Saturday, 17 March 2018

Sharing the research

One of the most captivating areas of fiction writing is the research. Many writers will tell you that they get so engrossed it becomes a real wrench to close the research file and get on with writing the actual book.

An upside to this, for both writers and readers, is that all that background provides more topics for short pieces that can be shared. And some fascinating facts emerge in all sorts of areas.

Ever wondered how people got natural light into their houses pre 17th century, without letting in the cold and everything else that can climb through an opening in a wall? Check out Linda Acaster’s blog Glazing Without Glass

Interested in quirky facts about horses? Try out Melanie Trudeaux’s blog for snippets on A Horse’sTeeth or find out what horses see out of those huge eyes in Seeing the right colour

Saturday, 10 March 2018

For Students Struggling with Dissertations.

“Cutting Through The Academic Crap: An Informal Guide to Writing Your Dissertation”

Why did I feel the need to write this short, no nonsense guide for students? Read on.

There used to be a joke, which turned about to be the truth regarding an EU directive about cucumbers. It amounted to a terrifying number of words when compared to the American Bill of Rights. Scary when you consider that the first deals with a salad vegetable and the second the rights of a nation’s individuals.

My mother’s generation always believed in the value of long-winded pomposity over short, clear and to the point writing. These people still exist and a lot are in academia.

I wrote this short, clear guide because so many students - intelligent, articulate students - get either no clear instructions about what they need to write the dissertation or conflicting information.

The incredibly intelligent and talented son of a friend was working himself into a nervous breakdown over his dissertation. Had he been given guidance by his tutors? Yes, but they kept changing their minds. The saddest thing was that he knew exactly what he wanted to say, but nobody had told him in plain uncomplicated language how to say it. Worse, they hadn’t even hinted at how much knowledge of how to manipulate the word processing software he would need. We spent a weekend sorting his notes and, using my guidance, he wrote his dissertation. He came out of university with a first-class honours degree.

Cutting Through the Academic Crap covers not just how to put a dissertation together, but how to organise your notes, how to use your time effectively, how to manipulate Word and what to do if it all goes wrong. If this guide saves just one student from the hell my friend went through, I shall be delighted.

April Taylor. Cutting Through the Academic Crap. 

You can learn more about April Taylor here:

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Fiction Fired From Experience

From a Native American re-enactor
Does it help a writer to experience elements used in their novels?

Well, yes, obviously, but let's not get too carried away. Stuart Aken didn't actually travel to Mars before writing his SF novels, and Penny Grubb doesn't go around murdering people for her Crime fiction, though she does walk the mean streets of Hull and the other environments used for her settings.

Past lives, however, do figure large. April Taylor mines hers as a professional singer, as does Karen Wolfe as a dog training organiser. Interesting that both these careers have led to writing Cosy, or not-so-Cosy Crime.

Linda Acaster is a believer in hands-on research; her previous life included being a Native American re-enactor which led to her Beneath The Shining Mountains historical, and indirectly back to Dark Age Britain for her Torc of Moonlight trilogy. Getting close up and personal with her research is something she regularly blogs about. 

Catch her recent posts on a visit to the Jorvik Viking Festival, and Medieval Glazing using both horn and oiled linen.

YouTube is a mine of useful information for any novelist, as was proven during the UK's recent 'Beast of the East' weather episode which not only kicked off a good range of story ideas but led Linda to a video exploring the much worse mirror storm The Great Freeze of 1963. Despite the event not even being a lifetime ago, the lack of skyscrapers, the use of steam trains, the transport links, and people's mode of dress makes it seem almost a dystopian age, a far cry from the emerging youth culture of the Swinging Sixties that history usually highlights. 

And there's an entire novel in that observation alone.

Friday, 23 February 2018

The Joy of Guest Posting

Recently, one of the Hornsea Writers group has been active on other people’s blogs. Writers are sometimes invited to produce posts for other bloggers and it’s usually a positive experience. Such pieces can be anything from straight promotional opportunities through items on the techniques of writing to interviews providing more information about the writing life.
Stuart Aken writes a monthly column for an online magazine, has been interviewed twice recently, and was invited to post a guest piece about his local area on another site. Now he features in an online broadcast about his experience of ME/CFS that prompted him to write a memoir with advice for others.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

No, it’s not just a matter of time

There are topics that almost all writers report being told or asked; ‘Where do the ideas come from?’ and ‘I’m going to write a book when I get the time,’ to name just two.

There’s an assumption behind there that all it needs is time, and the hard part will be getting the idea in the first place. Not so. The ideas are there for the taking (but that would be another blog*).

As to having the time… how many jobs do you know where time is the only issue? What about interruptions, crises that pull arrangements off course…? Time management theory these days advises people to build in the unexpected so that they don’t spend every waking hour generating frustration because their day did not work out to a schedule that looked so good on paper.

Writing, as so many other activities, can be derailed by a whole host of things, some predictable, some not. For instance, how many people would list a love affair between two electronic devices as an concern? 

*basically, the ideas shop.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Romance - All Hearts & Flowers? Not here!

Not long to go now. Bought your heart-laden greetings card? Eyeing which bouquet of red roses you can afford? Which bottle of sparkling to proffer?

Saint Valentine’s Day certainly gathers to itself all the cliches, but surprisingly enough Romance novels don’t. They never truly did, despite the epithet. Take a look at the selection written by members: not a hearts and flowers Romance among them.

Madeleine McDonald’s A Shackled Inheritance centres on betrayal, hypocrisy, and the evils of slavery. Stuart Aken’s Breaking Faith explores exploitation and control in and around the world of glamour photography, while Linda Acaster’s Beneath The Shining Mountains leads the reader into a nomadic life so different to our own, romanticised by television and derided by history.

Yet what all three authors bring is an exploration of human relationships – the aspect that fuels just about every fictional story ever produced. Even Watership Down wasn’t truly about rabbits.

So let's have a little truly satisfying Romance this week, shall we? Ah, why not.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Staying Sane While Writing

If you want to write...where better than a writing group? Most of the authors I know don't like rocking the boat. They have a routine, it works. They don't like meeting new people. They don't have the time.  I had all of these concerns as a new member of Hornsea Writers. For me stepping out of my comfort zone was necessary to see things from a different angle.
But it has been worth it. 

New writers and old think that groups are not for them. Some believe their work isn't ready, or the group might be clique-rich, not their genre. But, as I have (re) learned since joining Hornsea Writers, there are some vital reasons to get out and meet people, and it's not all about words on the page.

Shellie Horst

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Local publisher takes a shine to Hornsea Writers

Local publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing, published its first short story anthology in 2012. It was called Fusion and one of the Hornsea Writers, Stuart Aken, was invited to contribute.

Since then, Fantastic Books has published six short story collections and four of them feature stories from the Hornsea Writers. Stuart Aken was again invited to contribute in 2015 to Synthesis.

Horror followed a year later with the 666 anthology in which Stuart was joined by Linda Acaster as an invited contributor. The collection also included a story from Penny Grubb.

The most recent collection, a railway anthology, Dreaming of Steam, showcased four Hornsea Writers; Penny Grubb was invited to contribute and stories from Elaine Hemingway, Madeleine McDonald and April Taylor were included.

Fantastic Books’ current competition, Fire and Ice, closes at the end of February. If you feel up to producing a short tale that touches on dark, twisted and dystopian, why not follow this link and have a go. Fireand Ice Entries must be in by the end of February.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Fiction might be fiction but it still has to work

I have written non-fiction (articles, textbooks, reports etc) as well as fiction and if I put an error in a textbook it could affect generations of students. But fiction writers too have to get it right. 

Years ago, I was fascinated by Roman history. I not only ploughed through Gibbon’s Decline and Fall (an abridged version), I soaked up fiction set in those times. I mention it here for the memory of hurling one particular book out with the rubbish. 

Its irredeemable sin? Two characters were conversing in the bath house and one of them said, ‘Pass the soap.’ For all that the first known use of soap precedes the Romans by a long way, they did not use it in their baths. 

That one brief comment ruined the whole book for me. How could I trust it to be a credible account of ancient Rome if the author didn’t even know the basics?

It comes down to research, and I have corralled a few facts, some cartoons, and a reference or two over on my blog in pursuit of further clarity on what is a vital and often neglected component of everyday life. Please call in and join the discussion:

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Guest Posts.

Writers, especially when they blog, or run their own website, are occasionally invited to place guest posts on sites run by other bloggers. It's a fine way of spreading the word.
Recently, Stuart Aken received two such invitations. One of the sites deals in something dear to his heart: the beauty of the world around us. He decided to produce a post about his home area, the Forest of Dean, using his own photographs to illustrate his love for this small gem of English countryside by journaling a year in the forest. You can find that post here. As is so often the case with such posts, it's generated a good deal of interest and comment.
The second invitation involved an author interview. Glen Donaldson is an Australian reader/writer who enjoys presenting posts very much in his own humorous style. Stuart tried to match his answers to the tone of the questions and the interviewer's blog. The subject was his Generation Mars series of novels and you can visit the post here.
If you'd like to see more of Stuart Aken's photography or writing, please visit his website here.