More help for self-isolating readers

more help for self-isolating readers

Back in March last year, when most people had just entered the Covid-19 lockdown, I posted about where readers could find extra things to read if they couldn’t afford to buy lots of new books in Help for Self-Isolating Readers.

By the beginning of this year, I was all too familiar with a completely different problem that readers  in lockdown were having. Not a lack of money to buy books, not a lack of time either. No, this problem was altogether different – a lack of motivation.

It wasn’t that people didn’t want to read, far from it, but more and more I heard readers – some people I knew and others in online book clubs – bemoan the fact that they just couldn’t settle down to read during 2020. Whether it was worry over the pandemic, anxiety caused by money problems, or just a vague air of unease that hung over them, many readers increasingly found it difficult to concentrate on a book, however cherished or lovingly anticipated.

And it’s a problem that I hear from readers in 2021 too. That’s why I decided to write this post, with more help for self-isolating readers but this time on how to switch off so that you can get back to reading on a regular basis.

Commit to reading time

This might seem like a silly thing to suggest. If you’re sitting down to read a book, then of course you’re committed to reading it. Hang on though, hear me out.

Your mind might be on tomorrow’s Zoom meeting, or the pile of ironing that is threatening to engulf your home workspace. You might sit down and fall into a daydream of a night out at your favourite restaurant/cinema/anywhere you haven’t been because of lockdown. You may begin to read, but stop, then start, then drift off again as your mind niggles at you to do something else instead.

The answer? Why not make an appointment with yourself to read? You make appointments to go to the dentist. No, hang on, that was 2019. Okay, well, you make appointments to have Zoom work meetings or home-school your children. Why not make an appointment, with yourself, to switch off and lose yourself in a book?

Set it on your mobile phone or write it on the calendar. You could even leave yourself a sticky note on your computer screen.

Indicate to your mind that this is booked time for you and no-one else. You’re busy, curled up in a chair or bed, possibly with a cup of tea, giving all your attention to your read of choice.

Switch off distractions

You’ve settled down with a brand new book, all comfy and ready to escape to another world, and then your phone rings or pings or vibrates. Whatever it’s doing, it drags you from your read.

Or it might be that,

  • you try to read in the lounge while your children watch TV
  • you’re reading an ebook on your tablet, but notifications keep popping up on the screen
  • your laptop is within reach and you can’t help but notice every time an email drops into your inbox

Switch it all off. Turn off the mobile phone or put it on airplane mode. Mute or turn off the notifications on your tablet for now. Put your laptop in another room or turn it off (you’ll be saving power, whether battery or electric).

It’s just another way to commit to yourself and your lovely book.

Settle somewhere you won’t be disturbed

Picture this. You’re nose down in a book, rivetted by the storyline, and then your partner pipes up that they just want five minutes of your time – promise.

Here’s another one. You’ve sat down at the kitchen table to read with a drink, then your teenager announces that they need the space so they can do classwork on their laptop.

There’s two parts to this. Firstly, if you want to have time to read, tell your family members (or anyone who might try to get your attention) that for the next twenty minutes, an hour, two hours, you will be reading and you don’t want to be disturbed. Once you’ve told them, they have no excuse short of an emergency – Timmy has fallen down a well, the cat is choking on the goldfish, or the house is burning down.

The second part is choosing a place to settle where disturbances are reduced as much as possible. That might be your bedroom, a quiet corner of the garden, or any room that the rest of the family are unlikely to need during your slot.

It might take a while to train your family, possibly with the use of ‘Do Not Disturb’ sticky notes, but they’ll get the message eventually.

Make yourself comfortable

There’s nothing worse than settling down to read and realising that your feet are chilly, or the slightly ajar door is casting a chill on your bones, or you really need the loo.

Equally, don’t settle down anywhere you can’t remain for longer than half an hour. Those dining chairs may look fabulous in your Instagram shots but can you honestly relax on one for any lengthy amount of time?

Comfort isn’t just about temperature, posture, and support. What about your eyes? Is there sufficient light in a room to allow for relaxed reading?

Finally, is it a quiet space? Some people can cope with a level of noise while they read. Others need sound-cancelling headphones. Make sure that your reading spot is as quiet as you need it to be to relax into your book.

Get back into the habit

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but apparently it takes an average of 66 days for a behaviour to become a habit. That’s about two months to get back into a book-reading routine, two months to be able to comfortably settle down and read without distraction on a regular basis.

Two months is just about the right time to train your family too, two months for them to come to the conclusion that you will not be disturbed and that you deserve your regular reading slot.

*

What about you? Have you had trouble reading over the last year? Or do you still have a healthy, bookish habit?

5 Scary Reads for the Halloween season

5 scary reads for Halloween

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

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

The Graveyard Book

the graveyard book by neil gaiman

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

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

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

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

Haunted

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

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

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

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

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

Frankenstein

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

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

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

Rosemary’s Baby

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

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

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

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

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

Edgar Allan Poe

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

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

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

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

Have a thoroughly spooky time.

Summer 2020 Reading

what I'm reading this summer

It’s summer and time to get on with some holiday reading, so I thought I’d share what books I’ll be delving into for the next few weeks.

2020 Together

This is an anthology of shorts, collated to raise money for the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Appeal. It features a whole range of artwork, photography, poetry, and snippets of prose by some incredibly talented writers, plus a handful of short pieces by me too.

2020 may one day be considered the year that didn’t happen. Everyone muddling though, making the best of each day. Everyone wanting to help. Everyone wanting to make a difference.

This anthology is to help us remember that 2020 did happen and to provide everyone with an opportunity to help, and to make a difference.

My copy arrived in the post yesterday. If you’d like to get a copy for yourself, you can buy it here.

Roxie and Alfred by Nancy R Hinchliff

Written by my friend, Nancy R Hinchliff, Roxie and Alfred is a historical memoir which tells the story of her maternal grandparents. I’ve had the pleasure to read Nancy’s previous memoir, Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: An Innkeeper’s Tale so I can’t wait to get started on Roxie and Alfred.

The lives of Roxie and Alfred are about to change forever. Their relationship was already rocky from past transgressions. But now, moving from their safe but meager life on a farm in North Carolina to the thriving, gritty northern metropolis of Detroit, Michigan, at the height of Prohibition, they will face the criminal underbelly of the city, the hopelessness of the Great Depression of 1929, and the stress and loss of World War II. Their ability to successfully thrive while coping with adversity is the legacy they leave their extended family, who pick up where Roxie and Alfred leave off and take on life in the big city one day at a time.

Nancy was kind enough to supply me with a copy of Roxie and Alfred. You can buy your copy here.

I am Dust by Louise Beech

I came across this novel through an online book club. With a haunted theatre, a murder to solve and three cursed teenagers, how could I not be intrigued by I am Dust?

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination?

You can buy I am Dust here.

My Father’s Daughter by Lily Lawson

This is a collection of poetry by Lily Lawson, friend, fellow writer, and enthusiastic cheerleader for my own writing. The back cover of My Father’s Daughter simply reads,

If, as time moves on, the words that I have shared remain with you, and call you back to read them once again my work is done.

You can buy My Father’s Daughter here.

Words of Alchemy by Camilla Downs

I got to know Camilla through an online book-reading group and guest-posted on her blog in May. Camilla was kind enough to gift me a copy of this collection of her poetry.

In Words of Alchemy, Camilla Downs invites you to walk with her to share her love of Nature and Life through a heartfelt free-verse poetry memoir.

During her daily strolls she is mindfully present as she delves into life in the raw and experiences her heart’s observations.

Camilla embraces what happens when she opens her heart and invites the written words to flow. The Alchemy of Love and Healing is what happens.

You can buy Words of Alchemy here.

*

So that’s my summer reading ready to go. What about you? What are you reading this summer?

Broken magic (or the one where it all went wrong)

broken magic

On the last day of June, something awful happened. MailerLite broke.

Let me explain.

I use MailerLite to send out my author newsletter at the end of each month, but due to an infrastructure upgrade – “the most complex project in our history” – that has proved impossible.

Fingers crossed everything will be fine and dandy in time for my July newsletter to go out.

So in the meantime, I thought I would share my June newsletter with you here on my blog.

Kind words, a catch-up and a new book recommendation

Summer can’t make up its mind

One minute it’s too hot to do much other than laze around with a hefty supply of ice lollies, the next the rain is so heavy that you can hear it on the roof and the patio.

I refuse to give in to the inconsistency of the British weather though. My summer wardrobe is staying out, even if sandals are no good for dealing with puddles and my knees are a tad chilly.


June catch up

This time last year, I posted a blog about what was going on in my life.

So I thought I’d repeat that this June and tell you what’s happening in the Life of Fi. You can read the full blog post here.


Guest blog posts in June

I’m lucky to be part of a wonderful community of writers and two more of them were kind enough to let me guest post on their blogs this month.

The first post was What to expect when you’re published by an independent publisher for Melissa Hawkes. A couple of days later, I was featured as Writer of the Week by Mrs Average Evaluates.


Book Recommendation – Love is Deadly by Gene Kendall

Gene Kendall is a fellow Burning Chair author and I had the pleasure to beta read his novel, Love is Deadly. 

Brad has a big problem.

Not his crippling credit card debt.

Not his ex-wife, and current business partner, who still blames him for the messy break-up of their marriage.

Not his lovable, but spiky, personality that keeps him alive, but alone.

No, Brad’s big issue is that he sees dead people. And those dead people have started to fight back.

Brad is a paranormal investigator who uses his powers to shepherd the lost souls of the newly-departed to the light on the other side. In return for a fee. Naturally.

But when a case goes badly wrong, Brad finds himself the prisoner of those he’d usually be hunting. Can he use his unique talents to save not only his own skin, but all of humanity?

You can pre-order Love is Deadly here.


Work in Progress

I’m at that exciting stage in writing Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles where the first draft is almost finished.

I have a small number of chapters to write which will include a confrontation at sea and an escape for some of the characters. Within the next few weeks, I’ll be sending it off to Burning Chair. Fingers crossed they like it as much as Haven Wakes.


Kind Words

Or what readers have been saying about Haven Wakes.

I’ve had some brilliant book reviews over the last few weeks.

From Beccy11 on Amazon:

This is the first book in a new sci fi series and not only did I absolutely love it, so did my 15 year old. The main character Steve is very engaging and the story is well written. My son likened it to a robotic Harry Potter – make of that what you will! A brilliant read – thank you.

From Sue Wallace on Goodreads:

I really enjoyed this book. Great story and some good characters. Looking forward to the next book.

Read all my Amazon UK reviews here and Goodreads reviews here.


Connect with me on social media

You can keep up with all my news and daily goings-on by connecting with me on social media. You might even see the occasional photo of my dog, Bailey.

Of course, you can always find my website here.

Talk to you in July. Stay safe.

Fi Phillips – Fantasy Writer

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.

*

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.

Help for self-isolating readers

help for self isolating readers

With all the worry over Coronavirus in 2020 and the massive upheaval of self isolation and social distancing, we can often forget to check in on each other.  So first off, how are you?

A lot of people in the UK, in fact around the world, have found themselves forced to stay at home and outings have been limited to the necessary. Even where, like me, you work from home, this can still leave you with time on your hands.

If you’re a reader, then that extra time can be a gift. Suddenly you have all the time in the world, or a little extra at least, to read.

Of course, having so much time to read can quickly eat up all the reading material you have at home. That’s where this blog post comes in, to help you get your hands on more ‘stuff’ to read.

Your bookshelves

Yes, I know I said I’d help you find books to read when you ran out of books to read, but have you really read everything on your bookshelves? If you’re anything like me, then you’ll have a habit of buying new books when you’re still working your way through one or more current reads.

What books do you have at home that you’ve never got around to starting? With a family of four readers in the Phillips household, we have a whole universe of books to choose from. Some of the reads I intend to get through this year from our bookshelves at home include:

And that’s only a few of them.

Then there’s the novels you’ve already finished that you’re more than happy to read again. For me, those would include Frankenstein, the Word and the Void trilogy by Terry Brooks, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Save your pennies and look at what you have at home before you even think of looking elsewhere.

Authors and Publishers

Many author and publisher websites will feature free reading material to download, and their social media is a great place to find out about special offers like price reductions.

Subscribe to their newsletters to get the latest news on book releases, book deals, competitions, and all kind of freebies.

For instance, if you follow me on social media, you’ll have seen that the Haven Wakes e-book is currently priced at only 99p or cents.

Free books online

There are so many websites that offer free reading material, either to download or read online. A lot of the books available are classic fiction but not all.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but all of these sites provide free reading material:

*

If you have any other sources of free reading material that I haven’t mentioned above, let me know and I’ll add them.