Writing challenges always appeal to me. They’re great for keeping the creative juices flowing.
I decided – well, actually, I didn’t decide at all. The challenge appeared, fully-formed, in front of me and I didn’t really have any choice. I’m excited about it, and I’d love you to join in too.
1,000 Happy Thoughts
The premise is simple. It’s about sharing positivity, in as simple or as complex a way as you choose. The great thing is that you can join in any way you want to, taking up as much or as little time as you want it to.
The idea is to share a happy thought each day, to take a few minutes to appreciate the wonderful things – however big or small. Essentially, it’s a gratitude journal, but one we can share. To make it a community, we can use #1000happythoughts on Instagram. I’ll be browsing through the hashtag and sharing whenever I can.
1,000 may seem like a lot. I considered 365 – one a day for a year. But there are so many things to be happy about that it seems wrong to limit it. Let’s keep it going for as long as we can! I may well fall out of the habit at times. Please feel free to kick me back into it.
Here’s how I will be participating:
Each day, I will be writing my brief ‘happy thought’.
I’ll share it on my Wattpad here: https://w.tt/3sdpI5w – there are two there already so please do check them out to get an idea of what it’s all about, and follow to help me accountable!
I’ll also share the link on my stories using #1000happythoughts
Here’s what you could do:
Share your happy thoughts on Instagram with #1000happythoughts
Comment your happy thoughts on my Wattpad (through the link above)
Write them on a blackboard, in the sand, anywhere! The value is in the doing.
If you’d like to join in, it would be amazing to have you. You can start sharing whenever you like, and you can share as many happy thoughts as you like each day. There is only one rule – that we share 1,000 happy thoughts. The when and where and how are completely and utterly up to you.
It’d be wonderful to have you following along on my Wattpad if you are interested. The more the merrier! Here’s the link again: https://w.tt/3sdpI5w
Any questions, comments or suggestions? Let me know! This is a challenge for anyone who wants to spread and feel a little positivity. I would love for you to join in too ❤️
I wasn’t able to head to any exciting book shops or restaurants or bars for my birthday this year (and I usually like to spend my birthday PROPERLY enjoying myself), so a little retail therapy was certainly on the cards.
I do love collecting books. The ones I bought will add to some of my favourites sets. I did want to purchase one other book that I’ve had my eye on for a while – Mexican Gothic. However, my process is that I purchase newer releases (read: anything that’s not a classic) second hand, and I then pass them on to friends and family when I’ve read them. Mexican Gothic seems to be too new at the moment for me to pick up a second hand copy online, so I’ll just have to wait.
So, here we go, my birthday books:
1. This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald
A beautiful Barnes and Noble leatherbound edition by one of my favourite authors. I love collecting these big, chunky books and I adore the quality- it’s exceptional.
One good thing does come from lockdown; reading more books. I thought I’d share with you the books I read in January and what I thought of them. A slight caveat to begin – I have been researching cults for some writing, and this dictated most of my choices! However, if you’re interested in cults then this could well be the reading month for you.
I finished 4 books which I was happy with; I generally try to get through one a week.
Book 1 – In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park
What a great way to start a new year’s reading journey. This book was simply astonishing. It documents the true story of Yeonmi Park’s escape from North Korea, and what happened to her afterwards. This book will stay with me for a very, very long time. The chapters sharing her life as a child in North Korea were awful, but unsurprising- full of hunger, illness and an impossible political system. It was what occurred after she escaped over the border with her mother that truly shocked me. I think, like many, I had heard of North Korean defectors and assumed that, once they were free, they were safe. I was wrong on both counts. Yeonmi Park and her mother were neither free nor safe as undocumented refugees in China. I won’t share what happened to them here, but I urge you to pick up this book and read her harrowing, inspirational journey yourself.
My second book of the month was Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. Keeping in with the cult theme, this is a fast-paced and wild yarn about the last survivor of a suicide cult. As you would expect from Palahniuk, this story investigates the darkest corners of the human condition whilst remaining completely character-focused and utterly readable. I enjoyed it, it had some seriously quotable phrases, but I already find it slipping from my memory. It’s not a book that hit me, you know?
Sometimes you need some pure escapism. I’ve watched the series multiple times and enjoy it. My husband gave me the full box set of the books for Christmas and I thought I’d get stuck in. The series follows this first book very faithfully, so it was an easy read. It was lovely (if that is the correct word to describe a book like this…) to revisit these characters and I spent several happy hours in Westeros. I won’t explain what it’s about because, well, I’m sure you already know.
Ok, I was very divided by this one. The book is a series of interviews conducted by Murakami with survivors of the Tokyo underground terrorist attacks in 1995. The interviews themselves were fascinating. The layout, with different people who experienced the same attack and their contradictory memories, was great. Murakami’s input, however, was jarring. In the introduction, he laid out his efforts to contact survivors. He noted that many women declined, and said that this was probably because the men in their families wouldn’t want them to be interviewed. Of course, I found that angering. Then, prior to an interview with a woman, he described (in great detail) her attractiveness, how men would like her and how she was young enough to be his daughter. The men he clearly admired were described in terms of being controlling, in charge of their families. I understand that a lot of time has passed since this book was written, but I found his attitude towards women to be awful, and it completely distracted from the content of the book.
If you still somehow want a copy, you can get one here!
There you are – my January reads! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them?
Looking ahead to February, I have a few exciting books on my radar, but I may well read less (due to the very exciting fact that my debut novel The Hellion is being released in a few short weeks…!)
Writing as a hobby is often overlooked in favour of those (allegedly) sexier and more fashionable pastimes which come and go as frequently as lockdowns – there’s a simile for our modern times. Cross stitch, banana bread baking, jigsaws, the evergreen computer gaming – all of these are commendable hobbies and I’m not here to dictate how you to choose to spend your valuable free time. Do what brings you joy! But my point is that writing rarely finds its way onto these lists.
However, I am here with a delightful writing form of inception to share why writing IS a wonderful hobby, whilst also writing as a hobby.
Here we go…
It requires almost nothing to get started
Got a pen and paper? You’re ready to go. A fancy, brand new laptop? Great, open up the word processor. The notes app on your phone? Go, go, go! A dry pavement and a watering can? How artful.
Writing doesn’t need anything special (although very little can beat the feeling of a fresh, empty notebook) and you don’t need to do any training – unless you want to, of course. For me, although I’m well aware that it is different for everyone, writing as a hobby means not worrying if it’s good or bad and not striving for improvement, though that happily comes the more you do it.
If you want a course to direct your mind as you write, there are many available and they often crop up on websites such as Groupon. I did one a few years ago and found it quite fun, although I ended up pressuring myself to finish it.
It opens you up to yourself
Although this is definitely true when journaling, I find that any type of writing does this. Write for long enough, and you’ll find something of yourself. Writing a diary, where you slow down your thoughts and take the time to lay each of them gently on a sheet of paper, forces you to take the time to consider how you feel. It doesn’t matter if you store your diaries for the rest of your life or burn the paper as soon as it’s written. The process is what is important, not the finished product.
It resonates with other people
If you choose to share your writing (and you certainly don’t have to, it is just as valuable either way), there is the inevitability that someone out there in the world will stumble across your words and feel that you have managed to scribe their exact thoughts and feelings.
You know that thing where you read something and think ‘huh! I thought I was the only one…’, or that thing where you read a sentence and it just…sticks. It almost becomes a mantra, because it feels so you? Your writing can do that too. It’s not about likes or shares or anything like that – it’s about the magic of human connection.
Perfection is not only unnecessary, it’s impossible
There is absolutely no book, or poem, or letter, that everyone on this earth likes. Trying to write one that everyone does is completely futile. The key, in my opinion, to successful writing as a hobby (and by successful, I mean that it becomes a hobby that sticks) is dropping all expectation and just letting it take you where it takes you.
As soon as you stop striving for perfection, your output will be greater and your enjoyment will be higher. And – curiously – you’ll also probably find that your writing is better.
It can be anything you want it to be
If you want to write a novel, great. If you don’t, also great. If you want all of the spelling and grammar to be spot on, great. If you want to just let it flow and forget about full stops and stressing about spelling, also great.
On my Instagram today, I shared the above image of some of my collection of Wuthering Heights editions. This is my favourite novel and, although I have multiple copies of lots of classics, I actively collect different editions of Wuthering Heights.
As I was happily looking at my beautiful editions and reminding myself of scenes in the book (do you have that reaction too? When you pick up a book you’ve enjoyed and the scenes run through your memory like a movie reel?), I realised just how much Emily Brontë has inspired my own writing.
If you’ve followed my blog or Instagram for a little while, you will know that I am a huge fan of the classics and, in particular, classics written by women. Reading these books have, without doubt, made me a better writer and so today I wanted to share with you the female authors of classics whose books I love, and whose writing inspires me.
My debut novel, The Hellion, will be released on 18th March 2021.
Given my introduction, I will have to start with Emily Brontë. Wuthering Heights invokes one thing for me – atmosphere. It is full of gloom, wild and windy moors, ice and darkness. The mood of the book perfectly matches the bleak setting, and I love the hints of ghosts and madness.
The themes of people struggling (and, mostly, failing) to live lives as they choose is highly emotive.
Wuthering Heights is a book that I have read many times, and each time something new shows itself to me.
Daphne du Maurier
The queen of the thriller! Daphne du Maurier’s gothic mystery Rebecca truly took my breath away (I finished it, opened it at the first page and began reading again). It may be unsurprising that I adore both this and Wuthering Heights – they are both books which are, ridiculously, often labelled as love stories or romances, when they are nothing of the sort.
I have read many of Daphne du Maurier’s works, particularly enjoying My Cousin Rachel and the creepy short story Don’t Look Now, but Rebecca is my favourite of hers. The horror that she manages to evoke simply with a choice of dress is astounding.
Shirley Jackson managed to make the every day frightening. Her book of short stories, The Lottery, opened my eyes to just how twisted the mundane can be. One of the stories is about a man who lives in a little flat that he has tried very hard to make perfect. His neighbour invites herself in for dinner, brings along a friend and pretends that the flat is hers – to the extent that the owner has to leave his perfect flat with his perfect things. The storyline sounds simplistic, but Shirley Jackson’s writing made it riveting and frightening.
Then there is We Have Always Lived In The Castle, with the terrifying Merricat. You are never sure whether to pity, despise, love or run from the unique narrator. Shirley Jackson knew how to keep a reader on their toes with pace and unease – something I try to work into my own writing.
I am sure it is difficult to find a writer who has not been inspired by Margaret Atwood – she is simply a genius. The breadth of her writing is inimitable, she is a master at both short stories and novels.
My favourite works by Margaret Atwood are The Handmaid’s Tale, for its darkness, its depth and its glint of hope, and her short story collection Stone Mattress; a weird, interlinked set of yarns. She inspires me with her craft, her wit and her incredible volume of output!
Mary Shelley is best known for her novel Frankenstein, well known for its view into the human psyche with man as the monster. I love her gory take on this. But my favourite Mary Shelley novel is The Last Man. Published in 1826, and set in 2073 onwards, it’s the story of a dystopian world where most people have been wiped out by a deadly disease (sound familiar?).
Mary Shelley was writing dystopian and science fiction before anyone knew what it was, and I am constantly inspired by her dedication to her craft despite her desperately tragic life – if you have a chance to read up on it, I would definitely suggest you do.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman is here simply because of her short story, The Yellow Wallpaper. I haven’t actually read any of her other works, though writing this has reminded me that I should and if you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments.
Written in 1890, her story of mental illness resonates as strongly today as it did then. It is one of those stories, despite being short, that places you directly in the head of the character where you become entirely trapped. Charlotte Perkins Gilman made this list because that story stays with me constantly. It is scary, it is obsessive and it is a feminist masterpiece. She showed me that you can create something incredible without it needing to be 900 pages long.
Do you write? Which authors inspire you? Let me know in the comments.
You can find out more about my debut novel on my blog post here.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, right? Well, sue me, because I definitely do. I love the classics, and in particular I love beautiful, collectible editions of the classics. Following on from the birth of #bookstagram, there’s been a boom in the number of gorgeous collections. I like to think that those of us sharing the love on Instagram (I’m @thesenovelthoughts over there) have had a big part in bringing all of this excess beauty into the world!
If you want to start book collecting, here are my favourite editions. These books can be more expensive than their mass market paperback alternatives, but keep them well and they will retain their value (and even increase it).
I see book collecting as one of life’s great pleasures, and I’m delighted to share some of my favourite collections with you. I’ll share my favourite book from each collection, and I hope you enjoy these aesthetically pleasing beauties.
Barnes and Noble Leatherbound
Of course, I have to start with these. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I have gradually built up my collection of these over the years. I love the excellent craftsmanship (they are hefty, heavy and great big blocks of books), the delightful, unique designs and the value. By value, I mean the way that they are limited, and keep them long enough and they will gain value – an investment, if you like. This edition of War and Peace is the most perfect one I have ever seen.
Penguin Clothbound Classics
One of the most instantly recognisable collections out there, the Penguin clothbound classics (designed by the inimitable Coralie Bickford-Smith) are so simple and yet so beautiful. These tend to be very affordable (around the £15 mark) and look utterly delightful together on a shelf. I adore the repeating designs, and particularly this one for Arabian Nights. Issues with earlier prints where the foil would wear easily have been rectified with the later editions, so they are much more hard-wearing now too.
Canterbury Classics Word Cloud
The key to these designs is the accessibility. They each have key quotes from the text embedded on the cover, and each one has an individual, block colour – making them extremely pleasing all together on a shelf. In fact, the word cloud classics are so beautiful that I have seen them used as a house decoration piece on their own right in many instances. Just look at the incredible tone of this Northanger Abbey edition. You can find links to my whole collection here.
Virago Modern Classics
Virago publish works by women, and the hardcover modern classics collection has a really wonderful mix of books. If you’re looking for exceptional books written by women, then I would recommend picking up anything from this collection. They are extremely readable, too – in fact, these editions are some of the ones I most frequently pick up. Rebecca is one of my favourite books, and this is the edition that I always, always read.
Vintage Russian Classics
Vintage have released a few collections in this thick, paperback design (including European Classics and Japanese Classics), but I think the Russian Classics are my favourite. The patterns are utterly delightful, and work so well with these long tomes. They are portable and hardwearing, and very affordable. I highly recommend these if you want to start reading some great Russian literature. This Anna Karenina edition is the one I read when I tackled the book for the first time.
Thomas Nelson Seasons Editions
I gush about these lovelies very often (as a browse through my blog will tell you), and with good reason. These editions are special and they are to be treated with care. The paper cut design is fragile, and that just emphasises the beauty. The images themselves are intricate and the colours well chosen. There are only 10,000 of each available – making them extremely covetable. This edition of Dracula is my favourite, even though it hasn’t even been published! It’ll be released in September, and is available for preorder now.
Penguin English Library
These books are paperback as you would traditionally imagine them, but with the most thoughtful and perfect patterns (again, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith). I love these editions because they are so accessible, but also have that touch of class. I don’t mind throwing them in a bag or dog earring pages because – interestingly enough – they look almost better a bit scruffed up. Look at this incredible Animal Farm cover!
Another flexibound offering – like the word cloud classics – that is eye-catching, affordable and so, so collectible. The Knickerbocker Classics are a joy to read – and a joy to see on your shelf too. I love the nod towards nature, with a plant/flower/water theme to many of the designs, including this beautiful Wuthering Heights.
The images never do these books justice. They are pearlescent, they glow. The hardback is solid and these little books are heavy. They just exude quality. I own just four of these, and I am always on the lookout for more. This edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is top of my list.
Macmillan Collector’s Library
These adorable, small hardback books are one of the sweetest to spot on your bookshelf. Each one has sprayed gold edges and a beautiful dust jacket. The joy comes underneath the dust jacket, though. They are all clothbound in baby blue – and they are absolutely beautiful. I love collecting these, and it helps that the people at Macmillan are just lovely. Check out this gorgeous Frankenstein edition.
Do you collect books? Which are your favourite ones to collect? Let me know in the comments.
In February 1634, a trial took place at Lancaster Assizes. Twenty people had been arrested on suspicion of witchcraft, and seventeen were found guilty.
Twenty-two years earlier, the notorious Pendle witch trials took place, leading to the deaths of eleven people.
So why aren’t the trials of 1634 as infamous as those in 1612? The story is a particularly strange one.
In November 1633, a ten-year-old boy was late home, bedraggled and dirty. When he was scolded by his parents, he told them an unsettling story. He had been collecting berries when he came across two greyhounds. Being a playful young boy, he tried to make them chase a hare, but they wouldn’t – in fact, they began to transform. One became a woman, the other a boy. As Edmund watched in horror, the woman turned the boy into a horse. She grabbed him and put him on the horse, and they cantered to Hoarstones.
When they arrived, they entered a barn which was filled with witches – about sixty, according to Edmund. There were ropes hanging from the ceiling. The witches pulled them and the most incredible food rained down upon them. Edmund was terrified about what would happen to him, so he ran away.
That wasn’t the end of his adventures. On his way home, he met a boy with cloven hooves and they got into a fight. That’s why he was so disheveled.
Astonishingly (or not, as we will find out later), Edmund’s parents believed this account. His father took him on a three-month tour around the local area. Edmund would visit the churches and point out any witches in the congregation that he recognised from his frightening experience. By February, twenty people were arrested and the trial began.
Child testimony in witchcraft trials was an accepted form of evidence. This came from the Pendle Witch Trials in 1612, where the star witness was a nine-year-old girl called Jennet Device. Based on this precedent, the magistrates were happy to accept Edmund’s evidence and the evidence of many local people who came forward.
Of the twenty people who had been arrested, seventeen were found guilty. Here is where the story becomes even stranger. One of those convicted was called Jennet Device. Was it the same Jennet Device from the Pendle witch trials? No one knows for certain, but her age was right, her name was right and the location was right. It may very well have been the same person.
Had these seventeen people gone to the gallows, these would have surely become the most infamous witch trials in England. Fortunately, times had moved on since 1612 and there was enough scepticism about Edmund’s account for a re-examination to take place. In July 1634, before a Justice of the Peace named George Long, Edmund admitted that he had made the whole thing up to avoid punishment from his mother.
Not only this, but it was later discovered that Edmund’s father had been blackmailing local women. Those who didn’t pay would be ‘uncovered as witches’ by Edmund.
The seventeen people were acquitted. Unfortunately, though, it is unlikely to have been a happy ending. At that time, it was a requirement to pay for your time in prison and if you couldn’t pay, you had to stay. It’s unlikely that most of those arrested would have been able to pay the fees, and records from Lancaster Gaol show that Jennet Device was still residing there in 1636.
Was that the end to child testimony in witchcraft cases? In England, yes, mostly. Overseas? No. The precedent of using child testimony made its way to America, and was used during the Salem witch trials.
Thank you for reading. The story of Jennet Device and the Pendle witch trials features in my novel, The Hellion.
If you’ve found your way here, you are likely the sort of person who loves nothing more than curling up with a good book. Me too! If you want to make your reading experience even cosier (no matter how small your reading spot), I’ve put together a selection of some of my favourite accessories, from mugs to throws.
1. The Perfect Scented Candle
I love a scented candle. No matter the chaos around, light a scented candle and suddenly everything is calm. This scented candle from Literati & Light is one of my absolute favourites. With notes of leather, opium, old books and burnt wood, it transports you to 221B Baker Street. It is grown up, emotive and doesn’t have any of the sickly sweetness that many scented candles do. They also have diffusers if that’s more your thing.
2. The Snuggliest Throw
My house is full of throws. They can make any old chair become the perfect reading spot. For a throw to tick all of the boxes, it needs to be big (ideally big enough to be used to wrap me into a burrito), seriously soft and thick. I got my favourite one from Home Bargains. It was great value and is just so comfortable! If you’re not in the U.K., this grey throw looks gorgeous too.
3. Mug of Dreams
No reading session is complete without a hot drink of choice, and it is even better when that mug is as glorious as this one from Anthropologie. If this one isn’t up your street, the moon and stars mug from Oliver Bonas is pretty special.
4. The Luxurious Bath Caddy
One of my favourite places to read is in the bath, and my bath caddy was one of my best purchases this year. I love it! It has space for everything, and I promise it will revolutionise your bath. You can find this one here.
5. An Awesome Lamp
Coming in second place for my best purchases this year is my raven lamp! This will make any reading space look seriously cool, and it’s bright enough to read easily by. The lamp would look great in any home – whether minimalist or traditional – and is a great way to make your reading space look just that little bit more unique.
6. An Eye-Catching Notebook
Do you make a lot of notes when you read? Depending on the book, I do – and it’s always nice to have a notebook that will look smart both when you’re using it and when it’s full. The marble design on this one will look classy forever.
7. A Glorious Reading Sweatshirt
If you’re going to get properly snuggly, then you do need a lovely, warm sweatshirt to wear. This is one of my designs, from my Etsy store, and I really love how comfortable it is. It’s unisex, too!
8. A Poster to Keep Track of Your Reading
Of course, people chose to keep track of their reading in all sorts of ways, but this poster is a great way of showing the world how you’re getting on, too. You scratch to reveal the cover of each book as you read them, leaving you with an attractive poster which will also be a talking point for visitors to your home.
Do you recommend any other reading accessories? Link them in the comments – I would love to see! If you have a small business selling bookish accessories, do link your products so that we can all support you.
Fantastic news everyone! The Hellion has been snatched up by heavyweight audiobook publishers W. F. Howes, to be released as an audiobook which will be available through all the usual audio sources (audible, libraries, etc.)
This is truly wonderful news and I can’t wait to listen to it. The Hellion will be narrated by Melanie Crawley, a highly experienced voice actor who has narrated a wide range of audiobooks. She will bring a perfect, northern voice to the characters, suiting them and the setting flawlessly.
The audiobook is currently available for preorder at Book Depository, with a release date of 4th March 2021.
The Hellion is the story of three of the women accused during the 1612 Pendle Witch Trials.
Now just waiting for Netflix to get in touch for the rights for the film adaptation 😉
Classics can seem a bit daunting. If you’ve picked up War and Peace and put it straight back down again, you’re certainly not alone. Classics aren’t for everyone, and that is totally fine. Absolutely no judgement about what you read here! But if you’re planning on dipping your toe into the water and reading some classics for the first time (or since love for them was bashed out of you at school), here are my recommendations.
I’ll give some tips for reading each one. When you start to read classics, the writing may well seem clunky; it might be tricky for you to get into the flow. But stick with it and you will reap the rewards!
Classics are great, but they do need special care and attention. Keep the TV off, pour a nice cup of tea and let yourself be immersed completely in these picks…
If you like your novels with a healthy dose of smut (that’s probably most of us), you have Lady Chatterley’s Lover to thank. It was first published privately in 1928, but it wasn’t released fully in the U.K. until 1960. It had been subject to an obscenity trial which the publisher (Penguin) eventually won and the book sold 3 million copies.
This led the way for books to include more sex, and laid the pathway to the more open conversations we have today.
Aside from the historical importance, it’s also a great read when you’re new to classics. There’s a love story that will leave you wanting more, and you will continue reading to find the parts that caused it to be banned in the first place!
If you want to dip your toe into the classics, why not start with a novel that feels as though it was written today?
George Orwell’s dystopian novel, published in 1949, will feel eerily similar to present day as you read it. You’ll notice all of the resemblances and leave desperate to read more of his work (I’d suggest Animal Farm next).