Land of Fire and Ice and Stories

Just got back from the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavik. Wow! My brain’s still buzzing with the stunning scenery and from meeting so many wonderful writers during my time there.

The retreat offered the perfect mix of writing workshops, delicious food (I’m especially going to miss my breakfast skyr and snacking on chocolate-coated liquorice) and sightseeing, with an extra sprinkling of literary receptions and readings in Reykjavik and beyond.

While I’d love to share the rest of my chocolate liquorice with you (ha! Who am I kidding? It’s mine, all mine), I might have to restrict myself to sharing a few of the unforgettable sights instead…


Strokkur, Geysir


View from Harpa






Ingólfr Arnarson





Sólfar by Jón Gunnar Árnason

A huge thank you to Writers News for such a fantastic prize!


Empty Nest Syndrome

Yesterday I waved my youngest off into the big wide world.  I packed him up some mutton pies, brushed down his tattered trousers, and watched him disappear off into the Victorian London sunset to seek his fortune.

This isn’t his first time away from home.  Not by a long chalk.  The cheeky little feller keeps coming back, demanding rewrites.  And more pies.  He’s very fond of pies.  But I’m trying my best not to think about him now.  It’s for the best.  No wondering what he’s up to.  No brooding over how he might be faring out there.  It’s time to throw myself into something new.  And thanks to the fabulous folks at Writing Magazine there’s a new literary adventure just around the corner, in the shape of my prize trip to the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavik.  So it’s out with the Victorian ragamuffin garb and straight on with the Viking hat…


Yes, I know it’s got horns.  It’s also a tad pinker than is strictly authentic…




Last year we flew over the bridge from… yes, you guessed it, The Bridge, and stayed in a Copenhagen hotel which later featured in The Bridge 2.

This year we were lucky enough to visit Stockholm for round two of Scandi Crime Bingo. It’s an amazing city and we had a fantastic and surprisingly sunny time, visiting the Vasa Museum, strolling round Gamla Stan, checking out the cool Bengt & Lotta designs and even squeezing in a trip to Kugens Kurva on the free shuttle bus to the largest IKEA store in the world.

But what made it even cooler was reading The Girl Who Played with Fire while I was there. I’m rather late to the Stieg Larsson party, I know, but I’m glad I waited because reading city-specific books in situ makes them extra-special. Practically every street or cafe that the characters visited was one we’d passed or walked down that day. Every view they saw out of their window was one I’d seen for real.  And when two minor character stopped off at the Wayne’s Coffee on our road, just up from our hotel… well, I was practically there… in the book!

I trudged one poor member of our party round Södermalm to follow in Lisbeth’s Dragon Tattoo footsteps, checking out Lundagatan and Blomkvist’s place on Belmagatan.  I even made everyone look at the Billy’s Frozen pizzas in the supermarket! It’s a little known fact but you get bonus bingo points for frozen fast food…


The Scandi Crime fest didn’t stop there though, oh no… We saw the Skansen wolverine pit where the body was discovered in Arne Dahl (no wolverines in sight but hey, I was excited enough by an empty pit) and then on the last day my husband spotted Saga Noren herself (or rather the actress Sofia Helin) on the main shopping street. I only have his word for it, sadly (I was looking the other way – probably thinking about Lisbeth Salander or what souvenir I could possibly buy that would make me feel like I lived in Stockholm rather than soggy old Devon), but he was pretty convinced. I make that a full house. BINGO!

Basking in the Basque Country

Back from an amazing fortnight of sun, surf and sights in the Basque region of France and Spain.  Took Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises to read and followed along in Jake’s footsteps up into the Spanish mountains and down to Pamplona.


Bust of Hemingway in front of the Pamplona bull ring.

We took in the weird….




‘Maman’, The Guggenheim, Blibao

and the wonderful…


Sunset near St-Jean-de-Luz


A kettle of vultures (at least I think that’s what they were…)


Quick stop at Arcachon on the drive back to the ferry

and arrived home to the exciting news that The Growing Down of Pickle-Eyed Joe has been shortlisted for the Greenhouse Funny Prize.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Shortlists and Long Socks

Delighted to have made the shortlist for both the  Mslexia 2013 Short Story Competition and the Writers & Artists yearbook Villain competition.  My runner-up Villain entry can be found at

And the long socks?  That’s what I was wearing in Prague this week, on the not-so-sunny days, with a raincoat thrown in for good measure.  It was truly beautiful in the rain but even lovelier when the sun came out.  Enjoyed a memorable few days of mooching,  Mucha and museums, of stunning streets and tasty tredlniks.  We even took in The Great Gatsby while we there, at the beautiful Kino Lucerna (which opened in 1909).  Magic.


Planes and Portals

Back from a brilliant few days in Denmark, visiting Aalborg and Copenhagen.  I must confess I didn’t write a single word while I was away (perhaps the packing of two fresh notebooks was a little on the optimistic side) but there was just too much to see and do, from watching the polar bears playing in the water at Aalborg Zoo to wandering around the Viking burial ground on the Lindholm Høje.

P1080882                                                                        P1080933

And of course we had to pay our respects to The Little Mermaid back in Copenhagen and try and squeeze all the sights of such an amazing city into a few hours before our flight home.

Planes are all very well, but if you fancy something a bit more instant when it comes to travel you need look no further than 1001 Portals to Try Before You Die.  Check out No. 738 at the Miscellanea Transdimensional Library –