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.

Update Dec 2019

Hi Everyone!

OUT AND ABOUT:
Aside from visiting family over Christmas time seemed to get away from us, though we managed our annual trip to Killerton House, a National Trust Property, to see the themed decorations. This year was The Night Before Christmas but we were a little disappointed when comparing with the previous years. Still, the day we went was perfect with crisp sunny weather, particularly when in the days after much of the UK would see nothing but rain.

FILM/TV:
Have started Daredevil having watched the other Marvel series and so far find this to be my favourite, though I have one pet hate that seems to run through many television shows. There’s not a second to spare but the characters have time for a long heart-felt discussion.

Also spent time with our favourite Christmas films which invariably includes two black and white originals, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Bishop’s Wife. Both have several messages as appropriate today as they’ve always been.

Though we enjoyed the BBC adaptations of His Dark Materials, and The War of the Worlds to various degrees and though I freely admit to only seeing the second part, I disliked their updated version of A Christmas Carol which I found distasteful and boring.

READING:
The Salmon of Doubt, Douglas Adams
A collection of essays and a well put-together but incomplete last Dirk Gently novel, I can see how this will always garner mixed reviews. Overall, I enjoyed this book as there’s something poignant about reading Adams’ words one last time that makes this a fond farewell, but the lack of an end to the Dirk Gently book left me disappointed and wistful, but the story was shaping up so well I’m glad to know as little as I now do. Maybe one for true aficionados but a touching book to add to a collection.

The Cabin at the End of the World, Paul Trembley
My first read by this author but not my last. I wasn’t sure about the style at first but that made it different and I was so quickly drawn in and almost instantly riveted. A cabin in the woods, end of the world, hostage situational horror story with a twist and real uncertainty that digs into surprisingly emotional depths, and an end I found satisfying. If this is indicative of this author’s work, I’m in for a treat with his other titles.

The Reddening, Adam L.G. Nevill
The Reddening paints a highly descriptive portrait of the South Devon coastline unlike any I’ve read before, bringing the setting to life and creating a realistic landscape in which anything, even the horrors of the book, seem possible. Nevill’s way of writing horror through not only what is said, but also what’s not said, and left to the imagination, is perhaps worse than the words on the page. Several scenes had me so engrossed I even jumped once when I lost track of time disturbed by someone coming home and opening the front door. Nevill writes intellectual horror enhanced with a rich vocabulary.

The Bishop’s Wife, Robert Nathan
As a fan of the original black & white film, I was curious to read the story. Only able to find this as a 99p download, I took the opportunity. Though the basis of the plot are present in both, they are very different expressing both similar and yet varying philosophies. I have to accept I prefer the film which injects humour and perhaps a greater depth to the story.

I’m reading two other works I’ll review in the new year.

WRITING:
My short story, Remnant of a Haunting, a follow-up to my novel, A Very Private Haunting, is now available as an exclusive edition anthology, Loose Ends, from Candy Jar Books.

A re-write and extended edition of a work I’m editing seems to want to change tense on me. I’ll be annoyed if I change my mind and have to set it back but it is tightening the story.

Happy Reading!
Sharon x

Update Nov 2019

Hi Everyone!

OUT AND ABOUT:
I finally got to see Amsterdam this month, visiting when on a late cruise which also included Hamburg, and Bruges, though, for some reason, I believed Amsterdam would be quaint. Some highlights were a canal cruise, cheese, and chocolate. I fell in love with many of the houses in the countryside of the Netherlands; so much more interest architecture than ours. Having visited Bruges a few times we opted to see the countryside. Unfortunately, I find travelling extremely difficult these days so the trip wasn’t as enjoyable as it should have been.

FILM/TV:
Found Luke Cage good but a little slow, and though Iron Fist started promising, I’m unsure about the pacing. I also find several character’s reactions somewhat naïve in both series. Good viewing that should be great.

Began both BBC series of His Dark Materials, and The War of the Worlds. Though I have to be honest, I hardly watch the ‘beeb’ these days but had to give these a chance. So far so good.

READING:
The Shining, Stephen King
I’m sure there’s few people who need telling the plot of The Shining. Alcoholic writer takes a job at the Overlook Hotel to be the caretaker over the winter taking with him his wife and son, only young Danny Torrence has a talent the like of which is undocumented and to the ghosts of the Overlook he’s a shining beacon. As a side note for anyone who has only seen the film, the book is decidedly different with a depth the film lacks. This story is also far creepier than I recalled, maybe because you can feel a five-year-old’s panic.

Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
This novel returns to events which happened in the Overlook Hotel of ‘The Shining’, with Danny Torrence now grown. A well written and enjoyable paranormal thriller but don’t go into this expecting the same scares.

WRITING:
Alas, I missed out on being interviewed by Doctor Who magazine because I was out of the country. Nice to be asked, though.

Happy Reading!
Sharon x

Update Oct 2019

Hi Everyone!

OUT AND ABOUT:

This month we spent a couple of nights at a delightful little place on Bodmin Moor. We’d happily return though we now know it’s three miles down an, at times, one car width lane. Wouldn’t put us off though we’d like to go in better weather. We were lucky while out and about, the purpose of our stay mainly to meet with friends. A couple of weeks later we attended a food market which is temptation itself. Two sausage rolls, two pasties, two chocolate brownies, two churros (eaten on the spot), two packets of cheese,  and three packs of sausages for the freezer later, we made ourselves stop.

FILM/TV:

Being as it’s October we’ve been watching a lot of old horror films, and a couple new. In The Tall Grass is an odd one based on a novella by Joe Hill and Stephen King (Joe Hill being his son) that’s currently only available on Kindle but will be out in a collection next year. I have to admit my first thought when hearing a kid screaming for help in a field of tall grass was I’m not going in there, could be a setup. I would have fetched help. It’s difficult to talk about this one without giving the plot away but the concept of being lost in a maze of grass unable to find a way out turned out to be watchable, with elements I appreciated but others I disliked.

Another Netflix offering was Eli, the story of a boy seemingly allergic to the environment (think Boy in a Plastic Bubble with a twist), whose miracle doctor/cure may not be all that it seems. I like this film for the haunted house elements which are so well done.

And we had to rewatch a few classics, which for me includes Fright Night, the original 80s film, where a teenage horror-film buff has a vampire move in next door and has to seek help from a washed-up television star ‘vampire killer’, Roddy MacDowell (always a favourite of mine). Also starring William Ragsdale, this film is now a cult but if you’ve not seen it on Blu-ray you’ve never seen it before. It’s wide, bright and clear, and the depth of distance is incredible. I recall watching it on VHS where we thought everything happened in darkness. I won’t leave with a mention of the remake which, though fairly bad, has its moments. I think Colin Farrell steals the film who seems to having a ball and enjoying being a vampire far too much, and, of course, the late great Anton Yelchin who died far too young.

READING:

The Doll Factory, Elizabeth Macneal

I have to admit the style distracted me at first but soon drew me into the world of Victorian London. The perfectly assembled cast delivers a tale of love, obsession, and atmospheric horror. The fair Iris who wishes to better her situation; her poor embittered sister, Rose; the exuberant Albie; the questionable love interest in Louis; and the infatuated Silas. I couldn’t help thinking of undertones of John Fowles ‘The Collector’ although if that in any way gave inspiration to this novel the author has enriched a basic idea and made it her own. Also, I think the comparison to various other titles is a pity as people like John Fowles are literary noteworthies (regardless of whether you like them) which promotes the book to a level difficult to attain. Some books are simply enjoyable. I’m uncertain whether to consider some parts of the story entirely historically accurate but the tone suffices to transport the reader into another era. The only real downside for me is that I was expecting something perhaps a little more gothic. Still, a fabulous debut.

Happiest Days, Jack Sheffield

One of the strangest things to read in this series is how people show up at school to register their children, something I never experienced. Such were simpler times portrayed so well by Jack Sheffield. Though simply written for anyone who recalls the 80s, these books, imbued with nostalgia, carry a cosy, leisurely ambiance that’s like walking through time with an old friend and made me stay with this 10 book series, of which I believe this is the last though the author has written other titles.


Dracula, Bram Stoker:

A re-read of a classic I’ve not touched for many years. A book of this type will always receive mixed reviews. A classic, by definition, is always a book of its time and will jar for a modern reader. Especially for a modern reader who has not read classic literature for most of their life. My childhood books included novels such as Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island so I have no problem with reading this. At such times when Dickens was popular, writers were paid by the word so if any such novels feel padded there’s a reason. This book does feel overlong, and if written/edited now would be much shorter. I’d particularly forgotten the peculiar way Van Helsing speaks which I read with a blend of irritation and amusing pleasure. In the 21st century the book has many faults, much of it reading like Victorian melodrama, and is far from horrifying, but in 1897 Dracula would have been petrifying. It’s almost impossible to review a book of this type so it’s important to understand how this novel was pivotal.

Though Stoker did not invent the vampire myth or write the first well-known story, he wrote the crucial novel, bringing us a vampire who would popularise the genre and creating a legend. Like the writing or not this book deserves its pedestal. Stoker touched on the darkest fears, not only of the time, but at the heart of terror, a creature capable of overtaking the human mind, of seducing, of changing shape and appearance, of ‘infiltrating’ the home, the heart, the marriage bond. Horror novels often reflect societal fears of the moment, and Dracula is no different though many of the same fears exist more than a century later. Stoker also puts into the mind unforgettable images — a wild country of superstition, Dracula’s towering castle, Harker’s slow realisation he’s a prisoner, Dracula’s vertical crawl, his intention to take over London, the crazed incredible Renfield, Dr Seward’s asylum. And, perhaps, for women today, the book represents the ultimate equality statement. Lucy and Mina’s story both begin with them represented as something beautiful and fragile, ‘creatures’ who can do nothing without their men and who require protection. The book ends with a gun in Mina’s hand. She has become a far different woman from the shy girl who did nothing more than look forward to a life of marriage. She wishes to protect Jonathan as much as he longs to protect her, perhaps placing Stoker as a realist and/or ahead of his time. Still, there are moments that sit uneasy with me, the worst of which is the historical error that anyone can provide a transfusion without blood-matching, a fact not discovered at the time but which cannot help making even this modern reader wince.

WRITING:

I’m delighted to say the pre-order release of my second Lethbridge-Stewart came out:

A new reality has been created by the temporal disruption ripping through the causal nexus. Welcome to 1978… with a difference.

Anne Travers, co-founder of UNIT, and her husband, Bill, are celebrating their wedding anniversary in France, which is the perfect opportunity for Anne to catch-up with an old friend; Madeleine Bonnaire.

At the institute owned by Madeleine’s father, one professor is more interested in his own project than any work for which Bonnaire has hired him. His need for secrecy and his attitude irritates his assistant, Paul Larousse, who would prefer to dwell on his feelings for Madeleine. Meanwhile, Victor Bonnaire is not at all happy to hear of Anne’s visit, not least of all because he’s always viewed Anne as a bad influence on his daughter.

What seems like a simple case of familial friction takes a bleak turn when a local unknown threat makes the news. Suspicion abounds and throws Anne and Bill into an unexpected mystery. What is the strange threat, and does it present a direct danger to anybody at the institute? Or to those who ask too many questions? Unable to walk away from her friend, Anne has no option but to investigate, little knowing she’s about to face the darkest shadow of her life so far.

http://www.candy-jar.co.uk/books/theshadowman.html

https://www.freewebstore.org/candy-jar-store/Bloodlines__The_Shadowman/p676602_20100089.aspx

And for anyone interested in getting a feel for the series there are free downloads, including my short story The Wishing Bazaar:  http://lethbridge-stewart.ne-dc.co.uk/downloads/

Stay well and be Happy,

Sharon x