A weekend away: My FantasyCon 2021 in pictures

Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival: Day Two

Entry 1: 08:20

I’m up and showered after a rough night. I was in so much pain that it was difficult to get comfortable. I did eventually sleep, however and this morning I’m ready to go. Last night I wrote out a plan for me to follow so I don’t over do things. I have an hour between 1pm and 2pm to get dinner and hide for a bit. There are a few opportunities for book acquisition that I’m looking forward to today, most notably the Orion Proof Party in the library at 5pm.

Right now, I’m going to finish my cup of tea, get dressed and go for breakfast. I do enjoy a Premier Inn breakfast, especially since I’ve paid in advance for the full works.

Entry 2: 20:24

I am not in pain this evening! Woop! Although my feet were aching earlier, but now I’m back in my room after eating a rare three-course meal (such a treat!) the ache is beginning to fade.

I had a couple of too hot/too crowded slightly dizzy spells today but managed with the help of event staff and festival goers to cope. After the first panel this morning I also realised that the best thing to do wa sto arrive about 10 minutes before the panel was due to start and the crowds would already have gone in, and then go out when the questions started. The only things this didn’t work for was the Crime Files flash giveaway and the Orion Proof Party. If there are free books in the offing people go a bit mad and you have to get there early.

I visited the WH Smiths book tent and bought four books then had a wander ’round.

The first panel of the day was ‘Emerald Noir’. The panel were witty and insightful, discussing their books and characters, and influences. The liminality of borders, physical and psychological, and the importance of language were repeated themes.

Second panel was ‘A Class Act’. I wasn’t as impressed or entertained by this one and due to being overwhelmed by the first event, too hot and anxious I had to use my fidget cube until someone at the other end of the row whined that it was distracting. Me having a meltdown would have been rather more so. I left half hour in to get some air and went for my dinner

I felt rather lost and alone at this point as I hadn’t bumped into anyone I knew from Twitter and blog tours. So I went to the Crime Files pop up stand in the beer tent and had a chat. I found out about their Flash Giveaway at 3pm so I made plans to get to that early because they had limited books.

I also went back to the book shop and bought three more books. I found an empty table between the beer tent and the bookshop and started reading one of my new purchases, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra in the rain. It was drizzling all day but not enough to be worth putting my jacket on for. I blame Val McDermid’s singing. Or Nicola Sturgeon for bringing Scottish weather with her.

Next up was the ‘Pace’ panel. It was okay. I learnt this and that, about the importance of cutting to maintain pace but it was all a bit here and there. I left as soon as questions started to go to the loo then went straight to Crime Files to get in the queue. Luckily, I got close to the front and got my copy of The Perfect Wife, which is now in my suitcase with the other eleven books I acquired today.

The break was good, I needed to get away from people again and found a table on the lawn to myself. People were standing around smoking and it made me cough so I gave up and went back inside, after gawking at Nicola Sturgeon again. She was sat at the table to the right of mine.

‘Antipodean Noir’ was the final panel for me today. I really enjoyed it, the writers were funny and I found their reflections on the differences between Britain and Australia, and New Zealand interesting, as I had the thoughts of the Irish/Northern Irish authors in the morning. Especially the differences in language use and cultural references. I had bought a book by one of the authors, Vanda Symon, so I went to meet her to have my book signed in the WH Smith tent. I was the first in the queue just to see her.

After that I headed to the Orion Proof Party. It was incredibly busy because the Jo Nesbo talk was happening in the Ballroom at the same time and the queue went from one side of the hotel to the other. I met a couple of people and chatted while we waited to get in. I picked up three books and then had one of my too hot/too many people moments and had to be helped out of the room. I got settled, had tea and scones while talking to a couple of people, and found out we sort of recognised each other from bookblogger Twitter.

Vanda Symon joined us and I went back into the library to see if there was anything left. I got the last book.

After that I chatted some more then came back to the hotel. Took some photos for Twitter so my friend Mon could see what I’d been up to and then went for tea.

I had planned to head back to the festival for the Black Thorn Black Out event at 8pm but by the time my meal arrived and I’d eaten it was almost 8pm, I was tired and decided to come back to my room and write this post instead. I’m going to put my pjs on and get back to reading one of the three books I brought with me – you know, just in case I didn’t buy any while I was here. I’m pleasantly full of food, tired, not in pain and less anxious than I was yesterday so it hasn’t been a bad day.

More fun planned for tomorrow!


Entry 3: 21:16

A couple of accessibility issues I noticed.

  • Water was not easily available, I needed to be sign-posted to find the water coolers, and was denied water when I desperately needed it because one of the few, and nearest, water coolers was in the ‘Friends of the Festival’ Lounge. Even in an emergency I wasn’t allowed to get a cup of water.
  • The use of bounce microphones during Q&A sessions. It’s a microphone in a box, you’re supposed to throw and catch it. As has been raised by disability activists, this makes it difficult for people with limited mobility or motor skills to take part, because you can’t catch the thing.
  • No quiet area, at all. It was drizzling all day, the tents and hotel were busting at the seams and it wasn’t quiet outside either. I wore my headphones all day just to cope.
  • You couldn’t stay in your seat between panels. I’d have liked to get settled in for the day but they threw everyone out between panels.
  • The only food onsite was expensive.

It’s fine having disabled access cards and providing wheelchair spaces, and allowing people to leave whenever they wanted, but it’s the little things like easy access to water or a quiet room to unwind in would make things better.

Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award Shortlist Announced

This morning on the festival website.


The short list has some fabulous books, none of which I’ve read yet, unfortunately.

Belinda Bauer – Snap

Steve Cavanagh – Thirteen

Mick Herron – London Rules

Val McDermid – Broken Ground

Liam McIlvanney – The Quaker

Khurrum Rahman – East of Hounslow

I did start reading Thirteen but it was a netgalley download and not a blog tour book, so it got put to one side. I’m sure I saw a copy in the charity shop last week, so I’ll get that.

Having read the summaries on the website, I think I’m going to try to get hold of a copy of each of the books so that I can talk intelligently about them at the awards ceremony.

I forgot to mention that. Because I got my PIP back pay, I’ve booked myself a holiday to Harrogate. I’ve been to the town before but not the Crime Writing Festival. The first event I’m going to, on the Thursday evening, is the awards ceremony. I’m really looking forward to it, but fear my anxiety will make it impossible for me to speak to anyone, or that I’ll say something stupid.

As I said, I’ve been to Harrogate before so I know the train route (tickets bought and collected from the station already) and I’m getting taxi to my hotel – nothing fancy, just the Premier Inn – so I won’t get lost. I’ve got a map to get from my hotel to the Swan Inn where the festival takes place, so I won’t get lost. I made plans and got everything organised as soon as possible because it helps with my anxiety if I know what, where, when, how and why.

I have everything planned out. I have two full days of writing goodness on the Friday and Saturday, a couple of things on the Sunday morning and then all of Sunday afternoon to decompress – by which time I expect to be completely peopled out – before I make the trip home on Monday afternoon. I’m hoping to do some exploring, because I’ve never really had the chance on the few occasions I visited a former-friend in Harrogate before. There was always something planned every day, and a lot of that was sitting around watching films.

Back to the books.

I like the sound of Bauer’s Snap and McIlvanney’s The Quaker, both based on unsolved crimes. Of course, I definitely need to read McDermid’s novel, and Thirteen. East of Hounslow and London Rules aren’t my usual reading matter, but I’ll definitely give them a go. I haven’t got a clue when I’ll fit them in, since June is a busy blog tour month (six so far), but I’ll try.

And now, back to my reading.


Nostalgia reading: realising old lessons

Reading is what I do when I’m upset. I’ve been re-reading Tamora Pierce’s ‘The Song of the Lioness’ and ‘The Immortals’ series this last few days. These books were my first introduction to feminism, although I didn’t know what that was at the time and all I was interested in was the fun girl characters in a fantasy. These girls rescued themselves.

Continue reading “Nostalgia reading: realising old lessons”

Post! Book post!

Yes, I know, I get over excited when books arrive, but today I have to show you my collection. I got 14 books from Pen and Sword today, five last Saturday while I was away, and of course, there’s my books for blog tours too. Book post makes me happy and I learn something new, either factual or in terms of writing techniques with every book I read.

What I’m reading today

Morning all,

I’m not feeling fantastic today, so I’m listening to the ‘Small Town Murder‘ podcast and reading Veronica Bird’s autobiography, Veronica’s Bird. Veronica was born in 1943 to a coal mining family in Barnsley. Her father was a bully, although I suspect the brain injury and alcohol abuse might not have helped.

Clever and driven, Veronica got a scholarship to a girl’s boarding school at the age of 11, but was forced out two months before she was due to take her GCSEs because her brother-in-law wanted cheap labour on his market stall. Later she joined the prison service at a time when women didn’t. I’m really looking forward to reading about her time in the prison service; reading about her abusive childhood is painful.

There will be a full review as part of a blog tour at the end of the month. I’ve got other books I should be reading but I’m really intrigued by this book.



Coming in July

Well, for a start I’m moving sometime in the next two weeks, but other than that I have a busy month for book reviewing and blog tours her at Rosie Writes…

First up, on 4th July there will be a review of Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee, from a new publisher called Hideaway Falls. I found them on Twitter, and it should be an interesting read, from the blurb. I got sent some nice bookmarks too.

On 8th and 10th July, we hear from James Sandlin and I review his new book, Outbreak Mutiny. I am reading it now, I’m enjoying it and can’t wait to tell you all about the book. This is a blog tour organised by Books & The Bear.

On 20th July, I will be taking part in the blog tour for Discoucia by Nicholas Lovelock, which will include an extract and author spotlight posts. This is a blog tour organised by Rachel Gilbey of Authoright, on behalf of Clink Street Publishing. I’m waiting for the material for the extract and author spotlight posts, but Rachel is the best and I’m sure I’ll have them before too long. In August I’m taking part in the Clink Street Summer Blogival, where I’ll have two historical novels for you.

On 22nd July there will be an extract from An Almond for a Parrot, by Wray Delaney, a novel I reviewed earlier this month. The publisher, HQ, an imprint of Harper Collins, has organised this book tour. I enjoyed the book and can’t wait to share an extract with you.

In personal book news, Hidden Fire will be featured on Writing Magazine’s Facebook page on 21st July around or before noon. I am quite happy about this.