Ducie’s Diary: May 2022

I may have said this about other months during the year, but May really is my favourite. It’s the time when the garden seems to explode with life and colour. Looking out of my office window, I see an ancient blood-red rose wrapping itself around the archway; a foxglove reaching nearly two meters in height, and flower beds stuffed to overflowing with shrubs and perennials. The huge clump of purple irises (or flags, as we used to call them) are sparkling with raindrops in the early morning sunshine. And as we’ve recently had our white walls repainted, it’s positively Mediterranean out there. But enough about the garden. What’s going on in my writerly world?

Writing This Month

Right on schedule, at the end of April, I received the feedback from my beta readers for Villainy at the Village Store. And yes, they DID spot those plot holes I was hiding (not to mention a few I hadn’t noticed). So I’m busily editing at the moment. Which is to say I’m staring out of the window most of the time, trying to work out how to beef up the main protagonist’s story. In my head she’s always been the key person, but some of the feedback made me realise I hadn’t made that clear. She appears far too late and doesn’t play a large enough role until right at the end. It’s a bit of a puzzle, but I’m getting there. And I’ve given myself until the end of June to get it finished. That’s still on target for an October launch.

In the meantime, my gorgeous new cover is ready, courtesy once again of the very talented Berni Stevens. I’m delighted with it and think it will fit nicely into the Coombesford Chronicles family. What do you think of it? Do drop me a line and let me know.

Sales and Marketing

I launched Coombesford Calendar volume I at the end of April. It was a low-key event, just a side-line to my main series of cozy mysteries, but it’s been well-received, which is pleasing. It features some old favourite characters from Murder at Mountjoy Manor, but also introduces some new ones who will appear in later novels. There are no killings in this collection; it’s a chance to find out what the residents of the village get up to when they are not solving – or committing – murders.

Last month, I mentioned Bryan Cohan’s 5 Day Amazon Ads Challenge which I completed in both January and April. One of the ongoing tasks is to crunch the numbers weekly. And last week, I finally spotted the adverts are beginning to work! It’s still early days, and the profit is tiny. But I can still say I made more money in sales than I spent on the adverts. That feels like a huge step forward.

Counterfeit! is still permafree, in ebook format, at the moment but will be reverting to full price at the end of June. I’m still getting a small but regular level of downloads without any additional promotion and the number of global ratings has risen by more than 50% since January. However, the read-through to the rest of the series has been less than I hoped for, which is disappointing. A number of book marketing experts suggest permafree is no longer the great promotional tool it used to be, and I’ve concluded I agree with them. So, if you were thinking of trying the first in my series of thrillers set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals, and want to grab a free copy, do so in the next four weeks.

Out and About

May saw quite a lot of activity on the Crime Writers’ Association front. I attended my first South West Chapter lunch, which was great fun, if a little daunting. It’s been a long while since I’ve sat around a large table and shared a meal with people outside of my immediate family. Covid has a lot to answer for, hasn’t it? I also met up with a few of the more local members and we began plotting our activities for Crime Reading Month, which is coming up in June. A group of us will be presenting Crime and Cupcakes in St Lawrence Chapel, Ashburton on Thursday 23rd June. If you are in the area, it would be great to see you and tickets are available from Gnash bookshop. There may well be other events coming up here in the south west during the month, in which case, we will promote them via social media. But for those of you elsewhere in the UK, check out #PickUpAPageTurner to see what’s going on in your area.

The May meeting of Chudleigh Writers Circle featured a great session on Show And Tell, (rather than Show Not Tell), led by two of the members. It was interesting to hear their views and get to practice both types of writing. We all know we should think about this every time we write, but it’s so easy to forget. Exeter Writers has now returned to face to face meetings as well. It’s taking a while to get used to all being in the same room once again, but the write-in was fun (and productive).

I’ve recently joined another group, the South Hams Authors’ Network. They meet monthly in a pub in Ivybridge, and differ from the Chudleigh and Exeter groups in that there is a focus on getting published and promotion, rather than on the writing. It’s fascinating to see how different groups approach what is essentially the same question: how do we get our stories out there in front of the readers? I spent an enjoyable couple of hours with two other local authors last week, talking about our writing and reading from our books in Totnes Library. The audience was tiny but very appreciative. It felt like another small step on the road to normality.

Oh, and on top of all that, I spent a wonderful day in Wells with my two sisters. No book talk, just lots of gossip, eating and laughter. It’s good to be out out.

What Have I Been Reading Lately?

I’ve recently discovered a new (to me) author that’s becoming a favourite of mine. Anne Shillolo lives in Canada and, like me, mainly writes crime fiction, although she also writes romcom novellas.

If you like your crime police-based, but not too gritty, you would enjoy Anne’s Port Alma Murder Mysteries. Check out my reviews of the first in series, Goodbye Port Alma, and book five, Goodbye Lake Street.

But if you prefer cozy crime, especially with a good helping of canine support, you’re going to love the Cottage Country Cozy Mysteries series. I came to this rather late in the day, with Poodle versus The Spy, which came out last month, but am looking forward to catching up with the rest of the series in due course. Here’s my review:

It’s maple syrup season in Cottage Country, but this important time, both for tourists and the economy, is threatened by a violent death and a spate of burglaries. As the police struggle to find the culprits, Zora, her team of reporters, new husband, and two wonderful pooches decide they need to lend a hand.

With plenty of possible suspects, a few red herrings, bad boys turned good, and those two adorable poodles, this is a perfect example of a cozy murder mystery. It’s the tenth in the series and, although it reads perfectly well as a stand-alone, as a new reader, I now intend to go back and read the series from the start. Highly recommended for fans of this genre.

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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