Looking back over 2022

2022 tiles on a desk

It’s that time of year again, when I take a moment to look back over 2022 before I dive into the festive season. It has been a marvellous year for me on so many fronts. Here’s why:

Haven Wakes was reborn

My first fantasy novel, Haven Wakes, received a make-over. The clever people at Burning Chair came up with a fresh new book cover design. I loved the original but to me, the new design reflects the novel so much better.

Magic Bound was published

This has to be the highlight of the year. The second novel in my fantasy series, Magic Bound, was published in the summer. It’s a continuation of Steve’s journey into magic and takes him far beyond the city walls of Caercester. I even made an unboxing video.

Here’s the blurb:

The magic returns.

When Hartley Keg and Blessing go missing, Steve Haven, the young heir to the Haven Robotics Corporation, once again finds himself plunged back into the chaos of the hidden world of magic.

Teaming up with the darkling, he finds himself on the run from the Council and their enforcers, the Hidden, as he seeks to keep safe those whom he holds most dear.

Things are complicated further when a new player emerges: Parity, a clandestine organisation who are far too keen in the Haven Corporation and the magical device which almost led to its destruction.

What follows is a race not only against time but through a series of locations, each more fantastical and dangerous than the last, as Steve and his friends attempt to stay one step ahead of their pursuers.

I read a lot of fiction books

Well, it was a lot for me anyway. So far in 2022, I have read:

I meant to read a lot more than this, but life got in the way. My current read is Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. As usual you can find my book reviews on my Instagram channel.

My blogging habit

I publish a new blog post every month. In 2022, these were my personal favourites:

I also appeared in a couple of guest blog posts in 2022. The first is on the Whispering Stories blog, The writing life of Fi Phillips. The second was an interview by my lovely publisher, Burning Chair.

The Life of Fi

As far as my personal life goes, 2022 has also been kind. My son passed his A levels and got into the university of his choice (that’s both of my offspring at university now).

I also went on a cruise of the Norwegian fjords with my husband. Obviously, clothes had to be bought for the posh nights and the Norwegian summer temperatures (chilly).

*

So that’s it, my wonderful year. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve presents to buy, celebrations to enjoy, and book three of my fantasy series to write. There’s no rest for the writerly.

5 books to hide away with this Halloween

woman reading amongst candles and pumpkins

The last time I blogged about scary reads was back in 2020 so I thought it was time to do it again. I’ve found five more books whose frights have stayed with me long after I’ve reached the end of the novel. Whether you want scares for youngsters, full-on horror, dark fantasy, or something old, there’s bound to be a book in this list that’ll grab you by the throat.

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

I came across the Skulduggery Pleasant novels through my children. I can remember reading the first novel to my son and thinking, ‘this is a bit scary for kids’. Derek Landy initially decided to finish the series at ten (I think), but then couldn’t leave the characters alone and has written several more since.

Here’s the blurb:

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant: detective, sorcerer, warrior.

Oh yeah. And dead.

Stephanie’s uncle Gordon is a writer of horror fiction. But when he dies and leaves her his estate, Stephanie learns that while he may have written horror, it certainly wasn’t fiction.

Pursued by evil forces intent on recovering a mysterious key, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source – the wisecracking skeleton of a dead wizard.

When all hell breaks loose, it’s lucky for Skulduggery that he’s already dead. Though he’s about to discover that being a skeleton doesn’t stop you from being tortured, if the torturer is determined enough. And if there’s anything Skulduggery hates, it’s torture.

Will evil win the day? Will Stephanie and Skulduggery stop bickering long enough to stop it? One thing’s for sure: evil won’t know what’s hit it.

Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub

Black House is the second book in a duo by Stephen King and the late Peter Straub. The first book is The Talisman. I read these books several years apart, but as soon as I dipped into Black House I was taken back to The Talisman and young Jack’s adventure. There are definite tie-ins to other novels by King, especially the Dark Tower series.

Here’s the blurb for Black House:

A comfortable, solid, middle-American town – inhabited by a serial killer…

Children are disappearing, lost to the world, horrifically murdered.

The best clue the detectives have – a serial killer from a century ago.

Jack Sawyer, retired from the LAPD at 35, plagued by visions of another world.

As a child, Jack visited the Territories, a menacing place of violence and madness, to save his dying mother. Now, if the latest child victim is to be saved, Jack must retrieve his lost childhood memories, and revisit the one place he hoped never to see again.

Cabal by Clive Barker

I went through a phase of binge-reading Clive Barker novels and Cabal is one of the shortest but it gives a wonderful flip-side to other Barker novels like Weaveworld. It was even made into a film called Nightbreed.

Here’s the blurb:

Cabal is the story of Boone, a tortured soul haunted by the conviction that he has committed atrocious crimes. In a necropolis in the wilds of Canada, he seeks refuge and finds the last great creatures of the world – the shape-shifters known as the Nightbreed. They are possessed of unearthly powers – and so is Boone. In the hunt for Boone, they too will be hunted. Now only the courage of this strange human can save them from extinction. And only the undying passion of a woman can save Boone from his own corrupting hell…

Moon by James Herbert

Okay, maybe I have a book problem because I also went through a reading binge of James Herbert novels. Moon is probably the scariest novel I’ve read by him and it’s one of the few books that I’ve re-read (hence the battered copy on my bookshelf).

Here’s the blurb:

The nightmare begins before you sleep .

By the Master of Horror, James Herbert’s Moon follows Jonathan, who fled from the terrors of his past, finding refuge in the quietness of the island. And for a time he lived in peace. Until the ‘sightings’ began, visions of horror seeping into his mind like poisonous tendrils, violent acts that were hideously macabre, the thoughts becoming intense.

He witnessed the grotesque acts of another thing, a thing that glorified in murder and mutilation, a monster that soon became aware of the observer within its own mind. And relished contact. A creature that would eventually come to the island to seek him out . . .

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

I found The Woman in White in an old book I inherited from my parents, entitled ‘Novels of Mystery’, that also includes the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It’s a battered old hardback book with a plain cover that was published in 1945. So the blurb below is from the Amazon entry (sorry):

In love with the beautiful heiress Laura Fairlie, the impoverished art teacher Walter Hartright finds his romantic desires thwarted by her previous engagement to Sir Percival Glyde.

But all is not as it seems with Sir Percival, as becomes clear when he arrives with his eccentric friend Count Fosco. The mystery and intrigue are further deepened by the ghostly appearances of a woman in white, apparently harbouring a secret that concerns Sir Percival’s past.

A tale of love, madness, deceit and redemption, boasting sublime Gothic settings and pulse-quickening suspense.

*

Now I just have to decide which book I’ll read this Halloween.

My favourite places to buy new reads

book shop

When I lived in York in my pre husband and offspring years, one of my favourite ways to spend a lunchtime was to browse the city centre book shops. I had a choice between a Waterstones, where my favourite genres and non-fiction reads lived in the basement, and another book shop that began with ‘O’ (can’t remember the full name) nearby that was spread over several floors and had comfy armchairs dotted amongst the book-cases. I would enjoy a magical half hour perusing books (that I mentally added to my to-buy list) and breathing in the bookish surroundings.

The time I spent working in London saw many weekends spent in Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road, partly because it was such a wonderful shop to spend time in but also because my father had been a weekend regular there too when he lived in London in the 1950s. Visiting Foyles felt like spending time with Dad.

Nowadays, the O book shop in York and Foyles in London have both been asbsorbed into the Waterstones empire. While each Waterstones store is supposed to be individual in the books it stocks and the character of the physical premises, it’s been good to see the number of independent book shops that have sprung up both on the high street and online, offering a welcome alternative.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy visiting my local Waterstones with its quirky layout, but I want to decide what to buy rather than be pointed to what Waterstones want me to buy. I want a book shop that opens up the world of books to me, whoever those books are published by, instead of simply focusing on the celebrity and traditionally published reads.

That’s why it’s encouraging to see the increasingly wide range of places I can source new books from beyond the big names like Waterstones and W H Smith. So here are my favourite places to find out what new reads are out and buy a few (or more):

Walk-in independent book shops

There are so many brilliant and characterful independent book shops in the UK. While they still have to make a profit, they do seem to be more open to stocking books that aren’t by celebrity authors or from big name publishers. They’re also more than happy to hear from local authors. What’s more, most of them sell books online too. So if you can’t physically visit your local indie book shop, you can still browse what they have to offer and buy a book or two.

Publisher websites

Of course, there are the big publishing websites like Penguin Random House but for a different slant on new reads and trends, why not do a search for smaller, independent publishers like Burning Chair Publishing or Valley Press.

Author websites

I like to keep up-to-date with the latest releases by my favourite authors by visiting their websites. Even those authors who don’t directly sell from their websites, will always share links to where you can buy their books.

Book subscription services

I do love book subscription services. It isn’t a new trend; I can remember my mother signing up to receive classic and crime novels each month for years. Nowadays though, many subscription services will send your new read accompanied with other goodies like bookmarks, tea bags, and biscuits. Some book subscription services are themed around a particular genre and many have links to publishers and authors themselves. My personal favourite is Tea Leaves and Reads.

Amazon

Yes, I know, Amazon is a monster, but you have to admit that it does have it’s eye on the ball when it comes to knowing what people want to buy, including books. Plus, it’s the saviour of so many self and indie published authors (like me). Maybe I can redeem myself though by saying that I do try to buy books elsewhere, where the publisher or author will get a bigger cut of the sales price, and only use Amazon if the price is reasonable and I can’t find the book anywhere else.

*

Maybe the standard book ‘shop’ has changed, but there’s never been more places to browse and buy your latest read.

Tackling the third book in the series

paperback copies of Haven Wakes and Magic Bound on a mountain backdrop with the words Tackling Book 3

If you follow me and my writing, you’ll know that the second book of my YA futuristic fantasy series was released at the beginning of August. Magic Bound picks up the story a few weeks after the end of Haven Wakes. Steve and his friends face the consequences of their actions, head off on a new adventure into a bigger slice of both the magical and non-magical worlds, and struggle against two new big-bads.

With Magic Bound out in the world, it’s time to tackle the next novel in the series. In a lot of ways, writing book three isn’t so different to writing book two. It involves:

  • giving Steve a reason to start another quest
  • showing more of both the magical world and the futuristic world
  • lots of research into new topics like anti-gravity and world tree mythology
  • listening to reader reactions to the book before
  • revealing more about Steve and his family’s connection to magic
  • creating a complete adventure that leaves enough undone for the story to continue

Book three picks up almost immediately after the end of Magic Bound and addresses an issue mentioned by several readers – where are Steve’s parents? That is Steve’s reason for continuing his journey into magic.

In book three, you’ll read about many of the familiar locations you already know – Darkacre, the Haven Robotics Corporation offices, and the Council controlled Confluence too – but Steve will visit plenty of new places too, both magical and workaday.

There’ll be more information on Steve and his family, and revelations aplenty about their connection with the world of magic.

There’s an old foe to parry with and a new threat too, more powerful than any that Steve has faced before.

While there’s always room for change when writing a novel, one thing I know for sure is that this isn’t a trilogy. Book three is not the end for Steve and his friends.

*

If you’d like to keep up-to-date with my writing news, and receive a free short story too, why not sign up to my Author News.

Want to help make Magic Bound a best seller?

paperback copy of Magic Bound on forest background with words Help make Magic Bound a bestseller

The big day – when Magic Bound is launched by Burning Chair Publishing – is only weeks away. It’s all rather exciting and the countdown is going in a blur. Advance book reviews are coming in and the pre-order links are up. I lovingly unwrapped my author copies, and even made an unboxing video. What I need now is a little help in getting the word out about Magic Bound in the run up to its publication and on the big day too.

Would you help me make Magic Bound a best seller, dear reader? Yes? Brilliant. Then this is how you can make a huge difference.

Blog about Magic Bound

Some of my readers are bloggers too. If that’s you, help raise the visibility of Magic Bound by writing about it. You could blog about the actual book release, interview me, or post a book review on your blog. Anything would be really appreciated.

Tell your friends about Magic Bound

If you’re reading this blog post, it’s a fair assumption that you like to read fantasy novels. What about your friends? If they, your family, or members of your book club enjoy fantasy too, why not tell them about Magic Bound?

Shout about Magic Bound on social media

Everyone and their auntie are on social media these days. Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or some where else in the social media universe, a like, comment, or share of my posts means that a wider audience will find out about Magic Bound. Even better, a post by you about my novels will massively impact my social media reach.

There are other novels out there called Magic Bound so if you want to use a hashtag on social media, please use #MagicBoundFiPhillips

Leave an honest book review of Magic Bound

If you enjoy reading Magic Bound, an honest book review on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you bought my book would be fantastic. It spreads the word, tells other readers what to expect, and provides that much needed evidence that Magic Bound is an excellent read.

*

If you want to get involved in spreading the word about Magic Bound and get the book launch off to a great start, here’s all the information you need.

The blurb:

The magic returns.

When Hartley Keg and Blessing go missing, Steve Haven, the young heir to the Haven Robotics Corporation, once again finds himself plunged back into the chaos of Darkacre.

Teaming up with the darkling, he finds himself on the run from the Council and their enforcers, the Hidden, as he seeks to keep safe those he holds most dear.

Things are complicated further when a new player emerges: the Parity, who are far too keen in the Haven Corporation, and the magical device which nearly led to its destruction.

What follows is a race not only against time but through a series of worlds, each more fantastical and dangerous than the last, as Steve and his friends try to keep one step ahead of their pursuers.

Magic Bound is the second adventure in the Haven Chronicles, following on from Haven Wakes, a unique blend of fantasy and sci-fi which has been described by readers as “shades of Artemis Fowl, hints of Harry Potter… and Skulduggery Pleasant”.

The links:

Magic Bound is published on 2nd August by Burning Chair Publishing.

If you’d like more information or a range of bookish images, want to interview me for your blog, or just want to say ‘hi’ or ‘good luck’, drop me an email.

The inspiration behind Magic Bound

paperback of Magic Bound over blue forest backdrop and the words 'the inspiration behind...'

Back in 2019, in the run up to the release of Haven Wakes, I wrote a blog post about the inspiration behind the novel. I wrote about magic, the colourful folk I’d grown up with, and literary characters who had stayed with me for years. Now, with a release date in sight for book two in the series, Magic Bound, I think it only fitting that I tell you about the inspiration for that novel too.

Haven Wakes

Haven Wakes is where Steve’s adventure and journey into magic begins. It’s where he discovers that magic exists and makes new friends, Hartley Keg and Blessing. It’s also where he finds out that his family has a connection to this hidden world. Most important of all, he discovers just what he is capable of.

Haven Wakes sets a firm foundation for Magic Bound and the rest of the series.

A bigger look at the workaday, tech-led world

There was only so much of the futuristic world that Steve grew up in that I could reveal in one book. In Magic Bound, I wanted to investigate that world in more detail. From the public transport system, to non Haven robots, to how people live in the modern world beyond the city limits of Caercester, Magic Bound widens the reader’s viewpoint on the workaday culture of the novel.

And a bigger look at the magical world

The hidden world of magic is so much more than Darkacre. I wanted to explore that in much more detail. How are the magicals governed? How many workadays know about them? Are there other communities like Darkacre? Is the Reactor a one off device or part of something larger? What is the connection between magic and the Havens?

I wanted to answer all of these questions and more in Magic Bound.

Magic, mythology and fairytales

Since I was a child, I’ve been intrigued by the magic that’s inherent in mythology, fairytales, and folklore. I wanted to bring more of that to Magic Bound in a range of new characters. Some will be back later in the series; others may have books and short stories of their own.

Steve is growing up

Haven Wakes is just as much about Steve discovering his own capabilities as it is about his discovery of magic.

As Magic Bound begins, Steve turns 13. He’s a teenager and as he tries to work out what that means, he’s drawn back into the hidden underbelly of magic. I wanted to show his development into a young adult and his growing confidence in who he is.

Consequences

Stories may be imaginary, but they are also based in the truths that we know. Just as real life has consequences, so too do the fictional happenings in books. Steve and his friends would always have to answer to the magical powers that be for their actions in Haven Wakes. I wanted to explore these consequences and the resulting path that Steve would be forced to take in Magic Bound.

*

Magic Bound will be published by Burning Chair on 2nd August 2022.

What I’m waiting for right now

We’re pelting through May at a pace and closing in on the mid-way point of the year. There’s still plenty of things to look forward to in 2022 though. Here are just a few.

Book Two of the Haven Chronicles

It’s so close and I’m as keen as my readers to get my hands on a copy of the second novel in my futuristic fantasy series. I so want to share Steve’s continuing journey into magic with you all. Just a little bit longer, honest.

The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency by Peter Oxley

Burning Chair’s own Peter Oxley has a new fantasy novel out this year too. The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency features two side characters from his earlier dark fantasy Infernal Aether series. I don’t have a publication date or official blurb yet, but here’s what he said about it in my interview with him last year:

My latest book is one I’ve been threatening my readers group with for far too long. It’s called The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency, and is an irreverent spin-off from my Infernal Aether books. It takes place a couple of years after the events of Beyond the Aether and focuses on a couple of characters who were bit-part players in the main series – lovable rogues Spencer and Bart.

In terms of inspiration for the book, those two characters were initially just little plot devices, but they muscled their way in to the story time and again, insisting that I give them more air-time. I had to cut most of their scenes from the main series – they were too much of a distraction from the main story arc and characters – so I promised myself I’d give them their own proper series when I could.

As a fan of the Infernal Aether, I can’t wait to get my hands on this novel.

The Stone of Destiny by Andrew Neil MacLeod

Last year, I read and reviewed The Fall of the House of Thomas Weir by Andrew Neil McLeod. I enjoyed this historical paranormal novel immensely so I was excited to find out that the follow-up novel, The Stone of Destiny, will be published in October. Here’s the blurb:

What if the Coronation Stone at Westminster—the stolen relic on which the High Kings of Scotland had been crowned for over seven hundred years—was a fake?

What if the true Stone of Destiny was still out there somewhere, hidden away by a Holy Order to protect it from English invaders?

When Doctor Johnson turns up at his friend James Boswell’s door after an absence of almost seven years, he makes Boswell an enticing proposition: to join him on a quest to recover the true Stone of Destiny.

What follows is a breath-taking journey through the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, from Edinburgh up to the furthest reaches of the northern isles. Plunged into a dizzying world of secret societies, occult mysteries, and supernatural phenomena, the two friends leave no Neolithic stone unturned in their search to uncover the truth.

Eighteenth century Scotland has never been so magical… and terrifying.

On TV

I don’t get a lot of spare time to watch TV. I therefore keep a look-out for new releases on Netflix and Prime Video so that I can spend my viewing time wisely. There are three main 2022 releases that I can’t wait to watch:

  • The Rings of Power is a pre Lord of the Rings premise. I’ve heard a lot of good and a lot of bad opinion on the series, but it looks beautiful in the trailer. As with any book, film, or TV series I come across, I want to form my own opinion.
  • The fourth season of Stranger Things seems to have been a long time coming. I loved the retro Stephen King feel of the first three seasons and the journey of all the young characters. As the trailer says, every ending has a beginning.
  • Finally, a new series Night Sky looks very interesting. The premise is that a middle-aged couple discover a gateway in their back-yard that leads to an alien planet. It’s a secret they’ll have to protect from family and strangers alike. Can’t wait for this one.

My summer holiday

After the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions of the last two years, my husband and I are finally getting away on a holiday abroad this year. I’m excited and nervous and excited again. It’s surprising how quickly I’ve become accustomed to staying close to home because of the pandemic. This’ll be an opportunity to dress up, kick back, take a ton of photos, and make plenty of memories.

My son’s A’ level results

Like many young people who should have taken their GCSEs in 2020, my son is facing his first proper exams in the form of A’ levels. His exams are in June, so he’s head down in revision. He’s hoping to go to university in the autumn, so his final grades are paramount. Fingers crossed for a brilliant result.

*

Like I said, there’s so much to look forward to in 2022. It’s turning out to be a great year. Bring it on.

What I’m reading this spring

Spring in North Wales is increasingly pleasant; one might even say ‘sunny’. As a result, I can spend much more time out of doors and especially in my garden, meaning a lot more reading.

So, with book two of the Haven Chronicles in the hands of Burning Chair and progress on book three going well, I’m allowing myself lots of time to catch up on my increasing to-be-read pile.

Here’s what I’m reading this spring:

Current read: Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

I’ve been a fan of Terry Pratchett’s writing since I read his novel The Colour of Magic back in the 1980s. His quirky, intelligent, and entertaining take on fantasy is always a joy to read and Raising Steam, although longer than his earlier novels, is just as good.

Here’s the blurb:

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work – as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital . . . but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse . . .

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi’ t’flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all going off the rails . . .

Also current read: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

When I wanted to go out with a book in hand and couldn’t find Raising Steam, I decided to take Practical Magic with me instead. The plan was to start it and then put it down again until I’d finished Raising Steam. That didn’t work out, and I’m now alternating between the two because they’re both so good.

I loved the film of Practical Magic but the book is even better. Here’s the blurb:

As children, sisters Gillian and Sally were forever outsiders in their small New England town, teased, taunted and shunned for the air of magic that seems to sparkle in the air around them. All Gillian and Sally ever wanted was to get away.

And eventually they do – one marries, the other runs as far from home as she can manage.

Years later, however, tragedy will bring the sisters back together. And they’ll find that no matter what else may happen, they’ll always have each other. An enchanting tale of love, forgiveness and family, Practical Magic is beloved of readers of all ages.

Next read: A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab

I have to admit that I know nothing about this author or her writing but the blurb of her fantasy novel, A Darker Shade of Magic, drew me in straightaway. Here it is:

Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…

Last read of the season: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I’ve heard such good things about Piranesi that I made sure to add it to my Christmas present list in 2021 (thank you, husband for paying attention). I can’t wait to read it. Here’s the blurb:

In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone.

Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims?

Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous.

*

Ooh, look! The sun’s out. Maybe I should take the dog outside – she’ll enjoy that. I’m sure she won’t mind if I take a book with me. Now, Pratchett or Hoffman? Hm…

Writing a book: solo project or team effort?

As book two of my fantasy series, the Haven Chronicles, moves closer to its ‘fly – be free’ moment, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether writing and creating a book is a lone process or not. Can it be done by an author in isolation or does it require the input of others?

Solo project?

There’s no denying that an author writes a book on their own. Or maybe it might be more accurate to say that they write that first draft on their own. I certainly did, in a whirl-wind of brain dump, imagine, choreograph – scribble, scribble, delete, delete, scribble some more – as I penned/typed the next leg of Steve’s journey into magic.

Once that first draft was done and dusted and polished to what I thought was a shine, I handed it over to my publisher for their response.

Team effort?

The next few months went something like this:

  • publisher feedback
  • create draft 2
  • publisher feedback
  • create draft 3
  • publisher feedback…

You get the gist. There were several rounds of publisher feedback and draft revision before we landed on the final version. Somewhere in among that exchange, a number of beta readers were asked for their thoughts too.

The next stage was to hand over the concept to a book cover designer and while their design won’t change the words written down in my novel, they will add to the online and on-shelf presence of the story. Readers will come to recognise that book cover as much as they recognise my writing and Steve’s story.

Finally, dear reader, there’s you. Once published, a book’s text may be complete and set in ink, but your response will tell me how you’d like me to handle the story’s next stage in book three.

Answer to my question?

Book two in its original form was definitely a solo project. I knew where I wanted to take Steve, Hartley, and the darkling and the perils they would face. I think that’s probably the case for any writer. After that first draft was written, however, it turned into a team effort and book two is all the better for it. Eyes other than my own pointed out the weaknesses I had missed and directed me to solutions I would never have dreamt up on my own.

It’s like that phrase, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. It takes a community of book-lovers and book-experts to create a book in its final form.

So I’d like to thank a few of those people for their undeniable help and support. I couldn’t have got this far without you:

Thank you for being my village.

5 ways to show your love to a writer

5 ways to show your love to a writer

Do you have a writer in your life? Whether it’s your sister, partner, grandpa, or friend, there are plenty of ways to show them that you care beyond gifts and evenings out (although those are good too). Here are five ways to show your love to a writer.

Ask but don’t ask too much

Checking in on how your writerly loved-one is progressing with their book or poetry is wonderful. It shows that you care, that you listen, and that you know what is important to them. It might even provide a much-needed break from the page or screen. But asking too many times can make a writer nervous. I’ll tell you why.

Some writers can polish off a draft – first or otherwise – in a month or less. Blimey! Most of us, however, take longer, maybe even much much longer. Writing can also be a stop-start process, with days when we don’t create anything. We do plenty of thinking, but little writing.

If you ask your writer how their book is coming along too often, they may feel under pressure or that they have to lie. Worse still, they may become demoralised by what they see as a lack of progress and lose the will to write.

So ask by all means, but don’t ask too much.

Understand that a writer’s mind needs time to create

Even those fast-drafters that I mentioned above take time to think before they put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Writers generally spend a fair chunk of time musing over elements of their story. You might catch them staring out of the window, fingers poised over the keyboard, or head down while they walk the dog in silence. Other musing scenarios include:

  • driving the car, especially if alone
  • taking a bath or shower
  • just before nodding off on a night-time
  • school run
  • gardening, especially mowing the lawn

A writer may have the most detailed of chapter plans written down and ready to fulfil but more often than not, we need time to infuse our imaginations with the story, envision people and places, and choreograph scenes. We need to deep-dive into that imaginary world and breathe it in.

Don’t expect our story explanation to make sense

You’ll find plenty of memes on social media that portray the difference between the majestic world of a writer’s imagination and the sketchy version they later put down on paper. It’s just the same when we try to explain our story to someone.

In our mind, we’ve populated the world of our story, created a fabulous plot-line, choreographed the action scenes and… Well, you know what I mean. But when someone asks what our book is about and we try to explain, what we say sounds lame or convoluted, or both. This might be down to a sudden lack of confidence in our story or being put on the spot. Either way, we don’t express the absolute genius of our literary creation at all.

So if you ask us what our story is about, be prepared to be left none the wiser.

Read our books and leave kind words

Well, yes, this goes without saying really, but I’m saying it none the less. If you love a writer, buy their book, read it, and leave a book review. Even if it’s not your genre, give it a try.

After all, your writerly loved-one has put a lot of soul-baring effort into that creation, so show them you understand and don’t forget to express your pride in their accomplishment.

A cup of tea and a plate of biscuits

Sometimes, all it takes is a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits to show how much you care. Remember that deep-dive I mentioned? As writers, we can become so intent on soaking in our story and getting the words out of our head and onto the page, that we forget about everything else – including taking care of ourselves.

Or it might be that we’re tackling a difficult scene or revising our story after feedback from our editor or publisher. Whatever the scenario, we’re head down, brows furrowed, and possibly muttering away to ourselves. After all, world-building is a mind-boggling process.

Avoid facing the writer-in-full-steam scowl by simply providing us with a little sustenance and then backing away. We may not express our appreciation at the time but honestly, you will be in our best best books later when we surface from the imaginarium.

Photo by Theo Crazzolara on Unsplash