Harrogate Happenings

Yesterday afternoon, I returned from my annual trip to Harrogate for the Theakstons Crime Writing Festival, the event where 100s of crime writers, bloggers, authors, industry professionals and many, many readers converge at The Old Swan hotel (of Agatha Christie disappearance fame…) for a weekend of talks, parties, drinks, books, scandals and hangovers. As usual, the festival was excellent fun – and even the rain didn’t stop play 🙂

Great things…

  • The Pimms-in-A-Tin tent… genius
  • Promoting my new book The Deaths of December at the Hodder drinks party, which included pulling crackers and saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to a lot of bemused faces (and keeping my reindeer antlers on all night afterwards)
  • Reading my short story ‘The Chair’ while my fellow Slice Girls A.K. Benedict and Steph Broadribb duct taped author Neil White to a chair at The Blues Bar (thanks to Zoe Sharp for the torch!)
  • The Slice Girls performance afterwards (as part of fringe event Noir At The Bar)
  • The Dark Side panel on Friday, featuring Clare Donoghue, Elly Griffiths (this year’s fab festival chair), Simon Toyne, Lesley Thomson & James Oswald – chatting about supernatural elements in crime and why we should all read it
  • Chocolate cake and Prosecco at the Bonnier drinks party
  • Hanging out with lots of really cool people and laughing very much at lots of unrepeatable and ridiculous thing (…laughing at Katerina Diamond telling me to stop laughing so much)
  • Ed’s highanus
  • Danny not being dead

Annoying things…

  • Not getting a burger because it started to piss down with rain and they had to close it down before everything blew away
  • Not spending enough time with some people (and not seeing others at all…)
  • My agent not being there
  • Rain
  • Forgetting to buy Farrah’s fudge
  • Rod Reynolds*

Sad things…

  • Thinking about the beautiful Helen Cadbury, who had planned to be there and will always be missed 💔

Some pics below, mostly stolen from others. Thanks to the organisers for a fantastic event, my publishers for spoiling me with a lovely meal and showering me with praise, the cleaner at The Cairn for giving me extra biscuits, and all the lovely people who kept me entertained. Roll on 2018!!

*Not really 🙂

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Girls On Top: Sex in Crime (Part 2)

‘Don’t you think there should be more people handcuffed to beds in thrillers?’

…says Mark Edwards (The Devil’s Work) over at CrimeThrillerGirl (aka Steph Broadribb)’s blog, where we are talking about SEX in crime fiction (you should read PART 1 first!) Part 2 continues below…

[STEPH] Many of the female crime thriller writers we spoke to agreed with Mark and enjoy putting sex into their books. Angela Clarke has a sex scene in a disabled toilet in her thriller Follow Me, and Elizabeth Haynes has her detective almost die in a queening box in Under a Silent Moon.

Alexandra Sokoloff said, ‘Most of my books have the common theme of an equal male and female protagonist (or in my Huntress series, an equal and combative male protagonist and female villain) joining forces to solve some horrific crime. And erotic tension is just part of the mix, and when those two people finally come together (yes, I meant that) it has to be explosive and character revealing.’

Marnie Riches writes a lot of sex scenes in her ‘The Girl Who…’ series, she said of women writing sex scenes, ‘Maybe we have the vocabulary for desire more naturally and are less embarrassed.’

[SUSI] I think Marnie makes a good point here. I don’t think there are many female writers out there who didn’t read some of their mum’s books with the naughty bits in, as teens – you know, stuff like Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins – girls, I think, are more inclined to explore these images of desire, and thus as adults are possibly more inclined to write about them? Mark Edwards aside (who makes a good job of it, so to speak), I think females might have the upper-hand when it comes to making sex scenes sexy and not cringey! My biggest problem with sex scenes is when people use what I consider to be THE WRONG WORDS, especially too many of the wrong words… Doing research for this article I searched several novels for certain words and found that ‘penis’ came out as a very over-used word (especially by male authors) – please… come on. It’s cock, surely?

[STEPH] I totally get that, there’s nothing more likely to put you off your stroke than a badly used sex word. ‘Her sex’ is particularly cringe-worthy to me, as are ‘lady-parts’; she’s a woman, therefore all of her is a lady part – be specific! My only exception to this is that I think it’s important the choice of word fits the character – so if the character is very repressed maybe they would call it ‘her sex’ (shudders) but if they’re a tough talking, kick-ass woman that’d be the totally wrong fit.

While we were writing this the only area of disagreement Susi and me had was over ‘panties’. I have the word panties in DEEP DOWN DEAD at least once – during flashback to when my lead character was working as a stripper. It works for the scene and it works in the American voice, but I know the panties set Susi’s teeth on edge!

Even if you decide you’re going to include it, writing good sex is a tricky business. Too little information and its just confusing, too much and it reads like a sex manual – neither are much fun, and neither are sexy – so how to get the perfect balance? If the nominees in the annual Bad Sex Award are anything to go by, the more metaphors and similes used when describing sex increase your risk tenfold. Critically acclaimed writers can fall foul of this too. And, if you’ve not already had the chance, I recommend listening to the hilarious Bad Sex Award special podcast by the brilliant Two Crime Writers and a Microphone.  Listening to Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste reading out each nominated scene makes the pitfalls of writing a sex scene abundantly clear!

[SUSI] Exactly. Just as in the art of seduction itself, writing a good sex scene involves giving it just the right amount, and no more. The words used are important, and you need to make sure it’s just the right length (ahem!) – any more and you’re venturing into erotica territory, and that’s not what we’re talking about here (btw, for brilliantly written erotica/crime – try something by Ava Marsh… for grubby but nonetheless entertaining erotica/crime… try L.S Hilton‘s Maestra) As author Mel SherrattWatching over You – says, go for the ‘hot and horny, but quick scenes.’ This is spot on. Don’t get too graphic, but don’t be too scared to give us a decent flavour. My top tip for writing a sex scene – if it turns you on when you are writing it and reading it back, it will most likely have the same effect on the reader.

[STEPH] That’s a great tip! Another thing I’d say is that although books (and films) like Bond have always included a lot of sex scenes, and they’re always told from the male point of view. Personally I always give a little cheer when I’m reading a book and the female character takes the POV for a sex scene. Maybe that’s one of the subconscious reasons I wanted to write a sex scene from Lori Anderson’s point of view. Maybe I just like to see girls on top!

[SUSI] I agree. I definitely think women writing it from the female POV works best. You know, all the way through this, all I’ve been able to think about is the reverse cowgirl squat, which would be quite apt for Lori, don’t you think?

[STEPH] Oh hell yeah!!

So, we’ve had our say, what do you think – do you like a sprinkling of sex with your crime? And, if you do, what’s the most memorable sex scene in a crime thriller for you? Tweet us at @crimethrillgirl and @sjiholliday using #GirlsOnTop to let us know.

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Steph Broadribb is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing at City University London and trained as a bounty hunter in California. Her debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD is out now – here’s the blurb: Lori Anderson is as tough as they come keeping her career as a Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills rack up, she has no choice but to take a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things go wrong. The fugitive she’s chasing is JT, Lori former mentor – the man who taught her all she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past. Find out more at www.crimethrillergirl.com.

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This article was first Published on Barry Forshaw’s blog: CRIMETIME

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You can buy my books here: SJI Holliday’s Amazon Page (and in all good book shops)

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A belated start is not a bad start

Happy New Ears

Happy New Ears

Ah… a new year. New plans, new resolutions, new me… these are the things that I think we ALL want to kick off on the 1st January, and yet they are the very things that can hold you back. It’s the usual call to arms: go to the gym, stop eating chocolate for breakfast, give up alcohol for a month, BE MORE PRODUCTIVE!

The start of the new year for me is really that dreaded ‘first day back’ – this year, that was Monday 4th January. All over the Christmas break (which I expected to be difficult, for several reasons (like this), but which actually turned out to be lovely and relaxing), I thought about all the things I want to do in 2016 – they aren’t resolutions, they are just things… and many of them are things that I am always trying to do (with variable success), such as:

  • Write a book (last year saw the publication of Black Wood, and the writing/editing of Willow Walk)
  • Write another book (I have plans for three this year… the third one set in Banktoun, plus two others that I’ll just knock up in my spare time… HA HA)
  • Become re-motivated with the day job (it’s a necessary evil, it’s really not that bad, but a delay with a project has seen me adrift since November, aka, a bit skint…)
  • Do 20 minutes of exercise per day (easy, right? Yeah… some days it is. I need it to be EVERY day, or else with a sedentary job, plus writing, I am likely to have curled into a turtle-like shape before my next birthday)
  • Eat less crap (an ongoing mantra… often this is successful, often it isn’t, but to be honest, life is too short to worry about the odd blow out… as long as it’s not every day)
  • Reduce time spent on social media/internet (tricky, as I use this to communicate with writing friends, readers, bloggers, book clubs and anyone else who feels like a chat… working from home in both the day job and writing can be lonely without this – but I am becoming increasingly worried about repetitive strain injury… and my fingers are my job!!)
  • Also, THIS 🙂

Anyway – I thought I was geared up for all of this on the 4th, but as it turns out, I sunk into a panic of stress and anxiety, worried about not being able to do it all (apparently the ‘first week back’ is the most challenging week of the year for everyone – so really it’s best not to set too high expectations during this period.) It’s been a very up and down week, but I think I’ve finally come out the other side. I’ve got a daily planner to try and stop myself from doing too much and focus on one task at a time… the day job has recommenced… the brilliant Alex Sokoloff has helped me realise what I need to do regarding structuring my current work-in-progress… and as a nice little bit of icing on the cake – I’ve got a flash fiction published today in Litro magazine.

So, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Mine started today 🙂

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