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.


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.


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


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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       &

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...