Saturday, 28 April 2012

News Round-Up - April

Just a few items you might want to follow-up... :-)

Novelicious Undiscovered - The Top 20

The twenty names and the titles of their entries are now posted on the Novelicious website, and starting on the 1st May, one story will feature every day, allowing readers to comment, but not vote-yet. That begins on the 5th of June.

It's reassuring to see that it's not going to be done by popularity vote, in a way that would enable multiple votes from those who have a lot of friends...You can only vote once and there will be a form to fill in.

Sympathies if you entered and didn't get into the shortlist- but with over 200 entries, choosing 20 must have been a tough task.

Grazia and Orange’s ‘First Chapter’ Competition

Seems the terms and conditions that were posted originally have since been expanded on.

They have also added the words "Entries in the incorrect format will not be considered." But there doesn't seem to be anything defining what their correct format is...

This addition is sure to mean inexperienced entrants being excluded. Adding details like this when a competition is underway is not right.

Flash Fiction Competitions

Details of more competitions have been added to the competition page of the National Flash Fiction Day website.
Just scroll down the page to read the latest competitions with closing dates in May or beyond.

And finally


The Writing Romantic Fiction Workshop with Kate Walker at Nottingham Writers' Club on Saturday 19th May 10am to 4pm.

There are a handful of places left, so if you're interested click on the Workshop link above. The price for the day is a great deal less than many one day workshops charge, so take a look.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The History and Future of my Short Story ...

This month I've been revising one of my short stories.

It was originally written as a 1,000 word story for a (new) annual competition at the writers' club back in late 2007. It didn't get anywhere, but I'd had to cut it to get it to the required length, and honestly it lost something.

So I decided to rewrite it and the total went up to about 1,500 words.

It got put aside and didn't reappear for a couple of years, until I decided to enter it in a sort of competition that Writers Forum was running with a few of the weekly women's magazines. I knew it wasn't good enough to be selected for publication- entry was free, but for a few pound you could get a critique from the judge.

The one page crit was really worthwhile and showed me how much I had right and what the niggles were- that I hadn't been able to pin down myself because I was too close to it, and inexperienced.

More time passed and after doing a workshop on short story writing for women's magazines, the tutor agreed to read and critique a story up to 2,000 words. She herself had sold lots of short stories to the women's magazine markets, and I'd read a couple of hers not long before the event and enjoyed them.

It was reassuring that the comments I received were more good news than bad. My story was almost up to a publishable standard, it just had a few minor areas that needed work.

In solving the first lot of weak points I'd created other small issues, but I was quite capable of solving them.

Since then it's gone through a couple of versions, but with time away from it and developing my writing and editing skills, I decided now was the time to make a final push at getting it finished and sent off, hopefully to be bought and published...

There were elements that I needed from three different versions of the story, so began the slow task of cutting and pasting the appropriate sections from each version. The plot was still the one I started with, but my characters had developed, and I'd discovered facts about them which I hadn't known all those years ago.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I finally completed the combining/rewriting as I went along stage. My story has now reached a length of 2, 040.

Now if I can just lose those forty words somehow, I'll be happy. So a final edit beckons.

The womag short story market has changed so much over the time I've been rewriting. The magazine it would have worked best for, no longer accepts submissions from new writers, and it's 50/50 for the second target market.

The other potential home may be the Alfie Dog Ltd short story download website. It's open for submissions and I know the editor won't accept substandard stories.

The writer earns money from their stories being purchased by readers- read the outline of how it works here, and royalty details here. The submission process is all online, so no postal costs are involved.

Whatever eventually happens to my short story, good news or bad, I'll let you know...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Happy Monday-World Book Night, Shakespeare and St. George...

Phew! Today really is busy...

Happy St. George's Day to all those living in England.

Happy Birthday to the greatest and best known playwright in the world, William Shakespeare, who grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire.

I spent a lot of summer holiday's there in my early 20's, I would book theatre tickets for whichever productions were on at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) during my chosen holiday week, find a nearby hotel or bed and breakfast and immerse myself in the town and Shakespeare's plays.

(It was quite normal to walk past well-known actors in the street, or to be standing in the same queue as them in a shop without anyone bothering them...)

When I wasn't at the theatre, I would stroll alongside the river, sit and read, or just enjoy the calmness away from the traffic and bustle. I even ventured onto the river in a small hired row boat- I did wonder if I would ever get back to land a few times, but I could certainly appreciate how tiring rowing a boat can be.

During the day I did the tourist trail- I've visited his birthplace a few times, and always found something new to learn. You can find out more here.

The other big event today is World Book Night.

You can get a brief overview of some of the events from this article.

But if you think the hoo-ha is too much then here's a few other ways to celebrate the giving of books.

Nicola Morgan is doing her Complementary World Book Night again this year-after getting a lot of tv and press coverage for her views in 2011. She'll be going to the book shop and buying books to give.
This way the bookshop gets sales (high street bookshops need people to go in and buy books from them, to keep running), the writer of the book earns royalties, and the publisher gets money too.

And if you'd like to support independent authors then do visit Authors Electric who are celebrating WBN by offering a selection of their e-books for free on the 23rd/24th April. A great opportunity to try out some new authors.

Well I'm off to do some writing before chores take over.

Happy World Book Night/Happy St.George's Day. :-)

Friday, 20 April 2012

Competition News...

You may have been fortunate in not getting the heavy prolonged rain that I've experienced this week, but if you have, and you've had to go out in it- as I did, you have my sympathy.

So to cheer you up, I've got a few competition details you might like.

  • Words with Jam First Page Competition 2012.

"What are we looking for: the most gripping, read-on-able first page of up to 400 words. Any genre, but as always we're looking for The Best First Page."

Entry cost: £6 for one entry or £10 for two but the winner receives £500, while 2nd and 3rd get £100/£50 respectively. And the three winning entries will be published in the August 2012 issue of Words with JAM.
It will be judged by the author of '22 Britannia Road', Amanda Hodgkinson.

Details here and here.

  • Grazia and Orange’s ‘First Chapter’ Competition.
Best-selling author Rosamund Lupton has written the opening paragraph which leaves you to complete the chapter in 800-1,000 words.

Sadly this appears to be a UK entrants only- if you look at the general rules and conditions. It is free to enter, but you must include with your entry a brief bio and a passport photograph of yourself, with your date of birth and occupation included on your contact information sheet.

The winner is awarded £1,000 and attends a party (invitation only) at The Royal Festival Hall on the 30th May- presentation on stage. There are two runner-up prizes of £500 each. The winner's story will appear in Grazia, while the runners-up will see their story on the website. All will receive the short-listed books for this year's Orange Prize.

This may be one to avoid if you're well over the target age range for the magazine's readership- but that's my personal opinion only.

Details here

  • If you're interested in Crime-writing not doing- here's an ongoing competition opportunity.
"Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, in association with Bloomsbury Publishing and The Crime Writers’ Association, have launched the Short Sentencecrime writing competition."

"Tell a tale of dastardly deeds in 1000 words or less. A new theme will be set every two months and we will select a winner for each theme. Entries will be collected throughout the year and we will also announce one overall winner during National Short Story Week in November."

One of the best bits about the prizes is a ticket for the Harrogate Crime Festival 2013.

For full details see here.

There's lots of competitions around at the moment, so you'll be sure to find something you like and if you know anyone who might be interested please direct them here. :-)

Monday, 16 April 2012

Scarred Baddies Are a Stereotype...

Late last week there was an item in a few of the newspapers about stereotyping in movies of those with facial disfigurement- scars indicate a baddie.

If you are interested in the campaign to change this attitude, then you'll find the BBC News article here and the Changing Faces website here, where you can watch their short film that is being shown in 750 cinemas across the UK.

But it got me thinking about how disfigured people are viewed in romantic fiction.

In the classic, Jane Eyre, Mr Rochester is injured and blinded in a fire. Apart from his intention to commit bigamy by marrying Jane, while his first wife is still alive and locked up for her own safety, he's not seen as a baddy, he's just a man in an impossible situation.

In an historical romance context there are going to be scarred heroes and minor villains...

Before guns, men used swords, and in a fight or a battle if you didn't die from the vicious sword wound you'd probably die from blood poisoning. And if you did survive there would be scars- yes they would fade a little in time, but they would still be visible.
Wounds would be sewn with a needle and thread, and the neatness of the scar would depend on how good the doctor (or whoever was doing the stitching up) was with their stitches...

No doubt there were people in past times who turned away from those who suffered disfigurement, or heavy scarring, just as many still do now days.

Certainly in some of the American historical romances I've read over the years, the heroine drags the scarred and/or disabled hero back into the light, and back into society by the healing power of her love.

The baddies in these stories often lack scars, in fact they look just like anyone else- they can even be women!

So no cinema stereotypes there, quite the opposite in fact...

Friday, 13 April 2012

Agency Model Revisited...

It's been quite difficult to keep up with the almost daily changes going on in relation to Apple, the big name publishers, e-books and the 'Agency Model'.

At the moment there's no final news on the results of the investigation being undertaken by the European Commission (on whether any competition laws have been infringed by agency model pricing).

But earlier this week the US Department of Justice filed papers alleging conspiracy, by Apple and five US publishers, over fixing e-book prices.
Obviously the publishers refuted this and Apple's spokesman denied any collusion.

Now, I'm inclined to accept they didn't actually get together and agree to fix prices- after all they're competitors in one way. But obviously once one publisher does something major, the others are bound to look at it and quickly follow suit without reference to their fellow publishers, just to avoid being put at a disadvantage in the market...

And they probably all share the desire to get one up on Amazon, just to get a little control back...

Three publishers quickly settled with the DoJ and agreed terms- read this piece in the Bookseller explaining.

Meanwhile four publishers have apparently offered a deal to the EC.

While there's a split between those publishers who've agreed to their agency terms being modified, and the remainder who are holding out, surely Amazon will take advantage?

You can read Alison Flood's concerns in the Guardian, 'The Apple ebook price-fixing lawsuit has terrifying implications'.

If your head is spinning from all those links, then you'll find this extensive piece, 'Agency is dead, long live new agency' by Phillip Jones rounding up all the information, with essential quotes and links, plus the implications of these changes, useful.

I can see 2012 is going to prove very interesting...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Commenting Problems Anyone?

A writer friend has let me know that she tried commenting on my blog a number of times and her message wasn't getting through.

So, I've removed the horrid Captcha and put comments on Moderated for the moment. I check my blog regularly so if you comment and you don't see your message after a couple of days please let me know, using the address on the right hand side of the page.

Sadly my blog gets frequent visits from spam websites (hence the moderation for the time-being) even though I don't click on those sites when they appear in my stats.

So thank you for visiting and reading, and I hope to read your comments soon. :)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Some Interesting Results for Historical Fiction...

A few weeks ago- okay perhaps slightly more than a few weeks- I followed a link to a survey on Historical fiction reading. This wasn't aimed at Historical Romance, or writers, it was for Historical Fiction readers generally.

Well the answers have been collated, and it certainly raises some interesting aspects about reading historical fiction, that even romance writers might find useful; many of the answers probably won't be a surprise.

In Mary Tod's survey results, which you'll find in a link on her blog 'A Writer of History-thoughts about writing historical fiction', the responses to the question asking 'Have you always enjoyed historical fiction?' showed (that of the 805 people (of both sexes) who responded to the survey) that 533 had been reading HF since they were a child/teenager.

The most popular reason for reading historical fiction was to "bring the past to life, appreciating how people lived and coped in very different times."
A good example of why getting your novel's setting, and the lifestyle and behaviour of your characters right is important.

And "a great story" was the second popular option...

For the many writers of Medieval and Tudor based stories, you're clearly producing work for the favoured time period.

There's a lot more information to discover including the frequent book or e-book buying preference.

So pop over to Mary's blog and find out more...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Historical Time Periods: Which Do You Prefer?

Over the years I've read novels that have ranged from Roman to Medieval, and on to Victorian times- I've enjoyed some more than others.

In college I studied Ancient History for O'level and when I moved on to A'level History I was starting in the 18thC, and I really couldn't get on with it.

I enjoyed the Victorian section of the course, with all the political change, but the 18thC was my downfall...

So perhaps it wasn't so surprising when my first novel was set in the early Victorian period when a lot of advancements began to take place- the continuing decline of the old horse-drawn coach services and the emergence of railways.

(No it didn't get finished, it only got to 40,000 words. Mainly because I realised there was a big chunk of story that had emerged during the writing, and it had completely changed emphasis- there was a romance developing against the story background which hadn't been intentional.

With that realisation there was the need to change the time period to fit the romance plot.
And I didn't have the knowledge and experience then to know I should just keep going and sort it out later...One day I might get back to sorting it out...)

I like reading novels set in the Regency, but I don't think I could write one. But if you want a source of information then Social Customs During the Regency on the blog for Jane Austen's World, has a lot of links under the numerous topics- too many to list here, and wide ranging.

It was actually my Dorset novel that started to get in the way of that first one, and it hastened the 'put it in a box and move on' moment.

Originally my Dorset novel was going to have a smuggling background, but again the facts and circumstances of the time period interfered- and for certain elements that I needed for my plot, a slightly earlier setting than I'd originally anticipated was essential.

It was during my research for that time span that I finally started to grasp the 18th C.
If I'd been able to approach the 18thC in this way back when I was doing my A'level, I might have got  the 1700's when I needed it...

Saturday, 7 April 2012

It's the Weekend and Synopsis...

As it's Easter weekend- and I'm meant to be helping in a big tidy up my hubby has planned- It's only going to be a short post...

If you've ever struggled with writing a synopsis then have a look at the tips given by Nicola Morgan over on her Help! I Need A Publisher blog.

I have her e-book 'Write A Great Synopsis- An Expert Guide' and would recommend it if you are struggling, or don't know where to start.

Have a great weekend and don't eat too much chocolate.

I have to admit one chocolate egg was consumed yesterday afternoon/evening, but it was dark chocolate. :-)

Thursday, 5 April 2012

New Role...

I've finally managed to get the computer to myself so I can catch up with all the news. Easter school holidays make writing of any sort difficult.

Last night (Wednesday) was the AGM at Nottingham Writers' Club. Sadly the cold and dreadful weather we had yesterday meant we didn't have too many people turn up, but there were enough attending to elect the Committee and discuss any issues that members wanted to raise.

Like any group it's hard to get people to volunteer for club committees as it is hard work. I started out as Assistant Secretary ten years ago, and progressed to Secretary, then Vice Chairman. Then last night I became Chairman.

It's only for a maximum of three years and if they get fed up with me, they can always elect someone else next April... :-)

I have to say that I've gained a number of skills during the time I've been on the Committee. I've met a number of writers and learnt from every one of them.
My organisational skills have developed- just wish I knew how to transfer that knowledge to a couple of my offspring...

When you work on a committee- any committee- you learn how to work with other people, and
Also you gain confidence, not only in yourself, but for dealing with other people.

I'm a different person to the woman who attended her first writers' club meeting eleven years ago, worried about not fitting in, or being good enough to join.

I quickly learnt that I needn't worry on either point.

So if you belong to a writers' group (anywhere in the country) and it's run by a Committee, then consider helping out, without volunteers groups may not be able to carry on.

 You only realise the value of something when it's no longer available...

Monday, 2 April 2012

Romance Terminology-Hero Types...

For any UK reader of Romance novels, who venture into US romance blogs, or reviewing websites there are terms you might not recognise, as well as those you'll be familiar with. So read this ABC of Romance from a few months ago and see which ones you recognise.

Alpha and Beta males are fairly standard. But now you can add Gamma Males. I like this term, as I really think my heroes fit this description. Gamma males are a mix of Alpha and Beta types and for me they can have everything I might want.

Now we like Alpha males (strong, dominant men who take charge), but honestly, I don't think I could live with one all the time and not want to smash him around the head!!!

Likewise Beta males are good (smart, know the value of humour, friendly, but aren't going to throw you over their shoulder and take you back to their lair), but sometimes you might like a little bit of those Alpha  tendencies...

So with a Gamma type you can have the nonthreatening hero who will turn into the decisive, instinctively strong male who will fight to save or protect, when those he cares for are threatened.

Alternatively, your strong man can show a softer side, supporting an unlikely charity, or has a pet that was an abandoned dog, and has now become his shadow...

Would you add any UK terms to the list in the article?

Are there any terms you particularly like or dislike?

Would you define the main types differently?

Yes, you guessed, I'm married to a Gamma type- and wouldn't change him... :-)
(Perhaps that's why most of the heroes in my stories are Gammas too.)