Looking Back Over 2020

looking back over 2020

I normally take a moment in December to look back over the year that is almost at an end, but 2020 has hardly been a ‘normal’ year. So I’m taking that moment in November instead.

The Elephant in the World’s Front Room

Whether you’re writing a novel based in the here and now, reporting the news, or penning a blog post, there is no getting away from the fact that Covid-19 is here and taking a large slice of our ongoing consciousness.

I’ve heard 2020 referred to as ‘the year we all stayed in’ and ‘the year that didn’t happen’. To me, 2020 was the year that most of us realised what and who were important to us.

Friendships and family contact went online for many of us. I haven’t met up with my in-laws since before the lockdown began. Instead, we have Sunday video-calls, complete with our dogs barking to each other excitedly. I’ve met up with one local friend, twice, this year. The restrictions of the pandemic have forced the rest of my friendship conversations online and over the phone. Chats with our neighbours are done at a distance, often from the other side of the road, but we’re still there for each other.

Both of my children turned ‘adult’ this year. My son is now 16 (the first step to being a grown-up) and my daughter is 18. Neither birthday was marked with a party or expensive celebration. Instead, they were quiet family occasions, just the four of us, with a takeaway in the back garden over the summer for my son’s birthday, and then a quick, masked-up trip to Pizza Hut for my daughter’s eighteenth in the autumn.

Of course, we’re now on the verge of not just one but possibly three Covid-19 vaccines. Fingers crossed that they are healthy and effective and mean that 2021 isn’t a repeat of this year.

Guest Blogging

The writerly blogging community rallied around each other during the pandemic, reaching out to make sure that none of us went unheard or were left feeling isolated. As a result, I featured on several of their lovely websites in 2020:

A big, warm, thank you to all you for allowing me to introduce myself to your readers.

Writing

One benefit of having extra time on my hands was that I made good progress on the second book in the Haven Chronicles series. By the end of the summer, Burning Chair offered me a publishing deal for it – phew!

The lovely Si from Burning Chair will be getting his editing mitts on my manuscript in December, and Book 2 (with whatever title we decide on) will be published early 2021.

I also contributed a few pieces to 2020 Together: An Anthology of Shorts. All profits go to NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Appeal. So far, 2020 Together has raised over £600 for the charity.

A follow-up collection of shorts, 2021: Still Together will continue the good work when it is released at the end of this month. I’ve got a couple of pieces in that too.

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So there you have it. That was my 2020 so far – weird, mostly in-doors, and spent with the people I love. It’s not the year I envisioned on the first day of January and it has certainly been a challenge. Still, there have been plenty of gems amongst the pebbles.

How about you? How has your 2020 turned out?

5 Scary Reads for the Halloween season

5 scary reads for Halloween

If you want to get into the mood for the Halloween season, nothing tops a scary read, or two.

Whether your preferred scares are ghosts, vampires, re-animated corpses, demonic, or psychological, I have a book to suit.

The Graveyard Book

the graveyard book by neil gaiman

The Graveyard Book is aimed at a 12+ readership but, in my opinion, readers of any age over 12 would appreciate this story of how a boy finds family in the most unexpected of places.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts.

There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.

Neil Gaiman weaves his usual wit and magic in this wonderful, spooky read.

Haunted

As you can probably tell from the title, this is a ghost story, told wonderfully by the author James Herbert.

David Ash, a psychic investigator, is invited to Edbrook, a remote country house, where an alleged ‘haunting’ is taking place. There he meets the Mariell family – two brothers, Robert and Simon, their younger sister, Christina, and their aunt, Nanny Tess.

Ash is renowned for his dismissal of all things supernatural, having exposed many fake mediums in the past as well as invariably finding natural causes for so-called psychic phenomena. He has a deep psychological reason for refuting such unearthly occurrences.

But at Edbrook there is a mystery which cannot easily be explained.

If you want an old-fashioned, creep-up-on-you-slowly ghost story, Haunted is the read for you. There are even two follow-up novels, The Ghosts of Sleath and Ash.

Frankenstein

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of my favourite books of all time.

Most of us are familiar with the Frankenstein trope in some form or another, whether it’s Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster or Herman Munster. The actual novel, however, is a well-penned tale of one man’s arrogance and the consequences he faces, the struggle and abandonment faced by the monster, vengeance and gut-wrenching heart-break.

And if you were in any doubt, I’m on the monster’s side.

Rosemary’s Baby

I came across a battered copy of this novel when I had a Saturday job in a local shoe shop. We had a small cupboard of a staff room that overlooked the busy, shopping street below. I found Rosemary’s Baby stuffed under the window-seat. When I asked the other staff members, none of them said it was there’s so it became my lunchtime read.

Rosemary and her husband Guy move into an old New York City apartment building with an ominous reputation and only elderly residents.

Neighbours Roman and Minnie Castavet soon come nosing around to welcome them; despite Rosemary’s reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises that she keeps hearing, her husband starts spending time with them. When Rosemary becomes pregnant, the Castavets start taking a special interest in her welfare.

As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castavets’ circle is not what it seems.

Rosemary’s Baby is a short read but a good one.

Edgar Allan Poe

Yes, I know that isn’t a book title, but there are so many Halloween-worthy reads by this author. Look out for:

  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue
  • The Pit and the Pendulum
  • The Masque of the Red Death
  • The Tell-Tale Heart
  • The Raven
  • Hop-Frog

Those are only six scary Poe reads but there are so many more.

So there you have it – five (or more) scary reads for this Halloween season.

Have a thoroughly spooky time.

Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles is on the way

book 2 of the haven chronicles is on the way

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 you want to know the inspiration behind the first book in the series, have a look at this article from last year.

Follow my writing journey of Book 2 on my Twitter account.

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?