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2018 Review: Paul Gitsham

Paul Gitsham is today’s end of year reviewer. It’s always nice to see Paul and it’s fab to have him on the blog today.

Thanks, Paul, for your review of 2018. Here’s to a top 2019!

Vic x

Cropped headshot.pngDo you have a favourite memory professionally from 2018?
2018 saw the release of the next two books in the DCI Warren Jones series. The first, a novella called A Case Gone Cold, released in May, was partly inspired by the real-life burglary of my parents’ home some years ago. It was pleasing that something positive could come out of a pretty unpleasant experience. 

The fourth full-length novel in the series, The Common Enemy, was released in September. Despite tackling difficult and challenging subject matter (Far-right extremism and the rising Islamophobia our country is experiencing), reviews have been positive.

Excitingly, the first 4 full-length novels in the series are now available as audiobooks, narrated by the wonderful Malk Williams.

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And how about a favourite moment from 2018 generally?
I can’t fail to mention my wonderful girlfriend, Cheryl, agreeing to marry me! Have a look at the acknowledgements in The Common Enemy if you want to see how I popped the question…

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Favourite book in 2018?
So many to choose from! Steve Cavanagh’s Thirteen cements his reputation as one of the best writers around today. Eddie Flynn is a wonderfully complex and likeable character, that gets better with every book. And how could I resist the tagline: The serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury? 

Favourite film in 2018?
Marvel Studios continue to delight and excite in equal measure, but a film that I really enjoyed was Bohemian Rhapsody. It had its flaws and some question its accuracy in parts, but the recreation of Live Aid was spine-tingling!

Favourite song of the year?
I tend to listen to Radio 4, rather than music when I’m driving, but Cheryl and I both love the 80s. The recent acoustic version of A-Ha’s Take on Me (as featured in Deadpool 2, bizarrely) is a real pleasure.

Any downsides for you in 2018?
We moved to a new house at the end of last year and it would seem that the former owners of our house had a real talent for covering up their DIY disasters…

Are you making resolutions for 2019?
I don’t really make resolutions, but a better work/life balance is a definite aim.

What are you hoping for from 2019?
The next two books in the DCI Warren Jones series will be released, starting with the next novella, A Deadly Lesson, in January and the next full-length in the summer.

I hope to get more writing time, in part to pursue some stand-alone projects alongside new DCI Warren Jones adventures.

We’d also like a lottery win sufficient for us to move into a 5-star hotel for a few weeks whilst somebody comes and sorts out our house!

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2018 Review: Emma Whitehall

Today’s guest is Emma Whitehall, member of Elementary Writers and editor of ‘Sisterhood‘. Like many of our guests, Emma has had a rather eventful year but I’ll let her tell you all about it.

My thanks to Emma for her honesty and for taking the time to review her 2018.

Vic x

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Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2018?
The first half of this year was dedicated to putting together Sisterhood, which is an anthology of fiction featuring some absolutely phenomenal women writers. I came up with the idea around this time last year – I wanted to celebrate female friendship, and put some good out into the world at the same time, and the idea hit me like a lightning bolt. I have to say, working on Sisterhood is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. So far, we’ve raised more than £300 for Newcastle Women’s Aid (a charity that helps women and children who are survivors of domestic abuse), and, on a personal note, I got to know nine truly wonderful, talented women, who have inspired me so much this year at times when I really wanted to throw in the towel. I am so, so proud of what we accomplished, and want to say thank you to all the girls – long live Elementary Sisterhood!  

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And how about a favourite moment from 2018 generally?
Anyone who knows me knows that the musical Hamilton has a very special place in my heart. For my birthday back in May, my mam and I travelled down to London to see the West End production, and it was incredible. I was sobbing before the first song was over, and essentially didn’t stop for nearly three hours. It was my first time in London, too! We did a little sightseeing the next day, and saw the city from the top of the London Eye, but being in the second row at a West End show, watching my favourite musical, was simply beyond compare. My mam was a good sport, too – seeing as she commented, about a month before we went down, that she “hates rap music”…

 Favourite book in 2018?
I also started a new job this year, working as a Bookseller at Waterstones, and one of the first books I read “for work” was The House With Chicken Legs, by Sophie Anderson. I hadn’t dipped into children’s fiction since I was a child myself, and this book rekindled my love of the genre. It’s a beautiful book, about a girl who is torn between following in her grandmother’s magical footsteps helping spirits pass on to the next life, and living a normal life on her own. I love it so much, and I was so happy to see it on the Blue Peter Book of the Year shortlist. Now, almost everything I read is “middle grade” fiction! 

Favourite film in 2018?
I’d have to go for The Shape of Water. A lot of the film was beauty for beauty’s sake, I thought – but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching. Plus, I love a strange, sad monster story – it’s all I write about!

Favourite song of the year?
This has been a year for fluffy pop on my Spotify playlist, if I’m being honest. My top two plays have been Cut to the Feeling by Carly Rae Jepsen, and Be Alright by Ariana Grande. I’ve had a lot of stress this year, and my usual crashing rock music or melodramatic Broadway numbers haven’t helped a lot – but both of these songs are light, happy, and leave me dancing, even just a little.

Any downsides for you in 2018?
This year has been non-stop, for me. I edited an anthology, changed jobs, nearly moved to London, and now I’m in the process of buying my first flat. I have to admit, this summer I had a very bad time with my anxiety. Luckily, I have some very good friends who set me on the right path when things were at their bleakest. Thanks to them, I went to counselling, made some tough choices, and I’m leaving the year feeling more positive. 

Are you making resolutions for 2019?
To be kind to myself. The main thing I took away from my counselling was that I’m not very good at that. So my main resolution for 2019 is to stop giving myself a hard time, accept compliments when I get them, and try to stick to the new thought patterns my counsellor taught me. 

What are you hoping for from 2019?
I want to do more with Sisterhood. I always said to the girls that I’d love it to become a regular publication, and to open submissions up to everyone who identifies as a woman. But, in the short term, I just want to get settled into my new home, and get it looking how I want it to. I get to have a study, and I can’t wait to have a special place just for writing!

Don’t Quit the Day Job: Nicola Ford

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.

Today’s guest is Nicola Ford. Nic’s here to talk to us about her double life and how that influenced her to write her debut novel ‘The Hidden Bones‘. My thanks to Nic for sharing her knowledge and experience with us. 

Vic x

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I love writing. I’ve always loved writing. And I’ve always loved reading crime fiction. So when I decided to turn my hand to writing fiction there was only ever going to be one genre for me. And I’m among the most fortunate of people because after much time spent applying my backside to my office chair and, as seems compulsory for all writers more than a smattering of self-doubt, my debut crime novel The Hidden Bones was published in June this year. 

So I have a job I love – crime writer. But that’s not the end of the story, or maybe I should say it’s not really even the beginning; because like many writers I lead a double life. By night I’m crime fiction writer Nicola Ford but by day I’m Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. 

So I live a life steeped in the distant past. Wiltshire, the place that I’ve called home for a decade and a half is thronging with ancient burial mounds and prehistoric stone circles. And much of my time is spent digging up their secrets and delving into the mysteries that lie buried deep within museum archives.

Some writers may dream of giving up the day job, but for me I’m an archaeologist to my core. It’s one half of who I am and provides not only the backdrop, but also the inspiration for my crime writing. The Hidden Bones is set amid the chalk uplands of the Marlborough Downs an area I know intimately as I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life working there. 

Often rural is equated with ‘cosy’, but for those of us who live and work here we know that life in the countryside is anything but. If you’re born without money or means, or elderly and alone, rural life can be tough. And the shock waves left behind by violent crime can have a deep resonance that persists down through the generations in small, sometimes isolated communities.

The Hidden Bones delves into the secrets of one such community.  Clare Hills returns to Wiltshire in search of new direction in her life after the death of her husband in a car crash. She’s only too glad to take up old college friend, Dr David Barbrook’s offer of helping sift through the effects of recently deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart. When they discover the finds and journals from Gerald’s most glittering excavation, they think they’ve found every archaeologist’s dream. But the dream quickly becomes a nightmare as the pair unearth a disturbing discovery, putting them at the centre of a murder inquiry and in the path of a dangerous killer determined to bury the truth forever.

In both halves of my working life I spend my time dealing with the dead. And in trying to figure out how they came to die, I’ve found that the most important clues are often found in understanding how they lived. I’m fascinated by the imprint that choices made by people in the – sometimes far distant – past leave on our lives, in ways we may never understand. And many of the scientific techniques I draw upon in my day job form the fundamental building blocks of modern police investigations. So Nicola Ford crime writer is inextricably interlinked with Dr Nick Snashall archaeologist. Two halves, one whole – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

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Review of 2017: Lucy Cameron

I am so happy to have my “sister” Lucy Cameron on the blog today. Lucy and I first met at Crime and Publishment almost two years ago and since then, we have discovered we have an unhealthy amount of things in common! I have so many happy memories of times with Lucy and I feel so lucky to know her. 

I hope you enjoy Lucy’s 2017 review as much as I did!

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I most certainly do. My debut novel Night Is Watching was published on the 6th April this year. I had an amazing launch at the Theatre Royal in Dumfries with loads of family and friends. The wonderful Matt Hilton was The Host with the Most and as one of the first writers I met when I moved to Dumfries that was pretty special. After several years of waiting for Night Is Watching to be published the launch exceeded all of my dreams and was one of the best experiences of my year, quite possibly my life, so far.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
There are so many it is really hard to pick. I will go with buying my house. The day I got the keys and had a glass of fizz with family and friends was brilliant. Seven months later there is still plenty of work to do but it is finally starting to feel like home.

Favourite book in 2017?
Still Bleeding 
by Steve Mosby. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am a huge fan of Steve Mosby but Still Bleeding really blew me away. This book is a clever page turner that has stayed with me long after I finished it. As soon as I finish drafting my current work in progress I will read it again – and there are very few books I have read twice.

Favourite film in 2017?
I haven’t watched many films this year so What We Do In The Shadows remains my current favourite. It’s an Australian mockumentary about a group of vampire flatmates. It is laugh out loud funny so great for lifting my spirits – it has dark elements to it (it is about vampires, after all) but well worth a giggle.

Favourite song of the year?
I don’t really have one as I rarely listen to music. Anything by Take That – judge that as you may.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
A year is made of ups and down but nothing major on the down front for me this year. The year has been a good one but feels like it has gone very quickly so I guess the standard ‘not enough hours in the day’ would be a downside if anything.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I love the start of a new year and am always full of great plans and ideas. I would like to get fit in 2018 and as the chaos of my house move settles plan some proper writing time Monday to Friday.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I hope to continue to be happy, spend quality time with family and friends, be healthy.
Book-wise I plan to finish the follow-up book to Night Is Watching and in addition try a bit of comedy writing as it is something completely different.

Review of 2017: Gill Hoffs

Hello and welcome to day 3 of the 2017 reviews!

Thanks to Rachel Amphlett for yesterday’s review. Following in her shoes today is Gill Hoffs. Lovely Gill has been a long-time friend of this blog and it would be wrong to not see how her year has been. My thanks to Gill for today’s post.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I’ve loved giving talks on shipwrecks and writing for clubs and festivals throughout the UK, but the high point was, without a doubt, signing with Pen & Sword for my third shipwreck book.  The Lost Story of the Ocean Monarch: Fire, Family, and Fidelity will be out in time for the 170th anniversary of this awful accident next summer, and I’m verrrrrry excited about it!

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Moving into my new house, a tiny two-up two-down with an outhouse and a friendly ghost.  When I first walked in, it was like stepping into a hug.  Soon afterwards, my folks came to visit from Scotland and helped me get things shipshape.  There’s now an adult-sized swing in the backyard, where I eat breakfast (even when it’s chilly) and sometimes fall asleep after a long shift, and a tiny pond full of leeches and snails.  I have a model lighthouse instead of a hearth or a mantelpiece, and I’ve never felt more at home.

Favourite book in 2017? 
The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston, which I first read (and adored) as a child.  I was so relieved to find it just as joyous, sinister, and poignant as I remembered.  This is definitely a book that shaped me, and worth coming to as an adult.  I’ve also been lucky enough to read some crackers from Steve Mosby, Belinda Bauer, and Michael Malone this year.

Favourite film in 2017? 
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2.  So much so, I have a giant poster of it in my living room and think of the opening scene Baby Groot dicking about to “Mr Blue Sky” if I’m feeling low and need a wee mental lift.  The music, the colours, the humour, the sadness … it all adds up to sheer escapist joy for me.  A close second is Morning Glory, a charity shop find which I enjoy more with every viewing.

Favourite song of the year?
Across the Universe
by the Beatles.  It’s not a song I was very familiar with before now, but for some reason my brain insisted that having this track on repeat was crucial while writing The Lost Story of the Ocean Monarch and I can’t imagine my year without it.  Another song I’ve listened to on repeat throughout the year is Eddie Floyd’s Knock on Wood which my little boy likes to knock along to.  I don’t blame him.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Everything went a bit wrong this year, in many ways, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that.  I’m now a single mum with a new home and a new job.  But things are on the up, I hope, and when I’m feeling a bit fragile I try and find an opportunity to be kind – making someone a cake, feeding wildlife, clearing overgrown paths – and it seems to help.  As do profiteroles.  Lots of them.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I resolve – generally, not specifically for 1 January to 31 December – to find whatever joy I can, wherever I can, as often as I can.  And to make more macaroni cheese (and eat it).

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Success and stability would be nice, but given the state of things in 2017, for the human race to survive at all would be *something*.  But that’s a bit bleak, so how about signing my novel (Lord Of The Flies meets Jaws) with an agent and/or publisher?  That would be SMASHING.