Fi Phillips: the story so far

photo grid of Fi Phillips, Haven Wakes, Magic Bound, and the words Fi Phillips: the story so far

It’s my first blog post of the new year, so I thought it was time to have a catch-up and reintroduce myself and my books.

My name is Fi Phillips. I’m a fantasy author, freelance copywriter, wife and mum, and slave to a dog called Bailey. I live in North Wales, just over the border from Chester. My novels, Haven Wakes and Magic Bound, were released by Burning Chair Publishing in 2019 and 2022.

Want to know more about my novels?

Haven Wakes blurb

When his uncle dies, Steve Haven finds himself the guardian of a strange artefact known only as the Reactor. But there are people out there who want the Reactor: dangerous and powerful people, who will stop at nothing to get it.

Steve is dragged into a race against time to save two worlds from an evil he could never have imagined and, in doing so, is forced to rely on people who, just a few days before, he would never have believed could exist.

Magic Bound blurb

The magic returns.

When Hartley Keg and Blessing go missing, Steve Haven once again finds himself plunged back into a 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 that he holds most dear.

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

What follows is a race against time through a series of worlds, each more fantastical and dangerous than the last, as Steve and his friends try to keep one step ahead of their pursuers.

Haven Wakes and Magic Bound by Fi Phillips on an abstract magical background

Book 3 of the Haven Chronicles

Last year was all about finishing the first draft of the third book in my futuristic fantasy series. I achieved that goal just before the end of 2023. On New Year’s day, I took up the reins again and began the first round of edits. I’m twelve chapters in so far.

The plan is to finish editing the first draft by the end of February at the latest, and then send it off to my publisher. Fingers crossed.

After that, I’ll be planning out book 4 in the series.

What else?

To date, I’ve written a short story and a novelette set in the same world as my novels. ‘The Hidden Knowing’ is available for free to new subscribers to my author newsletter. ‘A Shadow Falls in Darkacre’ was a Christmas subscriber freebie in 2022 and 2023. I immensely enjoyed investigating side characters and plotlines in both tales, so I’d like to create more short stories centred around the magical community of Darkacre. The plan is to eventually publish them all in a collection of Darkacre tales.

You can also find my writing in two anthologies: 2020 Together and 2021 Still Together. Both raise money for the NHS charities.

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So that’s me, Fi, and my writing so far. And if you’d like to find out how I became a writer, hop on over to my About page.

The rewards of writing a fiction series

I’ve blogged before about the challenges of writing book two and those challenges haven’t diminished as I work on the third book of the Haven Chronicles. What I haven’t written about is the rewards of writing a fiction series.

Writing a series isn’t easy, but it can be incredibly satisfying. It’s certainly given me a sense of accomplishment, but it’s also helped me to grow as a writer.

So in this blog post, I want to share with you some of the rewards that I’ve enjoyed while writing my series. These aren’t the only rewards, of course, but they are some of the most important ones for me.

Exploring the world of the Haven Chronicles

When I wrote Haven Wakes, I fell in love with both the futuristic and magical aspects of Caercester and Darkacre. In Magic Bound, I got the chance to extend that world beyond the city limits and dive deeper into the magical culture.

 Building a world that has elements of both fantasy and sci fi is an absolute joy. I have the chance to play with robots and technology that is being developed in our world right now or is only theorised about at the moment. I can also indulge my love of all things folklore and magic, including characters from the mythological tales I devoured as a child.

Writing a series allows me to wend my way through that world, further and further afield with each book, and explore the intricacies of both the magical and workaday** cultures. With each new instalment, I can return there and share those locations with my readers.

Revisiting the characters of the Haven Chronicles

It’s not only the world of the Haven Chronicles that I can revisit; there’s the characters too. Writing a series allows me to follow the journeys of Steve, Hartley, Blessing, and the darkling, plus some well-loved side characters like James and Frobisher too. With each new book, I can explore their development, their relationships with each other, and how their views of the world change over time.

What’s more, I can create companion stories that feature those characters too. Hartley Keg and Frobisher turn up in my short stories, The Hidden Knowing and A Shadow Falls in Darkacre. And I’ve plans to write a novel about Hartley’s adventures long before he meets Steve in Haven Wakes.

Serving the readers of the Haven Chronicles

Before my novels were published, I always worried about how they’d be received. Would readers like them and want more? Or would they post horrendous 1* reviews and my books die a literary death? Thankfully, the feedback I’ve received from beta and ARC readers, bloggers, and book reviewers has been encouraging.

And instead of simply accepting the praise, I’ve done my best to listen to what readers want to see in future books too. More action. More future tech. The most common question from readers has been ‘where are Steve’s parents?’. I’ll answer that in the third book in the series.

Challenging myself as a writer

Writing a series has meant continuing an overarching storyline and making sure that my characters are consistent but also develop with each new adventure. It’s also meant:

  • planning ahead for the entire series, not just one novel
  • learning how to keep my characters acting like themselves but changing over time too
  • planting seeds that will reach fruition in future books
  • keeping the plot of each novel relevant to the overall story arc of the series
  • making each book bigger than the one before
  • keeping track of what’s happened in previous books so I don’t make continuity mistakes

It’s a completely different skillset to writing one stand-alone story but it’s a challenge I’m enjoying immensely.

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Writing a series has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life as a writer. I’ve loved exploring the world and the characters of the Haven Chronicles, serving my readers and listening to their feedback, and challenging myself to grow and improve as a writer. I can’t wait to share the third book in the series with you.

** a term used to describe non magical people in my novels

Looking back over 2022

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.

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.

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.

How to leave a reader review #BeKindToAnAuthor

how to leave a reader review

Okay, hands up, I’m sure a lot of you already know how to leave a reader review. In fact some of my marvellous readers have done just that:

A very good read especially for teenagers but as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of thrilling twists and turns and a story line that keeps you interested. I look forward to reading the next instalment from this talented author.

Granny 3 on Amazon

Absolutely loved this book! As a sci-fi and fantasy fan, I was excited to read Haven Wakes. The book is packed full of memorable characters who inhabit a world full of hidden magic and futuristic wonders. Would recommend as a perfect gift for teens and young adults, although if you’re a Harry Potter fan like I am, you’ll love Haven Wakes too!

Helen Culyer on goodreads

The best way to be kind to an author, after buying their book, is to let them know what you thought of it by leaving a reader review.

Why? Isn’t it just vanity to express your opinion? Not at all – Let me explain:

  • Your reader review can help me to be a better author. Is there some way I could improve my next book? Is there a character who worked so well that you’d love to hear more from them? On the flipside, are there any characters in my book who just didn’t work? No author can be an island. Swim on over and tell me what you think.
  • Your reader review can help other readers. It’s called ‘social proof’, to use the technical term. Your opinion can show other readers if this is the kind of book they would like to read.
  • Your reader review can improve my ratings on sites like Amazon, who in turn will make my book visible to more readers like you.

Where can you leave a reader review?

There are so many places where you can leave a reader review.

Retail outlets

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

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

Book review sites

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

Your blog

If you run your own blog, why not share a reader review there? Good for me (reader review that can be shared) and good for you (new content for your blog).

Social media

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

What can you write in a reader review?

That’s completely up to you. There’s no right or wrong here. Make it as long or as short as you like.

Don’t forget to leave a star rating too if that’s what the website asks for.

By the way, although you can leave just a star rating, it’s the worded reviews that really help.

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By the way, I’m a reader, and a book reviewer too. I regularly post reviews on the books I’ve read and enjoyed, mostly on Amazon, but you’ll see book reviews begin to figure here on my blog in the coming months too.

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

5 facts about the Magic System in the Haven Chronicles

5 facts about the magic system in the Haven Chronicles

“So it’s more like super-hero powers than wands and spells then?”

“Super-hero. I like that,” said Hartley. “It’s actually a little of each.”

Haven Wakes, and the other books in the Haven Chronicles series, are filled with magic.

I knew from the outset that I didn’t want to copy what magic is assumed to be in the real world or use the magic system of any other fictional works (although I’m sure there may be a little overlap). What I did instead is create a magic system from sources that I love and which serve my story.

So here are 5 facts about that magic system.

Magic has a consequence

“Using magic has a cost. It weighs on us in the same way that physical exertion does.”

Hartley Keg in Haven Wakes

The idea of magic use without consequence has always been problematic for me. if there are no consequences, then what’s to stop a magic user doing whatever they want to do? They could become so powerful that nobody could stop them, which is no fun at all when you’re writing a novel. Either the heroes or the villains can’t be defeated: that kind of set up can only run your story into a literary cul-de-sac. The End.

So in the Haven Chronicles, magic is so tightly sewn to the magic user’s physical form, that using magic is like using any muscle. It takes effort and is limited by the individual’s health and strength.

Cast too much magic and you’re likely to pass out, or at the very worst, die.

Birth magic

Each magic user is born with an innate talent for a particular kind of magic. This is their birth magic.

Earth-smiths have a talent for dealing with plants and the earth. That’s what makes them the best gardeners.

Enchanters have a way of influencing people, but not just persuading them to do things. An enchanter can also affect the way you see them, making them look younger or more beautiful than they really are.

Birth magic is generally inherited from a parent, but sometimes it skips generations and a magic user inherits the birth magic of their grandparent.

Charms and Spells

Beyond birth magic, charms and spells can also be learnt by magic users.

In my books, both charms and spells can have a physical effect on something or someone, but are created in very different ways.

Charms are a collection of items, for instance:

  • crystals
  • herbs
  • straw, string or ribbon

that are bundled together, and then imbued with the intent of the magic user. A charm might be used to contain something, reveal the truth, or find a missing person.

Spells are altogether different. Some are spoken, while others are written down. Some of the most basic but powerful spells, such as casting a light orb, are simply down to gesture and force of will.

No Magic School

In my books, magic is taught at home in a family setting. This works especially well for birth magic because there is likely to be at least one living relative who has the same magical skills and can pass their knowledge on.

The basic charms and spells are also taught at home:

  • casting a light orb
  • short-range finding spell
  • protection of an area

but these will vary from family to family.

Sources of the magic system in my books

The magic system in my books is based on all kind of sources. You’ll find nods to folklore and mythology, crystal craft, herbology and various forms of witchcraft too.

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

along with many more and so much online research too.

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What kind of magic do you like to read about?

Looking back over 2019

looking back over 2019

So the year is almost at an end. In fact, the whole decade is almost at an end. Very soon it’ll be ‘bye bye 2019, you little angel of a year’, and hello to something completely new and exciting.

It’s time to look back over the last twelve months and all the goodies 2019 has brought with it.

January, February and March

So I began the year with fingers firmly and hopefully crossed. Having submitted my novel to Burning Chair Publishing right before Christmas, this was the last chance for Haven Wakes. If they said no, I would shelve my precious book and begin something completely new.

January was a month of waiting to hear whether Burning Chair liked my novel, and when I finally thought it would be a ‘no’ or I wouldn’t hear back, I got the email I’d been hoping for – a request for the entire manuscript.

February was another month of twiddling the digits and waiting. Would Burning Chair be as keen on the entire manuscript as they had been about the first few chapters?

At the beginning of March, I received an email from Burning Chair asking to speak to me on the phone. Eek! Their call coincided with their visit to the London Book Fair and they finally gave me the news I’d been waiting for. They wanted to publish Haven Wakes!

Over that month a number of things happened:

  • Burning Chair gave me their thoughts on my novel and how it could be improved and edited.
  • They introduced me to two of their other authors, Georgia and Neil.
  • I received my publishing contract.

My publishing journey had begun.

April, May and June

April was a whirlwind of edits, setting up my website and altering my social media presence to fit. I already had a writer Facebook and Twitter account, but I set up an Instagram account too.

My daughter designed a wonderful piece of artwork for the home page of my website and, with my copywriter hat on, I began working on the wordage for each page of my website.

By the end of April, my website was live.

May and June were all about the edits, by both me and Burning Chair, and beginning the process of finding a book cover design for Haven Wakes.

welcome to my world
The books that made me the writer I am today

Inspiration: World Builders
Progress, a chat with my muse, and much much walking the dog

July, August and September

In July, I added my short story, The Hidden Knowing, as a freebie for subscribers to my newsletter, and continued with the edits.

The book cover design for Haven Wakes was revealed in the middle of August, courtesy of Stuart Bache and Books Covered.

With the final edits finished, the countdown began to publication day.

The Hidden Knowing - a short story set in the world of my debut novel, Haven Wakes. Free to all subscribers to my mailing list.
5 reasons I write fantasy
Haven Wakes Cover Reveal
my bumpy road to publication: a cautionary tale
once upon an edit
interview with author Suzanna Williams
inspiration: Roald Dahl day 2019
7 facts about how I write
the inspiration behind Haven Wakes
Haven Wakes is almost here

October, November and December

Haven Wakes was published on 1st October in paperback and e-book formats. That sounds all very factual but for me, it was a dream come true. That’s a cliched phrase, I know, but that was how it felt. After years of trying to get my fiction writing out there in the big, wide world, we had arrived.

October was the proverbial whirlwind of blog posts, promotion and congratulations. By the end of the month, the penny had finally dropped – I was a proper, official, published author and I had a second novel to write.

November saw me use the monthly writing marathon of NaNoWriMo to begin the first draft of the next novel in the Haven Chronicles series and cement my standing as an author by giving readings from my novel at the Chester Literature Festival.

In December, I received an early Christmas present as Haven Wakes became a No. 1 Bestseller on Amazon.

This time last year, I had no idea what 2019 would hold for me or where it would take me. Who knew what magic would reveal itself?

Haven does something else
kickstarting book two of the Haven Chronicles
where you can find me in November
Chester literature festival
NaNoWriMo - How I did in November
9 books to buy

What next?

Book Two of the Haven Chronicles is my 2020 focus.

Steve is back with Hartley, Blessing and the darkling, but with a whole new cast of villains and supporters. He thought his life had already changed beyond recognition, but the journey has hardly started.

I already have it plotted and I’m a few chapters in. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see it published next year?

Events in November

Where you can find me in November

This month, I’ll be taking part in the Chester Literature Festival to give readings from my debut novel, Haven Wakes.


On Sunday, 17th November, you can catch me at the Storyhouse in Chester giving a 20 minute reading as part of LitFest Elevenses. My slot begins at 11.00 am in front of the big screen in the Kitchen.

This event is completely free to attend so why not come along and grab yourself a coffee while you listen to a couple of chapters from my novel.


On Sunday, 24th November, starting at 8.00 pm in the Garret Theatre in the Storyhouse, I’ll be taking part in Your Voices: Celebrating Local Writers.

Tickets for this event cost £3.00 and can be purchased through the link above.

I’ll have copies of Haven Wakes with me at this second event if you’d like to buy a copy at £8.99. Unfortunately, I won’t have the resources to take card payment, so it’ll be good old cash only.


I’ll report back later on how my Festival appearances went. Wish me luck.

Haven does something else

haven does something else

It’s been one week since Haven Wakes was published by Burning Chair, and I’ve been delighted with the response so far – so many kind words, reviews, and shout-outs on social media.

So what now? Well, I suppose I’d better write the next book in the series.

Book two in the Haven Chronicles has the working title of ‘Haven Journeys’ but I don’t think that’ll be the final title. It does, however, give a hint of what Steve will be doing.

Haven Wakes introduced you to:

  • our main boy, 12 year old Steve Haven
  • his normal life
  • his world
  • a new, hidden, magical world
  • his new, magical friends

The second book in the series will continue Steve’s adventures. I can’t tell you too much, but the second book may include:

  • Steve’s magical friends mentioned above
  • the powers that be in the magical world
  • a jaunt off abroad (with less jaunt and more danger)
  • more background to the world of magic
  • a new dilemma for Steve

What will I be researching to help me write Book 2? Many, many things but I can tell you that I’ll be looking into how a desert city might look in the future.

My target is to finalise my chapter plan by the end of October at the latest and have the first draft finished early 2020. Wish me luck.