Research, Litfests and How to Make your Book Happen

antiquitiesSeveral months have gone by, and what have I been doing? I’m not sure, time goes so fast, but I have been researching my next novel – by doing a course in art crime and the illegal trade in antiquities – and it’s fascinating, if rather sad. I haven’t got to the art crime yet, but what I have learnt is that antiquities are stolen from historic sites in places like South America and Cambodia, to feed the appetites of rich collectors, which is a tragedy and travesty in many ways.

First, the items are now ‘out of context’, so even if they are subsequently recovered and returned to their country of origin, vital knowledge of their heritage has now been lost. Secondly, much of the money made in this illicit industry is made by the people at the top of the chain, when they sell the items to wealthy collectors, whereas the people on the ground (literally!) are often subsistence diggers who work for pitifully small amounts to feed their families.

It’s a fascinating, but difficult story, and I’m looking forward to learning more. Fortunately, nowadays, more museums and galleries are becoming aware of the need to be vigilent when receiving artefacts and art treasures. This is SO important, because while there is legislation in some countries, which goes some way towards limiting such trade, there is no international legislation or policing to protect such treasures.

The course I am doing is on FutureLearn – which is an amazing resource for a whole variety of online learning opportunities – from the power of colour to England in the time of Richard III. And the courses are free. Check it out.

Eventbrite banner for York Making your Book Happen eventChanging the subject, I’m running some writing workshops over the next few months. The next one is in York, on 13 March and is called Motivation & Moving Forward: how to make your book happen. It’s for writers with a work in progress, who want to complete, and are in need of help with motivation or practical issues. The last one was great fun, and what better place to have a writing workshop, than in lovely York.

Do come along if you’re in the york_night-writing-workshop-bingarea and the workshop interests you. Full details can be found here, and there are discounts available.

Speaking of great places to go, the next workshop is in equally lovely Stratford-upon-Avon, on 25 March, and is on writing for magazines – both non-fiction & short stories. You can find out more here.

Going back to York, for a minute, the writing workshop is three days before the York Literature Festival – also worth checking out if you’re in the area. In fact, with so many litfests (one in Stratford-upon-Avon in April, and one in Hawkesbury Upton, near Bath also in April – I’m reading at that one), it’s a wonder I’ll have any time to do any writing at all…

Hawkesbury Upton LitFest web page


Virtual Book Club Interview: Shadows of the Lost Child

Author Jane Davis BlogThis is just a quick post to say thanks to author Jane Davis for hosting me on the Virtual Book Club pages of her blog.

Here I get the chance to talk a bit about my writing but particularly about my second novel, Shadows of the Lost Child.

The book is a partly historical mystery set in a town loosely based on historic York, with a time travel angle.

The historical aspect explores the dark parts of Edwardian England, with poverty, prostitution and the pawn shop featuring; not to mention The Keepsake Arms, the local pub, where Miranda works.

We also meet Tom, a local boy, and one of the key characters, who comes from a tough part of town but is plucky, resourceful and loyal to his friends.

Then he meets Alice, and is wary but entranced.

Alice comes from the present day, but Tom doesn’t know that…

To find out more about Shadows and my writing, see the post  on Jane’s blog.

And while you’re there, you might also want to check out Jane’s books – they look very intriguing…


Finally, find out more about Shadows of the Lost Child on Pinterest

Or on Amazon. (UK) (United States)


Aleph’s House

Aleph's house in the novel Shadows of the Lost ChildOn 18 February, I’ll be talking about my latest novel, Shadows of the Lost Child, at Acomb Library, York (UK). As you’ll know, if you’ve visited this blog before today, the novel is set in a fictional city, Curdizan, which was inspired by historic York.

At Acomb Library on 18th, apart from reading from the novel, I’ll be talking about York’s part in the story, including the legends and history of York, particularly focusing on Bedern and Hungate.

If you’re in the area and want to attend, contact Acomb Library on 01904 552651, email The event is on from 7-8 pm.

See you there!

‘No, Mr Jones, they weren’t tourists, or even the kids who live around here. The children you heard were the School Lane ghosts.’

Aleph Jones is one of the main characters in the novel. When writing about his (haunted?) home, I based it on this very real house in the picture below.

Aleph's House in #ShadowsoftheLostChild
Sadly, this house is no longer there, but was once in Bedern, through the arch and not very far from Goodramgate.

Note that there is no suggestion that the original house was haunted!

Image courtesy of YAYAS (Evelyn Collection)

Going Public – book sale now on! (and more about the new book)

Sale of Watching Charlotte Brontë Die: and other surreal stories NOW ON!

Sale of Watching Charlotte Brontë Die: and other surreal stories NOW ON!

First of all, I’d like to thank the 925 people who entered the Goodreads competition to win a copy of Watching Charlotte Bronte Die: and other surreal stories. Congratulations to the three winners – your signed copy will be on its way to you soon.

For those of you who missed out (sigh), the e-book version of Watching Charlotte will be on SALE from 4-10 July at just £0.99/$1.69 – a great reduction (79%). Follow the links below for your copy!ë-Die-surreal-ebook/dp/B00AZYXASU


In my last post I promised I’d talk a bit more about the characters in my new (forthcoming) novel, Shadows of the Lost Child. You can read the first chapters on Wattpad here.

Miranda is one of the main characters, and lives at the turn of the century (1900). Tom describes her perfectly here:

‘She looked as wild as she always did, her eyes glowing bright from the moon up above. She tossed her hair and I stared right back…Neighbours and mates, that’s what we were, even though she was all grown up. Miranda Collenge was eighteen.’

Miranda’s ma runs a backstreet pub in Curdizan Low, a poverty-stricken working class area. Life in Curdizan Low was hard.

There were lots of pubs in Curdizan Low, and many of these were actually houses, with a bar and parlour, the parlour being kept for the ‘best’ customers.

More about the pubs in Curdizan (and other real pubs around that time)

  • People who stood at the bar to drink, rather than sat down, were known as perpendicular drinkers
  • Some pubs organised a day’s outing, usually in the summer, for regular customers. Miranda’s da ran such events before he died
  • Music and singing were common in pubs – but few of these pubs had a music licence. The singers said they were paid as waitresses, and only sang to please the punters. Miranda hated the music nights. She thought it made the pub like a brothel
  • Girls might go into pubs in groups, but a woman entering a pub on her own was considered inappropriate. Serious prostitution was rare in the Low, but some women would supplement an uncertain family income this way. Such women risked their health as well as their reputation, being vulnerable to pregnancy and STDs. There were also very few places to go, as working class life was naturally communal and houses and rooms were often crowded
  • Opening hours were different to now. Pubs might be open early in the morning, and it wasn’t just adults who went into pubs. Kids would hover on the pavements outside, and sometimes go in, to get a jug of ale for their da
  • If your family, like Miranda’s, ran a pub, you could be helping out at the bar, standing on a chair or a box if necessary, well before you were eighteen
  • In Miranda’s pub, the Keepsake Arms, her mother displayed a boot on a shelf – in past times, a shoe was meant to ward off evil spirits when a building was constructed. The story of the boot in Shadows of the Lost Child is complex – you’ll have to read the book to learn more, but my original idea of the boot came from reading about a real pub called The Golden Slipper. It was previously called The Slipper, and before that The Shoe; and in the 1980s a mediaeval leather shoe was discovered during building renovations. Strangely enough, the pub’s name is believed to have come, not from a shoe, but from the name of a greyhound!

The Golden Slippper, YorkThe Golden Slipper is a pub in York, and although the fictional city, Curdizan, draws on aspects of York for its history, the Keepsake Arms was NOT based on the Golden Slipper or any other actual pub. I’ve haven’t yet been in the Golden Slipper, which is not that surprising given that York has over 300 pubs!

The Golden Slipper website also tells us this interesting fact. In the front lounge, visitors can see where a ‘Coffin Drop’ was located, the ceiling being lower here. In past times, this was to allow bodies to leave the building via a side passage, as it was thought unlucky for a body to be taken through the front door.