Thursday, 29 December 2016

Happy New Year...

Happy 2017...
I hope your Christmas went well.

Today is very foggy and cold, so apart from a brief trip outside I've been indoors in the warm, relaxing, catching up with friends online and reading.

I've also being making a few definite plans for the first few months of 2017.

With Take A Break Fiction Feast moving to only accepting fiction from those writers on their preferred list, it means that the remaining markets are going to be getting even more submissions, so I need to get on with writing and sending out the stories that I have ideas for (that fit their requirements).

But first I want to get on with adding to and revising my epistolary story (that I got second place for in the writers' club winter quarterly prose competition 2015/16), as there's currently a subscribers only competition in Writing Magazine for this form. The deadline for this is mid February, so my personal deadline will be the end of January.

Having not looked at it since the spring, my subconscious has developed the idea a bit more.

Of course I also need to get back to the second draft too.

Finally there's my annual word total that I reveal at the end of the year- to remind myself what I've done, and that I can do more the next year...

In 2015 I wasn't including my blog posts, which I did include this year. And of course when I'm editing something I'm usually taking away not adding words so that will drop the 2016 total a bit.

2015 total: 28,795

2016 total: 34,612

That's an increase of  5,826 words on last year.

So that's it, my last blog post of 2016.

It's been another year of surprises, learning and improving.

See you in 2017...



image: pixabay




Monday, 19 December 2016

Merry Christmas to All...

This is my last post before Christmas as I'll be busy this week with the final preparations for the big day, now all my family are home...

I don't have room for a proper Christmas Tree at the moment, so I have a little fold-out paper one that sits on my office window-sill; and there's purple, red and blue tinsel around the doors, while the Christmas cards get stuck to the wall with Blu-Tack. :-)

However you may celebrate this time of year...







image from Pixabay

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Guess What I Won?

Well it's the day after the night before and I can now reveal what I've been keeping quiet about since late October...

I won one of the annual competitions at Nottingham Writers' Club, the Rosemary Robb trophy for a ghost story titled, 'The Wishful Spirit'.

Winning the Rosemary
Robb Ghost Story
Trophy
Writers are told to persevere and never throw anything away. Well the story that won this competition proves that statement...

In 2008 it was the first year the ghost story trophy competition ran; it was for a 1,000 word story (that year). I'd never written a ghost story before, but I tried anyway, and received some useful comments from the judge- the writer whom the trophy was named after, and who died a few years later.

The story was filed away and over the years I'd revised it and then put it away again. You see my ghost wasn't the scary type and most markets wanted the creepy sort...

In 2013 I rewrote it and entered it into a national competition, but didn't get anywhere again. Honestly I think it was really just the wrong competition for it.

So back in the box it went until late 2015 when I began to rewrite it yet again making some major changes and eventually submitting it to Woman's Weekly, as they mentioned in their guidelines at that time, 'quirky', and my ghost certainly fitted that description.

Sadly it was rejected.

Meanwhile, as Prose Secretary for the writers' club, I'd asked writer Wendy Clark to judge this year's Rosemary Robb Competition this autumn ( after reading her blog post about writing ghost stories) and she agreed. 

Having received the story back from the magazine I decided I'd enter it into our club competition to get some feedback, and hopefully find out what wasn't working.

I'd already decided a couple of things needed a slight adjustment, and one bit removed. As the maximum word count was 2,000 words I needed to lose about 500 words while still making the changes I needed. After a number of intense revisions I reached the maximum word count and entered it into the club competition.

As writers can have lots of contacts both online and off, the club has always asked members to use a pseudonym on their entry's cover sheet. 
We know our judges would never be influenced by already knowing an entrant, and as Prose Secretary I'm careful not to inadvertently write or say something that one of our judges might see- if I know them, and I intend entering.

So I was absolutely amazed when the results were returned. I'd won! I actually read the email twice to ensure I hadn't misread it.

One of the comments in the judge's feedback that made me smile was, "I found myself chuckling at the phantom, Bold Jack's, asides and imagined him dressed in full 'Captain Jack Sparrow' pirate regalia!" 

That wasn't too far off my mental image of 'Bold Jack' too, although older than the movie pirate... :D

So there we are full circle; the story first written for this trophy competition in 2008, finally won it in 2016. Even though it had rejections and all those revisions, the core of the story never changed.

Have you ever had any stories which took a long time to succeed?

 




Sunday, 11 December 2016

Not Long To Go...

A gem of a book...

Not long to go has a few meanings.

Christmas is of course fast approaching, and this coming Wednesday it's Awards Night at the writers' club.

I may have a few photos I can share next week...

College and Uni finish this coming Friday so I'll have a houseful from next weekend until early New Year. As much as I love my brood, it does mean any quiet time to write is reduced to a dripping tap that quickly gets fixed.

So there will only be a couple more posts until after Christmas.

Meanwhile I've been considering ideas for both my blog and Serena's.

I've also been catching up on my reading while I've had a spare ten minutes, or while waiting for appointments...

One of my recommended reads that would make an ideal Christmas present is From Story Idea to Reader by Patsy Collins and Rosemary J. Kind. And it's not because I know the authors.

This is a book I wish had been around when I first started writing, as it has a friendly and very comfortable and clear style; but there are sections more experienced writers can dip into that inspire me, and (new to me) techniques to try out. It's available on Kindle and as a paperback via Createspace, either from Alfie Dog (see link below) or Amazon.

I haven't finished reading it yet as I've not had enough free-time, so that's another delight to come over the holidays.

Earlier this year Patsy guest posted about using Createspace to turn her e-book novels and short story collections into paperbacks; and Rosemary is the owner and editor of Alfie Dog Fiction.

If you're in the UK and are signed up to Goodreads then there's an opportunity to win a copy. Click here.

I still have a number of photos to finish sorting and labelling up too, and I want to get a few blog posts written up for those busy times...

More soon...



Thursday, 24 November 2016

Review of 2016...

As the next few weeks will be busy, I thought I'd do my annual review now.

I feel it's helpful to remind myself what I've achieved across the year, and if something hasn't gone as I'd hoped, well perhaps there's something I can learn from it, or accept that circumstances sometimes interfere in our plans, but that's life and writers aren't immune to those issues.

My word count total isn't yet complete for the year, but I've already exceeded last year's total...

2016 hasn't been as good as previous years, and not everything has been positive.

 So here goes.

January

I was rewriting and editing a short story for submission to the women's magazine market - sadly it was rejected just under the three months after it was submitted.
Though I never give up on my stories, so I'll look at it again and see if anything obvious punches me in the nose.

As I was intending to enter the writers' club's winter quarterly prose (deadline early-March) I was pondering a few ideas. Epistolary fiction is an interesting medium for a story and can be hard to get right, but also easy to get horribly wrong.

February

The magazine short story (mentioned above) was sent out, and the epistolary story was under construction.

March

My old Windows 7 desktop finally packed up, so I had to shift my office around to remove the defunct equipment and replace it with a Windows 10 device.

It took me a while to get my brain to work around Windows 10, and there are still times that it's frustrating, but I've learnt to live with it.

I also did a guest post about writing groups over on Patsy Collins' Words About Writing and writing about words blog.

As a reader for the Nottingham Writers' Club National Short Story Competition (link to the 2017 competition) I had a portion of the first round to read and comment on.

And the epistolary story came 2nd in the club's prose competition.

April

The posts this month were popular. I had guest posts from author (and writing buddy) Patsy Collins; who not only had a new book out, but was giving helpful advice and information for anyone interested in going from e-book to print using Createspace on Amazon, here and here.

This month also began the second draft of my Nottinghamshire short novel.

There was time for a one-day workshop on historical fiction with author Judith Allnatt, in the Alan Sillitoe Room on the top floor of the Nottingham branch of Waterstones.

One of the exercises at the workshop had presented me with a new character (I'm still not sure how her story will end up, but I'm sure I'll find out some time in the future).

I've been on the Talkback forum (part of the Writing Magazine writers- online website) for years, and taken part in the One Word Challenge, 200 words to write a story on theme of that month's chosen word.

April's word happened to be Jeopardy, so I rewrote the exercise piece that was based on the senses- and I was one of the runners-up on April's Challenge.


May

May was a challenge.

There was a lot going on personally, and I'd also lost, and attended the funerals, of two writer friends, one in late March, and the second a few weeks later. Though both were older and infinitely wiser, they were willing to ask advice about blogging and e-books, and I was happy to be able to help.

Both Stan and Ron were gentlemen, and they willingly shared their knowledge. I will not forget their generosity, and their support.

June

As in other year's there was the writers' club stall at the Lowdham Book Festival.

Plus I was able to get to a couple of exhibitions courtesy of a long weekend in York; Shaping the Body at the Castle Museum, and the final week of a Shoe Exhibition at the 18th century Fairfax House.

The visit also gave me the opportunity to meet up with writer friend, Maggie Cobbett.

July

With university and college finished for the summer, home life was noisy, and my inability to get quiet to write was frustrating and depressing me.

I did some research on a new project, and struggled on.

August

Was the memory stick issues. Discovering I'd lost some work on a stick that would not open on my new computer, or my OH's laptop. But the sorting, checking and labelling of the remaining functioning sticks has proved time well spent.

September

Disaster with the discovery that I had  also lost the whole of my first draft, and the first three chapters of the second draft on another memory stick. Thankfully I had everything printed out, so all was not completely lost.

I purchased a portable hard drive- no explanation needed...

Revised another story Woman's Weekly rejected.

October

I hadn't been feeling too good for months, so saw my GP. Had to stop taking one of my medications and wait for six weeks to completely clear it out of my system. Surprisingly I started feeling the improvement quite quickly and the ongoing lethargy faded.

I enjoyed meeting up with #writingchat co-hosts Patsy Collins and Maria Smith for a few hours at the Attenborough Nature Reserve.

With the renewed energy I ventured further afield to Leicester and was welcomed into the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) Chapter, the Belmont Belles. In the short time I've been connected, I've learnt a lot.

With the additional energy (because my blood pressure had gone up) I began the second draft again, using the printed copy to retype and make other changes- I've almost done Chapter Two.

November

The blood pressure is now sorted, but I need to lose weight. I also need to see the Osteopath about my back too... :(

I've had a small success with a letter in the December issue of Writing Magazine.

And I get a mention in the current Writers' Forum magazine, where the writers' club national competition is the Competition of the Month on the page compiled by Helen Walters.

December

Well I know I have good news to share, but you'll have to wait a bit longer for that.


I didn't set too specific targets last year - on the 23rd November to be exact - my Serena Lake website and blog has suffered with my lack of energy and tiredness, so I didn't give it the attention I wanted to.

I have been open to writing and researching opportunities, so I've met that target.

And reading and writing, well probably more of the former this year.


So for 2017 my general aims are:

Carry on with the second draft.

Get out into the world more.

Continue being open to writing opportunities.

Read more.

Write more.

And lose weight... :-)














Thursday, 17 November 2016

November Means the Bad Sex in Fiction Shortlist...

Around this time in November the shortlist for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award is announced.

The Award  was established by Auberon Waugh, the then editor of the Literary Review, and literary critic Rhoda Koenig.

It has been awarded every year since 1993.

"the Bad Sex in Fiction Award has honoured an author who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel. The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction."
Literary Review

When you consider how many books are produced, it's going to be the mainstream published type that will get the most notice, and readers who think these books deserved nominating...

You can read about a few of the nominated authors who escaped the shortlist in this Guardian article about this year's list.

(The new US President Elect was nominated apparently, but was excluded because it wasn't fiction...)

So this year's contenders:

A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin

The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

Men Like Air by Tom Connolly

The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca


Having read the entries for this year, I can't see why Gayle Forman was included...

Whoever wins will likely see a rise in sales following the announcement on the 30th November.

Of the candidates this year, it has to be Erri De Luca's The Day Before Happiness. But Janet Ellis does deserve a commendation for The Butcher's Hook...


Which will win?




























image courtesy of       & freedigitalphotos.net







Monday, 14 November 2016

Spam is doing the Rounds...

I've been so busy this past week that I haven't had time to check into my blog until today.

Unfortunately some potentially offensive spam was able to be posted on the comments on one of my more recent October posts. :(

If anyone was offended, please accept my apologies...

Sadly the spammers found a way around Blogger's system for detecting spam postings, so they appeared in the visible comments.

It does mean I'll be altering my settings on past posts to avoid any more incidents like this; so if you do comment on an older post I'll review them and then be able to confirm it's okay and allow it to be published.

I don't want to have to review every comment first, so I hope Blogger will quickly pick up these spammers posts.



An evening view...







Thursday, 3 November 2016

A Small Success...

When I first got back into writing, after a very long break, my first published pieces were letters to my local newspaper. It's a good way to start as it teaches you to be concise and use the most effective words for the subject matter.

In fact the first ever piece I had published, as a young teenager, was a letter in one of the early music magazines - when it was still a newspaper version.

Friends on Facebook will already know about this, but I have a small writing success this month; I have a letter in the December issue of Writing Magazine.


December 2016 issue
The Letters to the Editor page is always popular, and you know how writers like to get into discussions about issues that are important to them...

I was sharing some insights into entry fees and restrictions in writing competitions.

A reader in the November edition had voiced concerns about these issues, and as I'm involved with a national short story competition I thought there were probably newer writers who had similar concerns, so I put fingers to keyboard.

Obviously each competition organisation has their own rules and entry fees, but there are some elements all are faced with, and I concentrated on those.

My letter
When there's so much to say and the maximum word count is 250 words, I did have to do a number of edits to still say what I wanted to and keep within that maximum number.

There are some very interesting articles in this edition, so you may want to purchase a copy when you're next at the newsagents.Or you can buy a digital copy.

I have to write a 200 word story for next weeks competition at the writers' club on the theme of 'Lost', so I'll really have to get the red pen out for that.

And as my letter was about competitions, if you know anyone who is a new or developing writer, the details of the 2017 Nottingham Writers' Club, National Short Story Competition, are now up on the club's website, here.

I also got a sneaky peep at the new website design today. It's not quite completed yet, but it's looking good...






Thursday, 27 October 2016

Getting Back to Where I Was...

Finally I've had some free time to get back to my Nottinghamshire short novel- lots of appointments at this time of year. :(

As I was retyping the first chapter of draft 2 from my print copy I found myself making a list of comments and notes as I went along, so these points could be dealt with in future drafts.

It was one of those 'if I don't write it down now I'll forget it' things.

So I got out a pack of file cards from my stationery stash (every writer has one of those don't they?), put the chapter number at the top of the first card, and then added the comments with the page or paragraph it related to.

(I know that when I've dealt with those in the third draft I'll likely have more notes to add, but I'm taking it one draft at a time...)

Once I'd finished retyping the chapter I saved it in three digital forms (after losing everything but the print copy I'm being triple careful this time); printed it out and put it into a plastic cover and popped the file card in with it.

I use those thin plastic sleeves that have holes already punched (for various types of file storage) and use green treasury tags to keep the chapters together. I can easily add the next sleeve behind it; then it goes into it's own file box- nothing more annoying than looking for that piece of paper with information you need and not knowing where it is, so everything goes in the box now.

Really I'd like to add a filing cabinet, but my office area doesn't have room for one at the moment- but that doesn't mean it will stay that way...

Though honestly, it's easier to create an office from a bare room, than it is to change one that has furniture you can't move elsewhere.

Do you have an office essential that makes your writing life easier?


One day I will get a filing cabinet...





















Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Further Adventures of Carol...

Life has been a little chaotic in the last month, so getting away from the stresses has been a much needed break.

A couple of weeks ago it was meeting friends, Maria and Patsy.

Then this Friday is was the Leicester chapter meeting of the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association). There were a few recognisable faces from online, but also a number of people who I'd never met, or may have only seen or heard of their books, plus one very familiar face, Maria Smith.

I didn't take my camera, but there may be a photo on Maria's blog later this week.

It was one of those mornings when if something can go wrong, it will go wrong.

Having stopped to deal with an urgent phone call, it was a quick walk to the nearest tram stop. Unfortunately I was only half way along the footpath when the tram I'd intended to get pulled up at the station and then left.

Panic.

9 minutes to the next tram. I'd probably miss the London train that would get me to Leicester with time to spare. The next train would be another half hour...

I'm one of those people who always allows extra time to get lost- if visiting somewhere I've never been before. I'd rather arrive twenty minutes early than twenty minutes late.

Fortunately the tram didn't break down- it does happen, and as it stops above the railway station, I was buying my train ticket within two minutes of arriving. And then down to the platform with the train waiting and five minutes to spare - phew!

That train was busy as it was one coach short- the one with the unreserved seats, but I found an empty seat that was only reserved from my destination, so thankfully I didn't have to stand.

As I had clear directions from the station I was only a little early, so all that worry for nothing. I'll be much better organised next time.

Back to work...
If you happen to see any pictures of me from Friday with a glass in my hand, my back was to the very warm radiator, and it wasn't that cold outside!

There are a number of RNA chapters across the country, each with their own style of meetings, so if you write romance and are interested, have a look here.

You can also read the RNA blog. The current interviewee Claire Harvey, also attended the Writing Historical Fiction workshop that I went to earlier in the year. Hearing her read then, I'm not surprised she was announced as the 2016 winner of the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers.

Now, I need to get back to the work in progress, and hopefully a calmer few weeks...




image courtesy of  aechan & www.freedigitalphotos.net











Monday, 3 October 2016

When Writers Meet...

It's always fun to get-together with other writers and talk about the highs, and sometimes lows, of writing. It's even better when there's coffee and cake involved somewhere.

Over the weekend I finally got to meet (in person) a couple of my writing buddies (and fellow bloggers) Patsy Collins and Maria Smith. The three of us are also involved with #writingchat on Twitter on Wednesday evenings.

Carol, Maria and Patsy
A big thank you must be said to Patsy's very patient husband Gary, who took photos of the three of us together, with our cameras, before departing for the peace of the campervan.

The weather was not good; cool and threatening to rain, so we went for a walk first to burn up the calories, before we retreated to the warmth of the cafe for coffee and cake- and more talking.

Fortunately we were inside when the heavy rainfall started, and were only momentarily distracted by the thump from nearby thunder, and an impressive flash of lightning.

The hours passed quickly, and I'm sure anyone looking at us chatting away would never have known it was the first time we'd actually met. We've known each other online for some time, so we weren't really total strangers.

It's made me determined to get out and attend more events in the next twelve months, and hopefully meet a few more of the many writers I know from blogging and Facebook/Twitter...


Look out for Patsy's Tuesday blog post for some #writingchat news.

Horse on a diet

Across the gravel pit the clouds approach

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Motivation...

Admittedly, first thing in the morning my motivation is poor, but once I've had breakfast, and my muscles have warmed up properly, my motivation gets going.

As I've been editing a story for a club competition, I could see what I needed to cut, and asked myself, what was my character's motivation for what they're doing.
Getting Motivated...

I think I've got to the core of the problem.

I'm going to write down the motivations for my main characters in my Nottinghamshire story. Although I think I know what they are, I've never actually written them down.

Reading this useful post on the Writers Helping Writers site, it got me thinking about my current hero and heroine's motivations, and those of my 'villain' too. So I'll be taking time to check that I've not missed any of the points mentioned in that Character Motivation post...

Like any writer I have a few essential (writing) reference books that get regular use: a dictionary and my Cassell Dictionary of Word Histories; and when I'm trying to grasp particular aspects of my characters, but I'm unsure of whether one is more suitable than the other, then I will dip into The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression, or The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws.

I have the Kindle version of Emotion Amplifiers too- it's a free e-book.

But however useful these books are, it still comes down to me, sitting down at my desk and tapping away at the keyboard to get the stories written.

So I'm off to get on with finishing the short story- motivation on full throttle...









image courtesy of supakitmod & www.freedigitalphotos.net








Thursday, 15 September 2016

Back to Work and Poetry...

An orderly routine at home has been restored with the academic year beginning, so that means undisturbed writing time.

Well that's the general plan...

I've bought my portable hard drive so I now have an ultimate back-up;  as I retype my Nottinghamshire short novel it's being saved onto it as well as the memory stick.

(Plus anything else I don't want to lose has been saved.)

Three forms of saving must be enough?

As friends on Facebook will have seen, I discovered that not only had I lost the first three chapters of draft 2, I had lost the whole 1st draft too.

The situation could have been horrible, but as mentioned last time, I print out each chapter as I complete it, so there is a copy of the completed first draft to work from.

Surprisingly I didn't panic, that is after the initial moment of horror at discovering the file was gone.

Rather than retyping the 1st draft again- which would take me too long- I decided the most practical solution is to retype the first three chapters from draft 2 (as planned), then once I start chapter four I'll rewrite using my print copy and the notes I'd previously made for draft 2.

The way forward...
Prevents me wasting time and ensures I still make progress despite the set-back.

As I read through and retype I've also started compiling reminder notes on a file card for each chapter. Not something I've tried before, but in the circumstances I thought I'd see if it helps with the rewriting and editing of future drafts.

Being open to new ideas is good. Which now ties into the poetry item...

I attended a short workshop about writing poetry (last night at the writers' club). The aim of the session was to encourage the attendees that even if they didn't think they could write a poem, they could discover methods that would help them do so.

Negativity was not allowed.

Admittedly by the end of the evening I was quite enthusiastic about working on the last poem I wrote, about an old glass bottle with the chemist's name - we were given a selection of objects to choose from and the little glass bottle immediately drew my attention.

Whether I can actually make a decent poem out of it I have no idea, but I said I'd try.






Image courtesy of Stuart Miles & www.freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Lost and Found...

Saving the story...
I've now got my portable hard drive, so I'll be saving my work in progress as I go along, not just on a memory stick and a print copy (you can never have enough back-ups :D ).

There was near disaster when I discovered that one of the memory sticks lost the first three chapters of my second draft of my Nottinghamshire story. It was on the memory stick, then the next time I plugged it in, it was gone.

A writer friend suggested I download a retrieval programme and see if it could find it. Sadly it was gone forever.

Fortunately I print out the completed chapters as I go along, so I haven't lost all that work I did earlier in the year.

But it will mean retyping it into a new document. :(

So I better go and get on with it... :-)

Have you ever lost work due to digital mishaps?


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Discoveries...

For those of you who had a Bank Holiday on Monday, I hope you enjoyed it.

I did a little gardening, but spent most of the day sorting through the memory sticks (aka flash drives, thumb drives, USB sticks) to find out what was on the unlabelled ones- not my fault... :-)

There was one stick that would no longer open on my computer, or my OH's laptop. I think I know what was on it- it was the first two chapters of an idea that just didn't work at the time. I do have one stick that has a lot images and files on, so I think that some of the lost items are also on there- and it still works.

There were quite a few duplicates- a few of the photos had three or four copies between the different sized sticks, so I was able to free up a couple of them as a result.
Holding memories and
tales to be told...

Among all these old documents I found a few stories that I'd started and either didn't finish, or the idea didn't appeal at the time. So I'll be looking at them to see if there's anything I can salvage now.

I bought some white strung tags so every stick is now labelled with subject and memory size, so I can easily find the one I want.

If you buy a new computer with Windows 10 on it, as I needed to, it will have the 3.0 USB slots. Though you might have a model with both 2.0 and 3.0 USB slots, so it's worth checking.

Fortunately my computer still opens the 2nd generation sticks I have, but that's not guaranteed on all new computers apparently, as I discovered when I was searching to find out why one of my sticks wouldn't open or be recognised.

Needless to say I will be investing in a good portable hard drive as soon as possible to transfer essential items. That way I don't have to use the one my OH bought for his computer files.

Where technology is concerned I opt for the 'change only when necessary', but sometimes you just have to do it sooner...








Sunday, 21 August 2016

Making Lists Again...

Almost at the August Bank Holiday again- where has summer gone?

I'm going to be grabbing writing time here and there for the next few weeks as the new academic year approaches.

My son at university, starts his third and final year, but will also be on the other campus this time, so he'll be in a shared house. This means we'll have to go out with him to buy the additional items he'll need before he moves in early next month.

Son at college goes back for the final year of his computer course mid-September, so that will be full steam ahead with writing on the two full days he's there. He's also waiting for the results of his GCSE Maths- due this coming week.

Still working...
I'm filling up my 2016/2017 diary with appointments and other events, so I'm going to have to be stricter with myself to ensure I have writing and reading time between now and Christmas.

I haven't made as much progress as I'd hoped, but that's been my time management issues this year.

When my children were younger and at school I used to write more in the morning, but now they're older and I don't have the time restraints, it's lunchtime, early afternoon before I settle. So I need to get back some of my mornings to write.

It would probably help if I didn't stay up until midnight too. :D

There are a few deadlines for projects approaching, so they'll be the top of my list- they are writing so that's okay.

As for my 1920's project, it's slow going. Whether I can get the pocket novel tone is quite another issue...

Right, I'm off to consult my diary and see what free time I have this week...







image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, 11 August 2016

First or Third Person Viewpoint...

I've always preferred third person viewpoint, both writing and reading.

Occasionally I have written a short story from the first person viewpoint, but I hadn't intended it. I started writing and that was how the character and story seemed to fit.

Now I'm in the same situation again with this 1920's story- hopefully a pocket novel.

As I've been writing blocks of dialogue from the ideas in my head, I've been getting inside the mind of my heroine, but I do wonder if that will remain once I start adding description and narrative, or will I find I'm writing in the third person as usual?

Though the idea of using first person would fit this particular plot well I'm really not sure I can carry it off!

I suspect there will be a lot of editing by the time I've finished it-whichever direction it goes...

So what's your thoughts on viewpoint in your writing? Do you prefer a particular viewpoint, or does it depend on the story you're writing?

First or Third?

























Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Trying a New Method...

At the moment I'm working on a shorter project set in the late 1920's.

1920's Red Cloche Hat
from Shaping The Body Exhibition
Castle Museum, York.
With the school/university holidays there's not as much quiet around me as I need to concentrate on the editing of draft 1 of my Nottinghamshire short novel, so I'm researching and jotting down ideas on this other project.

I've always written sequentially, so start at chapter one and work through to the end, but this shorter project isn't working that way.

I have scenes and dialogue in my mind but not the joining up or narrative pieces.

So I decided to try something different; write the dialogue in the scenes I do have in mind and fit it together later on when I'm clearer on the descriptions and narrative.

Admittedly I was sceptical  that it would work, but surprisingly it has worked well and I'm making progress quicker than I anticipated.

The core prompt has been in my ideas book for years, and despite considering a few possibilities- one set in the early 19th century- it didn't go anywhere, until the couple from the past revealed a brief conversation that made sense of the 1920's plot.

One day I'll write that other story that will tie up the early 19th century to the 1920's...

Meanwhile the disadvantages are that I've got to learn about everyday facts of 1920's life.

For example can my heroine turn on a light? How widespread was electricity in country houses?

It's interesting in another way, because my mother was born in the early 1920's so some of the questions & answers will relate to her childhood too.

At least I'm writing... :-)





Thursday, 21 July 2016

Regrets and Serendipity...

Thank you all for all your support and kind words recently, it encouraged and reminded me that sometimes I need to step back and relax and not feel guilty for it.

And of course, when I did stop worrying, my creativity returned.

That was when I regretted not buying that old book last month.

The old book that I picked up, browsed, then put back down on the book stall during the rainy day at Lowdham Book Festival. I'd left it, deciding it wasn't useful. :(

While it's noisy at home at the moment, I decided to do some research for an idea that may be suitable as a pocket novel, as it's buzzing around my brain at the moment.

If you want to know about Steam Locomotives there's lots of information on the internet, and plenty of photographic examples, but interior views of the carriages on the line I am interested in, no. I could find a few pictures for the 1890's.

So I decided that the start would need a rethink and put it aside.

Then today I popped into an Oxfam book shop that I'd never visited before, and a very well-worn cloth bound book caught my attention. The books of the early 20th century were often cloth-bound, so I always look at these when I see them.

I'd found a gem. The Blue Guides to England. They are still going and you can read more here.

There were a few pages loose, but they were there. There were little maps of different regions of the country, information on stations, buses, fares and hotels, as well as the standard tourist information of the time. Everything a visitor to England might need to know in the late 1930's. And no adverts.

From America to England the steamer took 5-10 days, and just like now it cost more to travel in the summer season; off season was 10% less.

The rail route I was interested in described the views as the train travelled from London to Brighton, the classes available and how long the journey could take.

Of course all the fares and hotel charges are in pre-decimal currency, so £-s-d.

I'm old enough to remember those, and many of the coins shown here. My pocket-money as a child was a thruppenny bit (three pence). :-)

It's going to be fun to dip into the pages and learning more about places I've visited, over the years.

But I will be getting on with the writing/editing too.


















Sunday, 10 July 2016

When You Can't Write...

I need quiet to write.

Reality at the moment is that there's very little quiet available.

So I'm not writing consistently, and the second draft editing is on hold until I have a clear head again.

Lots of stress from assorted sources led to mild depression building, and last week I wasn't functioning at 100%, more like 20%. So I cut back to essential tasks, stopped feeling guilty for all the things I wasn't doing, and concentrated on me rather than everyone else.

I'm probably back up to 75% functioning now.

My mind has unlocked and is starting to formulate story ideas again- thank you Sally Quilford, your comment on Facebook hit the switch I needed rebooting... (Can switches be rebooted? :) )

Meanwhile I've slowly been working my way through my York visit photos, renaming, tagging and where needed cropping. (Windows 10 does not make the tagging as simple as it was in Windows 7.)

I've started some background reading for a future project too, and making notes on a completely different long-term non-fiction item. Both of these don't demand the degree of concentration my work-in-progress needs, and I can do them in short spurts.

Depression can happen to anyone at any time of their life from mild to severe, so if you're not sure if you're experiencing this, there's a useful self-assessment tool on the nhs website, here.

I hope to get back to my blogging routine in the next week...

Meanwhile here's a happy picture to make you smile.
T-shirt of a cat in a garden in a
shop window...
(The Cat Gallery)

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Fun and Research in York...

Finally I've had the time to fully gather my thoughts on York, as well as sorting my photos (there wasn't 600, I misread the totals on the screen- that was how many I could have taken with the memory card. I ended up with 131 images and I'm still naming and tagging them).

Plus my husband took a few for me on his smaller digital camera, which I still need to get from him.

Even on a short break there's time for research and inspiration.

I also did a lot of walking, lots and lots of walking...

We stayed at a hotel with the enclosed car park at the rear- our room overlooked it. It was only five minutes walk to Bootham Bar, which has been the entryway into York for centuries, so we were at The Minster within ten minutes, and from there a variety of attractions, shops, and eating places were within easy reach.

Bootham Bar
gateway
(The picture on the right, there's a car in the distance with headlights on; our hotel was about that far away.)

Unfortunately we didn't sleep well the first night as a car alarm, on one of the vehicles in the hotel car park, kept going off every hour- it finally stopped after 3 am. :(

As I'd arranged to meet up with writer friend Maggie Cobbett at Bennett's, by The Minster on the Saturday morning before my first museum visit, there was no time for a lie-in.

Carol and Maggie met for coffee

It was a Facebook post by Maggie, recommending the Shaping the Body exhibition at the Castle Museum, that led me to book the weekend in York.

(As I've got quite a few photos on particular topics, I'll be using some of the photos I took in future blog posts here, and on my Serena Lake site.)

Friends already know that if there's an opportunity to try out historical dress, I will be the first in the queue. Sadly this time there wasn't a large size available, so I went for the underpinnings- panniers.

Panniers tied at the waist


Now I have to admit these were comfortable, but the real things probably wouldn't be, nor as compact as these. Though they do give you an idea of proportions, and how they would give shape to the dresses of the time.

Like later cages, they do change how you move.

By the time we'd finished going through the museum I was hungry and tired, so I decided to visit the shoe exhibition at Fairfax House on the Sunday, rather than rush through it.

If I hadn't been going to Fairfax House we probably would have followed the riverside pathway for a while. There was a rowing competition running between various universities taking place on the Sunday morning...

Riverside path...



Monday morning soon arrived, as did the rain, and time to pack up the car and return to the regular daily routine.

It's been a busy first half of the year, so the trip to York was just what I needed...

Monday, 20 June 2016

Back from York...

On Friday I travelled up to York to visit a couple of exhibitions, as well as take advantage of a short break with my husband, minus the family- who are now all adults and can look after the house and themselves.

I must admit there was a pile of dishes in the sink when we got back today... :D

I took lots of photos in York- some for blog posts now, others for later in the year, and a few for Serena's blog; and more random images that I'm sure I'll find a use for.

Having just checked how many, there's 600+. That's going to take me some time to sort out, choose, and label.

I'm amazed I can actually move, as I did so much walking while I was away. Each evening when I got back to the hotel and finally stopped still, my muscles stiffened up and I just wanted to lie down and watch the TV.

After hearing about Betty's, I actually got to experience the tearoom. We were downstairs, but the service was the same as upstairs, and we didn't have to queue up as long either.

We stayed about five-ten minutes walk from the Minster, so we got to admire the amazing craftsmanship, past and present, several times a day.

More soon.

A View of York Minster...




image from Pixabay.






Sunday, 5 June 2016

The Season of Festivals...

Where has the time gone?

I know book festivals take place throughout the year, but the summer months are particularly popular.

For me, June means  it's Lowdham Book Festival, 17th-25th. So I'll be doing my usual stint at the writers' club stall on the 25th.

 I need to dig out the bag with the see-through acrylic stands and leaflet holders ready for this year's display material.

Every year is a learning experience, seeing what works and what is an absolute failure in display terms.

This year 's Lowdham Book Festival is in its 17th year, and I've attended the free Saturday events day for at least eleven of the last twelve years.

Of course events develop and change over time, but I've always found the Saturday a good indicator of how the local and even national economy is affecting people.

 Do people buy one or two new books, or will they buy half a dozen? Modern second-hand books always seem to weather the ups and downs...

Buying books...
The last couple of years have been good, and it's reassuring to all writers to see a healthy trade in books, whether new, very old, or second-hand.

I scour the attending antiquarian type book stalls every year, but set myself a budget, otherwise I'd need a suitcase- and a lottery win... :D

This year's free Saturday events will be taking place the day after the results of the EU referendum have been announced, plus it's also a busy day for assorted events around the immediate region so fingers crossed for sunshine, or at least a dry day.

Besides Lowdham, Derby Book Festival is now running until the 11th June; and hopefully there will be another Books at the Castle in Newark (held for the first time August 2015).

If you're in the area then do look at the Lowdham festival programme; you can download it from The Bookcase website, here.

Do you have a local book festival that you attend? Or do you prefer the bigger festivals like Hay, or
Edinburgh?



image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti & www.freedigitalphotos.net

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Character or Plot- Which Arrives First?

Do you have a favourite series that you hate to miss?

Well Saturday night in the my house is NCIS night. Now to be honest across the week NCIS: seasons 10, 11 and 12 are being shown on assorted digital channels (along with the New Orleans and Los Angeles versions), which can be confusing as one night a relative of one character can be dead, and the next week on a different channel the dead character is still alive...

This is where box-sets come in useful.

Anyway, my OH just watches the story and whoever is in that episode- he calls it moving wallpaper; I told him that the characters and what's happening to them is as important as the story. He wasn't convinced...

That is what got me thinking about plot versus character, and which comes first?

Which arrives first?
If you define plot as "a sequence of events" that occur through the story, then I'd have to say no that doesn't come first- at least for me.

In fact whenever I've had a story idea and some of the plot before finding the characters for it, they have never made any progress no matter how much time I've put in. The last time I tried that it was three wasted months.

For me, it runs: initial idea (that is usually the result of two random incidents/thoughts/information) - a vague scene of one or two characters, but enough to start developing them - more ideas - research - basic bios of my characters- chapter outlines - write the first draft and discover more about the characters and plot as I work.

Looking at the process that way it's 50/50.

Every writer has their own way of doing things, so someone else may have the plot and then looks for their characters to fill the story.

Others discover as they go along.

So are you plot first? Characters first? Or somewhere in-between? 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

My Problem Character...

Sometimes I find getting into the mind of my characters easy, at other times it can be problematic.

In my second draft I have some gaps to fill, and Hannah is one of the problematic gaps.

She arrived in the last chapter of draft one as if she had always been around; she and my heroine know each other quite well, but looking back, nowhere in the first draft had there been any hint this young woman existed...

That was when I realised that she would actually fill a necessary role that was one of the gaps I had.

She has the confidante role. But she'll also be a means of passing information on where appropriate.

Seeing the light?
At the moment I'm still learning about her, and her way of speaking is starting to emerge more clearly than in her first few lines.

I know she's a year or two older than my heroine, and has had a little more experience of the world, so that will prove insightful later- there's a completely new scene in my mind (for much further on in the draft) where Hannah will be doing a little manipulation- for the best of reasons of course. :D

Unlike my other characters I don't yet have a bio for her. That's usually when I find out all those useful snippets of information lurking in the recesses of my mind.

Perhaps that will get through her protective shell.

Onward with the never-ending mystery of the supporting cast...






Sunday, 15 May 2016

Procrastination...

Yes, I'm guilty of procrastination. I don't intend to, but somehow time passes and then it's too late to get started because everyone is home again and I need quiet to write.

Procrastination...
I'm recovering from three busy months, and there's been lots of personal life stuff that has been taking up the remaining time too. So the second draft rewrite really has been the last thing on my mind.

But I'm determined to make the most of the free time available- yes, I know I've said that before!

Having to shift all my office around while the computer was being replaced didn't help. It's not quite back to how I need it, so I'm going to concentrate on finishing that. There's still a few things I want but can't access easily, so times wasted searching...

I'm fortunate that I have the end of the old dining room to house my office, but it still has to double as a temporary storage area for other things until we've shifted other room contents around- that's slow progress.

Hopefully by the time I'm finished there will be enough fodder for me to write a short article on procrastination for one of the annual trophies at the writers' club- it's for non-fiction, and this year's subject just happens to be procrastination.

So I am sort of working... :D

Right, I need to get started, it's the recycling collection day tomorrow.

Do you have any anti-procrastination tips that you can recommend?






image courtesy of Stuart Miles & www.freedigitalphotos.net








Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Workshop Exercises - Success...

For many years I've been a member of the Talkback forum over on the writers-online website, and the monthly one word writing challenge is not only fun, but also good for honing structure and effective word choice. You only have 200 words for the story.

It was while I was putting together my previous blog post, about the workshop, that I realised that the senses scene would work well for the April challenge, as the word was jeopardy. 

My new character, Elizabeth, was most certainly in jeopardy. So I rewrote the piece, paying particular attention to her surroundings and added another 100 words to finally come in at 198.

It was posted with a day to spare before the month end. But the wait for the competition to close, and the prose judge's decision and comments were worth it.

Here's what the April judge said- I know they won't mind me sharing their comments on my entry:


The Darkness Beckons
A great build-up of atmosphere and tension in this story. I was imagining a Dickens era setting, but I think it works equally as well in a modern day setting. I am curious to know why Elizabeth could no longer rely on “the niceties of society”, what had brought her to the warehouse, what choices she had previously been denied…. I think you should write on!


What awaits at the
other end?

And even better, I was co-runner up 'for the great sense of atmosphere'. 

(Imagine grimy windows, neglect, abandonment, vermin and a very dark corridor.)


Needless to say, Elizabeth has gone into the development corner of my brain, marked up as #6. She may move up the order, but it really does depend on how long the story will be; it could be short, or longer, which is partly why I'm not revealing that scene... 

At the moment she seems content to have made her presence known and isn't going to pester- unlike a few of my waiting characters. It will be serious when she gets a file box for her story.

Meanwhile I'm getting the hang of the second draft process with Hugh and Sarah's story, so it's all positive at the moment.



image courtesy of Tuomas Lehitinen & www.freedigitalphotos.net

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Workshop- Writing Historical Fiction...

Saturday- St George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday I spent indoors at a workshop- except for a brief foray outside for food and to admire St. George, and his two fellow knights on horseback outside the Council House, as I passed by.

Author Judith Allnatt was running a writing historical fiction workshop, held in the events room at the Nottingham branch of Waterstones. The events room actually has a name- the Alan Sillitoe Room.

(It's on the top floor and is large enough for a book launch/ talk if you ever have need of one.)

There was also a good supply of tea and coffee to keep us alert...

I must admit that I always find workshops a little scary, as well as worthwhile.

Ready to workshop...
Scary because I worry I'll freeze when it comes to writing exercises, but thankfully I didn't have too much problem. And there were times when a few of us attending found a particular item problematic, but that was okay.

The warm-up bit was fun as we were able to choose from a selection of postcards of shoes (from assorted time periods) and used that as a starting point for creating a character. It was ideal for me as so often visuals connect with the room of waiting characters in my sub-conscious. The pair of shoes I chose were from 1912.

There was one exercise I will definitely use again. My new character, how do they sleep, what is around them in their bedroom or room they sleep in? My character didn't have a first name at this point, but I was soon realising her circumstances were dire.

When you think about it, the place where you sleep is very telling, as are the objects around you, their neatness or an incongruous item or two.

I'd never thought about it that way before, but I will now.

By the time we reached the senses, I knew my character's name, and a better idea of the time setting- late Victorian rather than early 20th century.

(This was when a missing scene from my work in progress popped up and resolved one of my niggle points.)

Judith read an extract from her third and lately released in paperback, The Silk Factory, to provide an example of how the senses could be used.

We looked at published extracts and how they convey information without it being obvious, even if you don't know what event it may refer to- such as a national/world event.

As the workshop drew to a close Timelines were mentioned,  and between us we compiled a long list of research resources. There were a few I will be looking into, especially Academia.edu.

With time running out there was a Q&A to finish.

Everyone seemed to leave inspired to continue writing their historical novels.

Personally, it was enjoyable, I learnt more, but it also reassured me that I'm doing the right things for the historical side of my romances.

Have you been to any workshops this year?







image courtesy of noppasinw & www.freedigitalphotos.net







Monday, 18 April 2016

The Rewrite Resumes...

Finally I can return to the second draft rewrite.

I'm grateful to Patsy Collins for guest posting last week while I was very busy with essential work for the writers club...

Anyway, to draft 2. I know it's advised that you read the whole manuscript through and make notes, but I'm not doing that for this draft.

I've got numerous minor and major changes to do, and the overview of the story in my head. And if I'm not sure of something I do have my chapter outlines with any changes that were made marked in.

The second half of the story was clearer, mainly because I had discovered more about my characters, their motivations, their reasoning, and the emotions and reactions that were lacking in some of the earlier chapters.

So the aim for draft 2 is: to take one chapter at a time, read it, make notes. Where I know a scene is missing I'll write it in, and deal with the points made in the notes.
The next drafts...

Spread throughout are various comments in brackets-research x. They're minor things and I've already found the information I need on most of them.

Once I've reached the end of draft 2, there will be a short break and then the complete read through and more note-making.

How I approach draft 3 is for deciding when I get to it.


I know what works for me to produce a 1st draft. Now I need to discover how draft 2 works...









image courtesy of Stuart Miles & www.freedigitalphotos.net






Thursday, 14 April 2016

Patsy Collins Returns- E-books to Print Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of e-book to print for the self-publisher. Today it's the useful 'how to' post.

(I'm taking notes for the future.)

Over to you again, Patsy.

Thanks for having me back again Carol, despite the cheeky way I mentioned my new short story collection, Through The Garden Gate and how the kindle version is currently on sale for 99p! (Gosh, but I'm subtle!)

It's also available as a paperback version, which is available now for £6.60

How I did it.

There are a variety of companies which allow you to self publish your own books. I use Createspace, which is a print on demand (POD) service. It's part of Amazon, which means the distribution is taken care of. There's nothing to pay in advance as they take their money from the sale price. If you don't sell any, you don't pay a penny.


Available now...
The work involved.

Createspace provide useful articles on every step of the process. For example, here's one on formatting. I suggest having a quick read of those first. There's also a forum where you can ask questions if you get stuck.

Everything you need to do the formatting is available in most of the software packages you're likely to have used to write the book. Word, OpenOffice and NeoOffice will all do the job.

1. You'll probably want to add page numbers and might want to include your name and the title in page headers. It looks best to start each chapter on a new page. Use section breaks for that.

2. You should select 'mirroring' for the page set up, so there's a slightly wider margin for the inside edge of each page than the outside one. Pages should also be sized appropriately for the book size.

3. If it's a short story collection or non fiction work, you'll want to include the page numbers in the table of contents, or index, if you're using one.

4. It's a good idea to use an ISBN. Createspace will provide this for free if you select that option and you may wish to add this to the front matter of your book - that's the bit where you put copyright notices, disclaimers and that kind of thing. Just copy and paste.

5. Once you're happy with the document, save it as a pdf. You're now ready to upload it. Select the 'guided' option and you'll be guided through each stage.

6. Once uploaded, you can view a digital proof online. Look through this carefully and if there's anything you're not happy with, adjust the document and upload the new version. Repeat until it's perfect.

7. It's a good idea to look at a physical proof too. You can order it at this stage.
This is one place I don't follow the Createspace guidelines as their proof is expensive and it'll take a long time to come through. Instead, I publish the book, buy one copy and immediately un-publish again. 

8. If you already have a kindle cover image this will need some tweaking. The resolution needs to be higher and you'll have to allow for 'bleed' - that's the bit which will probably be trimmed off when the physical cover is formed. The precise requirements are clearly given when you get to that stage.

9. Selecting categories, sales channels, adding the blurb and pricing are all explained and almost identical to doing this for an ebook. Again you'll be guided through. 

Top Tip

Allow plenty of time for formatting and uploading your book. It's better to do it a step at a time over several days than try to do it all in one mad rush. There's also a wait of several hours, or sometimes days, from when you click the confirm button to it appearing for sale.

Go on then – What are you waiting for?