Tag Archives: reading

Review of 2017: June Lorraine Roberts

Our penultimate 2017 reviewer is the lovely June Lorraine Roberts. 

Tomorrow is my annual review so I’d just like to thank all of the participants who’ve given their precious time and shared their experiences with us. 

Vic xDo you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I was a Bouchercon Toronto panelist: So Many Books, So Little Time and was very proud. Akashic Books published my flash fiction – The Hong Kong Deal, and I joined Sisters in Crime. All great things.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
It was an incredible year for making new friends. From our US winter home to Bouchercon, and Noir at the Bar Toronto, it’s been terrific.

Favourite book in 2017? 
It’s a toss-up: The Second Girl by David Swinson plus spending hours with David at Noir at the Bar and Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless – I hope to meet her one day.

Favourite film in 2017?
Another toss-up: Atomic Blonde (tough & zany) or Baby Driver (all-round fabulous).

Favourite song of the year? 
Ed Shereen – Shape of You: great hook and rhythm.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
My brother died December 1st, he was funny, profane and loved beer. I feel hollow with him gone.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Nope.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Further flash fiction published, and my first short story. More writing, less thinking about writing. Also new friends from Bouchercon in St. Pete’s and my community at large. Reading and dealing.

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Review of 2017: Alison Bruce

I first “met” Alison Bruce on Twitter several years ago but this year was the first time we’ve ever met in real life. It was an absolute pleasure to spend time in Alison’s company and I hope it won’t be six more years until I see her again.

As you’ll see from her review of 2017, Alison has been very busy this year so I’m very grateful for her taking the time to share her year with us.

Vic x

I think my favourite memory from 2017, is the day I handed in the manuscript for I Did It for Us. I was at Goldsboro Books’ Crime in the Court event a couple of years ago when, in an instant, I had the idea for the book. By pure coincidence, the day I finished the final edits was also the day of Crime in the Court and it felt like the perfect way to celebrate delivering a book.

My most memorable moments always involve my children, Lana, and Dean and my husband Jacen, but 2017 is also going to be remembered as the year I (belatedly) started at university. I’m taking Crime and Investigative Studies. I’m excited by the prospect of adding a new angle to my writing.

For my favourite book of 2017 I have to pick Deadlier which is an anthology of 100 crime stories written by women. This may seem like an unusual choice when there are so many great novels out there but it’s ideal for me when my reading time is in short blocks. The book contains stories from many of the more famous ladies of crime but also gives the opportunity to discover new voices too.

Thanks to my son I’m more of an expert on comic books then I should be and, because of this, my film of the year has to be Wonderwoman.  When I was a child I loved the television series and I was slightly sceptical about any version of this superhero who didn’t spin round and change clothes in a puff of smoke however, it was a well-crafted combination of action-adventure and comic book styled heroics.  If The Sinner has been a film rather than a TV show then I think I would’ve voted for that; it had an interesting premise and kept me hooked right until the end. If you missed it, it’s on Netflix.

My choice of favourite song of the year is split between my daughter’s latest, Hibiscus Heat, which she released for her sixth-form project, and Bad Seed Sown by the Bellfuries; any song which includes the lyrics “the kind of people hip to my kind of evil are few and far between, it lurks, it lies, it feeds on cries, it’s sophisticated and mean” is bound to appeal to a crime writer.

2017 has been pretty good year but I best but I guess the biggest downside has been feeling totally exhausted. It’s been an exciting but I would love to have a few days of doing nothing without feeling guilty about it.

I don’t think I’ll make any new year’s resolutions but I’m looking forward to the year ahead which will begin with the release of my first standalone novel, I Did It for Us on 4th January and its launch at Heffers in Cambridge a week later.

Review of 2017: Josie Moon

It’s another hat-trick today! Boxing Day bonus! Earlier today, Tana Collins reviewed her year, now it’s Josie Moon‘s turn. 

My thanks to Josie for her introspective, honest account of her year. Check back later for our final guest today. 

Vic x

This year has been particularly exciting and memorable because of the Fish Tales Tour with the Alan Barnes Octet. We’ve performed the work nationally at a number of jazz venues and events and it has been a wonderful experience.

Having set up La Luna early in 2017 I am thrilled that we have produced three quality publications this year and that the fourth is scheduled for release in January 2018. Fish Tales, Fish Tales for Juniors and In Case of an Emergency are books that I am personally proud of and which reflect the work I have done this year as a writer, performer and editor. The website will have a shop window by early 2018 and all of the La Luna publications will be available to purchase directly from there.

This year my reading has been focused on psychology, recovery and trauma for personal and research reasons. One little book that I keep dipping into and which has been a great source of comfort and inspiration is When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.  It has been my go-to book on those days of feeling overwhelmed.

I’ve stopped bothering with cinema because I love the depth of storytelling in quality TV productions. This year it has been all about Twin Peaks, the Return. The combination of uncompromising aesthetics and storytelling made it a peerless piece of televisual art.  I’ve also enjoyed The Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale and Stranger Things.

I run a community choir which has a membership of 70 delightful and enthusiastic adult singers.  We’ve given concerts and performances throughout the year and have developed our repertoire over the course of our weekly rehearsals. I have to say, my favourite song of the year is the choir performing Cold Winds Blow, a song I co-wrote with Pat McCarthy, a fabulous jazz musician who I work with a lot. Jo Townell, the choir’s accompanist and arranger wrote a glorious choral arrangement of the song and we just love performing it.

Every year has its downsides. I have had many personal struggles this year. Everyone has them, everyone has trouble. My troubles have been heavy and hard going at times but all things pass and without challenge, change and darkness we don’t appreciate the light.

In 2018 I will be writing new material for a jazz and poetry collaboration plus new music for the choir. I am working on a huge piece of new work which is under wraps for now and I am excited about forthcoming La Luna publications and projects.  My resolution for 2018 is to live authentically in the clearing of being with my best human and to always look for the light

Review of 2017: Nicky Black

Merry Christmas! 

To celebrate this special day, we have not one, not two but three St Nicks! 

Our first festive guest is the lovely Nicky Black, author of ‘The Prodigal‘. I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with Nicky this year and I’m thrilled she’s spared us some time to chat about her year.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Oh, it has to be finishing a presentable draft of Tommy Collins (book 2) and getting it to a professional editor. It’s been a labour of love and the work isn’t over yet. But to have it in a state where I was confident enough to let someone read it was awesome. After a couple of weeks of agony, the feedback was great – lots to sort out, but I’ve got something to work with.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
I moved back up north last year and gave myself a few months recuperation and writing time, knowing that I’d need to find work, and hoping I could find something part time that I could live on. My favourite moment was being offered a job I really wanted and knowing that I could finally settle and feel secure – as well as feed myself and pay the bills with enough left over to have a life. It’s also not quite full time, so I’ve got a little bit of leeway to write (or edit as the case may be…).

Favourite book in 2017?
The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman. I listened to it on audio and spent every spare moment with my earphones in. I loved it: the time travel premise, the characters, New York, the 70s. I could listen to it all over again. In fact, I think I will!

Favourite film in 2017?
I’ve only been to the cinema once this year, and that was to see Dunkirk. I found it traumatic, but amazingly well done. I do plan on going to see Murder on the Orient Express on Boxing Day as my birthday treat though.

Favourite song of the year?
I hardly ever listen to new music! Terrible, I know – it’s an age thing I reckon. So, I’m going to say Coldplay’s version of A Different Corner by George Michael which had me crying buckets at the end of the Channel 4 Freedom documentary this year.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
My dad’s funeral in January. He could be an opinionated, grumpy old bugger, but he bore his cancer with such dignity and without a grumble, I kind of fear death a little less now because of it. I love this picture of him reading The Prodigal when it was first published. Even though he said it was a “lasses book”, he was very proud really.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Nope! I don’t make new year’s resolutions any more. The time to change things is when they need to be changed, not just once a year because it’s tradition. Though I’ll be staying away from the gym while other people put theirs into action and mob the place. I’ll go back in February when everything gets back to normal 😊.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Ahhh! My second book published, of course! And then we’ll see what happens. I’ve got two ideas for book three, just need to make the decision and get started.

Thank you, Vic. Have a great Christmas and New Year. See you in 2018!

Review of 2017: Jackie McLean

Three weeks ago, my husband invited me out for the afternoon. We have a running joke that no matter where I go, I see someone I know but I was pretty shocked to see Jackie McLean, her partner Allison and Kelly Lacey walking towards me.

However, it soon became apparent that it was all a set-up. Jackie and Allison had travelled all the way from Glasgow, picking Kelly up on the way just to spend the afternoon with little old me. They brought gifts and kind wishes from other crime writing buddies and I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since – what an incredibly thoughtful thing to do, eh? 

Anyway, here’s the wonderful Jackie to review her 2017.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
2017 has been The Year when it all started to happen with my writing, when it went from a wee hobby in my back room to being a major focus of my life. A favourite moment has to be from the writing group myself and a colleague ran during 2017 with men who’d recently been in prison. One of the guys wrote a poem, which he submitted to a writing competition, and said it gave him more of a high than any drugs.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Without a doubt, the moment my sister-in-law told us she had the all clear from cancer. This came at the end of a full 12 months of gruelling treatment and constant warnings that the outcome wasn’t likely to be good.

Favourite book in 2017?
The Health of Strangers
by Lesley Kelly. I’m actually still reading it, but it’s great. It’s got that something.

Favourite film in 2017?
The only film I watched in 2017 (really) was A Dog’s Purpose with my grandkids. I was devastated! And I was also slightly disturbed by how enthusiastic my older granddaughter was at telling me (many times), “That’s the body. The body!” when the dog, erm, retrieved the buried cat.

Favourite song of the year?
Lost Boy
by Ruth B. Because I can fly, just like Peter Pan…

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Honestly, it’s been one of the better years I can remember.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I am going to get in shape. Yes, I am.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
2018 is a BIG birthday year for me, so I’m sure I’ll be doing a lot of reflecting (and whinging). I’m hoping for a year of love and laughter for everyone.

Review of 2017: Suzie Tullett

Suzie Tullett is someone I’ve “known” online for several years but never met in real life. I know the internet – and social media – can be used for nefarious things but the thing I do love about it is that it connects people with similar interests. 

It sounds like Suzie has had a great year, here she is to tell us more about it – thanks Suzie!

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
2017 has been a wonderful year for me professionally. I’ve set up an ‘Essentials of Novel Writing’ course, which is doing very well, I was invited to become a mentor for Salford University on their Industry Advice Scheme, and I also became a contributor for a monthly journal based here in Brittany, France. I’ve also set up an RNA chapter for novelists based in Brittany. However, the one thing that I cherish the most from this year, is the offer of a three book deal with Bombshell Books. The elation I felt when I heard that they didn’t just want one title, but three! I’m working with a fantastic team and six months on I’m still smiling.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
That has to be the birth of my first granddaughter. She’s such a beautiful and happy little poppet, with the most stunning, big blue eyes.

Favourite book in 2017?
Losing Leah by Sue Welfare.

On a cold dark February morning. Chris and Leah Hills stop for coffee at an isolated service station a stone’s throw from the Welsh Borders. While Leah heads inside, Chris locks the car and goes in to order them a drink. She shouldn’t be long, after all they’ve only stopped to stretch their legs. Minutes pass. Chris waits and waits, but Leah doesn’t come back.

I don’t usually read thrillers, but having glanced at the cover blurb I immediately wanted to know what had happened to poor Leah. I read it in one sitting, that’s how much Leah’s story grabbed me. It’s a book I’ve been recommending since.

Favourite film in 2017?
Kingsman: The Secret ServiceI watched this for the first time a couple of months ago and loved it. It’s funny, has a great cast, and some fabulous action scenes. I’m really looking forward to the sequel, although not being a cinema goer, I shall probably wait for the DVD.

Favourite song of the year?
That would be Rockabye by Clean Bandit, featuring Sean Paul & Anne-Marie although there isn’t a Clean Bandit song I don’t like. I love the range of instruments they use, especially the cello, and their lyrics are beautiful. They tell a story.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Thankfully not. 2017 has been a fabulous year for me both professionally and personally.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Just to keep doing what I’m doing. Writing books, reading, teaching, and, just as importantly, enjoying life and all it has to offer.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I’m hoping to have my fourth novel finished by the end of 2017, ready for publication in 2018. Although any actual release date is for Bombshell Books to decide. And I already have an idea for Book number five which I can’t wait to get stuck in to.

You can connect with Suzie on Facebook and Twitter.

Review of 2017: Chris Ord

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I’ve had a good year. My debut novel, Becoming has sold well and received widespread acclaim. I’ve visited a number of schools giving talks on writing, and presented at several reading events. I was commissioned by Woodhorn Museum to write some passages for their Wonderfolk interactive family experience. This was a proud moment for me, as I spent my childhood walking up and down the narrow path past the pit where the museum is now. However, my favourite memory has to be completing my second novel, The Storm.

I play solo horn in Newbiggin Brass Band, and a couple of years ago we were involved in a local project ‘Haalin’ the Lines.’ Funded by the BAIT team at Woodhorn Museum, the project was led by the remarkable performer and singer-songwriter, Tim Dalling. Tim was commissioned by BAIT to take historical accounts being gathered by the Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Genealogy Project and put some of the stories to music. The aim was to bring back to life the tales and oral histories of local heroes from the village. One of those heroes was ‘Big’ Philip Jefferson, the first Newbiggin Lifeboat Coxswain who was awarded a clasp to his silver medal for an attempted rescue of the Norwegian brig ‘Embla’ in 1854.

The fascination with ‘Big’ Phil stayed with me after the project and further research revealed what an incredible man he was. The story of the night Phil and a few young men from Newbiggin tried to rescue the ‘Embla’ became the backdrop for the novel. However, the events of that night are only the starting point, as the book weaves this together with a folk tale, and a series of mysterious incidents to create a tense, supernatural thriller.

Setting is so important to my writing and it means a lot to me to write a story set in the village where I grew up. History is filled with tales of kings and queens, leaders and generals. This is the history they teach at school. But the true heroes are all around us. They are the people who built our communities, lived and died for our families, friends, and neighbours. What remains of those heroes is love and memories, and it’s vital we keep those alive. Our folk stories are our heritage and we can still learn from them. Writers and creatives play an important role in raising issues, stimulating debate, and provoking challenging questions. I hope my books are more than stories, but also make people think and reflect on the world.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Music has always been my first love, and my best moment in 2017 is a musical moment. As I said earlier, I play in my village brass band. The past two years have been our most successful and this year we retained our Durham League title, won the North East Regional Championship for the second year running, and qualified for the National Finals in Cheltenham.

We worked hard in preparing for the Finals, but you are playing against the best in the country. Wales, Yorkshire, and the North West all have strong, competitive bands and challenging against them is tough. There were twenty bands in the final and finishing anywhere in the top six placings is considered a success. The draw was not kind to us and as with the year before we had a long wait before we took the stage in nineteenth position. The band performed well, though not quite at our very best, leaving the stage with mixed feelings. Finals are unpredictable and always throw up surprises. Few had us anywhere near the prizes.

The announcements prior to the results were agonising, and full of the usual formal fluff and flannel. Eventually, they got round to revealing the prizes, and we were delighted to be awarded fourth place. This is one of my proudest moments in banding. The band folded many years ago and was only revived in 2010. They’re a great bunch of people and musicians, and to come from nothing and finish fourth at the Nationals is a remarkable achievement. We’ve been promoted and next year brings a whole set of fresh challenges. For the moment, we can enjoy the success.

Favourite book in 2017?
A few years ago I read a book called How to be Free by Tom Hodgkinson. It became a bit of a manifesto for me. I read it every now and then to remind me of some important anchors in my approach your life. I decided to read it again this year.

The book has its flaws and some of the author’s ideas are contradictory and simplistic. However, there’s plenty in there to enjoy and it’s worth reading with an open mind. It’s especially engaging if you’re deliberating a life change. I’ve listed the chapter headings below. They provide an indicator of his anarchic approach to life. I see them as a useful common-sense checklist for embracing a certain kind of freedom. You won’t agree with them all, but they make you think, and a number of them inspired me to focus on new priorities.

  1. Banish anxiety; be carefree
  2. Break the bonds of boredom
  3. The tyranny of bills and the freedom of simplicity
  4. Reject career and all its empty promises
  5. Get out of the city
  6. Cast off your watch
  7. Stop competing
  8. Escape debt
  9. Death to shopping, or fleeing the prison of consumer desire
  10. Smash the fetters of fear
  11. Say no to guilt and free your spirit
  12. No more housework, or the power of the candle
  13. Submit no more to the machine, use your hands
  14. Stop moaning; be merry
  15. Live mortgage free; be a happy wanderer
  16. Disarm pain
  17. Stop worrying about your pension and get a life
  18. Sail away from rudeness and towards a new era of courtesy, civility, and grace
  19. Live free of the supermarkets
  20. The reign of ugly is over; long live beauty, quality, fraternity!
  21. Depose the tyrant wealth
  22. Reject waste; embrace thrift
  23. Stop working, start living!!!

Favourite film in 2017?
I’ve not seen enough films this year. I’ve probably forgotten most of the ones I have. It’s a problem of mine, and my wife is always reminding me that I have seen films I’m convinced I haven’t.

One film that stood out for me was Baby Driver. It’s cool, stylish, full of action and has a great storyline. I enjoy a strong narrative and like to be entertained. There’s a role for challenging and thought provoking character movies, but I tend to fall asleep to a lot of those arthouse flicks. I like escapism, and Baby Driver is a bit of fun. It has an excellent soundtrack too. Thanks to Tarantino it seems to be a necessity these days.

One caveat is Kevin Spacey. Always a terrific presence on screen, his reputation is now in tatters. I suspect the film will be buried now. Some of you won’t want to see it because of him. I respect that. It’s a dilemma facing us all now. Should we separate the art from the artist? I must admit if I erased from my life all the creatives who had deplorable views or behaviour there wouldn’t be much culture left. I tend to leave the judgements to the courts or the gutter press. Perhaps that isn’t good enough.

Favourite album of the year?
My wife, Julie has been listening to the latest album by Hurray for the Riff Raff, The Navigator. I recall loving their last album, and the snippets I was hearing around the house hooked me again. I downloaded The Navigator a few weeks ago and have listened to little else since. Essentially, the band is the creative vehicle for lead singer, Alynda Segarra. Of Puerto Rican descent, the album has a strong Latin flavour. The songs and lyrics are exceptional, but it’s the rhythms and mood that I love most. I’m into drums at the minute and love to hear them used in inventive ways. The standout track is ‘Pa’lante’ which contains the lines, ‘I just wanna prove my worth, on the planet Earth, and be something.’ Those words resonated with me. It’s a sentiment that connects most creatives. I think we all want to leave our mark, and if it doesn’t happen in your lifetime die hoping it will someday. Who knows? Maybe our time is yet to come.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
I’ve had a transitional year, readjusting to moving back into contractual work and finding the time to write. While I wouldn’t describe this as a downside, it has meant that I have had less free time. Writing is about discipline and making the time is a challenge. I’m enjoying my new role. It is rewarding, but my passion is writing. My long-term goal is to reach a point where I am writing most of the time. Many writers speak of how they write because they have to. Once you have caught the bug, the compulsion is overwhelming.

However, sustaining a living as an author is like building a business. It takes a few years to build your experience and reputation. The world of publishing has changed, and whilst this offers many opportunities it also means the financial rewards are not as great. I’m an advocate of the indie route. Why be J.K. Rowling when you can by Joy Division? I also like to be control of my own destiny. The opportunities presented in the mainstream would have come at too high a price for me.

I look at the likes of Louise Ross and Mark Dawson with great admiration. They have been bold and clever enough to build a living doing what they love. My success is far more modest, but the creative rewards are what excite and drive me. Whatever happens artistic integrity and authenticity are my primary goals. If others love what I do that is a bonus. Passion may not be enough to pay the bills, but keep working at what you love and the rewards are great. The important thing is to never give up. A film deal would be welcome though.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I’m an obsessive compiler of lists and revel in the opportunity to write my resolutions for the year ahead. I’m still working on my goals for 2018, but my main one is to complete Awakening, the follow up to Becoming. One of my challenges is to strike the right balance between work and writing. It takes discipline to write and finding the time is important. If there is one thing I would love more of it is time. I crave it more than anything. Filling that time with words and music is my idea of heaven. My other goals will revolve around music, travel and running. There are still a few bands I’d still love to see in concert. I go to lots of gigs and there are a few in the diary already. I want to see Sigur Ros, an Icelandic band. I also adore musicals and still haven’t seen ‘Les Miserables’, one of my favourites. I intend to put that right in 2018.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
A top four placing with the band at the Regionals would be great. We’re in a higher section now, so it’s going to be tough. I’m also hoping to visit Berlin this year. I passed through in the early 90s on the way to Poland, and regret not getting off the train for a few days. Croatia is another country I’d love to visit and that’s on my list for the summer. Depending on finances I hope to return to Iceland. It’s a captivating place and I promised myself I would return after a visit in 2016. The costs are eye-watering though and 2018 may be a touch too soon to cram in all this travel. I live in hope though.

Finally, I hope my readers enjoy The Storm. I loved writing it and it would be great if others appreciated the book too. It’s always daunting releasing your work, as you never know what the feedback will be. First and foremost, I see myself as a storyteller. If I can entertain people for a few hours, and make them think that’s all the success I need.

Becoming‘ is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. ‘The Storm’ will be released in January 2018 and will also be available on Amazon.

To find out more about Chris’s writing you can visit his website or find him on Facebook