I can officially announce that Burning Chair Publishing have offered me a publishing contract for the second book in my YA fantasy series.
On 14th September, I happily emailed my signed publishing contract back to Burning Chair and began the process of editing my manuscript after receiving feedback from Pete and Si.
So what’s the process and the plan for Book 2 from here?
What I’m doing at the moment is editing my novel in response to Pete and Si’s feedback. Once finished, I’ll email that off to Burning Chair (version 2).
As you can see, my novel is still known as Book 2. I need to come up with a book title.
Burning Chair will create a developmental edit document and email it back to me.
I’ll then edit my manuscript and email it back to them (version 3).
Burning Chair will carry out a copy edit to check for inconsistencies.
More editing on my part, then back to Burning Chair (version 4).
In discussion with Burning Chair, the book cover design process will begin.
Once the content of the manuscript is agreed on and we have a book cover, Book 2 will be sent out to beta readers.
With the feedback from the beta readers, I’ll make final changes to my novel (version 5).
The plan is to publish Book 2 at the start of 2021, unless we can get through the whole process above in time for publication in mid November (who knows?).
What can you expect from Book 2?
Steve and his friends will be forced to face the consequences of their actions in Haven Wakes. The world of the Haven Chronicles series – both magical and work-a-day – will be expanded beyond the city of Caercester. A new threat will raise its head, dragging Steve and the others back into danger.
If I haven’t mentioned it enough already, my debut novel Haven Wakes was launched by the wonderful Burning Chair Publishing last year.
They’re busy people with all their 2020 book launches, but I finally managed to catch up with Pete and Si for a chat and ask them to share their writerly/publish-y knowledge.
Here’s what we talked about.
Who are the faces behind Burning Chair Publishing?
Pete: I’ve been writing stories ever since I can remember, getting bitten by the bug when I won some children’s writing contest for my local paper, the Wrexham Leader. I kept plugging away, although as I grew older life kind of got in the way. But then I jumped on the self-publishing wagon in the early days of Kindle publishing – my first book, The Wedding Speech Manual, was released in 2012, and other books followed. I learnt the ropes as an indie author, gobbling up everything I could learn from all the amazing authors out there.
Si: The first book I fell in love with was Great Expectations which showed me the expanse of the world, which as an 11 year old boy in 1980s Glasgow really opened my eyes. So I read and read and then I wanted to write. Then I met Pete and realised that if an idiot like Pete could be published then maybe there was hope for me…!
Tell us a little about Burning Chair Publishing
Pete: I’ll hand this one off to Si to kick off with – he’s
much more the silver-tongued schmoozer out of the two of us…
Pete, I think… We have always been extremely passionate about books, both as
authors and readers, and the one thing we kept seeing, time and again, was that
great stories were being lost to the world because they couldn’t find the right
huge fans of the self-publishing and indie publishing revolution: naturally,
because we have been on that side of the fence for a long time. There are some
great, cutting-edge things being done by indies which the larger and more
established publishers don’t seem to be getting to grips with. We felt that
there was a space in the market for a publisher which took the best of indie
publishing—the nimbleness, the cutting-edge marketing, the author-centric
model—while also providing authors with all the backing and support (financial
and otherwise) which they’d expect from a publishing deal.
Pete: Basically we wanted to create the sort of publisher we
always wished would sign us up.
That’s right. Our focus from the start has been on our authors and our readers:
we want to build a community of outstanding authors who are all invested in
each others’ success and who want to engage with their readers, getting the
best stories they possibly can out into the world.
Along with so many other great indie publishers, we see ourselves as disruptors. But, in a British sort of way, rather than shouting about it and banging the drum about how disruptive we are, we’re just quietly getting on with it. Polite disruption, if you will…
What part do you think independent publishers will play in the future of the publishing industry?
Si: Huge. All publishers have their priorities, driven by who runs them, who owns them, what overheads they need to cover… The big publishers, the so-called traditional houses, will always have a place, but what’s becoming very clear is by no means do they have a monopoly. There are some fantastic independent publishers out there, putting out some great books and discovering and giving voices to a load of authors who might otherwise have never been read.
What advantages do independent publishers have over the Big 5?
Pete: We’re a lot more nimble, for a start. We don’t have a
huge staff base with massive offices to pay for, so we’re able to make
decisions on the basis of what we love, rather than purely on what will give
the shareholders the biggest returns.
We’re therefore able to take more risks – while Big 5 publishers might often prefer to play it safe, indies can – and often do – take a punt on something that might not be immediately on vogue, or not written by a huge celebrity name, and so on.
What do you look for in a good story?
Si: A story that grips us, something that makes us simply
HAVE to read on.
Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect when you send us a
submission – we fully expect to do some editing and work with you on the novel
– but it should be as good as you can make it. Sloppy errors and unreadable
text will make it so much harder for us to want to read more.
Pete: But it’s also not just about the book and the story –
for us the author is just as important. We only work with people we like and
who are as passionate as we are about their story.
Any advice for writers who want to get their books published?
Pete: Write! Seriously, if you don’t write stuff down then you’re never going to have a story worth publishing. The more you write, the more you hone that skill, and the better you get. As someone once said: “You can’t edit a blank page.” (Don’t tell Si I’ve just quoted him…)
Si: Thanks Pete! Also, read loads. We don’t mean the
countless “how to” books on structure and so on. Whatever you’re interested in,
whatever you love reading, whatever genre you’re going to be writing in, read
everything you can. It will help your own writing no end.
And don’t take yourself too seriously. Seek out feedback
from likeminded people who will give you constructive criticism and listen to
And finally, and really importantly – avoid the sharks. Like
any industry there are loads of disreputable firms and individuals out there
who will take your money and give you very little in return. Our golden rule is
that money should flow from publishers to authors, not the other way round. So
if someone promises to publish your book in return for you paying them, then
run a mile!
It’s summer and time to get on with some holiday reading, so I thought I’d share what books I’ll be delving into for the next few weeks.
This is an anthology of shorts, collated to raise money for the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Appeal. It features a whole range of artwork, photography, poetry, and snippets of prose by some incredibly talented writers, plus a handful of short pieces by me too.
2020 may one day be considered the year that didn’t
happen. Everyone muddling though, making the best of each day. Everyone wanting
to help. Everyone wanting to make a difference.
This anthology is to help us remember that 2020 did happen and to provide everyone with an opportunity to help, and to make a difference.
My copy arrived in the post yesterday. If you’d like to get a copy for yourself, you can buy it here.
Roxie and Alfred by Nancy R Hinchliff
Written by my friend, Nancy R Hinchliff, Roxie and Alfred is a historical memoir which tells the story of her maternal grandparents. I’ve had the pleasure to read Nancy’s previous memoir, Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: An Innkeeper’s Tale so I can’t wait to get started on Roxie and Alfred.
The lives of Roxie and Alfred are about to change forever. Their relationship was already rocky from past transgressions. But now, moving from their safe but meager life on a farm in North Carolina to the thriving, gritty northern metropolis of Detroit, Michigan, at the height of Prohibition, they will face the criminal underbelly of the city, the hopelessness of the Great Depression of 1929, and the stress and loss of World War II. Their ability to successfully thrive while coping with adversity is the legacy they leave their extended family, who pick up where Roxie and Alfred leave off and take on life in the big city one day at a time.
Nancy was kind enough to supply me with a copy of Roxie and Alfred. You can buy your copy here.
I am Dust by Louise Beech
I came across this novel through an online book club. With a
haunted theatre, a murder to solve and three cursed teenagers, how could I not
be intrigued by I am Dust?
The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a
long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking
for her killer…
Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty
years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme
Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?
Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As
the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything
changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her
I’m at that exciting stage in writing Book 2 of the Haven
Chronicles where the first draft is almost finished.
I have a small number of chapters to write which will include a confrontation at sea and an escape for some of the characters. Within the next few weeks, I’ll be sending it off to Burning Chair. Fingers crossed they like it as much as Haven Wakes.
Or what readers have been saying about Haven Wakes.
I’ve had some brilliant book reviews over the last few weeks.
From Beccy11 on Amazon:
This is the first book in a new sci fi series and not only did I
absolutely love it, so did my 15 year old. The main character Steve is very
engaging and the story is well written. My son likened it to a robotic Harry
Potter – make of that what you will! A brilliant read – thank you.
From Sue Wallace on Goodreads:
I really enjoyed this book. Great story and some good characters. Looking forward to the next book.
Read all my Amazon UK reviews here and Goodreads reviews here.
Connect with me on social media
You can keep up with all my news and daily goings-on by connecting with me on social media. You might even see the occasional photo of my dog, Bailey.
I’d just finished the developmental edit of my debut novel Haven Wakes and forwarded it to the guys at Burning Chair.
My chatty muse had taken advantage of the fact that I’d finished my dev edit by throwing a new story idea at me.
I was using my daily dog walks to think over the next book in the Haven Chronicles series.
So I thought I’d repeat that this June and tell you what’s
happening in the Life of Fi.
We’re all there, aren’t we? Even though the COVID-19
lockdown has been eased in certain parts of the world, there’s no denying that
it’s still affecting us all.
Lockdown life for me actually isn’t that much different to
normal life. I work from home so that’s the same. My husband works from home,
so that’s the same too.
My teens aren’t at school and college at the moment but at 16 and 17 years old, they’re happy to amuse themselves. So short of not having to do a school run on a morning and in the afternoon, that hasn’t changed much for me either.
The main difference has been the fact that we can’t go to
see friends and family, and we’re missing our monthly visit to the cinema too.
Compared to some people in lockdown though, we are incredibly lucky and
grateful for it.
Oh, yeah, that book I’m working on…
Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles (still untitled) is coming
along well. I’m on the last few chapters of the first draft.
Today’s writing began like this,
Steve lay on the bed, the halter now loose around his
chest. His heart had only just begun to slow in its battering of his ribs. He
was aware that his eyes were uncomfortably wide, so he blinked them a couple of
times until they felt normal. He wanted to sit up, but he had serious doubts
whether the meal Jem had served them earlier would stay in his stomach. He felt
like he had just experienced the worst rollercoaster ride ever.
Once this draft is complete, I’ll spend a few weeks making sure that it works and polishing it to a writerly shine. Then it’ll be time to send it away to Burning Chair. Who knows if that paragraph above will survive the developmental edit?
Writing Book 2 has been a very different experience to writing Book 1 (Haven Wakes), so I’m a little nervous to see if Burning Chair like this one as much as they did the original book.
A Space of My Own
One benefit to having extra time at home is that I’ve finally managed to sort out my writing space. I now have a desk (rather than a dining table), a tidy surface to work and write at (instead of the entangled mess of wires, gadgets and paperwork that I had to cope with before), and a beautiful view of my garden.
You wouldn’t believe how much of a difference it makes to my
A new way to help Fellow Authors
Another benefit of the lockdown is that I’ve managed to
re-think my copywriting business. It began when a couple of author friends
moaned how difficult they found it to maintain a writerly social media
They didn’t know:
what to post,
how often to post,
how to build a following,
and most importantly, how to use their social
media to sell more books.
Since I landed my publishing deal with Burning Chair last
year, I’ve been on quite a journey learning exactly how to do all of the above,
so I thought why not share that information with other authors?
So starting this summer, I’ll be offering two writerly social media services. The first is a full social media service, writing and posting on behalf of authors. The second is a DIY social media consultation where I’ll have a friendly but informative chat with authors to help them put together a social media plan for themselves.
You can find more details over on my copywriting website here.
So that’s it. We’re all caught up now. How about you? What
news do you have to share?
And my first poetry prose and photography book: Mr. Sagittarius this year in February.
For me, the distinction between a writer and an author is the moment when you start offering your books for sale. So, I became a published author in 2017.
2. Tell me about your novel and poetry
Both of my published works include poetry. With The Curse of Time there are numerous short Tanka poems throughout the book. The majority of the poems act as an introduction to the mysterious aspect of each chapter, or puzzle piece as I like to call them. The Curse of Time will be a three part series. To date, I have published the first in the series but I hope to release book two later this year.
Mr. Sagittarius is a short compilation of poetry, short stories and original photography conveying thoughts and feelings about nature, the circle of life, sibling relationships, love and magic. It is an uplifting, sweet book.
3. What inspires you to write?
Everything and anything. Art, observing and listening to people, reading books, watching films, and walking in the natural world: trees, flowers, birds, crystals .
Becoming a writer has opened up my imagination to the world in the most extraordinary way. I doubt I will ever be the same again! I am so fortunate to have discovered this creative me.
4. How important was research to you when writing your novel?
Quite important, especially with The Curse of Time. I researched The Corpus Christi Chronophage time pieces – all three Chronophages – the grasshopper, the mythological fly and the dragon invented by Dr. John C. Taylor, OBE.
Also, it was
fascinating researching the properties of crystals. The main protagonist in The
Curse of Time, Amelina Scott wields crystal magic. My antagonist, Ryder is
a Shadow Demon, so naturally I had to research shadows too. It was intriguing
and fun to investigate local Cambridge ghost and folklore stories.
With Mr. Sagittarius, I was drawn to tales of myths and magic associated with dragonflies, trees and the natural world.
5. When and where do you write?
I write at home in my study.
The only exception to this is a weekend break spent in Brighton. I wrote in cafes and the library. It was a wonderful, carefree experience and I would love to do it again. I met loads of interesting and creative people to engage with. I’d highly recommend it!
Also, from time to time, I write in pubic places with the SCBWI – The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. They host Scrawl Crawls in Cambridge for local authors/artists in art galleries and museums. I’m not an artist but I find art inspiring. I don’t mind having a doodle if the mood takes me!
6. Plotter or pantser?
Pantser, I’ve never plotted anything. I write from a burst of imaginative ideas. I always promise to plot next time but it never happens!
7. Putting aside the writing for a minute, what is your favourite genre to read?
YA fantasy is my favourite genre to read. l read in a wide range of genres, including crime and thriller, horror, poetry, romance, and memoir.
8. Any advice for writers just starting out?
Be resilient, persist, write often, don’t throw away any writing that you aren’t happy with. Instead, keep those pieces as they may spark ideas for future writing projects.
Read, write and believe in yourself.
Join a writing group that offers critique partners. If you can’t attend a group in person participate in an online group.
Start a blog, join in writing prompts and try different styles of writing. I’d recommend writing flash fiction, as short pieces help to hone your writing skill. Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Literary Community offers 99 word writing prompts and masses of encouragement.
I write YA Fantasy/Paranormal novels, Horror/Ghost short stories and multi-genre flash fiction as well as micro poetry – haiku and Tanka. I share book reviews, poetry, flash fiction, photography, guest posts and inspirational details of my writing journey at my lovely blog home – Kyrosmagica.
Okay, hands up, I’m sure a lot of you already know how to
leave a reader review. In fact some of my marvellous readers have done just
A very good read especially for teenagers but as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of thrilling twists and turns and a story line that keeps you interested. I look forward to reading the next instalment from this talented author.
Granny 3 on Amazon
Absolutely loved this book! As a sci-fi and fantasy fan, I was excited to read Haven Wakes. The book is packed full of memorable characters who inhabit a world full of hidden magic and futuristic wonders. Would recommend as a perfect gift for teens and young adults, although if you’re a Harry Potter fan like I am, you’ll love Haven Wakes too!
Helen Culyer on goodreads
The best way to be kind to an author, after buying their book, is to let them know what you thought of it by leaving a reader review.
Why? Isn’t it just vanity to express your opinion? Not at all – Let me explain:
Your reader review can help me to be a better author. Is there some way I could improve my next book? Is there a character who worked so well that you’d love to hear more from them? On the flipside, are there any characters in my book who just didn’t work? No author can be an island. Swim on over and tell me what you think.
Your reader review can help other readers. It’s called ‘social proof’, to use the technical term. Your opinion can show other readers if this is the kind of book they would like to read.
Your reader review can improve my ratings on sites like Amazon, who in turn will make my book visible to more readers like you.
Where can you leave a reader review?
There are so many places where you can leave a reader
The most obvious place to leave a reader review is on the website of the retail outlet where you bought Haven Wakes.
If you run your own blog, why not share a reader review there? Good for me (reader review that can be shared) and good for you (new content for your blog).
Of course if you’re active on social media platforms such as
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, you can always post your reader review
What can you write in a reader review?
That’s completely up to you. There’s no right or wrong here.
Make it as long or as short as you like.
Don’t forget to leave a star rating too if that’s what the
website asks for.
By the way, although you can leave just a star
rating, it’s the worded reviews that really help.
By the way, I’m a reader, and a book reviewer too. I regularly post reviews on the books I’ve read and enjoyed, mostly on Amazon, but you’ll see book reviews begin to figure here on my blog in the coming months too.
“So it’s more like super-hero powers than wands and spells then?”
“Super-hero. I like that,” said Hartley. “It’s actually a little of each.”
Haven Wakes, and the other books in the Haven Chronicles series, are filled with magic.
I knew from the outset that I didn’t want to copy what magic is assumed to be in the real world or use the magic system of any other fictional works (although I’m sure there may be a little overlap). What I did instead is create a magic system from sources that I love and which serve my story.
So here are 5 facts about that magic system.
Magic has a consequence
“Using magic has a cost. It weighs on us in the same way that physical exertion does.”
Hartley Keg in Haven Wakes
The idea of magic use without consequence has always been problematic for me. if there are no consequences, then what’s to stop a magic user doing whatever they want to do? They could become so powerful that nobody could stop them, which is no fun at all when you’re writing a novel. Either the heroes or the villains can’t be defeated: that kind of set up can only run your story into a literary cul-de-sac. The End.
So in the Haven Chronicles, magic is so tightly sewn to the
magic user’s physical form, that using magic is like using any muscle. It takes
effort and is limited by the individual’s health and strength.
Cast too much magic and you’re likely to pass out, or at the very worst, die.
Each magic user is born with an innate talent for a particular
kind of magic. This is their birth magic.
Earth-smiths have a talent for dealing with plants and the
earth. That’s what makes them the best gardeners.
Enchanters have a way of influencing people, but not just
persuading them to do things. An enchanter can also affect the way you see
them, making them look younger or more beautiful than they really are.
Birth magic is generally inherited from a parent, but sometimes it skips generations and a magic user inherits the birth magic of their grandparent.
Charms and Spells
Beyond birth magic, charms and spells can also be learnt by
In my books, both charms and spells can have a physical effect
on something or someone, but are created in very different ways.
Charms are a collection of items, for instance:
straw, string or ribbon
that are bundled together, and then imbued with the intent of the magic user. A charm might be used to contain something, reveal the truth, or find a missing person.
Spells are altogether different. Some are spoken, while others are written down. Some of the most basic but powerful spells, such as casting a light orb, are simply down to gesture and force of will.
No Magic School
In my books, magic is taught at home in a family setting. This works especially well for birth magic because there is likely to be at least one living relative who has the same magical skills and can pass their knowledge on.
The basic charms and spells are also taught at home:
casting a light orb
short-range finding spell
protection of an area
but these will vary from family to family.
Sources of the magic system in my books
magic system in my books is based on all kind of sources. You’ll find nods to
folklore and mythology, crystal craft, herbology and various forms of witchcraft
you’re interested, the books I regularly go back to include:
With all the worry over Coronavirus in 2020 and the massive
upheaval of self isolation and social distancing, we can often forget to check
in on each other. So first off, how are
A lot of people in the UK, in fact around the world, have found themselves forced to stay at home and outings have been limited to the necessary. Even where, like me, you work from home, this can still leave you with time on your hands.
If you’re a reader, then that extra time can be a gift.
Suddenly you have all the time in the world, or a little extra at least, to
Of course, having so much time to read can quickly eat up all the reading material you have at home. That’s where this blog post comes in, to help you get your hands on more ‘stuff’ to read.
Yes, I know I said I’d help you find books to read when you ran out of books to read, but have you really read everything on your bookshelves? If you’re anything like me, then you’ll have a habit of buying new books when you’re still working your way through one or more current reads.
What books do you have at home that you’ve never got around
to starting? With a family of four readers in the Phillips household, we have a
whole universe of books to choose from. Some of the reads I intend to get
through this year from our bookshelves at home include:
Then there’s the novels you’ve already finished that you’re more than happy to read again. For me, those would include Frankenstein, the Word and the Void trilogy by Terry Brooks, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Save your pennies and look at what you have at home before you even think of looking elsewhere.
Authors and Publishers
Many author and publisher websites will feature free reading
material to download, and their social media is a great place to find out about
special offers like price reductions.
Subscribe to their newsletters to get the latest news on book releases, book deals, competitions, and all kind of freebies.
For instance, if you follow me on social media, you’ll have seen that the Haven Wakes e-book is currently priced at only 99p or cents.
Free books online
There are so many websites that offer free reading material,
either to download or read online. A lot of the books available are classic
fiction but not all.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but all of these sites provide
free reading material:
So here I am, doing my bit, by telling you all about 3
female authors who have inspired me over the years.
I came to Mary Shelley through studying her novel Frankenstein as part of my Literature degree course and while the novel itself and Mary’s writing have always been a source of inspiration for me, her personal life – supporting her husband, bringing up her child mostly as a single parent and carving out a career for herself as a writer and editor – was even more inspirational.
Here was a woman who wrote science fiction long before it was commonly recognised as a genre. She wrote extensively, not just in the number of works but in the formats they took – novels, plays, travel writing, children’s stories, articles – but sadly she is only really recognised for Frankenstein.
Sheri S Tepper
I can’t actually remember the first book I read by Sheri S Tepper because I’ve read so many of her novels. Sheri was another prolific novelist, but also a writer of novellas, short stories, poetry and articles.
The main genre she wrote in was science fiction but in my favourite novel of hers, The True Game (actually a trilogy bundled into one physical book), she skilfully combines science fiction with fantasy.
Sadly, Sheri died in 2016 but she left a lengthy collection
of fictional works that I’m still working my way through.
I’m a slow reader. This isn’t down to the speed of my reading but rather the juggling act between work and family. I snatch reading time when I’m waiting at school to collect my son and just before I go to sleep.
So when I had a whole week to read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern while away on holiday with my family in Corfu a few summers ago, it was an absolute joy.
Hands up, this is the only book I’ve read by this author,
but The Night Circus grabbed me by my swimsuit straps and wouldn’t let go.
Erin’s writing is as magical as the story that unfolds in her novel, and I have high hopes for future novel.
What about you? Which female authors have inspired you?