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Group Reads: Guest Author Invite > February 2020 Group Read with Guest Author, Stephanie Ellis

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Kenneth McKinley | 1524 comments Mod
This is the thread for the February 2020 Group Read with Guest Author, Stephanie Ellis, as we read her hauntingly gothic tale, BOTTLED. If you’re like to join us this month, you can grab a copy of BOTTLED at the link below. Without further ado, please help me welcome Stephanie Ellis to HA!

https://www.amazon.com/Bottled-Stepha...


message 2: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 146 comments Hi Stephanie! This creepy house story sounds like something I would love. Looking forward to reading it in February!


destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries] (howlinglibraries) | 87 comments Oooh, this sounds fun! I'm in.


Kimberly (kimberly_3238) | 5834 comments Mod
I'll be following along with this one!


message 5: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Hi everyone,

Really looking forward to this and seeing your views! I have yet to stay the night in a supposedly haunted house although it is on my bucket list. Certainly wouldn't want to stay in Tyler's place ...


Khat (khatzilla) | 3 comments Starting today! ♡


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Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Khat wrote: "Starting today! ♡"

Hope you enjoy it!


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Scott Springer | 12 comments I'm looking forward to reading this and hearing what everyone thinks about it.


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Just got a copy myself and I am very interesting in discussing this book. Stephanie, I am looking forward to this discussion very much.


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And may I start by saying this is a GREAT cover!


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Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Brian wrote: "And may I start by saying this is a GREAT cover!"

I can't agree more, Brian! I was over the moon when I saw it, utterly original and with so much positive feedback on it I really feel the pressure for my story to live up to the quality of the cover! The artist is Kealan Patrick Burke by the way.


message 12: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Scott wrote: "I'm looking forward to reading this and hearing what everyone thinks about it."

I'm really excited to hear what you think. I know reading is totally subjective so I'm prepared for all comments!


message 13: by Khat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Khat (khatzilla) | 3 comments Very creepy book! It’s like the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” haunted house version! Lol couldn’t figure out what was real or if it was just a figment of his childhood’s imagination.


Kenneth McKinley | 1524 comments Mod
Stephanie, can you tell us a little of the origins of the story?


message 15: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Kenneth wrote: "Stephanie, can you tell us a little of the origins of the story?"

Hi Ken, this story does have a specific origin, namely it was initially a short story written for The Guardian's (a UK newspaper) Stephen King short story competition. This was part of the promotion for his collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams at the time. It pretty much asked you to create a story based on a cursed object.

Most of the items I first thought of were the usual go-tos (mirrors, jewellery, books, paintings) and it was really hard to come up with something original. Then I remembered a small bottle I'd had as a child, a souvenir from a holiday in Cornwall. This bottle held a simple scene of a boat at sea but it got me to thinking about all the other landscapes you could create within, and then the process of the glass creation added an extra dimension - I've been lucky enough to visit Murano and watch the glass blowers there. Receiving a cursed object is usually a matter of inheritance so I handed them over to Tyler and then let him tell the tale (I don't plot, I just let the characters lead me where they will!)

The short story never got anywhere in the competition and I didn't send it out again as I felt there was more to say and so it evolved into the novella you are now reading.


message 16: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Khat wrote: "Very creepy book! It’s like the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” haunted house version! Lol couldn’t figure out what was real or if it was just a figment of his childhood’s imagination."

Thanks, I love that comparison :) I remember reading Fear and Loathing as a glorious technicolour trip - mine's the black and white version!

I really wanted to distort what Tyler saw, or thought he saw, when he was in the house. I think when you begin to doubt yourself, as he did, it really adds to the fear factor.


message 17: by Khat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Khat (khatzilla) | 3 comments Stephanie wrote: "Khat wrote: "Very creepy book! It’s like the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” haunted house version! Lol couldn’t figure out what was real or if it was just a figment of his childhood’s imagination..."

*** I LOVED THE BOOK! It had everything that a horror story should have. The creepy atmospheric buildup.. the macabre.. definitely had me questioning what was real, and yes! Added to the fear factor! I kept thinking how awesome this would be as a movie! lol


Laurel | 23 comments I can't wait to read this one! I've heard such great things from all my favorite reviewers, and the description is right up my alley!


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Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Laurel wrote: "I can't wait to read this one! I've heard such great things from all my favorite reviewers, and the description is right up my alley!"

I hope you enjoy it, everyone's been so supportive. I love to hear everybody's views - and I know responses will vary across the board. I'm just so appreciative that people are taking the time to read it.


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Jessica | 1 comments Just finished it. Definitely an interesting concept though I found it a bit hard to follow. I can see that being intentional, making the reader second guess and be confused about what is happening right along with Tyler.

I’d love to hear how others imagined the house. At first I pictured it old and dilapidated but as it went on I imagined it was actually magnificent and imposing, a kind of facade for what went on there.

Something I never quite figured out was what happened to Tyler’s father. Would love to hear more about that and the family dynamic in general!


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Stephanie wrote: "Kenneth wrote: "Stephanie, can you tell us a little of the origins of the story?"

Hi Ken, this story does have a specific origin, namely it was initially a short story written for The Guardian's (..."


That is so wild that you are saying this. I am about 20% into it. I was on the bus reading it and saw one of the sort of "interruptions" in the narrative where you put in Tyler's thoughts about something mid-thought in the narrative. I read that and thought -- oh this is cool. That's like a classic King device. So I for one am liking it so far and I'm getting the build up and creep factor.


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Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Jessica wrote: "Just finished it. Definitely an interesting concept though I found it a bit hard to follow. I can see that being intentional, making the reader second guess and be confused about what is happening ..."

Thank you, Jessica. I actually found it hard to write at times - Tyler's confusion often infected me and I had to step back a bit. When I write it's very visual in my head and I always put myself behind the eyes of whichever character I'm writing about, so when he got confused, I got confused. This element was deliberate though, as I wanted to blur the lines between reality and whatever was going on in his own head. Tyler was allowing all his old thoughts and nightmares to bleed back into his current situation so it really disturbed his view point.

In my mind's eye, the house was, like you say, old and dilapidated, but it too shifted and took on whatever appearance was needed to suit its inhabitants.

The backstory to Tyler's father was left out to a certain extent, simply to keep the book to novella length. I knew he had never abandoned his family, although they believed that. He had discovered the truth of his family history and gone to confront his own father to prevent Tyler being sucked into the nightmare. He went knowing he could end up inside the bottles but fully aware that from inside there he could offer his son some protection should he ever end up in the house. It was real sacrifice rather than abandonment.


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Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Brian wrote: "Stephanie wrote: "Kenneth wrote: "Stephanie, can you tell us a little of the origins of the story?"

Hi Ken, this story does have a specific origin, namely it was initially a short story written fo..."


Thanks for reading, Brian. I hope you continue to enjoy it. It was an interesting exercise for me originally, to try and write in a way that was an homage of sorts.

Build up and 'creep' factor are areas I always try and work on when writing. Often I'll write a scene and find it's all happened too quickly so then I go back and in and layer up the atmosphere, try and slow things down. King manages that in so many of his novels by getting really into the detail of smalltown life so it becomes a complete world. I've never managed that yet, and this novel is only one house, but his ability to do that level of detail without boring the writer is something I hugely admire. It really adds to the escape factor.


Kenneth McKinley | 1524 comments Mod
For those of you that are interested, here is an interview with Stephanie.

https://www.silvershamrockpublishing....


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Oh cool. Thanks Kenneth.


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Scott Springer | 12 comments That interview is terrific. Thanks for sharing the link. I learned so much about your trials and tribulations, Stephanie. And what an inspirational stick-to-it story.

I’m at around 50% now. I’m on target to finish within the month.


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Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Scott wrote: "That interview is terrific. Thanks for sharing the link. I learned so much about your trials and tribulations, Stephanie. And what an inspirational stick-to-it story.

I’m at around 50% now. I’m on..."


Hi Scott, thanks for reading! I always worry about interviews, especially when you measure yourself against other writers, eg those who have been writing from a very young age, those who've watched all the films in the canon and the like. It used to make me feel a bit of a fraud but as you get older you realise that other paths are just as valid, even if they take a longer and less direct route. I'm here now, in my own small way, and I will keep writing and hopefully people will keep reading and I'll also keep reading as long as others keep writing!


Kenneth McKinley | 1524 comments Mod
I actually find it refreshing to run across a horror author that doesn’t have all the same influences or experiences that many of has had growing up. I think it shows in the uniqueness of their writing. Do you have a group of horror authors that you associate with, bounce ideas off, etc?


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I'm now 79% in. What a wonderfully unique and original idea you've come up with in this story. I'll add more tonight so I can add a spoiler tag.


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Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Kenneth wrote: "I actually find it refreshing to run across a horror author that doesn’t have all the same influences or experiences that many of has had growing up. I think it shows in the uniqueness of their wri..."

I am part of an online writing group and we submit and critique each others' work (this evolved as a result of my HWA membership, Fright Club which has recently morphed into Moanaria.com. I would highly recommend Moaner Lawrence's writing workshops by the way, really makes you take the professional approach). We also have an informal chat going - where you often lose the thread if you're not careful! But they are great for giving feedback and advice. We're all in each other's corner so it's a very supportive feeling. I have struck up one or two close writing friendships and we message each other about anything and everything - it helps us keep a sane perspective on the writing life. I think having someone, not just to bounce ideas off, but to talk to about writing in general is important. It lessens the isolation.


message 31: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Brian wrote: "I'm now 79% in. What a wonderfully unique and original idea you've come up with in this story. I'll add more tonight so I can add a spoiler tag."

Thank you. Coming up with an original idea is hard. I love reading and am continually jealous of the ideas I see other writers use and spend my time wondering 'how come I didn't think of that'! I tend to think of a number of possibilities and then discard the first of these as I think they will be too obvious.


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I finished it two days ago. Like I said, great book.

I want to say that this has been a great experience participating in this group read with a guest author. Thank you, Kenneth for moderating and thank you very much Stephanie for putting your work out there.

This was a really great story. It went directions I did not expect but when I started seeing them unfolding, it was quite--is "enjoyable" the right word with horror? Hmmm. Food for thought, I suppose.

For example, when I saw a particular development unfolding, I thought, "oh crap, what could be worse" for this person. The answer I came up with was not a whole heck of a lot. Sucks to be them.

Every once in a while I lost track of a transition of Tyler's real world and the dreams or otherworldly experiences, but that is a small thing. Might just as easily been because I have to make the type on my kindle really big and I initially miss it. But I was always able to figure it out.

And so your novel had in my humble opinion, a good balance of suspense and action and brutality.

Thank you.


message 33: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Brian wrote: "I finished it two days ago. Like I said, great book.

I want to say that this has been a great experience participating in this group read with a guest author. Thank you, Kenneth for moderating an..."


Thank you so much for your comments, Brian. Everybody has a different experience when they read and I'm glad Bottled was a positive one. Any sort of critique is welcome as well because it will serve to inform and direct my next work, and I can't improve unless I consider such feedback. This is my first published longer work and to be so visible has been scary but this group read has helped tremendously. People have been so generous with their time reading, commenting and/or reviewing and I know it's done in a supportive spirit because of their love of the genre. It'd be great to be back one day with another work but I know in the meantime I will be here as a reader and support for other writers.


Laurel | 23 comments I'm 80 percent through, because I've had so many commitments this month, but every time I have to put it down it's killing me! Lovely pacing, excellent atmosphere and such a unique concept. You're a wonderful storyteller! Are you working on anything in the same universe?


message 35: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (steviee) | 46 comments Laurel wrote: "I'm 80 percent through, because I've had so many commitments this month, but every time I have to put it down it's killing me! Lovely pacing, excellent atmosphere and such a unique concept. You're ..."

Thank you so much! It was pretty much a standalone book but the more I think about it, it might have possibilities as a novel with another generation involved. I can't say any more if you're 80% through but looking at the date you posted - apologies for coming back here late -you will probably see who I'm referring to.


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