Tag Archives: writing

Moulton Literary Festival, Northamptonshire 9th October 2022

Image shows logo of Moulton Lit Fest

If you can reach Moulton in Northamptonshire you might like to come along to the Moulton Literary Festival on (and around) 9th October 2022. Check out the link and you’ll see it’s a varied programme. My session begins at 2pm, ‘Twenty Years to be an Overnight Success’, the story from my first short story sale to reaching #1 on the Kindle UK chart. A slide show accompanies the talk and I’m happy to sign books or join you in a selfie.

Click here for the Moulton Literary Festival website and programme

Image shows poster of Moulton Lit Fest

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Summer at the French Café – cover reveal! #SummerAtTheFrenchCafé @AvonBooksUK @BlakeFriedmann

It’s cover reveal day!

And isn’t this gorgeously summery?

I love this rendition of Kat walking Angelique around Parc Lemmel, the wonderful place where she works, with everything from a book café to lakes, wild walks to manicured gardens, amusements and rides. I quite expect Noah to leave his station at the kayak slipway and stroll over to greet them.

Here’s the official blurb:

Sparkling sun, strolls in the gorgeous French countryside, that first sip of cool, crisp wine – Summer is Kat’s favourite season. And this year should be no exception…

As soon as Kat Jenson set foot in the idyllic French village of Kirchhoffen, she knew she’d found her home. Now she has a dreamy boyfriend, a delightful dog and the perfect job managing a bustling book café in the vibrant Parc Lemmel.

But when she learns her boyfriend isn’t all he seems, it’s the start of a difficult summer for Kat. Vindictive troublemakers, work woes and family heartache follow, and the clear blue sky that was her life suddenly seems full of clouds.

Then she gets to know the mysterious Noah, and her sun begins to shine brighter than ever. But Noah has problems of his own – ones that could scupper their new-found happiness. Together, can they overcome their many obstacles, and find love again?

The perfect summer read for fans of Trisha AshleySarah Morgan and Carole Matthews.

‘An absolutely gorgeous French escape full of sunshine – I loved it!’ Rachael Lucas

Charming, uplifting and utterly delightful – I was totally swept up in this gorgeous book!’ Holly Martin

Preorder Summer at the French Café here now.

Summer at the French Café will be released in paperback, ebook and audio on 12th May 2022 in the UK and US. I hope you read and enjoy it.

Preorder Summer at the French Café here now.

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Event news: ‘Ladies of Letters’, Rothwell Library, Northamptonshire, 16 Feb 2022

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.

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Who reads Christmas books? #AmReading #AmWriting #RespectRomFic

Image showing book covers for Under the Mistletoe, The Christmas Promise, Christmas Wishes, The Little Village Christmas, A Christmas Gift and Let it Snow.

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.

Others included:

  • 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. 

Image of more Christmas books

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Writing tip: learn about publishing

I’m often asked for tips so I thought I’d post a few. In my view, at least as important as improving your writing is improving your understanding of publishing. There’s a lot you can safely leave in the hands of your editor or agent if you have one but an overview of the industry can make your expectations and approach realistic.

You can learn about publishing in similar places to those where you learn about writing:

  • talks (conferences and literary festivals have gone on-line during the pandemic, which often means they’re free – a bonus). The speaker can be an agent, editor, publicity guru, librarian, cover artist, author, media manager, sales manager, self-publishing specialist, journalist, ghostwriter or dozens of other roles but what they’ll have in common is a knowledge of publishing. Example: The Avon Lockdown Show features not just snippets from authors but advice from Avon editors.
  • newsletters. I think these are an underrated resource. I take free daily email newsletters from The Bookseller and Publishers’ Weekly. There are paid options too but even these free newsletters will give you insight into what’s selling, who’s buying, and, importantly, who’s moving. Why ‘who’s moving’? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read about this agent or editor going into a new role and looking to acquire. ‘Looking to acquire’ means ‘taking on new authors’ if they’re an agent and ‘buying books’ if they’re an editor. It might tell you what is being looked for such as ‘authors from diverse backgrounds’ or ‘feel-good fiction’ or ‘psychological thrillers’. From there, it’s not too hard to find the person online and discover how they accept submissions. NB If you’re taking the free newsletter, read the headlines first to decide which articles are of interest because you can usually only read a couple of articles in full per day. Look out also for writing newsletters from your regional authority. You can often find these as a result of searching your local authority website under ‘arts development officer’ or similar. Example: Writing East Midlands offers a digital newsletter. Sign up by emailing marketing@writingeastmidlands.co.uk.
  • websites. Writing East Midlands is just one of many resources. Your search engine is your friend though, personally, I’d avoid all the entries with ‘Ad’ attached to them. Publishers’ and agents’ websites and blogs are full of information and so are those of writing communities and arts councils. The personal blogs of authors and other industry professionals can be useful too. NB Look for recent content. Publishing changes quickly but websites hang around for ages. NB2 Be aware of market boundaries. Something you read on a US site may not apply to the UK.
  • writing magazines. I’ve worked for both Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine in the UK and they’re both great for market news such as magazines accepting submissions and whether they pay. I don’t think there’s any substitute for keeping up-to-date with a market you might wish to submit to. There are also books that are guides on getting published. I would suggest you buy the most recent you can.
  • social media. Follow agents and editors! They give hints of what they’re looking for and you can often see what area they work in from the authors they already work with. Join writing communities. I’m part of an authors’ Facebook group where people share their experiences and I often hear news there first. By browsing around social media you’ll find a group to suit you.

These are just my favourites but maybe there’s something here that will work for you.

You may also like:

Should I write a prologue?

What happens in Chapter One?

Chapter Two and beyond

Final Chapter(s) and (possible) Epilogue 

Act, react and interact – breathing life into my characters

My plotty head, Fiction Land and my dad

Descriptive writing

Learn about publishing

Agent or no agent?

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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

 

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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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What do I do when I finish writing a book?

Finishing writing a book is an odd feeling. DSCF9022For one thing, I know the book isn’t actually finished. I’ve completed the major edits and returned the book to my agent but I know it needs at least one more polish and probably tweaks. And that’s before a publisher has even got hold of it …

Still, it’s a milestone, a feeling of accomplishment and lightness that it’s off my hands for a week or two. I’m not the kind of writer to grab the opportunity for loads of time off (not sure why) and I am the kind of writer to have left a lot of other jobs while I got my edits done. So here are the post-edit headlines:

  • I tidy my study. To be honest, there’s not that much difference to be seen, except the timeline is no longer lounging seductively across a drawer while I obsess about it and there are no longer any notes hanging in the copyholder beside my monitor. There’s a little less on the floor.
  • I do my annual accounts. I hate doing my accounts. Seriously hate it. I hate it so much that I had to eat two packs of Quavers in one afternoon to get me through. At least I didn’t cry, this year. (It’s not that I can’t do them – I used to keep other people’s books. I. Just. Hate. Them.)
  • I understand why people who have jobs they hate hang out on Facebook.
  • I work through my ‘to do’ list, which includes booking two holidays to Malta. Yes, two! For me! In one year! Whoop! I did this before I’d got to the bottom line in the annual accounts, but I’m not cancelling.
  • I look at booking a ticket to the London Book Fair.
  • I add some more things to my To Do list while I think of them.
  • I relax. It’s a nice feeling to know that a huge project is coming to the end. Two, if you consider the hideous accounts.
  • I go on with the course I’m adapting from Love Writing and think about the novella I’m to adapt for My Weekly. (Oh look – two more big projects!)
  • I look forward to a complete weekend off.
  • I begin to wonder about whether my agent will like my revisions. I feel slightly anxious, and not so relaxed.
  • I think about the next book. I think I want it to be set in summer. Writing a Christmas novel and a Christmas serial this year has fried whatever Christmas spirit I have. (Not a great deal.)
  • I consider having lunch with my gym friends and don’t feel guilty, even though I’m having dinner with them this evening.
  • I hang out on Facebook and Twitter more than usual, mainly to whine about having to do my accounts.
  • I read a lot of articles and watch podcasts about writing/publishing that have been stacking up. This is helpful but not, you know, actual work …
  • I look at my website and decide what needs updating.
  • I feel good.

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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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