Monday, 31 December 2012

Not Got an E-Reader Yet?

Yes, I'm back...

E-readers seem to have been a popular Christmas present again this year, but I think Christmas 2012 will have seen the biggest choice of devices available.

In the UK the choice has previously been Kindle or Sony- despite Sony readers having been available first, they couldn't compete with the Kindle once it became available to UK readers.

(You may even have taken to reading your e-books on your smart phone...)

But this year there's been an explosion of devices available from new e-readers to tablets.

Publishers have finally got their act together this year too.
You can buy e-books direct from many publisher now- the big mainstream publishers will likely cost more than you'd pay at Amazon, but buying direct from a small independent publisher is a great way of discovering new writers and supporting these important organisations too.

Tablet devices were selling well before Christmas, as they offered the practicality of reading books and being able to access the Internet (though you are paying a higher price).

In October I bought my kobo glo and I'm really happy with it. (It has much better battery life than the first generation Sony e-reader I had.) With the adjustable font and text size, along with the front light, it's great for reading in the car as daylight fades- I couldn't do that with my previous reader.

How do you choose the right e-reader for you if you're finally venturing into e-books? The answer is as usual, research.

Don't be put off by the variety of technology discussed on the TechRadar website, it has some interesting reviews on Tablet devices and e-readers, so type in the name of the device you're interested in finding out about in the search box and go from there.

There are lots of online reviews available, so compare views.

You can try out Kindles in Waterstones book stores, and Kobos in WH Smith's. In fact wherever e-readers (of whatever make) are sold instore you'll find them on display to try out. (Talking the UK here.)

This Christmas (over 3 days) I read 2.25 novels, and at least 10 previews of books I was interested in. It was lovely to spend Boxing Day curled up on the sofa reading - and my books didn't get bent or creased by something resting on top of them in my bag...

I do still buy paper books- just ask my family - but you can't beat e-books and readers for space saving. :-)

Happy New Year...




Sunday, 30 December 2012

Are You Ready for 2013?

Hope you had a good Christmas.

I'm slowly returning to some sort of normality, despite a cold that two members of the family had over Christmas and have now given to me; but the good news is I'm breathing okay and haven't developed a chest infection, so three cheers for my inhalers...

Actually I'm starting to get itchy fingers. I want to get back to the novella, but the family are all at home, and there's little peace and quiet, so I'll be catching up on a few outstanding tasks meanwhile- why does everything that needs you to do something, or ring up, arrive on Christmas Eve when it's too late?

At least I'll be able to get straight to work when they do go back to their normal routine.

I intend to try out a few different strategies in 2013 to attempt to get more writing done.

So strategy 1: Stop procrastinating and write 100-500 words minimum each week- if I do more, great. It may not seem much, but it's setting myself a better routine.

As I haven't thought of a second strategy yet, the first one better work... :-)

I've also realised that my sense of what day of the week it actually is, will have returned by then!

I'm writing this Sunday evening, but I keep thinking it's Saturday- probably because the usual weekend tv programmes aren't necessarily on...

Hope 2012 was a good year for you. But if it wasn't, I hope you have better times in 2013.

Friday, 21 December 2012

A Few Important Reminders That Pay You...

This will be my last blog post for a week, I'm taking some time-off to recharge my batteries and catch up with some reading- as well as sorting presents and organising food for the hungry horde (my OH and growing children- if only they would stop growing :-) ).

Before you finish for the year you might want to make sure that you've added everything you need to add to your ALCS (Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society) page. You'll find some of the available downloads useful. And best of all if you have any qualifying work it will eventually mean you'll get payments.

A big thank you to writer Vivian Hampshire who mentioned DACS on the Talkback forum.

This is similar to ALCS but for visual artists- and if you're a writer who has had your photos or artwork used in a UK magazine, in books, or broadcast on certain TV channels, then you may be eligible for future payments.

You have to claim each year, and it's too late for 2012's Payback, but it will relaunch in summer 2013, so if you're eligible sign up now ready for next year.

So remember:

  "If you are a photographer, illustrator, sculptor, cartoonist, fine artist, animator, architect, designer or craftsperson, and your work has been reproduced in UK publications or on UK television, you can claim your royalties due."

So find out more here.

Don't forget PLR (Public Lending Rights), register your print books there- do it by the end of June each year.

E-books currently don't qualify for payment, but I was told by the Licencing section of the ALCS this week to submit the details so they were on record; even very short stories in anthologies qualify.

Who knows, if there's enough presence of e-books, and library lending of e-books becomes more widely available, it may help the case for future payments- it's been recommended that library loans for e-books should get PLR, but it's not been put into action yet.

Merry Christmas...

image courtesy of digitalart/ http://freedigitalphotos.net




Tuesday, 18 December 2012

It's the Office Party-Welcome to My Christmas Past...

As mentioned yesterday, today is the Office Party for all of us who are the only people in the office...

So to my little piece about Christmas- don't worry, I can't access the old photo of me sat on Santa's knee (I was only 5 years old :-) ).

But that did get me thinking about Christmas in the 60's compared to Christmas now.

In fact there was one special day every Christmas when I was little that told me Christmas was on its way. We lived an hour from London (by train) and the adventure started the moment we came out of Charring Cross Station.

Across in Trafalgar Square the big tree would be covered in lights- not on during the daylight of course.

We take for granted that the streets will be decorated with coloured lights in fantastic designs, but when I was little that was a rarity outside of the big cities. But I did get to see the Christmas lights in Regents Street every year.
Christmas Lights
The lights were strung from one side of the street to the other like a bejewelled necklace; and I remember walking along gazing up in delight at the stars and curls of light that filled me with absolute wonder.

There would always be a visit to look around Hamley's. We couldn't afford to buy anything, but it was a joy to see the toys out
and to my imagination at six I thought that this must be what Santa's workshop looked like...

Our next stop would be to look at the different window displays at Selfridges. The big windows were filled with Christmas montages...

As the daylight faded we would walk back along the streets now lit up to full effect in the darkness.

The day would finish off with a trip to the Panto at the London Palladium. I remember seeing Tommy Steele as Dick Whittington, and I've vague recollections of Jack and the Beanstalk too.

One year it was Cilla Black playing Aladdin...

Having found a link about the pantomimes held at the Palladium, I've just realised how many 'names' I saw as a child...This makes interesting reading.

When the panto was over we'd wander back to Trafalgar Square, look at the Christmas tree lights one last time, then go across to the station to get our train home. I certainly slept at the end of the day, dreaming of all the wonderful things I'd seen...


Snowman design courtesy of Feelart/freedigitalphotos.net
Christmas Banner courtesy of Simon Howden/freedigitalphotos.net



Monday, 17 December 2012

A Week to Go...

Okay, it's 7 days to Christmas Eve...

Every year I promise I'll get my cards written and posted off before the deadline for 2nd Class postage (it's the 18th in case you didn't know it). And of course I've still got to do them, and write a few letters to go inside them.

I did consider doing a round-robin letter, but I know a lot of people absolutely hate them, so that time-saver is out.

A Jolly Holly Christmas
There's still presents to finish getting- small bits and pieces- so that's scheduled for later in the week.

Construction work is underway at home- though it's outside this time. My OH has a few days off this week, so he's assisting one of our sons in making a new side gate.

I will be passing the stiff broom to them to sweep up the chiseled out wood bits... :-)

Sadly winter bugs have invaded the house, with another son feeling ill today, he couldn't even face the trip to college...Just as long as he doesn't pass the lurgy onto me.

Another was partying today with his class mates- he took a large bag of mixed variety crisp packets with him this morning.

I'm finalising my choices of e-books to buy and download ready for the holidays. It will probably be busy Christmas day, with the big advertising push for e-readers and tablets.

Tomorrow- TUESDAY- you can join in with Sally Quilford's Office Party - read about it here.

We do miss out by working from home, so tomorrow put on your party hat and join in.

I'll be a little late as I have things to do first, but I'll be there at some point with my blog post. :-)

See you tomorrow.

'Holly' image courtesy of SusieB/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Winding Down for Christmas is Not Easy...

Only 13 days to go to Christmas Day...
One Day...
(created by and copyright Dane Bevitt)

I thought it would all get easier now my children had finished school: no more Christmas Concerts to attend; no Christmas card lists with the name and class number on the front of the envelope; small thank you gift to the class teacher...

This month I've already attended one progress evening at college for one of my younger three- so had to give up going to the belly dancing Hafla as they were taking place at the same time...

Got through awards night at Nottingham Writers' Club; performed my first solo belly dance in front of an audience- and a repeat performance for next year has been requested... gulp! :D
(If you missed the pictures in my earlier post- I didn't have them available when I did the post, so they were added later- here is one of them.)

At least I was smiling...
 A few posts back I reviewed my writing year. Though I hadn't set myself any targets for 2013 at that stage.

Well I've thought about it...

The only fixed target I have set myself, is to complete my Nottinghamshire novella 'After the Storm'.

As I've discovered in the past two years, 'real life' can throw all your plans out.

I'll be open to entering competitions, trying out different genres, and any opportunities that come my way to promote myself and my writing- can't be a wallflower in the publishing world today!

I will be creating a website for my alter-ego, Serena Lake. But in the meantime any news will be on Serena's page at the top of the screen (just click on the tab).

There will be a few posts yet before I shut down for Christmas.

Hope you like the little animation that one of my sons created for me last year (with limited programmes). I didn't use it then, so I'm adding it now.

Now where did I put the wrapping paper...? :D

Monday, 10 December 2012

Books I've Been Previewing...

I have to admit that at this time of year I do tend to procrastinate more than usual...

Really I shouldn't as I have a lot to get organised still.
Christmas cards and letters to send; presents to wrap and label; and stocking up the freezer.

On the literary front I'm reading some previews of books that I downloaded onto my Kobo glo.

Previews are a great idea as you can try out an author you've never read before, or there's a book that's all the rage and you're not sure about it.

I've even decided to give new books by my favourite author a miss because they've not grabbed me with the preview...

I will be buying the full version of a few of the books I've previewed so far.

I've been trying to broaden my range of reading matter, so want to use Christmas as a catch up on my reading spell.

So here's a few of the books I've been previewing:

'The Casual Vacancy' by J.K.Rowling- the opening is promising, but the seemingly most interesting character drops dead at the beginning, and the others that we're then introduced to just bored me- they were selfish/irritating individuals. And I kept wondering how long it was going to be before something interesting happened- actually another character dropping dead might have been good, but I couldn't be bothered to buy the book to find out- I gave up before the end of the preview!

That's probably a deficiency on my part, not JKR's writing. I had no complaint about her characterisation; perhaps it was just her narrative style I disliked...

'Life, Death and Vanilla Slices' by Jenny Eclair- now I find her comedy very funny. She is a grumpy old woman in a fun way. Women of a certain age, or state of mind will recognise so much she says...

As individual chapters they were good, and if the book had followed through from the first character who had just bought the vanilla slice of the title, before her accident, and not then gone on to telling us about yet another character, I probably would have bought it.

I know stories that aren't linear can work, but again, I don't think I have the patience to wait around to find out how the different women connect together- if they do...

I can deal with stories that are going along, but then, with a flashback take the story back in time for quite a while, before coming back to the present.

I will be buying Sue Moorcroft's 'Want to Know a Secret'- When the lead character, Diane's happy life becomes unsettled; suddenly learning about a few things her husband has been keeping quiet about, but only after he has had a serious helicopter crash.
I got to the end of the preview and immediately wanted to know what happens next...

If you read e-books, do you find the preview facility useful?

And have you bought a book because of a preview that you wouldn't have bought otherwise?

Do please share your experiences of e-book previews...

Saturday, 8 December 2012

A Mention in Writing Magazine...

Just a quick mention.

In the January 2013 issue of Writing Magazine (on sale from 7th December) there is a two page article about the background to the creation of the One Word Anthology (p28-29).

Along the bottom of the pages, there are photos of many of the writers who have stories and poems in the anthology. I'm there too.

It's been good to put faces to names at last, as many of the writers are only known by their forum name. :-)

If you haven't bought a copy of the e-book yet, you can still do so. Either click on the image in the side panel of my blog- it links to the book on Alfiedog.com, or you can find it on Amazon and Smashwords.

It's only 99p on Amazon and Alfiedog. And for the number of stories and poems you get in it covering a variety of genres, it's great value.

It's both light and dark, so something for everyone...

Weekend Catch-Up and Belly Dancing...

Yes, I know this post is very late...

(Update: The photos of me belly dancing are at the bottom of this post.)

Wednesday was Awards Night at Nottingham Writers Club, and for the first half hour I was standing up front and announcing the presentations- one of the responsibilities of being the current Chairman- no sitting back with a glass of wine, or other alcoholic/non-alcoholic refreshment and relaxing...

There weren't as many trophies as in past year's- a couple of the

Awards Night Trophies, Two of the trophies awarded for Nottingham Writers' Club annual competitions
A few of the NWC annual trophies
competitions sadly didn't run, as not enough entries were received.

Some years that happens, and it's a disappointment, but hopefully next year those trophies will be presented.

I'm sure that most writers would have no problem when the subject is open, but it can be much harder when you have to fit it to a specific age (as with children's books) or a set theme.

Blogger and NWC member Keith Havers was the worthy winner of three trophies, including Writer of the Year. You can read his blog here.

Wednesday afternoon I was actually writing a 500 word flash fiction on the theme of 'a Christmas visit' that needed to be handed in to the competition Secretary that evening.

By the end of my story I had my usual issue of realising that I'd just written a scene from a much bigger story. So I don't expect it to do well.

Last December I promised I would do a party piece this year- some belly dancing. I kept my promise, and I will release the photographic evidence as soon as a copy of the photo arrives in my inbox from the club photographer. I only danced for a few minutes... :D

Otherwise the audience were royally entertained by a number of recitations, from the club president and two club members- both serious and fun pieces. And our newest member, Kate, read out the poem she'd been inspired to write during the merriment. Which proves inspiration truly does come from everywhere...

Enjoying the dance

I was going for the Christmas glitter look

and the flowing sleeves to waft about when my arms were
moving.

Below left: striking a pose...

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Writing World This Week...

Looking at the current book/magazine related news does seem to be popular, so I thought I'd start the week with bringing you a few snippets.

Easy Reads/My Weekly Pocket Novels- look out for more changes in this market. Sally Quilford has an update on her blog today- here. It seems the new Easy Reads are not continuing, but it doesn't appear that everything is going in reverse.

(This news may actually work for both the magazine readers and writers.)

Perhaps the changes that were made were too big. Especially in the current book and magazine markets where everyone is competing, trying to keep costs down and attract new readers. Regular readers can get forgotten about.

Kindle Book Pricing - came across an interesting couple of blog posts that will interest writers who are putting their work on Amazon's Kindle.

Do you have to keep your selling price low to get sales?

The Luzme blog looked at the top 30 Kindle best sellers and compared to there lowest price the previous week. See this post here.

Today's Luzme post looks at the paper copies and cost. Read it here. You will certainly understand why publishers seem to be having pricing issues of solid books vs e-books.

Don't forget VAT is charged on e-books, and not on solid books.

Which leads into a brief mention about e-book VAT  challenges on the Bookseller. Following up a few links I found an article from late October that sets out the consequences if the challenge to the UK's HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs service) succeeds- solid books may cost more.
Read the article here.

I'm sure that's enough to be going on with for now. :-)

Friday, 30 November 2012

Reviewing My Year...

Do you take time to seriously look at how you've done each year? And I don't just mean waiting until January the 1st and making resolutions-they usually don't last long...

Early December is my writing assessment time - if it's not been done earlier in October/November.

Reviewing the Writing Year
I've found looking at what's worked, and what's not gone as I'd hoped, is useful.

So last year (2011) I'd only achieved 2 of my 4 targets, that I'd set myself in late 2010; so I didn't do more than make general plans.

Here's what I decided I wanted for 2012:

 So I'm going to be getting on with my novella for the remainder of the year.

This coming Saturday I'll be at Sally Quillford's Pocket Novel workshop, which I'm looking forward to and I'm sure I'll learn a lot.

Hopefully next year will be more productive.

Did I keep to any of them?

I attended the Pocket Novel workshop and enjoyed it very much. I was reassured that I'd understood the requirements, and it did make me look at a few aspects in a different way, which I've taken into my other writing.

I also came home with another couple brewing in my head.

Yes, I've been working on the novella. Not as much has been done as I'd hoped, but I'm finally getting on with it.

Has it been productive?

Yes.

I completed the revisions of the short story that I intended to send to Woman's Weekly. I sent it, and a few days off the four months received the standard rejection letter. But I actually got it sent off this year.
In the New Year it will be getting another look over and being sent off elsewhere...

A previously abandoned One Word Challenge Anthology book began a new life as an e-book project, and finally became available for purchase mid-November. I have contributions in it, and Serena does too.
So that was something I hadn't anticipated happening this year...

(You'll be able to read about the anthology by the Talkback Writers in the January 2013 issue of Writing Magazine-possibly with photos of some of the contributing writers included.)

I've got the basics of a few other projects which are in line for future development and writing up- some full length, others probably novella length.

I read some of my flash fiction to an audience at the Fringe at the Ship event in Lowdham in June.

Last week I did a slot on local BBC Radio promoting the 'One Word Anthology' with a fellow contributor (Catherine Dalling).

The past six months have shown me what I'm happiest doing, and what the best system of writing is for me personally.

I have my office area- that was just something on my wish list last year.

And Serena Lake has finally made her debut, quietly...

That is a lot more than I'd decided on last year.

Now I need to consider what I want to aim for in 2013, but I've been so busy that I haven't even thought about it yet. But I will.


image courtesy of Danilo Rizutti / www.freedigitalphotos.net



Thursday, 29 November 2012

Back to Normal - Almost...

I'm glad to say I'm now fully online again, so will be catching up over the next few days.

Only when you lose your internet use, do you realise how much you use it for.

My OH did let me use his little netbook, but it couldn't cope with sites that had lots of graphics and pages with adverts on- I couldn't do anything until the page was loaded and it was so much slower than I'm used to...

My computer has had a couple of replacement parts, so I got an IP address again (my computer lost it's identity at the weekend along with my internet access) but it still didn't work.

The technical experts at my ISP (internet service provider) did a brilliant job, despite being on the less usual solutions stage.

And the answer to my problems?

Apart from adjusting settings and typing in codes to get it to do specific things, it improved after uninstalling the computer's security package, and replacing it with an alternative- internet access was immediately restored.

I'd done quite a few standard checks before I rang anyone; run the diagnostics on my computer, checked wires and connections and the old favourite of turning the router off, then on; turning the computer off and then back on, clearing cookies, browser history, cleaning the disk.

I have a basic housekeeping routine for my computer each week to keep it running happily, and it is something everyone should do regularly- and you can set your computer to defragment your files once a month.

I'm just glad there was someone on the other end of the phone who could eventually solve my problem, when the initial work didn't resolve the issue.

Have to say I can see the advantages of wi-fi, but even that doesn't protect you from security updates
upsetting your computer...

A big thank you to all who left comments on my previous post- they helped retain my sanity when I was getting upset and annoyed at the numerous phone calls and brick walls I kept facing in trying to get back to normal.

Now, I'm going to catch up on what's been going on in the writing world ready for my weekend post...



Monday, 26 November 2012

Computer Issues...

My regular posting schedule is going to be out this week.

I've written this on my OH's netbook- had to plug a mouse into it, so I could get anything to move...

No idea what's wrong with my computer, but I can't access the Internet, and the security package isn't working either on my desktop.

Strangely enough everyone else using a wireless connection in the family is fine and secure.

My service provider claims it's a computer provider issue- because the laptop computers are able to access the browsers and security package okay, even though I can't on the wired line...

So tomorrow I will be contacting Dell to see if they can resolve the issue, even though I've run all the diagnostic tools and not come up with any obvious issues.

I expect to spend most of Monday on the phone and tearing my hair out in frustration. :(

I'd been intending to spend some time getting the size of the book in the side column reduced in size, but at the moment it will have to stay as it is, until I'm back to full browser access.

So apologies for the size-but the link to alfiedog.com works if you click on the book. Apparently 69 copies have been sold so far, though I don't know if that includes the Amazon sales...

If you've bought and read the anthology, would you consider adding a review to Amazon?

The writers who contributed stories and poems to the anthology are reluctant to write and add reviews themselves, as they are concerned about the ethics of doing so.

They don't want to be linked to any accusations of sock-puppetry...

As soon as my computer is back online, I'll be blogging again.

In the meantime I'll be trying to keep to date with as much as possible via the netbook.

Apologies for not visiting and commenting on fellow bloggers pages meanwhile.

Fingers crossed it's not a major problem...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

December Approaches, So it Must be 'Britain's 'Most Dreaded Literary Prize'...

Time for the Literary Review's shortlist for the annual Bad Sex in Fiction award...

This is the 20th year, and the ceremony to announce the winner "for the most embarrassing passage of sexual description in a novel" will take place on Tuesday 4th December.

I do wonder if some authors don't leave these dreadful scenes in, rather than edit them to make them better, so they can improve their chance for the shortlist and get their book publicity - no actual cost in time or money needed. 

As it's really not bad publicity on the scale of everything that could be classed as bad publicity...

Others no doubt, just aren't very good at writing such scenes- though I'm sure they think they're okay at the time...

If you had the option, saying you did it deliberately is much better than admitting you write bad sex scenes... :-)

In a year that has seen the rise of 'Fifty Shades of Grey', you might expect the book to have been a sure-fire candidate. But no, and here's why.

"The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to the crude, badly written, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it. The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature."

So that rules FSOG out...

There've been the usual newspaper articles mentioning names;  the shortlist includes the following: (if you've actually read any of them, and have an opinion, do please comment.)

  • The Yips by Nicola Barker
  • The Adventuress by Nicholas Coleridge
  • Infrared by Nancy Huston
  • Rare Earth by Paul Mason
  • Noughties by Ben Masters
  • The Quiddity of Will Self by Sam Mills
  • The Divine Comedy by Craig Raine
  • Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe

  • "For snippets from the shortlist, follow Literary Review's twitter account, @lit_review. The tweets are tagged as #LRBadSex2012."

    I'll definitely be following on Twitter...


     

    Thursday, 22 November 2012

    Thursday's Radio Interview...

    Another experience in the book promotion of the One Word Anthology has been achieved- the radio interview.

    Nottingham has a BBC Radio and local news studio on the edge of the city, and that's where Catherine (Dalling) and I were this lunchtime.

    We had an interview about the e-book on the Gareth Evans programme that airs between 12 midday and 4pm.
    Our instructions were to be there by 1.30 for 1.40...

    Actually we were there by 1.05, as we weren't sure how long it would take us. We were fortunate that the tram came along just as we were approaching the Royal Centre stop, otherwise we wouldn't have got there until nearer 1.30.

    It's not far to walk from the tram terminus- about 5 minutes- so we had time to sign in, sit in reception and chat, and watch the four screens on the wall- we had a choice of BBC News reporting on the flooding around the country, the lunchtime antiques show, and at one end the local BBC news studio presenter preparing for the East Midlands report that follows the main One O'clock News, while at the other end and with sound, the radio presenter Gareth in his studio.

    It seems the whole show for today was word related: with questions about words, fun news that was word related; so we were going to fit right in with the One Word Anthology...

    We went upstairs and waited to go into the studio.

    Then it was time. Introductions were done while the music was playing, we sat down and then it was time to put the earphones on.

    Catherine and I naturally alternated answering the questions, and during the next music break we were able to tell Gareth about the contributors who are in Fiji, and Australia and Europe, as well as the UK and Ireland.

    So when we put our earphones back on, this community aspect became part of the next question.

    We talked about the words used in the anthology- why does the mind always go blank on important things? :)

    Then it was time to tell listeners where they could buy the book, and say thank you.

    It was the 2 o'clock news and we could leave the studio. Hopefully some of the listeners went and bought the book- or will do in future...

    Everyone was pleased with how well it went; and fellow contributors were happy with our efforts. As were we.

    The e-book
    So here's an edited version minus the music. Interview.
    Hope you enjoy it. (Thanks, John.)


    
    Lola



    Tuesday, 20 November 2012

    Grammar and the Radio...

    Well I hope my grammar will be right on the radio...

    Thursday lunchtime- Catherine Dalling and I will be on BBC Radio Nottingham talking about the One Word Anthology, with Gareth Evans.

    If you want to listen to the show live, you should be able to access it via the BBC iPlayer Radio pages in the UK.

    Family members who are not otherwise occupied will be at home listening. And numerous friends will be tuning in to hear our efforts.

    It is a bit scary- I did a short guest slot one New Year about five or six years ago, so it will be interesting to see how much has changed since then...

    *   *   *

    Now I mentioned grammar earlier, and I know how some writers struggle with it - there are bits I'm still not sure of too. So a good book that explains every aspect clearly, with examples, is a very useful addition to the bookshelf.

    So I'm going to suggest you have a look at 'Grammar for Grown-Ups' by Katherine Fry and Rowena Kirton. Amazon has a look inside option, and it's cheaper than at Waterstones (where I bought my copy). It even has a Table of Tenses which I know I'll find useful...

    I didn't know about this book until I saw it in Waterstones today, when I was browsing the reference section. I've since discovered a couple of people I know have also bought a copy.

    *   *   *
     
    I'll be doing my next blog post late Thursday, so I can include a link to the interview.
     
    (That's assuming I don't get struck down with any seasonal bugs between now and then. :-) )
     
     
    

    Sunday, 18 November 2012

    Bond is Back and Writers Will Like It...

    Now you may not think that the latest Bond movie has much to interest a writer, other than you might like Daniel Craig as 007, the fast cars and the action scenes- the escapist fun.

    But I have to say this was actually a film that a writer can truly appreciate.

    At the end I came out feeling that the story had been done properly.

    On previous Bond films I've seen, by the end I've felt dissatisfied, that something was missing, but this time I knew it had been done right.

    (Yes, I know a lot of that is due to the Director, Cameramen/Women, Stunt Artists, and the Editor to name just a few- and the credits are long.)

    Just as in a novel there are the recognisable ups and downs that a story needs. And it certainly had a beginning, middle and an end.

    There were lots of little mysteries which were all tied up by the finish of the film, but even then heralded a new beginning.

    You had the big climax of the film, but just as in a good book there was that final winding up that left you with a resolution.

    There was a lot of character development- 'M', you really see how tough a woman in such a high position has to be to do the job- I know it's fiction, but I bet there are women in all areas of life with big responsibilities who would probably recognise aspects shown by Judi Dench's 'M'.

    There's a new young 'Q' ( Ben Whishaw) - forget the gadgets, it's all up to date now with technology- but nothing's perfect...

    I even had some sympathy for the villain (Javier Bardem as Silva) at times, but he was still the baddy and got what was coming to him...

    Then we have Bond. We all know that our past experiences shape us, and in this film you actually get to find out some of his back-story- someone has really thought this story through.

    And if you wonder why it's called 'Skyfall', like I did, you'll find out as the story builds to a climax, as long as you're paying attention...

    The final thought, technology can do a lot of things, but sometimes the old ways get the job done, which is probably the appeal of Bond...






    Saturday, 17 November 2012

    Back Later...

    I'm just off to see Skyfall- the latest 007 Bond epic.

    So I'll be posting later this evening.

    See you then... :-)

    Wednesday, 14 November 2012

    A Learning Experience from Promoting...

    Well I've learnt a lot about book promotion this past week, so I thought I'd share a few of the things I've discovered.

    Plan ahead

    It might help you to make a list of all your potential outlets for advertising your book- flyers that can be left at any local shops, libraries, writers groups and community settings (these do depend upon the genre of your book of course, and permissions).

    Local newspapers - worth looking at the free papers that get put through the door; if you can find a local slant to appeal, as with any regional paper you buy. (Our daily paper has a weekend supplement with the Saturday edition and includes books, and local related articles- often by specific writers, so send a suitably adapted press release.)

    Check out local radio- if you're in a big (UK) city you'll possibly have a BBC radio station. You may find a show during the day that has a book slot that would welcome local writers.

    Flyers with your book cover, author name, where it's available (for e-books) and the price, plus a bit of the blurb. More can go by e-mail nowadays but please don't just send it to everyone on your contact list and every writer you have a contact address for. That is spamming them and they will not appreciate it, or buy your book. You can lose more friends and contacts that way.

    Social media- hopefully you have a presence on Facebook and Twitter; so you've made friends who might retweet a message when you're tweeting about your book launch, or giving links to where they can read about and buy your book.

    If you've created a page for your book, invite your friends to like it.

    For the anthology we started with the important posts - images of the book, the back page, and the gorgeous Lola, trained by the charity we're giving 10% to.

    Each day a small related link was posted as a countdown to the official launch, which hopefully kept the book in the back of readers minds, and coming back to find out more each day.

    On launch day as many of the writers who could do so blogged, visited, commented, tweeted and retweeted, and posted on Facebook, also sharing. (Be warned it is tiring, so have regular breaks.)

    And then there were the launch parties...

    Only time will tell how sales from all sources have done, but yesterday the anthology was 17th in the kindle store anthologies list. Of course it's dropped back today as everything has gone back to normal and other anthologies get promoted.

    As is inevitable there were the odd typos that slipped through, but they've now been corrected.

    If you're just one person promoting a book you can only do so much. And a lot of it can be done online to reach more potential readers, so choose your best methods to get the news out and books sold.

    A really important point to remember when approaching local press/radio- especially at this time of year; are there any major events going on, either locally or nationally?
    Last weekend was Remembrance Sunday, and this Friday is Children in Need- both big news events, so I'm not approaching local press about the anthology until early next week, and hopefully it won't get passed by.

    (It may still be, but why make it harder for yourself spending time sending out press releases that won't get read because there are big events going on with lots of local coverage filling the pages?)

    I'll be adding the book cover in my sidebar (somewhere). It's a lovely reminder that I've been published in a book before I'm another year older... :-)

    Are there any tips you would like to pass on? If so please leave a comment below.










    Monday, 12 November 2012

    Launch Party Today- Join the Fun...

    Today is the day, the One Word Anthology e-book by the Talkback Writers is launched, and you can now buy it from alfiedog.com for 99p.

    It's available in the following formats e-Pub for e-readers other than Kindle.
    - mobi for Kindle.
    - pdf for reading on your computer screen.
    
    
    Buy it now!

    10% of the revenue from the anthology goes to support the work of Medical Detection Dogs - you can find out more about the valuable work this charity does in training animals to support and save lives...here.

    30 writers have contributed stories and poems that were written for the monthly One Word Challenge on the Talkback forum - which is part of the writers-online.co.uk
    website, run by Writers News and Writing Magazine.

    Each month the writers are set a word prompt. They have
    200 words (excluding the title) to create a story, and/or poetry up to 40 lines.

    
    Lola, the Diabetic Alert Dog
    The winner of the previous month's competition- one for poetry and one for prose- read the entries and choose a winner, both winners then set the word for the new month and will judge the entries at the start of the following month.

    The anthology is a selection of the variety of stories and poems inspired by the chosen words.

    A big thank you to all the writers involved, I'm proud to be among you.

    It really has been a joint effort getting the anthology organised and put together, to now being available for sale.

    Special thanks must go to writers: Jay Mandal, who suggested the competition many years ago and started it all.
    Brenda Gunning, who collated the pieces and edited them ready for the publisher, Rosemary J Kind - who has the patience of a hundred people (if not more) and the technical expertise.
    And finally Marion Clarke who took our assorted suggestions and created
    the absolutely brilliant cover.

    Early in December there will be an interview with Rosemary and Brenda in Writing Magazine (January issue) where you can find out more about how the book developed.

    I'd like to give a big thank you to the WM/WN editor Jonathan Telfer who has supported the One Word Challenge on the forum from the beginning, and rightfully has a few words at the start of the book -we couldn't leave him out...

    Okay, that's the official part out the way. Here's my self-promotion bit :-)

    You'll find my four stories appearing under both Carol Bevitt and Serena Lake (my other name).

    Carol's stories are 'Junk Mail' and 'The Child in Everyone'; while Serena's stories are 'Surprises' and 'After Heat'.

    The e-book is also available on Smashwords $1.60 (it's changed to UK currency ) and Amazon; but please buy direct from our publisher if you can, as it means the charity will get more...

    Now it's time to party!!!

    Find us on Twitter, Facebook and wherever we can spread the launch news, so please join in.

    Cheers!

    (image from www.freedigitalphotos.com )
    Virtual bubbly will be swirling...











    

    Saturday, 10 November 2012

    Meet One of the Writers in the One Word Challenge Anthology...

    As we're only a couple of days away from the launch of the One Word Challenge Anthology, on Monday the 12th, I thought it would be fun to introduce you to one of the writers in the anthology.

    Catherine Dalling is not just a writer and friend, but also a talented artist.

    Catherine Dalling
    So to the questions and answers...

    Tell the readers a little bit about yourself.

    I’m almost 48, married with two teenage children, a dog and three cats.  I became a stay-at-home mum when the kids were born and other than a couple of part-time jobs have stayed that way.
     Twice a week I run a music quiz at a couple of local pubs and love it, even though I have to say I now know more useless information about one hit wonders and chart stats than I am probably ever going to need, unless one of my characters ever becomes a DJ.

    What started you writing?

    Up until the children were born I was predominately a portrait artist, people and pets,  but when you have two young children it's not easy to paint when you don't have the space. So the paintbrushes were put away and I got on with being a mum.  But something was missing, I needed something creative. 
    I had been a prolific writer whilst I was at school, short stories (somewhere between the Famous 5 and the Hardy Boys) and rather bad poetry.  So I started writing a bit of fan fiction, then it mutated into not-so short stories - always dark, either realistically so or heading into urban fantasy.

    As the kids got older I started painting again, but I have to admit I had the bug for writing. I enrolled on a writing course and really enjoyed it. I have very Gothic tendencies, but other than my beloved New Rocks (a particular type of boots) you wouldn't really notice it - well until you walk into my office that is...

    Some writers concentrate on one genre, others a variety. Which type are you? And what are you currently working on?

    I admit to a love of all things dark and macabre, but I don't do gore. I always think the less it's described the more it affects the imagination of the reader. So I tend to stick to what I know, and love.

    I have a vampire serial that is at the stage where it needs a good edit, but to be honest I've popped it in the back of the cupboard as I feel the market is so saturated in blood that it will probably drown. My vampires can wait.

     I am focussing on what will hopefully become a series of books involving the Nephilim; it's still in the early stages but the characters are already shouting at me at inopportune moments, which is always a good thing.In my head the characters are real. As long as I don't walk down the street talking to myself we should be okay.

    When you're writing do you need to shut yourself off from everything, or are you happy to work with everyday life going on around you?

    Normally I like to be all alone, locked away without distraction, once the kids get home from school I have no hope of getting anything done. Or if I don't want to be distracted by the washing/cleaning (can't work in a messy house) I take myself off to one of the local cafes with my net book for an hour and have a couple of lattes and get my brain working. I can shut the noise out, or I can people watch (it's valid research – honest).

     I used to write in silence but now I tend to have music on, something that sets the mood for what I'm writing: a bit of HIM, or Within temptation, Bach, Beethoven, it varies, of course.

    You have four stories in the anthology. How would you describe them to readers?

    I have to say that the OWC has been an interesting exercise for me. I remember looking at it and thinking there is no way I can actually get my point across in 200 words (she has) - probably takes me more to tell people what they are about. So looking at the four stories, each is different, but very typically me.


    • In 'Heat' I wanted to get over the feel of the inner city on a hot summer night, the seedy underbelly of nightclubs, I think I did.


    • Bounce – you know that kid at the back of the class that you always thought was a bit odd?This is how he could have ended up, school wasn't the happiest days of everyone's life.


    • Chaos – A humorous look at the beginning of the Apocalypse.


    • Witness – A look at humanity from an unusual viewpoint.


    As a writer in a rapidly changing book industry, do you see your genre as benefiting from them? Or having to adapt?

    I think it's a two edged sword (to use rather apt cliché). When I was growing up dark fantasy/urban fantasy wasn’t seen as a serious genre. It seem to be changing. You only have to look at the plethora of vampires around at the moment - some better than others - to see that technology (and teenage girls) seem to be the vampires friend.

    I remember when the books were either nestled in with the horror, or epic fantasy and you had to read the backs of covers to find what you wanted to read. Now it’s so much easier to find something that appeals, with no end of suggestions thrust at you when you have purchased online.

    I think ezines are brilliant. There’s more scope to showcase writers who would probably never see the light of day otherwise.

    I used to get the bi-monthly Fantasy and Sci-Fi (my abbreviation) periodical from the states (not overly expensive) but sometimes late etc; now I have it direct to Kindle for 99p - brilliant (I don’t own a Kindle but I have it on my phone) which means I read more as it’s always in my pocket.

    What authors would you recommend new writers read?

    I think it depends on what you want to write, but honestly, read whatever you can lay your hands on- especially if you aren't sure of what genre you fancy, or more to the point how you want to write it.

     I’d avoid how-to books until you’ve found your voice, as I think they can be slightly a negative influence; and if you read too many it will just confuse you. It’s like painting, you find your own way, or you just end up like someone else.

    Don't feel you have to like, or emulate someone if it doesn't do anything for you. There is nothing wrong with not liking what someone writes. It’s not bad writing, it just isn't for you.

    The same goes for your writing. Don't try to write to please anyone but yourself. If you love your characters and your story, it will show.

    So read, read, and read. 

    Read classics (in my case) Poe, Lovecraft, Wilde.  The Picture of Dorian Grey is a really well spun tale. 

    As for vampires you can’t beat ‘Dracula’. Bram Stoker was a genius.

    But for more recent authors (and again I can really only point you in the direction I go) look at  Jim Butchers 'Dresden Files', Mike Carey 'Felix Castor',  Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Tanya Huff, Laurel Hamilton, and Charlaine Harris.

    Where can you be found on the web?

    For my writing there is a fairly new blog which will be updated on a regular basis: http://nephilims-child.blogspot.co.uk/

    For my paintings: pet-artist.co.uk and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Catherine-Dalling-Artist/108056759286490

    Thanks you for sharing your thoughts and inspirations with us, Catherine. And I'm certainly looking forward to reading your contributions  to the One Word Challenge Anthology on Monday.


    And remember you're invited to the official launch on Monday, here, and on Facebook (The One Word Anthology) and on Twitter...

    Monday, 5 November 2012

    An Exciting Week Begins...

    The countdown to the launch of the One Word Challenge Anthology e-book begins today.

    This is a very exciting week for me, as I have four pieces of micro fiction included in this e-book- two are by my alternative writing persona, Serena Lake.

    And the very best bit of all, beside the price (99p direct) is that 10% of the cover price of each e-book will go to Medical Detection Dogs, a charity that trains dogs to assist people with life-threatening conditions.

    Fantastic cover image by Marion Clarke
     
    But I'm getting ahead of myself...

    The book will be available to buy in a few days, direct from Alfie Dog Fiction.

    It will also be available from Amazon and Smashwords but there's no definite date yet for those. (But I'll add links and prices when they become available.)

    (Buying direct from the publisher will ensure the charity gets more.)

    I'm one of 30 writers who have contributed to the anthology, so expect to see other bloggers posting, tweeting and taking about it on Facebook as the week progresses.

    As the official launch is Monday 12th November, you're all invited to the virtual launch party I'm holding here.

    
    Lola the Diabetic Alert Dog
     
    A couple of days before, 9th/10th, I'll be bringing you an interview with one of the other writers' involved, Catherine Dalling.


    If you want to find out more about the Medical Detection Dogs charity that the anthology is donating to, please look here.



    (Lola belongs to one of the writers in the anthology; and the Talkback Writers have followed her progress through initial training to passing her final qualifications.)


    More news in a few days...
    
    A little bit about the book

    Saturday, 3 November 2012

    The Next Big Thing... (I'm working on it)

    I must thank Dream it, then do it  (otherwise known as Keith) for nominating me for The Next Big Thing.

    So now to the interrogation questions...

    What is the working title of your next book?

    After the Storm.
    A storm plays a part in linking the incidents from the past to the present.

    Where did the idea come from for the book?

    I was doing some local history research in the Local Studies section of the County Library (about 9 years ago); in a book of 19th century cuttings there was a report about a lady's diary entry (from earlier in the century) describing a mini tornado that she had witnessed during a bad storm.
    I made a note of it, and carried on with my research, but it sparked the idea...

    What genre does your book fall under?

    Historical Romance.

    What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

    I'd have to say unknowns for my hero and heroine. But I have a snobbish character, Mrs Chester, who only has a bit part, but I could imagine Imelda Staunton playing her.

    What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

    To make a future together, Hugh and Sarah must resolve the past.

    Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

    I'm open to self-publishing if I can't find a publisher, but I'm doubtful of finding an agent at this stage.

    How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

    I wrote the first chapter in about two weeks, about 3 years ago, but wasn't totally happy with the rest of the story, or some of the characters who were still a bit vague. So I've been doing other projects in the meantime, while my brain has been working on the weak spots.

    Having been in an accident between then and now, I've only just got back into gear with the manuscript, so I'm planning on getting the first draft completed by early spring.

    I'm one of those writers who does minor edits as I go along- before I start writing I re-read the chapter to help me get into the setting, and I'll make minor adjustments as I go. So hopefully I'll only need a couple of major revisions before I get a couple of readers to go through it and give me feedback.

    What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

    I suppose it's a mix of Mills and Boon historicals of the past and the present.

    Who or what inspired you to write the book?

    As a small child I had problems reading- a slight speech problem delayed my reading development- and when I finally overcame it, I was suddenly open to a world of words and stories which I joyfully immersed myself in, and it made me want to write.

    So every author I have ever read has inspired me to write this book- and the others I have waiting in line...

    What else about your book might pique the readers' interest?

    That's a tough one.

    There's jealousy and how dangerous that can be. And also how the manipulation and/or suppression of truth can have a lasting effect on children when they become adults.

    Anything else?

    There's a Happy Ever After (HEA), and everyone will want to read my next book too... :-)

    I'm now passing this award on to Fiona Faith Ross.















    Wednesday, 31 October 2012

    Comment is Free...

    Comment is free. Not sure who said that originally, but I'm sure someone did...

    Happy Halloween - if you're reading this on Wednesday; otherwise hello and thank you for
    visiting. :-)

    Now two delightful bloggers, Patsy and Rosemary have awarded me the top commenters award, thank you ladies.



    I enjoy reading the comments you leave me, and I like to read those left by other bloggers (on posts by those I follow - in a non-creepy way of course) as it's good to get other viewpoints on the same subject.

    And if you leave a comment here, I know I'm not just talking to the ether...

    As those who know me, or have known me for many years will confirm, I usually have an opinion on most things, but I'm getting better at not commenting when it's probably a good idea to keep quiet...

    As my top commenters have already been awarded this I'm not sure I have anyone left to mention. But if I look through past posts and find a few, I'll add their names in- so watch out!

    The phrase 'comment is free' comes from C P Scott- a British journalist, publisher and politician. He was the editor of the Manchester Guardian (now the Guardian, which has a column, Comment is free ).

    The full quote is: "Comment is free, but facts are sacred."

    A worthy quote...

    Monday, 29 October 2012

    Is the Random/Penguin Merger Just the Start?

    Over the weekend there were a few media discussions about the potential merger between Random House and Penguin Group.

    Early today (Monday) the merger was confirmed, read the details from Random House here.

    "The new name will be Penguin Random House. Until the closing, the companies will maintain their current separate operations and continue conducting business independently."

     (If only they'd gone for Random Penguin :-) )

    While they've agreed, the regulatory authorities will be sure to look at whether there is any competition conflict. If they decide to look into it, that will delay the completion of the merger; but no doubt the owners of the two groups (Bertelsmann, and Pearson) knew it was likely and will no doubt progress with the rest of their plans in the meantime.

    Though I can understand why they've chosen this route.

    Apart they are not only competing again Amazon and Apple, but also against each other. While books are selling, the digital side of the market is going full steam and they're still playing catch up...

    Like any company (whatever the industry) mergers mean changes. There are bound to be areas where downsizing will happen, so it's going to create worry for some employees.

    Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Pearson, said " "... Together, the two publishers will be able to share a large part of their costs, to invest more for their author and reader constituencies and to be more adventurous in trying new models in this exciting, fast-moving world of digital books and digital readers.” "

    (author and reader constituencies?) I'm always suspicious when any executive starts talking shorthand, it makes me think they're glossing over less than pleasant facts- but that's just my personal opinion.

    There's been years of small publishing companies being bought up and merged to form these big publishing groups, now they're cannibalising themselves.

    Small independent presses are flourishing and getting authors nominated for high profile awards. So perhaps they are where new authors should be aiming their submissions?

    I wonder how long it will be before the big six become the big three? And from there, two, or even perhaps one, so they can compete size wise with Amazon?

    2013 will certainly be interesting...



    Friday, 26 October 2012

    Changes for the Better...

    As you may have noticed I've made a few changes with the blog.

    I know the new blogger interface hasn't been popular, but I've discovered it does have some advantages- more variety in the background wallpapers to start with.

    (I was changed over quite early on- within a few weeks of them warning they would start converting blogs automatically- bit of a shock, but I've got used to it.)

    Also I've changed to a more recent profile photo. It was taken at the writers club Awards Night last year. I cropped off the antlers and bells- it really wouldn't give the impression of a serious writer if I'd kept them visible... :-)

    I've still got a few things to change and sort out, but I have to use an alternative browser to do that.

    Previously I could edit the side bar gadgets in the layout, but now all that happens is the gadget box opens and tells me the page can't be found, or just brings up the Chesil picture from the top of the page and a message telling me I can't access that page.

    So if you've had this type of problem, try another browser and access the gadgets just as you did previously...


    The other change is with the anthology.

    I've been able to include two other pieces of micro fiction (to add to the existing two). I'd originally had to choose between these four pieces, so I'm really pleased to have been given the opportunity to add them.

    This means I will have two entries under each name, my own and my Serena Lake pseudonym.

    I'm finally getting excited about the anthology, and making plans for promoting it both individually and as part of the group- the group's exciting news will have to remain hush-hush for the moment, as there are deadlines to hit first.

    I'm sure 2013 will bring a lot more changes, but these are enough for now... :-)





     

    Wednesday, 24 October 2012

    My New E-Reader...

    Over the summer my Sony Pocket e-reader began needing the battery charging before I could open the reader, even when it was still three quarters charged- it was clearly malfunctioning.

    So I accepted that I either paid a horrible amount of money to get it working again, or buy a new e-reader. Well there really wasn't a contest. I could buy a brand new reader and a few books for what it would cost to repair. And I needed more storage too.

    I'd been considering a Kindle but didn't want to be locked into only buying e-books from Amazon, so I was interested by a display of kobo's in WH Smith (when I'd only popped in to look for a plastic box).

    I was trying to work out how to get from one page on the reader screen to the next, when a child of no more than 8 years old, out with her grandparents, proceeded to whizz through the pages on the nearest device with a few slides of her fingers.

    Yes, I hadn't understood that the idea of touch-screens was sweeping movements...I'm a simple basic phone person, nothing that needs sliding. :-)

    Resorting to the tactic of all technology bemused adults, I got an assistant to help me.

    The three latest readers, mini, touch, and glo were on stands and connected up so I got a demonstration of how they worked, and was able to ask the 'kobo' assistant questions and get an answer immediately-great customer service (if only other stores had staff like this).

    My only question was which one did I choose?

    Should I pay £59.99 for the mini- ideal for fitting in the pocket, 1GB storage, with built in wi-fi for downloading ease; or spend a bit more on the glo (£99.99) and have the added advantage of an integrated front-light with adjustable brightness, the 1GB storage, but with the ability to use a Micro SD card for extra storage if needed...

    Now if you read in bed, or are travelling as a passenger in a car when it's dark outside, then the light option is essential, though using the light will drain the battery quicker.

    I decided to buy the glo and the assistant even helped set it up while I was in store, so when I got home all I needed to do was sign into kobo.com and download my kobo desktop, plug in my reader and synchronise it.

    It was then an enjoyable hour (or two) browsing through the book categories, and then downloading a few free previews of books I'm interested in buying. Some are books by authors I've read before, others are new to me.

    I'm sure there will be elements that confuse me, but I can pop in store and ask the assistant if I need to, which is great.

    I'm mastering the sweeping motion, and not accidentally opening the dictionary too often now.

    And best of all, I should be able to load the One Word Challenge Anthology onto it, when it's published in early December, so I can show relatives and friends my stories. :-)

    My only problem now is resisting reading, so I can get on with writing...



    Monday, 22 October 2012

    Delays and Competition Reminders...

    I had hoped to have completed the redesign of my blog by this week, but technology and the new Blogger interface have decided otherwise. It isn't as simple anymore...

    So I think the changes will be occurring slowly.

    Now for the competition reminders- just in case you missed them the first time round.

    These are free to enter:

    You only have until tomorrow ( 23rd) to get your 50 word ghost story competition entry submitted to The Times. Details here.

    The competition closes at 5pm, and even though e-mails should be instant, they don't always arrive a moment later, so don't leave it to the last minute to press send.

    A little longer for submission is the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition with a deadline of 29th October- but this is a postal entry only.

    50-150 words of a novel opening using Train in it somewhere. Details here.

    (You'll also find details of the Erewash Writers current competitions on the link above too.)

    Entry fee competitions:

    And finally the current Words with Jam competitions, closing on the 31st October. These can be entered online. You can find the details here.



    Friday, 19 October 2012

    Looking at the Pocket Novel Replacement...

    The Pocket Novel replacement Easy Read is now available in stores, and it really is a different item in appearance as well as texture.

    It's also being sold in places that it didn't previously appear for sale, as I found today.

    Popping into the Marks and Spencer food hall in the city centre (for my favourite bottle of wine and four in a pack chocolate éclairs) I passed the magazine display and there were the new reads. And yes they do stand out against the magazines behind them.

    Knowing Sally Quilford was going to be one of the first authors in the new line I immediately reached  for her name before looking at the other offerings.

    Romance with Liaison and Crime with Intrigue
    Not only do they look like a book, but the cover feels like a paperback too.

    (excuse the lack of correct colour in my picture, but I'm an amateur at Photoshop.)

    
    The earlier change in cover design- which was an improvement- which had the thicker covers too, just didn't give the feeling of a book, unlike these new
    designs.

    Yes, they do make you think Mills and Boon when you look at them, but that
    can't be all bad when you consider how well M&B books sell.

    And with the current trend in black based covers for the latest trend- erotica- it's bound to get potential readers stopping to look at them.

    These books certainly won't get their front covers damaged or creased as easily as the old paper pocket novels did.

    In fact these could sit quite happily on a bookshelf alongside regular paperbacks.

    The only complaint I do have, is that these new issues don't have the title/author name on the spine, so however you store them, you'll have to remember the number of your favourite for re-reading or be prepared to go through them all to find the one you want...

    I haven't started reading either of my purchases yet, so how big a change there's been in substance I can't tell you.

    But I do think they will be very popular, and with four to choose from each time, I'm sure everyone will find the one or ones they like.

    If you pop over to Sally Quilford's blog you have the chance to win a signed copy of her Easy Read story, 'Bonfire Memories', the first in the Intrigue option.

    If you've seen the new design in your local stores, how well displayed was it? Does it stand out against the products around it? Where has it actually been placed?

    And if you've read any of the new stories what did you think of them?

    I'm looking forward to reading your comments... :-)





    Monday, 15 October 2012

    A Very Short Ghost Story Competition...

    A big thank you to Jenny who passed the information on about this Times competition.

    Can you write a ghost story in 50 words? Well if you can then this competition is for you.

    Susan Hill has launched the prize and you can find her suggestions for how to write a good ghost story here.

    "Write your own ghost story in 50 words. The best entry will win £200-worth of selected books chosen by Random House and Profile, plus a signed set of Susan Hill’s ghost stories. Three runners-up will also win signed copies of Hill’s ghost stories."

    And of course the essential information about terms and conditions, here. (They cover two pages, so don't miss the 'next' link at the bottom.)

    "Send your entry to bookscomp@thetimes.co.uk with Ghost Story in the subject line or post it to Ghost Story, Books, The Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1TT. Include your name, address and daytime telephone number."

    Don't send it as an attachment- it's easy to forget rules like this when you can enter online.

    Entries must be received by 5pm on Tuesday 23rd October.

    "Winners will be notified by October 29 and their names and answers printed in The Times on October 27. There will be one winner and three runners-up. One entry per person. UK and Republic of Ireland only."

    Good luck.

    Image courtesy of Simon Howden http://freedigitalphotos.net

    Saturday, 13 October 2012

    Further Organisation is Needed...

    A box arrived this morning with 50 coloured cardboard wallets- and even with postage, cheaper than getting my OH to drive me to the retail park for numerous packs that would have cost a lot more.

    I just have to find a slot for the box now... :-)      

    The shelves in the office area are filling up and I'm going to have to shift a few things around, but I need to make a little bit more room for my works in progress folders/files.

    As I've been gathering everything from the various points in the living room, I've started to find the big wads of research notes and clippings (that I gather before I start any longer writing project).

    So I decided that if they were in folders I could keep them on the shelf with the box-type files that hold the printed manuscript pages of each project.

    Eventually I'll scan all these notes and images and put them on a disc, but probably not until I've finished the novel/novella completely. I much prefer to have the pages at hand than having to keep opening and then reducing a document to the bottom of my screen each time I need to clarify something...

    So how do you deal with your research notes? Are you a paper or digital storage, writer?


    Image: Salvatore Vuono, www.freedigitalphotos.net

    Thursday, 11 October 2012

    I Try to be a Sweetie in Chocolate Week...

    Thank you to the wonderful Patsy Collins- a real sweetie- for passing me the Super Sweet Blogging Award.


    Now remember it is Chocolate Week. And if you've ever wondered about it's history, then you'll find some interesting facts here.

    Now to answering the questions...

    1. Cookies or cake?
        Has to be cake- love the smell of chocolate cake as it's cooking.

    2. Chocolate or Vanilla?
        Chocolate, most certainly chocolate...

    3. What is you favourite sweet treat?
        Choices, choices... A little bit of dark chocolate, preferably with a glass of Rosé.

    4. When do you crave sweet things most?
        When I settle down to start writing.

    5. If you had a sweet nickname what would it be?
        I don't think I dare answer that one... :-)

    Now to pass this on to other sweet things. If you accept the mission then answer these same questions on your blog and pass it on.

    (Patsy mentioned something about a Bakers dozen, but I think that's an unlucky number. And actually, one of my Grandfather's was a Baker...)

    So I pass the sweet tray onto: Rosemary, Maxi, Angela -sorry I couldn't let you know, the captcha was not accepting me, Keith, Rosalie, Seaview, Alan and Lizy and finally, Fiona.

    Now you may not want to take part, or do the post, so you can leave your answers in the comments form if you prefer.
    Don't forget to collect the picture to add it to your blog. :-)

    (I'd hoped to post this yesterday (Wednesday) but Blogger was refusing to let the links I'd put in, stay there. Glad to say it seems to have worked today...)

    Monday, 8 October 2012

    Monday Thoughts...

    Latest anthology news (see the details on my previous blog post) - it's looking like it will be out for December, when it will be available in pdf, epub and .mobi formats.

    As another (local) writer/friend is also included in the anthology, we're going to get together and discuss what we can do to advertise our contributions and hopefully drum up sales in our area.

    Looking forward to 2013, I'm going to concentrate on my longer length projects, and try a few more short stories when I need a break or change of perspective.

    I've noticed a few mini workshops advertised so I'm going to see if I can book a place on them. I've decided to update a few skills relating to social media first.

    Another writer on the Talkback forum posted a link this morning, it's a good reminder about planning ahead. (Thanks SilverLinings.)

    While the agency is in the USA, and some aspects will be more relevant there, it has some good points; so if you've not taken the time to think ahead to 2013 this piece may make you reconsider. Read Mary Keeley's post here.

    "Set your own pace and be comfortable with it." I think that first piece of advice is the most valuable, at least it is for me.

    Life gets in the way sometimes, and pushing yourself to do more than is practical- or healthy- is a sure way of making life harder for yourself. The accident last year, and the asthma diagnosis this year made me re-evaluate everything in my life, but especially my writing.

    By slowing down and accepting that I couldn't do all the things I wanted to, meant I made choices in what I concentrated on. And surprisingly I actually got more done, as I submitted a few things rather than none at all, and won the trophy at the writers' club last December (which was a morale booster).

    Now I'm looking forward to my contribution in the anthology.

    What has been the best advice you've received that helped you progress?





    Saturday, 6 October 2012

    Say Hello to Serena Lake...

    I've mentioned Serena before, so I thought it was time to introduce her properly- more of why now, later...

    Serena writes historical romances, and she does include intimate love scenes in them- sex scenes suggests that there's no emotional connection between the characters and she insists that there has to be an emotional tie between the couple involved, not just lust- even if one, or both of them haven't recognised/admitted it by that point.

    Her heroes have responsibilities that they often don't want to take on, but will because they believe in justice, family honour and duty. Though it won't stop some of them rebelling along the way...

    Her heroines don't simper. They know what they want, and some resent that they can't grab the object of their desire openly - without public disgrace.

    You may have guessed already that Serena Lake is my pseudonym for the historical romances I'm writing, these stories are set between the mid 18th to early 19th Century.

    I've submitted competition entries (when it's historical) with this name for a few years now, but finally Serena will be published in an e-book-hopefully before the end of the year, if not sooner.

    The One Word Challenge Anthology is a collection of micro fiction and poems inspired by different words. Serena and I, each have a story in the anthology.

    Members of the Talkback forum on the Writers Online website, have been writing these stories and poems with a new word each month for many years; now e-book publishing has made it possible to put a collection of them together.

    It's getting very exciting, as each stage of the process takes us closer to a publication date.

    Serena will eventually have her own site, but for the moment she'll be getting her own page on here.

    When more news is available I'll let you know...