Looking back over 2022

2022 tiles on a desk

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

Haven Wakes was reborn

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

Magic Bound was published

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

Here’s the blurb:

The magic returns.

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

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

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

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

I read a lot of fiction books

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

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

My blogging habit

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

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

The Life of Fi

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

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

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

Tackling the third book in the series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What I’m waiting for right now

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

Book Two of the Haven Chronicles

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

The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency by Peter Oxley

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

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

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

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

The Stone of Destiny by Andrew Neil MacLeod

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

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

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

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

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

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

On TV

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

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

My summer holiday

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

My son’s A’ level results

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

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

Writing a book: solo project or team effort?

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

Solo project?

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

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

Team effort?

The next few months went something like this:

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

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

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

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

Answer to my question?

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

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

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

Thank you for being my village.

5 ways to show your love to a writer

5 ways to show your love to a writer

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

Ask but don’t ask too much

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

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

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

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

Understand that a writer’s mind needs time to create

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

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

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

Don’t expect our story explanation to make sense

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

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

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

Read our books and leave kind words

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

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

A cup of tea and a plate of biscuits

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

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

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

Photo by Theo Crazzolara on Unsplash

What you can expect from me in 2022

2022

Does anyone else feel like 2021 was a practice run for 2022? Not that it was terrible; plenty of good stuff came into my life last year. It just felt like wading through mud in fluffy slippers whilst balancing an overfilled suitcase on my shoulders. That’s why my phrase for this year is ‘back on course’. Back on course with getting out into the world, back on course with writing books, and back on course with getting those books out to you, dear reader.

Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles

Unfortunately, my publisher’s schedule for 2021 meant that the second instalment in my fantasy series didn’t make it out of the stalls last year. The good news is that book 2 will definitely be published in the first half of 2022.

Over the next few months, I’ll be asking for beta readers to help me polish my novel and ARC readers to get the word out to the reading community. I’ll also be revealing the book’s title and cover design. If you want to get involved as either a beta or ARC reader, drop me an email or register with Burning Chair’s reader group.

I can’t wait to share Steve’s continuing journey into magic with you.

Social media for authors

My book of social media advice for authors is in the hands of Burning Chair. In the meantime, you can find plenty of advice for authors on my copywriting blog.

Social Media for Authors will be published in 2022 or 2023.

Writing Book 3

While I waited to hear back about book 2 last year, I began to write the next novel in the series, and that will continue in 2022. I greatly admire authors who can write a first draft in a couple of months, but unfortunately that isn’t me. The target is to have the first draft of book 3 finished by the autumn. Fingers crossed.

Subscriber treats

In my December newsletter, I let subscribers access a deleted scene from Haven Wakes. The plan is to get subscriber eyes on deleted scenes regularly throughout the year – perhaps on a quarterly basis.

If you haven’t signed up for my Author News yet, you can subscribe here.

Writers are readers too

Last year, I only managed to read ten fiction books. In 2022, I want to increase that to at least twelve. Christmas presents and shopping got me off to a good start with my to-be-read pile. I have nine physical books and one e-book (Ghosts: Being the Experiences of Flaxman Low by K and Hesketh Pritchard) so far.

That means lots of 2022 book reviews on my Instagram and plenty of book recommendations in my newsletter too.

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So that’s my writerly and readerly 2022 mapped out. Fingers crossed, it all goes to plan. I’ll keep you posted.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

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