Tag Archives: fiction

I Love Dubai! #DubaiLitFest

I accepted an invitation to work at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai without any preconceptions about the country. My itinerary was clear enough – a panel on contemporary women’s fiction, a couple of receptions and outings and three days teaching. With flight times of around seven hours, it was a busy schedule.

But I still had time to fall in love with Dubai.

Dubai marina Sue 2 smallThe landmark style of architecture entranced me. The sunshine was welcome and 25-27c was perfect for me. During my 7-day trip, I don’t think a single person was rude to me, everyone was warm and friendly, I didn’t see a single piece of litter or graffiti. I felt very comfortable and safe.

Dubai’s considered a global crossroads and I can see how it earned that title. It seems that every culture and religion is represented in its populace and, from what I saw, coexisting peacefully. I so wish the rest of the world exhibited the same tolerance as I witnessed in Dubai.

My first evening saw a welcome reception, which included such luminaries as Alan Titchmarsh. Everybody who worked for the Festival was warm and welcoming. They gave me food and wine, so I was happy.

Festival City smallI spent the next morning walking in the sunshine and enjoying the shore of Festival City. There’s a lot of construction in this new area but still plenty to see and enjoy. I didn’t go into the massive mall next door. Honestly. Not then …

Contemp Fic panel, April, Nadya smallIn the afternoon I was part of the Contemporary Fiction panel with April Hardy, who was launching her new book, Kind Hearts and Coriander (very good – I can recommend it) and Nadiya Hussain. Most people know for Nadiya for her triumphant win of the Great British Bake Off but she also writes for children and adults. Her views on writing collaboratively were fascinating.

The hour shot by as our panel, beautifully chaired by journalist Brandy Scott, discussed our work and whether we felt we needed the word ‘women’ in Women’s Contemporary Fiction. The audience were engaged and supplied plenty of questions for the Q&A, laughing in all the right places. A well-organised book signing followed, which was huge fun. Everyone was so willing to chat and, you know, I’m not backward in that department myself.

Saturday was my day off and Diala, a friend I’d made on Facebook, took me out to Jumeira Beach and Dubai Mall.

Jumeira Beach skyscrapers small

Dubai marina Sue 2 small

Jumeira Beach camel small

Dubai Mall small

 

And then came the Start Up Writing course, three days with a group of ten enthusiastic participants. We covered … well, we covered everything, more even than I’d allowed for as the questions poured in during every session.

My teaching was interspersed with sessions from agents, editors and other industry professionals (during which I think I took as many notes as the students). My thanks to editor Charlie Scott of local publisher Motivate, as Charlie came into my room to talk for twenty minutes to my students about opportunities for writers in the Middle East.

Dinner at the Etihad MuseumWe rounded out my part of the Festival with an open-air dinner at the Etihad Museum, listening to honoured guests speaking about what Dubai meant to them. Moving and inspirational.

I’d like to end this post with extending thanks to Yvette Judge and her fantastic team at the Festival, along with the sponsors who make the event possible.

Thank you to my fantastic students.

And some to those who extended the hand of friendship to me during my stay, especially April and Andrew Hardy, Sharmila, Al, Ronita and Monita Mohan, Dial Atat and Ruba Naseraldeen.

Also to Magrudy’s bookshop, which did such a fantastic job all festival long.Sue Magrudy's books small

 

14 Comments

Filed under Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Teaching, The Christmas Promise

My ‘new contract’ gift to myself

When I was researching my ‘Ava’ book in Camden Town, London, I happened across an Irregular Choice shop – the first I’d encountered, although I’ve since found them in Carnaby Street, too. The name of the shop perfectly describes their products – zany – but they’re also gorgeous and imaginative. I like shoes and promised myself  I’d buy a pair if the contract for the book proved good enough.

And it did! ‘Ava’ (she’s going to have a better title than that, soon) is scheduled for October 2016 publication with Avon HarperCollins UK, with the second book in the contract due out in June 2017.

So I have bought some Irregular Choice shoes …

And I very much love them.

I went for those with tape measures on to reflect Ava’s creative career in couture millinery.

Slightly on the downside, lovely as they are, standing up in them for two hours yesterday afternoon at the Love Story Awards and 3 hours yesterday evening at the RNA Winter Party, with a walk along Piccadilly in between, was not an irregular choice, it was a slightly stupid one. 🙂

This isn’t the first time I’ve given myself a reward for a writing accomplishment. When I sold my first short story to a magazine, The People’s Friend, I bought myself a new computer chair to replace my dated and uncomfortable typist’s chair. Sadly, the chair had a tweedy sort of fabric cover and, even through jeans, it gave me a rash on my bum.

I’m not deterred and shall continue to buy myself the occasional gift when I achieve a happy point in my career. I shall continue to wear the shoes! But I gave the chair away.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Do I write? Or do I ‘do my social media’?

This is a post I wrote for Anita Chapman at the successful and useful Neetsmarketing blog earlier this year.  Neetsmarketing is a top resource for anyone using social media.

Twitter_logo_blue_48Wherever writers gather, physically or virtually, a common subject for discussion is how much time we should be spending on social media. Opinions range from ‘I can’t be bothered. It’s a time drain. I don’t get it.’ to ‘I have Xooo,ooo followers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and I do four blog tours a day.’

Somewhere in the middle you’ll find me.

  • Firstly, I don’t think there’s any ‘should’ about how long I (or you) spend on social media. I like to engage with readers, writers, bloggers and other industry professionals, or just about anybody who may have something interesting/funny to say and will not offend or irritate me. But you might not feel the same, and so why not tailor your social media efforts to your available time, the results you attain, and your personal preference? Don’t let it be a burden.
  • Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 08.53.37I concentrate on Twitter and Facebook because they appeal to me and provide me with the most followers/friends. I do use LinkedIn and Google+ a little, too. I have this blog and I guest on other blogs whenever the opportunity arises.
  • Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 08.53.10Routinely, I turn my attention to Twitter, then Facebook profile and Facebook author page early in the morning. Then I get on with my writing (or planning or research or whatever that day’s task is). I return to Facebook and Twitter periodically during the day. If one of my books is part of a current promotion, or if I’m involved in an interesting conversation, I return quite a lot.
  • I don’t spend all my social media time bleating ‘Buy my books!’ I chat to people. I congratulate others on their achievements. I read interesting articles that others have flagged up. I discuss publishing with other writers. I pinch their social media ideas if I think they’re effective, I form and maintain business-friendly relationships with book bloggers etc, and I ask research questions (an underused facility in my opinion). I prolong friendly relationships with people I’ve met in the real world. In short, I network.
  • I see a value in building up a network of people whose posts I share and who will share mine in return. It widens the audience for posts I’ve written, my books when on special offer, and any good news I have, and all it costs is my time as I reciprocate. NB I try not to be a blood-sucking, self-interested user, ie cultivating only those people/conversations/contacts that are likely to benefit me and me alone. Some people’s social media strategy reminds me of a vampire looking for a neck. It doesn’t make me want to help them.
  • Social media has allowed me to form my lovely street team – the suggestion came from a reader, via Facebook, and we use a Facebook group to interact. (If you’re interested in joining Team Sue Moorcroft, do contact me via Facebook, Twitter, my website, suemoorcroft.com , or just click the button in the left sidebar of this blog. You can read my blog on the subject here.)
  • Very important to me is the privilege of interacting with readers. If a reader contacts me via social media to say that s/he has enjoyed one of my books, it makes my day. I always respond. Always. If I had to choose only one use for social media, it would be this one.
  • Do I think that you should have a social media presence? If you’re a writer, then, yes, I do think that you should. I think writers benefit from being visible, contactable, discoverable. Even if you’re awaiting your first traditional publishing contract I think you should have a presence – because many publishers and agents do Google you if they’re interested in taking you on to see if you have an audience and you can self-promote. And if you’re self-publishing, I’m positive that social media will help you sell your book effectively.
  • BUT, if I’m up against a deadline or fighting a knotty segment of my plot, you probably won’t see me on social media at all. This is an important point. I control my social media activity – I don’t let it control me. Unless one of my books is in a promo, of course … then I will find the time. It’s worth it.

Social media has got me engagements as a speaker and tutor, new readers, promotion, invitations to blog, invitations to be part of a promotion activity, research contacts, radio interviews and literary festival appearances. And work.

But if I wasn’t lucky enough to be a full-time writer I would have to cut my social media time proportionately. If I hated and detested the whole social media circus, found it intrusive and puerile, I would do the minimum. The balance between writing and social media is a lifestyle balance, like work/play/sleep or save/spend. It’s deeply personal and you should tailor it to yourself.

36 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

I have a new two-book deal with Avon UK!

I’m really thrilled to be able to announce that my next two novels will be published by Avon UK, part of HarperCollins!

2015-08-12 11.12.06These things take a while for all the T’s to be crossed and I’s to be dotted, so I’ve been sitting on the news since mid-August, when I went down to The News Building, standing right next to London’s Shard and just as impressively glassy (though not quite as tall).

I met Eleanor Dryden and some of the energetic and enthusiastic Avon UK team. They’d decorated the room with hats, as the heroine of my novel, Ava, is a milliner, and made chocolate cake and bought biscuits. (They had me with that cake.)2015-08-14 07.38.23

My lovely agent, Juliet Pickering of Blake Friedmann, came to the meeting, of course, and asked all the questions I didn’t think of, but as Eleanor unrolled Avon’s plans for my books, and for me as an author, I found myself realising that I’d found my new home.

Avon wasn’t the only publisher in the frame but Eleanor and her team were the ones who said everything I wanted to hear so, in the end, after a whirlwind couple of weeks of trying to compare offers that seemed impossible to compare, the decision made itself.

Here’s a little about the books in the deal (titles to be decided):

Book 1

Set in London at Christmas time, the story’s about things being difficult for Ava’s millinery business, revenge porn, Sam having all the trappings of success but little defence against his mother’s illness, and whether it’s obligatory to like Christmas. Due out around September 2016.

Book 2

In contrast, a summer book, set in France, where Leah, who has remained determinedly single and child-free, finds herself looking after her sister’s family while her sister’s life detonates. I’m about halfway through the first draft and the finished article is due out in Summer 2017. (I would be further along with this book if my research hadn’t led me down a blind alley. Every book seems to go through this phase, when I have to do  relationship counselling between my plot and my research.)

2015-08-12 15.42.00On the way home from the meeting, I stopped for a private celebration. Yes, I drank them both!

I’m not even ashamed. 🙂

45 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A birthday in Italy!

Having a birthday while teaching a course for Arte Umbria, in Italy, was a lovely experience.

2015-07-23 12.09.56It seemed odd to take my birthday cards with me and stand them around my room, where nobody would see them, but word had obviously gone around regarding the significance of the date – possibly aided by nearly 500 Birthday messages on Facebook! – and there were more cards, hugs and birthday wishes. And there are far worse ways to begin your birthday than sitting on a sunny terrace with your e-reader while you sip a cup of tea and wait for someone to make you a scrummy breakfast.

IMG_3490One of the course participants had even brought me a present, a patchwork table runner made by his clever wife.

2015-07-23 16.44.09The courses are held on an Umbrian estate amidst a rolling landscape of trees, the village on the next peak, stone houses and olive groves. I claim the huge terrace as my classroom, and we began work after breakfast, as usual. More important than some old birthday – it was the first day of the course.

As luck would have it, the guests went on a trip on my birthday afternoon, to La Scarzuola. I had visited this amazing restored monastery on a previous trip, so I felt justified in staying behind. I worked for an hour – honestly, I did! My work in progress was calling me – and then I took myself down through the gardens to the swimming pool to dangle my feet and soak up a few rays. As I found the chef just finishing her swim, I chatted to her about how she’d come to work in such a fantastic venue. It’s a good story. I’m not going to tell you because I want it for a future book. (Sorry.) As with many conversations with novelists, the chat may have taken the form of me interrogating her, but she didn’t seem to mind.

2015-07-23 20.21.11When the guests returned, a little gentle work rounded out the day, until it was time to get ready for another fabulous meal, including prosecco jelly as a birthday treat.

I ate two bowls full.

Don’t tell anyone.

Here are a few of my favourite pix from Arte Umbria 2015, include those from our day off, when we went to Perugia. If you fancy joining me on next year’s course it’s 13-20 July 2016. (It won’t be my birthday!) Go to www.arteumbria.com for more information.

Arte-Umbria-15-collage

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Starting Over FREE in the iBooks store (+ the history of the book)

Itunes bannerStarting Over is part of the First in Series promo in the iBooks store. At the time I’m writing this blog it’s at number 15 in the Free Chart, which is fabulous!

This book has a history. Some time ago my then agent got this close to selling it but, ultimately, Starting Over and the following book, All That Mullarkey, emerged from acquisition meetings unacquired. My first novels published were Uphill All the Way (Transita) and Family Matters (Hale – which only came out as hardback and was later released as Want to Know a Secret? in paperback).

It was a few years before I pitched Starting Over to Choc Lit and they bought it in three weeks flat. And wanted All That Mullarkey, too! I count Ratty, the (slightly unlikely) hero of Starting Over, as my most popular hero because he’s the only one to have received his own fan mail and done his own interviews.

Starting Over is the first of my novels set in the fictitious village of Middledip on the edge of the Cambridgeshire fens. I have a whole drawer devoted to Middledip information, including maps, timelines for each novel and an overall timeline for the series but I wish that when I began I’d realised I was writing linked books because I would have kept more.

Between Starting Over and my most recent Choc Lit novel, The Wedding Proposal, came five other novels, including the others in the Middledip series, Dream a Little Dream and Is This Love?

That some readers like linked or series novels is no surprise to me as I like reading them myself. It’s satisfying to see various characters in the cast get the chance to tell their stories and to check if the characters I’ve already met are getting along (and haven’t messed everything up). I like the constant but secondary characters such as the lady in the village shop who is agog over every bit of gossip or the landlord of the pub who looks like a miseryguts but has a heart of gold. When I find a series I like I tend to read everything in it.

I hope that you find as much satisfaction in reading the Middledip books as I have found in writing them.

download Starting Over

Middledip series

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Room in Your Heart – Welcome to Wendy Clarke

Today, to celebrate publication of her anthology, Room in Your Heart and the commencement of National Short Story Week, I’m welcoming Wendy Clarke onto my blog.

final-b2So, Wendy, big welcome fellow short story writer – and congratulations on your collection, Room in Your Heart.

Thank you very much for inviting me onto your blog, Sue. It’s lovely to be here.

Tell us a little about the collection.

Room in Your Heart is a collection of twelve romantic short stories all of which have been previously published in The People’s Friend Magazine. When putting together the collection, I chose my favourite stories and have tried to balance emotional stories with lighter ones.

What makes the short story form so appealing to you? Do you write other things, too?

I love the fact that with a short story, you can be in the head of a Victorian maid in Lancashire one day and a teenage girl in a tower block the next. Writing short stories is like an apprenticeship – a place where you can learn your craft without spending the amount of time and energy needed for a novel. Although I mainly write short stories, I write serials for The People’s Friend as well – one is awaiting publication and I am halfway through my second. I have also written articles for Writing Magazine (the one in this month’s edition is about how I put together my collection). Recently, I took the big step of starting my first novel.

The People’s Friend is a market that thrives on short stories written in the traditional style – is this your preference, too? Or are you really an experimental writer trying to burst out of the mould?

My mum is always asking me this question! I used to think I might like to write something more ‘literary’ but I’ve been writing short stories for magazines now for just over two years and I think there comes a point when you realise what style of writing suits you. Although I write in a range of styles for different magazines, when it came to choosing a genre for my collection, I realised that I have written a lot of what Shirley Blair calls ‘Romance with emotional depth’ be it contemporary or historical – this seems to be my signature style. Having said that, I have also written ghost, twist and humour.

My writing technique bugbear is head hopping and I can’t bear to read things where the writer is trying to project a scene from within two heads simultaneously. Do you have a pet hate, too?

‘Head hopping’ is one of my pet hates too. I think another one would be trying to be clever with a word when a simpler one might have worked better. Also having a character in a story state something in conversation that would be obvious to the other character, in order to fill the reader in.

First person or third person? Or either?

Both of these. I also use both past and present tense – depending on the storyline. I tend to use third person for my historical stories as I like its gentle quality. The first story in my collection, called Read These When I’ve Gone, is written from a man’s view point and is in first person present tense whereas One Step at a Time is in third person past tense.

Where are you hoping that short story writing will take you? Or have you already arrived there?

Although I love writing short stories and have no plan to stop, I seem to be following a path that others have taken. Since moving on to serials, the next logical step is a novel. I have just started it and it’s based on one of my short stories. It is a contemporary romance and I would love to get onto the RNA New Writing Scheme next year – it might give me the push I need to really follow it through.

Thank you very much for having me as a guest on your blog.

IMG_0785It’s a pleasure! To find out more about Wendy:

Wendy’s blog

Wendy on Facebook

Wendy on Twitter

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Shortlisted! Romance Reader Awards

TWP_RGBpackshotAbsolutely thrilled to hear this week that The Wedding Proposal has been shortlisted in the Romance Reader Awards for Best Romantic Read. This is the first year that the entry has been open to all so I’m beyond delighted to be in illustrious company. You can read the complete lists for all categories here but this is the line up for mine:

Best Romantic Read
(Sponsored by Headline Eternal)
Two Weddings and a Baby by Scarlett Bailey (Ebury)
The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman (Ebury)
The Cornish Stranger by Liz Fenwick (Orion)
After The Honeymoon by Janey Fraser (Arrow)
The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell (Headline Review)
One Hundred Proposals by Holly Martin (Carina)
The Wedding Proposal by Sue Moorcroft (Choc Lit)
The Proposal by Tasmina Perry (Headline Review)
One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson (Quercus)

Rowan Coleman is currently flying high as a Richard & Judy pick and Jill Mansell has long been a mega-bestseller so you can see what I mean by ‘illustrious company’.

The award ceremony is at the Festival of Romantic Fiction on the evening of Saturday 13th September 2014 at Leighton Buzzard Theatre. I’m attending the Festival all day on the Saturday, to be part of the book fair in Leighton Buzzard High Street from 10am to 3pm and the Traditional Afternoon Tea with the Authors at The Green House, Market Square, Leighton Buzzard. I’m glad I booked a hotel for Saturday night as drinking fizz at an awards ceremony is a basic human right … and I’m rather a fan of it.

14 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

There are many ways to enjoy a wedding …

When we think of weddings we tend to think of all the traditional things – big venue, bride in gorgeous white dress, long black cars, bridesmaids, pageboys, guests in suits and hats. It’s an incredibly expensive undertaking.

For some, the price is just too much.

Recently, I discovered that the wedding plans of the son of friends had been badly affected by an unexpected redundancy notice. They had to look at the wedding expenses and see what they could cut. An obvious candidate was the wedding car at nearly £500. The dad said that he’d drive the happy couple, instead, but that would mean double journeys and fallback plans for others in the family.

2014-06-28 17.08.34It so happens that there’s a nice middle-aged sort of Jag in my family, so I volunteered to turn myself into a chauffeur for the day.

It was great! As soon as the ribbons were on the car I found that traffic stopped for me, even when I didn’t even have the bride and groom on board. (I’ve stored this information up for future use and may always keep a supply of white ribbons in the glove compartment.)

I ended up going to the wedding reception in the afternoon and then back to the extended family reception at the parents’ house in the evening. (By that time I was off duty and could indulge in a few glasses of Pimms.) I had time to chat with members of their family that I hadn’t seen for years, as well as meeting a few new ones.

TWP_HIGHRES 150dpiThe Wedding Proposal was at the printers, by this time, but this lovely wedding day did make me wonder what kind of wedding Elle and Lucas will have in the end. Will they do the traditional thing at a stunning venue? Run off to Vegas, as Elle once suggested? Or get married on a beach, somewhere exotic …

I wonder if they need a driver?

 

17 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized