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

Buugeng

I missed blogging last week because I didn’t feel all that well. No, nothing to do with the dreaded virus, but I’ve had a strange disjointed week, though the writing picked up a little with the least written being approximately 1,300 words. I’m working on the draft of a horror novel, so everything else remains shelved. I’m into the third quarter so don’t expect the end to be too long off now. Though I stress I’m saying ‘draft’. I’ll be doing a lot of rewriting on this and shelving it at least a month before I do, but that will give me room to consider writing something else new and maybe re-releasing an older work early next year. More news as and when.

For this week’s blog, I thought I’d leave you with something beautiful to watch:

Simple but Delicious

I’m doing something different today, offering one of the simplest recipes that will feed one, or two, with plenty leftover chicken and sauce to use for other meals (to me ‘leftovers’ is another word for ingredient), or a full family or visitors. Apologies, there’s no picture. I cooked this the other week but didn’t think of posting, so didn’t take a photo. You’ll end up with tender chicken and a red, richly flavoured gravy. Cook this in a large pot on the hob, in a casserole dish in the oven, or, if you have a slow cooker large enough, that’s an even easier option.

Provencal Pot Roast Chicken

Some ingredients I list are flexible. This is your dish, cook to your taste!

1 medium to large chicken
A few cloves up to a whole bulb of garlic depending on how much you like
Salt and pepper
Parsley or chives or whatever herb you like
1tsp Herbes de Provence
1 red pepper quartered, stalk and seeds removed
1-2 carrots, peeled if necessary, halved in the middle or cut into three chunks depending on size
1 onion peeled and quartered (optional)
1tbsp tomato puree
Approx. 500ml (half pint) of water — this will increase as the juices from the veg and chicken run out, so allow for that with the pan you’re using. Also depends on how many you’re feeding. You can make a little or a lot. If you want more juice, add a little extra veg, etc.

Place all this in the stovetop pot, casserole, or the slow cooker. Yes, put the chicken in whole!

Simmer for around two hours on the hob, or bake on 375f/Gas 5) in the oven, or for about 5 hours on high in the slow cooker. If doing in a pan or slow cooker, I turn the chicken halfway through.

Once the chicken is done, remove ready to carve for serving. I sometimes find this the hardest stage, as it can literally fall apart. For the sauce, allow the ‘gravy’ to cool until you can whizz it all up in a blender, or, better, if you have a handheld blender, being careful if the liquid is still hot, you can blend right in the pan/casserole dish/slow cooker. Serve with potatoes and veg of choice, or pasta.

You could also do this with chicken portions, though the recipe works best with chicken on the bone to create the stock, so use thighs and drumsticks. You can also cook it the day before and simply reheat.