Guest Post by crime writer SJI Holliday: The Long and Short of It

Willow Walk cover - medium

Today I’m handing over the reins at CTG HQ to my fabulous crime writer pal, SJI Holliday.

Over to you, Susi …

I’ve always been a big fan of short stories, writing hundreds of them before finally completing my first novel. There are pros and cons of starting with short stories when you’re beginning your new life as a writer. They help you edit, and stop you from overwriting – when a piece has word count of 1000, 2000, 3000 words, you can’t afford to waste them – you need the whole story to be told in that space so there’s no room for flabby prose. Also, entering competitions gets you used to dealing with deadlines, and the publications that ask for things to be sent in specific formats, gets you ready or working with an editor. Sort of. On the downside, when the longest thing you’ve written is 5000 words, a novel of 75k or more can be daunting. It took me a while to make the transition, and now, sadly, I have less time to write shorts, and I while I used to be brimming with ideas for short, snappy pieces, now I think of all my ideas as novels…

Anyway, the last proper short story I wrote was the one I sent to the very first CWA Margery Allingham comp in 2014 – quite a big deal, with a huge cash prize and the winner announced at CrimeFest. The brief was to write to Margery’s specification…

The Mystery remains box-shaped, at once a prison and a refuge. Its four walls are, roughly, a Crime, a Mystery, an Enquiry and a Conclusion with an Element of Satisfaction in it.’

My first novel, Black Wood, was out on submission, and I wasn’t ready to write another one yet, so I wrote a story about what my main character, Sergeant Davie Gray, got up to after the book ended… before he got embroiled in the next one. I sent him on holiday to Brighton for a week in the sun… some much needed relaxation after the terrible events that had recently befallen his home town. Only it didn’t work out like that. He barely had time to breathe in some refreshing sea air when before he got mixed up in a murder case that he could really do without. It was originally titled ‘Home from Home’ and it was shortlisted in the completion – an achievement I am still very proud of. It’s very hard to get noticed in the short story world, so if you write them, keep going – you’ll get there.

So I thought that now was a good time to release the story into the world – to whet your appetite before Willow Walk comes out in May. Poor Davie. I do make life hard for him. Wrack Line is a subscriber only short story – you give me your email, I send it to you on 18th March – along with an exclusive preview of Willow Walk. That’s it. Oh, and if you’re not sure what a ‘wrack line’ is – you’ll find out in the story…

Click here to sign up to receive the short story and preview – I don’t send out many newsletters, but when I do, they include book giveaways and lots of other cool bookish things – chocolate, notebooks, signed postcards… even jewellery! I’ll soon be announcing a draw for a signed copy of Willow Walk too…


Be sure to sign up for Susi’s newsletter because, trust me, you’ll not want to miss the chance to read Wrack Line. Sign up for it here –

You can find out more about Susi and her books by hopping over to her website at following her on Twitter @SJIHolliday, and checking out her Facebook page at

To buy Black Wood from Amazon click here –

To pre-order Willow Walk click here – (pre-order for kindle will appear on 18th March)


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