More Stark, or should that be Starker?

The third DI Adam Stark novel was published in July 2015 and, almost as soon as I’d finished it, I was confident I had the plot and theme of the follow-up, stark Reminders, pretty clear in my mind. I started writing it in about September 2015 and, at first, it all went fairly well. I wasn’t writing prolifically, but it was steady enough by my standards. Then, in summer 2016, I hit a bit of a brick wall.

I’d had bouts of writer’s block before but I’d usually overcome them fairly easily. This one lasted a lot longer. I really struggled to motivate myself to write. I found I’d lost the thread of the story and was struggling to get past a certain point in the plot. I was also demotivated by a drastic slump in sales for all my existing novels. All the effort and time that it took to write them didn’t seem worth it if nobody was interested in reading them. By late 2016 I had more or less stopped even trying to add anything to it. I also had a second idea on the go, that didn’t feature Stark, but it wasn’t working any better.

I spent much of 2017 rediscovering my love for live music and working long, hard hours, which didn’t leave me a lot of head space for writing.

Then, in October 2017, something clicked. I took a large chunk of sub-plot out of the book and set it aside to use in some other form. It had dawned on me that it was overcomplicating the story for writer and readers alike! It was like a weight had been lifted, and off I went. In early December, I completed a first draft and submitted it to my publisher.

After such a long and difficult writing process, I’m not too sure if it’s ended up any good! Such is the way of all writing, I suppose. With luck, I’m hoping it will appear for sale sometime in early 2018. To everyone who’s been patiently waiting for it – thank you for your continued support.

Here’s to an easier ride for the next one!

Peter Carroll

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Thank You, Malcolm

I know a lot of people are cynical and dismissive of folks when they profess their grief for a dead rock star they’ve never met, but I don’t give a damn about those people. Those people either never considered music to be as important a part of their life as food, or are just contrary shitbags who enjoy annoying others and getting a rise from them.  So, right off the bat, I’m making no apologies or excuses for this. It’s something I feel compelled to do and I’m doing it.

Yesterday, 18th November 2017, I found out that a musical colossus, Malcolm Young, had passed away. It says a lot about someone who is responsible for making the second highest selling album of all time – Back In Black – that a good proportion of folks that hear his name will respond with ‘Who?’ He’s the archetypal unsung hero; the guy that only those in the know would realise the importance of. To me, it’s simple, he’s a hero.

At some point in 1980, I went round to a friend’s house and he put on the LP If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It). I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I’d been a typical youngster up to that point. I liked chart music, ABBA, Adam Ant, Madness and that sort of thing. But, it was just songs here and there. I didn’t have any proper allegiance to a particular band or any genre. As soon as I heard If You Want Blood I knew I was an AC/DC fan and I wanted to be a rocker.

Over the next few years, I became an obsessive fan. I bought all the old albums, and all the subsequent releases on the day they came out. I bought them on tape, on vinyl and, eventually, on CD (twice after they were remastered). I bought bootlegs, videos, boxsets and I saw them live seven times. I even bought a French cassette version of High Voltage when I was on a school trip because it had a different cover to the British version at the time.

About two years ago, Malcolm Young, founding member and driving force of AC/DC, was revealed to be suffering from dementia and was forced to retire. I wrote a wee piece about that as I was so upset by it. So, the announcement of Mal’s death at the age of just 64, wasn’t a shock, but it still hit me hard. I shed a tear.

His music has been an absolutely integral part of my life since the age of 12. I remember feeling like a proper rebel when my dad reeled off some of their song names with utter disgust after picking up a cassette case for an album I was listening to. That first, jaw-dropping chord as Angus appeared on top of the amps at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1986. There was the overnight bus from Stirling to London to see them at Wembley Arena in 1988 with a friend who’s since sadly passed. There was that moment when my first band managed to cobble together a recognisable version of Touch Too Much. A magical couple of hours shared with my brother at Milton Keynes in 2001 as we bounced up and down to every song and left drenched in sweat and as high as kites without any drugs or drink being involved. Music is way more significant than just a bunch of wavelengths and Malcolm Young’s music is way more significant to me than most.

As I write this I am playing his music – albums I’ve not listened to all the way through for a long time in some cases – and it’s a joy. Pure, unadulterated joy. Oh, and genius. Utter genius. Later on, I will be raising a glass to the wee man and feeling grateful for all he gave me.

Thank you, Malcolm.

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WildFire Festival 2017 – A Review

The WildFire Festival, a rock music event held near Biggar in southern Scotland, took place across three days but, for various reasons, I was only able to attend on Saturday 24th June. Luckily for me, it was the strongest day’s line-up and, with the Saturday costing just £25 a ticket, and with 27 bands playing across the day, it represented incredible value for money. It also transpired that the format of the stages and running order meant I would have the chance to watch any of the bands on either of the two main stages, without worrying about overlap or clashes. A third stage featured bands that were generally at the heavier end of the rock scale and held less appeal to me, so I wasn’t so bothered about missing the bands playing on it.

I picked up my gig buddy, Wullie, in Edinburgh and drove down to Wiston Lodge. It was a slightly tricky venue to find as there was no signage on any of the approach roads. However, we got there after a bit of faffing about and, as soon as we entered the arena at 11.35am, we hit the ground running with bands already on stage. With 19 bands running back-to-back on the two parallel main stages, it was never going to be possible to watch them all, or that all of them would be to my taste, so I’ll stick to reviewing the ones I saw most of and enjoyed the most.


I’d done a bit of research in advance of the event and was looking forward to seeing Theia. They’re a three piece from the Midlands and put on a great show. Lead singer, guitarist, and apparent midge-magnet, Kyle Lamley, oozes charm, with witty onstage banter and a cheeky grin to accompany all his rock gurning. They were fun and hugely entertaining, and were the first band to really appeal to me beyond obvious musical competence or an odd tune here or there.

The Texas Flood

I bought this Welsh trio’s latest album – Over Worked and Under Paid – in advance of this show and loved it. They didn’t disappoint live either. They leapt about the stage with energy and enthusiasm and, in Ben Govier, they had the standout bass player of the day for me. He attacks his bass with gusto, combining slap and funk techniques with out and out rock riffing and a top-notch tone. Probably my band of the day.


This was another Welsh band I was interested to see live, having heard a few bits and bobs via YouTube, and they really delivered. Playing catchy, foot-tapping rock, with a country-ish flavour that reminded me a little of a harder version of Counting Crows. A definite standout set. They also have a new album available to order now.


This five-piece from Derbyshire delivered an entertaining set in the vein of Alter Bridge or Shinedown. I did think it took them a while to get warmed up (which wasn’t helped by the unseasonal, freezing, gale-force wind ripping through the site) but, by the end of the set, they were getting a good reception and closing number ‘A Thousand Nights’ was a belter.

Little Brother Eli

We had been toying with giving these guys a miss and going for something to eat but decided to go beforehand and be back in time to see them. I was so glad we did that. Playing a quirky, funky, laid back style of alt-rock, they really grabbed me. The rhythm section was as tight as a gnat’s proverbial and bass player, Joshua Rigal, really impressed me with his understated, precise playing and beefy sound. They were the surprise package of the day for me. I bought the album ‘Cold Tales’ from the merch table after the set and it’s a great listen.

The Fallen State

I didn’t know much about this band before coming to WildFire but I really enjoyed their set. Another band that would be at home in the company of the likes of Alter Bridge or Black Stone Cherry, their secret weapon was singer, Ben Stenning. Belying his youth, he worked the audience like an old pro, cajoling and encouraging them to participate more fully in the set. He certainly won me over, and I’ll definitely check these guys out again if they play live in this neck of the woods.

The King Lot

This was the third time I’ve seen The King Lot and, once again, they delivered a catchy, entertaining set full of harmonised vocals, big choruses and, via new guitarist Jay Moir, some Van Halen-esque guitar solos.

Broken Witt Rebels

These Brummies were one of the bands I most wanted to see in advance of the event. I have their EP Georgia Pine and really like it. Live, they play a soulful brand of blues-rock but, what sets them apart from the crowd, are the incredible vocals of singer Danny Core. He reminds me of Terence Trent D’Arby, and there’s so much grit and emotion in his voice, it sounds like he’s dragging it all the way up from his boots and pushing it through a cross-cut shredder on its way out his throat. Utterly spellbinding and these boys are destined for greatness.


I’ve now seen Toseland three times and each time they’ve delivered a slick, tight, tune-laden set. James Toseland has real star power and I won’t be surprised to see this band reach far greater heights in the next few years. However, for me, the unsung hero in this band is drummer, Joe Yoshida. He’s a dynamic powerhouse and his playing is as central to the effectiveness of their live show as James Toseland’s voice.

Despite the inclement weather, I was knocked out by how good this event was. The staff and volunteers were all friendly and helpful, the food options were decent and affordable, and the general atmosphere was great. On the whole, the sound was excellent, despite the challenges of dealing with so many varying musical styles and band line-ups. The staging meant you always had a great view and I often made it to the front row. The back-to-back running order was a real boon, and the compact size of the arena meant you were never sprinting about trying to reach the next band. It also ran with military precision and a minimal number of technical hitches.

I have to admit that it was a long day on my feet. We arrived at 11.35am on the Saturday and left at 12.45am on the Sunday morning, and I only sat down once to eat at around five o’clock, for about ten minutes. However, this was as much a testament to the strength of the line-up, as the lack of seating.

All in all, it was superb and, hopefully, I’ll be back next year. If you can make it, I would highly recommend it, and some early-bird tickets are already on sale.

Peter Carroll

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2016 Not The Worst Year Ever

All over the place I hear or see 2016 being hailed as ‘the worst year ever’. Hmm. I’m reasonably confident there have been plenty of worse years throughout human history. Brexit is just a mad experiment. It might not even happen (even if Brexit means Brexit; whatever that means). Trump is the latest in a string of farcical Republican choices for POTUS in my lifetime (George W. Bush anyone?). Another aggressive, uncaring Tory government is hardly a novelty. Famous people die. We all do, and the numbers of ‘big’ stars dying in a calendar year is going to stay high from now on. That’s a fact of age, demographics and biology. Yeah, it’s been pretty shite if you’re a liberal, left-leaning, non-racist as far as geopolitics goes but, of course, if you’re a right-wing, intolerant, neo-fascist it’s been a vintage year. However, in the overall scheme of human history and political upheaval, it’s actually been a pretty normal year. And, for me, there has been plenty to celebrate.

My daughter is an ice skater and she had her best year ever, culminating in a silver medal at the British Championships in late November.

I had a fantastic birding holiday in Texas with two of my favourite people in the world, racking up a host of lifers, and seeing a part of the world I’d never been to before.

I read more books in 2016 than in any year since I was a kid. Almost three a month, and lots of them were great.

This was also a year filled with amazing music. I re-discovered gigs and saw nearly 30 bands play; including many I’d never seen before, as well as a couple of heroes from my teens. I also started to buy albums again. I bought over twenty full albums and EP’s in 2016 and fifteen of them were by artists I’d never heard of or listened to before 2016.

Top 5 Albums purchased in 2016

  1. Baroness – Yellow and Green
  2. The Temperance Movement – White Bear
  3. Raveneye – Nova
  4. Von Hertzen Brothers – Nine Lives
  5. V0iD – Keep Fighting

Top 5 Gigs attended in 2016

  1. Winterstorm Festival – Troon
  2. Raveneye – Glasgow
  3. Massive Wagons – Edinburgh
  4. Michael Schenker – Edinburgh
  5. Toseland – Edinburgh

As 2017 approaches, I know famous people I admire will die, and politics will frustrate me, but that is not my life. My life is friends and family and music and writing and books and wildlife, and those things will always be what really define how good a year has been for me. If those things go as well in 2017 as they did in 2016, it will have been another good year. I hope you’ll be able to say the same for yours.

Oh, and there should be a new Adam Stark novel in 2017. That’s one thing I didn’t do as well with in 2016 as I hope to in 2017.


Peter Carroll

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My Top Reads of 2016

I read almost thirty books this year, which is probably a record for me since my pre-teen bookworm days. Many were decent but unremarkable, a few were pants. These five stood out as the best. If you also read any of them I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


1. Life Or Death – Michael Robotham

I’ve read a lot of thrillers over the past couple of years. Very few of them have been complete duds, but I could say the same about the number that have really grabbed me and stood out from the crowd. This book is one of them.

The premise for the book is a complete winner. Audie Palmer has spent ten, hard years in prison, but the day before he is due to be released, he escapes. Why would anyone do something like that?

What follows is a brilliantly told tale. It unravels beautifully, revealing the reasons for Audie’s actions as it switches between present day and his past. The writing is fantastic, with some of the best similes and descriptions I’ve read in a long time. I found myself entirely immersed in the book, rooting for Audie, booing the baddies and turning the (electronic) pages with relish.

I can’t speak highly enough of this book. By far the best book I’ve read this year and straight into my top ten ever, I think. Superb!

2. The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler

It’s funny how you can convince yourself that a book won’t be for you based on some rather tenuous assumptions. This book was one of those. Sure, I knew it was regarded as a classic, and a touchstone for many a crime-writer, but I didn’t think I’d like it. I was so, so wrong!

I picked this up in a bookshop and, by the end of the first page, I was hooked. The humour is razor-sharp, with cracking one-liners and acerbic asides on almost every page. It’s not a comedy but it is very amusing and very clever.

It has to be said that the story is contained within a bit of a rambling plot, and on a few occasions I found the dialogue hard to fathom – it’s definitely stylised and of its time. However, I got used to it and it was worth the effort. The ending is very satisfying and ties together the loose ends that, at one point, I thought might be left hanging.

Superb stuff, and I’ll be reading the rest of the Marlowe books, now that I’ve broken through my prejudices.

3. A Walk In The Woods (Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail) – Bill Bryson

I’ve read a few Bill Bryson books and enjoyed them all. This was no exception.

Bryson is witty. I don’t find him belly-laugh funny but when I’m reading his stuff I smile a lot, snort occasionally, and admire his way with words. The tale he tells here is diverting and interesting, with his adventures on the trail interspersed with a bit of history and social commentary. It’s not a tension-filled, roller coaster, brimming with intrigue and jeopardy (although there is a little of that), but it still held my attention, amused me, and made me want to read on.

Having read some of the negative reviews I’m rather struck by how selective or just plain wrong some of these people are in their criticism. For instance, according to many of the 1 star reviews, he does nothing but rip into everyone he meets on the trail, running them down in some way. This is not the case. He speaks warmly of many folks, and has a go at what sound like a few idiots, deserving of his ire. He gently and affectionately ribs a couple of others. According to some, he seems to think he’s a proper mountain man and superior to day-hikers. He doesn’t say that even once in any serious way – although he jokes about it in a self-deprecating fashion on several occasions. In fact, he does a fair bit of day-hiking himself. He repeatedly points out his own shortcomings, including devoting almost a chapter to an occasion when his own stupidity and bad planning almost got him into serious trouble on one section of the trail (on a day hike). I wonder if they even read the last two chapters when they make these claims about his superior, know-it-all, attitude to trail hiking.

All I can think is that, for some people, they read this book wanting to dislike it, or Bill Bryson himself, and exaggerated or misrepresented certain aspects of the story in order to confirm their misgivings were well placed. Either that or they just took him too seriously and literally: it’s perhaps more of a British thing (and he’s a bit of an Anglophile) to employ self-deprecation and banter, and be tongue-in-cheek about a subject to get a laugh. It’s also true to say that pointing out facts will always get someone’s back up who is determined never to accept them as such – whatever subject they pertain to.

In any case, I really liked this book and, if you’ve read and enjoyed other books of his, I think you’ll enjoy this one too.

4. Beyond The Rage – Michael J. Malone

A very good read and a refreshing change from the cop-centric thrillers that dominate the crime genre.

Set in Scotland, this is the tale of a gangster with a past he knows little about, but that is going to cause him a lot of trouble in the here and now.

Great plot, great characters, believable and realistic dialogue, and some very clever twists – all delivered at a cracking pace.

Thoroughly recommended.

5. The Dark Inside – Rod Reynolds

The unusual setting of Post-War, small town, 1940’s Texas is atmospherically captured in this novel.

A traumatised and emotionally unstable reporter from New York, Charlie Yates, is exiled to the town of Texarkana, which straddles the Texas/Arkansas border. He’s been involved in an altercation at work, and his marriage is on the rocks. Two young people have been found murdered in their car in a lover’s lane. At first, it seems a banal case to the big city hack -he’s seen and reported on a lot worse – and his mind is elsewhere. However, before long, it’s clear there’s a serial killer on the loose and, in order to stop him, Yates will encounter police corruption and brutality, Chinese whispers, hostile locals, a powerful businessman, and a femme fatale.

It’s a well-written tale. The punchy dialogue uses enough Texas-isms to create a sense of place, without becoming a bewildering chore to decipher. Descriptive passages are mercifully short and add to the story. The plot is well-woven and the denouement very good. It’s got the feel of a movie – perhaps starring Russel Crowe or Guy Pierce as our hero – with very well-drawn characters.

Well worth a read.


Peter Carroll

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Storm Force

The small, Scottish, seaside town of Troon appears, on the face of it, to be a pretty unlikely place for a rock festival to take place. If someone proposed to hold it at the end of November, it might seem even less plausible, but that’s what just happened and, not only that, it was a rip-roaring success.

When I first saw the promotional material for WinterStorm XVI back in September via Twitter, I thought it looked like it might be worth a punt. I’d never seen FM live and always meant to. I never got the chance to see Vivian Campbell from Last In Line live as he’d left Dio by the first time I saw them but, again, really wanted to. I’d just seen Toseland live and knew how good he was. A few of the other acts sounded good via some YouTube research and with 14 bands on the bill, and a very reasonable asking price of £50 for the whole weekend, it was a no-brainer.


Due to illness, my pal couldn’t make the Friday, so I drove down myself. Troon is a nice wee place, and it’s not that hard to get to, but it is a bit off the beaten track as far as rock n roll goes. However, when I eventually got to the venue – The Troon Concert Hall – I was impressed. It looks recently refurbished and it’s bright and clean. The staff were friendly and welcoming and, as soon as I set foot in the place, it just felt right.

What music appeals to someone is entirely subjective, so I’m not going to spend any time talking about the bands I didn’t rate all that highly. I’m not really into slagging bands off. I know what it takes to get to this level, and my negative opinion is neither relevant nor required. There will be plenty of folk there who would choose other bands than I did among their highlights, and that’s fine. I didn’t watch a couple of the acts as they just weren’t my kind of thing but I can say, from the reaction of others, that all of them did a great job of pleasing the folks who were into them. So, I’ll just run you through the bands that really stood out for me.

The King Lot delivered a catchy, upbeat set, full of harmonised vocals and punchy riffs. It also turned out that the frontman, Jason Sweeney, was an old bandmate and friend of an old bandmate and friend of mine! After their set, we had a chat and took a slightly offensive photo to send to our mutual friend. Look out for their charity Xmas single ‘Wings’ in aid of Multiple Sclerosis. It’s catchy and it’s for a good cause.


The King Lot

Toseland put on a show that definitely got the crowd going. His band is great, and he can belt out a tune, but the drummer – Joe Yoshida – really stands out. They are well worth going to see if you’re into melodic hard rock.



FM were just so good. I love the album ‘Tough It Out’, which I’ve been listening to since the late eighties, and to finally hear some of those songs performed live was special. The vocal performance of Steve Overland was a revelation and I will most definitely be going to see them again.



Mason Hill are a young, up-and-coming, Scottish band, without a record deal as yet, but they have all the ingredients to make them massive: great stage craft, well-written songs, and bags of energy and self-belief. I bought their self-produced EP and it’s superb.

Mason Hill

Mason Hill

Vega were another band I’d never seen and knew only a little about before Winter Storm. They were fantastic. Tight as a gnat’s proverbial and as catchy as you could ever hope for. I bought their latest CD ‘Who We Are’ after the show and it’s brilliant. I’ll be going to see them again.



Last In Line were the absolute highlight of the weekend for me. Before they went on I had the rather surreal experience of sitting near the serving hatch for the café in the merchandising/relaxation area as drummer, Vinny Appice, ordered a pie and a coffee. This is a guy who’s played massive stadiums all over the world with Black Sabbath. In Troon. In November. Ordering a pie! Their set blew the roof off, with the biggest crowd of the weekend singing along and roaring their approval throughout. Just awesome.

Last In Line

Last In Line

Top notch musical performances aside, the organisers are to be applauded for the smooth running of the event, the relaxed, friendly atmosphere, where the bands mixed freely with the punters, signing things, chatting and drinking, and the high standard of the facilities. They also chose a great compere in the Scottish rock radio legend Tom Russell, who was funny, charming and enthusiastic. For a first time event, it was nothing short of miraculous how well it went.

It looks like they’ve probably done enough to justify a repeat next year. If that’s the case, I’ll be booking a B&B or hotel next time and making a proper weekend of it. If you like this sort of music, you should be looking out for next year’s event. If it’s even half as good as this one, it’ll be a belter!

Peter Carroll

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It’s A Long Way To The Top

I’ve been into rock music in a serious way since I was about eleven and I’ve always loved live music. However, in recent years, I’ve been seeing fewer and fewer bands live. I won’t pay touts, I don’t like big outdoor gigs much, and I’ve had other commitments. Then, a couple of months ago, I had a bit of an epiphany, and I’m back at gigs. Not by the mega bands of my youth, who rarely play anything smaller than a football stadium and charge half a month’s wages for a ticket: no, I’ve been championing the little guys, the ones who’re trying to make it, and the ones whose star may not be burning quite as bright as it once did. And, I have to tell you, folks, I’m loving it!

I like to check out Classic Rock Magazine’s tracks of the week online … erm … every week … and it was while doing this that I stumbled across a track by a young British band called Illustr8ors. I loved it, and decided to see if they were playing in Scotland any time soon. They were, but as support to another band – Toseland – who I’d not heard of either. I called one of my mates who’s into the same kind of stuff as me, and he agreed to take a punt on going. At £10 a ticket (including fees) it didn’t seem much of a risk. It wasn’t. Both bands put on a great show and, afterwards, I was inclined to put one of Toseland’s albums on my birthday wish list. (I’ll get the Illustr8ors album when it comes out next year).


There was something different about this type of gig; something life-affirming and inspiring. These lads were trundling around the UK in a couple of vans, setting up their own gear, in tiny venues, and playing to a couple of hundred punters on a good night. It takes guts and a lot of self-belief to do this. It used to be called ‘paying your dues’ but, in this era of instant gratification and instant stardom via dogshit TV shows like X-Factor, it must be even harder than it used to be. I was inspired, I was ready to find something else to go to. Step up RavenEye.

Last night, I went to Glasgow with the same pal and, again, we only had to shell out £10 each for our tickets. I bought their album, Nova, in advance of the gig and loved it, so I was looking forward to hearing songs from it live. Well, they played an absolute blinder. It has to be one of the best gigs I’ve been to – right up there with some of the rock superstars I’ve seen over the years. If these guys don’t make it big, then there’s no justice in the world.

img_2076  img_2093

Oli Brown and Aaron Spiers from RavenEye ripping it up in Glasgow

After the gig, they manned their own merchandise stall and I bought an EP, which they signed for me. They were friendly, cheery and brilliant with the punters lining up to buy stuff and have their photos taken with them. After that, they’d be loading their van and pin-balling all over the UK until the end of November.

I’ve played in bands, and I know how hard it can be to get set up for a gig, and what it takes to hone a polished live set. I feel good to be helping these lads on their way in my own small way. There are so many hurdles to overcome – declining numbers of venues, pay-to-play policies, local authority curfews and noise abatement, declining CD sales, and poor live attendances. Bands like the three I’ve mentioned here need all the help we can give them.

Music is something much more than economics, though. It’s good for the soul. It lifts your mood, it brings people together in tribes and common purpose, and it stimulates your mind in ways no computer screen ever could. I hope some of you that might also have fallen by the wayside in terms of live music might consider getting out of the house and watching a few of these little guys. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Next up for me? I’m going to a two day event called Winter Storm held in the seaside town of Troon. It’s a line-up festooned with a mixture of new Scottish acts and some 80’s bands like FM and Tygers of Pan Tang; still plying their trade, even though they never reached the giddy heights of stardom that some of their contemporaries did. Oh, and Toseland are there as well. I can’t wait!

And finally, for all those struggling bands out there, remember what your old pal Bon Scott said…


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Write On

I started writing – in any kind of formal sense – about six years ago. I wrote a novel, which, lo and behold, somebody said they wanted to publish. That was an amazing feeling and all the build up to the launch of my first novel was exciting and new and great. Then I wrote another one, and then another, and again, until now I have six.

My journey toward becoming a writer has been via a steep and slippery learning curve. One of the things I’ve noticed along the way, is that most people who write tend to proclaim how much they love it, how it consumes them, how they would spend every waking moment doing it if they could. The thing is, I’ve struggled with writing for the past six months and it made me question whether I was a proper writer or not.

Realities Cover

I finished my last novel – Stark Realities – in the spring of 2015 and it was published that summer. It was the third installment of a police procedural series. I should point out that I don’t write for a living. Just as well, really, as I’d made very little money from my efforts up to that point. However, all the evidence, advice and received wisdom was that series were the answer to sales, and the more you added to them, the better. I was really hopeful this third installment might help springboard sales from the modest to low levels I’d managed so far, up to something more akin to decent or respectable

When the book came out, my motivation levels to market the hell out of it were sky high. I did all the things I was supposed to. I wrote blogs on my website and as a guest of others; I got local press coverage; I got a couple of excellent reviews from relevant websites; I posted on every Social Media outlet I could; I started an e-newsletter, complete with an exclusive, free, short story to help improve take-up; I did a Goodreads giveaway for the paperback; I revamped all my covers to give them a common branding; I had hundreds of existing four and five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and every review that appeared for Realities was a four or five star; I was already writing the follow-up.


Sales were … underwhelming.

It was as if someone had stuck a pin in me. What I found most demoralising of all was the aftermath of Amazon promotions. On a few occasions my books were chosen to be included in some promotion or other. Usually, sales surged and the books climbed the rankings. Within days, a few new, positive reviews would appear. I would get excited, thinking this was the breakthrough I’d been waiting for. And then, when the price reverted to normal, and Amazon’s marketing machine moved on to pastures new, sales slumped and the books tumbled back down the rankings.

All of the time I’d been spending marketing the books seemed like a massive waste of time. Nothing I was doing seemed to sustain sales at levels where I would actually make some money from them. In the Spring of 2016 I stopped writing the follow-up to Stark Realities. Ironically, the stark reality was, I couldn’t see the point.

I’m under no illusions about becoming a millionaire, by the way. I don’t even mind if I can’t make enough to call it my proper job. I just wanted it to justify the time I put into it. I wanted to see my efforts rewarded. I’ve got a busy life away from writing: a time-consuming job as an ecologist and a daughter who competes for Team GB at ice-skating. All through the summer, when I was tired or busy, I couldn’t face writing. I stopped posting tweets and Facebook posts. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to blog about. I had no motivation for it at all.

This is when I started to doubt my writing credentials. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that I can write well – enough strangers have said so through their reviews to convince me of that. What I really mean is, that I doubted whether I had the mind-set of a writer. I didn’t seem to love it enough and I didn’t find myself bereft if I went days without adding anything to the new novel. I just didn’t feel like I could call myself a proper writer. I’m sure there are plenty of other writers who’ve been through something similar; it just didn’t seem like it when I went on Twitter or Facebook.

Fast-forward to September 2016 and, in the past month, I’ve added almost 20,000 words to the next Stark novel. It’s been a hard year but I’m glad I’ve battled through that summer hiatus and the lack of motivation. I’m hoping the next novel might actually benefit as a result. In the end, I decided that I’ve come too far with this and put too much time and effort in to just chuck it. I am a writer – even if I’m not as evangelical as some – and I will indeed write on, hoping for that breakthrough moment.



Peter Carroll

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Killed By Death

Last night Glen Frey, founding member of The Eagles, passed away, aged 67. As a friend commented on Facebook – that’s no age these days. And it isn’t really. Only, he’s the latest in a steady stream of rockers who’ve died around the age of 70 in the past couple of years. Just check out this (far from exhaustive) list of famous musicians who’ve passed since 2014:

Lemmy and Phil Taylor

   Lemmy and Phil Taylor

David Bowie

David Bowie

Chris Squire

Chris Squire

Jack Bruce

Jack Bruce

Andy Fraser

Andy Fraser

Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter

All of these guys have died at a relatively young age, and mostly from cancer, but it’s not really so surprising. They lived the rock ‘n’ roll life – smoking, heavy drinking, and industrial-scale drug taking. Only a few of their generation will escape the damage this will have done to their bodies and plough on into serious old age. The sad fact is; the rock ‘n’ roll graveyard is going to be filling up with all our favourite old rockers in the next five to ten years.

However, there’s no point getting down about this. Death is a fact of life. Would it have been better for Lemmy to have been a teetotal, non-smoking, vegan, so he might have lived to be 95? Would it have been better if Bowie continued singing about gnomes and doing mime instead of spawning Ziggy Stardust and Alladin Sane from his drug-addled imagination? Nah, of course not. These were lives lived to the full, with permanent memorials left behind in the form of their music. The world’s cemeteries are full of untended headstones: monuments to anonymity, transience and the ordinary. These guys won’t be forgotten and the music they’ve made is their headstone. That’s something to be celebrated, not mourned.

So, as each of your favourite artists passes on, celebrate, take solace in the music, and remember that rock ‘n’ roll will never die.

I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Lemmy and co and the song that inspired the title of this blog.

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An Open Letter to the DM-ers

Dear Certain Authors,

Imagine you went to a party and someone walked up to you unannounced and said, “Hello, my name is Pete, nice to meet you; I’m an author and I’d be really grateful if you would buy my book. Here’s a link for you to follow to buy it.” They hand over a tablet and wait for you to comply. You’re a bit taken aback and don’t do as they ask but, undeterred, this person takes back the tablet and ploughs on. “No? Ok, well, how about you like my Facebook page, then?” Again, they open the link and hand over the tablet. At which point, you hand them it back and walk away, vowing never to have anything more to do with them.

In the real world, nobody would behave like that unless they were unwell. However, on Twitter, some authors behave like that every day. If you send out auto-DMs to new followers, you are that party-goer. No, really, you are. If you think it’s ok for your first interaction with a person (who knows nothing about you) is to send them an email, generated by a computer, asking them to buy your wares or like your pages, then you’re wrong. It’s not ok. It’s rude and it’s needy and it’s short-sighted.

Do you read spam emails from people you don’t know who are trying to get you to buy meds or sexual services? No? Neither do I, so I wonder what makes authors think their spam is any less annoying? Is it because it is art, dahling? Well, I’m sorry but that’s not reason enough to justify an unsolicited sales pitch and, if I get sent one of those, I unfollow. I’m not alone in this by the way – I’ve had several conversations about this with like-minded tweeps.

You have a profile on Twitter. If someone follows you, you can provide a link on there to something you hope they’ll be interested in. If they don’t bite right away, you’ll just need to try something else; be charming, helpful, friendly, amusing or perhaps even controversial; do something that gets their attention in a positive and engaging manner. If you want a favour, try doing one for someone else first. Chances are they’ll reciprocate and, if they don’t, then move on and try making friends with someone less rude and selfish.

I like Twitter, and I enjoy using it, but I hate auto-DMs. Please, if you have one set up, get rid of it. It’s not helping you sell anything and it’s getting on other people’s nerves. Oh, and those generic, impersonal, auto-DMs that just say thanks for following or suchlike? Totally pointless. We all know you didn’t notice we’d followed and were genuinely grateful, so why pretend you did?

First and foremost, Twitter is a social network, so be sociable, and sales will follow.

Kind regards,

Peter Carroll

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