John’s Review of the Year


We are into January, so it’s time for a “look back”. There has been a lot going on – and a hectic year, although not as much as I’d hoped on the work in progress. Still – it’ll come!

Last year was mostly about my friends writing, rather than mine, but it IS coming back. – mostly thanks to a major kick in the a….se from the uber-talented Liz Fenwick!

We started close after the start of the year with the RoNAs, which, for my non-writing friends is the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year awards. The Gladstone Library, in the old Liberal Club, hosted us, and proceedings were led by the Rev. Richard Cole, who we know from Strictly, and from Radio 4’s “Saturday Live”. I had a chance for a chat with him as well and with Jilly Cooper who was given a lifetime achievement award by the RNA.  I’ve been reading her stuff for about 50 years! Very readable, too

We had meetups with my publisher, Crooked Cat Books, in the person of Laurence in Edinburgh, and then in Manchester with Steph, his wife. Crooked Cat is my excellent publishers, and they’ve done a cracking job with Heart of Stone.

 I also belong to North East Authors & Readers. We meet two or three times a year at the Town Wall, an excellent pub in Newcastle. It’s right outside the station. Juliet Butler, who runs the group is also a very active book blogger at She is a delight to be with and does a great job. Several other RNA members also are members.

In the last year, I’ve also found a with a more local group called Promoting Yorkshire Authors which does exactly what it says on the tin.

They are open to all authors who are published by any means and in any genre, if they are living in Yorkshire (like me) or if they were born in Yorkshire. If you’ve got a book published, or “ready to go” you are welcome to join us. They have gone from strength to strength during the year, organising a series of author talks and panels in Harrogate, Ripon and around.

I’ve got a couple more coming up as round Yorkshire as well, and we are literally in the throes of setting a chapter up in York. We are about to have our second meeting in York at the very beginning of February. Hopefully, that will go on from strength to strength.

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PYA are very keen to help people improve their writing as well as getting published and marketed. If you self-publish, then marketing and publicity are entirely down to you.  

This year, the RNA’s Summer Party moved to Oxford. We were in the atrium of the Ashmolean Museum. A fabulous venue. Because I was published in the last year and came through the New Writers Scheme, I too was on the short-list for the Joan Hessayon Award.  Last year, there were seventeen authors up for it. I didn’t win, but it was still a fantastic evening.

The winner was Hannah Begbie and her book “Mother”. I have since read it, and it’s a great read, although not easy, and certainly not a conventional romance! Both Hannah and Kate Field (last year’s winner) gave super speeches as well. A real fun-filled evening, and I highly recommend it.

Hannah can also be heard on Radio 4 reviewing the Sunday papers on occasions. Always good to hear; always intelligent and witty

This year’s RNA Conference was full of live wires as usual, and it took place at Trinity and All Saints in Leeds. I hadn’t been there for 45 years since an old girlfriend of mine was doing her teacher’s training there when it was a Catholic Teacher Training College.

A day trip to London in September, for the first Romance in the 21st Century Author Panels, sponsored by David Headley and Goldsboro Books. 2 panels of 4 speakers each. They included Katie Fford, Liz Fenwick, Dorothy Koomson and Jules Wake among others.  The event took place at Browns on St Martins Lane, and they have a very nice large room upstairs The Judge’s Court, formerly the courthouse for Westminster. Great panels – and great to see so many friends there as well. I was able to do it on a “day-return” and although I didn’t get back until 1 in the morning, definitely worth the trip.

There’s a lot of literary festivals in Yorkshire. One of the newer ones is the Indie Lit Fest in Bradford. Now in its 4th year, it’s now already considered to be in the top 5 literary festivals in England! Good progress.

I went this year, and it was well put together, if slightly short on footfall, mainly because of having it on at the same time as the World Cup. I’m back there this year, and I’ve got a table. Several of us from PYA are going in support.

These signing events seem to be the new way to go. I went to one in Leeds on the same day as the “Beast from the East” arrived. They had a few no-shows from the authors, but still mustered almost 50 authors, and an excellent crowd attending. People come to buy books and collect pre-orders. I find them fun. I’m going again this year and also to one in Manchester, equally very well attended. These events seem to be the way to go.

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The RARE event in London SELLS OUT Olympia. Especially when you look at the RARE events (Romance Author & Readers), These attract perhaps 2000 people and sell out of Olympia. Mostly US-based romantic authors but also from the UK. They charge a lot for tickets, but they sell out. It seems to be an excellent way of involving readers with the actual writers and publishers.

Check out the prices!! Early Bird tickets SOLD OUT!

This year’s RNA York Tea was held in the wonderful Merchant Tailors Hall. A great afternoon, and a good-sized crowd. This year, it’ll be held there again, and will also include the Joan Hessayon Awards. After 3 great years, Lynda Stacey has passed to baton on to me!

We are close to the Harrogate Literary Festival, and I’ve been going every year since we came up here. I’ve seen some great people and this year was no exception — great talks from Lindsey Davis, the Roman author, and Conn Iggulden, best known for his Genghis Khan series.

This year they recorded two sessions of Round Britain Quiz. The long-standing mental agility and general knowledge quiz if you like. Perhaps its radio’s equivalent of Only Connect.  On the North side was Adele Geras, also an RNA member, with Stuart Maconie the very knowledgeable DJ. Happily, the North won both episodes. On the way in, I happened to the bump into a friend from Malaysia I haven’t seen in about five years. It was good to see Richard again and shows what a small world it is.

The last significant event was the RNA winter party. Very well attended and held at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. They laid on a delicious spread, canapes etc., of which I got precisely one gherkin. I was just too busy taking pictures and chatting to friends to take time to eat. As ever, great to see so many friends.

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And so to books. I’ve not read as much as I wanted this year. Having a new grand-daughter takes up more time and energy than you might imagine. However, the top three – in no particular order, were.

Liz Fenwick’s One Cornish Summer,

Jane Lovering’s Little Tea-Shop of Horrors (such a brilliant title)

Bella Osborne’s Escape to Willow Cottage.

If you haven’t read them, then do so!! They are ALL outstanding, and all worth the 5* I gave them.

That’s more or less it for 2018. Hopefully this year I’ll get my act together and get writing properly again.

If you think all this looks a bit “busy” it’s because I’m testing out Google Docs Voice Typing. So far, not too bad.

Until the next, have a very Happy New Year

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