Category Archives: Books

Bookcrossing Adventures

I heard about Bookcrossing a while back from ace author Linda Gillard and it has been on my To Do list for ages. Finally I joined up and listed two of my own books for release into the wild …

What? My husband was totally confused about what releasing a book into the wild consisted of (dropping it in a field? throwing it out the window of your car?), so I thought I’d try and clear that up right now. is a brilliant community where people pass on and share books they’ve read. You can wish for a book and hope someone will post you a copy, or you can search for one which has been released by a reader – i.e. left somewhere warm and dry and safe ready for you or some other lucky person to find. If you happen upon a Bookcrossing-labelled book (see picture below), you can enter the book’s unique code on the website and find out where that copy has been and who’s read it before you. It sounds so exciting, and just the sort of thing someone passionate about reading and books should be involved in.


Joining as an author

I checked on the Newbies forum for the rules relating to authors releasing their own books and it’s absolutely fine – in fact, the members who answered thought it was pretty cool. As well as releasing them into the wild there are a couple of other ways to find readers who may be interested in reading your book and then passing it on, like Book Circles. It’s all new to me and I’m still finding my feet, but this week I released both Murder at the Maples and Cupid’s Way in the Countess of Chester Hospital, which I thought would be a good place to find bored people hoping to be distracted!


 Isn’t it just giving books away for free?

Well, yes. But it’s a really cool way of giving books away for free, and it appeals to the slightly anarchic part of my psyche :) Look at it this way: Bookcrossing is a community, and I don’t plan on merely releasing a couple of my own titles. I’m going to look for other books in the local area, and share books I’ve read and enjoyed. I’m going to get involved in the forums – because these are people who love BOOKS (and it’s a hell of a lot friendlier than Goodreads). Right now my paperback copies are in a box under the bed in my office, waiting for me to find the time/inclination/energy to do some kind of event to hand-sell them. Wouldn’t it be nicer and more fun to release a few into the wild and wait and see what happens next?

So, over to you – I’m really interested to hear about your experiences of Has anyone ever found a Bookcrossing-labelled book completely by chance? And any tips on how best to use the site greatly received.



Filed under Books, Marketing & Promotion

Epistolary Novels – Why I Love Them

I’ve just finished reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. I was drawn to this because it’s an epistolary novel – I know you know what that means, but just in case you don’t it’s a novel made up of fictional documents, such as letters, diary excerpts, emails, news clippings, that kind of thing. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea (my supervisor on the Masters hates them, which is why I’m not writing one myself for my dissertation). But I LOVE them. It got me thinking about my favourite epistolary novels, and what it is that I think works so well.


Dracula is probably one of the most famous epistolary novels, written in diary entries and letters and fictional newspaper articles. I read it years ago, and I loved the whole concept even before I understood that it was a technique used by lots of different writers. The other notable novel that springs to mind for me is Carol Shields’ A Celibate Season. An absolutely brilliant book, it was written in collaboration with author Blanche Howard, and is made up entirely of letters between a man and wife separated because of work commitments for ten months. This book is fantastic, and I would recommend it to anyone. Like most works of genius, it seems so simple, but there is such a craft involved in structuring these letters so that the reader feels the building pressure this couple are subjected to during their self-imposed separation. What’s very clever is that at no point do you feel the loss of direct narrative – for example, a weekend visit home which has been longed for on both sides is viewed by the reader only via the letters sent after the event. You’d think this would be frustrating, but it isn’t at all. It’s brilliant, and as a writer I want to understand how these two award-winning authors managed to achieve this feat.


Where’d You Go, Bernadette is also very good – Semple uses the range of documents in a clever way, and the story is engaging and full of twists and turns – but there are flaws, in my humble opinion. The voices of the various characters that come out of the different documents – emails, faxes, letters, instant messages, blog posts etc – aren’t nearly as differentiated as they perhaps should be. It’s not a problem that the author’s voice comes through loud and clear – Semple is a brilliantly funny writer – but as you’re reading you do notice the lack of difference in what should be really varied textual sources. The other problem occurs when the story changes to first person direct narrative – most of the last quarter of the book is written this way, in the voice of the daughter. It jars a little after such variety. Semple could have got around this by structuring the narrative as diary entries, which would have made it more in line with what came before. That aside, it’s a great read so do give it a try.

So, why do I love epistolary novels so much? I think it’s because of the extra layer of authenticity it gives. It’s the same reason I love any novel with a framing device – Anita Shreve’s Strange Fits of Passion is written as the account of a reporter visiting the daughter of a woman who was convicted of murdering her husband. She has compiled a feature on the young woman’s mother, and we are effectively reading that feature, including interviews and her research, along with the daughter. It works so well, really drawing you in to the story. Going back to the gothic novels, Frankenstein is also written this way, with the entire book being told as the account of a man writing to his sister and recounting to her Victor Frankenstein’s story.

A List!

I’m starting to compile a list of contemporary novels with epistolary elements – that is, at least a large proportion of the narrative written this way – and I’d like your help. If you’ve read a novel of letters, or diary entries, or using other textual devices, please pop a comment in the box below. I’m particularly interested in anything written after 1940, but earlier novels are fine too. Here is what I have on my list so far:

  • 84, Charing Cross Road: Helene Hanff
  • Attachments: Rainbow Rowell
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary: Helen Fielding
  • Carrie: Stephen King
  • A Celibate Season: Carol Shields and Blanche Howard
  • The Color Purple: Alice Walker
  • The Divorce Papers: Susan Rieger
  • The Documents in the Case: Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Ella Minnow Pea: Mark Dunn
  • The Guestbook: Holly Martin
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: Fannie Flagg
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Mary Ann Shaffer
  • Love, Rosie (Where Rainbows End): Celia Ahern
  • My Most Excellent Year: Steve Kluger
  • The People in the Photo: Hélène Gestern
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Paul Torday
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4: Sue Townsend
  • We Need To Talk About Kevin: Lionel Shriver
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette: Maria Semple

Really looking forward to reading your comments on epistolary novels :)


Filed under Books, Writing

How I Did It: Free Promotions by Anne Allen

Today I’m welcoming author Anne Allen to the blog to talk about her recent free promotion for her novel, Dangerous Waters. Anne’s got a brilliant new book out, and as I type this she is over in sunny Guernsey signing books and meeting readers, the lucky lady! Over to you, Anne …

Anne Allen

Anne Allen

“Hi, Jo, thanks for inviting me along to offer my thoughts on free kindle promotions. Over the past two years since launching my first novel, Dangerous Waters I have run two free promotions and a couple of reduced price offers on Dangerous Waters and my second book, Finding Mother. I would say that both the free promotions produced better results than the lower price offers.

Dangerous Waters

Dangerous Waters was originally published for me by Matador and they offered the ebook across all the retailers and so it was not eligible for KDP Select. However, last October, when I published Finding Mother under my own imprint, Sarnia Press, I took back Dangerous Waters from Matador although it was still available from other retailers under their imprint. This changed last month when I was about to publish the third in The Guernsey Novels series, Guernsey Retreat. I had heard that three novels is the magic number for newbie authors: the magic backlist. Yay! So, my thinking was I needed to offer No 1 free to encourage sales of all 3 books. After enrolling Dangerous Waters in KDP Select I planned my first – and possibly last – free promotion. Of course, I might change my mind when No 4, The Family Divided, comes out next year☺

I had used BookBub for a reduced price promo on Dangerous Waters and it did well, but since then I had seen some good reports for a service only dealing in free promos, Freebookservice. I know there’s been some controversy about this service, but I understand that the initial issue with Amazon is now resolved. Just before Christmas 2013 I set up my free promo for Finding Mother with this service and some smaller ones and secured nearly 30k free downloads, reaching No2 on for ALL kindle free books. The consequent sales were more than enough to cover the cost, making a tidy profit and producing new reviews.


Last weekend (1-3 August) I used freebookservice and a few other, smaller low-cost or free sites, to promote Dangerous Waters a week before launching Guernsey Retreat. I could not be more pleased with the results. Not only did I reach No 1 on in the overall free chart but I did well in the UK too. The total free downloads were again around the 30k mark, with nearly 2k in the UK. A week later my paid sales of Dangerous Waters alone have more than covered the cost of the promo, including around 150 sales in the UK. I’ve also seen good sales of Finding Mother and Guernsey Retreat even though I’m not doing a great deal of marketing now. I chose the Platinum service and paid $212 (about £126) to freebookservice. Boy, am I looking forward to the royalty payment from Amazon in 2 months’! It will be my best yet, although not life-changing it is encouraging.

The conclusion? I can categorically say that the free promos I’ve done have paid off. I know my sales will slow in the days or weeks to come, but with the advent of my third book in a series – very important, apparently – I’m hopeful that I’ve found new readers who will keep looking out for my books. I may well publish all three across other retail platforms at some point, but am not in a rush at the moment. As well as the paid sales, there have been about 100 ‘borrows’ this week. Not to be sniffed at!”



Thanks Anne, and we wish you the very best of luck for Guernsey Retreat :)


Filed under Books, Marketing & Promotion, Self-publishing

Murder at the Maples is now FREE on Kindle

You’d better not be getting fed up with Flora Lively news because I’ve got one more great bit of news today – to celebrate the release of the audiobook, the Kindle edition of  Murder at the Maples is now FREE! From today until Monday you can download the first in the series for absolutely nothing, giving you plenty of time to read it before Book 2 – A Date With Death – comes out in November.

Click on the cover to get your copy now …


Need more convincing to give it a try? Okay, here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Contemporary mystery with a touch of romance …

“A gripping tale filled with humanity and humor. Don’t miss this one!” Found Between The Covers

When twenty-nine-year-old Flora Lively loses both of her parents and inherits the family business, Shakers Removals, she tries hard to make a success of her father’s dream – even at the expense of her own dreams. Burdened with Marshall, her father’s handpicked American manager, Flora finds solace in her friendship with Joy, an elderly client she helped move into the Maples, the local retirement community. When strange and dangerous things begin to happen at the Maples, Flora finds herself conducting a private murder investigation.

Will Flora discover who’s behind the series of ‘incidents’ at the Maples? Will her newly inherited business be able to fight off their biggest rival? And just who is that mysterious stranger Flora keeps bumping into?

Described as ‘Bridget Jones meets Midsomer Murders’, Murder at the Maples is a new ‘genre-busting’ romance-mystery from the author of Amazon bestseller Can’t Live Without.

“An excellent start to a new cozy mystery series and a brand new amateur sleuth for readers to fall in love with.” Socrates Book Reviews

“There is much more to the story than a mystery to solve. The mystery is underpinned by important and thoughtful considerations of the nature of love, loss, grief and old age – this serious undercurrent adds depth to the book, likely to make the reader think about it for long after they’ve solved the mystery and read the final page.” Debbie Young

“The characters are lovely, and the mystery is top notch. Murder at the Maples is a wonderful start to a cozy series.” Brooke Blogs

“A quirky and well developed main character, strange and interesting secondary characters, and the question of whether there was, or wasn’t, a murder kept me turning the pages. If you’re a fan of Elizabeth Peters, Agatha Christie or Charles Todd, I think this is a book you’ll want to check out.” Queen Of All She Reads

“With her usual comfortable writing style, Joanne Phillips brings to the page a murder mystery full of intrigue but without the gore of the usual murder mystery. Her storytelling is a mix of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and M.C. Beaton.” Found Beneath The Covers


With reviews like that you just know that getting it for free is a bargain ;) I have no Bookbub assistance on this one, just my book and you, so please share and download and share some more. Thank you, and enjoy x


Filed under Books, Flora Lively