The Day After the Day Before

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The day after the day after Winchester Writers’ Festival I spent the first hour walking along the shore. I didn’t think about dead bodies, or forensics. The second hour I sat in the dappled garden with tea and crumpet. I read, ‘The Uninvited’, by Liz Jensen. Just half way through and it is finally getting my attention.


I carried my camera to the shore and into the garden, and took 109 photos. I also slipped it into my bag before the festival and took not one single snap. I was unable to gather any interest at all despite giving myself a pep talk, ‘you’ll like it once you get there,’ ‘a free lunch’ . . . it didn’t work . . . ‘feedback on your novel,’ aroused some interest.


A place at the festival was my first prize for the best murder short-story last summer and I had been looking forward to going. I had just finished a 75,000 word detective story and was happy!!  Ahh, there’s the rub.blog7

blog5I had been cluttered with all four one-to-one sessions in one day, not my choice. With ME I knew I would be shattered . . . was shattered by 10.30am. Shattered after I parked the car in ‘disabled,’ a seriously angled narrow bay between two brick walls, a car-length wide.

All three agents gave completely and utterly diverse feedback: ‘excellent pitch’, ‘not long enough’; ‘Great opening’; ‘lose the opening’; ‘really connected to character’; ‘character betrays responsibility to reader’ . . . I could go on. What did I expect?

The peach; ‘An accountant, an organised person, and a good one, does not aspire to murder.’ This comment threw me. Nowhere does this character aspire to, or commit murder.Where’s the sense in that remark?


Then, I understood, either he hadn’t bothered to read the synopsis properly, or I hadn’t written it well enough . . . I doubt he had read the requested 10,000 words. Then came the ‘how to’ tip – ‘Have a picture of your protagonist’ . . . A’HEM . . . The lecture continued and I switched off, glad when it was over. For this level of feedback, I could have borrowed a book from the library. Soooo glad it was free!


Apart from that, the novel is; ‘publishable’, has ‘definite commercial viability’, all agreed it was, ‘well written’.

I was too flat and tired to hang about for the final 1-2-1 but left my e mail in order for her to contact me with feedback. Wonder if she’ll bother?

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At lunch I met and had an agreeable conversation with a young man who had completed his first novel, gained a professional critique and was a member of a supportive writing group. After the festival he planned to ‘send off’, to lots of publishers, if the book wasn’t taken up, he would publish digitally. Well planned.

I am sorry to have lost his blog address, (I lose things frequently) and if he reads this, please send it to me via my other blog; – thank you.

I have ordered a second hand forensics manual from Blackwells, a tip for all sleuth-writers from the hour of master class; ‘Bring out your Dark Side’ that I did manage to get to.

1-2-1 Feedback was personal with an eye on business. I sat next to a young woman while waiting, her novel is about a town of angels on earth taking care of us humans. I metaphorically cast my eyes heavenwards thinking ‘derivative’, while smiling; ‘lovely.’I spoke to her afterwards, the agent will read it when it’s finished. There we go.

I have seen my angel. It appeared between me and a dying woman in case death mistook me for her. The angel was much bigger than the hospital ward and gold flakes, like fish scales caught the light before it went. The woman in the bed opposite died while the angel was there. I’d like to say, ‘while the angel spread its wings,’ but I didn’t see wings.

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Top 30 Opening Words

Some opening words of the latest FASTBACKS from Southampton Library Service top 30 books. What makes you read on?

Top 30 Authors

51g5C9Eo-OL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-66,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_Kate Atkinson • ‘Life After Life’  – A FUG OF tobacco smoke and damp clammy air hit her as she entered the café.

Linwood Barclay51mKhYBGWCL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_


Sophie Kinsella – ‘Wedding Night’Prologue – Young people!’

Mark Billingham • The Dying Hours’Prologue – ‘How much blood?’

Rosamund Lupton – ‘Forgive Me’ – ‘Prologue – Flora kicked off her shoes, pulled her dress over her head and tossed it on the bed’.

Maeve Binchy 

510RdMOZELL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_Ian McEwan – ‘Sweet Tooth’ – ‘My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost forty years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British Secret Service.’

Dan Brown

51iwRssMi5L__SL150_Stephen King

Jo Nesbo – ‘The Bat’ – ‘Something was wrong.’

Lee Child – ‘Never Go Back’ – ‘Eventually they put Reacher in a car and drove him to a motel a mile away,where the night clerk gave him a room, which had all the features Reacher expected, because he had seen such rooms a thousand times before.’

James Patterson
• Harlan Coben • Lesley Pearse
• Martina Cole • Jodi Picoult
51CDfE2J1FL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_ Michael Connolly ‘The Gods of Guilt’ – ‘I approach the witness stand with a warm and welcoming smile.‘                                                     

• Ian Rankin • Ken Follett • Kathy Reichs                                             

Tess Gerritsen ‘Last to Die’ – ‘On the night that thirteen-year-old Claire Ward should have died, she stood on the window ledge of her third floor Ithica bedroom, trying to decide whether to jump.’

Ruth Rendell
• Philippa Gregory • Peter Robinson
• John Grisham •

Karin Slaughter – Unseen’ – ‘Detective Lena Adams winced as she took of her t shirt.’
P D James •

51dPiN0GpoL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_Wilbur Smith

Peter James



51XYpK+ffdL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_S J Watson




             Take a look at my other blog –

Bumpy Ride

Look-back at 2013.

I am very happy to have won the short murder story competition at the Winchester Writers Conference. And pleased that it takes pride of place in the 2013 anthology. Best-Of-2013-Cover

I shall take my prize, a place at the conference, next summer and look forward to it.
     Am I happy with my detective novel? No, I’ve not written enough. The detective agency is, at this moment, poised for the delicious ‘clashing together’ and final eruption.
     I blipped with marketeering.
    There was a bumpy end to my brief market career. Silverfinger publications are VERY particular about their venue and didn’t like being ignored or riffled through and abandoned. They learned to take with a pinch of salt, ‘positive venue thinking’, sooner than I did.

Netley Grange was my last actual market attendence. A supportive Writing Buddy took my stuff to both the Marlands and Mayfield Christmas markets, when I was unable to attend but had committed to, and did her best for me. Thank you!

The wet Winchester Sunday with a totally inadequate stall and poor position was the worse. I understand from other stall-holders that Winchester Guildhall was to be avoided at all costs.

Market Oct (9)

     blog5I created the Silverfinger Press as a result of marketeering, which is good and shows promise for the future. I published five Silverfinger books, four of them fully illustrated and twelfve sets of Christmas cards.
The ‘Didi’ books are a success with small children, mums and grandmothers. Positive feedback. The little book of Nursery Rhymes is also popular. 

And, I did quite enjoy ‘being out there’ for a while. It was an experience, observing people not interested in books, or riffling through the pages, even reading a whole book of poems, commenting, ‘so true’, about ‘Poems for a State of Grace’, before dropping the carefully made Silverfinger publication and walking off. 
     I was so surprised at my first sale of Christmas cards that I mislaid the money, or perhaps even gave it back.
I have painted, mostly blue and gold, sea, sky. silver 004.
And I have made a friend and lost one, finally drew the line at posting my neighbour a Christmas card and tore up the one from a distant relative I have nothing to do with. I enjoyed both acts.

I also drove through a storm, visited London and cooked a Christmas meal.



Silverfinger Pubications ready for Market

Silverfinger has now published six books:

silverfinger children logo

‘A Diet of Worms & Blackberries’ – Illustrated poems

‘Poems for a State of Grace’, written after the death of a loved one

Three ‘Didi’ children’s books: ‘My Friend Didi’, ‘Didi’s Adventures’, and ‘Didi’s Christmas’.       And: ‘Nursery Rhymes’


AND:Card display

The Marketeer calls ‘BOOKS for SALE!

Sunday, 15th September, Winchester Market.

A first. Selling books at a market. There were no marketeer yodels. It may have helped.
Market 007My publisher was unable to do a print run for me so I decided to do my own. I had already hoarded a lovely word – Silverfinger .

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A digital PRESS for limited edition print-runs was born. I chose as the logo – ‘a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars’.

Have a look . . . where you will see the results of my first print-runs and contact details: should you need your own, ‘LITTLE WORK OF ART’.


On the stall I hung an A3 poster trumpeting Silverfinger PRESS and another, dripping with blood, which boasted my first prize win at the Winchester Writers’ Conference. Tied to the stall’s frame above the display table, the posters twisted in the wind, escaped their plastic grip and eventually had to be taken down.

Market 005

BM1I made book marks, freebees, from coloured manilla advertising my books and my prize-winning story twhich will be published this autumn. 

I published two ‘little works of art’, especially for the launch of the Silverfinger PRESS – ‘Poems for a State of Grace’, The poems were written in 2002 following the death of my mother. And, ‘A Diet of Worms & Blackberries’, which I illustrated.

  StateofGrace cover 

My two books were displayed on a small table easelDOWCover for people to pick up and riffle through, I kept pristine books to sell out of reach, framed House Blessings and small,colourful prints together with flyers for the PRESS and my books, and free book marks, completed my wares and I laid them on a red-covered table top apprx 4ft x 2.


Initial outlay – 120gm paper, £7.50, 100gm paper, £6.50, two A3 posters, £3.06, plastic clips, £2.80, set of printing inks, £55, quarter stall fee, £10.
Three books sold; YIPEE! total £9. Scarf bought, couldn’t resist – £19.

Will I do it again?. Yes, on 20th October with an additional Silverfinger publication and Christmassy cards.blog8



I was interested to read the top 30 favourite authors of Southampton library borrowers. I am currently reading Karin Slaughter, a first. The librarian, a fan of crime fiction, offered to reserve Slaughter’s new book for me, hence my knowledge of ‘fastbacks’. The majority of favourite fiction is murder and mayhem.


Top 30 Authors

• Kate Atkinson- Literary thriller, Harlan Coben likes her
• Linwood Barclay – Hitchcockinan thrillers
Mark Billingham – Crime, Tom Thorne, detective
Maeve Binchy – Storyteller
Dan Brown – Thriller fiction
one-shot2Lee Child – Thriller – Jack Reacher
Harlan Coben – Thriller mystery, Mickey, Myron Bolitar
• Martina Cole – Crime
Michael Connolly – Crime, Hieronymus Bosch & Mikey Haller
• Ken Follett – Thrillers and historical novels
• Tess Gerritsen – Romantic suspense, medical thrillers
• Philippa Gregory – Historical novels
John Grisham – Legal thrillers
P D James – Crime, detectives Cordelia Gray, Adam Dalgliesh200px-Deathinholyorders
• Peter James – Murder, mystery
Stephen King – Horror, fantasy
• Sophie Kinsella – Chick lit
• Rosamund Lupton – Crime, women sleuths
Ian McEwan – Literary novelist
Jo Nesbo – Crime, Inspector Harry Hole
James Patterson – Crime thriller, psychologist, Alex Cross
• Lesley Pearse – Contemporary fiction
• Jodi Picoult – Fiction, wide-ranging
Ian Rankin – Crime, Inspector Rebus
Kathy Reichs – Crime, Forensic anthropologist
Ruth Rendell – Psychological thriller, murder mystery, Inspector Wexford
Peter Robinson – Crime, Inspector Alan Banks
Karin Slaughter – Crime
Wilbur Smith – Historical novels
51XYpK+ffdL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_• S J Watson – Thriller

Fairly current books – bold – have read – italicised


Author Plans Murder:

author plans murderA character in my first novel – ‘Falling’, suggested that I write a book centred around her passion for comeuppances – so I have. Knowing her temperament has enabled me to weave a plot. I consider this to be an advantage – I have previously failed to have any idea what my characters might do do until they actually do it. Result!

Here follows a list of books taken from Southampton library this morning so that I may research which authors to refer to in the pitch letter to agents. I am told this is useful to enable ‘agent-orientation’ . TIP – from David Headley, should you find it useful, Francis Fyfield, always successfully follows the same ‘plot structure’. 

Dorothy L. Sayers – Hangman’s Holiday

Alexander McCall Smith – The Charming Quirks of Others

M. C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye

Susan Hill – The Shadows in the Street

Ann Cleeves – Telling Tales

P.D. James -Death Comes to Pemberley

Elly griffiths – A Room Full of Bones