Winner of the Crime Writing Retreat

Many thanks to everyone that entered the competition to win the place at the Crime Writing Retreat in June, where Angela Clarke will be teaching us about plotting, pacing and leaving clues for the reader.

Congratulations to the winner, Sally Harris, who has won the retreat with this brilliant piece of crime-themed flash fiction. Look forward to meeting you at the retreat, Sally!


Deafening Silence by Sally Harris

I’ve sat here too long on this wet bench, my sketchpad balanced on my knees. My numb fingers work the pencil. You glide onto the page.

‘A man is dead, Mrs Keeling. We need to ask you a few questions.’

I look up from the sketchpad into the DCI’s grey face. He looks as though he’s had less sleep than I have. Why doesn’t he listen to me? He doesn’t even get my name right. But then no one listens to me, do they? Not really. Silly to expect anyone would after all that’s happened. I look back at the page, at the outline of your face. At you.

‘Mrs Keeling?’ He’s a persistent man, the DCI.

‘Kate,’ I say again. River fog seeps through my boots, my clothing, into my bones. Everyone calls me Kate or Katherine, except you. You called me Katie, always, didn’t you?

‘This isn’t a negotiable situation, Mrs Keeling. Do you understand?’

The DCI misses nothing. The filth on my skin, the dark rim of blood under each fingernail. The blood I couldn’t wash away in the greening river water. I glance up at the lean-faced sergeant standing just behind the DCI. Would a woman understand me better? Listen to me? Help me out here but her expression is blank. She’s holding my bag. Has she searched through it? Through my stuff? She has my mobile, the bottle of diazepam. I guess she has.

The police cordoned off the towpath, a line of plastic tape strung across the muddy track, the blue and white stripes I’ve seen on the news and in countless police dramas. Two officers stand guard against a swelling throng of sightseers blurred into a solid mass by the fog. No one I recognise. No one I can ask for help. All the village has heard of this morning’s events. The Weldon grapevine is working well, it seems.

‘I’m asking you to come in voluntarily, Mrs Keeling. I’d prefer your cooperation.’

I look back at the DCI then down at the page. There you are. The pencil moves back and forth, doesn’t stop. The DCI is speaking again. His noise flows unending like the black river at his back. I can’t grasp his words, can’t stop them.

‘You do not have to say anything…’

More of you spills onto the page. The curve of your lips, the faint lines at the corners of each eye deepening as you smile. You haven’t changed, all of you is just the same.

‘…may harm your defence which you later rely on in court.’

I should have known you would understand. Forgive me.

‘Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’

The DCI stops speaking. I stare up at him. Should I try again to explain? I can’t go with him, can I? Confusion curls through my brain like the fog swirling across the river. Why doesn’t he understand? But he’s not listening. No one is listening. The silence is heavy in the damp air. Faces behind the tape stare out of the fog.

I look back at the page. At you. Silly, Katie, you would say, why would anyone listen to you



If you’d like to join us at the beach for this retreat there are currently 2 rooms still available. Get info and book here.

Win a Crime Writing Retreat!

Fancy turning your hand to crime?

Well, the Crime Writing Retreat is a great place to start and it is taking place from June 24-27 in West Bay, Dorset and there will be crime writing masterclasses from the best-selling author of the Social Media Murder Series, Angela Clarke. Get the full info on the retreat here.

How can you win a place at the Crime Writing Retreat?

Easy! Send in your crime-themed flash fictions (300-1,000 words) by the deadline and a winner will be chosen from all entries. All entries must be sent through Submittable using the button below.

Entry fee: £10

Deadline: 26th March 2017


Competition T&Cs

  • Submit stories written in English by 23.45 GMT on the deadline date (sorry late entries will not be included)
  • Maximum word count is 1,000 (minimum 300 words) not including the title
  • Do not include your name on the story or the submission title but provide a short bio in the body of the email. Stories are judged anonymously so if you do include your name where it can be seen then we’re afraid it will be disqualified.
  • Stories must be your own original work and not have been published online or in print
  • By entering the competition you agree to your story being published on the Retreat West website and to attend the writing retreat
  • Stories can be in any genre apart from children’s fiction
  • You can enter as many times as you like but each entry must be made separately and the entry fee paid each time
  • The prize is a place at the writing retreat as detailed and is not transferable and there is no cash alternative
  • The judge’s decision is final

Author Interview: Angela Clarke

I first met today’s guest author, Angela Clarke, on a writing retreat a few years ago and have an abiding memory of us sitting round the fire drinking wine then suddenly breaking out into yoga moves that are good for writer’s back and sciatica! Angela’s debut crime novel, Follow Me, came out in 2015 with Avon and has been a huge hit. So I picked her brains about how she helped spread the word…

Angela, Follow Me has hit the shelves with a big impact – talked about far and wide online and in the media, sold over 50,000 copies in just a couple of months, and has been reviewed and rated hundreds of times on Amazon and Goodreads. Can you tell us how you personally helped this to happen separate from your publisher’s promotional work?

My publisher, Avon, have been amazing. They’re really innovative in the way they approach marketing. My favourite thing they did was send old Nokia phones with a separate sim card to book bloggers. When the bloggers put the sim card into the phone it displayed a creepy message: Like. Share. Follow. Die. Are you next? That would freak me out! It caused a huge response and really kick-started the buzz around Follow Me.

I think it’s a foolish author who sits back and lets the publisher do all the marketing work nowadays. You have to get out there and meet your readers. I’m very lucky and privileged to belong to a number of Twitter and Facebook book groups, where authors and readers can meet and chat. The book bloggers are incredible: they read, review, share and promote so many authors. They’re a massive driver within the industry. I’d recommend any writer to get to know the book bloggers, and work with them: I did a number of exclusive extracts, articles, think pieces, competitions and lots of other fun and factual bits for a blog tour. It was a great way to get to know more people in the industry, and raise the profile of the book.

I also organised a couple of launch events, making them open to all, and publicising them on local newspapers and radio stations. That’s a great opportunity to meet readers in real life as well. I’m pretty active on Twitter and Facebook already, so it’s a natural step to chat about my book and involve my online mates.

The book is set in the world of social media and how big a part do you think Twitter and Facebook have played in the success of your book?

Follow Me is about a serial killer who tweets clues to his next victim will be. The setting is, effectively, online. It made it a prime book for those who actively use social media: there are 15 million Twitter users in the UK. I would hope that the book, which looks at the way we use social media both in positive and negative ways, would appeal to those who either use social media or are curious about it.

A lot of Twitter users have been drawn to it. But I’ve also had a huge number of messages from readers who aren’t on social media, or feel out of their comfort zone there. They thank me for enlightening them about what exactly is going on! Many enjoyed the chapter headings, which were all internet slang and definitions. I know several readers surprised their children/grandchildren, by suddenly calling them BAE (Before anyone else). PMSL (Pissing myself laughing).

So many crime thrillers dispose of technology as soon as possible to protect their plots: phones that get smashed, or have no signal. But then those stories don’t reflect the world we live in. If you’re in a major city like London, you have twenty-four-hour connectivity and communication. The general public now provide video and photos of protests, terrorist attacks, accidents, natural disasters and criminal activity, as they unfold in real time. Before the police receive them, and often before the mainstream media have them up and running.

Developing phone technology has turned us into voyeurs, participants, and complicit guilty parties as we click. It’s far more fun to use technology, and all the moral complications that involves, as part of the plot. Follow Me just came at the right time. I got lucky.

You’re working on the next in the Social Media Murder Series now – do you have a plan for world domination with the launch of this one? 😉

Ha! The next is called Are You Awake? and it’s out in November this year. At the moment all plans for world domination are on hold: I’m just focusing on finishing the book. I want it to be the best it can be.

What advice can you give to debut novelists to help them have success with the launch of their books?

Concentrate your efforts into one or two weeks. Do as much as you can in that timeframe to boost sales. This will help concentrate your sales, and give you a greater chance of climbing the charts. Amazon are a great driver of books that have clusters of sales and positive reviews: that’s how you get your book onto recommended lists and promotions. Keep going, and drink a lot of coffee! Good luck.


Thanks so much for this, Angela. Looking forward to the next installment already. Are You Awake? (Avon) the second in The Social Media Murder Series is out November 2016.

You can get a copy of Follow Me here.

You can follow Angela on Twitter @TheAngelaClarke, on Facebook and find out more about her on her website.