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One Summer in Italy or how I write a book #OneSummerinItaly #NewBook

Publication Day!

Today’s one of the happiest days of the year – a publication day. One Summer in Italy is sent out into the world … well, it’s sent out to shelves and portable devices, anyway. I hope you like my latest book baby.

The jokey term for a novel ‘book baby’ came into being for a reason, I think. Though a fantastic, joyful event, there’s a lot of hard work involved in giving it life.

Here’s the bullet-point version from my perspective:

  • Get an idea for the premise of the book. For One Summer in Italy this came when I was in Italy at Arte Umbria, where I have taught courses and led retreats for several years. The chef and I happened to be taking a break at the same time, sitting in the sun with our feet in the pool, and she told me about being a seasonal worker. I thought, ‘What a great thing for one of my heroines to do’.
  • Work on characters and planning.
  • Research. Yes, this did involve being in Italy again and taking a host of pictures. ♥ But also a lot of finding and absorbing information on seasonal workers (employees and employers), ex-pat families, the hospitality trade, laws and regulations, web development, homelessness, motorbikes, blood groups, watercolour painting and even Italian cemeteries.
  • Write the first draft. This takes months and is punctuated with constant distractions and interruptions. I was thankful for last year’s writing retreat where I wrote nearly a quarter of the first draft and had the joyful experience of being in the place I was writing about … more or less. My imagination added a town and a hotel.
  • Write another draft or two
  • Send book in
  • Receive structural edit. The structural edit covers all the large changes my editor feels will make help me produce the best book I can. Discuss with editor; make decisions on how many suggestions I’ll take up; perform structural edit.
  • Send structural edit back
  • Receive line edits. Line edits deal with smaller matters, continuity and timeline. I’m timeline-blind so this stage often involves a lot of head scratching whilst wearing a grumpy expression – on my part, anyway. Probably it’s the same for the line editor.
  • Send line edits back.
  • Receive copy edits. Copy edits deal with punctuation, grammar and anything that hasn’t yet been picked up in another edit.
  • Send copy edits back.
  • Receive proofs. To proof a book I have to read the whole thing again and indicate any errors I see.
  • Send proofs back.
  • Write acknowledgments and any dedication.
  • Write any backmatter (bonus material) requested.
  • Breathe a great sigh of relief.
  • Start another book. This usually takes place betwixt and between the above tasks.

I can’t tell you in the same detail what the other side of the process is, carried out by the fab Avon team, but it will include the all-important cover (I LOVE the cover of One Summer in Italy), editing, scheduling, typesetting, promo, marketing and blurb writing. I’m involved in some of those areas too, mainly the promo.

Underpinning the process on both sides is respect, co-operation, negotiation, discussion, and a whole heck of a lot of emails!

But it’s worth it when this is what we end up with:

It_s time for Sophia to live her own life – and to fulfil the promises she made to her father Aldo.Montelibertà in Italy_s Umbrian mountains holds plenty of family secrets waitin

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How I created a town in Italy

 

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Arte Umbria

 

As it’s now only one week until One Summer in Italy is published I thought I’d write about the location.

I love to create settings for my novels, whether it’s a little English village or a town in another country. One Summer in Italy is set in Umbria, a verdant region of Italy, and there I built in my imagination a town called Montelibertà.

 

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Orvieto; looking towards the amazing cathedral, ‘Il Duomo’.

 

Where did Montelibertà come from? For the last several years I’ve been lucky enough to run writing courses or retreats for Arte Umbria. The venue is an old stone hunting lodge and it looks out over the rolling Apennines. Their terrace is one of my favourite places and I used it as the basis for Montelibertà, beginning with the view, which my hero, Levi Gunn, is in town to capture in watercolours.

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The building itself grew in my imagination to a small hotel called Casa Felice (Happy House), with a café in front of it – Il Giardino (The Garden, in case you hadn’t guessed). I had to work out how many rooms there would be, where the dining areas were, Reception, back offices, kitchens, even the utility yard. I added in a little marble to the stonework, because that’s what hotels often do.

And I had to create a town for Casa Felice to stand on the edges of. I seemed to have to know a lot about the town too – where the church is and what it looks like; what’s beyond Case Felice; where the cemetery is; the piazzas, the streets, even in which direction the slopes run. I made the town, Montelibertà, a smaller version of the wonderful medieval town of Orvieto, which is only a couple of trains stops, a funicular and a bus ride away. I’ve visited it several times when at Arte Umbria. I spent a wonderful day – and an entire phone-charge – taking photos in Orvieto. Then I took out my trusty big sketch pad and began on the map.

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Sorry it’s not a very good pic. I’ve never found the time to ink the map and tidy it up.

 

I even had to work out transport links, the nearest autostrade or motorway, the railways and the buses. My map is no work of art – slopes marked with the words ‘up’ or ‘down’ are functional rather than pretty – but it works for me. My library of photos from my various trips to Umbria have been mined throughout the writing of the book, so it’s all pretty clear in my mind.

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I called the town ‘Montelibertà’ as it’s set in the mountains and represents what Sofia is seeking when she travels there, her father’s home town – liberty. Does she find it? Welllllll … she finds a whole heck of a lot of things, most of them unexpected.

 

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Writing retreat, Arte Umbria 2017

 

If you’re interested in joining me on a writing retreat at Arte Umbria this summer (20-17 June 2018 or 27 June-4 July 2018) then you can read more about it on their website. You can also read earlier post, Did the Writing Retreat Work? here. (The answer is ‘yes’, by the way. I wrote almost a quarter of the first draft of One Summer in Italy in one week.

One Summer in Italy will hit portable devices or book shop and supermarket shelves near you on May 17 2018.

Promises, Secrets, Family

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Why give an experience for Christmas? (Or a book …)

IMG_3431On Sunday morning I joined John Griff, BBC Radio Northampton presenter, for his newspaper roundup. It’s an interesting slot. The guest is given a sofa, the Sunday newspapers and a cup of tea (all good so far) for about three-quarters of an hour before the 10.45am timeslot. All they have to do is find a few stories they’d like to talk about. Then join John in the studio and talk about them.

It was all fairly Christmassy stuff and I was particularly struck by a feature written by Lucy Siegle in The Observer magazine, The Eco Guide to … Not Buying Stuff.

The thrust of the piece is that your Christmas shopping list doesn’t have to consist of material objects. ‘Experiences’ such as balloon flights or a day at a falconry centre are actually good for us. Apparently, researchers at Cornell University have concluded that receiving an experience gift can create more happiness than receiving possessions. The neuroscientists of the University of Pennsylvania link satisfaction to new experiences, especially if they take place outdoors.

I have to say I’m not convinced by “The most rubbish gift of 2017” – a full day of waste collection and recycling in a UK city of their choice. Me, I’d much rather have a few laps of Silverstone in a Ferrari or a glider flight.

A couple of great things about gifting an experience:

  • You can buy right up until the last moment
  • You don’t have to wrap it!

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And you never know where it will lead. It was an experience day at Icarus Falconry at Holdenby House, near Northampton, that led me to put a rescue owl, Barney, in The Little Village Christmas. Then the lovely folk at Icarus invited me back to fly Lillie, the young barn owl I’d based Barney on (except Barney has been injured and Lillie is all in one glorious piece).File 03-10-2017, 21 05 10

Or you could just give books as presents, of course. There your loved one will find all kinds of experiences without ever needing to leave their favourite armchair!

TLVC bookshotThe Little Village Christmas in paperback and ebook.

TLVC 99p Kindle glitter

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Welcome M W Arnold, The Season for Love @rararesources @mick859

The Season For Love Banner (1)

I don’t often invite authors onto my blog but I’ve made an exception for M W Arnold as Mick is a stalwart member of my street team, Team Sue Moorcroft. You might also see the same interview on Rachel’s Random Reads to make the most of our respective audiences.

How does it feel to be joining the ranks of the traditionally published authors? How long have you wanted this?
For a ‘supposed’ author, I’m actually lost for words and until it’s actually released, I guess you could say that I’m still waiting for it to all fall through. I can’t tell you how many of my writing friends have told me not to be so silly when I say that. Actually, it’s really not something I thought would happen so soon. I only joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association, New Writer’s Scheme in 2013 after starting to write semi-seriously the previous year, so I’ve only thought about getting published since around that time.
Tell us something about The Season for Love
‘The Season for Love’ is actually the second book I’ve finished and, so far, the only one where the last paragraph was the first thing I’d written. That’s as far as the planning  went. I’m not a ‘Planster’, I’m afraid to say. I’ve tried it since, and for this one too, but it only goes as far as jotting notes on the bottom of the page I’m writing as they come to me, though only about say, 40% of the time do they actually make the story. I expect I could get a sequel out of the notes I have stored away for this book.
What made you choose to write romantic fiction?
I’m a huge fan of the late and very great Terry Pratchett, but my Lady Wife read ‘The Xmas Factor’ by Annie Sanders and she insisted I read it, now. So, and more to humour her I have to admit, I did…in one sitting. Then read again. The morning after that second reading, I felt the need to write. I had no idea what I was going to write, just that I had to write. I was finally pulled from my old laptop late the same evening and I’d the start of what would be my first book. That’s unpubished, and I now know why, though I would like to come back to it as the story is good, but by gum, the writing needs improvement. That was in this genre because of that book I’d read, and since then, this has been my genre of choice. It helps that I really am an old-fashioned romantic. I like to think I’ve found my calling.
Where can readers buy your book?
I’ve been lucky and ‘The Season for Love’ is being released on both sides of the Atlantic on the same day, December 16th. It’s available on Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Smashwords, Bookstrand and the Passion in Print (the publishing house I’m signed with for this book) website. And seeing as you were so kind to ask, here are the links:
What jobs have you had apart from ‘author’?
For the first fifteen years of my working life, I worked for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. That sounds very impressive, doesn’t it? It’s not quite so much when I elaborate. I was actually in the Royal Air Force, so it counts. Nothing so fancy as a pilot, I was office staff, but I did serve on flying squadrons and saw quite a lot of the world, which was kind of the point as I wanted to travel.
Do you have a day job now?
After leaving the RAF, I started working with computers and that’s what I do now. It pays the bills, so far, though I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say I’d love to be able to earn my living writing.
Have you told your day job colleagues about The Season for Love?
Yep. They all know and after getting their heads around the genre I’ve chosen to write it, have all been very supportive. One of them was actually a beta reader for this book and says it’s encouraged them to write (not that they have yet), so that’s good.
Do you have much time for reading? What do you read?
I don’t have as much time for reading now as I did before I started writing, though I do try to read at least during my lunch break, it helps to clear the mind for an afternoons work. When I do read, it’s very much in the Romance genre. It won’t come as a surprise to those of you reading this that I’m a big fan of Sue Moorcroft books and consider her very much a benchmark I’d like to aspire to attaining. Whenever I feel the need for a break from romance though, I always go back to Mr Pratchett, with a sideways trip into the Harry Potters too.
Thank you for the shout out! Is there another M. W. Arnold book coming along any time soon?
Currently, I’m finishing off ‘Knicker Shopper Glory’, which I expect to start sending out in the hope of getting a publishing deal for that in the New Year. So, yes, if anyone’s out there, read’s ‘The Season for Love’ you know where to find me. Whatever happens, I am determined to get that second deal as soon as possible.
Love the new title. I hope both books do really well for you, Mick.

 

The Season for Love – blurb

Believing she was responsible for the death of her husband, Chrissie Stewart retreats from all those who love her. A chance meeting with a mysterious stranger, single-parent Josh Morgan and his bewitching young daughter Lizzy, breathes new life into her and gradually, she feels able to start to let go of the memory of her lost love. Unexpected links are revealed between the two families that strengthen the growing bonds she feels to this man and with the encouragement of her best friend Annie, herself hiding a hidden conflict from Chrissie, she battles with her demons to believe in her ability to trust and love again. Everything comes to a head on Christmas Day; which all goes to show that this is truly The Season for Love.

The Season For Love AuthorBio – Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England, and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elizabeth II in the Royal Air Force, before putting down roots, and realising how much he missed the travel. This, he’s replaced somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and writing a regular post at the www.NovelKicks.co.uk blog site.

He’s the proud keeper of a cat bent on world domination, is mad on the music of the Beach Boys and enjoys the theatre and humouring his Manchester United supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, with the forthcoming publication of his debut novel The Season for Love.

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/mick859

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/MWArnoldAuthor/

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Sunday morning, going up

IMG_3794I thought I was excited enough when the lovely folk at Avon told me to expect The Little Village Christmas to reach #7 in the Sunday Times Fiction Paperbacks chart today. Then I bought the paper this morning – and found it at #6!

I officially became a Sunday Times bestselling author last week when The Little Village Christmas popped up at #17 but to reach the top ten makes me feel more relaxed about claiming the title ‘Sunday Times bestselling author’. It’s something I’ve coveted for so long without ever really expecting it to apply to me.

After all, it’s been a while coming. Over more than 21 years 150+ of my short stories have been published, along with 250+ columns or articles, three courses, six serials, a writing guide, and a novella. I’ve judged 120+ writing competitions, appraised dozens of manuscripts and led a host of writing courses and workshops. And The Little Village Christmas is my twelfth novel.

IMG_3790So, when I treated myself to these frivolous but beautiful boots yesterday I was celebrating every one of those steps along the road to seeing my name and the title of my book in the Sunday Times today.

My thanks go to every editor who has chosen my work over the years, the whole wonderful Avon team, my amazing agent Juliet Pickering, the writer of every good review and each member of my fantastic street team.

Most of all, thanks to my lovely readers, who made this joyous celebration possible by buying my books. Thank you.

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It’s publication day!

Hooray! The Little Village Christmas comes out in ebook today!

The Little Village Christmas

 

I’ve been waiting impatiently to bring you The Little Village Christmas and introducing you to Alexia Kennedy, who’s lived in the village all her life and is on the cusp of leaving as the book begins. Alexia’s an interior decorator and has agreed to project manage the conversion of an old, neglected pub, The Angel, into The Angel Community Café. Most of the work’s being carried out by the boyfriend and mate of Alexia’s best friend, Jodie Jones. Jodie’s in partnership with Gabe Piercy (who regular readers will have met in Is This Love?) and the village have fund-raised towards the refurbishment. Everything’s wonderful …

… until someone runs away with all the money. Alexia has to stay at least until she’s found a way to rescue The Angel.

Gabe’s nephew, Ben Hardaker, has come to live on the edges of the village to lick his wounds after his marriage combusted in a mysterious way. All he wants is to be left alone. But Middledip isn’t like that. The village takes him to its heart – and he gets tangled up with Alexia in all kinds of ways! He does have a weakness for women who look like Betty Boop though.

IMG_3387And for those who would like the paperback – it hits the shelves on 2 November (so there’s not long to wait).

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Is there a right way to write?

I don’t think so. If you want to write hanging upside down from a lamppost with an Etch-a-sketch, you go right ahead. (If you do write hanging upside down from a lamppost with an Etch-a-sketch, please get someone to take a pic and post it on social media so I can see how it’s done.)

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Some of us plot roughly, some plot minutely, some don’t plot at all and ‘write by the seat of their pants’, therefore winning themselves the title of ‘pantsers’. I make use of notes, timelines and mind maps and others say this would drive them demented.file-17-02-2017-08-32-09

 

 

 

 

I like to write in silence. This, in the not too distant future, is going to earn me an office at the bottom of the garden so my silence doesn’t disturb anyone else’s noise. If I don’t have silence I play music. Sometimes it’s classical but I also have an ever-growing and eclectic writing playlist consisting of Pink Floyd, Damien Rice, Jimmy Nail, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Billy Joel, Eddie Vedder, David Bowie, Mark Knopfler, Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson, Carole Bayer Sager and Cat Stevens. It’s what I think of as ‘in the zone’ music and I have an almost Pavlovian response to hearing it … it’s time to work. My friend Elizabeth Chadwick writes with heavy metal music playing and constructs a different playlist for every book. Some people write in cafés or at work during lunch, with the children running laps of the kitchen or while the TV’s on at night. Some say silence would agitate them.

I think you should write in the way that’s right for you – but I do suggest that you try other ways from time to time. You never know when something’s going to work. And if it doesn’t – then you never have to do it again.

Happy writing.

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