Monthly Archives: November 2018

Guest Post: Bridget Gallagher of HoneyBridge House

Today’s special guest is Bridget Gallagher. Bridget is the brains – and beauty – behind HoneyBridge House.

Bridget is one of the kindest people I have ever met and I can totally recommend her as a workshop leader. If you fancy learning a new skill, get in touch with Bridget!

Victoria x

Tell us about HoneyBridge House, Bridget.
I set up HoneyBridge House back in April 2016 making hand-made books.
I began with Heartlines, a decorative book of love poems written by my husband Harry Gallagher and full of handmade papers and embellishments. I then progressed to making a range of hand-made journals and notebooks but I soon discovered that the stationery market is a hard one to crack, so I turned my hand to running workshops showing people how to make their own books instead.
I then started offering workshops in a whole variety of different crafts, but have eventually realised that it’s much more enjoyable specialising in just one or two, so the majority of my current sessions are focused on knitting and crochet.
As I don’t have premises of my own, I run the HoneyBridge House classes from a couple of local shops – Re-Create Today in Whitley Bay, and Black Cat Yarns in Morpeth, and I’ve recently started offering 1-2-1 and small group sessions in peoples’ homes.

Crochet at RCT.jpg

What inspired it?
I’ve always loved crafts since being a young girl when my mum taught me how to knit.  Over the years I’ve tried my hand at all sorts, from basket making to decoupage, lace-making to macramé and just love the feeling of creating something from scratch.
I set the business up when I’d left teaching and was working as a PA. I wasn’t getting much job satisfaction so, with the support of my husband, it seemed the time was right to see if I could make a go of turning my hobby into a business. I can honestly say I’ve never worked so hard in my life, and working for yourself can be quite lonely sometimes, but I love it.
Teaching someone to craft is a real privilege and I feel extremely lucky to do what I do.

What’s been your favourite assignment and why?
I think one of my favourite moments was teaching my mum to crochet last year. Mum taught me to knit as a young girl but she’s never been able to crochet, so it was lovely for me to be able to teach her a craft in return.

How do you choose what workshops to run?
Knitting and Crochet have become really popular again in recent years, so I always offer a range of complete beginners’ sessions as lots of people are keen to learn. In addition I’ll have a range of seasonal projects (such as Christmas stockings or Easter wreaths) but I also like to teach folk different techniques like Fair Isle, knitting in the round, corner to corner crochet, that they can use in other projects too.
I’m always open to suggestions for new workshops and I run one off workshops as well as 4 – 6 week courses.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?
When I first set up HoneyBridge House, I went along to the Business Factory in North Shields and had a session with one of the advisers there, Janice Ross. Janice has given me some great advice since we first met, but perhaps the most useful tip was to always plan ahead. For example, I had to make sure that I’d made the Christmas projects I’m teaching this year way back in July so that I’d have enough time to photograph them and advertise the sessions. I have a planner with key events marked on for the coming year so that I can see at a glance what I need to be working on. 

What can participants expect when they attend a workshop?
Anyone coming along to a HoneyBridge House workshop can expect to learn whilst having fun! All the materials and equipment are provided, so you don’t need to bring anything with you (other than reading glasses if you need them) and there’s always plenty of tea/coffee and cake to help you along. I’m known for my patience and understand that everyone picks things up at different speeds. There’s no need to feel stressed and worry about keeping up with everyone else. You’ll go home having had a relaxing time with like-minded people and a beautiful hand-crafted item into the bargain.

Have you got any advice for aspiring crafters?
If there’s a particular craft you fancy trying, I would definitely recommend attending a workshop. There are so many people out there offering tasters in so many different crafts. It’s an ideal way to try something without having to spend a fortune on all the equipment and materials. If you like it, then great, but if not you haven’t wasted your money.

What do you like and dislike about running workshops?
I absolutely love getting to meet so many different people and hearing their stories. It’s wonderful to hear people say how relaxing they find the sessions, and how lovely it is to just be able to switch off from everything else for a few hours and have some ‘me’ time which is often so difficult to come by nowadays. I always get a buzz from helping folk learn new skills and create beautiful objects.
The only thing I don’t particularly enjoy is the marketing side of things. I’ve been surprised at just how long it takes setting up events on Facebook and keeping the website up to date. I’m gradually getting to grips with it all though and have attended several of the free sessions run by the Business Factory which are really helpful.

What’s your favourite HoneyBridge House moment?
It’s hard to pick one moment in particular.
What I really love is when people come in who are nervous and say that they’re not very creative, but over the course of the workshop they relax and end up making something gorgeous that they’re really proud of. There was a lovely lady who came along to a workshop recently to make a proggy heart to give as a present for her new granddaughter. She was really unsure about what colours to choose, but not only did she create a beautiful heart, she then went on to embellish the picture and framed it. The finished result was a truly unique gift that she was delighted with, and it was something her granddaughter will hopefully treasure for years to come.

I love it when people send me photos of what they’ve made too!
Whilst I don’t enjoy marketing, I do love the weekly ‘Where Is HoneyB?’ challenges on the HoneyBridge House Facebook page. HoneyB is the HoneyBridge House mascot, and each week I post a photo of her in a mystery location. The first person who correctly identifies that location wins themselves a personalised verse written by the lovely HoneyB herself! Mr HoneyB and I have great fun taking her on our travels and photographing her. To-date she’s been to various locations in England, Scotland, Ireland and France – who knows where she’ll end up next?!

HoneyB at Port Issac.jpg

How can people get in touch with you?
I can be contacted by email –,  mobile – 07814 839 367 or Facebook.

How do people book?
Bookings can be made via my website,, or directly at the workshop venues. 

What’s next?
I’m busy putting together the Spring schedule of workshops and courses and will be updating my FB page and website shortly with all the details.

I’m also keen to increase the number of 1-2-1 sessions that I’ve started doing. Often folk would like to come along to a workshop, but can’t make the day or time, so I now offer a service where I will go along to someone’s house and teach them at a time to suit them.

Table at Annie's.jpg

Something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed over the past few months is my ’52 and Thrifty Too!’ project. Basically, I realised that I had acquired far too much in the way of yarn, fabric, buttons, ribbons, beads etc and needed to do something about it before it completely took over! I decided to set myself a target of using my stash to make 52 projects in 52 weeks without spending any more than £52.  I’m definitely a bit behind at the minute, but I’m determined to get back on track in the New Year.  I’m chronicling my progress in my blog so you can see how I’m doing and have a go at some of the projects too as I post details of how I make each one.  As always, I love to see photos of what other folk have made!

Don’t Quit the Day Job: Jan Fortune

Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Jan Fortune to the blog to talk about how she managed to write a trilogy in the last four years while holding down a day job. My thanks to Jan for taking the time to share her insights with us.

Vic x


Over the last four years I’ve been working on a trilogy of novels. A Remedy For All Things follows Catherine, who is in Hungary in 1993 to research on the poet Attila József, when she begins dreaming the life of another woman from a different time period (imprisoned after the Hungarian Uprising of 1956). Even more disturbing, she’s aware that the other woman, Selene, is dreaming her life. 

It’s a complex book that has taken a great deal of research as well as several edits, but like most contemporary writers, I don’t write full-time. How do we do it? Juggle work, homes to run and still write? And are there any benefits to writing in this way, without the luxury of all the time in the world, or at least all the time that would otherwise go into holding body and soul together?


Many of my favourite writers combined work of all sorts with writing. William Faulkner is reputed to have written As I Lay Dying in six weeks. He claimed that while working 12 hours days as a manual labourer he wrote this phenomenal novel in his ‘spare time’. Most of us need a lot longer, but it’s certainly the case that many writers don’t only write.

Anthony Burgess taught and composed music; Joseph Conrad was a sea captain; T.S. Eliot worked in a bank and Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor, as was the poet William Carlos Williams. Wallace Stevens turned down a Harvard professorship rather than give up his 40-year career in insurance.

Women who write may not only do the lion’s share of domestic work while writing, but also hold down demanding jobs. Agatha Christie worked as an apothecary’s assistant, a great place to learn about poisons. Toni Morrison worked as an editor and for many years Octavia Butler had to write in the early hours so that she could work low-paid jobs like telemarketing or cleaning.

If working the day job is a necessity, it can also be one with benefits. Working as an editor and publisher, I get a lot of time to see how form works, how language can constantly be honed and how handing our precious book to someone with skill and objectivity and then listening carefully can make all the difference. One of my authors recently took a PR role that is giving her masses of people-watching time, none of it wasted. Writers are people who walk about the world with all their senses open and work is an endlessly rich environment for observation of the human condition.

Of course, we still need time to find that trance state in which to write and to go into deep flow. If your day job does nothing but hollow you out, it may be time to reconsider. But if your work sustains you and leaves the time and energy to write whilst being a source of experiences and characters, then writing around the day job is an honourable tradition. 

Guest Post: Sarah Dobbs on the University of Sunderland Short Story Award

Today I welcome Sarah Dobbs to tell us all about this year’s University of Sunderland short story award. As Sarah says, entries are welcome from all over the world so even if you don’t live in the North East, you can still enter. 
Good luck!
Vic x
Many thanks for hosting us! The University of Sunderland in Association with Waterstones Short Story Award is now in its third year. We have four categories: Adult, 11-17 and Regional (adults and 11-17). The winners in each category receive cash prizes of £300. All shortlisted entries are collected in an anthology by our publishers, Bandit Fiction.
For the 2019 competition, we have promoted a distinct regional category as the prize has always hoped to nurture and support talent in our area. Entrants to the regional category may live, work or study within Northumberland, County Durham and Tyne and Wear. You can enter both the Adult and Regional category, or just one. We also enjoy working with promising young writers after the competition in an aim to nurture talent.

There is no theme, but there is a word count of 2500 for the Adults and Regional categories and 1500 for the 11-17. Stories don’t have to reach the maximum word count however and we enjoy surprising, experimental and hybrid work, as well as a ‘traditionally’ well-crafted story.

Entry fees are £5 for each category, except 11-17, which is free and we welcome entries regardless of where you live, in previous years we’ve had a fair amount of international entries.

In the past we’ve been fortunate to have been supported by judges who are literary agents and publishers, last year we welcomed Professor Ailsa Cox, the world’s first professor in short fiction and this year we’re delighted to have Dr Guy Mankowski, author of An Honest Deceit and recipient of an Arts Council Award to research his novel Letters to Yelena. Guy is also a lecturer at Newcastle University and runs the arts and spoken word night, New Art Social, at Ernest. Nicholas Royle is also on this year’s judging panel.
Entries open on the 17th December 2018 and close on the 1st July 2019. Further details and links to the entry form are on and it’s worth taking advantage of the fact you can download the 2018 anthology for free.
We look forward to reading your stories!

Review: ‘The Infirmary’ by LJ Ross

A serial killer is picking women off the streets of Newcastle, seemingly at random, then subjecting them to the same unutterably violent end. When the Chief Inspector on the case goes missing, it falls to DCI Ryan to track down the murderer who is not only terrifying the public but also goading the police. 
Not knowing who to trust, Ryan and his team get drawn further and further into the horrifying case, but for Ryan the case will hit closer to home than he could ever have anticipated.  
In this stunning prequel, Audible has assembled a fabulous cast who depict LJ Ross’s excellent new story with aplomb. I could listen to Hermione Norris narrate this gripping story until the end of time. Tom Bateman as DCI Ryan is pure perfection and there’s no better actor to portray Frank Phillips than Kevin Whately. It was also great to hear genuine regional accents used in this drama. However, the stand-out actor in ‘The Infirmary‘ is Bertie Carvel: he narrates the serial killer’s internal monologue in a way that made my skin crawl. Carvel’s depiction is 100% chilling. 
The addition of music and sound effects added extra layers to the story. I’d far rather listen to this than a Radio 4 Afternoon Play.
Whether you’re a die-hard DCI Ryan fan or have never encountered the series before, ‘The Infirmary‘ – much like Ryan’s nemesis – will grab you by the collar and not let go. Even if you’ve read the DCI Ryan series before, the end of this drama will undoubtedly have you reaching for your copy of ‘Holy Island‘ again.  
The Infirmary‘ is an utterly engrossing dramatisation, I really hope this isn’t the last collaboration we’ll see from LJ Ross and Audible. 
The Infirmary‘ is available to download now. 
Vic x

Review: ‘The Hermitage’ by LJ Ross

When an old man is found dead inside the ancient hermitage at Warkworth Castle, Northumbria CID are called in to investigate. With no apparent motive, it’s their job to discover why he was murdered – and this time they’re forced to do it without their star detective as DCI Ryan has tracked a killer across Europe and has sworn not to return until he has his man in custody. Nathan Armstrong is a dangerous psychopath but there’s just one problem – he’s also an international celebrity; a world-famous thriller writer with money and connections.

When I began reading ‘The Hermitage‘, I was staying in a hotel very close to the village of Warkworth, where LJ Ross’s latest book is set. I loved being even more immersed in the setting than usual. However, Ross’s descriptions are so evocative that you’ll be able to picture the locations even if you haven’t visited them before. 

The Hermitage‘ is also unusual in the fact that DCI Ryan is actually out of the UK, we follow him and his wife Anna to Florence. Despite the beauty of their surroundings, Ryan and Anna find themselves fighting for their lives against an intelligent adversary. 

I really enjoyed finding out more about Nathan Armstrong’s backstory, LJ Ross demonstrates an insightful streak by understanding the motives behind his heinous acts. Combined with a keen awareness of her main character, Ross uses ‘The Hermitage‘ to inform her readers about Ryan and his family too. 

I think what continues to make the DCI Ryan series so successful is Ross’s ability to combine some awful crimes with strong relationships between the recurring characters. I particularly enjoy the banter between Ryan and Phillips. 

Ross’s stories demonstrate a duality that most of us experience: that things are rarely all good or all bad. 

I honestly did not want ‘The Hermitage‘ to end, it was utterly gripping. However, DCI Ryan fans don’t have long to wait for the next instalment: ‘Longstone‘ is due to be released on 10th December. Before that, though, is a new multicast drama on audiobook. ‘The Infirmary‘ will be available on Audible from 8th November. I, for one, can’t wait! 

Vic x

Review: ‘My Name is Anna’ by Lizzy Barber

On Anna’s eighteenth birthday she defies her Mamma’s rules to visit Astroland, Florida’s biggest theme park, despite her mother’s ban on the place. When she arrives, though, Astroland seems familiar. On the same day, Anna receives a mysterious letter she receives and she starts to question her whole life.

In London, Rosie has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers.  With the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance looming, the media circus starts up again, and Rosie uncovers some information that threatens to tear her family apart. Will Rosie uncover the truth before her family implodes?

I enjoyed ‘My Name is Anna‘ from the outset, my attention was grabbed by the intriguing prologue and beautiful prose. Lizzy Barber manages to balance a compelling narrative with excellent attention to detail and exquisite descriptions.

Told from two points of view, ‘My Name is Anna‘ is an interesting study of self-discovery. By having eighteen year old Anna and Rosie, who is sixteen, Barber evokes a time every reader can understand: adolescence. Combining typical coming-of-age drama with a serious crime is an effective tactic, I thought this was particularly inventive. 

The characters are well-drawn and, thanks to Barber’s descriptions, I could see them in my mind’s eye. Anna’s mamma, in particular, was brilliantly evoked.

My Name is Anna‘ is such an intelligently-written book. It covers all sorts of issues including religion, coercion and the repercussions of past mistakes. It’s fast-paced yet sensitive, with several layers. 

If I had to compare ‘My Name is Anna‘ with other books, I’d say ‘Carrie‘ meets ‘Sharp Objects‘ with a sprinkling of ‘The Couple Next Door‘. 

My Name is Anna‘ is Lizzy Barber’s debut novel and is available to download now. The paperback is released in January 2019. 

Vic x