surrey fest 2016

Had a scout about and found these interesting books/writing/authors festivals coming up in the merry – and hopefully warmer – month of May.

St Ives Literature Festival

What’s not to like about a few days down in St Ives? Poetry, short stories and more. What I love about this event is that the website makes you feel welcome as a writer, and there is a chance to read a bit of work out in public – if you have the courage!

Swindon Literature Festival

Poetry Slam for those who love to perform their words, plus the legend that is Brian Blessed gives a talk. There’s a writers workshop on Saturday 14th May at this one too.

Surrey New Writers Workshop Day – 14th May

This is perfect for anyone starting out and looking for advice, tips, the harsh facts of the publishing industry and maybe a bit of inspiration. There’s a poetry stage session, plus a soiree at the end of the day – nothing like a soiree in the home counties now and then. I may wear my tweeds…

Meet Northern Crime Writers – Wallsend, Tyneside, 5th May 2016

A chance to meet northern crime writers, share tips, experience and listen to stories – plus it’s all free. Starts at 7pm by the way.

There’s also that mother of all festivals at Hay-On-Wye, but you know what? They have the PR thing well sewn up, so they don’t need any plugs from me.

al dakar press 2 smallPosted by Alastair Walker

My books & blurb are on Author Central. 






Reblogged – Good points here about reviews, the good, bad & ugly, plus how to deal with them ;-)) – AW

I read something recently that made me chuckle. It was a how-to article about ways to preview an Amazon e-book before purchasing. The Look Inside feature was outlined as well as the option to downl…

Source: The Negative Book Review and Appropriate Author Reactions

Traditional romance, hospital based drama with the feel-good factor.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars Out of 5

There are millions of readers who want an escape from the generally disappointing reality of modern life and this book is a perfect example of how authors can deliver those fleeting moments. Since Jane Austen penned Pride & Prejudice, arguably THE template for romantic fiction, the magic recipe of dashingly handsome, wealthy hero, matched with poor but feisty heroine, mixed against a backdrop of misunderstandings, has proved a winner.

ideal girl cover 1

O’Brien sets the mood of the piece right from the start, with our heroine being a blend of Bridget Jones, Pollyanna and Nurse Duffy from BBC’s Casualty series. She isn’t a supermodel skinny bombshell, but a `girl-next-door’ type of young woman, just finishing her student nurse training. There’s a strident ward sister, a best friend who is more confident, gorgeous and sexually experienced than the heroine, and there’s Mitch, the dashing, Morgan sports car driving, tousle-haired bit of hot stuff, wandering the corridors with a bemused look on his face, as women repeatedly swoon at his feet.

The book isn’t ground-breaking, and although it is set in the present day, it feels like something from the 1960s. There are no violent punch-ups in A&E at the weekends, no dangerously disturbed drug addicts nicking the opiates or terror threats affecting anyone’s daily routine. Ideal Girl is an antidote to modern life, not a prism reflecting it. There’s nothing wrong with that and in many ways, the book has a great deal of old fashioned charm, which makes it a comforting read for anyone who still believes in true love, that lasts a lifetime, and that virgins should wait for `Mr Right.’

There are a few typos here and there, and I’d be the first to admit that my work has them too. Nobody’s perfect. But the overall tone, pace, plot structure and character development is all well thought out, and fluently written. You can tell O’Brien loves Dublin, and more importantly, loves her characters. One mechanism that really works very well is the way O’Brien switches inner monologues from hero to heroine, immediately after various awkward conversations.

This device lets the reader get into the heads of the two main characters, feel their confusion, the surging emotions, the love blossoming. That is point of romantic fiction; love is what makes us human, and deep down, all of us want a happy ending.

Ideal Girl is on the Amazon thing, right here.

Authors’ Compass was a day for writers, pure and simple. Every speaker had plenty of insight to offer, notes on bad publishing contracts, and a dozen different ideas for getting the best from social media.

authors c one

There were solo speakers, a duo discussing author rights, and two excellent multi-speaker panel sessions in the afternoon, with plenty of time for questions from the writers gathered at the Anthony Burgess Foundation building, located just round the corner from Manchester’s Oxford Road station.

So what did I learn? Here are what Americans like to call `my takeaways’ from Authors’ Compass.

  1. Kate Harrison proves that being a `hybrid’ author is probably the only way you can make a living – a good living – from being a writer. Self publishing her 5:2 diet book was the smartest move she made, even though she had a `proper’ publishing contract at the time. Being first to market was crucial to the book’s success.
  2. Self publishing means being a pro, setting a high standard in every aspect of your book. Even if you do have a day job, family, pet hamsters to feed etc you have to do it right; editing, cover, proofing, PR, marketing etc. There are one million – yes ONE MILLION – books self published on Amazon USA each year. Your magnum opus is a needle in a haystack, so raise the bar baby!
  3. Colouring books may well be top sellers, but anyone who authors one is a shameless whore, pandering to infantile kidults who cannot face the real world. Actually, that’s not a takeaway, just me ranting…I’ve had a Snickers, let’s move on.
  4. Your self published book cover design needs to be original, professional and set the tone of the book. It should never have cliches like headless historical bodice-ripping women, man with gun running over hill, pinky-purple hues denoting chick-lit or a button-hole graphic that looks like lady-parts. Yep, someone did the fanny button book cover thing. No really, they did. Not even a colouring book either…
  5. If marketing yourself isn’t your thing, then consider getting some professional help because a. it lets you get on with writing and b. they may well be better at the whole website/blogging/Twitter/book launch thing that you. Yes it costs money, but anything truly valuable always costs money – do I give away free gold in my jewellers shop?
  6. Try focusing on just one or two social media channels. You can easily `scatter gun’ yourself across LinkedIn, FB, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, Tumblr, You Tube and many more. You Tube is arguably the best, so long as you are OK chatting away on camera – because it can build you, the author, as a real person and a brand in a way no other social platform can match – ask any superstar vlogger..

meme vlog craZY

There was more of course. More tips and advice, plus several interesting questions from the audience, any of which could have sparked a half hour round table chat. Oh and the lunchtime buffet was ace too.



Here are some facts every author should know.

The Society of Authors will check your publishing contract, for free, if you’re a member. That could save you from signing away the global merchandising/movie rights to your gender fluid vampire dragon fantasy trilogy; Sorcha The Scorcher. You should also make sure there is a clause which reverts ALL rights back to you, the author, if the publisher makes your title out of print and does sweet FA with it for say five years or so.

Audiobook sales are rising and the average listening time is around three hours. This trend seems to be cutting overall novel word count down, along with the self-pub platforms, which also tend to feature lots of YA/sci-fi/fantasy novellas (35-45K words) and three-parters, which are cheaper to buy as paperbacks on Amazon due to the lower word count.

There’s a handy FREE cover design site called, which lets you play around with words and images in a really intuitive, easy, novice-friendly way. Give it a try, it’s fun.

alt pepp cover design canva 1 med


Consider Crowdfunding as a route to publication.

Dan from Unbound had the audience riveted with his story of how authors have raised anything from £3K to £30K, to get their books edited, proofed, designed, printed and marketed to bookshops. Yeah, as in REAL bricks n mortar bookshops. Holy EPOS-registered sales Batman!

Authors’ Compass was an illuminating event, with lots of light bulb moments. Knowledge is power, but it’s also inspiration too.

This is me on the Amazon thing btw😉

There are cases when the film adaptation is better than the book. That might sound harsh to writers, but even though I have managed to dredge a novel from my soul, I’d be the first to admit that a 6-part TV drama would probably tell the same story of The Pink Peppermint Lounge with less flannel, sharper dialogue and a sheer tension that an 84,000 word novel naturally lacks.

Here are a few examples from movie history, and the reasons why I reckon the movie trumps the book hands down.

Far From The Madding Crowd (1967 – Dir. John Schlesinger)

The Terence Stamp/Alan Bates/Julie Christie film is a visual feast, beautifully shot, with the landscape painted in colours and tones that ace Hardy’s descriptive powers any day of the week. Where Hardy’s Victorian plodding prose stifles the emotions, with its dull pace, and comical West Country accents, the film version trims everything down to its raw passion, and portrays the triumvirate of potential suitors with a wit, pathos, charm and economy of dialogue, that Hardy could never really pin down, in any of his works.

far from madding

The crucial difference between Hardy’s novel and the 60s classic film is accessibility. The book is a weary trudge through yards of prose, with lust, ambition and duplicity all buried beneath acres of drawn-out scene-setting, agricultural notes and Hardy’s obsession with Fate; the inexorable judgement and punishment for sins, that must befall nearly all his characters.

The film is a lighter, more intuitive affair and although it loses the viewer towards the end, where melodrama overtakes the beautiful mood, the dreamlike qualities of the piece give it a richness, a wonderful escapism that hooks you from the start. Most modern readers will find Hardy’s books tediously slow in places, but the 1967 film is a frothy, energetic and pacy delight; a concise re-telling of the same story, resplendent in the colours of the seasons and the seething emotions that lie buried under the waistcoats and petticoats of Victorian England.

In short, the movie defines the universal truth that nothing changes when it comes to affairs of the heart and the gift of love is a double-edged sword. It tells that eternal tale far better than Hardy for my money.

The Man Who Fell To Earth – (1976 Dir. Nic Roeg)

Walter Tevis’s novel is a basic `Jesus is an alien’ story, the staple of so many sci-fi stories. Although it’s well-written, and in some ways very plausible, the book never really develops the main female character beyond a gin-soaked caricature and TJ Newton comes across as a slightly annoying superior being, rather than the hip, in-a-big-hurry, sharp-suited megalomaniac businessman than Bowie nails down so perfectly in the movie.

man who fell to

The book is really a stretched out short story, and it shows in many sections, with dreary descriptions of drinking sessions and a laboured, recurring theme of CIA/FBI Cold War type spying and snooping. It betrays Tevis’s own fears about how America is becoming a kind of Orwellian state, with the Soviets as the eternal enemy and every `alien,’ in other words, every visitor to the USA, a suspected spy.

In the movie, Roeg asks the viewer several more important, and bigger questions. What makes us human, or feel like strangers in a strange land? The wonderful editing of the film suggests TJ Newton’s body is ageing at a different rate to everyone else, but despite his longevity, he is relentlessly running out of time to save his family back on his home planet. The sub-plots about consumerism, CIA murders, torture and the murky marriage between spy agencies and corporate America are all jump-cut to perfection by Roeg, and acted out with pathos and wanton sexuality by Bowie and Candy Clark, who plays the main love interest and Newton’s `Earth Wife.’

The tragic ending in the movie is far superior to Tevis’s blinding of the alien, but it is the sheer collage of images, flashbacks, flash-forwards and overwhelming sense of isolation and helpless despair, that reels you into Roeg’s stunning, cathartic, requiem for religion.

bowie newton

In the end, humanity simply cannot accept its own salvation, even when it appears in the form of the coolest alien rock star on the planet and that my friends, is what makes this film such a fantastic piece of script writing. Not one frame of celluloid is wasted, every moment is an unsettling step into the worldview of an outsider; wide-eyed with fear and fascination at our vibrant, addictive and potentially loving lives.

Don’t waste your time with the book, watch the film again, on as big a screen as possible. It is a masterpiece.






  I’ve signed up for Authors Compass in Manchester, which takes place this Saturday 23rd April – yes, Bill Shakespeare’s birthday!

It’s a day full of speakers: scriptwriters, book rights specialists, self published writers, marketing experts, editors, and more. A chance to network and learn a few tips. 

Taking place at the Anthony Burgess Foundation, Chorlton Mill in Manchester, the event starts at ten a.m. And runs until 4.30. There’s an after party too :))

  I’ll be tweeting a few photos and nuggets of wisdom, plus if you’re there on the day say hello ! 

mk 1 capri

Think about great movies like John Carpenter’s `Christine,’ or the BBC TV series, Life On Mars. The cars help define the era, and also tell you something about the characters immediately.

Cars feature in my novels and stories for two reasons; one, I love them, as I used to test drive them for a part of my living as a freelance writer and secondly, I reckon they act as a big flag, a major clue for the reader, when they want to get a handle on what type of dialogue, or actions, they can expect from an individual character.

If I’m setting a scene in the 70s then I’m going to use a Capri as the transport for a Jack the Lad, a rough `n’ ready younger guy, who bought the `poor man’s Mustang’ because he wanted to pull girls, play Led Zeppelin on an eight track and race his mates back home from a country pub. The feel of the vinyl roof, the glow of the six-clock dashboard, the low-slung vinyl seats, maybe a can of Cossack hair spray in the glove box – all part of the experience for Capri guys.

In the Pink Peppermint Lounge I give adulterous Angie a bright red Audi, as she’s a dangerous woman and the car is as bold a statement as her lipstick, or the expensive lingerie she chooses for her liaison with her married lover.

bmw yellow m sport

The tricky, wheeler-dealer Martin Dooley, who acts as the buyer for an offshore casino/property investment group, drives a bright yellow BMW M Sport, a car that says `Look at me, I’ve made it and I’m in a hurry to make even more money, so get out of my way.’ I mean, just look at it…it’s an angry wasp with wheels.

Meanwhile, retired Vera, nursing her ill mother and still searching for love at the Peppermint’s Singles Nites, trundles around in a down-at-heel Ford Fiesta. Cars fascinate me, and help colour in the characters, as well as move the action scenes along.

But if you want me to write about camshafts, in-car entertainment systems and EGR valves again, then please pay me in gold bars. Making that stuff interesting is hard graft.

Alastair is currently parked, along with his books, at Amazon’s Author Central