Tag Archives: Kindle

Guest Post: Judy Penz Sheluk on Using your Past to Create your Present

I’m pleased to have Judy Penz Sheluk here today to talk about her forthcoming release ‘Past & Present‘ and how her own family’s journey inspired it.

I’m so grateful to Judy for sharing such a personal experience with us. 

Vic x


I’m Canadian, born and raised in Toronto, and I’ve lived within a two-hour drive of that city all my life. My parents, on the other hand, were first generation Canadians, having immigrated to Canada in the early 1950s.

Their stories are similar to so many of the time. My father was born in Apatin, Yugoslavia, a small town on the Danube that is now part of Serbia. My mother was born in Stettin, Germany, now known as Szczecin and part of Poland. Both of them, teenagers during the war, and displaced after, made their way to England and settled in Nottingham for a period of time. 

By the time they met at a local dance, my father was set to immigrate to Toronto, Canada, in February of 1952 (such a brave soul—Toronto in February is, at best, cold and snowy, and at worst, colder and snowier). At any rate, it must have been love at first sight, because my mother applied for her own papers and arrived in Toronto in July 1952, on a hot, humid day. They married that October. 

Fast forward to September 21, 2016, when my mother, Anneliese, passed away from complications of COPD, following my father, Anton “Toni” Penz, who had died of stomach cancer in 1970 at the age of 42. Among her things was an old train case, and within it, her old passport, immigration papers, and documents and postcards from the T.S.S. Canberra, the ship she sailed over on. My mother had never talked much about her life “before Canada” and I became fascinated with finding out everything I could. The resulting research sparked an idea for a book, and my protagonist’s research into the past often mirrors my own, right down to the frustrating bits.


T.S.S. Canberra postcard, c. 1950s.

I’ve dedicated Past & Present to my mother, and the release date of September 21, 2018, falls exactly two years after her passing. I like to think she’s with my father again, watching over me as my journey continues. 


About Past & Present:

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto? 

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted. 

About the author: Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short stories appear in several collections.

Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, International Thriller Writers, Inc., the South Simcoe Arts Council, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors, representing Toronto and  Southwestern Ontario.

Judy Penz Sheluk’s latest book in her Marketville Mystery series, Past & Present’, is now available for pre-order on Amazon in trade paperback and on Kindle.


Review of 2017: Tana Collins

Today on the blog, my friend Tana Collins is sharing her year with us. 

One of the highlights of my year has been meeting new people associated with writing and Tana is one of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Spending time with this wonderful lady is always a joy so I hope you enjoy Tana’s review as much as I have enjoyed her company this year.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
This is so hard to answer, Vic. This year has been truly phenomenal for me. I’ve had two books published following the thrill of getting a 3 book publishing deal with Bloodhound Books in October 2016.

Publication day of 14th February 2017 of my debut novel, Robbing the Dead was one of the best days of my life topped only by it reaching No 1 in Amazon kindle sales for Scottish Crime Fiction. I also appeared on my first ever panel in 2017 at Newcastle Noir with the lovely Shelley Day and Michael Wood. Honestly, there have been so many it’s hard to choose one. In September I was fortunate enough to be picked as one of the Spotlighters opening for Lynda La Plante no less. Now you’ll think I’m bragging so I’m going to move on to answering the next question. 

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
On a personal front there are a couple of favourite moments. My best friend, Bettina, turned 50 and I flew out to Germany to be with her. And if that’s not enough excitement my friend, Terry, got married. I had known Terry for nearly 30 years but we’d lost touch so being back in contact and seeing him get married to a lovely girl called Jacqui was very emotional.  And I’ve also loved meeting and spending time with bloggers and authors such as Ian Skewis, Jackie McLean and Kelly Lacey at writing events and festivals.

Favourite book in 2017?
I’ve read a few wonderful books in 2017 but the two that stand out are Ian Skewis’s A Murder of Crows and Jackie McLean’s Toxic. 

Favourite film in 2017?
Do you know I don’t think I saw a single film in 2017. Isn’t that terrible?! Too busy focusing on the books! However I have enjoyed Detectorists and Poldark on TV. 

Favourite song of the year? 
I was lucky to see several bands in 2017 including Chuck Prophet and Nick Cave. I think my favourite song would have to be Nick Cave’s Girl in Amber. It’s raw and hugely emotional. I cried my eyes out at the gig when I heard it for the first time.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Politically it’s been another tumultuous year. The world has gone to a very dark place but, do you know, I refuse to be a pessimist. We’ll turn a corner and things will get brighter but we all have to work together to do it and to stand up for what we feel’s right in our hearts. On a personal note we lost my partner’s dad which was incredibly sad and still very raw.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
2017 was such a busy year I think if I’ve got a New Year’s resolution for 2018 it would be to try to claw some time back for me. I would like to get involved in some environmental projects. I would love to be able to find the time to become a recorder for Butterfly Conservation but I say that every year. I will do it. I’ve just needed to put it on the back-burner. Perhaps 2018 will be the year! Oh, and I need to get fit! 

What are you hoping for from 2018?
My third Jim Carruthers novel, Mark of the Devil, is being released on 24th April 2018. My big hope for 2018 is that it is received as well as the first two books. I had great fun in the writing of it. As it’s part set in Estonia I had to travel to Tallinn for it and I’ve done a lot of research on international art crime which was fascinating. To be honest I’m already excited about 2018 from a writing point of view. I’m just not sure it can live up to 2017!

Can I just say a personal thank you for letting me be part of your blog and wish you all the best for 2018, Vic.

Review of 2016: KA Richardson

The prolific KA Richardson is reviewing her year for us today. I had the pleasure of spending time with Kerry at lots of events this year including Newcastle Noir, Harrogate and Noir at the Bar. 

It’s a real pleasure to see her career as a writer go from strength to strength – I don’t know how she does it! Thanks for being a part of it, Kerry! 

Vic x


Wow 2016 has been a busy one! So much going on I feel like I’ve met myself coming the other way at times. But it’s been an interesting one!


Starting at the beginning is always the best bet I think. March saw the publication of my short story, Escape, which was published by Caffeine Nights – only 100 hard copies were produced so if you got your hands on one then well done you as it’s pretty rare! With Deadly Intent, my first novel in the North East Police series was published in April – and I started promoting, had a launch party and had contact with lots of lovely readers who had fallen in love with Cass and Alex, as I did. I never in my wildest dreams truly believed that people would enjoy my writing – and this gave me the first burst of confidence in my writing and belief in myself.


Those who know me know I’m generally really positive – and I am. But I’ve always suffered with confidence issues and my writing has helped me nourish the belief that I could actually do something other than my day job.

April was an exciting month for other reasons too – I approached Bloodhound Books to see if any other publishers would be interested in my writing – the fabulous Eileen Wharton had been published by them had found them to be amazing and, in truth, I was genuinely curious to know whether my books would be sellable elsewhere. Within 24 hours of the submission, Bloodhound had offered me a 3 book deal. This left me with some thinking to do as obviously I already had a publisher. In the end, though, I made the difficult decision and moved to Bloodhound which turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made.


They published my second novel, I’ve Been Watching You in June – and the sales blew me away! It got to number 24 in the paid Kindle chart and was a Kindle All Star 3 months in a row! I’m still in shock at this! So many lovely readers bought it and enjoyed it. This humbled me greatly. And still does.


Because I’m one of those folks who is ultra organised, I actually had books 2 and 3 complete when I approached Bloodhound, and book 4 was well under way. Thanks to it being finished, Bloodhound also published book 3 in the series, Time to Play, in September 2016! So, three novels out within the first nine months of the year. Even saying that makes me sit back and go ‘wow’. It still all feels a little surreal! Almost like it’s happening to someone else. But it’s not – my writing is doing better than I’d ever imagined. And it’s here I’d like to say a sincere thank you to everyone who’s bought the books. It’s the readers that make this all worthwhile and I have so much love for all of you.

I had the opportunity in the later half of the year to be part of something amazing too – I was asked by Bloodhound to produce a short story to be included in an anthology in which all proceeds go to fabulous charities – Hospice UK and Sophie’s Appeal. Hospice UK provide support for over 200 hospices in the UK, and Sophie’s Appeal was set up by the mother of Sophie Barringer who died from a rare form of cancer. The fund supports other people who suffer. It was an honour to be asked to participate, and even greater honour to be included in something that raises both money and awareness of such great causes. There are 41 short stories in the anthology, Dark Minds, from some absolutely cracking authors, like MA Comley, LJ Ross, Jim Ody, and Betsy Reavley, and it’s available for purchase in ebook, paperback and audiobook via Amazon and in all good bookshops.


2016 has been amazing for all the above reasons – but also challenging in areas not just related to writing, and not just for me, for lots of people I know. I’ve been struggling with my Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects my joints giving pain and swelling, but also can give bad fatigue which for me, has been horrendous. It’s impacted on so many aspects of my life – work, writing and even my home life. It’s hard adapting to having a disease for which there is no cure, only management, but I’m getting there slowly. My husband, Peter, was rushed into hospital a few weeks ago and was in for almost 2 weeks – he’s been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis which is basically ulcers on his colon and large intestine – another auto-immune disease. But despite this, we’ve had so much support from our friends, and relatives, both in real life and online. It’s helped us both come to terms with what we have, and continues to give us the support and love.

I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened this year – both good and bad. Sometimes you need the bad to show you just how strong you are and can be when you have no other choice. And to show you the things in life you shouldn’t take for granted. I have amazing friends, fantastic family, and a whole host of people online who show me every day that life is for living. So I’m going to just forget the bad side of 2016, and focus on all the amazing things that have happened. 2017 will be a great year – because I will make it a great year. Thank you all for being here for me as I’ve hopefully been here for you- I hope 2017 is as fantastic for you as it will be for me. Much love.  Xx

Howard Linskey reviews his 2013.

I’m dead (see what I did there?!) happy to have Howard Linskey on the blog. His books are very popular with my friends and family, here he is to review his 2013. 

Vic x

Howard Linskey

2013 has been a great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

My second novel ‘The Damage’ getting to number 2 in the Amazon Kindle chart, rubbing shoulders with JK Rowling, Dan Brown and John Grisham along the way, was probably the highlight of another very good year. That was pretty special.

Having a very lively launch party for my latest book ‘The Dead’ was a great memory too, as I felt like I deserved a few drinks with good friends to celebrate its completion.

And how about a favourite moment from 2013 generally?

Taking my seven year old daughter on a plane for the first time was a memorable moment for me. We had a great family holiday visiting some very good friends in Austria.

The news was of course dominated by a new pope and a royal baby, both of which left me almost catatonic with apathy, as they involved hereditary royalty and organized religion, both of which baffle and annoy me. I did enjoy watching Andy Murray win Wimbledon though, after all those years of near-misses. Fair play to him.

Favourite book in 2013?

Megan Abbott’s ‘Dare Me’ was refreshingly different. I like crime novels that go beyond murder and police procedure. This one explored the human psyche in a believable way, focusing on the intense relationship between high school girls and their glamorous, new teacher, who has a dark secret.

Favourite film of 2013?

Rush’, ‘World War Z’, ‘Gravity’, ‘World’s End’ and ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ were just some of the movies I was looking forward to…but missed. Thanks to the joys of parenthood it was mostly DVDs for me in 2013 rather than cinema trips, unless you count ‘The Smurfs 2’, which I really don’t. I did get to see ‘Argo’ though, which was good, so I’ll go with that one; at least until ‘Rush’ comes out on DVD.

Favourite song of the year?

I can hardly remember any songs from 2013 if I’m honest. I did spend a few weeks painting my house at the beginning of the year before we moved in and had the radio on in the background. ‘Mirrors’ by Justin Timberlake was played a lot and I quite liked it. I understand Justin is a clean-cut sort of chap who is popular with the younger generation, so I’ll pick that and I can pretend I am down-with-the-kids.

The Dead

Any downsides for you in 2013?

Writing is always two steps forward and one back so, as usual, there were numerous knockbacks, near-misses and slaps in the face but I try not to dwell on the crap moments and instead focus on the good ones. Thankfully there were plenty of those too.

Are you making resolutions for 2014?

I don’t do that, as I have very little will power, and would end up feeling bad when my resolutions lasted a matter of hours.  The only thing I’ve ever successfully given up on New Year’s Eve is making resolutions.

What are you hoping for from 2014?

I’m hoping I’ll get my latest book completed. It features new characters and is a departure from my David Blake stories, so it’s uncharted territory for me. My main hope, other than finishing it, is that people might actually like the bloomin’ thing when it’s finally done.

If Santa was to bring you any one thing you wanted on Xmas morning, what would it be?

A trophy for Newcastle United. “Dear Santa could Newcastle please win something one day; anything, really? I have been a very good boy, honest. Well, kind of.”

Check out Howard Linskey’s website

Pete Sortwell reviews his 2013.

Pete Sortwell has had a pretty amazing year. Here he is to tell us about it.
Vic x
Pete Sortwell
2013 has been a really great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally? 
I think hitting ten thousand sold self published books is the favourite, although seeing ‘So Low, So High’ published in June is a VERY close second. Both things were complete pipe dreams less three years ago. I was writing about the beginning of my journey recently as I’m putting all my old short stories out. It took me back to how I used to feel, how I was too scared to tell anyone I was writing in case they took the piss. The shift hasn’t just been in my thinking but also my output has changed so much.
Professionally, I’ve also finally made it into a management position in my ‘real’ job. I get to train people to be peer mentors for others who are either in, or heading, for recovery from drugs and/or alcohol. While doing this, I realised just how much I’ve learned along the way. One of the things I also get to do is run a creative writing group.
The only thing I need to look at now is my work life balance, as at present it’s pretty work heavy. I’m not sure what the answer is though, slowing down on the writing probably. We’ll see.
Short Stories
And how about a favourite moment from 2013 generally?

Royal Baby, Pft. Sortwell baby. March 19th at 4.02am, my daughter was born. It’s something that’s changed my life, probably drove me to work harder than I’ve ever worked before. I spent much of my early adult years seeing things get broken, so to see Lilly grow is something I’m glad I get to see everyday. She’s going to be as much as a handful as I was (well, hopefully not THAT much) but she’s great and I love her and her mum to bits. Every day I see her with my parents or speaking to Lucie’s on Skype (bashing the laptop) is a favourite moment.

Favourite book in 2013?
The Henry Root Letters‘. I know it wasn’t released in 2013 but it’s my favourite read this year. There were a few people that mentioned either in reviews or in emails that the ‘Idiot Reviews‘ reminded them of those books so I had a look and they’re great. I’m pleased to have been compared to such a good writer as Willie Donaldson. Although I hope I don’t end up like he did.
Favourite film of 2013?

Erm, I’ve gone downhill in my film watching this year, I think it’s because I watch them at home now and am always working at the same time, so I lose track. ‘The Purge‘ was OK.

Favourite song of the year?

Headlights by Eminem. It’s powerful apology to his Mother.

Any downsides for you in 2013?
Being tired all the time, but I know it’ll be worth it in the end.
Are you making resolutions for 2014?

Nope, I never stick to them, I hope it’ll be 2014 that I manage to sort out the work life balance, but we’ll see.

What are you hoping for from 2014?

More book sales would be nice. My absolute dream for any year is to either enter the top 100 on Kindle overall chart or to top the humour chart, which I’d be happy for any year.

If Santa was to bring you any one thing you wanted on Xmas morning, what would it be?

A remote control car big enough to put Lilly in and drive her about. Oh, and an elf outfit to put her in too, I’ve already got my Santa kit.

Click here for a full list of Pete’s available work:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=pete+sortwell 

Getting to Know You: Valerie Laws

Today I’m happy to have yet another fellow North-East writer chatting on the blog. The very clever and multi-talented Valerie Laws is here to tell us about her writing life.

Vic x

Valerie Laws

What do you like most about writing?

There’s the feeling when something goes right, a piece of work seems to be getting close to the idea in my head. Then there’s learning new stuff. I have many Writer in Residence posts which are so interesting, I’ve learned so much and met so many cool people who are generous with their time and expertise. I feel very lucky that I’ve managed to work as a full-time professional writer for a decade or so, with 11 books to my name. Then there’s reaching an audience, making people laugh and cry. Hearing and seeing them do it when performing my poetry or reading from my novels or when watching one of my plays. My AV poetry installation ‘Slicing the Brain’ had a very powerful effect on exhibition visitors in London and Newcastle, reading their comments in the visitors’ book was amazing. Positive reactions to my novels online or at events, good reviews on Amazon.  A total stranger was tweeting about how much she loved my crime novel ‘The Rotting Spot‘ the other day, which was fab.

The Rotting Spot

What do you dislike (if anything)?

Sometimes it’s frustrating but that’s part of the challenge. Pressure of time; marketing my books and poetry, I enjoy that but it takes up a lot of writing time – I would like to slow down the planet to get longer days. Rejections, or projects which crash and burn, part of any writer’s life, they never get any nicer!
What inspires you to write?

Most of my plays, even my BBC radio play ‘Nowt to Look At’  and many of my poems are about the lives of real working class people from the North East, especially from the past, people like my own family background. I am passionate about the life stories of people who were ignored by historians and academics, and whose endurance, courage, and spirit, to say nothing of their humour, deserve to be celebrated. Even Lydia Bennet – I wanted her to speak up for herself instead of being scorned by all the ‘good’ characters in Austen’s novel! Hence my comedy ebook ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog‘, her saucy teen version of ‘Pride and Prejudice‘. Another major inspiration is the sea, I’ve always lived by the sea and am obsessed with water and swimming. Again, many poems and most of my plays are sea-related (e.g. ‘Collingwood’, ‘The Selkie’, ‘Hadaway’), and I love the sea’s power, beauty and ever-changing colours. My crime novel ‘The Rotting Spot‘ is set in Seaton Sluice on a tiny headland in the North Sea, which is really like a main character. The follow-up novel ‘The Operator’ is also set on the north east coast. Ideas also come to me from personal experience, listening to people’s stories in queues, headlines, and they keep hanging about annoying me until I write them. They come as poems, plays, novels, sci-art installations…  I write when I feel I’ve got something that needs saying. I am often commissioned to write or create something and I find writing to a deadline inspiring!

Lydia Bennet

Do you find time to read, if so what are you reading at the moment?

I always find time to read. Apart from being a fanatical and very fast reader, I have a lot of friends who write books, and I like to support them! I read masses of crime fiction. I’m just finishing my friend Ann Cleeves’ new Shetland novel ‘Dead Water‘, she’s always so good – I even buy hers in hardback, and I’m a total Kindle convert!  I read a lot of poetry, just been re-reading Ann Alexander’s ‘Too Close‘ in e-book form.

Which author(s) has/have had the biggest influence on your writing?

I love the novels of Barbara Pym, and Jane Austen (though I’m having fun with her heroes and heroines in ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog‘!) I love a lot of poets’ work and I know many of them so have to be careful here but Sharon Olds, an American poet, is breathtakingly honest and intimate. Shakespeare, he’s funny, lively, sexy, sad and his language is so powerful and entrancing to hear. William Blake’s poetry, he’s a true prophet, he foresaw some modern scientific and social ideas far ahead of his time. Oh so many… I don’t try to write like anyone in particular, but writers I love have changed me so they must change my writing I suppose.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

I would be a forensic pathologist. I have a degree in Maths/Theoretical Physics, but I’ve done years of research recently working closely with neuroscientists and pathologists to learn about the science of dying for ‘All That Lives‘, my latest poetry collection from Red Squirrel Press, and that has been an amazing journey – I’m Writer in Residence at a pathology museum in London, as well as in several other unusual brain institutes, and now at Dilston Physic Garden near Corbridge, growing mind altering plants! The more I learn about death, the more I learn about life. This interest also feeds into my crime fiction. I collect skulls, so I have an interest in anatomy. I was a teacher until I was disabled in a car crash 27 years ago.


All That Lives

What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses?

I have ‘multiple publishing disorder’, I write in lots of genres, which makes it perhaps harder to succeed financially, I’m always keeping lots of plates spinning and rushing round like a mad thing and it’s harder to market my work when I’m doing poetry, performances, exhibitions, plays, novels. I also write across genres. But this is just who I am. Strengths, from a writing point of view, I would say lyrical sensuality, witty dialogue, writing about taboo or difficult subjects such as malformed foetuses or dementia or flirting at funerals or phone sex… Weaknesses, well, lyrical sensuality and humour in the eyes of those who like spare minimalist writing and disapprove of humour in crime fiction (yes, some do)! I also work hard but I always put off starting something new as I’m scared it won’t work – though sometimes it is forming in my head during that time.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just relaunched my ‘‘Clueless in corsets” comedy ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog – The Real Story of Pride & Prejudice‘ on Kindle which has some great 5* reviews from respected authors. I’ve had a splendid new cover designed by Alison Richards, with a steampunky feel, to get across the timeslip element of the book.  Lydia Bennet’s shameless story is told in modern teen language though it’s set in the 19th century. So I’m busy spreading the word about that.

My newest Writer in Residence post at Dilston Physic Garden includes a commission for one of my signature inventions, the quantum haiku, first seen in my world-infamous ‘Quantum Sheep’ project, where I spray-painted sheep with words of a poem which they rewrote randomly. The second one was on beach balls in a swimming pool, featured in BBC2’s ‘Why Poetry Matters’ with Griff Rhys Jones. This will be my third in the series, and will also be in water, but will be on the theme of plants and their strange evolution of chemicals which mirror the chemicals in our brains – self-defence for the plant, drugs for humans. I’ll be doing some workshops at the garden later on, so do check those out! I’ve just had to fight for my copyright of ‘Quantum Sheep’, first seen in 2002, as someone hustled the idea and sold a simplified version of it to a couple of organisations as their own! My project is still all over the internet and frequently published, referred to and used by many to inspire them to do new things with the idea, which is fine by me as long as they do something different and don’t claim credit for the original idea.

I’m busy touring all over performing my ‘CSI: Poetry’ from  ‘All That Lives‘, which is being well received, and a lot of my new poems are being published in various anthologies. I’m busy formatting the book for Kindle which is quite a challenge – much harder than novels due to the layout of the poems and the differing sizes of e-reader screens. I have other work to put out on Kindle too, when I get the chance! My next poetry collection is well underway and I hope it will come out next year.

My second crime novel ‘The Operator’ is ready to roll when I’ve sorted out publication. Whether to go indie ebook, or get a publisher, or both, or…? Things are changing so fast in the book world!

When you’re a famous author and you write your autobiography, what will be the title?

Quantum Sheep’ is my most famous work and a great title but I’ve already got a poetry collection named that. ‘Counting Quantum Sheep’? Perhaps ‘In the name of the Laws’? ‘Laws of Physics’?

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

The poet/playwright Peter Mortimer once told me that a poem, and I think it’s true of novels and plays too, needs an imperative of some kind: it’s something you feel needs to be said. I’d also say write the kind of books or works you want to write, not just what you think will sell or succeed. Lee Child said when you can see the bandwagon, you’ve already missed it! Keep learning and exploring new ideas, new technology, skills and experiences.

What’s been your proudest moment as a writer?

Difficult to say, each step seems like a pinnacle at the time – first poem published, first competition prize, first full poetry book, first novel… being interviewed live on BBC Radio 4’s iconic ‘Today’ programme by John Humphrys (about Quantum Sheep of course!), performing live at Royal Festival Hall in London, first nights and last nights of each of my stage plays, my radio play: each time I feel, wow, this is as good as it gets, this might be the best it ever is. For a couple of days, then I raise the bar for myself. Anyway those moments make up for the many failures!

What would you say to your sixteen-year-old self if you could offer one word of advice or inspiration?

Literally one word? Too hard even for a poet but ‘Enjoy!’ might do it.  More than one? Erm, ‘You will get there, enjoy the journey.’  And that doesn’t just apply to writing!

Where can we find you online?

My website: http://www.valerielaws.co.uk/

You can contact me via Twitter – @ValerieLaws –  or Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/valaws – or my website to get copies, or order paperbacks of THE ROTTING SPOT and ALL THAT LIVES from http://www.redsquirrelpress.com

My Residency at Dilston Physic Garden is here: http://www.dilstonphysicgarden.com/writer_residence.htm

Review: ‘Face2Faith: A Spiritual Journey Through Paint’ by Jenni Eden.


I met Jenni Eden on my latest trip to Muscat, Oman. She is an incredibly spiritual person who wants to share her positivity with the world. Jenni taught me some meditations that I have been using for almost 3 weeks and the difference I am feeling mentally is really amazing.

Jenni wrote ‘Face2Faith’ in order to share her thoughts and experiences with readers.

She’s very honest about her experiences with low mood and how spirituality and her experiences with people have got her through difficult times in her life.

You may not appreciate Jenni’s story if you approach it with a very closed mind or if you feel very strongly that there is no such things as a god. Jenni herself is a Christian but she herself accepts that organised religion can be hypocritical and judgemental. I’m not really sure what I believe in but I do consider myself quite spiritual.

Jenni is a positive thinker and believes in cosmic ordering (that means visualising what you want in order to get it). Like me, Jenni is a believer in tolerance and treating people as you would like to be treated.

This autobiography is interesting as I feel Jenni hasn’t held anything back unlike many of the celebrity autobiographies you may read now. Her story is an exploration in how positivity and asking “god” for support and guidance can turn your life around.

Even if you didn’t want to read this book for its spiritual aspects, Jenni’s story regarding her desire to be a full-time artist but struggling to pay the bills is something that will resonate with anyone who has been told to do their dream job for fun as it won’t pay.

As an artist, Jenni chose to explore her experiences through her paintings. Jenni shares her paintings on the pages of the book so I do recommend that if you read on a black and white e-reader, you would be better off buying the book instead of downloading it. However, if you’re using a PC, laptop, tablet or Kindle Fire, you will have no problem enjoying the bright, vivid pictures.

Vic x

Order your copy of Face2Faith here: http://amzn.to/WoiR3Z

Download ‘Face2Faith’ here: http://amzn.to/YdOr9Z 

Carol Fenwick’s Review of 2012.

Are you still feasting on leftovers? Have you been to the sales yet? Carol Fenwick has taken some time out of her Christmas hols to review her 2012 for us.

Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

Yes, it has been a very good year. There are a couple of memories that stick out above others notably having my literary review for the previous issue of Beautiful Scruffiness published in the current one by Katie Metcalfe, involvement with Simon James’ Ménage a moi project where we exchanged a photograph for a hand-made gift, two of my self-publications, ‘Standing on my Soap-Box’, a selection of poetry and ‘Squiggles’, a series of  short stories about my three-year old son Samuel, and a surprise meeting with a professional editor and social entrepreneur really threw the cat amongst the pigeons.

And how about a favourite moment from 2012 generally?

Living in London during the Olympics and Paralympics was absolutely fantastic, and I’m not just saying that to show off, London  really was buzzing. Although I re-located there from Middlesbrough in 2009 I am finally just about finding my feet, after the friendliness of the north-east it is so cosmopolitan, now people have finally got to understand my accent, had to drop a few a’s and that though I honestly haven’t gone posh!  My husband, Simon and I were lucky enough to get tickets for the Olympic Volleyball, it was the perfect anniversary present. Looking after a three-year old and living with my in-laws, it is a very busy and jam-packed house at the best of times though we were all really pleased to see Obama get back in. Phew!

Favourite book in 2012?

‘Love Wins’ by Rob Bell, I reviewed it for the local Church Magazine, a real find and great as a self-help guide.

Favourite film of 2012?

‘The Iron Lady’ was much better than I expected.

Favourite song of the year?

I’m getting out of touch but my favourites are anything from Adele or Emile Sande, the fact that I can’t even think of a song, doesn’t say much for the year in music for me, but I guess I have little time for this, potty training Samuel is an ongoing saga in between snatches of Radio 2. God, I am getting old!

Any downsides for you in 2012?

Some projects have not come off, which can be really frustrating for everyone concerned.

Are you making resolutions for 2013?

No, I never make them as I am rubbish at keeping them!

What are you hoping for from 2013?

Finishing off collating all my works, a mammoth project in itself, though it’s helping me de-clutter and say goodbye to some ancient writing notebooks that go back to my late teens. It’s a bit sad saying goodbye but the PC is the ultimate clutter buster. I hope to finally master Kindle and send some works off to publishers which I hope will make 2013 a fantastic success.

You can find out more about Carol writing on her blogs www.carolfenwick.wordpress.com and www.differentplanetandshadowsoftime.blogspot.com

Getting to Know You: Ed BykerBooks

Today on my blog, I welcome one of the big guns in North-east publishing, the unfortunately named Ed BykerBooks. Ed’s here to talk about one of the best publishing houses in the UK today.

Ed, Byker Books have just released Volume 6 of Radgepacket, how do you manage to get so many talented writers on board?

A lot of hard work initially when we were setting up and no-one believed we were serious but since then, as the series has grown in credibility and super-coolness we find we’re having to reject an awful lot of stories. We don’t use blackmail or threats of violence to get stories, that’s just a rumour…

Where did the idea of Radgepacket come from initially?

Reading the sadly defunct ‘Bullet’ magazine and stuff like ‘Acid House’ from Irvine Welsh convinced us that there was a need for proper council estate short fiction. The short story has had something of a renaissance in recent years and we hope that we helped with that.

Tell us a little bit about Byker Books’ journey please.

We started as a little group of writers moaning that no-one would publish us despite the fact we were blatantly better than everyone else in the world (like you do). This progressed to ‘fuck it – we’ll just publish our own stuff, how hard can it be…’ (proper hard as it happens!) and now we’re causing other writers to moan that we won’t publish them despite them being blatantly better than everyone else in the world…

If someone would like to submit to you, what do they need to do?

Read the submissions page on our website and follow it to the letter – it’s not difficult – otherwise they get filed in the bin! We once got a submission that started “I don’t read submission procedures…” I don’t know how it ended as I stopped reading at that point and moved onto the next one.

What’s on the horizon next?

A Kindle novella series from some very good novelists that we’ve hand-picked for their ‘radgeness’ and their pedigree. A full length Kindle novel from Eileen Wharton entitled ‘Shit Happens’ that has been described as ‘making Shameless look like a middle-class romp!’ and more of Darren Sant’s ‘Longcroft Tales’ – he’s like a modern-day Charles Dickens you know…honest.

Where can people find you online?

www.bykerbooks.co.uk – Our website may go down for a day or two at the end of April – don’t worry, we’re on the case and it won’t be for long.

Do you have a favourite story that’s been featured in one of the Radgepackets?

They’re all brilliant otherwise they wouldn’t be in a Radgepacket, however, one that always sticks in my mind is ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ by Gareth Mews in Radge4 – it’s about a bloke whose head falls off! Can’t fault that kind of imagination can you?

So, who’s in the Byker Books team?

That’s more secret than who Prince Harry’s dad really is – all we’ll say is this, you wouldn’t want to meet the rest of them on a dark night and if you did you’d have buy the drinks as they’re all proper tight!


I adore straight-talking Ed. So if you’re a radgie writer and you fancy being part of this no-nonsense establishment, you know what to do!

Vic x

Get your paperback copy of Radgepacket 6 here: http://amzn.to/H7e6bR

A Massive Thank You

On Tuesday morning, I was sitting at my desk at work when I decided to look at my Amazon page. To my suprise, I saw that ‘Letting Go’ was number 24 in the Amazon chart for free downloads.

Since then, my anthology has bounced up and down the Top 30 like a yo-yo. Its highest position has been #12 and I am absolutely thrilled. Someone pointed out that I’m only in the chart because ‘Letting Go’ is literally being given away. The way I look at it is: there are thousands of free ebooks available on Amazon and I’ve still made it into the Top 20.

I’d like to thank everyone who has retweeted the link, as well as everyone who has shared it on Facebook. Thanks also to everyone who has invited me to guest on their blogs. Most of all though, I’d like to thank everyone for downloading ‘Letting Go’.

Vic x