Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival: An Experience!

Well hello there, I know it’s been a while! It’s been chaos in the M-Steel house, or more to the point house-move.

I’m not however going to bore you with those details, I’m here because I had a fantastic weekend at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. It was, quite frankly awesome!theakston-crime-300x200

What made it so awesome? Well where do I begin?

Watching the amazingly talented Belinda Bauer win Crime Writer of the Year for her novel Rubbernecker. The first night was this marvellous treat, which was preceeded by the fantastic Lynda LaPlante winning the Outstanding Achievement award, after this a fantastic party to kick the weekend off. Already I was mingling and chatting away which for this shy introverted writer to do is a task, especially seeing as I was driving and hence sober. I did however manage to introduce myself a little and begin to get to know who I was milling among.


Friday presented us with a line-up to get anyones murderous juices flowing starting early doors with Denise Mina with an insightful and humorous discussion on not just her books, but inspiration, method and even a touch of poilitics.

A great panel with self published writers followed, a first for the festival in its 12 year history, and we heard some of the greatest success stories, a great boost to authors like myself. Authors like Mel Sheratt who provided great insight into how to make a success of self publishing and how to stay motivated…and a wonderful signed copy of her novel Watching Over You.

The Turning to Crime panel with the amazingly talented Tony Parsons then had us all wetting our appetites before lunch as the writers explained how they came to become to crime Writers from multiple other walks of life; Journalism, Rock and Roll and even stand up comedy…we all eventually falter to a life of crime!

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

A whirl wind of panels taking us  through different angles on how to approach crime writing and other genres to pull into the mix: domestic, comedy, historic, fantasy and of course my favourite: sci-fi. Yes I have obtained myself a copy of Lauren Beukes’, The Shining Girls  no spoilers please!

I found myself incredibly drawn into the Domestic Noir panel and walking away with twenty different ideas for stories to come. Of course we know this isn’t knew, my favourite topic to write about is family; they do after all have the best secrets to hide!

IMG_20140722_214135The Headline act, of course, Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling herself; what a star! She was humble and softly spoken, but very certain about what it was she wanted to say and teased the audience with humour and wit. She was very gracious with her compliments and seemed genuinely very excited about now stepping up as a crime writer, but of course not away from Harry completely. There was the hint of something special to come with Fantastic Beasts.

Of course the best part of the entire few hours she gave us of her time was when she signed my copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling and said she really like my turtle necklace! That is of course, quite simply, because Turtles are cool!


Is it over?


Of coure not, along comes Saturday and the most hilarious hour I’ve had in a long time as Lynda LaPlante took the stage and had us all nearly falling off our chairs we were laughing so hard. For a woman who writes about dark, terrifying people and the acts they can commit, she is absolutely hilarious and I encourage anyone to go and see her if they get the chance.

Very quickly though she had us all remembering the darker side of what we were all there for; crime writing and explained how she wants to write for the victims. She stated:

“How can you see on one hand, people like Myra Hindley in prison, having rehabilitation, therapy, qualified psychologists.

“The victim’s mother haunted the moors with a bunch of flowers, asking ‘where is my son’s body?’ There was no therapy for her. There are no guitar lessons, nothing.”

The room hushed into silence and there was an angry simmering over us as her words touched everyone in the room. I believe that statement will stick with me for quite some time. Not because it is new to me, I know the horrific story of Hindley and Brady, but because she was able to bring us to almost angry tears from hysterical laughter in an instance with that one statement. She reminded us that although we indulge in the literature, crime is real and when it’s real for you, it’s horrifying, tragic and life changing.

Seriously if you get to see Lynda LaPlante, go, she’s an inspiring, wonderfully funny woman!

Val McDermid then brought us to the attention of The new blood panel and introduced us to some authors just emerging in the crime fiction world and they brought to us their journey’s into the publishing world and their inspirations. Of course most importantly they brought their stories of which I was particularly intrigued with Eva Dolan and her tale of migrant workers here in the UK. I quickly got on the internet and purchased the eBook.

Of course the panel that I was really looking forward to was The New Wave of Forensics, to indulge not just my love of crime fiction but the forensic scientist in me stirring to hear how experts in my chosen field approach crime writing and how they feel the reality of science and investigative work is portrayed in novels today. I was sat next to a great new pal, who just happens to be a former police officer and even in the amazing heat of the weekend we were both alert and eager for the q&a at the end when both of our hands shot into the air.


For me the weekend came to a close at 6pm, of course only after the final panel with the marvelous Olivia Colman, fantastic script writer Chris Chibnall, brilliant author Erin Kelly and top of the shop Yorkshire Lass and cracking actress, Jodie Whittaker on the Broadchurch Panel. Of course I got myself a signed copy of that too.


So what made this weekend so awesome?

People: people are so friendly and writers all with the same thing in common and a host of readers milling around you openly asking you what your book is about and where they can find a copy. I met a former cop, a current cop, Journalists, agents, actors and actresses, authors, publishers, poets and writers and of course those most important of all people: Readers!

Every single one of them was kind, talkative, funny and genuinely as interested in me and everything going on around us as I was in them. I came away with a sense of accomplishment, though I didn’t write a word. I came away with a sense of camaraderie and new friends.

I also came away with a whole heap of reading in Crime and justice:

A fantastic collection

A fantastic collection

If I would change anything? Book a hotel, forget the driving and stick around when the drinks start flowing!

So that’s me now googling hotels in Harrogate, see you all next year!


Filed under Review, What's Happening, Work, Writing

Lotus on Tour!

So I’ve been quiet for a while, as I said last week I was in intense training for the Rat Race Dirty Weekend to raise money for Cancer Research. We did great, all 20 miles and 200 Obstacles in 7 hours 27 minutes (but take two hours off for all the queues!) But I’ll tell you more about that another day.


Today I wanted to let you know that I’ve taken Once Upon a Set of Wheels Part 1 Baby Driver on tour with Orangeberry Book Tours!


So if you’d like to read a guest post or check out an excerpt or see what other people have thought about the British Crime Thriller, here’s the tour Schedule:

(*) signifies book club review which will be posted by the end of the tour. Please refer to starter kit item #8.

Book Tour Schedule 

13th May  – Twitter View with OB Book Tours

14th May – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

15th May – Book Feature at Peace from Pieces

16th May – Author Interview 1 at Mommy Adventures

17th May – Guest Post 1 at Author’s Friend

18th May – (*1)Book Review & Guest Post 2 at High Class Books

19th May – (*2)Book Review & Excerpt 2 at Book Professor

20th May – (*3)Book Review & Excerpt 4 at The Reading Cat

21st May – Author Interview 2 at Reading Problem

22nd May – Guest Post at Aspiring Book

Find out what makes a crime author think up such things, why setting means everything, how we overcome the procrastination demons and the methods I use to knuckle down. Check out parts of Lotus’ story as she encounters the darkest of the human consciousness and see what turns a lost little girl into a dangerous killer.

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So you may have noticed I’ve been a little bit absent of late. Not only was I away on my honeymoon, but I’ve also been in rather intense training for the Rat Race Dirty Weekend: 20 miles and 200 obstacles in about 6 hours all to raise money for Cancer Research UK in memory of my lovely dad who passed away last year after having lost his battle with the horrible disease.

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The weekend is now upon me and I’ll be honest, I’m rather daunted by it, but I won’t be put off. I’m part of a team that includes my beautiful wife, my awesome younger borther, some great friends and most importantly two marines to help lift me over the high things and possibly carry me the last five miles!


Then as soon as I get back…my blog tour starts. Oh yes, you’ll be seeing me and most importantly Once Upon a Set of Wheels dropping by on some other blogs and of course there’ll be some nice giveaways.


So if you fancy showing some kindness and support for the worthy cause against cancer here is my just giving page:


Stay tuned for details on the tour!


Let’s get messy!

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Reviving the Old with New Opportunities

So it’s been a couple of weeks since my last blog and well much at all really. That’s because I was on my belated honeymoon: 10 wonderful, amazing, fantastic days in Oahu Hawaii. It was superb and I’d go back tomorrow.CIMG1240


You can probably ascertain from that, that not a lot of writing or, well anything took place…well actually I did manage a little something.


About seven years ago I decided to get to work on a fantasy novel, which quickly, once outlined, was apparent would be a series. I got about three quarters of the way through the first book and then the summer was over and I went back to uni and it kind of got put down while I started writing lab reports and forensic Essays and organic or physical chemistry assignments.

It was saved away on a disc somewhere.CIMG1110


Once uni was over of course I wrote Judged by your peers and I returned to Once Upon a Set of Wheels. I also got to getting started on Wedding in Paradise and Birds of Prey. Clearly firmly setting my self in Crime or womens/lgbt fiction. The fantasy story however was always in the back of my mind and I really wanted to get back to it.


So after going through old discs and files (I really need to sort out my desk top!) I find the copy I had saved to Word in Windows 7 and devastatingly it was corrupt beyond repair. Gutted it is not the word! I thought I would have to either just give up or get out all my hand written notes and start from scratch.

Then, like a shining light as I decided to actually get to tidying up some of my files, there it was, the original document saved as a Vista Word Pad file. Cautiously I opened it on my new windows 8 laptop and there it was…or at least 80% of what I had originally done. Quickly saved in five different formats on three different memory sticks as well as the hard drive I thought I’d get back to it. Then I though When am I going to find time right now?


I needed to catch up  on the story, like I said it’s been seven years. So I saved it again as an epub and downloaded it onto my trusty ereader and packed it lovingly in my suitcase.


While lazing on my balcony in the shimmering of the Pacific sunrise I got to revising my old fantasy story and, with blowing my own trumpet too much, I really got into it. It’d been that long I had forgotten some of the smaller parts I had written connecting the characters. I was actually disappointed as I got to the last chapter I wrote and it didn’t finish.

I am anxious to say the least to get back to writing this tale of eleven misfits in another world searching for love, family, history, faith and meaning…and escaping the tyranny of the enslaving Coodil…oh it’s got everything!

Now I’m home though I realise it has to go to the back of the queue, I have so much to do, Once upon a Set of Wheels Part 2 is in editing, I have a blog tour coming up, I need to finish Wedding in Paradise and Birds of Prey (Which is a three parter) I also have another story I started which I feel will be a novella…marketing, blogging, festivals and conferences. Then life: I’m moving house, working fulltime and attending courses for my day job.


Time is my enemy at the moment but I shall not be defeated. I have mentioned on several occasions that I’d like to give Wattpad a try. Reading through others experiences it’s highly recommended to write work suitable for teens as well as adults, which I have found my problem so far as most of what I write is strong crime or has other adult themes. However the fantasy novel is very much suitable and marketable to teens and Young adults as well as the older fantasy tale indulgers.


As I edit what I’ve already written and work on the next stages, I wonder if Wattpad could be exactly what I need. Becoming a triple genre author may have readers not too sure. However on a new platform, with a new audience, could this be a viable path and present me with the opportunity to share with a different network.


So does anyone have any advice or experience with Wattpad, or reccomend another opportunity or possibility out there?

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Weeping Willow: Poem of the Week

So I’m off for a while (on my belated honeymoon.) and I thought I’d leave you with a poem I wrote when I was ten years old.

This is the poem I ever had published in the local Calderdale News. It was later published in the Best Poems and Poets of 2002 by the International Society of Poets: ISBN  0-7951-5206-X

It’s almost funny that the thoughts of a 10 year old over twenty years ago, could still apply now.

Weeping Willow

When the wind blows, The willow weeps.

When the moon shines, The sun sleeps.

When the world is at peace, We all go to rest,

The fox in its den, the bird in its nest.

We kill each other and we break the law.

If we’re not doing that, we’re forever at war.

So all come together and let us have peace.

Let’s put the war behind us and let the fighting cease.

Fort his is what causes the willow to weep

As we all fall into the deepest sleep.

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Categorise my Book!

Sounds easy right?

My novel is a fictional biography of a serial killer as she explains the life of abuse, neglect and criminal companions she grew up in which led to each situation where she is ‘forced’ to kill, starting at the young age of 5!

It’s dark, it’s nasty and it’s suspenseful.Slide1


Sooooo..Crime? Yes there’s a hell of a lot of crime, unfortunately the category for crime is generally mystery. There is no mystery here, you know who the serial killer is, it’s the girl telling the story!


Suspense? Oh yes, there’s suspense, but it’s not really horror, and can just about be considered thriller.


Gothic? Someone suggested this to me and I’m not sure, it’s not ghouls etc, but it is very very dark!


Biographical? Yes, it is a fictional biography written in first person about her life.


Urban? Yes, it’s urban life, urban survival, it’s surving in an urban ‘dogeatdog’ world


So let’s combine: British Urban Gothic, Suspense Crime thriller fictional Biography….Amazon doesn’t have a category called that! It should have because I think I’d be top of the bill! (I might be the only one in it)


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This is the problem. The crime category is so vast that to even get in the top 1000 you’d be lucky, same goes for crime thriller, or suspense or even British crime. You need a niche, something slightly off kilter. That’s the big advice I had, find a slightly off common category that you can fit into, because it’s easier to climb the rankings, and the more you climb the rankings, the more you get noticed.

If I could compare my story to anything I;ve seen out there, the closest I could go is Dexter, so I scoured the listings for Dexter and its under: crime. But that’s ok for Dexter as it’s established and it doesn’t need a unique category selling point.


So if you’ve read it, or even from the description, can you think of a category?


Now think of your own: Remember it’s not just for where to slot it on Amazon, but it helps immensely when you go to market and you approach bloggers etc. Know your category.. and then try and tweak it to fit into a unique on!

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Writing Tips

So I write a lot about a lot, but I’ve never really written about the writing/publishing/marketing business of being a self published or hybrid published author, and the main reason for that is, I honestly don’t feel I have the know how or experience to. I am still very much learning this business and regularly feel overwhelmed by it, so much so that I want to run away and hide!

However of late I’ve had friends asking my advice about writing a book, and my advice is generally the same, get on line, do your research, join Goodreads, join Kindle forums, get a blog. Basically all the things I read to do when I was sat here going “How do I get my writing out there?” I really struggle with the marketing side of things, trying to get into book stores, trying to get on to blogs, trying to get noticed basically. It’s a hard and soul sucking process. However when you get that review that someone loved your book, it does feel like the hard work you put in was worth it!

I’m not even going to begin right now actiing like I have any notions for success when it comes to marketing. I know a few things about publishing, but I do feel I’ve been doing this long enough to know about the writing process: I’ve been writing stories since I was seven years old, and I’ve been making them up a lot longer. I’ve always had an imagination I wanted to share.

I’m not an English graduate, I can’t tell you about great literature or how most appropriately to use alliteration and onamatopiea’s. However neither will most readers, they read for their enjoyment, for their interest, to be lost in the tales you have to offer. Write it well and know what you’re writing and you won’t need that degree, although if you have one you’re probably far ahead of me with advice.

So I’m going to start this thread, I’ll have a lovely little tab at the top and it’ll be on my website too and I’ll be writing my own methods and my own lessons learnt in writing. I will offer some of what I know on self publishing and I’ll tell you what i know doesn’t work when it comes to marketing.


So I’m going to start with a very short but important factor I think everyone who says they want to write should do first and foremost: READ! Read books in your genre, read books in other genre’s, read books on writing books in your genre. Most imporantly, read and learn from the style, the notions, the methods you see visibly in front of you. If you really enjoy a book my guess is, it was written really well, so look and see what they did, what was it about it that enabled you to enjoy it so much?

I love to read; I love to read a multiple of genres, Crime, fantasy, sci-fi, true life, romance and even some horror. The only real genre I’m not a huge fan of is BDSM, but that’s just personal choice.

Another thing to do once you’re reading, is join a book club, even if it is just online, there are sites like Goodreads and Library Thing where you can indulge with other like minded readers about the books you’ve read. You will also find fellow writers trying to get their foot on the ladder just like you.


I’m a scientist by day and I wouldn’t have just walked into a lab and picked up some Hydrochloric acid and said I’m going to do a titration today! I’d have most likely dissolved my fingers! I had to learn first. I had to learn the interactions of chemistry right dwn to the molecular level. I had to learn what lab equipment was for what. I had to learn what made an acid corrosive and dangerous, and at what levels they were dangerous: Citric and hydrochloric are both acids, but one you eat in a lemon and one is very dangerous, I had to learn the differences between them and how and why they function in the way they do.

To write, learn your craft; read what others have done, how they got it right and how they got it wrong, trust me there’s a lot of writing out there that is not very good!


I’ll leave it at that today, but I am hoping to make this a regularly thread, if you have any questions or queries please ask and I’ll do my best to answer them, even if it really is simply: I don’t know yet, but I’m working on it!


Filed under Advice, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Tips