Saturday, 7 December 2019

The Bookless Book Launch

All was planned. What could be better than to launch my first book in the village where the novel is set? A table was booked at the local pre-Christmas Craft Fair and flyers printed ready to hand out. The only problem – my books did not arrive in time from the printers.

Downhearted? Yes, but I attended the Fair anyway, only to arrive in torrential rain. Even the local dogs did not want a walk. I was shown to my table – a small one tucked in the far corner. Oh dear. I dripped my way across and there I waited for the Fair to open, my two proof copies on display looking as sad as I felt.

The event was a slow starter. A lot of folk came only for a morning coffee and a chat with friends. Many overlooked my table altogether, moving swiftly between the more colourful stalls. A few were enticed by the front cover and the title Witch-bottles and Windlestraws. I persevered. 

‘Do you like historical novels?’ I asked as they passed by. If they answered ‘yes’, then I would add, ‘Well – this one is set here, in Reighton, in the early 1700s.’ Then they were hooked. I took orders for ten books and, very trustingly, the purchasers paid in advance. All was not lost.

I did deliver the books a couple of weeks later and so met the buyers twice as they asked for their copies to be signed. Now I have good contacts in the village and they are helping with my research for the next novel in the series. 

The moral of this tale? No books, no problem!

Joy Stonehouse

Copies of Witch-bottles and Windlestraws are available as a paperback or ebook from Amazon.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Going backwards to come forwards

We are constantly told we must keep moving forwards. The word I wanted to use in that first sentence was relentlessly because it seems that some people see nothing good about looking back and are completely focussed on surging ahead.

But looking back is not the same as wanting to turn back time, which can indeed be harmful, especially to the emotions. In other words, it is sometimes beneficial to look back to see how far you have come or to judge how far you still have to travel. Or to assess if the way you did something then still has any relevance to how you do that thing now.

Two weeds recently flew into the garden of my life. The first is a sudden increase in pain from arthritis, especially in my hands. One thumb, in particular, will probably need surgery in the not too distant future. The other weed is that, for the past two years, my writing had almost stalled and died.

When things like these happen, you begin to reassess what you do and how you do it. The arthritis I can do nothing about except go through what the medics advise and see how it all turns out. The writing, though, that I could sort out, but first I had to work out what my problems were and how to address them.

I love writing. I love telling stories and I was not and am not prepared to let anything stop that unless it is beyond my control. Besides which, I had a full-length book and the Georgia Pattison Christmas novella, While Shepherds Watched, to get written and launched before Christmas, so something major had to happen.

If you want to find out what I decided, read my blog. You can find it here:

You can read more about April Taylor here:

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Book Launch: 'Witch-bottles and Windlestraws' by Joy Stonehouse

When I started to delve into my family's history I never envisaged the ensuing research would lead to a book, or four. The first launches today.

Witch-bottles and Windlestraws brings to life the inhabitants of Reighton in Filey Bay, 1703-1709. Parish records revealed a close-knit community of large families - the vicar lived in a small vicarage with his wife, son and eight daughters. Researching further, I found an abundance of material for an imaginative reconstruction. How could I not commit it to paper?

The book - fictionalised fact - focuses on the Jordan family of yeoman farmers, and I chose the period because they were one of the dominant families at that time. They were also ancestors of mine on my mother's side, and I soon became totally absorbed in piecing together their lives.

The book opens in November 1703 when The Great Storm is set to hit. The people of Reighton have a wedding to celebrate, and are unaware of the impending devastation that will affect their lives. Courtships, betrayal, unrequited love and an inexplicable death are woven into a tapestry of early 18th Century life and customs, and the ever-challenging weather. 

Available as a paperback and Kindle ebook

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Feeding the Creative Soul – but not with Stars!

In a previous post I said I would return to the star system beloved of review sites. Online review sites almost always insist on every book being categorised in the range of 5* (best book in the world) to 1* (worst book in the world).

I have a problem with that. If I was to put my mind to a genuine categorisation of every book I read, then on the whole each would be different. If compelled to stick with 1 to 5, then I want to be able to give stars for lots of different reasons: how good a read was it, how involved did I become, was the characterisation believable, was I lost in the fictional world, did the facts stand up, was the background research meticulous and objective, how was the opening page, did it grab me from the first sentence… I could go on. And what a waste of time!

I also have a problem with allocating stars to a book that did nothing for me. Do I say ‘Bored rigid from start to finish. 1*’? That doesn’t seem fair if what bored me was that it was a historical novel and I wasn’t in the mood for a historical novel because I’d just finished a sci-fi book. If I knew the period well and could say, ‘Bored rigid by anachronisms and lack of research,’ or if it was non-fiction and I could say, ‘Bored by lack of accuracy and out of date research,’ that wouldn’t be so bad. At least those are valid objective reasons.

But who am I to put off other readers with my 1* when it’s based on a subjective judgement?

The other thing I won’t do is review a book I haven’t read, and that takes care of the examples above because I wouldn’t have finished a single one of those books. Why would I be ‘bored rigid from start to finish’ of any book? I don’t go out of my way to seek out boring experiences.

Despite all this, I still rather treasure an early review that appeared on Like False Money, which is now published as part of the Falling into Crime trilogy.

“Really enjoyed the book but it came badly packaged – 2*” 

I review books that I have enjoyed and with very few exceptions, I give them all their stars because I rarely have an objective reason not to.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Feeding the Creative Soul – Book Reviews

Writers need reviews; they need feedback from readers, they want word about their books to spread and what better way than by word of mouth via a review? 

But of course writers are readers too. Reading feeds creativity and so does reviewing. There’s something about thinking in depth about a good book that can spark ideas almost from nowhere. Many of the best reviewers are also successful and prolific writers. Indeed, writers more than most should be conscientious about reviewing what they read.

As a writer I know that all too well. Do I live by it? I’d love to say an unequivocal yes, but I can’t. One reason is time. If I’m going to review a book, I want to write something about it, not just tick a random number of stars*. I tend to ‘stack’ my reviews, save them up until I get into a proper review mood and then catch up the backlog. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I leave it just a bit too long and as I sit down to put pen to paper I realise that I don’t remember enough about the book to say anything coherent, so it has to return to my read-again pile and hope that I’ll catch it next time round.

I’m just in the middle of a bit of a review frenzy at present. Not expecting to clear the entire backlog, but HERE is a recent one.

*more on the tiresome star system in a later post.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Feeding the Creative Soul - LitFests

LitFests are ostensibly for readers, but writers are readers too. We just view information from a different slant, which comes in handy when the creative well is coughing up an intermittent flow.

The 2019 Festival of Words brought a multitude of writers to libraries around the East Riding of Yorkshire, some well known, others trying to carve themselves a household name. It is this latter group which often proves the more rewarding. For a start, they tend not to be swamped by adoring fans, and they remember how it was to struggle and are therefore more open to answering a question or having a quick chat.

As with all enterprises, to gain the most from a LitFest go prepared. Make time to read one of the authors’ previous works. This in itself can spark our own writing: the pacing used in a passage of description, the way a confrontation is handled. It also widens our pool of genres and sub-genres.

Discussion panels on a fixed subject can prove eye-opening, as happened during the Gothic Thrillers event. Not only did I leave with new authors to read, but with a marketing angle I hadn’t previously considered.

Linda Acaster

Saturday, 21 September 2019

What to do first. Sometimes a problem for a writer

Some people reading this will laugh, because - hey - we're writers, aren't we? Organised to within an inch of a plot and we work through each book in an orderly fashion, right?

Wrong. Absolutely wrong.

Some people write in several genres and have to change their mindset for each. For someone like me, who writes crime because it is my first love, it is nice to swing the changes occasionally. So, at the moment, in between sorting out our new house, I am (allegedly) re-writing the first in my historical crime series, the Gideon Rooke Chronicles, Loyalty in Conflict. However, I also have a contemporary detective, Georgia Pattison, an early-music soprano. She is currently standing in front of me, hands on hips and with her foot tapping in impatience because I have not yet started her Christmas adventure and time is running short. I have the new title, While Shepherds Watched and, that's about all.

And let us not forget the standalones. The Angel Killer was my first and I have a third of another written, set in 1953, involving an ex-SOE operative. I dare not even start on Sherlock Holmes. Yes, there, too, I have another two plots involving cases mentioned by Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Why? Because, for me, a constant diet of the same thing leads to mental stagnation, rather like a real diet can sometimes lead to frustration because your body becomes used to what you eat all the time and decides not to lose weight.

If you would like to read the blog, click here:

To find out more about me and my books:  Twitter  Amazon UK  Amazon USA YouTube

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Hornsea Writers at FantastiCon 2019

This year’s fantasy, sci-fi and gaming convention featured the works of several Hornsea Writers. 

Author Stuart Aken’s fantasy and sci-fi trilogies were on offer, as were Penny Grubb’s crime novels. Popular at the Fantastic Books Store were also the charity anthologies, several of which feature stories by Stuart, Penny, Linda Acaster, Madeleine McDonald, April Taylor and Elaine Hemingway, notably Dreaming of Steam, 666, The Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing and The Forge: Fire and Ice.

For more detail see the illustrated account on Stuart’s blog.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Distaff The All Female Science Fiction Anthology

While some of the Hornsea Writer’s Group were making the most of Fantasticon over in Cleethorpes, I’d caught the ferry to the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin to celebrate the publication of Distaff: A Science Fiction Anthology by Female Authors.  

Much of Science Fiction is written by women. Yet, despite advances in recent years, the market is still male dominated. Rosie Oliver, the award nominated editor of Distaff, brought together all new tales for Distaff. As well as featuring only female authors, the collection has been edited and designed by women.

The title of the anthology is taken from the name given to the staff used to wind wool about for spinning before the invention of the spinning wheel. The word then became associated with general women's work. My contribution, My Little Mecha, is one of the nine short stories to feature in the anthology. I also designed the cover. You can read more about that here.

Distaff is already receiving excellent reviews. You can read more about Distaff, the Belfast launch (including Holly Blue of Dorset’s outstanding book launch nibbles) and the reviews here.

Copies of Distaff Ebook and Paperback are displayed beside text announcing OUT NOW, and Available At Amazon.

Shellie Horst writes science fiction and fantasy. You can follow her on Twitter @millymollymo and find out more on her website  

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Writer's Growth

It's National Writing Day on 26th June. A day of inspiring events across the country, and plenty of support via social media for new writers.

I’m the newest member of Hornsea Writers (and I suspect the youngest but shhh, don’t tell the others.) They know the ‘ropes’ of this gig, and we all agree that writing is a never-ending learning curve. Writing is peppered with ambitions, dreams and plenty of naysayers to frustrate you along the way. Knowing where you are, where you’re going and what you’re trying to achieve is important if you’re goal orientated. It’s fair to say there’s a goal for any writer: The End.

Re-attending the biannual Newcastle Writing Conference this year reinforced just how much I had grown since I started out on this path. The last time I attended was 2013, I was working on a manuscript and 3 years into a 6 year degree. Bah-ha shiny hopeful me, looking for opportunities, eager to learn and thought I had it all in the bag.

Stop laughing.

Six years after my first visit to Newcastle Writing Conference, the manuscript is complete and another in the final stages. I’ve several stories out in the world. I know there’ll be more. I’m still eager (does that ever go away?) but I’m wiser. I’m aware that I’ll never know it all, yet I’m more confident in my abilities and my strengths.

The Writing Conference had changed too. Gone were the studious tones of Newcastle University. In their place was the professional, creative warmth of hope and positivity. Inspiration mixed with empowerment all day.

Tony Walsh really kicked things off with a passionate performance of poetry that inspired everyone in the room. Other writers discovered how to deal with promotion, or the importance of small presses. I was reminded of things I knew but had lost in the mass of things to do. Some gained their first positive comments or full requests and I shared their stunned joy.

These events can be overwhelming for some people. Social anxiety gets the best of us. That little demon that screeches outrage ‘How dare you believe in yourself.’ gets in the way a lot too. Finding the time, finding the money, finding someone to look after the commitments you have the ‘audacity’ to abandon while you indulge in this little dream. Yes. I’m very good at finding excuses too.
Excuses don’t write anything.

What struck me most was how I could see how I’d developed as an author. I knew why I was there and why I love running the Welcome Event at Edge-Lit as well as the irregular Humber SFF meets: To enable others.

So...are we there yet? No. Yes. Maybe. What do you mean by ‘there’? My ‘there’ was to gain knowledge – so yes.

What did I come away with this time? Clarity, a plan. One that started with my week at a grant funded Arvon retreat, but needed more thought. I didn’t go with impossible expectations. I know where I want to be. The conference gave me the connections, tools and more importantly for me right now the thinking space to figure it out. Hornsea Writers Group plays a part in that thinking space too. It was one of the pieces I needed to achieve a goal. Now it’s all about doing the work. More on that soon…

My advice for anyone on this journey?
Know the place you want to reach. Tailor your time to help you get there. Research and reach out. There will always be rejections to spoil things, so make time for fun too.

Get involved with National Writing Day on the 26th June. Go to a local event. Oh. Don’t forget to write. It doesn’t work without words.


Shellie Horst writes science fiction and fantasy. You can follow her on Twitter @millymollymo and find out more on her website