Research …

With winter is just around the corner,  there is no better time for me to knuckle down and work on a manuscript. But, before I do, there was just time to squeeze in a holiday before I dig out the winter woollies from the bottom of the wardrobe and hibernate until spring.

As many of  you will know, I lived on a croft in rural Aberdeenshire for many years and have long considered Scotland my second home. So, it probably comes as no surprise that my destination of choice was Scotland and in particular, Dumfries and Galloway. I love the Highlands, the rugged beauty of the mountains, but the Scottish border country also has a special place in my heart because it is the home of Scotland’s National Book Town.

Wigtown is home to at least seven bookshops and is a haven for book lovers with over a quarter of a million books to choose from. Each year holds it holds a book festival. With 200 hundred events and workshops for adults and children.  The festival takes place over ten days, with such speakers as Ian Rankin, Professor Iain Sinclair, Mairi Hedderwick, Denise Mina, and Gavin Esler, I decided to take some time out of our holiday to attend a few of the events.

I have long held the desire to write crime. So, when I read in the Festival Brochure that Denise Mina, winner of the McIlvanney Prize 2017 for Scottish crime book of the year, I knew that was one event I could not miss. Ms Mina is a Scottish novelist and playwright, and her latest book, The Long Drop is the true crime account of Peter Manuel, a serial killer who operated in Glasgow in the 1950s.

 

 

Now, I have a confession to make, although I have seen Ms Mina’s books in the local bookshop, I had never read one until this week. More than just a crime story, The Last Breath, kept me up all night wondering what would happen next. As soon as I finish this post, I shall be scouring Amazon for more of her novels.

Not only am I determined to finish the romantic suspense novel I’m working on, but also to try my hand at writing a crime novel. Watch this space!

Time Flies…

I can’t believe it’s almost the end of February, and I am only just updating this page.  It’s not that I had forgotten or been disorganised, my only excuse is that I’ve been busy!  My diary is full of speaking and multi-author book signing events, all of which are listed on the Events page of this website.

I’m delighted to report that the audiobook versions of my novels have received some lovely reviews on Audible.com  So, much so, that I decided to include Jim’s review of The House on the Shore here.  What makes his review all the more satisfying is that he states he doesn’t normally read or listen to romance!

 

“A compelling mystery and great love story.”

The way I would start this sarcastically is: I didn’t hate it. In truth, I really liked it!

I usually don’t read or listen to romance. This audio book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review, though, so I thought I’d give the genre a chance. I’m glad I did. The writing is excellent; descriptive without being flowery, suspenseful with out being confusing, and romantic without being lewd. A love story written in and around a mystery story, both taking turns that could go in one of two or even three directions. The characters were described so well that, by the end of the book, I was seeing them have conversations, not just listening. Though I don’t often delve into this genre, I’ll be reading or listening to more from Victoria Howard, mostly because the suspense and mystery is so well done.

The performance by Ruth Urquhart was great. Her being able to shift between accents, even between varying Scottish accents, was superb, and her American accents were some of the best I’ve heard from a non-American. The pace of her read was consistent and clean, pronunciation excellent, and I was able to drop into that world without a thought as she brought the words to life.All in all, this is a great story, a good performance, and now I actually want to visit a small “House on the Shore.”

 

Did you know that if you’ve purchased a copy of either the print or ebook versions from Amazon you can download a copy of the audiobook from Audible for a fraction of the price?  So why not head over to Audible treat yourself to a copy of The House on the Shore or Ring of Lies?

Work on my next romantic suspense novel progresses, now that I have completed the research following a visit to Scotland in autumn last year.  As with The House on the Shore, this book is also set in the Highlands, and features Imogen Stark, a landscape photographer.  I’m hoping the manuscript will be complete by August or September and will be published sometime in 2018.

Until next time,

Victoria

July Update

July was a busy month; hence the lateness of this update.

Over the weekend of 11-13 July, two hundred and fifty novelists gathered in glorious sunshine for the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association conference at Harper Adams University. Set in the heart of the Shropshire, Harper Adams is an agricultural college complete with cows, pigs and sheep, and yes, all the associated farmyard aromas.

Harper Adams University

 

As usual, the conference content was superb, with a mixture of workshops and talks on traditional and self-publishing, as well as technique. My main problem was choosing what to attend. As workshops run concurrently, I rushed from one to next, only pausing for a quick cup of tea and chat with a friend.

 

Sue Moorcroft leading one of the panels.

The highlight of the weekend was the gala dinner on the Saturday evening, during which Janice Preston was presented with the Elizabeth Goudge Prize for the best short story written by a conference attendee.

Rosemary Gemmell at the Gala Dinner
Rosemary Gemmell at the Gala Dinner

The following weekend, I took part in the Penistone Literary Festival, along with my friend and fellow novelist, Milly Johnson. Arriving early, I had the opportunity to listen to Michael Fowler talk about his crime novels and life as a former police officer.

Michael Fowler
Michael Fowler

 

Milly Johnson and me comparing notes at Penistone Literary Festival
Milly Johnson and me comparing notes at Penistone Literary Festival

As for the rest of the month – I’m pleased to say that the audio book version of The House on the Shore is underway and will be available to download from Audible, Amazon and iTunes later this year!

I’m also involved in an interesting project with fellow American author, Brenda Hill, but more of that later.

In the meantime, it’s back to working on the next book. Are you curious what it’s all about…?  Well here’s a small clue…

Castle Stalker courtesy of Erin Garrett
Castle Stalker, photograph courtesy of Erin Garrett

 

Penistone Literary Festival 19th-20th July 2014

A full programme of events has now been released for the inaugural Penistone Literary Festival.  Headlined by one of the best poets of his generation, Simon Armitage, and best selling author, Milly Johnson, supported by Andrew Macmillan, crime writer M J Fowler, and other local poets and authors, it promises to be a fun-filled two-days for young and old alike.

 

PenLit Program

 

There are events for children, Penny the Sheep Children’s exhibition, a vintage tea room, a Bookshop and the chance to purchase a Penny the Sheep Mug!

Penny the Sheep mugs

 

So, pop along to the Penistone Literary Festival Website, and book your tickets now for a great day out.

 

 

 

Penistone Literary Festival

It’s been a while since I posted, I know. I can’t even use working in the garden as an excuse, because on the whole, the weather has been cold, grey and rather miserable.

But I had some very good news this month – I’ve been invited to speak at the 1st ever Penistone Literary Festival on Sunday 20th July! Ceri Worman and Edana Guest, are working hard to bring the event together.

There’s a stellar line up of writers and poets including, Simon Armitage, Barnsley’s best selling novelist Milly Johnson, Michael Fowler, and Andrew McMillan. There are events for children and even a poetry walk.

 

Penistone Literary Festival 2014

I feel very honoured to have been asked to take part and am looking forward to meeting everyone who attends. Once the full programme is announced, I’ll put the link up on this site.

So, if you are in Penistone on Saturday and Sunday, 19th and 20th July, you really should treat yourself and pop along to St John’s Community Centre for a chance to hear about their work.

I’ve also been invited to talk to Springfield Ladies, a local group based in Hoyland, in May.

The audiobook version of Ring of Lies, has received a number of 5star reviews on Audible.com. Yay!

And finally, I’m planning to turn The House on the Shore into an audiobook, if I can find a narrator who can perform an authentic Scottish accent and who’s not afraid to try pronouncing or learn a few Gaelic words! So, if you or someone you know has what it takes to be a voiceover artist and can speak Gaelic, why not sign up to Audiobook Creation Exchange and submit your audition?

More details to follow!

February Update

A belated Happy New Year!

2014 kicked off with a large portion of southern England underwater. While South Yorkshire has been battered intermittently by gale force winds, I’ve been beavering away in my office, and left wondering what happened to January.

My writing time has been divided between working on my current manuscript, speaking engagements, and dipping my toes into the mysterious world of forensic science.

I’ve long harboured the desire to write a crime novel, and when the opportunity to learn something about forensic science with FutureLearn arose, I grabbed it with both hands. FutureLearn is an online study program set up with the cooperation of educators from top UK and international universities.  The courses it offers are free and cover a wide range of topics, and are designed to appeal to a broad range of learners.  There’s even one on writing fiction. (Advertisement over!)

While I have a good grasp of human biology, its diseases and their aetiology, (I was a business coordinator in the NHS, after all), chemistry and physics leave me cold. That said I am fascinated by the world of forensic science and insist on watching every factual TV programme on the subject.

Over the past five weeks, I have learned about fingermarks, footmarks, (and just so there is no confusion, fingerprints and footprints are what we possess and ‘marks’ are what we leave behind on a surface). The course has also covered DNA, blood spatter patterns, toolmarks, and drugs.

As Edmund Locard, who not only formulated the basic principle of forensic science, and was known as the ‘Sherlock Holmes of France’ once said:

‘Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him.’

 Very useful for reminding the family that you will find out who removed the last slice of bread from the breadbin and who failed to place the butter back on the shelf in the fridge!

My other half, Stephen, bless him, is looking more and more worried by the day, by my choice of bedtime reading – The Crime Writer’s handbook, 65 Ways to kill your victim…in print, and with the subject matter of my next course – Forensic Science and Crime!

So while Stephen is asking about that mysterious substance I added to the casserole (it was pepper, honestly!) the time has come for me to get my head down and do more writing.

Until next time…

The Romantic Novelists’ Association Annual Conference

On Friday, 12th July 1013, the hottest weekend of the year so far, I joined 180 members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association at The Edge, part of the University of Sheffield Endcliffe Campus, for their annual conference.

The Edge, Sheffield

Modern and spacious, The Edge offers superb conference facilities with onsite accommodation.  But my goodness was it hot.

The Edge

However, Romantic Novelists are never afraid of a challenge, and faulty air conditioning was not going to deter us.

I collected my ‘goodie bag’ full of books, chocolate, biscuits, more books and even more chocolate and joined everyone for the welcome speech from our Chairman (or should that be Chairwoman) Pia Fenton. News of new contracts and awards followed, giving us a reason to celebrate.  This, of course, was followed by wine, a chance to gossip, share tips and market opportunities, as well as to catch up with friends, and drink more wine!

Goodie bag

The serious business started the following morning with Maggi Fox’s very informative session on public relations.  Other sessions included using theme to deepen your work with Julie Cohen; how to manage your time, hot scenes and how to make them, and diversifying your career, had our heads buzzing with ideas.

The Gala Dinner took place on Saturday evening; sadly I was unable to attend, but the food, I’m told, was delicious, and the outfits and shoes were fabulous.

More sessions by followed on Sunday. Nina Harrington’s, in particular, on how to stop procrastinating was especially pertinent for me, and now I’m itching to finish the book that has been floating around in my head for the last 6 or 7 months!

 

Nina Harrington
Nina Harrington

Then all too soon it was time to say ‘goodbye’ to old and new friends, with whispered promises to catch up once more at RNAConf14 in Telford.

A fun filled day!

As some of you may know, Milly Johnson and I held a crash course in novel writing on the 17th June. I must admit that, for a short time at least, I had a few sleepless nights about picking a date that coincided with Father’s day here in the UK.  Fortunately, I need not have worried at 50 people turned up to our event.  The feedback we have received has been very positive, but don’t take my word for it.  Here is a copy of an article that appeared in the local press.

 

 

 

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Milly Johnson and I are running an afternoon

‘crash course’ in writing a book in Barnsley on Sunday 17th June, 2pm-5pm

Both of us will be giving a presentation, there will be afternoon tea,
plenty of time for questions and our latest books will be available to purchase.

We’ve both given our course before and they’ve gone down very well, so
this time we’ve decided to join forces.
We’ll tell you how to take your idea from concept
to finished manuscript.
We’ll also tell you:

How to make your novel flow
How to plot
The importance of dialogue
The importance of male protagonists in Romantic Suspense Novels.
How to approach an agent
What NOT to do

…plus lots more.

We intend you home with some supporting literature and full of enthusiasm
to get started.

The afternoon will run – approximately – like this

1.30pm – arrive early if you want to catch us for an early book sale

2pm – Milly will be talking with a Powerpoint Presentation

3.15pm – break for afternoon tea, cakes and a mingle

3.45pm – I will present my Power Point Presentation

4.45pm – A Q & A session with both of us

5.00pm – book signings.

We do so hope you can join us. Places are limited so please book early
to avoid disappointment. We won’t be issuing tickets but you will be
give a booking reference number.

Kindest

Victoria and Milly

Word Book Night, Saturday 5th March

World Book Night is a celebration of literature. With the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day and the BBC, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland.

Thomas Rotherham College has invited me to take part in their celebrations when they will be handing out copies of Carol Ann Duffy’s, ‘The World’s Wife to their talented students.