Thursday, 26 November 2015

Horse Marines and history-based fun and fantasy in my fiction

The last Mexborough Horse Marine, Tom Rawnsley, with his horse on the towpath at Sprotborough, South Yorkshire.
(Picture credits and respect to The Humber Keel & Sloop Preservation Society, taken from Fred Schofield's wonderful book "Humber Keels and Keelmen" published by Terence Dalton Limited, Lavenham, Suffolk, 1988)
The first draft of my new book is going swimmingly, though where Thirza the keelgirl and her wildlife-whisperer Bram, sailing aboard the Humber Keel 'Thistle' are concerned, still waters run deep and it's going to be a very choppy voyage! Though much of the action of my new novel takes place around beautiful Flamborough on the Yorkshire Coast, I am just writing a scene set on the canal bank in Mexborough, in South Yorkshire's Dearne Valley mining district. That's where my heroine Thirza's dad, Jack Holberry, retired from his life as a keelman to become a horse marine, hauling other boats along the canal, as lovely readers of my first novel GOATSUCKER HARVEST will know!

A few of my own waterways ancestors, who give me lots of inspiration for my writing, also worked as boat haulers along this stretch of the South Yorkshire Navigation. I thought readers might enjoy this photo of the last Horse Marine working from Mexborough, Tom Rawnsley, pictured here with his horse on the towpath at Sprotborough to get you in the mood for the drama, intrigue and history-based fun and fantasy in my fiction!

You can  keep up with me on Facebook Joyce Barrass - AuthorTwitter or my Goodreads author page. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Writing as sculpture: finding and freeing the treasure hidden inside the rock

Writing feels to me a bit like carving a sculpture: it's as if I'm finding and freeing the treasure hidden inside the rock.

First come the seed ideas, the months of thinking and dreaming about my characters, their lives, their situations, the plot, the research that may never make its way into the finished novel, but which is the solid grounding reality and background to everything. That's the stone.

Then second, once it reaches a tipping point where all the elements are in place and I can no longer resist the writing, comes the first draft. That helps me see clearly the seams and fault lines of my characters, the shape and flow of the plot, the dovetailing strands of the story as I chip away. Now I can make full eye contact with the characters I dreamed up, hear them speak, smell and taste their world more vividly than before. That's the sculpting.

Then comes the editing, editing and re-editing which I love. It's like the tumble-polishing of the whole piece, murdering my darlings, killing dead adjectives, spotting typos, reordering, throwing it out to my faithful proofreaders to savage and sniff out the impurities and howlers. That's the smoothing.

Once it's published and out in the world with the readers it was born to meet, my writing can then be enjoyed and explored by everybody from their different viewpoints, preferences, angles, looking at the crystal with all its different facets, each reader taking away something different from my story. Such a privilege and joy when some are unable to look away until the end, getting what they need from the book I sculpted, perhaps treasuring it as a favourite read to return to again and again, each time getting something different from it.

I'm currently having such fun immersed in the sculpting stage of my second novel, which sees my heroine and hero from "Goatsucker Harvest" going into deep waters, dangers and wildlife dilemmas in a Humber Keel off Yorkshire's Holderness Coast and the sea cliffs and caves around Flamborough Head in the 1850s.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please let me know by commenting and please feel free to share your own ideas and experiences of writing and reading.

Thanks for stopping by!

You can find me on Facebook Twitter and Goodreads


Monday, 26 October 2015

Slice of cake, anyone?

Just for you, suggested by a comment from reader Rose, here I am reading the moment from chapter 5 of "Goatsucker Harvest" when Thirza visits Carrdyke House and discovers what *that* coconut cake really tastes like! Things may not be quite as sweet as they seem...


Available for Kindle on Amazon worldwide and FREE on Kindle Unlimited

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Seagulls are aggressive: DO NOT FEED THEM - a poem

Gulls like trolls
Are aggressive
Do Not Feed,
There's no need

Your eyes from their gaze
Feign indifference
To belligerent ways

Keep your sandwich
In its wrapper
Don't share your battered
Cod or scratchings

Bullying hatchlings
Line the harbour wall
Let them be
Bellicose by the sea

Crumbs of comfort
Hidden away cos
Giving in to giving
Makes them more pugnacious


While Brid Corporation
Isn't spying or judging
I fling a spare crust
In healthy high dudgeon

Catch the truculent gull
In a snap for posterity
Beak full of bread
Defying austerity

(c) Joyce Barrass 2015

Monday, 19 October 2015

Goatsucker Harvest: Yorkshire author Joyce Barrass reads from her historical heartstopper

Welcome to your must read moment!

Here I'm reading from Chapter 4 of my Yorkshire historical heartstopper "Goatsucker Harvest." Bloopers, fluffs and all!

In this short snippet, Thirza's Aunt Emma visits Kitson's Windmill to make Thirza an offer she can't get a word in edgeways to refuse!

"Goatsucker Harvest" is yours to own and enjoy in its entirety for your Kindle or in Paperback from Amazon worldwide.

Thanks for watching and for all your wonderful support, reviews and feedback!

Find me on Facebook Twitter and Goodreads

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Goatsucker Harvest: Yorkshire author reads excerpt from her novel

A couple of almost bloopers, weird morning lighting and a recalcitrant pigeon flying in for his breakfast in the background.

This is an excerpt from the beginning of Chapter 17 "Under the Milk Moon" from my historical fantasy novel set in Yorkshire in 1855 Goatsucker Harvest. Written in Yorkshire, set in Yorkshire, celebrating Yorkshire, here read by its Yorkshire author.

This is a few pages from the middle of the story where canal lass Thirza meets Bram "Dutchy" Beharrell, reclusive pinder and marshman and his kooikerhondje dog Piper, at his mysterious duck decoy in the remote boggy peat moorland known to history as Thorne & Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire. For the first time, outsider Bram finds a kindred spirit, another soul with whom he can share his secrets.

No plot spoilers here, so you can listen with confidence!
The book is available to buy as a paperback (seen in this clip) or to download to your Kindle from Amazon worldwide.

Hope you enjoy and thanks for all your support.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

"Goatsucker Harvest" going global

Humber Keel just like the "Thistle" in 'Goatsucker Harvest' on a Yorkshire canal
Createspace have just told me that "Goatsucker Harvest" will be available in paperback in Canada within the next 30 days, as well as UK/USA/Europe. So if you have friends or family in Canada on the look out for a good read, can you let them know there'll be a new historical fiction fantasy title set in Yorkshire in 1855 on for them to enjoy in paperback as well as om Kindle? 

Had my first Kindle downloads from Germany and Spain over the weekend. Intriguing! Can't wait to get more feedback from the worldwide audience! 

We writers would be nowhere without our readers.

New and old faithful readers alike, welcome to my fictional world!

Goatsucker Harvest on (UK)

Goatsucker Harvest on (USA)

Goatsucker Harvest on (AUSTRALIA)

Goatsucker Harvest on (FRANCE)

Goatsucker Harvest on (GERMANY)

Goatsucker Harvest on (SPAIN)

Goatsucker Harvest on (NETHERLANDS)

Goatsucker Harvest on (JAPAN)

Goatsucker Harvest on (INDIA)

Goatsucker Harvest on (CANADA)

Goatsucker Harvest on (ITALY)

Goatsucker Harvest on (BRAZIL)

Goatsucker Harvest on (MEXICO)



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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

FREE Kindle download of "GOATSUCKER HARVEST" October 8th-11th


Get it on your Kindle FOR FREE or tell the lucky bookworms in your life right now not to miss out! 

To celebrate my birthday, which falls today at Harvest time, it's a birthday treat from me to you and yours. FREE to download from tomorrow, Thursday October 8th, until this Sunday, October 11th, you can lose yourself in a unique Yorkshire yarn of yesterdays that will warm your heart and haunt your dreams!

Thanks for all the amazing reviews on Amazon!

GOATSUCKER HARVEST ON AMAZON.CO.UK free to download from Oct 8th-11th 2015 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Dribbles and Dabbles with Drabbles

Dribbles? Drabbles?

Not altogether gobbledygook if you bear with me!

When you're writing, "dribbles" often describes the fragmented way the storytelling progresses: a dribble of inspiration here, a dribble of frantic scribbling there, seasoned with a dribble of banging your head on the keyboard!

"Drabbles" on the other hand, are a method I find useful to help pull my "dribbles" of creativity together along the writing journey. I hope this idea may help you, too. Sometimes when those "dribbles" seem to be drying up, a "drabble" or two can prime the pump and get your story-brain refreshed, released and ready to weave those words into gold.

I'm reaching the tipping point of my new novel. The research is done. The plot is arced. The procrastinating side-projects are frustratingly complete. The blind alleys of my storyland are cordoned off with Hi-Vis "Do Not Enter" tape. The characters are alive in my head. I can hear what they'd say and picture the situations they're about to get themselves into. The sense of place just off the Yorkshire Coast is so real to me I can smell the seaweed and feel the spray stinging my characters' skin and the change of light before dusk. I've chalk under my nails from clinging onto the sheer cliffs in my imagination. I'm raring to go! My first draft is beckoning me to plunge over the edge of those risky still-blank pages and swim for dear life to the shore at the end of the tale.

So, when your dribbles run dry, maybe it's time for a dabble with a drabble!

The wiki says: Drabble: A drabble is a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length, not necessarily including the title. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space.

In other words, flash fiction. For me, it's just a great way of getting my writing flowing whenever it stalls. If I have a scene from the novel that's in my mind for later, getting in the way of the current plotline, a "drabble" dealing with that character, that plot twist, that conflict, that setting, is a way of getting creative instead of blocked. Maybe the seeds from the drabble will be grist to the mill of a new story, an unexpected turn, a deepening of some exchange within the book. It doesn't even have to be connected. A drabble can get you writing again when you're overwhelmed. It's non-threatening, expendable, achievable almost anywhere, anytime. It's that blank page clothed in purpose, colour, forward motion.

It can even become a part of your work in progress. It can ignite a dormant creative spark. It can be your own private pool of light-bulb moments. It can be a short holiday break for your imagination to go exploring again before coming home rejuvenated to the work in hand. It can be just what you need it to be!

Wishing you joy and word-woven blessings, whether you're a fellow writer, reader, a fan of GOATSUCKER HARVEST or you've just wandered in to do a bit of procrastination from your own personal challenges today! Welcome!

"Tropical Storm Zeta 2005" by NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center 

Here's a quick 102-word drabble I've written which may or may not get its seat at the banquet in my WIP:

Waves roll upside down, sucking the sky beneath through lips like a dolphin's. Head spinning now.
A guillemot skittles out of a cliff-face inverted inches from her nose. A vortex of fish oil tang closes her throat. 
"Did you see it? Careful! Sit down, you'll have us overboard!"
Disembodied voices far above.
"Below, I mean..." Trying to correct herself, steady herself. The strap creaks. Too much give in it.
Blood-singing, suffocating closeness all around, yet the salt spray's icy, flinging itself down in an arc and falling back upwards into stormclouds.
The scream seems to be her own as the sea explodes.

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Friday, 24 July 2015

One percent inspiration: what makes your writing tick?

Whether you write for pleasure, for a living, for the hell of it, because you can't help it, we all know inspiration's an elusive butterfly that can be hard to harness.
It doesn't take a genius to know what Thomas Alva Edison said is true: "Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration."

But in between the sweat and buckling down to write in order to write, each of us snatches at precious personal muses that help to place us in the moment, with our words, our characters, our plotlines, our message, our soul-sharing.

When I felt a bit blocked with my second novel this week, I woke one morning from a dream encounter with my central characters. They reminded me not to be timid and self-editing while the first draft is humming along. Feel the fear and tap away regardless! Characters that are real flesh and blood to me, closer than family, will reassure or challenge me by living the next twist in the tale with me.

Yorkshire bard Ted Hughes's poem "The Thought Fox" explains the way inspiration came to him as a writer. You can hear the poet reading his poem here

Set on the Yorkshire Coast like my novel, below is my own latest poem trying to capture how one flash of inspiration for my work in progress came to me in the waking watches of the morning. 


They sailed through me in dream last night
My hero and my heroine,
His eyes reflect rainbows over marsh
Her scent of quay and salted sheets

Watched my hovering hand over blank page
Traced their fingers through knots of plot,
Unpicking and beachcombing unwritten words
Lips smiling at unmet characters

Over us, gulls of Chatterthrow
Wheeling and skimming the coffee cliffs,
Kittiwake held against her breast
As he whispers his breath under trembling wings

His palm facing the centred earth,
Her palm raised to the sky and spray,
My hand cradled between their warmth
Telling their story in woven waves

Guiding my grasp to the tiller of tales
Under the hush and howl of the fret
Cogs connect and the synapse sparks
Compass and craft over bar and block

(c) Joyce Barrass 2015

You can get my first novel, set on the peat moors and canals of South Yorkshire, "Goatsucker Harvest" here (some of the reviews may persuade you to dive in - it's FREE on Kindle Unlimited & crazy cheap on Kindle or in Paperback in UK & USA & some other parts of the planet.)

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Set sail down the South Yorkshire canals of yesteryear!

You look like you might need to de-stress and chill out for a while on a calming canal! 

Here you can watch a wonderful historic film clip of a voyage down the Yorkshire canals where my novel "Goatsucker Harvest" is set. You'll see the Stainforth & Keadby Canal, the River Don and the watery world where "Thistle" would have sailed on her regular round trips from Hull to Sheffield. You even get a glimpse of Conisborough Castle from the water in the extended version of the archive film, just as Thirza remembers in the book!

 All aboard for your 1959 trip on the waterways, or travel back to 1855 to experience this beautiful landscape in the pages of "Goatsucker Harvest." Enjoy! 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

They say the dead tell no tales...

Two of the hundreds of names on gravestones in Wentworth's old churchyard, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Visited gorgeous Wentworth village in South Yorkshire to see the Old Church with its medieval tower, 16th century memorial statues, 1684 rebuild by the 2nd Earl of Strafford & its damp & gloomy subterranean burial crypt of the Fitzwilliams built c1824. 

I was amused to see two tombstones nearby, one bearing the name of my heroine in "Goatsucker Harvest", 'Thirza', the other the surname of my villain, (Darnell) 'Salkeld'. Not surprising really, as all my characters bear local Yorkshire names taken directly from my own family tree. What was touching is that the names on these graves were pointed out to me by two people who are enthusiastic readers of my novel! 

Flamborough graveyard also holds links to my next story; and they say the dead tell no tales... 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Tour de Yorkshire passes through Flamborough - setting for my next novel "Cloudhover Solstice"

Flamborough, North Landing
Today's the day the ‪#‎TourDeYorkshire‬ starts in Sewerby, passing through Flamborough, Bempton and Buckton before crossing into North Yorkshire. Crowds are lining the beautiful route which will finish in Scarborough at around 4pm today (May 1st). 

Readers who are getting excited about the sequel to "Goatsucker Harvest" - the cliffs and countryside around Flamborough are the gorgeous setting for my next book "Cloudhover Solstice"! So keep your eyes peeled for more mysterious and mesmerising glimpses of Yorkshire!

Friday, 24 April 2015

Goatsucker Harvest: "Mother Seacole. I'm shattering. Shivering in shards like glass"

Mary Seacole (1805-1881)
"Was this Mary Seacole, with her dark eyes and certain step of motherly sense and comfort, bringing biscuits, rum and soft blankets? Was she here to try and revive Matty again?"

"Mother Seacole. I'm shattering. Shivering in shards like glass."

- "Goatsucker Harvest" Chapter 22 'Ravage and Ruin' (c) Joyce Barrass 2014

In "Goatsucker Harvest," Jem Kitson, the traumatised Crimean veteran, invalided home to Yorkshire after the Charge of the Light Brigade, recalls the tender care of Mary Seacole, the nurse who was unsung heroine of the Crimean battlefields, her story often overshadowed by history's halo around her contemporary, Florence Nightingale.

This programme on 'YouTube' gives a dramatised insight into "Mary Seacole: the Real Angel of the Crimea" and gives an intriguing glimpse into the background to my novel and the events that bring Jem home a broken man.

Mary Seacole Part 1

Mary Seacole Part 2

Mary Seacole Part 3

Mary Seacole Part 4

You can discover more about my novel on this blog, or purchase it from Amazon in the UK here or in the USA here or in Australia here.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Goatsucker Harvest: A "Receipt" for Victorian Intrigue

A few readers were a bit puzzled by Thirza's use of the word 

"receipt" instead of "recipe" in "Goatsucker Harvest." No, it

wasn't an inadvertent mistake!

The title of this 1847 cookery book, "Lady's Receipt-Book" 

shows that in the mid nineteenth century, those two words

still hadn't quite parted company to mean "written

acknowledgment of money received" or "cookery method"


Oh, those Victorians!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Springwatch Special from the stunning Yorkshire Coast setting of my next novel!

Springwatch Special this Good Friday (April 3rd 2015) on BBC TV is being beamed from the Yorkshire cliffs where my next novel is set! Details of the programme are here in the Yorkshire Post: Springwatch brings region’s wildlife delights to new audience

Tune in to soak up the atmosphere and see the amazing place where seabirds take centre stage. Gannets, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Puffins throng the coast here. But back in Victorian times, who would protect them from trophy-seekers with shotguns from the city?

I'm already brewing up more drama and a sea of skulduggery and Victorian villainy set between Bempton & Filey Brigg & the sea caves to the tip of Flamborough Head for you all to enjoy!

Thanks to all of you who have been enjoying my first novel set in Victorian Yorkshire, "Goatsucker Harvest," leaving amazing reviews on Amazon and letting me know how much you are enjoying the adventures of Thirza and Bram (and Piper the kooikerhondje, of course!). 

Thank you for helping to spread the word to new readers, who can get a copy of the first novel set on the wild bogs and fens around Doncaster on Kindle or in paperback here: Amazon UK or here or here

Hope you'll enjoy the next story just as much! Watch this space for more information and batten down the hatches for the reading ride of a lifetime along the cliffs and in the caves!

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North Landing at Flamborough, North Yorkshire, one of the stunning settings for Joyce Barrass's second novel

Thursday, 5 March 2015


HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY to my friends and readers everywhere!

Overjoyed to say that reactions and reviews for my debut novel "Goatsucker Harvest" have been going from strength to strength since the publication of the Kindle Version on Christmas Eve and the launch of the title in paperback in January. You can read the UK reviews on Amazon here and Australian reviews here. All your feedback is SO much appreciated & helps future readers choose to dive into unknown waters confidently! Thank you!

While researching my second novel, set on the North Sea Coast of Yorkshire, this week I had an amazing dream involving characters from both books. This dream planted some fantastic seeds in my imagination and helped to give a whole new spin on the plot that will twist it in some unexpected directions that I hope will delight and intrigue my readers. They blew me away, so that's a good start!

I always find it fascinating to discover what my favourite writers are reading. After all, keeping the wells of our imaginations primed with incredible imput is precious creative lifeblood.

So here are some books I've been enjoying in the past month or so, which I'd recommend if they appeal to you:

"Alias Grace" by Margaret Attwood (fictionalised account of a 19thc female murder accused.)

"The Bone Clocks" by David Mitchell (mesmerising off-the-wall fantasy following the life of one girl from teenage years to maturity in the near future, told in a series of five very distinctive first person narratives. Often laugh-out-loud hilarious, sometimes disturbing, with extra-terrestrial good and evil struggles and including a closing vision of the world as it might well be if humanity carries on consuming and manipulating creation at the current pace.)

"Elizabeth is Missing" by Emma Healey (mystery narrated by an octogenarian woman with Alzheimer's - an incredible read, recommended to anybody dealing with dementia, which might include any of us at any time.)

"The Miniaturist" by Jessie Burton (thriller set in 17thc Amsterdam - mouthwatering literary fiction with a magical realism vibe.)

"Waterlog" by Roger Deakin (I just wanted to pack my bags and swim in all the secret watery places, the rivers, streams. spas, lakes and lidos Deakin explores in this beautiful journey through Britain. Haunting and unforgettable.)

I'll stop there for now! For many like me, with relapsing/remitting autoimmune diseases, brainfog and bone-crunching exhaustion sometimes means reading (and writing) can become almost impossible for wilderness months at a stretch. So when I'm having a relatively healthy period these days, I try to pack in as much as I can, whenever I can!

Whatever you read, or write, I hope you enjoy it, and celebrate it and share it!
Books help us dip through into different universes, timeframes and lives, so every moment we're breathing, we can live a life less limited. What a joy and a privilege, eh?




Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Goatsucker Harvest: Naming names

Seeing a SEAGRAVE grave ( my great great granduncle Solomon's) in Gleadless, Sheffield

It's no secret that family history is to me what sitting in his writing shed was to Roald Dahl - inspirational!

Most characters in "Goatsucker Harvest" I christened with first names and surnames that appear somewhere up my own knotty and gnarly family tree.

A beloved sixth cousin of mine - does anybody but a genealogy buff actually KNOW any of their sixth cousins? - was delighted when she downloaded 'Goatsucker Harvest' onto her Kindle, to discover I'd used the name of her own great grandmother (a distant limb among the seventeen thousand plus individuals on my tree), namely Kerenhappuch. Our real live Kerenhappuch was actually a cockle picker, born in 1843. 

I've no idea what Kerenhappuchs in the real world were called for short as a nickname. I only know how many crazy misspellings officials managed - 'Karen Dappack' being my particular favourite from the 1861 census! The name's biblical, one of Job's daughters in the Old Testament, Keren-Happuch, 'child of beauty' or, less meaningful to us moderns, 'horn of antimony'! 

In 'Goatsucker Harvest', I take the liberty of calling Thirza's great grandmother "Happy" for short. Keren-"Happy"-Happuch's only mentioned when Kezzie (named after Kezia, a distant cousin three times removed, one of my paternal gran's Ilkeston forebears) remembers wearing her mother Happy's corset on her wedding day. Something borrowed, like my ancestor's amazing names!

The Holberry family at the heart of the story are named after my 3x great grandmother Sarah Holberry, a Victorian farmer's wife in Hatfield near Doncaster, the area where the novel's set. Sarah's cousin was the Sheffield Chartist hero Samuel Holberry, who died in York Jail, now the Castle Museum, in 1842 on the treadmill, the same invention attributed to Sir William Cubitt, and mentioned with regret by him as the plot unrolls for his fictional incarnation. 

Similarly, the Kitson clan. My 5x great grandmother Diana "Dinah" Kitson, herself a woman of the Yorkshire waterways, has her name used twice in the book, for the family at Kitson's Windmill and as Thirza's mother's Christian name. Thirza herself is called after several of my own distant cousins.

Darnell borrowed his moniker from the surname of my 4x great grandmother, Dinah Darnell and her Darnell kin from the Lincolnshire wolds and coast. I took especial joy in using this name for the Machiavellian inventor, as "Darnel" is also an old word for "tares" or "weeds" that grow among the wheat, symbolic of the troublesome growth not always fully rooted out until harvest time.

The shadowy "Dr Stenson Seagrave" is called after two of my great grandmothers, Polly Stenson & Alice Seagrave. Alice was niece of the Sheffield seedsman Solomon Seagrave, after whose Victorian plant nurseries several streets in Sheffield are still named (see photo).

Bram takes his unusual name from the East Yorkshire Beharrells who were the kinsmen and women of Sarah Ann Beharrell, married in 1871 to a great great granduncle of mine, moving from Hull to live in Rotherham, not far from the canal.

Even "Thistle" is named after the keel on which my 3x great granddad and his son were master and mate on the night of the 1881 census, in Albert Dock in Hull (watermen who inspired me to make Jack Holberry and his family spring to life in 'Goatsucker Harvest.')

So it goes, with nearly every name you read in the 'Goatsucker Harvest' story. Hidden thankful tributes to the ones gone before who inspire me.

Chester, Charlesworth, Brunyee, Hanson, Jacques, Canner, Wraith, Poskitt, Salkeld, Foljambe and the rest. Echoes of the genes that still sing in my blood; family, kinsfolk and their neighbours along the canals and moors of the West Riding of Yorkshire, the Isle of Axholme and beyond, down the centuries.

They aren't the strangest or the silliest names on my tree. Not by far! That honour would perhaps belong to Garnish Broadbent, Kelita Hall (both male) or poor old Original Bottom. But that's for another story!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Goatsucker Harvest: Now in paperback, too!

I spent this week climbing the feverish learning curve that is independent publishing. Margins, bleed, trim sizes, formatting, get Goatsucker Harvest into paperback and out to the small (but very important to me) group of readers who still prefer to have a physical copy of a book rather than on Kindle. They want to touch it. Feel it. Flip the pages. Sniff it. Gift it to friends. Have it signed. Turn the corners down. Caress the glossy cover (is that just me?)

So here it is. It'll be live and available on Kindle and also in paperback on, and CreateSpace estore. I've proofed the proofs and nodded the authorial nod for its launch.

Trouble at t'mill that'll haunt your dreams and warm your heart forever!

Please, if you enjoy it, pop a quick review on Amazon to let others know what they're missing and what they've got to look forward to! Thank you so much!

You can read reviews here.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Goatsucker Harvest: Coconut Cake!

Readers of "Goatsucker Harvest" will understand why the arrival of this little delicacy on my doormat caused such hilarity!

It was part of the first "Graze Box" I've had in a while and plopped onto my mat with this morning's post.
New item - "Coconut Crumble Cake." No, actually, the "prickly texture of straw and horsehair and a sickly sweetness like treacle mixed with sawdust" didn't apply this time! This piece has a saucy little passionfruit and mango dip with it!

“Where is your plate, Theresa? You must try the coconut cake. The receipt is a closely-guarded secret and the ingredients imported especially, I believe. Neither the hoi, nor, indeed, the polloi have tasted this.”

“Your new cook's clever to make something...” she coughed, searching for a polite word that would also be true, “ ... so different.” 'Delicious' would have been cruel flattery. Different it certainly was from anything Thirza had tasted on land or sea."

All quotes taken from "Goatsucker Harvest" [Kindle Edition] Chapter 5 'Carrdyke' (c) Joyce Barrass 2014

Monday, 12 January 2015

Goatsucker Harvest: The watery wonderworld of the Humber Keel

“Rise your tack!” 

Thirza clung onto the tiller kicking against her, the neck of a huge oaken sea-monster butting her in the ribs. The calls of keelmen and women, wharfingers, the cough of wind in sailcloth, had been her lullaby since before she was born. Voices of salt and shimmering rainbows of sound whispered all around her. She'd heard it all from the snug shelter of her mother Dinah's womb. Back then she couldn't tell the womb's throbbing walls from the sea swell beyond. But she knew they were both her home." -(c) Joyce Barrass (2014) 'Goatsucker Harvest'  Kindle Edition. 

"Thistle," the Humber Keel in 'Goatsucker Harvest,' I named after the boat on which my 3x great grandfather, Samuel Barrass & his family were captain & crew on the night of the census 1881. I come from a long line of Barrass & Pattrick mariners, sailmakers, keel and sloop families from Doncaster, Stainforth, Thorne & Hull. They were born, lived, worked, played and often died afloat on canals such as the Stainforth & Keadby. They inspired much of Thirza's story, as the book's dedication reveals. 

I've had the joy of sailing on the restored-to-sail Humber Keel "Comrade" a few times, between Ferriby Lock & Hull. You'll see Comrade's mainsail & topsail on the cover of the book, one of the many photos I snapped while aboard. I even took a turn at her tiller under the Humber Bridge! As the skipper, Colin, wryly quipped: "Your Barrass ancestors would be turning in their graves!" Maybe. Though quite a few of them came to a watery grave down the years, faceplanting off boats, drowning, choking in the mud, colliding with the quayside or getting accidentally knocked senseless by the yardarm. At least I didn't ground her (quite!).

It was such a thrill & privilege to taste what my family's and Thirza's lives were like on the Yorkshire waterways. That's  thanks to the amazing volunteers of the HKSPS - 'The Humber Keel & Sloop Preservation Society'. See more photos & info on these historic ships on their site Humber Keel & Sloop Preservation Society website & FB page HKSPS Facebook page
The Yorkshire Waterways Museum at Goole (the "Venice of the North"!) is also a wonderful place to visit to learn more about this watery wonderworld.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Goatsucker Harvest: The windmill - titillation, torment and terror?

The old "jog-scry" aka "joggle screen" or "jiggle screen" at Quainton Windmill in Bucks (from the Quainton Mill Website)
How could an innocent old windmill become an instrument of titillation and torment? Even terror?

Above you see a rare example of a "jog scry" or joggling/jiggling screen used in some windmills as a flour grading machine before the invention of wire screens.

The Jog-Scry in Kitson's Windmill in Goatsucker Harvest inspires one character profoundly. Too profoundly, perhaps. It arouses memories and secret, sinister associations in him that have devastating consequences for the people of Turbary Nab.

Disturbing changes are afoot. Humble, run-down Kitson's Windmill is about to become transformed. The unsuspecting townspeople of Victorian Doncaster and beyond are about to encounter something monstrous on their calm horizon. The ancient alchemy of the peat marshes of South Yorkshire is about to be unleashed!

Download "Goatsucker Harvest" now on your Kindle (if you dare!)

[Below are the earthbound remains of some of the local windmills that were in the author's imagination when she was writing about the area with a fictional glow.]

Thorne Windmill by F.W. Jackson
Fishlake Windmill near Doncaster
West Nab Windmill, Fishlake near Doncaster
Lings Windmill at Hatfield Woodhouse, Dunscroft near Doncaster
Thorne Windmill near Doncaster

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Goatsucker Harvest: Under the Rainbow Hoops of Bram's Duck Decoy

Screens in a duck decoy in nature reserve 't Broek near Waardenburg, the Netherlands (China_Crisis)
"Bram gave a low whistle to the dog, that sounded every bit as natural as the calls of the upland waders, bleak and wistful. Then Piper sprang over the succession of low dog-jumps . Further along the pipe, he disappeared from sight, backing away, drawing the wildfowl onward up the pipe. They seemed fascinated by the little hound. Beady eyes winked in the moonbeams shining down. Milky light turned everything into a mysterious pageant in which Thirza, to her utter delight and astonishment, found herself taking her place.
It felt so natural to her, she hardly realised how Bram was guiding her with his eye. Thirza found she understood the signals that passed between man and dog, even though the meanings behind the strange names and words were lost in the mists of time."
- (c) Joyce Barrass 2014 - Goatsucker Harvest (Kindle Locations 2627-2630) Kindle Edition.

Bram's Duck Decoy or Eendenkooi (Dutch for "duck cage" in the old language of Bram's ancestors who were decoymen before him), is far out on the marshes and peat bogs, somewhere on the misty edges of the novel's level landscape, between Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

The villagers of Turbary Nab avoid the Decoy now. Some have forgotten its whereabouts. Some never know them. Others dare not venture out in that direction, where the unpredictable fen-lights, the ignis fatuus, the deceptive glow in the dark of the atmospheric ghost lights flicker over the boggy marshes of the peat fen and moors that are Bram's home, leading the unwary off the beaten track to a fate beyond dread.

Traditional Duck Decoys were devices used to entice wildfowl, for food or in latter days for ringing, constructed with a central pond with between one and eight tapering, radiating arms, surrounded by wooden hoops and netting. These are the "pipes" after which Piper, Bram's faithful kooikerhondje is named (click link for my blogpost about him). First recorded in Bram's ancestral Netherlands in the sixteenth century, the idea of the duck decoy was imported to the fens and wetlands of Britain.

"Ducks bobbed on the star shaped pool under the nets at sunrise. The little teal, its wing shattered by a farmer's gun over a copse in Crowle, had been drawn here by the misty rainbow light arching between the hoops of the old duck decoy. It swam searching along each arm of the decoy for a place to rest."
(c) Joyce Barrass 2014  from Goatsucker Harvest (Kindle Locations 808-810) Kindle Edition.

No killing, hunting or even ringing in Bram's Decoy, though, as the little Teal will discover. Under the rainbow hoops, Bram's lore is the mysterious "Reversal of Ravage", the "Omkering van Schade" passed down to him from his forebears, who came over with Cornelius Vermuyden in the days of King Charles to work on The Great Drainage of the flooded fens.

Decoy ducks were traditionally carved from wood or cork and stained in plumage colours to fool the wildfowl. Bram's decoy ducks are crafted in quite another way, so much more than the sum of their driftwood and clockwork parts.

But in the mid-Victorian world of "Goatsucker Harvest", in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, these secrets are much sought after by others. Those for whom the fragile environment of the moors and marshes means nothing compared to profit and fame. Soon, for the inhabitants of Turbary Nab, nothing can ever be as it was.

Watch a YouTube video of a modern Dutch decoyman & his kooikerhondje (just like Piper in my novel!)

More footage of a decoyman & dog in Holland (1974)

Discover the mysteries of "Goatsucker Harvest" for yourself on Kindle