I’m looking forward to this in-person event at Rothwell Library in Northamptonshire with fellow authors Jane Isaac and N V Peacock. The evening will be hosted by Mark West, author of thrillers and chillers. I love events that include refreshments because there are ALWAYS chocolate biscuits. Somehow, I’ve persuaded myself that whatever I eat at an event doesn’t contain calories.
As you see from this lovely poster, you can email or call in to purchase tickets. I know they’re selling well, so don’t miss out.
The authors will be happy to chat, answer questions, sell and sign their books, etc. Come along! We’d love to see you.
When I decided to write a post about Christmas books, I first solicited feedback from two large, active readers’ groups on Facebook. I asked: ‘If you read Christmas-themed books, whether they’re romance-at-Christmas or crime-at-Christmas, can you tell me why?’
Overwhelmingly, the most popular answer was:
‘I love Christmas books!’
Almost as popular was:
to get in the Christmas mood and/or feel immersed in the season of goodwill.
reading Christmas books is a part of the run-up to Christmas, a tradition
many Christmas books have happy endings, increasing the positive feelings (this possibly isn’t true of crime-at-Christmas)
to reflect on the spirit of Christmas
to ‘live’ the sort of Christmas the reader would like to have, but doesn’t, including having a vicarious Christmas if spending the season alone
escapism – Christmas books tend to focus on what’s important: family, charity, hope and community, rather than commercialism
Christmas books are frequently uplifting
they heighten the romance of the season.
Stanley Unwin said: “The first duty of any publisher to their authors is to remain solvent,” so it’s not hard to see why publishers publish Christmas books. Christmas stories sell in large numbers. Most of mine have charted in the Official UK Top 50, UK Kindle Top 100 (one went to #1) and some the Top 20 Mass-Market Fiction. Magazines, newspapers and websites include them in Christmas gift guides. The season is short but intense.
I write Christmas books, and not just because they sell. (Here comes the writing bit.) I think my ‘plotty head’ recognises the possibilities arising from the heightened stakes of a book set at Christmas time.
I view it like this: during the festive season, good things seem better and bad things seem worse.
Let’s take an example of ‘good’ – a couple getting engaged at Christmas. Their wonderful news only doubles the celebrations; they meet more friends and family at Christmas and each time make their announcement, show off the rings, talk about future plans. A Christmas engagement is memorable and romantic, bedecking Cloud Nine with glitter and fairy lights.
On the other hand, how bad does it feel to get a redundancy notice in the week before Christmas? The good time had by others highlights the plight of the character who’s lost their job and money woes leap into hard focus. How will the Christmas credit card bill be paid, the Christmas food bill, the tickets for the latest Christmas movie or fuelling the car for Christmas visits across country? The January pay packet may be the last for a while. Family members are about to be let down just when they were expecting to be flying high.
This heightening of stakes makes my plotting life easier. Contrasts between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ are greater (hence Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol to bring attention to the plight of the poor), conflicts are tougher, celebrations more joyous, goals more important. A bad Christmas experience can taint Christmas forevermore… unless a novelist comes along to weave into the story a reason to enjoy Christmas again and for scars to be healed.
For me, writing Christmas books has an unexpected benefit – I’m part of so many Christmases! People read my books to get in the festive spirit and gift them to each other (there are few things easier to wrap than a book). If someone messages me with a request to buy a signed copy they often ask, ‘Do you mind?’
No, I don’t mind – I’m delighted! It’s a privilege to be, in a small way, part of Christmas.
I’m not sure why I haven’t thought of putting special offers on my books on my blog before. It’s always nice to know about bargain books, isn’t it? Some of these offers end on 31st August so you’ll need to be quick!
Under the Italian Sun on is down to 99p on UK Kindle. Grab your chance to travel to Italy with Zia and discover all her family secrets.
Under the Italian Sun hits shelves and devices today and I hope readers enjoy the escape to a sunny plateau high above a vineyard in Italy.
It was an absolute pleasure to write this book. Everyone else had to stay close to home but every day I could leave … at least in my imagination. Bodily I might have been in my study in England but in my head I was with Zia as she drove to Italy to search out Lucia Costa, the woman who she thought was partly responsible for Zia’s mouthful of a name – Zia-Lucia Costa Chalmers.
Lucia’s also the woman Zia thinks holds the key to who Zia’s till-then-unknown father is and even which Victoria Chalmers is actually Zia’s mother. Lucia loved Zia as a baby … but how will they get on now Zia’s a woman? Lucia, like her neighbour Piero, is fighting to keep her home, a fight Zia sometimes helps and occasionally unwittingly hinders. And Piero’s fighting so hard he almost lets Zia slip through his fingers.
I thoroughly enjoyed weaving the mystery of Zia’s past and whether she can find a family and a future in Italy. I hope it carries you away, as it did me.
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.
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.
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!
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.
It’s amazing how some (wonderful!) writers are able to keep the end to a story going. Black moment after black moment, more twists than a maze, they thrust their characters together and yank them apart … it’s riveting!
On the other hand, you get the occasional finale that fizzles rather than sizzles and it spoils what’s been a great read.
I try and write the first kind of ending and avoid the second. I believe the right ending for my book already exists in my imagination. It’s just a case of recognising it.
Words such as resolution and conclusion are associated with endings for good reason. I look back at the story’s beginning. What did I want my hero and heroine to learn/find/resolve/defend and what did they have to overcome to do it? How can I answer questions and tie in threads, giving the reader the feeling that they are leaving by the same door by which they came in?
What I don’t want:
My characters to resolve the conflicts over a cup of tea i.e. make the conflicts that have driven the book suddenly trivial. I guess that in real life we learn to live with things but that’s not gripping.
Someone else to come along and solve everything. I want my central characters to be instrumental in their own ending.
The action to occur off stage and some lesser character come on to explain what happened.
To cheat readers with hasty contrivances, previously undisclosed facts or hitherto secret characters.
Like an airliner, a story needs a lot of space for its final flightpath. I like everything to go wrong, so completely wrong that it seems irretrievable. Then I make my central characters fight to retrieve it. I plumb the depths of their courage and fortitude, winkle out what they’re prepared to sacrifice in order to achieve a goal. That, to me, is the end of the story.
But … maybe an Epilogue?
Some people dislike prologues and epilogues. I don’t have one in every book or feel that if I have one I must have the other but I don’t shy away from them either.
I try and wind up the final chapter in exactly the right place – after the big resolution – but I’m also mindful of the advice of a past editor not to leave readers too soon. An epilogue is a great opportunity to glimpse my characters enjoying their happy ending, satisfying subplots and maybe including the readers in a joke they’ve shared.
I leave open or ambiguous endings to others. I want readers to put my books down reluctantly, smiling or sighing … but satisfied. I want to give everyone time to say goodbye.
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 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.
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 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 Byromhas quite a history with stories – including publishing mine in My Weekly.
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.
NOVEMBER 24th 2021 Meet the Author, Socially Shared Business Support Network.
Venue: Priory Theatre, Rosemary Hill, Kenilworth, Warwickshire
Join us for a morning of meeting local women authors from the Midlands. There will be an array of fiction and nonfiction books for people to browse.
This event brings together authors, their readers and local women in business and employment for this social, shopping and networking event. Authors will be showcasing their books and visitors will have the opportunity to chat with them and purchase signed copies of books too if they wish.
FREE event. Get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/meet-the-author-event-tickets-181685605537
Coming shortly: events at Towcester Library and Rothwell Library. Check back for more info when available.