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11 Things to Know About ‘Strange Ways’

Following the tradition established by my first book, I thought I would compile a quick list of things you should know about Strange Ways, my upcoming novel. Have a read through and if it gives you the reading tingles, go ahead and pre-order it!

1. Strange Ways is a sequel

My first book The End of the Line came out on 8th July 2019, and with Strange Ways coming out on 22nd June 2020, that means I’ll have had two novels out in the space of a year! This story takes place two or three years after the first book. Suffice to say, things have moved on for the characters since then (those still alive at least). I’ve been told by some readers that you don’t need to read the first to enjoy the second (and that was what I was aiming for) but, if you don’t want to take that chance, go on and treat yourself and read The End of the Line first.

2. It will be available in ebook and as an audiobook

Like the first book, Strange Ways will be published worldwide in ebook by the wonderful people at Canelo, meaning it’ll be available across Amazon, Apple , Google and Kobo. It will be published worldwide in audiobook by the fabulous folks of Bolinda Audio a little later this year. I’ve had no word as yet on who will be reading it, but The End of the Line was read wonderfully by the brilliant Nneka Okoye.

3. I had research help from someone who has volunteered her time in a real women’s prison

I wanted to do the prison setting some justice to lend it authenticity, not wanting to fall back on the perpetuated tropes and cliches of prison life (which gets very mixed up in the media, especially if you’re writing about a British prison and most of what you know comes from American television). To do this, I reached out to fellow author Mim Skinner, who wrote the non-fiction Jail Birds, which chronicled some of her experiences volunteering in a women’s prison. She was happy to help and kindly looked over relevant scenes. I learned so many things from reading her book and from her helpful notes on my inaccuracies. Anything I got wrong in the finished book is entirely my fault, however, and left in for the DRAMAAAA!

You should all get her book, which is both eye-opening and wonderful.

4. I wanted the idea to be equally as high-concept as The End of the Line

After straining my brain for months on the idea for a sequel to The End of the Line, it finally hit me as my wife and I were walking along a canal in East London, on our way back from seeing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. I’d wanted to come up with a premise that was equally as high-concept as The End of the Line, while opening the world a little and allowing me to put my characters through the wringer. And there it was staring at me in the face, if you write about magic criminals, then its only fair that at some point you have to place them in magical prison.

5. Strange Ways took 18 months to write

Many writers will tell you this: after having spent 10 years writing my first book, having to produce a second one, from idea to finished copy, in a fraction of that time was a bit of a shock! But I’ve always had quite a regular writing schedule and once the idea was in place, the words started to flow. Ideas were explored, characters were better defined, others cut, my wonderful editors (I had two, one left for a new job and a new one came on board) gave me their opinions and, together we polished it to a high shine. Then, bloody hell, look at that, I’d written another book!

6. I wanted to expand the story’s wider world

Many people had said after reading The End of the Line how they wished that they’d had more of an opportunity to see the world in which the book was set, where magic was real and where anyone could do it. Granted, setting most of a book in a sealed box in Siberia wasn’t the best vantage point to showcase it! But the story came first and the world filled in as I wrote it, so there you go, sometimes writing a book is about compromise.

But with a second book, a blank canvas, I had more scope to listen to some of the desires of my readers so a good part of Strange Ways is set in London. Readers will finally be able to see more about the city and the underground trade of magic that flows through it, leading to the powerful criminals who profit from its illegality.

7. There’s even more character drama

If you’ve read The End of the Line, you’ll see that quite a bit happens to the main character, Amanda Coleman. I wanted to pick up on the actions and consequences of the first book and run with them. James Bond might be able to shake off fighting for his life but not Amanda Coleman. Get ready for guilt, anger and a quest to reconnect with what she fought so hard to salvage in The End of the Line. it’s totally emotional.

8. Strange Ways has a great set-up (at least I think so)

As I’ve mentioned before, Strange Ways is set a few years after The End of the Line. We rejoin Amanda as she continues to deal with the traumatic death of her family (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, its in the blurb!) and the consequences of the decisions she made on the train in Siberia.

Thrown in prison for a heist gone wrong (or did she self-sabotage?), Amanda receives a mysterious package. Though she’s in prison under an assumed identity to protect her from those looking for her after TEOTL, someone out there knows who she really is and her connections to the demonic carnage that transpired in the previous book. To keep herself and her remaining daughter safe, she has to accept the blackmailer’s mission, get transferred to Coldwater, the notorious island prison for magic users, and assassinate one of the inmates.

But the problem with having screwed over half of the criminals in London? She might just be about to meet an old enemy who has plans of his own.

9. It’s for people who like some magic in their thrillers

If you’re a fan of fact-paced supernatural thrillers like Ben Aarnovitch’s Rivers of London series, the Felix Castors by Mike Carey, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files or Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City then this is for you!

10. You’ve likely seen the cover designer’s work before

The cover is once again designed by Tom Sanderson, who also designed the cover for Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth!

11. It’s already out in the world and readers are loving it!

The book has already had some great reviews. The first from a fellow supernatural thriller author, Phil Williams (no relation, I swear!):

Strange Ways is a great example of contemporary British fantasy; a gritty page-turner packed with creative twists on criminal magic.”

And readers have loved it too. Check out these two early reviews:

“Powerful character portraits… drive the reader through a rollercoaster of threat, suspense and engagingly weird stuff. Top notch and worth a read, an exuberant bit of escapism much-needed in these trying times.”

“[A] fast moving thriller that grips you from the start… outstanding characters… A hard hitting novel that is fast-paced. One of the best books I’ve read this year.”

So there you have it. If that tickles your fancy, please do consider getting Strange Ways in ebook or audiobook. And if you’d like the set, The End of the Line is already available in the same formats. You can even read some things to know about that book in my previous blog post 13 Things to Know About The End of the Line.

Five more TV boxsets to watch on lockdown

Hopefully you enjoyed the last five boxsets I recommended (if you didn’t see them, find the post here). But as this lockdown continues and we burn through shows like never before, I thought I’d suggest a few more to add to your list.

Enjoy!

The Knick

Continuing our love for some historical drama, The Knick only ran for two seasons (but came to a natural conclusion, don’t worry). Set in the first decade of the 20th century, it follows the work and lives of the staff of the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York. It’s a great period setting for a drama about medicine as so much was being tried, tested and discovered at that point (the infancy of plastic surgery, blood types, and C-sections are explored among others). Led by Clive Owen as Dr Thackery, the tension ramps up with each episode, mixing medical drama with a look at the political issues of the times (eugenics, poverty and race being some of the main themes). Directed by Steven Soderbergh, every scene is rich with detail and it’s compelling right to the end.

Mrs Maisel

If you haven’t seen Mrs Maisel… well, it probably means you don’t pay money to a giant multi-national company that doesn’t pay its taxes. But if you do find yourself on its streaming service and haven’t seen this show then you are missing out. To give it a brief synopsis doesn’t do it justice. But to give it a go, it’s set in NYC in the 1960s and follows Midge Maisel, a poster-woman for ‘perfect wifedom’ and motherhood, whose ‘idyllic’ life comes crashing around her ears when her husband leaves her and she finds herself getting involved in stand-up comedy.

If the whipsmart humour hadn’t got to me, the sharp, brilliantly lovable characters would have and if neither of those had succeeded in grabbing me, then there was the classic underdog story. And if… know what, it’s just a great show and it deserves its trunk load of awards.

Fargo

It was quite something when a show that I almost turned my nose up at (why does a good film need to be stretched into a whole series?) became one of my favourite things on television. Noah Hawley (who also wrote X-Men TV series Legion) went from strength to strength in this anthology series. Each set in a different decade, every season came with a superb cast, brilliant stories and twists while keeping to that ‘completely bonkers but it actually happened’ feel of the film. Suffice to say, this wasn’t a rehash of the film’s material but instead built upon it. Widening its scope and populating its past and its future until the film was just one story among many that happened around the town of Fargo. There’s too much to like about Fargo, so I’ll just say, maybe start with Season Two (you don’t need to have seen Season One at all to enjoy it) and go from there. You won’t be sorry. Oh, and Season Four is out soon!

Tin Star

On the surface, Tin Star doesn’t seem like anything new. Its a policeman, played by Tim Roth, who takes over as Sherrif in a sleepy little town in Canada, having dragged his family with him from the UK. But dark things from his past soon catch up with him.  Written like that it doesn’t seem like much. But sometimes, when you have the right cast and the right writers, magic happens. And that’s the case with Tin Star. Every character,every character, is gorgeously written and so complex, so real, that every scene brings up something new and unexpected. Tin Star takes absolute pleasure in subverting your expectations, veering off the well-beaten paths and gives you something infinitely more compelling. From the start it puts its main cast through the wringer and you can’t look away wondering how they can possibly keep on going. I heartily recommend giving it a go.

Masters of Sex

One of the unsung heroes of television, this popped up on Channel 4 for two seasons then disappeared (despite it having a full run of four seasons in the US). After it became clear that C4 wasn’t going to finish it, we had to acquire the rest by… other means. Following on the coattails of Mad Men, it’s set in the 1950s, and follows Masters (Michael Sheen) and Johnson (household favourite Lizzy Caplan, see more from her in my previous TV blog), two real-life researchers who decided to study sex and blow the lid off the myths and cultural hang-ups that surrounded it. Both Sheen and Caplan act their socks off, the chemistry between them a lynch-pin of the series, while they work (or don’t) against the adversity that their studies attract from their more conservative colleagues. Special mention has to go out to screenwriter Amy Lippman, who, when given the show’s bottle episodes, consistently delivered incredible deep dives into the characters and their motivations with cracking dialogue fit for their own West End stage plays – especially the one set around an orgy. Now that got your attention, didn’t it?

So I hope these help bring you a bit of enjoyment as we continue through this whole, weird time. It’s tough to stay sane in conditions like these and art really does make things a bit better.

In the meantime, hope you enjoy these shows and that you might consider my book, The End of the Line.

Five TV boxsets to watch while self-isolating

As we’re coming to terms with the new world order (at least for now), I thought I would use my enormous capacity for devouring TV boxsets for good! Find below some of the boxsets I would recommend indulging in over the next few weeks. I’ve tried to go a bit different from other lists (you’re not going to find The Wire or Sopranos or West Wing here) instead I’ve looked at some of the recent hits that you may have missed. Almost all of them are based on books too! So I’ve included links to the books with each entry.

Enjoy!

The Outsider

The Outsider - HBO - Stephen King

Only just finished on Sky Atlantic, for a while this was the highlight of our TV week. Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the story begins when Terry Maitland (played by Jason Bateman) is arrested for the murder of a young boy. One witness saw him pick the boy up in his van, while another saw him covered in blood. But Terry has proof that he was out of town at the time of the crime. It’s based on a Stephen King novel, so of course the explanation is supernatural but it’s a real pleasure to watch it all play out. The cast were brilliant (especially Cynthia Erivo, who is always someone different in everything she’s in) and even the bit characters got their moments. It was written by Richard Price, who has long been a terrific writer (The Wire and The Night Of are just the tip of the iceberg for the shows, films and novels he’s written. And the direction was out of this world with strange camera angles often giving the impression of the characters being watched from afar. Overall, it was just a fantastic production, a slow burn that steadily built the tension and pulled the characters and viewers alike into the hunt for the truth. Creepy, unsettling, brilliant.

The Outsider is based on, you guessed it, The Outsider by Stephen King. You can buy it here.

Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin

If you love historical drama then this is the show for you. In its third season now, it’s one of Europe’s highest budget productions, re-creating 1920s Berlin in startling detail. It would spoil things to delve too deeply into the plot but it follows Detective Gereon Rath and temp-worker Lotte Ritter as they become embroiled in the power play between the various factions fighting to shape Berlin’s future. Featuring Nazis, Bolsheviks, communists, loyalists, criminals and the government, every character has their own politics and an agenda. You have to keep your wits about you to keep up with dealings and double-dealings of the various players. Impeccably researched, and utterly thrilling, I can’t recommend this series enough.

Babylon Berlin is based on the Gereon Rath series by Volker Kutscher. You can get the first in the series here.

The Magicians

Some shows take a while to find their feet and The Magicians is certainly one of them. But what starts as a pretty basic ‘what if Hogwarts but it was a US college?’ idea flourishes in Season Two into something altogether more compelling. The writers pull a blinder by putting the characters in some incredible predicaments, perfectly pitched to test them and to change them in ways you wouldn’t predict. The outcome being that by the end you can’t help but love them, flaws and all. The show should also get a bit of kudos for its inclusivity on gender, sexuality and race. It’s a show that wears its heart on its sleeve and balances the humour with the drama and has an added bit of meta thrown in. It’s a favourite in our house.

The Magicians is based on a trilogy by Lev Grossman. You can get the first book, The Magicians, here.

Schitt’s Creek

An unexpected delight. We picked this up after having seen so many people talking about it on Twitter and we’re so glad that we did. What starts as a typical ‘fish out of water’ comedy as the wealthy, powerful Rose family find themselves down and out in the titular town, develops into something so much more. It isn’t the laughs (though there are plenty of those) but the nuance that carries this series. Character progression is slow but pronounced and believable as the Rosees adjust to their new situation. And there’s a romance in it that’s so adorable I’ve cried over it at least twice. If you’ve watched it already, you know exactly the pair I mean.

This isn’t based on a book, as far as I know, but if it was, it would be awesome.

Castle Rock

Nothing had prepared us for this unexpected gem. We’re big Stephen King fans in our house and many a weekend has been polished off with a bottle of wine and a King film. When we put on Castle Rock, one cold December morning, we hadn’t expected to watch the whole first season in two days. But that’s just what we did. Set in Stephen King’s popular setting of Castle Rock, it brings in characters and locations from a number of King’s books and bounces them off one another in weird and wonderful ways. Even to tell you how the first season starts feels like a spoiler, but we found it compelling and we’re always glad to see André Holland in a lead role. An anthology series, season two can be watched without having seen season one (but it adds more fun in later episodes), and is uplifted by Lizzy Caplin (another household favourite) playing a young Annie Wilkes (Misery). If you’re a fan of Stephen King, this is well worth a watch, especially for all the King Easter eggs.

Castle Rock is based on allll the Stephen Kings. So here’s Misery in honour of the amazing Lizzy Caplin. And it’s, like, the ultimate self-isolation book? Maybe?

So there you have. I may follow up with a further five if there’s interest (and this whole thing keeps on going. In the meantime, hope you enjoy these shows and that you might consider my book, The End of the Line. Maybe if you buy enough copies, that might become a TV show one day. Who knows?!

10 Books I Can’t Wait to Read – 2020

It’s a new year and after completing the latest draft of the sequel to The End of the Line (more on that anon), my brain has turned to my TBR pile. There are so many good SFF books coming out this year, I thought I would share some of my top most anticipated books for 2020.

The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie

It’s so nice to have a Joe Abercrombie book to look forward to every year again. His return with A Little Hatred was a brilliant opener to his new trilogy set years after the original First Law books and it ended on such a cliffhanger I can’t wait to be able to dive back in and see what happens next. There were plenty of new characters to get to know, to love and to hate, (and some of the older characters in the wings) and it’s going to be an utter pleasure to get my hands on another delicious looking hardback.

For those inclined to join me in my excitement, you can pre-order Joe’s book here.

Goldilocks by Laura Lam

I already have this lined up on my Kindle. I’ve been a big fan of Laura’s prose since I read False Hearts a few years back. Goldilocks has such an excellent premise, I’m looking forward to seeing what Laura does with it. Mixing spaceship thriller with The Handmaid’s Tale,  this follows a mother and daughter who are part of an all-female crew on their way to a habitable planet in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone. The Earth is dying (and simultaneously restricting the freedoms of women) and their mission could be humanity’s last hope for survival. But things start going wrong – there’s a saboteur on the ship. Big themes and an excellent thriller concept. What’s not to love? 

Pre-order here.

Stormblood by Jeremy Szal

This sounds like a guns-out SF action-thriller with a DNA-enhanced Jason Bourne at the helm. Thanks to a shady ‘super soldier’ program, our hero Vakov is addicted to adrenalin and aggression but this is going to come in handy because now his ex-army buddies are being killed off one by one and it’s up to him to stop it. This is his first novel, but Jeremy already has form having published over forty short stories which bodes well for what sounds like a complete thrill-ride.

Pre-order here.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I pulled out Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s previous book, Gods of Jade and Shadow as one of my top picks of 2019. Well, I’m continuing that fascination with her gorgeous blend of gothic aesthetic and Mexican folklore with her aptly titled Mexican Gothic. Set in the 1950s in a haunted Mexican mansion, Noemi arrives to investigate her cousin’s claims that she’s being poisoned by her new husband. Cue dark family secrets, menacing villains, violence and madness. Sign me up. 

Pre-order here.

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

I was lucky enough to hear Mike read an early sneak preview of this book at SRFC last year and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Set in the far future where humanity has fucked up the planet and efforts by scientists to fix the problem have only made things worse (or at least more interesting), we follow Koli, a boy from a small village where life is hard, enlivened by scraps of old-tech that wait to be woken by the right touch. It’s all written in the character’s vernacular ala Knife of Never Letting Go, which Carey pulls off with aplomb. Carey has long been one of my favourite authors and so I’ll definitely be snapping this up first chance I get.

Pre-order here.

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

The sequel to 2018’s Foundryside, this is a must for those of you who, like me, are fans of the video game series Thief. I loved the introduction to this steam-punky world, run by runes and powerful guilds who are constantly battling for supremacy and Sancia, a gifted thief, is the perfect protagonist to sneak among all their goings-on. The first had great action, believable characters and some top-notch world building, the sequel, I’m sure, will be no different.

Pre-order here.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

It seems like forever since Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell came out (oh, wait, it was!) so it’s very exciting that Susanna Clarke has a new book coming out this Autumn. No idea what it’s about! They’re keeping that underwraps, but I will be there for it.

Pre-order here.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

I am always home for some Weird Fiction. N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy was one of the most lauded SFF series of the last decade with multiple wins and nominations for awards (and with good reason) so it’s exciting that she’s starting this decade with something new. The author reviews are looking good (Neil Gaiman has already chimed in) and this tale about New York seems right up my alley.

Pre-order here.

The Deep by Alma Katsu

Let’s be honest, when the first line of your pitch to me is ‘Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic’ then you’ll get the Futurama ‘Take my money’ gif in response. Set during World War One, a survivor of the Titanic, working on the sister ship Brittanica, now a hospital ship, finds that whatever strange occurrences happened on Titanic haven’t finished with her yet. I am so here for this book I’ve already requested it on Netgalley and it has some amazing author reviews from the likes of Sarah Pinborough, Josh Malerman and Paul Tremblay.

Pre-order here.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stu Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was an amazing debut. Love it or loathe the concept (and I loved it), what Stu Turton did with it was undeniably a work of genius and I loved curling up with this book over a Christmas holiday in Donegal. Now Stu has a new book coming, it’s set at sea, there are detectives, demons, mystery… I feel that sofa in Donegal calling me again!

Pre-order here.

So that’s it. As I’ve said, I have my own new book coming out in ebook and audio this year. It’s currently slated for June and I’ll have more to tell you about it in the coming months. In the meantime, you can check out my debut, The End of the Line which is currently only £1.99 in ebook.

Get in touch with me on Twitter and let me know what other books I should be looking out for.

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.