Ducie’s Diary: May 2023
Here in the UK, it’s Bank Holiday Monday and the start of Half Term week. Usually, that’s a cue for cold, wet weather. But today, the sun is shining brightly, the wind chimes are playing softly in a gentle breeze, and the birds are positively shouting just outside my office door. Plus we’ve just returned from a weekend in Cornwall, visiting the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I’m even going to suggest we have breakfast in the garden, if this warm spell persists. I do love this time of year.
Writing this month
This has been a very quiet month, writing-wise. The manuscript of Calamity at Coombesford Church is currently being scrutinised by my team of beta readers, so I don’t expect to do any more work on that until some time next month. Instead, I’ve been playing around with plots in my head. I have the beginning for the fourth in the Coombesford Chronicles worked out, ready for drafting in the autumn. And I’ve started thinking about books five and six.
But I’ve also returned to an idea that’s been churning around in my head for years now: an historical novel, set in Russia, based on five sites linked to the Romanovs. I spent several months working on that plot some years ago, and got nowhere with it. Maybe now is the time to have another go? I’m going to mull it over for a bit longer before I try to get any concrete ideas down on paper.
Sales and Marketing
The end of last month was very busy with non-writerly activities and it was without any fanfare at all that I launched my latest collection of short stories, Coombesford Calendar volume II. And, inevitably, the response from my online readers was very low key. However, the paperback sales are doing quite well, and I plan on winding up the marketing effort over the next few weeks, so hopefully I will have more success to talk about next month.
I am happy to report the glitch in sales linked to my Amazon Ads towards the end of April seems to have sorted itself out. Although, having seen a conversation on Facebook yesterday, it would appear that unexplained dips are quite common, at different times of the year, for different writers. Which just goes to confirm my suspicion that this whole marketing lark is three parts guess-work and one part luck!
Out and About
Looking back on my diary for the past month, there seems to have been a lot of eating out, either in restaurants or with friends, plus a fair bit of sight-seeing. But I did manage to slip in two very enjoyable writerly evenings, one as a participant, and one as a member of the audience.
Months ago, I was asked if I would interview Jade Angeles Fitton during the promotional tour for her debut book, Hermit. I was delighted to accept and on 23rd May I spent a wonderful evening with Jade, her friends and family, plus total strangers who had come to hear her speak. You can read my review below, but I want to thank Jade for being such a delight to interview; K J Maitland for recommending me for the event in the first place; and Kate McCloskey, owner of the delightful Dogberry and Finch bookshop in Okehampton for making us feel so welcome.
The following night, I was in Exeter to hear Kim Sherwood talk about her latest novel, A Wild and True Relation and about being the first woman to be commissioned to write a James Bond novel. There were a fair number of writers in the audience, and it’s always great to hear about someone else’s writing and research process. I suspect it’s no coincidence that I’m starting to think about writing something a little different from cosy crime, after listening to Jade and Kim speak.
What Have I Been Reading Lately?
I’ve had a really good month, reading-wise. According to Goodreads, I am 59% through my annual challenge and 17 books ahead of schedule. As you will see below, many of the books have been crime novels, as per usual. But I’ve also made time for some fantasy this time around. And, of course, for Jade’s books, Hermit. Here’s my review for that one:
In this beautifully-written memoir, circumstances dictate that Jade Angeles Fitton spends several years as a modern-day hermit. She moves from an isolated barn on Exmoor, via a cottage in Croyde, to a converted vestry on Lundy. Along the way, she demonstrates her love of nature, and her growing understanding that isolation can be powerful and not necessarily something to be feared or avoided.
The third stage of her journey co-incides with the covid lockdown of early 2021, a time when we were all hermits of a kind. And there are echoes of that time in the book which most readers will recognise. There is also a fair amount of research involved, as Jade introduces the reader to hermits of the past, from religious women of the Middle Ages to the iconic Devon character, Hope Bourne.
Jade’s style is highly lyrical but easy to read, reminding me in places of Robert Macfarlane. Strongly recommended for anyone interested in exploring their own experiences of isolation; and for lovers of wildlife and nature.
And elsewhere on my bookshelves, I’ve also been reading:
An Isolated Incident; Colder Than The Grave; Come Hell Or High Water; City of Scars; Here Lie The Dead; and One For The Ages, all by JD Kirk. Continuing my binge reading from April, I raced through the remainder of the DCI Logan books this month. There are two other series by this author to move on to later, but I’m taking a break for a while.
Murder at Elk Ridge by Ann Shillolo. Following on from the prequel, published a few weeks back, this is the first in a new series set in western Canada, featuring Inspector Hilary Casgrain. Promises to be another good series.
After The Fall by Paul K Joyce. The second in this author’s post-Brexit trilogy, a disturbing future that is all too credible.
The Crossing Places by Ellie Griffiths. More in the same vein as JD Kirk, Angela Marsons, LJ Ross and Damien Boyd. Definitely my next series for binge reading (and there’s another 14 titles to go!)