Harrogate 2014

2014-07-18 23.10.44

Harrogate — or to give its proper name, Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival — is always full of shenanigans. Put a bunch of writers together at a vintage pub in a spa town in Yorkshire when it’s far too hot and well, what would you expect? While usually I’d call the cheeriest writers either romance writers or horror writers (yes, really and if you’ve sung showtunes at dawn on a Rhode Island beach, you’d know that) this is the year dubbed #happygate because there was no happier place to be (in your face, Disney).

A big part of that is due to the surprise proposal Scott made to Jo at the end of the “In Space, No-one Can Hear You Scream” panel — but the screams were all of joy. Sly boots all: a happy couple even before the surprise, and it was pulled off with aplomb, champagne arriving on cue and a speechless Jo quite overwhelmed. Since Scott made it the last question from the audience, I think people were looking expectant at the end of every panel when the moderators queried, “Are there any final questions?” Congratulations!

Just after la Tour

Just after la Tour

The panel itself was an interesting one, hosted by program chair Steve Mosby and discussing with Lauren Beukes, Sharon Bolton, James Smythe and Lavie Tidhar the mixing of other genres with crime, which always seems to get sneers — yet also seems to enliven the genre each time there’s another cross-genre hit (I may be biased here). Since we no longer have to face the tyranny of the genre bookshelf, why stick to one label?

The interview with Denise Mina had kicked off the morning. I never get tired of hearing her speak. She’s funny and frank, and so inspiring. I loved how she talked about the pull of politics as someone who adamantly fights for change, but also realising the cost of political work — and the horror of the people who are often drawn to that life. She called them men with “suits too expensive for their faces” which seemed perfect. Politics will eat artists alive.

Martyn Waites hosted a panel of folks who represented the range of publishing paths out there: James Oswald (without his coos), Mark Edwards, Mari Hannah and Mel Sherratt. The upshot of the discussion is what William Goldman wrote long ago: Nobody knows anything. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket because we’re still in the midst of change.

I went to see ‘Robert Galbraith’ better known as J. K. Rowling because I figured I’d not get another chance to see her in quite so intimate surroundings. Although the event was held ‘off campus’ the town hall was still rather small and I was in the 4th row. Val McDermid had us laughing from the start (as usual) by teasing her about the name and declaring she would call her Bob. Although Rowling seems quite polished these days, the eager enthusiasm remains plain. She loves what she does — and she loves her audience. And she says there’s no limit to the Galbraith books.

Although out late, I steeled myself to get up early to see Lynda La Plante and I am so very glad that I did. Like Rowling, here’s someone who’s had a lot of success and yet the thing that came through was how happy she is to know people read her and watch her stories. Her RADA training shows in her seasoned persona, though she made sure to play down her acting as “lots of prostitutes” and of course that appearance on Rentaghost. La Plante is a hoot and a half; if you get a chance to see her, do. Someone asked what she does when she procrastinates, but she said she can’t wait to write. I think she felt the air leave the room then, but before all the writers could faint she added that she knew herself to be in a very fortunate place where people were waiting on her words. “I keep a sign over my desk that reads ‘Rejection does not mean NO!’” Nobody knows anything: to seize luck, you have to be in a position to do so.

Mmmmm chips

Mmmmm chips

Sophie Hannah and S.J. Watson talked a lot about the mysteries that other people are to us (and we to them). The film of Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep looked rather good. The new blood panel with Val McDermid was fascinating to see just how different all the new stars she’d picked were — from a Chastity Flame-like secret assassin, to migrant workers in the UK to a novel on the Axeman murderer in New Orleans and a dead child in a Irish convent school (which won the Dundee prize).

As usual, most of the fest was spend wandering around and chatting, passing out promo things for my own books (the Extricate chocolates went very fast) and apparently missing more people than I found. Some of that may have to do with disappearing to eat and play with Adele, Vince, Kat and others because they had a flat across the road.

The town was still full of Tour de France decorations — everything rather yellow. Harrogate’s a pretty town. I think I saw more of it last time, at least the lovely gardens. I always mean to try the Turkish baths. I did have a quiet lunch at the pub where P. G. Wodehouse used to drink on my way out of town.

The only problem with going away is trying to catch up again with all the things. Bit by bit…

Bound for Harrogate

For the next few days, this is where you’ll find me: Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. Loads of writers will be there including that Galbraith fellow. I’ll try to tweet from the panels or share any interesting (or blackmail-worthy) photos I get. The good news is I’ll also be seeing friends like the fabulous Adele, so skulk magic will doubtless happen. If you need to occupy yourselves in my absence, try reading my story “The Bride With White Hair” that was inspired by my first visit to Harrogate and the fest. It can be found in either of the two fine tomes below (click on the picture to see more).



Out Now: Girl at the End of the World, Volume 1

Another Fox Spirit triumph and one very close to foxy hearts: the first volume of The Girl at the End of the World is out now! Before there was a Fox Spirit, there was UnBound, home of wild conversations about zombies and bug-out bags with Dana and Jack and all, which led to The Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse. That girl lives on in this volume — and so much more! Here’s the table of contents:

Volume 1

1,1 Antichristine James Bennett
1,1 Change of Address Rob Harkess
1,1 Coming Back Tracy Fahey
1,1 Skin James Oswald
1,1 The Borrowed Man James S Dorr
1,1 The End of the Garden Catherine Mann
1,1 The Ending Plague Andrew Reid
1,1 The Wife of Watsorous Nathan Lunt

1,2 A Sailor Girl Goes Ashore Margret Helgadottir
1,2 Blueprint for Redwings Ruth E J Booth
1,2 Demon Runner Dash Cooray
1,2 Little Daughter Dayna Ingram
1,2 Rolling in the Deep Cat Connor
1,2 Sophie and the Gate to Hell Carol Borden
1,2 The Glaciers Stone Alexander Danner
1,2 The Last Rushani Jonathan Ward

1,3 In the Absence John Perkins
1,3 Only So Far Adam Rodenberger
1,3 Saint Salima Alex Helm
1,3 Somebody to Play with Geraldine Clark Hellery
1,3 The Beast Within Christian D’Amico
1,3 Zompoc in Nashville (anonymous) discussed by Dr. K. A.Laity
1,3 All things Fall Chloe Yates

As you might guess, mine is a bit unusual. I analyse a handwritten sheet of lyrics and a scratchy recording found in the rubble after the apocalypse. Who wrote them? What could have prompted this outpouring — and did it make the charts?

Yes, volume two is coming! This girl has a future — though it might not be what you think…

Exiles Guest Blog:How I Wrote ‘Eating the Dream’ by K. A. Laity


Hey, that’s me –

Originally posted on PAUL D. BRAZILL:

Exiles cover preview (1)I’m trying to remember where this story came from. I know the title came first, but not really because before that came William Blake and the Red Dragon, but before that came Springsteen and songs of escape, but even before that came cars.

I grew up in a factory town where automobiles were the trade. Most of my extended family worked for the auto industry in one way or another. The reality of the auto industry hasn’t matched the promise of its sleek machines for some time; the ruins of it still smoulder in the hometown I left long ago. But romance of the open road has fueled the dream of freedom for as long as I can remember.

I still feel it when I hit the highway. I spent so long afraid I would never escape that the sight of a road stretched out before me buoys my spirit…

View original 430 more words

Writer Wednesday: Bear-Baiting

We live in interesting times. By which I mean we live as ever in difficult times; given the state of the planet we can be forgiven for a penchant for weaving apocalyptic narratives. It can be comforting to think that it’s only because we know so much more about what’s going on thanks to the internet and all its social media. You’d be a rara avis indeed if you’ve not seen at least a couple of petitions to save something or someone today, usually with a heart-rending photo.

We have a lot of information at our fingertips.

Of course, having information and managing it are two different things. Some people shut off, leave Facebook and retreat to a lower-tech life. As a writer, that’s a bold choice to make unless you’re already famous (and your publisher will probably want you to be on social media anyway). While giant corporations tussle over who really controls publishing (note: when corporations battle we are not the winners), most writers I know are still reeling from the thought that people on the whole would be glad to give their time and attention to potato salad.

Understandable: the cri de coeur of every artist is to be noticed. Now you may be in the camp that thinks there should be standards about who gets to call themselves artists, or you may be the sort who feels that people should be able to call themselves whatever they like. It’s not as if it matters, anyhoo — because we’re all fighting for the attention of those readers/listeners/sharers of experience and that slice is getting thinner.

Here’s a pie chart from a Slate story about the crushing weight of work days (American; Europeans may adjust accordingly, though the differences are getting smaller):

See that red slice? That’s what we’re all competing for. “We” meaning all us creators and our creations: books, films, television, online videos, social media, etc. All of it. Reading is a high bar to get folks to jump over. It requires more effort than a lot of other entertainments: time, engagement, imagination and the will to sort through the millions of books out there to find one they might like — an increasingly daunting task.

We remember Shakespeare because he was good enough to consistently snag a good number of people away from the lure of bear-baiting. ‘Such a horrible sport!’ I hear you cry. Well, yes, but we can always harden our heart to things we’d rather not think about. But it provided simple, reliable entertainment as far as Elizabethans were concerned. It asked little of them but showing up and letting the spectacle make their pulses race. If it sounds like a Michael Bay film, you’re on the right track.

Our challenge is the same: there’s more bear-baiting than ever. There are more Shakespeares and his sisters, too (or should we call them Aphra Behns?). The small blip of time ( a few decades) where a small number of writers made a great deal of money may not return. The slightly larger blip of many people making a living from writing (about a century) may also have passed.

If you have stories in you that want to be told, don’t let anyone discourage you from telling them. Make money from them when you can, don’t sell yourself short, keep striving, and most importantly keep working – honing your skills, failing, learning and working harder. Because William Goldman is still right: “Nobody knows anything.” That’s why blockbusters tank, television series get axed and people give money for potato salad on a whim. Nobody knows.

The golden age is before us, not behind us. William Shakespeare – See more at: http://quotesnsmiles.com/quotes/40-favourite-william-shakespeare-quotes/#sthash.sJebWCA8.dpuf

The golden age is before us, not behind us. ~ William Shakespeare

If you desire something lighter, try: Ten Steps to Inner Peace

Out Now: Hard-Boiled Witch 2 – Toil & Trouble

HBW 2 Toil & TroubleHecate Sidlaw is back and magical mayhem is around!

The second episode in the Hard-Boiled Witch series is out now: Toil & Trouble. Here’s the blurb:

Hecate Sidlaw finds herself caught between a wannabe witch and one of the oldest hereditary powers in the land. When she and her familiar Henry end up as seconds in a magical duel, will anyone be left standing at the end of the shootout? Enter the dark streets and weird magic of HARD-BOILED WITCH and your life will never be quite the same. This is the second episode in the short story series.

I am having fun with this series and using some of the Dundee landmarks. I’m taking great liberties with the landscape as well, so I’ll probably never actually call it Dundee, but it’s fun to play around. Just to give a hint, there’s a big ‘shoot out’ in a certain old cemetery. ;-)

And if you missed it yesterday, you need to know that Exiles: An Outsider Anthology is now part of the International Crime Storybundle. The International Crime Bundle features 9 crime titles for a price you set. We’ve got novels from some of the best crime writers today, having picked up such awards as the Goldsboro ‘Last Laugh’ Award, Anthony, Macavity and Agatha Award, Spinetingler Book of Year, Pulp Pusher Book of the Year and a small matter of a Pulitzer-prize!

Time’s running out! Just a few more days to get Unquiet Dreams at a special price! The story collection Steve Bissette called, “the long, deep plunge in the coldest quarry in the woods; the lingering look under the rotting wood at all the writhing life there; the stare into the abyss until one realizes something is staring back.”

But it’s not the only thing I’m flogging: click any of the pictures below to buy the new and flashy stuff. And please please please consider leaving reviews! They’re the only way other people decide to take a chance on something new. Help people break out of the same-old routine.