Friday 23 February 2024

Extracts From The Writing Of Stuart Aken

Exploring The World Of Artificial Intelligence

Stuart Aken started to delve into the world of artificial intelligence (AI) in the early 2010s when he began work on a novella, The Methuselah Strain, which featured androids designed to pleasure their owners in any way the humans wished. Realising that these androids could never be convincing substitutes for human companionship without an emotional aspect, Stuart considered the consequences.

‘Once emotion was a requirement,’ he notes, ‘self-awareness naturally followed. These artificial servants were built for profit. Their self-awareness and emotional capacity would be paramount to their owner’s experience and such qualities would quickly become sophisticated.’

In The Methuselah Strain, one of these androids is abandoned for a human partner, and then taken on by another android. The story explores how self-aware and emotionally intelligent androids react to this experience, and how it colours their views of the human beings who share what is now their world.

The Methuselah Strain was published in 2015. In a later trilogy, Generation Mars, Stuart takes the ideas developed in The Methuselah Strain and puts them in the context of the colonisation of Mars, following catastrophic climate change that has made Earth almost uninhabitable. In terms of AI, Stuart says, ‘Early in my research, it became clear that AI would be an essential component of the automated systems needed to establish a place on the Red planet where humans would be able to live in some sort of comfort.’

Although the AI in Generation Mars has been developed with very different aims from the AI in The Methuselah Strain, this story, too, explores the consequences of building entities with self-awareness and intelligence.

9 Short Extracts From The Methuselah Strain

In the heart of town, Randal sprawled on his bed next to LoCon in the TipTop NonStop Hip-Hop Pop’n’Shop Mall. Oblivious of the dawn, he dreamed recurrent fantasies of human female companionship; all that life now seemed to hold for him as a Sexual.


In an ancient stone barn, preserved as a picturesque relic overlooking town, the Prime Renegade stirred at sudden silence as rain ceased hammering the roof. Her movement rustled the dry straw of yet another temporary bed. Pulling her stolen fun-fur coat close about her, she considered the coming day and hoped, without expectation, it might bring some release from loneliness.


Randal woke for the second time, in his customary sweat, and covered it with a disposable t-shirt he’d worn for three weeks. It mattered not that it stunk and was tattered and torn beyond its intended daily life: no other human being had visited the Mall for years.

Life as Mall Manager seemed pointless, and demeaning.


‘But she ain’t real; can’t be. That Prime Renegade’s just a bogeyman, lurking out there threatening civilization. I mean, nobody really believes in her; especially not looking like that. It’s a horing rumour, put about by CenCon to make us think they’re horing wonderful.’

At Sports Emporium he stopped the trolley and viewed Hengst’s 2224 Olympic Gold one hundred metre sprint: 8.7962 seconds from start line breach to finish laser. He’d watched it a thousand times. The last Olympic sprint run by real men, and there was no doubt these men were real.


Luce knew Repoz held everything known to man but it was no place to find the type of man she wanted. Her ability to bypass security made such a hunt simple. But a technophobe or a natural wouldn’t make the use of technology that would leave the traces she needed. Once she’d identified the actual presence of humans in certain geographic locations, a physical quest was the only answer.


So, she crossed to the east, found the landing point for the Atlantic Seabridge, and walked, transtrolled and hopped freight monorails right across the ocean. Misnamed Greenland, she’d discovered, was mostly barren rock and more or less deserted. The remnants of the great glaciers now causing no more than a slow flow of grey river water. Iceland had no ice but plenty of volcanic activity and hot springs to bathe in with frisky natives.


Caution slowed Luce as she left the tree-lined lane. Without the vagabond cover of her old coat, she was aware of her vibrant femininity and felt vulnerable, in spite of her bodyguard. Though she hated labels, she knew she’d be marked by all and sundry as a Sexual. Earlier attempts to alter her appearance had made no difference and she no longer bothered trying to hide her appeal. That the Intellectual tag wasn’t so readily attached, in spite of her extraordinary mental abilities, sometimes peeved her. But she understood she presented a rare combination.


‘I want to be loved! And you, Monster, for all your muscular good looks, boundless energy and deliciously sensitive touch, can’t love me. Love, Monster, causes tears and laughter at the holodrome or theatre, when there’s anyone there; blocks throats with lumps, makes hearts race, inspires poetry in books. When did I last curl up with a good book?’


‘Does anybody live here? Anybody at all?’ Her call echoed from lifeless buildings, mocking her as it returned splintered and unanswered from a thousand gleaming surfaces. Ahead, stood the glittering crystal and chrome icosahedron of the Mall, perched on its seven hexagonal pillars of glass. The reference was not lost on her and she smiled at memories of the ancient comedy.


Learn more about Stuart and his writing HERE


Friday 26 January 2024

Extracts From The Writing Of Madeleine McDonald

Experimenting With Different Angles

Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

Author Madeleine McDonald is a novelist but is better known for her short pieces, both fiction and non-fiction. The example below shows her taking an idea and expressing it using two different forms, a 50-word story and a tanka.

Madeleine says, “Very short stories simply have to meet a word count, whereas a tanka must be shoehorned into a non-rhyming formal pattern of five lines with 5,7,5,7,7 syllables respectively. Sometimes I just cannot make a particular word fit into the required number of syllables and still 'sound' right, and I have to find an alternative.” She notes in passing that, “The Japanese have other, arcane rules which Western authors ignore.”

The 50-word story
‘Come with me,’ he says, ‘to the islands of the west, golden in splendour.’ A number 9 bus looms out of the London murk. As we board, hand in hand, an aura of dejection and wet coats envelops us. Who cares, when mythical lands of adventure stand on the horizon?

The tanka
Come with me, he said
To the islands of the west
Golden in splendour
A number 9 bus arrived
All adventures start somewhere...

Madeleine also writes poetry although she notes that “Poetry is not my forte. I prefer short fiction.” She says of her prizewinning poem Hidden in Plain Sight, “Although I have written articles on modern slavery, I hoped the message would have more of an impact as a poem. I wrote it because the comfortable Western world ignores the realities of modern slavery. Out of sight is out of mind, just as sugar plantation slavery was 200 years ago.”

Hidden in Plain Sight
We do not want to see, hear or know.
To preserve our ignorance, we allow shifting
sands to settle over brutal truths.
Day by day, hour by hour, we unlearn
inconvenient facts; we lock them into a vault in
our minds.
50 million people are held in slavery or
servitude in our interconnected modern world.
The facts are there, recorded in stark newsprint
or on fleeting digital screens.
We turn away. It is not our children who choke
on dust, or whose fingers bleed. It is not our
children who sleep under workbenches and
see no daylight.
We turn away, unwilling to acknowledge the
human price of our modern comforts. It is
easier to focus our outrage on the slaveries of
A hundred years hence, once our denial has
acquired the patina of history, our
grandchildren’s grandchildren, appalled, will
ask, ‘Why did you not act?’
Hand on heart, we will say, "But we did not know."

Links to Madeleine’s novels and several of her many published shorter works can be found in this profile

Friday 22 December 2023

Wishing Our Readers Festive Cheer!

Image by Speedy McVroom via Pixabay

Members of Hornsea Writers raise a glass to you, our Readers, who make all our efforts worthwhile.

We wish you personal happiness, the contentment of a good book and, most importantly, the best of health as we move into the New Year.

Life is for living – so enjoy!

 Merry Christmas


Friday 1 December 2023

Hornsea Writers At The Massive Autumn Book Launch Event: Madeleine McDonald

Hornsea writer, Madeleine McDonald, a prolific short story writer was shortlisted in Fantastic Books Publishing’s flash fiction competition and her story appears in their latest anthology, Kaleidoscope, that was launched at the Massive Autumn Book Launch Event (MABLE).

Friday 24 November 2023

Hornsea Writers At The Massive Autumn Book Launch Event: Penny Grubb


Hornsea writer, Penny Grubb, launched her new novel, Death By Column Inches,  at Fantastic Books Publishing’s Massive Autumn Book Launch Event (MABLE).

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed a pseudonym. Penny says, “This book was first conceived before any of my private investigator series had seen the light of day. It’s very different and I was advised not to use the same name.”

The story of the book and its long journey from initial idea to launch is outlined in its launch video.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Hornsea Writers At The Massive Autumn Book Launch Event: Stuart Aken


Hornsea writer, Stuart Aken, was featured more than once at Fantastic Books Publishing’s Massive Autumn Book Launch Event (MABLE).

He appeared in an Eco-Thrillers Spotlight where 4 of his books were highlighted — An Excess Of… and his Generation Mars trilogy. In the spotlight video he can be seen chatting to fellow author, Linda Nicklin, whose novel, Storm Girl, set in Yorkshire & Lincolnshire, is also featured.

Later in the event, Stuart’s fantasy trilogy, A Seared Sky, was featured, along with fantasy series End Of Empire by Alex Janaway and The Filey Chronicles by Janet Blackwell.

Don't be too quick to think that the participants were all seasoned recording artists who sailed through without a glitch. The video editor occasionally slipped in some entertaining outtake sections.

Friday 22 September 2023

"Crime and Punishment in Tudor England". How I made the jump from fiction to non-fiction

 At last, some three weeks later than scheduled, my first non-fiction commission is in the world and available for purchase.


I have always enjoyed history, but this was the history we never learned in school. In fact, it turns out the history we were taught in school was eons away from the stark reality of life for ordinary—and extraordinary—people who lived in the Tudor era.

I learned things that surprised me, sickened me, but also things that made me laugh. The experience of researching and writing such a book proved a steep learning curve. One I wanted to keep climbing. So, it will come as no surprise that I have signed contracts for two more books for Pen and Sword, the first of which is proving just as fascinating to research as the Tudor one.

 For more details on the adventures of getting a book published, you can read my blog here:


Crime and Punishment in Tudor England: From Alchemists to Zealots 

You can find it here: and here: 

You can read more about April Taylor here:

 Twitter  Amazon UK  Amazon USA Facebook

Friday 15 September 2023

Hornsea Writer. Karen Wolfe, On Writing

Give me a three-part summary of what you will be doing, writing-wise, in the coming year.



Creating new from old

Tell me more…

I have two novels on the go, both needing reconstruction and some re-writing.

The first, ‘Dogdays’, is the final book in the Georgie Crane, dog-whisperer trilogy. I would classify the series as ‘Comi-crime’ with a few hard edges and a multitude of dogs.  

The second work-in-progress is ‘Blackrigg’ a Gothic comic fantasy, with fairies (!)  set amidst the dark, satanic mills. This one has broken out of its novella cage and growed like Topsy when I wasn’t looking, hence the fine-tuning…possibly a spanner might come in handy!

Tell me about a writing-related event from last year:

2022 marked the 10th anniversary of our local paper, the Hornsea Community News. Since issue 1, I have written a monthly column about dogs, their behaviour, training and ancestry, covering every aspect from the hilarious to the heart-rending,

That’s 120 articles, just waiting to be assimilated into a book (provisionally titled: ‘This is your pack-leader speaking.’) Reader feedback tells me there’s a ready market for dogology, so I’m hoping the seeds of last year’s anniversary will yield a decent literary harvest.

Learn more:

Please visit my Amazon author page.

Covers for the first two Granny Beamish comic fantasies

Covers for the first two Georgie Crane novels, plus number three, coming in 2024

Learn more about Karen Wolfe here.

Friday 1 September 2023




“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” 

 Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own



It's a well known quote, however room in one’s head is also vital, regardless of your gender.


Life is ensuring that many writers are struggling to find time to write. This won’t be news to our regular readers, and it’s not special to our part of the English east coast. The ongoing impacts of COVID combined with pressures of the cost of living, caring, (grand)children, all the usual house work, and the neverending mental load of personal health issues, don’t help the process of writing.


Spring day view from a meeting at Hornsea Writers. It includes a flag pole with Union Jack, a bowling green and flowers.

That’s not to say Hornsea Writers haven’t been busy. Joy is working away at her next installment of her Reighton Chronicles, Madeline’s stories continue to flow, Stuart has launched his next novel. Avril has signed with Pen and Sword. Linda released Forever House, and Karen, Penny and Shellie have their own projects that will see the light of day much sooner after this summer’s development. 

 Each week Hornsea Writers meets to critique work written during the week. It's more than a support group. The intention is to improve, practice and develop. Whether or not an individual author has something to share, it's worth the time to go. Authors write in different markets, so there’s always something to learn. Post COVID lockdown saw the regular writing group move from Wednesday evenings to Monday afternoons.


However, this wasn’t enough. Secretly conspiring between themselves to ensure that their own ambitions and projects continued, Hornsea Writers carved out time for themselves by meeting a second time every week.

It wasn't just a simple matter of turning up. Each writer had to identify what it was that was getting in the way and make sure that that did not come with them on ‘Trial Run Thursday’. With sunny views, a pen, notepad, and a bottle of water to keep them company, and maybe someone brought tea. The combined focus and support prevented individual writers wandering down research rabbit holes, and stay on plot.

Picture of a flask, pencil case and notebook. Background is of a bowling green in late spring.

On Thursdays in summer Hornsea Writers now hold an in-person writing sprint. Spirited away from phones, emails, distracting loved ones, demands of housework, and anything else that disrupts committing words to page. The trial was a success. The first meeting saw short stories, blog posts and articles drafted out. Several months later those drafts are working their way through slush piles. 

As it has developed, the time is used to plan and see the directions of our writing careers.It's an imporant part of finding words, finding direction and keeping focus.

Isn't it amazing what you can do when you're allowed (or, importantly allow yourself) the space to focus.


Shellie Horst is the author of several science fiction and fantasy short stories and also reviews for SFFWorld & The British Science FIction Association. Her story, My Little Mecha was longlisted for the BSFA Award as has her cover art for Distaff. You can follow her on your prefered social media, or on her website:

Friday 25 August 2023

Hornsea Writer, Joy Gelsthorpe, On Writing

The Book Nook

Give me a 3-word summary of what you will be doing, writing-wise, in the coming year


Tell me more

Bonfires and Brandy has been beta read/copy-edited by a local historian as well as two other
authors, so the manuscript is now with the publisher and should be out in mid-summer. It is
my fourth novel in the series about the Jordan farming family in Reighton in the early 1700s.
This latest book is no sanitised version of life; it shows a village left in a moral vacuum.
Without a resident vicar, young men are hell-bent on sport, gambling and mischief. Women,
children and animals face the brunt, but there is hope for the future. A boy’s personal tragedy
alters his life and, alongside cruelty, there is the redeeming feature of a boy learning to be a
shepherd. Boys will be boys and they can change, but can the men do the same?

Apart from Wray’s Stationers in Filey, few bookshops will stock local authors, so I’ve done
my usual tour of shops-cum-post offices in the area. This has led to a couple of successful
outlets. Since Hornsea Museum and the gift shop at Hornsea Mere sell my books, other
museums and tourist sites will be my next venture. I live in hope.

Just recently, a bookshop opened in Bridlington Old Town (The Book Nook, 44, High Street)
It not only stocks my books but also advertises them in the window display. Yey!

I'll be attending Hornsea's Town House Fair on Newbegin on Saturday, 26th August to sign and sell copies of the new book.

Craft Fairs are another option. I’ll be at The Driffield Steam Fair this year to sell and sign
books – the weekend of 12th to 13th August.

Tell me about a writing-related event from last year

Last year I attended the first Filey Literature Festival since Covid. Other local authors also
displayed and signed their books at The Evron Centre. Luckily, I’d bought a card reader so I
could offer a deal on the books so far in the series. Sales were good and I was glad I’d bought
bags that were just the right size for three books. Now I need to buck up my ideas on signing,
and remember to ask how people spell their names…

Learn more about Joy here.