Writing Update

Hi there! It seems a while since last I posted about my own writing, so I thought I’d give you an update of how I’m progressing with my next novel.

For What it’s Worth is about a married couple whose marriage is under stress because of two main factors: Hugh is out of work and Yvonne is working too hard; and despite years of trying, they have been unsuccessful in their efforts to start a family. Two problems many people face, sometimes even together. So Yvonne and Hugh’s story is one many people can relate to. But we all deal with things in our own unique way, don’t we? So, although you might know someone who has been in their position – you might even have been in that position yourself – I haven’t written their story, or your story. I’ve written Yvonne and Hugh’s story. It’s about how they handle the stress, how they decide to move forward. You might not agree with their choices, but I hope you’ll be cheering them on.

This novel is not part of The Reluctant Detective Series, but it is a spin off from it. Yvonne is Mirabelle’s sister. If you read the series, you’ll probably remember that Mirabelle was the main character – and quite a character, quirky, eccentric and unpredictable – and she has a part to play in this new novel, but as a supporting character.

She was too much fun to write about to let her go 🙂

If you’re a writer, have you ever found it hard not to go on writing about a certain character even after their story has been written? It’s like keeping in touch with an old friend.

For What it’s Worth has been drafted, redrafted, edited, beta read, edited, redrafted, edited and is now with some more beta readers. Depending on their feedback, it will hopefully not be too long until the final proofread and polish before publication.

Tell me, when you read a book, do you like to think of the writing process that book had to go through before it landed on your bedside table? I must confess I love reading author interviews and profiles, learning as much as I can about the author and their work. I find it helps me understand where the story might have originated, and so enhances my understanding of it.

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To learn more about me as an author and about The Reluctant Detective Series or any of my published novels, please check the sidebar or click on my Amazon Author page.

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#FridayReads ~Reviewing my favourite books from 2016

What a wonderful surprise to find one of my books on a reviewer’s list of her favourite books from 2016! And in such great company! Thank you Lizanne Lloyd. I feel honoured, and I’m delighted.

Lizanne

According to Goodreads, of the 65 books I have read this year, 21 are contemporary stories, 18 historical fiction, 7 crime novels and 5 mysteries. In addition, I chose to read 5 non-fiction history books, 3 steampunk novels, 2 travel books, one young child’s book, one dystopian novel and one of literary fiction. Only one is specifically a romantic novel, but of course romance often turns up in historical novels or mysteries too and definitely in most contemporary stories. There is a lot of blurring at the edges.
The number of books in each category does not surprise me, but perhaps next year I should try self-help, vampire books or maybe return to fantasy or science fiction. I’m not promising!
These are my highlights of the year.

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Midnight Sky Cover LARGE EBOOK

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Rusty

AB Bamboo Island

Lake House

I could list more, but I will stop with these chosen few from my favourite genres; historical, contemporary and mystery.  If you click…

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Oops, I’ve done it again!

In August, I wrote about Tunnel Vision, about emerging from a tunnel and seeing all the things that had been hidden from view. If you read the post before or if you have followed the link and have just read it, you will know that I was talking about how engrossed I get when writing a new novel.

Well, I’ve done it again!

I couldn’t resist taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Once again, that meant writing a new novel – well, the first draft of one, anyway. The target is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, a daily average of 1,667 words for thirty days. ‘Since I’ve managed to adopt the habit of writing every day since February, how hard could it be?’ I asked myself. The answer? Only as hard as I make it. So I decided to plan this new novel out and get to know my characters pretty well before I embarked on the actual writing on November 1st. That really helped. Throughout the month, I was never lost. I always knew where my story was headed – or I thought I did.

Right at the end of the month, my main character seemed to develop a mind of her own and she decided to take me in another direction. I guess she didn’t like the ending I’d planned, and in one pivotal conversation with another character, the story swung off my carefully plotted route.

Now, remembering I’m already in that tunnel, already have tunnel vision, but the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel has been growing bigger and brighter for days. Suddenly, the light felt like an oncoming vehicle instead of the way out of the tunnel. Could I avoid crashing? Would this be the end of the road for my novel?

Don’t be silly. Of course not. We writers can’t let our characters totally take over. They need us to guide them. They may think they’re in charge. We may even talk about them as though they are. But they are not. They are our creations. We are in charge.

I hope you heard the stern tone in my voice there, because that’s the tone I took when I sat down with Rosanna – yes, that’s her name, this wayward character in my latest novel, Gold Plated. We sat down with a mug of hot chocolate and a piece of cake and sorted this thing out. Okay, she wasn’t comfortable with the original plan, but I wasn’t happy with the direction she looked like taking. It couldn’t lead to the destination I’d had in mind from the outset. One of us had to give, didn’t we? Or could we compromise? Could Rosanna have her say, speak her mind as she just had and still get back on track?

Of course she can. I’m in charge, remember. It’s up to me to bring her round by carefully constructing a wee diversion that allows us both to feel happy with the outcome. And that’s what I did, bringing in the first draft of Gold Plated at 59,000 words by the 30th November, just as I emerged from the tunnel.

It’s only the 1st of December, so I’m still blinking in the light, but I see I have neglected this poor old blog again. I owe it an apology. I’d love to think someone might have missed me.

So, back on track. Still fleshing out Gold Plated, but with a little less intensity so there’s time and energy for all the other writing-related projects I delight in, including the final edit of For What it’s Worth the spin-off of The Reluctant Detective Series I was writing. My lovely daughter-in-law, Michelle, has almost finished painting a gorgeous cover for it and soon I hope it will be all systems go for publication.

What fun we writers have 🙂

Did you have a go with NaNoWriMo this year? Do tell me in the comments how you got on.

Or have you read any good books lately? Ones that take you off into that glorious tunnel of trees, where everything is beautiful but you can hardly see anything outside it – the dishes, the ironing, the cat’s empty saucer …

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You can read Christine Campbell’s books for FREE with Kindle Unlimited, or buy them in eBook or paperback format here on Amazon.

Book Review: Courting the Countess by Anne Stenhouse

A book review by Anne Stormont of ‘Courting the Countess’, a regency romance by Anne Stenhouse – yes, two Annes for the price of one 🙂
“The dialogue is, as always, to the fore and fairly crackles and zings,” Anne says. I like that. And I’m not surprised by it because Anne Stenhouse, the author of this book, is also a playwright.
Type of read (according to Anne): In an Edinburgh New Town hotel or residence, but failing that, in your own living-room, curtains drawn, on your chaise longue by a roaring log fire and a do-not-disturb sign on the door.
This one is on my To Be Read list. I’m itching to read it but I try to read books in the order I buy them. What about you? Is that how you do it? Or do you allow your books to jostle for position and settle down on the couch with the front runner? Do tell in the comments below.
Maybe this is one that will be in the jostle 🙂

Put it in Writing

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Regular readers of my book reviews will know that crime and contemporary fiction along with the occasional work of non-fiction are my main areas of choice when it comes to reading. But historical fiction by this particular author will always get my intention. I’ve read, enjoyed and reviewed all her previous books and all are full of romance, wit and great period detail.

So I knew the chances were I’d also enjoy her latest novel and I certainly did.

But even if I’d not read this author’s previous books, the chances are I’d have been sufficiently intrigued by the premise behind this Regency romance to give it a go. In an interview on Rosemary Gemmell’s blog which you can read here, Anne Stenhouse explains that the idea for Courting the Countess arose out of a writing competition entry she did. The competition brief was to come up…

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4 Plot Pitfalls You Need to Avoid – ProWritingAid

Okay! So it seems I need to go back to the current draft of my WIP brandishing a large red pen!

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 Some great suggestions in this article, along with the comments from my beta readers, have made me re-examine my plot. I now know why there were parts that felt sluggish to my readers and to me, and what I think I’m going to do about them.

This article was published on the ProWritingAid website on April 16th, 2016,  written by Kathy Edens, a blogger, ghost writer, and content master who has extensive experience helping clients reach their readers with compelling and engaging material. You can find Kathy at www.kathy-edens.com

I’m so pleased I stumbled upon the article.

It’s so hard to ‘kill your darlings’, as William Faulkner and Stephen King would have us do. I knew there were scenes in my WIP that didn’t fulfil two important criteria: to move the plot along or to develop the characters.

Strike one!

But I like those scenes. There is some great writing in them: some clever, witty dialogue, some great observations on life, some handsome metaphors. But the story could live and thrive without them. One of my trusted beta readers (she’ll know who she is :-)) tactfully pointed them out when she said I didn’t have her whole attention at some points in the story – backing up my intuitive feeling.

Strike two!

Then I read this article. “If a character with a subplot isn’t absolutely vital to the denouement, use that red pen,” Kathy says.

Strike three!

I’d already deleted part of one character’s involvement. Now I think more the rest of her part needs to go.

There’s another character, Elouise, who I know I shall keep, but I don’t need to tell her story. This is not her story. It is Yvonne and Hugh’s story. She can play a part in it, but it is not about her, much and all as Elouise would like it to be.

“Think of it this way,” Kathy says. “Don’t kill your darling; simply move her to a new novel as the main character.”

Elouise is a great character and her story is interesting, so I shall delete those scenes in this WIP and use them in the novel I already planned to write about her at another time. I know she’ll be pleased to have a novel all about her. She’s that kind of girl. Win/win.

What fun editing can be when you listen to the wisdom of others who know the craft, and you find the courage to take their advice.

Okay, so this is all very well to talk about in theory, now I have to see if I can go through with it. Where’s that red pen? Gulp!

What about you? Is this article helpful to you? – well, I know, you’ll have to read it first, but after you do, why not let me know in the comments?

I’d love to find I’m not alone in this.

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Over to you Kathy …

We’re going to spend a little bit of time on plot this month—talking about what NOT to do. Sometimes it’s hard to see plot problems while you’re writing and you don’t notice them until the end. This will send some writers into a downward spiral of negative self-talk. Others will white-knuckle their way through half-hearted revisions. Here are a few common plot pitfalls and what you can do to rectify them.

Source: 4 Plot Pitfalls You Need to Avoid – ProWritingAid

Interview with the Author

A couple of months ago, on June 29, 2016, I was interviewed by Meryl Stenhouse, here on her blog. She had invited me to talk about my latest release, Rusty Gold, the third book in The Reluctant Detective Series.

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Rusty Gold by Christine Campbell

Find her,’ Agnes Donald begged. ‘Find my daughter.’

The words of a dying woman force Mirabelle to take on another case for the unofficial Missing Persons Bureau she runs from her Edinburgh flat. Along with her assistant, Kay, she heads for the island of Skye where Esme Donald was last known to be. But is someone else looking for Esme too? And could Mirabelle’s own daughter, Summer, be in danger?

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Meryl asked me some very interesting questions, questions that helped me express the origins of this series, letting readers in behind the scenes of my novels. I hope you enjoy the interview. If you want to see it in its original form, do please go to Meryl’s blog. In fact you might enjoy to do that anyway after reading this post. Meryl has written lots to interest you there.

Meryl Stenhouse: Your novel’s heroine Mirabelle is a single mother, which is an unusual but excellent choice. What led you to choose a single mother as your heroine? What challenges and opportunities did this represent in writing the story?

Christine Campbell: I chose to tell Mirabelle’s story as a single mother because there are so many single parent families around these days and I think it must be tremendously difficult to balance all the pressures of work or career and bringing up a child or children.
I got to thinking what if? What if there was a crisis in a single parent family, like a child disappearing from home? Who would the single parent turn to? What impact would it have on his or her work or career? How would it change his/her priorities? What regrets would he/she have? Things like that.

The main challenge it represented was that although I am mum, I have never had to function as a single parent, so I had to try to get inside my character’s head. I had to imagine how it would be different, but also how it would be the same.

For instance, the things that I think would be the same are the panic and pain, the anxiety and strain of such a frightening situation. I did’t find it too hard to imagine how I, as a mum, would react: how I would feel, what I would do.

A huge difference is sharing the anxiety, panic and pain with the other parent. Whenever there is any kind of difficult or worrying situation in our family, my husband and I can talk about it. We can comfort one another, work out together what we need to do.

For a single parent – in my story, a single mum – I would imagine it is very different. Although she may have very supportive family and friends, at the end of the day, she goes to bed on her own and the night must seem to last forever. So I had to work out who Mirabelle’s support team would be, and how and where she would find comfort.

One of the opportunities writing this story gave me was to examine how I would feel if I had to do things on my own. I rely on my husband so much that thinking about being on my own in such a dreadful situation was very upsetting for me. Making myself imagine it, get into Mirabelle’s head and heart, walk a mile in her shoes, so to speak, was a great exercise in empathy for me. It helped me appreciate what a great job so many single parents make of bringing up their children.

MS: You have included the homeless of Edinburgh as characters in the book, a group that is traditionally invisible. What prompted this decision?

CC: In part, it was prompted by the realisation that people can be homeless for a variety of reasons, not all of them their own fault. Even if it is their choice, it is a hard life, but for many it isn’t a choice. The statistics for young people who have left home because of domestic abuse are frightening. For them, even living rough in parks, cemeteries and squats are better than what they had.

One young woman I talked to who left home to live on the streets when she was only fourteen told me that she found the homeless community looked after her better than her parents had. She said, yes, she had to choose carefully who she associated with, learning to avoid the unscrupulous, the malicious and those who were too far gone with drugs, but a great part of the homeless community is made up of decent, honest people who have, for one reason or another, found themselves homeless.

Some of them are somewhat eccentric, some of them are difficult to communicate with, some may even be somewhat dangerous, but they are still people. I wanted to give a small section of them a voice.

MS: Rusty Gold is set on the Isle of Skye. How have you communicated the individuality of that setting to the reader? Have you traveled there yourself? What challenges did this location present to the story?

The first two books in this series, The Reluctant Detective Series, are set mostly in Edinburgh or further north but still in the east of Scotland. My husband and I are originally from the west of Scotland and we have holidayed in Skye several times over the years, plus his paternal family originated there, so, when we were planning to visit Skye again for a couple of weeks and it was time to start plotting Rusty Gold, I decided why not take Mirabelle there with us.

While there, I researched where I wanted certain scenes to take place, going to each one several times, sitting quietly on beaches getting the feel of them as well as studying them visually, travelling the single track roads across moorlands, through glens and beside lochs.

I knew Mirabelle would fall in love with Skye as I had many years ago, so my challenge was to help my readers fall in love with it too. It’s never ideal to have long, descriptive passages in a modern novel, so I tried to give the flavour of the surroundings through the characters’ eyes and actions.

I listened carefully to how natives of Skye spoke: they tend not to abbreviate but speak carefully and correctly, with a delightful lilt in their speech. I tried to portray that in the people Mirabelle meets.

When I travelled about the island, I was often held up waiting for sheep to move aside, or highland cattle to meander along in front of me, so I allowed that to happen to Mirabelle and her friend as they travelled.

From time to time, I felt compelled to stop the car at the side of the road to get out and marvel at some fabulous views, so I had them do that too, in the hopes that my readers would be able to imagine the Island of Skye. It is a truly beautiful setting.

Rusty Gold is available to buy in paperback and on Amazon Kindle.

AmazonBarnes and NobleWaterstones FeedaRead – The paperback can also be ordered from most bookshops.

Christine Campbell is a writer. She has always been a writer. For as long as she can remember, she has scribbled poems and prose, snippets and stories on scraps of paper, in the back of cheque books, napkins, on the back of her hand — anything more durable than her faulty memory.
She loves being a writer, a novelist, in particular, and she write contemporary fiction: strongly character-based, relationship novels — with a smidgen of romance and a generous dusting of mystery and detection.
She has learned a lot about her craft since that wonderful night when she held her first completed, printed manuscript novel in her arms. Her first book-baby.
Christine has now completed and published seven novels, the seventh newly ready to leave home and see the big wide world and, even more importantly, to be seen by it. It’s so exciting when your book-babies grow up and leave home. As mother of five grown-up, married children and ten grandchildren, Christine knows a lot about babies growing up and leaving home!

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I hope you enjoyed Meryl’s interview. Didn’t she ask some great questions? It’s quite an art form in itself, interviewing, and I think Meryl has mastered it. Thank you, Meryl.

What do you think? Are there interviews you’ve read that really help you get to know your favourite author better? Or some that made your toes curl?

Do share your stories in the comments. I love hearing from you.

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Tunnel Vision

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I’ve just emerged from a tunnel and I’m blinking in the light.

Goodness, what a lot I have neglected!

I see it now.

But I was quite happily engrossed in my tunnel until it came to an end.

It wasn’t the kind of tunnel that plunges you into total darkness. More like a tree tunnel, with light getting through but no way to see beyond the trees to what’s going on outside. You know the kind, I’m sure. A pleasant tunnel to be in.

I’ve had tunnel vision before. It happens with irregular regularity, each time I’m engaged in writing a novel. Because I am in the habit of writing every day, it’s been quite some time since I suffered from writers’ block – if I ever truly did. Most times, I think the trouble was that I was out of the way of writing, my writing muscles were sleepy and had to be prodded awake each time I felt like adding to my word count, and that was much harder when it had been a long time since I wrote.

Having said that, a few years ago I didn’t write anything other than the occasional blog post for almost a year after my mother died. It had been a traumatic time – not just because she died, but more to do with other things that happened around her death – and I went into a very different tunnel for quite some time – a long dark one that blotted out the sun and most of the joy it can bring. When I emerged from that tunnel, it took me a long time to adjust and I found that my creativity had all but dried up.

I was recently reminded of a blog post I wrote about what helped get me writing again after one such longish phase of losing my creativity. You can read it here if you choose.

When I’m reading a good book I get tunnel vision too. You know that way, when you can’t put a book down and you read well into the night in order to finish it, then you close your eyes and can’t stop thinking about it for ages. When you finally open your eyes and look around, you blink in the light. You realise life has gone on while you were happily in that pleasant tunnel with the book.

I had a lovely review for Rusty Gold just recently when that seems to have happened to one of my readers:

“I really enjoyed the Rusty gold series. I just couldn’t put the 3rd book down. I was desperate to see how it ended so was stirring the soup with the book in my hand! Off to bed early to read in peace and quiet and, of course ,when it was finished I wished that I had made it last longer. Now, that is the sign of a really good read. It would make a great T.V. series. How good would that be?” ~ Barbara R.

Needless to say, it’s very encouraging to receive reviews like that. It always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and I can’t thank my readers enough for them. If ever I meet one such reader, I’ll give her the hugest of hugs.

So, you know what I’m talking about – that kind of tunnel vision.

And, like I said, I’ve just emerged from such a tunnel.

I’ve been busy writing another novel, and what a happy tunnel I’ve been in. I got so caught up with my characters, I found it hard to leave them.

This WIP is now in the hands of some beta readers, and I must wait to get their feedback before I can write the final draft, but, meanwhile, I find I’m still thinking about Yvonne and Hugh, and their story. I’m having to hold myself back from writing the next part of their story – because that’s for another book, another tunnel.

This one, called For What it’s Worth, is not quite another in The Reluctant Detective Series, more a kind of spin off, and while Mirabelle and Sam feature in the story, the main protagonist this time is Mirabelle’s sister, Yvonne.

Yvonne only featured peripherally in the three books of the series, but the dynamic of her and her husband, Hugh, kept asking to be explored, so I did, and have written their story – so far. I say, ‘so far,’ because just as our lives don’t stop when we settle into a routine after some great adventure or happening in our lives, so too, characters can seem so real that I just know their story could continue on. And my mind is already buzzing with what happens next in the Yvonne and Hugh saga.

Meanwhile, I have to see to all the things I neglected when I was so engrossed in writing For What it’s Worth – blog posts, promotional posts, guest posts, interviews, lots of interesting things like that. No matter how bonnie that tunnel of trees in, no matter how beautifully the sunlight dapples through the branches, I don’t want to hide inside it for ever. I look forward to driving through another one soon, but for now, other writing tasks need attention, there is other fun to be had, other vistas to view.

How about you? As a reader, do you get so engrossed in a good book that you can hardly bear to put it down? Do you emerge at the end blinking in the light?

As a writer, is that how you feel about the first draft of a new novel? The second? The third? And all the rest…

Please do tell me if you have felt like that when reading or writing – or doing anything else. I’d love to hear about the books you’ve read that held you entranced and why.

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You can find the three books of The Reluctant Detective Series and four more of Christine’s novels here on Amazon

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Smorgasbord Summer Reading – What Tim Knows and other stories by Wendy Janes

It is my pleasure to reblog Sally Cronin’s Summer Reading post. The book featured today is ideal Summer Reading, perfect for lying back with on the beach or in the garden. Six short stories with a subtle link. I can heartily recommend this book by novelist Wendy Janes, having read it and thoroughly enjoyed it already.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

smorgasbord Summer ReadingToday the featured book is a brand new release this week. What Tim Knows and other stories by Wendy Janes takes you on a journey with six stories across five decades.  As well as showcasing her new book today, Wendy also shares her thoughts on linking stories.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout What Tim Knows and other stories

A gallery-owner’s quest for beauty; a dancer in danger; a new mother struggling to cope with her baby; a sculptor’s search for inspiration; a teenager longing to live in the perfect family; a young boy lost and confused by the rules of life that everyone else seems to understand.

Six stand-alone short stories, spanning five decades. Each capturing a significant moment in the life of a different character.

Separate lives linked in subtle ways.

Linking stories

I’ve always enjoyed reading books where characters in one novel pop up in another. While a well-written sequel or…

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#InspiringWomen: June

Lovely to have a post about Rosie Amber. I love her blog with its book review team and all the rest. She is such a busy, encouraging lady, truly one of the #inspiringwomen in blog land.
Thank you Vikki Patis for this delightful peek into how Rosie works.

The Bandwagon

Welcome to The Bandwagon’s new feature for 2016 – #InspiringWomen. These posts aim to not only celebrate successful women, but also to encourage others to follow their dreams. Meet June’s lady, Rosie Amber.

Rosie B&W SoftSelf-described as a book reviewer, avid reader and bookworm, Rosie Amber is campaigning to link more readers to writers.

What made you want to join your industry?

A few years ago I was inspired to teach myself about social media and not grow old and stagnant. I’ve always loved reading, so what better way to celebrate this than to start a book blog and reach out virtually.

What challenges have you had to overcome in order to get where you are today? 

I began at the ground and worked up, first I didn’t know what blogging platform to use, I began with Tumbler, but found the audience wrong for me, so next I tried WordPress, it works…

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Book Swag: Find Your Next Great Read

Calling all readers!
There’s a new site coming in July that will help you find your next great indie read, and it isn’t going to cost you anything. Just your browsing time. Sounds good to me!

The Bandwagon

Do you love books? If not, why are you here? The Bandwagon is a book-loving blog, full of bookish goodness, and I’m excited to tell you about a brand new site that’s going to help you find your next great read.

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Book-Swag.com is a free weekly email that helps you find the best ebooks from established, new and indie authors. We search the internet and trawl through amazon reviews each week to find you must-read books at great prices. The authors featured on Book Swag haven’t paid to be here. Their books are chosen for one reason – they’re exciting books that you’ll want to read.

We make finding the best eBooks easier. Book Swag was created for people who love to read, by people who love to read.

Find your next great read with Book Swag.

Scott Mullins, writer and part of the Book Swag team, chats to me about this…

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