Ducie’s Diary: April 2023

For the first time this year, I’ve been working with the doors open to the garden. I can hear the birds singing in the trees above the gently burbling stream, and the cows in the farmyard give the occasional moo to remind us they’re still inside. Although pretty soon, they’ll be moved out into the pasture on the other side of the farm. The silent cattle sheds are a clear sign that we are well on the way to summer. And there’s a pheasant nesting in the hedge opposite my front door. It’s nearly 16 years since we left town life for the countryside, but the thrills are as strong as ever. I hope I never lose the wonder of living this close to nature.

Writing this month

Throughout April I’ve been working my way through my alpha readers’ comments and editing Calamity at Coombesford Church once again. That’s due to be finished by the beginning of May when the manuscript moves on to my wonderful beta readers. At that point, I usually believe it’s 95% of the way to completion. Then I get the feedback and realise it needs a complete rewrite! But maybe this will the one where I’ve got it right and there’s very little further work required. I’ll let you know next month.

I’ve also been working on the final edits for Coombesford Calendar volume II which is out for pre-order at the moment and is due to be published coming this Sunday. If you’re a recipient of my monthly readers’ email, you will have already seen the twelve stories in this year’s collection. But if not, it’s a short book set in the same village as the murder mysteries. A chance to meet some of the residents and see what they are getting up to when not solving – or committing – murder. And if you have already seen my stories, you will know what they are like; so please bear this little book in mind when you are thinking about gifts for the readers in your life.

Sales and Marketing

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve been dabbling with Amazon Ads for the past year or so. I’ve had modest success – and managed to stay in profit throughout. My sales and page reads have been building nicely – until Easter Monday when everything fell off a cliff! No impressions, no clicks, no book sales and no page reads. To be honest, I was so busy with other things that I left it for a few days, hoping it would sort itself out. And it did. A week later, everything was back up and running again. Asking around my writing groups on Facebook, this seems to have happened to lots of people. A glitch in the Amazon system maybe? If you had this problem, how did you sort it out?

Out and About

I’ve been such a busy little bee this month. With the Easter break falling at the beginning of the month, there were lots of opportunities for meeting up with friends, relaxing around the dinner table – and eating chocolate, of course. And the rest of the month has been spent helping to organise two major events here in Chudleigh. Last Saturday, Cancer Lifeline South West, of which I am a Trustee, hosted the wonderful sopranos, Sorelle, in a fund-raising concert in the church. We enjoyed some brilliant singing and comedy, while raising in excess of £1100 for the charity. This coming weekend, we are running a Celebrate Chudleigh day, involving an exhibition of businesses and community groups; taster sessions; free cream tea; hustings for the district council election candidates; and live music to round off the day. So it’s hardly surprising that, writing-wise, I’ve not been out and about at all. I was delighted, however, to be asked to write an article for friend and fellow Swanwicker, Val Penny. I appeared on her blog this week, talking all about the Coombesford Story and how I came to be writing cosy crime set in a Devon village.

What Have I Been Reading Lately?

I’ve mentioned Authors in a Pickle before on this blog; the online networking group that grew out of Women in Publishing. Well, I’m delighted to highlight another book by a Pickle Jar member this month. Eileen Joyce Donovan’s debut historical novel, Promises, won the Marie M Irvine Award for Literary Excellence. She is also the author of short stories and essays for numerous anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul. She has taught college writing classes in Arizona, North Carolina, and New Jersey, and currently lives in Manhattan, New York. Her second novel, A Lady Newspaperman’s Dilemma, was published by Woodhall Press last year. Her latest, The Campbell Sisters, is another historical tale, set in 1950s New York (although as someone who was born in that decade, I have difficulty accepting this qualifies as historical fiction!). The book is full of authentic atmosphere. Here’s my review:

Helen, Carolyn and Peggy Campbell are daughters of Irish Catholic parents, growing up in 1950s New York. Each is very different, while sharing the same heritage. Helen fall in love with Charlie. Peggy falls in love with Joe. While Carolyn is a law unto herself and lives a precarious life on the wild side. This is a story of sisterly love, falling out, making friends, trying to please the parents, and ultimately making individual choices. Eileen Joyce Donovan has woven a wonderful story of family life and love in the mid-twentieth century. As someone from that era and that background, I found the atmosphere compellingly authentic. A thoroughly enjoyable read; highly recommended.

And elsewhere on my bookshelves, I’ve also been reading:

The Killing Code, Blood and Treachery, The Last Bloody Straw, A Whisper of Sorrows, The Big Man Upstairs, A Death Most Monumental, A Snowball’s Chance in Hell, and Ahead of the Game all by JD Kirk. I only recently discovered this writer of Tartan Noir but can’t get enough of his gritty characters with a huge helping of humour on the side.

Deadly Wishes by Rachel McLean. Another new writer to me, whose novels are set in my home city of Birmingham.

The Lawyer’s Legacy by Jonathan Posner. A great prequel to the Witchfinder’s Well series by fellow member of Exeter Writers.

By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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