Sunday, 22 April 2018

Pointers from #History

Life-size Terracotta Warrior and horse, Qin Dynasty, 200+ BC
Writers usually research history to gain an insight into a particular period because they are writing a novel set in that period. 

Yet this is a narrow view of history, especially when considered within the context of contemporary fiction. History repeats. Not only does it always repeat, like a virus history repeats with a slight mutation.

Writing about the future using a lens from the past creates firm foundations. Rulers may start intending to provide a better life for their followers, but the ends tend to start justifying the means; power corrupts and nay-sayers are replaced by yea-sayers. Leaders who start believing their own hype soon become despots.

Excavated Roman funerary plaque beside how it would have appeared.
Speculative Fiction sub-genres, particularly of Fantasy and Science Fiction, are fertile soils in which to sow the seeds. But where to locate the seeds?

Cultural exhibitions can be a source, as Linda Acaster recently found visiting Chester to view its Roman funerary plaques and excavated amphitheatre. But the further from a writer’s own cultural background and writing the more likely images or snippets of information will fire the imagination, as she found visiting Liverpool to attend an exhibition on “China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors”.

Writers who concentrate only on the period and the people they are writing about can seriously limit their horizons.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

#WritersResources : Competitions, Names, Websites

Member Stuart Aken, author of many a title including the Epic Fantasy trilogy A Seared Sky and Sci-Fi Mars trilogy, keeps a mean website worth a look.

Included in his Resources page is an on-going and continually updated Competitions page, a list of First Names from around the world (10k+), and a selection of websites of interest to writers and to readers.

Let there be no calls for inspiration!

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Farscape, FantastiCon and Hornsea Writers



There is usually good representation from Hornsea Writers at the annual sci-fi convention, FantastiCon, and we hope that this year will be no exception. But as yet there is no insider knowledge on whether any Hornsea Writer has a book to launch there. The usual suspect would be Stuart Aken who has launched both his Seared Sky trilogy and the start of his Mars series at the event over the past few years. I guess we’ll have to wait for further announcements.

All being well, the cast of Farscape will be shipped over from Los Angeles not only to take part in the convention but for Gigi Edgley and her brother to perform the final event of their Wanderland World Tour at the live music evening on Saturday night.

FantastiCon this year will be held in Cleethorpes at the futuristic leisure centre on the first weekend in September: 1st and 2nd. Tickets are now on sale via Kickstarter. CLICK HERE for further information on the event and the venue. 


Saturday, 31 March 2018

Research: Mapping Our Way To Understanding

Mappa Mundi, c1300, from Hereford Cathedral
Linda Acaster is fascinated by maps, particularly the Ordnance Survey maps of the United Kingdom. 

By the use of very simple icons each map accurately places every milepost, lighthouse, and electricity pylon; distinguishs between pits of gravel, sand, landfill and quarry; delineates contour lines and vegetation types, and also manages to classify archaeological and historical remains in the landscape.

So what did people do before the first of these maps were commissioned in the late 18th century? 

Can an Early Medieval (Dark Age) "map" still be used today? 

Linda answers these and other questions on her blog HERE. Go visit!

Mappa Mundi image reproduced via Creative Commons licensing.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

An insight into the lives of...

I’ve been lucky enough to interview some fascinating writers over the years. Counting back I find that five of them are fellow Hornsea Writers.


Click on their names for some surprising insights into the writing and lives of:












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.