A Wyrd and Wonderful Occasion

Wyrd and Wonder fantasy banner

Earlier this week I stumbled across a blog post about ‘Wyrd and Wonder’ : a month-long online event celebrating fantasy in all its forms. Hosted by the folks at onemore.org, the Wyrd and Wonder party straddles social media channels with blogs, reviews, streams, games, and a shared love of all things fantasy!

Regular readers know I need a bit of a butt-kicking to update my blog (I’m normally a ‘one post a month’ kinda gal) but this is exactly the kind of motivational event I can get behind. So I’ve joined the Wyrd and Wonder party and planned a few (small) activities of my own to take part throughout the month of May. My list is definitely small fry compared to others (how do you all keep up with your TBRs?!) but I’m excited to have some goals to aim for!


My Quest Log:

  • Finish reading The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett. I started this book at the beginning of the year and was halfway through when… I put it down. For some reason. Maybe a few tiring nights from kiddo had sapped my energy, or I just had to get on with other stuff that evening. These days, unfinished books are like my forgotten cups of tea scattered around the house – not for lack of wanting to finish them. Something else just gets in the way. So I’m looking forward to finishing this final instalment in the Tiffany Aching series, and when I’ve completed it I’ll also have finally read every single Discworld novel. I’m still sad that there won’t be any more.
  • Read Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s been on my TBR list for a loooong while. This month I’d like to read (and finish!!) the first book in this urban fantasy series and then maybe write a review post afterwards!
  • Buy a new indie fantasy book. I’ll pop this as a thread over on Twitter where peeps can pitch their own (or their favourite) fantasy book by an indie author, and I’ll pick at least one to buy and read for myself. I’m grateful to others who’ve posted these writers’ lifts/book lifts in the past and I’d love to try my own. If I’ve got time, I want to post my review of the chosen indie book this month as well.
  • Offers and such? I’m involved in some group fantasy book promotions this month. I’d like to support my writing community and help readers find new fantasy authors to fall in love with – I’ve put the current ones below as it doesn’t seem right to make them a separate post. There are some giveaways which start later in May as well. Would people be interested in a post just about free fantasy books…? They’ll be on Twitter, anyway. 😆
  • And of course, getting involved! I’ll read and follow as many Wyrd and Wonder posts as I can manage. I’d like to try answering some of the Challenge Prompts via Twitter or Instagram. The community looks really friendly and I’m excited to dip my toes in and meet you all.


Not gonna lie, I’m hoping this will jumpstart my reading habit again. Aiming for two and half books in a month is pitiful compared to what I used to go through, but at least it’s something. 😂

Then afterwards maybe I can justify splashing out on a few more recent releases… The Once and Future Witches and The City We Became keep catching my eye.

If you’re looking for something new to read yourself, check out these fantasy book sales for ideas. 👇

Books with magic in this promotion
Funny fantasy books on sale
Fantasy books promotion

Time to dive in!

You can find out more about Wyrd and Wonder here, follow the hosts on Twitter here, and find posts on Instagram and elsewhere with the #WyrdandWonder hashtag. (Also check out this fab book bingo game they’ve created!)

If you’ve got plans for Wyrd and Wonder, or even just some cool fantasy titles on your TBR list, let us know below! 😊

Wyrd and Wonder Pegasus Banner
Pegasus images by Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com

5 Places To Find Story Submission Opportunities

Where to find paying markets for your short stories

I talk a lot about writing submissions and lately have had questions from friends about where I find these paid writing gigs – and how they might find their own. So I thought I’d share the resources I use the most, for anyone who might also be wondering how to find a home for their short stories.

Below is a mix of blogs and lists, some of which are geared just toward speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, etc) and others that encompass all genres. Take a look, and hopefully you’ll find a market you want to submit to!


The Horror Tree

The Horror Tree writing submission calls

A regularly updated blog which keeps abreast of opportunities in the industry. As the name suggests, The Horror Tree focuses on posting submissions calls for horror-themed writing, but does include entries from other speculative fiction genres as well. This is where I first heard about The San Cicaro Experience, an urban fantasy anthology which I submitted to and was published in last year,

At The Horror Tree you’ll mainly find open calls from journals and anthologies, and then the occasional competition and novel/novella opportunity. You’ll find a fair number of lower-paying markets here (often less than 4 cents a word) and many publications that might only pay an honorarium (such as $10 or less for a short story). But pro markets do pop up as well: regular calls for Fantasy Magazine and Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores are good examples.

I do think you’re more likely to come across opportunities here that you might not find elsewhere, and the themes are so varied and interesting that you have a higher chance of stumbling across one that makes you go, “YES. I want to create something for THIS.” (Recently I’ve seen calls for ‘found footage’ horror stories, ’31st century monsters’, and ‘mad queens’.) This is what makes The Horror Tree my favourite site to scroll for submissions.


Writer’s HQ

Writers' HQ competition submissions

Writer’s HQ is both a source of free writing resources and an organiser of British writing retreats on the cheap. They maintain a continually updated list of competition opportunities each month, and have recently changed their policy to only include listings that make an effort to be financially accessible to writers. I’m a massive fan of this approach. My personal policy is to not submit to publications that require an entry fee (the aim here is to make money…) though I’m not averse to supporting journals which provide the option of a donation or have a tip jar feature.

The folks at Writer’s HQ seem to have accessibility built into their attitude, and they make this whole business of writing seem achievable with their pragmatism and sense of humour. They also host their own weekly Flash Face-off contest (like a community writing exercise) and will pay you for blog posts on the writing process (currently closed to submissions, but worth keeping an eye on if this is your thing).


Short Dark Fiction Markets – S.J.Budd

Dark fiction markets

This one is a single static list compiled by speculative fiction author S.J.Budd. Unlike the ones listed above, these are not submission calls with specific themes or deadlines and are not (to my knowledge) regularly updated. It’s simply a great list of journals which (usually) accept unsolicted submissions. Being a writer of speculative fiction myself, it’s refreshing to see a list which encompasses simply ‘dark’ fiction, as this can range far and wide across fantasy, sci-fi, horror and beyond. I find similar lists on a singular genre under the speculative umbrella can be a bit limited for my purposes.

Like any static list, you will find that some publishers on this page have sadly gone out of business, or that submission windows are currently closed. But the high number of listings and the amount of info included next to each one makes this a really great resource to quickly scan and identify markets that might be the right fit for your work.


Submittable

Submittable writing opportunities

Submittable is really a submissions manager – many of the journals in those lists above will require you to upload your work via Submittable. You’ll need to register an account for this (don’t worry, it’s free). It’s quite useful in that it saves (and automatically fills in) your personal details, and you can create a cover letter template to save you writing out nearly the same thing each time. It also tracks your submissions so you can see which stories are currently in progress/accepted/declined.

Under the Discover tab is where you can actively search for opportunities. I’m pleased that it lets me filter by deadline and ‘No Fees’, but I admit to finding the search function a bit lacking. I don’t come here to seek out new markets very often – mainly because there are just SO MANY submission calls that’s it’s difficult to narrow down exactly what you might be looking for.

This is because Submittable opportunities encompass a really wide range of subjects – from applying for research grants and job vacancies (I recently discovered and applied for a job at a small press here actually; sadly didn’t get through) to entering competitions, submitting short stories to journals, and even whole novels to presses. There are opportunities for writers, artists, animators, musicians, journalists, and more… Basically, if you know anyone looking for anything in the creative sphere, Submittable isn’t a bad place to start. Play around with the search tags and filters, and eventually you’ll find something that fits your niche.


Prizemagic

Prizemagic writing competitions

This one feels a bit nostalgic for me because it’s the list I’ve used for the longest time, but have neglected of late. Prizemagic concerns itself solely with writing competition opportunities. The website looks quite dated now, but the listings are still regularly refreshed. Each entry has a note to say when it was added or last edited, which is very useful when considering those evergreen contests which roll around every year.

It’s also made extra-fun by the occasional humorous remark from the website’s owner, Michael Shenton, I enjoy reading the little success stories from people who have written in to share their competition triumphs. The listings themselves contain more info than you’d find elsewhere, as the author takes pains to provide some context for what each contest is looking for in your entry.

I should also mention that this list is much more UK-centric than the ones above – which is BRILLIANT for British writers like me, who too often are mentally converting dollar amounts in our heads when weighing up fees and prizes.


Let us know if you found somewhere to submit your story from this list! And if you want to recommend other places to look for new writing opportunities, please do mention them in the comments.

Good luck, and happy submitting! 😁

Author Spotlight at Inkwell Spills

I’d like to thank Nicole over at InkWell Spills for hosting me in an Author Spotlight this week. We covered how I ended up writing The Jack Hansard Series, my turning point in becoming a ‘professional’ author, and a few tips on how to see the value in your work and to make that crucial step towards a professional writing career. You’ll also find a wealth of free writing resources on her website.

Read the full post here.

The Unfamiliar Bazaar – a Reassuringly Peculiar Virtual Market

Anybody else itching for a good old-fashioned craft market? I am!

If, like me, you delight in discovering new art, love to support independent businesses, and frankly just enjoy the simple fun of browsing unique and hand-made wares, then The Unfamiliar Bazaar is exactly the restorative tonic we’ve been waiting for.

Hosted by Amber Ankh Events, The Unfamiliar Bazaar in an online market taking place over 27th – 28th February. That’s right, doors open tomorrow! This year’s virtual venue is Facebook – you can join the event here or click the button below!

For those who may not have access to Facebook (or would like a sneaky-peak beforehand) I’m throwing a spotlight on a few of the Bazaar’s brilliant alternative traders so you can still be part of the fun. We can expect to see a variety of pagan wares, modern witchcraft necessities, spiritual art, amazing handcrafted gifts… a real plethora of peculiar products!

Here’s just a snapshot of what you’ll see at the Bazaar this weekend.


Phoenix Leather

Colourful leatherwork and intricate designs from this specialist artisan shop. They take commissions for bespoke pieces as well.

“All our products are entirely stitched painstakingly and carefully by hand. Each tiny stitch is carefully crafted to bring you the very best and durable product made to last a lifetime.

For each of our bags over 300 individual holes have been punched and 300 stitches have been made. Each bag is dyed and sealed with a waterproof finish and lined with organic cotton in a beautiful blue and grey tartan fabric.

They are each a pleasure to make and a real labour of love.”

Hayley from Phoenix Leather

See more handcrafted leather goods at https://www.facebook.com/PhoenixLeatherUK/


Dizziness Designs

An intuitive artist selling a range of art prints and artistic gifts. Also offers Spiritual Guided Art Sessions delivered online or in-person.

“My art is full of love, imagination and pure healing energies and I share it with you from my soul . I have been creating one way or another since I was young, using all sorts of media. I have been lucky to be able to connect with the universal realms, creating from the Faye World, Angelic Kingdom, Animal Spirits, Ancestors, Nature Energies and so much more.”

Nicky from Dizzy Designs

See more of Nicky’s intuitive art at http://www.dizzinessdesigns.com/


Bardware of Frog Lane

A really friendly family atmosphere at this shop selling ‘pagan,witchy and Native American Indian themed goodies’!

“Hello and welcome to our little family-run stall, Bardware of Frog Lane. Consisting of myself, Carly; my dad (Grandad); and my daughter, Jazzy. We have an eclectic mix of everything from handmade wands and drum beaters made by my dad, to aura sprays and little bits made by myself and Jazzy. All created with love and good intentions.”

Carly from Bardware of Frog Lane

For the full range of weird and wonderful items, check out their shop here: https://www.bardwareoffroglane.com/


Jacqui de Rose Art

Beautiful designs by a folk-pagan artist. Buy them as originals, prints, cards, and painted on wooden totems!

“I am a Pagan / Nature Based artist from rural Derbyshire. I am inspired by the landscape, mythology and old stories from our beautiful islands. I specialise in Pagan Portraits but also love to paint trees and animal totems.”

Jacqui from Jacqui de Rose Art

See more original art, Limited Edition prints, handmade cards, and small decorative wooden items at http://www.jacquiderose.co.uk


Wild Hart Jewellery

Jewellery by witches, for witches. Think crystals, rune stones, and lots of nature imagery.

“Hello, my name is Hayley and I am a Norse/Celtic Witch. I make handmade jewellery and pagan crafts inspired by mother nature and the elements.”

Hayley from Wild Hart Jewellery

See more pagan and nature-inspired accessories at https://www.facebook.com/Wildhartjewelleryandcrafts/


In Conversation with Adrienne Green

In addition to amazing artists and cunning craftspeople, The Unfamiliar Bazaar is hosting extra events throughout the weekend! They include a discussion panel on Paganism in Lockdown, an evening guided meditation, and a number of intriguing interviews with interesting individuals – such as the lovely Adrienne Green, The Illuminator, who will be shedding light (pun intended) on her work with the Balance Procedure.

“I am Adrienne Green The Illuminator, Lighting up your true potential. My passion is to bring out the best in people using various skills sets. In particular The Balance Procedure: a groundbreaking new tool using our heart energy and aligning our emotions to our passions. Teaching people how to align to their passions and create the life they dream of.”

Adrienne Green

Adrienne is a complementary therapist offering Soul Centred Crystal Healing, Esoteric Healing, Ear Candling, Reflexology, Reiki – and is an advanced practitioner & Trainer in The Balance Procedure.
You can find out more about her at https://www.facebook.com/adriennetheilluminator


And also… ME!

I come bearing freebies and folklore galore.

I’m giving away Episodes 1-3 of The Jack Hansard Series FREE to every attendee of The Unfamiliar Bazaar. Watch out for my posts over the weekend – I’ll be dropping short blasts of folklore knowledge in the group, and each one will contain a link to the free download.

I’ll also have signed copies of the paperback for sale, and some very nice art print postcards to accompany them. Woohoo! This is a mini-milestone for me. Practically my first book fair, right? 😉

Remember, The Unfamiliar Bazaar takes place on 27th – 28th February.
Join the group now to make sure you don’t miss it!

I’m looking forward to having a very peculiar time.
See you there, folks~

My 2020 Submissions Round-Up

Last year (2019, that is) I started tracking my short story submission stats – and now it’s time to compare how I did in 2020. So without any faff, here are my numbers!


Story submissions to magazines, anthologies, and competitions.

Number of Submissions: 14

Submissions Declined: 12

Submissions Accepted: 0

Still under review: 2


Dang. I was hoping to beat my previous score, but unfortunately I made 3 fewer submissions in 2020 than in 2019. But, global pandemic aside, at least I have some good reasons for not being on top of my short story game – and some reasons to celebrate, as well! The biggest one being:

2020 is the year I finally published my book debut, The Jack Hansard Series: Season One. HURRAY!

I also had a short story published in an anthology, set myself up to take on some freelance gigs, and am currently knee-deep in writing my next book. Back in March I released a free lockdown-themed Jack Hansard story (you can read it here); in the summer I launched my email newsletter; and in November I had a lot of fun writing up a Virtual Bookshop Tour to support independent bookshops.

So on a purely personal level, it’s been a good year. My family has remained happy and healthy, and we know how lucky we’ve been throughout everything that’s happened over the last twelve months.

I’m going to try to give my blog a bit more attention in 2021. I’m not a natural blogger, so I tend to only post when I have newsworthy updates or some advice which I think others may find useful. I really enjoyed doing the Virtual Bookshop Tour, so I might aim for more pieces like that in the future.

If you want to receive more regular updates from me, you can subscribe to my newsletter here. I email once a fortnite with a short update about what I’m working on – sometimes with links to free books and recommendations from other indie authors. (Subscribers also receive a copy of Deus Ex Machina, another fun little story set in Hansard’s occult world.)

My goals for 2021? Keep submitting stories; publish Book 2; enjoy more time with my family.

I hope the new year has found you well, and that it brings us all a little more joy than the previous one. Remember to take care of yourself, and the people around you.

Happy New Year, folks.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: The Riverside Bookshop, London

Virtual Bookshop Tour

Day 7: London

We’re back where it all began. Just as The Jack Hansard Series begins in London, in ends there too, in a showdown that very nearly levels the British Museum. Our stop for today is inspired by the book market that Jack and old pal Peggy (who happens to be an independent bookseller herself) visit under Waterloo Bridge – the Southbank Centre Book Market. This large open air market specialises in secondhand and antique books, and in normal circumstances would be open every single day.

To mark this last stop, I went looking for an independent bookshop which was nearby and also situated on the south bank of the Thames. And I soon found: The Riverside Bookshop.


The Riverside Bookshop frontage
The Riverside Bookshop
Unit 15, Hay’s Galleria
57 Tooley Street
London
SE1 2QN

Image Source

The Riverside Bookshop is located on the street-side of Hay’s Galleria – a beautiful structure in its own right – set under a covered walkway. You might miss it if you aren’t looking, set back from the pavement as it is, but if you did you’d be missing a treat.



This bookshop is larger on the inside than it looks on the outside, and spans more than just one floor. It’s bright and neat, with a plethora of books organised into easily accessible areas, and usually a table set aside with the shop’s own recommendations. In addition to books you’ll find greetings cards, fancy gift wrap and the occasional plushie toy on their shelves as well.

A friendly shop with a broad range of stock!


Inside The Riverside Bookshop
A bright and welcoming bookshop.
Image Source

How can I support The Riverside Bookshop?

Like many independent bookshops during lockdown, The Riverside Bookshop has had to close up shop entirely. They’ve turned to indie newcomer uk.bookshop.org to continue selling online during this period, so I’m pleased to direct you to The Riverside Bookshop’s online shopping page here.

You’ll find some carefully curated selections based on reading age (check out ‘Adventure and Laughs for 9-11 Year Olds’), subjects (such as the ‘Go Wild – Books on Nature’ collection), and even feelings (‘You’ve Got to Laugh’ is definitely a collection for the times) to help you find the perfect book. Every purchase you make on this platform will also contribute towards funding independent bookshops in the UK!


Riverside Bookshop Online

You can also support the shop by following them online. On the social side you will find them on Instagram posting beautiful books and extra photos of events inside the bookshop.

On the shop’s home page you’ll find their blog where they post thoughtful book reviews, their weekly bestsellers list, and news about the shop. If you’re a WordPress user you can also hit the Follow button to see their new blog posts show up on your feed.


Bookshop Loyalty Card

And if you’re lucky enough to live locally? Look out for news on the reopening of The Riverside Bookshop next week and look at getting yourself one of these Little Red Cards – their very own loyalty card scheme. I hope you’ll pop along and take a look around!

If you want to get in touch with The Riverside Bookshop, you can send an email to: info@riversidebookshop.co.uk


And this brings us to the end of our Virtual Bookshop Tour! Goodness, it’s been a long week, but I’ve had great fun researching and writing about these great independent bookshops across England. I hope you’ve had fun following along! One day I’d like to re-enact this tour in person.

You can find links to all the bookshops we’ve visited on the tour here. I hope you’ll consider giving them a share and a follow – even if you’ve found nothing for yourself, someone else might just find their perfect bookish purchase.

And remember, as lockdown lifts next week, look out for news of when and how your local independent bookshop is reopening. Show them some love if you can!

Virtual Bookshop Tour: Sam Read Bookseller, Grasmere


Day 6: Grasmere

I mentioned previously that The Lake District is a recurring setting in The Jack Hansard Series, and today we’ve travelled back here to mark Jack’s ordeal with an aquatic horror at Wastwater. I couldn’t hope to reproduce enough images to do this awe-inspiring location justice, so I recommend you have a look around the photos here for the full picture.


Wastwater scree slopes
The steep scree slopes at Wastwater.
Photo by © Richard Thomas (cc-by-sa/2.0)

For today’s stop on the tour I had to get a little creative because, as you might imagine, there is no bookshop located at Wastwater. Grasmere is (I think) the location of the closest bookshop as the crow flies, though it may still take you well over an hour to drive through the hills to reach! This is where we find our penultimate bookshop stop: Sam Read Bookseller.


Sam Read Bookshop
Sam Read Bookseller
Broadgate House
Grasmere
Ambleside
LA22 9SY

Sam Read’s has been trading since 1887 and is named after the original owner. With its gorgeous stone walls and Victorian windows coupled with the sublime rural setting, Sam Read’s looks like the quintessential traditional English bookshop.

Let’s take a moment to truly appreciate the setting. It’s a select few bookshops that can boast such a dramatic backdrop.


Sam Read Grasmere

“I would say our biggest claim to fame is our age – 133 years and still going strong – and our location, nestled in the heart of Grasmere village opposite the Village Green (known as Moss Parrock) and with views of the fells from our windows.”

Elaine from Sam Read’s

Inside, the shop is crammed with books but doesn’t feel overcrowded or disorganised. It looks like a bookshop with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.


Inside Sam Read Bookseller
Books upon books upon books.

How can I support Sam Read Bookseller?

Don’t let the historic character mislead you – Sam Read’s is perfectly modern with its swish online shop which you can find easily on their website. I was in a bit of a non-fiction mood when I was browsing, so here are some titles inspired by my hobbies and interests. Click on the covers to find out more!


Woodland Whittling book
I have a few friends who would enjoy this
Folk Magic and Healing book
Books like these are great inspiration-fuel for me
See Inside Castles Usborne book
I loved books like this as a kid. Bookmarked for when kiddo is a little older
Weird Woods book
I love horror stories which are based on real locations and folklore

If you know someone who would rather choose their own books and loves the Lake District, then a Sam Read gift card might be a great present idea. I rather like that you can choose the design on the gift card, as well.

They also stock some lovely Christmas cards with designs based on the local area. Is that Wastwater and Sam Read’s bookshop itself that I spy on some of them?


Wastwater Christmas Cards
Santa at Wastwater
Bookshop Christmas Cards
Does this scene look familiar?

For the best places to follow Sam Read’s on social media, they post fairly regularly on Instagram, and even more so on Twitter.

They’re a little less active on Facebook, but if that’s your preferred medium you can give them a follow here. Certainly worth a look, just for the beautiful landscape photos of the surrounding area!


We’re nearly at the end of our tour! You can look back on all the places we’ve visited so far here. Tomorrow we travel to our final destination, which also happened to be our first: London.


Bookshop photos reproduced with the kind permission of Sam Read Bookseller.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: Storysmith, Bristol

Day Five: Bristol

I’ve only been to Bristol once, and it was to visit the S.S. Great Britain – a brilliantly immersive museum experience onboard a historic steamship. You’ll find the S.S. Great Britain situated within the equally historic Floating Harbour, which is what brings us to Bristol today. Readers of The Jack Hansard Series may be aware of the trans-dimensional properties of the harbour… Don’t fall in, that’s all I’m saying.

About ten minutes away, south of the harbour and across the river, you’ll find our bookshop stop for today: the eloquently named Storysmith.


Storysmith Shopfront
Storysmith
49 North Street
Bristol
BS3 1EN

How beautiful is this shopfront? I love how glossy and elegant it is. Those striking shutters open to reveal a colourful window display underneath as well.

Inside, a small set of stairs divides two floors of books. It’s an open, comfortable space with tall bookshelves and scattered seating so you can browse at a leisurely pace. The books you will find here have all been hand-picked by the Storysmith team; with an eclectic but accessible collection, they believe in presenting people with high quality and beautiful books. It’s this personal flavour and attention to detail which behemoth corporate retailers (like the mighty ’Zon…) cannot possibly replicate. In this, independent bookshops will always be king.


Storysmith Bookshelves
Dibs on the comfy chair.

“Because we’re a small shop, we pride ourselves on our careful curation. Hopefully customers will see just enough books they recognise, but plenty more interesting-looking titles that they don’t. Also we have a shop dog named Roy, who is always on hand to give recommendations.”

Dan from Storysmith

And like many independent bookshops, Storysmith keeps a lively roster of sell-out events – take a look at all the authors they’ve previously hosted here. There’s plenty of floor space to comfortably host groups and they run not just one, but four monthly book clubs which they’re currently keeping alive online during lockdown. Not only a bookseller, but a meeting place and community hub, too.


Bookshop Dog
Roy the shop dog. I know you all wanted to see the pupper.


How can I support Storysmith?

Storysmith have their own online shop right on their website. At a glance you can see they’re not kidding about their goal to curate beautiful books. There are some seriously gorgeous titles on display.

Here’s a selection of just a few that caught my eye, and frankly they can all go on my Christmas list. (Friends and family, hope you’re paying attention). Click on the covers to go straight to their Storysmith product page.


War of the World
I love this book but have never owned a copy, and this cover is gorgeous
The Girl and the Dinosaur
I can’t wait for when my daughter is old enough to read books like this

A Natural History of the Hedgerow
History and countryside, this looks like a calming read
Help the Witch
Horror, folklore, and English landscapes? It’s like it was written for me. I NEED IT

Looking for a book gift but not sure what to buy? Maybe try a Storysmith gift voucher instead.

You can also purchase book subscriptions ‘for curious readers’ starting from £45 for three months – each delivery will include extra notes on the month’s book selection, and a bag of indulgent Triple Co Roast coffee. They also offer a wonderful baby book subscription (sans the caffeine) – a lovely idea for a newborn or first Christmas gift.

To see more photos of Roy the dog (and keep up with news about the shop, of course) you can follow Storysmith on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



One final book suggestion above: if you’ve been enjoying our Virtual Bookshop Tour, then Bookshop Tours of Britain by Louise Boland might be right up your street. I came across it while browsing Storysmith’s Twitter!


We’ve reached the end of Day 5 on our Virtual Bookshop Tour! Tomorrow we’ll be heading all the way back to the Lake District to visit the small village of Grasmere.


Photos reproduced with the kind permission of Storymith.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: J. E. Books, Hull

Day Four: Hull

The next step of our journey brings us to the Humber Estuary and Kingston upon Hull, the port city that lies on its north bank. It’s in a riverside warehouse complex that we visit ‘The’ Market in The Jack Hansard Series – that is, the annual gathering of Black Market traders showing off all their mythical and occult wares. I’m happy to say today’s bookshop is based in a rather nicer location. Let’s take a look at: J. E. Books.


J. E. Books shopfront
J. E. Books
12 Hepworth’s Arcade
Hull
East Yorkshire
HU1 1JU

Situated under the stunning glass roof of Hepworth’s Arcade, a grand Victorian covered passageway housing a number of quirky small businesses, J. E. Books looks to be at home among friends. This is quite a young bookshop compared to others we’ve visited: J. E. Books opened just two years ago in 2018. But this doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in character or personality. Indeed, the location within the Arcade itself is already an extraordinary introduction to this little bookshop.

The ‘Go away, I’m reading’ tote bags hanging in the window evidence the owner’s sense of humour. As you enter, it looks as though they are doing a lot with a small space, and you might be momentarily fooled into thinking this single room is the whole of the bookshop. But venture up the stairs and you will find plenty more new and second hand books waiting for you to peruse.


Hepworth Arcade
The stunning Hepworth’s Arcade
Photo by Tim Green from Bradford, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

J.E. Books certainly makes the most of its location for hosting events, as well. Not troubled by limited space, they have previously run author book signings, poetry readings and storytelling right outside the front of the shop – a real treat for shoppers passing by. Especially the… ‘Poets with Megaphones’ event in 2019? That sounds amazing.


Bookshop storytime in Hepworth Arcade
A story time and music performance at J. E. Books, February 2019
Poets with megaphones
People gather to get shouted at by poets at Hepworth’s Arcade, December 2019

How can I support J. E. Books?

You know the drill by now – start by heading to social media!

Across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram J.E. Books have been creating a Virtual Bookshop Window for you to enjoy nearly every day. Here you’ll find their latest themed recommendations for sale by mail order. And of course, if you want a personalised recommendation, just ask!


Murder Most Festive book cover
Two ‘festive’ picks from a recent Virtual Bookshop Window
Christmas is Murder book cover
Can I add this one to my wishlist, please?

“As an independent bookshop owner I can offer a personal and individual service even during lockdown – customers can email me at jlellam@hotmail.co.uk or private message @jebookshull on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at anytime and I will get back to you as soon as possible to take orders.”

Julie from J. E. Books

They also have a wonderful range of gifts – I’ve picked out a few for you below.


Go Away I'm Reading tote bags
Go Away tote bags for £6
Bumblebee shapes tea towel
Do you know your bumblebees?
Tea towels £9.95 and just £1 postage
Butterfly Notebook set
I like this sweet butterfly notebook set
Cicero quote tote bag
£8.99 for the Cicero quote tote

It’s also worth knowing that J. E. Books is currently offering postage for just £3 or under, and FREE for orders over £40.

To order, send Julie a direct message or email: jlellam@hotmail.co.uk

And finally, for more bookish content check out the bookshop’s blog here – the latest posts are a series of author interviews. Hit follow and give them a like on social media if you can. A small gesture can be a big help to small businesses.


We’re now over halfway through our Virtual Bookshop Tour! Our next stop tomorrow is at another port city: Bristol.


Bookshop photos reproduced with the kind permission of J. E. Books.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: The New Bookshop, Cockermouth

Vritual Bookshop Tour Banner

Day Three: Cockermouth

Cockermouth is a peaceful market town on the western edge of The Lake District in Cumbria. It marks the point where the Rivers Cocker and Derwent join, and a 13th century stone castle looks over the town from this river junction.

The Lake District is featured several times throughout The Jack Hansard Series. Jack first travels there to meet the Witch of the Lakes and then moves on to spend some time in Cockermouth – where he falls victim to an invisible thief, and meets a morose shellycoat lurking in the river. During his mad dash through the town, it’s quite likely that he would have passed right by the doors of The New Bookshop, our tour stop for today.


The New Bookshop Street Frontage
The New Bookshop
42-44 Main Street
Cockermouth
CA13 9LQ

“The bookshop has been here for 52 years, endured some hard times but has sat solidly on Main Street as a welcoming, friendly space known and loved by the town.”

Catherine from The New Bookshop

The New Bookshop has a large, attractive blue and white frontage on Cockermouth’s high street. I love their bird logo and style of the shop interior; it projects a smooth and calm character to me.

Inside, it’s a spacious shop with grey tiled floor, with large open bookshelves and table neatly stacked with hand-picked titles. This is a bookshop which gives you space to appreciate the book-browsing experience.


Inside The New Bookshop

They also have that most coveted of bookshop add-ons: the coffee shop. It boasts homemade cakes with good tea and coffee, alongside a scrumptious Breakfast and Lunch menu if you need a heartier meal.

I love a good bookish coffee shop. Books – whether in shops or in libraries – are often at the heart of communities, and providing an extra meeting space with seating and refreshments just naturally rounds out their underlying purpose as a community hub.


The New Bookshop Coffee Shop

The importance of community can also be felt through The New Bookshop’s events programme. Lockdown and social distancing restrictions have understandably wiped out their 2020 calendar, but as well as the usual author book signing events, they’ve also previously hosted musicians, a regular social book group, and a children’s story time group.



How can I support The New Bookshop?

Like many independent bookshops during lockdown, The New Bookshop has taken to social media to help you find the books you need. Follow them on Instagram for book recommendations, Facebook for more detailed news, and Twitter for the bitesize version.

If you prefer a more traditional online shopping experience, then you can now browse their collections on the new indie bookselling platform uk.bookshop.org. Here The New Bookshop have curated themed selections to help you discover exactly what you’re looking for – and every purchase you make also goes towards funding independent bookshops around the country. (To learn more about bookshop.org you can read my previous post about it here.)

Remember though, it’s often still better to buy direct from independent bookshops if you can, so take a moment to check out their special Christmas stock. They have some cool gift ideas in, like this very cute range of felting kits and their ‘Lucky Dip’ themed book bundles.


Lucky Dip: 3 Paperbacks for £15
Email to grab a bundle for yourself!

And if your bookshelves are currently too full? Well, you can donate a children’s book to a Cumbrian family in need this Christmas. This is an initiative The New Bookshop runs each year. They donate a large collection themselves and take donated books bought by customers to pass on to their local Foodbank. I’ve done this myself and it’s super easy: just pop them an email with a price range and title – or you can ask them to pick out a book for you instead – and they’ll sort everything else.


You can donate books up to 6th December
SCIENCE! Browse these kids’ books and more on their social media pages

You can get in touch with The New Bookshop via their social media, or by email: info@newbookshop.co.uk

During lockdown there will also be someone in the shop between 9am and 1pm Monday-Saturday if you want to give them a ring: 01900 822 062


Three days down, four more to go. Are you enjoying our Bookshop Tour? Tomorrow we’re heading to Kingston upon Hull, on the Humber Estuary.


All photos reproduced with the kind permission of The New Bookshop.