So you have the ebook, the paperback, the audio, what next – how about a book trailer?

For the launch of our sixth novel, Meddling with Murder we decided we wanted to make more of an impact rather than our standard “cover reveal” and the “Lo, behold, our new book launching today”. We wanted to go video. Many authors have been using video for a while now, so we were relatively late to the game. Something that had been on our “to do” list for ages – time for action.

First thing we were considering was a type of a video link aka Sophie Kinsella talking about Shopaholic and Baby…

But then we thought again. Even though our talented nephew Anthony is a budding film-maker with all the know-how and camera equipment, we realized: A) we’d never scrub up that well or look that dignified and well-dressed. Lorraine would probably have straw in her hair and Pam mud on the knees of her jeans.  B) Apart from being camera shy, we could never maintain a straight face for that long. Even having our photo taken usually ends up in ridiculous girly giggling.  C) Every time we’ve had to talk about our books, we’ve gone blank and have no idea what they’re about.  And D) most important of all – we live thousands of miles apart. When could we do this? Pam was flying out to Colorado for the launch / Lorraine’s birthday party but we needed it beforehand.

So having ruled out “us” we concentrated on the more important thing “the book”. We’d do a trailer instead. We thought about commandeering our nephew again – he’s a computer whizz as well as a film-maker. We wanted something a bit like this we said…

but selfishly he read our begging email and hot-footed it to San Francisco on a “hugely busy” schedule.

Anthony headAnthony

Next thing we considered was just doing it ourselves. Pam’s pretty good at PowerPoint, Lorraine has an Apple Mac and can do Apple-ly things on it. Surely it wasn’t too hard. We’d just have to be creative.

We scoured the internet. First we found someone that had made a pretty good one herself through Pam made a quick impromptu attempt but Lorraine’s reply was “bleurgh!”11 Just for grins we’ll show you anyway.  Ignore the spelling mistakes – Pam says she was just playing really…

The photos weren’t up to scratch either. We had the book jacket but Pam’s kids would probably have lumped her if she’d put them up on display to the world. Also we were finding it hard to condense the whole book into a few lines. First, how many slides? How many words on a slide? How much was too much? What would look good? Which music? What about copyright? etc.

Our last option, which turned out to be the best, was to hire a professional. We googled book trailers and scoured through ones we liked. Checked to see who’d produced them and Rachel Bostwick’s name kept coming up. We contacted her and followed her instructions. She would have written the script and selected all the photos, but we thought our own photos might work.  They didn’t.  Example below.  For a start there are no cowboys in Meddling With Murder.

IMG_0635_1 (4)

She was right to ignore them and choose ones from her own collection.

Then we waited. Not our strongest point. A week at most.

And this is the result

After one tiny edit, we were really happy with it. She found the music, played around with the wording and just did the magic with what we had given her.  It’s like having our own little movie!

We’re already planning our next one…

Head to Head with Sue Moorcroft

Jenny Harper - TFA

Jenny: the interviewer

Today on Take Five Authors I’m seizing the chance to interview one of our own members, Sue Moorcroft. Such a treat!

Sue Moorcroft - TFA

Sue: the interviewee

Tell us about The Wedding Proposal, Sue.

It’s set on Malta. I’d always wanted to write a reunion book, as I love reading them. Had I realised how much plotting of the backstory I’d have to carry out in order to make the front story work, I might have thought twice! I was brought up for several years in Malta and a part of my heart will always be there so, periodically, I send characters out to the island. I put Elle and Lucas on a small boat together in a yacht marina we used to be able to see from our balcony, when I was a child. Then I sat back and waited for fireworks … because Lucas hates secrets, and Elle has a lot.

Now we’re seeing a bit of a shift, aren’t we? What are you working on now?

Yes – I have another book out in the autumn! It’s called The Christmas Promise. I’ve been excited about this book for ages. It’s about Ava, who hates Christmas, has to admit that her couture millinery business has run into trouble, and is being threatened with revenge porn; and what happens to Sam who’s giving his mum Christmas because she’s between surgery and chemotherapy. The cover will be revealed soon – and I can’t wait to share it!

I’m curious, Sue – do you have writing buddies, or use beta readers?

I have two kinds of beta readers. The kind who read the book at second or third draft stage and tell me where the plot isn’t working or when characters have been off-stage too long. They’re both men, so they comment heavily on the segments of my novels that are written through the hero’s eyes, heavy on the humour and sarcasm. The second category of beta readers change book to book. They are people who have been so kind as to help me with research and I ask them to read the manuscript to tell me where I’ve gone wrong. Both kinds of beta readers are invaluable. (Thank you, guys!)

Can you work with the tv on? Or music? Or do you like to squirrel yourself away?

I like to write in my study at home, where everything is to hand. That’s not to say that I don’t write in trains, planes, coffee shops, hotels etc, when necessary! I do often have music on but I choose carefully. If I’m writing a first draft (the difficult bit, for me) then I’ll often play orchestral stuff so I don’t get distracted by lyrics (which always seem better than what I’m writing …). I prefer not to have people around me when I write.

I know you’re a busy lady – you don’t just write novels, you also write short stories and teach creative writing. I’m guessing you don’t have much time for anything else?

Well … I’m learning the piano (slowly), I do yoga, Zumba and FitStep, I like to hang out with friends. I’m a Formula 1 obsessive. I actually gave up a Formula 1 column because writing it was spoiling my enjoyment of the races. As soon as the year’s calendar is available I put race weekends in my diary and try to be home for every race and as many practice and qualifying sessions as I can. I like to watch Formula 1 in silence. Alone.

Gosh. I’m feeling weak at the thought of all of that! One final question – what are your top writing tips?

Educate yourself, learn about publishing as well as writing, and persist.

Thanks for taking time to talk to me, Sue! You’ll find all Sue’s contact details on her page on this blog (see top).

The thief of time …

Alexandre Normand from San Francisco, United States via Wikimedia Commons

Alexandre Normand from San Francisco, United States via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve blogged about procrastination before, elsewhere. It seems it’s a recurring theme! But I ask you – if you are a writer, can you honestly say that you never procrastinate? Because let’s face it, writing a novel may be fulfilling, rewarding, necessary (there are a dozen important and worthwhile drivers) but there’s always something that’s easier to do, isn’t there?

I think kid myself about my writing – I’m not procrastinating, the scene/dilemma/character is taking shape in my mind while I do other things.

Really? Hmm, well maybe. But on the other hand, maybe I’m just putting off dealing with the challenge posed by that elusive plot twist, the realisation that a character needs more depth, a scene more emotion.

Currier & Ives. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Currier & Ives. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When I was researching this article, I came across this lovely image. Wow, I thought, that’s one the my favourite diversions: a cuppa with some good friends. I headed to an article where it had been used and found – to my great astonishment – that it had been used by a writer (Deborah Makarios) who was writing about, you’ve guessed it: procrastination.

But – there’s a but here – she had used the image in a very different way from what was going on in my head.  It wasn’t about heading down to the nearest café at all. In her research, she had come across a suggestion that a great antidote to procrastinate is motivation, and that one way to keep motivated is to have a mission statement.

Now I spent many years of my life as a corporate communications consultant. What did that involve? Mostly, it was to do with people working in big companies. The big buzzword around the time I left was ’employee engagement’. That is, how do you keep people wanting to come to work every day and, once there, getting them to apply themselves to their tasks with energy, enthusiasm and commitment? I loved the job. After all, there’s nothing in this world as interesting as people, is there?

So, what was they key to success? Most of it (certainly from my point of view) centred on clear communication and reward. Help people to understand what their role was, reward them for a job well done, and engagement would surely follow. (Reward wasn’t necessarily about money,by the way – praise and recognition were equally important).

And one of the simple ways to help people to understand what they were signing up to  – why they were getting out of bed in the mornings – was to try to distil the essence of what the company stood for down into a very few words, a sentence at most. This was ‘the mission’. Mission statements tend to be grandiose. Here are a couple of mission statements from huge corporates – see if you can guess which ones! (Answers at the foot of the blog):

  1. People love our clothes and trust our company. We will market the most appealing and widely worn casual clothing in the world. We will clothe the world.
  2. Use our pioneering spirit to responsibly deliver energy to the world.
  3. Profitable growth through superior customer service, innovation, quality and commitment.

It had never occurred to me that I could carry the corporate ethos forward into my personal life when I left that world. After all, it was what I was escaping from, wasn’t it? However, Deborah Makarios got me thinking. She went ahead and devised her own ‘mission’. It started with that cup of tea – here’s what she wrote: ” … my aim is to write works (novels, plays, what have you) that are like a cup of tea. Sitting down for a cup of tea is both a rest, and a restoration; it eases your weariness and it prepares you to face the world again.” It’s a nice image, and it led her to her own mission: Truth – hope – take heart. (Do visit her blog, it’s lovely.)

Will having a mission statement help to keep me motivated and stop me procrastinating? I won’t know unless I try, will I? So, after a lot of thought, here’s mine: Use my imagination and craft to entertain, amuse and move readers.

In a future blog, I’ll come back and let you know how it’s working! And if YOU fancy devising your own mission statement, do let me know what it is, won’t you?

Oh – and those corporate missions? They were 1) Levi Strauss & Co. 2) ConocoPhillips and 3) BUPA. Did you guess them?

Best loved children’s book

At my writers’ group, YA author Claire Watts recently ran a workshop on writing for different age groups of children from tiny tots to young adults. We were asked to think about a book which had made an impact on us in our own childhood.whatkatydid

I thought immediately of What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. I loved that book. I remember once snapping it shut saying, “Thank goodness, I’ve finished it.”

My mother asked if I hadn’t enjoyed it. And when I assured her I had, asked, “So why are you pleased you’ve finished it?”

“So I can read it again,” I said. And I did, many times. The number 23 resonates but I couldn’t have read it 23 times, could I?

I did read many other books throughout my childhood – unlike my young sister who, having read a Hardy Boys novel declared it was the best book she’d ever read and refused to read another book for several years because, she insisted, “It won’t be as good as that one.”

Hearing others in the writing group talk about the book which had most made an impact on them, reminded me of the many other wonderful books I’d read. Like many of my fellow writers I enjoyed Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven series and The Famous Five. More and more memories of happy reading flooded back: Josephine Pullein-Thompson had allowed me to live in a world of ponies while the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton (again) or The Chalet School series by Elinor Brent-Dyer let me enter a different world of boarding school, tuck boxes and midnight feasts in the dorm.

I longed to be sent to a boarding school (and/or own my own pony). The nearest I came to a midnight feast was when my friend who was visiting her grandparents next door agreed to meet in my garden shed at midnight. We climbed out of our respective windows – luckily we lived in bungalows – but she cut her finger trying to open a tin of corned beef and ran home, blood dripping down her granny’s nightdress. It was the kind of scrape Katy might have got chalet school

What was the allure of What Katy Did and, to a lesser extent, what she did at school and after? I decided to find out by re-reading. Rather than searching our freezing cold attic, where hundreds of boxes of books have been temporarily stashed, I took the easy way out and downloaded the trio of books from Amazon.

It’s been like bumping into an old, much-loved friend. As soon as I began reading I remembered the sequence of events and could almost recite parts of it. While there are some things with which my adult self takes issue – the message that disabled people should be good and kind and sweet-natured (a message found in other children’s books – think of Heidi for example) – I understand why as a child I loved Katy so much. She scribbled stories, she and her brothers and sisters played daft games -remember Kikeri? – and wreaked havoc. She was real. She tried to be good but, like most children, she usually failed. It’s full of humour, both in the things that happen and in the narrator’s voice.

And the narrator took Katy’s side most of the time, which I suspect was unusual. When Katy disobeyed Aunt Lizzie and used the swing in the barn the narrator points out that although she was wrong to ignore her aunt, it was also wrong of the aunt to expect unquestioning obedience. Had Aunt Lizzie explained the swing was not safe, Katy would not have swung on it with such disastrous results. As a young girl I must have relished a grown up person (as the narrator surely is) taking the side of the child.

I think I’m going off to join the girls at Malory Towers now. Which book made the most impact on you as a child?