A chat with my publisher

a chat with my publisher burning chair publishing

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…

Si: Thanks 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 home.

We’re 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.

Si: 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 them.

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!

Where can readers buy your books?

All good bookshops (and some not-so-good ones too!). Check out our website.

Summer 2020 Reading

what I'm reading this summer

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.

2020 Together

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 imagination?

You can buy I am Dust here.

My Father’s Daughter by Lily Lawson

This is a collection of poetry by Lily Lawson, friend, fellow writer, and enthusiastic cheerleader for my own writing. The back cover of My Father’s Daughter simply reads,

If, as time moves on, the words that I have shared remain with you, and call you back to read them once again my work is done.

You can buy My Father’s Daughter here.

Words of Alchemy by Camilla Downs

I got to know Camilla through an online book-reading group and guest-posted on her blog in May. Camilla was kind enough to gift me a copy of this collection of her poetry.

In Words of Alchemy, Camilla Downs invites you to walk with her to share her love of Nature and Life through a heartfelt free-verse poetry memoir.

During her daily strolls she is mindfully present as she delves into life in the raw and experiences her heart’s observations.

Camilla embraces what happens when she opens her heart and invites the written words to flow. The Alchemy of Love and Healing is what happens.

You can buy Words of Alchemy here.

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So that’s my summer reading ready to go. What about you? What are you reading this summer?

Broken magic (or the one where it all went wrong)

broken magic

On the last day of June, something awful happened. MailerLite broke.

Let me explain.

I use MailerLite to send out my author newsletter at the end of each month, but due to an infrastructure upgrade – “the most complex project in our history” – that has proved impossible.

Fingers crossed everything will be fine and dandy in time for my July newsletter to go out.

So in the meantime, I thought I would share my June newsletter with you here on my blog.

Kind words, a catch-up and a new book recommendation

Summer can’t make up its mind

One minute it’s too hot to do much other than laze around with a hefty supply of ice lollies, the next the rain is so heavy that you can hear it on the roof and the patio.

I refuse to give in to the inconsistency of the British weather though. My summer wardrobe is staying out, even if sandals are no good for dealing with puddles and my knees are a tad chilly.


June catch up

This time last year, I posted a blog about what was going on in my life.

So I thought I’d repeat that this June and tell you what’s happening in the Life of Fi. You can read the full blog post here.


Guest blog posts in June

I’m lucky to be part of a wonderful community of writers and two more of them were kind enough to let me guest post on their blogs this month.

The first post was What to expect when you’re published by an independent publisher for Melissa Hawkes. A couple of days later, I was featured as Writer of the Week by Mrs Average Evaluates.


Book Recommendation – Love is Deadly by Gene Kendall

Gene Kendall is a fellow Burning Chair author and I had the pleasure to beta read his novel, Love is Deadly. 

Brad has a big problem.

Not his crippling credit card debt.

Not his ex-wife, and current business partner, who still blames him for the messy break-up of their marriage.

Not his lovable, but spiky, personality that keeps him alive, but alone.

No, Brad’s big issue is that he sees dead people. And those dead people have started to fight back.

Brad is a paranormal investigator who uses his powers to shepherd the lost souls of the newly-departed to the light on the other side. In return for a fee. Naturally.

But when a case goes badly wrong, Brad finds himself the prisoner of those he’d usually be hunting. Can he use his unique talents to save not only his own skin, but all of humanity?

You can pre-order Love is Deadly here.


Work in Progress

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.


Kind Words

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.

Of course, you can always find my website here.

Talk to you in July. Stay safe.

Fi Phillips – Fantasy Writer

June Catch Up

June catch up

This time last year, I posted a blog about what was going on in my life:

  • 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.

Lockdown Life

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.

Writing Progress

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.

Fingers crossed.

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 working day.

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 presence.

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.

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So that’s it. We’re all caught up now. How about you? What news do you have to share?

Author Interview with M J Mallon

author interview with M J Mallon

Today, I’d like to introduce you to M J Mallon, YA author, poet, photographer and book blogger.

1. When did you first call yourself a writer?

I’d say I first called myself a writer when I started my blog six years ago. A lot has happened since then: I published my YA fantasy The Curse of Time – Book One – Bloodstone in August 2017.

Cover photo courtesy of Dr John C Taylor

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.

M J Mallon & Dr John C Taylor
M J Mallon and Dr John C Taylor with the Grasshopper Chronophage in the background
midsummer chronophage
The Midsummer Chronophage – http://johnctaylor.com –
photo courtesy of Dr John C Taylor
dragon chronophage
The Dragon Chronophage – http://johnctaylor.com –
photo courtesy of Dr John C Taylor
The Grasshopper Chronophage in action.

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.

Author Bio

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.

I’m a member of two professional writing groups: The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators  and Cambridge Writers

I run a supportive group for authors/bloggers with fellow Administrator D G Kaye on Facebook: Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club

I work as a Receptionist/Event organiser for an international sixth form and live in Cambridge, England.

M J Mallon online:

Author Website: https://mjmallon.com

Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17064826.M_J_Mallon

How to leave a reader review #BeKindToAnAuthor

how to leave a reader review

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 that:

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 review.

Retail outlets

The most obvious place to leave a reader review is on the website of the retail outlet where you bought Haven Wakes.

This could be Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, Kobo or many more.

Book review sites

The main book review sites that I’ve come across are goodreads and Netgalley, but you’ll also find many groups on Facebook for readers where you can post your review too. Check out The Book Club and The Fiction Café.

Your blog

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).

Social media

Of course if you’re active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, you can always post your reader review there.

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.

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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.

Have you read and enjoyed Haven Wakes? If so, let me know. Drop me a reader review. Thank you.

5 facts about the Magic System in the Haven Chronicles

5 facts about the magic system in the Haven Chronicles

“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.

Birth magic

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 magic users.

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:

  • crystals
  • herbs
  • 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

The 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 too.

If you’re interested, the books I regularly go back to include:

along with many more and so much online research too.

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What kind of magic do you like to read about?

Help for self-isolating readers

help for self isolating readers

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 you?

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 read.

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.

Your bookshelves

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:

And that’s only a few of them.

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:

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If you have any other sources of free reading material that I haven’t mentioned above, let me know and I’ll add them.

3 female authors for International Women’s Day 2020

3 female authors for international women's day 2020

So it’s International Women’s Day 2020 and there have been all kind of celebrations of inspirational women over this past week.

This year’s theme is ‘An equal world is an enabled world’ and within that, one of the missions is to ‘increase visibility for women creatives’.

So here I am, doing my bit, by telling you all about 3 female authors who have inspired me over the years.

Mary Shelley

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.

Erin Morgenstern

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.

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What about you? Which female authors have inspired you?

The challenges of writing Book 2 of a series

the challenges of writing book 2 of a series

Ever since, Haven Wakes was released on the big, wide world, I’ve been working on the follow-up novel. It doesn’t have a title yet, so for now let’s just call it Book 2.

I knew where I wanted to take Steve for the next stage in his adventure with Hartley, Blessing and the darkling, but the question was should it be a straight route there or something altogether more winding and obstructed?

I began on the ‘straight route’ back in November when I used the 2019 NaNoWriMo challenge as the springboard to get my novel started. By the end of the month, I’d come to the conclusion that the straight route wasn’t going to work.

In December, I stepped onto that winding and obstructed path and started my novel again.

I’m now several chapters into writing Book 2 with a clear idea on all the places Steve will go and the faces he will meet.

So that was the first main challenge of writing book two of a series dealt with and brushed off. What about the others?

Pushing Steve’s buttons (again)

In Haven Wakes, Steve was pushed into a hidden world of magic but in Book 2, what could possibly persuade him to return?

Well, he misses his new magical friends and he definitely wants to escape his miserable school life, but is that enough? I didn’t think so.

So what would motivate him to leave his ‘normal’ life behind again? It had to be something that pulled on his heart-strings and irked his sense of justice. There also had to be consequences to not getting involved.

In the end, I decided to put someone he cares for in peril.

Keeping the balance between science and fantasy

One of the things my publisher Burning Chair and lots of my readers loved about Haven Wakes was the mixture of magic and futuristic tech. In Book 2, I want to maintain that mix but seeing as Steve will be exploring even deeper into the world of magic, working out how I could include more sci fi elements had me in a bit of a quandary.

In the end, I decided to show the reader more of the world of the Haven Robotics Corporation, and send Steve and his friends off to a destination that relies on technology to survive.

Steve’s world is getting bigger

Haven Wakes takes place within the confines of the city of Caercester. In Book 2, I wanted to show the reader what other places exist in Steve’s world, both magical and workaday.

In my first novel, the Magical Council was only briefly touched on. In Book 2, you’ll learn much more about them and the rules that govern the magical community.

Remember that destination that relies on technology to survive? It needed to be somewhere remote, but reachable (by workaday transport or, of course, by magic). It also had to be a place that a special new character had a reason to visit.

In the end, I found a real-life destination that I’d never heard of until earlier this year which is perfect for a show-down between Steve and co. and, well, that would be telling. You’ll have to read the book to find out.

New research

If I thought the research for Haven Wakes was hefty, Book 2 has easily outdone that. There has been so much research to get my head round, research on:

  • solar power,
  • robots,
  • legal systems,
  • architecture,
  • origami,
  • henges,
  • and so much more.

I have to guard against being sucked into my research so much that I don’t have time to write.

Publisher and reader expectations

By the time, I submitted Haven Wakes to Burning Chair, it was a well-loved and matured beastie. The editing process, guided by my publisher, polished it into the final version that was launched on the world last year.

Now, I have to write a book that:

  • is of equal quality in my publisher’s eyes,
  • has the same tone of voice, pacing and characterisation as Haven Wakes,
  • and satisfies my readers.

That’s the scariest challenge of them all but I’m sure I’m not the only author who has ever felt that way. Wish me luck.

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I’d love to hear what your hopes are for Book 2 in the Haven Chronicles series. Let me know and maybe I’ll include it.