Author interview with Suzanna Williams

author interview with Suzanna Williams

Another week (closer to Christmas) and another author interview – this time with my good friend Suzanna Williams.

Hi Suzanna. Lovely to see you today. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the readers before we get started?

Hello Fi, and all your awesome readers.

In preparing this interview, I realised my author photo was taken in 2010! Sending you a picture over ten years out of date seemed like putting a dodgy image on a dating site, so I went in search of a new one. (Note to self: need new author pic)

There are plenty of selfies with the dog on my phone, but even though she’s cute and likes to sit on my writing chair next to me, you probably don’t want to see that.

I also have lots of photos with my family, but readers will want to know that I write YA action adventure with a touch of sci-fi and a twist of romance, not how gorgeous my grandchildren are.

And then I remembered I had a photo with Fi at a reading of Haven Wakes in Chester. It was a great day. Look at our smiling faces. How could we have known that we would all be in lockdown in the middle of a global pandemic just weeks after this was taken?

It was an excellent day and that photo brings it all back.

Tell us about your latest book. What’s it called and what was the inspiration behind it?

I am completing the editing/re-editing stages on the last book in my Shock Waves series, which is called Shock Tactics.

Things have been going steadily worse for my poor hero and heroine throughout the first two books and I wanted them to finally embrace their talents and take down the bad guys once and for all. And I needed to tie up all the loose ends.

There are a couple of new characters in this book that I’ve really enjoyed getting to know, like Lee’s dad who swears all the time in Spanish, and Paige’s uncle who explains the real reason why he abandoned her to the foster care system.

So, Shock Tactics is an end to the series, but also the beginning of a new, hopefully better life for them. After all I’ve put them through, I think they deserve it.  

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover.

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

Reading is a great source of inspiration. There is always something in every book you pick up that will spark a series of ‘what-if-they-didn’t-do-that-but-did-this-instead’ thoughts which will often morph into new plot twists for my own writing.

I also have a collection of photographs of fantastical places. Who doesn’t love a hidden space behind a waterfall? Or a house built high in a forest of redwood trees?

Here’s the festive question: If you could have Christmas Dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?

Imagine Christmas in Molly Weasley’s house; pine scented Christmas tree, homely decorations, open fire roaring in the grate.

Molly was a perfect mother figure, not only to her own children but to Harry Potter too, so she’s bound to have cooked up a great spread.

And I might even talk her into using a little after dinner magic.

Love you, Molly. See you on Christmas Day.

Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

I intend to relaunch/launch the complete ShockWaves trilogy early in 2022.  Watch this space.

A big thank you to Fi for having me on her blog and thank you to everyone reading this.

And just in case you feel cheated you didn’t get a dog pic, here’s my writing buddy.

Thanks for the chat, Suzanna. It’s always good to catch up with you. I’ll keep an eye out for the Shock Waves trilogy in the new year.

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If you’d like to find out more about Suzanna, here are all the useful links:

And here’s my 5* review of Suzanna’s novel.

Ninety-Five Percent Human

This novel very quickly grounds the reader in the reality of Joe’s world – the Welsh landscape, his family farm, the local people – and draws us into his feelings about that world. There is a gentle humour to the book, the kind of banter you get between people that have known each other for a long time.

The book is written in present tense from Joe’s point of view which allows the reader to react and learn along with the character. I liked Joe from the outset. He’s hard working (unlike his medical student brother), responsible (he stays on at the family farm even though he doesn’t want to) and willing to sacrifice himself for not only those he cares about but also the occasional stranger. He’s an all round good guy who doesn’t realise his own self worth at the beginning of the novel. The interactions between Joe and the other teenagers and young people took me back to when I was that age. By the end of the novel, Joe has grown in courage and self assurance.

I have two favourite scenes from the novel that are very different to each other. The first is the party that Joe and Sarah attend. It’s probably one of the first times that Sarah has really relaxed and just been a ‘normal’ teenager.

My second favourite scene is the UFO sighting at the local pub. I love the characters’ reactions, cementing the personalities that have already been built up in previous chapters, but also it’s good to see Joe and Sarah’s plan come together, for once.

Ninety-Five Percent Human is a well written, insightful novel that mixes up the reality of our world (and Joe’s) with the concept of alien life forms and advanced technology into a believable and enjoyable read.

7 ways to keep your sanity in the festive season

7 ways to keep your sanity in the festive season

The festive break will arrive at any moment and be all over in a day or two. Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Have you started? Are you looking forward to the big day? Is your home decked with sparkle and glitter? Has the dog given in to being dressed up for the season?

Even if you are organised and optimistic, the rush to create the perfect holiday can get to us all. So, here’s my list of how to keep your sanity in the festive season.

Be a child

This probably comes to some of us easier than to others but in our attempts to organise everything to the ‘enth degree, we can forget to actually enjoy the whole thing.

Take some time to remember what you liked about Christmas as a child. It might have been dressing the tree with baubles and tinsel without a care for co-ordinating colour schemes or whether the big decorations belonged at the bottom of the tree only. Maybe it was watching the Wizard of Oz (even though you can basically perform it word for word) or diving into a pile of presents and ripping off the wrapping paper with no thoughts of tidying up.

Try to include some of that child-like joy in your holiday.

Be grateful

Christmas is probably the most materialistic of celebrations and a time of year when we add to our belongings en masse. We can too easily focus on what we’ll get and what we’ll give, but forget to look at what we already have.

Take a moment to think of all the good things in your life that you’re grateful for.

Don’t do a Delia (Jamie, Gordon, Nigella…)

In a culture which force-feeds us celebrity chefs, eating plans, and cookery slots on daytime TV, you can begin to believe that success in life (and especially at Christmas) relies on having all the dressings and culinary implements and herby oils available on the market.

Mashed potato is boring, and roasties are so last year. Turkey just isn’t fashionable unless you’ve shoved your hand under its skin and given it a good grope.

Relax. If you like your turkey plain, that’s fine. If roast potatoes and peas are your thing, excellent. Cook what you want to eat.

Time out

It isn’t just for screaming five year olds. Time out can be invaluable for us grown-ups too.

Scream into a cushion. Kick a ball around (your children will enjoy that). Stomp about outside with a glass or mug of what you fancy. Whatever it takes (legally) to release some frustration, go for it. Everyone can benefit from a little time out now and then.

Worst case scenario

Perspective is a wonderful thing but it so often escapes us in the run up to the festive holiday.

If your worries are getting the better of you, take a moment to sit down and work out your worst case scenario. What is the very very worst that could happen?

So that present that you ordered online doesn’t arrive in time for Christmas. It will be just as welcome a few days later. What if your cooking rota – the one that you’ve planned with military precision for weeks – falls apart on the day? Nobody will starve from waiting an extra half an hour. So Auntie Betty doesn’t like her present. Give her an extra sherry and remember next year that blue really isn’t her colour.

Brainstorm

Is there too much to remember? Have you too much to do? If your mind is spinning with the overflowing mass of things to buy, jobs to complete, and people to contact, then have a brainstorm.

Write down all the jobs, all the purchases, and all the people then tick them off as you finish each task. It might also be handy to write down any emergency numbers you might need like the out of hours doctor and chemist, friend and family numbers (just in case you mislay your address book), and useful ones such as local taxi firms too.

Writing it all down will free up your brain and ticking off each task on your list is incredibly satisfying too.

Breathe

This isn’t as obvious as it sounds. If all else fails, take a deep breath in, count to six, breathe out, and smile.

Author Interview with Richard Wall

author interview with richard wall

Today’s author interview is with author and poet, Richard Wall. He’s also a creator of short stories and has turned his hand to writing songs, sleeve notes, and album reviews for indie musicians. His literary creations reflect his life-long fascination with the dark underbelly of American culture.

Hi Richard. Lovely to see you today. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the readers before we get started?

Thanks for inviting me to take part. I’m Richard Wall, author of the novels Fat Man Blues, Near Death, a bunch of short stories and poems, and a very occasional blog page.

Tell us about your latest book. What’s it called and what was the inspiration behind it?

My latest book is the one that is being written as we speak. Its working title is Born Again and it’s the sequel to my second novel Near Death (see what I did there?). Born Again is set in South Carolina in 1969 and begins with the arrest of John Henry Beauregard following the grisly discovery of a dead body near his cabin in the mountains. The story follows John Henry as he tries to find a killer who seems to be controlled from beyond the grave. 

The story features the return of some characters from Near Death, as well as introducing new ones, including a voodoo priestess from Louisiana. Oh, and it has fast cars and blues music, too.

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

It could be anything; a conversation in a bar in Clarksdale Mississippi sparked the first chapter of Fat Man Blues. A simple ‘what if’ question triggered Near Death. Driving to work one day a few years ago I was thinking about nonsense poetry when the line ’Thomas Green The Submarine’ popped in my head. That became a dark monologue which has since been narrated by Hull musician Half Deaf Clatch

Also, reading (the verb, not the city).  

Here’s the festive question: If you could have Christmas Dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?

I’m such a voracious reader that I have a wealth of fictional characters I would love to meet. 

I would love to sit down for a meal with Burke, the anti-hero of the dark crime novels written by Andrew Vachss. The meal would be at Mama’s Chinese resturant in New York, sitting at the booth which doubles as Burke’s ‘office’.

Equally I think Tom Joad, hero of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, would make an interesting companion.

  Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

I’m hoping that Born Again will be finished and in a fit state to be pitched to a certain independent publisher. I also have an idea to compile all of my short stories and poetry into paperback form – working title: ’Nicotine, Liquor & Blasphemy’.

Thanks for talking to me today, Richard. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for Born Again.

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If you’d like to find out more about Richard and his books, here are all the useful links you might need:

And finally, here’s my 5* review of Richard’s novel.

Near Death

“I do love a horror novel with teeth, and Near Death is certainly that. I expected complex, flawed characters and I wasn’t disappointed in John Henry Beauregard, a prison chaplain still haunted by his experience of the Korean war.

Near Death is a novel of parts – our first introduction to the murderous Joseph Hickey, John Henry’s attempt to leave his years as a prison chaplain behind, what happens in New York, tragedy, and the final showdown. Each part serves what is to come and adds depth to the world of the novel.

What stood out most for me was the character of Joseph Hickey. Vile. Dangerous beyond reckoning. Seemingly unstoppable. If anything is going to get a reaction out of the reader, it’s him.

I enjoyed reading this novel immensely and want more books please from Richard Wall.”

Author Interview with Patricia Ayling

author interview with patricia ayling

December is flying by. It’s the second week (only 18 sleeps until the big day) and also the second of this month’s author interviews. Today it’s the turn of historical ghost story writer, Patricia Ayling.

Hi Patricia. Lovely to see you today. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the readers before we get started?

I am a latecomer to writing, more accurately, being a published author. I have always found writing enjoyable, whether that be letters or essays from school times to short stories and factual stuff in a few textbooks I was commissioned to write when teaching. I get lost when writing and it’s a good feeling.

It was only when I requested a professional edit of my near complete novel that I felt the metaphorical slap. My manuscript was unrecognisable. Red pen underlined words and sentences, or simply slashed straight through them. ‘Don’t be disheartened’ the feedback commenced. I was. I slept and decided to battle on: and learned so much more about writing as a craft.

Those edits always are a knife to the heart, aren’t they? Tell us about your latest book. What’s it called and what was the inspiration behind it?

The Curse of Becton Manor is my first novel. I love the Tudor period but I also love an element of the supernatural. When I was small, we visited my grandparents on their farm in Wiltshire. The house had no electricity, not uncommon in the 1950s. There was a tale of my grandmother seeing pokers stabbing the embers of a fire with no person holding them. Hauntings are fascinating but the evidence for the existence of ghosts remains elusive. My story combined both of my interests by writing about a house that began its life in 1593 and was derelict in 1957 but due to be renovated. Then by presenting the traumas of two very different families I was able to weave in a paranormal edge.

My recent project is a sequel following the evil protagonist in 1598. I then hope to write a third book concentrating on the twentieth century protagonist. So still historical and with the supernatural in mind but I hope to write using a deeper emotional style and I love a psychological twist. So we shall see. My characters take me on a journey not the other way round.

The Curse of Becton Manor book cover

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

What inspires me? Sometimes just reading the newspaper or magazines reveals the true feelings of people and their experiences. At other times, just listening to conversations. Reading and researching periods can also illuminate lives and stir your emotions and your imagination.

Here’s the festive question: If you could have Christmas Dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?

Oh – who would I have Christmas dinner with? I thought long and hard about this one. I think I wouldn’t down many forkfuls of food if I sat across from Sherlock Holmes. His powers of observation would intrigue me. I admire successful crime writers and wish I too could pen a psychological thriller.

Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

My plans for 2022 are writing my two remaining books, start a saga and read a variety of genre.

Thanks for talking to me, Patricia. I’ll keep an eye out for your new books.

If you’d like to find out more about Patricia and her writing, here are all the useful links you might need:

I read The Curse of Becton Manor earlier in the year, enjoyed it immensely, and left this 5* review:

The Curse of Becton Manor

“The Curse of Becton Manor packs a double historical whammy with its two period settings of the 1950s and the 1590s.

The dream of life in an Elizabethan country manor house soon turns into a mixed blessing as Tom and his friend George happen on the ghostly mystery of Becton Manor.

I loved the interplay between the two time periods and the level of historical research that made both timelines so believable.

Ghosts. Intrigue. Adventure. What a brilliant mixture.”

Author Interview with Richard Ayre

author interview with richard ayre

Today is the first day of December and my first festive author interview. There’ll be plenty more in the run-up to Christmas but let’s kick things off with Richard Ayre.

Hi Richard. Lovely to see you today. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the readers before we get started?

Hi, Fi, thank you. A real pleasure to talk to you today.

I teach History in a secondary school as a day job, but I’ve been writing fiction in my spare time for donkey’s years now. Back in the late 1980’s I started writing what would eventually become ‘Point of Contact,’ a sci-fi/horror/procedural thriller (not really sure what it is!). I sent it to a few agents but it got nowhere, which is not surprising really as it was terrible. I’ve revised it massively since going back to it and I love it now, but re-reading it after twenty odd years was possibly the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done. First drafts etc.

After that, I thought I would have a go at writing horror. I was, and still am, a huge fan of James Herbert; I love the gritty Britishness of his works, and I was also really into New Wave Heavy Metal. I thought I’d combine these two loves into a novel and so ‘Minstrel’s Bargain’ was created. I set this in Newcastle and tried to add a little humour into the tale, as well as a lot of very gratuitous violence. Again, this got nowhere, and by this time my eldest daughter had been born. Writing did not really have a place in my heart anymore so the scripts for both Minstrel’s Bargain and Point of Contact went and lived in the loft for nearly twenty-five years as I got on with life.

Fast forward to 2015 and I dragged them out and had a look at them again. By this time there was a slew of indie publishers around, so I sent MB off to one of them and to my surprise they took it on! Unfortunately, that didn’t work and the publisher and myself eventually parted ways, but that small success prompted me to begin writing again. I heavily revised Point of Contact and this was taken on by another indie publisher (but once again I found that there was limited interest from them re; advertising etc, so I parted with them too and decided to self-publish.) After that I decided that I missed Minstrel, the demon from Minstrel’s Bargain, so I wrote a sequel entitled Minstrel’s Renaissance, and then a third novel in what has become a trilogy; Minstrel’s Requiem. All of these were self-published.

In and amongst this, I was scribbling down short stories, as this helped me through a bit of writer’s block on Minstrel’s Renaissance, and they have become two anthologies called ‘A Hatful of Shadows’ and ‘Nightmares and Daydreams’ respectively.

I then started on a story I called ‘Passing it Along’ which was very different to what I had written before. It was the story of a man mortally wounded in World War One who, for a convoluted reason, becomes immortal. The story follows the protagonist’s life journey; from 1918 all the way to the 21st Century. When this was finished, I once again touted it to agents for over a year, but, inevitably, none of them wanted it. I eventually came across Burning Chair who took the novel on, edited the hell out of it and turned it into ‘A Life Eternal.’ They then took on Point of Contact too, so it has eventually found a home.

Tell us about your latest book. What’s it called and what was the inspiration behind it?

My latest book, again published by Burning Chair, is a historical thriller called ‘Shadow of the Knife.’ It came about after a conversation about Point of Contact between myself and Pete and Si at Burning Chair. They said I should write a police procedural. I said no because I actually don’t really like those kinds of books; they all seem a bit ‘samey’ to me, but I had been thinking of writing a story set in the 19th Century; a time-travel novel set in that period. I mulled on it for a while, took out the time travel aspect and turned it into a historical thriller. Shadow of the Knife was born, and Pete and Si took it on.

The story is, in essence, a crime thriller, set in the East End in 1890; two years after the Ripper killings. When more women begin to be murdered in the same fashion as the Ripper killings, Detective Jonas Handy of Leman Street Station is put on the case. He calls on the help of surgeon Dr Carter ‘Jigsaw’ Jarman, a celebrated criminologist, and the two men are drawn into the murky world of prostitution and murder. Their investigations take them from the filthy streets of Whitechapel to the plush sitting rooms of the Victorian gentry. It’s my first novel that does not contain any supernatural elements, so we’ll have to see how it all goes!

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

I have to be honest; my inspiration comes in peaks and troughs. If I have an idea, I can rattle out a 300-page novel in pretty quick time, (both A Life Eternal and Shadow of the Knife took about three months each for the first drafts) but I tend to go for long periods without writing a thing. We are always told to write every day, but I don’t do that. When I’m working on a novel, I put every spare minute of the day into it, but when I’m finished, I tend to just leave writing alone for a while. Weird, but true.

Here’s the festive question: If you could have Christmas Dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?

Which fictional character would I have Christmas dinner with? What an incredible question. There are far too many!

If I had to plump for one, (and not one I’ve created, which would be the hero of the Minstrel books, Phil Sturgess) I think I would have dinner with Fluke, the protagonist of James Herbert’s novel of the same name. If you have not read this, the story is about a dog who slowly discovers that he is the reincarnation of a man who believes he was murdered and sets out to discover about his past life as a human. I think Fluke would get on with Harvey, my own dog, and it means I could sit on the settee after dinner and have two dogs to stroke instead of just one. I wouldn’t have to engage in much conversation with them either. That would be a great Christmas!

Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

Plans for the future. I really don’t know. I’m at a point where I’m in a bit of a trough at the minute as far as writing is concerned. I will definitely write a sequel to Shadow of the Knife at some point, but when that will be I don’t know. I’m always having ideas for new stories, and I’ve started at least 3 that I can think of, but the hunger is not really there at the moment. Real life always gets in the way of just being able to sit and write and my job always has to take priority as this is the thing that actually pays the bills, which writing certainly does not. So, we’ll see how Shadow of the Knife does. I suppose this novel is a bit of a watershed; do I continue or not? I’m sure I will and I’m sure I will start again soon, but, as I say, we’ll just have to see when that will be.

Thanks for the chat, Richard. Shadow of the Knife is on my to-be-read shelf (note I said shelf and not pile – this book buying habit really is turning into a problem).

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If you’d like to find out more about Richard and his books, here are all the useful links you might need:

And if that isn’t enough, I’ve reviewed a couple of his books too.

A Life Eternal

“I enjoyed this novel immensely. It was one of those books that made me forget I was reading – it was so well crafted and involving.

The development of Rob Deakin from broken ex soldier to adventurer, doomed man, loving husband and finally, wise soul is cleverly and convincingly written.

Looking forward to Richard’s next book.”

Point of Contact

“Point of Contact by Richard Ayre has a brilliant cast of characters and although the point of view changes rapidly and frequently, there is never any doubt whose eyes you are seeing the story through.

I enjoyed the way we got to know the villain – slowly, deeply, and menacingly – without any idea who they were until the big reveal near the end of the novel.

The switch back and forth between time periods was done well, serving the story and happening at just the right places.

The end was excruciatingly exciting and brutal. This author obviously enjoys making their characters suffer. I did begin to wonder just how much more injury and misery Fenwick, Goddard, and Ellie could take.

All in all, a brilliant page-turner of a novel. Awesome.”

Looking back over 2021

looking back over 2021

The nights are drawing in and the trees are looking golden. Halloween and Bonfire Night are over and the shops are filled with festive cheer. It must be November and time to look back over the past year.

After the pandemic-ridden 2020, I had high hopes for 2021. By spring, we were out of lockdown and returning to normal, or at least a new version of normal. There was hope on the horizon in the form of a vaccine. College was opening back up for my teens. I could even walk into McDonalds again, albeit masked up to my eyes.

So what has 2021 thrown at me as an author?

Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles

I had high hopes for seeing book 2 spring to life in 2021. Unfortunately, the editing process and my publisher’s rapidly expanding stable of authors (that’s the number of authors expanding, not the authors themselves) means that book 2 won’t reach the hands of readers until 2022.

Still, this year has seen it revamped and polished to within an inch of its literary life. Steve, Hartley, Blessing, and the darkling are back but there’s a new villain to contend with. There are also new friends, new puzzles, and plenty of new places to visit.

Social Media for Authors

An idea began in 2020 of a way to marry both my copywriting and authoring skills to help other authors handle their social media presence. I even asked Burning Chair if they were interested (they were).

In 2021, I emailed off the first draft off to them and shortly afterwards they offered me a publishing contract. Over the summer, I polished off the edits they asked for and now it’s back in their hands for the next stage. I’ll let you know more, when I know more myself.

Guest blogging

As usual, the writing community have continued to be a joy and as supportive as always in 2021. I’ve appeared on six bookish blogs this year:

Thank you to Lily, Clare, Jon, Claire, Karen, and Chelle for your kindness.   

Caught up (almost) with my TBR list

I had so many wonderful books on my to-be-read shelf that I decided to make a definite effort to read them all in 2021.

So far, I’ve read and reviewed:

  • Roxie and Alfred by Nancy R Hinchliff
  • I am Dust by Louise Beech
  • My Father’s Daughter by Lily Lawson
  • Words of Alchemy by Camilla Downs
  • The Curse of Becton Manor by Patricia Ayling
  • The Crow Folk by Mark Stay
  • Point of Contact by Richard Ayre
  • The Binding by Bridget Collins
  • Near Death by Richard Wall

And that’s just the fictional works. You can find all of my book reviews on my Instagram account.

A regular blogging habit

I’ve written a blog post at least once every month in 2021. There are a lot of planning and progress posts, but I’ve also written:

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It’s been an odd but productive eleven months. The new normal is still taking a little getting used to, and constantly evolving too. I have two books in the works with Burning Chair and my fingers are firmly crossed for both book releases in 2022.

We’re on the glittery, slippery slope to Christmas and we’re only weeks away from the new year too. In December, there’ll be plenty for you to read here in the run up to the big day with a slew of author interviews.

See you then.

How this Author celebrates Halloween

antique books

Books may well be the only true magic – Alice Hoffman

In the Phillips household, Halloween preparations are underway. We have a bowl of sweets ready for the estate kids when they come trick or treating and plans for a family night on the couch with my husband and teens watching a horror flick with a takeaway.

I’ve spent the month spreading the Halloween mood online with scary books to read and films to watch. I love the costumes and scary celebrations of the season as much as anyone but if I’m honest, that isn’t what Halloween is about for me.

As someone who lives for magic and storytelling, Halloween marks a sentimental opportunity to think about loved ones who have passed and find a way to connect with them. It won’t surprise you that my way to connect is through the books they loved.

I have a shelf of old, mainly leather-bound books that belonged to my parents. Some were passed down to them from their parents. There’s a stout copy of Robinson Crusoe, a slim copy of the Elusive Pimpernel, and two hefty tomes of Shakespearean plays, to name but a few. My mother loved to read drama and adventure. My father was a theatre fan, hence the immense number of play-scripts he accumulated.

Each Halloween I’ll read a couple of chapters from a novel, a number of poems, or a few scenes from a play from my ancestral collection. While I do, besides enjoying the story itself, I’ll remember that my parents touched these pages and experienced these words just as I am now.

However you spend the day, I wish you all the best for a mellow, heart-felt Halloween.

5 Things that terrify Authors

skull on books and words, 5 things that terrify authors

It’s that month again, when the shops are filled with trick-or-treat sweeties and scary costumes, and for once it’s perfectly acceptable not to sweep away the cobwebs. With Halloween on the way, this is the perfect time to share what five things fair put the witchy wind up authors and reduce us to quivering wretches.

Not being read

Whether we’re at the stage of sending off our darling manuscripts to literary agents and publishers or our books have made it to Amazon and the local bookstore, authors around the globe are hounded by the fear that nobody will read our books. We will be ignored, abandoned, and even ridiculed.

We worry that all our time, hard work and imaginative scribblings have been for nothing. Nobody wants to read our book. Nobody wants to take us seriously. Nobody is bothered.

Being read

The flip-side of the first fear is that people actually will read our book. Oh no!

What will they think? Will they hate it? Will they think it’s atrociously written? Will they scoff at our plotting and character-development? Will they even like our characters?

Maybe they’ll start reading our book and give up half-way through, tossing our literary darling in the bin.

Worse still, what if they read the whole thing, hate it, and tell the whole world how they feel? One star reviews all over the online universe. What could be more terrible than that?

Putting our faces out there

Oh yes, this could be more terrible. Admittedly, some authors enjoy the limelight but for many of us, the thought of our face on the back of our book, our website, social media profiles, Amazon, in the press, our publisher’s website, or wherever it appears is likely to make us cringe.

We worry that we won’t look professional enough, or literary enough, or just not… enough. How can readers possibly take us seriously once they’ve seen what we look like?

Annoying our readers

We believe in the value of our books, but we don’t want to annoy our readers by asking them to buy our books, or leave us book reviews, read our blog posts, or sign up to our mailing list.

We spend our lives on a constant pendulum swing between ‘please dear reader’ and ‘of course that’s too much bother – I totally understand’.

Disappointing our readers

Once we have an audience of readers who have read at least one of our books, we don’t want to disappoint them with our next book, and our next. We want to create something that they’ll love just as much as the first book of ours that they laid their eyes on.

We work hard to maintain the quality of our work so that our readers will keep on singing our praises, sharing kind words, and buying our books.

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It’s a scary business being an author. But do you know what? We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Photo by William Nettmann on Unsplash

Meeting the challenges of writing Book 2

meeting the challenges of writing book 2

I saw my mother-in-law at the weekend. She’s not happy with me. Why? She wants to read the follow-up novel to Haven Wakes right now. Why isn’t it ready? How long does it take to write a book, for goodness’s sake?

Don’t get me wrong. My mother-in-law is lovely and very supportive of me. She’s just keen to see what Steve Haven does next. Me too.

The (fingers crossed) almost-final version of book two is with my publisher, Burning Chair. I’m waiting for the next round of edits from the lovely Si, eager to get on with the polishing process.

I have to admit that writing book two in a series has been a challenge. I even wrote about the main stumbling blocks in creating it last year, including:

•          Pushing Steve’s buttons (again)

•          Keeping the balance between science and fantasy

•          Steve’s world is getting bigger

•          New research

•          Publisher and reader expectations

So how did I do? Did I meet those challenges?

Pushing Steve’s buttons (again)

This challenge was all about giving Steve enough reason to leave the safety of school and return to the world of magic. In Haven Wakes, Steve was pushed into that world. This time round, I wanted him to willingly jump.

In book two, Steve desperately wants to be somewhere other than the mundane world he’s always known. His time in Darkacre has changed his view on life and he’s got new, magical friends in his life that he cares about. It’s a no-brainer for him to return.

Challenge met? Yes

Keeping the balance between science and fantasy

Magic and robots. You’ll find me use that phrase a lot as way to explain the world of Haven Wakes. I wanted to keep that mix in book two, but I knew that Steve would be delving further into the magical world so keeping a balance could prove difficult.

I think I’ve managed that challenge well, with a deep dive into the magical world (not just Darkacre) and a bigger picture of the workaday (scientific) world too. There are also more examples of the interplay between the two cultures.

Challenge met? Yes

Steve’s world is getting bigger

For this challenge, I wanted to take Steve far beyond the city limits of Caercester. The initial destination I intended to use ended up being a non-starter. It was too restrictive for the adventure I wanted to take Steve on, and the same purpose could be served closer to home.

One of Steve’s main bugbears with his parents is that they never take him with them on their travels. In book two, Steve experiences his own travel adventures.

Challenge met? Yes

New research

Research for book two was extensive, to say the least, both on scientific, magical, and other topics. Want to see the list (or at least part of it)?

  • solar power
  • oil platforms
  • (more) robots
  • legal systems
  • architecture
  • origami
  • henges
  • Greek and Roman mythology
  • ancient Greek puddings
  • tram and train systems
  • space stations
  • artificial gravity
  • spies
  • EMPs

I didn’t use all my findings in book two. Some may turn up later in the series, or in other series after I’ve finished writing the Haven Chronicles.

Challenge met? Yes

Publisher and research expectation

This was probably the scariest challenge of the lot; creating a book that equalled Haven Wakes in quality, maintained the momentum, and pleased both my publisher and my readers. Phew!

Well, I seem to have succeeded with creating a novel that my publishers like (with a few tweaks). The verdict on whether my readers will like it is still to be reached. Personally, I love where I’ve taken Steve – even if I’ve made him suffer on that journey – and I hope you’ll love it too.

Challenge met? Yet to see.

The Result

Overall, I’ve succeeded in meeting the challenges of writing the follow-up novel to Haven Wakes and I’m keen to see what you all think of it. There’s still work to be done and sometime soon I’ll be asking for beta readers to have a look at book two. In the meantime, all I can ask is that you – and my mother-in-law – hang on for a little bit longer.

What I’ve been reading over the Summer

book covers

This summer seemed to go on forever but with autumn waiting at the door, I thought I’d share what I’ve been reading over the last few months.

With two of my books with my publisher Burning Chair and no edits to keep me busy, I avoided the dreaded thumb-twiddling by diving into my to-be-read list. Here are all the lovely book covers and the reviews I left on Amazon and Goodreads.

I am Dust by Louise Beech

I am Dust by Louise Beech

Beautifully Haunting

I am dust. She haunts me. Two phrases from this supernatural novel that encapsulate so much of its heart.

This beautiful ghost story is so much more than that. There’s romance, friendship – both the real kind of like-souls and the ‘just because you’re around’ kind of the teen years – and a multi-layered story that unwinds and reveals at just the right pace.

I loved the switch back and forth between the present and the past, which was done so well, and the growing suspense. The ending wasn’t predictable; neither was the identity of Morgan Miller’s murderer. I so wanted a happy ending for the main character, Chloe. Despite her demons, she grew on me as someone who deserved the best in the world.

P.S. Chester rocks.

The Curse of Becton Manor by Patricia Ayling

the curse of becton manor by patricia ayling

Historical mystery and ghostly goings-on

The Curse of Becton Manor packs a double historical whammy with its two period settings of the 1950s and the 1590s.

The dream of life in an Elizabethan country manor house soon turns into a mixed blessing as Tom and his friend George happen on the ghostly mystery of Becton Manor.

I loved the interplay between the two time periods and the level of historical research that made both timelines so believable.

Ghosts. Intrigue. Adventure. What a brilliant mixture.

My Father’s Daughter by Lily Lawson

my father's daughter by lily lawson

Memories and Moments

This well-crafted collection of poetry by the very talented Lily Lawson features memories and moments that anyone can connect with.

From love, to friendship, family, and moments of just being. Beautiful.

Words of Alchemy by Camilla Downs

words of alchemy by camilla downs

Magical

This collection of free-verse poetry is vivid and heart-felt. At times it seemed like a book of affirmations; at others a meditation on life. Even more poems reminded me of magic spells, sending love and good wishes out into the world. I enjoyed reading the explanations that many of the poems carried too.

All in all, Words of Alchemy by Camilla Downs is a magical read.

The Crow Folk by Mark Stay

the crow  folk by mark stay

Marvelously Magical

After I was only a few chapters into The Crow Folk, I began to get the impression that this novel was a mixture of Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Worzel Gummidge. By the end of it, I’d found that it went far beyond both of those stories.

The melding of scarecrows come to life, witches both young and more mature, a sense of community, and the limitations of English village life during the early years of WW2 created a wonderful adventure that had me reaching for The Crow Folk every night.

The humour is just right and the dialogue is written so deftly that I could picture each conversation.

I can’t wait for the next instalment in the Witches of Woodville series.

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Next up is Point of Contact by Richard Ayre. Watch out for my book review on my Instagram account (as well as Amazon and Goodreads).