Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey


short stories

A New Collection from Author James Smith

After whetting your appetite with my freebie over the weekend, today I’ve invited author James Smith onto the blog to talk about his new short story collection – The Shoe Box (cool name). I worked with James and a host of other talented authors on a collection called A Festive Feast in 2012. This was to raise money for Cancer Research, and included an exclusive short story by yours truly: Extravagant Promises. I asked James about the market for short fiction, and invited him to tell us a bit more about his own collection. Over to you, James …

A Festive Feast

“Hi Joanne and I can’t thank you enough for hosting me – it’s scary (and exciting) releasing your first book, so it is fantastic to know that there is such amazing support out there.

I think there has been a real upturn in the interest for shorter works (flash fiction, short stories and novellas). A quick search for ‘short stories’ on Amazon returns almost 111,000 thousand ebooks. The titles indicate a massive range of genres being catered for – in my experience short stories were restricted to women’s magazines and comics – now we have romance, crime, thrillers, horror, erotica and action/adventure short stories all being produced. So there really is something for everybody out there. I also think that the biggest indicator that shorter works are becoming popular again is the fact that international best-selling authors are writing them to support/enhance their novels.

Personally, I have always been a fan of short stories. They allow you to experience something new in a relatively short space of time. With our ‘modern’ busy lives, being able to read a complete story whilst travelling to work or grabbing that much needed cup of tea I believe really enriches our lives. Another huge bonus – thanks to self publishing on electronic devices (which is incredibly simple. Just upload your manuscript and tick a few boxes. OK there is a little bit more to it than that, but I could not believe how easy it was) these books are relatively inexpensive, so as a reader you CAN take a chance on that new author or genre.

As a writer, I really enjoy producing short stories for a number of reasons.  Most importantly, for me anyway, is the sense of completion. You can easily go from initial concept to a fully edited piece in a week – writing a novel (which I am also attempting to do) takes a lot longer.  Secondly, you can experiment with different genres and writing styles, which is a great deal of fun and even if the end product is complete nonsense (and I have produced some utter nonsense) you have only invested a relatively short amount of time into it – so sending it to the recycle bin is not as sickening as it could be.

So, after just over 18 months of writing (I’m a full time secondary school science teacher and father of three boys, so time is a limited commodity), I am proud to be able to share with you my first collection of contemporary short stories – The Shoe Box.

shoe box

The title is a bit of a self indulgence – my first short story to be accepted by an editor onto their website (but never sold, so no-one has read it until now) is the first story in this collection – New Shoes.  I thought that it would be an idea to pay homage to this story by giving all the other stories a foot/shoe related title and then boxing them all together. The five stories examine the human ability to deal with adversity, maintain that special spark and our obsession with competition and celebrity.

Someone once described short story collections as ‘a box of chocolates’ (could that have been you, Jo?) and I believe this collection neatly fits that description. There is variety in the stories and I hope that everyone finds something in there that they like (let me know on Twitter @James_Sm1th when you do!)

The Shoe Box: A Collection of Short Stories is available to buy from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Author picJames Smith has been making up stories for as long as he can remember, but only recently decided to write them down. He was born and bred in Derbyshire, before moving to Newcastle Upon Tyne to complete a degree in Genetics. He still lives and works in the North East, having refused to move away from the area. He is currently a Secondary School Science Teacher and spends his days attempting to enlighten 11-18 year olds about the wonders of science. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it…he would write a series about his experiences, but is afraid no one would believe him.
Connect with James on Twitter @James_Sm1th

A Life Unpredicted is FREE This Weekend

To celebrate the brand new gorgeous cover for A Life Unpredicted and other stories, I’ve set the price to free for this weekend only.


This collection of 10 short stories has over 20 4&5 star reviews on Amazon and is described as: “An emotionally satisfying collection of short stories, dealing with love and loss and some darker themes” by bestselling author Celina Grace. I’d love to use this free promotion to reach out to new readers so please download and share as widely as possible. Short stories don’t generally do as well as novels in free promos, but let’s see if we can get a couple of hundred downloads – that would be awesome!

Click here to download your copy for free right now 🙂 x

A New Look For A Life Unpredicted

I released my first collection of short stories back in 2012, wanting to offer something else for readers while working on the follow up to Can’t Live Without. The collection has been well received by readers, gaining some great reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, but recently, when I looked at the six titles I now have available on Amazon, I realised that the cover of A Life Unpredicted didn’t ‘fit’ with my contemporary look. It was a little bleak, and didn’t really reflect the mood of the stories contained within.

I made a quick call to my ace cover designer and a few days later a brand new cover arrived …

GIRL_SITTING_V2I love it! Eagle-eyed readers who have been on this journey with me for a long time may recognise this image from a former incarnation of Can’t Live Without – I always loved the picture and I’m so glad I’ve been able to use it for one of my books.

If you haven’t read it yet, A Life Unpredicted and other stories is available on Amazon for only 77p/99c. Here is the blurb:

Love, loss, joy, regret and the perils of parenting – all these themes and more are explored, touchingly and bravely, in this collection of ten short stories, including:

A Life Unpredicted – The key to your future might be hidden in the past … Shortlisted for the Grace Dieu Short Story competition.

Parenting Class – “‘You need help,’ Gina had said, ‘and I know just the place.’ Gina was my social worker, and the place was Parenting Class, Tuesday afternoons, free to those desperate enough to need it.”

One To Keep – A story for everyone who’s ever made – or broken – a new year’s resolution.

“This new volume contains all the hallmarks of her novels: sensitive observation, eloquent phraseology, a kind heart, a quick intelligence and a generous nature.” Debbie Young, author

“Ms Phillips’ writing is spare and direct, with scarcely a word wasted. This is just how short pieces should be written.” John Dolan

My cover designer and I are also in the process of redesigning the cover for my Flora Lively series, ready for the release of the audio book of Murder at the Maples. Watch out for news of that very soon!


A Christmas Novelette – free to mailing list subscribers

Today I’m delighted to be able to reveal the title and cover of my first ever Christmas Novelette! A novelette is shorter than a novella (which is shorter than a novel), but longer than a short story. The Silence of Juliet Mann is around 12,500 words, and will be sent out free to mailing list subscribers at the beginning of December. If you haven’t signed up yet here is the link – my mailing list is not the same as the blog subscription, it’s the means by which I keep readers informed of new releases and special promotions. So sign up now to get your copy of …

SJM cover

“There can’t be many things worse than not being able to say your own name.”

Juliet Mann is about to get hitched at last. Her fiancé is gorgeous, her dress is stunning, her family are overjoyed … and perhaps more than a little relieved. But Juliet has a secret – a problem she’s tried to hide for far too long. Juliet’s moment has finally arrived, but when the time comes to say ‘I do’, Juliet can’t say anything at all.

Her parents are far from understanding – but they aren’t the only ones in denial. When Juliet discovers she’s messed up more than just her wedding day, she embarks on a mission to find a cure for the speech impediment that has blighted her life. But has she left it too late?

Full of heart-warming humour, unflinching and thought-provoking, The Silence of Juliet Mann follows one woman’s struggle to communicate “like a normal person”. From classroom embarrassments to adult humiliations, this romantic comedy guarantees you will never look at a stammer the same way again.


What a beautiful cover! I am thrilled with it, and I think Chris Howard has excelled himself with this one. Here’s a bit of background for anyone who wants to know more about the story:

Regular blog readers will know that I used to stammer as a child and young adult. Of course this story is not remotely autobiographical (!) but it does draw heavily on my own experiences. It was a tough decision to write about stammering, as it certainly blighted my teenage and school years, and still affects my confidence now when reading out loud or talking in public. But I think it’s important to write about things that affect you – and other people – deeply, and I did find it very cathartic. And perhaps only someone who has stammered can write about it in a humorous way – there are painful moments in this story, but there are also moments that make me laugh out loud. Why are they funny? Because they are true – and the lengths people with any kind of problem will go to in order to avoid facing the consequences of that problem are often hilarious. But at the heart of this story is a romance plain and simple: a woman who loves a man but whose fears and anxieties prevent her from being happy, from being able to achieve her goal. This is a universal story, and I hope people can enjoy it on many levels.

The Silence of Juliet Mann: A Christmas Novelette will be available on Kindle in time for Christmas, but if you want your own e-copy for free next week, you know what you have to do 🙂

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