Category Archives: Author

Guest Post: Sue Miller on trying to make the world a better place.

As most of you know, I am responsible for the Newcastle leg of Noir at the Bar – and I love it. One of the best things about hosting NATB is how many new writers I get to meet. Thanks to my friend Chris Ord, I was introduced to Sue Miller, another local writer. 

Sue read for us at Noir at the Bar earlier this year and I’m delighted to host her on the blog. Sue likes to use her writing to affect social change so she’s here today to talk to us about trying to make the world a better place. 

Thanks to Sue for sharing her insights with us.

Vic x

 

Sue Miller on trying to make the world a better place.

The title: 20/20 Vision: They didn’t see it coming isn’t just a play on words. I fully expected 2020 would be the year of the next election.


I dedicated the book to my newborn grandson. I hoped that the world he will grow up in will be a safe and loving place. But I wasn’t optimistic. I wanted to do something.

I thought about writing articles. I worked hard to make things better in my community. I cared as best I could for my family and friends. In the end I thought I’d try to bring my concerns together into a story. Maybe that would be a way to be heard because:

  • we always have choices.
  • if we don’t address issues of what’s fair and what’s right now, what are we bequeathing to our children?
  • there are enough resources to go round, if we manage them responsibly
  • I sensed a growing narrative with winners and losers, where ‘rights’ were becoming ‘entitlements’, borders and barriers were going up between ourselves and those we labelled as not ‘like us.’

I was in a very dark place, struggling to find optimism for the future, despairing of the choices of cuts, the short sightedness of activity around me. Not that I was perfect.

This was before Brexit and before Trump. Before the calling of an election designed to ‘strengthen our hand’ in negotiations with people that were once partners and friends. I didn’t see any of those coming.

The worlds of traditional and social media are currently full of the noise of pre-election promises. I’m weary of it already.  What I’m hearing are promises, when history teaches us words are cheap, it’s actions that cost.

People who know me well were shocked by just how dark 20/20 Vision is in places. The story reflects where I continue to be every time I turn on the news, tune into social media; Facebook-there’s a mixed blessing. One of my book reviews says we live at a time when people think they’ve done their bit simply by clicking on ‘like’. In a country where free education is available for all I’m aghast at the low level of some of the commentary there. Words are easy, the real challenge is to think, listen and act.

History tells us it is hard to hope, we will always snatch those resources to which we believe we are entitled. We can choose to take from those we think of as ‘different’ to preserve those we perceive as ‘our own’. What of fairness? What of love?

My next book has a working title: Border Control. That’s all I see coming now.

Sue Miller

Noir at the Bar Edinburgh, 31/05/2017

In November of last year, I read at the first Edinburgh Noir at the Bar. Earlier this week, I returned to give another reading and, yet again, it was a wonderful night.


Many of the participants attended a meal prior to the event at Makars Gourmet Mash Bar which was organised by the lovely Kelly of Love Books Group blog.  The meal itself was delicious – I had ox cheek and creamy mash – and it was lovely to meet new people as well as catching up with others. The staff were really attentive and I’d heartily recommend this fantastic place if you happen to be in Edinburgh.


Hosted by Jacky Collins, and held at Wash Bar, Noir at the Bar Edinburgh sure is attracting a following in Auld Reekie – the number of attendees has grown massively since its first outing in November.

Mac Logan was first to read then it was my very good friend Lucy Cameron reading from her debut novel Night is Watching.

Then some Geordie got up and read a piece from her work in progress. The audience were very kind and laughed in all the right places. I got some brilliant feedback during the break. It’s really reassuring to hear that fans of crime are looking forward to reading my novel so I’d best crack on with it! As an aside, I will be writing soon about a method that I have found really works for me: watch this space!


I was glad that I’d read early, it left me free to enjoy the evening free of any nerves. Neil Broadfoot, Ian Skewis and May Rinaldi entertained the audience with readings that left my reading wishlist growing exponentially.

Aly Monroe read from Black Bear then we had a riotous short story by Doug Johnstone followed swiftly by a song.

Sharon Bairden and I at Noir at the Bar Edinburgh. Photo courtesy of Sharon Bairden.

Following another short break, during which I got to catch up with some more folks, Sara Sheridan kicked off the third act with an intriguing reading. Claire MacLeary followed with a great excerpt from Cross Purpose featuring the fantastic character of Big Wilma. CG Huntley was the final reader on the bill but there were two wildcard readings given by Jackie McLean and LP Mennock.


A huge congratulations to my friend Jacky Collins for another successful evening in Edinburgh. Jacky and I may have some exciting news to share with you very soon…

Vic x

Guest Post: Jennifer C. Wilson talks about her new release.

My friend Jennifer C. Wilson joins us on the blog today to talk about her latest release, ‘Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile’. Coincidentally, I’m appearing in Edinburgh tonight (31st May) as part of Noir at the Bar Edinburgh. The event is held at Wash Bar and starts at 7pm.  

While I’m in Auld Reekie, I will raise a toast to Jen and then another at her book launch on Saturday.

Thanks to Jen for taking time out of her very busy schedule to appear on the blog today. 

Vic x

Hi Victoria, and thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog today, to talk about my upcoming release.

Have you ever thought about what the dead get up when you’re not looking? Not in a terrifying, trying to drive you out of your house sort of way, just in a ‘getting on with their own lives’ sort of way? That’s what got me thinking, and what led to the writing of Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, published in October 2015. In that, I explored what Richard III, Anne Boleyn, Jane Grey and a host of others might be talking about, and following that, I started thinking about where I might like to explore next…

There was really only one choice though – Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile, and I’m so happy that Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile is being released on 1st June this year. My heroine was an obvious choice too – Mary, Queen of Scots, one of my favourite historical characters, even if I do usually stop reading the novels and biographies once she heads off to England (a bit like stopping ‘The Sound of Music’ once the wedding finishes!). I started thinking again about the friendships and feuds which she might have got into over the centuries since her death, and who might now form her inner circle in the city which was her capital for a relatively short time, given her fame in Scottish and British history.

I started writing a host of scenes, exploring the various historical sites up and down the Mile, and reading up about who might be ‘hanging about’, as it were, and gradually, the cast and plot fell into place….

Along Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, royalty and commoners – living and dead – mingle amongst the museums, cafés and former royal residences. From Castle Hill to Abbey Strand, there is far more going on than meets the eye, as ghosts of every era and background make their home along the Mile.

Returning to the city for her annual visit, Mary, Queen of Scots, is troubled by the lacklustre attitude of her father, King James V of Scotland, and decides to do something about it, with the aid of her spiritual companions. More troubling, though, is the arrival of a constant thorn in her side: her second husband, Lord Darnley.

Can Mary resolve both her own issues and those of her small, ghostly court?

If you’d like to find out more about the book and its settings, as well as partake in some excellent virtual food, drink and entertainment, then I’d love you to attend the online launch party – click here for more information. There’ll also be a couple of book-related competitions, and special guests.

Hope to see you there!

About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside. She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website.

Guest Post: Jennifer C Wilson on the living dead.

cover on devicesHave you ever thought about what the dead get up when you’re not looking? Not in a terrifying, trying to drive you out of your house sort of way, just in a ‘getting on with their own lives’ sort of way? That’s what got me thinking, and what led to me writing Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, my debut novel, published in October 2015 (international Amazon link here, to take you to the country of your choice), and currently just 99p/c in the Crooked Cat Easter Sale.

Come and find out what Richard III, Anne Boleyn, Queen Jane Grey and a host of others talk about whilst we’re not listening, and what they get up to when the staff of the Tower of London are busy elsewhere. With family feuds having had centuries to build up, star-crossed couples trying to find each other, and a certain King of England looking for a certain pair of princes, there’s always plenty going on, and especially in the greatest historical prison England has ever seen!

If you do dip a toe and take a chance of Kindred Spirits: Tower of London this Easter, and you like what you read, then my second novel, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile is coming in June 2017, and I’d love you to attend the online launch party – click here for more information. We’ll be having virtual food and drink, there’ll be music and, of course, a couple of book-related competitions.

Hope to see you there!

JenniferCWilson-HolyroodPalace

 

About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.

Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015; she (and it) can be found online at her blog, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s blog.

Getting to Know You: Douglas Skelton

Guest Post: G.J. Brown on Crying Over Spilled Words.

I first met the lovely G.J. Brown in June this year when he took the time to appear at our first Noir at the Bar NE. Gordon is a fantastic writer and is one of the forces behind the massively popular Bloody Scotland.

I met Gordon again just a couple of weeks ago at Newcastle’s Lit and Phil while he was part of the Crime Factor panel. The discussion was truly fascinating and proved that Gordon is a font of knowledge when it comes to writing. 

Thanks to Gordon for taking the time to share his wisdom with us. 

Vic x

G.J. Brown

Never Cry Over Spilled Words
by G.J. Brown

The note from my editor, in returning the first draft of my next novel, read:

‘You’ll see I’ve taken a few sections out. Even so, there’s still a bit of flab.’

Three weeks later, after I’ve subjected my manuscript to a literary chainsaw, I send it back and my editor replies:

‘And this year’s winner of Author Who Culled The Largest Number Of Words From Their First Draft goes to…   40k less. Impressive.’

Hand on heart, I knew that my first draft was, at 117,000 + words, a tad too long. It’s the third in my Craig McIntyre series. The length was driven by an attempt to tie up some loose ends from books 1 and 2, while driving a trans America/Atlantic narrative. The novel ranges from mid-west America to Western Canada, it rolls through a road trip to Toronto, crosses the Atlantic to Scotland and then beyond – I was painting large on a large canvass.

Removing 40,000 words may seem a bit excessive, but I was once talking to the late, great William McIlvanney, over a dram, about editing. He was of the view that if you could remove a word from a sentence and the sentence was the better for it, then keep removing until the sentence sings. I just took Willie’s advice and put it on steroids.

I read and re-read the original. I thought about slicing and dicing, cutting and chopping. I played with tweaking and twisting and, after a few false starts, I realised that this was no minor outpatient operation. This was full on, brain surgery with a liver transplant thrown in for good measure, with a side order of a new heart.

The transit scene from the USA to Scotland was cut in its entirety – bang went 30,000 of those precious words. A chase by the local police, through Alberta, was given the shoulder – zap to 5,000 more. The rest was honing.

I’m waiting on the ‘Weight Watchers Winner for Best Book on a Diet’ coming back to me with the editor’s final comments. I’ve already decided I’m drawing a line in the sand and fighting for every one of the remaining 80,000 words. They deserve no less given the way they’ve survived to date.

Throughout the whole process there was one driver – does this make the book better?

Well, did it?

The simple, and somewhat unsurprising, answer, in my editors and my own humble opinion is, ‘hell yes’. Sharper, better written, flab gone – it’s now the Mo Farrah to the Big Daddy of the book world.

And the bonus is I’ve got at least three short stories sitting in the bowels of my Mac. A little work on the culled paragraphs and I can fill my website with a range of Craig McIntyre tales for a few months to come.

So for those authors that cry over spilled words. Don’t. They didn’t all give their lives in vain. Some will live on to grace different pages in the future and, for those that died, well, they did so for a better cause.

***

meltdown

Gordon lives in Scotland but splits his time between the UK, the U.S.A. and Spain. He’s married with two children. Gordon once quit his job in London to fly across the Atlantic to be with his future wife. He has also delivered pizzas in Toronto, sold non-alcoholic beer in the Middle East, launched a creativity training business called Brain Juice and floated a high tech company on the London Stock Exchange.

He almost had a toy launched by a major toy company, has an MBA, loves music, is a DJ on local radio, compered the main stage at a two-day music festival and was once booed by 49,000 people while on the pitch at a major football Cup Final.

Gordon also helped found Bloody Scotland – Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival.

Gordon has been writing since his teens and has had four books published – his latest, ‘Meltdown‘, is published by Gallus Press and is out now.

Visit www.gordonjbrown.com or follow him on Twitter @GoJaBrown

Guest Post: Gill Hoffs on the Collywobbles

Gilll Hoffs has been a guest on this blog many times before and it’s always a pleasure to have her guesting for us. 

Today, in the wake of her second book being published, Gill shares with us the nerves related to the release. Thanks to Gill for being so honest about this topic. 

Vic x

the-lost-story-of-the-williammary-gill-hoffs-hi-res-image

Killing your collywobbles: how to handle the release of your next book.
By Gill Hoffs.

My second shipwreck book has just come out and while I’m delighted to have 18 months’ work come to fruition, I also feel kinda sick about it.  With my first book, The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’” (Pen & Sword, 2014, 2015), everything was new and exciting and the only way was up.  As a relatively unknown author writing about a long forgotten shipwreck, I could reason with myself that whatever I did was an improvement on the status quo and no matter what, my research and writing would raise awareness of the people involved and help memorialise them – so whether my book was a success or not, it was something.  And something is better than nothing.

the-sinking-of-rms-tayleur-gill-hoffs-paperback

But fast forward two and a half years from that first book’s release and you’ll find me fretting, full of excitement mixed with fear.  My Tayleur book has been in national newspapers, on TV and the radio, and led to trips to Ireland, the wreck site, and to meet descendants of people involved.  It’s been wild and I’ve loved every second of it but – and it’s a big BUT – this means the stakes are raised, considerably, for Book 2.

The Lost Story of the William & Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson (Pen & Sword, 2016) came out in September and although the advance reviews and feedback so far has been great, I still feel queasy with nerves.  What if no-one reads it or likes it? What if, what if, what if… Many of you reading this have felt (or will feel) the same with your own second book or subsequent title, so here’s a list of things which have helped me through the summer and will hopefully help you too.

Do add suggestions in the comments section – killing collywobbles is a work in progress!

  • Keep lists in a project book of precisely what you’re doing to promote your book, e.g. a section on reviews (who approached, when, yes/no, what site or publication, etc.), interviews, articles, talks/signings. When you’re panicking and struggling to sleep you can look at all the positive steps you’re taking to get your book out there and noticed, and rest easier knowing that this is in hand and still to come.  Of course, this only works if you have put effort into promotion…
  • Remind yourself that people who enjoyed your first book are now rooting for you. They want your new book to be great, they want to love it, and they will come at your new title with a positive state of mind.  Make the most of connections made during your research or via your first book, keep in touch with readers and reviewers and if you can send them something extra (not a bribe, think bookmarks, pens etc.) then do so.  Don’t point out to them what you’re unsure of in your work, or otherwise try to put them off it – most people get the jitters and that’s no reason to sabotage yourself (and your publisher).
  • Celebrate every little thing to do with your new book. Enjoy the ride!  You’ve earned it!

Gill Hoffs is the author of Wild: a collection (Pure Slush, 2012), The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’” (Pen & Sword, 2014, 2015), The Lost Story of the William & Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson (Pen & Sword, 2016), and hundreds of short stories and articles.  She lives in Warrington, England, and can be contacted via email and on twitter.