Tag Archives: Crime and Publishment

Review of 2016: Jackie Baldwin

Well, it’s that time of year again! We have a host of guests coming up this month to talk about their 2016 experiences. First up is someone I met earlier this year who has had a hugely positive impact on my writing life. 

I first met Jackie Baldwin at this year’s Crime and Publishment. Since then, I’ve spent time with her at both Noir at the Bar NE events – where Jackie was our first wild card reader – as well as Harrogate and Killer Women. Jackie gave me some phenomenal advice during the second Noir at the Bar NE and that set me on the path to finishing my novel. Since that conversation with Jackie, I have written more than I have done in the last five years combined. 

Jackie’s had a big impact on my 2016 – let’s hear about hers. 

Vic x

Jackie Baldwin

Jackie, it’s such a pleasure to have you back on the blog. Do you have a favourite moment professionally from 2016?
I think it would have to be the moment I received an e-mail dated 8th March from Killer Reads, Harper Collins, offering to publish my book, ‘Dead Man’s Prayer‘. It was so overwhelming and unexpected I didn’t stop shaking until lunchtime the next day!

Dead Man's Prayer

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I was one of 12 Spotlighted authors at The Bloody Scotland Crime Festival in Stirling on 9-11th September. This involved going up on a massive stage before the ‘Into The Dark’ Panel featuring well known authors Craig Robertson, James Oswald and Malcolm Mackay and reading for 3 minutes from my novel. To say I was absolutely terrified is an understatement. My favourite moment was when I finished reading without my voice betraying me and knew that I would never feel that same degree of fear again.

Bloody Scotland

Favourite book in 2016?
Fractured’ by Clar Ni Chonghaile. I found this book incredibly moving. It involved the kidnap of a journalist in war torn Somalia. He is held captive for some time with only fear and remorse to keep him company. His estranged mother, a former journalist herself, comes looking for him. He forms a tenuous friendship with the teenager who guards him and they resolve to escape. It is a novel about survivors and the real cost of civil war to the indigent population. It also helped to educate me a little on a subject I knew next to nothing about. The characters have stayed with me.


Favourite Film in 2016?
This one is easy. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘. I am a massive Star Wars fan as you can see from the fact that Darth Vader has pride of place in my living room. I felt so emotionally overwhelmed at the end I burst into tears.


What was your biggest adventure in 2016?
I went to Russia for a week, so many conflicting impressions to assimilate. Fascinating country and people!


Any downsides for you in 2016 generally?
I found launching myself on to Social Media from a standing start very challenging. At first I jumped a foot into the air every time my phone beeped but I am becoming more relaxed about it now. Now that I have more followers I hate that I can’t manage to read everything all the time in my Twitter feed because I worry I will miss something that matters, like someone having a wobble and needing support. However, I have started to realise that people retweet their posts at different times of the day so I probably do get to see most of it. And I do love to chat to people about robots and all things sci-fi! My Twitter handle (never thought I would say that!) is @JackieMBaldwin1

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Definitely! The main one is to get the first draft of my second novel finished by mid- March so I can go to India for 16 days. I have never been and would love to go but can’t book it until I feel I am on track to do that.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
Good health and happiness for those I hold dear.


Matching the Evidence Blog Tour: Graham Smith on the Creation of Characters.

Yesterday saw the release of Graham Smith’s short story Matching the Evidence. I feel very privileged to have Graham on the blog today to talk about the creation of characters. Following Graham’s post, you’ll get my review of his latest release. 

Graham has been massively pivotal in my life this year, encouraging me to set up the North East Noir at the Bar. In addition to that, his Crime and Publishment course setting me on the road to finally completing my novel. 

Congratulations on another job well done, Graham! 

Vic x

Matching the Evidence

Creation of Characters

Creating a character is about so much more than just picturing one face and writing about them. Sure every book has a lead character who more often than not is the narrator or focal point, but unless the book is Robinson Crusoe, you’ve got to think about the support characters. (Even Crusoe had a Man Friday)

These are the colleagues, the lovers, the criminals, the victims, the witnesses and a whole host of other people who are there to populate the story. To give the lead someone to interrogate. Or fall in love with. Or scheme against. Or pursue in a clichéd game of feline and rodent.

How our character interacts with these secondary characters is critical to the story’s success. A faithful sidekick can save the day. An over-bearing boss can haul the hero off the case. A long-suffering wife can walk out.

Every one of these relationships affects the story or character in one way or another, meaning us authors have to plot much more than just the plot. We have to consider each character in their own right and work out how the lead’s behaviour will affect them and their lives.

One of my favourite authors is Craig Russell and in his Lennox series he pulls off a marvellous trick of having cameo appearances from fantastic characters. He gives them no more than three of four pages of the story to themselves – in one case the character only got three lines – but they are scene stealers due to the way his lead Lennox  (as if it wasn’t obvious) reacts to and with them. I am such a fan of these “throwaway” (my word not his) characters that I have tried to emulate them in my own writing.

All of the characters in a novel have an agenda. All have hopes, fears and desires. This makes it imperative to never forget, “every character is the hero of their own story.”

Lots of famous leads have support characters who do more than just stand around doing nothing. Some of the best examples are

  • Sherlock Holmes had Dr Watson as a sidekick (explaining device) and Moriaty as a nemesis
  • Elvis Cole has Jo Pike as a friend who provides muscle as does Myron Bolitar in his friend Winn
  • Logan McRae has a co-dependent relationship with the incorrigible DI Roberta Steele
  • Bond has Blofeld as a nemesis
  • Jack Reacher has … (I’ll stop now before it becomes obvious I haven’t thought this through)

Whenever I introduce a new character; I have to spend a few minutes, or moments if I’m unusually lucky, working out what’s going through their heads. Are they afraid, or angry, or just plain bored? However they’re feeling, I have to depict them in a way that shows their emotions and allows my erstwhile lead DI Harry Evans continue to wreak his own brand of havoc.


Review: ‘Matching the Evidence‘ by Graham Smith.

Although ‘Matching the Evidence‘ is the third in the DI Harry Evans and Major Crimes Team series, don’t worry if this is your first meeting with Harry – ‘Matching the Evidence’, published by Caffeine Nights, can be read as a standalone story.

On the surface, this may look like the Major Crimes Team being punished for their prior bad behaviour and put on crowd control for a football match between Carlisle United and Millwall. However, things aren’t quite as they seem…

As always with Graham Smith’s writing, ‘Matching the Evidence‘ is dark, gritty and packs plenty of punches. There’s a real tension that runs throughout this story and, due to its length, you will want to devour it in one sitting. Not only do you get this brilliant short story but you also get a sneak preview of ‘I Know Your Secret’ – Harry Evans’s next case.

The Harry Evans series tackles a range of modern issues with a real grit and it looks like this cop is one who will be around for years to come.

Vic x

Guest post: Lucy Cameron on the first Noir at the Bar in England.

A couple of weeks ago, at Crime and Publishment, I was introduced to Lucy Cameron. Lucy is a lot of fun and I really enjoyed her company throughout the weekend. 

Born in London and having lived in South Wales, Liverpool, York and Nottingham, Lucy currently lives in a shed in her dad’s garden in Scotland where she wears thermals for warmth and writes by candlelight.

Lucy’s debut novel ‘Night Is Watching’ is due to be published by Caffeine Nights Publishing later this year. To find out more about Lucy, please visit her website

Thanks to Lucy for contributing to the blog!

Vic x

Lucy Cameron

Thursday 10th March 2016 was a night of firsts. It was the first ever Noir at the Bar in England, held at the Moo Bar in Carlisle. It was also my first ever invite to read at such an event alongside top name authors – No pressure there, then!


Noir at the Bar originates from America and made its UK debut in Scotland last year. The premise is simple and splendid. Crime writers and readers get together and selected writers are given a five-minute slot to read. Anyone and everyone is welcome. Who wouldn’t want to attend an event that combines crime writing and beer?


‘Crime Ink Corporated’ have now brought the event to England. Matt Hilton, Graham Smith and Mike Craven were our gracious hosts for the evening and from the offset made the atmosphere relaxed and welcoming.

Matt Hilton, Graham Smith and Mike Craven

I arrived in Carlisle at about 4pm and headed to The Crown and Mitre for a pre-event drink followed by a Nando’s, as you do. Then it was time to head to the venue, with the nerves starting to mount.

The Moo Bar was great location for England’s first ever Noir at the Bar, being big enough not to feel too crowded, but small enough to be intimate. By the time I arrived at 6.30pm, a crowd had already gathered and settled into the bar. All of the invited reader’s names were put into a hat (David Mark’s hat, no less) to be drawn at random by members of the audience.

David Mark was first to take to the mic claiming the accolade of being the first ever reader at Noir at the Bar in England. David read from his latest book and captivated the crowd from the offset.

David Mark

David Mark opens the event.

David was followed by Zoe Sharp and Neil White who continued to set the bar high, the audience listening with intrigue.

Zoe Sharp

Zoe Sharp

Neil White

Neil White

Every time a hand went into the hat I held my breath wondering if I would be next, but Jay Stringer completed the first half with a darkly amusing short story and poem that gave me chills. That’s some first half to follow.

Jay Stringer

Jay Stringer

The crowd were receptive and supportive and keen to listen to the variety of work the readers presented. The second half rolled around quickly and my name was first out of the hat. Matt Hilton helped calm my nerves with a humorous introduction. And I was off. And I loved every second of it.

Matt Hilton and Lucy Cameron.

Lucy Cameron

Tess Makovesky was next, and like myself was asked to read having been a success story of Graham Smith’s Crime and Publishment Crime Writing weekend. We have both gained publishing deals through contacts made at this excellent weekend with books due to be published later this year.

Tess Makovesky.

Tess Makovesky.

James Hilton and Paul Finch followed, their readings holding the attention of the audience. Yet again I heard people saying how different all the readings were and how much they were looking forward to reading the books of those speaking.

James Hilton

James Hilton

Paul Finch

Paul Finch

Then it was time for the wild card. The wild card was open to any writers in the room who dared to pop their names in a hat (or in this case, a pint glass) and be drawn at random to read. Linda Wright was drawn and rounded off the night perfectly.

Linda Wright.

Linda Wright.

For me the whole event was like realising one of my dreams, to be asked to read on a bill with authors I admire and look up to. Yes, I was very nervous but the support from my fellow writers and the audience helped no end. It was also a fantastic chance to make new friends and catch up with old ones. Would I do it again? In a shot. A huge thank you to the organisers and everyone I met who made the night so wonderful, and to everyone I didn’t meet but that was in the room making the event so special, I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

The Noir at the Bar gang

The Noir at the Bar gang

My final words? Get to the next Noir at the Bar event, you won’t be disappointed.


Countdown to Crime and Publishment

I got an email this evening with the subject line: Homework from Alexandra Sokoloff. I initially thought it was spam but then read the preview pane where Alexandra introduced herself as the Story Structure instructor for next week’s Crime and Publishment.

‘Next week is Crime and Publishment? Next week is the end of February?!’ an alarmed voice shouted in my head. ‘What happened to January?!’ 

Once I’d got over the fact that the first two months of 2016 had almost disappeared, I began to get excited for my trip to Gretna. The weekend consists of a variety of workshops from brilliant writers like Alexandra, Michael J. Malone, Matt Hilton and C&P’s own Graham Smith. There is also an opportunity at next weekend’s course to pitch your novel to Sara Hunt from Saraband Publishing and I will be taking Fix Me Up to showcase.

I made a promise to myself at the beginning of the year that I’d quietly chip away at my novel, 500 words a day, until it was done. I lasted less than a week doing that. It’s not that I’m lazy, I’m really not, it’s just that I tend to prioritise everything else above my own writing. The only time I write consistently is when I have a genuine deadline, if it’s self-imposed, I disregard it. However, I do still have about 25,000 words written and that’s not an insubstantial amount.

The thing I love about going to workshops and residentials is that I can’t help but get fired up to write. You’re surrounded by people who love stories, who enjoy reading and writing, and want to talk about it. I know the enthusiasm is still there, just buried at the bottom of my to-do list. I love the feeling of coming away from a workshop and thinking ‘I can’t wait to get writing again.’

And, of course, the fact that you get to pitch is an excellent incentive to attend Crime & Publishment. Organiser Graham Smith  says Crime and Publishment’s success rate of attendees getting published “is unprecedented for such a short-lived venture and a source of immense pride for me.”

There are only a few spaces left but if you’re quick, you might still be able to bag one!

Vic x