Admit it: at least once, you have found yourself frantically scanning the thesaurus, trying to find that reclusive perfect word to use in your writing.

While this is an understandable reaction to the highly frustrating tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, it can be a bad habit to slip into. Now, we love a good, meaty adjective as much as the next person, but there is much to be said about not compulsively reaching for the thesaurus every time you get tongue-tied.

drax quote.png

There’s nothing worse than reading a text where the author has obviously tried too hard and abused our friend the thesaurus. Have you ever come across a text that reads something like this:

 ‘Sally! Come back!’ Megan squalled.

Sally took no notice, but simply enjoined her horse to press on though the dank, unilluminated wood.

Excruciating, isn’t it? ‘Squall’ in the first line does not make much sense in the given context, as ‘squall’ usually refers to the noise a crying baby makes (or a gust of violent wind or the falling of heavy rain). To write this, we simply looked up the word ‘shout’ in a thesaurus and picked this one at random as an alternative. As you can see, it doesn’t really ring true to the original meaning.  In the second sentence, the words ‘enjoined’ and ‘unilluminated’ may mean the same as ‘urged’ and ‘dark’ fundamentally but they lose the tone of the text itself, hindering the narrative style and making the text cumbersome to read.

We would suggest sticking to a 10 second rule: if you look up a word in a thesaurus and can’t find the perfect alternate word listed in under 10 seconds, put the thesaurus down and think long and hard about what you want to convey to your readers. Chances are, if no word is jumping out at you after 10 seconds, there’s a reason for it. Perhaps you haven’t fully worked out what you want to say. Perhaps you need to take a step back and simplify things in your writing. Sometimes simple wording really is best. As Jonathan Franzen once said, ‘Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.’

To sum up: the thesaurus can be a writer’s best friend or worst enemy; it is up to the writer to decide which it is to be. Get back to the basics, but don’t neglect your thesaurus; use it to enrich your text rather than burden it. Don’t suffer from Thesauritis!

The Benefits of Book Awards for Self-Published Authors

Discoverability is the word on every self-published author’s lips. Book awards are part of your arsenal to achieve discoverability. The majority of book purchases are made from existing authors who are known and trusted by readers, or through recommendation from friends, family, book clubs or the media.” – British Novelist James Minter (

Out with the old, in with the new. Traditional methods of publication are being eschewed in favour of self-publishing, where individuals are now given the opportunity to instantly promote and publish literary work. With the increasing readership of self-published titles, more and more newspapers and magazines (including The Guardian, Writer’s Digest, and National Best Book Award) have noted its popularity and introduced this category to writing competitions.

If you’re considering self-publication (either independently, or with a publishing company), it’s worth putting book awards and competitions at the top of your marketing list. Novelist, James Minter, explains why:

  • They create interest in your book. This leads to more sales and opportunities.
  • An award displayed on the front cover may encourage someone to pick up your book while browsing.
  • A book award will give you an edge and may be all the difference needed to propel your book into bestseller territory.
  • When you win or get placed, you can say you are an ‘award winning author’. It sounds great, and gives the book a magic little lift that comes from third party endorsement.
  • Book awards give your book a seal of excellence unequalled by other forms of media exposure. No reviews, nor articles, nor TV or radio interviews can compete with having an ‘Award Winning Book’, selected from hundreds of competing titles by experienced and professionally-trained judges.

For those interested, a full list of upcoming Book Awards for self-published authors can be viewed here:

A select few include:

  • The National Best Books Award
  • The Next Generation Indie Book Awards
  • Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Awards
  • ForeWord Reviews Books of the Year Awards
  • The Benjamin Franklin Awards
  • The Reader Views Literary Awards

If you’re interested in self-publishing but aren’t sure about how or where to start, visit our Paperback and eBook Publication pages today:

Bandits, Bank Robbers & Three Smoking Hot Bananas – A review by Frances Turpin

Despite the warning in the prologue of “the more debase outbursts of the human body” being featured (and certainly judging by the detailed descriptions you’ll be pleased this book isn’t scratch and sniff!), BB&TSHB has a certain sophisticated humour that will appeal to kids and their older siblings/parents alike.

With caricature characters along the lines of Roald Dahl and David Walliams, and interspersed with illustrations as detailed as the narrative, reading about Moan-and-Groan-Upon-the-Sea and its inhabitants feels like a hyper-realised visit to every small town in Britain. Albert Grunge is an anti-hero with a grudge with plans of revenge against the town that wronged him that you can get behind despite his general appearance, attitude, personality and, by all accounts, scent. His bumbling nephews Tag and Cal prove themselves to be prototype comic sidekicks-slash-motor vehicle geniuses (sort of…), who inspire Albert on his journey to right the wrongs of the past.

Easy to read but with a fun and complex enough storyline to keep you gripped until the bitter, car-chasing end, this will be a perfect read to inspire many games of banana-bank-robbery in the future.


Bandits, Bank Robbers & Three Smoking Hot Bananas is out now, and can be purchased from our book store here.

Mixing it up: action, dialogue and narrative.

When writing a story, authors have to strike a balance between action, dialogue and narrative in order to be effective. They need to keep the reader guessing, pace their novel properly and mix things up a bit. There are no actual rules about when to blend action, dialogue and narrative; you have to experiment a little, weave them together and find your story’s unique rhythm. However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself about your story to help with this — especially during the redrafting stage — that can help you know which elements are most effective at a certain point in the novel and which aren’t.


  • Should you give the reader some background information on the characters at a certain point in the plot so they can connect with them more? If so, it may be best to use narrative, dialogue or a combination of the two in order to do this.
  • Are your characters providing too many background details in conversation with each other? If so, maybe try using narrative to explain these details to the reader.
  • Is the plot moving a little slowly? Do you need to speed things up? If so, it may be worth inserting more dialogue.
  • Do you have too many dialogue scenes in a row? If so, you should consider using action or narrative.
  • Do you find that your characters are constantly confiding in others things they should only be thinking to themselves? If so, the best course of action may be to insert more narrative.
  • Likewise, are your characters alone in their heads when conversation would be more effective and lively? If so, perhaps consider using more dialogue in your scene.
  • Is your story unbalanced in any way? For example, do you have too much action, too much dialogue or too much narrative? If so, try adding more of the elements that are missing.

I hope that these tips help when writing or redrafting your novel. Remember: pace your work, mix it up a little and, above all, just write!

Oh, the horror!

The arrival of Halloween obviously calls for a post about a certain genre of novel. You know the one I’m talking about… horrors. The genre that strikes fear into some authors when they struggle to answer the question of how on earth to scare readers in a world where 10-year-old kids play 18+ video games, people sneer at most horror movies, declaring them ‘clichéd’ and ‘pathetic’, and the news is full of terrorism and death.

So, how does one write a horror that is original, disturbing and engrossing? And how does one scare the socks off a reader who seems immune to fear? Well, the good news is that there are techniques to help, so without further ado, let’s explore…


  1. Sentence structure. Make good use of shorter sentences to create tension and drama. Use lots of them in a stop-start structure – but don’t overdo it! Mix in a couple of run-on sentences to pick up the pace after a few shorter ones to push readers along as the horror escalates…
  2. Pacing. In horror, as in any genre for that matter, pacing is paramount. You need to keep the reader’s interest to keep them invested in the fear. You want them sitting on the edge of their seats, and then you want to knock them to the floor. Metaphorically, of course. Play around with pacing and see what effects you can create for the reader.
  3. Educate yourself. Watch the news, read urban legends and ghost stories and give these starting points a modern twist. You’ll be surprised what you can come up with this way.
  4. Exploit the unknown. Everyone fears the unknown; it is ingrained in our very nature as human beings. Our ancestors gathered around firelight for warmth and safety. Well, it it your job as a horror writer to push readers outside of the firelight. Abandon them somewhere cold and lonely, with only fear to keep them company.
  5.  Relating to the point above, the unknown must be worth fearing. You need to build the fear in readers by creating consequences in your writing and making them understand these consequences.
  6. Don’t lose the plot! You can’t push readers into a vat of entrails and expect them to swim. They will sink, and stop reading your book. You need great characters and a great plot to give readers the will to keep afloat and swim through the gore. Otherwise, you’re just left with a vat of entrails.
  7. Write about your own fears. That way, you can truly understand the horror and what makes it scary; you can exploit these fears in your writing. Chances are, if you’re scared of something, somebody else will be too.
  8. Make readers really care about the characters. You can’t expect readers to feel horror when Sally is stabbed through the heart with a pickaxe if Sally is still a two dimensional character to them. They need to feel attached to a character, otherwise they are not going to feel the emotion you need them to feel when bad things happen to them.
  9. The main ingredient: a dash of hope. Don’t make the mistake of dragging the reader kicking and screaming through piles and piles of gore, murder and bones. They need a respite, however brief, in order to keep reading and keep feeling the fear, otherwise they may become desensitised to it entirely.
  10. Above all, the old favourite of ‘show, don’t tell’ applies more to horror than any other genre. You cannot ‘tell’ a reader to be scared. You need them to feel the fear on their own. You need to show them things so horrible and terrifying that they have no choice but to be afraid. You cannot simply say, ‘Here you go, here’s a stake through the eye, isn’t this scary?’ They are very unlikely to be scared.

If writing a horror story is something you’ve tried before and it didn’t quite work out right, or something you’ve been meaning to try but simply haven’t had a clue where to start, I hope these tips will prove useful in nudging you closer to becoming the next Stephen King!

Frozen – A review by Anne-Marie Richardson

The vivid narration of Elle A. Rose’s Frozen brings her alien-invaded dystopia down to earth in a novel ideal for those who enjoy the science fiction genre. Verick Cedar, our sixteen-year-old protagonist, guides us through what remains of mankind as he fights for his family’s survival. For another year, at least. Set long after ‘The Great Takeover’ when Verick’s ancestors lost their home, Verick begins to question the society that he and his loved ones work tirelessly to maintain. As a result, he delivers a matter-of-fact and well-paced perspective that is easy to read and yet intimates an underlying sense of pressure, as though something could cut his story short at any moment.


The storyline is rich with characters as generations of humans strive together for the continuation of their race. From the novel’s opening pages, the elders clearly have a strict grip over the young, with a fascinating fusion of superstition and tradition upholding order. Although, the tightly-knit tribal atmosphere of this remaining collective often results in friction, creating unexpected twists to keep readers on the edge. An abundance of conflicting emotions and agendas sparks a series of romantic, humorous, and often unfortunate occurrences. Readers will laugh at our hormonal hero’s personal struggles, which lead audiences to wonder if the invading alien genus is half as much trouble for Verick as the teenage girls in his life.

However, these personal difficulties are set against an impending backdrop. The mysterious Xecerptavode species that drove humanity to the brink of extinction hangs above the story like a predator waiting to strike. The sympathy invoked through our connection with Verick and his friends leads us to deliberate whether surviving will be enough anymore. Will the humans continue to live in fear or will they at last retaliate against their oppressors?

Rose’s realistic writing style combined with the fantastical creatures and climate creates an inventive flair that is enjoyable to read and will entice you into an unfamiliar and unnerving new world.


Frozen can be purchased from our book store here:

The Claws of the Earth Part III – A review by Sapphira White

This gripping third instalment in B.’s Claws of the Earth series, Claws of the Earth: Trouble in the South is sure to live up to the success of its predecessors. B. weaves a complex plot which makes heavy demands of the reader’s concentration, yet rewards them with an intense storyline combining magic, mystical creatures, rebellion, religion and war. B. manages to skilfully handle parallel plotlines and a vast array of characters, both named and unnamed, in order to create a novel which is a truly intriguing read.

This fantasy novel is set in an alternate world, where magical creatures, magic-users, and black-robes thrive, and an entity known as the Hooded One poses a threat to the entire civilisation. Despite this, the Empire faces other, more immediate threats; rebels are uprising in the Deep South. Rimyar, leader of the rebels, seeks to reclaim the lands once stolen from his tribespeople by the Empire, and will stop at nothing to achieve his aim. He unites the broken tribes, working fiercely to maintain order between warring tribes and rally them against the Empire. Meanwhile, King Mintor, Queen Riolany, and other members of the Empire find themselves facing threats at every turn, and consider seeking an alliance with the rebels against the Hooded One and his black-robes. Meanwhile, the mysterious Evan Whitestiller has moved his attention to the Eastern Kingdom, and the soldiers of the cross are roaming around the realms causing havoc for both the Empire and rebels tribes. They must find out what Whitestiller is up to before it is too late…will he help the Hooded One in the quest for the Claws of the Earth?

Due to the nature of the plot and characters, the reader is encouraged to first read the other books in the series in order to fully understand the development of – and bond with – some of the main characters. There is such a vast array of characters that it can be difficult to keep track of who they are and whose side they are on, especially the unnamed characters such as ones simply known as ‘commanders’. However, once you get your head around who is who, you’ll find that each character has a role to play in the finely woven plotlines. Readers are treated to a detailed insight into the minds of the main characters as they battle against fear, politics, injury and death. The reader joins them, thrust into the heat and chaos of battle from the very beginning when Rimyar assaults the fortress, utterly caught up in the action and marvelling at the strategic planning that characters are forced to undertake. In short, this gripping read will stay with readers long after they turn the last page, and leave them eager to continue the next instalment documenting the journeys and trials of Rimyar, Mintor, and the Hooded One, amongst others.


The Claws of the Earth Part III is available for purchase here:

The fourth instalment of the series will be arriving in our book store very soon…


Our month of thrills and chills begins with Nia Liversuch’s review of Haunted Fields

Readers who are searching for a complex thriller with a heart should look no further than Dan Moore’s Haunted Fields. The novel is a gripping tale full of sharp twists and dramatic turns, leading the reader on a path that keeps them guessing until the end. Haunted Fields appeals to a range of readers; it contains an excellent mixture of murder mystery, heart warming romance, chilling ghost story and coming of age tale that blends into a fast-paced thriller that does not disappoint.


Haunted Fields follows Freddie, a disillusioned, rebellious teenager, as he hopes to find a place, and a family, in which he can belong. Unceremoniously sent to spend his summer of freedom at Ridge Farm by his father and his less than popular stepmother, Freddie learns a lot more than how to lift bales of hay. He enters a close-knit rural community who are all connected by a tragic past, and becomes embroiled in a dark secret that threatens to endanger Freddie and the families it involves. Freddie experiences life as an outsider in the isolated farming village, but eventually finds this position advantageous – can he shed light on the mystery that has haunted the villagers for generations?

The novel moves quickly, bringing in new elements to the mystery in every chapter, but this can sometimes cause some areas of the plot to not be explored as fully as they could be. However, the conclusion to the novel is strong; both a twist and a cliff-hanger, it jolts the reader and Freddie back to the reality of life outside Ridge Farm and leaves them wondering what will happen next. Engaging and intriguing to the final line, Haunted Fields is set to become a firm, pulse-racing favourite for any reader.


Haunted Fields can be purchased from our book store here:

Q&A with Harvey Jones and a sneak peek at Hook Up sequel – Legacies

Hi, we are Jan and Sian, but you know us as Harvey Jones. We got together through the care system and became very good friends, and together we like nothing more than to take Connie, Jan’s dog, for walks along the Welsh coastline and then indulge in a hot frothy coffee.

240615-blog-barryisland img_20150609_204106

On outings we have met a variety of wonderful people and some really quirky characters, and have been asked a fair few questions which we shall try and answer here.

(1) How did you come up with the characters in your book?

Well, we wanted to try and give our readers  a chance to relate to each person in the book, so by having a large curvy woman – and an older woman at that – who is strong from all of her years of experience, we feel it gives the book a realistic look on life. The male lead is younger and we know some men do like the older woman. Tobias also has some unique fetishes which makes for an interesting journey for them both. We felt that we wanted to show that no matter what size, age, colour, gender or sexual preference, it’s acceptable to be just you – no labels. Also, we are not all rich (it would be nice if we were). We are just everyday normal people, so to see a gardener and his wife in a happy relationship with a few extra perks thrown in is just the norm , it’s just not talked about.

(2) Why no bad language or explicit sexual details?

Well do we need bad language all the time? We didn’t think so. We wanted to be different and see if we could forego the need to swear throughout the book; some stories require it but we thought we would try without. As for explicit sex scenes, I think it depends on the reader, some like it very X rated, some prefer it mild, we just tried to paint a picture in the reader’s mind without going overboard. Sometimes the imagination can fill in the images that we portray with the simplicity of words.

(3) What are your thoughts on relationships?

We think that if you are lucky enough to find that one person who is the other part of you then you should grab hold of them and love them with all that you are, be it male and female, male and male, female and female – it does not matter. We all have the right to love whoever we love without prejudice, life is far too short to worry over someone’s choice of partner – you should be more concerned over your own life. Be honest with yourself and your chosen love and live while you both can.

(4) What about swingers and bondage?

Whatever lifestyle you choose is fine. We all have different tastes or fetishes – from being tied up with silk ties to big thick ropes, from introducing a new person into the relationship to an orgy or just keeping it to yourselves – it’s not new, it’s been done for thousands of years, and as long as each person is  willing  and has consented and everyone is happy then so be it. It’s not hurting anyone if it’s their chosen way and again by being honest with your partner you are able to enjoy a few new experiences and enrich your lives.


(5) Is there a sequel to Hook Up?

Yes! Legacies is the sequel. It brings the story of Macy and Tobias to a close, it shows more relationships with different genders too. There is a civil wedding and a few other lifestyles along the way, and you also learn of Emma’s past and more about the hotel, so we hope people will enjoy it and hopefully see that we all live as we see fit for ourselves.

Here’s a sneak peek at the Legacies cover:


Thanks for reading – please leave a comment or your own question below!  #hookedonhookup

Winner Either Way – Guest post by Harvey Jones

Our journey so far has been quite exciting, from the book launch at the end  of June to now, when we saw our book being read on a plane and on a sun soaked beach in Zante, Greece.

fb_img_1441485556662 fb_img_1441745839701 received_10152987035758263

We are pleased with our many reviews – some fantastic ones, some not so good – but hey, we know we are not to everybody’s taste….what book is? Life would be very dull if each and everyone of us liked or disliked the same things in life.


I now fully understand why an author craves a review with mixed emotions because the feelings of pure joy and gratitude from a good review makes it all worth while, as does the opposite feeling of total hurt and self doubt floor you when someone tells you that you are ‘rubbish’. Well to every author out there, you are not rubbish, you’re a bloody star putting your name forward for critical comments, and believe me some people will try and knock you down, but just remember by the fact that they have done this they have actually bought and read your book, so either way you, the author, are the winner.


God bless all you out there who are struggling to put your words on to paper; just keep going, you are appreciated. I myself can’t wait to read new works so good luck to all.

And to all the great book readers out there, please take a moment to leave a few kind words about the book even if it was not quite your cup of tea. Happy reading everyone.


Hook Up is available for purchase at our official book store here: