Wishing you a Peaceful 2021

A strange year for all. One in which I started acupuncture (something I never imagined myself doing) to see whether it would help with a non-life-threatening but incurable complaint I was diagnosed with last year. Alas, owing to the Covid situation I could not complete the first set of sessions so still don’t know. And yes, despite what you may hear, sometimes acupuncture can hurt. Covid also interrupted a long planned holiday, especially two destinations we’ve been trying to get to and now may never reach. It’s also the year when a close relative had a serious health scare, but tests and months later they announced the all clear, so if I’ll take nothing else good from 2020, I will take that.

Towards the end of the year, I had to have an extraction owing to a wisdom tooth hooking under the tooth in front and killing the nerve. Unavoidable and didn’t go entirely to plan, but not as bad as I feared. Like most, we didn’t get out and about much this year. We’ve had a couple of distanced walks with our best friends, but aside from that have seen no one we know, including family.

I drafted several scenes for a ‘possible’ novel (yet to be confirmed/completed) and worked on an extremely rough draft of a first horror novel. I republished a romance, had a couple of short stories published in both the April and October editions of Night to Dawn magazine, plus republished my Sleepy Hollow poem, Ichabod, Ichabod, Ichabod, for the third time. I’m especially pleased to say I started drawing again, including learning how to sketch despite finding it a bit scary drawing straight off in black ink. And I read more than my planned minimal quota of books!!! Here’s to better in 2021. Best wishes, everyone!

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

Merry Christmas, Everyone

I planned to post a different video today, but can’t seem to find the one I want. This takes me back to one of the happiest times in my life, so love this or hate it, at this dreadful time when most everyone’s Christmas plans have been thrown into chaos, try to appreciate what you can. Call loved ones. Stay safe. Watch your favourite cheesy Christmas movie if you have one. Or ignore everything there is about Christmas, if that’s what you like. Most of all, try to find a little happiness in whatever you do and may you remain healthy.

Geode Girl Art

I rarely showcase or recommend something I’ve bought, but I’m blown away by the work created by Geode Girl, an artist living in London. She creates fabulous pieces inspired by nature using resin and crystals. This decorative and useful selection of art is more amazing in reality than photos can do justice.

I’m equally taken by her seascape pieces as the geodes, and in time hope to own a piece of both, though I simply could not resist opting for the black seascape tray.

Each item will be unique, as is a feature of the process. I’m delighted the way my ‘waves’ turned out.

Note: I waited patiently for several weeks for this made to order item, though to be fair, I explained I was in no hurry, but had I needed to wait longer I would say it’s worth doing so — these items take time to create and to cure between layers, so keep that in mind when ordering and allow the artist time to create what is surely a prized possession. But if you’re looking for a delightful personal treat or a unique gift, I struggle to imagine anyone who could be displeased with something from Geode Girl’s collection.

Visit: https://www.geodegirlart.com/

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.

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.