Release day tomorrow!

THE LOST SWALLOW (Book #2: Light and Darkness) is about to leave the nest! Until then … here’s another excerpt to enjoy!

Eventually, sure both Asher and Ninia now slept deeply, the copse silent around them, Mira stood up.

She’d always been quick on her feet as a mudlark; it was the only way she’d survived in a city full of dangers. Her Swallow training had also taught her how to move noiselessly. The life of one of the members of the royal family might have depended on her ability to sneak up behind an assassin.

She moved quietly now, padding across the damp ground and out of the clearing. Mira took care to keep her breathing slow and steady, her senses straining.

Just a few more yards, and she’d be out of earshot. Then she would lengthen her stride.

Mira walked on, the darkness enclosing her in a shroud that turned her blind on this moonless night. She reached out a hand before her, feeling her way so that she didn’t collide with the trees.

The glade where Asher and Ninia slept now lay behind her. Mira smiled into the night and quickened her pace.

Almost there.

She’d only traveled a yard or two farther when a man’s voice split the silence behind her.

“Where are you going?”

Mira whipped around, reaching for her sword. Her fingers tightened around the hilt, as her gaze alighted upon a tall, broad shouldered figure following her. Even in the darkness she could see the long pale hair spilling over his shoulders.

Curse him. Asher had followed her.


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THE LOST SWALLOW is available on preorder!

Woop woop!

The Lost Swallow_Cover5THE LOST SWALLOW (Book #2: Light and Darkness) is available on pre-order! Release date: August 14th!

All her life she’s trusted her instincts—but now she must follow her heart.

Mira belongs to The Swallow Guard—an elite all-female bodyguard who protect the royal family. She resents her role, and has been planning her escape for years. But when her city comes under attack she finds herself on the run, and the unlikely protector of a spoiled and wilful princess. Despite her desire to look after herself, she finds she can’t abandon the girl.

Meanwhile, far to the north, an enchanter receives a chilling mission.

Asher belongs to the Order of Light and Darkness and spends his days healing the sick and injured. Yet when the head of his order commands him to track down the last survivor of a slaughtered royal family—and kill the girl and the woman protecting her—he finds himself in the role of assassin.

In an epic journey through the heart of occupied territory, Mira struggles between her instinct to flee, her urge to protect the gifted young woman who has come to depend on her—and her attraction to an enigmatic stranger who says he’s been sent to help them. Asher must also make a choice. Does he trust his instincts, follow his heart, and bring wrath down upon him … or does he follow orders and risk losing his soul.

If you like the fantasy romance of Radiance, the thrills of the Throne of Glass series, the epic adventure of Game of Thrones, and a fierce heroine, you’ll love Book #2 of the Light and Darkness series.

Preorder your copy of THE LOST SWALLOW and dive into an action-packed, emotion-filled Epic Fantasy Romance about how the most important choices are never easy.

Preorder your copy here:


THE LOST SWALLOW is finished!

Well the first draft is! It’s now with my editor.

I’m really excited about THE LOST SWALLOW (I know … I say that about all my books. But I really am). It’s got a lot of romance, loads of action, and is a massively character-driven story. It’s the sequel to RULED BY SHADOWS, so there’s an overarching plot which continues through the trilogy (Book #3 is already planned out). However, it’s also a romance, so there’s a stand-alone love-story.

What’s changed from Book #1?

  • Lilia and Dain (our hero and heroine from RULED BY SHADOWS) don’t appear in this story. Instead Book #2 focuses on Asher (who we meet in the first story) and Mira.
  • RULED BY SHADOWS was a coming of age story, whereas THE LOST SWALLOW is about two individuals with opposing goals, forced to work together for survival.
  • RULED BY SHADOWS is a quest story, where our heroes work toward preventing disaster (the release of a terrible dictator from an enchanted prison), whereas THE LOST SWALLOW takes place in a kingdom that has just recently fallen to the enemy. Our heroes are focused on escaping danger and fleeing to safety before it’s too late.

Introducing The Four Kingdoms of Serran

My story world is The Four Kingdoms of Serran. The kingdoms—Rithmar, Thun, Anthor and Farras—have a bloody history. We’re introduced to the conflict between Thun and Anthor in Book #1 but RULED BY SHADOWS focused more on another, darker, threat. By the time THE LOST SWALLOW begins, the situation has worsened. Thun has fallen and our characters are trapped in occupied territory.


TheLostSwallow_COVER4What’s THE LOST SWALLOW about?

She’s entrusted with protecting a princess … but he’s been sent to kill them both.

Mira belongs to The Swallow Guard—an elite all-female bodyguard who protect the royal family. She hates her role, and has been planning her escape for years—only when her city comes under attack she finds herself on the run, and the unlikely protector of a spoiled and wilful princess.

Asher belongs to the Order of Light and Darkness. He’s an enchanter who spends his days healing the sick and injured. But when the head of his order commands him to track down the last survivor of a slaughtered royal family—and kill the girl and the woman protecting her—he finds himself in the role of assassin.

In an epic journey through the heart of occupied territory, Mira struggles between her desire to flee and start afresh, and her need to protect the gifted young woman who has come to depend on her. Asher must also make a choice. Does he trust his instincts, follow his heart, and bring wrath down upon him—or does he follow orders and risk losing his soul.

Epic adventure and romance collide in this emotional romantic fantasy. Book #2 of the Light and Darkness series, THE LOST SWALLOW is for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Grace Draven and Leigh Bardugo. If you like vibrant world-building, edge of your seat adventure, and a powerful love story, this Epic Fantasy Romance is for you.

I’ll be putting the novel on pre-order with Amazon in the next few days—so watch this space. Release date coming soon!

How to be a productive writer

I’m a highly productive writer. Since I started self-publishing I’ve written and published 15 novels (between my two author names: Jayne Castel and Sam J. Charlton).

I started self-publishing in 2012, but had published my first Epic Fantasy novel (The Children of Isador) in 2007.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a few people tell me I’m ‘a machine’ … as if I sit there at the computer for 12 hours a day, churning out stories.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For one thing, I have a day job. I run my own copy-writing business, so a large chunk of my day is taken up with that. Plus, I have a life and hobbies. I’m getting married soon, am learning French, and am planning to spend 6-months working in the UK next year. I love reading, cooking and going for long walks.

And, these days (unless I’m on a tight-deadline) I don’t write fiction at the weekends.

I published three novels last year, and am on schedule for publishing four this year. They’re all full-length novels … and one of this year’s novels in a 112,000 word Epic Fantasy! My Historicals aren’t short either, usually ranging between 70,000-80,000 words.

So when do I fit in my writing?

“There was a girl called Sam, and she always had a plan.” My sister once wrote this in a birthday card for me. I laughed at the time, and I still smile when I remember it … because it’s true! I’m not a perfectionist personality type … I just like to fit a lot in! There’s so much do and enjoy in life, I don’t want to waste a moment of it.

It takes practice … creating a writing plan and sticking to it. I’ve had periods where I write loads and then end up exhausted and burned out. Then, I’ve had other periods where life keeps interrupting.

But recently, I’ve hit upon a method that really works for me. All it requires is you to sit down with a cup of coffee, a notepad, pen and your diary (paper or electronic).

The reason why this approach works is that there’s nothing extreme about it. It’s about breaking down a book into bite-sized chunks.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Decide on the length of your novel. Let’s say you want to finish a 80,000 word manuscript (a pretty decent length for most genres).
  2. Break this down into eight 10,000 word chunks. This means you have 8 weeks to write this. You goal is 10,000 words per week.
  3. Break those 10,000 words down to a daily goal. Let’s say you’re not writing at weekends, so divide 10,000 by 5.
  4. That’s a goal of 2,000 words per day.
  5. Now, if you write around 1,000 words per hour (as I do … I’m not that fast, many authors write much faster than this), that means you just need 2 hours free to write per day.
  6. Give yourself some wriggle room. You probably aren’t going to write solidly for 2 hours. You’ll want to read yesterday’s chapter, do some planning, or go grab something to drink half-way through. So give yourself three hours.
  7. I write every afternoon from 2-5pm. My day-job takes up my mornings, and then I exercise, have lunch and chat with my fiance. Realistically, it’s around 2pm before I actually get down to writing.
  8. Go into your diary and mark out the weeks you will be writing. Take into account any holidays you’ve got coming up, any commitments that mean you won’t be able to make your word count. Go ahead and mark out the times you will be writing. If you don’t write it down, you won’t stick to it!
  9. Following this method, you can successfully complete a full manuscript in just two months. The important thing is to stop when you reach your daily or weekly word count. You might feel like you could write forever one day, and punch out 2,000 words in an hour. Great. Stop there and go and walk your dog. This is an important aspect of this method. It’s so easy (I’ve done it) to burn yourself out writing. Better to stop when you could keep going, so that you can’t wait to write again the next day.
  10. There you have it. Each week, you tick off another 10,000 words, and inch a little bit further toward your goal. This method makes you focus on the little bit of road before you. You move ahead, one step at a time, and don’t get discouraged about how much more you’ve got to write.

Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint!

Using this method, I’ve currently got three manuscripts on the go! The first, a Historical Romance set in 7th Century Northumbria, is scheduled to have the first draft done by early November. The second, another Historical Romance set in 4th Century Scotland, will have the first draft done by Christmas. The third project, Book #2 in my Epic Fantasy Romance will have 40,000 words written by the end of this year (a good start on a 100,000 word manuscript). I know all of this, because I’ve planned it out … and I’m sticking to the schedule.

Now I can hear your objections already.

You’re lucky, Sam, you have the afternoons off to write. I don’t! I work 9-5pm. I hear you … but I haven’t always worked freelance … and when I had a full-time job I would write on the train, squeeze in half an hour at lunch-time, set aside an hour after dinner, and do some writing at the weekends. If you’ve got a full-time job, try and do a little bit over seven days: that’s 1,428 words per day (which even with a bit of wriggle room you should be able to do in 2 hours).

Still say you don’t have time?

I can’t carve it out for you. The reality is that sitting down and actually writing a novel is HARD WORK. You’ve really got to have the inner core of motivation that drives you. You’re going to have to sacrifice some time you’d use for other things. However, that said, all of us have ‘dead time’ during our day. Time when we vege-out in front of the TV or mindlessly surf the internet and social media. Seek out ‘dead time’ in your day and use it for writing. It all adds up!

Before you know it, you’ll have that first draft done!

What about you … do you have any tips on how to get more productive with your writing. Please share in the comments below!


Work begins on Book Two…

With RULED BY SHADOWS finally released, I’m about to start work on Book Two of the Light and Darkness series.

The title and cover are still ‘work in progress’ but I have the story outlined and will be embarking on the first few chapters next week. Since this is a new series for me—and a new genre—it’s important I crack on with the next volume. Give readers something to look forward to!

Book #2 follows on with the Epic Fantasy storyline that will take three novels to complete—however, like the first book there’s a standalone love story.

Here’s what the next book is about:


Light and Darkness_2_COVER TEASERShe earned her own freedom—but now she fights for the freedom of all.

Mira has never been the master of her own destiny. Plucked from the sewers of Valdoras as a child, she was raised to become part of The Swallow Guard: an elite group of female bodyguards trained to protect the royal family.

Years later she wants for nothing but her life feels empty … meaningless.

Everything changes with the arrival of war. When the kingdom is attacked by southern invaders, the queen offers her a chance to start a new life. If she manages to smuggle the king’s youngest daughter to safety in the north, Mira will earn her freedom.

But Mira soon realizes that with freedom comes responsibility.

Far to the north, she meets Asher: an enchanter in the Order of Light and Darkness. Despite her attraction to him, Asher is also her mirror—an unwelcome one. Like her, his life has been devoted to serving others … and like Mira, he’s learned to hide his true feelings well.

Yet neither of them can escape the path set before them.

When a chance comes to end the war which risks tearing their world apart, both Mira and Asher choose to embark on a journey into the heart of danger … one they are likely never to return from.


Follow my journey and get exclusive updates

If you’d like to receive updates about the next book in the Light and Darkness series—plus receive exclusive deleted scenes and short-stories connected with the story—make sure you sign up to my Epic Fantasy Romance mailing list. 🙂

RULED BY SHADOWS is LIVE on Amazon & free on KU

Exciting news—after nearly two years in the making, RULED BY SHADOWS is now available for purchase on Amazon! 

RULED BY SHADOWS is an Epic Fantasy Romance about a fearful young woman named Lilia who is catapaulted into an epic adventure. Romance, action, adventure and High Fantasy—this novel has it all! I’ve published this story under my pen name, Jayne Castel.

Here are the links to the book on Amazon (if you buy a copy, please consider leaving an honest review—I’d appreciate it hugely):

Click on one of the links below to purchase from Amazon (it’s free in KU):

What’s RULED BY SHADOWS about?

Watch the YouTube book trailer to find out more about the novel.

Try RULED BY SHADOWS before you buy
Claim your free sample from Instafreebie and read the Prologue and the first three chapters of RULED BY SHADOWS on your Kindle or e-reader!

My journey so far as an Indie Author

My last post about the Five attributes an Indie Author needs really struck a note with readers, so I thought I’d start exploring other aspects of what it means to be a self-published author.

First up, I thought I’d share my story. There have been some ups and downs, and I’ve still got lots to learn, but I hope you can pick up some good tips from what to do (and not to do)!

My story … it’s a slow one

For years, I wanted to make a living as a writer but never took any steps to make it happen. I couldn’t get over the mental block of ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘that’s an impossible dream’.

I’d been writing fiction for years (since childhood actually), but hadn’t managed to get published. Then I self-published my first Epic Fantasy, The Children of Isador, with a small-press in Australia in 2007 – an expensive and slightly depressing experience that made me wonder if I should just try harder at finding an agent/publisher.

A few years later, KDP publishing came on the scene, and I started self-publishing in 2012. Since then I have published 15 books under my two author names (Sam J. Charlton and Jayne Castel).

Around that time, I also made a shift from doing office administration (a slow death) and part time language teaching (enjoyable but exhausting) to starting up my own copy writing and web writing business. I got two short-term contracts to help me cut my teeth and then a year and a half later I struck out on my own with my business, Take My Word. Becoming a writer (albeit not a successful fiction author … yet) was a huge shift for me.

Suddenly, I could call myself a writer.

However, although I was publishing novels on Amazon I was still treating it like a hobby. I was still ‘playing’ at it, and I was also still trying to find my voice as a writer.

I initially wrote only Epic Fantasy under the name Sam J. Charlton, but then branched out under the Jayne Castel pen name into Historical Romance. My shift came as after visiting the Sutton Hoo burial site in England. The amazing historical site gave me the idea for a story set in Anglo-Saxon times, centered around the last year in the life of King Raedwald (the king thought to be buried in the Sutton Hoo longship). However, since a love-story was central to the book, and I’d be writing in a different genre, I thought I’d better use a different name. Dark Under the Cover of Night was published a few months later.

People sometimes think authors choose a pen name because they’re embarrassed about friends and family knowing what they write – but that was never the case for me. It was more an issue of not muddying the waters, and confusing readers.

Interestingly, five years on and my Jayne Castel books sell MUCH better than my others ever have!

20915616_10155113973744285_5423582492225667150_nRecently, I won a national award for one of my Jayne Castel novels. Here’s a pic of me looking very pleased with myself at the RWNZ (Romance Writers of NZ) conference, around three weeks ago. I won a Koru Award (Short, Sexy category) for my novel, Italian Undercover Affair – ironically the only contemporary romance I have ever written!

I was also a finalist at the conference in The Great Beginnings contest with my Epic Fantasy Romance, Ruled by Shadows.

Contests are great for validation … however, they don’t have anything to do with sales. It gets your name out there in the writers’ community, but it’s readers you want to reach.

These days, five years on from starting my indie author journey, I feel like I’m just starting to hit my stride. I’m branching out with Jayne Castel, not just writing Dark Ages Historical Romance, but Epic Fantasy Romance too. It’ll be interesting to see how readers react to these new books. Sam J. Charlton is on the back-burner for the moment – I’m focusing instead on building the platform I’ve built for Jayne Castel.

Last year was crucial for me. I went from being paid every three months, to getting paid every month. Currently, my monthly Amazon income pays for my monthly groceries. My next step is to get it to pay for all my monthly expenses!

In many ways, I feel that I’m just getting started … although it’s exciting to finally be gaining a little traction. That’s one of the things I love about self-publishing: the constant learning curve!

In my next post, I’ll go into some of the things I’ve implemented over the past year which have really helped sales.

But until then … what about you? Is your journey similar to mine (i.e. slow but steady), or have you recently had some amazing breakthroughs? Please share! 🙂




Five attributes an Indie Author needs

Traditional Vs Indie—for many it’s a difficult choice. There are pros and cons of both, and even though I adore self-publishing, I know it isn’t for everyone.

A couple of weeks ago I attended the RWNZ (Romance Writers of New Zealand) conference, and was amazed just how well many self-published writers are doing. There’s some really savvy authors out there who are treating their fiction as a business. I found them really inspiring!

The conference got me thinking about the qualities an indie author needs to cultivate. My day job, as a self-employed copywriter, means that I’m already in the right mind-set for a lot of these, while others I need to work on cultivating!

Here’s what I believe are the five key attributes of successful indie authors:

  1. Independence: Do you like to do your own thing? Do you like to be the one to make the decisions on things like cover design, formating and marketing? Self-publishing was made for you! For those of us who like being our own boss (I’m self-employed anyway), being an indie author is a perfect fit. However, if you like having guidelines and structure laid out for you, traditional publishing is a better fit.
  2. Multi-skilled: I love writing, but I also enjoy the entire publishing process. I must admit that editing is a drag (some writers actually find editing the most enjoyable part of the process, but I’m not one of them!), but everything else is fun. I can’t wait to design my cover, format the print book, plan out my marketing and organise the launch. I’m also computer and internet savvy, and I enjoy using my marketing copy writing skills from my day job for promoting my fiction. Being an indie author means that if you don’t have these skills, you’re going to need to cultivate them.
  3. Patience/resilence: there’s so much online that tries to sell us the idea of ‘insta-success’. This can make you feel that if you don’t hit the big time with your first (or even your third) book that you are doomed never to make a living out of your writing. Anything worth having takes time to achieve … and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You need to be patient and resilent. That means you have to keep writing, publishing and marketing your work, even during slow periods, knowing that loving what you do is part of your measure of success. Plus, you don’t need to ‘hit the it big’ to make a living. Many mid-list authors earn very well. I aim to be one of those—I want to be able to make a comfortable living from my writing.
  4. Curiosity, flexibility and thirst for knowledge: That’s actually three things, but as I see it they’re all part of the same thing. As an indie author you need to be open to new ideas. There’s no point in doggedly putting your head down and writing, publishing and marketing without studying the market, watching trends, and learning what others are doing that works. This doesn’t mean you try every piece of advice you find online—the ‘scattergun approach’ is not only exhausting but it diffuses your energy, leaving you feeling discouraged. Instead, be a strategic information gatherer: focus on the areas where you need to improve and realise you can’t do it all. Don’t let your ideas about self-publishing be set in stone, either—be open to new ideas.
  5. Faith: I’m not talking about religious faith here, but the unshakable belief that you write to fulfil yourself on a deep spiritual and emotional level: it’s not just about the money. Sure, you aim to make a living out of this, but there are so many other easier ways to do so than choosing a creative endeavour. Remember that no matter how long it takes, you are in it for love. Sometimes this can be hard. Conferences, although inspiring, can also make us compare ourselves to others. It’s not a contest, and an author you feel jealous of has probably spent years getting to that level. You also need to have faith in your ability as a writer. We all have those moments when we think “I’m a useless hack who can’t write.” Understand that those are self-sabotaging thoughts. Focus instead on writing the best books you can—the kind you want to read.

The above list isn’t exhaustive, but merely a few points to inspire all of us indie authors. What about you—do you have any other attributes you believe a self-published author needs to have in order to suceed? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂