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

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Finding Story Ideas

Authors are regularly asked about where they get their ideas from. I've heard fans ask it many times at Humber SFF. The answer is more often than not an complex tale that comes back to "I was doing something other than writing."

Many writing workshops and guides offer grids or photographs to get your creativity flowing, but writers looking for story prompts will find plenty on a visit Ferens Art Gallery in Hull to explore the Is This Planet Earth? exhibition, open until July 28th.

The speculative fiction genres are often misunderstood, but there is nothing to fear in the fabulous art curated by Angela Kingston. Stop for refreshments in the cafe while you're there.

The Future Fire published my review of Is This Planet Earth? and you can read it here. Or experience the exhibition in person for free at Ferens Gallery. 

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Under a June Sun

Although the writers in this group blog about life, the universe and everything under the sun, a glance back to June two years ago shows four of them passing on tips both practical and philosophical for better living and crisper writing.

Stuart Aken takes a sideways look at English words and their many nuances. In this particular blog he appropriately explores the word ‘ambiguous’. Click here to read more.

Penny Grubb, in a prescient article (given the recent axing of a human bear-baiting TV programme) unpacks a quote from a famous writer and finds more than meets the eye. Click here to read more.

Linda Acaster reaching the climax of a marathon writing expedition as she writes ‘the end’ on her Torc of Moonlight trilogy, explores the many facets of editing. Click here to read more.

April Taylor takes herself to task as exhaustion sees her sleep for a significant proportion of a much anticipated holiday. Click here to read more.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Revisiting earlier books

I find it a salutary experience to reread a book that I wrote and published years ago. Things that I would now write differently leap off the page: a sag in this part of the plot, a clumsy bit of speech here, something that would be better reordered there; things I’ve never worried about unduly because there’s nothing to be done.

Or so I thought...

Then plans were proposed to reissue my first three novels as a trilogy in a single book. I wasn’t given much time to tinker, but I immediately got out the toolkit and raised the bonnet to spruce up all three. It was a satisfying experience though oddly like going back in time.

It’s due out later this year.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Writing fiction: the long and the short of it

Explore the nuts and bolts behind the (hopefully) smooth finished product that is the published novel or short story
  • by delving into the mind of the short story writer, analysed in this book by Hornsea Writer, Linda Acaster:

  • or by lifting the bonnet (or the hood – depending which side of the Atlantic you are) on the full-length commercial novel and seeing how the component pieces fit together in this book co-authored by Hornsea Writer, Penny Grubb:

How to be a Fantastic Writer

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Meet more than writers at this holiday extravaganza

The annual extravaganza that is FantastiCon is scheduled for the full weekend of the 17th and 18th August in Cleethorpes at the space-age leisure centre. The focus is on a weekend packed with family activities around games, virtual reality, NERF wars, drone racing, a Mariokart tournament, an aqua assault course... and some Hornsea Writers too.

The event is used as a launch pad for new publications and previous years have seen the launch of sci-fi trilogies from Stuart Aken, crime drama from Penny Grubb and charity anthologies that have included several group members including Elaine Hemingway, Madeleine McDonald, April Taylor and Penny Grubb who all appeared in Dreaming of Steam; Linda Acaster and Stuart Aken in horror anthology 666; Stuart Aken was also invited to contribute to the fantasy and sci-fi collections, Fusion and Synthesis. Penny Grubb was featured in The Dummies’Guide to Serial Killing that was launched last year.

Several Hornsea Writers are regulars at FantastiCon. If you come along and can find a moment between activities and games, please drop by the bookstore and say hello.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Last Chance Saloon

Crossroads are funny things. There are all kinds of dire supernatural aspects of them in our literature. It has also become part of our language. 'I've come to a crossroads and need to work out where I'm going.' Or someone telling another person they have come to a crossroads and now is make or break.

I read an article about scammers in the self-publishing world of Amazon and Kindle Unlimited a couple of days ago. Horrified does not adequately express my reaction. Here I have been, straining every last muscle to write as perfect a book as I can, while cheats and scammers are making easy money and I make none.

So, I took myself off for a long walk and decided I had come to a crossroads, too. About my life and, more importantly, about my writing.

Read it here:

You can read more about April Taylor here:

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Members Useful Self-Help Books

In the last of the short series on the wealth of information offered by members, here's a round-up of their useful self-help titles.

April Taylor was a chartered information professional in a previous life, and she's put her experiences to good use.

This short guide is intended to help solve the problems encountered by novelists researching on the Net. It includes sections on where to search, how to search, evaluating information found, staying safe and within copyright, using images, and a whole host more.

This is one of those no-nonsense guides which does what it says on the cover. It explains terminology used by tutors, the format and appearance of the finished dissertation, how to manipulate software and the likely problems the software will throw up. There is also advice on how to manage your project and your time. Nineteen 4* and 5* reviews can't be wrong.

Stuart Aken also brings his personal experience to bear, but in a very different context.

Stuart charts his journey, and recovery, giving hope to other sufferers of CFS/ME. There's plenty of practical advice, and a useful list of hyperlinks in the ebook. It is also available as a paperback. A portion of the profits goes to the charity "Action for ME" which he considers was instrumental in pointing him in the right direction. The reviews from other suffers speak for themselves.

Penny Grubb may have been awarded a Dagger from the Crime Writers' Assocation but, wearing her non-dastardly hat, Dr Penny Grubb is a scientist and university lecturer, hence her book titles.

Where’s the best place for a novel to start? How do you tell? How to lift a scene that seems to drag? The included toolkits lead through it all to give the components needed for every stage of writing a novel. 

Having been a part of academia since the 1980s, Penny has helped a vast number of students new to higher education study. Today, a higher proportion come not from sixth forms or after a gap year, but at an older age having worked in industry and with family commitments in tow.

The book, split into easy to negotiate sections, sets out what's needed, and how to upgrade necessary skills sets. It also contains a detailed study of a once notorious case of skewed thinking and manipulative writing that began with Mr J and his green fur coat.

Software Maintenance: Concepts and Practice

An academic best-seller in use in universities around the world. Published in two editions, it has the dubious distinction of appearing on a list of ‘Most pirated books’, which, sadly, means an updated 3rd edition will not be published.

The 2nd edition contains a detailed case study of the once notorious Therac-25 software bugs that visited death and injury on many people over several years.

Linda Acaster brings us back to writing creatively with an in-depth view borne of explaining concepts during several years facilitating a teaching course.

Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought To Finished Story

The book is distinguished from many in its field by reproducing ten of the author's short stories, in various genres, and explaining the rationale behind the choices made during the writing of each. Exercises, in the writing of full pieces of fiction, are included.

I'm sure you'll agree, what an interesting lot we are!

Saturday, 23 February 2019

How a random thought can give birth to a series. And there's music, too!

Many writers will tell you tales of how long their first book was in the making. Let's face it, writing anything between 70-120k words is not undertaken lightly, if occasionally wantonly, depending on the genre into which your magnum opus falls.

My first book began as a 'what-if?' idea during the inaugural concert of the 1978 Three Choirs Festival in Worcester. Sandra Browne was singing the part of The Angel in Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius. I was part of the chorus, this was my first Three Choirs and inclusion was by invitation only.

The Dream is a fairly regular fixture of Three Choirs and, being by local boy made good, Edward Elgar, it is very special. So special as far as Worcester is concerned that The Elgar Memorial Window is situated close to the pillar Elgar used to lean on to hear the final organ voluntary on Sunday mornings - being a Catholic, he didn't worship in the cathedral.

And this brings us to a very sticky point among musicians and music lovers. Should the 'G' of Gerontius be hard or soft. I know from my reading that Elgar himself always used the hard 'G'. Further research confirms that the hard 'G' was favoured by Vaughan Williams and Adrian Boult among other notable musicians. Hard 'G' it is, then.

But I digress. The book that was eventually, after a gestation period of 30 years, published by Legend Press in 2008, is Dearly Ransomed Soul and provides the first outing for Georgia Pattison. I used the what-if? idea, although for the digital version published in 2016, I changed the identity of the killer, just to add a bit of spice for the reader. 

The full version of how my nosy early-music soprano came into being is here:

You can find out more about April Taylor here:

Saturday, 16 February 2019

#Writing and #Editing Tips

Members of Hornsea Writers hold a wealth of information on their individual websites. Last week we turned a spotlight on Stuart Aken and his Resources page which, among other goodies, holds a constantly updated Competitions List.

This week we highlight a wealth of blogposts - 32 in all - from Linda Acaster. Thankfully, she's created an Index Page for easy navigation. Within it can be found:
  • 16 posts on Writing Prompts, including discussions on each aspect;
  •   3 posts on Research: Is it always necessary? Using a "bible", and using character sheets for continuity purposes;
  •   8 posts on what to look for during different types of Edits, including Structural, Content, Line edits and the use of beta readers;
  •   5 posts on writers' mis-uses which can seriously annoy a reader - Don't Mess With The Reader - including Openings, Sense of Place, Categories of Characters, Seeding Information, and Plagiarism.

As well as her Historical, Fantasy and Horror novels, Linda Acaster also has Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought To Finished Story  which, as might be guessed, does what it says on its cover. Jump to HERE for the buy links and to read an excerpt.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Creative #Writing #Contests Submissions Feb-Oct 2019

Members of Hornsea Writers hold a wealth of information on their individual websites. 

Multi-genre writer Stuart Aken is prolific in his reach, from sharing his love of photography to his inquisitive nature. He runs a series on Discovering The Write Word, currently at #57, and where else could you find lists of 6,500+ female, male, and non-gender names from around the globe? Check out his Resources page.

His list of on-going competitions for writers encompasses everything from poetry to flash fiction to short stories to novellas and novels. Those free to enter are handily marked in red. The list is currently seven pages in length, so there will be something to catch everyone's eye. Check out the list HERE or follow the link from his Resources page.

Blood Red Dust is the first of his Generation Mars trilogy. Read about it HERE.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Never seeing the sun again?

Most of the new publications that spring up on this blog are works of fiction, but not all. In amongst the science-fiction, the historical drama, the fantasy, the horror and the crime, a few non-fiction works creep in.

The latest is from Hornsea Writer, Penny Grubb, who is an academic currently working at Hull University’s Faculty of Health Sciences. Her textbook, Preparing for Higher Education Study, does what it says on the tin, like all textbooks should.

If it were a book about scuba diving, you would read it to avoid becoming disorientated in deep water and never seeing the sun again. To unpack that metaphor, CLICK HERE for a more detailed blog on the subject.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

An Unexpected Tribute!

Delight can be infrequent in these troubled times, so Stuart Aken was both surprised and, yes, delighted, when he received a notice from his publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing, the other day. Attached was a link to a video produced by a professional in the TV industry. Ramon Marett from Adiq had wanted to try his hand at a book promotion video and decided to use Aken’s ‘Generation Mars’ series for the project.

The author posted it on his website, and you can see the result via this link.

Videos are a popular source of information for many potential readers, so he’s spread this one everywhere he can to get maximum benefit. He says it’s also had the effect of galvanising him into trying something similar for his other books! Watch this space.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Building A Believable World

Writers spend a great deal of time developing their characters to make them feel real to the reader. Interviewing and mapping out their life choices to define them. With all that effort the environment these characters live in in is an afterthought.

But we all live in that world, right? We all know a car from a bus. We all know what we mean when we say “I’m going out for a coffee.”  But we’ll turn the channel or put the book aside because what we know to be real isn’t how the writer has shown it.

Placing your reader is vital. The story won’t work if you confuse them. It’s more imperative when you’re dealing with the fantastical, the dystopian and technological. You’re dealing with things your reader hasn’t encountered. So how do you get them to visualise what’s in your head?

Writing a long-winded description isn't the key. Tolkien may well be regarded as the start of Western Fantasy but readers don’t have the patience for paragraphs of exposition and information anymore, they want action, plot, intrigue. Don’t put them to sleep at the cost of your story.

Decide what is important about a story’s world.

Readers are amazingly clever people, they’re really good at filling in blanks. If the planet has two moons but much of the rest looks like Malta you have a starting point.  

Ask questions.

Like you’d interrogate your character, interrogate your towns and cities. Why is there a world on the back of this turtle? (Warning. Some questions lead you in circles.) What happens if there’s no fuel, what are the implications?


I’ve never been off planet but that didn’t stop me writing about another world in When The Skies Open. I’ve not been inside a mountain, but when I wrote The Blacksmith’s Arms I found articles and books that would give me the information I needed to imagine how it might be.


Just as too much worldbuilding can kill your pace not enough will cause confusion. Because readers paste over the gaps of description and add their own they will be lost if your worldbuilding has flaws.

Ed McDonald, author of Fantasy Series The Raven’s Mark, summed up the delicate balance of worldbuilding in a recent Tweet.

All the effort helps you too. The more time you spend exploring your world the more real it will become and the easier it is to imagine.

Writing Day School: East Riding Theatre 01482 874050 

# # #

For writers wanting to go deeper into worldbuilding join Shellie Horst at East Riding Theatre in Beverley on 2nd Feb 2019. Tickets and more information on her Sci-fi and Fantasy Worldbuilding Day School is available here.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

What do writers DO?

Good question. And most “civilians” have some seriously strange ideas about us. Here are some truths.

Over 90% of writers earn less than £6,000 per annum and a high percentage of that a lot less, so, sorry, we are not all millionaires. Most of us have a day job to pay for luxuries like the mortgage and food, which, of course, makes writing something else to fit into a busy life. This writer has also found that most people who ask what you do and you tell them, tend to have a wide-eyed, almost panicked moment as if we stepped off the latest spaceship from Mars. Please let me reassure you. We are mortal, just like you. We also suffer from washing machines flooding the kitchen, mice learning to tap-dance in the attic and the power-steering failing as you go up a hill.

Now I have sorted out that misunderstanding, let me tell you what writers really do, or, what this one does. One of a writer’s secrets is routine. I cannot settle if I haven’t cleaned my teeth or walked the dog. And my day begins relatively early - around 6am in summer and 7am in winter. I am now a past master at walking the dog in semi-darkness. It is just as well I live near the east coast of Lincolnshire. 

My working day begins at 8.30, which usually means I have time between breakfast and getting to my desk to prepare dinner. This ensures that my nagging inner voice isn’t telling me to do something else when I am trying to work. And work it most certainly is. Very few writers write alone, so your family needs to know you are working and only to disturb you if there is a dire emergency or they haven’t seen you for hours and creep in proffering coffee.

Every writer works differently, so you develop systems and practises that work for you. The only act writers truly share is that of writing, but don’t ever stop experimenting with other writers’ methods for you may find one that suits you better than the one you currently use. Approach these with an open mind and try to put aside a few hours to see if they fit your mindset, your genre and the way you work. Some writers write all day with a long walk in the middle. Some begin to write after lunch and carry on until late evening or even into the small hours. I am an early bird. I can achieve far more between 6am and 2pm than at any other time of day, so that is when I write.

 Writing can be likened to a knitting pattern. There is the rib border at the bottom, which forms the solid base for the pattern to come. The pattern can be changed by the use of colours - stripes, fair-isle. Or the pattern itself can change to form a more complicated pattern, like an Aran, with its twists and cables.
This is my writing pattern. I have the initial idea, which can be sparked by anything I read or see. This is that first flush of anything being possible and I let my brain whirl around all the what-ifs? during the dog walk, when I am in the bath or travelling somewhere. For a crime writer, the bones of the plot are an early must-have. Perhaps it will be the method of murder that comes as that first spark or a twist on something ordinary to make it extra-ordinary. 

For the new series I have begun, set in the time of the Wars of the Roses, one of my first essentials was a research bibliography, which will appear at the end of the book. How people spoke, court etiquette, what people ate, how they dressed, travelled, what their houses were like and the rest of it. This information gives believable flesh to the bones of my plot. This series introduces Gideon Rooke, stable boy on the wrong side of the Yorkist/Lancastrian war who has to question whether blind loyalty is in England's best interests. Hopefully, Loyalty in Conflict will be available in the early part of 2019.

A plot is simply the sequence of events in your story and sometimes switching them around can give you a new perspective and a new plot. However, just writing a book on a sequence of events tacked onto a background of 15th century living would be boring in the extreme. For me while the bones of the plot are still in the melting pot, I need characters. For it is the characters who will drive your story. People are people whether they live in the 10th, 15th or 21st centuries. They have desires, needs, flaws, reverses, hopes and dreams. It is the use of these traits within the events of your story that will make your writing sing. They will experience triumphs and disasters that will affect their views and actions on both their lives and the lives of those surrounding them and those reverses or triumphs will affect the events in your story.

Once I have these loosely settled in my head, or more likely, as index cards — I use Scrivener, but plenty of people buy index cards and use those — the hard boring bit begins. Writing. There are many quotations about writing, my favourite is by Hemingway —  There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. And believe me, some days, it really is like that, days when finding every word is like wading through treacle. So this is when you have to employ two other weapons in the writer’s arsenal. Persistence and bum-glue. For without them, you will never finish your magnum opus.

And then comes the wondrous day, 70/80/100 thousand words later when you can type The End. Except that this is the time you discover it is not the end, it is only the beginning. The beginning of editing, proof-reading, beta-readers and either finding a publisher or going down the not always smooth route of self-publishing. And then, you hold your published book in your hand or see it on Amazon Kindle or whatever. But you are still not finished for now comes marketing. Every day or at least several times a week. Trying to raise your profile so that you might, just might, get a few extra readers. And please don’t kid yourself your publisher will do this, unless, of course, you are your own publisher. No, you have to do it. And you have to keep on doing it. 

Then, there is just the little matter of the next book… and the one after that. 

You can read more about April Taylor here: