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A Whirlwind of Wonderful Intensity

It's taking quite some time to return to anywhere approaching earth after the Winchester Writers' Conference. 

What a weekend! From my first meetings with the other writers, I got the sense it was going to be special. And how.

Firstly, on the Thursday night, I met Dave Evans, a very fine author who was on my crime writing course last year.  And then he announced he's been shortlisted for the hugely prestigious Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger award.

I take none of the credit - it's down to his talent alone.  But what a start to the weekend.

Then there was Friday and my group for our day together talking about crime writing. It's always a nervous experience, starting these sessions.  You never quite know if you're going to get on.

But, I'm delighted to say, we did - and brilliantly.  From only about twenty minutes into the course, when I did an alarming exercise which consisted of me throwing chairs, breathing on people's necks in a most sinister fashion, and spraying my cologne around, we bonded.

The group seemed to understand my unorthodox ways of teaching and it all worked so well we spent much of the rest of the weekend getting together for chats over a coffee or rather more interesting drink.

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I'm rehearsing my teaching for the Winchester Writers' Conference this coming weekend, and thinking back to my visit last year.

It's remarkable how much of what I plan to say has changed in only a year. Perhaps that says something about how much you learn as you write - which is one of the joys of the job.

To start with, there are now six section headings to my day of teaching - all beginning with a letter P - compared to four last year.  That's a 50% bonus, according to my limited maths.

(And no, I won't be revealing what the Ps stand for - mystery and suspense are important parts of writing, particularly crime.)

Suffice to say that between them, they should cover all areas of how to write a novel, alongside tips on getting published and staying there.

I'm looking forward to the conference enormously.  It is chaotic, with hundreds of aspiring writers running in all different directions, going to seminars and workshops and one to one apppointments to go through their work in detail. Everyone wants to get the most they can from the weekend.

But there's a great atmosphere - a real sense of togetherness, with so many people united by their shared love of words and desire to write.

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The Other Side of a Signing

I've been asked to do a book signing on Saturday (15th June) to mark the refurbishment of the Waterstone's in Newton Abbot. 

I haven't done one for a while and always enjoy them, so am looking forward to it.

What I particularly like about signings is the market research I get to carry out.

One of the great things about this writing lark is that it's very much a two way street, even if that isn't always obvious.  Readers think they gain from me - entertainment etc. from reading one of my books (hopefully, anyway!) But I also get a great deal from them.

The great thing about signings is that I get time to talk to people about the tvdetective books. When I do a talk, there's only limited time to chat afterwards, as I don't like to keep people waiting as they queue for a signed copy.

But at signings there's more time as people can mill around the store, then wander over when it's a little quieter. And I love hearing about why people buy my books, what they like about them and even what they don't.

Because it all helps me to learn - to think more from the mindset of a reader when I'm working. 

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Shadows, substance and a surprise

I'm often asked about the differences and similarities regarding my day job of reporting and my writing.

I used to think the answers were straightforward - they're similar in that both are about storytelling, but different in that one is fact and the other fiction, and in format - two minute reports of maybe 150 words, as opposed to books which contain an average of a hundred thousand words.

But a more subtle realisation has come upon me.

It's this - one is about being blunt, straightforward, overt, making sure there can be as little scope for misunderstanding as possible. 

The other is deliberately ambiguous, elliptical, filled with smoke and shadows. It's about giving the reader a sense of what's going on, but leaving plenty of room for thinking and imagining. 

That's a tricky balance, which I think is one of the greatest discoveries of being a writer.

Another common question I'm asked is - what was the book about?  What did you really mean?  What were you trying to say?

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