Writers’ Retreat – Discount alert!

Owing to illness of a tutor, I’ve been asked to be writer-in-residence at a writers’ retreat at fabulous Chez Castillon from 27 April to 2 May 2014.

I was there last year and it was fantastic. Amazing old house, gorgeous town on the Dordogne, fantastic hosts, luxurious accommodation and a swimming pool. And lots of wine and food, both gorgeous. So, of course, I have booked my flights! Especially as the south west of France is currently bathed in sunshine.

If you think you might like to join me, there’s a £50 discount for anybody saying that they saw the information on my blog or on my social media feeds. Just click here to go to their site. To tempt you, here are a few pictures from last year:

The pool and rear view of Chez Castillon

The pool and rear view of Chez Castillon

The pool

The pool

Market day at Castillon-la-Bataille

Market day at Castillon-la-Bataille

A little drop of champagne in the cloisters of St Emillion, a few kilometres from Castillon

A little drop of champagne in the cloisters of St Emillion, a few kilometres from Castillon

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Mother’s Day with Mills & Boon

suemoorcroft:

A great event to promote Truly, Madly, Deeply.

Originally posted on Cherish Blog:

On Mother’s Day, romantic fiction publishers Mills & Boon hosted a very special Afternoon Tea at Covent Garden’s BB Bakery.  The lucky mums, and their daughters, were treated to a simply delicious spread of mini sandwiches, little quiches, cupcakes and macaroons. To celebrate the release of Mills & Boon’s new short story collection Truly, Madly, Deeply , two of the contributing authors Adele Parks and Judy Astley  read extracts from their own short stories to the guests.
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Adele Parks and Judy Astley

As the group of mothers and daughters enjoyed the tasty treats and rose champagne (quite a lot of champagne actually….), Adele and Judy wandered from table to table signing copies of Truly Madly Deeply and chatting about their writing process, how they come up with ideas for stories and what titles they have coming out next.

Along with a complimentary copy of the book, guests also received a goody bag filled…

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Sense and sensitivity

I hadn’t intended to blog today but I received an email from a writer friend that has made me think about writers and the responsibility they have to deal with difficult subjects sensitively and with good sense.

ITL?_new packshotMy friend has just read Is This Love? and said nice things about it. But she also said that she found it unsettling because her younger daughter is disabled. In this book the heroine, Tamara, has a sister, Lyddie, who needs more care than most adults after a hit-and-run incident in her teens. Is This Love? gave my friend a ‘flash forward’ look at how things might be for her family as her daughter grows older, especially for her other, able-bodied daughter.

I thanked my friend for sharing her thoughts – they really gave me pause. At the time, one of the things that worried me  about writing the book was whether readers would think Tamara was wrong for having the hots for Jed, when Lyddie had had such a teen crush on him! I ran a Facebook conversation about it and everyone said they thought it was OK because Lyddie/Jed had been so young, so I included all their feedback in Tamara’s thoughts. But this morning’s email showed me that it certainly wasn’t the only area where I could have jumped all over people’s feelings.

I’m sorry if I made my friend think of things that she’d rather not, I really am. Writing the book came out of guilt. When I was a teen we had a friend – we’ll call him Tom – who suffered head injury when hit by a car. It wasn’t hit-and-run, as it was for Lyddie in Is This Love? Tom just did something careless, but the effect was the same. He was reasonably OK for friends as long as we were all teens, but when we got a bit older I’m afraid we left him behind. We got married, got jobs, went to uni, etc etc. I know that he began to go to the pub and had no sense of when to stop drinking and other drunkards used to drag him home. He had a younger brother who used to do his best for him … but I recently discovered that the younger brother died in his early thirties, which made me feel worse. I don’t know if Tom’s still around, or his parents.

I channelled some of my feelings and thoughts about Tom into Lyddie and her family.

I also knew (and really disliked, but that’s a different story) a woman whose daughter had cerebral palsy after a difficult birth. However much I didn’t like the woman, she was ever-conscious of what was best for her daughter, and I admired her for that. I can even accept that some of her less endearing qualities related to the sacrifices that she’d made. I used to speak to her about the daughter going into respite care at weekends, how the younger (able-bodied) sister coped, and stuff like that, so I utilised some of that knowledge for Lyddie, also.

Research is fascinating but today has shown me how much a writer should think about readers in ways more than just book sales.

 

 

 

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Winning Ways

On Saturday I led a WriteStars one-day course: Learn How to Write a Romantic Novel in a Day.

The venue was the gorgeous RAF club in London’s Piccadilly. Such a stylish and gracious building – but one of the selling point of a WriteStars workshop is that venues are always lovely.

The group was a nice size and everybody participated well. We paid a lot of attention to where in the bookshop we might expect to see our work, as well as the nuts and bolts of constructing a plot, how to stop it sagging in the middle, how to get to the end, and how to put the right hero with the right heroine in order to spark the plot into life.

With Catherine Miller Mar 14It was great to see Catherine, pictured left with me in this dubious selfie, who won a place on the course through a competition put on jointly by WriteStars and my lovely publisher, Choc Lit. She was a great participant and I think that she’ll be successful in her writing.

My thanks to everybody who attended the course. You were all great and I hope to see you again.

My next WriteStars workshop is in the Cambridge area, ‘How to Make Money Writing’ on 26 July 2014.

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Cover reveal! The Wedding Proposal

TWP_frontThis is the scrumptious cover of The Wedding Proposal, due out in September 2014.

And here’s the blurb:

Can a runaway bride stop running?

Elle Jamieson is an unusually private person, in relationships as well as at work — and for good reason. But when she’s made redundant, with no ties to hold her, Elle heads off to a new life in sunny Malta.

Lucas Rose hates secrets — he prides himself on his ability to lay his cards on the table and he expects nothing less from others. He’s furious when his summer working as a divemaster is interrupted by the arrival of Elle, his ex, all thanks to his Uncle Simon’s misguided attempts at matchmaking.

Forced to live in close proximity, it’s hard to ignore what they shared before Lucas’s wedding proposal ended everything they had. But then an unexpected phone call from England allows Lucas a rare glimpse of the true Elle. Can he deal with Elle’s hidden past when it finally comes to light? Secrets? Or lies …? Will Elle stay – to trust him with the truth?

Excited! Just got to finish the edits, now, though …

 

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The one-sentence synopsis

If writing an ordinary synopsis is hell, why know your one-sentence synopsis and why have one?

For me, it’s a summary of my theme and a brilliant place to begin a synopsis if the need arises. It gives me the essence of the book, which keeps me on-topic if I begin to ramble:

ITL?_new packshot Is This Love?‘ is about the different qualities of love.

Want to Know a Secret?‘ is about money and family, and who thinks which is most important.

DALD_v12.2 reviseDream a Little Dream‘ is about finding a new dream when the old dream crumbles.

A one-sentence synopsis can also form the first part of an elevator pitch to agents/editors. Then:

  • Add to the one sentence a category that sums it up: It’s a quest. It’s a reunion story.
  • Something about tone is useful, too: It’s lighthearted. It’s gritty.
  • If appropriate, mention the message: Be careful what you wish for.

Formulating a one-sentence synopsis is a handy habit to get into. It can even help you sum up your book up for journalists when you’re a bestselling author and they’re queuing on the phone for interviews!

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Ooooh … gorgeous hats!

Samples  of the kind of thing Abigail makes

Samples of the kind of thing Abigail makes

Yesterday, in the pursuit of research, I had the enormous pleasure of visiting Abigail Crampton, a couture milliner, to learn a little about her art and her business, Abigail Crampton Millinery.

I began to understand the difference between picture hats and cartwheels, fascinators and cocktail hats, cloches and trilbies.

And the colours and decorations! Stunning.

Making a hat by hand is an enormous skill as well as a testament to creativity. Abigail makes bespoke creations so if, say, you want a hat for Ascot, you take along your outfit and Abigail designs a hat that completes your ensemble and is a visual joy.

I fell in love with a cocktail hat (probably because the height of the decoration made me look taller) and discovered that I have a totally average head size. I also learned a lot about blocking, steaming, stab stitch, sinemay and the uses of an egg iron.

The research is for a novella I’m planning – The Twelve Dates of Christmas. I came away content that I’ve chosen the correct career for Ava Bliss, my heroine. She’ll prosper amongst the sinemay, straw, felt, feathers and veiling.

I’ll let the rest of my photos speak for themselves. My thanks to Abigail for giving up her time and sharing some of her expertise.

A fascinator I fell for - you can't go wrong with purple. Abigail Crampton Millinery

A fascinator I fell for – you can’t go wrong with purple. Abigail Crampton Millinery

The thread rack. Every thread has to be such a close colour match as to become invisible.

The thread rack. Every thread has to be such a close colour match as to become invisible.

Blocks. Essential to the creation process.

Blocks. Essential to the creation process.

Wow!  Abigail Crampton Millinery

Wow!
Abigail Crampton Millinery

A block for a snazzy cocktail hat, covered in clingfilm so no dyes can be transferred from creation to creation via the wood.

A block for a snazzy cocktail hat, covered in clingfilm so no dyes can be transferred from creation to creation via the wood.

A pillbox hat in creation

A pillbox hat in creation

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