Summer in Winter, Christmas in August

I’m thrilled that, finally, the announcement has been made that I’ve signed a new three-book deal with Avon Books UK (HarperCollins). Because announcements are never made until all parties have signed the contract, and the contract takes a while to prepare, the agreement was actually reached back in March – and it has nearly killed me not jumping the gun and announcing it myself! But I’m thrilled to continue working with the fantastic Avon team.

The first of the three new books is The Little Village Christmas. The next will be a summer book and the last another set at Christmas. This makes my position as an author ‘seasonal’. Every book will have a seasonal title and cover. You can see that I began exactly this way in my original contract with Avon.

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So, what does it involve to write books with such an overt seasonal slant? Frequently, I’m working on a book set in the ‘opposite’ season to the one I’m experiencing. I’m proofing The Little Village Christmas now, reading about snow and ice while sunlight is streaming through my window (if I’m lucky!). I’m thinking about Christmas decorations, raffles and big coats. Avon has been hard at work writing a Christmassy blurb and creating a Christmas cover. Amazon has even sent out the first promotional email (thank you all those who have preordered 🙂 ).

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My paper proofs

On the plus side, the book I’m actually writing is my Summer 2018 book, working title The Summer of Finding Out. I had the huge pleasure of writing a good chunk of it while on my Arte Umbria writing retreat. (NB If you’re interested in joining me on the writing retreat next year you can find information here.) To write a book set in Italy while I was in Italy was a special experience. My hero, Levi, paints the scene I could see from the terrace and I took hundreds of research pix in Orvieto, to which ‘my’ Umbrian town of Monteliberatà will bear some resemblance. After running out my camera battery I sat down for lunch with a couple of lovely people from the course and remained after they’d gone, sipping Orvieto Classico and making notes about what I’d seen, heard and smelled as I’d walked the cobbled streets earlier.

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I have to be honest, I planned my writing schedule around writing about Italy while staying in Italy. I defended it against the necessity to edit The Little Village Christmas and even asked for a couple of days extension to my deadline in case I needed it when I returned to the UK.

When I’ve finished the first draft of The Summer of Finding Out I’ll be returning to The Little Village Christmas in order to perform a few more edits for the German publisher. Then I’ll write a two-part Christmas story for My Weekly, due in by the end of August, and return to The Summer of Finding Out to write the second draft.

All this time, of course, I’m promoting Just for the Holidays, which is my Summer 2017 book! And in the interests of such promotion you might like to know that Just for the Holidays is only 99p on Kindle and Kobo right now …

Whatever books you love and whenever you like them – Happy Reading!

 

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A critical mass of writers…

Let me tell you about my favourite event of the year (excluding Christmas of course). It’s the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference (which is happening as I post this). Well – my favourite events (plural) of any year are writing conferences. I go to as many as I can – but always the RNA conference here in the UK, shortly after which I fly to Australia for the Romance Writers of Australia Conference. I also go to similar events in the USA – when time and budget allow.

I spent a lot of one conference with my foot resting on a bag of frozen peas… but I was not daunted.

Why?

Because writing conferences inspire me. And terrify me. And exhaust me. They make me laugh and sometimes cry (that was mostly the year I hurt my foot the day the conference began).

A writing conference may attract anything from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand writers. I’m not sure the point at which writers hit critical mass – but there is something about a writers’ conference which I find no-where else.

At my first RNA conference I was an unpublished hopeful. Within minutes of arriving I met an author whose book I read. An author whose books I loved. And she talked to me. TO ME! That was a proper fan-girl meltdown moment for me. And it opened my eyes to something important… writers are people. Until then, they had seemed mystical entities on a plane far above the real world.

In the fifteen years since then, I’ve been to many such conferences and met people who are now among my closest friends. I found my first publisher at a conference. And my agent is at this one.

At the Romance Writers of Australia conference, I get to meet up with other writers of rural romances.

Nine books later, I still learn new things at each conference from the speakers (mostly writers) who generously share their time and knowledge.

At each conference I find new friends – writers who understand the joys and frustrations of writing. We sit up late at night talking, drinking wine or cups of tea and probably eating chocolates, but always offering each other support and understanding and encouragement. We laugh together and occasionally cry together, but we are always there for each other.

Industry panels are a wonderful way of keeping pace with a rapidly changing publishing world

And conferences are FUN! The conversation, the laughter, the jokes and stories and kitchen parties. I am always exhausted by the end of the conference, but the joy of the weekend fuels my writing energy.

At conferences, no-one is allowed to say ‘no’ to a little extravagance.

So, if you aspire to write or are already writing, can I presume to offer a suggestion… If you haven’t already, find a writing association that suits you and your genre. Find other writers to share your journey. And then go out there and enjoy. That’s what I am off to do right now…. See you again soon.

There’s always time to relax and just chat.

Writing in Italy … about Italy

I’m feeling fond of Italy this week. There are two reasons:

  1. I’m travelling to Italy on Wednesday to lead the one-week Great Writing course for Arte Umbria. Then I’m staying a second week to lead their writing retreat.
  2. The book I’m writing, currently entitled The Summer of Finding Out and scheduled for publication in May 2018, is set in Umbria, too. In fact, the rear of a small hotel my heroine, Sofia, lives in, bears an uncanny resemblance to the gorgeous terrace, gardens and pool of Arte Umbria‘s venue, Tenuta di Poggiolame, complete with its panoramic view.

Sue Moorcroft at Arte Umbria webThis will be the fifth year I’ve led a course for Arte Umbria and naturally, I’m looking forward to it. Who wouldn’t, when their ‘classroom’ is a sunny terrace?

But I’m also excited about the retreat because I’ll actually be in the book’s setting as I write. I can go into an Italian town to do my research; chat to people who live the Italian way of life; immerse myself in the culture, sounds, smells and sights. I’ve long wanted this experience. When I wrote The Wedding Proposal, set in Malta, the temptation was enormous to go there for a week to write. If I hadn’t been travelling so much that summer anyway, I would have done it, but there were just too many things against the idea at the time. If I recall correctly I attended the RT Booklovers’ Convention in America and taught in France and Italy.Sue working on terrace web

But this time … this time it’s different. I’ve been able to bring my writing schedule and teaching schedule together beautifully. It also marks a change in my life as next year my publishing schedule is so tight that I won’t be teaching anywhere (unless somebody invites me to a great country to do so). But two writing retreats are scheduled for Arte Umbria and I will be there … I wonder if I can pull off being in the midst of a book set in Italy again?

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PS The first booking has already been taken for Arte Umbria‘s writing retreats in 2018. If you’d like to know more or even make your booking, click here for my page on the Arte Umbria website and here for the booking form.

 

Cover reveal and the London Book Fair

Drrrrrum rrrrroll please! It’s my pleasure this Sunday evening to share my new book cover!

JFTH Ebook cover small

 

Avon Books UK has given me another fabulous cover, one I’m proud to have on my book. Paperback, ebook and audio book will all be released on 18 May 2017 and you can get your preorder in hereJust for the Holidays is about Leah Beaumont who, having made a decision not to marry or have children, finds herself stuck in France looking after her sister’s husband and kids. But, hey, it’s just for the holidays, right? Well, whether you’re headed for an exotic beach or prefer something closer to home, Leah’s holiday is probably going to make your summer feel pretty good.

Apart from getting excited about that pretty cover, I spent three days last week enjoying the delights of the London Book Fair. It’s a giant trade fair where agents, publishers and those who provide services or products to them, can meet to do business. There are two massive halls and two big galleries filled with stands from all over the world.

So, what is an author doing there? I treat it rather like a conference and go along to absorb information. As well as an opportunity to see what publishers are publishing this year, there are many talks/panels/presentations taking place. Many of them aren’t aimed at me but I’m interested, so in I go. My personal highlights were a debate on whether Brexit will be good for publishing; a talk by Michael Morpurgo, children’s author; and meeting face-to-face for the first time Karen Byrom, the fiction editor of My Weekly. Expect to see a short story and Just for the Holidays giveaway in My Weekly in May, a Christmas two-parter in December, and a little promo idea Karen and I cooked up that I’m sitting on for now.

I also use the Fair as a place to meet other authors and friends for a cuppa, a chat, lunch or dinner. It’s tiring; I walked an average of seven miles a day, but I love it. To share the love, I put together a bit of a pin board for you below.

 

LBF 17 pastiche

Top row, L-R: Michael Morpurgo, the view from the gallery, the audience gathers ahead of Mr Morpurgo’s talk, spring hits London Olympia, the HarperCollins stand.

Bottom row, L-R: pity they didn’t have my size, London and the Thames in the sunshine (no, this isn’t close to Olympia), Christina Courtenay and I are not afraid of some big shark, the Independent Publishers’ Guild stands, decorative rather than for reading.

 

A night to remember

Candles and chandeliers. And books. It’s a fabulous setting.

Last night the Romantic Novelists Association held their Romantic Novel of the Year Awards Ceremony. This is a glittering evening of canapés and bubbles in the wonderful Gladstone Library in Whitehall Place.

It was particularly special for me this year, because my book Little Girl Lost was shortlisted for the Epic Romantic Novel of the year – a category that includes books with a central romance at the heart, but that cover broader issues and themes as well.

To cut a long story short – I WON!!!!

Yes.. I cried. In fact, the lovely Prue Leith who was handing out the awards gave me her tissues. Thank you Prue.

I was so excited, I can barely remember my acceptance speech – but a few people have told me it was very nice.

Also very nice is the beautiful glass star that now sits in my office.

 

It is so pretty!!!!

Thank you to the RNA, and the judges and the award organisers and everyone involved. I am thrilled and honoured to hold this award. I have now written three Coorah Creek novels – and all three are award winners. It’s going to take a long time for the smile on my face to fade.

The three Coorah Creek novels. I am very proud of them.