A quick post to say thank you to everyone who’s read – and especially reviewed – my books. When I wrote The Boy in the Burgundy Hood in 2019 I had no idea how well it would do but now it’s sold nearly 3,000 copies and has over 200 reviews on Amazon with a 4.2 star rating. The positive response led me to writing two more books with the same character, Alice Deaton, a young woman with a mysterious connection to the dead.
I’m currently running a sale on Kindle and the books have again got the orange #1 bestseller tag on Amazon. I would be hugely grateful if you could help spread the word, as the longer it stays high in the charts, the more new readers get to know about it. Thank you!
Photos have a big impact on my writing. Often, they can inspire a scene that inspires a whole book. This picture of my son looking across a landscape has morphed into the opening scene of my current work in progress, Alice and the Devil, the third book inThe Ghosts of Alice series.
Shortly after I took it, I set it as my wallpaper on my laptop. It was a few weeks before it began working its magic on me. Initially I had an idea for a wholly different book, a piece of speculative fiction, but then I realised it could fit with a ghost story. Who is the boy? Why is he on his own? What’s with the sheep in his backpack? And that barn to the right – doesn’t it look a bit like a pair of eyes, the dark, disembodied eyes of the farm? Just add a torrential rainstorm and the whole Alice and the Devil story came to life…
Here’s a few more photos that have worked their way deep into my imagination for other books:
#picsthatinspiredbooks – The Boy in The Burgundy Hood
This is the fabulous Ightham Mote, the fourteenth-century house that inspired Bramley Manor in the first Ghosts of Alice novel, The Boy in the Burgundy Hood.
As soon as I saw it, I knew that this medieval house was the perfect setting for my ghost story. I’d already been inspired by the strange story of a job interview that my wife had gone to at another old house (see here). It wasn’t long before I overlaid the two elements and started to evolve my plot.
Pics that inspired The Secret of the Tirthas
Now here’s some photos of the amazing garden of hedged ‘rooms’ in Herefordshire that inspired my young adult adventure mystery series, The Secret of the Tirthas.
Many of the rooms had sculptures or statues, often from different religions. I thought it would be great if they were all secret portals to related sites across the world. Imagine just having to step outside your back door to go to all these fabulous places!
The discovery of these new places through the portals by Lizzie Jones became a ‘fantasy’ element in itself. That, plus the demonic killer also using the portals to prey on street children in the first place Lizzie discovers, Kashi, the Indian City of Light…?
Photos that inspired The City of Light
Finally, here’s the incredible city of Varanasi, or Kashi, in India, which inspired the first novel in The Secret of the Tirthas, The City of Light. I went backpacking in my twenties and came down into India from Nepal. This was the second place I stayed and I was stunned.
I kind of knew straight away that this would inspire my writing. But it was only many years later, after discovering the hidden gem of a garden in Herefordshire, that I had the idea for The Secret of the Tirthas. And I decided on Kashi as the first place our hero Lizzie Jones would come after discovering the garden’s magical portals.
Here’s a taster from The City of Light, when Lizzie emerges from the portal:
“[She] stopped, stunned, finding herself looking at the most extraordinary sight she’d ever seen.
An ancient sun-bleached city sprawled before her, stretched along the bank of an enormous river. The city’s buildings were a bright, exotic mix of colours – red, ochre, sand, and white – and many had domes or intricate beehive towers. Some sat at the top of broad flights of steps that ran down into the water, whilst others were perched on the river’s edge. A few tilted forward precariously, appearing as if they were about to collapse into the swirling waters and be lost forever. And everywhere, on the steps and in the buildings and out in small boats, the city’s inhabitants went about their business in the soft, hazy sunlight.
Lizzie stood in awe, absorbing the view. If only all her dreams were as impressive as this…”
So where am I at with the writing, you ask? (You didn’t? Click away now, no one will notice.)
2021 has been a big year for my writing. It was the first year I had a bestseller and the first year I sold over 2,000 copies of one book (nearing 2,500 now). The average book sells 250 copies according to my Gurus, Prophets and Market Analysts (Google), so I’m very happy.
So what was the book? It was the first in my Ghosts of Alice series, The Boy in the Burgundy Hood. It’s been a strong seller since November 2019 when I published it. But it really took off in February 2021 after a promotion on Bookbub, which led to the #1 spot in Amazon’s Ghost Story categories in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. (If you’re a keen ebook reader and like good deals, I recommend signing up for Bookbub.) The reviews that followed were good so the sales continued. When you’ve been writing for a few years, getting that level of reader response is a real joy!
My next writing achievement in 2021 was publishing the second book in the Ghosts of Alice series, The Girl in the Ivory Dress. It follows on from the first, developing the relationship between Alice and one of her old school friends. The reviews have been almost all good so far (there’s always one…), with some saying they like it even more than the first. It reminded me of how enjoyable it was to write the second book in my young adult series, The Secret of the Tirthas. Whilst the first, The City of Life, was mostly fun, learning how to plot and integrate storylines, as well as setting up a whole new fantasy scenario, was challenging. There were many rewrites. It felt so much easier when the groundwork was done, when everything was already established. The Book of Life flew from the keyboard.
My third writing milestone just missed the end of the year. I finished a draft of the latest Ghosts of Alice book on the 3rd January. It’s working title is Alice and the Devil. It has a distinctive atmosphere and setting and I’m pleased with it. However, it’s going to need a few stiff edits because I wrote it without a plot, with only a few key scenes and characters in my head. It was my first time writing like this but it seems to have turned out well. I’ll probably find a lot of holes when I reread it, but for now I’m just pleased to have completed it.
2022 Writing Goals
My main writing goal for 2022 is to publish this third Ghosts of Alice book. I’m aiming for it to be out in the spring.
I’m also finalising a novella prequel to The Secret of the Tirthas. It focuses on the discovery of the tirthas and the creation of the magical garden of rooms at the turn of the 19th century. It’s called Swift: The Story of a Witch (I’m fairly sure that one’s going to stick). It might become a freebie to my email subscribers.
And finally, I’m going to start and – hopefully – complete another book! I’ve got a few ideas bubbling away already…
I’ve been interviewed by talented US fantasy author Jessica Cantwell on her blog. Here’s her intro, click the link at the bottom of the page for the full interview. (And while I’m here, a quick reminder that both The Boy in the Burgundy Hood and The Girl in the Ivory Dress are on Kindle sale over Halloween – hurry!)
Halloween is days away. Now is the perfect time for a ghost story!
Enter The Boy with the Burgundy Hood, a fantastic book by Steve Griffin. This is an entertaining read with a sprinkle of paranormal activity. If you are a fan of The Haunting of Hill House or The Haunting of Bly Manor, then this is the book for you!
You can learn more about The Boy in the Burgundy Hood by reading an interview with the author, Steve Griffin, on my blog. Link is in the bio.
We talk about ghosts and psychopaths. This is a fun interview you won’t want to miss!
Big news – my latest novel, The Girl in the Ivory Dress, is out now!
I’m so excited about this book. It’s a ghost story for adults and continues the story of Alice Deaton, who we last saw damaged but not destroyed at the end of The Boy in the Burgundy Hood.
Here’s what it’s about:
After a fire tears through the country house where she works, Alice Deaton accepts a desperate invitation from an old friend whose guest house on the Welsh coast is being haunted by a horrifying apparition.
But Alice, with her mysterious ability to connect with ghosts, senses something even stranger going on at the isolated Peacehaven. Who is the spectral man roaming the house? Why is he terrifying the guests? And why does Alice keep dreaming about the ghosts of her past, the burning man and girl in the ivory dress?
As she digs deeper Alice will uncover an insidious evil that might just overwhelm her…
How the book came about:
When I wrote The Boy in the Burgundy Hood I wasn’t planning on any kind of sequel. However, almost as soon as I published it some savvy readers were querying the ending, and dropping hints about how it leant itself to another book. Within days of publication, I was planning a follow on story. The girl in the ivory dress began to play with my head. A few months later, when The Boy in the Burgundy Hood became a bestseller on Amazon, I was sure I was doing the right thing.
However, whilst I wanted the books to be connected, I didn’t want to write another series that you had to read in order. Hence The Ghosts of Alice was born – stand alone ghost stories, linked by our feisty heroine with her mysterious ability to connect with ghosts.
So if you’re interested in a spooky mystery please get yourself (or a friend / family member / ghost story enthusiast you know) a copy from Amazon. And please please if you enjoy it, leave a rating or a review – it really does help the book get noticed.
I’m super excited that The Boy in the Burgundy Hood has become my first #1 International Bestseller!
Thank you so much to everyone who supported me by buying and sharing the book during my recent promotion. The result was the top spot in most of Amazon’s Ghost Story categories in the US, UK, Canada and Australia!
I was over the moon on Monday night watching all those little orange ‘Bestseller’ flags crop up. I’ve been publishing novels since 2014 and sales have been good and steady – but this is the first time I’ve ever made #1. It’s what every writer dreams of – and it can be a long time coming!
So thank you again.
I had to do something bookish to celebrate, so I’ve discounted the entire series of The Secret of the Tirthas to 99p / 99c on Kindle until midnight Friday 5th March! Click here to get the offer.
Read on for a chance to grab The Boy in the Burgundy Hood for 99p/99c in my Bookbub sale…
Well, here we (or at least those of us in the UK) are again in our third national lockdown. To be honest, there are aspects of lockdown that suit me as a writer. It means I lose a long commute to my part-time work in London. Instead of getting on a train in the early morning, I get to take a walk in the local woods, which is good. And of course, being a writer, I enjoy spending time indoors writing books.
But that’s as far as it goes. The homeschooling of two young boys is pushing everyone in my house to the brink. Love ’em as I do, it’s been two months since we all had a break from each other. School may have put everything on Teams – meaning I no longer have to try and explain fronted adverbials – but the technical challenges and juggling of digital resources has added a whole new layer of conflict and frustration.
Anyway *deep breath* that’s enough whingeing from me. I know my challenges are nothing compared to what most people are going through. So over to some lighter stuff…
The Boy in the Burgundy Hood – Bookbub sale!
Need a ‘compelling mystery with a dark twist’ (Amazon, 5⭐) to distract you in lockdown? I landed a ‘Bookbub Deal’ (promotional gold ?) for The Boy in the Burgundy Hood! That means from 21-24 February you can get a copy for 99p / 99c, reduced from £2.99. Described by US author Sherry Ross as an ‘eerie but beautiful ghost story’, it now has 43 reviews on Amazon UK, averaging 4.4 stars. Click here to grab your copy now:
More Writing News – including my Dad’s memoirs
In other writing news, I’m deep into editing my follow-on ghost story, The Girl in the Ivory Dress, which I plan to have out later in the spring. At the same time I’m writing a prequel novella for The Secret of the Tirthas about Hattie Swift, Lizzie’s witchy ancestor who first discovers the magical garden of portals in Herefordshire.
And finally, in other writing news, my Dad has joined the very small ranks of writers in our family by publishing his fascinating memoirs about the hotel industry. Do check it out by clicking the link below!
I’ve been doing a blog post on my year in writing on and off since 2014. I was going to forget about 2020 as a real humdinger, for obvious reasons. Then I thought, no, let’s go for it. I’ve had some ups and downs, but let’s see if I’ve learnt anything from them.
Let’s start with the good:
The Things We Thought Were Beautiful came out!
I published my second poetry book, The Things We Thought Were Beautiful. Not only was it packed with poems old and new, I designed the cover myself and was reasonably pleased with it. And… it got some great reviews like this one from Amazon.com:
“The poem Sorted brought tears as did Before the Divorce. Poems like The Oak in the Snow and Dandelion… use sensitive observations of nature to bring us a shiver of transcendence. Love Wish is one of the most beautiful love poems I have ever read and the poem Unknown is an astounding tribute to fatherhood. These are important poems. I am delighted to have this book in my collection and will return to it many times.” ?????
The Boy in the Burgundy Hood is doing well!
I know the writers out there will want to know how come, but the truth is for the first half of the year I don’t know. But I do know why more recently: I’ve finally worked out the esoteric process of creating good Amazon Ads. Believe me, it’s taken a while and I won’t bore you with how it works. Because it really is complicated and it changes all the time and it’s very easy to lose a load of money on it. If you’re an author and want to know comment below and I might write another post on it sometime. And that’s as much as I want to say about it for now. Not that I’m superstitious or anything, but I’m worried my formula is collapsing on me right now!
My next book is in draft.
Alongside that, I now have the draft of a follow-on story to The Boy in the Burgundy Hood. It’s got the working title of The Girl in the Ivory Dress and it sees our feisty but vulnerable heroine heading to a haunted seaside guest house after a major tragedy. I’m aiming for it to be out in the spring – watch this space!
So that’s the good. What’s the bad, you ask? Well, let’s not even talk about Covid. Working from home has not been a problem, but teaching two boys who I’m sure are reincarnated gladiators was a challenge. But at least now I know what a Fronted Adverbial is. And needless to say, there’s been all the sadness of not seeing loved ones for vast swathes of the year.
I got my first bad review.
With regard to my writing, I got my first bad review on Amazon. That was a blow. I’ve read a couple of articles on the inevitability of it happening and I’m trying to see it as a kind of badge of honour. But it still hurts.
The articles I’d read did help. You get one bad review and think you’re a lousy writer, why did you ever think your words were good enough to give the public to read? As with many things in life, it’s easy to dwell on the negative. But then you have to remind yourself that you’re never going to please everybody. And the book at time of writing has 28 reviews, with 19 of them being 5? – an average of 4.4 ?. Lots of you did – do – like my book. You really do have to focus on the positive. So I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, THANK YOU so much to all of you who have taken the time to write a review of one of my books. They really do make a difference!
I didn’t get to meet any readers.
Another bad. For the first year since I published The City of Light back in 2014, I’ve not done a single author event, bookshop signing, festival or school visit. I know in the scale of Covid disasters it’s a teeny tiny one, but heck, I’ve missed that personal connection with readers. Social media is great up to a point – but it can’t replace that face-to-face chemistry.
And that also meant that I didn’t get out to promote the poetry book in person (the best way to promote all books but especially poetry which is a niche market anyway). So the sales of that were not as good as I’d hoped. Which is a big shame, because I think it’s every bit as good as Up in the Air, which sold well – but so far only a handful of people know that. So if you like poetry, a small plea this Christmas ?
So that’s it, my year in writing. Some good, some bad. Remember, if you’d like to support an author this Christmas there’s still time (at posting) to order paperbacks as gifts for friends and family.
I really hope you have weathered this difficult year well. And I wish you a Merry Christmas and a much happier, saner new year!
I’ve been writing stories since the age of seven, but I’ve only been studying the craft of writing for the last ten years or so. Here’s a few top tips for writers that I’ve learnt, many of which I wish I’d learnt sooner. They would have saved me a lot of time.
Read A LOT – your imagination needs fuel and it’ll get a lot from your real life, but much much more from reading thousands of stories. Yes, thousands. (Here’s a few goodies to start with.)
Plotting’s not for everyone but for me a short overview helps me not go down too many dead ends. You can always change your plot as the story develops.
When thinking about plotting, remember that most stories, even non-fiction ones, are about suspense. The writer’s job is to create a character so real that the reader invests their emotions into him or her. And then to put that character through a whole load of difficult scenarios where the reader can’t help but keep reading to see what’s going to happen to them.
Keep your writing precise not flowery and avoid as many adverbs as you can.
Find the angle – if you’re struggling to find an angle that makes your scene and characters spring into life, starting with dialogue is always a good idea.
Keep learning (a mantra for being alive, really).
Only do it if you love it – except for a very small number of people, there’s no fame in it and you’ll make a lot more money in your standard day job. (Although we can all dream that one day, in the not-too-distant future, our name will be writ large on the street…).
For the definitive advice check out the 10 points of Elmore Leonard (and while you’re there, sign up for the fantastic newsletter of Brain Pickings).
Do you believe in ghosts? We’re well into spooky season now and I was asked the perennial question again recently.
On balance, I’d have to say no. The world is a very strange place, with the chances of it and us existing being essentially zero. Parallel universes, action at a distance, the big bang – all of these things are astonishing. So I keep an open mind about ghosts and everything else. But I also weigh up the odds based on my experience, so I live my life as if they don’t exist.
But then, there was one time…
I was living in an old Victorian shared house in Scotland, doing a Masters degree at Stirling University. One night I woke up and was convinced there was a woman sitting on the end of my bed, looking at me. I immediately put it down to my imagination and of course when I peered again into the grey dark she wasn’t there.
The next day I told a friend, one of my flat mates, about the incident. He was a bit shaken up. I asked him why, and he told me that the afternoon before he’d been coming up the stairs and seen someone walking across the top of the landing above him, heading towards my bedroom. He was completely nonplussed and just shouted hello to her, thinking it was one of our flatmates. But of course he soon found there was no one there, nor anyone in the whole house for that matter.
So – do you believe in ghosts? If you have any spooky stories to tell I’d love to hear them below.
If that’s whetted your appetite for spooky stories, why not order a copy of my ghost story, The Boy in the Burgundy Hood, in time for Halloween? It’s available now on Amazon. Don’t think I could have hoped for better company on Amazon on the cusp of Halloween…