Update Nov 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

A month in which I had a tooth out and because of various reasons tried Conscious Sedation, which, unfortunately, didn’t work for me. At least I now know. It’s also the month when I realised it’s been 20 years since we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog. She may be gone, but she’s never forgotten. Like everyone else in the UK, we’ve been in a second lockdown, although in some areas things are no different. Shops are heaving, so are markets… all of which, if they sell food, are allowed to open. The one thing I hate more than anything this year is food shopping. All the shops have their own rules, it’s been confusing, you get the shoppers that stare at a single shelf for what feels like half an hour, and others have no idea about keeping their distance. I’ve ordered a few goodies for Christmas this year to subject ourselves to the shops as little as possible.

FILM/TV:

A sci-fi horror called The Invisible Man, staring Elisabeth Moss, turned out to be interesting to watch. The 2hr film definitely flew by, as it makes the viewer question whether this woman trying to escape her abusive husband is losing her mind, or being stalked. Underwater was another surprise and possibly a bit of a treat for anyone who loves their Lovecraft and Cthulhu mythos. An added surprise was that Kristen Stewart carries herself well as the action hero in this underwater sci-fi disaster film. Motherless Brooklyn deserves a mention for Edward Norton’s performance, and the fact he also adapted Jonathan Lethem’s novel, and directed this story of a private detecting in a corrupt city. A pleasant thriller that didn’t drag along its 2hr 20 minutes.

Pleased to have at long last caught up with the last episode of Eureka. We used to tune into this sci-fi show on the SyFy channel… right until our Sky box melted several years ago. Came home one day to the smell of burning plastic… awful and a little frightening. As a glitch in Sky’s system kept insisting they couldn’t give us a box because we had one despite it being a melting lump of danger, we never renewed and so lost out on the last one and a half series. It’s taken some years, but I have to agree with what I’d heard — it’s one show that rounded off well, with a satisfying conclusion.

READING:

An English Ghost Story, Kim Newman

This story was not what I expected. When one hears mention of a ghost story, one imagines the unsettling creak of a floorboard, lights that flicker as though from faulty wiring, an escalation of scares, and spectres at every turn, not a subtle disintegration of family that’s almost a metaphor. The tale begins with the family finding the perfect home and weaves an enchanting picture of country life that’s something out of a Victorian romance, creating the perfect escape the characters seek. What isn’t so clear is they cannot escape their own flaws, weaknesses the power within the house focuses on and brings alive to disturbing extremes. Does it work? To an extent, although I think the readership will be one who also appreciates more literary subtext and likes classic works. If looking for an easy scare, this won’t be the book. I’ve not read much of Kim Newman, particularly in recent years, but this interested me enough that I may look up some of his other titles.

Bird Box, Josh Malerman

Having watched the film after seeing mixed reviews, I was keen to read the book as I had also heard good things about Josh Malerman’s work. I didn’t react to the film as badly as some, but found the book to be a completely distinct entity with far more tension. I also like how the story’s told with two lines of chronology running throughout — a present journey undertaken by Malorie and the events that led her to that point. I see the book has as many mixed reviews as the film, but I’m not a reader who needs a big reveal. And with a revelation that could drive the main character, Malorie, mad, the question of the best outcome will always be questionable. There’s no way a writer can please every reader with this type of story, only trust the book will find its own audience. The suspense comes from Malorie’s anxiety, the act of having to fumble around not knowing if a threat stands right next to you excellently portrayed. Will Malorie find sanctuary? Will she save the children? I’ll be reading more from this author, including the sequel.

The Servants of Twilight, Dean Koontz

This chase thriller holds up to time, as readable today as when written, the fanaticism just as relevant. The bad guys walk the line of caricatures but somehow work, as does the vivid icy landscape they are all plunged into. The soul of the book is summed up in this perfect sentence: “There was evil … in mankind’s fatal attraction to easy, even if irrational, answers.”

Trudi Canavan

Priestess of the White

Book 1 of the Age of the Five

Epic Fantasy once used to be my favourite genre, and books like this remind me why; the author has a strong sense of world-building. She interweaves the various characters’ lives, societies and religions in a way that makes them wholly believable. And amid all this, there’s an interesting love story. I was particularly taken with the Dreamweaver, Leiard, haunted in a possibly life-threatening way by ‘linked memories’. I have Books 2 & 3 to look forward to and hope I enjoy these equally, although I don’t feel this series is as compelling as Canavan’s ‘The Black Magician Trilogy’.

WRITING:

I finished my ‘extremely rough’ draft of a horror novel. It’s a new venture for me, but something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, even if no one ever reads it. Naturally, I hope that won’t be the case, but it still needs a lot of work. Still, it feels great to have the framework completed. December will be a month where I write if/when/where I like, with a view to revamping some older works and producing new in 2021.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Conscious Sedation… A True Oxymoron?

I recently needed an extraction owing to a pesky wisdom tooth hooking under the tooth in front and killing the nerve. Judging by my last recollection of an extraction where the dentist tore my gums, I suffered extensive bleeding, agony which painkillers barely touched, and a month to heal a mouth full of ulcers, I gave Conscious Sedation a try. This is also apparently the only form of sedation a dentist outside of a hospital may administer these days, and, should I ever need the wisdom tooth out, I’m forewarned it will be ‘a bit of a bugger’. So… Conscious Sedation to dampen my dread, and to test how well this works.

First, credit where it’s due. I’m grateful for the care provided by the dentist and all the staff with sincere gratitude for their understanding, and for working and offering treatment in these Covid times. The extraction was professional and nowhere near as bad as I feared. Was, in fact, nothing like my previous dental experiences; this time there was little bleeding and I’ve managed the post-extraction discomfort with no problem. Within 5 days I was off the painkillers. Though I hate to say it, this is either the difference between private and NHS dentists, this being my first experience of paying privately (with pain radiating up into my cheekbone and round to my teeth on the other side, I had no choice but to do whatever I could to hurry an appointment along), or simple potluck in trying to find a good dentist.

Unfortunately, the Conscious Sedation didn’t work. Let me repeat: The Conscious Sedation DIDN’T WORK.

I had been told ‘if aware I wouldn’t care’ and ‘I wouldn’t remember’. I thought I would have at least felt drowsy or as though I was in ‘happy land’, but I didn’t even feel relaxed. I kept thinking, ‘When is this stuff supposed to kick in?’ Then the ultrasonic cleaning began (which I had also agreed to), and I thought maybe by the time this finishes, but I still felt no different. I recall being asked if I was okay several times, to which I felt confused and wasn’t sure what to say. I was ‘okay’ but nowhere near relaxed. In retrospect, I can’t help feeling the sedation influenced my agreement. Several times I argued with myself over saying something vs just getting it over with.

Next thing I knew, I was receiving injections and silently started swearing. I was, after all, not meant to ‘care’ by this point, and had paid £250 (£720, including the assessment and all the subsequent work) for the privilege. I was nowhere close to ‘unaware’. At the time of the extraction, I recall being asked if all I could feel was pressure, and saying no, I felt a little more than pressure at which point I received another 1 or 2 injections (while wishing I’d metaphorically kept my mouth shut to avoid them). Then the incredible alternating left/right pressure of the extraction and finally hearing, “That’s all done.”

I recall them bringing my husband into the room (with sedation someone has to take responsibility for you) and everything said. When I said I felt a bit ‘out of it’ the dentist remarked, “Like having a G&T.” I would frankly have preferred the G&T. I only felt as if I’d gone too many hours without sleep. I can’t help thinking all Conscious Sedation does to some people is to get them to cooperate and then they’re supposed to go home and sleep whereby they forget everything. But I didn’t sleep. I spent several days struggling with insomnia. I returned home and dozed in the afternoon for 10 minutes during a 30 minute programme of which I missed the middle. After going to bed that evening, I woke at 2am through to 4am. The next night I woke at 3:45. The following night I couldn’t sleep until 1am, though I’d not slept during the day.

I have spoken to others since, for which it both did and didn’t work, so I’m not alone. At least I’m now forewarned not to accept this form of sedation again, though that leaves me with a potential predicament should I ever need major/painful work. I certainly wouldn’t look forward to a root canal or that predicted problematic wisdom tooth removal. It’s since been suggested to me they design these drugs to trick the mind, so it’s possible I’d be someone not easily hypnotised.

Even worse, it appears Conscious Sedation is gaining popularity in all medical circles with it being used for surgeries. And though statistically, it’s a tiny percentage of people for whom it doesn’t work, it’s not foolproof. After some research, this quote stands out: “With Conscious Sedation, I think physicians recognize that quite a lot of the time their patients will actually be distressed, but they’re relying on the fact that most are not going to remember it…”

I don’t know about you, the one reading this, but I dislike patients being distressed but that being ‘okay’ because the patient won’t remember. They’re also looking into whether patients may subsequently suffer PTSD complicated by the fact they won’t know the reason for it. Patients at least need to make a truly informed decision.

Night to Dawn 38

It’s fine to extend Halloween into November, isn’t it? I’m afraid this is a rather late post. I’m blaming the toothache and wait I had for the assessment, then treatment. A true horror story of a wisdom tooth hooking under the tooth in front. Nothing I had done, nothing I could have done to avoid it. Treatment over, but nursing the pain of recovery, I realised I completely overlooked blogging about my latest releases in Night to Dawn 38.

I’m delighted to say his edition features reprints of my Sleepy Hollow Poem, Ichabod, Ichabod, Ichabod, and my short story, The Wolf Moon (previously seen in the anthology, Winter Tales).

First stanza of Ichabod, Ichabod, Ichabod. Read more in Night to Dawn 38.
Read Diana and Gabriel’s tale in Night to Dawn 38.

Available from www.bloodredshadow.com and through Amazon.

Dragon #8

This photo wasn’t taken in my current house, but that only shows how long I’ve had this little fella. And when I say little, it’s one of my largest and favourite dragons. We got him while holidaying with friends in Dorset many years ago. They named him Sparky. He’s made from wood pulp, so though he was near a fireplace when I took this photo, it wasn’t lit.

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