Sunday, 10 December 2017

2017 Has Been a Year of Highs and Lows...Part 1

It's only 15 days until Christmas Day and I've still got so much to do... I'm doing this in two parts so you haven't got to read a long post- if you are interested. ;)

As in previous years I look back at what I've done  during the year; whether I've reached my targets, and make a few decisions on my focus during the coming year.

Last year I did my 2016 review toward the end of November, and my aims for 2017 were:

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... :-)   

I haven't done too badly- okay the lose weight one hasn't made any progress. :(

The 2017 Review
January    
It was a slow start.

I'd intended to enter an epistolary short story competition in Writing Magazine, but decided not to enter; you can find out why in A Very Slow Start.  

After a brief foray into the 1920's with a novella idea that was lurking, aided by a fashion source book, I began writing the idea out of my head- it's now on hold while I decide a few important details and get on with my main project.  

February   
I was planning my return trip to Bath (see March).

The NWC National Short Story competition opened and I began my reading, marking and feedback stint.

March                                                          
With the competition reading ongoing, I was continuing to write the 1920's story.

My long weekend in Bath with my OH was wonderful, with museum visits, lots of walking and occasional stops for refreshments.

April
This was my opportunity to share a few of my many images from my March visit to Bath. There was the History of Fashion in 100 Objects at the Fashion Museum (also more images on my Serena Lake site)  as well as the Bath Postal Museum, and the Museum of Bath Architecture. Here's a link to all three.

May
This was a very busy month.

On the 4th May I was out celebrating the 90th Anniversary of Nottingham Writers' Club with other club members. We started with a reception at the Nottingham Council House overlooking the Market Square. Then we went for dinner at a nearby restaurant.

I also had to reinstall Windows 10 on my desktop. After an unexplained issue my computer wouldn't install the important security update that would protect my device from that ransomware that hit computers across the country.

The latter half of the month saw the release of my feel good/ghost story on Alfie Dog Fiction. It's still available for download, so if you're looking for a short story to read with your cup of tea or coffee, just follow the link.

June
Was the annual Lowdham Book Festival. I was promoting the writers' club and the books and downloads by club members- and myself. It was a lot of work preparing for it, and an early start on the day. (I've decided to give 2018 a miss.)

During this six month period I was writing as many days of the week as I could, and my second draft was slowly making progress...

Word count: January - July: 29,646.

Sadly it didn't continue that way. Part 2 will be posted on Thursday...


Friday, 1 December 2017

Update - the Bad Sex in Fiction Winner was...

Christopher Bollen for The Destroyers.

You can read the judge's comments in this Bookseller article.

Until next year...

Sunday, 26 November 2017

It's Time for the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards...

Not sure whether you could call this a highlight of the book awards year, but it's certainly 'different'...

"According to the prize’s organisers, the Literary Review, the purpose of the prize is to draw attention to “poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction”. The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature." (The Bookseller)

It seems there were a few nominations that despite being well supported didn't quite fit the spirit of the award so were ruled out.

So here are the titles and authors of the 2017 contenders:


  • The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet.
  • Here Comes Trouble by Simon Wroe.
  • The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen.
  • War Cry by Wilbur Smith (with David Churchill).
  • Mother of Darkness by Venetia Welby.
  • The Future Won’t Be Long by Jarett Kobek.
  • As a God Might Be by Neil Griffiths.

You can read the extracts in the Guardian's article here.

This year's selection is much better than it's been in previous years; perhaps the trend for sex scenes in books that really don't need them has passed, so the poorly written stuff hasn't reached print.

So my contenders from this year's crop: The Future Won’t Be Long by Jarett Kobek, and for what on earth is he going on about- it's sex not Meccano- The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet.

The results will be announced this coming Thursday (30th), and no doubt the winner will get a few extra sales as a result...

decision time...




Monday, 20 November 2017

Think Eyes...

Yes, I'm still here.

It's been a month of good and bad since my last post.

It's been a month of sorting, packing, dismantling, cough & cold- feeling very weak- and getting new varifocals.

New
glasses...
I'd been having problems with my eyes for a couple of months, so booked my annual eye appointment at the Opticians - two months early. The good news is I'm less short-sighted than I was, but the less positive news is that I have the start of macular degeneration.

I now have new super-duper glasses, with lenses that transition in bright light; less issue from glare and fuzziness with car headlights and illuminated bus signs too. But best of all I can look at the computer screen without doing head contortions to focus, and my eyes aren't tired after a couple of hours.

I'll have to get a new photo taken next month so I can update my profile picture with the new specs.

It also means I can get on with some writing now- when I'm not packing boxes!

Meanwhile here's some useful advice from the College of Optometrists re Screen Use.

Eyes are an important work tool for every writer so look after them...







Image from Pixabay.








Monday, 16 October 2017

Finding Treasure in Boxes...

Now I need to say at the start this treasure is not the archetypal pirate treasure- coins, jewellery and other goodies along with the odd skull.

This treasure is my past writings.

As a teenager I used a pen and pages of A4. I moved on to a portable typewriter, and from there to a Brother Word Processor- work was saved to floppy disks. (Yes we're talking 20th century...)

Then I moved onto my first computer (an XP) with a floppy disk drive in the tower, so I carried on using them.

When that computer eventually died Windows 7 was the latest operating system; but it didn't have a floppy disk drive anymore, so I had to buy an external version with the USB connection.

I was able to access some of the items, but others were unreadable. I left them in the storage box and resigned myself to searching for a programme that would enable my computer to read my saved work. It never happened and I packed the box away somewhere.

After all I did have some of the work printed out ...somewhere.

Then last weekend, clearing one of the shelves in the corner bookcase- it needs to be moved for the rewiring work- I pulled out a compact blue box from the corner. I knew what it was instantly. My floppy disks.

A box of treasure
Downing the small paintbrush (for dusting books) and soft cloth I went to my office and rummaged on the shelf for the floppy disk reader- would it even work on the Windows 10 desktop?

I plugged in the USB and nothing, it wasn't recognised. All my excitement at my discovery went pancake flat. As a final check before unplugging I opened File Explorer and there it was.


Floppy disk reader, old manuscripts
file box...


Reviewing the floppies I chose one labelled short stories 1, inserted it into the reader, listened as it whirred noisily, and then a box opened on my screen displaying numbered stories (SS1, SS2 etc).

Clicking on the first one, Notepad opened the story; I scrolled down and I immediately remembered writing that tale- it was one I'd wanted to rewrite, but thought lost forever.

Opening more,assured me they were okay, so I set about copying and pasting from Notepad into a Word document.

Then I found the disks from my first incomplete novel; I'd started writing it in 2000 and got to about 40,000 words where I'd reached my planned ending. That was when I realised that I'd only gotten half way, there was more story to follow- the possibilities had quickly started flowing through my mind.

 But I stopped there. I realised that I didn't have the skills I needed to complete it- I didn't know anything about writing drafts. I had to go and learn how to write properly. That was how I came to join the local writers' club.

So it was with some trepidation that I now slipped the novel disk into the reader, but all that came up was a box showing formatting and asking me what I wanted to display it in, there were three choices, and in my disappointment I didn't really take in what it was asking me.

As I tried the other disks the same problem, my disappointment grew until I stopped and read what was being asked. I chose an option but nothing happened; it was a frustrated turn of the mouse wheel that scrolled down the box a bit,  and there among the little formatting symbols was text I could read!

I began the copying and pasting again but accepted I needed to do this a bit at a time, so saved and backed-up everything I'd transferred.

That box isn't going to be packed away anywhere for some time.

So if I'm ever irritated by something Windows 10 does, please remind me that it helped me retrieve my early writing that I thought had been lost forever...

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Magazine Fillers - what's there?

Apologies for the lack of communication this last few weeks; it's been a month of varying appointments, arranging a speaker for October at the writers' club- so many writers are having a very busy October- and more sorting and packing boxes that was suddenly interrupted by a family member being sent to hospital urgently, kept overnight and now at home recovering.

I think we forget that one simple thing becoming troublesome in the body can have a lot of unpleasant results.

So magazine fillers- what's available?

When you're working on longer stories, or when some of the women's magazine markets have restricted who can submit stories, then fillers can earn small amounts.

It used to be a useful earning potential, and at one time there were plenty of magazines who paid for letters used, or included short pieces that filled spare slots in magazines.

It's changed a lot, so I've searched for a few examples in case you'd like to follow them up...

When I signed up to Readly (it's a site that enables you to read thousands of magazine- digitally- for a monthly fee)  I spent some time looking at a range of magazines to see what filler opportunities there were.

Research fillers...
It doesn't appear as bright as it once was.

Some magazines have gone the route of Facebook and Twitter. On a certain day of the week they pose a question and ask for readers opinions, and some of those replies feature on a page in the magazine later on.

There's nothing to suggest payment or a prize is offered...

Where Letters slots still exist many have gone to only awarding the star letter a prize - I wonder if the product maker has provided the freebie for exposure... Very few seem to pay cash anymore, and if they do it's only the Star letter.

*Saga, the magazine for the over 50's - does have interesting articles related to health, money, gardening, holidays and technology; it pays £50 to the writer of their star letter, but you've only got 100 words available.

Like any submission read the magazines and see what appeals to them and you.

* If you like Spirit & Destiny magazine, their star letter wins £50, and others printed won a book prize- in the November issue it's a book on Crystal use...

Opinion piece slots seem to have become celebrity orientated with recognisable TV and radio personalities sharing their thoughts on life or a specific topic. But keep looking as reader opinion slots are occasionally seen.

The good news is that you don't need many words if you have a good image to go with your useful tips- upcycling seems a popular choice, what use have you made of something you would normally use for something else. Or you've got a happy/fun image to share.

* Weekly magazine Pick Me Up pays £25 for pics and videos used for their Your Pick Me Ups pages- think fun, feel good and if you've met a celebrity and had your photo taken with them...

* They also do Your Brainwaves, £25 for 'your brilliant tips!' Some are quite simple, but very useful. A clear photo helps.

* Chat to Us in Chat magazine pays £25 for any photo they use, but it must not have been sent to 'any other publication'. They also pay £25 for tips they use.

And most magazines give instructions on sending by email as well as post.

But probably the biggest return is on the true-life tales that are splashed across the cover of weekly magazines such as Real People- their Quick Reads are 'short and sweet' tales, not fiction (earn up to £2,000), and Chat (says they pay cash for your real-life stories but doesn't specify the range).

If you're going to be doing articles then Readly is a good way to research lots of magazines without it costing what you might earn, and you can stop your monthly £7.99 subscription at any time.

Just like ideas being everywhere, so can filler opportunities- check out smaller and local magazines for opportunities. Admittedly these may be non-paying, but it's up to the individual writer to decide what's right for them.

Now I've had an idea for a useful recycling into something else tip, so I'll be getting the camera out to photograph it and send it off...

Have you had any success with fillers?



image from Pixabay.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Would You Use a Book Doula?

We're probably familiar with the word 'doula' being associated with pregnancy and birth, but until I read this Guardian article (courtesy of a writer in a Facebook group I belong to- thank you PR) 'Book doulas: the new way to push your writing into the world', I'd not heard of it in connection with books...

My first reaction was good grief!

It sounds a great idea, having that support and one to one contact, but there is a cost involved and you'd still need to research the person to assess their experience to take on the role- and how do you decide whether they're good enough?

We know the writing world has changed so much in the past 10 years.

Self-publishing has lost most of the taint of vanity publishing, and serious writers going this route know they need to write the best story they can, produce a good manuscript and get an editor who knows what they're doing- and can prove it; along with a book cover designer-among the numerous items to tick off the self-publisher's list.

Numerous services for writers have emerged, and only the individual writer can decide what they think they might benefit from.

But consider the following first (and I'm referring to the UK here):

We already have: mentoring, critique groups, regional writing organisations (offering lots of choices for developing your writing skills and bringing your book to life), genre specific organisations (with conferences, local groups and numerous opportunities to network, even take part in agent 1 to 1's etc), podcasts, book festivals...

reading together...
Even mainstream publishers have got involved: The Faber Academy, and Penguin Random House with The Writers Academy are just the two that come to mind.

Then there's universities offering creative writing courses, and degrees.

Writing Magazine has been running their writing courses for many years.

Yes, even writers' groups and clubs; choose wisely and you'll find published writers who belong to them and will pass on advice, encouragement and help writers develop. Often, those writers were gifted with the generosity of their peers when they were first experiencing those qualms.

You can learn from any of these, with support and advice to develop the skills and resilience you need to produce that book, or other writing.

Of course there's a cost to all these things too, but you can mix and match as your needs - change.

Doulas may find their way into the vast world of writing services and opportunities, but when there's already so much available, are they really needed?

Do you have any thoughts on this topic?










Monday, 4 September 2017

Friday Night at a Book Launch...

After weeks of hard non-writing work, it was lovely to go out to a local literary event, a book launch.

In Nottingham the Waterstones branch is in a tall building, and only a short walk from two tram stops and lots of bus routes, and with easy access to the railway station (for those travelling from further afield).

The Alan Sillitoe room is on the top floor of the building, and it's a popular venue for literary events, book signings/book launches, author events, workshops and more.

On Friday night it was the Nottingham launch party for the paperback of Cathy Bramley's The Lemon Tree Cafe.
The Lemon Tree Caf (Paperback)
out in
   paperback...

The launch was a mixture of invited guests, and other readers who had a ticket to attend. I was there with a few of the Belmont Belles.

A small glass of wine always goes well when you arrive...

Cathy was delightful, and her great sense of humour came over in her introduction.

She read an extract from the book, a scene between Rosie and her Nonna- her Italian grandmother who owns The Lemon Tree Cafe in "the rolling hills of Derbyshire". There were certainly moments of laughter and big smiles all
round during the reading.

Afterwards there was a long queue for the book signing, it nearly reached the back of the room.

Lemon cupcakes...


It's good to be able to celebrate with friends and fellow authors, especially when it's a local venue.

And the cupcake was delicious too...

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Sorting the Office Out...

You may have noticed I've been absent for a while. Well we're having a massive sort out at home.

Lots of things are going into boxes and into storage so we can create as much space as possible for the Electrician/Plumber to do the work needed.

This week it's the Living Room and Office.

It has given the opportunity to shift furniture around to improve the space we have.

Of course it's meant no writing is getting done- not what I'd planned for the summer- but it has given me the opportunity to catch up on my to be read list that was building up.

I'm currently reading Bill Bryson's 'The Road to Little Dribbling'. I picked up the paperback in Waterstones a few months ago, and friends have said how much they enjoyed his books, so I thought I'd try one.

I'm enjoying it so far, and I do like his writing style/voice.

Yesterday, keeping out of the way while the new storage unit was being put together in the kitchen, I read Stephanie Laurens 'An Irresistible Alliance' on Kindle. This was much better than the first of the three Devil's Brood Trilogy, and I'm looking forward to having time to read book 3, 'The Greatest Challenge of Them All'.

And a few days before that I read the first two books of Debbie Young's Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries ( Best Murder in Show, and Trick or Murder?). This is cosy crime with murder but no graphic detail. It as much about Sophie, bookshop owner Hector and the assorted villagers as the murder involved. Fun to read books most definitely.

That's my time up, back to sorting and packing...

sorting & boxing...





Monday, 14 August 2017

Guest Post: Sally Quilford and The Curse of Lakeham Abbey...

Today I'm delighted to welcome author, and friend, Sally Quilford to Carol's Corner, to talk about her new book The Curse of Lakeham Abbey and how to manage writing a sequel.

The new book...
Sally is the author of well over 20 novels, and has written in several different genres, including romantic intrigue, science fiction and crime. A number of her romantic intrigue novels were also published in Large Print.

Then Lakeham Abbey came along.

So over to you Sally...


Characters that go Bump in the Night

When I wrote the first novel in the Percy Sullivan series, The Secret of Lakeham Abbey, I had an idea that I would follow Percy through adolescence and into young adulthood, as he solved crimes, fell in love and generally learned to be a nicer human being (because let’s face it, he can be a bit cranky). That was the idea.

So, it was a bit disconcerting when, the next time he visited me – in the middle of the night as most characters are wont to do – he said ‘Actually, I’m old and cranky now and living back at Lakeham Abbey in 2017 and I have a very interesting story to tell you…’  I immediately saw him as Sir Ian McKellan, in a wheelchair, wearing a Panama hat and a light coloured suit, listening intently, with a mischievous look in his eyes, as relationships ruptured around him, murders took place and secrets were unearthed in the house where his career as a sleuth began. Other authors will recognise this tendency for characters to turn up at awkward times to tell you their life story.

Sally Quilford
I was immediately faced with a dilemma. Should I write The Curse of Lakeham Abbey and put it aside until after my death, as Agatha Christie did with Hercule Poirot’s Curtain? Or do I publish it and be damned? On the basis that I’m a) too impatient and b) it’s unlikely that anyone will be clamouring for my unpublished novels, I decided to write it and send it to Crooked Cat, hoping that they liked the idea as much as I did. I’m glad to say they did!

Writing a sequel is not easy, as any writer with a long-running series will tell you. You have to make each novel standalone, whilst still giving a nod towards earlier events for those who are following the series. It’s even harder when your sleuth decides to age 70 years! I wanted to suggest Percy’s long career as an amateur sleuth, without actually giving any details away, because quite frankly, I don’t know what he plans to tell me next.

The last time we met, he had been a truculent teenager. I needed to keep some of that truculence, whilst still letting him mature. In a sense, it was exactly the same as catching up with an old friend and finding that whilst they had changed, they still had the traits that attracted you to them in the first place. I hope that I’ve somehow managed to convey that in the story.

Equally difficult was writing a follow up novel that, whilst still crime, was a change of sub-genre. The Secret of Lakeham Abbey was set in the golden age of detective fiction, with upper class people enjoying country house living, whilst murders took place around them. The Curse of Lakeham Abbey, by dint of being set in our era, could not be the same. So I took my inspiration from the current rake of domestic noir novels, where miserable couples hide behind a veneer of civility.

I don’t know where Percy will take me next; I just hope he lets me get a good night’s sleep next time!

*

Thank you Sally. It sounds like Percy will be keeping you busy with further tales in future, and look forward to those too. :-)

I'm sure the Curse of Lakeham Abbey will be another success so if you want to get your copy asap here's a couple of direct links for you.

Enjoy...

The Curse of Lakeham Abbey is released on 15th August 2017 and is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk in paperback, and on Kindle.

On Amazon.com: paperback, and on Kindle.

Sally is holding a launch party over on Facebook on Tuesday 15th from 10.00 am (British Summer Time) so pop along to celebrate with her.








Sunday, 13 August 2017

Boxes Boxes Everywhere...

Just a quick hello to say I'm still here.

I've been internet restricted this week while we reorganise the house.

There's work to be done soon so we've been sorting, throwing, recycling and boxing things up to go into storage- temporarily.

I haven't been able to get on with draft 2 or anything that requires no interruptions, so no blog posts until today.

To make up for it, I hope you'll join me tomorrow (Monday 14th) to welcome author Sally Quilford and her guest post on writing The Curse of Lakeham Abbey (her sequel to The Secret of Lakeham Abbey) and discover how this story is slightly different from the previous Lakeham Abbey book...

Okay, I'm off sorting again...

More boxes!!!
image via Pixabay.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Oddest Book Title Time Again...

Like me, you may have thought the annual Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year wasn't taking place this year.

Usually it's in the spring, and the chosen titles get coverage in the national press as well as on The Bookseller website.

As it's been run later this year it could have easily been missed.

So here's the contenders- and the result below that.


  • The Commuter Pig Keeper: A Comprehensive Guide to Keeping Pigs when Time is your Most Precious Commodity by Michaela Giles.

  •  Renniks Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors.

  • Nipples on my Knee by Graham and Debra Robertson.

  • An Ape’s View of Human Evolution by Peter Andrews.

  • Love Your Lady Landscape: Trust Your Gut, Care for “Down There” and Reclaim Your Fierce and Feminine SHE by Lisa Lister.

Now none of those titles really grabs me, but as I missed the shortlist announcement I haven't really considered how odd they are!

The Pig one, and the Lady Landscape seem the most bizarre...

Anyway with many of the previous winners having something to do with animals - "The Joy of Chickens (1980), The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2003) and Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop (2012)"; it really does suggest any vaguely odd title with an animal in will score highly.

So this year's winner was of course The Commuter Pig Keeper... with 40% of the votes. 

Runners-up were Renniks Australian Coins title with 32.7%, and Nipples on... with 13.9%.

Disappointingly the Lady Landscape title only received 2.8% of the vote. It was certainly odd, but perhaps the title could have done with a bit more work to improve its lucidity.

You may or may not want to read more, but if you do then follow this link over to the Bookseller website, or even better read the amusing views of diarist and administrator of the Diagram Prize, Horace Bent.

Odd titles just aren't as odd as they once were...

the winner...




image from Pixabay.




Sunday, 23 July 2017

A Graduation Day...

A few days after my workshop debut I was over in Staffordshire at Trentham Garden for the graduation ceremony of one of my triplets- I've been forbidden to show anyone a picture of them in their gown and cap, so I've had to do some creative cropping of the photos my husband took on the day...

You can see more of the gardens on the website here. The estate is 725 acres...

Perseus and
Medusa Head...
(Outside of the Gardens there's lots of car parking spaces as there's a shopping village too.)

We had the graduation entrance tickets so we didn't have to pay the usual Garden entrance fee. But for what there was the entry fee seemed reasonable.

There's a lake and a statue of Perseus and Medusa that makes you feel very small when you stand beside it!

A bit of
Trentham Lake...



The statue is a 19th century copy in Bronze that was commissioned by the 2nd Duke of Sutherland. The 1550's original by Benvenuto Cellini is in the open-air Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence...

I did regret not taking my camera with me as there were so many things I would have taken pictures of. But hopefully I will get to visit again...

I loved the Italian Garden and although it's not totally 19th century with the planting, it has used the 'historic framework', so you do get the impression of how it looked originally.

There was more water too, with fountains regularly spaced.

Fountain in the raised
garden area...
Then it was time for the graduation ceremony.

Monday and Tuesday there was one ceremony per day, but Wednesday to Friday there were two each day, and we were attending the final ceremony on the Friday afternoon.

The honorary Doctor of Arts was being awarded to author and adventurer (among many roles) Major Levison Wood, in recognition of his work as an explorer, writer and photographer. He was born in Staffordshire but did his degree in Nottingham.

(How appropriate was that!?)

It was a long two hours watching all the students, but eventually it was over and the traditional throwing the caps into the air signified the end.

They've graduated...


It was a wonderful but tiring afternoon for all of us...











Thursday, 13 July 2017

Leading My First Workshop...

I have survived.

Previously I've done short writing sessions for the writers' club- when needed- but never actually done a workshop for the evening meeting (it came out to about 90 minutes or so).

Of course all the fears and thoughts of inadequacy passed through my mind before the start, even though I'd been preparing the materials across the previous twelve days.

Flip-pads are
useful...
It was a simple mind-mapping exercise using a chosen image as the starting point to inspire the story idea and hopefully discover suitable characters.

All the images were mine from a variety of places over the last ten to twelve years. A few of them have even appeared on this blog.

When I was choosing which pictures to include in the workshop, I had two criteria; was it a good enough image, and how many ideas could I think of for each one. I ended up with forty pictures!

It seemed a lot, but there had to be enough variety. Some had only one central object, others had lots of scope for choice. There were animals, summer and winter scenes, plants, buildings and landscapes, street scenes, and random items.

A few pictures not chosen...
There were at least 16 people and they all found a picture they liked. Animals and landscapes seemed popular...

The members and visitors were engaged, and by the end of the evening when we went round the attendees, there were a variety of partial stories read out, many ideas, and a poem.

I've received some positive responses today from a couple of members, so I'm pleased.

Yes, there are a few adjustments I'd make if I ever did it again, but you only discover that when you've tried it.

A few more...



Monday, 26 June 2017

Now the Book Festival is Over...

The display of members'
published works...
I spent Saturday (24th) at the last day of the Lowdham Book Festival, with other members of Nottingham Writers' Club.

Sadly my cork board display was too large for the three-legged stand (height-wise), and if I'd had time to try it out the night before I would have realised- not that I could have done anything about it!

In the end the board rested against the stand by the table...

At least this year we were able to display flyers for books by a number of members- and not just mine.

There were a lot of small publishers in the hall this year, and out in the marquee there were plenty of second-hand books, but only a few were really old, so I didn't come home with any useful books this time.

But I did add to my postcard collection with a few old postcards. Two stable scenes; both postcards were images of painting by John Morland (1763-1804) and immediately appealed to the historical romance writer in me.

You can see the images used on the postcards here and here. Though the image had been coloured for printing, so the contents of the wheelbarrow becomes green and yellow, and the stable lad's face becomes very distinct, as does the jar on the window ledge.

The strange thing was that these two postcards had been sent to the same person by two connected individuals (sisters?) and sent from Plaistow in 1905 both on the 4.15 post on the 17 JU (June or July?).

The one from Beatie is affectionate but short with the lines well spaced- she's thanking the sender for the book she's sent, whereas the second, while neatly written, each line is close together. It mentions that 'Beatie is putting a new braid on the bottom of her dress'.

Postcard messages can be as inspiring as the image on the front. Over a century later their moment in time messages remain, leaving the reader to wonder, and the writer to create...




Monday, 12 June 2017

Visual Inspirations...

Ideas come from everywhere.

Have you ever been somewhere and something you've seen sticks in your memory even if you forget everything else, but that 'something' is the inspiration for a story, or somewhere in the story?

Trails...
I was looking through my photos- from past holidays and research trips- and there are a few that instantly take me back to where I was at the moment I took it. I've no idea why that nagging voice in my subconscious thinks that capturing that image was important.

There have been times in the past, before I had a digital camera, I have a fleeting image of a specific place (a terrace of an old Georgian building in parkland somewhere for example, the garden gone and just grassed over) and I stood on the terrace and imagined a conversation between two unknown characters. I've updated it a bit and used it in my 1920's story...

So here's a few images of mine that might be a starting point or could appear in a story...
Phone box and Bins...

Have fun...


I Spy...
Up and Away...


Monday, 5 June 2017

Back to the Rewrites - and a Submission Call for a Charity Anthology...

Half way through the year already!

What have I achieved so far?

To date I have already exceeded my 2013 word count total; that was 23,032, and I'm almost up to 26, 469 which will pass my 2014 total... But there's still a lot to do yet.

My ghost story went live two weeks ago- I know, I've mentioned this before. :D

My 1920's story is progressing slowly. At the moment I'm developing the plot as I write, which is unusual for me as I'm more a semi-planner.

I've had a reading spell- a couple of my favourite authors have new books out, so I bought them for my Kindle. Read one in a day, and then the next one the following day.

The Lowdham Book Festival starts this month- 16th-24th June. So I'll be promoting my published work along with other Nottingham Writers' Club members on the 24th. Fingers crossed for sunshine all day this year.

Now back to draft 2 of my 1802 novel this week- again.

SUBMISSION CALL:

As everyone around the world knows the UK has experienced a few terror attacks this year, but it doesn't stop us carrying on with our lives and work, so here's a call for submissions for a charity anthology- from Lucy Felthouse.

All proceeds from this anthology will go to the British Red Cross' newly launched  UK Solidarity Fund. This fund will help victims of terror attacks in the UK, both now, and if needed, in future incidents.

2017 Calendar dates...
There's a short deadline for this anthology-14th July. So you can find the full details by following this link for all the information you need...













Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Pirate Ghost Meets Readers...

Do you recall me mentioning I'd won one of the annual competitions at the writers' club late last year? Yes the ghost story one with my entry 'The Wishful Spirit'.

Well today it joins the short stories available on Alfie Dog Fiction and it's now live...

(Honestly, my profile was harder to write than the story! :D )



Photographer Jack Sawyer doesn't believe in ghosts, but when he escapes to the little seaside village of a pirate ancestor, he meets archaeologist Lizzie Gibson, and discovers he's arrived at the perfect moment to help save their museum- with a little help from a mischievous ghost.


You can download it for a an inexpensive 39p, and in a choice of formats to suit your chosen reading device, just follow this link... You pay using PayPal, and there's information on the website if you're not sure which version you need...



I have a soft spot for this feel-good ghost story, which was why I persisted with revising it-despite earlier rejections elsewhere. The fact it was accepted this time proves I finally got it right.

Although the little coastal town in the story is fictional, I had images of places and buildings from holidays, more recent and long ago, in my mind, along with memories of my many visits to the Kent coast as a child.

If you have ever visited Lyme Regis in Dorset, you'll be familiar with the Marine Parade that runs along the beach. Just before that there was a small car park. The bus stop where the park and ride bus stopped (overlooked this car park) just as the road begins to climb uphill to the shops.
In the rigging...

I've no idea if that small car park is still there, as the last time I visited Lyme Regis was 2010. But a little car park just like that was where I imagined Jack listening to the tour guide and being accosted by the ghost of 'Bold Jack'...

Looking in my submissions book I realised that the story was a little older than I thought. The first version- a 1,000 word short story- was written in 2008.

I'm glad I persevered in finding a home for it...

I hope you enjoy reading it.


(Alfie Dog Fiction is celebrating its 5th birthday and they have lots of celebratory offers, so do pop over to the site and find out more.)










Monday, 15 May 2017

Windows 10 Reinstallation is Not Scary...

I spent the weekend doing a clean reinstall of Windows 10.

For my friends who have already heard this- I apologise- but decided as I blogged about my initial trials and tribulations of setting up my (new) Windows 10 computer last year, I thought I might as well reveal this latest issue and solution.

At some point in the last 6-8 months something interfered with the Windows update system-despite the security and malware systems. I had the rare update fail to install, but usually they reinstalled the next time.

One of the advantages of Windows 10 is that the security updates are checked for and installed in the background, so unless you actually go into your settings and look at the update history you don't know whether anything important has failed to install.

It was pure chance I happened to look and saw a couple of big updates from the March Security update had failed, and failed... The system kept trying to install these updates and they kept failing. When I did the manual update they kept failing too...

Sadly the system doesn't alert you to this, which is a weakness. So I'd definitely suggest checking your update history now and then.

So off I went to the online tech support for Windows, and over the next 24 hours, five different (but very understanding) techs from across the globe tried to resolve my issue via remote access. Sadly each time this wretched update failed at the last moment- after the tech had signed off.

An important. task..
If you ever have an update that keeps failing you'll find an option to fix problems in Windows updates. You'll need to check your computer/laptops settings as they can be different.

Go to your computer's Control Panel, choose the Systems and Security option.

On my machine it's then Troubleshoot Common Computer Problems, and on clicking that you should be able to find Fix problems in Windows updates. Sometimes it will also say during the process something about administrator permissions, so just click that and then the next button. It will do it's magic and show you what has been fixed.

Every time my system was fixed, but it didn't stay fixed...

Eventually tech no.5 in Israel told me I had 2 options: a refresh, or reinstallation. Apparently the refresh would be a waste of time, and I'd be better off reinstalling. They sent me an email with the link to the info I needed.

March and April are the busiest months for me, so I put it off. Other security updates were installing okay.

Then this horrible ransomware issue emerged on Friday in the UK.

This was when my uninstalled big update of various patches became serious. My computer was not patched. And although I was not a company or big organisation, my computer was still vulnerable because of the missing patch.

So I did a final back up of anything not yet backed up. (You might like to read Simon Whaley's latest post over on his The Business of Writing site about backing-up your work.)

Then I read up on clean installation process, it was actually relatively easy. I was also able to reinstall from the Anniversary edition (that was released last Summer) rather than from the memory stick with the original version.

Go to your computer settings, then Update and Security. Select Recovery from the list on the left-hand side, it's just a matter of following the instructions and selecting the option you need.

The longest part was the downloading- though it does say you can continue to use the computer meanwhile. Once the installation begins you do need to be there as you're required to set the country and language, but it doesn't take too long; you just need to sign into the computer again each time as it needs to restart through the process.

Of course once it's all back in place you then need to go through all the settings just as if you'd just got the computer.

Most of the programmes (apps) I need I've reinstalled, and that important security update installed first time.

It's also solved some minor display problems I had: the missing sign-in at the top right of my blog screen reappeared, and on Facebook, where the stats show for individual posts, in the insights on my Carol Bevitt-writer and Serena Lake pages, they came back too. I hadn't associated them with my computer issues.

So far all is going okay.

I'll be blogging with some news and links on Sunday, so I'm glad the computer is fixed...



image: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/


Sunday, 7 May 2017

Celebrating 90 Years...

No, I'm not 90 years old, but Nottingham Writers' Club is this year. Which is why I was out celebrating on the 4th May.

We attended a reception at the Nottingham Council House in the Market Square, with club members and their guests, plus a few members of the City of Literature board.

There was a short speech by the Lord Mayor (who was previously the Sheriff of Nottingham), and then by our President of 10 years, Roy Bainton.

The Lord Mayor and NWC President
Roy Bainton cutting the cake
One of our Vice Presidents, Pat, arranged and paid for the cake- it was an open book shaped sponge with jam filling and iced - it was delicious.

The club committee provided the wine and non-alcoholic drinks.

Tea and coffee courtesy of the Council.



There were about 35 - 40 people at the reception, but not everyone was going on to the nearby restaurant, George's, for dinner.

We had part of the cake at the reception, and rather than ordering any puddings after our dinner (don't think any of us had room for pudding anyway) we had another slice of cake to finish...

It was a wonderful evening all round, with lots of talking, as well as the eating and drinking.

Me and my own personal hero...
Just as 10 years ago at the 80th anniversary celebrations, I got a picture taken of me with my own personal hero- my husband - who much prefers to be behind the camera than in front of it.


It may look like we're doing head contortions and looking in the wrong place, but the room lights were reflecting off the lenses of our glasses, so we had to keep making adjustments until we eradicated the light problem.

The club's celebrations continue for the rest of the year, but they'll be low-key...

Only 10 more years until the 100th anniversary...


Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Selection from the Fashion Museum 100 Objects...

I hope you've enjoyed my blog posts about my museum visits last month: the Museum of Bath Architecture and the Bath Postal Museum.

Now it's the Fashion Museum and their History of Fashion in 100 Objects, running until January 2019, alongside their smaller and recently opened Lace in Fashion.

I've split up my selected images between my blogs here and over on my Serena Lake website, so I hope you'll visit Serena's page to see some of the interesting 18th century items I've chosen, reflecting the time periods I'll be writing historical romances in, under my pseudonym.

Over here I'll be going 19th to 20th century.

(Many of these images have had light applied in the preparation for sharing them with you. Also with the big panes of class reflections or shadows do sometimes get caught, so whenever possible I crop the images to centre in on specific items.)

Bath is often associated with Jane Austen and the wonderful costume dramas of her works, so here's a section of dresses from the first half of the 19th century with it's muslin and printed cottons, elegant classical designs and trains going onto frills and flounces...

Early to mid-1800's...

The shoes on the raised platform (bottom left) can be seen in more detail on Serena's blog post.

There was a delightful display of baby bootees too, again from the 1800's. Some were embroidered, others quilted and fairly plain.

Baby footwear...

Some men's clothes were included in the 100 objects, but I suspect that not as many items may have survived as women's. There were waistcoats, jackets and a lovely velvet suit- whoever the man was that wore it, he must have had women wanting to say hello!

Also there was a pair of men's trousers from the 1820's, as the display moved into the Victorian period and clothes seemed to become more sober.

There were a few items in their own individual display cabinets.

I particularly liked the Dolman from the 1870's.

Lady's Dolman from
the 1870's...

This would have been worn over a dress with a bustle. It was part cape, part coat. Some of the large cashmere or paisley shawls were used to make these new types of outdoor wear. As it hangs over the bustle at the back, it does drape well and add to the shape.

Underwear did feature. There were some stays, and this corset from the 1890's.

Evening corset...

It's silk stiffened with whalebone. The waist is 21.5 inches with the tight lacing, but could be let out if needed. I'm not sure anyone would want to eat much laced that tight!

On into the 20th century I chose one item I hadn't realised existed- and I suspect they will appear in the party scene in my 1920's story. Dress Clips.

A selection of 1920's Dress
Clips from the Beeson
Collection...


The dress clips were designed to add sparkle to the corners of the square-neck dresses and round or V shape necklines.

These clips are just a small part of 350 that were collected by a primary school teacher, in Frome, Somerset, Sheila Beeson - over a 40 year period.

From there the exhibition moved on through the WWII and the post war period.

For me fashion seemed to have lost its way after the 1930's. Now we're just repeating the past 50-60 years with slight variations.

Choosing the 100 objects that represent the changing face of fashion history must have taken a lot of discussion and planning. And that's before the museum even began the process of creating the display.

No matter the time period you're interested in, there's something in the exhibition to be appreciated.

There's more shoes, and the additional Lace exhibition in the darker storeroom area, displaying how hand-made and manufactured lace has been used in clothing across the decades too.









Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Bath Postal Museum...

The Bath Postal Museum is another delightful Bath gem that would probably get missed on a weekend visit-if you didn't know it was there.

You'll find the entrance to the Museum downstairs, just inside the entrance to the existing Post Office. To enable accessibility for those in a wheelchair or with limited mobility, there's a stair lift.

Considering how much there is too see, it's been thoughtfully laid out to make the most of the space; and for children there's fun things to do too.

I knew a bit about mail coaches and what they looked like, and also about turnpikes from research for the first novel I tried writing, but there was so much more I didn't know.

For example the mail went to and from London along six routes, until Ralph Allen, the Postmaster of Bath, began an expansion with cross routes.

By later in the century Mail Coaches became a necessity, fast, efficient and they had a guard to protect them.

1.8 Scale Model of John Palmer's Trial Coach
built by Ronald Stiff of Aylesbury


My favourite item in the museum was being able to listen to the different horn calls that were used during the mail coach journey; there were various warning calls: to the passengers to get aboard, to alert the inn to get the horses ready, the turnpikes open, and when they finally arrived at their destination among them. Each slightly different, but you can hear the echoes of future military bugle calls.

The horn to signal...


The display of Post Boxes certainly reminded me of a few from my childhood. Did you know how many types there have been? There's a few on this link.

This is the post box in Laura Place, and there's another on Great Pultney Street, both are hexagonal, the 'New Standard Letter Box', designed by J.W Penfold in the 1860's.

Laura Place Hexagonal
Post Box...

I've only chosen a couple of items to show you, but there's so much more to see and discover...








Sunday, 2 April 2017

As it's Sunday it's the Museum of Bath Architecture...

I'm going backwards for this visit to Bath, and sharing the smaller less well-known museums in Bath first.

Last Sunday we (husband and I) visited the Museum of Bath Architecture (which appears on some tourist brochures/maps as the Buildings of Bath) and it was well worth the visit.

The exhibition is located in the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel along the raised pavement of The Paragon, The Vineyards. It's owned by The Bath Preservation Trust who are also involved with No.1 The Royal Crescent (I visited there on my last trip to Bath in 2014).

It's all raised pavement...

(You'll see a cape belonging to the Countess in a later post.)


Acorn Finials at The Circus
If you don't know anything about the architecture of Bath there's a very helpful video to start you off, before you go on to discover the various crafts and the tools used by the men who built the distinctive houses from the lower to the upper end of the city.

(When I'd been waiting for the Fashion Museum to open the previous day, we'd wandered into The Circus, and one of the pictures I took was of the stone acorns finials that run around the roof line, and we both assumed they had some symbolism.)

So it was a surprise to turn the corner of the first display cabinet and there was a large stone acorn, similar to those in the Circus, though this one was from The Royal Crescent. [1]

Stone Acorn Finial
from the Royal
Crescent...
Yes, it is symbolic.

John Wood (the Elder) who designed The Circus, sadly died three months after the foundation stone was laid, and the building work continued under the Younger John Wood. The elder Wood was strongly influenced by Stonehenge ( he studied and wrote about it) and other stone circles- the Druids were in there too...

On a previous visit to the Circus it was a very sunny May day, the sun was almost in alignment with Gay Street (that leads up to the centre) and it's easy to see the stone circle influence with his design.

The acorns reference Bladud- who is supposed to have discovered the healing hot waters of Bath; his pigs- suffering from a skin disease- were looking for acorns to eat and were cured by the hot spring.

There were a few items that I particularly enjoyed seeing; the Mason's Level with a lead plumb weight. [2]

Mason's Level


Model of 26 Great
Pultney Street...
But the most impressive item has to be the model display of the city, and you can press buttons that lights up the best known locations. (see image at the bottom of this post) [3]

By the time we'd worked our way around the displays you could really appreciate the skills of the men who did the actual building work, they brought the architects designs and visions to reality, using many of the tools that craftsmen today would still recognise.

Even the little models required skill and are interesting too. [4]

You can see a few of the other items from the Trust's collection, here.

I've only mentioned a few things, but there is so much more to see and learn.

It's a small museum, and like many smaller places across the country, they like (and welcome) visitors. So if you get the opportunity do go, you won't be disappointed...


The Royal Crescent and The Circus
lit up in the Bath city model...


Images 1,2,3,4 taken with permission.

Raised pavement image courtesy of RP Bevitt.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Back from My Travels to Bath...

Last Friday I went down to Bath for a long weekend. It was a wonderful and much-needed break after a stressful six months.

As I've been so busy since I came back I haven't had time to sort out all my photos and pick the best ones for my blog posts here, and over on my Serena Lake site.

So that's my job this weekend.

The History of Fashion in 100 Objects at the Fashion Museum was fantastic, and if you get the opportunity do go and see it. Their smaller Lace exhibition was equally as interesting.

It's going to be difficult choosing my favourite images from all those costumes and items that were on display...

I'll be doing a couple of blog posts on two smaller and lesser known museums that might get missed if you've never been to Bath before: The Postal Museum, and the Museum of Bath Architecture that is housed in the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel.

Both of these held surprises and answered a few questions I had...

I did a lot of walking- fortunately the weather was dry and quite bright, although the evenings were chilly.

But all that exercise meant I could go into the Pump Room for tea (on Mother's Day) without feeling too guilty. It's very elegant, and there was music provided by a trio of musicians.

The evidence has been eaten...

There are a number of parks around Bath too which are clearly enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

Sydney Gardens, behind the Holbourne Museum, has both a canal and a railway line running through them, though I believe they were actually there before the Gardens were laid out around them.

Henrietta Gardens lies between Great Pultney Street and Henrietta Street (where the hotel we were staying at was located), so it was a delightful diversion from one road to the next.

So look out for my next post at the weekend...