Category Archives: Events

Guest Post: Rachel Amphlett on Bouchercon 2017

Having been to a few crime writing festivals this year, there is one I’d really like to attend but haven’t managed yet. 

Bouchercon is an annual world mystery convention where readers, writers, publishers, editors, agents and booksellers gather for four days to talk all things crime fiction and mystery. Bouchercon is a non-profit, volunteer-led festival. 

The venue changes every year – this year, everyone gathered in Toronto. Although I wasn’t able to attend, the wonderful Rachel Amphlett has been kind enough to share her experience with us.

Hopefully I’ll get there one day.

Vic x

Bouchercon 2017 from the frontline.
By Rachel Amphlett

Some five years in the planning process, over 700 authors and an equal amount – if not more – of avid readers, and Bouchercon 2017 was ready to open its doors on 12 October at the Sheraton Central in Toronto.

I was astounded at how many avid crime fiction readers descend on the conference – speaking to Mark and Sharon from Denver, it turns out they travel around North America every year to come to these – it’s a “must do”, and it seems they’re not the only ones!

This year was the 48th iteration of the popular conference, and included the thirty year anniversary for Sisters in Crime. The programme boasted an incredible choice of seminars and conversations – it was impossible to get to everything, but here are some of the highlights for me.

Given the number of psychological thrillers/domestic suspense novels out, the “Urban Noir” panel authors were asked: is the city scarier than the suburbs?

Not so, according to Michael Harvey, who pointed out that the current trend of psychological thrillers/domestic suspense often features characters who live in suburbia and, as Rebecca Drake added, often have more capacity for evil.

Gary Dvorik’s view was that the noir energy of the forties and fifties has been “cleansed” from cities, and that urban noir has moved to the suburbs, where it looks set to stay for some time. Julia McDermott raised a good point in that protagonists in urban noir are people who aren’t typically thought of as heroes – hence the popularity of what some are calling “domestic suspense” (although it was discussed whether the changing genre titles are simply down to publishers’ marketing departments!). 

It seems that Breaking Bad still resonates with a lot of people as an example of suburban crime, and as Rebecca pointed out, “noir is a darkness that lurks in all of us, just waiting to be tapped”.

The panel entitled “Unkind Settings” proved popular, and included a wide range of thriller sub-genres including disaster and dystopia. The panel were asked what they thought the allure of apocalyptic settings was, and Tim Washburn said he likes to drop his characters into that sort of scenario to see how resourceful they can be in order to survive. Adam Sternbergh made a great point that, as a writer, the setting should make you nervous – it’s almost like a character in itself.

The panel discussed the advantages of an unkind setting, and agreed that it plants the reader right in the action from the start, and then there’s always room to turn up the heat on your characters even more!

Joe Hart’s closing remark very much made me sit up and think about story potential, in that “when consequences are taken away, a character’s moral restrictions fade, too” – exactly how far would you be willing to go in order to survive?

There were at least two panels taking a look at the advantages and disadvantages of writing a series versus writing a standalone novel.

The first, “Standalones”, moderated by Craig Sisterson and featuring Kathy Reichs and Linwood Barclay, looked at how authors with established series then strike out and write a standalone. The reasons for this were quite similar – two authors had been asked by their publishers to write something new, and another author whose first series hadn’t taken off at that time was requested by his agent to try something different.

We also found out during the panel that Kathy hates bugs – a rather large cockroach appeared on the table in front of her, but was quickly dispatched by fellow panellist Kate White. Reichs admitted afterwards that she’s “much happier dealing with maggots”!

Back to the standalone/series debate and, in all cases, the authors agreed that they relished the change, and felt refreshed upon returning to their series titles. Of course, through writing a standalone, there was also the opportunity to develop a further series if readers liked the characters.

As with all crime fiction festivals, a lot of the time could be spent on the concourse where authors and readers could mingle and share their love of the genre. The hospitality suite, bars and café on the upper levels were certainly doing a roaring trade over much of the weekend.

For me, Bouchercon 2017 was an opportunity to catch up with friends, make some new ones, chat about my own work on influences, research, and writing habits on a couple of panels (“Government Agencies” and “A World of Thrills”), and meet some of my writing heroes while taking copious notes that I’m sure will inspire me for months (if not years) to come.

And for the organisers? Well, they’re already setting their sights on the next four Bouchercon conferences to be held in North America over the coming years, with special guests already confirmed including Karin Slaughter, Mark Billingham, and Ian Rankin (2018 – St Petersburg, FL), James Patterson and Harry Hunsicker (2019 – Dallas, TX), and Scott Turow and Walter Mosley (2020 – Sacramento, CA).

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Death at the Docks

A wonderful write-up of Death at the Docks – thanks to Jennifer C Wilson.

Source: Death at the Docks

Residential Writing Retreat with Stephanie Butland

I know regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the lovely Stephanie Butland, writer of the tremendous Lost for Words. Well, now’s your chance to spend some time with Stephanie on a writing retreat in Yorkshire. 

Spaces are filling up fast, though, so if you fancy attending, book now! 

Vic x

Writing Retreat with Stephanie Butland, February 2018 

Do you need time to focus on your writing? 

Is there something missing from your novel? 

Do you have a folder full of stories and snippets that you aren’t sure how to progress? 

You might be working on your first novel, or writing short stories, or looking for some space to help you decide whether you want to write at all.

You might be trying out a first-person narrator, or writing from multiple viewpoints.

Maybe your dialogue doesn’t feel right.

Whatever your level and experience, this retreat is designed to help you to become a better writer. 

You’ll complete writing exercises, examine techniques, and discuss what you want to achieve with your writing. And of course you will have plenty of time and space to think and write!

Come along for tutored writing sessions, 1:1 feedback, the company of fellow writers, great food, and wonderful surroundings. Write, think, sleep, explore, and return to the world refreshed, inspired and raring to go.

Our venue is the beautiful Garsdale Retreat in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Details:
Thursday 22 February 2018 (4pm) – Tuesday 27th February 2018 (10am).
Fully catered. Only two spaces left – single rooms with a shared bathroom, £700 per person.

To book, or if you have any questions, please email Stephanie at me@stephaniebutland.com or drop her a line on social media.

Writing Retreat at St Mary’s Island.

Writing Retreat on St Mary’s Island, Whitley Bay.

Have you ever wanted to just write, cut off from the world? Elementary V Watson is giving you that opportunity on Sunday, 20th August.

All too often, the distractions of modern life get in the way of our creativity so I’m inviting you to attend a writing retreat with a difference. Come to the iconic St Mary’s Island in Whitley Bay and experience a stranding where the only thing you’ll have to do is write!

The retreat will run from 12:30pm – 6pm and the causeway will be covered for the majority of that time.

As a participant of the retreat, you will have the opportunity to walk around the island and write wherever you feel comfortable. This retreat is aimed at writers of all genres and experience who want to write independently but there will be prompts to inspire your writing plus the opportunity to get feedback on your work. I’ll be available throughout the session, too, to provide one-to-one support and guidance where required.

You’ll have access to an indoor space with tea and coffee facilities but you will need to bring your own lunch / snacks.

Spaces are limited so book now! The cost for the retreat is £30. In order to secure your place, a 50% non-refundable deposit of £15 is required. Please email me for more information. Spaces are filling up fast!

Coming soon…

I’m delighted to announce that, with a little help from some friends, I am taking Noir at the Bar back to Harrogate in July this year.
Thanks to Jacky Collins of Newcastle Noir and writers Lucy Cameron and Neil Broadfoot, I can announce that we’ll be running Noir at the Bar on Thursday, 20th July from 4:30pm. 
Hosted at the noir-y Blues Bar on Montpellier Parade, Noir at the Bar Harrogate will not only feature readings from up-and-coming authors as well as more familiar faces but there will be a special performance by the Slice Girls!
Entry is free and doors open at 4pm. There will be opportunities to win books by picking a reader out of the hat.
Hope to see you there,

Vic x

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

The launch of ‘Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile’.

Today I was lucky enough to attend my friend’s book launch. Jennifer C. Wilson first attended Elementary Writers in 2014 and, as Jen put it today, ‘we were great writing acquaintances’. In the last year, or so, though, we’ve become really great friends, realising that we have a great deal in common.


Jen has an incredible work ethic: ‘Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile‘ is the follow-up to ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London‘. Jen also manages to work full-time as well as running all manner of events as part of The Next Page with Elaine Cusack and Sandy Chadwin.


Today was a wonderful celebration of Jen’s hard work paying off. The room at the Town Wall was full of people who wanted to toast Jen’s success. It was brilliant to hear Jen read from ‘Kindred Spirits‘ as well as having the opportunity to hear her talk about writing during the Q&A.


Jen is already working on the third in the series and, having heard extracts in the writing group, I am already looking forward to that book coming out (and the inevitable party to celebrate its release!).

Congratulations, Jen!

Vic x