Willow Walk is here . . .

It’s a cheers from Leo, and a cheers from me!

Happy eBook release day to me! Willow Walk is out NOW (this is both very exciting and very terrifying!) To celebrate release day, I am doing a Q&A on twitter with another four BritCrime authors who have books out today: Mark Billingham, Cal Moriarty, Steven Dunne and Chris Ewan. You can tweet us your Qs using the hashtag #CrimeFive and we will answer them from 5pm. You can also find me over at Jane Isaac’s blog today, Rebecca Bradley’s tomorrow and Anne Cater’s on Saturday.

One of the biggest things I learned from the release of Black Wood is just how important reviews are. Reviews help get a book noticed, and I read somewhere recently that 50 reviews on Amazon really helps get the book into their algorithms, so it is shared more. Obviously I want everyone to find my book – so if you read it, please review on Amazon, Goodreads and any other places that do reviews – they really help! One of my fab blogger friends, Vicki, has been campaigning on twitter recently, encouraging people to write reviews and to cherish books – both sentiments I agree with entirety – you can read about it HERE

Anyway, enough about the book – it’s out there now… and I am dying to know what you all think of it! FYI – Black Wood reached #14 in the overall kindle chart, and #1 in psychological, Scottish and several other categories. I wonder how Willow Walk will do?!

P.S. I had a fantastic time at Newcastle Noir last weekend – there are a few photos HERE

If you want to get in touch – you can comment below, or find me on TWITTER or FACEBOOK

Next stop: Crimefest (Bristol)

Three weeks to go… That came around fast!

This is how Willow Walk was sent out to bloggers - can't wait to hear what they thought of it!

This is how Willow Walk was sent out to bloggers. I can’t wait to hear what they thought of it! (Although I am slightly terrified too…)

Lately it feels like I’ve barely had time to breathe, with so much going on – travelling, working, writing, prepping things for the release of Willow Walk. It was only when I saw that some other authors (*cough* Mark Billingham… and Steven Dunne) mentioning their 5th May release dates that I realised it is only THREE WEEKS until Willow Walk comes out in eBook.

Shiiiitttt – that came around fast!!

How do I feel?

Well, thankfully, being so busy with everything else has kept my mind of it – but when I sit down to stare out of the window and think… (I am currently writing BOOK 3 (aka The Damselfly), therefore there is always an excuse to do anything else but that. As much as I love writing, it never really gets any easier – the ideas come thick and fast, but sitting down to write can be a struggle. As any writer knows, the words in your head are perfect – why don’t they come out like that on the page?!) – I start to think about what it was like when Black Wood came out.

Gulp!

That sheer terror that everyone is going to hate it, that I’ll be battered by awful reviews… that I’ll want to crawl into a hole and hide. As it happened, not everyone hated Black Wood. In fact, a lot of people loved it – and those people are looking forward to the next one… and also, I hope, I might attract some new readers for this one too – although the books share the same setting and have some characters that overlap, they are very different and can be read as standalones. So – maybe you didn’t like Black Wood, maybe it wasn’t your thing. Doesn’t mean you won’t like the next one 🙂

It is VERY different. I know pride is a sin and all that, but I am very proud of it, and of the story – which didn’t have any origins in true-life at all – just some random ‘what if’s’ and ideas to mix things up a little bit in the broad genre that comes under the umbrella of ‘psychological’. Yes, there is a somewhat feisty female lead, yes there is a toxic relationship. But definitely not the type you might be expecting…

Oh, and my mum loved it. I don’t think I can get any higher praise Well, except for the cover quote – from one of my writing heroes, Sharon Bolton (cue massive fangirl moment) who describes it as ‘Creepy and Compelling’ and David Mark, who said it was ‘Dark as a smoker’s lung’ and all the lovely words inside (and on the back of) the cover from my early readers (authors and bloggers) who have been so supportive. I can’t thank them enough ❤

You can pre-order your ebook now, and you’ll get it on 5th May:

And remember, you can still sign-up for your free short story (and your sneak peek of Willow Walk before it comes out)

For those who still love a paperback – it will hit shops on 10th June – details of a special giveaway and plans for my launch(es) to follow soon 🙂

Oh, and I have read some brilliant books recently – I’ll share them with you very soon!

My first author events

I’ve been pretty busy since my last post, despite being on ‘holiday’ from work (i.e. waiting for a new project). As well as working on book 2 (of which I have made some progress, and shifted to a more sensible deadline of the end of June), I’ve had my first two author events. Exciting!

The first one was online – where I took part in THE Book Club‘s first ever Book of the Month event. Black Wood was chosen by the readers, who first selected the genre (psychological), then the book – I was up against Mel Sherratt and Megan Abbott, and in the end it was a very close thing!

Where I won by a mere 6 votes!

Where I won by a mere 6 votes!

A Q&A was held on 30th April (after a month, where the members of the club had to download and read my book) and then the fun began. I say fun, it was 5h of hard work, as hundreds of readers left comments, feedback and questions and I had to keep up with it all, discussing the book not only with those who enjoyed it, but those who didn’t. I did three competitions – one to win a signed book, one for a tote bag and the third for a character name in my next novel. Overall, it was great fun but not for the faint hearted – but what it taught me (apart from the fact that most of these readers were used to reading far gorier books than mine) is that people who might not like my book might still like me, so I think I managed to convert some detractors who are now looking forward to the next book. From the feedback received, i think the readers really enjoyed it too.

* * *

Then came my first real life event – a panel at Newcastle Noir over the bank holiday weekend.

This was held at the historic Lit and Phil building in Newcastle, which has the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen. This is me outside 🙂 I didn’t take any photos inside, but there are some on their website here.

Me on the programme!

Me on the programme!

I arrived on Saturday afternoon, and after meeting up with some of the other authors, attended an event that is always worth seeing – Mark Billingham and Martyn Waites in Conversation. I’ve seen these two before, and I love the way they use their skills as actors and comedians to talk about their lives and their books in the most hilarious of ways. That evening, it was a night out with the other authors (again!). Yes, it was a late one.

Music, beer and conversation in a classic venue

Music, beer and conversation in a classic venue

The next day, we had a quiet morning, before having Sunday lunch and on to the next event – Steve Cavanagh, Clare Donoghue and Peter Murphy. This was a fantastic panel about the legal profession and how these authors have used it in their books. Steve, in particular, was hilarious – especially as he told us he only became a lawyer as he joined the wrong queue at university!

It was great to see my books on display at the shop run by Helen from Forum Books

Then it was off to prepare for the last panel of the weekend… The Girls! Me, Eva Dolan, Susan Wilkins and Kati Hiekkapelto, chaired by Sarah Ward.

I wasn’t really nervous at all, until I sat down and looked at the audience while Jacky, the organiser, sorted out the microphones etc. Once I started though, it was easy to be led along by the excellent questions from Sarah and the responses from the other panelists. We all got on well and seemed to cover a variety of issues, keeping things entertaining by quips from Eva Dolan – who was asked at the end if she’d ever considered switching from crime to comedy! The weekend was topped off with a trip to another bar, and a late night sausage roll from Greggs… only in Newcastle!

I loved the whole event and it was great meeting up with authors, reviews and readers – only sorry I missed the other panels, I will definitely go back next year. My first two events were a great success – and I can’t wait for the next one – Crimefest in Bristol, next weekend!

Sam Alexander is… Paul Johnston!

After weeks of torture from Arcadia Books and the #WhoIsSamAlexander campaign, the author was finally revealed yesterday on the Bloody Scotland website – cue much ‘ah, I should’ve guessed’ shouts from the crime writing readers and writers who failed to get it right 🙂

Sam Alexander is none other than CWA Dagger Award winner Paul Johnston, author of three bestselling series of crime novels, including Greek detective Mavros.

Bloody Scotland will be hosting Sam Alexander aka Paul Johnston at an exclusive event during Book Week Scotland 2014 in November. You can read the full press release here.

Sam… Paul… (Pam?!) has kindly supplied some further info on some of his cryptic answers from last week’s interview below:

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Other authors I was pleased to be identified with include: William McIlvanney, Sophie Hannah, Laura Wilson, Laura Lippman, Mo Hayder, Mark Billingham, Martyn Waites, Stav Sherez (the last three kept shtum, but Stav forgot and almost blew it…), John Connolly, Denise Mina, Helen Fielding, Irvine Welsh, Lee Child, Colin Dexter and AL Kennedy. Not so keen on Agatha Christie (didn’t you know? She’s living in a grace and favour apartment in Buckingham Palace). Or Stephanie Meyer, though to be fair I’m hardly her target audience. Arthur Conan Doyle’s my hero and, being a spiritualist/ spirit, he did nudge my elbow a few times, but he was revolted by the sex and violence (this from an author who cut off an engineer’s thumb and sent a snake through a hole into a young lady’s bedroom…)

– It was also pleasing that there was a pretty much equal split between female and male authors. I was paranoid that my female characters weren’t convincing.

– The person who suggested Jeffrey Archer also guessed who I was. Her reward is to be killed in the sequel to Carnal Acts. [*evil laughter* – SJIH]

Although there have been cops in all three of my previous series, Quint Dalrymple, Alex Mavros and Matt Wells are basically private eyes (Wells is a crime novelist, for pity’s sake…). So tackling the police procedural was a big issue. It was why I invented Corham and the new force – so I could set up a world that isn’t quite ours. That didn’t stop a particularly bilious critic attacking me for getting dog licences wrong. I’m sorry, in my fictional world they still exist. (Neat get-out clause, non?)

Cancer – I’ve had surgery and other therapy three times, so Heck’s a wimp.

Rugby – I was a keen player when I was young and have mentioned the sport in other novels.

Albanians – having spent much of my time in Greece, I’ve met plenty of Albanian immigrants and have educated myself about their country. Of course, only very few Albanians are gangsters – just as well, as the Albanian clan-based mob is seen as more vicious than the Italian equivalent. Matt Wells, crime novelist hero of my third series (The Death List etc), wrote a series starring an Albanian detective called Zog Hadzhi. Amazingly, it wasn’t a success.

Scotland – mentioned since I’m from Edinburgh (in England, according to Glaswegians). Some people spotted the Scottish link and went through every Scottish writer they could think of. Except moi. (Apart from a couple of bright sparks, including the doomed individual mentioned above.) Until earlier this year we had a family house in the Scottish borders, so visiting Northumbria was easy.

People trafficking – it’s a major contemporary social problem, but I think I was also drawn to it because I’ve spent so much time abroad. Clue – ‘Do they miss home?’ When you’re away from your place of birth, you automatically start to think about your ties to it.

I do share some qualities with Joni and Heck, though probably more with the latter. I enjoyed writing Joni – apart from the paranoia mentioned above – because I was able to combine my experience of women I’ve known plus use my imagination. Oh, and nick stuff from female cops in other people’s novels. Actually, I didn’t do much of the latter – I wanted to go my own way. And then there’s the wish fulfilment. I wish I’d been as good a rugby player as Heck (I was a fly boy out on the wing, carefully avoiding the hard-man stuff), I wish I’d won an athletics blue (I didn’t have the nerve to go for a trial, even though I’d been a reasonable long jumper and sprinter at school); and I wish I had their integrity. For good reason, readers like cops in leading roles to have a coherent system of ethics. Those of us who only write about them can be much less ‘good’.

More people were involved in the writing process – this refers to the fact that I recently finished a PhD in creative writing at St Andrews University, and Carnal Acts was the novel that I submitted. Well, a third of it – the rest of the thesis consisted of me arguing myself in circles about the main issues in the book; the so-called critical section. So I went into great detail about the issues of pseudonym, plot, character, genre, gender, the body, race and class. Hope that isn’t too obvious in the novel… The book’s dedicated to my professor Gill Plain. She kept me right, especially on issues of gender, the body and race. I learned a huge amount from her and her colleagues and think I’m a much better writer since doing the PhD.

The main structural difference between Carnal Acts and all the other novels I’ve written is the short chapters. That didn’t happen till the second draft. I – and my agent and my prof – felt the story wasn’t moving quickly enough and brief, filmic scenes seemed to do the trick. Let’s hope a producer picks the book up… [I hope so too! – SJIH]

The lawnmower quote – it’s from the old, good Genesis (with Peter Gabriel), a song called ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ – I mentioned it as a tip of the hat to my pal Mark Billingham, who’s an even bigger fan than I am. The lyrics are barking, which is what we want…

The sequel to Carnal Acts has now been commissioned by Arcadia Books – see what a good publicity campaign can do! It’ll be out next July (if I manage to write it in time…)

Actually, I don’t mind Swedish meatballs. [Glad to hear it – SJIH]

Yes! I’m Paul Johnston. ‘No, I’m Paul Johnston and so’s my wife.’ Actually, I like having two writing personas. Hang on, why stop there? Stand by for persona number 3 – I’ve always wanted to write full blown science fiction. As Margaret Wells (got to let my daughter Maggie have a crack of the pseudonym whip – ow – since my son’s name is Alexander.) Hello? Arcadia Books? Can you hear me?

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Thank you, Paul – I hope Carnal Acts continues to fly off the shelves 🙂

Find out more about Paul at his website: www.paul-johnston.co.uk. He can also be found on twitter.

The 'Write' Place

Having the right place to write is the only way you’re ever going to get anything written, right? Wrong…

So where do you write? At a desk? On the train? In the airing cupboard? This week’s guest post comes from the luxury writing environment of Keith B Walters, where we find out that it’s really not that simple…

My daughter just came into the room before I finished typing that title – which in many ways illustrates just how difficult I find it with a young family to find the right place (not mention the right time) to write. Okay, so it’s nearly 10pm on a Sunday night and she should be in bed ready for school tomorrow – but the downfall of snow has put paid to that theory this particular evening. She did, however, have to open a door to find me. After many years of moving my working and writing space around my home, I have settled in half of our dining room to give me room, and that much welcomed door I mentioned.

For me, setting up places to work in and around my home has got to have been the biggest form of procrastination I have ever entered into, and I don’t even want to think about the hours lost making working spaces that could have been spent writing.

I’ve always made spaces to write, to draw, or to paint – whatever the current project is and at all stages of my life. When I lived with my parents I had a large semi-circular desk top made to fill the bay window of my room – at that time I was into movie special effects and horror fiction writing, so the large desk top was often filled with all manner of horrible projects at various stages – making many wonder just how I slept in that room.

When the current Mrs W and I moved into our first flat, I earmarked the spare bedroom, with a flat-pack Ikea desk set-up which served for my day job (as a Sales Manager I have been home-based for many years) and my then horror fanzine writing in the evenings and weekends.

I soon discovered that the small room wasn’t really big enough though, and so installed a loft ladder and made a makeshift den in the loft space above our kitchen table where I could type stories and reviews on an old Amstrad 9512 computer (Lord Sugar would have been impressed).

And then it was the move to our house where (in the thirteen years we have been living here) I would guess I have had about seven areas of working. I set up a small Argos desk in one of the alcoves of the living room – too noisy when the children came along and then a desk in the dining room (where it was often too cold to work). A few years back we had the loft converted to give us extra space and I adjusted the plans to give a small office space on the landing between the staircases just enough for a desk and chair (oh, and my bookcases) and I was happy there for quite some time – but then I outgrew that too. And, always at the back of my mind was that I needed somewhere to hide away, to lock out all distractions, all noise (if possible) – then, and only then (I foolishly thought) the magic would happen and I would finally write THAT novel.

My dear Nan left me some money when she passed away and that, I decided, was the time to do what I had always wanted, which was to build a special place, a shed at the end of the garden, a place just for me, for my books and for my writing. The shed was ordered and, over the course of a weekend and with help from my Dad, was built and decorated – noticeboards, electricity, a small desk and chair, a rug (because it really ties the room together – Lebowski fans) and then I was good to go!

Keith's Writing Shed

Well, that was the plan….but then it rained, it rained a lot. And then the kids wanted help with homework after school and started to go to bed later and, before I knew it, it was always after 9pm before I could even contemplate skulking up the garden path in the dark and the wet and the with a laptop under my arm to start anything and, did I mention, I was tired?

And so, although my lovely little writing shed is there, and I do intend to get a lot of use out of it someday, for now I have remained inside – returned to the dining room, another new desk (a nice one from Staples this time with one tower of drawers for work related stuff and the other for writing stuff), and I close the door when I want to get things done.

All that said, and despite the fact that I write mainly here, in this one place, I have come to terms that, in order to get things done, I am having to be much more flexible with my writing space. I now carry a notebook at all times at work, I write whilst on trains, I tap on an ipad if I get ideas in bed, tape them or record them on my phone if out and without paper for any reason. I use coffee breaks when out at work to split between half working on work emails and then some time to write some notes on whatever my current project is.

I kick myself often when I see professional writers’ working spaces on television shows or in magazines – they are rarely the huge and expensive looking book-lined offices you might expect and that has helped me realise that the ‘write’ place is just the place that’s right for you and it’s the words and the work that matter, wherever you can get them down.

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About Keith

Keith B Walters has been dabbling with horror and crime fiction for some years, mainly writing about other people’s writing until recently; although he’s always tried to get some of his own work done when time permits.  He initially interviewed horror authors and actors, before branching into ‘a life more crime’ – inspired in a big way by a Crime Writing Masterclass run by Minette Walters (no relation) and Mark Billingham several years ago at the London Book Fair.  A keen blogger, he has attended recordings of the TV Book Club, the launch of World Book Night and, for the last two years, has been ‘Blogger in Residence’ at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. He has stories in two collections: Once Upon A Time: A Collection of Unexpected Fairytales and Off the Record 2: At the Movies.

You can find him online at his two blogs:

Keith has recently released two short story collections:

  • DEADLINE: Seven stories featuring his character Detective Inspector George Haven
  • GOOD FOR ONE FARE:  a collection of crime, supernatural and horror tales

And also a children’s book called Neverville

You can also find him on twitter @keithbwalters