Guest post: E. Rachael Hardcastle (Author of Finding Pandora)

6016f2_1e64bbd333624e3da9900739929e2dbc-mv2_d_1280_1214_s_2.pngToday we’re delighted to welcome supernatural fantasy novelist and West Yorkshire lass E. Rachael Hardcastle to the ideas4writers blog. Her box set Finding Pandora – The Complete Collection (Books 1 – 4) is out this week.

Naturally, we wanted to know all about her, her ideas, and her writing and publishing experiences, and to see if she had any useful tips to share. Here’s what she had to say:

How do you find and evaluate ideas for characters, plots, dialogue, etc?

It’s an overused response but ideas just come to me. Sometimes after watching TV or reading a book I wonder what new swing I could put on that premise, so I’ll write it down and explore it later on. I never base characters on real people – I like to let the characters develop into who they need to be and usually fill in a profile sheet (as seen on my blog) to make sure I cover everything.

How did you get your latest idea? What made it good enough to write about?

My latest idea came to me after watching Jurassic Park and reading a book called The Great Zoo of China. I wanted to explore the theme park idea further, where the guests have to escape for some reason. I know the idea is popular because the movies do well, and to the best of my knowledge the books have done well too, so I thought I’d note it down and brainstorm some ideas. I haven’t started writing yet, but I know it’s a golden nugget because it crosses my mind every day.

How did you expand the idea?

  • Use brainstorming and mind mapping ideas

  • Use story beats to note everything down and build a story/characters

  • Note down the cliches I wanted to avoid and why

  • Watched the movies, read the books etc for research and to see how I can make my story unique

How do you do your research?

I prefer to use reference books rather than the internet, though I do often mix the two. I write fantasy, so some of my research is on myth, legends, signs and symbols, etc, which is fun, so I don’t actually mind this part of the process. I then keep notes in a ‘story beats’ outline document in OpenOffice, which I refer to whenever it is needed. I tried Scrivener but haven’t yet made friends with it.

Would you be willing to share with us some of the ideas you’ve rejected?

I very rarely reject ideas, I just note them down for use in a future project. I think my advice would be not to reject anything because even if it has been used before, there’s always a new way to approach it. They say there are no new ideas and I believe this is true to some extent – it’s what you do with them that counts.

Which book marketing ideas would you recommend?

I offer free content to prove I am trustworthy and helpful. I think marketing can be creepy when you’re posting ‘buy my book’ on social media. Your posts will be ignored and you might lose followers by doing this. Post free content on your blog, helpful notes and resources, and then offer your book at the end. For example, you could advertise your book at the end of a YouTube video that is free and offers the viewer a solution to a problem.

How did you get published?

I self-published my work after coming close to traditional publishing and turning down two offers. I decided I wanted to be in control and give it a shot myself. That way, I could learn the ins and outs and possibly turn hybrid later.

Have you had any really bad/bizarre rejections or reviews?

I once received a postal rejection (with my manuscript enclosed) and on the title page was the comment ‘We don’t publish poetry’. I had submitted my 50,000+ word high fantasy novel…

How do you find the time to write?

I think I steal the time to write after work and between chores at home. If you want to be a writer, you should write, and those who are serious will make the time.

Where do you write?

I have a home office. I keep all my reference books, tools and notes in that room so I can access anything I need quickly and easily.

Can you recommend any software or apps that help with your writing?

And finally, where can we find out more about you and your books?

My website is at

Thank you! Good luck with the box set and for your future writing success.

Thank you!


We now edit books!

We have officially launched our new editing and proofreading service!

We can offer proofreading, copy editing, line editing and developmental work at very reasonable prices. (There’s an explanation of what we do for each of those on our website, and you’ll find the price list there too.)

We have nearly 30 years’ writing and editing experience, and we’re friendly, flexible and full of ideas! The last time we offered this service (to ideas4writers lifetime members only) at least five of the books we worked on won international awards. We expect that to continue. The only difference is that this time the service is open to everyone!

But we’re more than just editors! If you don’t have a finished book yet, or even if you haven’t started it yet, we can help you turn your idea into an outline, then help you create your book around it, scene by scene or chapter by chapter, suggesting improvements as you go and editing each part as it’s completed.

And if English isn’t your first language we can make your book read as if it was written by a native English speaker.

We’re keeping our prices deliberately low while we get the service up and running again and work on the first ten or so books. Sign up soon if you want a genuine bargain!

Full details are at


NEW: Discuss What Ifs in our Facebook Group

Dave Haslett, founder, ideas4writers


Hello fellow writers!

If you go to the ideas4writers Facebook group you’ll see an exciting new feature. Each day we’re choosing one of the What Ifs we posted on the blog at the beginning of each month, and we’re discussing it in depth, expanding and enlarging on it, and looking at the story possibilities in each one. I hope you find it useful. It’s certainly stretching my imagination!

The Facebook group is open to anyone who wants to join. Just go to the group and click the Join button and I’ll grant you access the next time I’m on Facebook. You don’t need to be a member of the ideas4writers website or the blog. Your friends can join too – just let them know where to find us. The more people who join, the better the discussions should be, and the more ideas we’ll get for bigger and better stories.

In case the link above isn’t working, the ideas4writers Facebook group is at:


If you’re a member of the ideas4writers website, you might have spotted that our forum software has died. We’re going to redesign the site over the next few months, so it seems silly to replace the forum software with something else, only to have to scrap it again when the new site launches. So we’re using the Facebook group as our forum for now, and directing all our members there instead.

When the new website launches, the forum will be at the front of the site, not hidden away in the members’ section, so everyone will be able to use it.


I hope you’ve made a great start to your writing in 2017. I have huge plans for the year, and I’ve made a big wall chart with all the projects and timelines I’ll be working on. It looks … scary. But just about doable with a lot of work (and no procrastinating).

You might know that I get most of my ideas while I’m out walking, so when I saw the Walk 1,000 Miles in 2017 challenge, I immediately signed up for it. As I write this I’ve just completed the walk for day 9 and my total so far is 33 miles (8 miles more than the target) so it’s going well – I could even afford to take a couple of days off. Snow is forecast for the end of the week, which might limit the walks for a few days. (But I’ll believe it when I see it – it rarely snows here.)

I’m planning to do some longer walks over the summer. There are about 50 walking routes through the Blackdown Hills, about 20 minutes from here, that I haven’t explored yet. I’m also part of a walking group, but they only walk on Wednesday evenings between May and August.

If I’m walking on my own (which is most of the time – the rest of the family are not walkers!) I take my phone and headphones with me and listen to podcasts to keep me company. They help the miles fly by, and don’t inhibit the flow of ideas. I have Evernote on my phone, so it’s easy to note down (or speak) each idea as it occurs, or take a quick photo, and file it in the relevant section.

The podcasts I listen to are: The Creative Penn, the Sell More Books Show, Write 2B Read, and a new one called the Book Launch Show. I also download and listen to the Radio 4 shows The News Quiz and the The Now Show when they’re on – but they’re not on at the moment.

I must leave you now as it’s 9 pm and I have a chapter to write before bedtime. I hope to connect with you in the Facebook group. Or I’ll see you here this time next week with 50 Newsworthy Anniversaries in July 2017 for you to write about.

Next Year’s News: 50 Newsworthy Anniversaries in June 2017 for you to write about

Here are 50 newsworthy anniversaries coming up in June 2017 for you to write about (and make money from). The anniversaries are listed 6 months in advance to give you enough time to find markets, and research and write your articles.

We have painstakingly cross-checked every entry, but you are advised to check all facts again as part of your research. Please let us know of any errors you find.

The Date-A-Base Book 2017The listing below is a small sample of the entries for June from The Date-A-Base Book 2017
There are 326 anniversaries for June in the book (more than six times more than listed here). The book covers the whole of 2017 from January to December and features more than 4,000 anniversaries in total.

If you need to work further ahead, Next Year’s News 2018 (the new name for the Date-A-Base Book series) is also available!

Just one published article should cover the cost of your copy many times over – and the book also explains how to get your articles published.

1000 years ago (5 Jun 1017)
Death of Sanjo, Emperor of Japan (1011-16).

500 years ago (18 Jun 1517)
Birth of Ogimachi, Emperor of Japan (1557-86).

300 years ago (24 Jun 1717)
Freemasonry: the first Grand Lodge was founded in London. (It is now the United Grand Lodge of England.)

200 years ago (26 Jun 1817)
Birth of Branwell Brontë, British artist, writer and poet. Brother of the writers Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë.

200 years ago (30 Jun 1817)
Birth of Sir Joseph Hooker, British botanist. One of the greatest British botanists and explorers of the 19th century. Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (1865-85). He was also a close friend of Charles Darwin and encouraged his work.

150 years ago (8 Jun 1867)
Birth of Frank Lloyd Wright, famous American architect.

150 years ago (17 Jun 1867)
Birth of John Robert Gregg, Irish-born American publisher who developed Gregg Shorthand – the most popular form of shorthand in the USA.

125 years ago (3 Jun 1892)
Liverpool Football Club was officially founded in England.

125 years ago (6 Jun 1892)
The Chicago ‘L’ rapid transit system began operating in Illinois. It is one of the largest and busiest city transit systems in the USA.

100 years ago (4 Jun 1917)
The Order of the British Empire was established by King George V. It is an order of chivalry awarded to people who make a significant achievement for (or contribution to) the United Kingdom. There are 5 classes: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight/Dame Commander (KBE/DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), Member (MBE).

100 years ago (4 Jun 1917)
The first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded.

100 years ago (5 Jun 1917)
World War I: the first WWI draft registration day was held in the USA. About 10 million men aged 21 – 31 registered for military service. Registration was compulsory. (By the end of the war in 1918 about 2.8 million American men had been drafted, and a further 2 million had joined the armed forces as volunteers.)

100 years ago (7 Jun 1917)
Lions Clubs International was founded.

100 years ago (11 Jun 1917)
Alexander I became King of Greece following his father Constantine I’s abdication. (Constantine went into exile in Switzerland.)

100 years ago (13 Jun 1917)
World War I: Germany carried out its deadliest air raid of the war. Gotha G.IV heavy bombers attacked London, killing 162 people and injuring 432. One of the bombs fell on a primary school in Poplar, where 16 children were killed.

100 years ago (15 Jun 1917)
Death of Kristian Birkeland, Norwegian physicist, astrophysicist, educator and explorer. Known as ‘the first space scientist’. Best known as the first person to determine the nature of the aurora borealis. He also invented a process for fixing nitrogen from the air (the Birkeland–Eyde process) and made numerous other contributions to science. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize 7 times, but never won.

100 years ago (17 Jun 1917?)
Birth of Dean Martin, (‘the King of Cool’), popular American stage, film and television singer, actor and comedian. A member of the Rat Pack. Noted for his seemingly effortless charisma and performances. Well known for his comedy partnership with Jerry Lewis. He also hosted the TV series The Dean Martin Show and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. (Several sources give his date of birth as 7th June but we believe 17th is correct.)

100 years ago (23 Jun 1917)
Ukraine was founded (as the Ukrainian People’s Republic). It proclaimed independence from Russia in January 1918.

100 years ago (26 Jun 1917)
World War I: the first troops from the American Expeditionary Forces arrived in France under the command of General John Pershing. They were the first U.S. forces to fight in WWI.

80 years ago (3 Jun 1937)
Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, married Wallis Warfield in France.

80 years ago (30 Jun 1937)
The 999 emergency telephone service went into operation in London – the first such service in the world. It began operating in other major UK cities after WWII and was extended nationally in 1976.

75 years ago (1 Jun 1942)
Liberty Brigade, an underground newspaper published in Warsaw, Poland, revealed the first details of the Nazi extermination camps and the gassing of tens of thousands of Jews at Chelmno.

75 years ago (3 Jun 1942 – 15 Aug 1943)
World War II – the Aleutian Islands Campaign, Alaska, USA. Allied victory. Japanese forces occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska but were eventually ejected by a combined US/Canadian force, though this took time because of the difficult terrain and weather conditions.

75 years ago (4 – 7 Jun 1942)
World War II – the Battle of Midway. The USA defeated Japan in the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign.

75 years ago (4 Jun 1942)
Death of Reinhard Heydrich, German Nazi official. Heinrich Himmler’s chief lieutenant in the SS. He played a key role in organising the Holocaust, and chaired the Wannsee Conference (20th January 1942). (Assassinated. The Czech village of Lidice was destroyed on 10th June in retaliation for his death.)

75 years ago (12 Jun 1942)
Anne Frank received her famous diary for her 13th birthday. She used it to document her life over the next 2 years as her family hid from the Nazis. It was first published in the Netherlands in June 1947 (as The Secret Annex: Diary Notes from 14 June 1942 to 1 August 1944). An English translation was published in the UK and USA in 1952 (as The Diary of a Young Girl).

75 years ago (25 Jun 1942)
World War II: Major General Dwight D. Eisenhower (later U.S. President) took command of U.S. forces in Europe.

60 years ago (1 Jun 1957)
The Casio Computer Company was founded in Japan.

60 years ago (1 Jun 1957)
The first premium bond prize draw took place in Britain.

60 years ago (27 Jun 1957)
Britain’s Medical Research Council reported that there was a cause-and-effect relationship between smoking and lung cancer. As a result, the Minister of Health said he had a duty to warn the public of the risks smokers faced. (In 1954 the then Minister of Health had said there was no firm evidence of a link, only a presumption of one.)

50 years ago (1 Jun 1967)
The album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles was released.

50 years ago (3 Jun 1967)
Death of Arthur Ransome, British children’s writer. Best known for his Swallows and Amazons series of 12 novels.

50 years ago (4 Jun 1967)
Stockport air disaster, Greater Manchester, England. A British Midland Airways plane crashed in an open area near the centre of Stockport after suffering fuel starvation due to a leaking valve. 72 of the 84 people on board were killed. All 12 survivors were seriously injured.

50 years ago (6 Jun 1967)
Six-Day War: Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser closed the Suez Canal by scuttling ships on both sides of it. It remained closed until 1975. 15 cargo ships (the ‘Yellow Fleet’) were trapped in the canal for 8 years.

50 years ago (7 Jun 1967)
Death of Dorothy Parker, American short story writer, poet and critic. Renowned for her witty remarks. She was also blacklisted by Hollywood for her involvement in left-wing politics.

50 years ago (10 Jun 1967)
Death of Spencer Tracy, Academy Award-winning American actor. One of the greatest male leads during Hollywood’s Golden Age. His films include Father of the Bride, Bad Day at Black Rock, Inherit the Wind, Judgement at Nuremberg, How the West Was Won, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and many more.

50 years ago (12 Jun 1967)
The Soviet Union launched its Venera 4 spacecraft on a mission to Venus. It became the first craft to enter another planet’s atmosphere and return data. It found that Venus’s atmosphere was extremely hot and far denser than expected. It might also have been the first spacecraft to land on another planet. (Venera 3 might have been the first – it possibly crash-landed on Venus in March 1966, but its communications system failed before it reached the planet and its fate is unknown. The first successful landing on Venus was achieved by Venera 7 in 1970.)

50 years ago (16 Jun 1967 to 18th)
The Monterey Pop Festival was held in California, USA. It featured the first major U.S. public appearances by Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Ravi Shankar, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding. It also inspired the Woodstock Festival held in 1969. (Jimi Hendrix famously set fire to his guitar on stage at this event – an act he had first performed in London on 31st March.)

50 years ago (20 Jun 1967)
American world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali was convicted of violating Selective Service laws by refusing to be drafted into the U.S. Army. His conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971, but it left him unable to box between the ages of 25 and 29 – what should have been the peak of his career.

50 years ago (27 Jun 1967)
The world’s first ATM (cash machine) went into operation at Barclays Bank in Enfield, north London, UK. Comedy actor Reg Varney made the first withdrawal.

50 years ago (29 Jun 1967)
Death of Jayne Mansfield, award-winning American stage and film actress. One of Hollywood’s leading blonde bombshells of the 1950s. (Car crash.)

40 years ago (10 Jun 1977)
Apple Computer released the Apple II – the first personal computer to feature colour graphics. It cost $1,298 (£835).

40 years ago (16 Jun 1977)
Leonid Brezhnev became Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union (equivalent to ceremonial head of state). He held the position until his death in November 1982.

40 years ago (26 Jun 1977)
Elvis Presley performed his last concert, in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

30 years ago (12 Jun 1987)
During a visit to Berlin, Germany to celebrate the city’s 750th anniversary, U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave a historic speech in front of the Berlin wall, challenging Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to ‘tear down this wall’. (The wall was demolished in November 1989.)

25 years ago (17 Jun 1992)
START II arms reduction treaty: U.S. President George H. W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin attended two arms reduction summit meetings where the treaty was agreed. (The first meeting was held in Washington, D.C. on this day and the second was held in Moscow in January 1993.)

25 years ago (22 Jun 1992)
Andrew Morton’s controversial book Diana: Her True Story was published. It claimed that Diana, Princess of Wales was deeply depressed and unstable and had attempted suicide a number of times.

20 years ago (12 Jun 1997)
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre opened in London. It is a reconstruction of the original theatre of 1599, located about 750 feet (230 metres) from the original site. The project to rebuild it began in 1970 and was led by the actor and director Sam Wanamaker (who died in 1993).

20 years ago (25 Jun 1997)
The Soufrière Hills volcano on Montserrat erupted, killing 19 people. Over the next few months it destroyed the capital, Plymouth, and rendered half the island uninhabitable. About two-thirds of the population have been evacuated. (At the time of writing it is still erupting.)

20 years ago (26 Jun 1997)
The first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling, was published in the UK. (USA: September 1998 as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.)

10 years ago (29 Jun 2007)
Apple released the first iPhone.

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Available now: Next Year’s News 2018

Next Year's News 2018Next Year’s News is the new name for our popular “The Date-A-Base Book” series.

Inside you’ll find details of over 5,000 newsworthy and notable anniversaries in 2018, including events, discoveries, inventions, births and deaths.

It’s the ideal (some would say essential!) reference for all writers, journalists, researchers, TV/radio producers and film-makers.


Size: 8.5″ x 11.5″. 357 pages.

The ebook (PDF) version is available now. Printed copies will be available in January.

The price is unchanged from last year: £9.99 (US$12.49).

Get your copy now at

The Date-A-Base Book 2017 is also available.

ideas4writers lifetime members: this ebook is included in your membership. You can download it from the members’ home page after logging in at

What If? 30 Creative Writing Prompts for November

Hello! Here’s this month’s selection of What Ifs to stimulate your writing brain. Let’s see what can you do with these! Some are deliberately vague or ambiguous so you can interpret them in different ways.

There’s one for each day of the month. If you need more, please take a look at our book The Fastest Way to Get Ideas – 4,400 Essential What Ifs for Writers.

What if…

1. everyone was illiterate?

2. your destination kept getting further away?

3. there were no depths you wouldn’t sink to?

4. you were a cause of dismay?

5. you couldn’t wipe the smile off your face?

6. you couldn’t see through all the tears?

7. sharks could fly?

8. your whole life was sponsored – by a product, brand, organisation or individual?

9. you needed someone killed?

10. words didn’t have vowels?

11. words didn’t have consonants?

12. you accidentally researched the wrong subject and discovered something extraordinary?

13. you were frozen to the spot?

14. you had nothing to do?

15. there was nothing you could have done?

16. you could have done something but you chose not to?

17. a great revelation was revealed?

18. it all suddenly made complete sense?

19. you doubled the amount of exercise you were getting?

20. you had twice as many ideas?

21. you opened it and then decided you didn’t want it after all?

22. you liked to keep people on their toes?

23. you always made a point of rejecting the first one?

24. you were microscopic?

25. you owned the world’s biggest company?

26. you were fired from the company you founded?

27. you managed your kids’ band, and they suddenly became huge?

28. you had to make a life-or-death decision every single day?

29. you were poisonous?

30. you caused an earthquake?

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Price if purchased individually: £214.56
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What If? 31 Creative Writing Prompts for October

Hello! Here’s this month’s selection of What Ifs to stimulate your writing brain. Let’s see what can you do with these! Some are deliberately vague or ambiguous so you can interpret them in different ways.

There’s one for each day of the month. If you need more, please take a look at our book The Fastest Way to Get Ideas – 4,400 Essential What Ifs for Writers.

What if…

1. there was no oil on Earth?

2. there were no precious metals on Earth?

3. there were no precious gems on Earth?

4. all humans were deaf?

5. you were sued for more money than you were worth?

6. someone carried out a threat they had made against you?

7. you were bullet-proof?

8. you could stop bullets from being fired?

9. you were seconds away from launching your new book on TV/radio when the government sent a message to say they were banning it?

10. they had the wrong man (or woman)?

11. you didn’t know it worked like that?

12. you were regarded as a medical oddity?

13. people thought you were weird?

14. you shunned all medicines and pills?

15. you thought you were ready, but you weren’t?

16. you were prepared for anything … except that?

17. the one person you thought you could trust let you down?

18. it ended in a fist fight?

19. someone died at your workplace today?

20. you had to deliver a baby?

21. you had to perform surgery?

22. you failed to notice the hidden camera?

23. you made a list of impossible things and set about doing them?

24. you were a doctor to the dead?

25. the hospital called to say there had been a terrible mistake?

26. the police groaned whenever your name was mentioned?

27. your company was forced to recall a product you had produced?

28. your new product/invention saved people millions, but put an entire industry out of work?

29. they couldn’t wait to see what you had in store?

30. you were embarrassed at the way you used to be?

31. you were embarrassed at what you had become?

Become a lifetime member of ideas4writers
and get all 40+ of our ebooks for just £49.95

(Other currencies also accepted)

Price if purchased individually: £214.56
Save: £164.61

Click here to find out more or email us to ask a question

ideas4writers: inspiring you since 2002