Tag Archives: New York

2018 Review: Rob Walton

Rob Walton is a true gent. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him when he joined Elementary Writers a couple of years ago to give a reading. He’s a warm, funny chap and a brilliant writer.

I’m delighted to welcome him to the blog today. Here’s to a positive 2019, Rob!

Vic x

Rob Walton photo by Evelyn Walton.jpg

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2018?
There were various acceptances and publications of short fictions and poems, and some lovely dealings with several fantastic/hard-working/unheralded editors.  Hats off to all of them.  

Performance-wise, there was a gig in praise and support of Cullercoats Library at the Salthouse, which was great fun – with bonus swearing.

And how about a favourite moment from 2018 generally?
Much trickier because it really wasn’t the best of years.  Probably pride at our daughters for getting through their GCSEs and SATs, and still being decent human beings in spite of the crap that school and society feeds them.  I was also pleased my creaking body allowed me to do my 50th Parkrun.  Then there was a strange pleasure in shedding a few tears at Durham Miners’ Gala, the day after being honoured to read at the launch of Paul Summers’s Arise!  Luckily, I managed to replace the lost liquid with pale ale.

Favourite book in 2018?
The absolutely wonderful Love by Hanne ørstavik (Archipelago Books), translated from the Norwegian by my very talented mate Martin Aitken. 

Patti Smith’s Just Kids.  This had been waiting on my bedside table for years so I took it to New York in the summer, but didn’t manage to read it there.  Instead, I read it in North Shields on my return.  Probably just as well, otherwise I’d have been dragging my daughters to empty spaces/vacant lots in Greenwich Village, saying “Look!  This is where she had a bowl of soup with Allen Ginsberg!”

Favourite film in 2018?
I didn’t go as often as I would have liked.  I shared some laughs at the Jam Jar in Whitley Bay with my younger daughter, and got moderately freaked with both daughters by The Little Stranger at the Tyneside.  I was probably most impressed by Wildlife and the brilliant but unrelentingly bleak Dark River.  I was also lucky enough to have a sneak preview of the fantastic Pond Life at Leeds Film Festival.  Look out for this next year.  

Favourite gig.
Richard Dawson at the Pitmen’s Parliament, supported by Onsind.  Or maybe Laura Veirs at the Cluny – the best I’ve seen her in years, although she’s always been very good.  I’d also been looking forward to Misty in Roots at Cluny 2, but someone swapped my Dr Marten shoes for some very wobbly boots just before the gig started.

Favourite TV.
Hip-Hop Evolution or Godless or Brooklyn 99 or Killing Eve or, or…

Favourite song of the year?
Ooh, got to be Russ Abbot’s Atmosphere.  I return to it every year and always discover something new. 

Any downsides for you in 2018?
Just bits of my life and the death of the Free World as we know it and all that Great Exhibition of the North nonsense.  

With the far right on the move and the knowledge things are going to get much worse.  I’ve been thinking about the best and most useful way for an inarticulate coward like me to respond.  I’m going to make some cheese scones.  I might put some chives in them.

Are you making resolutions for 2019?
I won’t actually be writing them down but there are lifestyle changes I want to make.

With my move away from North Shields, I need to get to know the dirty bits of Whitley Bay.  I know all about the shiny Spanish City promenade bits, so it’s the underbelly I need to discover: the illicit ice cream dens of Monkseaton and the Briardene stolen conker warehouses.
What are you hoping for from 2019?
Even keel.  Light.  Warmth.  Pale ale with friends.  Possibly fewer submissions to magazines and anthologies and more getting my own stuff together.  The world to come to its cheese scone senses.


**Summer at Hollyhock House Blog Tour**

SAHH blog tour poster (1).png

Today I’m pleased to welcome Cathy Bussey, the author of ‘Summer at Hollyhock House‘ to the blog to talk about writing a realistic heroine. This topic is of particular interest to me and I hope it’ll be of use to you too when considering how to make original, realistic characters. 

Cathy is an author, journalist and hopeless romantic who wrote her first book at the tender age of six. Entitled ‘Tarka the Otter‘, according to Cathy it was a shameless rip-off of the Henry Williamson classic of the same name, and the manuscript was lost after she sent it to her penpal and never heard a jot from her since. 

Fortunately reception to her writing became more favourable and she spent ten years working for a range of newspapers and magazines covering everything from general elections and celebrity scandals to cats stuck up trees and village fetes. She has been freelance since 2011 and written for ‘The Telegraph’, ‘Red Online’, ‘Total Women’s Cycling’ and other lifestyle and cycling publications and websites. 

She is the author of three non-fiction books and her debut and thankfully non-plagiarised novel ‘Summer at Hollyhock House‘ has been published by Sapere Books. 

Cathy lives on the leafy London/Surrey border with her husband, two children and a dog with only two facial expressions: hungry and guilty. Her hobbies include mountain biking, photography, wandering around outside getting lost, fantasising about getting her garden under control, reading, looking at pretty things on Instagram and drinking tea. You can find her there, on Twitter or visit her website. 

My thanks to Cathy for sharing her experience with us. 

Vic x

Cathy Bussey

Writing the heroine you want to be
By Cathy Bussey

The stories of women’s lives have always gripped and fascinated me. I grew up with chick lit and I’m firmly part of the Bridget Jones generation. The Shopaholic series, Sex and the City – these were the cornerstones of my literary and emotional education.

I adore the intelligence with which women write about the issues that affect us all. Love and romance, friendship and family, mental and physical health, children, ageing parents – there’s so much in everyday life to explore that I’ve never tired of the women’s fiction genre. But. 

There’s always a but, isn’t there?

I always struggled to find heroines with whom I could truly identify. 

The classic city girl who can’t get a hair out of place and screams at the sight of a spider – that ain’t me. 

I can’t walk in high heels since I had children, nor do I want to. Glossy shopping sprees, makeovers, shoes, handbags, manicures, Prosecco, spa weekends, nights out with the girls – the stereotypical setting of chick-lit doesn’t reflect my internal reality. I’ve never once fantasised about moving to New York.

I have only once found a heroine that spoke to my other, wilder side. 

One of the best romcoms I ever read was called Going Ape and it came free with a copy of Cosmo. I can’t even find it on Google so I assume it’s out of print, but it had an enormous impact on me. It was set on a monkey sanctuary and the heroine was a scientist. I adored her. She was no less flawed and quirky and adorable than Bridget, Becky, Carrie et al, but she got her hands dirty. Very dirty, actually. 

So when I came to create my own heroine, Faith, I wanted to write her for women like me. For girls like the girl I used to be. 

She’s a nature girl, a bit of a wildflower, she’s outdoorsy and active and energetic. She rides bikes down gnarly trails and digs ponds with a shovel. She gets the guy – or does she? – on her own terms. 

She represents a different definition of femininity, and one with which I can both identify, and aspire to. I created her for me, and I really hope somewhere out there other women might feel that I created her a little bit for them, too. 

Summer at Hollyhock House.jpg

Getting to Know You: BA Morton

Today, I’m joined on the blog by writer BA Morton.

Published by Caffeine Nights, Babs left the rat race and headed to deepest Northumberland where she now lives in a haunted house.

I thought it showed great commitment that Babs came all the way to Newcastle for the first Noir at the Bar Newcastle – just to be in the audience. I was honoured to have Babs appear at the second NatB NE and I’m thrilled to have her on the blog.  

Vic x


Hi Vic, thank you for inviting me along to talk about my favourite subject – books!

My pleasure! Tell us about your books, Babs. 

I currently have nine published novels and novellas across a number of genres ranging from historical romance to psychological crime. My debut crime novel ‘Mrs Jones’ and the follow-up ‘Molly Brown‘ are set in New York, while my medieval series ‘The Wildewood Chronicles‘ follows the many misadventures of Templar Knight Miles as he returns to Northumberland after crusading in The Holy Land. More recently I’ve concentrated closer to home with North East based psychological thrillers ‘Bedlam‘ & ‘Twisted‘ (published by Caffeine Nights).


What inspired them? 

Wildewood‘ was inspired initially from research carried out on my own home which was built on the remains of a medieval chapel. By contrast ‘Mrs Jones‘ was simply inspired by lyrics from the song of the same name.

Mrs Jones

Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere! Sometimes it can be an image or the lyrics from a song, or simply a snatch of conversation or a news headline. Today, for example, I’ve been mulling over the word ‘knowledge’ too much is as dangerous as too little … hmmm… I have a plot forming already.

wildewood revenge

Do you have a favourite book / character that you’ve written? 

That’s difficult because my favourite book is usually my most recent. That said, my kookiest and most weirdly lovable character has to be Spook from my Newcastle crime novel ‘Twisted’ Spook likes to play dangerous games. She hears voices in her head and slips into rhyme when she’s pushed too close to the edge (which happens quite often). Favourite tortured hero has to be DS Joe McNeil from my psychological crime thriller ‘Bedlam’. Jeez, that poor bloke has it stacked against him… and you really want things to turn out right for him, but you’re scared they won’t.


What can readers expect from your books?

Generally, fast paced action, a character driven twisted plot, and a measure of black humour. There’s often a ‘will they or won’t they’ element and that could either be romance, as in ‘Mrs Jones‘, with the witness and the cop, or simply about whether the character will do the right thing against impossible odds.

Most useful piece of writing advice: who was it from?

I’ve had lots of advice since I started writing, and I guess the one I find most useful is that ‘less is more’ I’m a ruthless self editor and will go over a piece repeatedly to prune out anything that strangles the prose. I read aloud to check the authenticity of dialogue and will labour over the choice of one word against another.

Have you got any advice for aspiring writers? 

If you have an idea, get it down on paper (or computer) while it’s fresh in your mind, even if it’s just one word or a name or a scene. I have a file with hundreds of one-liners and scenes and images that are just waiting to be brought to life.

What do you like and dislike about writing? 

I like research, particularly when it entails a trip to Barter Books in Alnwick… ah, heaven. I like creating good characters with a vein of badness and bad characters with the capacity to shock and surprise. I don’t like the isolation of creating a world that can’t be shared until it’s fully hatched, or those moments of self doubt when you think it’s probably rubbish anyway. I love to read/perform my work. I hate the whole self promotion thing … arghhhh.

Are you writing anything at the moment? 

I have a few WIPs on the go. Nearest completion is a new North East crime series. I’ve also just completed a short crime story for a charity anthology to be published by Bloodhound Books in time for Christmas.

What’s been your happiest writing moment? 

It has to be when ‘Mrs Jones‘ took second place in The Yeovil Prize literary competition. It was the first competition I’d entered and I was overwhelmed by the response. I was invited to stay, expenses paid, at Brympton for the Yeovil Literary Festival and for 5 days I was wined and dined with some marvellous writers who were all so kind and supportive. ‘Mrs Jones‘ was subsequently published and was a surprising success.

What did you think of Noir at the Bar? 

Living where I do in rural Northumberland, I don’t often make it into the city, but it was well worth the trip. It was the first time I’d attended anything solely crime related and it was marvellous to hear such an eclectic mix within the genre and to meet up with so many like-minded folk, many of whom I’d met only on social media. Perfect venue and organisation too!

Noir at the Bar NE #2

Favourite book of all-time? 

Again, a difficult question, so I’m going to give you three. Favourite historical – ‘Pillars of the Earth‘, Ken Follett. Favourite crime – ‘Every Dead Thing‘, John Connolly (in fact anything by John Connolly) Favourite kids book – ‘Noggin the Nog‘ (that book is just so wonderful to read aloud.)..

For more information, you can visit Babs’s Amazon Author page.

Review: ‘Tuck it Away’ by Noddy Taylor

I read this story on the train from Newcastle to London and what a great read it was!

This debut from Noddy Taylor is a laugh-out-loud, heart-on-the-sleeve account of one young man’s exciting trip to New York.

Noddy’s style of writing is very strong and you can hear his unique voice throughout this piece. His honesty when discussing his sexuality is refreshing. Some of the language and themes are adult but who cares when this is such a great read?!

I look forward to reading more from this writer.

Vic x

Download ‘Tuck it Away’ here: http://amzn.to/Ihbnu0

Britney: how can she know any better?

I have a shameful secret, I am a Britney Spears fan. She has had a lot of ups and downs during her 13 year career in music but I do love the music she produces.

We all know the story of Britney, the girl from America who took the world by storm aged just fifteen, dressed as a schoolgirl in her video for ‘Baby, One More Time’; the girl who’s been married twice and has two kids who she doesn’t have full custody of. Possibly the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Britney is the bald girl who had a breakdown, who we watched on the news being stretchered out of her home and who then played cat and mouse with paps she thought were her friends. It’s a sad story in many ways.

I have to admit that her work schedule concerns me somewhat. I went to see her during the ‘Onyx Hotel Tour’ in 2004 not long after her marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander was annulled. I next saw her in 2009 on her ‘Circus’ comeback tour. She puts on a great show but in 2009 I worried that she wasn’t choosing to go on the stage, she was put there by her father and her manager, Larry Rudolph despite her fragile mental state. I also feel that, despite stricter vetting processes for staff since her father’s conservatorship took effect, some people will still try to make money off the back of Britney.

And now someone else is trying to cash in on her. Former bodyguard, Fernando Flores, is seeking $10 million for psychological damages after claiming he was subject to ‘unwanted sexual advances’. Wow, he must be the only guy in the world who didn’t want Britney to come onto him. But in all seriousness, if these allegations are true – how could Britney know any better after being taught how to be nothing other than a sexual object for almost half of her life?

Let’s study some of her videos as examples:

  1. ‘Baby, One More Time’: Britney becomes an overnight sensation thanks to a navel-baring school uniform and pigtails.
  2. ‘Oops, I Did It Again’: The red catsuit, need I say more?
  3. ‘Don’t Let Me Be The Last to Know’: By now, even Britney’s ballads require her to wear bikinis and to snog with a hunk on the beach.
  4. ‘I’m a Slave 4u’: 19-year-old Britney wears PVC pants with her pink lace thong over the top and drips sweat while lip-syncing heavy breathing.
  5. ‘Me Against the Music’: yet another chance to catch girl-on-girl action with Madonna as well as gyrating hips and hair flicking.
  6. ‘Toxic’: Britney plays different characters in this video – air hostess with her knickers on show, black-haired assassin who kills a man by kissing him. Oh, and the naked diamond catsuit also features.
  7. ‘My Prerogative’: Britney lap dances for K-Fed and rolls around a bed in her white bra and knickers.
  8. ‘Womanizer’: Yet more half-dressed, provocative multiple personalities.
  9. ‘If You Seek Amy’: Not contented with the song actually spelling out “All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to F-U-C-K me”, this video shows a sex party involving Britney, who looks trashed but then gets changed and poses for the paps as the perfect housewife.
  10. ‘Til The World Ends’: Brit dresses in yet more leather and bodysuits with fishnets, flashing all she’s got.

So that’s just ten of Britney’s many music videos. There’s also VMA performances to consider, remember the time she stripped off to reveal a nude bodysuit? How about the semi-naked performance with a python? Or the Madonna snog? Then, of course, the 2007 shambles where she appeared in a sequinned bikini and cocked up her lip-syncing and dancing.  

According to a lawsuit filed by Flores, Britney leaned over him, with her breast exposed, looking him in the eye as if waiting for something to happen. Isn’t that what she’s been taught to do since she was sixteen, if not younger, by countless directors, photographers and choreographers?

If, she did walk around her home wearing see-through clothes then bend down to retrieve her lighter, showing that she was wearing no underpants, hasn’t she spent the last thirteen years in a pretty much permanent state of undress in photo shoots and even on stage?

Flores even claims Britney ‘engaged in numerous sex acts in front of’ him. Hasn’t she simulated sex on stage before? Isn’t it part of her act?

I’m not saying it’s healthy but this is not a ‘normal’ situation. Britney has no idea what is appropriate, having spent her life in front of cameras and on stage simulating sex, touching herself and licking her lips provocatively while lip-syncing sexually charged lyrics. This is the girl who is rumoured to have had a boob job at sixteen.

All of her life, Britney has performed to gain attention and approval from others. She has not had a normal life, even before she became famous. Her mother moved to New York to allow Britney to perform on Broadway as a child, as well as a stint in The Mickey Mouse Club. In Kentwood, Louisana, where Britney grew up, she was a celebrity long before the rest of the world knew who she was, performing at every competition and carnival going. Not only this but her parents were in a tumultuous relationship due to her father’s drinking and the debts that threatened to overwhelm the family.

Britney was not allowed to be a child.

Perhaps the rebellion we saw in 2004 starting with the Vegas wedding to Alexander and ending with a marriage and pregnancy to Kevin Federline was an act of rebellion, or an attempt to finally have a normal life.  In 2004, there were rumours of excessive drinking, drug taking, pictures of Britney looking less than stage-ready with her Starbucks drink and fast food. After a knee injury, the remainder of the Onyx Hotel tour was cancelled and Britney jumped into marriage and motherhood – was she just looking for love? After all, she’d had six years of adoration from fans but, in reality, was lonely having continued working after her split from Justin Timberlake.

Some of the claims from Flores are pathetic: that Britney picked her nose frequently, broke wind unapologetically and ‘didn’t fix her hair’. Is that a crime? Would it psychologically damage you? I know these are unpleasant things and we might not want to consider that the polished pop princess is human, but we all do it. Let’s face it, we’ve seen Britney at her lowest – being carried out of her home into a waiting ambulance, we know she has issues. Even Britney’s ex husband, K-Fed, acknowledged – through his lawyer – that Flores’ claims are ‘a product of economic motives’.

Flores also claimed Spears was under the influence of prescription drugs, like Ritalin. Unfortunately we also know she has to be medicated due to her psychological issues. This is why I think Britney is also being taken advantage of by her father and Larry Rudolph, her manager. If she has such serious psychological issues – rumoured to be ADD and/or bi-polar disorder – is she fit to go on a gruelling world tour? Or does she do it because she doesn’t know what else to do? Her whole adult life has been touring, recording and promotion.

Britney is a victim of her own success. She hasn’t been able to enjoy her life because of schedules and fame. She’s tailed by paps constantly and doesn’t understand boundaries because of her sexualisation thanks to the industry she’s in but she shouldn’t be allowed to be taken advantage of.

Vic x