Friday 30 December 2011

A Competition Reminder for New Year Resolutions...

If you're contemplating your New Year writing resolutions and are thinking about entering competitions in 2012, then don't forget the Good Housekeeping novel competition- details here.

You need the entry form from the January 2012 issue of the magazine which will only be available for a few more days, so if you want to enter the competition and you haven't got your form yet, you need to look for the magazine now.

I managed to enter a couple of competitions during 2011 (which I hadn't previously planned to) so I fulfilled one of the targets I set myself in 2010.

So in 2012 I'm going to concentrate on my novel and the novella. And when I need a break there's a couple of short stories to finish off and submit...

I'll try and enter other competitions during the year, but the free GH one is a must do.

So whatever your resolutions for the coming year, I wish you good luck and much success.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Merry Christmas...

Only a few days left until Christmas Day so this will be my last post for a week.

So I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year...

So enjoy the festivities and start making plans for 2012.

I'll be planning work on my novel and the novella- I just wonder which hero will win out; the patient Marcus or the sometimes impatient Hugh...

Merry Christmas card image by digitalart.

Monday 19 December 2011

E-Book News Before Christmas...

As there are sure to be numerous e-readers being unwrapped this Christmas, I hope some of your books are bought to be read on them...

According to some commentators downloading e-books seems to have become a Boxing Day activity...

2010 and into 2011 has seen ups and downs in the e-book world. First the furore over some publishers moving to the 'agency model' for pricing of their e-books-which resulted in temporary unavailability of their books on the websites of Waterstones, The Book Depository and Amazon until agreements were brokered...

Earlier this month the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) announced that they were closing their investigation into e-book sales (and probably also the agency model issue). They began this investigation in January this year, and not long after that the European authorities raided the Euro based offices of some publishers, for their own enquiries into possible competition violations.

You can read my past blog post about this subject at the time here and here.

The OFT have closed their investigation citing "because the OFT believes, following discussions with the European Commission, that the European Commission is currently well placed to arrive at a comprehensive resolution of this matter and will do so as a matter of priority." Read the Bookseller article here.

Perhaps the OFT discovered during the course of their investigations that it was too big an issue to handle by themselves (but that's just my opinion).

If you have the time it is worth reading the article by Juliette Garside from The Observer and Guardian website. Apple's need to avoid drowning in the Amazon ocean has also brought them into the investigation too.

I've certainly noticed a difference in prices for print versions of books compared to digital this Christmas. But whatever the Commission's results,  2012 is certainly going to be an interesting year for digital.

And if you do get an e-reader for Christmas, enjoy. :-)

Friday 16 December 2011

If You Use Amazon Community Forums to Promote- Read This Now...

A few months back I mentioned the problems some writers were having with promoting their books on the forums- where even a mention of your book within a discussion could get you banned.

So this announcement from Amazon is very important. Read the statement here. It applies from the 15th December- yesterday. Thanks to Carol Arnall for bringing it to my attention.

"Shameless self-promotion activity will be limited to the `Meet Our Authors' community. Promotional threads outside of these forums will be removed. " (Extract from the statement from the Amazon Community Team.)

Now forgive me for being naive, but how will you make readers aware of your books without shameless self-promotion?

You can add your views here.

Will potential buyers arriving at Amazon be given the option to go to the Meet Our Authors section? Probably not, until Amazon see a large section of their market not performing to their calculations, or they get complaints...

Will readers realise that it is for them too? Not every reader is aware of how much information there is available beyond the main information pages.

As Amazon haven't distinguished between the different genres some wise writers have started posts for specific genres, which should help any readers who venture in looking for book information.

But I have to say this really is the wrong time of year to make a major change like this.

Writers do have lives beyond writing and promoting their books, so having to begin updating one of their promotional outlets in the week before Christmas is not good.

If you know of fellow writers who use Amazon forums to promote their books then spread the word, as I'm sure there will still be a few writers unaware.

Monday 12 December 2011

Christmas Approaches...

Less than two weeks to go to Christmas Eve- twelve days in fact.

So the blog will be winding down a little as I'm trying to catch up on all the normal Christmas stuff still to do, that has been delayed by being ill.

I've got the cards ready to write, stamps for the cards, and I've started wrapping presents...

So today I'm sharing with you one of my favourite websites for Christmas, the NORAD tracks Santa site.

Early December each year I put the website onto my favourites list and check the Countdown Village each day to play the easy games they have-okay I'm not very good at anything where I have to throw basketballs into a moving hoop, as I discovered today...

For the very young out there, this is how they track Santa, and the data is "then pushed into Google Maps and Google Earth" so Santa's journey can be followed.

And even better you can view the site in half a dozen other languages beside English.

If you have friends on the other side of the world it is great fun on Christmas Eve to watch Santa reach their part of the world, heralding the approach of their Christmas Day.

Do you have any favourite Christmas traditions you'd admit to?

Saturday 10 December 2011

Interested in Female Lifestyles in the 1930's?

If you enjoyed the recent centenary edition of Woman's Weekly then I think you will like the publication I discovered today.

Popping into WH Smiths to look at some knitting magazines, I passed by the display shelves where Vogue magazine lurks and was immediately attracted to a cover picture on a lower level of a glamorous and beautifully made-up young woman in a black hat, and wearing pearls. She clearly came from early last century.

It was difficult to tell if it was a magazine or just a soft paperback cover book from its appearance, but then I picked it up and realised it was the latter.

It was this book, although this is a link for the hardback copy it has the same cover image; the version in the newsagent's is much less expensive- £5.99. 'What Every Woman Wants: Lifestyle Lessons from the 1930's' by Christopher and Kirsty Hudson, Atlantic Publishing.

The contents are facsimile pictures and pages from The Daily Mail of the 1930's. The contents include cookery, household hints and lifestyle; while fashion and beauty feature throughout in the pictures, as well as individual chapters of their own. And not forgetting the advice given by the paper's Women's Bureau to their many correspondents.

Actually looking at some of the make-up advice being given, you realise that bronzing really isn't a modern cosmetic creation...

As with the the Woman's Weekly centenary issue, there was occasional dubious health advice given then too; but of course we know so much more about diet, and enlarged tonsils- I always wondered why I liked beetroot so much, and now I know why.

Even if you don't buy it for yourself, it's one of those items you'll love browsing through for nostalgia...

Thursday 8 December 2011

A Little Award I Picked Up at Awards Night...

As I mentioned in my previous post, Wednesday evening was the annual Nottingham Writers' Club Awards Night and Christmas Buffet.

Now the instructions were to wear something festive and I duly complied with a headband with antlers and bells on- fortunately I didn't have a red nose to go with them...

A Literary Reindeer..., Getting in the Christmas spirit at the 2011 NWC Awards Night

A Literary Reindeer

So the presentations began.

The winners of the trophies last December received a certificate to show their earlier success. Then it was the presentation of book token cards for the members who had been placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the quarterly prose competitions and/or the monthly poetry competitions.

Then our club President (author and jobbing writer) Roy Bainton presented the trophies.

Now I only entered the Romance competition to help out.
The synopsis and first three chapters I'd intended to enter wasn't ready by the closing date- I was still only on chapter 2. And as a few of the members who would enter if they had a suitable work, didn't enter this year, so the minimum number of entries for the competition to run, was one short.

As the wonderful Ange had got Sue Moorcroft to judge this year's competition no one wanted to miss the opportunity of getting helpful comments on their work, so I put my Dorset novel in to help out.
(I'd only had an afternoon to give it a quick tidy up and trim.)

So I was amazed last night when the winner of the Romance competition was announced. It was me!

Now I don't yet know how much of my entry was good, and how much bad, as the prose competition secretary was poorly, so it will be January 4th before I find out the comments when I get my manuscript back.

So all I can say is I must have done something right...:-)

And here's the trophy I was presented with...
Carol presented with the Romance Trophy December 2011, Presentation of the Mary Street Memorial Shield for a Romance Novelist at Nottingham Writers' Club, December 2011
Winner of the Mary Street Memorial Shield 2011
Carol Bevitt

(photos courtesy of Dennis Apple)

Wednesday 7 December 2011

A Good Evening and News to Come....

Wednesday evening was Awards Night at Nottingham Writers' Club. We were short of quite a few regulars as a few were away on holiday and others were ill. In fact a few were suffering tonight with the coughing and croaky voice problem...

But all who turned up enjoyed the evening.

I'm just waiting for a few photos to be e-mailed to me tomorrow, so you'll see my fun headgear and also hear some good news.

But more of that tomorrow...:-)

Monday 5 December 2011

National Literacy Trust...

The National Literacy Trust has just released a report that reveals that the number of children who do not own a book of their own has risen.

We all know how important reading is. It plays an important part in language development in young children and in turn this has a knock-on effect with handwriting, and goes on into school and eventually exams.

A child who isn't assisted and encouraged to read will always be working at a disadvantage, compared to their reading peers.

I wasn't able to read properly until I was 7 years old.
I had a slight speech problem and was growing up in a time when there was not as wide a range of books available to young children (unlike now), and reading was a bedtime activity when stories about Noddy, Cinderella and Peter Pan were read to me.

When I was small, the school reading method were the Janet and John books, and I can still remember the wonder I felt when words finally made sense to me and I understood how much a simple sentence could mean- and I could read it.

It also meant I could go and borrow the books in the children's section at my local library, which so many of my classmates had been doing for some time...

I connected to the bigger world by being able to read, and that was the moment when I decided I wanted to be a writer.

Sadly even now there are still adults with literacy difficulties. Hopefully one day that aspect of life will eventually become a thing of the past...

If you are interested in donating to the NLT's Gift of Reading this Christmas, then have a look here.

The writers of the future will need readers; and this scheme will help the readers of the future to be able to enjoy those books.

Perhaps there will even be potential writers among them...

Friday 2 December 2011

Competitions for the New Year...

Now that I'm finally getting over the nasty chest infection, courtesy of an inhaler and another course of antibiotics, my head is finally clear enough to start considering a few possible competitions for next year.

Probably the biggest opportunity getting talked about is the Good Housekeeping magazine novel competition with a £25,000 advance, publication on completion of the novel and introduction to literary agent Luigi Bonomi. (Thanks to Stirling on the Talkback forum for details.)

Obviously the standard required of entries will be tough, especially when you see the judges: Kate Mosse, Bonomi, Orion fiction publishing director Kate Mills and Good Housekeeping editorial director Lindsay Nicholson.

You need to get a copy of the January issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, in newsagents from the 1st December, for the entry coupon. It has Lulu on the front cover.

Read the rules because it mentions it's open to writers who have never had a novel published before. As I haven't seen the magazine yet I don't know if they define this anywhere, so clarification may be needed.

Nor are you eligible to enter if you are already signed to an agent.

You'll need a full synopsis and 5,000 words as well as your entry form. And you'll need to include a 100 word mini bio of yourself.

You have time to work on your entry as the closing date is 31st March 2012. But do give yourself enough time for submission as your entry does have to go by post.

I don't know if the entry form will be available in future issues- I'd assume you will need to get the January issue or miss out.

But before you get too excited, no novels for children...

The good news is, entry is free.

I'm going to get to work on my Dorset novel as soon as I get my synopsis and first three chapters back with the comments from the club competition next week.

Good luck if you enter...

*   *   *

Another competition you might be interested in is the annual Words with JAM Short Story Competition (2011) with a closing date of 27th January 2012. Your story can be up to 2,500 words- excluding the title. The entry fee is £6, or £10 for two. Entry details here.

The rules can be found here.

You can send by snail mail, but online submission is preferred, which is a plus for most writers as you can give yourself a closer deadline for submission- if needed.

1st Prize - £500
2nd Prize - £100
3rd Prize - £50

Monday 28 November 2011

The Leveson Enquiry...

As I've been staying indoors due to the cold air making me cough so much, I've seen some on the Sky and BBC News coverage of the Leveson Enquiry in the afternoons.

As a writer, freedom of speech is important. We're all aware that there are writers in the world who are imprisoned, even tortured or killed for writing the truth, having an opinion or just disagreeing with those in power.

So I suppose you could say the fact that the Leveson enquiry is taking place and is broadcast on national tv, shows our country is reasonably healthy in the freedom issue.

Most writers- whatever their form of media- know the rules. Admittedly, one writer's personal red line won't necessarily be the same as the next man or woman. Individual moral codes can't be legislated...

I was speaking to a freelance journalist earlier this year, and our conversation moved to phone hacking as it was in the news at the time.

The view expressed was that it was not just the one newspaper, and that laziness was a contributing issue.

Today there are databases. Information can be gathered with a few clicks of the computer mouse. There's no longer any need or time for journalists to go out into the community and look for the news.

In fact many local newspapers have either closed down, or are satellites of the big newspaper groups.

Celebrity sells. Publishers wouldn't pay millions for the biography of an ex-politician, reality star, or high profile actor, if they couldn't guarantee sales in the hundred thousands... Nor would the shelves of  newsagents be littered with magazines, emblazoned with lurid celebrity related headlines, that keep being bought.

The people who have given evidence to the enquiry- both ordinary and well-known (including Harry Potter author JK Rowling) have clearly suffered from abuse by a minority.

When it is all over and the recommendations are made for the future, I hope it doesn't go too far in restricting what can be written. Investigative journalism is very important in uncovering misdeeds and bad practise.

But something must be done- good journalists should not be tarred with the same brush as the bad journalists.

Friday 25 November 2011

Being Realistic About Your Writing...

As I write it is 12 days to Awards Night at Nottingham Writers' Club, combined with the annual  restrained Christmas party... I've had a slight relapse on the health front and now need an inhaler for a short while, so hopefully I'll be feeling 100% by the party.

After the awards we have finger food and a few quizzes with chocolate type prizes for the winner/s or the winning table. And this is truly when the hidden competitive streak comes out in all of us- in a good natured way of course. :-)

Chocolate and writers just seem to go together...

It's also the evening I should be getting the comments on my romance trophy entry returned to me. This year it was judged by writer Sue Moorcroft (who is also one of the judges in the Fiction Workshop section in Writers Forum magazine).

So I'm looking forward to seeing what Sue thought about my entry. I am prepared for good news and bad. Though I won't read the comments properly until the cold light of day when I can calmly absorb them.

Once my novella in progress is completed I'll go back to the novel- as I've been contemplating it for the past year and learning more about my characters- and think I'm ready to proceed with it...

I'm realistic enough to know I need to be honest about my writing, and need to make clinical judgements about it, as a well-known novelist suggests.

A L Kennedy in the Guardian has written an article on looking closely at your work and seeing not only it's good points, but the weak areas as well. There are some interesting suggestions included.

We all have areas of writing that we are better at, but it doesn't mean we will always see all those weak spots, so honest but supportive writer friends can be invaluable.

So on Awards Night I'll be clapping the winners, and looking forward to the prospect of another writing year, learning more and steadily improving...

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Back To The Writing-Chapter Endings...

After a few busy weeks, plus the nasty chest infection, I'm now getting back to the writing.

Yesterday I finally completed chapter 2 of my novella (admittedly it's only the first draft) but I found myself ending the chapter at a point I hadn't expected- though when I looked at my outline, I realised that I'd planned it that way-  I just hadn't noticed that was how my sub-conscious had seen it...

I know I used to worry (unnecessarily) about where to end my chapters when I started writing again- many years ago.

Now the characters always decide for me and refuse to co-operate if I try to go beyond their cut-off point. Of course it doesn't mean it's going to stay that way in the rewriting, but as a progress point, it works for me.

Like most other areas of writing, you read, you inwardly digest and improve by doing. Basically, I'm continually learning and adapting as I find what works best for me.

Then there are the boundaries for the chosen genre- final length, and any specific editorial requirements- beside a great story that the editor can't resist, obviously... :-)

So this year I decided I had to be flexible. But as you can see from the chapter 2 mention above, I'm still trying...

Monday 21 November 2011

Self Publishing with Kindle...

I've lost count of how many e-mails I've had from Amazon promoting their latest Kindle e-reader in the past couple of months- you can't escape it. Admittedly their e-readers do seem to be popular Christmas gifts.

Whenever I check the stats for my blog there are regular hits for my Kindle posts, so I thought I'd add another one.

There is a great article (in the December 2011 edition of Writing Magazine) by Kindle author Lily Childs explaining how to format your book for uploading, what to do once it's ready and lots of other useful information.

Lily has just published her second Magenta Shaman book via Kindle and has started to build up a readership for her novels.

Now I'm not the most technically minded person, but I think even I could do it following Lily's instructions...

The December issue of Writing Magazine is worth getting hold of as it has a section solely related to self-publishing, including an article by Malcolm Welshman about generating publicity for your book- yes he did dress up as a rabbit, I saw the original video...

If your newsagent has run out of copies of the December issue, you can buy a copy at the Writers Online website, and a digital edition is available for a reasonable price here.

It will be some time before my work is ready for Kindle, so I better go and get on with writing it... :-)

If you've Kindled your book/s do let me know (in the comments box below) if you think it has been worthwhile...

Saturday 19 November 2011

It's That Time of Year Again...

Yes, Christmas approaches...

There's financial crisis in Europe as well as the UK, and no doubt there are a lot of writers who are watching their pennies this Christmas.

A lot of shops are offering discounts to tempt buyers, and if you have any store loyalty cards you can build up points throughout the year, that you can use for buying Christmas presents- and treating yourself.

What might be good presents for writers?

Here are a few practical suggestions:
  • memory sticks
  • packs of paper for printing
  • notebooks
  • pens
  • a supply of chocolate- okay, a large bar is always appreciated any time of the year...:-)
If you want something different then there are some fun gift items for writers at The Literary Gift Company and I really like their mugs- there's even one that says 'Go Away I'm Tweeting'...

It was my birthday recently so I think I'm going to get myself the t-shirt with 'Careful or you'll end up in my novel' on the front.

An ideal gift for horror writers is surely their Edgar Allen Poe mini journal with a suitably eerie cover.

You can find a great selection of writer gifts at CafePress -my particular favourite is the small mug with 'do not interrupt inner dialogue in progress'.

About 7 to 8 years ago I used to do articles for an online magazine (sadly no longer in existence, as the editor went in a different direction and eventually closed the magazine) and at this time of year, I used to produce a gift buying guide for readers, with a variety of gifts from under £5 to over £20.

It was hard work but great fun finding a variety of gifts suitable for all ages...

So have you ever been given a gift specifically because you're a writer?

Monday 14 November 2011

It's Monday and...

Usually by Sunday night I know what I'm going to talk about on my Monday blog post, but nothing came to me yesterday...

Now I have to admit there's a good reason for that. My cold of the past few days became a nasty chest infection and yesterday morning I was so ill I ended up with the one man ambulance car coming out to me to check my chest pains weren't a serious problem.

Everything was fine and I just needed to see the emergency doctor for antibiotics.

I'm now on my second day of medicine and I'm feeling much more human. But it did cross my mind yesterday, that if I'd lived in earlier centuries, the outcome of my chest infection would have been very different- and eventually fatal...

Which brings me to mentioning Rosemary Gemmell's, Romancing History blog, where today's subject is Garrow's Law and The Old Bailey. If you haven't seen it before, it's worth watching.

Friday 11 November 2011

BWA- Transparency vs Protection...

Anyone who is switched on to the blogsphere will have heard or read something over the past few days about the Brit Writers Award organisation (BWA).

Now let me make it clear from the start there is nothing to suggest that they have done anything illegal or immoral, just that they have been unwilling to answer reasonable questions about their 'Agents Division' service, and statements they've made about partner-agents etc...

You don't hire a builder to construct your home extension on the basis of statements made on a website, in an e-mail or flyer put through the door- at least not without checking they have the appropriate qualifications, experience in the type of building you want done, and knowing what you're getting for the money you're paying.
If you don't ask questions then you only have yourself to blame if it goes wrong and you realise you've wasted your money...

Services to writers are the same.

Writers know that editorial services can be worth the money spent, if it helps improve their book before it's finally submitted to agents or publishers. If the service claims to be connected to agents, then it's not unreasonable to ask who the agents are?

Sadly BWA had been unwilling to answer questions, (and that has made many writers suspicious, I'm sure). Even today (Friday)when they responded to questions put by Jonathan Telfer (Editor of Writers News and Writing Magazine) their answer, while extensive, did little but explain why they felt the need to use non-disclosure and employ a solicitor to make legal threats of defamation to certain bloggers...

Nowadays Consumer organisations advise potential buyers to ask questions before purchasing or engaging the services of any individual or organisation- be it a caterer, carpet fitter or a plumber!

If the organisation wants your business then they should be doing all they can to make it easy for you to decide in their favour; those that don't, lose business and word spreads.

Writers are consumers too, so don't be surprised when they ask questions...

(Update: request from Harry over at the Writers' Workshop blog )

Thursday 10 November 2011

The Trials of Being A Writer...

At the moment my brain is on go slow, so this blog will be brief.

The dreaded winter bugs have finally got me, so instead of belly dancing today, I'm at home in the warm taking it easy.

I'm going to catch up on my reading until my head is less clogged up. I wish I could be one of those writers who can soldier on when they're ill, but I can't.

I mentioned on Monday that I was reading 'The House of Silk'; well for UK listeners, Radio4 at 10.45pm The Book at Bedtime slot is featuring an abridged version of 'The House of Silk' read by the brilliant Derek Jacobi.

So I'm trying to read enough each day to keep ahead of the nightly slot...

Meanwhile, pop over to Quiller's Place to read about an important ongoing issue, and read as many of the links as you can.

Monday 7 November 2011

Buying Books for Christmas- If You Can Wait That Long...

I've finally had to admit that Christmas is creeping closer and I've started looking at what might be ideal for the family. There are always a few books somewhere in the wrapping paper on Christmas morning, so I've been surfing the web and browsing the high street bookshops to see what's available.

The high street book retailers are certainly competing with online prices at the moment in a way they haven't in past years.

Waterstones have introduced their new pricing policy, and I do like their discreet stickers showing the  price reduction on their books.

WH Smith are doing a big price reduction campaign too and they have quite a few new hardbacks at half price. I bought the new Sherlock Holmes story 'The House of Silk' by Anthony Horowitz, for myself. I started reading it over the weekend and I'm really enjoying it.

As I read, I couldn't help but hear the voices of the late Edward Hardwicke (who died in May this year) and Jeremy Brett ( 1933-1995) who became the personifications of Watson and Holmes to many tv viewers who watched their adventures (1984 to 1994).

One of my teenage sons has already asked to read the book when I've finished it...

I'm also looking forward to the autobiography of Elisabeth Sladen, (who sadly died in April this year)best known as former Dr Who assistant and journalist Sarah Jane Smith in CBBC's 'The Sarah Jane Adventures'.

I think this Christmas is going to be good for book buyers and readers when you see what is available, and you add in the e-book choices too.

Are there any books you are going to buy this Christmas? Will you be buying online or will you be spending your money at high street booksellers?

Sunday 6 November 2011

The 250 Word Result...

Well Wednesday evening went well for all the 17 entrants with their 250 words on the theme Stormy Weather.

There were quite a few stories with stormy marriages- including mine, though in mine the marriage was in the past. The entries that did well in the voting were the humorous ones.

Sadly I didn't win- in fact I didn't even get one vote... :(

But the story will not be wasted. As I suspected I wanted to rewrite it the moment it was read aloud. So I'm going to let it ferment a while before I tackle it again, and perhaps find a home for it (somewhere) when it's been rewritten slightly longer.

Friday 4 November 2011

A Magazine Must-Have...

This week the centenary issue of Woman's Weekly is in the shops- you can't miss the blue and pink cover with 100 across the front. (It's dated 8th November 2011.)

It's brilliant for enthusiasts of nostalgia, or anyone interested in researching any decade of the 20th Century.

There are a couple of pages of front covers showing how they've changed and I certainly remember the pink background header title from the 70's and 80's- and the knitting patterns...

The beauty and health sections from the past were certainly an eye opener. Obviously science has brought many discoveries over one hundred years, but all I will say is I'm glad I wasn't a baby in 1916!!!

The reproduction of the first issue that's included is about A5 size and the print is small, so I'm not going to try reading the articles and stories without a magnifying glass handy. But the adverts of 1911 do make their 21st century counterparts seem quite tame...

I'm sure there will be lots of inspiration for stories from this centenary issue...

There are some links for the website given in the magazine but they don't seem to be working at the moment, but meanwhile the website can be found here.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

250 Words- Why Did I worry?

The 250 words I mentioned on Monday finally came together Tuesday lunchtime.

My character was still giving me hints a couple of hours before I finalised the story.

I had actually tried three different openings in the previous fortnight, and actually those elements did feature in the final cut, so they weren't wasted.

In fact it was only as I was getting to the heart of my character that I made a discovery- it altered the angle of the story entirely...

My only problem was that by the time I had edited it to a state I was happy with, I found I had 251 words.
Now when a competition says 250 words is the maximum, then 250 words it is, so mini panic over I looked at a few of the sentences which could be jiggled around. In fact I even moved the position of one sentence completely and it worked so much better.

Eventually I found a way to lose one word, so I finally had my 250 words.

Now I can't reveal any details yet, but maybe tomorrow I will share it with you. Though no doubt I will want to rewrite it when I read it again...

Monday 31 October 2011

250 Words for Wednesday...Eeeek!!!!

As I mentioned on my weekend post my latest writing dilemma- trying to write 250 words on a set theme-for this coming Wednesday evening's Manuscript of the Year Competition at Nottingham Writers' Club.

Now every October I'm wracking my brains to come up with an idea, each year the theme is different, but we do know the subject from early September. Sometimes the result emerges much quicker, but not this year.

Members hand in their 250 words of prose on the night with a pseudonym, and whether they need a male or female reader. We have 4 readers, two men and two women who read each entry, and if there's not too many entries that year, they are read a second time by the other male or female reader.
It does illustrate how different a story can sound with another reader.

The winner is the entry that gets the most votes from the audience on the night- we often have visitors to meetings and they are able to join in the fun and vote.

Earlier in the year the Committee asked members for theme suggestions, and in the month or two following that a longlist/shortlist of possibilities was compiled- depending on suitability.

The criteria for suitability is that the suggestions give scope for interpretation by the writers. The Committee vote by e-mail for their preferred suggestion, until there is a winner.

A couple of years ago we were given a set line that had to appear somewhere in the story, but didn't count toward the 250 words...That was difficult, but it produced a wide variety of stories- a perfect example of how 15+ writers tackle the same theme totally differently.

The list often also provides the theme for the annual Verse of the Year Competition for the poets among the membership in the following March.
This year's Verse theme was 'Sat-Nav'. The competition was won by Keith- who blogs as 'Dream it, then do it' and another member Graham. As the vote is anonymous we couldn't ask for another vote to decide, so they got to share the trophy...

So to this year.
My problem is my character, she keeps providing me with snippets and the circumstances keep changing, as does her name. But I do have the last line...

So, now I have until Wednesday lunchtime to finally get my story together.

Friday 28 October 2011

Reading or Writing?

I was trying to decide which of two ideas to blog about today. First, I thought I'd share my latest writing dilemma, trying to write 250 words on a set theme, but then I saw an article online and thought I'd prefer to chat about the idea discussed.

So the 250 word issue will be Monday's post.

The article that caught my attention was 'I’m not ashamed of what’s loaded on my e-reader – are you?' by  in The Telegraph online, book section.

Now this appears to have come about from a survey- though who compiled it isn't mentioned, so judge it how you will.

" Meanwhile, a quarter of us are too embarrassed to admit to owning the e-books we are actually reading – mainly thrillers, mysteries and fantasy."

I find that admission surprising as the people I know with e-readers wouldn't be embarrassed to admit owning such books in digital form. So perhaps the people who answered the survey were high-brow types whose usual (admitted) reading matter is literary fiction...

It's understandable that sales of erotica in e-book form would have increased. In the view of some of the population, anyone seen reading erotica (with their revealing covers) might be considered disgraceful- to put it politely. While many readers and writers know that it is a popular genre, and if you want to buy it and read it then, fine, no problem.

There are likely to be quite a few classics that have been downloaded for free, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and the Brontes among them. I know I have quite a few classics on my e-reader.

Here is a small  selection of e-books I have on my pocket reader currently- I have more in my reader library that I've read and taken off my reader, so I only have the ones on there that I'm reading, or have yet to read.

  • Around the World in 80 Days - Jules Verne.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexander Dumas (I read this as a teenager, along with The Three Musketeers).
  • Delight and Desire- Joanne Maitland.
  • Diamonds and Pearls- assorted writers (brilliant book).
  • Four in Hand- Stephanie Laurens (a favourite, always makes me smile when I read it).
  • Georgette Heyer's Regency World- Jennifer Kloester (I have a book copy too).
  • Innocent Courtesan to Adventurer's Bride- Louise Allen.
  • Loves Me, Loves Me Not-Romantic Novelists' Association (another must have).
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams (I've actually finished it now).
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell-Susanna Clarke.
  • The Uncommon Reader- Alan Bennet.
  • The Unlacing of Miss Leigh-Diane Gaston.
You get the idea. I won't bore you with all the current 71 books...:-)

So what books have you got on your e-reader? Are there any on your e-reader that you would not want to admit to owning? (If there are, you don't have to tell all.)

Now I'm off to browse some e-books by a couple of authors I haven't read before...

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The OFT Decision on the Amazon/Book Depository Merger is a Disappointment...

I think there are a lot of readers and writers who will disappointed today; the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) has cleared Amazon in its intention to take over the Book Depository. They will not be referring the take-over to the Competition Commission.

You can read this article on the Bookseller website that explains some of the reasoning for this decision.

The Booksellers Association, one of a number of organisations who sent representations to the OFT during the consultation period this summer, are concerned that Amazon could put its competitors out of business, now the take-over has got the go-ahead.

"Tim Godfray, chief executive of the BA, said: “ Amazon now has even more power to put its bookseller competitors out of business and, having done that, it will be in an excellent position to increase prices and/or reduce choice.” "
The BA website didn't have anything about the OFT decision in the news section of their website at the time I posted this, so here's to The Bookseller again.

I'd be very surprised if Amazon hadn't been preparing for the merger in the meantime, so I don't expect its completion to take too long now.

Amazon features in the financial news today, with the announcement that their third quarter's profits have slumped (that's July to September) - likely due to their investment in the new Kindle devices, Fire and Touch.

This time next year it may be an entirely different situation.

So for those book buyers who don't want to buy from Amazon, now is the time to support small booksellers, or go to the publisher and buy direct from them- a lot of them are offering this now.

Monday 24 October 2011

Saturday at Sally Quilford's Pocket Novel Workshop...

I had a busy Saturday attending Sally Quilford's first Pocket Novel Workshop in Chesterfield. Now it's not far from Nottingham, 30-40 minutes by train, so off I went. I have to admit I haven't been on a train for over 20 years, so initiously I was a bit anxious...

I needn't have worried, I arrived in one piece at Chesterfield and followed Sally's directions to get to the Market Hall building. Chesterfield is clearly a thriving market town and I'd like to visit another time.

Anyway I got to the room we would be in and Sally and her daughter were there to welcome us, and they provided tea, coffee and biscuits- as it had been an early start for all of us.

We were a mixed bunch of writers, from those who had an idea for a pocket novel, to those who were broadening their writing horizons- our number included two males.

Writers are always told to study their market, so we started with the differences between the My Weekly pn (pocket novels) and those produced by People's Friend. One big difference is 'kissing'; there's no kissing in the PF version, while the My Weekly pn editor is very happy with kissing (more about that shortly).

So we got down to some writing. First our heroine- we wrote about who she is, her background, description (if we knew what she looked like) and anything relevent.
And it's not easy if you don't already have a character in mind, or you do have a character but don't know anything about them yet.

We then repeated the process with out hero- I only had a name, but realised he was actually a character who'd been lurking in my mind for some time (I'd teamed him up with another heroine originally but realised they were not right together).

Our next task was conflict-both internal and external-  difficult when you don't know your characters well.

The secondary characters came next. I've found my secondary character usually acts as a support to both my hero and heroine, rather than one for each, or creating problems.

And finally the kissing scene. We all groaned at the thought of producing this. When you consider you've just started to discover your hero and heroine and then got to get them kissing without the normal lead in!!!!

But we survived and all too soon the day was over- we did have a break for lunch, Sally was not that cruel...

We all learnt so much, but if you want to know, you'll have to find out from Sally. She hopes to do others if she can arrange them, and you can always contact her about her online workshop- see Sally's blog.

It was a great day and among Sally's suggestions were links on Womag writer's blog, the current  pocket novel guidelines and Douglas McPherson's interview with the My Weekly Pocket Novel Editor Maggie Seed (which originally appeared in Writers Forum ).

Friday 21 October 2011

It's Good to Be Friendly...

As Ange at Fonts and Fiction has kindly given me the Friendly Blogger Award I have taken some time to consider who to pass this on to.

So in no particular order as they say...
Steven Chapman- he's fun and is a friend to charity- he's growing facial hair during November to raise money- but be warned he writes horror...

Sally Jenkins- who is another friendly person who shares info and competition news.

Jennifer Thomson- a caring and compassionate friendly person- don't worry about the zombie bits...

Shirley- a lovely friendly person who shares her writing highpoints and actually is a very good poet too.

Rosalind Smith-Nazilli- besides writing she shares her knitting ideas in a friendly way...

Other friendly bloggers have already been highlighted by other winners, and  I too would have added them to my list, among them,  Patsy, Teresa, Sally and Keith.

Friendship is wonderful, online and off. So thank you all.

Monday 17 October 2011

Reviewing My 2011 Progress So Far...

I've been reviewing my writing progress for 2011 and decided I couldn't reveal my conclusions to date without recalling the parameters I'd set myself in mid-December last year- ten months ago...

So my four targets were:

1: Get a short story published- somewhere.

2: Work on at least one of my novella length stories.

3: The novel- open to decision.

4: Enter some writing competitions.

Now I have to say I've only managed two of my four targets, though the other two have received attention to a slight degree.

The first, get a short story published hasn't happened, as the contender needs a little more work and my accident interfered in a big way.

The work on the novella is underway, and the novel has had some thought- although I haven't had time to put the decisions into action.
I tidied up the synopsis where I could, and with the first three chapters entered it into the annual romance trophy competition at the writers club- I put it in to make up the numbers this year, so I already know some of the faults, but it will be interesting to see what comments it receives.

So number 4, enter some writing competitions has been the other area of progress. In January I entered the Words with Jam last few lines of a story competition. And today I finished revising my 150 words for the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition- the start of, so that will be in the post tomorrow.

If you want to enter, there is still time, you have until the 28th October to get your entry in. Details here.

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

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

Hopefully next year will be more productive.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Yes, I Am A Writer...

I do know some writers who would deny themselves that description, but the majority of my writing acquaintances accept it.

Friday evenings I browse the online newspapers for book related items that might interest friends and provoke discussions. That was how I came across this article  'Am I a writer' in the Guardian books section by Rick Gekoski- who has had a number of non-fiction books published, and is also a book dealer.

His daughter, a forensic psychologist with numerous articles to her name ( and also a published author) said to him she was not a writer.  " "It's just a job of work," she said. "There's no art in it, no imagination or creativity, and no fuss. Writers always make a fuss.""

Now perhaps that is the scientist speaking, but is 'art' the difference between factual writing and fiction?
Do writers make a fuss? Though we don't have any explanation of what type of fuss she means, so perhaps we can ignore that statement...

I suspect it is really about how we define ourselves and the terms 'writer', 'author' and 'novelist'.

This is my personal view of those terms, so they won't necessarily reflect another person's opinion, or the dictionary definitions.

I am a writer because I write (with an aim to be published). Perhaps that moment when we say we are a writer-when someone asks what we do- is when we embrace the description and accept the mantle of writer as part of our identity.

When it comes to the difference between an author and a novelist, is it only me who feels that an author is anyone who has published a book, while the novelist is a term more applicable to writers of 'literary' fiction?

I'm interested in finding out how you view both yourself and the terms mentioned, so please share your views.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

E-Book Romance Sales Rise...

Digital sales of romance books are rising and publishers are realising that romance pays.

Mills and Boon adopted digital early in 2008 and now their paperbacks are also sold as e-books at the same time. Previously when a book was published it was only available in print form for a limited time. If you missed a book by a favourite author then you'd probably have to find it second-hand, or hope it was in a clearance deal sometime in the future.

Now they're available with a few clicks of your mouse and credit card details.

E-books are especially useful if you're researching a particular publisher for future submission; you can read their current publications without creating a pile of books on your table.

Random House's Ebury imprint have recently launched their Rouge Romance list, so when mainstream publishers start embracing e-book romance then it tells you it's a growth market.

One of the reasons given for more romances sold in e-book form is anonymity. You get your e-reader out on the bus or train and no one around you knows what you are reading, it could be Erotica or Dan Brown and there's no tell-tale cover to be seen by the person opposite you.

Now I have to say when I've seen someone on the bus reading a book I do look to see what they're reading, but usually it's not the cover I look at, but the top of the page for a book title...Sadly living on a bus route that passes a university most of the books I see aren't that exciting...

More e-readers are being produced, especially in the US where e-books began selling a few years before the UK, and there are a number of publishers enjoying the boom in e-book sales.

For a writer digital has provided more market opportunities, and not just with their own Kindle books.

Read some figures here.

So, do you think e-reader anonymity helps?

Monday 10 October 2011

A Friendly Blogger Shares A Thought...

First I have to say thank you to Rosemary Gemmell for nominating me for The Friendly Blogger Award.

Since I have been blogging I have made a lot of new friends, so thank you all.

As so many of the blogs I too would have mentioned have already
been suggested by other nominees I thought I would do something
slightly different- so I hope you don't mind...

When Steve Jobs of Apple and IPhone fame sadly died last week,
there was a clip on the BBC News of a speech he gave to graduating
students at Stanford University in 2005 accompanying the news report.

If you want to read the whole speech (and it is worth reading) the Guardian published it at the weekend, so look here.

Some of his words really stuck in my mind, and for a writer they are a good reminder. (Quoted from the Guardian item.)

" " And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become." "

Saturday 8 October 2011

Author Talk at The Book Festival- Kate Walker...

I mentioned on Thursday that I was intending to go to a book festival, here in Nottingham on Saturday, so I could attend a short talk by Mills and Boon author Kate Walker.

Well I did go, despite the miserable weather.

I met Kate while we were waiting to go into the Council Chamber for the talk, and I have to say she's a lovely friendly person.

All the talks scheduled in the chamber were only 45 minutes, so by the time people arrived, sat down and Kate passed around some freebies supplied by Mills and Boon (a bright pink Biro and a copy of a Riva book- a new M&B series aimed at younger women) and from Kate a bookmark, we had about 35 minutes.

Obviously with the time limit Kate was only able to give a quick run-down on writing a romance novel, but that was helpful for anyone there who considered writing a Mills and Boon novel.

"The books are constantly changing and adapting" which helps explain why they are still publishing romances over 100 years later.

The New Voices competition was mentioned- the closing date is in a few days apparently. But Kate was sure it would run again next year.

Also highlighted was that M&B are looking for your (individual) voice in submissions.

The important words for writing a romance are: characters, conflict, 'emotional punch' and a happy ending- whether there's marriage at the end of the story, or not.

Kate's current book 'The Return of the Stranger' is a rework of 'Wuthering Heights' that the publisher requested.
Now we all know the original story doesn't have a happy ending, so Kate needed to write a happy ending for her version- and we got an explanation of how she went about it in the Q&A session at the end.

I now have a signed copy of the latest book, and the cover model DOES have a neatly trimmed beard and moustache and looks very brooding in an attractive way... :-)

Kate's next book, due in March 2012, will be her 60th title, so I will be looking out for it when it is published.

I came away enthused, and reassured that I have got the right elements in my novel. I just need to work on knowing my characters a bit better.

So you'll know what I'll be reading this coming week...

Thursday 6 October 2011

Moustaches For a Reason...

Not on me I'm glad to say...

If you read any historical romance the only time the hero appears unshaven is when they have had a life threatening injury and are unconscious or in some situation where shaving isn't possible.
Okay that may be a bit of an exaggeration but the hero doesn't usually have a beard or moustache. Even in Victorian settings, when facial hair was more fashionable, the heroes still seem to be clean-shaven.

Now you may wonder why I'm mentioning facial hair in a writing context, well there is a good reason.

A fellow writer on the Talkback forum-Steven Chapman- will be growing a moustache for the whole of November. He is taking part in the Movember fund raising event for The Prostate Cancer Charity.

"During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces in the UK and around the world. The aim of which is to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men."

I live in a house of males- hubby and four sons- plus the numerous attractive males in the creative part of my brain, so it's not quite so strange to be giving a donation.

Steven reasoned that if all the people he knew gave even 50p each it would make a good amount.

So if you know a man who wants to take up the challenge, then point them in the direction of Movember. Or if you prefer you can make a donation to an individual, a team, or just a general donation- you'll find a link on the Movember page.

*  *  *

I'm off to the New Writers UK Book Fayre and Festival on Saturday and hope to see the talk by Mills and Boon author Kate Walker.

So my weekend post will be a little late...

Monday 3 October 2011

Why Do My Ideas Want To be Novels?

I had a slight problem the other day. A character that is going to be in my entry for the annual Mail on Sunday Novel Competition intruded into a piece of flash fiction I was writing. Suddenly Jennifer became Miranda- who on earth was Miranda? The character I was writing about at the time was most definitely a Jennifer...
Later that night as I was settling down to sleep Miranda explained who she was and that she was in my competition entry.

Now the competition mentioned above only requires 50-150 words of an opening to a novel with the word ROW used- fortunately the novel doesn't also have to be written, because if it did it would have to go on the waiting list...

This is where my problem starts- and this happens a lot now- what I think is going to be a short story will, by the time I've jotted down the ideas, have become part of a much larger and longer story. And I know from past experience that a story that goes that way just doesn't work by itself...

I know I should be glad that I have all these stories and characters buzzing around in my sub-conscious and I can fill my notebooks up with details to return to later, but I'm beginning to worry whether I can ever manage to come up with an idea that stays as a short story and doesn't want to be anything longer.

When I started seriously writing again- after many years of nothing-it was as much as I could do to write a 1,000 word short story, but as the years have gone by the natural length of my stories has increased: 1200-1300; 1,500 then 1,900 and now I'm having difficulty trying to get a story I've been working on to a 2,000 word length, when it actually needs to have another couple of hundred words, but it will then become an in-between length- not liked by some magazines...

Perhaps this is just a phase my writing is going through and in a few months I'll be coming up with nothing but short story ideas.

But at least I've got the ideas, so now I need to get on with some of them.

If you are interested in the start of a novel competition, Womag published the details on her blog last month, so go there. Good luck if you enter.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Does Super Thursday Make You Buy Books?

Super Thursday (29th September) was the day when publishers released over 225 hardback books. The aim: to get high sales in the run-up to Christmas, so a number of 'celebrity' books are guaranteed to feature just as they have in earlier years with varying degrees of success.

I know publishers need to make money from these high profile books, but imagine how much help a similar publicity campaign would be for the ordinary writers out there...

In the days surrounding Super Thursday there have been mentions on the television news channels, in newspapers and online making buyers aware of some of the books coming out.

But will it work this year?

Book sales have recorded month-on-month falls of a few percent and it's not unreasonable to expect it to continue.
Money is tight for a lot of people in 2011 and I wouldn't  be surprised if a lot of promotional discounts are needed to boost sales nearer Christmas. In 2010 there were a number of celeb bios that had been expected to do well, but didn't. I'm sure there were more than a few advances not recouped in sales.

Every year more people leave their Christmas shopping as late as possible to pick up bargains when stores start getting worried that their stock isn't moving and they start making 20-30% reductions or specific weekends with similar reductions.

Plus the last few Christmas's have seen a surge in the purchase of Kindles and the resulting rise in e-book sales has followed. Hardbacks seem to have suffered the most with the e-book effect.

Of course fans of a particular author will probably buy the latest novel in hardback rather than waiting until it appears in paperback; and a buyer perhaps looking for a Christmas gift for a family member might purchase a celebrity biography because they know that person likes that celebrity (and if it is on offer then even better).

So will you be buying any of the Super Thursday books in your local bookshop, or will you go online for the best price? Perhaps you'll opt for the e-book version. Maybe you won't be buying any hardbacks...

I'd be interested to read your comments and you can post as an anonymous user if you prefer.

Thursday 29 September 2011

The Start of the Redesign...

As you may have noticed there have been a few changes since you last dropped by. But don't worry it is still a work in progress.

I have been removing elements and shifting others around, so some of the missing items may make a reappearance in the next few days...

I've tried to make the text clear and the links more obvious, but all are open for changing. I need to live with it for 24 hours to decide if I'm happy or not.

As you'll see at the top I've added a picture that has taken a couple of cropping sessions to get to a size I was happy with. It was taken Summer 2009 in Dorset, though sadly the weather wasn't as good the day I took the photograph.

I love the view and I have a scene in my novel where my hero and heroine are stood looking out over this vista. I'm sure there may have been a few more trees on the slopes in the mid-18th century, but the coastline view would have been familiar to anyone stopping there to catch their breath.

Now I'm off to take advantage of the afternoon sun...

Monday 26 September 2011

Regency London...

I was just browsing the online newspapers and came across a walk around what can still be found of the Regency London that was mentioned in a number of Georgette Heyer's novels.

The piece appears in The Telegraph online- Regency London: Let a romantic novelist be your guide.

I can vaguely remember a few of the areas Sue Attwood's walk passes through, but I certainly never got to see St James's Street- originally home to numerous gentlemans clubs and entertainments...

It's good to know some things do survive nearly 200 years later...

Inspiration from Family History...

If you've ever seen 'Who Do You Think You Are'  -on the BBC where a variety of actors, musicians and other well known people are shown following up their family history and revealing often moving stories about their ancestors- then you may already know what I'm going to talk about.

(There has even been an American version which was broadcast in the UK).

Now you may never have given your ancestry any thought, let alone done any family history research yourself, but it is a wonderful tool for novel ideas and starting points for finding out information.

In fact for a writer it is very easy to get side-tracked by the stories of other families rather than your own.

I have to admit that I leave the trawling of records to my OH as he is very good at it- though my family history is still struggling to move beyond the early 1800's (going backwards from the present day of course).

But sometimes gems are revealed in passing that you can't resist...

A bigamous marriage.

Very old photos perhaps with a name and an address, or maybe just an interesting face that weaves a story in your mind.

An old letter or a message on a postcard.

A marriage recorded- by Special Licence rather than Banns.

A death in strange circumstances and the resulting inquest.

The BBC has a page of photos The Nation's Scrapbook, with images submitted by people and covering a wide variety of subjects.

All just another method of sparking ideas. Though don't forget, the truth can actually be stranger than fiction...

Saturday 24 September 2011

The Things You Find in Books...

Have you ever bought an old book and found something interesting inside it between the pages?

I ask because the Chairman at our writers' club read out some pages of writing that she found in an old book that she recently bought. The woman being written about was clearly the female equivalent of Michael Crawford's character Frank in 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em'.

We weren't sure if this woman existed (it covered a couple of months in 1963) or if it was a would-be writer's notes; perhaps it was just delusional ramblings, but there were numerous story ideas that could have been inspired from this hapless woman's disasters...

In the early 20thC it seemed to be more usual to find written inscriptions inside books, dated and signed. Not necessarily from the author of the book, but from the book buyer to a friend or relative.

The ones I've come across always seem to have been written in fountain pen blue ink with that beautiful elegant writing that was taught a hundred years ago.

Perhaps those people felt that book was special, it meant something to them and to the person they gave it to.

It can also be very sad too. I once found an old book- in a charity shop- with an inscription from a parent to a child, then I looked at the date the book was published and the date of the inscription and I realised it was given new. Did that child keep that book all their life and only after their death did it get boxed up and sent elsewhere, old and irrelevant in today's world?

So I think in future when I give a book as a special gift I'm going to start putting an inscription inside so the reason why I've given it to that person (and when) isn't forgotten...

Thursday 22 September 2011

Writers and Publishers...

Last night (Wednesday) I was at a manuscript meeting at the writers' club I attend. I took the first chapter of my novella along, but we didn't have enough time for everyone who wanted to read a piece of their work and get constructive feedback, so next month we get to go first.

But what has inspired today's post was something mentioned by one of the club's published writers- social networking and how essential it is for writers who want to get books published.

Some of the audience were dismayed, they felt that if a story was good enough to be published then why should they have to do Facebook, Twitter, forums and blogs?

So a few of us explained how vital it is for making yourself and your work sellable to publishers. Your book may be great but if the accountants don't think they can make money, that book won't go any further. Promotion is essential whether you are with a big publisher, a small press or self publishing.

I understood early on in my writing that you need to understand how publishing works. If you don't have any idea then find out, it makes your writing life a little less frustrating and easier to keep up with the rapid changes publishing is currently going through.

A hundred years ago, well before the digital age, writers didn't have the same demands placed on them as now. The writer sent the book to their chosen publisher, if it was accepted it went through the system and appeared in the bookshop.

But there were writers even in the 19th century who understood the value of getting out to their readers- Charles Dickens is a perfect example. He went around the country giving readings of his stories very successfully; he attended dinners- early after dinner speaking...

Perhaps some of that explains why his name is still known when many of his contemporaries have been forgotten.

(The original building of the Nottingham Mechanics hosted one of Dickens' events- our writers' club meets in the third generation building.)

I reckon Dickens would have embraced Facebook and Twitter with enthusiasm if they'd been available to him...

So please share with us your opinions on promotion.

Monday 19 September 2011

Would You Pay More For the Same Book in a Different Waterstones Branch?

It's been some time since I mentioned high street bookseller Waterstones. It has been featuring a lot in the bookselling press since it was sold to Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut’s A&NN Group.

James Daunt, owner of independent bookseller's 'Daunt' was put in charge as managing director of Waterstones and since his arrival changes have been announced, and decision made that will effect the staff, book buyers and authors.

We're all realistic enough to accept that when there's a new boss in charge there will be changes; we might not like those changes but sometimes change is for the good. Bookselling is no different from any other type of retailer, you need footfall and resulting sales...

Since early September, Waterstones has been announcing this and that change; staff contracts changing, getting rid of 3 for 2 promotions, and closing a few branches. They even want to launch their own e-reader.

But among the ideas is increasing the percentage of discount they get from publishers- which means that the author will get less royalties if the discount percentage is raised. Makes me wonder if new authors' whose books get into Waterstones will get much in royalties from their sales...

Then last week 'differential pricing' raised its head. Example: a book by popular author X could be sold cheaper/dearer in Luton than the price asked in Bath, but both are being sold by the same retailer.

Now I can understand the reasoning that because of demographics you might sell a book better in one area that's more prosperous, than elsewhere in the country where that book will sell few copies.
(So stock less in the poor selling branches.)

But is that demographic issue a good enough reason to charge differently?

Personally I would be extremely annoyed (to put it mildly) if I went to buy a book in my local branch in Nottingham and then found out it was cheaper in their Manchester store.

You might ask how would you know? Well I'm quite sure it would be easy enough to check with a friend using social media or on a forum; and I wouldn't think it would be long before there was an online price comparison site.

At the moment it is only an idea, but I'm wondering what the next improvement idea will be...

Later this week I will be going into my local Waterstones so it will be interesting to see if there have been any further changes.
When I last visited the comfy chairs had returned (hurray- my back thanks you Waterstones) and areas were less crowded by tables and mobile book stands than earlier in the year.

So over to you, would you be happy with differential pricing?

Friday 16 September 2011

It's Friday And This Blog is One Year Old...

On the 16th September 2010 my blog, Carol's Corner, published it's first post saying Hello.

It's amazing how quickly the year has passed and how many posts I've made over that time- this post is the 153rd...

When I started I did wonder if I would have anything to say that readers would be interested in, or would the subjects that appealed to me, interest anyone else? Well I'm glad to say that quite a few readers have enjoyed my posts, comment and come back regularly- THANK YOU EVERYONE.

In turn I have made lots of new friends via blogs and learnt a lot too. I know I will go on learning and hopefully it won't be too long before I get some of my writing out into a paying market- I can but hope and work hard.

So now on with the virtual celebrations...

Champagne and most importantly Cake- there's chocolate in there somewhere...


Images by digitalart at

Thursday 15 September 2011

More OFT Delays- E-Book Pricing

A couple of post ago I mentioned the news that the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) had delayed announcing the result of their inquiry into the Amazon/ Book Depository merger.

Well, now the investigation into e-book pricing, that was started earlier this year, has also not yet reached a conclusion according to an item on the Bookseller website today.

It's likely that many of the complaints the OFT received relate to the agency model pricing that a few UK publishers adopted for sale of their e-books. This resulted in some publishers telling booksellers the retail price that their e-book formats could be sold for, which certainly annoyed some of the major booksellers.

If you want to remind yourself what all the fuss was about then revisit my blog posts on the subject
starting here, with a piece about the agency model, and the follow up post here.

If you missed the news of the OFT announcing the e-book pricing investigation then see this post.

The e-book market continues to thrive in the UK and publishers are finding out what pricing works for them, but this OFT investigation could upset all of this.

So the evidence is in, now it's just waiting for an answer.

I'm fairly certain that when the OFT does announce the results there will be some very happy people and some angry people. But whether the consumer will be happy or angry I wouldn't like to predict.

I think this issue could go either way...

Monday 12 September 2011

My Autumn Review...

As I always review my progress or lack of progress at the end of the year so that I can set targets, I thought this would be a good time to review my blog.

On Friday my blog will be one year old.

I've tried out different things and made lots of new friends in the writing blogsphere, and I've learnt so much about improving my work and the demands of the writing business; the advantages, the pitfalls and how publishing is changing.

I haven't done as much writing as I intended due to the accident and recovering from it. At times the only writing I was able to do was this blog, so I didn't stop completely.

Next month I'm attending Sally Quilford's Pocket Novel workshop and I'm really looking forward to it. I know I'm going to learn a lot which will improve my writing.

If you can't get to the face to face workshop then Sally is compiling a mailing list for a potential online version, here.

So now I'm looking at my blog (as it approaches its first birthday) and I need your help.

I'm going to be redesigning it, though I haven't yet decided which layout I prefer. But I would love to know what you like/dislike about my blog- you can remain anonymous if you prefer. :-)

Have there been particular items or subjects you really enjoy?

As so many blogs do cover specific subjects I like having some flexibility with my blog as long as it is in some way writing related.

So tell me what you think by using the comment form below.

Thank you.

Friday 9 September 2011

The Hay Incident...

As mentioned in my last post here are a few photos of the hay bales that prevented me having a smooth running Friday last week.

hay bales,A road,pylons,pavements
The Hay Scene

I'm sure this can inspire a story, but I have too many others in my brain at the moment, so if this gives you an idea then go ahead...

Cone,Bale of Hay,Yellow tape,barriers,tape
The Hay Wizard

Personally I find images a great prompt for ideas. In July I did a mini workshop where we used postcards and yes, that story idea is still pending...

Some Victorian artists used their paintings to tell a story and you could take any aspect of such a painting to create a narrative.

Just because a scene is historical it doesn't mean you can't translate it to a modern day situation, and vice versa of course, you just make appropriate adjustments for the time period you're using.

How often do you actually stop and look at the minor details in the background of a painting or photograph?

There could be an interesting object, another painting or person caught in time by the artist or photographer. What you then do with that is up to you and your imagination.

Writers observe, even if we aren't consciously aware of it, we are gathering snippets that will eventually find their way into our writing.

So in the coming year I'm going to visit the art gallery at the Castle and see what inspiration is lurking on the walls...

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Back to Reality...


Normality returns today with the start of the new school term.  In the kitchen the tumble drier is going round and the washing machine is on- I'm still learning what all the functions are and how many times to push which button but it's a really quiet washer.

Now I don't know if you find this, but instruction booklets always seem to leave something out. Perhaps just because the makers know what a certain symbol means they automatically assume the customer will realise what that symbol means too so they forget to put it in- we are not all geniuses, a few clues help...

Anyway I now have hours to get on with my latest writing project, so I better go.

(Later on I will add the photo of the escaping hay bales from Friday. With the high winds today I suspect the bale (that was broken open) will be depositing chunks on the road.)

Friday 2 September 2011

Ever Had One of Those Days?

Finally I've got some time to post.

It isn't just me that has been having one of those days- when things just don't go as you planned.

A few days ago The Bookseller announced that the expected result of whether the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) will refer the merger of Amazon and The Book Depository to the Competition Commission  was being delayed until Friday 2nd September, rather than the end of August as expected.

Then on Thursday further delays were announced. No reason has been given and the list of merger cases on the OFT's website just shows the date as to be confirmed (TBC). They generally state that
" the timetable of a given case may change during the merger assessment process due to different reasons."

The merger attracted widespread opposition from many writing and publishing related organisations. I'm sure many individuals would have voiced their concerns too.

* * *

Meanwhile high street bookseller Waterstones (now under new ownership) announced that they will no longer be running their 3 for 2 promotions.

Seems a lot of people, me included, only ever found two books they wanted. I found that less of a problem with the 3 for 2 in children's books.

The scheme that will replace it sounds interesting, but whether it is good for all writers or just some, time will tell...

* * *

I've spent today looking at washing machines. Our current one finally packed up yesterday and it did it with my swimming costume and a number of large towels inside.

My dear other half rescued my costume and hung it up so it would be ready for my aqua class, but there are now a lot of very wet towels to dry, and my new machine will not be delivered until next week...

Sadly the tribulations didn't stop there. I'd just got on the bus (to go to my aqua class) when the traffic ahead slowed to a halt. A flat-bed wagon loaded with large bales of hay had stopped just off the roundabout and partially blocked the slip road my bus had to use.

The bus was going nowhere- too wide for the remaining gap- and as I wasn't going to get to my class in time I got off and went home- that was when I saw the bales on the path and others hanging off the wagon...

The wagon is gone but the escaped hay is now in a big heap, on the top of the banking which runs along the edge of the road, waiting to be retrieved. (If it's still there tomorrow I'll take a photo.)

So at least it wasn't just me having one of those days...

Tuesday 30 August 2011

When will I have time?

Next week peace will be restored at home when school starts back and I will have quiet again.

Sadly I've still got to go out and buy a few bits and pieces yet, and I've put off the labelling until everything is gathered. Shoe fitting of teenagers is the worst bit, and still to be done...

I've decided that I'm going to set myself some rewards for getting tasks done- writing tasks that is. It might help with the motivation.

It occurred to me, when I glanced at the book shelf and saw a number of DVDs (history related) that I've bought and haven't had time to watch yet. So I decided that I'd reward myself with time to watch one of the DVDs when I reach a preset target.

My first target is to get the first five chapters of my novella written.

Now the difficulty is choosing which DVD to watch as the reward for getting to the end of chapter 5:
  • Casanova -with David Tennant as the young Casanova.
  • Becoming Jane- about Jane Austen.
  • The Duchess- about Georgiana Spencer who became the Duchess of Devonshire- big hair and dresses a plenty.
  • The first series of Poldark...
There's probably a few modern ones I could borrow from my sons if I wanted something different.

At the moment Casanova is in the lead...:-)

So do you use a reward system at all or just when writing is getting tough?

Friday 26 August 2011

One Woman's Too Hunky Hero is Another's Delight...

Don't worry the sun hasn't gone to my head- well not too much...

If you have popped into Sue Moorcroft's blog in the last few days you will have seen her latest post 'Call To the Nation's Women: Help Us Find The Perfect Man!'

There you will find the results of The Festival of Romance's poll on romantic heroes- from asking 58 UK Romantic Novelists their opinion.
Can't say I'd entirely agree with every the items in each category: essential, desirable but not essential and not important.
I'd possibly move one or two around...

[The poll even made the Book Blogs slot in the online version of the Guardian. Do read the comments below Alison's Flood's piece, especially Sue's response to one of the commenters about hygiene...:-) ]

So if you want to give your personal view, follow the link to take the survey-further down the page on Sue's post.
The survey closes 19th September and the winning entry drawn (of those who include their name and e-mail address at the end of the survey) will win tickets to the Festival of Romance being held 21/22 October in Hunton Park, Near Watford. (You can still do the survey without leaving your details.)

While I certainly agree with the 'essential' list, I would add 'height' to it from the 'desirable but not essential' listing, but I could be biased as I'm married to a wonderful man who's
 6ft 2.

So what do you think of the author results?

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Back to Reality...

Well I'm back to the computer today and have been able to get some writing done- hurray!!!!

Now I have to admit that I've not physically been here the last few days as I was away from home- an extended weekend break-as well as trying out the writing with pen and paper (in different locations).

What worked?

I tried writing on Scarborough beach on Sunday and did get one side of A4 done (I do have large handwriting though) but the temperature was 25 degrees and it was just too hot for me to concentrate.

Monday afternoon was better, I went into the bedroom and shut the door and managed an hour's writing, plus I found out something about my hero that will be very useful- it hadn't occurred to me when I was writing his character profile a few months ago...

So the four pages I managed were not a complete waste of time.

I have learnt:

I DO need quiet to write. It doesn't have to be complete silence but low level background noise that isn't intrusive is fine.

I do go into 'the zone' when I write at the computer. It is easier to put myself into that state where I am with my characters in their surroundings, watching and listening to their conversations.
With a pen and paper I couldn't do that properly, it was a superficial level.

Personally for me, using pen and paper to record ideas and scenes that come to me at any time, works, but I write better sat at the computer without interruptions.

I've been adding to my current work in progress this afternoon and incorporated some of the pen and paper insights from the weekend, so I'm satisfied with the progress I've made.

BUT I have a deadline, so there's still work to do yet...