Wednesday, 24 August 2016

What makes you fizz? by Jo Carroll

I'm not around today. I'm at a cricket match. (England v Pakistan, an ODI, at the Ageas Bowl, for anyone who is interested.)

Cricket isn't for everyone - so this isn't the space where I bang on about googlies and cow corner. Instead - I recall an interview with Alistair Cook (the England captain) after a particularly quiet day in the field, when he talked about the importance of sport as entertainment. People pay to watch just because they enjoy it.

He made me think. For, when you unpick it, you could argue that all sports that open their gates to the paying public are in the entertainment business. Football, snooker, cricket - they are all sustained by people willing to pay for the pleasure of watching.

And writers? Surely we, too, are in the entertainment business. We hope that we can give enough people enough pleasure to pay for us to keep writing.

Pleasure, of course, is a complicated construct. For some it is enough to be diverted from life's realities for an hour or two. Some want to be challenged by difficult or controversial issues. Others want to engage on a deeply emotional level. But they are all looking for something to connect with on one level or another - something to entice them away from FaceBook or the TV.

But ... What about the power of writing challenge ideas? To highlight injustice? To prompt a reader to leap from the sofa and join the rebels on the the barricades in an effort to change things? Surely good writing has the potential to change lives?

Yes, writing can change lives. But before it can do that, the reader must be engaged to the point that reading becomes more important than anything else in the world - and to do that it has to 'entertain', in the widest sense of the word. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have abandoned a worthy tome full of philosophical insight on the basis that I have better things to do than fall asleep over a book, however important the ideas. And I have sat up late at night to wrestle with ideas because they are new and challenging and my brain is fizzing with them.

And that, I would argue, is what entertainment is - that brain-fizzing. It helps us feel truly alive.
Reading, writing, singing, and cricket do it for me - what about you?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Lev Butts Discusses Negative Reviews

I recently had the first two novellas of my Arthurian Western, Guns of the Waste Land, picked up by Venture Press over in the U.K. for release as a single ebook. This has made me understandably excited as it is my first foray into traditional publishing (although to be fair, both novellas were picked up by Hold Fast Press, a co-op press in Long Beach, California, for publication as paperbacks a few months prior, they just haven't come out yet).

One of the biggest benefits of traditional publishing, I have found, is promotion. While I have had some modicum of success promoting my work as a self-publisher, there is only so far I can go on a fixed and meager budget.

Also having a professional art department
design your cover is a pretty nice perk, too.

Venture, though, was able to do quite a bit for me in that department: they gave the book a free give-away, then kept it at a reduced price for a few weeks to drum up word of mouth. They then blasted the Twitter-sphere with seemingly nonstop tweets directing readers to my page on Amazon, and encouraged all who downloaded the book to write a review.

Now as we have said many times in this group, reviews are the most important thing a reader can do for a writer. Yes, just as (if not more) important than actually buying the book. That's why we have free and reduced give-aways periodically. Your review literally helps us get our books seen by others, especially on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

But we also really dig it when you buy our books, so keep doing that, too.

And Venture Press did me proud, I have to say. While the first volume of Guns of the Waste Land had languished around nine reviews for a couple of years, within weeks of Venture's promotion push, I had garnered a whopping 61 reviews and they are still trickling in.

Most of them have been positive reviews, and I am glad. I'm certainly glad to read them and feel good about my abilities as a writer. However, there have been quite a few negative reviews as well, and that's what I want to talk about today.

Admittedly, while we love to read positive reviews about our books, there is no real difference in good or bad reviews when we are looking for exposure on the bookseller websites. The higher the number of our reviews (good, bad, or indifferent), the more chances we have of showing up on someone's suggestion list if they are buying a book in a similar genre or style.

That being said, though, negative reviews can be hard to take, regardless of how much they are outweighed by the sheer number of positive reviews. Ernest Hemingway once slapped a critic in the face with a book because of a bad review. Isaac Asimov claims that writers fall into one of two groups: "Those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review." I tend fall into the latter category.

Many authors opt not to read their reviews at all or at least to avoid the bad ones, lest the experience sink them so far into the morass of self-doubt and despair that they never pick up the pen again. However, I think that most of us can't help ourselves and, like trying not to look at a a car wreck, we cannot stop ourselves from taking a peek.

This article is for those folks, my people. The writers who work a bad review like a mouth ulcer or a bug bite scratched until sepsis sets in. Even though we know we will regret it, we read the critique and worry over it for days.

Well I am here to help. If you're going to read the negative review, you may as well understand them. Bad reviews fall into three categories and you need to know how to handle each of them.

The Good

Believe it or not some negative reviews can actually be a good thing. Statistically speaking, having a some one- or two-star reviews actually helps your sales. If everything is four- or five-stars, a reader might be dubious, and suspect the reviews are from friends, family, or others who have a vested interest in making a sub-par work seem fantastic. Not every reader is going to love your work because not every reader's interests are your interests. Having a few negative reviews, then, gives a reader a more well-rounded view of a works strengths and weaknesses.

As a writer, honest, well-thought out reviews can help you in your craft as well. If something doesn't work for a reader, and more importantly doesn't work for several readers, it may be something that you need to tweak for your next project (or in the case of self-publishing/print-on-demand, something you may consider for updating the files).

Take for example the following negative reviews of Guns of the Waste Land:


It's clear from these, that my non-linear story-telling was confusing for some readers. Admittedly, this style was a virtue according to some of the positive reviews, but what I may want to consider in the future is making the transitions to other story lines more clear and smoother.

Or take this one:


While short, this review gives me a legitimate complaint that I can address later. If I'm writing a Western, I may want to consider more action scenes. While I may ultimately decide that the balance I have established works well, this review at least gives me something to consider for my next volume.

These types of reviews give you food for thought, so the best thing to do is consider the ideas presented and decide for yourself how much of them to internalize.

Unfortunately, not all reviews are as helpful as these.

The Bad

Some reviews attempt to be constructive, but they just kind of aren't:

These types of reviews are probably due more to your particular style or editorial decisions not being to the liking of the reader. They seem to say something solid, but they never quite pull it off. Almost as if they know the books wasn't for them, but can't really put their finger on why.


And the truth of the matter is the book probably isn't their cup of tea, and they don't know why, and that is perfectly okay.

Sometimes they know exactly why it's not their cup of tea:

Though, to be honest, I do not recall blaspheming the name of Jesus at any point in the book.

Or these folks, who apparently take issue with the fact that the book is the first in a series:


Even, here though, the readers did not realize the whole purpose of the book is to set up a series. They clearly did not want to invest in a series, and that is perfectly fine.

There is nothing you can do as an author to improve your work with these types of reviews, so the best thing to do is to ignore them and keep writing.

And then we have...

The Ugly

These can be just be hurtful reviews whose main aim is to ridicule the author for not living up to the reviewers admittedly vague idea of what good writing is. They differ from the previous two reviews in that they often include hurtful language whose only goal is to make sure the offending party never dares to pick up a pen again:


These reviews have no real aim other than to shame the writer for deigning to enter a realm the reviewer still hasn't had the guts to enter themselves. They want to make the author feel as bad about about him/herself as the reviewer feels about his/her own life decisions.

The best thing to do with these reviews is to ignore them. Or remember that both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby have their fair share of crappy, hurtful reviews, too.

Others just make no sense at all. They are pure word salad, as if someone gave Sarah Palin speed, set her in front of a keyboard and said "Go to town!"


These, you savor. You print them up and take them out whenever you feel like you're a crap writer who will never accomplish a piece of golden language if you tried for an eternity. You read them, you smile, and you feel better, secure in the knowledge that at least you know how the "return" button works, the purpose of punctuation, and how to spell "a."

I hope this has been helpful because it has amused the Dickens out of me.


Monday, 22 August 2016

'Everything Love Is' and the contract between writer and reader, by Ali Bacon

Freebie alert! Anyone who comments on this post from August 22nd - 24th 2016 will be entered into a draw for a free copy of Everything Love Is, the new novel by Claire King published by Bloomsbury, July 2016


I ran into author Claire King a few years ago on Twitter when her novel Night Rainbow (which I really enjoyed) was accepted by an agent and then a publisher. Since then Claire has not only had her second novel published but also moved from France to Gloucestershire, and so on a  sunny Saturday in July, I met her at her book signing in Stroud (complete with luscious macarons) and came home to bury myself in Everything Love Is.

As expected the writing was gorgeous and the opening had a hint of intrigue in the narrative voice. Fifty pages in I wasn’t so sure. The main character, Baptiste, a therapist who lives on a canal, was lovely and I wanted to know what was happening to him. But what was happening? The second voice (or was it more than one?) was still perplexing me. Who was Chouette, the owl to Baptiste’s kingfisher? Just when I thought I had worked it out – tada! – I was proved completely wrong.  I considered throwing my lovely new book across the room, but chose the alternative course of looking up reviews, not because I wanted the plot explained, but just to see if I was the only stupid person out there. Apparently not (phew!) - others had also struggled with the opening -  so I took a deep breath and carried on.

In the end I loved it too and you can read my review here. But it was a very close thing and made me think about the bond of trust that’s formed between writer and reader and how far it can be stretched.
Remember that book from the 70s. I’m okay, You’re okay?  - a mantra which sums up the ideal working relationship. I think it also applies to reader and writer. A good writer inspires confidence – we want to feel safe – okay -  in their hands.  We also want to feel a bit flattered by being allowed to work things out for ourselves and not have everything spelled out. That makes both of us okay – oh that’s clever and so am I. But what if we can’t work it out? That leaves us with two options, either a) the writer has messed up or b) I am dim. Either way that bond of trust is broken. From page 50 (my usual giving up point) to page 90 or thereabouts, when I began to see the light, things were not okay between me and this author!

In fact there is a very good reason for the confusion that reigns in the first third of this book but just to satisfy the part of me that nearly threw the book away, I went back to ask Claire a few questions.

Ali: Hi Claire - did you always intend the structure to be as it is and had you chosen the voice of Chouette from the start?’
Claire: Hi Ali – no! My first draft of the book was in first person, with only Baptiste narrating. This was a style that worked well in The Night Rainbow because whilst Pea [five-year-old narrator] was a naive narrator, the adult reader could infer the wider story from what she saw and heard. But in Baptiste's case, because of the nature of his story, that wasn't a workable approach. In my second draft I switched to third person point of view, but it felt flat and expositional.
Ali:  So then you chose Chouette?
Claire: Yes, eventually I settled on the dual narration, switching between chapters. It became clear that not only did this work for telling Baptiste's story, but that the story was in fact just as much Chouette's as it was his. And that was, for me, the moment when it started to become a real story about love.
Ali: I can see that dual narration gives the book a great dynamic and I suppose it would lose something if we knew the identity of Chouette from the outset. But did you realise you would be giving your readers a bit of a headache?
Claire: Once the manuscript was with Bloomsbury, I spent a long time working with my editor to refine the pacing and the balance between the two voices, particularly in the first part of the book. I know that what resulted asks the reader to live through some disorienting moments initially, and that that might risk putting some readers off early on, but I do think it is worth the risk, because I wanted to take readers on a journey that can't adequately be explained any other way.
Ali: I admit I’ve tried and failed to think how else you could have got the effect you wanted in this book, although it’s certainly a risk to leave the revelation so late.

So there we have it. Claire and I, I’m glad to say, are friends again, and I hope people do persevere with Everything Love Is as it’s a great read with many lovely stories entwined with those of Baptiste and Chouette.

Author and reader need to be friends!
So, the question for readers of this blog is, are there any great books you’ve felt like throwing across the room, and how long do you give the author before giving up?

Or if you're a writer, have you ever worried about how much of a risk you can take with your reader's patience or trust?  

Remember anyone who comments will be entered in the draw for a free copy of Claire's novel.

Many thanks to Claire for spilling the beans and to Bloomsbury for the free copy. 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Why does the sea sparkle? - Katherine Roberts

Europa and the bull enter the sea
picture credit: Jean Fran├žois de Troy [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Living in a seaside resort, it can be difficult to settle at the computer in August when everyone else seems to be on holiday. But a morning walk along the promenade can be great research.

Small boy to his dad: "Why does the sea sparkle?"

Dad (clearly the practical type): "It's the sun reflecting off the water."

Small boy goes quiet, possibly trying to remember exactly what 'reflection' means, and why he isn't seeing the whole sun reflected in the water just a whole bay full of sparkles?

A writer might have answered differently:

"They're fairies dancing on the waves..."
"A mermaid dropped her purse and lost all her diamonds..."
"It's the dreaded sparkle-eye disease and you've just caught it..."
"They're last night's fallen stars..."
"An evil villain in an underwater lair is trying to hypnotise us all into voting for him so he can rule the world..."

And I'm sure you can think of plenty of other creative explanations for this phenomenon.

The small boy's question is, of course, a classic starting point for a myth. This got me wondering if there are any traditional myths out there mentioning sea glitter, so I looked it up and came across the myth of Europa and the Bull, where Zeus transforms himself into a white bull to seduce the maiden Europa, who catches hold of the bull's neck and is carried on a wild ride across the sea to the isle of Crete, where they embark upon a night of passion. This myth mentions the sparkles as being the pearls of Europa's gown and her ride is in pursuit of pleasure, though in a later version Europa notes the 'oily glitter of the sea' as she is unwillingly being carried across it by the bull. Here, it's the movement of the bull through the water that disturbs the waves to produce the glitter, in the same way the sea otter in this lovely picture creates its own glitter:

picture credit: Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons

The real science behind the glittering sea is, of course, a bit more complicated than the father's explanation. It is really many thousands of reflections of the sun reflecting off the waves, dependent on the wind and the tides and the position of the small boy, the angle of the sun, and other random elements such as seabirds landing on the water, fish breaking the surface and submerged rocks. There must be a mathematical formula for the glitter but I suspect it's not straightforward, and would need a lot of computer power to reproduce the effect even if I could come up with a formula. So here's a short video I took on one of my 'research walks':

video

But the small boy's question got me thinking about writing, and how we authors need readers to shine a light on our work even when we are in motion. Sometimes the sun shines on us, we win an award, get a handful of great reviews, or our publisher throws us a glittering launch party, and then we sparkle like the sea on a bright morning, diamond-like and dancing, and everyone wants to be near us. Then the sun goes behind a cloud, and we suddenly look dull and not so interesting, the people watching us idly from the shore shiver and go back to their hotel for a cream tea instead. Winter comes bringing grey skies and mist, and we start to look moody and chilly and at times rather threatening. Our readers leave town and head off to a glittering party on the other side of the world instead. Soon the rain sets in, and eventually even the hardiest of dog walkers pull up their hoods and decide it's time to head home and curl up by the fire with a good book, which might even be one of ours they purchased months ago while we were briefly glittering.

The sea is still out there. Its tides ebb and flow just the same, and the water is just as deep. We might get angry in stormy weather and batter a few cliffs, claim a slice of a neglected coast path, perhaps even demolish a railway line or two. But when our readers do not shine on us we do not sparkle, and we are about as welcome as an ocean of cold water at the parties. All we can do is carry on writing in the hope that next summer will be a good one, and many thousands of small boys (and their dads and mums and sisters and aunties and uncles) will wonder at the suddenly visible surface of our work and ask: "Dad, why does the sea sparkle?"

*
Katherine Roberts writes fantasy with a focus on legend and myth for young readers. Her latest release is a collection of science fiction in her series of Ampersand Tales for slightly older readers, bringing together some of her previously published shorter fiction and prize winning stories from the 1990s.

Weird and Wonderful
short science fiction by Katherine Roberts


Note: It was daylight when the small boy asked the question that inspired this post, but there is apparently a similar phenomenon seen at night in some parts of the world, where the spooky blue light known as 'sea sparkle' is due to glowing algae:
http://adorablearchana.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/sea-sparkle-noctiluca-scintillans.html  - which looks rather like something out of one of my stories!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Perspectives by Sandra Horn



A while ago, I submitted two poems for an anthology on Age.

I am Of A Certain Age myself, and was under the (mistaken, as it turned out) impression that it would be celebrating agedness. I was delighted when one poem was accepted. Then, when the proofs came, it was only too evident that the focus was on loss, dementia, incontinence, death...very good poems, I must say, but not exactly joyful. I went to the launch with some trepidation and discovered two things: the guest editor had been working with people with dementia, and I was, by a stretch, the oldest poet there.  It made me remember that when one is surrounded by the less happy aspects of life, perspectives, inevitably, become skewed. No-one there had met my sparky mother, dignified, in control, and sharp as a tack until she closed her eyes for the last time at age 93. Or my friend Alice, who lived to 105 and was equally ‘with-it’ to the end. They didn’t know about the woman who has just passed grade 6 ballet at the age of 71. They were looking at old age from the perspectives of its sadder aspects. I wouldn’t want to deny that there are aspects of old age that are often challenging, tragic, but that is so very far from the whole story. It partly depends on where you’re standing – too close to the sad parts of ageing for the editor, or too far distant from the lived experience of being older for the younger poets.

I wrote the poem – the ‘in my head’ bit before editing, re-editing, etc. - on the ferry between Hurst Castle and Keyhaven. It’s a great walk along the Spit to the castle, and a short-and-sweet ride back on the little ferry. Two things enchanted me on the way back: one was a row of beautiful identical white boats, tethered to mooring buoys and making that lovely tinkle-clank noise in the breeze. They were called, Skugga, Sylphe, Seren Wen and  Sea Eagle. Seren Wen is Welsh for evening star and Skugga is Faroese for cloud, I discovered later. The second thing was a kite surfer; a gorgeous muscular young man, who came alongside and then soared up and over the ferry. A nice piece of showing-off that brought a smile to my face. My spirits were lifted along with the kite and I was reminded strongly of a friend, who, well into her eighties and physically frail, said, one day, out of the blue, ‘Inside this old woman is young girl dancing.’ Here’s the poem in its original form:

On the ferry

The ferry chugs unhurried through the bay.
To our left, the shingle bank;
To the right, a row of tethered boats,
Skugga, Sylphe, Sea Eagle, Seren Wen,
Tug at their moorings in the salty wind.

Kite surfer skims the shallow sea,
Comes alongside, keeps pace with us,
Then makes a half-turn, lifts –
And flies. Over the ferry,
Over Sea Eagle, Skugga, Sylphe and Seren Wen.

Oh, I am nudging threescore years and ten,
Slack-fleshed, stiff-jointed,
Needing to feel my feet flat on the ground;
But now I’m up there with the surfer – past him –
Riding the wind on strong and tireless arms.

The ferry chugs below.
Skugga and Sylphe, Sea Eagle, Seren Wen
Clatter and tug and fret;
Sea-bound. Earth-bound, while I surf the sky.
I am the woman on the chugging ferry.
I am a freed Sea Eagle, sky-bound Skugga, floating Sylphe, a shining Seren Wen.

 When it was published, in The Emma Press Anthology of Age, it didn’t have the final two lines as   the editor thought they didn’t add anything. I’ve put them back, here, not to argue with the editorial advice, but to underline my feelings and thoughts on that day, in that moment. It is simply a hymn of thankfulness for undimmed youthful oomph in an ageing body, which is pretty common amongst my venerable acquaintances. The anthology had a stonking review in Cadaverine (yes, really) Magazine. The reviewer picked my poem out as her favourite. Joy! Amazed delightedness! Cor, blimey! She saw intimations of mortality in it that I hadn’t seen or meant, though. I don’t know who she is but I’m willing to bet that she is young. Young in body, I mean. She won’t yet know about the dancer inside – the unageing dancer. 


My own very particular favourite in the anthology is by Joan Lennon. It is written from yet another perspective on oldness – a much, much longer view.  I find it profoundly joyful. Here it is, with Joan’s permission.

Later

Warm wool of moor
wraps the hills –
   black feathered trees
   a touch of frippery
to soften old shoulders –
the long day
   paled to pink
though flame remembered
still,
   in touches
   in shadows,
umber, amber, ochre
aged together
to a comfortable communion –
   this old earth
   that old sun.

Wow! Joan – and thank you!

Friday, 19 August 2016

Naming your Beasts - by Jan Edwards

Names are one of the biggest problems for me with any writing.

Names matter. They attract or deflect by their very nature, colouring our view through our own personal experience. A character names Maude for example may conjure an older woman, possibly Victorian fiction as Maude was a daughter of the old Queen. Or a very much older Empress Maud who was an ancient claimant of the English crown.
I recently had birthday notifications on the same day, via Facebook, for two Michaels. One is generally known as Mick and the other as Mike. They are both thoroughly nice guys but possessed of very different personalities, and I would never address Mick as Mike or vice versa. Why they should have gained their separate diminutives is unknown. They are of similar age and, one assumes, similar background. Is it regional? A possibility. I don’t expect I shall ever know. But the point to be made is that in my  mind they are their name.

Which brings me back to fictional characters.
When applying names to an invented persona I suspect most people reflect on people they know with similar names. Or else names that reflect the era in which I envisage them being born.
I will often gauge the date of birth for a given character and web search for popular names used in that specific year/decade/century.
Problems arise when the wrong name is chosen. In writing a recent novel I was half way through and beginning to have issues with my leading lady before realising that her name did not suit the personality she had taken on. Change was required and once that was done writing about her was suddenly so much easier.
Naming your book/story is another matter. I freely admit that this is a personal bete noir. If the title does not come to me within a few minutes it can take a long time coming, but that is another blog entirely!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

My first time... at Harrogate by Tara Lyons

As I write this, a week has passed since the Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, but it feels more like a month. It was my first experience of Harrogate, and any kind of book festival, and I’ve had a major comedown from the amazing event. I booked up late, only securing a B&B in April (most people attending had booked the previous year as soon as the dates were announced), and now I’m so glad that my ‘fear of missing out’ bug kicked me up the butt just in time.

As a very new author, I was feeling quite daunted as the day to travel to Yorkshire approached. However, I pulled on my big girl pants and had a good talking to myself – this was a great opportunity to meet other authors, bloggers, publishers, publicists and people I’d spoken to online for over a year.

If I’m honest, I think I embraced the experience more as a reader than an author, because once I was there my nerves took over on more than one occasion. But I don’t think it altered my experience at all. The festival is overflowing with new and established authors, crime fiction fans, bloggers etc. – all happy to chat about their writing journey, love of books and everything else in between.

And I’ll admit, I had a huge fangirl moment when Martina Cole high-fived me over our shared love of Ireland and Clonakilty black pudding.

I think the truth of it is, at Harrogate it doesn’t matter what you do or your reason for being there because your passion for crime fiction means you’ll always find someone to talk too – trust me, the bar is always heaving and the conversation is always flowing. So, if you’re worried about going alone, please don’t! The whole weekend had a very chilled and relaxed atmosphere, with people happy to pose for photos, sign books and share a bottle of wine!
After booking my B&B it was clear I couldn’t afford to attend all the events on offer, so I carefully chose a few I didn’t want to miss. Despite the heat of the room (and I’m not complaining about the awesome weather we had), they were very interesting, well-structured conversations, with a chance for audience participation at the end. There’s nothing like hearing a successful author share their lows and highs to get the creative juices pumping – and yes, I have been at the laptop with an array of ideas since coming home. I came away from Harrogate feeling very inspired – and not just about crime fiction! Thanks to a very passionate blogger, I’m excited about quite a few things (but if I told you now, I’d have to kill you… but watch this space). I hope by time next year’s festival comes around – and yes, I have booked my room already – I’ll feel more confident as a writer, not just a reader.

There’s an author North versus South football match to enjoy, a chalked outline of a dead body on the
ground, a huge WHSmith tent – that not only sells books but holds book signings too, deck chairs and a beer tent, the word ‘read’ in enormous cardboard letters that make you feel like you’re being welcomed to the book equivalent of Glastonbury and much, much more.

I have only just skimmed the surface about my time at Harrogate because I think if I launched into it fully you’d be scrolling down your screen for quite some time. But I’ll end on this – if you love crime fiction, be it because you’re a writer, a reader, a publisher, a blogger, a publicist or anything in between, then treat yourself to Harrogate 2017. The enjoyable atmosphere is contagious and I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. I met some wonderful people, was asked to signed a copy of my paperback (that was an “OMG, is this real?” moment for me) and had the opportunity to talk to authors about their writing experiences and get some valuable tips and advice. I didn’t buy a rover pass for the day/weekend, but many people did, some dined with authors and publicists while others soaked up the sun… Harrogate is what you make it, but it’s definitely a book festival not to be missed.

Oh, FYI… this year, I stayed at the Baytree House, which is about 20 minutes from The Old Swan Hotel (the hub of the festival). It’s a beautiful B&B, reasonably priced with a fab breakfast and lovely staff.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Harrogate, please just give me a shout, I’m more than happy to have a chat about my first time...