Last year I had a blog tour for Ravens Gathering. Arguably, it was a little late, since the book had been out for a few years by then. However, I’d never done a blog tour and got talking to someone who organises them at a Book Connectors event in York a few months earlier. I was hoping at the time that Carrion would be ready to launch towards the end of last year (looks like I was about 12 months out!), and I’d figured having two blog tours close together might raise my profile. So that worked!

Anyway, an outcome of the blog tour was that I came across some new (to me) book bloggers, one of which was Kerry at Chat About Books. And when you come across new blogs, you tend to follow them. By doing that, I found out that Kerry and fellow blogger Steph at StefLoz Book Blog had begun organising meet-ups for bloggers and authors in Stoke-on-Trent. They’re aiming to hold one every 20 weeks or so, and I attended my first back in February.

As it turned out, there were several people there I’d met before and, as is usually the case at these events, I soon got chatting to others I hadn’t met. The North Stafford hotel, opposite the train station, was an ideal venue, being convenient for travellers, but also offering a spacious room and bar area.

The only formality was having a sticker with your name on it to put on any other conveniently visible part of the body, so it was as relaxing an experience as these things can be. I don’t know how many turned up, but I’m guessing there were close to forty. Certainly more than I was ever going to have time to speak to. If you’re curious about the scale and who was actually there, you can pop over to Kerry’s blog post about it here.

My second visit was on 1st June, and this time I took Esther along as she’s recently published her second book of short stories. As an aside, although the focus on books these days tends to be with novels, ironically this comes at a time when a lot of people are too busy to read extensively. The short story format offers an ideal compromise for those times when you struggle to fit reading in. A short burst of escapism can help get you through the day! (It’s that or a pint…)

For this trip, we knew we’d struggle to get there early enough if we drove up that morning, so we stopped over in Stafford the night before, giving ourselves a much shorter journey – and we were still late!

Falling on the last weekend of the half-term holidays, attendance was lower this time – probably nearer twenty – but I still didn’t get to speak to everyone there! Nevertheless, I did speak with John Pye, who I’d missed at my first event. I have got one of his books on my Kindle, but it’s still on the TBR pile, so I couldn’t give him any feedback. I’ll try to get it read for next time!

There’s also a photo of me with Jo Furniss, whose novel The Trailing Spouse appeared on my radar last year as a result of book blogs I read. I had intended to add it to my Kindle, but hadn’t got around to it – until now! As ever, no promises as to when I’ll get to it, but at least it’s sitting there waiting for me.

Yet again, Ess and I drove away feeling buoyed by the day. Meeting fellow authors, chatting with book bloggers, it all helps to remind you why writing and reading can be such rewarding experiences.

It was a long drive back to Berkshire, but it gave us time to reflect on the conversations we’d had. Not all of those reflections were about books. One of the great things about gatherings like this is you get to connect with people. In my past life, the best part of my job was getting to know my clients. After a while, you knew a lot about them – their families, their health, their pastimes, their fears and motivations. I don’t expect to get the same from brief meetings like this one, but the connection does grow with each encounter. And that has to be a good thing in life generally.

I’m looking forward to the next meeting which has been arranged for 5th October – and if you’re interested, click here. Come along. It’s great fun.