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I have had such a fantastic helicopter experience! The pilot who’s helping me research the second book in my contract, presently entitled 'Just for the Holidays', took me on a flight experience and performed autorotations to show me what Ronan, my hero, would have experienced. For the uninitiated, an autorotation is what you do when your engine cuts out in midair. It’s amazing how quickly you can get down from 2000 feet and yet land safely. You can read more about in on my blog at https://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/research-pretend-crash-a-helicopter/. FYI, most people on the Facebook thread about this experience thought I was mad to go up in a helicopter and pretend to crash. But I LOVED it.

Not much else to say, this time, but welcome to new subscribers, and I hope to soon have the cover of the new book to share with you!

Best wishes,
Sue

Before Christmas, my lovely new publishers, the Avon team from HarperCollins, took me and my agent to lunch. It was more a social event than a business meeting, although we did squeeze in a little chat about how excited we all are to see my first Avon heroine, Ava, hit the shelves in autumn 2016. Other subjects covered included what we’d be reading over Christmas, baking, helicopters, dancing, and the private lives of elephants. We did agree that it would be nice for Ava’s book to have a title, but we’re not quite there, yet. I formally signed my contract and my agent bought me champagne. :-)

I’ve also run a couple of competitions, one for readers of my newsletter and one for members of my street team. I asked both winners if they’d kindly do a mini interview for the newsletter, so here they are.

This month: Morton, winner of the Newsletter competition:

I live in Worcestershire with husband, little son and Lily the Maltese. Big son lives nearby with his lovely girlfriend. An aspiring author and member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme, I have spent the last few years exploring creative writing. I have had some successes with competitions and always enjoy my yearly NaNoWriMo writing challenge. This year I wrote a civil war novel. I have also written several contemporary novels and a time slip.

I am planning a family Christmas Day and Boxing Day. My husband works abroad, so it is nice to just be home as a family unit.

My aim for 2016 is to finally send my writing out into the world. I sometimes make resolutions at New Year. The one I have successfully kept for two years running is to keep a happiness jar – a jar I which you place a note about anything that makes you happy during the year.

My favourite colour is turquoise.

My favourite movie is The Holiday.

My favourite holiday in the UK is at Bamburgh or Woolacombe. Abroad would be Rome or the Bahamas.

My favourite food is chocolate.

My favourite drink sparkling water or a latte.

My favourite Sue Moorcroft book is Starting Over, although have read them all and also like The Wedding Proposal and Is This Love. However, I will always be in love with Ratty from Starting Over.

Lots of people seem to have a thing about Ratty. He remains my most popular hero and has been interviewed and even received his own fan mail. He is so popular that Choc Lit specifically asked me to write him into Dream a Little Dream. I meant to bring him into the wedding reception of Cleo and Justin but, sadly, he didn’t want to come on stage. I think it must have been because there was no real role for him. When my characters try to tell me something, I always listen!

To celebrate my lovely new deal I'm running a competition. If you'd like your name to be put in the draw to win this sweet little silver filigree Maltese Cross charm suitable for a bracelet, phone case, bag etc, just post on Twitter or write a status update on Facebook, before midnight on 28th October 2015, stating your favourite of my books, using the words 'My favourite Sue Moorcroft book is ...' and the hashtag ‪#‎readSueMoorcroft‬. If you want to add why that's your favourite book, that would be even better. I'll check out the hashtag at the close of the competition, put the names in a hat and draw the winner!

The hashtag's essential! I won't find your entry otherwise.

Welcome to everyone who has signed up for the newsletter in the last few weeks. It's lovely to have you aboard. I'm thrilled by how easy my lovely new website makes the sign up.
I had the most fantastic week in Italy, running a course for Arte Umbria. There's something about a classroom halfway up a mountain with views over the tree-clothed slopes.
The weather was hot, with a few dramatic storms to calm things, but there's plenty of shade on the terrace and in the house and grounds. And plenty of places to write, in company or alone.
Whether you're writing a novel, novella, short story or serial, the course aims to help you focus on your story telling and writing techniques via interesting and interactive workshops, tutorials, tutor review, peer review. Private writing time and one-to-ones make for a varied and stimulating week.
I love tailoring the course around its participants, meeting individual as well as group needs, encouraging the flexing of writing muscles and investigation of the world of publishing.
From 2016, we're opening the week up to writers who might like to use the week as a retreat, too.
This year we went to Perugia for our day off. The hosts drove us to the bottom of the funicular railway that begins in the suburbs and we were carried through six stations to the city at the top, full of fascinating buildings, astonishing views, cafés and gelaterias. We watched a wedding, ate a fantastic lunch at a pavement café called Lunabar Ferrari (picked by me), and rounded out the afternoon in a bar overlooking the city walls.
If you fancy joining me next year, the course is already booking at www.arteumbria.com, 13-20 July 2016. You'll be welcome!

Welcome to everyone who has signed up for the newsletter in the last few weeks. It's lovely to have you aboard. I'm thrilled by how easy my lovely new website makes the sign up.
I had the most fantastic week in Italy, running a course for Arte Umbria. There's something about a classroom halfway up a mountain with views over the tree-clothed slopes.
The weather was hot, with a few dramatic storms to calm things, but there's plenty of shade on the terrace and in the house and grounds. And plenty of places to write, in company or alone.
Whether you're writing a novel, novella, short story or serial, the course aims to help you focus on your story telling and writing techniques via interesting and interactive workshops, tutorials, tutor review, peer review. Private writing time and one-to-ones make for a varied and stimulating week.
I love tailoring the course around its participants, meeting individual as well as group needs, encouraging the flexing of writing muscles and investigation of the world of publishing.
From 2016, we're opening the week up to writers who might like to use the week as a retreat, too.
This year we went to Perugia for our day off. The hosts drove us to the bottom of the funicular railway that begins in the suburbs and we were carried through six stations to the city at the top, full of fascinating buildings, astonishing views, cafés and gelaterias. We watched a wedding, ate a fantastic lunch at a pavement café called Lunabar Ferrari (picked by me), and rounded out the afternoon in a bar overlooking the city walls.
If you fancy joining me next year, the course is already booking at www.arteumbria.com, 13-20 July 2016. You'll be welcome!

Keep an eye on My Weekly later this month. My story Shane's Pride will include a giveaway – a competition you can enter to win a copy of Starting Over, the first of my Middledip books.

I'm looking forward to running a one-day Writing Romantic Fiction course on 12 February 2016 at the Writing School Nottingham, run by Writing East Midlands. I've even made it onto the front of WEM's Nottingham brochure. I'm a cover girl!

What a great weekend!

On Saturday I was the speaker at the Brentwood Writers' Day. My thanks to the organising committee for making me so welcome, the lovely lunch, the comfortable venue; and to the group members for being so responsive and friendly. The morning session concerned 'Sue Moorcroft's Short Story Recipe', and in the afternoon we got more into the trickier bits of writing fiction. But, in response to questions, we also covered the admin and professional side of being a writer, how to submit to magazines, whether it was OK to chase a submission, and whether it's OK to harvest someone's kidney. (NB That last point was part of a discussion about plotting!) Finally, we had a Q&A panel and I was joined by fellow writers Frances Clamp, Patrick Forsyth and Sylvia Kent.

The photo shows me with Frances, who so ably chaired the day.

On Sunday it was off to lovely BBC Radio Northampton to go on air for a review of the newspapers. Chris stood in for usual presenter Helen Blaby and we had a great time discussing how much it costs to be a guest at a wedding (much more than I'd really considered), identity theft, and the BBC TV licence. The time whizzed by too quickly but my thanks to Chris, and his producer Stefan, for making it such a fun experience.

Is This Love? is currently a UK Monthly Kindle Deal at 99p!

This is the book where Jed has no qualifications – but has a fab job. Is he one of the good guys?

You can buy it here

Previous posts have concerned how I feel in the middle of a book, and at the end. Now seems a good time to cover how I begin, as I'm at that stage with 'Just for the Holidays'.

Beginning a book is a little like falling in love. I think of it when I should be thinking about something else, I don't hear everything that's said to me, I feel a little uncertain, a little apprehensive, a lot excited. What will happen? What if...?

Every book's different but here, loosely, is where and how a book begins:

Idea

Ideas come to me through reading or hearing something, thinking about my past, or just, apparently, out of the ether. If an idea sticks in my mind, my subconscious plays with it. Inconveniently, the ideas my subconscious likes often come halfway through another book, so I have to try and keep the new idea bubbling on the back burner.

'Just for the Holidays' originated from a story told to me over a meal. My friend's holiday with her sister had gone from bad to worse as the sister dropped bombshell after bombshell on her. I asked if I could use the idea, suitably modified, explored it a bit more, decided what would suit me and what would need to be changed, and in which sort of direction I'd take things.

Characters

My characters come to me early in the process. I begin with hero and heroine. My subconscious plays with them, too, and I find myself making decisions that I'm not completely aware of making.

For 'Just for the Holidays' I decided that Leah is, like me, a bit of a petrolhead. This is going to allow me to have some fun with the research, as she does track days and goes to motor sport events so, naturally, so will I have to! One big element to her character was established by the initial idea: Leah has chosen not to get married or have children. She's a free spirit and likes her life exactly as it is. I wanted her to have a cool job and found a suitable one, one most people wouldn't count as a job. Importantly, Leah has an older sister, Michele, who's quite different: a teacher, married with children. Between the different lifestyles of the two sisters lies a lot of emotion and conflict.

Ronan is a grounded helicopter pilot. I've tried to make him something else because I've written about helicopters once before but he came to me as a grounded helicopter pilot and my subconscious has turned obstinate about it. Again, research is a pleasure. And if anyone would like to take me up in a helicopter, please get in touch.

The work

Now comes the part where I take these few facts and develop something bigger. I create secondary characters to impact on the hero, the heroine and the plot. I give Ronan and Leah conflicts, I explore their lives, their histories, their goals. I mull over what's drawing them together and what will keep them apart. I look at them from the points of view of other characters – what does her sister think of Leah? What does Ronan think of her? What does her employer think of her? What does Leah think of him? What does his son think of him? etc etc. I feel this technique gives me properly rounded characters.

For some reason, I almost always plan on paper, with a pen. Maybe I think better with a pen in my hand. It's certainly not because I like handwriting, or that my handwriting is attractive. I'm now fortunate enough to have a second desk for when I'm writing by hand.
The second desk

On the opposite wall is an area I can use to cover with sticky notes, if that's what seems a good idea at the time.
My planning wall with The Wedding Proposal's plot just beginning

My planning wall with an earlier book, The Wedding Proposal, just emerging

Not going quite so well, this time...

It began well. But I introduced a second issue that would impact on the first and found it wasn't working with the same logic and ease. Everything I thought of seemed to give rise to more and more to think of – hence the additional bits of paper stapled together as my exploration got too big for the page. Stuck, I paused for thought. Should I buy a new stationery tidy, now I have this second desk? Ooh, look, I didn't realise that my long-arm stapler could extend its reach just by moving something along a bit ... I clicked my pen and stared at the plan. By the end of the day all I had decided was that the second issue wasn't working.

During the evening, my subconscious kept drawing my attention away from the TV, my dinner, and the book I was reading, worrying at the second issue. Just as I was going to bed – bingo! I realised what was wrong with my issue (too close to something I'd used in another book) and what I could do to change it.

The important thing, to me, is that the plan did its job. Knowing when something isn't working is as important as knowing when it is.

So, back to my second desk, this afternoon, to work on secondary character bios, drawing all the many pieces of my jigsaw together. It will probably be a couple of weeks before I feel ready to type 'Chapter 1′ into a new Word document on my Mac. Me and my subconscious have a lot to do before that.

NB My subconscious isn't the only thing I listen to. Conscious thought does a lot of puzzling – and an agent and/or publisher might have some input, too.

Sometimes I simply write out my thoughts and ask myself questions. At other times I create plans. This usually happens when I have a central issue and I want to explore it. The next picture is of a successful plan. I began with my central issue and explored all the outcomes I could think of, with consequences.

The Wedding Proposal was selected for a UK Kindle Daily Deal promotion on Wednesday – lucky me! The promotion worked so brilliantly that The Wedding Proposal actually topped the Contemporary Romance chart the following day, climbing to #10 in the Kindle Paid Chart. Joy! So far as I know, this is the best Kindle chart position that any of my books has achieved, so I was doing a happy dance all day.

I'd never even noticed before that Amazon awards your book a pretty little ribbon if it's #1 in a chart but as soon as I was alerted I took the above screen shot to save the moment for posterity. (And to put on Facebook and Twitter and my blog.) The Wedding Proposal is a summer read, being the story of what happens when Lucas (who hates secrets) is stuck sharing a boat in Malta with Elle (who has a lot to hide) for the summer, and quite a few people told me they'd downloaded it ready for their holidays.


To add to the happiness of the day, the Summer Party of the Romantic Novelists' Association took place at the Royal Over-Seas League in the evening. I'm tired and have a sore throat, so I know I had a good time! Congratulations to all those who were contenders for the Joan Hessayon Award, especially Brigid Coady, who was the talented winner.

Although I work on my own mostly, and like it that way, sometimes I get the opportunity to work with other writers. I love their company and the feeling of being with people like myself, who live partly in the worlds of their imaginations.

Sharing the world another writer is creating, as they create it, is really exciting. I'm able to dip in and out of these worlds-in-progress whenever I run a workshop or share an ideas storm with a writing friend - but, once a year, I'm able to share a special experience, a writing ‘holiday', in a special place.

At Arte Umbria (www.arteumbria.com), halfway up an Italian mountain in beautiful Umbria, my classroom is a sunny/shady terrace with panoramic views. I'm able to tailor what I offer to the participants: workshops, one-to-one tutorials, mentoring, peer review, publishing insight and private writing time. Writers of all abilities and experiences from novices to second- or third-time novelists come on the holiday to progress their work, expand their knowledge, write, and leave the workaday world behind.

The Poggiolame Estate is wild and beautiful, full of places to walk. There's a swimming pool, places to write, and the house itself is 300 years old, furnished in a way that's somehow gracious and quirky. The food and wine is fabulous and the hosts, Sara and David, are welcoming. We only leave the estate to go on a couple of local excursions. As course leader I'm busy all day, but even I find time to write, without pesky domestic chores to bother me.

To find out more or to book, go to www.arteumbria.com.

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