Friday, November 30, 2018

Enter The Dragon

Yesterday I was invited to be a dragon for the third time. You know, the Dragon’s Pen  thing where unpublished writers do a pitch to  a panel for a specific – very specific – period of time and then  the Dragon’s quiz them,  comment, tell them what to steer clear of and what was great about their          pitch and its subject novel.
There were  three dragons;  Me. Mr Douglas Skelton the ‘mastermind behind Carry On Sleuthing’ as he was described, author of the Davy McColl series and the Dominic Quest series.  And an MIE guest blogger. The third Dragon was supposed to be Pat Young, Author of Till the Dust Settles plus other books, also a MIE guest blogger. But she was going to be involved at a later stage of pitching  so couldn’t be in the room to hear it all this time round. So was Michael Malone, he was banished to the coffee shop as he might be hearing our ‘winner’ at the  Scottish Writers  Association annual extravaganza, and prior knowledge is not permitted.
The SAW are very organised. And very well behaved.
 I am   not a member. Did that surprise you?
The middle seat was then taken by a lovely lady called Sheila Grant, a reviewer and article writer, mostly for Highland Magazine and their ilk. Interesting to have a ‘professional  reader’ on the panel  rather than three writers. Would her opinion be very different to ours?  And she knew the writers who were speaking.  Would she have her favourites?  Would she show any favouritism? Were any of them really annoying? Would she tell us?  ( She didn’t!)
And it was a dreadful night weatherwise. Ayr is right on the coast, Burns Country,  the wind was gale force, so strong that the hotel had a pile of chairs against the front doors to stop them blowing open and we had to go down a back alley to get in. The rain was horizontal, then it  bounced off the pavement to have another go. I got totally soaked.  It was bitter, bitter cold.
No change there then.   
It wasn’t the first time I had dragoned,  but it was interesting because in this one we had to choose a ‘winner’. So we secretly marked each pitcher out of ten. And what do you think happened? Considering the  judges really came from different corners  of the crime writing fraternity; an ex journalist, a reader and a mad woman who had to sit through the whole thing with wet pants!
The answer?  An incredible uniformity in our scoring.  The winner was the only one that scored straight 8’s across the board. And it wasn’t a book that any of us would have read, not being in our particular interest but there was a complete world forged, humour, adventure, touches of emotion and  a short conversation on the number twelve bus going through Glasgow city entre ( just to ground the narrative a little)
It was followed by a question and answer session where I exploded with multiple Glaswegian expletives when asked a question about the plot generators available on the internet.
‘She doesn’t like them.’ translated Douglas for the sake of the audience.
Our dragons got three minutes. I  don’t recall what they got at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival were my agent, Jane Gregory,  was on the panel. They had buzzers  to stop the pitcher if they had already heard too much. ‘My novel is set in the world of intergalactic vampire lesbian vegan superheroes who travel the universe on fluffy kitten…’ would get buzzed straight away.
I did witness Jane eliminating  one poor pitcher.
The quivering lady stood at the lectern, calmed herself, ruffled her notes a little and said ‘My novel is set in the thrilling world of accounting.’
Jane buzzed. ’There is no such thing as the interesting world of accounting. Next!’
Wait a minute….. vegans flying around the universe on fluffy kittens….  Could be a goer..

 Exit the dragon.!
Caro Ramsay


  1. Whew. Talk about a tough crowd... (no, I'm not talking about the judges, I'm talking about those poor souls who schlepped through horizontal rain just to get thoroughly doused by the judges :-).

    Sounds like a ripsnorting good time.

    Now, where can you find those online plot generators...???

  2. Sounds like another grand old time I wish I'd been able to attend. But all's not lost as Iceland Noir had a fine parsing of Scots in attendance, and I believe at one point Michael was banished to the coffee shop...or perhaps it was the fermented shark shack?

  3. From Annamaria on her fifth ^%%#*(& try at saying something!!!: I admire you, Carol, for your willingness to do this at all. to get soaked on your way in... WAY beyond the call of duty! BTW, suppose the woman who was writing about the "thrilling world of account" was writing satire. Did anyone give her a chance to say??