Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey


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THE TRYSTING TREE – The Untold Story by Linda Gillard

Today I’m delighted to be handing over my blog to the amazing novelist Linda Gillard, whose long awaited new book is out this week. Over to you, Linda …

My latest novel, THE TRYSTING TREE covers a century in the lives of three families, beginning in 1914. Whenever I finish a novel, I show it to a few people: my agent, husband and daughter, my 91-year old Mum (who has a sharp eye for typos) and several friends. Two of these early readers pointed out that there was a lot missing from the book. They meant scenes that were referred to, but not described. This was because much of the novel is told in the form of diaries and letters.

L in Madeira cropped

Re-reading, I was staggered to see how much important material I hadn’t written. It almost looked as if I hadn’t written any of the big scenes. Instead I’d written what comes before and what comes after. In some cases I hadn’t done more than refer to major events. I panicked. Would this be unsatisfactory for the reader? Was my approach superficial?

I was all set to think about inserting new scenes when I started to wonder why so much was missing. I realised I’d written a book where almost all the big events happen “offstage”. I’d set out to write a book about a family history, presented partly as oral history, but also as an incomplete archive that has been badly damaged by fire, a collection of letters, diaries and photographs that raise more questions than they answer, the biggest one being, why did someone try to destroy the archive?

After much discussion with my early readers, I decided not to re-write. There was so much missing, so much the characters didn’t or couldn’t know – but that, it seemed to me, was the point: the story was ultimately incomplete. The reader is left in no doubt about what happened, but the 21stC characters have to deduce a good deal from the evidence that survived the fire, filling in the blanks with imaginative guesswork.

Will this make for a satisfying read? I hope so. A family history is, after all, always incomplete. It’s random, often sketchy, biased and ultimately unsatisfactory, because we want a beginning, middle and end. But it’s the gaps that intrigue us. The mysteries. The untold story.

The Trysting Tree

All I know about my grandfather’s involvement in WWI is that when he came home, my grandmother burned all his clothes and he refused ever to speak about his experience. That’s the sum total of my knowledge – of anyone’s. Even his silence is hearsay. He died when I was two.

Years later, when I was a teenager, Wilfred Owen & the War Poets loomed large in my life. Britten’s War Requiem (a setting of Owen’s poems) became a favourite piece of music. I’ve now written two novels featuring WWI soldier heroes. (The other was THE GLASS GUARDIAN.) I wonder now, did my grandfather’s refusal to speak have a more profound effect on me than anything he might have said?

Looking back over my eight novels, I can see my obsession is writing about what is not seen, not said and not known. I’ve written about negative space and the characters’ search for something that might somehow fill it. They are looking for completion. They’re people in search of more than just Mr/Ms Right. They want a surrogate family (Gwen in HOUSE OF SILENCE) or sanity (Rose in EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY and Magnus in UNTYING THE KNOT) or religious faith (Hugh in A LIFETIME BURNING) or just a fuller life experience (blind Marianne in STAR GAZING).

When I was writing THE TRYSTING TREE, I knew it wouldn’t be a complete narrative, it would have to be an oblique book. I didn’t write about the big events, I described the fallout. For example, there isn’t a word about the Battle of the Somme. I wrote about what happened after a soldier walked away from the battlefield, leaving his memory behind as a casualty of war.

THE TRYSTING TREE could have been a much longer and more detailed book, but would that have made it a better book? That’s for readers to decide. My hope is, what you don’t know and don’t see will have as much power to affect your imagination as what you do know and see. But it’s something of a gamble!

Rozelle web 1 smaller

My grandfather died over 60 years ago. I have no memory of him, just a few photos, but over the decades, the fact that he, like many, refused to talk about what he’d experienced in the trenches has spoken volumes to me. Perhaps his silence said all there was to say.



Linda Gillard on Facebook:

Linda’s books on Amazon:

Note from Jo: I was one of those lucky enough to read the book in an early draft and I can say with authority it is stunning – one of Linda’s best. And reading this guest post made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – this is such an emotional journey, and I hope you’ll join us in sharing and promoting it.

Hey, I’m A Guest On Pauline Wiles’ Lovely Blog!

My friend, Pauline Wiles, is launching her second novel on Thursday – Secrets in the Sky – and in the run up to the launch, Pauline is turning her blog over to a few of her writing friends. My guest post is up today, and you can read it by clicking here.

I was lucky enough to be one of the beta readers for Secrets in the Sky, and I can tell you now this is a brilliant book. Pauline is a fantastic writer, very talented, and I really enjoyed her first novel too. In fact, her first novel Saving Saffron Sweeting is currently on special offer for only 99p!


I’ll be back on Thursday with more news about Secrets in the Sky and all the links you need to download and share 🙂

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

The World’s Smallest Book Launch by Cathy Bramley

Today I’m absolutely delighted to welcome debut novelist Cathy Bramley to the blog. Cathy’s book Conditional Love has just been released and you can read my review (yes, review!) at the end of Cathy’s post. I love the idea of the world’s smallest book launch so I hope you’ll read on and then take a minute to say hello to Cathy in the comments below. Over to you, Cathy!

The World’s Smallest Book Launch

Cathy Bramley Profile pic lo

I’m so excited – this is my first ever guest blog post as a published author! Woo hoo! Thank you to the wonderful Jo Phillips, who has not only coaxed me gently towards the publication finishing line, but has also allowed me access to her fantastic and dedicated blog followers (no pressure not to let her down then! :))

I’m also excited about something else: tomorrow I am hosting the world’s smallest book launch in Lambley, the village where I live in Nottinghamshire. If everyone could just cross their fingers for me and wish for a bright, sunny Saturday morning, that would be marvellous – thank you.

Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Goodreads – I love ’em all and I use them all. But I can’t help it, I’m old school, for me you can’t beat a real touchy-feely party. No, not THAT sort of touchy-feely, I’m talking about a book launch with a real live VIP to cut the ribbon…

Some stroke-them-they’re-so-beautiful real books …

jo phillips pic 1

And cake. It isn’t a proper party without cake…

Jo Phillips picture 2

Of course being currently without the marketing services of Random House, Harper Collins or Simon and Schuster etc., a champagne launch at The Ivy attended by a who’s who in the literary world with guest appearance from Marian Keyes was sadly off-limits. So rather than have a big book bash, I have decided to go for the World’s smallest launch.

In a phone box

jo phillips picture 3

Yes, I’ll be signing books, running a free prize draw and posing for photographs with the Mayor inside a converted red phone box. Let’s hope that the Mayor doesn’t suffer from claustrophobia (or garlic breath!).

When it’s not hosting literary events, the village phone box is the epicentre of our community; it’s the book exchange stuffed with second-hand books, which we all swap with each other with great enthusiasm and regularity. The phone box is my favourite village facility and that – coupled with its handy shelving – makes it the perfect venue for my Conditional Love party.

If you’re interested, there are details on my blog. I know that readers of Jo’s blog live all over the world, so it is unlikely that many of you would be able to come to the party. However, so that you don’t feel left out, I’ve got a box of very special Thornton’s truffles and a signed copy of Conditional Love to be won. Read on…

jo phillips blog picture 4


I love the book cover for Conditional Love so much that I’ve had it printed on to a very special box of Thornton’s truffles! If you would like to win them and a signed copy of the book, please post onto my Facebook page or to tweet me on Twitter telling me what you would have printed onto a box of chocolates! I can’t wait to read your ideas!

The competition is open until Sunday 6 October at 20:00 GMT. I will choose the entry that I think is the best. I will wrap the parcel as carefully as I can, but cannot be held responsible for damage in transit.

Amazon link to Conditional Love


Jo: I want those truffles! I suppose because the competition is on my blog I can’t enter myself, but I hope you’ll enter and enjoy them on my behalf! Well, I loved the sound of Conditional Love so I asked Cathy for a review copy and set to reading. I can tell you right now I was blown away. I kept thinking ‘Why didn’t Cathy get a publishing deal for this?’ which is not really an appropriate thing for an indie author to say I suppose, proving that the old belief about great books getting picked up by trad houses is still hanging around, even in my head!

Anyway, on to my review. I loved this book. It was well written, well paced, with a fresh and engaging plot that had me hooked straight away. I loved the lead character Sophie, and her two best friends, and the way Cathy sketches out their characters is nothing short of brilliant. There is a serious side to the story, with Sophie’s relationship with her mother (who I wanted to strangle) and her estranged father, and this gave the book a depth I really enjoyed. Cathy tackles some big issues with a light touch, and there were real laugh out loud moments that bring a smile to my face even now when I think about them. I finished this book thinking – here is a new name to watch out for in the chick lit market! And it made me want to rush back to writing chick lit myself 🙂

Cathy Bramley Bio

After growing up in Birmingham, Cathy went to Nottingham Trent University at the ripe old age of eighteen and five days to study European Business. Upon graduating she spent the next few years in the corporate world of marketing working on high-powered projects such as testing the firing range of SuperSoaker waterguns, adding hair extensions to Girls’ World styling heads and perfecting the weeing action of Tiny Tears. After making it onto Timmy Mallet’s Christmas card list, she realised it was time to move on and so in 1995 set up her own agency, Apples & Pears Marketing.

Avid fans of the TV series, Cathy and her husband realised their Grand Designs’ dream of building their own house in 2011. They now live in rural Nottinghamshire with their two daughters and a bouncy dog called Pearl.

This project provided the inspiration for Cathy’s debut novel Conditional Love which will be launched on 4th October 2013. However, it is by no means autobiographical apart from one unfortunate incident in the boardroom! She shares her time between her marketing agency, writing and taxiing the girls endlessly from one activity to the next.

Cathy is a fan of Masterchef, strong coffee, chocolate brazils and Marian Keyes books. She is addicted to her Kindle and has an irrational fear of bananas.

Cathy Bramley can be found at:

Twitter @cathybramley




Cathy Bramley on Amazon UK

Cathy Bramley on

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