Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Competition updates...

Remember the Get Your Stiletto in the Door Competition run by Chick-Lit Writers of the World in conjunction with the Romance Writers of America?

The Finalists in the various categories should have been announced by now, but there was a high number of entries overall and a few judges seemingly pulled out -understandably creating a delay.

Hopefully the finalists lists will soon be announced. I know someone who has recently been told by e-mail she is a finalist in the YA category, but doesn't know more than this. So keep checking their website for an announcement soon.

Sadly the continuing bad weather has led to the cancellation of Nottingham Writers' Club Awards Night on the 1st December, so my learning the written comments of the judges of my novel competition entries will be delayed until early January 2011.
I'm disappointed, but delays happen for writers.

Meanwhile The Bad Sex in Fiction prize was awarded to Rowan Somerville for his second book 'The Shape of Her'. This was presented by Michael Winner.

(I wonder what the winner gets? A trophy, a certificate, a large bottle of something alcoholic to drown their sorrows, or celebrate. )

Alastair Campbell's appeared in the media a few days before saying he would like to win the award. It seems his enthusiasm may have put the judges off...But at least he can say he got to the shortlist unlike Mr T Blair.

Well there's always next year...

Sunday, 28 November 2010


I've been fortunate this year in not suffering too badly from the snow. I live in an area that seems to escape heavy snowfall which can be very disappointing to the younger members of the family who long for more snow so they can build a snowman and throw snowballs at each other.

It is freezing cold at night so any standing water turns to thick ice...

I woke up Saturday morning to see a light covering of snow in the back garden, but as the day progressed and the sun shone the snow began to melt on the trees and any surface in direct sunlight. Only the grass and darker areas of the garden still have snow lingering.

So just in case this is the only snow we get I stepped outside and took a picture of the lingering snow on the Blackberry bush in garden.

snow,grass,fence,rooflines,water butt
a slight dusting
So will there be more snow tomorrow?

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Useful and Interesting Websites...

The world wide web has been a boon to writers of fiction or non-fiction- or both. We can now access documents and pictures that would have previously required time and a visit to libraries or museums that may not even be in the same county or even the same country!

One website leads to another and a reference on one to another. Result, a problem solved, knowledge gained or another story idea pops up- I have too many of them to deal with at the moment.

Thank goodness for Favourites...

As I'm having a quiet spell (Wednesday evening and Awards Night at my writers' club approaches - my competition entries will be returned with the judges comments) I thought I'd suggest some interesting websites that I have in my Favourites folder that you might want to look at some time.

History. I love history as you may have realised from the posts about my recent travels. So I've chosen two sites that I'm sure you will enjoy.

The Georgian Index can be graphic intensive so you can click on a text only A-Z list (well Y actually) and go from there. There's also a Napoleonic and American Front Door you can explore (those leads I mentioned).

Particular sections that interest me in the GI include the London Street and Business Index covering London Merchants (with addresses and dates where known).
Just a few examples:
Gun makers- where a Gentleman would go to obtain his weaponry or practice on targets.

Goldsmiths and Jewelers- where Royalty and the wealthy were supplied.

Purveyors (suppliers) of Wine, Tea or Food- Twining for Tea (still producing tea now) and Fortnum and Masons- a well known name- who thrived providing care packages (apparently) for Officers during the Napoleonic Wars.

Modistes, Milliners and Furriers- for Ladies clothing.

Addresses recognised in Regency romances: Grosvenor Square, Hanover Square, Bond Street and Park Lane...

You can find out what the card games of Piquet and Loo were at a Regency Card Party and see pictures of Furniture and a Sedan Chair (I don't envy those Chairmen who carried people around).

There's so much to find out-I haven't even touched on the list of Newspapers...

At a slightly later date- Victorian- there is The Victorian Web.

This site is very text intensive so be warned.

Subjects covered include Thomas Hardy's Dorchester, a gallery of images you can click on including one of the building reputed to be the house of Henchard in the Mayor of Casterbridge- it is now a Bank.

Architecture- Gothic Revival,  Classicism and Moorish.

Victorian Theatre, Gender matters, the list just goes on. You will find something that interests you in the numerous pages.

So go and have a look and enjoy...

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Christmas and Memories...

Yes, this time next month it will be Christmas Day- well in the UK it will be...

Just to get everyone in the mood for the big day the December mini poll is about your favourite Christmas songs- both modern and traditional.

I know that when I start to hear these songs on the radio or on tv channels with non-stop music videos then Christmas is coming. But those songs may also stir good memories of people who may no longer be in our lives, or events and emotions that we always associate with particular songs.

This is another method of inspiring ideas- you could apply it to songs in the summer too.

I always associate Slade's 'Merry Christmas Everybody' with being a teenager. More often now it's crowded over-heated shops...

I hope you'll take part in this month's mini poll and do please use the comment form to share your favourite songs at this time of year.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

November Mini Poll

So here are the results of November's fun mini poll- preferred hair colour of your hero/heroine.

Blond/e         14%

Brunette        71%

Red              14%

Grey             0%

Bald              0%

Don't mind    14%

Okay it was only a small number of responses...:)

But I must admit only the occasional hero of mine is blond, so perhaps I need to redress the balance.

Monday, 22 November 2010

All writers have...

I met up with a writer friend today and between the cake and coffee we strayed onto books and unsurprisingly agreed that...

All writers:

Have a big stack of books that they have bought and intend to read- they just haven't got round to it yet...

If they see a notebook they like they'll buy it, even if they have a dozen in the drawer at home...

Lots of methods for backing up your work- I seem to have quite a few memory sticks now...

Among the big stack of books in my home are quite a few that are for reference. Sometimes they relate to a project I intend to get to later, rather than now or the next few months.
I just have this fear that if I don't get it when I see it I won't remember or find it again- when I do need it.

Now you'll probably have your own ideas of what to add to the list, so please share your particular writing related must haves in the comments section- just to reassure us all we are not crazy, we're just writers.

Friday, 19 November 2010

And the Contenders are...

It's that time of year again...

No, not Christmas shopping. I mean the shortlist for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, an annual highlight of the Literary Review that has (in the past) probably included writers who hid behind their computer screens in shame, while others wholeheartedly embraced their inclusion.

You can see the shortlist here.

Ex-PrimeMinister Tony Blair was nominated a few months ago to much media comment for a few lines in his recently published biography, but he escaped while his former spin-doctor Alistair Campbell didn't and is included for a second time (that must tell him something).

You can read why some of this year's shortlist were selected by the judges in an article in the Guardian's book section.

This year's winner will be announced on the 29th November at a ceremony in the In & Out Club in St James's Square.

Now if you want to read an example of good sex in fiction ask any romance writer.

My personal choice... No- I can't pick just one, there are just too many good ones to choose from...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Competition and events for all you poets...

I've received details about the Ware Poets Open Poetry Competition for 2011, being judged by Carole Satyamurti.

Poems no longer than 50 lines. You need an entry form to go with your £3 entry fee and you can find the pdf form and details here. (just scroll down the page) The closing date is the 30th April 2011. There's also a Sonnet Competition too.

(You'll also find other poetry events and competitions on the above link.)

If you want to see the winners of the Ware Poets 2010 competition then look here.

Now I have to admit I can't write poetry- and yes I have tried- once. Perhaps I'll try again when I'm older...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Learning the Ropes...The Ropery

window sill,thick rope

When we start learning the skills we need to improve our writing you could say we're learning the ropes. But that is also the term for anyone learning about the ropes on a ship or making rope.

So to my visit to The Ropery at the Chatham Historic Dockyard...

It's very popular so you need to get your tickets for the free timed guided tour when you pay for your entry to the dockyard- it's worth every penny.

Admiral Nelson's ship Victory couldn't have run without the miles and miles of rope that were used for the rigging, the sails and even the anchor- three different sizes for the different uses.

I have to admit that I didn't take notes of the names (yes, bad girl for not writing it down I know ) as I was trying to keep hold of one of my children and I was enjoying the commentary by the lady guide who was entertaining us as we went along.
The Ropery is shown to visitors set in 1875, when mechanical spinning machines were used and women were working and had their own entrance door- so they didn't mix with the men...

Entrance to Spinning Room-Women Only

The fun began when a few of the visitors were chosen to make rope. The yarns were fixed and had to be twisted- you don't need a bad back for this- then they are combined together and with the addition of a cone shaped  device and more turning you eventually get a length of thin rope. The victims- I mean volunteers- received a section of rope they had worked hard to produce, but we could all imagine how physically exhausting the rope production was, even though we'd only seen a small piece produced.

yarns,machinery,making rope

We finally moved into the Ropewalk and looked down the length of the building, it was a long long distance and they must have been very fit...

Down the Ropewalk

Here's some of the machinery. It is still working making rope.


Well I'm just glad I don't have to go up and down the building all day.

If you get the chance to visit  you will certainly learn about history and the part  The Ropery played in  the shipping history of this country...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

I Visited Waterstones Today...

I don't usually go shopping in the city centre at the weekend but I was buying a birthday present, so I popped into my local branch to see what was available for Christmas too.

I was delighted to see the squishy sofa seating had been put in downstairs and some moving around of sections making it seem a little more open.

If you read my blog in October about my difficulties buying romance books then I can tell you that there has been some improvement.

Romance is no longer in an alcove between erotica and horror, it is now at the end of a range of shelving units- much more comfortable in the viewing stakes.

It now comes after the horror books- okay, nothing is perfect. I can ignore the books to my left.

Still a limited choice in romance (compared to the range that the departed Borders held) but that's retail.

I noticed Nora Roberts books ( reissues of many of her category romances that I bought first time round)  have made it into the A-Z Fiction sections rather than being within romance, but with so many shelves to fill it would have unbalanced the romance section if they'd been put there...

I did buy a book though. It was a Shire Library book on Early Firearms 1300-1800 by Michael Spencer. (Research for one of my characters)

I'm a fan of Shire Books and certainly recommend having a look at their website. If you want an overview of a subject then they are very useful, plus there is a list of places to visit and further reading on the subject of the book, so you can follow on from it if you need to.

Right I'm off to read my new book...

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Never to be Forgotten

Today we remember the dead of past wars and those that are dying in conflicts now.

I thought that I would bring a particular website to your attention. It's the War Graves Photographic Project.

"The aim of The War Graves Photographic Project is to photograph every war grave, individual memorial, MoD grave, and family memorial of serving military personnel from WWI to the present day and make these available within a searchable database."

Volunteers photograph the graves and memorials for inclusion in the project and it will obviously take quite a while if they are to achieve their aim, "to photograph in excess of 1.75 million graves or memorials from Commonwealth Nations and many from other military forces around the world."

I posted the link for the website on a writers forum I belong to and a member was able to send the link with the picture of a relative's grave to another family member.

Many of us will have had an ancestor in the armed forces during the First or Second World War- in my own family history one of my grandfather's and two great uncles fought. One of those great-uncles lies in Artillery Wood Cemetary in Belguim.

So please support this project...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

E-books and the Agency Model- Part 2...

Since my blog on this item in October more publishers have moved to selling their e-books on the agency model.

Hatchette has been joined by big publishers Penguin and HarperColins. No doubt more will be looking at their options.

Amazon -with a big share of the e-book sales market- apparently saw a high response from customers on their (Amazon co.uk) Kindle forum to the imposition of a set price. Some even threatened to boycott any e-book from these publishers.

Only the sales figures will tell if it had an effect.

Meanwhile Waterstones have signed a deal with HarperColins to sell its e-books on agency terms and consequently removed giving loyalty card points on any HC e-book purchase...

Today, on the Bookseller website they highlighted the comments of agent Annette Green on the view from here blog- you can read the whole piece there by clicking the link at the bottom of this Bookseller article.
She remarks that it is a "stupendously ill-judged attempt to revive the ghost of the Net Book Agreement" and fears it will only encourage piracy.

We all know what happened with the music industry and I know I don't want to see that happen again with the publishing industry...

The Fry Chronicles (Stephen Fry's new book) was used as an example of the price discrepancy created. Today the Kindle version is selling for £12.99, while the Hardcover copy is £9.50, even the Audio CD is only selling for £12.11.
(Waterstones doesn't have this e-book available at the moment- no idea if that is through choice or that particular e-book format not yet being available.)

If the publishers think the customer will happily pay (before discount) hardcover prices for e-book downloads someone should throw a bucket of cold water over them to wake them up to reality.

There are small companies who have started to produce their own e-books for sale on the web and via the big suppliers. They aren't going to go the agency route as it wouldn't help their emerging businesses.

Readers who wouldn't think of downloading a pirated copy of an e-book may stop buying or will seek out new authors (hopefully) from other (non agency) suppliers.

Other readers may just decide to get their literary fix from pirated copies. If that happens everyone loses out  and as the music industry has found, it's hard to get the genie back in the bottle once it's out...

So what do you think? Have you any views on the agency model and what it could mean to the future of e-books? You're welcome to comment using the box below.

The Ropery Coming soon...

Just to let you know that this blog will be along in a few days, but it's been pushed off the agenda by the latest salvo's in the e-book/agency model situation, which will be the subject of my next post.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Rye in the rain...and Inspiration

It has been a long time since I visited Rye and it was warm and sunny the day I did visit. This time it was cold and very wet...

If you have heard of Rye then it may be in relation to sheep and smuggling. But it has a notable literary claim- more later.

The sheep provided the wool that supported the community, along with fishing, especially needed when land reclaimed from the sea reduced tidal-flows and allowed silt to build up in the rivers and harbour reducing the advantages of their seaport.

Smuggling thrived in the Rye area, so when luxury goods were added to the agenda the gangs involved didn't hesitate to employ violence- murder and intimidation- if required, and blood was spilled...

(Reality truly was very different to the smuggler heroes of historical romances published in this century.)

If you're interested, find out about the Hawkhurst Gang in 18thC Kent and Sussex.

As to the literary side of the town, it was actually the home of a lot of authors, among them - Henry James the American Novelist who lived at Lamb House and wrote a number of his books there. (Lamb House is now a National Trust Property.)
17th C dramatist John Fletcher. Children's author Malcolm Saville and Author/Cartoonist John Ryan who is best known for his TV cartoon 'Captain Pugwash', loved by children and adults alike.

I even got a story idea from visiting the Ypres Tower (built in 1249). The tower under the ownership of a Trust and is staffed by volunteers who are knowledgeable and interested in the building's care and preservation.
On the upper floor, apart from the display material you can walk out onto a observation area and view the Romney Marshes and the surrounding landscape- a spectacular view.
I appreciated it from the doorway...

As to the inspiration, the upper room got me thinking...What if you woke up in a tower room but couldn't remember how you got there...

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Coming up this week...

Sounds like tv...:)

I thought I'd let you know about the final two visits (from my recent short break) which will be appearing on my blog this week- before my normal posts return.

First there is Rye and Inspiration- History and Writers both involved.

Making Rope- with photos from my recent visit to The Ropery at the Chatham Historic Dockyard.

Hope you're enjoying these posts and if you want to comment please use the Comments box, either on this post, or the other 'place' posts.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Tunbridge Wells and The Pantiles...


My trip to Royal Tunbridge Wells reminded me of my years in college. I would often  meet up with my friends and (just like young women do now) we'd shop, have coffee and chat. This often included a stroll along the colonnade in The Pantiles.

The modern shopping area is at the top of the hill, updated and still as busy as it was thirty years ago. While the older part of town is at the bottom, almost in a valley.

To reach The Pantiles you walk along a road of old shops, old but not tatty. They have fresh paintwork and clean windows. On one side, the pavement is stepped up and there are black benches to rest on- and my legs did need a rest for a few minutes...or more!

When you walk into the Pantiles the outside intrusions of the everyday world- and the traffic running alongside the area- is dampened and for the time you are there you are cocooned from the hustle and bustle of the modern high street. 

The Pantiles are a good example of the modern world meeting the past harmoniously and each benefiting.

The surrounding Georgian buildings house businesses of all sizes, and one in the centre of the square, houses the tourist information centre.

Former names,Square,places

Tourist Information-not established in the 18th Century...

tourist information,square,red paving

Tunbridge Wells was a watering place of the aristocracy, even rivalling Brighton and Bath. The Chalybeate Spring (discovered in c1606) is still there and working.

Spring,red paving,columns,water

This facade was restored in 1987 and the water is still served by 'Dippers' between Easter and the end of September.

You can post your letters or postcards into an elegant Victorian post box with a decorative top-much nicer than the standard round boxes.


columns,tables,chairs,signs,clocks,treesAnd a final view before I strolled away at a lady-like pace...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Charles Dickens, the Castle and Rochester...

castle walls,lamps,paving slabs

Rochester Castle dominates the skyline of this Medway estuary town. Across the road from the Castle is the Cathedral and both play a part in the two Dickens Festivals held each year. In early June the members of The Dickens Fellowship Society dress up in Victorian costume and parade through the streets and in the castle gardens.

In December they have a Dickensian Christmas- after all Dickens did write 'A Christmas Carol'...

Dickens moved to Chatham as a child- where his father worked in the dockyard- so he would have been familiar with the streets and buildings of Rochester as it was the next door town. Many of the old buildings still exists, so you could actually be walking in Dickens footsteps as you wander along the main streets.

There are brown plaques attached to buildings detailing characters and locations used in Dickens novels, and you could spend time following their trail.

Close to the entrance to the Castle is a restaurant called Topes, and you can see an example of the details on the picture below.
Dickens books,characters

Sadly it was too late in the day when I got there to visit the Museum-with a Dickens room- but hopefully I'll get back there one day to visit...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Just for fun...

During my recent trip I saw a great poster in the window of an Estate Agent's and thought it might make you smile.

dogs,red hair,collar

Monday, 1 November 2010

The Historic Dockyard Chatham and avoiding submarines...

I'll leave avoiding the big submarine to last...

It was a cold, but bright, Monday morning and I had a bag of supplies to keep me and the family fuelled as we went round the vast site.

It's not hard to stand and imagine the hustle and bustle that would have taken place there, every day, since the late 1500's.

If a ship was made of wood and sailed into battle then it probably came from the Chatham Dockyards.

In the dock where Nelson's 'Victory' once stood there is now a WWII destroyer called the HMS Cavalier (1944) which you can go onto to look around. Space is very cramped, upper walkways are narrow (not being slim, at one point I had to sidestep along one of these to get to the next set of steps down. Okay I didn't like the steep drop down the side of the ship I could see, so facing the bulkhead was reassuring...)

Going up and down stairs visitors are advised to turn round and go down backwards- it is easier, but there were occasions when fellow visitors needed to help one another by passing bags up or down hatchways- handbags got through okay but picnic laden bags made climbing difficult. Thick coats were also a disadvantage...

As I'm not great with heights (if I can see straight down) I left my family happily exploring and took myself (and our supplies) off the ship and sat on a nearby bench while my legs went from wobbly jelly to normal...

My favourite had to be the elegant HMS Gannet (1878) a Victorian steamer that started life policing the various sea areas of the British Empire. It has been beautifully restored and is licenced for the performance of marriges- a great venue for a wedding...

Stepping aboard I could imagine walking along the deck in a big dress, a shawl and bonnet as in Victorian days- admitedly the decks were fairly clear when they wouldn't have been in those times... It was solid and reassuring, despite one my son's pointing out that if it had been hit by a missile there would have been lots of splintered wood flying around to kill you!

This is HMS Gannet in all her glory...
HMS Gannet (1878)

Now the submarine- it was huge and black. It was just too long to be able to get it in a photo.
HM Submarine Ocelot (1962) is certainly imtimidating to look at, it was the last warship built at Chatham for the Royal Navy. It's an 'O' class diesal-electric submarine and stayed in service until 1981.

You can look round it, but you have to go on timed tours (by ticket). You also need to be fairly mobile to move through the sections- you receive instructions on how to do this. But the diagram on the entry building with a circle showing the diameter of hatches helped decide me to stay up top.

You can see some official pictures here

I did walk down the steps into the dry dock where it is berthed and walked underneath and up the steps on the other side. Even that brief contact was impressive.

For anyone interested in lifeboats there is also the RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection, it  features fifteen lifeboats from early pulling versions and sailboats to motor lifeboats from the 20th century and beyond.

I'll leave the Ropery for another day, but if you want to find out more and have a look at their photogallery, you will find lots of information here

There is so much to see and do while you are at the Historic Dockyard Chatham and it really is worth the visit if you are ever in the Medway valley...