Chances are…

You will write something you love.

You will write something you hate.

Something you once loved you will come to hate and wonder what in the world you were thinking.

Something you once hated will become loved because you will realise there was more going on in the story than you first thought.

Something you love and even believe is one of your best works will flop.

Something you consider to be weak will be well received and even be a huge success.

You will write jokes no one else gets.

People will laugh at points in the story where you least expect.

You may try a writing contest and get nowhere. The winning entry will leave you scratching your head or possibly sobbing into a pillow.

You will fall out with at least one editor, or one will fall out with you. (This doesn’t mean a screaming match. Fall outs are often quiet. It happens. Personalities clash. Opinions differ. Most publishers understand this and will assign the writer to a new editor.)

You will worry.

You will read something outstanding and wonder whatever made you think you could write.

You will read something lousy and wonder why you are getting nowhere when your work is so much better.

You will want to give up…

…and then get an idea you ‘must’ write.

You will be determined never to stop…

…until the next time you want to give up.

Update June 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

As the world reopens, we’re buttoning down all the more to avoid the inevitable second wave. We’re lucky in that we can buy veg locally without risk — it’s a business unit on the outskirts of town and they put a table across the door. We go to the door, tell them what we want while those inside scurry around packing it up with gloved hands, then we step back, they place it on the table; we step forward to use the card machine to pay, pick up our veg and leave. No contact with anyone. I can see why many have resorted to more local sources, though we’ve always tried to use ours.

Our weekly routine has changed little (except that this time of the year we would have gone for some evening walks) but the weekends have started to drag a little. With that in mind, we’re thinking of tackling a couple of DIY jobs. I’ve had to order 4 tins of paint to redo our front door and the frame from three different outlets. Struggled to get a suitable colour, and it seems many shops still lack stocks.

FILM/TV:

Dipping in to series old and new. Watching the most recent season of The Black List and picking up Brooklyn Nine-Nine where we left off ages ago. Started Altered Carbon, definitely an interesting concept. Just watched Hereditary, a film proclaimed to be something incredibly original when it hit cinemas. Alas, I can’t decide whether it’s slow and dull, or insidious and disturbing. The horror is at times overly melodramatic, at others subtle, perhaps scarily so if you’re easily scared. I neither liked nor disliked it. I think they promoted the film inaccurately, especially when it first came out leading the viewer to expect something quite different which always harms the experience. On a side note, having a dog in the film was entirely pointless.

READING:

Another great month.

Forward Collection, Amazon Original Stories:
While I felt none of the stories were perfect, and often that they were a mere glimpse into a larger concept, I can see where the various subjects create a balance with this collection of six stories available together or individually.

The Last Conversation, Paul Trembley
Though I didn’t like the second person narrative, this may be my favourite of the ‘Forward Collection’ possibly made apt as it concerns loss during a pandemic. There’s a lot left to the imagination, and perhaps that’s why it will fail for some readers. The big reveal is not as grand as perhaps we’d hope it to be. Still, this story is multilayered asking many uncomfortable questions. I couldn’t help feeling there’s a longer story hiding within this shorter work.

Ark, Veronica Roth
Enjoyable, but I found this to be the weakest of the 5 Forward Collection stories. An evacuated earth requires too much suspended belief and though the narration is beautiful, there was no true forward momentum and the ending proved a disappointment. This reads more as a vignette rather than a full story.

Summer Frost, Blake Crouch
An exploration of artificial intelligence that perhaps offers few surprises and yet does so with style, asking all the right questions and offering a variety of conceivable answers, all excellent reasons to suspect the development of A.I.

Emergency Skin, N.K.Jemisin
I greatly loved the concept of this story of an explorer returning to Earth long after those who destroyed their planet having fled from it, to find things are not quite how it seems. Oddly enough, this is another timely story being that we’ve all seen during the recent pandemic how the Earth can regenerate without human interference, though any one group being at fault is subversive and plainly fallacious.

You Have Arrived at Your Destination, Amor Towles
At some future point should humans be able to choose not only the sex of their child but perhaps their life, too. And in doing so, does that parent abandon that child to a life that requires no guidance to a path already mapped out? For one man, it’s a question that makes him evaluate his own existence and choices. Alas, I didn’t find this drew me in deeply enough to more thoroughly explore this excellent concept.

Randomize, Andy Weir
This story made me smirk the most. While the technical jargon may fly over most heads, it’s easy to understand what’s going on here, leaving the question of what makes a crook and what part does technology play in the modern world. A reflection on techno highway robbery.

The Witcher: Season of Storms, Andrzej Sapkowski
A prequel to the first two Witcher books, reading much like a standalone book. I would advise to read this as the third instalment, otherwise the story may confuse as there’s little to no introduction of the main established characters. I enjoyed this as the story takes the form of political intrigue and the theft of Geralt’s swords. I’ve seen some criticise the writer’s style. The only thing I find slightly annoying is the repetitive ‘was’ — it was raining; they were walking; it was dark in the alley — style, though this writer is not the only one who over uses this type of narrative, and I don’t know whether it’s in part owing to the translation. The world of The Witcher remains rich and absorbing.

The Doll Who Ate His Mother, Ramsey Campbell
This is a tough book to rate, but when you understand this is Ramsey Campbell’s debut novel, the good and bad points fall into place. If you love Campbell’s work this is a glimpse of a fledgling writer. If you’ve never read Campbell before, don’t start with this for the author went on to bigger and better things garnering recognition well deserved. The story is also dated — understandably, written over 40 years ago. What people expected, accepted, and found frightening was entirely different back then. So was depth required. Both a horror story with satanic elements, and a thriller involving a disturbed boy perhaps corrupted by the perverse beliefs of those who raised him, alas, the book’s greatest flaw is the lack of menace (for a modern audience). I also spotted what should have been a surprise, but such is an annoying habit of mine. Some will dislike the surreal sauntering sensation the book invokes, but this lends a strange uneasy appeal to the narrative and can be forgiven as a writer finding his voice — and a distinctive voice it now is to those who appreciate his work. Still, there were moments when simple everyday things came across as overly described to where I had to read a sentence twice. Ultimately, the book fails to fall into the horror category for me, and it lacks a depth that left me feeling there’s more to explore, leaving characters shallow. The best and spookiest scene comes toward the end and takes place in a basement, and something about this still lingers, like seeing only the surface of a story through a murky window pane.

What Britain Has Done 1939-1945, Richard Overy (introduction)
Possibly glamorised considering its purpose, but What Britain Has Done was originally published in May 1945 by the Ministry of Information. Even if the facts and figures were half true, they are staggering. This is history as they never taught in school, and which should have been part of such education.

The Muse, Jessie Burton
When writers who can write this well receive such mixed reviews, it must frustrate all creatives. The book is multilayered taking place over two time lines. Jessie Burton excels with a rich, sensual vocabulary that makes her easy to read yet brings to life people, places, and the world of creativity without the reader being aware of it, blending it into the narrative seemingly without effort, though a great deal of effort must have gone into this work for the research alone. This book is about the impediments women face both practically and psychologically. It’s about the inspiration of creativity. When I purchased the book, I read a few reviews; some pronounced Odelle and Olive — the principal characters of the book separated by three decades — as irrelevant and unlikeable, but there’s much more woven into this story than we see immediately on the page. Odelle’s experience in unravelling the mystery behind a mysterious painting gives her the foundation to be herself, to push onwards against all obstacles. Olive is also a woman of her time, equally restricted because of it. Olive chooses secrecy; Odelle to claim what is hers. These women are bookends, the opposite of each other and of how society wants them to be as the times dictated, adding more depth. I’ve loved both this and The Miniaturist, but, if I had to choose, I would opt for The Muse. It is by no means a weaker second book, as some noted critics have suggested.

Orcs First Blood Trilogy, Stan Nicholls
Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder, Warriors of the Tempest
Read back to back these books seem oddly poignant in today’s climate being that the not so subliminal subtext is one of racism and the environment. The author has tried to turn classical fantasy tropes on their head by making the orcs the protagonists. To an extent, he succeeds, although I’m left feeling these books could have been far deeper than they are. For the most part, they are a light, entertaining read. In other spots they are possibly overly violent, though in a world populated by magical beasts and humans perhaps the brutality is not so surprising. I’ve few problems with the author trying to get down and dirty, but I’m not so sure the lighter passages aren’t at odds with the darkness of the story, the writing akin to Young Adult novels in places. Still, I liked this not-so-merry band of orcs; sadly, they’re too humanised, and I often forgot they ‘were’ orcs, with the pacing uneven and the ending a little anticlimactic. Still, I enjoyed the read.

WRITING:

The re-release of An Act of Generosity took place, and I saw the cover to an upcoming edition of Night to Dawn Magazine which contains a poem and short story of mine.

Stay Well and Happy Reading!
Sharon x

Re-edited and re-released

Happy to announce I’ve taken one of my books from my backlist and given it a makeover. My writing has changed in recent years for the better and I felt this story deserved a wider audience as it was much loved in the past.

An Act of Generosity is now available from JMS Books (for those in the US) and widely in other recommended outlets.

Robert’s a responsible adult and a dedicated businessman. He hesitates to hire Lee, who’s applied for the position of PA at his firm, knowing how hard it will be to deny his attraction to the younger man. Lee knows Robert’s has feelings for him, but can he get the proper English gentleman to admit they might share more than lust? And what will happen when Robert discovers they share a past?

My Writing Process (past blog tour)

In 2014, I was nominated for a blog tour without my knowing. I could trust my co-writer and editor, Andy Frankham Allen, not to tell me. I guess he counted on me reading his blog…and it appeared he was right. This was my entry, which I reproduce here with updated footnotes. 2014…where has the time gone?

Q1 What are you working on?

Not as easy to answer as it should be. I’ve recently finished one lot of edits for a steampunk work and had decided to write a third in a published series of romance titles only to realise a need to edit books one and two as I reread them. That turned into an exercise of shock mixed with the delight of seeing how well I’ve improved in five or six short years. And while I did that edits for another book arrived. I’ve just returned the first round but don’t expect it will be long before the second arrives (there’s usually two before line edits etc), so I’m jumping about at present. Interruptions and having to hop between works is one thing I never accounted for.

UPDATE: The romances I mention were finished up and published, despite personal problems and a necessary move causing a good deal of interruption.

Q2 How does my work differ from others in my genre?

A genre is a bit of a painful topic for me. I’ve been calling myself a multi-genre writer, but I realise that’s not an easy achievement. Readers will seldom follow a writer through multiple genres — a fact that had never occurred to me. Yes, I know, naïve, but then I’m a reader who will stick with writers I love no matter what they do. I’ll at least give all their works a try, and I read so widely it seems strange to think there are people who read a single genre. I cannot imagine life without reading at least two or three different types of stories. I always say I write as I read, meaning anything and everything. While this is true, branding is everything these days, so lately I’ve been giving serious consideration to what I do.

I hit on the romance/erotic romance market mostly by accident rather than intent and I call this side of my writing ‘non-traditional’ romance in that I’ve written a large portion of gay or ‘m/m’ titles, also menage, and those in themselves have ranged from contemporary, comedy, horror, science fiction, and fantasy. I want to have a serious try at writing a hetero romance, but I’m sure it will have a paranormal setting so I say ‘non traditional’ to explain that I write a range of pairings and sub-genres.

Of my non-romance work…again, it varies, but I realise that many of my stories seem to contain a dark thread. I’ve a short story, Bitter and Intoxicating, in the anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe (edited by Mitzi Szereto, foreword by Kelley Armstrong) that is a perfect example of this. It’s erotic gothic romance with more than a touch of horror. My one and only short story available at Untreed Reads called The Texture of Winter is impossible to describe. It’s about loss and pain and the end of life, and yet I feel the tale has a bittersweet quality. Both stories are unusual and yet both contain a dark thread. I kind of pride myself in being able to write almost any genre, but I’m trying to pin down what I most want to focus on, so I recently re-branded my site and myself as a ‘writer of dark and light fiction’, which at least seems to cover all possibilities. When I get a little ‘breathing space’ I plan to write a novel with that dark side in mind, just think ‘outside the box’ to see where it takes me.

UPDATE: Texture of Winter is currently out of print. I subsequently divided my romance and darker work and now use 3 versions of my name. I’ve started my first dark fiction novel.

Q3 Why do I write what I do?

An innate love of books, of stories, of story-telling. Books have been companions throughout my life. They seldom let me down. They’re a way to explore life, to live and experience other lives, to be someone you are not. They’re time machines, both into the past and the future. Stories are for enjoyment and exploration. They can teach or simply hold the reader’s hand through good times as well as trauma. I’d love to make a living at writing, but realistically so few writers do. Many writers write because they don’t know how not to. It’s a driving force. I’ve referred to it akin to breathing.

Q4 How does my writing process work?

I’m not sure. Every project feels different, and the process isn’t always the same. I call myself a pantser — a term in writing circles to mean fly by the seat of. Andy is mostly a plotter. When we co-authored a book, I found it a little exhausting, and it wasn’t just because we were stepping in at short notice and had limited time. Andy is fast, and he knows exactly where he wants to go. I can be fast, but not always, and not when plotting. Writing with someone else requires a certain amount of plotting to be inevitable, but I seldom know where I’m going, so following any kind of pattern felt alien to me. I may start a work based on an opening scene that’s come to me. I may have an idea where I want my characters to end up, but not have a clue how they will get there. On rare occasions I’ll know the end, but nothing or not much leading up to it. I have written things based on nothing more than a title or a handful of words given to me. Characters may come to me without a story, or I’ll connect two random events and realise there’s a plot hiding there. I really cannot explain how my ideas form because it can happen in many ways.

The writing process itself can also differ. I usually write from beginning to end, as if I were reading a story. Occasionally I’ll write random scenes or jump a few scenes ahead and then connect them, sort of in the way they produce a film. The writing can come easily or take forever. It’s a wonderful feeling when it’s flowing; other times…I can only say there’s an excellent reason writers refer to it as proverbially pulling teeth. When the writing drags it drags big time, yet I can’t base how good the writing is on how easily the work flows. Sometimes it feels as if a story wrote itself and poured out of me; other times I’ve had to wrench out every word, but in neither case does that tell me a thing about the quality of what I’ve produced until I shelve it for a while and come to the editing. That’s the one thing about my process — I like to shelve work before I do an edit. I may edit a little as I go, I may read over the previous day’s work to get me back into the story and tweak it, but before I do a first major edit, I prefer to let work sit a minimum of two weeks, preferably two to three months or even longer.

Q5 What’s new from you?

I’ve a short story called The Night Train in a magazine, Night to Dawn, and I’ve recently finished The Draco Eye a steampunk work for Space 1889 so that’s likely to be the next available longer work from me. The intrepid crew of Sovereign are heading for Jupiter and find the most fantastical creature yet…which the amazing cover reveals.

Coming next…current edits are on a book tentatively entitled Going Nowhere — a title that will probably end up changed owing to the publisher’s list of titles already in use. This is a gay erotic romance paranormal detective type thing that will be available from Loose id though I don’t have a release date yet. Who said a writer can’t mix things up?

UPDATE: Going Nowhere ended up releasing as Wildest Dreams, but is out of print. Loose Id ceased trading recently. I’ve had more work in Night to Dawn since.

Update May 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
As the weather turned nice, we reorganised part of the garden. We now have three seating areas, one on the terrace, one under the pergola. We also moved the roses (in pots) to a more secluded area where they seem to do better, and put a bench on the outside of the pergola (where the roses were) in case we want to sit in some late afternoon sun, by which time most of the sunshine has gone to the front. Not terribly exciting, but then life isn’t at the moment for those of us keeping safe and waiting out the second wave of this pandemic.

FILM/TV:
Finished watching everything we started last month and delved into the last season of Peaky Blinders, and the second season of Sex Education, which is worth watching for the views of the Welsh countryside alone. Watched the last season of Ash Vs The Evil Dead on DVD. None of my friends would understand my love of this B-movie style horror comedy films or series, but my love of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi’s work is enduring for which I make no apologies.

READING:
It’s been a good month reading wise.

The Tent, The Bucket and Me, Emma Kennedy
A sometimes funny, a sometimes cover your eyes and peep through your fingers cascade of family holiday disasters, this book is also a nostalgic ride for those who lived through the 70s especially if your parents ever dragged you camping. Fortunately, my memories aren’t as horrendous as Emma’s but none have ever made me wish to go sit in a field in a tent again. At times, I really felt for her and recollected that moment when parents become embarrassing.

The English Monster, Lloyd Shepherd
Written with more tell than show, and the omnipresent head-hopping and change of point of view meant the style didn’t quite work for me but this is the only negative. A shadowy murder thriller in dark shady alleyways of old London, at others a swashbuckling adventure on the high seas. Best described as a historical thriller, this is a detective story told over more than one century following two separate paths that join strangely, but I love a different way of storytelling and in this the author has excelled.

The House of Thunder, Dean Koontz
A strange story of a woman caught in the possible grip of madness, trapped in a real or personal Hell. A reread for me and I’d completely forgotten this story so didn’t know the outcome, although I partially guessed the direction in which it was heading. This is one to read for the buildup, especially if you love creepy tales, which, in this instance, Koontz weaves well. Though I found the horror a little cheesy in one spot, I sped through this book in two days. An easy, absorbing ‘fun’ read.

After You With the Pistol, Kyril Bonfiglioli
The second Mordecai novel is easier to read and funnier than the first, though I struggled to overlook a distasteful account of what should be a woman’s response to rape. I can attribute this to other times as I’m not one to judge people from the past by today’s standards, but it spoilt an otherwise entertaining read.

Tainaron, Leena Krohn
First, the copy I have is of a small hardback book that’s a delight to hold with an eye-catching slip cover, and drawings dotted throughout; a fast read at only 124 pages. The story from this Finnish prize-winning author is a fantasy told in a series of letters written by a foreign visitor and sent from an insect city. There’s no plot. We never know the recipient of these letters and only get to know the writer obliquely. I’ve heard the character writing the letters is female, but I never picked up on that and saw the letter writer as male, lost and adrift, having travelled to Tainaron seeking a promise that may never be fulfilled unless it’s found within. The most obvious nuance is one of change. There’s something visceral in the narrative, making this a book with an amorphous emotional impact. I’m sure many will find this nonsensical, bizarre, maybe pointless, yet there’s something memorable and almost poetic about the book. And, like a poem, will have significance for some, be meaningless to others.

The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett
A strange experience reading the last Discworld novel, though it’s not the last Discworld novel I have to read. I’m in the dubious position of knowing there are no more books than those I have on my shelves and I should finish them. But once I do, there are no more. While I will spend time before getting around to the last few, there are still Discworld books for me to look forward to. Terry Pratchett was without doubt my most beloved author and reading his last work would always be difficult, which is part of the reason I procrastinated. The four Tiffany Aching books aren’t my favourite, though I love the Feegles and own a Rob Anybody. This is a poignant end to the Discworld series and as a farewell from Terry.

Big Damn Hero (Firefly), James Lovegrove
I want to start by saying I found this a lovely paperback. The cover has an excellent design and texture with flaps like a dust jacket. There are even small touches such as an image of Serenity similar to a watermark on the pages at each chapter. Alas, there were half a dozen typos within which pull me out of the story somewhat, but it’s worth overlooking those slight errors to enjoy another episode of Firefly. And that’s how this book reads — like a missing episode, particularly as we get to know more about the characters, especially Shepherd Book. Maybe a hard one to recommend, and no, it will never be like watching the series, but as a die hard Firefly fan I’ll take the novel over nothing and will pick up more as they’re released.

WRITING:
I received edits and the cover for An Act of Generosity, which re-releases in June with JMS books. I’ve also been writing and plotting for another book in a series (not romance) that I’m unable to talk about yet. I’ve yet to run the idea by the publisher to see whether they’ll be interested.

Stay Well and Happy Reading!
Sharon x

Why I love Joss Whedon

I make no secret of loving Joss Whedon’s work. My appreciation started with Buffy, went on to Angel, includes Dollhouse (which really needs time to admire) and soared highest with Firefly. I adore Firefly. More accomplished in one season than some shows achieve over several years. Impressive story threads, wonderful casting, fabulous camerawork and editing. Then there’s his feature film work, which I won’t bother to list here. I’ve yet to discover something of Joss’s I don’t at least like. I understand his storytelling, what he’s trying to achieve even when he doesn’t convey all he sets out to do. What writer or creative artist ever does?

And then there’s his fight for equality. If I never thought Joss could go up in my estimation, I was mistaken when I realised his views on equal rights. Not clued in? Then sit down and watch the following when you have 8 minutes to spare. This is one man likely to put a smile on many a woman’s face for all the right reasons.