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Twelve Books for Christmas 2019

The central heating is blasting, the good telly is lining up (His Dark Materials! The Crown!) and the mince pies have been on display at Waitrose for a month now, it’s starting to feel a wee bit festive.
Being a complete freak, I’m already well into prepping my Christmas present list this year and thought I’d spread some of the present buying joy. So this is for you, whether you want a little gift for yourself or the fellow book lover in your life, I thought I’d share twelve of the top books I’ve read this year that would excellent pressies or holiday reads. There’s a little bit of everything here, fiction and non-fiction, crime thrillers, science fiction and fantasy. Something for everyone!

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean

I saw Peter read from this at a Super Relaxed Fantasy Club event this Spring (if you haven’t been to one, it’s a must) and I was already at the back of the room buying a copy before he’d even finished. Think fantasy by way of Peaky Blinders. The start of a series, this book follows Tomas Piety and his motley crew of soldiers who have just returned to their home city after a long and grueling war. Tomas and his brother used to run a gang before the war but now that they’ve returned it’s to find the old gang in tatters and all of their territory gone. Good thing they know how to fight and take it back.

There’s magic here, there’s crime, there are hints at a bigger picture as the more successful the gang get the more attention from the upper echelons they receive. All the characters were brilliantly drawn and there’s so much difference between them that you have no problem telling them apart. So for something a bit different than your usual Epic Quest fair, I’d definitely recommend this.

You can buy it here.

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

After hearing two authors waxing lyrical about this (Adrian Selby and Ed McDonald if I remember correctly), I had to get it to see what the fuss was about. Boy, I was not disappointed. Gareth has done a lot of writing before for various RPGs (his Cthulhu City supplement for Trail of Cthulhu is mental) this is his first novel.
From the moment he introduced the Tallowmen (guards made from wax with living flame melting them from within), I knew I was in for a treat. There’s a lot of plot in this book which I’m not going to spoil on you, but the sheer imagination of the world Gareth had drawn up was breath-taking. Comparisons to China Mieville’s Bas-Lag series are well earned. The characters were fun, the story whisked me along and it’s a world I can’t wait to revisit. Which is good because his new book comes out in the Spring.

You can buy it here.

The Poison Song by Jen Williams

The Poison Song by Jen Williams

The final in Jen’s Winnowing Flame Trilogy, which started with The Ninth Gate, this was everything you wanted it to be after the roller coaster of the past two books. I had already fallen in love with the characters, yelled at Jen for some of her decisions (she’d best be ready for all my fanfic) and couldn’t see a way things could possibly turn out ok for everyone. Now at the conclusion, Jen pulled a blinder by delivering an ending that was every bit as epic, poignant and fantastic as the trilogy deserved. She won more awards this year for this series and so she jolly well should have.

You can buy it here.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Let’s take a break from fantasy a moment. This debut novel was a small nugget of polished gold. Set in the present day from the point of view of a Filipino-American teenage, it follows Jay as he travels to the Philippines on the news of his cousin’s death. The book talks about the current war on drugs the President is waging in the country and the estimates 12,000 people that have died in it so far since 2016. Patron Saints is a heartfelt book about being caught between two cultures, having a foot in both yet belonging to neither, its about family, the difference between generations and sheds light on something few people in the West are aware of. It doesn’t raise solutions or even try to, this is about family, trying to live in the world and work things out.

You can buy it here.

Jailbirds by Mim Skinner

Jailbirds by Mim Skinner

Author Mim Skinner writes eloquently about her time volunteering in a women’s prison. Separated into neat little chapters (including handy break downs of prison slang), every story served up something different, the impenetrable sometimes Kafkaesque bureaucracy, Mim’s forays into talking to the residents about feminism, drugs, conflicts, resolutions and everyday kindnesses. This book was something raw and real, with no villains or heroes, just a lot of people doing their best with what little they had. This was a book that I’m going to be thinking about for years to come and I think you might feel the same if you give it a try.

You can buy it here.

Bone China by Laura Purcell

Bone China by Laura Purcell

I realised recently that I’ve read all Laura’s books for Bloomsbury in a single year, starting in October 2018 when I read her excellent The Silent Companions on my stag do, up to reading Bone China this summer. Suffice to say that if you haven’t tried any of her books, you’re in for a treat. If a tincture of gothic spookiness is just your cup of laudanum during the long winter nights, if you’re a fan of Sarah Waters or Daphne Du Maurier then these are the books for you. Bone China starts with Hester Why, a brilliant character with fondness for laudanum on her way to isolated Morvoren House in deepest, darkest Cornwall. It then time skips between her and a woman who lived there 40 years previously and picks excellently at the seam between science and superstition.  Very much worth your time and perfect for spooky ghost story season.

You can buy it here.

The Switching Hour by Damaris Young

The Switching Hour by Damaris Young

One for the (slightly older) kids. This is the tale of a drought-ravaged people beset by a mysterious creature called Badeko. Coming out at the switching hour (gloaming), it steals people away to eat their dreams. Those left behind suffer the Sorrow Sickness, their memories of the missing loved one fading away, leaving only the grief behind so that they end up in mourning for someone they can’t remember. When Amaya’s little brother is taken, she heads off into the forest to get him back, racing to find him before she forgets him completely. This had such a great hook and it really delivered offering a nice blend of folk tale and creepy with amazing atmosphere. Hell, forget the kids, read this one yourself too.

You can buy it here.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This book came out of NOWHERE for me. I hadn’t heard of it but suddenly there it was on my kindle and the blurb told me it was a story I was exactly in the mood for and before I knew it, I was two chapters in. The 1920s Mexico setting, the folklore, the characters, the story, I loved it. There was a Gaimen-esque quality to it. It was a little American Gods (gods and other creatures hidden in plain sight among humans) with a bit of Stardust (a character on a folklorish quest, abiding by the rules of folklore) thrown in. It built wonderfully and I couldn’t help but keep turning the pages, determined to know how it ended. Can’t wait to see what the author does next.

You can buy it here.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

I’ve been looking forward to this book for a loooooong time. I’m a huge fan of Joe’s books and when I heard he was writing a new trilogy set in the First Law world I was THERE for it. Boy, did he not disappoint. To see the world having moved on into an industrial revolution was a fantastic change of scene. The new characters were absorbing and, knowing Joe, you can’t help but keep reading to find out how he’s going to abuse them next. Joe’s always written brilliantly morally compromised characters and he does it in spades here. It feels very much like the first of a trilogy, but after the way this book ended you better believe I’m desperate for The Trouble with Peace. I also got the exclusive Waterstones edition which came with an additional short story. Though not essential reading it was very well told, cementing Joe’s status as one of the best writers in fantasy, right now.

You can buy it here.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I picked this up because it won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Then I read it and discovered exactly why it did.  I found this an astounding bit of science-fiction, doing all those things that the best science-fiction is known for. Spanning millennia, the story switches deftly between a race of spiders who have had jumper-cables attached to their evolutionary progress and a ship filled with the last humans in the galaxy hopping in and out of cryo-sleep. The story is brilliant as it slowly leads these two species into conflict for the only habitable planet but the concept allows Adrian to juggle so many themes (religion, gender, communications, science, the list goes on) and he does so brilliantly. The more you read the more you discover how fantastic the title is, matching so many facets of the story. This is a big mind expanding book and deserves to be a future classic of science fiction.

You can buy it here.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

Not so much a whodunnit, as a who-sieged-it. Sam Hawke delivered a stunning debut novel with a concept I’ve never seen before. Set in a city-state from the twin POVs of the chief poison-taster for the ruler and his sister (who is much more than we are first led to believe), the book starts with a poisoning of a high-ranking official and before you know it the city is under siege from an unknown army. Incredible! As the walls are scaled and battles fought, Jovan and Kalina have to race against time to discover not only who the poisoner is but also the identity of this mysterious army. Who are they? And why are they attacking? As the title suggests, there’s a great deal of treachery, skulduggery and plots to be contended with but Sam also touches on some brilliant themes surrounding politics and the city / countryside divide that exists in nations across the globe.

You can buy it here.

Tinseltown by William J. Mann

Tinseltown by William J. Mann

Time for a bit of True Crime.  Taking place in Hollywood in the 1920s, this follows the real-life story of the murder of a then-famous film producer. William is an excellent story teller, he takes the facts (everything sourced from interviews, news pieces, statements and diaries) and writes it so that it reads like a brilliant novel. We follow a wealth of characters / suspects and, as we sift through the evidence, we get a perfect snapshot of Hollywood at the time. This book is full of drugs, cons, blackmail, cover-ups, psychics, movie stars and so many moments that made my jaw drop, unable to believe that any of this could have actually happened. If there are more books out there like these, I will DEVOUR them.

You can buy it here.

So there we have it. I hope there’s at least one book that you fancy. And maybe if you wanted an extra book for yourself, a loved one or a rival, you might also consider my supernatural thriller, The End of the Line, which is out now in ebook and audio.

The End of the Line by Gray Williams

Happy reading!

Big changes

It has been three months since the publication of The End of the Line. Where did the time go?! I always knew being published was going to be a life changing event but even three months ago I wouldn’t have been able to guess how life-changing it was going to be. For example…

I’ve quit my job!

Being published has been a life goal of mine since I was a teenager and once it was achieved it comes with the question ‘what next’? It prompted me to look at my life and consider what else I wanted to change, where did I see myself in the next few years? And after some thinking I came to a decision.

I went freelance!

I’ve been working in publishing for over twelve years. I’ve worked on some HUGE campaigns for AMAZING authors like Keith Richards, Linwood Barclay, Erica James and Anthony Horowitz to name but a few. I’ve run social media and newsletter campaigns, I’ve written great copy, helped make great advertising and pushed books up to No.1 in the Sunday Times bestsellers. And I want to keep doing that. Working with books and authors and taking on those challenges has long been something that’s made me happy and it’s something I want to keep doing and the only way to do that in an effective way was to head out on the road and become a gun for hire.

I made my own fancy freelance website (www.graemewilliamsmarketing.com), I’ve had business cards printed and now I’m having lots of meetings with lots of interesting people. I’m offering them campaign and project management, consultations, copywriting, web design, the lot and hopefully they’ll all start biting soon.

But I’m not only offering my services to publishers, I’m offering my services to individual authors as well. I’ll be advising on marketing strategies, running book promotions, helping authors with agent submissions and even offering author mentorships.

So wish me luck and if you need an extra pair of hands, then get in touch!

Seven things I’ve learned since Launch

It’s been over a month since The End of the Line was released! It’s out now! At this very moment, you can buy them herein ebook and audio. In my day job, I’ve ushered perhaps hundreds of debut authors out blinking into the sunlight. I’ve helped them make names for themselves, soothed their concerns and run their marketing campaigns to sell their books. Now I have a book of my own! They always say that you should walk a mile in someone’s shoes and I have to say that there are a few things I understand a lot better now I’ve been the author instead of the marketer in the equation. More than can fit into a single blog, most likely, so let’s start small and look at things I’ve learned in the past month or so.

  1. Launch is a great feeling

Launch day was essentially like having a birthday. It was one of those days where you get lots of well-wishes, everyone is a bit nicer to you and you feel that, for just a smidge, the Universe revolves a little more around you. And there was a party at the end of it. It was a great day, knowing that (hypothetically) people you’d never met or even heard of were now able to pick up your book and read it. Not only that but they’d willingly parted with some of their hard-earned cash to do so and you were going to get some of it. Where it doesn’t quite feel like a birthday is that, to you, the book has been out for ages. On launch day I was only two weeks from handing in Book 2. I hadn’t even looked at The End of the Line for a month or two, I’d finished it. So it was a bit strange to be surrounded by people so excited about your book and part of you is ‘What? That old thing?’ To me it was something I’d had in my life for years but friends and supporters it had popped into existence that very day. Me, I was excited about Book 2. I suppose that makes it more like the Queen’s Birthday? Nevertheless, it was a great day, fueled by the love and support of those around me and such a nice way to celebrate what was, in the end, a big achievement years in the making. So launches are great but in a way they’re not for you, they’re for everyone else. Can’t wait for the next one!

        2. … and then silence

And that was it! The book is out! The party happened. Everyone went home. And so did I. Plonked down in the sofa, ordered a pizza and watched Deadpool 2. The next day it was back to normal. Everyone else had other things to be doing, they have their own lives to be getting on with. After all the excitement, I was back at my desk with two weeks to get the first draft of Book 2 to my editor. Though I’m now a published author, there’s still writing to be done, dishes to wash, errands to run, work to go to. Getting published is a great thing but in many ways it’s not as transformative as you might imagine. I’m a published author… but most of all I’m still a writer and a person.

     3. Amazon rankings are a rollercoaster

They change by the hour and watching my book weave up and down the charts as I sell another copy, someone else sells another copy, I sell a copy could probably consume most of my waking life if I let it. One moment my book was sitting up next to Stephen King, then it dropped off the first page. Then it was back again! It is tremendous fun to see my book rubbing shoulders with some of my literary heroes but I quickly realised that it’s the same as watching the ripples in a lake, it’s pretty, but I’m not getting anything done staring.

    4. Then there’s reviews

Authors will tell you not to look at reviews. They are right. They also, all do it themselves. I can go a week without looking, two-weeks, but it’s always there, the whisper of temptation wearing away my resolve. Then a few moments of boredom and there I go, I’ve looked and I can’t unsee it. That’s not to say they’re terrible. I’ve had some great reviews! But the bad ones cut deeper than the good ones. I’ve often talked to debut authors who have spiraled at the sight of a bad review. I’ve talked them down, explained that better ones are just over the horizon, that every book will have its fans and detractors. You can’t please everyone. BOY, is it different when it’s your book. The book is out there, it’s getting read but people I’ll never meet and they have their own tastes. I’ve had bad reviews calling it ‘too dark for a YA’ (it’s not a YA, never has been and has never been called one), or simply someone has read it, given it a low star rating and the comment ‘I don’t like fantasy’ and I’m left thinking ‘so why read it in the first place? Didn’t you read the blurb?’. People are strange but being a human being, you can’t help but let them get to you. That’s why you should never look at your reviews. When I see a five star review I might smile, might nod and think to myself ‘great, another satisfied customer’ but that moderate high is nothing to the devastating drop when I see a low rating. Humans have a primal instinct to look out for danger and attack, it’s what kept us alive in the savannah or on the beaches. It feels the same way about shifting grass and a low throaty growl as it does about a one-star review on Goodreads, apparently.

     5. Events are wild

I’ll admit, I have loved doing events so far. I’ve attended enough of them as a reader and know what they look like. I’d expected to be nervous, even terrified, but so far that’s not happened. I’ve arrived, stepped up, talked, read and stepped away from the microphone to some applause and thought to myself, ‘Oh, I forgot to be nervous’. Maybe it’s because I’m the eldest child, used to being the centre of attention, but turns out having lots of people listening while I talk isn’t that bad. You meet some lovely fellow authors, you get a beer, so far I’ve been enjoying them.

6. You have less reading time

Let’s be honest, time that I would have spent reading has taken a hit this year. There have been a few ‘life’ things involved in that, but lunch breaks at work these days are for blogs, newsletters, website updates, Q&As for blogs, podcast recordings, and of course there are events some evenings. So free time has had a bite taken out of it  and I haven’t read nearly as many books at this point in the year as 2018. But the work is worthwhile and I’m not complaining.

     7. It’s only the beginning

I’ve got a book out! It’s a nice warm feeling and in the end, I’m really pleased and proud to have made it this far. But here’s the thing, I’ll have another book out next year and hopefully another the year after that. This is only a step along the journey. And what’s more, this might one day be the book people go back to and make a face and say ‘It’s a Gray Williams but it’s rough’. This is my Colour of Magic, my Knots and Crosses (the Ian Rankin book, not Malorie Blackman’s). This is potentially not my BIG book, this is my debut and so many authors don’t hit their stride until they’re a few books in. There’s something comforting to that, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Nine Things to Know About Gray Williams

It’s almost time for The End of the Line to come out in ebook and audio. Here are a few things to know about the author…

  1. I’ve been writing every day (well, almost every day) since I was 20. So that’s over 15 years!
  2. I minored in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. This helped get me into the habit of writing every day, which is probably my most valuable takeaway for writing. I majored in Geographical Information Systems & Remote Sensing. I’m probably the only person in the UK to have that combination!
  3. I wrote six novels before The End of the Line. All of them are terrible but one of them did get an offer of representation from an agent but they wanted me to tear the book down at start from scratch.
  4. I have written a dozen short stories, most of them never got published but they sure attracted a lot of rejection letters from magazines and websites.
  5. I passed an early draft of one of my short stories to a colleague. She liked it so much she asked me out! We’re now married.
  6. I love stories. Give them too me in books, on the stage, in the cinema, as comics, as video games, even board games. If a medium tells a good story then I am there for it.
  7. My first short story was published in 2008. They even paid me £10 for it. I don’t dare go back and read it.
  8. It was May 2017 that I sent The End of the Line to agents. I sent to 27 agents and had 19 requests for the full manuscript and five offers of representation! I signed with my agent, Juliet Mushens in June 2017.
  9. During the day, I work in marketing in publishing. Having worked for Usborne, Orion and Bounce, I have worked on campaigns for some of the UK’s biggest crime authors, including Ian Rankin, Michael Connolly and Linwood Barclay. I even did the marketing for the paperback of Keith Richards’ autobiography!

Thanks so much for reading, remember, you can have these links delivered right to your inbox by signing up to my newsletter. It even comes with a free short story!

13 things to know about ‘The End of the Line’

Hello! Welcome to the inaugural Gray Williams / The End of the Line blog post. I plan to update this on a monthly basis and I’ll be filling it with things about me, the book, as well as writing tips and, well, anything else that’s on my mind.

But let’s start with the essentials. If you’re here, it’s probably to do with the book, so here’s a few things you should know about it…

  1. The seed of the book came to me when I lived in a bedsit in Wood Green, London. The idea was ‘what if you were trapped with a psychic Hannibal Lecter?’.
  2. It will be available all around the world in English in ebook from 8th July 2019 from Canelo with an audio book from Bolinda Publishing to follow. The ebook is available to pre-order now on Amazon and Apple, with more retailers coming up. News on the audio is very TBC at the moment but when I know, you’ll know. I’m afraid I don’t know who’s reading it yet.
  3. The End of the Line took me roughly 10 years to write – though between the first draft and the last I have written a screenplay, a few other novels and a few short stories that were published.
  4. It’s set in our world, but not as we know it. The book is set in the modern day with one small difference: magic is real and anyone can do it. Magic in TEOTL is like anything else in our world, like computer hacking or chemistry, anyone can do it and do it well if they take the time to learn it, but since it exacts a terrible cost and technology does many of the simpler things that magic can, most people don’t use it and don’t need to. Magic to these people as as real and ubiquitous as learning a second language. It is currently illegal to use in the UK but as the internet makes sharing spells and wards more easy, the issue is back on the debate table.
  5. The main character is Amanda Coleman. Notorious in the criminal underworld, Amanda is known as one of the best heist-artists and con-women in business. She has an even bigger rep amongst illegal magic users (Abras) for killing her father, the legendary gangster David Coleman, when she was barely in her teens. Thanks to her father, she hates magic and would do anything not to use it. Not that she needs it, she’s smart enough to run rings around anyone who thinks they can take her on.
  6. The story follows Amanda and the remnants of the gang she ran with. On the gang leader’s instructions, an ambitious Abra summoned a demon to help them pull the biggest of robberies. She quickly lost control of the creature  and now most of the gang are dead or in hiding. With so few left, it’s fallen to Amanda to kill the thing – a task that everyone would say is impossible. With the thing in chains (how she did that is revealed later in the book), she and the dregs of the gang are taking It to the only place it can be banished, a ring of stones in the middle of nowhere of Siberia. But as the wards that keep the thing’s power in check, she and her crew have to wonder, is it trapped on there with them? Or are they trapped on there with it?
  7. The book has been described as Reservoir Dogs meets American Gods, which I love. There are a lot of magical police and PIs out there. I wanted to write about the opposition. I would also compare it to Jim Butcher, John Connelly and Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City. Amanda Coleman would definitively give Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant a run for his money. 
  8. If you like books with heists, cons, magic, drama, arguments, action, demons, swearing and pace, I would say this book is for you.
  9. The cover was designed by the amazing Tom Sanderson, who has also designed covers for Philip Pullman, James Patterson, Dan Brown, Charles Stross, Charlie Higson, Douglas Adams and more.
  10. There will be a follow-up book set in the same world. I’m writing it right now and we hope it’ll come out January 2020.
  11. There’s a short story available. A prequel of sorts, it follows another of Amanda’s jobs that didn’t entirely go to plan. You can download it right now, all you have to do is sign up to my newsletter.
  12. It’s already proving popular! On submission to agents, I had five offers of representation before signing with the brilliant Juliet Mushens. Some lovely writers have already given it glowing reviews, including Linwood Barclay, Steve Cavanagh, Mason Cross, Mark Stay and Michael Miller. 
  13. Reviews copies are ready to go to those who want to read it. You can request it on Netgalley, or if you’re not on Netgalley, you can get in touch with me or Ellie at the Publicity department of Canelo.

If you have any more questions, then get in touch with me via the contact page or on Twitter. I’m more than happy to talk about my book, rather than bother people in the line at the coffee shop.
If getting on the blog was too much effort, as I mentioned, you can get links delivered to your inbox by signing up to my newsletter.

Did I mention there was a short story in it for you?