Deepest, Darkest Dorset

Let me introduce a little ‘pet’ I found in deepest, darkest Dorset. I’m sure he’ll make the perfect guard dog; he’ll even deal with troublesome neighbours. I may name him Fido.

We’ve only visited Dorset once before and now, living far closer, we explored more of the area. We stayed in lovely accommodation, sharing the use of the owners’ wonderful garden. So wonderful, it rather inspired me so that I brought several plants home from garden centres in the area. It’s official — I cannot add another plant to the garden from here on. It’s simply jampacked. I’ve also got a clear idea of what I’ll do with our next garden should we get the chance to make another move. This garden is far too established to change now.

We kept things simple for me as I find going out and about currently difficult for health reasons, choosing to visit gardens, houses, maybe a beach, starting with a day out, in and around Abbotsbury, which is an attractive village built in bluff stone. We visiting Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens and the Abbotsbury Swannery. They’re separate but close by and you can save by purchasing a ticket for both at either attraction without having to go to each on the same day. All the birds are free, but as they’re fed twice a day and provided with appropriate pens and nesting material, they choose to nest here. At the time we went, the cygnets were hatching, and it was full on cuteness overload.

Cerne Abbas is worth visiting for a short while, though there’s not much there. We did a circular walk along the river into the village, around the buildings on the oldest street (much my favourite), and to the abbey. Reviews complain about the price to enter the abbey grounds, and I see the point. At £2.50 a head (paid via honesty box), it’s pricey for what’s there.

The Oldest Street

From the grounds of the old cemetery, one can head into the woods and even up to and around the Cerne Giant, though it’s now fenced off to protect it. We headed further out and then made our way back, at last heading down on what to me felt like an almost vertical descent. The so-called ‘steps’ on the left side of the giant are hardly that.

Visions of ‘As You Wish’ tumbling down the hillside for those of who you’ve seen The Princess Bride

We looked at the giant from the viewpoint (best way to see it, anyway, so unless you love walking save yourself the trek), and had a much needed cream tea in the garden of the local tearoom.

Cerne Giant

Nearby, though going over the border into Somerset, are the National Trust properties of Montacute House, and Tintinhull Gardens. Back into Dorest, there’s Kingston Lacy and, though not National Trust there’s Thorncroft Woods, which contains Thomas Hardy’s cottage, which is. We also explored Minterne Gardens and made our way over to Weymouth, though I found that to be a little too quintessential ‘British beach holiday’ material for me. I far prefer less crowded long winding beaches, or small secret coves.

Update May 2022

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

Late with May’s news as we’ve away on holiday, but more on that next time with maybe a photo or two.

FILM/TV:

Still re-watching Deep Space 9, and the last season of The Rookie. Film wise, we were spoilt for choice, though not had a lot of time to watch any. Here Today starring Billy Crystal turned out better than expected and not at all what we expected going in. Highly recommend this story of an unusual friendship. Ghostbusters Afterlife is wonderfully nostalgic for fans of the original movies, and a delightful tribute to Harold Ramis.

READING:

Ghostbusters (The Original Movie Novelisations Omnibus) Richard Mueller, Ed Naha, narrated by Johnny Heller (audio)

Well read, with a hint at some voices of the characters in the films. Fleshes out the character’s thoughts, though not hugely. Unnecessary if one has seen the films, but I still found them enjoyable as I could easily picture the scenes in my mind.

Big Trouble, Dave Barry

In some ways ludicrous (if airport security was ever this lax, we’re all in trouble), but it’s meant to be. I’ve seen some comments mentioning a lack of character depth, but it’s not that kind of story. I wouldn’t call it as funny as it’s marketed to be, but it made me smile and I might even read this again some day or check out more of this author’s work.

Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury

I thought I’d read this when young, but I remembered little of it. It’s more likely someone told me the story, because had I read this, there’s no way I would have forgotten the writing. I can’t help thinking had I ever turned in a story written in such a style, my teachers would have thrown fits, siting grammar rules until I grew dizzy. But this is the indomitable Bradbury and not only does he know how to break the rules, he does it so well. Some of my teachers would have cited that many sentences don’t make grammatical sense, and they don’t in a purist way, but what they do is conjure up sensations and emotions. Take the title alone, which at least one teacher would have told me should read Something Wicked Comes This Way… but it would never have been so memorable; would never be so visceral. Plus, there’s the multi-layers of subtext: a book about good and evil, being young, growing old, accepting these things, not harping on them, not worrying about them and not fearing them so much one forgets to live, to enjoy and feel blessed every day. It also speaks of friendship and family, of love, and of laughing in the face of despair as a way of pushing back the darkness — the sorrows of life and the eventual darkness. I’m sure others will find their own interpretations, but for me, this book covers the gamut of life and death in all its joys and woes. Chilling, full of dread, atmospheric, mesmerising, thrilling, captivating, and masterfully executed.

Operation Wildcat and Other Stores, Edited by Tim Gambrell

Not sure I should review this as it contains one of my stories, so let me just say my favourite idea in the book is Honourable Discharge by Chris Lynch, though I also liked Old Fowlkes’ Home by Martin Parker as it’s an Anne Travers story.

The Cinderella Deal, Jennifer Crusie

I started this immediately, thinking this was far from the author’s best. Still, I wanted to love this book, though I dithered between liking it and loving it… until I finished. On the one hand, the story’s contrived, but stranger things have happened in life. And there’s something endearing about these opposites attract tale, where people aren’t all they seem despite their bluster. Think of it as an outrageous rom-com and sit back and enjoy getting the most from this story of a marriage of convenience that’s anything but. I eventually came thoroughly to enjoy this story of falling in love… after the marriage. No big surprises there; this is a romance, after all. What surprises the most are the characters of the protagonists and the way they help each other change in rewarding ways.

Cemetery Drive, J.T.Wilson

This book turned out to be an interesting look at life and death in a style reminiscent of Douglas Adams or a favourite stand-up comic. Amusing more than laugh out loud, but entertaining and well-written. A good choice for anyone who likes to see the character of Death personified.

A Spring Affair, Milly Johnson (audio read by Colleen Penderghast)

Not usually my sort of read; however, I really like the narrator, so gave Milly Johnson’s work a go. The author’s done exceptionally well, creating the ultimate in manipulative people, and people who too often allow themselves to be manipulated. The story begins with the main character giving her home a spring clean, bravely chucking out all the detritus in her life when the reader knows she has one major piece of rubbish she most definitely needs to get rid of.

WRITING

Alas, I grew tired of the story I’ve been working on. Instead of continuing to torture myself, I shelved it. Maybe one day I’ll pick it up again and be delighted and maybe I won’t and be disappointed. Right now, I want to work on my Dark Fiction novel, and maybe stretch my short story skills, which I’ve not done for some time.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Sound of Silence

For those who’ve not heard of Pentatonix, I wanted to introduce you to them the way I first heard them. Pentatonix are an American a cappella group from Arlington, Texas.

And for those interested, from the Dictionary the word pentatonic means relating to, based on, or denoting a scale of five notes, especially one without semitones equivalent to an ordinary major scale with the fourth and seventh omitted: pentatonic scales in the key of G Major | a simple pentatonic idea repeated chromatically.

This is their video singing The Sound of Silence.

Alone/Not Alone

Don’t automatically rely on family and friends to support your writing endeavours. They may be wildly interested and want to read everything you produce, but equally writers face indifference to outright ridicule. Bad enough writers must tolerate this type of apathy or attack from strangers (I’m not referring to your average reviewers), but when it comes from people we know, it’s personal and painful.

In my case, many of my family and friends don’t read. Many restrict their daily reading material to newspapers, a few to newspapers and magazines, and fewer to their choice of summer beach reading material, meaning they may read 2-4 books a year. For these and others, I don’t always write in their preferred genre. Them not reading my books isn’t personal. While one might think some would or even should at least give a book written by a friend a try, it’s still an unprejudiced decision on their part if they choose not to. Their preference has no bearing on my writing, or my wish to be a published author. I may sometimes feel disappointment, but it’s a bearable regret.

I’m happy to say I have four people related to me by kinship or friendship who want my work. My husband, my sister-in-law, and two friends. Out of these, one cannot afford my work so I provide it for her. Two only read print, so ebooks present a problem. One buys everything I produce, and my husband gets to read for free because… well, why shouldn’t he? He supports me most of all and reads anything and everything I write and is happy to do so. In that I consider myself lucky because there are many writers whose spouses resent their writing even when they reach publication, showing annoyance, irritation and jealousy because they don’t wish to share your time with something you love as much as you do them. And there are other reasons those closest to you don’t like writers’ writing. There are people who remain shocked to hear I’m still writing, as though it’s a phase I should have long grown out of. Some even treat it as crass a pastime as picking one’s nose. “I suppose you’re still doing that writing thing,” is one thing I’ve heard often.

Of course, most writers don’t earn a lot and still need at least a part-time if not full-time job, though that’s something I’d like to address separately. One can understand some basis for resentment if a loved one is neglecting all those around them, leaving jobs not done, and bills unpaid, but this is rarely the case. Usually resentments stem from a lack of shared interest, and the type of high expectations amateur writers often share when they first approach the writing market — that of success equaling substantial payment, media interest, and red carpet premieres.

But whereas writers love their craft and soon learn they need patience and perseverance ever to have a chance of making the hoped-for success of a best-selling author, while realising and accepting it may never happen and that success in writing comes in many forms and levels, those around seem far less able to cope with this reality. I’ve heard of writers’ families who have only come around once their writing spouses, daughters or sons, manage a major writing deal. Even then, success does not mean they’ll want to read your work. If family and friends are as excited about your book release as you are, congratulations, but don’t expect it. This can come as a tremendous shock to some new authors.

In short, to be a writer there are many reasons the craft can be a solitary pursuit, but if one of this is a lack of interest from those you love, and worse, ridicule, then although you’ll feel profoundly alone, I’m saying many writers suffer the same and in that you’re far from on your own.

Update April 2022

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
Got out to see some welcome signs of spring. Visited a couple of garden centres, including a new one, and got some much wanted plants. Now, to keep everything crossed the slugs won’t eat them. Also took a long trip to visit relatives and booked some breaks for later this year. I’ve been limping around on a sprained ankle because someone had put in a new drive by covering it with stones and grit and it was covering the road. Alas, rounded off the month with some sad news regarding the death of a dear friend.

FILM/TV:
Watching the last two seasons of Sleepy Hollow as we never saw them after our Sky box melted several years ago. I have mixed feelings about the show (especially the crossover episode with Bones — so peculiar to cross a supernatural programme with one so focused on science; it didn’t even feel as though the actors hearts were in it), but think it’s cast well.

Finally finished re-watching Star Trek The Next Gen, and now re-watching Deep Space 9, though quite a few of the early episodes seem to rely on the crew acting dumb to make the plots work. One series that surprised us was Only Murders in the Building, starring Steve Martin and Martin Short. Very well written. I see there’s a second series and we’re definitely interested.

A quirky little film is From the Vine, starring Joe Pantoliano. An Italian/Canadian production it tells the story of a man who makes a surprising career decision because of an ethical dilemma and returns to his roots to find a better life. Nothing exactly new about the plot, but it’s engaging.

READING:
The Cabin in the Woods (The Official Visual Companion), Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon
Companion book to the film which features interviews, cast comments, the script, design work, and concludes with a creature feature which I feel could have been longer, but I’m guessing they wanted to leave some surprises for the film alone. Also, a warning — the print is tiny. For anyone who loves the movie, this is a kind of must have. There’s a lot here that made me want to watch the film frame by frame to catch all the detail I’m sure I’ve missed, namely the wealth of creatures. I warn anyone who hasn’t seen the film and wants to, not to look at the book first. There will be no shocks left.

Midnight, Dean Koontz
A re-read for me. Not having read this book for more years than I care to remember, I confess I’d forgotten the story. This is a tight science-fiction thriller with the meaning of life subtext. Think The Island of Doctor Moreau crossed with any well made FBI crime show. And as with classic books like Frankenstein, there’s the underlying question of just because humankind can do a thing, it has an ethical necessity to consider whether it should. Alas, I don’t think the villain’s backstory with the Native American holds up well in more modern times; it’s cliched even down to the sense of this person being the source of corruption. And I’m not even sure it’s all that important, but there’s much to like here. I like what Koontz has to say about thought vs feelings and vice versa in this, and how humans cannot live without emotion. As is often the case, the author also includes a perfect doggy hero.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne
A well-known and international bestseller, this is a book set during the Holocaust and telling the story from the point of view of an innocent boy. On the one hand, this should be a classic for generations to come and required reading; indeed, many teachers in the UK use this for teaching already. However, Bruno would not have been so unaware; as a German child of the time, he would have been part of the Hitler Youth movement, taught (brainwashed from a young age) to swear oaths to support the Fatherland. The book suffers from other faults such as the unfortunately flat character of Shmuel, the boy Bruno makes friends with — a child who more likely would have been instantly murdered at Auschwitz, the obvious setting as Bruno calls the camp Out-With. Sadly, the book falls short by showing the atrocity though one point of view, and a blinkered one at that. I can’t help feeling this would have a greater impact on today’s youth were the reader to see through the eyes of both boys revealing the true horror in the camp. Still, simply told yet disturbing, this fictional work of a factual era is appropriately unsettling, and as a teaching tool is a fine stepping off point for the young. I felt irritated that even a 9-year-old could be so ignorant of the world but realised this reflects one facet of reality — that too many, aged 9 and older, remain or even choose such ignorance. Although I worked out the ending, there’s still something chilling about the conclusion and the closing sentence is one hard to forget.

Lord of the Flies, William Golding (audio book, read by Martin Jarvis)
Have to confess I’ve never read this, so I thought I’d listen to it as a compromise. Owing to its reputation, I expected a far more brutal story. No doubt much is lost owing to what once was shocking pales in significance as time progresses. Still, undoubtedly a classic and deserving of such status.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith
I bought this when it first came out, but have dithered whether to read it. Still, as I paid for this, I at long last got around to reading J.K. Rowling’s offering of her first detective novel. Cormoran Strike is a vibrant character and, along with the pairing of his Temporary Solution assistant, makes for a hard to forget duo. I decided on two killers and one of them was correct, but it took a long time for me to come up with a deduction. This was a surprising and well plotted read.

Bob The Book, David Pratt
Bob is a gay book looking for the love of his life. It’s a fun concept, a quick read, and a good allegory for life, love, and relationships. The story shows we don’t always get what we want, or we find it in a way that’s unexpected. Equally, it says that what we want isn’t necessarily the best thing for us or even what we need. And I’ll never be able to look at a book with a broken spine the same way again.

The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry
I understand this is possibly one of three novels starring the McNulty family, so perhaps reading them all would be more fulfilling. In this volume, the story of Roseanne is unsurprising given the way women have been treated historically, yet disturbing and anger inducing to a modern-day female audience, and I hope a male one. Ultimately a sad tale, and atmospherically put together. Unfortunately, although I empathise with Roseanne’s plight, I didn’t connect with her as much as I would have liked, and about halfway through I lagged and struggled, meaning this took me far longer to finish than it should have. Still, it’s well plotted, with an end that will surprise some (though I guessed the outcome, thinking the author surely wouldn’t choose it); therefore, will satisfy some, annoy others. It’s a good book, but one I could take or leave.

Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman (audio)
I’m a Gaiman fan though I’ve not read this one. Not sure what I’d make of it in print, but I found the audio dramatisation thoroughly entertaining. This was an hour and a half of fun with a varied cast, including the author. The telling of Norse Mythology told as someone telling a story.

Alien: River of Pain (cast dramatisation), Christopher Golden (audio)
A rather unnecessary telling of what happened to the settlers at the start of the film Aliens, though entertaining enough to appeal to some Alien fans. This tells us what happened to Newt and her family, and the other colonists before Ripley & Co arrived to find out what happened to them.


The Very First Damned Thing, Jodi Taylor (audio)
A prequel to a series of books of the Chronicles of St Mary’s featuring a group of time-travelling historians, this one read by the author. It’s entertaining and an interesting idea, and perhaps adds to the series for invested readers, but I’ve not listened/read any of the other books and I’m not sure this made we want to start another series, particularly as it has mixed reviews. Still, I like the idea enough that if I had enough time, I’d try the first book, so I can’t truly recommend one way or the other.

Anyone But You, Jennifer Crusie
A sweet, fun, feel-good romance featuring two people who are too good at assuming what the other one wants based on their own insecurities. This is a great summer holiday read. And if you like dogs, you’ll love Fred.

WRITING
Working on re-leasing a previous book and of turning it into a trilogy, so I’ve been writing that. Still not sure it will happen, but I had an idea which has brought me closer to making it a reality. As soon as I’ve finished this, I’ll be working on my Dark Fiction novel again.

Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Dragon #17

With Easter coming up I won’t be blogging next week, and I thought I’d keep it short and sweet. Here’s another recent acquisition. This dragon is made from ground up quartz in a resin. I just loved the design and colour.

Wishing everyone a lovely break or an easy time if working.