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.

What I’m reading this spring

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

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

Here’s what I’m reading this spring:

Current read: Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

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

Here’s the blurb:

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

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

Also current read: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last read of the season: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s it for this year

merry christmas

It’s Christmas Eve. The presents are (finally) wrapped and under our sparkly tree. It’s time to settle in for a restful evening with the family.

Before it gets too busy with cooking and unwrapping of gifts tomorrow, I’d like to wish you all the very best of festive holidays. May it bring you what you need and what makes you smile, all with a sprinkling of sparkle and joy.

Here’s to a better, kinder, and healthier new year.

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.

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.

The Summer Life of Fi

summer life of fi

Summer time, and the living is ea-zee… ♫♪

Or at least it is if you don’t have to write a blog post when you’ve nothing much to say. You see, while I wait for my publisher to get back to me on Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles, life is just normal and un-writerly. Well, kind of. Let me explain.

Writing something else

Okay, the summer life of Fi isn’t totally un-writerly because I am working on another book, a non fiction offering that brings together my author and copywriter hats. Having said that, it’s almost finished and will be flying off into the inbox of my publisher by the end of July.

Copywriting, as usual

Ok, so my normal working life is reasonably writerly. I create articles and blog posts for clients under my copywriter hat. Articles like this – How To Find Profitable Work From Home Jobs and my own blog posts too. This one is for authors – How Authors Can Find Out Where Their Readers Are Online.

Cutting down my TBR list

I’m desperately behind with my TBR list so I’m tackling that over the summer. Expect lots of book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and on my social media too. My current read is the chilling, ghostly, and very theatrical I Am Dust by Louise Beech.

Thinking about the next book to write

While my publisher has the second book in the Haven Chronicles series, I’m planning out where I will take Steve next, who will accompany him, and how much more danger I can throw at the poor lad. It’s looking good so far.

Walking the hound and making memories

My morning walks with Bailey are a brilliant way to gently wake up my brain before the day’s work begins. Early evening dog-walks mark clocking-off time.

The summer weather and my teens being off over the holidays gives me the perfect excuse to drag us all out for a trek or two. Yesterday I took them to the zoo. We saw alpacas, and snakes, and an owl called Bovril.

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So there you go, the summer life of Fi. What about you? What are you doing over the holidays?

What do Authors do in between Books?

what do authors do in between books?

Let’s be honest. As readers, we pay most attention to authors when they’ve recently released a new book.

Ooh, shiny new reading material with a pretty cover. How exciting!

And that’s perfectly understandable because even if we scour their monthly newsletters, look them up on social media, and gush over photographs of their dog/cat/boa constrictor, what we’re really interested in is getting our hands on their latest literary offspring.

But what do authors do in between books?

Wait

Last weekend, I submitted the latest draft of book two of the Haven Chronicles to my publisher, Burning Chair. The wait is now on for their response and the next round of edits.

Authors do a lot of waiting. We wait for:

  • inspiration to write the next book
  • news from our editors/publishers/literary agents, usually involving a round of edits to our work in progress
  • feedback from beta and ARC readers
  • book reviews to roll in
  • royalty payments

Plan

So much planning. We plan:

  • our next writing project
  • our social media and blog posts
  • the next book launch
  • which bloggers and book reviewers we’ll contact and what we’ll say
  • our marketing strategy
  • how we’re going to spend those royalty payments

Talk

We keep talking to our readers and audience. I mean, it would be rude to just call everybody up when we have a book to release. So we keep the conversation going just to let everyone know that we’re still here, toiling away to keep our readers happy.

This can be one of the hardest things to do for an author because short of selling the books we’ve already got out or announcing the release of the next book, it can be tricky to think up topics that our readers would be interested in. So along with the talking, we listen to what you’d like to hear from us.

We keep up the conversation by:

  • building our mailing lists and sending out newsletters
  • staying active on social media, including interacting with our readers
  • writing blog posts around the topic or world of our books
  • attending literary conferences (like this one I attended in Chester)
  • writing guest blog posts

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So yeah, I’m doing a whole lot of all of the above, plus working on a non-fiction book and living life in general. I think it’s going to be a busy summer.

Progress? What I’ve been up to in March

March progress

I’ve been so head down in editing Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles that I completely forgot about writing a blog post until today, which unfortunately (or fortunately, in my case) coincided with me taking two hours out of my working day to get my hair done for the first time since Autumn 2020.

Now, I’m back at my desk freshly coiff-ed and raring to go. Except…

I haven’t thought up an inspirational, amusing, or informative blog post to write, so instead I’ll share with you two guest blog posts of mine that were out in March.

3 Ways To Step Out of Isolation

The lovely Lily Lawson was kind enough to let me appear on her writing blog at the beginning of March.

With the end of lockdown here in Wales on the horizon, and seeing reactions from friends, neighbours, and loved ones that ranged from outright fear to the need to get out there and celebrate, this blog post was my personal slant on how we should embrace our new normal.

You can find it here.

Fantasy With a Touch of Science

A little later in March, I featured on Clare Rhoden’s blog, talking about my love of fantasy and science, and how those two things shaped my debut novel, Haven Wakes.

I talk robots – from Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet to the Astrobees on the International Space Station – and you’ll also find an extract from Haven Wakes which shows some of the ways my love of futuristic tech and scientific development played a role in the novel’s world-building.

You can find that blog post here.

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As for the editing of Book 2, well, it’s coming along nicely. There’s more robots, more fantastical places to visit, and many more faces – both good and bad – and as usual, Steve is in for a bumpy ride.