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Thursday, 22 September 2011

Scotland’s New Crime Festival - Bloody Scotland

I had the most fantastic time on Friday at the launch of Bloody Scotland in the company of most of Scotland’s crime writers, and I wanted to share it with you.

Authors attending launch of Bloody Scotland

What is Bloody Scotland? Well, it’s an exciting new project to bring together the best of Scottish crime writing and crime writers in a new festival planned for next year. The venue is Stirling, and the dates are 14th to 16th September 2012.

How did it all come about? Alex Gray and Lin Anderson say they were indulging in a glass of Prosecco at the bar and wondering if Scotland could have its own crime festival, similar to the one in Harrogate. Several glasses later they were still tossing the idea around and had even given it a name, Bloody Scotland, visualising Harrogate Crime Festival attendees turning to each other at the bar and saying, ‘You going to Bloody Scotland this year?’ So that was the start of it.

So, out of that conversation Bloody Scotland took root as more than an idea. Therefore it can be said that the festival is the inspiration of crime writers Lin Anderson and Alex Gray who believed, given the global reputation of Scottish crime writing, that there should be a showcase to celebrate its quality and diversity while placing it in an international context.

After that initial start a committee was set up and has been beavering away to make Bloody Scotland a reality. The launch on Friday was the first step towards publication of the information and to hail the Bloody Scotland Festival in Stirling as the place to be next September.

The festival has the support of Stirling Council, Creative Scotland, University of Stirling and will be working closely with Stirling’s well-established literary festival, Off the Page.

Ian Rankin said “Scottish crime writing continues to fire on all cylinders, and talented new voices keep appearing. Bloody Scotland is a long overdue celebration of Scotland’s favourite genre, one of its most successful cultural exports ~ and a chance to hear some of the most interesting international writers too.”

Robert Ruthven, Information, Libraries & Archives Service manager commented, “It is a great compliment to the continuing success of Off the Page Stirling Book Festival that the organisers of Bloody Scotland have chosen Stirling as the venue for their Crime Weekend. Visiting crime authors are always warmly received by the Stirling public and the inaugural Bloody Scotland Festival can only add to Stirling’s reputation as the city which loves its crime. Our library staff who organise Off the Page are looking forward to this new working partnership.”

On 14 September 2012 the University of Stirling will host masterclasses, workshops and a publishers and agents forum. “Stirling has a thriving centre for publishing studies and we’ve just launched a postgraduate creative writing programme,” says Douglas Brodie, head of the School of Arts and Humanities. “We’re delighted to help aspiring writers at the festival develop their talent, technique and professional savvy.”

Emma Turnbull at Creative Scotland says “Bloody Scotland will be a welcome addition to the host of vibrant and diverse literature festivals we support across Scotland.”

Full programme details of the debut festival will be launched in late spring 2012.

For more information contact 0797 1099402

So, put the date in your diary and remember to look out for the submission information in the spring. And I’ll see you there.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Dundee International Book Prize - What it Feels like to Win

Ten aspiring authors have been lucky enough to be included on the short list of the Dundee International Book Prize, details can be found on the Dundee Book Prize website at and you can read excerpts from the winning novels if you go to the Literary Dundee website I can just imagine how those ten authors must be feeling, because I’ve been there. As they say - been there, done that, worn the tee-shirt.

It seems a lifetime now since I won the Dundee Prize, although it was actually only two years ago in 2009. I can’t begin to describe the experience, only that it was awesome. It started the year before that when, in September 2008, I was informed my novel, Dead Wood, was on the short list. Then in October I was told I had won, but I was given strict instructions to tell no one. There was to be a moratorium on the information until the launch date, which was 29th June 2009.
Unfortunately I had already told the two friends who edit and proof read for me. You see after I got the phone call, and after I’d convinced myself it wasn’t a scam, I was simply bursting with the need to tell someone, and I didn’t know about the moratorium until the next day when the letter of confirmation arrived from the Lord Provost of Dundee. Needless to say my two friends were sworn to secrecy and adopted the mantles of Secret Agent Two and Three. They allocated the title Secret Agent One, to me.
After the letter everything went deathly quiet. I had been told I would be contacted by the publisher, Polygon, but no call came until March 2009, five months after I’d been told I had won. During those five months I began to think it had all been a dream, wishful thinking on my part. It was only the prodding of my two Secret Agent friends that reminded me it had actually happened. But you know how it is when the doubts surface. It’s difficult to shake them off.
But in March when the publisher eventually got in touch, it was a flurry of activity. An editor was appointed to do the substantive editing bit which consisted of instructions to lose 7,000 words, plus advice on what to get rid of and what to expand, and so on. Okay, the 7,000 words were cut from the manuscript, however in following the advice to expand certain bits another 7,000 words were added. So, back on the merry-go-round to lose another 7,000 words. I still don’t really know where those 14,000 words went, but go they did. At last, the editor was satisfied and I was satisfied so the book then went to the proofing editor.
Proofing is a fairly straightforward process, however the proofing editor changed some names to make my novel more Scottish. So Tony’s wife Madge, became Mairi. Sergeant Dobbs, nicknamed Dobbsy, became Sergeant Robertson with no nickname. And Angel became Angela. I dug my heels in about Angel though, because she was a pole dancer and whoever heard of a pole dancer named Angela. I argued that Angela sounded more like the girl next door, while Angel was a name a pole dancer might assume for her act. So Angela returned to Angel, thank goodness for that.
The other thing that arose was the book’s title. The Dundee Prize judges had insisted my book, which was originally called The Screaming Woods, should be retitled, and when I was chosen as the winner I would have stood on my hands and done cartwheels if they’d asked. So, agreeing was a no-brainer. During the editing process the publisher decided the book should be called First Blood, then shortly after they changed their minds and decided on Dead Wood. So, Dead Wood it became and that’s how it stayed.
The day of the launch was getting frighteningly near and I started to wonder if the book would be ready on time. I needn’t have feared, because almost on the eve of the launch the book was ready.  I think all publishers must work to this exacting timescale but it’s quite frightening if you aren’t used to it.

Anyway, the launch day arrived, bright and sunny. Thank goodness for that because publicity shoots had been arranged to take place in Templeton Woods, the setting for my murders. It was a whirlwind of activity. First the photo shoot, then the interview for television, then the secret signing in the stock room of the local book store. At last, I got my hands on my novel. A lovely new shiny paperback that I didn’t want to release from my grasp once it was there. I wanted to stroke it, kiss it, and generally just make love to it. But, I had to sign them and leave them there. Then it was off to a swanky hotel to freshen up for the evening reception.

Prised out of my jeans and dressed up to the nines I took my place at the top table, rubbing elbows with the Lord Provost and other dignitaries. A lovely meal and several speeches later, excerpts from three of the short listed books, which had become the short-short listed books, were read, and I was announced as the winner. I made a speech but couldn’t tell you what I said because I was still floating on a cloud. I was presented with my award and the gold envelope containing that lovely, lovely cheque. Then it was off to sign books and what a fabulous experience that was, sitting at a table signing my very own book.

Ah, well, that was two years ago and I wish the winner of this year's Dundee Book Prize as much joy and success as I’ve had since winning it.