Tag Archives: charity

Don’t Quit the Day Job: Nicky Black

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.

I read ‘The Prodigal‘ in 2016 and have since got to know Nicky Black quite well. I’ve hosted her at Noir at the Bar Newcastle a few times as well as spending time with her at Bloody Scotland and Newcastle Noir. I’m really thrilled to have Nicky on the blog to discuss how her work life has influenced her writing. 

Thanks, Nicky, for taking the time to chat to us. 

Vic x

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Since self-publishing The Prodigal in 2015, I’ve met a lot of authors, some of whom write full time, some who don’t and many who dream of it. Now I like my own company, not because I’m the wittiest, most interesting person I know, but because I’m comfortable being on my own, but there’s only so much time I can spend in front of my laptop, in my living room, staring at the ugly plastic vent on my chimney breast wall. My day job serves many purposes – office banter (love it), a sense of achievement, and it pays the bills and it keeps me and my kitties fed.

I’ve had a 30 year career, mostly working either in, or in support of, “poor communities,” – firstly with Save the Children, then in urban regeneration and in the latter five years in welfare to work (I’m not going there…). I’ve seen the best and the worst of these communities, whether Cowgate in Newcastle or Hackney in London. The problems are the same: high crime, poor health, low educational achievement (there’s an actual list), and above all, a labelling of these communities as somehow undeserving and undesirable. There are many undesirables for sure, but where there’s a ying, there’s a yang, and I’ve also met the most passionate, fearsome, committed people who have nothing to their name, but who root for their communities and give them a voice. 

So, whilst The Prodigal and Tommy Collins (out this summer) fall within the crime genre, they aren’t police procedural stories (I leave that to those fabulous authors who can create twisty-turny whodunnits). My interest lies in the impact crime has on individuals, families and whole communities, and how that is dealt with by the authorities and the communities themselves. I’ve heard how the police talk about these estates, and I’ve experienced the disdain residents have for the police – both are valid in their own right. The Prodigal was actually inspired by a conversation with a police officer back in the nineties about informants or “grasses”– who are they? Why do they do it? The answer was that it is generally family members, almost always women, and they do it because they want that person they care about to stop. Pop those facts into a scenario where the grass is a woman, in love with a copper who’s after her criminal husband, and you’ve got drama. 

The housing estate itself where the books are set (the fictional Valley Park) is a key character, and I couldn’t have written it with any authenticity without the experience of working for 20 odd years with local residents, and the professionals who think they know what’s best for them (sometimes they do, I can’t argue with that). Valley Park is a grim place in The Prodigal, and even grimmer in Tommy Collins which is set ten years earlier in 1989 – the height of Thatcherism, unemployment and civil unrest. I’ve actually started to feel quite protective of the place and the pretend people who inhabit it, even the bad ones. It’s like the Mothership – a place you can’t escape. Anyway, I’m looking forward to book three which will bring Valley Park bang up to date, and I can have a pop at Beardy Men and gentrification (is there ever a happy medium?).

I’m out of the poverty game now. I left London in 2016 (I lived there for 14 years), had some time off, and now I’m back working pretty much full time again for a hospice charity (there may well be a future novel in that, who knows?). Now, my writing influences my day job in a way. I write grant applications, and this requires delivering a story with heart, hitting all the right notes that make those funders want to read on and see what they’ll get for their money. They’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and get some satisfaction from investing in you – much like readers, I suppose. I must be doing okay, because in eight months I’ve secured over £200,000, which is about £160,000 more than they’ve had in grants in any one year. I’m quite proud of that! 

It doesn’t leave me much time to write, as I do like to keep my social life active, my house clean and my cupboards stocked. That, coupled with my inability to stick to a plot, means my second book is about a year behind. But I’m getting there. You can be sure it’ll be full of grit, inspired by some of the best and worst people I’ve ever met through my day jobs.

Thank you for having me Vic, and hello to those of you reading this 😊 *waves* x

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Review of 2017: KA Richardson

Today is a Bloodhound Books bonanza on the blog! Not only have we had Owen Mullen reviewing his 2017, we now have KA Richardson to tell us all about her year. 

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have been friends with Kerry for several years and she is one of the nicest people I’ve met. My thanks to Kerry for taking the time to review her year. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Publication of Watch You Burn in May 2017 was amazing but also, I was asked to speak at a luncheon for the Darlington Soroptimists in November. The luncheon was to raise money for Shine which is a charity for people with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. Speaking was nerve wracking but I thoroughly enjoyed it and sold 30 odd books. I donated my fee to the charity – they raised £773 in those few hours! Absolutely fab.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Being able to move part time at work in January 2017 due to my royalties from writing.

Favourite book in 2017?
Monster in the Closet
by Karen Rose – but also Nameless by David McCaffrey. Both were brilliant reads.

Favourite film in 2017?
Ooooo tough one – so far probably Kingsman 2 though haven’t seen Thor or Justice League yet so it may change!

Favourite song of the year?
Despacito
– begrudgingly as I’m not a massive fan of Justin Bieber. And also Black Tears by Jason Aldean  – one of my absolute favourites of his.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
My rheumatoid arthritis has been flaring and worsening – luckily my rheumatology team are fantastic and taking steps to change meds etc. Everything else is grand though so not worrying too much.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I don’t really make resolutions as I don’t stick to them – but I intend to have book 5 in the North East police series published in April – and intend to finish and hopefully get a contract for my new romantic suspense series.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Book sales (haha poor author here!!) and happiness. The simple but meaningful things.

You can find Kerry on Facebook and Twitter.

Upcoming event: Nepal Earthquake Benefit Gig – Friday, 8th May.

Benefit gig

The wonderful folks at Danusha have arranged a benefit gig in support of the Nepal Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund. 

Today, I have Allison Davies, part of the Danusha team, to talk about Nepal and why she and her wonderful colleagues have arranged this event. 

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me today. What’s your link with Nepal? 

Back in 2008, I took a holiday and went to visit my friends Mike and Sue Lavender who were living and working in Nepal. They have a long history with the country beginning when Sue was 12 years old, as her parents worked at a hospital in Pokhara for a year. Sue met Mike and after he finished his medical training, he and Sue went off to work at a Leprosy Hospital. Since then, they’ve spent many years in Nepal, coming home for a time in the mid-90s for their kids’ schooling and with an adopted Nepali daughter.

In 2007, their children were all grown up so off they went again, this time to work with Nepal Leprosy Trust – hence my visit in 2008. I’d seen photos and heard plenty of stories, but nothing quite prepares you for the sheer beauty of the Nepali landscape, not to mention the country’s many stunning historic landmarks. Factor in the people who are warm, friendly and hospitable and I had no chance. I decided to do everything I could to get back to a place that was completely under my skin. It was the beginning of a life-long love affair.

So, tell us about Danusha.

There’s a saying, be careful what you wish for. Fast forward to 2010 and Sue, myself and another friend Katy Barr were in the process of setting up a small fair trade social enterprise – Danusha – working with marginalised women to provide skills training in jewellery making, alongside some simple health and hygiene education and literacy classes. Our goal was simple. To empower these women to make a difference in their communities. At this point our knowledge of the jewellery business could have been written on the head of a fairly small pin. We learned fast, made plenty of mistakes but somehow the project grew. We’ve visited Nepal many times since that time and have been thrilled to see the transformation in the lives of the women who work for us.

At the end of March 2015, Sue and I had just returned from a workshop visit. We were tired, happy, inspired and looking forward to what the next few months would bring.

Some of the Danusha team

April 25th, 2015 was just an ordinary Saturday, or so I thought until I got into the car and turned on the radio. Quake day. Nepal’s ground zero, when the landscape shifted, buildings tumbled and thousands of lives were smashed to pieces. I spent the rest of the day online, desperately reading the reports that began to flood in and hoping for news about our team. I felt sick, cried a lot and couldn’t sleep that night. Sue and Mike were also grief-stricken. On Sunday, there was one question that wouldn’t go away: “What can we do? We can’t just sit here. There must be something.”  Lightbulb moment: a benefit gig. Maybe we could get 15 – 20 people in a room, have a few performers and raise some cash.

It’s a brilliant idea, I bet it’s been getting a great response. 

The response from friends and colleagues was overwhelming. Within a few days we had a venue, free of charge at the Berkeley Suite in Whitley Bay, and a ton of performers queuing up to get a slot on the bill. In the midst of a dreadful situation, these generous people have been a shining band of hope. Words can’t tell you how grateful we are at what our friends are willing to give.

And then the news came that all our team were safe. We were overjoyed, yet still struggling with the scale of what had happened and the aftermath. It grieves us to know that friends are sleeping outside in the rain with no shelter, no clean drinking water and with food supplies running out. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands who are in the same position and worse, then get out of your seat and do whatever you can to help.

Danusha

What you guys are doing is brilliant. How do you feel now that you’re doing something?

Our gig is a small droplet in a gigantic ocean of need. We hope it will be a success and hope to help bring hope to a people who have lost theirs.

If you asked me to sum up the reason why I’m part of this, the answer is simple. I love Nepal and I’ll do anything to serve the country that stole my heart and inspired my soul.

Thanks Allison. Best of luck with the gig on Friday. 

Allison and her colleagues at Danusha are hoping to pack out the Berkeley Suite in Whitley Bay (9 Marine Avenue, NE26 1LY) this coming Friday, everyone is welcome.  It starts at 7pm and ends when we get kicked out! Please come prepared to have a good time and give generously. 

There’ll be great live music, poetry and stories from some of the north east’s finest; award-winning films from Beacon Hill Arts and a charity auction. The bar will be open and there will be snacks too. 

You can join the Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1578209815801018/ 

Donations will go the relief effort via Oxfam GB.

Off The Record: a charity anthology.

It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. Oh, wait….. No, that’s a completely different charity appeal. There’ll be no cheesy singing coming from this band of literary do-gooders. Instead there are 38 top-notch stories presented in ‘Off The Record’ – a charity anthology arranged and compiled by the wonderful Luca Veste.

Luca had the great idea of each of the authors picking a song title and writing a story around it. The anthology features lots of talented writers from the UK and US. You will see some familiar names – a few of this blog’s guests have contributed, as have I.

Proceeds from the book will go to the National Literacy Trust in the UK (http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/) and the Children’s Literacy Initiative in US (http://www.cliontheweb.org/).

So not only are you getting a darn good read, you’re helping others get the skills needed to enjoy a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Vic x

UK readers can get ‘Off the Record’ here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Off-Record-Charity-Anthology-ebook/dp/B006EU1E7S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324240330&sr=8-1

US readers order ‘Off the Record’ here: http://www.amazon.com/Off-Record-Charity-Anthology-ebook/dp/B006EU1E7S/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1324241034&sr=8-4

Positive thinking: let’s see if it works…

A friend of mine emailed me yesterday and suggested I try to avoid using words like “shattered”, “no hope” etc. She’s a big believer in Reiki and other spiritual healing, some might call her “kooky” but she’s a very upbeat, positive person who does a lot of positive work for charity.

In my current situation, I have been feeling rather frustrated as I don’t particularly feel like I’m getting any better or stronger and I’m no further forward with a diagnosis than I was five months ago.

However, other things are starting to look up and I need to take comfort from that. I’ve booked some leave from work (granted not until after the New Year but it’s better than nothing) so that The Boy Wonder and I can go on our annual trip to Oman.

I have a book review due to be printed in Closer Magazine (a national magazine in the UK) tomorrow and I’ve sent my details off to a couple more magazines to see if I can get any work with them.

My first guest blog has been uploaded to Close to the Bone today and I’ve had some great feedback off it. http://www.craigrobertdouglas.com/views/bros-before-hos-by-victoria-watson/

So it’s not all bad – gotta look on the bright side, eh? It could be worse, I could be Rebekah Brooks!

Vic x