Ducie’s Diary: February

I know February is the shortest month, but it’s only by a day or two, especially this year, so why does it only seem about two weeks since I was writing last month’s Diary? Everything at the moment is focused on my knee surgery, which is scheduled for 26th March, and there’s loads I want to get finished before my period of enforced immobility, so I could really do with time slowing down, not speeding up. But on the plus side, spring appears to be racing into the garden; I’ve just spotted the annual influx of wild garlic leaves among the flowering bulbs. Now where did I put that recipe for wild garlic pesto?

Writing in February

The first draft of Coombesford Chronicles remains untouched since November. But I’m getting a lot of thinking done (which sounds more energetic than it actually is), and fully expect to get back on track in March.

I’m still working on competition entries and magazine submissions. I had one rejection this month, but it was a nicely-worded one, which makes all the difference. Onward and upward.

Flash fiction appears to be flavour of the month at the moment. I’ve just entered four pieces for National Flash Fiction Day: two for the micro competition (100 words) and two for the anthology (500 words). And at Exeter Writers, we are planning to bring out an anthology in June, to coincide with NFFD, so I’ve been polishing pieces for that too.

But the most exciting writing news this month is that I’ve written a poem! It’s not completely finished yet, but I’m working on it and it’s getting there. For the third year running, Chudleigh Writers Circle is collaborating with local photographers and artists in a Joint Arts Project. This time, we have a painting to trigger our writing. Mine is an abstract that can be seen as either skyscrapers or trees, depending on how the mood takes you. I didn’t find it inspired any prose, but much to my surprise, it did inspire a couple of stanzas of verse. And it doesn’t even rhyme!

Sales and Marketing

The number of copies sold is something authors rarely share – unless it’s one of the superstars that are happy to share their statistics, supposedly as an encouragement to the rest of us. From what I can glean, the performance of my novels is pretty average, certainly not spectacular. But for the first time since I returned my fiction books to Kindle Unlimited, I am starting to see page reads. Someone read the whole of the Suzanne Jones box set in the last few days; and then left me some wonderful reviews on Amazon. For which I am heartily grateful. And to make it even better, I believe this to be a complete stranger!

My Business of Writing books are much more niche and therefore I don’t expect to sell as many copies. But I am going to give them some publicity over the next couple of months, and will be returning them to Kindle Unlimited as well. Let’s see if that has any effect. And I hope to run some workshops based on the BoW materials later in the year. Watch this space for details.

Out and About in February

I spent a delightful afternoon at Moors Edge U3A, just outside Plymouth, taking a meander through seven decades of Movie Moments. The audience was very welcoming and happy to take part in the quiz that I threw at them unannounced. Mind you, it would have helped if I could get my music clips to work, but the technology failed me. Something to sort out in advance of next time.

Last week, I was back on BBC Radio Devon, presenting Pause for Thought. Despite the fact it was a radio broadcast, I picked a selection of my favourite pictures, with the overall theme of Every Picture Tells A Story. I will be reusing the scripts her on my blog in coming months, but if you want a quick listen, you can find all the links on my FaceBook page.

One other appearance this month was an interview on Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo. This was a nice surprise, as I wrote the piece months ago and had forgotten it was due out around now.

And one non-writerly outing worth mentioning was my first ever attempt at an Escape Room. This one was set up in my own town, collecting money for charity. The story line was around finding a hidden serum that would help save local bats from a deadly virus. I attempted it with three other Escape Room virgins and we failed to break out within the hour. In fact, we took 69 minutes in the end. But we didn’t panic; we stayed calm throughout – and learned lots of lessons – like making sure to check everything in the cupboard or trunk once it’s unlocked, rather than just grabbing the obvious things. I’m sure we’ll do much better next time – and there will be a next time – very soon, I hope.

Other Literary News

Preparations for this year’s Exeter Literary Festival are coming on well. We are starting to put some of the speakers in place and have some exciting partner events planned as well. More details as they become available.

And for those of you who enjoy entering Short Story competitions, a final reminder about the great one run by Exeter Writers. With over £1000 in prizes, including £700 for the winner, it’s got to be worth having a go. But you only have until 28th February to get your entries in. Full details can be found here.

Cancer Lifeline South West

I took part in my first ever cake sale at Going Home Time at the local primary school this month. The weather was dire and no-one was hanging around to chat, but cakes were flying off the stall at a great rate of knots. It was the busiest fifteen minutes of the month. And I even baked a cake and made some fridge cookies to sell. So many new experiences this month.

Writers are Readers Too

I’ve read fifteen books so far this year, and am 6 ahead of target. I’m managing to mix fiction and non-fiction, literary and light, which makes for an interesting time. And this month, I’m going to talk about two new (to me) fantasy series – one for Young Adults and one for children. I read one from each series and thoroughly enjoyed them both. Here’s what I wrote in my reviews:

Magyk by Angie Sage

The Heap family lose a child: the seventh son of a seventh son. On the same day, they gain a daughter. Fast forward ten years…The scene is set for much wizardry. There are Ordinary Wizards, an ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Apprentices, an evil Necromancer and a whole host of strange creatures, some lovable, some less so.

Comparisons with Harry Potter are inevitable; but this isn’t a copy; it isn’t derivative. Sure, there re echoes of JKR, but also echoes of Tolkien, C S Lewis, and every other fantasy book that’s ever been written for children. Because there always will be; there are only so many stories to be told.

But Angie Sage has put her own spin on the eternal story of good versus evil and produced a great new set of characters. They don’t replace Harry and their friends, but they certainly deserve a place on the same shelf. Although I’m long past the age group this book is aimed for, I absolutely loved it and devoured it in two days. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. Highly recommended.

George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy Hawking and Stephen Hawking

George lives with parents who abhor technology and are completely into self-sufficiency and saving the planet. But he discovers a very different family living next door, scientists with a super-computer. Together they have adventures. But along the way, there is a huge amount of very difficult science made understandable for children. This is a brilliant book, well-written, a fun learning tool. Highly recommended for any child with an enquiring mind (which is to say, all children).

Just a word of warning to the adults: I heard Lucy Hawking interviewed on the radio and she described the books as Harry Potter, but with science that really works. As a childless HP fan, I bought a copy for myself. However, this really is a children’s book and I found it a bit too simple for me. But as something to read to, or with, your kids, it really is wonderful. 

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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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