It’s my pleasure to reblog Ella Allbright’s publication day blog. As well as sharing a paperback publication day for The Last Charm for her and Christmas Wishes for me, we are niece and aunt. (For avoidance of doubt, I’m the aunt.)
Hannah’s lost her shop in Stockholm and her fink of an ex-boyfriend is trying to swindle her. She returns to Middledip village to look after Nan Heather while she decides what happens next in her life and becomes embroiled with the family of her teen-years buddy Nico. He’s trying to work out what happens next in his life, too. Wishes are easy to make but it’s harder to make them come true…
The paperback should be available in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrison’s, W H Smith, Waterstones and many independent bookshops. It’s a special treat for me to see one of my books on the shelves.
You might know that there’s now an online presence for independent bookshops called Bookshop.org and you can buy Christmas Wishes there, too, thereby supporting bricks and mortar stores.
The audiobook has been narrated by Julia Winwood and I love this pic of her beginning the recording. She was one of the narrator’s for the recent adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman so I feel cool by association.
Have a wonderful day, everyone. Publication day is always a red letter day for me.
To add to the excitement today, for the first time I’m sharing a publication day with my talented niece, Ella Allbright, who you might already know as Nikki Moore. The Last Charm has awesome reviews and if you love deeply emotional fiction it might be for you! It’s been out in ebook for a while but today is the paperback release. Congratulations, Ella!
I’ve written a lot of short stories. I’d sold 87 and a serial before I ever sold a novel and I stopped counting sales when I passed 150. I edited two short story anthologies for the Romantic Novelists’ Association and I’ve led many short story workshops. During that process I’ve distilled my short story ‘recipe’.
- In the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a short story is defined as concerning a single episode. The simplest way of observing the single-episode structure is to write about one conflict or puzzle.
- I decide on the conflict or puzzle I’m going to write about
- and decide whose conflict/puzzle it is.
- That person will be my central character, ie I’m writing their story.
- I give the central character the viewpoint
- begin at a point of change or significance and plunge into the story.
- I make the central character work out how to solve the conflict/puzzle herself or himself
- via a pivotal moment (which you might prefer to think of as a turning point or the key)
- to trigger the resolution.
- Rather than ‘ending’, I think ‘conclusion’. NB For some reason I don’t think too much about themes or messages in short stories, although I do when writing a novel. I have no idea why not … maybe they just arise out of somebody solving a conflict.
Getting structure into my short story
Before I begin I express my idea in three points. Either:
- pivotal moment
I think carefully in commercial terms. Is the conflict correct for the genre and the magazine or anthology I’m writing for? Are the characters? The ending? If I’m writing a short story as a promotional tool for my novels, is it in the same vein and voice?
Now I write only a few short stories each year but that’s more about lack of time than lack of inclination. Short stories have a lovely pure-story feel to writing them.
Writing short stories for writing competitions
This isn’t something I did much, to be honest, but I know a lot of people met success and reward via competitions. However, I was the head fiction judge at Writers’ Forum for five years and when asked for my tips for entrants would say:
- Follow the rules. This sounds obvious but it’s amazing how often I’d receive 5000 words when there was a 3000-word maximum.
- Write the type of story the judges are looking for. At Writers’ Forum it was all about story (probably because I was the judge) but I also judged competitions for Writing Magazine and for various other organisations. In that time I received what amounted to essays on a subject or theme or the first chapter of a novel and stories that were nothing to do with the stated subject or title.
- Make your story stand out. I once had to read about 200 stories concerning Emily visiting the Falkland Islands. You’ve no idea how I appreciated those with an original approach. In about 160 of them poor Emily was visiting in memory of her lost love or family member. Whilst I had every sympathy for her it became hard to feel enthused.
- Submit in time for the deadline, if there is one.
- Send the correct fee, if there is one.
- Don’t attach a discourteous note to the judge. (Yes, seriously, this happens.)
- Don’t attach a discourteous note to the magazine. (Ditto.)
- Write a fantastic first page, the best you possibly can. When you’re up against maybe a hundred other stories you don’t want to make it easy for the judge to put your story down.
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Join Hannah in her journeys between beautiful snowy Sweden and cosy Middledip as her life in Stockholm fragments and the village calls her back. Nico’s downshifted to Middledip too as he has two children to care for and an eating disorder to cope with. Will any of their wishes come true?
If you’d prefer to await the paperback or audio versions then they’ll be coming along on November 12th 2020.
To double the excitement, today’s also publication day in Italy for La vacanza che cambiò la mia vita – which was A Christmas Gift in the UK. Buongiorno to my Italian readers and I hope they enjoy meeting Georgine and Joe.
I doubt the collective noun for book bloggers is ‘an appreciation of’ but I feel as if it ought to be. How can I fail to be appreciative of a body of people who like books enough to make reviewing them a big part of their lives? In the book blogging community I’ve made friends with people who don’t glaze over no matter how much I talk about books. (Any book, not just mine.) Through following their blogs I’ve found new authors to read.
And oh, to return to blogger-author meet-ups in crowded pubs, usually on a Saturday afternoon, or meeting book bloggers at book shop and library events!
To make up, even if in a small way, I decided to ask some book bloggers to tell me about what they do.
Mark West, author of chillers and thrillers, blogger, member of Team Sue Moorcroft:
Blog: Strange Tales
Mark says: As Sue likes to say about it, my blog is fairly eclectic in what it covers and I think it does a good job of encompassing what I find interesting – books, films, behind the scenes stuff and nostalgia. I started the current incarnation on Blogger back in 2009 and am now zipping along to 900 posts on a weekly posting schedule. I enjoy researching the articles for it and it’s always nice when I have occasion to discuss my own writing and it’s been a constant pleasure – especially in the Avon years – to feature Sue on it so consistently. I’m not sure where blogging has led me but I have met some nice people along the way and I enjoy writing the posts, so I’ll take those two as wins.
Anne Williams describes herself as ‘happily retired’ and her blog has a considerable following. She’s a member of Team Sue Moorcroft.
Blog: Being Anne
Anne says: I started blogging in 2013 – nearly eight years ago now – but I’d been reviewing books on-line from the time I first had a computer. It just seemed a nice idea to save my reviews in one place – and it rather surprised me when people enjoyed reading them and started to follow me. At first, it was just a spare time hobby – but by 2016 the blog had been viewed 220,000 times.
As I was then retired, I decided to step things up a little. I moved everything to a different platform (and learned a whole new skill set, along with a few new swear words!) and posted more frequently – still reviewing the books I enjoyed, but also chatting with and running features from guest authors.
The blog now has over 10,000 followers, there’s a linked Facebook page – and I also spend a lot of time on Twitter, supporting fellow bloggers and sharing book-related news. For three years in a row I won the Best Pal award at the annual Bloggers’ Bash – and last year I was really delighted to receive the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Media Star of the Year award.
Reading the books and writing the reviews is still what I enjoy the most – and I always love it when someone tells me they’ve bought a book because of my review. Being a blogger gave me a social life I could never have imagined in retirement, and I’ve made so many friends across the blogging and writing community. The blogging itself? It can sometimes become a bit pressurised, but I’m enjoying it every bit as much as when I started – and have no plans to abandon my keyboard for a good while yet…
Mick Arnold, author, contributor to a major blog and member of Team Sue Moorcroft.
Blog: Novel Kicks
Mick says: During the first Romantic Novelists’ Association conference I attended – seems so long ago now! – I was so overwhelmed by everything, barely knowing where to look, or who to talk to. During this, I got talking to Laura Parish and when the subject of her blog came up, I asked, quite unprepared, whether she would consider my contributing? Somewhat to my surprise, she agreed.
Initially, and for about the first year and a half, I’d contribute a quartely update on where my writing had got to/what I’d done. This was fun, but at the time, I hadn’t acknowledged my own poor health and gradually, these posts tailed off. I still contributed book reviews, which I love writing, but the posts about my own writing pretty much ceased.
Despite this, Laura and I have remained good friends and she has been supportive of my writing as things gradually came back together. To this day, she has poked and prodded me, as I’ve tried to do for her, though my blog posts for her, blog, does seem to have fallen by the wayside. I believe she understands my not continuing with this, though it also helped me start taking my writing much more seriously.
Karen Byrom has quite a history with stories – including publishing mine in My Weekly.
Blog: Karen’s Book Bag
Karen says: I’ve been a bookworm all my life, and had the ideal job, working as a fiction editor on one of the UK’s oldest women’s magazines, My Weekly. When I retired last year, I knew I still wanted to be involved in the world of books – I’d made so many friends among the writers, publishers and publicists, but, most importantly, I’d enjoyed sharing my news and views on my favourite books with readers, and wanted to continue that. Running my bookblog at www.karensbookbag.co.uk makes me feel I have my own personal bookclub. Though I only review books I enjoy, my reading tastes are eclectic so you’ll find all sorts of genres there from romance to thrillers to sagas to family drama, and even the occasional non-fiction read. Since I retired, I’m busier than ever reading and writing reviews, but I love what I do, and really enjoy the feedback I get from my fellow readers.
My recent blog activity included posts on Prologues and Chapter One. I’m not going to try and post about every possible chapter in one of my books but do think it’s worth saying something about Chapter Two and beyond.
Although I find Chapter Two more flexible than the Prologue and/or Chapter One, it can still have certain characteristics:
- Chapter Two can almost be another Chapter One, just as hooky and demanding, introducing a whole new character and/or situation. This is particularly useful if I introduced one viewpoint character in the first chapter and now want to bring on another viewpoint character with just as much room for her/his story. NB I’d probably include the character introduced in Chapter One as well so as not to completely interrupt flow but I’ve seen other authors successfully bring on a new character and situation almost as if beginning a different book. I think this latter approach takes a bit of confidence that the readers won’t feel disconnected and go and read something else instead, though.
- Or Chapter Two can be a continuance of, or reaction to, the dramatic situation contained in Chapter One.
- Or it can contain the background stuff I need to rationalise what’s grabbed the readers’ attention in Chapter One but I thought would interrupt flow at the time. I could allow myself a flashback at this point … if I was certain I needed one. Instead, I usually choose to bring the same information out in conversation/confrontation/introspection because it keeps the story flowing forward. I feel as if flashbacks put the action in reverse. NB This may be a personal prejudice.
- Chapter Two can also be a place for readers to take a breather by introducing a complete change of pace. This can provide a sense of settling into the story. NB I wouldn’t want the pace to drop too far or for too long.
I try and make every chapter open at a point of significance, exactly like a short story – bounce into the action or have somebody say something hookily surprising or intriguing.
I aim to exit at least some chapters with drama, emotion, twists and surprises. As I’ve said before, the last page of a chapter is a good place for people to end a reading session and I like to try and stop them even if they’re reading in bed, shattered, and knowing they have to get up in the morning. I don’t want them to resist reading on. When I receive a message on social media or via my website and a reader says, ‘I was up until two reading your book!’ or ‘I just couldn’t put it down’ I feel as if I’ve succeeded!
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I’m thrilled a bit to have not one but two paperback releases in America this winter! Let it Snow has just been published and The Christmas Promise follows on October 27th, both published by HarperCollins under the Avon imprint.
In The Christmas Promise Ava is struggling for money and petrified her ex will carry out revenge porn threats. Sam’s mother is in between surgery and chemotherapy and he wants to give her a special Christmas, which involves Ava in a promise. Can she keep it?
Of course, both books are available as ebooks too.
Home for the Holidays is the story of Alexia, a bit of a reluctant heroine because she’s trying to leave the village and take up an exciting new life … until a project she’s working on goes wrong. It would have been a great farewell to Middledip to project-lead the restoration of a derelict pub and conversion to a community café. But then someone runs away with all the money. Alexa stays to help but her situation is now beyond tricky.
Home for the Holidays is published by HarperCollins under the Avon imprint. I can’t wait for one of those glossy paperbacks to make it across the pond to me!