Like This, For Ever – Sharon Bolton

Murders are horrific, they are also grimly fascinating. I know I am now alone in this, yet many people might not like to admit that they feel this way. With a murder we empathise with the victim and their family, we also find the little horrific facts that get reported along the way grimly fascinating, we also like to try and work out who the killer might be even if we have very few of the facts and nothing evidential. It is human nature; it is why crime has become one of the biggest selling genres of books around the world.

Transworld Books, paperback, 2013, fiction, 512 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

In Like This, For Ever we see a series of murders through the eyes of an eleven year old boy, Barney, who has become fixated by them. Part of this is the element of human nature as I mentioned above, part of it is also that the victims are young boys like himself which adds empathy for them to him and also a fear that he could at some point fall under the killers eyes and become a potential victim. Part of it is that Barney would really like to catch the killer, gaining some acclaim and attention from his dad but also from some of the kids at school who bully him for the black outs that he sometimes gets. He is not alone and soon, along with some of his friends, he decides to play investigator yet catching a killer can mean catching that killer’s attention.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in London, Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury of the Major Investigations Team are getting nowhere in trying to solve who this killer is. With the slowly dawning realisation of the public that this might be a serial killer and then the disappearance of more children Tulloch and Joesbury have to work fast before time runs out. Yet this killer is clever, so clever in fact that soon the police start to be taunted by a killer that is making themselves known on social media and making the public interest and fear all the wider spread.

Now you may be wondering where on earth Lacey Flint is in all this, after all this is the third Lacey Flint novel. I know I was. Without giving away any major spoilers I can say that Lacey, who is currently off the police force after what happened in her last case (in Dead Scared, which is bloody scary) does get involved and at a time when she swore to herself that she wouldn’t get involved in another case herself, especially one which chimes to a time in Lacey’s murky past which we are slowly but surely learning more and more about.

The kids on the touchline were watching her approach. Lacey studied each in turn. The smaller boy was edgy and nervous. The girl was bold-faced and defiant, just like she’d been at that age, but scared underneath it. The young were so bad at hiding their feelings. All except Barney, who, she had to admit, was a pretty cool customer. He’d turned back to watch the match again, she’d almost be convinced if it weren’t for the angle of his head. He was watching her. Then the taller of the boys followed his lead, turning his back on Lacey, slinging an arm around Barney’s shoulders, saying something a little louder than necessary. Then he laughed. Barney laughed too, as though the two of them had just shared something hilarious.
As Lacey drew close, the girl looked her up and down, sizing up everything she was wearing, and then turned her back, as though she wasn’t worth any more interest. Little minx. The younger boys couldn’t take their eyes off her. They were like small mammals when a snake gets ready to strike.

These three stands create a fantastic thriller from an author who is easily becoming one of my favourite crime writers. With its many viewpoints Like This, For Ever really looks at a series of murders from all angles from those involved closely and those from a distance. I have to admit I wasn’t sure that the voice of an eleven year old would really work for me in a crime novel but in many ways I think it is what gives this book a real edge. Barney sees and hears things going on around him, he might not always understand them or may not catch their implications, we as the reader do however and this adds a really clever, and sometimes incredibly sinister, dynamic to the book. Doubly cleverly it also adds a certain naivety to the novel, child murders are very uncomfortable ground, yet Barney’s narration somehow softens the horror as it ups the fear. It is really hard to describe and genius of Bolton to do, a true masterstroke.

Also, as always in this series, Lacey Flint adds another edge to it. Rogue at the best of times, without being assigned to the case or indeed being on the force any longer, Flint takes it even further with this novel. As she does so we get snapshots into a part of her past, and her psyche, that we haven’t seen before. In the Lacey Flint series, really it is the mystery of who Lacey really is and what on earth has happened in her past, which we are slowly uncovering. Just as I didn’t have a clue who was the murderer in this book until the last chapter, I have no idea where Lacey’s back story will take us next. Part of me is desperate to, whilst the other part is enjoying the slow reveal and doesn’t want this series to end.

To cut to the chase Sharon Bolton (or S J Bolton as you may know her) has gone and done it again. Like This, For Ever is an intelligent, scary, chilling and gripping thriller that will have you reading until the small hours, both because you are gripped and because you are too tense or scared to turn the light out. Each novel in this series just gets better and better, and the first one was blooming brilliant, so I cannot wait for the next – which thankfully is sat on my shelves already. I love the mix of intrigue, genuine fear and hint of something ‘other’ that they evoke. If you haven’t given them a whirl then you really, really must.

If you would like to hear more about the Lacey Flint novels you can hear Sharon and myself in conversation here. Who else out there has read the Lacey Flint series? What about the standalone novels? I am very excited because in the forthcoming Little Black Lies guess who makes an appearance? Yes, a certain Simon Savidge, I am both thrilled and nervous about this.

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Filed under Books of 2015, Review, S.J. Bolton, Sharon Bolton, Transworld Publishing

Barcelona Shadows – Marc Pastor

The Barcelona of 1911 is a dark, dangerous and gothic place. Its streets are filled with filth, sickness, poverty and crime. One of the men fighting crime is Inspector Moises Corvo whose latest case is to try and hunt down a monster that is abducting and killing children, draining them of their blood. The problems he face are the fact that this killer somehow evades him at every turn and also that with the children being those of the prostitutes and the penniless of the lower classes, most of his seniors either refuse to see it as being a problem or believe that it is actually happening at all. Yet Corvo is determined to catch the killer, even if it leads him to the depths of Barcelona’s underbelly and to the depths of what humans can do.

Pushkin Press, paperback, 2014, fiction, 272 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

There were a few things I instantly found captivating about this book, and instantly stood out to me. First was the narration, which I won’t give away because when you realise who it is you do a really ‘oh, oh really’ and it hooks you in a little more. I can give away the fact, and the second thing I really liked about it, that the book is based on the true series of crimes caused by the real-life Enriqueta Marti who indeed killed children or abducted them for paedophiles and became one of Spain’s most famous killers ‘the Vampire of Barcelona’. This isn’t a spoiler as we the reader know this from the start while Corvo doesn’t, yet we follow them both in time, even passing each other in the street which was the third element I really liked instantly from this book.

Before we go much further on let me vent some of my issues with the book, though there were only a couple, before I look at the positives. One aspect was, and I feel dreadful saying this, the translation which I think gave the book a strange distance and slightly clunky feeling, I also felt (which I haven’t noticed in other translated books often) as if I knew I wasn’t reading this in its original language, that I was missing something be it a connotation or just a little bit of its soul. The other aspect was that every so often the book, rather like its main character Moises, seemed a little over confident in itself. On occasion it seemed to feel it was as worthy of, if not better than, one of the original Victorian crime stories. Now this might have been the style and been designed to make the modern reader see the author was aware of the homage, for me it was a little annoying on occasion.

“Dupin, Edgar Allan Poe’s detective, is even worse than Holmes. Holmes at least, is seen through Watson and Watson’s got a constantly crafty streak, even though Holmes is a bully and treats him like shit. Ma’am, out of the way, goddamnit, do you know how late it is?” he scolds. “Dupin is a some sort of crime-solving machine who’s never set foot on the street. I’d like to see him out in the real world, off the page, where all the murderers aren’t stupid monkeys.”
“There must be one that you like…”
“Lestrade. I like Lestrade. A Scotland Yard detective who does his job even though Holmes insists on humiliating him.”
“Moises, you read too much.”

It isn’t the normal way I would start a review but I wanted to get that out of the way because it has somewhat clouded my overall memory of the book and is the initial remaining feeling I had. Yet when I think about it more all of the brilliant part of the books slowly come for the for and remind me that when Pastor is on form he does have some right to potentially be a little cocky, though he might not be his character might have rubbed me up the wrong way a little too much slagging off my hero Sherlock Holmes. Who can say?

Pastor is very good at both restraint and knowing when there is just enough of a certain tension or mood within his story without it getting a little too much. For example within Barcelona Shadows there are some pretty vile characters and walks of life and they do some pretty horrible things. However even though we know these people are wicked and evil, there are moments when even when we think something awful is coming it spring at you suddenly, speedily and then is gone making it both more shocking and also giving you a real ‘did I actually read that’ moment without the reader ever feeling a voyeur or complicit, just stunned. He also knows just when to give the book a swift injection of dark humour which lightens the moments a few pages before. I liked this sense of a little light within the shade, or vice versa, very much.

Luckily for the detective, the smell of rotting corpse is so strong it drowns out the scent of shady intentions and sex for money, and Conxita is left to think that her husband has only been seeing cadavers and criminals. Conxita is a bit thick, but she doesn’t know it, so she’s happy.

I also liked the brooding atmosphere of the book throughout. Along with the narration, which I am still not giving away, the book really envelops you in the dark streets and underbelly of a city at that time. Indeed Barcelona is in some ways a character all of itself, and one which Pastor seems to have a wonderful fondness for and often describes quite poetically.

Barcelona is an old lady with a battered soul, who has been left by a thousand lovers but refuses to admit it. Every time she grows, she looks in the mirror, sees herself changed and renews all her blood until it’s almost at boiling point. Like a butterfly’s cocoon, she finally bursts. Distrust becomes the first phase of gestation: no one is sure that he whom they’ve lived with for years, whom they’ve considered a neighbour, isn’t now an enemy.

It seemed a fait accompli that I would love Marc Pastor’s Barcelona Shadows; I love a gothic novel, I love a crime novel, I love Barcelona and I find fictional accounts of unusual or lesser known factual happenings really interesting. As it was I really enjoyed it and found it gripping at the beginning and thrilling as it whirls towards its dramatic and actually incredibly gut wrenching and emotional ending. Yet I was let down somewhere in the middle through both a slight lack of connection with the text and the main character as I mentioned earlier. I was actually briefly tempted to get a ‘learn Spanish’ set of mp3s (I have always wanted to learn Spanish anyway) so I could read the book in its original, that is how sure I was I should love it. I would still be very interested to read some of Marc Pastor’s other novels as when he blends the horror, gothic and atmosphere just right it gives you the proper shivers and shocks.

Has anyone else read Barcelona Shadows and if so what did you make of it? I might be asking something bonkers but if anyone out there has read it in the original Spanish and the English translation I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you any recommendations for any other unusual and quirky thrillers out there?

For more thoughts on the book head over to Hear Read This where you can hear myself, Gavin of Gav Reads and Kate and Rob from Adventures with Words discussing it in more detail.

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Savidge Reads 3.3

Today is my birthday and I turn 33! I will have woken up with some presents and cards and now be whizzing down on the train to London, or in London where I will be having a wonderfully booky day. First up the judges for Fiction Uncovered 2015 will be meeting for the first time over lunch (there is possibly going to be cake) and discussing what we want from winning books and indeed some of the books we have been sent. As you know I love this prize so much so meeting today seems doubly apt. After that I will be meeting two of my fav writer chums (and also fav writers) Catherine Hall and Kerry Hudson, or the other way round, before meeting Polly, formerly of Novel Insights for a night at a publishing party, I am then staying for another two days of fun and booky nonsense, a big night out on Wednesday, all in all a mini birthday break.

I don’t know if I have mentioned before but I celebrate my birthday for as long as I can. My mother and I had a weekend in Newcastle which was a late Mother’s Day and early birthday celebration with much cocktails, yesterday at work we celebrated with these…

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Yes those are cupcakes with books on that The Beard baked for me. Seriously, aren’t they amazing. If you don’t believe me and think they are from a stockphoto, here is me about to eat one in the office yesterday…

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Then Friday is my birthday part two, where I might go and see Cinderella *coughs*, and then my birthday (dinner) party is on Saturday night. Exciting times! Oh and if that wasn’t enough… My book buying ban is officially over, watch out London bookshops, I am coming! Oh and now I am 33 I am thinking it is time for for a 3.3 upgrade of the blog – maybe not in look but certainly in feel.

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Other People’s Bookshelves #54 – Susan Halligan

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the filthy book lust/porn and either give you a fix of other people’s books and shelves. This week we are off to Manhattan, to join Susan who has nicely just popped the kettle on and will be serving us all some pastries and the like, so kind. Before we have a nosey through her shelves, let’s find out more about her…

I’m a digital marketer and work (mostly) with non-profits on social media strategy, online and offline communications integration, content development, analytics and implementation. You can learn more about my work here. I’ve lived in Manhattan for most of my adult life and grew up in Baltimore, that wonderful, complex city that manages to be both Anne Tyler as well as The Wire and is home to the beautiful Enoch Pratt Central Library. I spent a lot of time in libraries as a kid (I was parked there after school, because both my parents worked) and remain an advocate of them as an important community resource. I even worked in one — The New York Public Library — one of the worlds greatest. I began my career in book publishing and still have many friends in the industry. I thank them all for continuing to send me free books.

 SRH6

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

A book does not have to be a masterpiece for me to wedge it into the shelves. If I like it, I generally keep it. I have a weakness for fast-paced mysteries (The Girl on the Train is the most recent example) and I very often pass those along to family and friends. About a quarter of the books on my shelves are unread. Should I admit that? The reasons vary: someone sent me the book and I just wasn’t interested in the subject, but I appreciated the gesture; I started the book, but couldn’t get going with it (and these include a couple of literary masterpieces); and the books that I am determined to read … one day, like The Adventures of Augie March.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

My shelves are organized very broadly: cookbooks all together, by cuisine or subject. Art books — one long bottom shelf — together, Rembrandt next to Michelangelo. They painted, right? Oh, yes, Michelangelo sculpted. Perhaps I should move him next to the Rodin. Fiction, by author. As I glance over I do see that all the Highsmith’s and Cormac McCarthy’s ‘s are together, one after the other. Half my shelves are devoted to biographies (from Princess Diana to the LBJ of Robert’s Caro’s magisterial biography) and history, mostly 20th Century, everything from Margaret Macmillan’s Paris 1919 to Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower about the lead up to 9/11. I love big, sweeping looks at lives — the famous and the forgotten — and history. I consider these two particular interests my continuing education.

I do not alphabetize and rarely cull.

What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (Second Edition.) I bought it in a bookshop in Lagos, Nigeria. I wasn’t particularly drawn to Communism (likely I had no idea what it was), I simply loved the red plastic cover. And, yes, it still has a place on my shelves.

Here’s one of Chairman Mao’s quotes: “We are now carrying out a revolution not only in the social system, the change from private to public ownership, but also in technology, the change from handicraft to large-scale modern machine production, and the two revolutions are inter-connected.” Hmm.

SRH4

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I am completely unembarrassed to admit that I love books about the movies. This includes bios, cheesy as well as scholarly, and inside Hollywood accounts. Barry Paris’ Garbo, Katharine Hepburn’s Me, A. Scott Berg’s Goldwyn, Debbie Reynolds’ autobiography and tons of others have a home on my shelves. Anything that gives me a look behind-the-scenes at the movies — Old Hollywood, New Hollywood — delights me. Steven Bach’s Final Cut about the disastrous meet up of money v creative in the making of the movie, Heaven’s Gate, is probably the best inside-Hollywood account ever written and should be required reading for any entrepreneur today. Brooke Hayward’s Haywire, about the disintegration of the marriage of her parents, the 1930s cult actress Margaret Sullavan (The Shop Around the Corner) and the bigger-than-life Broadway producer, Leland Heyward, and its eternal effect on the lives of their three children, remains a devastating read.

Fun fact: Katharine Hepburn and Leland Hayward had a romance in the early 1930s before his marriage to Margaret Sullavan. In Me, Hepburn describes their relationship this way: “I could see very quickly that I suited Leland perfectly. I liked to eat at home and go to bed early. He liked to eat out and go to bed late. So he had a drink when I had dinner and then off he’d go. Back at midnight. Perfect friendship.”

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

The Junior Illustrated Library signed by my maternal grandparents and given to me between the ages of six and eight.

SRH2

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” I was 14. I thought I could learn something from Scarlett. A friend gave me a boxed 60th Anniversary edition of Gone With the Wind.

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

Timely question. A friend’s mother just loaned me Thomas Beller’s J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist. I will definitely add to my shelves just to reread the section where Beller is in the Princeton University library moving between two tables of Salinger papers, the one with his laptop set up and a box of material that he was allowed to quote from, and the other, with letters, that he was prohibited to quote from. At that table, he’d read a bit, try to memorize something and then scoot back to the table with the laptop and start typing. A librarian never stopped him.

I got my first iPad about four years ago. From that moment, every book I read was digital. I did not add them to my shelves (just the cloud.) And then about six months ago, I began to weary of the screen and the swipe and long for the pinch of paper between thumb and forefinger as I turned the page. To test whether this was a phase or a physical need, I reread three books in hard cover — all novels — that had made especially powerful impressions on me at one point. Could I still read a physical book? Were the books as wonderful as I remembered?

SRH5

The Great Gatsby still glistens. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist is still one of the most thrilling-paced and potent novels that I have ever read. And that end? I still don’t know exactly what happened. It’s haunting. Twenty odd years ago, I read Peter Taylor’s exquisitely written A Summons to Memphis in the back seat of a car as my parents drove me back to New York after the Christmas holidays in Baltimore. It’s a story about a sympathetic older widower who falls in love and wants to remarry, but is thwarted by his evil children. That’s how I remembered it anyway. This time? Still beautifully written (and if you haven’t read Taylor’s two novels and his many short stories, get thee to a bookstore.) But my conclusions about the family completely flipped: the father was far less sympathetic, now revealed as selfish and emotionally absent from his children while they were growing up. The children remain manipulative and cruel, but the reasons why are far more complex. An interesting exercise to read a book when you are young and then re-read after you’ve experienced more of life’s nicks.

So I have a new rule: I will only read fiction on paper and I will buy the books in stores, not on the Internet.

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

Charles Blow’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones. Blow is a New York Times columnist that I admire a lot. He writes with a clarity that has cumulative power. He’s been an important voice in much of the recent anguished conversation about racism in the United States, from the death of Trayvon Martin to the Oscar snubs of the movie, Selma. The book is a memoir of his growing up in rural Louisiana. Months before the book’s publication, Blow began to tweet and Facebook like mad about the book to build interest. Turns out he’s a genius marketer, too. Authors should closely study his pre-publication, digital promotion model (@CharlesMBlow)

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Lemony’s Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’ve read them all, borrowed from my niece, Amy, but I only have the first, The Bad Beginning. Never was a book so inaptly named, it was a fantastic beginning. I also must find a hard copy of Mommie Dearest :)

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

Whenever someone comes over, even repeat visitors, they spend some time eye-balling the shelves. The shelves run floor-to-ceiling along a 21-foot wall and are hard to ignore. Sometimes the objects displayed attract attention — especially my grandmother’s clock and the pieces of African art — but, mostly it’s the books. I have a lot of interests (did I mention the boxes of board games at the bottom of one shelf?) and am endlessly curious. I hope my shelves reflect that. I love it when a visitor pulls a book off the shelf and opens it up…

SRH8

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A huge thanks to Susan for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves! If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Susan’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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I’m Off Away For The Weekend…

By the time this goes live I will be off on my travels to meet my mum, or just on my way, or even sat with her in a cocktail bar. We are going to be spending the weekend visiting going back down memory lane to the city that we lived in for about 5 or 6 years from when I was about three years old…

No we didn’t live in Sydney, we I have always thought this looks like, we lived in the wonderful city of Newcastle up in the north of England. The weekend looks like there will be lots of nostalgia as we visit the old houses we lived in plus places like Jesmond Dene (and the awesome ‘Pets Corner’), the Hancock Museum, Tynemouth Beach and more that we used to visit. There will also probably be plenty of food, cocktails and talk of books. Oh and of course reading, though not when we are together I mean on the never ending journey to and from, I have two Fiction Uncovered submissions packed at the ready.

I will report back on me and my mums adventures in due course. In the meantime what will you be doing this weekend and, of course, what will you be reading?

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Narrative Non-Fiction, Well, Just Great Non-Fiction Really…

Last night I had the pleasure of hosting an event with Kate Colquhoun in Liverpool Waterstones, where we were discussed her latest book Did She Kill Him (which I loved and reviewed here) which is the non-fiction account of the Maybrick Murder here in Liverpool back in 1889. As Kate talked about that, and her book previous to it Mr Briggs’ Hat which I haven’t read yet, I was reminded by how much I had enjoy going back to my favourite periods in time and reading these accounts of those times, with all the brilliant and bonkers facts you learn and insights you get, when they are exciting and engaging…

Kate Colquhoun & I in conversation...

Kate Colquhoun & I in conversation…

The thing is not all of them are, some can read rather like the dusty old fusty old academic text books which bash you over the head with facts and figures (though recently I read a fictional futuristic novel that did just that *coughs* The Martian *coughs*) and make you feel like your back in those school lessons where you looked out the window yearning to be free. It is this that keeps me stuck to only really dabbling with non-fiction when it is set in an era that already fascinates me or is about a place or thing I know.

I think I need to branch out more. Actually, I think I need to branch out more when I have finished reading the mass of contemporary novels that have been submitted of Fiction Uncovered, yet it would make a nice change after all that. Before and after the event Kate and I were talking about books we loved and she mentioned a few non-fiction novels (H is for Hawk, which I own, and The Iceberg in particular) and I thought ‘right Savidge, you need to test yourself more.

So what I would love from you all is recommendations. You are welcome to recommend non-fiction accounts of Victorian drama’s, the Mitford’s and other aristocracy or adventures in the Brazilian Jungle which you know I will most likely love of course, I would be delighted. I would also really like to hear about some books which you think might send me out of my comfort zone in terms of topics or themes, I can add some of them to my upcoming Birthday list. Thanks in advance.

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Newcastle Writing Conference 2015 – Come & Join Us…

On the 6th of June I will be taking part in an innovative one-day writing conference in Newcastle upon Tyne, the homeland of my early years. The conference is hosted by New Writing North and Northumbria University (where my mum used to go) and is all about the things that writers can do for themselves to move their careers forward, from standing out in the digital age to finding out what agents and publishers really want. There’s a properly great line-up of speakers, including novelists, editors, publishers, agents, journalists and bloggers. No seriously the line up it brilliant.

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Highlights include a Keynote Speech from novelist Meg Rosoff who will talk about her journey to publication, which began in her forties and then will be signing books. There will then be a panel event ‘How to Stand Out in a Digital Age’ where a group of panelists – including Ben Willis, head of digital publicity at Transworld; Costa-shortlisted author and social media expert, Nikesh Shukla; vlogger and Hotkey Books digital coordinator, Sanne Vliegenthart, who also vlogs at Books and Quills; and, erm, me – will be discussing how digital media can help with an authors career and reaching a bigger audience.

Then the rest of the day is dedicated to break out sessions which include; ‘Websites and Blogging’ – where myself and digital designer, Mel Ashby, guide you through the process of creating a website or blog, from crafting your online persona and making websites; ‘How to Edit Your Work’ - with acclaimed novelist Fiona Shaw where you can bring a page of your draft work to go through; ‘Vlogging’ –  where Sanne will give a practical guide to getting started with vlogging.

Then after lunch you can join sessions such as; ‘Meet the Agent’ with Jo Unwin, of the Jo Unwin Literary Agency; ‘Develop Your Online Presence where you can find out how to use social media to promote your work with Ben Willis from Transworld and author Nikesh Shukla and ‘What’s Hot and What’s Not’ where the blooming lovely Picador editor Francesca Main, Rachael Kerr is the editor-at-large of publishers Unbound, Rachel Kerr; lovely Anna James from The Bookseller and Elle magazine plus Jo Unwin will discuss all aspects of the book industry now.

Phew,  and that isn’t even the full list, for details of everything happening on the day you can head to the website here. I am really, really looking forward to this, especially as Newcastle University was the university that my mother went to, taking the three year old me along with her, and so Newcastle has a very special place in my heart, along with the uni, so it will lovely to go back. I am actually off up to Newcastle with my mother this weekend for a pre-birthday treat and nostalgic trip down memory lane which I will share with you in due course.

So yes, exciting times. If you would like to join us, the lovely folk at New Writing North have given me a special code for a limited number of tickets available half price for special people, like you reading here, which you can buy through this link if you fancy it: http://bit.ly/1BAgTFf

It would be lovely to see some of your friendly faces, so do let me know if you might be attending.

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