Ducie’s Diary: July 2022

There was a certain inevitability about what happened this month. After two and half years of feeling vulnerable and keeping ourselves to ourselves, plus two major bouts of knee surgery, we finally decided we could not live our lives in purdah for ever. So we went away to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary, (yes, I know, I must have been a child bride!), staying in one castle and visiting another one during their medieval weekend, then rushed home in time to help on a charity stall at our town’s summer fete. And somewhere along the line, we succumbed. Luckily it was a mild dose for both of us, and we’re fine. Given how much so many other people have suffered, we feel very relieved. But it’s reawakened our feelings of vulnerability once more. Now where did I leave that mask?

But alongside all this, the writerly life continues. What do I have to report this month?

Writing This Month

Ten days ago, I finished the final rewrite of Villainy at the Village Store. My husband and one of my sisters reread it for the fourth and the second time respectively. And we finally agreed it was ready to fly the nest. (Actually, I could still see a few places where I wanted to tinker, but there comes a stage in the evolution of every book, when you have to take a deep breath and let go.) So my manuscript is now with Julia Gibbs, my wonderful proofreader, and I am free to work on all the other aspects of indie publishing. And that includes recruiting ARC readers. If you fancy getting your hands on a pre-publication copy and would like to help me build a pre-launch buzz, just drop me a line and I’ll add you to my list.

In our online networking group, Authors in a Pickle, we’ve challenged ourselves to all get something submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul before the end of the year. I’ve spotted a couple of themes that appeal to me, but they expire at the end of this month. So I’m hoping to get something drafted for that this week.

Sales and Marketing

Regular readers may remember my mentioning the 5-Day Author Ad Profit Challenge, run once a quarter by Bryan Cohen. I took it in January, with Murder at Mountjoy Manor, and again in April, with The Business of Writing 4 Independent Publishing. Both those campaigns are still running and are in profit. (Okay, if I was still working for a living, I wouldn’t be ready to give up the day job off the back of those profits, but it’s still black ink rather than red.) And I started it all over again this month, with Counterfeit! Each time I do it, I learn something new. I get to interact with lots of other indie authors and get feedback on my ad copy. And it’s fun. It’s early days with this third one, but that also appears to be in profit.

Out and About

There were a couple of face-to-face events planned for July, which unfortunately I had to duck out of due to covid. I missed the event in Ivybridge Bookshop and also talking to one of the local WI groups. Hopefully these events can be rearranged at some point in the future. I also missed meetings of both my writing groups.

One appointment I was able to keep was with the Tregolls Lodge Book Club in Truro. This thriving group has presentations every Thursday afternoon and a monthly newsletter packed with interviews. So if any authors reading this fancy getting in touch, I’m sure they’d be delighted to hear from you. Having made a presentation to them over Skype, I was delighted when they ordered copies of all five of my novels. I’ve so missed face to face events over the past couple of years. It’s great to be starting them once more, even if some of them are still virtual.

August is looking to be very busy. For the first time since 2019, I will be returning to Derbyshire for the Writers’ Summer School in Swanwick and running the Book Room once again. (I really must remember to get some of my own books ordered ready for that.) Most years I post a daily update on here from Swanwick. At the moment, I’m not sure whether I will do so this year, as I can’t think of a suitable theme. But usually, when I drive up the hill to the car park of The Hayes conference centre, the ‘magic of Swanwick’ takes over and inspiration appears. So watch this space.

And courtesy of the South Hams Authors’ Network, I will be appearing at two local events during the month as well. On Saturday 20th August, I’m talking about being ‘A Broad Abroad’ at the Dartmoor Edge Creative Cafe in the Clay Factory at Ivybridge. Then, two days later, on Monday 22nd August, I will be talking all things cosy murder at the Totnes Literary Festival.

What Have I Been Reading Lately?

I’ve been catching up on some long-overdue reading this month. And I’m going to mention two books, both of which have been on my TBR list for far too long.

While Paris Slept is the debut novel by Ruth Druart, published in February 2021 and comes courtesy of a recommendation from Ian Hobbs at Devon Book Club. It’s quite a hefty book at nearly 500 pages, yet it’s a measure of how much I enjoyed it, that I finished it in just over a day. Set in Paris in 1944 and California in 1953, it’s a a tale of a heart-breaking decision taken on the spur of the moment and the long-reaching implications of that decision. Ruth’s second novel is about to be published and I look forward to reading that one too. Here’s my review:

A child handed to a stranger in heart-breaking circumstances. Two couples living with secrets and a tragic past. These are the key elements in this debut novel. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, and WWII is one of my least favourite periods, yet once I’d started, I couldn’t put it down and finished the whole book in just over a day. The ending was no great surprise but even so, was well-written. And the historical background appeared genuine and well-researched without being a brain-dump of information. Highly recommended.

My second book is non-fiction and comes courtesy of the authors, Pam and Peter Keevil. How To Be Happy was published in May 2021 and is subtitled: Turning Tiny Steps into Giant Strides. It’s a simple, straightforward book which explains the scientific background to the subject in terms that can be understood by everyone. It has some great tips and advice on how to make one’s own plans. Here’s my review:

How To Be Happy by Pam and Peter Keevil does exactly what it says on the cover. It tells us, in clear, simple terms what factors affect our happiness levels and what we can do to enhance them. There’s nothing new in this book, but it provides a well-researched overview of the topic with clear links to further study if required. Each chapter encourages thought and application to oneself. I was particularly struck by the chapter on Aims and by the one on Action. The mention of global happiness is very relevant at present. Highly recommended. I’m off now to repay my sleep debt and plan some small steps.

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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