Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey


good books

Cauldstane – An Instant Classic

Linda Gillard became one of my favourite authors when I read her bestselling novel, House of Silence, in 2012. Last week Linda published her latest novel, Cauldstane, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that this was my most highly anticipated book ever! Linda wrote it while recovering from cancer, and she shared her journey with her fans every agonizing step of the way. But it’s not only Linda’s incredible willingness to share that makes her so special – it’s also her skill as a writer. Here is an author in complete control of her material, and in complete control of the reader. As a writer myself, I can’t help but analyse how another author is producing certain responses in me, the reader, when I’m reading a book, and Linda knows exactly when and how to crank it up until I’m either dissolving into tears or whooping with joy. When I figure out how she does it, I know I’ll be a better writer 😉

So, Cauldstane could not come more highly recommended, and here is the link if you want to go right ahead and download it now. Or, read on for my review …

Awesome cover too!
Awesome cover too!

An Instant Classic!

This book is described as ‘A Gothic novel in the romantic suspense tradition of Daphne du Maurier and Victoria Holt.’ To my shame, I’ve never read Victoria Holt, but I am a du Maurier fan, and I think this description is spot on. Jenny Ryan is a ghostwriter, who travels to Scotland to stay in a castle and write the memoirs of its laird, Sholto MacNab. There is a great cast of characters, all beautifully drawn, and the castle itself almost becomes a character in its own right, so richly is it described and imagined. What I love about Linda Gillard’s writing is her ability to subtly manipulate the emotions of the reader – there are laughs, tears and nail-biting tension, all set within a brilliant plot and against a beautiful and haunting setting. Prior to reading this, my favourite Linda Gillard novel was House of Silence (which I also recommend) but now I’m not sure – I think it’s a tie. Cauldstane is an instant classic, and I’m looking forward to the paperback version coming out so I have a good excuse to read it again.

Free Literary Fiction This Weekend Only

Regular blog readers will be familiar with writer Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn – the prize-winning author of Unravelling, who was picked up by Cinnamon Press last year for her second novel, The Piano Player’s Son. Cinnamon Press are running a promotion this weekend and you can download the Kindle version of The Piano Player’s Son for FREE! The Kindle edition is usually priced at £4.49, so this is a significant saving – grab it while you can 🙂


And here’s a bit more about it:

Family is all-important to Isabel. Her parents have an idyllic marriage, and she has tried hard to create one for herself. However, all pretense is shattered when her husband leaves her. On top of this her father dies, leaving Isabel devastated. Then her mother confides in her: behind her parents’ apparently happy marriage was a secret kept for more than three decades. Isabel is staggered by the revelation. Against a back-drop of events that will devastate all their lives and amongst a maelstrom of emotion, breakdown, loss and competing claims, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn weaves a careful and detailed story of how fragile people negotiate or fail to negotiate challenges and crises; keep secrets, fall apart or try to recover a sense of integrity in the midst of human mess.

The Piano Player’s Son has 14 x 5 star reviews on Amazon – in fact, it has nothing but 5 star reviews, which does not surprise me at all. It’s a great book, characteristic of Lindsay’s flawless writing talent. Please download and share, share, share.

Launched Today – The Broken Heart Refuge!

Right now I’m at a launch party over on Facebook celebrating the first in a new series from ace author Martina Munzittu. The Broken Heart Refuge is such a fascinating concept – I think Martina has come up with a great idea for a series, and as ever her writing is poetic and totally beautiful. Check out the book here, or read on for the blurb. Congratulations, Martina! I hope this is a fantastic success – you deserve it.


Where can you find comfort when your heart is broken?

Nonna Pina runs The Broken Heart Refuge: the go-to place for anyone who is suffering for love. In Episode 1 – Betrayal – we meet Lisa, who has fallen in love with her best friend’s boyfriend, and Mary, whose husband died recently.

What can be done to help Lisa? Should she tell her friend how she feels or should she run away and start a new life? Mary’s grief seems paralyzing, but there’s something more to it that bothers her and won’t allow her to move on.

Will Mary and Lisa be able to find the answers they’re looking for, among the lovely people who frequent the centre? As Nonna Pina says: “A cup of tea and a few kind words can work miracles.”

Alison Morton – Launching Perfiditas

Today I’m delighted to have a very special guest on the blog – author Alison Morton is here as part of her blog tour to celebrate the launch of Perfiditas, the sequel to Alison’s critically acclaimed first novel, Inceptio.

Perfiditas logo

Regular blog followers will remember of course that Inceptio won the We’ve Got It Covered cover competition earlier this year. Perfiditas is also published by the brilliant Silverwood Books – and here is Alison talking about launching the second time around …

Alison Morton

Doing it the second time

I didn’t think not to do it again. The champagne bubbles tickling my mouth and throat, the warmth and excitement rolling through me, the eager eyes watching me, my limbs tingling, the almost tangible emotion in the air, the gasps of breath, the deep thriIl imploding from inside my whole being, the applause at my performance…

The applause at my performance? I’m talking about my first book launch, of course!

Me in full flow at the launch of Inceptio
Me in full flow at the launch of Inceptio

Whatever efforts I make online to sell my books, the milestone event for me is a real world launch.  If you’ve slaved away on the second book, drafting it in the shadow of the first and dedicating all your spare hours since the first was out, you need to celebrate!

A launch doesn’t have to be a Foyles Literary Lunch, nor in a bookshop, nor need hundreds of attendees. A writer friend of mine booked a double table at his local pub, invited a few friends and ended up speaking to the whole pub and selling over a hundred books. If your book relates to a place, you could launch from tourist bookshops, hotels, boats, club venue, museum, or a friend’s garden, art gallery, or community centre – in short, anywhere where potential buyers might gather.

AM Inceptio
Me outside Waterstones with the INCEPTIO window display which shows you can do it!

So what happens at a launch?

Some are like standard parties – milling, lurking, laughing, but centred around the author and the book. A five to ten minute pause will allow the author to thank everybody, read a short extract and invite the publisher and agent (if any) to say a few words. Then attendees can buy copies and queue for the author to sign them.

A more structured launch, sometimes called ‘An evening with [insert name of author]’ is ticketed – usually at a modest amount redeemable against the cost of the book. Attendees are offered a glass of wine, fizz or soft drink on arrival. After five or ten minutes’ mingling, they sit down to listen to the author give a talk for 25-30 minutes including an excerpt from their book. A question and answer session follows, then buying and signing and a little more mingling. This is what I did with my first book, INCEPTIO.

But how is a second launch different?

Let’s look a my usual ‘top tips’ and adapt them:

1. Don’t wait to start planning. Although a beautiful book is a pre-requisite, you must think about where, how and when as soon as you’re even thinking of publishing your book.
Exactly the same

2. Network in real life at conferences, courses and events, and virtually on Twitter and Facebook. Try to meet as wide a circle of people as possible. Apart from the pleasure of talking with new people and learning new things, you may come across published authors in your genre or known specialists in your field. Ask them for their thoughts, their advice, but in a polite way. Who knows, they may come to your launch and add some magic dust.
You will have by now built a fan base from those who bought the first book and interact with then via your blog, Twitter and Facebook. These are your ‘champions’ who will help promote the second book. Be nice to them; tell them what you and your first book have been up to and stay in touch.

3. If you’re thinking of a bookshop launch, go and buy some books there and become known to the staff. Make an appointment to go and see the owner or events manager. Be business-like. Find who is responsible for your genre, give them a free  copy and tell them a bit about the book. Obviously, you have kept in touch with them and done all the above since book 1…

4. Before making an approach, ensure you or your publisher has already loaded your book on to Nielsen Bookdata so that the shop staff can check you are a pukka author. Have your Bookseller Information Sheet in your hand and a good quality business card with your contact details. Prepare your ideas for getting the audience in – your friends and more importantly, the general public – and how you’re going to publicise the event. And if you have got a ‘name’ to agree to come along to your launch, mention this as part of your pitch.
If you have been a friendly, co-operative and approachable author and had a successful first event, you won’t have to go through this hoop again. I live abroad and can’t pop in anytime so I paid special attention to staying in touch. I sent an email about four months before my planned date, telling the events manger about INCEPTIO’s progress, and awards, and tentatively booked a date for PERFIDITAS. I made a point of visiting the store in person a month later – I was in the UK speaking at a conference – to chat and confirm details.

5. The key to a successful evening is, rather predictably, preparation. Write your talk, speak it aloud, condense it on to cards, but practise it. Make sure the launch venue has glasses/plates/bowls or take your own. Do offer a drink, both alcoholic and soft. You don’t need fancy canapés; good supermarket nibbles are fine. Take plenty of postcards (you can put one on each chair beforehand), bookmarks, pens, etc. and a guestbook.
Exactly the same, but you need less food than you think.

Before the hordes arrived!
Before the hordes arrived!

6. If your sales aren’t going through the venue’s tills, then designate a friend to take the cash. You won’t have time – you’ll be busy talking to people and signing books. Exactly the same

7. And smile. The audience has come to see you. They want to hear what you have to say. And they can be incredibly lovely when they queue with their book for you to sign.
This is so true!

Inceptio Talk

8. Always sign the title page, never the cover or a blank leaf. Check how names are spelled.
Be very careful of Nicky/Nickie/Nikki/Nic and don’t let’s talk about all the Kate/Catherine/Kathryn permutations.

9. Arrange for somebody else to take plenty of photographs especially of you holding your book, or high resolution printed image if an ebook.  You can then use these photos to publicise your book further!
Exactly the same

Me and Sue Cook at the till!
Me and Sue Cook at the till!

10. Post photos on your blog, Facebook pages, send a brief write-up to the local paper and monthlies’ social pages.
Exactly the same

The second launch is not the same unknown, but it’s scary in different ways. Friends who came first time may not bother this time, although those who couldn’t make the first launch may come to this one. The big trap is thinking that now you have one big event under your belt, you can wing it – see point 5 above. But once everything’s ready on the night and it’s five minutes to go, take a deep breath, smile and prepare to enjoy it.


Perfiditas cover

Alison’s second book in the Roma Nova series, PERFIDITAS, has just been published in paperback and ebook formats and she’ll be launching it at Waterstones Tunbridge Wells on 6 November. Do go along!

What’s PERFIDITAS about?

Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces is in trouble – one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating coup d’état thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country.

Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal…

What others have said

“Sassy, intriguing, page-turning…  Roma Nova is a fascinating world” – Simon Scarrow

Powerful storytelling, vivid characters and a page-turning plot”
– Jean Fullerton

Scenes and characters are sometimes so vividly described that I felt I was watching a movie.” – Sue Cook

And here’s a trailer with some exciting music:

PERFIDITAS is available through your local bookshop (paperback), on your local Amazon (paperback and ebook) and on other online retailers.

You can read more about Alison, Romans, alternate history and writing here on her blog at

or on Facebook:


Twitter: @alison_morton

Wow! Thanks Alison for those brilliant tips – I’ll certainly be coming back to this post when I launch my next book. And aren’t those photos of Alison in Waterstones lovely? It’s great to see the big bookshops supporting indies alongside smaller, independent bookshops. Good luck with the book, Alison x

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