either creative or pretentious and difficult to choose which. Good for those who don’t mind the surreal, a departure from traditional narrative, though I would urge reading a sample before purchasing.

I’ve Got Your Number, Sophie Kinsella
My first read by this author, though it may not be my last. I’ve seen some reviews about the implausibility of the plot, but with this style of book I’m happy to hang up any sense of disbelief at the door. It’s light, fun, well plotted with characters well developed enough for the story. I found the footnotes annoying at first, but soon got used to them. I’d happily pick up another book, though this isn’t the type of story I often read.

Don’t Point That Thing at Me, Kyril Bonfiglioli
The first of the Mortdecai novels, though fun, was a little slower in pace than I expected and with sidetracks and wanderings as without restraint as Mordecai himself. I’ve never read what someone ate or the copious amounts someone drank (made my liver wince) to such a degree in a novel. Still, this is undeniably classic and I couldn’t help warming to Charlie Mortdecai and loving his thug of a servant, Jock.

WRITING:
None to report though now I’m back I’m diving into several projects. And don’t forget my short story, Bead Trickling Laughter, is in April’s edition of Night to Dawn, available from Amazon (print), search Night to Dawn 37, or directly from the publisher (print or pdf) https://bloodredshadow.com/ . “Carol Ann never expected to return to Aunt Margaret’s old house on Church Hill, but when her adopted sister, Cheryl, dies upon the stairs outside, a greater mystery than death calls her home.”

Happy Reading!
Sharon x

Update Feb 2020

Hi Everyone!

OUT AND ABOUT:
Hit with the virus from hell (no, not the one in the news), and been battling to get well so there’s been little in the way of ‘out and about’ other than necessity, and we’ve also been getting ready for an upcoming trip.

FILM/TV:
At long last got around to binge watching The Good Place. So unique. Funny. Questioning and examining morality. And the ending is so touching. I cannot recommend this series enough.

READING:

Winter Rose, Patricia McKillip
Beautifully written and lyrical, Winter Rose can be viewed as many things. Supernatural, magical, surreal, reality, dream, or even a metaphor for a young woman’s desire and lost love. When I picked up this book some years ago, I knew nothing about the author, though the cover states she’s the winner of the World Fantasy Award. May not be for those who like straightforward stories with every t crossed but fans of the unusual may appreciate the book.

The Mask, Dean R Koontz
A reread as part of a book clearance plan. Though readers often find Koontz in the horror or fantasy section, the best way to describe most of his books is supernatural thrillers. This, one of his earlier titles, is well-plotted, perhaps a little simplistic for true thriller aficionados of today, but is a fast, well-paced read although the end feels a little too fast and abrupt to me.

The Vesuvius Club, Mark Gatiss
With a nod to Mordecai this is a somewhat fun Edwardian suspense romp, but the story felt as though it went on too long and waned.

In the Time we Lost, Carrie Hope Fletcher
I wanted to love this book but can only like it. This spin on the Groundhog Day type story is certainly inventive, I like the characters, and the setting. Unfortunately, during the early repeats my interest lagged, although my attention picked up, especially in the last quarter of the book. This is light reading, perhaps too light for me, so I’m not dismissing this author or the story, for I enjoyed this quirky romance despite feeling some vital element was missing. This would likely work much better visually, for I feel the problem might be this story is difficult to accomplish in the timeframe. Would people change intrinsically in such a short time? But to linger on too many repeats would make the book repetitive and boring, whereas, in the inspiration repeat story, we’re able to view hundreds of days go by in short snippets. A brave idea, sweetly executed that gain momentum and improves towards an end I unfortunately found disappointing. On another note there are some typos in the book for which I never solely blame a writer as it’s a responsibility shared with the publisher. Still, as this was a printed hardcover book, I expected better.

WRITING:
I received my first official review of my audio short by Big Finish, The Infinite Today, part of their Short Trips Doctor Who range is now available for download at £2.99. Blogtorwho said:

“As soon as the recognisable vocal tones of Katy Manning provide the introduction it is hard not to immediately begin smiling.”… “Manning is sublime at telling the tale.” … “This particular story, concocted by Sharon Bidwell, is an intriguing one.” … “In addition to bringing fans a dream Doctor/companion combination, The Infinite Today provides a thoroughly enjoyable short trip.” … “However, it was a beautifully executed moment of poignancy right at the very end which caused the tears to well up in this particular listener’s eyes. Unexpected but that little moment brings the whole thing together perfectly. Sublime stuff.”

Read the entire review at: https://www.blogtorwho.com/review-doctor-who-the-infinite-today-a-dream-doctor-companion-combination/

A Very Private Haunting is being prepared for its Second Edition printing, and, in the time leading up to a holiday, I’ve continued with basic editing in other ongoing projects.

Happy Reading!
Sharon x

A Who Review

From Blogtor Who and I couldn’t be more delighted:

“This particular story, concocted by Sharon Bidwell, is an intriguing one. Jo is experiencing groundhog day. The same flight, journey and cabin crew. Over and over again. Enter the Doctor. “

“In addition to bringing fans a dream Doctor/companion combination, The Infinite Today provides a thoroughly enjoyable short trip.”

“However, it was a beautifully executed moment of poignancy right at the very end which caused the tears to well up in this particular listener’s eyes. Unexpected but that little moment brings the whole thing together perfectly. Sublime stuff.”

Read the entire review at: https://www.blogtorwho.com/review-doctor-who-the-infinite-today-a-dream-doctor-companion-combination/

Read by Katy Manning

My Doctor Who Short Trips story The Infinite Today is now available for download from Big Finish. Drop by to listen to or download the trailer.

Jo Jones is travelling. Setting out from London Gatwick to Mexico, she lands back at Gatwick.
Jo Jones is travelling once again. Setting out from London Gatwick to Mexico, she lands back at Gatwick with the exact same crew and passengers.
Jo Jones is travelling once again. Setting out from London Gatwick to Mexico, she lands back at Gatwick with precisely the same crew and passengers, again.
Jo Jones is travelling once again…

Doctor Who Short Trips by Big Finish
The Infinite Today by Sharon Bidwell
Performed by Katy Manning


https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/doctor-who-short-trips-the-infinite-today-1935

Update January 2020

Hi Everyone!

OUT AND ABOUT:
Nothing to report on the home front. It’s winter, we’ve both suffered ailments, and we’re preparing for a major and long-planned trip so we’ve stayed close to home and taken care of a few chores.

FILM/TV:
At long last watched both the first and second chapter of the film adaptation of Stephen King’s IT, my favourite book of his. I missed seeing this in the cinema for reasons I struggle to recall, though I know for the second part I was too unwell to consider sitting in a cinema for so long. Is the film scary? Depends on what scares you. I have at least one friend who would find the film horrible but you’ve got to understand the layers to the story which those who are long-term fans of the book will. I cannot fault the film for the cast, for the amazing and outstanding performance of Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise (I truly cannot imagine what the film would have been without him), and the fabulous settings and general look and feel. I can’t conceive of this made by any other director.

As for the story…why does it endure for so many? Clowns are frightening, wear a false face, aren’t quite one thing or another, and many find them spooky. Clowns to a child are surely as welcoming as a giant Mickey Mouse, which I believe Steve Martin once joked about saying to an infant Mickey is a talking rat. It’s all a matter of perspective but clowns endure in the scary bracket. Of course, Pennywise is no mere clown and overall he’s a metaphor for all those things that petrify us in childhood, fears we grow out of as we age, as our perception of the world changes. Children are more able to believe and only a portion of adults retain that sense of wonder and open-mindedness. And that sense of preservation. I’ve always said if I see a vampire or zombie I’ll at least regard it as a genuine threat regardless of what it may truly be — at the least, it may be a lunatic out to stab me. If it looks frightening, run. But the true reason I love IT is that the heart of the story is friendship. It’s about a group of children thrown together through adversity who rise to fight the unknown and form friendships that survive and bring them back together in adulthood — the losers who ultimately triumph. What many people don’t understand is there are different types of horror and many are about something deeper, that it’s the subtext that’s the most important element and IT excels in this.

Next, I can’t move on without recommending the Netflix adaptation of The Witcher. Many came to this world via the computer games but I’ve heard excellent recommendations for the books and have now bought the first two. Henry Cavill was both a fan of the games and the books and the moment he heard Netflix intended to make the series he got his agent to call them every day. I honestly cannot imagine anyone better suited. I loved this monsters and mayhem fantasy largely in part because of the amazing non-chronological storytelling, the production values, battle scenes worthy of a big screen film, and even the way the Witcher grunts and swears, utterances that Cavill intones to perfection.

READING:

A Life in Parts, Bryan Cranston
Though biographies aren’t my preferred reading material, no doubt I would read more if they were all written like this. With a warmth that draws you in instantly, if you’ve never enjoyed Bryan Cranston’s acting (though I cannot imagine why not), this is still well worth reading. This book not only gives the reader an insight to his life and career, it shows an actor with great instincts for the characters and roles directors should respect but whose writing ability might well make him an excellent author should he ever wish to pursue fiction writing. A favourite biography.

Doll Manor, Chantal Noordeloos
I’ve always liked this author’s vision and, while I feel parts of this book could be improved, I love the themes and imagery used. In a book intended as horror for adults, portions contained a Young Adult feel, particularly the interactions between Freya and Bam, though this could be representational of the characters’ ages and therefore I felt distanced from them. I would feel young women having gone through what these do they would grow up fast. This is the second in the Lucifer Falls series which began with Angel Manor which I preferred, and though I feel this series could be more intense, it’s difficult not to like stories that contain the best of creepy things: a haunted manor, nuns, angels, and dolls. I looked back over the first book after reading the second and will eagerly check out the final instalment when it appears.

The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton
It’s difficult to review this book without spoilers so the best I can say about the negatives is that the subplot/structure — that of the Miniaturist — didn’t quite work for me, although the background of the real Petronella Oortman and her dollhouse is fascinating proving writers get inspiration from the unlikeliest of sources. Despite any reservations I have, this is a wonderfully crafted novel of vibrant characters, carefully constructed with hidden clues concealing a wealth of secrets. Intense and haunting like the artistry of Amsterdam itself, this is one of those books worth reading even if it doesn’t make it to the keeper shelf.

The Outsider, Stephen King
I can imagine this book receiving mixed reviews. What starts off as a riveting thriller becomes supernatural at a slow enough pace many readers won’t spot the story’s direction. Still, the route to get there with seemingly unanswerable questions is well worth the read with a conclusion that’s logical if not the most exciting. One of the most disturbing parts of King’s book is the ugly face of human nature. The light shone on the fact that a man accused is no longer innocent until proven otherwise. That the absence of a shadow of doubt can be darker than the truth revealed.

WRITING:
I received an early contributor’s copy of Night to Dawn issue 37 which contains my short story Bead Trickling Laughter, and my audio short by Big Finish, The Infinite Today, part of their Short Trips Doctor Who range is now available for download at £2.99. You can listen to or download the trailer for free and purchase the story at Big Finish.

I’m focusing on edits (short stories and other works) until our upcoming holiday. When I return, I’ll focus on the horror novel that I’ve been trying to get to the last couple of years.

Happy Reading!
Sharon x

Night To Dawn #37

Coming soon and featuring my dark fictional short story Bead Trickling Laughter.

Night to Dawn 37: The line between life and death is often fuzzy. At night, the dead slither from their crypts. Our conversations take on an unnatural cast, and the familiar landmarks of our lives are torn away. Are the shadows flitting across the wall reflections of the moonlight, or are they vengeful ghosts with unfinished business? Find out when you read tales and poetry by Marge Simon, Lee Clark Zumpe, Sandy DeLuca, Rod Marsden, Denny E. Marshall, Marc Shapiro, and other contributors.

The Passive Argument makes me Tense

Several months ago I had the pleasure of reading a book on writing by an American publisher that doesn’t negate the entire use of ‘passive’. For anyone who is saying, “Huh?” a somewhat humorous but an excellent example I’ve seen recently is this (sorry, I don’t know whom to attribute it to):

She was eaten by zombies.

Zombie ate her.

The first is passive, the second is not. American publishers (I can’t speak for non-US/UK countries as I’ve no experience) can be more selective about passive to the point of banning it altogether. Some, unfortunately, go to such lengths to avoid a single instance that they will rewrite whole paragraphs into awful stilted entanglements that are cringeworthy. British writers especially seem to have a hard time with this, probably because our rule on passive is simple: Don’t overuse but no need to avoid at all costs. British publishers don’t seem so worried about passive, and I know I’m not the only writer to never have passive sentences pointed out until I wrote for a US publisher.

It’s difficult to argue wrong or right because many publishers have a house-style and if they reject passive, they have the right; however, it’s to everyone’s detriment to rewrite the occasional use if to get the same information results in a sentence so convoluted it makes the reader wince.

Other forms argued with are ‘to be’ or ‘was’. Some publishers become known for ‘de-wasing’ work. I once read a submission guide taking this to extremes and stating the writer was to remove every instance of the word. Many writers consider was to be a throwaway word—one that passes through the ear and mind without calling too much attention. I’ve heard other British writers ponder what is so wrong with all forms of ‘to be’.

Passive can be used to great effect, in fiction and in life. Politicians and solicitors purposely use passive to deflect answering questions directly. One can find examples of passive in many famous poems that would have lost power had the authors written the passive out.

And don’t be confused (yes, be confused is passive). There is such a thing as passive ‘writing’. There is no such thing as passive ‘tense’ no matter who uses this term. A tense is a set of forms taken by a verb—the simple tenses being past, present, and future. There is passive writing or passive voice, but not tense.

Sometimes passive is superfluous or ‘gets by’ the writer during the draft, and it is worth checking and getting rid of a percentage. Fewer passive sentences increase the pace and that’s largely what a modern audience wants, so it’s at least understandable that publishers encourage minimum use.