Saturday, 8 August 2020

Hornsea Writers showcased at virtual event

At this time of year, several Hornsea Writers would usually be heading for Fantastic Books Publishing's FantastiCon convention. The pandemic has put paid to a physical gathering, but there will be a virtual event on 15th and 16th August where six new books will be launched.

Although no Hornsea Writer members have books launched at this event, their work will be showcased, so please call in and expect to hear from Linda Acaster, Stuart Aken, Penny Grubb, Shellie Horst and maybe more.

The virtual FantastiCon schedule is HERE.

The event will be streamed on Twtich TV HERE.

For mini reviews on each of FantastiCon 2020's launch books, click HERE.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Republishing with Kindle Direct Publishing

The rights to my second romance novel, The Rescued Heart, reverted to me in 2018. Lockdown gave me the opportunity to revisit the manuscript and republish the book on Kindle.

The text is a little shorter and – hurrah! – certain American expressions have vanished. My first publisher was American, and their editor changed words and phrases here and there, on the grounds that ‘our readers won’t understand that’. Fair enough, she was doing her job and I couldn’t argue.

Her work was followed by that of an American copyeditor who raked over my punctuation and spat it out again. American publishers have a particular horror of what they call a comma splice. Back then, I had to look up the definition of this sin against grammar, and found that my natural writing style was peppered with them. I’m in good company, as many well-known British authors adopt a more informal style, and comma splices have wormed their way back into my rewrite. 


The original cover art belonged to my American publisher, so a striking new cover had to be designed, the expanse of blue sky above the city of Basel reflecting the uplifting feel of a second chance romance.

The Rescued Heart is available from Amazon: UK and USA.

Madeleine McDonald is also the author of contemporary romance Enchantment in Morocco and historical romance A Shackled Inheritance, as well as contributions in numerous anthologies around the world.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Diversions from writing: the humble cucumber

There’s never a shortage of diversions for a writer in the process of writing a book, and so avidly will the writer grasp at the diversion, you’d be forgiven for thinking that writing was their most hated pastime ever. It’s not … and yet … anything but getting words on the page is so often the order of the day.
For example, cucumbers:

What’s to be done when the garden produces a dozen large cucumbers? There’s a limit to how many tons of salad one family can eat, but there's always a writer on hand with the answer. Delia to the rescue. Her cucumber soup was not only delicious, it hoovered up the surplus spring onions too. 
Few words written but no cucumbers wasted.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Hitting the Target

Translators are often asked to change a single sentence or paragraph in a finished document. No problem in the digital age. However, when I started work, documents were typed on stencils, and reproduced on a hand-turned duplicator. Corrections were inserted by painting a layer of red correcting fluid onto the stencil, waiting for it to dry, then retyping over the red varnish. I sometimes performed mental gymnastics fitting a new translation into the available space. As well as being accurate, it had to be neither too long, nor too short.

In a way, this was good training for entering flash fiction competitions with a given word count. Nowadays I relish the challenge of producing 53 words exactly, 81 words exactly, 100 including the title, or some other target.

My way of working is to write long, then cut back, checking the word count each time I delete or rephrase. My reward is to save the document with a smirk of triumph. Done it again.

Madeleine McDonald.

Friday, 10 July 2020

If you can't say something nice ... become an editor

You will have heard the old adage: if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all. 

It can create a real conflict for an editor, because what use is a critique if it doesn't point out the shortcomings in a piece? Not that critiques can't go to the nice side - it's good to point out what works as well as what doesn't. However, the real value of a good critique is in pointing out the errors, the rough edges and the bits that don't work, so an editor will concentrate on the not-so-nice side.

It's hard to over-estimate the value of a good constructive critique, which is why Hornsea Writer, Penny Grubb, a judge in the recent Write2Ride creative writing competition, put together a short article pointing out some of the things that entrants might have done better.

'People don't always appreciate constructive criticism,' she says. 'Especially when they are just starting out, but this is the route to becoming a better writer. Doing a generalised feedback piece like this one allowed us to highlight errors without singling anyone out.'

CLICK HERE for the full article on why some people won and others didn't. 

Friday, 3 July 2020

Free LitFests from the comfort of your armchair

Covid-19 may have curtailed travelling and cancelled face-to-face events, but it has opened a plethora of online talks, lectures, and instructive how-to demonstrations, most available on YouTube.

For the writer and the reader the Society of Authors has run a series of Afternoon Tea With… as well as useful talks on marketing for writers. Lockdown Litfest is currently showcasing talks with authors, and York Festival of Ideas took its annual festival online with talks on a wide range of subjects. All of these and many more are free to view. Others, Jericho Writers, being one, are paid events.

It was while trawling the site of York Festival of Ideas, that Linda Acaster came across a talk by writer Edoardo Albert and York archaeologist Paul Gething: Warrior: A Life of War in Anglo-Saxon Britain centreing on a cemetery dig just outside the walls of  Bamburgh Castle. It turned out to be so entertaining that she is currently devouring the book.

Friday, 19 June 2020

The slash and burn stage of editing

I’ve written enough over the years that even when a novel is just an embryo idea, I know how long the finished book will be.

My idea for Boxed In, due out later in the year, was always a book of under 100,000 words, so when the first draft came in at 140,000, the serious editing hat had to come out.

The editing journey was a slash-and-burn fest – CLICK HERE for some more detail on nuances, twists and the ghost of a children’s book.

The end result of the initial charge through all 140k words, wielding the newly sharpened editing pen, was an uncannily accurate match to my original prediction – a book of exactly 99,999 words.

Boxed In is the latest book in Penny Grubb's Annie Raymond series, following on from Falling into Crime, Where There’s Smoke, Buried Deep and Syrup Trap City.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Guest Blogging – how to help you and your host

Header image from the post on Sharon Booth's website
It used to be that a book had to be seen 5 times before it lodged in a reader’s mind. According to a Society of Authors presentation this week, that number is now 22.  Yes, we can all point to social media, but most of its impact is both short and transitory.

Blogging has more depth, each post a dedicated URL, and that URL can be highlighted via social media months after the post has gone live. This is why blog tours are arranged for launching titles, not just to give an initial boost but to provide content for future promotion. Yet guest posts don’t have to be reserved for new titles.

Hornsea Writers member Linda Acaster has accepted a guest spot on Sharon Booth’s website. Both write Romance, but Sharon writes Contemporary RomComs and Linda writes Historical Drama so their readers don’t necessarily overlap.

‘I knew I’d need to be light-hearted in my approach, both to appeal to Sharon’s readership and to fit with the tone of her blog,’ Linda says. ‘Beneath The Shining Mountains is set among Native North Americans of the early 19th century so I also wanted to convey more detailed information, in this case about their decoration techniques.’
Moccasins with porcupine quill decoration 1882

The answer was to write an associate post on her own blog, linking in to Sharon’s and linking Sharon’s into hers.

‘I approached Sharon first, obviously, and she thought it an excellent idea.’ It also meant that both websites get extra links which help in search engines searches.

A win-win.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Adventures using dictation - April Taylor on talking to herself.

As some people will know, I have arthritis in my hands. This means I can no longer write 3000 words in one sitting as I used to. It has, as you can imagine, had a significant effect on my writing life and my productivity.

Basically, I decided to switch from Apple to Windows, purely so that I could use Dragon Naturally Speaking. Since I took this decision at the beginning of the year, my writing life has been...let's say up and down!

I had used the integral dictation software in Word, Google docs etc. and some free and very cheap software packages. My experience was less than stellar and not good for my blood pressure. They may be fine for general emails, but writing an entire book. Certainly not. The decision to change took a long time and I was very conflicted by how much it was going to cost. But the time came when it was almost change or stop altogether. That was not viable.

I made the change. Yes, it has been a tad bumpy at times, especially because I write historical crime, which has a whole different vocabulary, even as far as names of characters. And, now, of course, I can dictate on the move and Dragon transcribes my recordings. The landscape in which I now live has inspired the new series I am writing and when you see one photo of it, you will understand why. The freedom to stand in the midst of it and dictate what I see, hear etc. has brought a new dimension to my writing.

You can read about my journey so far here:

You can read more about April Taylor here:

Friday, 8 May 2020

What did you write during the Lockdown, Mummy?

Courtesy Steve Bidmead via Pixabay
As Covid-19 races around the world, and the word Pandemic brings more than a touch of historical meaning to our doors, daily life has changed.

The UK’s version of Lockdown began 23 March, bringing with it initial food shortages due to panic-buying. But this soon gave way to a resurrection of the type of ‘Wartime Spirit’ the vast majority of the population has never experienced. People speak to one another in the street, if socially distanced, and everyone now knows their neighbours through the Thursday evening Clap for Carers.

Being in Lockdown was expected to prove a boon for members of Hornsea Writers. With no outside appointments shouldering into our writing time, words were going to flood from our fingers. It isn’t quite working out like that.

There seems to be a lot of long-postponed DIY being undertaken, but at least Madeleine McDonald emailed her publisher the typescript of her Romance before taking up a brush to paint the skirting boards. Linda Acaster hasn’t that excuse, leaving a Crime novelette and a Western to their own devices while she embarks on the sort of spring cleaning even her grandmother fought shy of.

In April Taylor’s household a sewing machine has taken prominence, no matter the two Historicals in various stages of editing, and the research for another begging to be started. The new office curtains look good though, and clothing destined for a charity shop have been given a new lease of life with some judicial cut and paste-- sorry, cut and sew.

Some of us, of course, don’t have excuses as much as priorities. All hope of writing fiction migrates to a Lost World when home schooling collides with home working and being the shopper for vulnerable relatives. Even living in a three-generational household doesn’t necessarily help. Penny Grubb caught herself making up the spare bed rather than tackle the current Crime novel, though she couldn't quite work out who she was expecting to stay.

And what is this need to bake? Throughout the country flour is a mere ghost on supermarket shelves, whereas there’s plenty of ready-made cakes and bread to be bought. Gardening has a definite pull on us all, perhaps to put a bit of space between us and those we live with, now on a 24 hour basis. Stuart Aken has retreated to his office space, not to tackle his latest Science Fiction epic but to immerse himself in learning new photographic software. He didn’t mention whether he was also baking bread, though we all agree there's something comforting about its smell.

At least one of us has got her act together on this 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe. Annie Wilkinson has already done her bit, and can sit with her tea and scones, surrounded by bunting. Enjoy your own.

Available in pbk, ebk and audio