Is there anything wrong with writing ‘for free’?

£ I write for money.

$ Writing, and all the stuff I do connected with writing (teaching, judging, speaking, appraising) is how I earn my living.

£ But that doesn’t mean that I think that money is the only reason to write. I’m writing this post because I occasionally get asked, ‘Is it OK to write for free?’

$ Sometimes writers write for ‘a byline’ – I’m not keen on the practice because the editor’s usually getting paid. However, the author gets a clippings file out of it, which might help him or her get paying work in the end. If you can see that working for you, then why not?

£ Writers write for connections, too. If they produce something for nothing, possibly the editor will remember once there’s budget to pay writers. I feel that there should always be budget to pay writers, but still …

$ Once in a while, I’ve written for exposure. It means giving someone a short story (usually one that’s already been published, if I’m honest) and, in exchange, they publish it with details of my latest book, with the cover. It’s a way of paying for advertising indirectly, that’s all. On the other hand, I often manage to get paid to write the short story and get the advertising thrown in … which seems a much better deal.

£ And I completely understand why people would write for the plain old pleasure of it.

$ Back in the day I wrote two novels in the evenings. They were rubbish but I didn’t know they were and I’ve honestly never enjoyed writing anything more. It was self-indulgence, but in contrast to some other self-indulgent hobbies, writing’s cheap and doesn’t bother anyone. There’s no commitment to a regular class or club (unless you want to get involved with education or a writing group) and the people you meet in your imagination can be nicer/more fun/hotter/more interesting than any you meet in real life.

£ Most importantly, they never ask anything of you and they never get upset if you don’t see them regularly. Their relationship is with your imagination rather than with your corporeal self so they never judge you, either! Perfect.

$ So although I write for money … that doesn’t mean that I think everybody has to.

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A Course with Wow!

Fizz on the terrace on the last evening

Fizz on the terrace on the last evening

I have just spent the most amazing week leading a one-week residential course for Arte Umbria in the Umbrian hills, Italy.

I’m not sure why I should be amazed – I taught there last year. But somehow I’d managed to forget some of the majesty of the views from the terrace on the Poggiolame estate, a little of the history and luxury of the stone-built house. ‘Gorgeous’ doesn’t do it justice.

The pergola on the terrace

The pergola on the terrace

Being at a venue so secluded is novel. The estate has 200 acres, most of it wild countryside but dotted with olive groves, fruit trees, tracks to wander around. Oh yes – and a swimming pool within the lovely gardens close to the house.

Flip chart and table on the veranda

Flip chart and table on the veranda

But my function at Arte Umbria isn’t  to admire the venue, it’s to lead the writing course. There’s something special about my classroom being at a table under a veranda or lounging comfortably beneath a vine-strewn pergola, the sun beating down around. It’s almost a shame to break for (yet another) delicious meal when the bell sounds. It’s a small course so it’s possible to provide a friendly and productive atmosphere and give individual attention to each student and their work in progress.

The students were fantastic. They got so much done and moved their work on so far that I was truly impressed.

Il Duomo - the cathedral at Orvieto, where we went on our day off

Il Duomo – the cathedral at Orvieto, where we went on our day off

Sunset on the terrace

Sunset on the terrace

I even got a chapter of my own WIP written, too! It was a bit of a challenge to write about Camden at Christmas when I was in Italy in July but every day of writing teaches me something new.

I haven’t yet heard what courses Arte Umbria will be running next year but if you’re interested in a course in art, sculpture or writing in fantastic surroundings, go to http://www.arteumbria.com and book.

My room

My room

The pool

The pool

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Festival of Romantic Fiction 2014!

Festival of Romantic FictionI’ve just signed up for the Festival of Romantic Fiction 2014.

My main focus is the book fair in the afternoon and the Reader Awards in the evening of Saturday the 13th of September. I really didn’t think I was going to make the Festival this year but, phew, I can be there for at least one day.

Success!

 

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What’s New Orleans like?

I returned from New Orleans over a week ago – but, sadly, I brought a hideous flu-like bug home with me, so it’s taken me a while to get around to writing this blog.

The post is going to be largely a gallery of pictures, as I took so many, and have spent half this afternoon downloading them and sorting them out.

But if a horrible bug is the price I have to pay for visiting New Orleans, I’ll accept it. New Orleans is fantastic. From the massive Mississippi River that, from our hotel window, we could see rolling by, to the street cars, to the deep-fried cuisine, to the funny smells on Bourbon Street, I loved it all. The street musicians, the sunshine, the fabulous balconies, the bars and restaurants, the fantastic feeling of warmth and friendship, I loved it all.

The balconies of the French Quarter are gorgeous - I never got to the Garden District to compare them but it's hard to think of their being an improvement.

The balconies of the French Quarter are gorgeous – I never got to the Garden District to compare them but it’s hard to think of their being an improvement.

The traditional details are stunning.

The traditional details are stunning.

 

Alligators for sale. Real or contrived?

Alligators for sale. Real or contrived?

Bourbon Street by any other name. Both magical and sleazy but always fun. Probably the only city I know where a big machine comes out and disinfects the roadway in the morning.

Bourbon Street by any other name. Both magical and sleazy but always fun. Probably the only city I know where a big machine comes out and disinfects the roadway in the morning.

The suggestion was that I should be pushed in first to see what happened ...

The suggestion was that I should be pushed in first to see what happened …

The street cars looked great but I didn't get the opportunity to ride one.

The street cars looked great but I didn’t get the opportunity to ride one.

A musician playing trumpet on the banks of the river - as you do. As you do in New Orleans, anyway.

A musician playing trumpet on the banks of the river – as you do. As you do in New Orleans, anyway.

Somewhere to tie your horse while you drink in the bars.

Somewhere to tie your horse while you drink in the bars.

One of my musical heroes, Antoine 'Fats' Domino. Walkin' to Noo Awlins ...

One of my musical heroes, Antoine ‘Fats’ Domino. Walkin’ to Noo Awlins …

Beignets at Cafe Beignet. Fantastic. Delicious. They're sort of a doughnut without a hole. (I didn't miss the hole at all.) Hot and sugary, you can tell if the people before you at a table were eating beignets by the thin white coating over everything. (It would be icing sugar, in case you're wondering.)

Beignets at Cafe Beignet. Fantastic. Delicious. They’re sort of a doughnut without a hole. (I didn’t miss the hole at all.) Hot and sugary, you can tell if the people before you at a table were eating beignets by the thin white coating over everything. (It would be icing sugar, in case you’re wondering.)

Christina Courtenay (Pia Fenton) and Liz Harris on the Choc Lit stand.

Christina Courtenay (Pia Fenton) and Liz Harris on the Choc Lit stand.

2014-05-13 14.44.57

I never found out why. But I do qualify.

I never found out why. But I do qualify.

Dancin' in the street. If you hear a jazz band marching along just go and join right in.

Dancin’ in the street. If you hear a jazz band marching along just go and join right in.

At Pat O'Brien's on Bourbon Street.

At Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street.

An unusual apartment number.

An unusual apartment number.

If you've ever wondered what gumbo is, this is it. Somewhere between a stew and soup with rice. Some gumbo is much better than others. This pic shows the good sort.

If you’ve ever wondered what gumbo is, this is it. Somewhere between a stew and soup with rice. Some gumbo is much better than others. This pic shows the good sort.

Nicolas Cage's tomb. No, I know he's not dead. He obviously believes in planning ahead.

Nicolas Cage’s tomb. No, I know he’s not dead. He obviously believes in planning ahead.

This may (or may not) be the tomb of the voodoo queen. I left her a penny and knocked three times, so she knew that I'd been.

This may (or may not) be the tomb of the voodoo queen. I left her a penny and knocked three times, so she knew that I’d been.

Direct advertising.

Direct advertising.

The violinist was so good I nearly cried.

The violinist was so good I nearly cried.

Dawn breaking over the Mississippi.

Dawn breaking over the Mississippi.

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Do writing retreats work???

I have to admit that when other writers have told me that they’ve been to a retreat I’ve been sceptical about the amount of work they’d accomplish. I could believe a retreat to be enjoyable – getting away from the shopping and cooking, spending time with writers, wine, food, lovely environment etc etc.

But work?

When the lovely hosts at Chez Castillon, Janie and Mickey, asked me if I could be writer-in-residence at short notice from 27 April to 2 May I saw it as an opportunity to see for myself. I spent the week beforehand getting students/columns/edits up to date, as I planned to spend the retreat working on my new book. I had a rough outline and about half the cast – about 18 pages of handwriting. I packed my iPad and keyboard, a pad, my faithful babies’ names book (for character names) and some post-it notes. Sorted. (For future reference – take paper clips, also!)

The back of the house, Chez Castillon. My room was up on the top floor.

The back of the house, Chez Castillon. My room was up on the top floor.

 

The view from my window.

The view from my window.

My lovely room contained table and chairs (along with necessities such as the bed) and I set myself up to work.

OK, that’s a fib. I went across to Monique’s bar and had a couple of glasses of cold vin blanc, then came back for a fab and convivial evening with the other writers on the retreat, talking about our work. Also eating a lovely dinner and drinking a leetle more wine.

In the morning, after blissful breakfast of local cheeses, meats and fruits, I began writing by hand – something I often do in the planning stage – working on character bios, seeing where further characters were needed, working on conflicts and the threads they’d create, deciding how one conflict would impact upon another, making lists of things to research.

The piles of paper grew.

photo(53) copy 3I took some outside into the fantastic garden to enjoy a bit of sun.

photo(53) copy 2

At the end of my six days at Chez Castillon 18 pages of handwriting had grown to 109 plus post-its. I had:

Completed all the character bios I need so far

Worked on my conflicts and the threads they’d produce

Done some research

Emailed friends for their views on a specific conflict I thought they’d have views on

Expanded the outline enormously

Drafted the first two chapters

Written up on my iPad most of the first chapter (2,895 words)

Borrowed a stapler so I could bring my work home again in some semblance of order. The three piles I ended up with are: characters; research; story.

photo(51)I can’t say when I’ve had a more productive week. It has been amazing. I would do it again – and again and again! Everything and everyone on the retreat was fantastic.

Magic.

Garden and pool.

Garden and pool.

A sprig of 'muguet' given and received on May 1 to bring me luck all year (hope so)/

A sprig of ‘muguet’ given and received on May 1 to bring me luck all year (hope so)/

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Crazy, Undercover Love – publication day!

Crazy Undercover Love CoverThe day has finally arrived!! Nikki Moore‘s debut novel with HarperImpulse – Crazy, Undercover, Love – is released as an ebook today, 24th April 2014.

Nikki Moore Author Pic 1If you like pacy, sexy romance and fancy a long weekend in Barcelona with a smoking hot guy this one’s for you! Want to know more…?

When uber-feisty career girl Charley Caswell-Wright takes on the assignment as PA to the gorgeous Alex Demetrio, CEO of Demetrio International, she’s there under entirely false pretences; to get her life back on track. Having lost the job she worked so hard to earn, she’s determined not to give it up so easily, especially when she didn’t deserve to lose it in the first place.

Mr Dreamy CEO is her only chance of clawing back her career – and her reputation. So she has to keep things strictly professional… boy, is she in trouble!

To buy Crazy, Undercover Love as an ebook:-

Amazon – http://amzn.to./1gdpOxb

Google Play – http://bit.ly/1rTMrQw

iTunes – http://bit.ly/1mkzpHP

Kobo – bit.ly/QlpKpC

Sainsbury’s -http://bit.ly/1hoD1bj

Or to buy it as a paperback on pre-order, released on 26th June:-

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1rTKGmB

Personally, I won’t be waiting around for the paperback, I’ll be adding this to my Kindle ASAP. I read part of this book in an early incarnation and can’t wait to know the end!

CUL Banner

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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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