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Book festivals are fun for readers and authors alike. And the crime fiction community is fortunate to have a choice of many festivals to attend throughout the year, both at home in the UK and abroad.

This year, we've had some brilliant events and I've managed to get along to a few of them including the mighty Theakston's crime fiction festival which takes place in Harrogate every July

It's a great place to hang out with friends, meet other readers and book lovers, and see some of your favourite authors take to the stage at panels, or chat to them in the bar.

In Scotland, we are fortunate to have a few fantastic festivals peppered across the year, the pinnacle being the Bloody Scotland event which takes place in Stirling every September.

Along with fellow Pitch Perfect winners, I was asked to give an update on how my writing is going since I won PP in 2019 and was delighted to be able to say Crow Moon will be published on 14th March 2024.

Fellow former winners Alison Belsham, David Bishop and Kate Foster, also attended and we enjoyed listening to an array of brilliant pitches to the panel again this year.

Bloody Scotland always starts with an amazing torchlit parade from the top of Stirling Castle, which sees crime writers bearing flaming torches march to the Albert Halls, to kick off proceedings and it's such a friendly atmosphere, with many writers and a readers hanging out in the Golden Lion Hotel on King Street. One to watch out for in 2024!

November was a very exciting time as I attended the incredible Iceland Noir festival. While I've been several times before, this was the first time I had taken part as an author and honestly it was an experience which was hard to beat. The festival is held over a long weekend in Reykjavik and run by a team including Nordic authors Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Ragnar Jonasson, as well as 2023 festival director and soon to be published author Hattie Williams.

This is such a wonderful event and I was delighted to be part of it as an author on the Small Towns, Big Mysteries panel, hosted by awesome book publicist Abby Endler, along with gothic novelist Carolyn Jess Cooke and Icelandic author Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir, both of who's work I'm a huge fan, as well as the Tartan Noir panel hosted by the brilliant Dr Noir Jacky Collins, alongside Scots authors Emma Christie and Greg Buchanan. My partner, travel photographer Ian Dawson, also spoke at an event about his work charting the wildlife at both poles and we hung out with amazing author friends Kevin Wignall, Louise Mangos, Jeff & Barbara Siger, Chris Paton and many others. A highlight for me was getting a shout out from Yrsa for my debut novel Crow Moon on one of her panels as well as having my youngest son and Moniack Mhor pals Elaine Burke and Gillian Duff cheering me on and helping settle the nerves.

And finally, I rounded off a wonderful year with a trip back home to the North-east to host a panel, this time at Newcastle Noir

Run by Dr Noir Jacky Collins, Frances Walker and their team of Noir Stars, I was asked to chair the panel on Scottish crime fiction with the wonderful Caledonian Crime Collective, set up by author Emma Christie. She was joined by the brilliant Marion Todd, Andrew Greig and Allan Martin to talk about the astonishing breadth and range of crime fiction which continues to come out of Scotland. It was a smashing event with a packed audience and meant I can now say I've hosted a panel, as well as appeared as a soon to be published author!

I also caught up with my wonderful publisher Karen Sullivan and many of the Team Orenda Books authors and supporters including Eve Smith, Michael J Malone, Essie Fox, Katrín Júlíusdóttir, Paul Hardisty, Sarah Sultoon and Anne Cater.

For me, Newcastle is a chance to go home and meet some of my favourite Northern authors and pals too including Mari Hannah, Trevor Wood and Rob Parker. What a blast and can't wait til next year!

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