Tag Archives: readers

Coming soon…

I’m delighted to announce that, with a little help from some friends, I am taking Noir at the Bar back to Harrogate in July this year.
Thanks to Jacky Collins of Newcastle Noir and writers Lucy Cameron and Neil Broadfoot, I can announce that we’ll be running Noir at the Bar on Thursday, 20th July from 4:30pm. 
Hosted at the noir-y Blues Bar on Montpellier Parade, Noir at the Bar Harrogate will not only feature readings from up-and-coming authors as well as more familiar faces but there will be a special performance by the Slice Girls!
Entry is free and doors open at 4pm. There will be opportunities to win books by picking a reader out of the hat.
Hope to see you there,

Vic x

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

ka-richardson

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!

escape

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.

with-deadly-intent

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.

ive-been-watching-you

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.

time-to-play

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.

dark-minds

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

Review of 2016: Dawn Tindle

Today the lovely Dawn Tindle joins us to review her year. Dawn is a familiar face on the literary scene not only in the North East but beyond. Her blog – Book and Brew – has been nominated for a UK Blog Award. This is no mean feat considering Dawn only set her blog up in April this year.

I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with Dawn on several occasions this year and I’m really happy to host her as part of the 2016 reviews.

Vic x

dawn-tindle-book-and-brew

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
I set up my blog, Book and Brew, in April this year and have spent the rest of 2016 developing it. The memory of firsts – blog post, comment, retweet – are pretty vivid and it still gives me a real buzz to see my words published online or shared by other readers.

My book club was also selected by The Reading Agency as an official shadow judge for both the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and Man Booker Prize. It was a huge coup for us and a very exciting experience for all members. It’s the defining moment that turned me from an enthusiastic reader to a book blogger.


And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
Seeing my boyfriend, Stephen, graduate in July was really special. He took five years out to retrain as a social worker and I was very proud, and slightly teary, to see him collect his degree. Getting his results via phone as we sat in a beach bar in Croatia the month before is also a memory I’ll treasure.

Favourite book in 2016?
Oh, this is always such a difficult question to answer. It wasn’t published this year but we read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life at book club in March and I loved it. Atkinson’s writing completely absorbs me and this story is a particularly poignant and gripping tale.

Favourite film in 2016?
There are two films that I watched recently that really impressed me. I, Daniel Blake is a stunning film, providing a stark look at the reality of austerity in the UK. It’s hard to watch, harrowing and heartbreaking but the humanity of the characters shines through. I highly recommend it.

The other was Allied. It’s a World War II drama about spies who meet on the job, marry and then one of them is suspected of working undercover for the Nazis. It’s full of twists and keeps you guessing throughout. And, the costumes are utterly fabulous – there’s nothing quite like 40s glamour to make you hate everything in your contemporary wardrobe!


Favourite song of the year?
Given the number of great musicians who’ve passed away this year, I’ve been listening to a lot of vintage tracks rather than new music in 2016.

However, I did discover Michael Kiwanuka and his album Love and Hate. It’s a beautiful collection of bluesy guitar and soulful vocals that I can listen to again and again.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Probably being too busy. I have a tendency to take on too much and that was certainly the case in the first few months of setting up my blog. I assumed I needed to read every book and be at every event in order to write relevant, topical content. I soon burned out and had to find a way to juggle my ‘proper’ job (a full-time, busy office gig), friends, family and blogging. I think I’ve finally cracked it and developed a schedule that works for me.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I usually say “to read more” but I don’t think I need that one anymore! I want to try my hand at creative writing so 2017 will be the year I give it a go.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
More of the same, I think. I had no idea where my blog would go in 2016 and I’m really pleased with how much I’ve achieved and how far it’s developed since my first few posts. If I can maintain the same attitude – of always seeking out new opportunities and trying new things – I hope I can grow Book and Brew even further in 2017. Where that growth will take me is anyone’s guess – that’s what makes a new year so exciting!

Review of 2016: Chris Ord

Regular readers of this blog will recognise Chris Ord, author of the phenomenal novel ‘Becoming‘ which has stunned readers worldwide.

It was such a joy to attend Chris’s book launch last month and I’m really proud to have been involved in ‘Becoming‘. Thanks to Chris for sharing his 2016 with us! 

Vic x

Becoming

Do you have a favourite moment professionally from 2016?
On September 23rd I published my first novel ‘Becoming’. I’d always wanted to write a book, and after years of reviews and changes at work I was offered the option to take redundancy. I saw the opportunity to do what I’d always wanted and went for it. Some close family members had passed away and it made me realise you have to grab chances when they come.

It was daunting sitting down on day one, but I saw the opportunity to write as a privilege. I create my own worlds every day, and there was something exciting about sitting in front of a blank screen and facing endless opportunities. I hear many writers speak of the tyranny of the blank page, but I prefer to think of its possibilities.

The day of publication was magical. I was fizzing with the excitement of achievement, the realisation of a life’s ambition. There were mixed emotions though. There was the pride and satisfaction, but the apprehension too. Once the book was out I knew I was revealing my creation to others – friends, relatives, and strangers. I was exposing a bit of my soul. It was the time for judgement and thick skin. I tried to keep a sense of perspective. I loved writing ‘Becoming’ and if others love it too that is a bonus. I wanted to write a story that I would enjoy reading, one that engages and entertains, but also challenges and provokes. If I achieve any combination of these I’ll be happy. I’m delighted to say the feedback and reviews have been excellent so far. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response. Interest in the book is growing and after only two months it has a bit of momentum already.

The most rewarding thing has been how many people respect my courage in taking the risk and going for it. I hope that what I’ve done has inspired others to do the same. I’m a great believer in finding what you love and doing it. We see those memes on social media all the time about seizing the day and making your dreams happen. Maybe we see them too often now and they’ve lost their impact. The message is still true though. Just remind yourself and have the bravery and belief to go for it.

becoming

How about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
On a personal level I’ve had a dream year with many highlights. However, I’m a musician and music will always be my first love. Therefore, my favourite moments are the musical ones.

I play the horn in my home village band, Jayess Newbiggin. This year the band were crowned both Durham League and Regional Champions and represented the North East at the National Finals in Cheltenham in September. Those achievements were all something to be very proud of, however, my favourite moment was playing at Sage 1 in Gateshead in support of Mnozil Brass, the world’s leading brass ensemble. Working with the BAIT project at Woodhorn museum we performed a new commission called ‘Reflection Connections.’ It was written by world-renowned brass composer Lucy Pankhurst and involved all the South East Northumberland brass bands – Ashington, Bedlington, Ellington, and Jayess Newbiggin. Our first performance was alongside Mnozil Brass at the Northumberland Miner’s Picnic in June, and we followed this with a second performance at the Sage the next evening. It’s been a personal ambition to play Sage One and it was a joy to give life to Lucy’s magnificent music alongside my fellow band musicians in Northumberland. Life is about making memories, and this was one of the special ones.

sage-performance

Favourite book in 2016?
M Train’ by Patti Smith. I read a lot of biographies and music is my first love hence I tend to gravitate towards the memoirs of musicians. Patti Smith is one of rock’s great lyricists and poets, only surpassed by Dylan and Cohen in my view. Her lyrical and poetic style feeds into her gorgeous, seductive prose. She’s led a fascinating life and captivates with her anecdotes and observations. I love seeing how my heroes developed, what motivates them, their flaws. Unlike many memoirs Smith doesn’t sanitise her life, her truth, honesty, and punk spirit shine through. She opens her soul and draws you into her world. Her music is powerful, but words are her true gift. I’ve seen her perform a few times, and was fortunate to see her at Sage 2 a few years ago on the tour to promote the first memoir ‘Just Kids.’ It’s one of my favourite books, and she was mesmerising, mixing readings and discussion with old songs, giving one of the most charismatic and engaging performances I’ve seen. I recommend both her memoirs, but start with ‘Just Kids.’ As for her albums ‘Horses,’ it’s one of the greatest debut albums of all.

Favourite film in 2016?
I, Daniel Blake.’ If you haven’t seen this film, please do. It’s a deeply moving, and unsettling film which asks a simple question – is this the kind of society we want to live in? Art is a mirror that reflects life. Sometimes we don’t like what we see, and what we have become. Perhaps it’s easier to turn away and pretend we don’t see. I left the cinema feeling anger and shame. We can be better than this. We have to be.

I struggled to think of anything else for days. There was anger and shame, but also guilt. I didn’t create the brutality of the modern welfare system, but nor have I done enough to make myself aware of it, try to change it. Politics is too often putting the cross on the paper then either gloating or ranting on social media depending on the outcome. Politics should be about people. The people we elect, the people they serve, the people we live alongside in communities. People. Not just you and me, but all of us. Those seen and unseen. We’re all someone’s son or daughter.

The truth is I don’t do enough, but I will change. I want to. The most rewarding things I’ve done in my life have not been for financial gain. I’ve come to learn the simple act of giving is the most rewarding of all. It doesn’t have to be money, often it’s better to give time, or share a skill you may be lucky to have. I don’t know what I will do yet, but the new year beckons with new opportunities.

I, Daniel Blake’ is the best of films. It re-energised the anger of my youth. I know that I don’t want to be a part of the society I saw. Nor do I want to sit back and wait for politicians to make the change. They have a responsibility, but so do I.

What was your big adventure in 2016?
The family went to Iceland for two weeks in the Easter holidays. It’s a magical place, quirky and odd, but full of mystery and beauty. It reminds you of nature’s wonder and its danger. The people are dynamic, friendly and very creative.  It is a place to feel inspired. One in ten of the population have published a book. There is street art everywhere. Reykjavik is one of the most intimate capital cities I’ve been to. It feels alive and owned by the people. They engage in city life and the atmosphere is unique.

It’s a country being born in every sense. Parts are like the moon. It has glaciers and snow-capped volcanoes, and the earth breathing fire and steam. There are waterfalls with rainbows, and beaches of black sand. We swam in lagoons in meadows, sat by frozen crystal lakes, and drank from mountain streams. We watched the night sky dance with rivers of green. We experienced some unforgettable things, and learnt about an ancient seafaring culture that many of us in the North are descended from. It was something that is very important to share as a family, one of those unforgettable holidays. I will return someday, I’m sure of that.

iceland

Any downsides for you in 2016 generally?
The death of David Bowie. It’s hard to put into words how much Bowie means to me. Like so many I was devastated when he died. It was a shock, but it was also perfect Bowie, so beautifully orchestrated. Even in death he was a star. They named a constellation after him. How perfect. Billy Bragg has a theory that Bowie held the Universe together, and everything is collapsing since his death. The world has changed, the stars look different.

It was moving to see the tributes, how much he touched people’s lives. Whether you loved his music or not something you love was influenced and shaped by Bowie. I hear and see it in so much of popular music. He changed everything. He was a true creative visionary and though the term genius is often over-used, of the few that deserve the title Bowie is one.

How do you deal with that kind of loss, of someone you have never met, but has played such a huge part in your life? Someone who has made you laugh and cry, shaped who you are. I did meet David Bowie once. We were in an arena with a few thousand others, but he sang to me, only me, I’m sure of that. We all are. If life is a gift then so is death. It teaches us that life is precious, it shakes us from the mediocre and the mundane, it reminds us to live. It also helps us reflect on the life of the person we have lost, the special ones even more.

The truth is I never knew David Bowie the man, what touched me all those years was the music, the wonderful, magical music. It was the characters and personas, the many different faces. I cried a lot when he died, but I got through it. I found a new beginning, an absolute beginning. Now I celebrate everything I love about Bowie, all that he has given me. When most of us die we will crumble to star-dust, only the love will remain. People like Bowie leave so much more. They touch our soul, help us find who we are. That is why the artists, the poets, the musicians are the special ones. Everyone dies, but heroes live forever.

Are you making any resolutions for 2017?
I love this time of year not just for the festivities, but because I get to write lots of lists. I’m a big fan of making lists, I even write lists about what to make lists about. I also like reflecting, embracing change, and moving forward. My mantra is the Dylan line ‘He not busy being born is busy dying.’ New year is a perfect opportunity to do this and I try to make the most of it every year. So in terms of my resolutions for 2017, my current list is:

  1. Publish another novel
  2. Finish the follow-up to ‘Becoming.’
  3. Win the Brass Band Area Championship and qualify for the National Finals again
  4. Secure a top five finish in the Brass Band National Finals
  5. Go to at least 20 gigs
  6. Run more
  7. Worry less

The list will change, but that’s a good thing.

reflection-connection-picnic

What are you hoping for from 2017?
Less death, more life. More positivity and engagement. 2016 has been a year of anger and dismay, but we can get through all this if we try. The world seems to be shifting on the anger of vocal minorities. Meanwhile, there is a growing, silent majority, the passive, disillusioned, and the young. I hope to see more people engage and make the world they want to live in. Especially young people, the future is theirs.

Review of 2016: Dan Smith

My good friend Dan Smith joins us on the blog today to look back over his 2016. Thanks for taking the time to join us, Dan, it’s always a pleasure to host you. 

Vic x 

Dan Smith


Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
My fourth novel for younger readers – Boy X – was published in February, and I’ve signed a deal to write two more books for the brilliant Chicken House publishing, so I guess that’s pretty good!

Boy X



And how about a favourite memory from 2016 generally?
My wife and I finally saved up enough to take our children on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Orlando in Florida. Two weeks of sun and awesomeness! It was an exhausting but fun trip and I loved every minute of it.

Favourite book in 2016?
That’s always such a hard question to answer. I find myself remembering the ones I’ve read over the past couple of months, but anything before that tends to be a little hazy. I read the Bodyguard series by Chris Bradford, and they’re great adventures for younger (and older!) readers. Saga continues to be an excellent graphic novel series, and . . . I very much enjoyed reading The Girl With All The Gifts.

Favourite film in 2016?
There have been a few good ones. The Girl With All the Gifts was a lot of fun, and Swiss Army Man was very good too, but I think my favourite film this year was Slow West. I know it didn’t come out in 2016, but I came to it a little late and I’m so glad I watched it. It’s stylish, tense, twisty, quirky and brilliant. Go and see it right now!

Favourite song of the year?
Okay, now I’m tearing my hair out. So hard to choose a favourite! It was great to see Green Day coming back with ‘Bang Bang‘, and then giving us a whole new album! Also, Twenty-One Pilots have just done a fantastic cover of MCR’s ‘Cancer’ to celebrate the 10yr anniversary of The Black Parade . . .    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yw6i1SAHetc

Any downsides for you in 2016?
There are always a few downsides. A recurring back problem means that I’ve spent a good portion of the year in discomfort at best and terrible pain at worst. Physiotherapists, chiropractors, scans, and painkillers . . . Unfortunately I had to cancel a few school events, but y’know, it’s such a bore to dwell on the bad things and I’m determined to come out fighting every day!

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I don’t really understand the idea of making resolutions at the beginning of the year. If you want to focus on something, don’t wait until January 1st; do it now!

What are you hoping for from 2017?
Fame, fortune, and the secret to eternal youth. Or, maybe just a world where Donald Trump doesn’t get to be President!

Guest Post: David McCaffrey on Beat Sheets

I’ve already started arranging the next Noir at the Bar NE. It may not be until February but we have more than half of the performers booked. One of those readers is David McCaffrey who has been very complimentary about Noir at the Bar.

David has very kindly taken time out of his busy schedule to chat to us about beat sheets. My thanks go to David for sharing his wisdom – see you in February. 

Vic x

Guest Post: David McCaffrey on Beat Sheets

Christopher Vogler wrote a book called ‘The Writers Journey‘, a writing textbook that focuses on the theory that most stories can be boiled down to a series of narrative structures and character archetypes. Basically he says that every story told has been told before and that every fictional story consists of the same components.

I explored this once in my blog where I discussed the writing process, but the gist of it is this –

1.) The hero is introduced in his/her ORDINARY WORLD
2.) The CALL TO ADVENTURE.
3.) The hero is reluctant at first. (REFUSAL OF THE CALL.)
4.) The hero is encouraged by the Wise Old Man or Woman. (MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.)
5.) The hero passes the first threshold.  (CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.)
6.) The hero encounters tests and helpers. (TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES.)
7.)  The hero reaches the innermost cave.  (APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE.)
8.) The hero endures the supreme ORDEAL.
9.) The hero seizes the sword. (SEIZING THE SWORD, REWARD)
10.)  THE ROAD BACK.
11.) RESURRECTION.
12.)  RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR

Every story can be structured around the above, not always in the same order, not always every element, but they are there in one form or another.

In line with these components, it is important that you plug variables into your story before you start writing for one simple reason: so you don’t back yourself into a corner.

It’s really easy to begin writing a story off the top of your head or with the most basic of narratives and think that you can just string all the various plot points together.  And some authors can do this (the talented John Nicholson being one of them), but many need a structure, an outline of the aforementioned variables in order to understand where their story starts, begins and ends. This outline can prevent you ending up somewhere inescapable.

For me, writers block is not having the research in which to frame and support your story. I learnt right at the beginning that research is key, especially for the kinds of novels I write as they are mostly psychological thrillers that require an element of philosophy and detail to make them believable.

In line with this, you need something that is high concept, meaning it can be described in one or two words.

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” This tells you exactly what ‘Jaws 2 is about in one sentence.

“His crimes – unspeakable. His death – inevitable. His suffering – just beginning.”

My debut novel ‘Hellbound had the above tagline and in only a few words gives you an idea of what the book is about.

Once you have your idea and concept, it needs to be backed up by that most important of elements – research. You need to be steeped in your subject matter in order to sell your concept realistically. If your story outline is a skeleton, your research adds flesh to its bones. It fleshes out the whole idea so you begin to see what it will truly look like once complete.

Then we get to what I was taught is the most important element of writing, at least for me – having a beat sheet.

Once I have the above in place, I write a beat sheet that consists of bullet points with key elements of each chapter in a very simplified form acting as my map. Bestselling author Steve Alten once said that a beat sheet was like lining up dominoes, so that if you push over the first one it will travel right to the end meaning that if the beat sheet is tight then your story will have every element in place before you start putting one word on paper.

It’s better to get your beat sheet right before you start then begin writing and realise that you have a character who disappeared inexplicably halfway through the story or a massive plot hole you hadn’t considered.

Not having those dominoes lined up can result in you becoming frustrated and potentially lost in your own writing process.

Granted, a beat sheet can also be classed as an outline and many authors hate writing outlines because it requires all the underlying planning to have been done to answer all the difficult questions about your story. But with your research you would have the answers to those questions and the rest is a piece of cake.

Your beat sheet doesn’t have to be detailed. It can be one or two words – sex, Joseph dies, Maggie drives to work… as long as you know what it means, that’s enough.

The beat sheet stops you having to confront the most horrific of questions – what shall I write next?

Your research and a tight beat sheet can prevent this most awful of writing circumstances. With it, you will always know where you are in your story, what happens next, what will further the dramatic tension etc.

And because they are just bullet points, if something is moving too slow or there is too much action in a particular scene, you can simply move the bullet points around until you are happy and the beat sheet is tight again.

The beat sheet not only tells you what the scene is, it tells you why it’s there in the first place. And for me, the best thing of all is with a beat sheet you are simply going into those bullet points and just fleshing them out, adding narrative around them because the framework is already there.

You might veer off as you go as different story beats come to mind or naturally develop with the story. This is the beauty of using a beat sheet: they leave you free to explore and flesh out the narrative that drives the story forward. As long as you end you where you intended at the very beginning, it isn’t as important how you get there – the story will take care of itself.

Make the beat sheet clear and simple. Remember, this is your document. You’re not trying to sell the story to anyone else, you’re just trying to get your head around the story as a whole.

Besides, it’s always nice after you’ve written a three hundred page novel to look back and see that it just started out as a forty bullet point piece of A4. You would probably struggle in reverse if asked to summarise your story in forty bullet points, but it goes to show that as Christopher Vogler believed, every story can be boiled down to key elements.

And we thought we all had original ideas!!!

Guest Post: Bernie Steadman on Writing Groups

Bernie Steadman is our guest on the blog today. Bernie is here to talk to us about writing groups. 

Obviously, as the facilitator of two regular groups, I am an advocate of writing groups. But don’t take my word for it – have a read of what Bernie has to say.

Thanks to Bernie for taking the time to write this piece for us.

Vic x

Bernie Steadman

Bernie Steadman on Doing it together (an antidote to the loneliness of the long-distance writer. 

It can be a lonely business, writing. At some point the avoidance tactics have to stop, the bottom gets attached to the chair, fingers flex and the process of creating a new story begins. You settle into long hours teasing out the plot twists and fleshing out the characters.

It’s easy, however, to fall prey to doubts when you are alone for so long with only a screen or notebook. Is it any good, or is it total rubbish? Even worse, you read a brilliant book and want to throw yours at the wall.  Support was needed. I tried several ways to build it; a local writers’ group which meets regularly, an on-line community, and attending as many writing festivals as I can afford.

I belong to Bow Wharf Writers. We meet in the back room of Art Tea Zen in Langport, Somerset.

art-tea-zen-back-room

Regular critiques from the members and having to do ‘homework’ or plan and lead a session are invaluable in keeping me fresh and open to new ideas. I started writing short stories and poems; things I hadn’t done since school. We read and critique each other’s work, find stimuli to get us writing during the session, and enjoy days out in places with a bit of atmosphere to spark our creativity.

 

A few of us finding inspiration in the history of Bridgwater.
Also enjoyable are the twice-yearly ‘Ways with Words’ evening which form part of the Langport and Ilminster Litfests. It can be challenging for writers to stand up and read their own work aloud, but it’s an invaluable skill to develop.

Reading an extract from Death and Deception

When I first started writing I joined the Word Cloud, an on-line writing community that takes particularly good care of new writers. On there I could submit short pieces, and learn the language of critique, as we were all expected to comment on other writers’ work. I had to learn how to give criticism fairly, and to receive it graciously (yes, that was hard…)

In the meantime I was working so hard on drafting and re-drafting my first crime novel. Writers’ Workshop (parent company of Word Cloud) offered an on-line ‘Self-Edit your novel’ course, so I signed up for that, and learnt a huge amount. After applying the skills learnt on the course to the first novel, I can honestly say writing the second one was a lot more straightforward. Not easier, of course…

So, five years after starting to write seriously, Death and Deception, which took two years to complete and was rejected six times, was signed up by independent publisher Bloodhound Books (never give up!). They are about to publish the second in the series, Death and the Good Son on December 6th, and I’m already getting butterflies.

Death and Deception

Do look in your local area for writers’ groups and go along and see what they do. Take care to find one which is serious about writing, but not full of its own self-importance. You need to feel able to experiment there, to challenge yourself… and to fail. A supportive group will enable all that, and you may well find some good friends and the support you need.

Bernie taught English for many years but only dabbled in short fiction and poetry.  She completed her debut novel, Death and Deception, when she escaped the classroom and could finally stop marking essays.

Death and Deception was the first in a series featuring DI Dan Hellier and his Exeter-based team. She has also completed the second, Death and The Good Son, which will be published by Bloodhound Books on 6th December 2016.

Bernie lives in a small village in East Devon with her husband and two cats. She is a Trustee of the Ferne Animal Sanctuary and a keen practitioner of Iyengar yoga. Regular application of cake and coffee may also feature in her writing lifestyle.