Tag Archives: stories

Review: ‘Dark Skies’ by LJ Ross

One fateful, clear-skied night, three friends embark on a secret trip. Only two return home. Thirty years later, the body of a teenage boy rises from the depths of England’s biggest reservoir and threatens to expose a killer who has lain dormant…until now.

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan is back following an idyllic honeymoon with the love of his life but returns to danger from all sides. In the depths of Kielder Forest, a murderer has evaded justice for decades and will do anything to keep it that way. Meanwhile, back at CID, an old adversary has taken the reins and is determined to destroy Ryan whatever the cost.

As usual, LJ Ross excels in her descriptions of the landscape where the story is set. What I really like about the DCI Ryan series is that LJ Ross sets macabre discoveries and heinous crimes in beautiful locations, ‘Dark Skies‘ is no different in that respect.

Add to that a number of intriguing sub-plots and a recurring cast of compelling characters and it’s no wonder that this series is one of the most successful in recent times. 

With ‘Dark Skies‘, however, there’s a new element to the series with malevolent forces within the force bringing extra tension to the narrative. 

As with the previous novels in the series, there are some unresolved issues which will undoubtedly keep readers hungry for more. 

Vic x

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Review of 2017: Geraldine Ward

Geraldine Ward is another writer I have “known” online for many years. I haven’t yet had the opportunity of meeting her in the flesh yet but I really appreciate her taking the time to review her year. 

Please check back later today for our penultimate 2017 review. 

Vic x

My favourite memory from a professional perspective this year has to be appearing on BBC Radio Four’s Front Row on a podcast broadcast discussing NANOWRIMO. This was especially sweet because I was only one of three people picked in the whole country, in this instance for my region, Kent, out of the NANOWRIMO entrants and apparently there had been a lot of people applying to go for a slot on the show. Enough of the boasting, moving on!

A general favourite moment of 2017 is still writing related. This was reading one of my stories, The Fish With No Lips, from my book, Mark’s Magic Farmyard and Other Stories at the infants’ assembly at my son’s school. I have never read my work out to so many people so was quite nervous even though they were children. I have to say it was a great pleasure doing this and was very impressed how well the children listened and paid attention. I am also extremely grateful to the Deputy Head who gave me the opportunity to basically run the assembly!

My favourite book that I have read this year is not a contemporary one, written by Zora Neale Hurston called Their Eyes were Watching God. I loved the originality of Hurston’s voice and the heroine in it is an incredible character. Well worth reading.

I have watched very few films this year, so I am a bit light on that front I am afraid although I really enjoyed going to the cinema with my son, Sam to watch The BFG. An unexpected treat!

There have been some good songs this year. My guilty pleasure is Little Mix. However, I really enjoyed listening to Rag’n’Bone Man, Human. Love that one.

Downsides this year have to be breaking my foot twice. First time it was my right foot, then my left foot, this time my ankle. I am hoping there won’t be another injury on the cards, being a bit superstitious about things “going in threes”.

I am not making any New Year’s resolutions. There is no point as I don’t ever keep them. My only hope would be not to have another injury and survive the next year intact and in one piece.

You can find Geraldine on Twitter and Facebook

 

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: Rob Walton

Our final guest today is the rather brilliant Rob Walton.

Many people on the North-East writing scene will know Rob thanks to his performances at The Stanza as well as his involvement with Free as a Bard. 

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Rob this year for our Christmas ghost stories at Old Low Light. 

As you may notice, Rob has added in a few extra questions – we hope you enjoy them. My thanks to Rob for taking the time to share his year with us. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a moment, so I’ll go for a time of year.  Autumn going into winter was great in that I had several acceptances and publications in magazines and anthologies within a short apace of time.  What was particularly gratifying was that (a) people were liking things I’d reworked or sent out again after editing and (b) a range of stuff was accepted – a children’s poem, creative non-fiction, poetry, short stories and flash fictions.  All felt right with my writing world.  Until the next rejection of course.

Also, there were many lovely performance nights with wonderful hosts.  Once again I gate-crashed one of the lovely Vic Watson’s evenings, this time I read a Dickens’ mash-up Christmas ghost story.  I had some quirky firsts too.  I worked with Russ Coleman to cast some words in concrete.

Then there was a concrete poem in a wonderful quirky book and an aperture poem courtesy of Sidekick Books.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
This straddles the personal and the professional.  Not a moment, but rather the ongoing friendship and support from various writerly people hereabouts.  I hope they know who they are.

Favourite book in 2017?
I read and really enjoyed some great work by writer friends, but I wouldn’t want to miss any of them out – Paul Summers has got a vicious temper and Harry Gallagher’s got a bow and arrow –  so I’ll go further afield.  Not all of these were released this year, but I read them in 2017.

Jan Carson’s Postcard Stories from the Emma Press was also great.  Every day in 2015 she wrote a story on a postcard and sent it to a friend.  The highlights are collected in the book.

Short stories: I’m going for Danielle McLaughlin’s Dinosaurs On Other Planets.  My partner heard one on Radio 4 and got me to listen to it, and then bought it for my birthday.  It’s bloody brilliant.  Spend your Christmas money on it, whatever Christmas money is.

Ali Smith’s Public Library and other stories also went down a treat.  I think she’s brilliant.

Poetry: I found a copy of Kim Moore’s The Art of Falling in North Shields Library, and was seriously impressed.

Memoir: it has to be Thatcher Stole My Trousers by Alexei Sayle.

Favourite film of the year? 
It’s go to be The Florida Project.  I saw it at the Tyneside with a load of older folk eating sandwiches.  Of course I wouldn’t do that – I had sandwiches and crisps.

Favourite song of the year?
I don’t know about a specific song but there were some real gems in Luke Haines’ set at The Cluny 2 in May and, continuing with the live theme, Sleaford Mods were great in the autumn at the old Poly Union building, whatever it’s called these days.

Favourite sports team of the year?
Yet again it’s Scunthorpe United.

Favourite cake of the year?
That would be the rhubarb crumble one with the sticks Steve and Sam gave us, grown in the City of Culture.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
I discovered that a woman in Lerwick is challenging my claim to being the inventor of cheese.  And my right hamstring’s been tighter than I would like.  Then there was the Untied Kingdom thing. 

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Going to keep more secrets, and be sick in more handbags (and deny all knowledge).

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Professionally: get a flash fiction collection together.
Personally: hope my daughters’ transitions from primary to secondary, and secondary to sixth form go smoothly.
Pugilistically: take it on the chin.

Review of 2017: Louise Beech

To me, Louise Beech – another of Orenda Books’ wonderful authors – is a person I really admire. She’s funny, kind and writes thought-provoking stories. 

It would appear that Orenda’s Karen Sullivan not only considers the quality of the work but also the people themselves when adding to her list. How else could you explain the fact that her authors are not only brilliant writers but lovely people? 

My thanks to Louise for sharing her eventful year with us.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
2017 was definitely up there for me professionally – I did the Crimefest, Newcastle Noir, and AyeWrite festivals. Did the Orenda Roadshow. But the moment I saw that Maria in the Moon had been picked as a Must Read in the Sunday Express was a true peak. When I was a chambermaid ten years ago, I used to sneakily eat biscuits and read the Sunday Express magazine on the hotel bed, and dream of having a book reviewed in there. So I think you can imagine how it felt to see that.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Visiting Paris with my 17-year-old daughter Katy. She has declared she’ll no longer be coming on holiday with us, so I cherished every moment with her.

Favourite book in 2017?
Obviously, all of the Orenda ones I read. Outside of that, I absolutely loved Cassandra Parkin’s The Winter’s Child. A haunting, gripping, poetic thrill of a novel.

Favourite film in 2017?
I finally watched Interstellar and was absolutely blown away. Made me think, made me cry, made me question. What more could you want from a film? Beautiful soundtrack too, which I listen to while writing.

Favourite song of the year?
Maria in the Moon
 by Carrie Martin.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Some personal sadness in 2017. Personal tragedy. But these things just make us grow.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Always. But if I tell you it won’t come true…

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Complete world domination. And a new washing machine.

Review of 2017: Emma Whitehall

Today, we have another member of Elementary Writers on the blog to review her 2017. Emma Whitehall is not just a member of my writing group but a real friend.

If you get the opportunity to read her work, or see her perform it, I recommend you do so! I’ve had the privilege of working with her while she developed her collection ‘Clockwork Magpies’ which I am convinced will be insanely popular when it’s released. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
It’s a tie. I went to Ireland for a literary festival in July, and I started a 3-month volunteer position at Mslexia in September. One of my stories was shortlisted for the Fish Flash Fiction award this year, and I was invited to read at the launch in Bantry, just outside of Cork. I went alone, and it was such an amazing adventure! Not only did I get to spend some time in a phenomenally beautiful setting, I started every day by hiking up a huge hill to take a short story course with Alissa Nutting, who wrote Tampa. I’ll never forget it!

Working with the Mslexia team has been amazing, too. All the girls on the team are brilliant, and I’ve learned so much about working for a magazine. I’ve even written one or two pieces! 

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
My gym-nut brother bought me a Fitbit a few months ago, and it has literally changed my life. I try about walk about 5-6 miles a day (including moving about at work), and I’ve lost 10lb in about 2 months! It’s become a stress antidote; there are days when I really can’t wait to put my trainers on, find a good podcast (I’m nearing the end of The Adventure Zone right now), and go for a nice long walk…

Favourite book in 2017?
Oh, this is a tricky one! I’d probably have to say T.E. Grau’s They Don’t Come Home Anymore, which is a brilliant novella about toxic friendships, obsession, and vampires. Through reviewing for Unnerving magazine, I’ve read a lot of really amazing indie horror this year.

Favourite film in 2017?
Stranger Things. I know I’m being contrary with that answer, but it’s structured more like an 8-hour film than a TV show, and the characters have stayed with me much more than any that I’ve seen in the cinema this year. Winona Ryder is incredible, and Millie Bobby Brown should get any role she wants for the rest of her career. 

Favourite song of the year?
My Tyrant”, by Felix Hagan and the Family. On the one hand, it’s a song about a turbulent, possibly unhealthy relationship…but it’s also about being totally, joyfully in love (or lust) with someone. It’s a raucous song that’s a hell of a lot of fun to listen to – much to my partner’s chagrin…

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Sadly, I lost my Leopard Gecko, Ace, just before I went to Ireland. It was old age, and he went as quietly as you can hope, but I was devastated. He was my constant companion – even if we were doing our own thing, on opposite sides of the room, we were always doing it together. I never knew reptiles could be so funny, so sweet, and so full of personality before we got him. I miss him a lot. He won’t be my last pet, but, for now, I’m still getting over the loss.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
To keep going! I feel like, with a lot of things, I’m on the precipice; I’m about 3lb off my weight goal, I’ve had a few promising interactions with writing jobs (though I am still looking at the moment), I’ve been longlisted and shortlisted for a few awards, and my collection of short stories is very nearly done. I think I just need to keep pushing forward and not lose my nerve!

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I hope that, this time next year, I can hold a published copy of my collection in my hands.

Review of 2017: LJ Ross

Two years ago, I was invited a fabulous party to celebrate the release of a wonderful woman’s second book. That book was ‘Sycamore Gap‘ by LJ Ross.  

Today, the seventh book in the DCI Ryan series – ‘Dark Skies‘ – is released and I cannot wait to read it!  Louise is a prolific writer and she deserves every success, it is a pleasure to know her. 

For those of you who are based in the North East, I will be interviewing LJ Ross at Wallsend Library on Thursday, 22nd February. Tickets can be obtained from North Tyneside libraries. 

Vic x

 

Picture by Gareth Iwan Jones

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
This has been an incredible year for DCI Ryan and I’m so grateful to all my readers. It’s hard to pick any one memory in particular, but it was an incredible feeling to have two of my books (Cragside and Dark Skies) reach UK #1 whilst still on pre-order and all seven books to be in the top 100 at the same time.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
We just got the keys for our new house in Northumberland, which is a special moment. It’s the first time in years I’ve been able to make a permanent move back to my home county, which I love, and it means I can be close to my family and my son can be near his grandparents.

Favourite book in 2017?
It isn’t a newly-released book, but I read The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson and thought it was excellent. The prose is crisp and manages to convey meaning without being unnecessarily wordy. It was also an excellent, claustrophobic study of how to write a book from the perspective of the killer.

Favourite film in 2017?
I’ve hardly found time to watch any films this year (which sounds very depressing!). However, I watched some goofy movies like Snatched with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. It wasn’t a great movie, but I’m a huge fan of Goldie so she can do no wrong in my eyes… I tend to watch old black and white movies like The 39 Steps, which I love.

Favourite song of the year?
I think my musical frame of reference stopped somewhere back in 2005 but, if we’re going by the song I’ve listened to most frequently this year, it would have to be anything from the Rocky IV soundtrack!

Any downsides for you in 2017?
I’m not sure if it is a true ‘downside’ but I’ve been incredibly busy and haven’t read as many books as I’d like – which I intend to rectify in the near future!

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I always resolve to be the best person I can be, whether as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister or a friend. That’s always a good goal.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I’m hoping I won’t wake up and find it was all a wonderful dream! I want to write more stories and travel.