Category Archives: End of Year Reviews

Review of 2017: Vic Watson

The turn of the year comes around quick, doesn’t it? It seems like only yesterday I was telling you all how great 2016 had been! But, here we are, another year older with more experiences under our belts. I must thank everyone who has taken the time to review their year on the blog and to everyone who’s read, shared and commented posts from this blog throughout the last year. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2018! 

Professionally speaking, this year has been another cracker. Noir at the Bar has continued to grow, with factions popping up all over the UK. I’m delighted that the one in Newcastle continues to be popular and I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to be in the Blues Bar in Harrogate on Thursday, 20th July. Presenting Noir at the Bar Harrogate to a packed audience was just incredible. Possibly one of the highlights of that day was a gentleman who asked me at the end of the event how often we ran it as he hadn’t known it was going to be on. I said “Sorry, have we hijacked your quiet afternoon pint?” He laughed and said he was thrilled to have stumbled upon the event and would definitely come to them on purpose in future! 


This year’s Newcastle Noir saw me do my first ever panel. I was on a panel with Susan Heads of the Book Trail, Quentin Bates, Sarah Wood and the powerhouse behind Orenda Books – Karen Sullivan. Our panel was moderated by the wonderful Miriam Owen and I enjoyed that hour immensely.


Another hour that was fun was appearing on the award-winning ArtyParti at Spark FM with Mandy Maxwell, Iain Rowan, Kirsten Luckins and Tony Gadd. We talked to Jay Sykes about writing and events, it was a lovely atmosphere and I felt completely relaxed thanks to the excellent host. 


My writing groups are still going strong and I arranged a stranding retreat on St Mary’s Island in August and the participants gave very positive feedback. I hope to run more retreats next year. 


I’ve had a lot of people asking if I’ve finished my novel yet and when they’ll be able to buy it so that’s very encouraging. I’ve also had a few people tell me they’d like to hear it on Audible which is a real compliment. Thanks to my friend Kay setting me an achievable weekly word target, I’ve almost completed my first draft. 

Hmm, favourite personal memory? Tough one, that. Well, I suppose I’d better say that getting married to the love of my life was the highlight of my year. Just kidding – of course it was! 

I walked down the aisle with my dad to ‘You’re So Cool‘ by Hans Zimmer (featured in ‘True Romance‘) in front of our closest friends and family. 


Instead of going for sugar almonds as wedding favours, we gave everyone a book. The Boy Wonder and I are both bookworms and we therefore wanted to give our guests a personalised gift. We didn’t have a lot of guests and we enjoyed thinking which book to choose for each of the guests – we were like a real life algorithm! 


The day we got married, I was emailed by the production team from ‘The Chase’ to say that my episode – recorded in July 2016 – would be aired on 30th March so watching that was a lot of fun too.


OK, I didn’t mention ‘The Chase’ in my 2016 Review but, contractually, I wasn’t allowed! Watching my episode, despite knowing the result, was nerve-wracking. I actually didn’t mind seeing myself on TV – I was nowhere near as critical of myself as I was expecting to be! I watched with my husband (I love saying that), my brother and three friends. I got lots of lovely messages from friends all over the country.  


I’d also like to say what a special day my hen do was. I never wanted a fuss and opted to go for afternoon tea with my friends and my mum. I cannot explain what a lovely occasion that was. Those wonderful women made me feel like a million bucks. 


My film of the year was ‘Get Out‘, second would be ‘Dunkirk‘. 

I have enjoyed many books this year including ‘Darktown‘ by Thomas Mullen, ‘The Prime of Miss Dolly Greene‘ by E.V Harte, ‘Lost for Words‘ by Stephanie Butland and ‘Small, Great Things‘ by Jodi Picoult. I also loved ‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven‘ by Chris Cleave. And a late entry has to be ‘Good Me, Bad Me‘ by Ali Land. However, my top three – in no particular order – are ‘Six Stories‘ by Matt Wesolowski, ‘Yellow Room‘ by Shelan Rodger and ‘The Break‘ by Marian Keyes. 

Song of the year? Hm. Anything that was on our wedding playlist – we chose all the songs ourselves. We tried to have at least one track for each of the wedding guests so either a track that reminded us of them or one we knew they liked.
Other music I’ve listened to this year includes a lot of music from the Nashville OSTs, ‘…Ready For It?‘ and ‘Look What You Made Me Do‘ by Taylor Swift. 

There has been illness and sadness but most of us are still here – and that is wonderful.

However, the death of Helen Cadbury in June was a tremendous loss to many of us in the writing community – and beyond. Helen was a friend to me. She was always kind, supportive and quick with a joke. She pulled out of Noir at the Bar in February because she was poorly but I didn’t know the extent of her illness. In July, we raised our glasses to toast Helen at Noir at the Bar in Newcastle and Harrogate. Helen made such a positive impact on so many that it felt right to dedicate the events to her.

The last time I saw Helen was at Harrogate Festival in July 2016 although I had spoken to her since. She, Lucy Cameron and I joked about having similar hair colours and styles. Helen said we should call ourselves the three northern blondes and take a selfie. For some reason, that photo didn’t get taken and I regret that missed opportunity.

I have yet to read ‘Race to the Kill‘, the final novel in the Sean Denton trilogy, or her collection of poetry, ‘Forever Now‘, because I don’t want to come to the end of Helen’s work. Of course, I won’t put it off forever. 

Resolutions? Just keep on keeping on, I think. I over commit and trying not to do that remains a work in progress. 

I hope that this world will sort itself out. There are so many things going wrong and I hope that things will be put right but in order for that to happen, we all need to engage. 

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Review of 2017: June Lorraine Roberts

Our penultimate 2017 reviewer is the lovely June Lorraine Roberts. 

Tomorrow is my annual review so I’d just like to thank all of the participants who’ve given their precious time and shared their experiences with us. 

Vic xDo you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I was a Bouchercon Toronto panelist: So Many Books, So Little Time and was very proud. Akashic Books published my flash fiction – The Hong Kong Deal, and I joined Sisters in Crime. All great things.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
It was an incredible year for making new friends. From our US winter home to Bouchercon, and Noir at the Bar Toronto, it’s been terrific.

Favourite book in 2017? 
It’s a toss-up: The Second Girl by David Swinson plus spending hours with David at Noir at the Bar and Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless – I hope to meet her one day.

Favourite film in 2017?
Another toss-up: Atomic Blonde (tough & zany) or Baby Driver (all-round fabulous).

Favourite song of the year? 
Ed Shereen – Shape of You: great hook and rhythm.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
My brother died December 1st, he was funny, profane and loved beer. I feel hollow with him gone.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Nope.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Further flash fiction published, and my first short story. More writing, less thinking about writing. Also new friends from Bouchercon in St. Pete’s and my community at large. Reading and dealing.

Review of 2017: Geraldine Ward

Geraldine Ward is another writer I have “known” online for many years. I haven’t yet had the opportunity of meeting her in the flesh yet but I really appreciate her taking the time to review her year. 

Please check back later today for our penultimate 2017 review. 

Vic x

My favourite memory from a professional perspective this year has to be appearing on BBC Radio Four’s Front Row on a podcast broadcast discussing NANOWRIMO. This was especially sweet because I was only one of three people picked in the whole country, in this instance for my region, Kent, out of the NANOWRIMO entrants and apparently there had been a lot of people applying to go for a slot on the show. Enough of the boasting, moving on!

A general favourite moment of 2017 is still writing related. This was reading one of my stories, The Fish With No Lips, from my book, Mark’s Magic Farmyard and Other Stories at the infants’ assembly at my son’s school. I have never read my work out to so many people so was quite nervous even though they were children. I have to say it was a great pleasure doing this and was very impressed how well the children listened and paid attention. I am also extremely grateful to the Deputy Head who gave me the opportunity to basically run the assembly!

My favourite book that I have read this year is not a contemporary one, written by Zora Neale Hurston called Their Eyes were Watching God. I loved the originality of Hurston’s voice and the heroine in it is an incredible character. Well worth reading.

I have watched very few films this year, so I am a bit light on that front I am afraid although I really enjoyed going to the cinema with my son, Sam to watch The BFG. An unexpected treat!

There have been some good songs this year. My guilty pleasure is Little Mix. However, I really enjoyed listening to Rag’n’Bone Man, Human. Love that one.

Downsides this year have to be breaking my foot twice. First time it was my right foot, then my left foot, this time my ankle. I am hoping there won’t be another injury on the cards, being a bit superstitious about things “going in threes”.

I am not making any New Year’s resolutions. There is no point as I don’t ever keep them. My only hope would be not to have another injury and survive the next year intact and in one piece.

You can find Geraldine on Twitter and Facebook

 

Review of 2017: Alison Bruce

I first “met” Alison Bruce on Twitter several years ago but this year was the first time we’ve ever met in real life. It was an absolute pleasure to spend time in Alison’s company and I hope it won’t be six more years until I see her again.

As you’ll see from her review of 2017, Alison has been very busy this year so I’m very grateful for her taking the time to share her year with us.

Vic x

I think my favourite memory from 2017, is the day I handed in the manuscript for I Did It for Us. I was at Goldsboro Books’ Crime in the Court event a couple of years ago when, in an instant, I had the idea for the book. By pure coincidence, the day I finished the final edits was also the day of Crime in the Court and it felt like the perfect way to celebrate delivering a book.

My most memorable moments always involve my children, Lana, and Dean and my husband Jacen, but 2017 is also going to be remembered as the year I (belatedly) started at university. I’m taking Crime and Investigative Studies. I’m excited by the prospect of adding a new angle to my writing.

For my favourite book of 2017 I have to pick Deadlier which is an anthology of 100 crime stories written by women. This may seem like an unusual choice when there are so many great novels out there but it’s ideal for me when my reading time is in short blocks. The book contains stories from many of the more famous ladies of crime but also gives the opportunity to discover new voices too.

Thanks to my son I’m more of an expert on comic books then I should be and, because of this, my film of the year has to be Wonderwoman.  When I was a child I loved the television series and I was slightly sceptical about any version of this superhero who didn’t spin round and change clothes in a puff of smoke however, it was a well-crafted combination of action-adventure and comic book styled heroics.  If The Sinner has been a film rather than a TV show then I think I would’ve voted for that; it had an interesting premise and kept me hooked right until the end. If you missed it, it’s on Netflix.

My choice of favourite song of the year is split between my daughter’s latest, Hibiscus Heat, which she released for her sixth-form project, and Bad Seed Sown by the Bellfuries; any song which includes the lyrics “the kind of people hip to my kind of evil are few and far between, it lurks, it lies, it feeds on cries, it’s sophisticated and mean” is bound to appeal to a crime writer.

2017 has been pretty good year but I best but I guess the biggest downside has been feeling totally exhausted. It’s been an exciting but I would love to have a few days of doing nothing without feeling guilty about it.

I don’t think I’ll make any new year’s resolutions but I’m looking forward to the year ahead which will begin with the release of my first standalone novel, I Did It for Us on 4th January and its launch at Heffers in Cambridge a week later.

Review of 2017: Jane Risdon

I’m pleased to have Jane Risdon on the blog today to review her year. I worked with Jane many years ago on a charity anthology so I am pleased to hear her wonderful news but I’ll let her tell you all about that. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
My favourite moment professionally in 2017 was getting a copy of Only One Woman and holding it for the first time. Chuffed doesn’t cut it. Five years from writing to publication, although it was finished and in with our publisher in 2014. Written with life-long friend, Christina Jones has been a blast. It was published on Amazon on the 23rd November.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
My birthday at The Royal Albert Hall – my youngest brother and his partner treated me to a fabulous champagne dinner there and concert. It was amazing.

Favourite book in 2017?
Vengeance
by Roger A. Price – second of his two fabulous books. He has been a guest author over on my blog.

Favourite film in 2017?
Hidden Figures
– with Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson the black female NASA mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. Stunning film in so many ways.

Favourite song of the year?
I no longer listen to contemporary music, having worked in music all my life I cannot bear to listen to it as it is thrust upon us now. Sad but true.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Not seeing our grandchildren either in person or via Skype more than once so far. 6,000 miles away might as well be a million at times.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Never make any.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Health, happiness and huge success for Only One Woman when the paperback comes out in stores 24th May 2018. Also publication of my Crime/MI5 novel Ms. Birdsong Investigates: Murder in Ampney Parva, which is in with my publisher now.

Review of 2017: Rob Enright

Today we have Rob Enright on the blog to review his very eventful 2017. 

It sounds like it’s been a whirlwind! Thanks to Rob for taking the time out of his manic schedule to chat to us. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I started a new job outside of my aspiring writing career, working for a private hospital in central London which has been great. But writing wise, my favourite memory was attending the Darker Side of Fiction event in 2017 as an author. Sitting behind a table and signing books and talking to so many amazing people!! I did a few book signings in Waterstones which was always a dream, but to be at a big book event like that was amazing!

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
I got down on one knee and proposed to my wonderful fiancée, Sophie. So that has to be the highlight! We also became home owners this year! Wow… I really did adulting well in 2017!

Favourite book in 2017?
I got hooked on The Dark Tower series this year! The Drawing of the Three is possibly the greatest piece of fiction I have ever read!! I also massively enjoyed Nameless by David McCaffrey, the sequel to the outstanding Hellbound!

Favourite film in 2017?
Blade Runner 2049
. The sequel to my favourite film and it was absolutely superb. It has polarised a few people, but I thought it was just superb cinema. Closely followed by Logan and Baby Driver.

Favourite song of the year?
It’s been out for literally 3 days, but there are a number of songs on Eminem’s new album that I am listening to on repeat. Like Home, Heat and Believe are on repeat. Outside of that, probably Burning and No Peace by Sam Smith.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Finally admitting that I was unhappy with my publisher. They released Doorways for me in 2016 and as 2017 went on, I found the whole process quite soul-destroying and really impacted my writing of the sequel. When I decided to request my release to return to self-publishing, I felt amazing. So yeah, it sucked getting that low but I couldn’t be happier now and am writing more than ever and expanding my business knowledge! Bring on 2018!

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Yup! I completed more runs than ever in 2017 so am redoing all of them again but want to beat the time. I am also doing my first half marathon. Now the books are under my control again and we have got our house, I am going to focus more on my fitness.

Also, am planning on launching THREE books next year. So am throwing my all into it.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
To be as happy as I ended 2017. To have a 4 book series to be promoting next Christmas and to know exactly what I can do with them. Oh, and a dog. I am desperate for a dog!

You can find Rob on Twitter and  Facebook.  

Review of 2017: Paul Bassett Davies

As many of you know, I met Paul Bassett Davies at a party in London earlier this year and he was one of the most amusing, kind-hearted people I’ve met this year. I have noticed a running theme on these blogs – I’m so lucky to know such lovely people.

My thanks to the wonderful Paul for taking the time to share his highlights with us. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Pride and happiness at the launch party for my novel, Dead Writers in Rehab. 

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
My partner’s birthday party, when the mariachi band arrived.

Favourite book in 2017?
FICTION: I discovered Nell Zink this year, and loved her book The Wallcreeper. She has a very distinctive voice, and is mordantly funny.
NON-FICTION: Farewell Kabul by Christina Lamb made me feel I finally understood why the West’s problems with Afghanistan won’t be resolved without the kind of in-depth knowledge shared by this fine writer and courageous witness.

Favourite film in 2017?
It was going to be Get Out but I’ve just seen The Florida Project, so tough call…

Favourite song of the year?
A track called prisencolinensinainciusol by the Italian Adriano Celentano, with Mina, another Italian star, updated with a stunning dance video. In my teenage years my family lived next door to Celentano in Milan. 

Any downsides for you in 2017?
A lot of great artists died.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I believe you should never give up bad habits. If you do, you’ll find you feel just as lousy, and your life will be just as crap, but now you’ll have nothing to blame it on. I’m resolving to do more work in 2018. It’s ridiculous that I don’t write more, especially when I see what’s achieved by writers with far less time than me. My other resolution is to stop comparing myself to other people. 

What are you hoping for from 2018?
To complete my next novel. It’s a dystopian comedy. The novel, not the fact that I’m hoping to complete it.