How I write short stories – Callie Hill

Absolutely delighted to be featured on Louise Jensen’s fantastic Fabricating Fiction blog today. Louise was my mentor on the Womentoring Scheme a couple of years ago and has been a huge inspiration to me.

fabricating fiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome Callie Hill onto my blog. I had the pleasure of mentoring Callie through the Womentoring Project and she’s a super talented writer as well as a lovely person. I’m so proud of everything she has achieved since, degrees are such hard work, and now she’s published her first short story collection. I’ll hand over to Callie to share how and why she writes.

Like many readers, books and stories feel like a magical world I can escape to. No matter what kind of story, I’m always intrigued as to the initial spark that inspired the writer, and how that spark ignited into the words on the page. This is what gave me the idea for how I’ve structured my collection of linked short stories,The Story Collector.Although each story can be read individually, the collection follows a writer, Colin, as he goes about his…

View original post 958 more words

THE FAMILY by Louise Jensen #psychologicalthriller #creepy #fivestars

The FamilyGenre:         Psychological Thriller
Publisher:  HQ (Harper Collins)
Published:  3rd October 2019
Reviewed:  2nd September 2019
Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.
But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.
Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…
My Review
Laura has reached rock bottom. Her husband, Gavin, has been killed in an accident on a building site, and due to Gavin building on toxic land, the community she was once a part of have turned against her in her hour of need. Customers to her once flourishing flower shop are now virtually non-existent and Laura isn’t able to pay her rent. To top it all, the insurance company is refusing to pay-out until further investigations into Gavin’s death have been carried out. With her parents disowning her for something Laura has done in the past, the only people Laura and her daughter, Tilly, can rely on are Gavin’s brother and his family. But now, even they are refusing to help, so when Saffron shows Laura kindness and offers her a way out, Laura takes Saffron up on her offer. But, as Laura says, things come in threes, and this was her first mistake. Her second mistake was taking Tilly with her. Both of these mistakes come very early on in the story and I couldn’t turn the pages quick enough to find out what the third mistake would be.
With a chilling prologue that immediately draws you in, the narrative continues from three points of view: the first person perspectives of Laura and Tilly, and the third-person limited perspective of Alex. It is from Tilly’s perspective that we learn Gavin was keeping secrets: don’t tell Tilly.As far as Laura is concerned, Gavin was the love of her life, so what secret did he hide from her? As well as being caught in the middle of her father’s secret, Tilly is having a rough time of things at school. She’d always been best friends with her cousin, Rhiannon, but with the school bully isolating Tilly whilst at the same time drawing Rhiannon into the ‘in’ crowd, vulnerable Tilly soon becomes susceptible to Alex’s attention.
Handsome and charismatic Alex is the person who runs the ‘organic farm’, and has both Laura and Tilly under his spell. By giving him his own voice, the author allows the reader a glimpse into both his warped mind as well as the painful past that has shaped the man he has become. However, by switching to third-person, this allows a degree of distance and juxtaposes Alex’s perspective with the closer first-person perspectives of Laura and Tilly; leaving the reader in no doubt as to who to route for.
The middle part of the story centres around life on Oak Leaf Farm itself: the set-up, the others who live there. It is this part of the story that I found darker and much more creepy than the author’s other novels. Although, it was made clear that Laura could leave at any time, the sense of isolation from the rest of the world, both physically as well as mentally, made it feel this wasn’t possible. I just couldn’t put the book down here; I had to read on and get Laura and Tilly out of there!
The latter part of the narrative is where the strands of Laura’s past and present really come together; and it isn’t until now that the novel’s title really takes on its true meaning. I was sure I was right about the fate of one of the characters but OMG I didn’t see that one coming– what a twist that was! If you think life on the farm is dark and creepy, that ending will send shivers down your spine…
As well as her well-plotted storylines, what I like about this author is her unique writing style. Sentences are clean and uncluttered; and whilst rich in vivid imagery, the narrative isn’t over flowery. Louise Jensen says what needs saying, then gets out; resulting in a fast-paced and heart-pounding experience for the reader.
I absolutely loved The Family; yet another fantastic read from Louise Jensen. I would recommend this book for fans of Lisa Jewell, Jane Schemilt, and Jo Ullah.
Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley
for an Advance Review Copy of this book
in return for an honest and unbiased review.
About the Author
Louise JensenWhen I was little I was obsessed by Enid Blyton. Her characters were so real to me they became my friends. I often huddled under my covers, stifling my yawns and straining my eyes, as I read ‘just one more page’ by torchlight.
Mr Townsend, my primary school English teacher always encouraged my love of literature, and it wasn’t long before I’d read everything my school had to offer. The first book I created was six pages long, had stick-man illustrations and was sellotaped together. I was immensely proud of it. Writing was a huge part of my life, until one day it wasn’t.
I can’t remember ever making a conscious decision to stop writing but it became easier to act on the advice I was given – ‘grow up and get a proper job’ – and my dreams were tightly packed away, gathering dust for the next twenty years.
My thirties were a car crash. Literally. I sustained injuries which when coupled with a pre-existing condition forced me to radically change my lifestyle. I felt utterly lost and utterly alone. Always an avid reader I began to devour books at an alarming rate. ‘You’ll have read every book in here soon,’ my local librarian said. ‘You’ll have to write your own.’
And there was a flicker, a shift, a rising of hope. I grasped that nugget of possibility and I wrote. I wrote when I was happy. I wrote when I was sad. I wrote when I was scared and in-between writing, I read, read and read some more. Words have the power to lift, to heal. They have illuminated my world, which for a time became very dark.
As Anne Frank said ‘I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.’

THE GIRL AT THE WINDOW by Rowan Coleman #ghostromance #uplit #terrifying

Girl at the Window.png

Genre: Ghost/Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Ebury Press (Penguin)

Published: 27th June 2019

Reviewed: 21st August 2019


A house full of history is bound to have secrets…

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

My Review

Rowan Coleman has always been one of my favourite authors, occupying three out of the twenty coveted spaces on my ‘All Time Favourites’ shelf: The Baby Group, Dearest Rose, and The Summer of Impossible Things. All different genres, and all equally as brilliant as each other. So, as you can imagine, I had already set my hopes quite high for the author’s latest novel. As well as this, I knew The Girl at the Window had connotations with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. This brings back fond memories when during the second year of my literature degree, I was snuggled up in my writing room, writing an essay on ‘the constant overlapping of the gothic and the domestic’ in Wuthering Heights whilst the snow and hail storm of February 2016 rapped against my window.

The Girl at the Window is a perfect blend of fact and fiction, historical and contemporary. Starting in the present, Tru is having one of those weird dreams where you think you’ve woken up but you haven’t. But when she does wake up her nightmare is only just beginning when she is told her army surgeon husband, Abe, has gone missing in action. But despite all the evidence stacking against him, Will (Tru and Abe’s young son) refuses to admit defeat and is determined to have faith in the return of his father. But Tru isn’t convinced and decides to go back to the home where she grew up, and the place where she fell in love with Abe: Ponden Hall and the Yorkshire moors, in the hope that she will find a clue as to what happened to him.

Tru’s mother still lives at Ponden Hall but we soon learn that their relationship is a difficult one and they have been estranged for several years. As the rift in their relationship gradually heals, we learn about what life was like for Tru as a child, and her father’s familial connection to Ponden and the Bronte’s. The story also touches on some deep issues such as post-natal depression. At first, Tru’s mother came across as a right old hag, but by the end I absolutely loved her. A tribute to the author’s wonderful creation of this multi-dimensional character.

But where this story is so very different from other ‘uplit’ genres is that it is also utterly creepy. You wouldn’t think the two genres would work together, but this hybrid really does work so well. There is a scene where a hand comes out of the wall and grabs Tru: like OMG I almost s**t myself! One of the reasons nineteenth-century gothic and crime novels were so popular was because they juxtaposed the ordinary world against danger. Sherlock Holmes for example, one minute he was trying to escape with his life, the next he was in his cosy living room with an open fire and his housekeeper bringing him a cup of tea. Ponden is like that; you have weird and supernatural things going on in one part of the house whilst Tru’s mother is baking cakes in another.

Like Wuthering Heights, The Girl at the Window also has a frame structure, where the past story is told through the present-day story. There were also some other plot and characterisation similarities to Wuthering Heights: I could see parts of Heathcliffe in a few of the characters. Like Heathcliffe, Agnes was brought to Ponden by the man who adopted her; and in the same way that Heathcliffe returned and bought Wuthering Heights, so did Robert. Whilst Blackbeard, like the adult Heathcliffe, was full of hatred and revenge, this character also reminded me of Hindley Earnshaw and the way he treated the young Heathcliffe. There is also, of course, the star-crossed love story element between Agnes and Robert, and not to mention Tru and Abe.

The Girl at the Window has been yet another unique and incredibly satisfying read from Rowan Coleman. I don’t want to give any spoilers but wow that ending, and how the message from Agnes links to Tru on a much deeper level is just brilliant. I can’t really say who I would recommend this book for as it in a league of its own. It’s a story for anybody who is looking for an uplifting story of family, love, loss, reconciliation, as well as somebody who likes a bit of gothic horror. Not to mention anybody who has a book addiction. Modern-day Bronte’ fans perhaps!

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband, and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.

Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing in public. Despite being dyslexic, Rowan loves writing, and The Memory Book is her eleventh novel, which was chosen as a Richard and Judy bookclub selection in 2014. Others include The Accidental Mother, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud and the award-winning Dearest Rose, a novel which lead Rowan to become an active supporter of domestic abuse charity Refuge, donating 100% of royalties from the ebook publication of her novella, Woman Walks Into a Bar, to the charity.

NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson #psychologicalthriller #catandmouse #twisty



Never Have I Ever



Genre:        Psychological Thriller

Publisher:  Raven Books

Published: 8th August 2019

Reviewed:  7th August 2019





It starts as a game at a book group one night. Never Have I Ever… done something I shouldn’t.

But Amy Whey has done something she shouldn’t. And Roux, the glamorous newcomer to Amy’s suburban neighbourhood, knows exactly what that is.

Roux promises she will go away. She will take herself and her son, who is already growing dangerously close to Amy’s teenage stepdaughter, and she will go. If Amy plays by her rules.

But Amy isn’t prepared to lose everything she’s built. She’s going to fight back, and in this escalating game of cat and mouse, there can be only one winner.

My Review

Amy and Char are both mothers of young children who live in the same street, and despite their age gap (Amy is older) the pair are the best of friends. Char loves classical literature and runs a book club (from Amy’s house), which is planned down to the last minute . She also likes to sit in her own special chair, which all the other women in the book-club daren’t sit in. So when Roux, the mysterious newcomer to the area, arrives unannounced at their book-club one evening and takes over – including sitting in Char’s chair – Char is put out to say the least.  Before Char and Amy know it, the evening has come to an end and Char’s chosen book has barely been mentioned. But it is after Char has gone home that things really hot up!

The author has already set the scene that Roux is out to cause trouble. When she instigates a game of ‘Never Have I Ever’ one of the other women in the group admits to kissing another man and Roux stores away this piece of information to use in the future. The next day, Roux turns her attention to Amy, and reveals she knows exactly what Amy did in her past, blackmailing her to hand over her inheritance or risk losing everything she holds dear. However, Roux hasn’t banked on Amy’s feistiness and she may just have possibly picked on the wrong one this time.

What was unique about this narrative was that it was solely from Amy’s perspective and (apart from a flashback scene early on) it is set in the present. I thought this was quite interesting because although it is an event from Amy’s past that has given Roux the first spark of amunition against Amy, it is her ongoing actions since then, including the here and now, that raises the stakes. Most psychological thrillers juxtapose the perspective of the protagonist alongside that of the antagonist; asking the question as to who is telling the truth. But this was not the case here. Roux’s background is a complete mystery and is only brought to light through Amy’s detective work and personal psychoanalysis of her. Rather than internal monologue, the author reveals Roux’s inner thoughts by coming in so close that every tiny facial twitch tells a miniature story, revealing whether Roux is nervous or lying.

I really liked Amy, she’s done some stupid things in the past, but a big twist reveals just what a big heart she has and just exactly how much she could lose though Roux’s evil determination to destroy her: this is much more than what is revealed early on. Although initially at her wits end as to what she is going to do,  Amy soon decides to fight back by digging into Roux’s own closet – quite literally. And what she finds out is far more shocking than anything Amy has done. Readers are in for a real treat with this twisty turn in this tale of cat and mouse.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.


About the Author

joshilyn-jackson-headshot-768x1034New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson’s newest book, Never Have I Ever, will launch in July of 2019. You can check out her previous eight novels and other work here. Joshilyn’s books have been translated into a dozen languages, have won SIBA’s Novel of the Year award, have three times been #1 Book Sense Pick, have twice won Georgia Author of the Year awards, have three times been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, and have been a finalist for the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction.

A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of both her own novels and the books of other writers; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, won three Earphones awards, made the 2012 Audible All-Star list for highest listener ranks/reviews, and garnered three Listen Up awards from Publisher’s Weekly.

She serves on the board of Reforming Arts, a nonprofit that runs education-in-prison and reentry programs. Reforming Arts fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills, encouraging students to build livable lives both during and post-incarceration. Through this organization, Joshilyn has taught creative writing, composition, and literature inside Georgia’s maximum security facility for women.

Joshilyn learned to scuba-dive in order to write Never Have I Ever, and now she and her husband Scott are both avid divers. They live in Decatur, Georgia with their two kids, two entitled cats, and a modestly-sized dog.