Tag Archives: Sue Moorcroft

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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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

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What do I think about the Hobbit films? What are the messages?

I love the Hobbit films. I love all the Lord of the Rings films, too. They’re high in escapism, adventure, humour and effects. As the final part of the Hobbit came out in December I watched the first two again at home so that I was happily submerged in Middle Earth before I turned up at my local Odeon.

I wasn’t disappointed. I loved The Battle of the Five Armies just as much as I’d loved An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. Casting Billy Connolly as Dain II Ironfoot was inspired, riding on a pig and sticking the nut on his enemies while roaring, ‘Oh c’mON!’ (I have to say that a lot exists in the films that Tolkien somehow left out of the books.)

Reflecting on what the films were telling me, I came to some conclusions.

The Hobbit according to Sue:

Good will triumph over evil. Small, ordinary folk, given sufficient motivation, will become heroes, especially when accompanied by stirring music and super slo mo.

Evil apparently exists for its own sake but good is always explored and justified.

Good lives are more important than bad lives. Every lost good life will be mourned as of massive importance. Lost bad lives will be tossed away by the dozen marked only with roars of pain or, for some reason, endearing squeaks.

Good folk can beat enormous odds if the motivation is sufficient.

Loyalty, friendship and love are strong motivators.

Good folk will constantly risk or sacrifice their own lives if for the common good.

Few can overcome the many but it helps if the few are elves.

Sadly, in real life, much of the above is not true. In real life murderers sometimes walk free and thieves prosper, good people suffer at the hands of bad people and good and bad are not black and white. Huge Eagles don’t often swoop in to save us and wizards don’t guide our quests. Our swords don’t even glow blue to warn us of approaching enemies.

Real life, unlike fiction, doesn’t need to make sense.

Maybe that’s why fantastical adventures grip us and transport us? We want to be reassured that good can triumph. We can escape.

And another thought came to me as I watched. All this came from the imagination of one man, J R R Tolkien. His books have been transformed, expanded, extrapolated, developed and interpreted by the imaginations of many into multi-million-dollar success.

It all begins with the writer.

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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

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Sue’s seven useful things to know about writing for money

As I write novels, serials, short stories, articles, columns and writing ‘how to’, I’m sometimes asked for my tips. I’ve collected them together in this post:

1 You need to know about more than just writing.

2014-05-13 10.39.462 You need to know about publishing. Publishing is an industry and has to make money to survive. If you don’t learn something about how it works you’re making your life unnecessarily hard.

3 You may need/prefer to know about self-publishing. You get control and you get more of the cut each time your book is sold. And you get all of the work, or have to pay/persuade people to do some of it.

ios_homescreen_icon4 You need to know what ‘discoverable’ means. Promotion will almost certainly be part of your life. Website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, ELLO, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram … OK, you don’t need to know all of them but many publishers expect you to have a platform. Readers want to find you and tell you how cool you are. Journalists need to research you before interviews. If you’re self-publishing the need may be greater than if you’re traditionally published.

Group shot, Summer Party 125 Networking can be fun, if you enjoy parties, conferences, seminars, literary festivals, forums and classes. Or it can be a nightmare if you don’t enjoy parties, conferences etc. Either way, it’s almost always useful. You get your name in front of editors and agents and learn a lot from other writers. You hear about possible destinations for your work and a lot about what-not-to-do. Learning what-not-to-do is a lifelong process for me.

*You can network on social media, too.

Study6 You can’t be without self-motivation, if you want to be a writer, unless you’re already a staffer on a paper or magazine and motivation is provided for you in the form of ‘You’re fired!’ if you don’t write. In your study at home you can work in your dressing gown, you can drink tea all day, you can go on Facebook whenever you want. But a month’s work takes a month. If you want work done, you have to do it. Nobody will fill in for you when you’re sick or on holiday, either.

7 Rejection. (Cue scary music and a feeling like cold mud in your belly.) Almost every writer gets rejection. A lot of rejection. The trick is a) to learn from it b) not to let it stop you writing. Swear and throw something at the wall if you must (I must, personally) but then get back to writing.

Final tip: Become reasonably proficient with every piece of technology that will help you in points 1-7 or identify which skills you’ll pay for in others. Learn to type. Touch type. Yes, really! Your writing life will be so much easier.

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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

 

 

 

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Familiar Blunders When Writing a Novel – revisited

This is how my head felt

This is how my head felt

I finished my first draft today. Yeah! I had such a reaction to my first post on the subject of blundering about when writing a novel (you can read it here) that I decided to celebrate by comparing how I feel now that I’ve written ‘ends’ with how I felt then, around 28,000 words earlier.

– Really thrilled that the first draft is down. Now it is, I can play with it and polish it and make it better. I love finishing a first draft and look forward to the second.

– It now seems perfectly reasonable that I had to rewrite the beginning when I got half way through. I knew my characters better by then and saw that some of the themes I thought would be important were not and that new themes took over.

– I’m a lot less bothered about whether I kept all my plates spinning, ie kept up with all my plot lines. When I begin to edit, the smashed plates will become obvious. Because of the miracle of working in a word processor, nobody will ever know whether I glued the plates back together and got them spinning back on their sticks or just quietly swept the pieces into the bin. (I work on a Mac so that should probably be Trash.)

Beta reader, Mark West.

Beta reader, Mark West.

– If I don’t notice a smashed plate then one of my beta readers or my agent will. Ditto holes in the plot. I’m blessed to have these people. Though I’ve been working alone on this for months and months they have been patiently waiting to help me. It’s kind of humbling, really.

– I’m much happier about the dynamics between certain characters now I’ve had time to think about them. And because I now know what every character does at the end. Once I know the answer, the questions seem clearer!

– I did, in the end, have sufficient ideas for my plot. I like to write between 85,000 and 95,000 words, and this book has closed at 91,850. I have no idea why I worried …

– OK, I did sweat over unknotting my plot lines and bringing the book to a conclusion that satisfied me. My brain hurt. A Facebook friend was an invaluable source of information on technology issues. But it’s done. It will probably have to be improved upon. Fine. Bring it on.

photo(53) copy 3– Yes, I do get in the same knots and snaggles with this book as with every other. I will no doubt get in them again when I write another book. Nobody said writing a book is easy. Or, if they did, it wasn’t me.

But the satisfaction now that the first draft is complete? Immense.

And my very first action after typing in the final line? (Apart from editing it and typing in a different one.) To back it up to my dropbox so that even if my house burns down tonight, my WIP is safe. Mwah. Love you, first draft.

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Celebrating UK Paperback Publication Day! And thank you.

TWP_HIGHRES 150dpi

I’m lucky enough to have loads to celebrate, lately, and here we are again –  UK paperback Publication Day for The Wedding Proposal!

Publication Day is always lovely. It’s better than my birthday. I get one of those every year without any work whatsoever but to reach Publication Day takes an avalanche of work not just by me but by the entire and very lovely Choc Lit team. We work hard together to produce the best book that we can. My thanks to all of them for the rounds and rounds of edits and proofing, cover consultations, marketing and promo.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers, not just for buying my books but for following me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Pinterest, LinkedIn (and anywhere else) and especially if they have taken the trouble to send me lovely messages. It’s a privilege to be a writer in the age of social media and interact with readers – lucky me again.

To mark Publication Day I’m going to meet my mum and brother for lunch and then toddle off to the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire studios to be a guest of Sue Dougan ‘In the Chat Room’. I may just mention to her that The Wedding Proposal has been shortlisted for the Best Romantic Read Award, too …

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