Books I read in 2020

I usually keep track of the books I finish* by pinning them on Pinterest, but this year my reading was so haphazard that I didn’t do it until I scrolled through my kindle today! There were huge swathes of time this year when I didn’t read a word – unusual, for someone who has always been a massive reader – the kind of kid who had to get special permission to take out double the number of allowed books from the library because I flew through them so quickly! Anyway, despite the upset to my reading habits caused by day job, writing, general life and pandemic-madness, I got through more than I realised… I’d actually forgotten about a few of them, which is further evidence of this year’s state-of-mind. What will 2021 bring? Who knows. I’m hibernating until spring.

*sometimes I go back to books later, if they aren’t grabbing me at the time – usually more about me than the book. I suspect a lot of the unfinished will appear in next year’s post.

Books I read in 2020

So, let’s analyse… I see:

  • 22 books by women / 17 by men (and 1 mix of both as it’s an anthology)
  • 22 books set in the UK / 10 books set in the USA / 7 books set elsewhere/mixed locations
  • 19 books where this was the first time I’d read that author / 20 repeat offenders
  • 3 books by the same author (a Peter Swanson binge)
  • 2 books that I’d say were ‘nice’ rather than dark / 37 books I’d describe as crime/psychological/horror
  • 3 books that have either hints or actual supernatural things in them
  • 4 books that were really dark and disturbing in a real-life kind of horror way
  • 4 books that made me laugh-out-loud (2 of these were very dark!)
  • 8 books that are not out until next year

And which ones were my favourites? Well, I think the five below stood out for me this year:

  • Dead Head by CJ Skuze
    • Third instalment of the hilariously dark serial killer series. The main character, Rhiannon, is an absolutely genius creation and I’m so excited for the TV series.
  • Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Malloy
    • One of those books that you can’t say much about without spoilers, but it’s a psych thriller with heavy nods to Stephen King’s ‘Misery’, and I loved it.
  • The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
    • Another one that I can’t say much about other than it is like nothing I have read before. Dark, unusual and ultimately heartbreaking. I think this one is going to be huge next year.
  • The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean
    • A very cleverly executed ghost story, this genuinely scared the pants off me.
  • Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker
    • Another in the very dark but very funny camp, this is all about the characters. I think Tonya might be my favourite character of the year.

There are lots of books on my kindle that I didn’t get around to reading this year. Just a few on my to-be-read list are:

  • Recursion by Blake Crouch
  • The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward
  • The Push by Claire McGowan
  • Daughters of The Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
  • Fragile by Sarah Hillary
  • Queen Bee by Jane Fallon

…and now all that’s left for me to say is thank you to all the authors, audiobook narrators, readers, bloggers, reviewers, agents, editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, booksellers, events coordinators, marketers, publicists, sales teams, librarians and anyone else who loves books and promotes reading.

Books will save us… Read a book!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and here’s to 2021 being memorable in better ways than 2020!

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You can find my books here: UK / USA – and you can sign-up to grab a free short story collection HERE.

My brand-new horror novella, Mr Sandman, is available as a limited edition hardback HERE.

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 🙂

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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Click HERE to join my ‘Book Love Club’ – there will be giveways of lovely bookish things, as well as news and competitions (the emails are very infrequent, so don’t worry about me clogging up your inbox) – in the last competition, one lucky winner won this…

You can find me on twitter and facebook too 🙂

What the Dickens? Literary Magazine #WTDzine

I’d like to tell you about my latest exciting news from the world of writing… I’m very pleased to announce that I am now a regular contributor to the fabulous What the Dickens? Magazine! I was lucky to have a short story accepted for Issue 1, and then a couple of flashes in subsequent issues (you can find the links here) so I was delighted to be asked to be involved on a regular basis.

If you haven’t seen this magazine before, you should go and check it out now… It comes out bi-monthly and each issue has a theme – this one being ‘The Pumpkin Edition’. As well as lots of features about writing/reading, it also contains info on other creative arts including music, theatre, screenwriting and everything else ‘creative’ you can think of. There are reviews, author features, writing prompts, photos and competitions, not to mention a wide range of short stories and poems. The magazine is currently available online only, but watch this space as there is more exciting news to follow soon!

Click on the magazine cover to read online (you can also find all issues in the kindle store).

My article in ‘The Curious Creative Life’ section can be found on Page 65.