Friday 29 April 2011

The Royal Wedding...

My Friday morning will be spent watching the royal wedding- the carriages, the wedding dress and the greenery and flowers decorating the Abbey...

In some ways it's a little like a Mills and Boon romance novel. The Prince meets an ordinary woman, all goes well until something forces them apart, but you know that in the end they will get back together because they can't live without each other, and there will be the happy ending.

I did say like a romance novel... :-)

Actually I remember where I was when the Groom's parents were wed, as their ceremony was watched by millions around the world.

I was on holiday in Stratford-upon-Avon for a week of RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) plays, and staying at a hotel across the road from the theatre. The guests were provided with a room with a tv in to watch the proceedings.
At lunch time I went out, it was a warm, bright day. The neatly trimmed grass of the riverside gardens was healthily green- and all the shops were closed and no one was around. There was silence.

If it had been the set of a 1950's science fiction film I could have been the sole surviving human being wandering around hopelessly looking for other people...

I couldn't even buy an ice-cream!

So congratulations to the the Prince and his Miss and may they have a long and happy life together...

Don't you love a happy ending?

Monday 25 April 2011

Spring is Here...

It's been a lovely few days over Easter- despite a little rain- and so many of the plants and flowers are blooming giving bursts of colour amid the greenery.

Did you know that you could find out what native species of trees and plants have grown in the area you live?  You can use the postcode database on the Natural History Museum website to find out. Very helpful if you want to plant native species in your garden...

You can find out about different plants- there's a long list of names. But I can see it would be a useful starting point if you were setting a scene sometime in the past and had your heroine picking wild flowers or herbs, even being presented with a bouquet- and you'd added in a flower that wouldn't or couldn't have been there at that time.

Meanwhile here are a few flowers from my garden, thought sadly my self-seeded bluebells are not the native species that were once so abundant in the woods of my childhood.

Bluebells,greenery,fence,plants,garden Bluebells Forever...

                                                            And the Hawthorn Blooming

Friday 22 April 2011

A Picture Can Inspire a Thousand Words or More...

Yesterday I was looking at some photos taken while I was in Dorset a few years ago- it's a very scenic place to visit at any time of the year.

I often find that when I've taken a photo, concentrating on a scene or subject, something off to one side has been captured. It doesn't have anything to do with what I'm interested in, but later on those unexpected scenes set off the creative tingles...

beach,Black dog,hillside,fields,pebbles
Where've they gone?

I won't throw out magazines (recycle) until I've looked at each page for interesting faces, places or information I might find a use for later on. (My husband despairs and tries to throw things out when I'm not there to scream "stop!")

As it's the Easter holidays and next weekend the Royal Wedding and the May Day Bank Holiday, you might be out and visiting old houses or markets.

Guide books and postcards are great prompts for stories or for settings.

I have a few old postcards that I've picked up over the years- currently in a box that was put somewhere I can't remember...I must look it out.
(Postcard collecting is apparently a serious hobby and there are books about it.)

So here are a few photos for you that might inspire a story...

sand,beach,spade,bucket,railings,stone wall,shadows,sunlight
Stopped for lunch or something else?

Wait for me!

Monday 18 April 2011

Grammar Links...

As today is the start of the school Easter holidays my computer time is going to be limited again, so my regular routine may go slightly awry.

Today has already been refereeing arguing teenagers...

So I thought what I could suggest that was fun but useful?

Now I know grammar may not be the most fun subject in the world, but without it we'd have some trouble understanding...

If you want to test yourself try out Free Rice- each right answer earns 10 grains of rice for the World Food Programme.

There are different categories and different levels, so you can work at a level suitable to you, or challenge yourself.
You can select the category you prefer here. You can try English Vocabulary or Grammar; even language learning with French, German, Italian or Spanish...

I'm not too keen on Chemistry, Geography or Maths, but the Art section might be fun as you get an image of a famous painting and a choice of  possible artists to select from.

If you want an interesting site about grammar then I recently came across The Grammarphobia blog
after it was mentioned on another writer's blog (sorry I've forgotten on whose blog it was, but thank you for the recommendation).

If you know of any relevant websites then do please share your knowledge- just use the comment box at the bottom of the page.

Saturday 16 April 2011

A Little More Kindle Publishing...

Just a brief post to give you a link to writer Carol Arnall's website. She has embraced publishing with Kindle and is willing to share her experience to help other writers embarking on the process...

The page on marketing tips (there's a link on Carol's home page) might be useful if you've never had to do any promotion before and aren't sure where to start.

There's even a link at the end of the marketing pages to explain the Amazon Rating system.

Now I've got a few e-books I'm in the middle of reading...

Thursday 14 April 2011

Creativity Strikes Anywhere...

I'm a bit late in posting my mid-week blog because I was at an open evening yesterday. One of my sons is looking at potential courses for autumn next year, so I went with him to the local further education college to find out about Computer Games Development.

Actually there are some similarities between creating a game and creating a story.They both start with ideas and inspirations. They need to be developed and if something doesn't work you go back a couple of stages and try something else, or make alterations to something you have that is good but just isn't quite right. You revise and fine tune until eventually the game/story is ready.

The only difference is that I can understand the terms used in writing, whereas gaming terminology goes completely over my head. I just sat there while my son and the tutor talked in phrases that meant very little to me... :-)

But it must have done some good because today my brain has been working.

Now I have always found cooking dinner to be a creative time- combining ingredients to make something delicious and satisfying.  So as I was putting together a chicken casserole two of my vague characters moved into my conscious. I now know the circumstances that gets them together, some of the back story and the conflicts. So now I need to find suitable names and what they look like...

Some writers report they get ideas develop when they're out walking, or even when they're ironing, so I've learnt to accept this as normal and not to let anyone or anything distract me until I've written it down. Hence the reason for notebooks in my handbag, by the television or near the computer...

So at least it's been a productive few days...

Monday 11 April 2011

Colour and Me...

As the past few days have been very warm and extremely bright I've been out in the garden taking photos of all the tree and plant blossoms that have suddenly burst into life- okay I know that all the buds and flower heads started to burst into life a month or so ago, but you know what I mean, colour is suddenly everywhere...

(And sympathy if you are the part of the population who start sneezing, itching or having breathing problems the moment pollen starts rising.)

Cherry and Magnolia in my garden

Looking at the various shades of white from the assorted blossom it started me thinking how to describe such a basic colour. In the next-door neighbour's garden is a white Magnolia- I automatically think of the shade of paint when I hear the word magnolia- but it is a different shade of white to the cherry blossom, the former has tinges of pink while the latter reminds me of ground chalk (chalk was used for writing on blackboards when I was in school many years ago).

So I had a look at The Bookshelf Muse blog and viewed the list of words under White in the Colour Thesaurus but chalk wasn't mentioned- well they mostly use whiteboards in many schools now.

If I haven't mentioned this blog before it is worth bookmarking. I especially like the Settings Thesaurus, it has a lengthy selection, among which are a Casino, a Cryogenic Sleep Chamber and a Wood at Night. There's a setting for any genre.

I wonder what I might find in a fantasy Herbalists Shop? Hopefully not eye of newt or tongue of iguana, but then again...

Sadly the brightness didn't last and the dismal clouds arrived- no I'll leave the dirty dishwater description out of it I think and include a few blossom pictures so you can imagine the sunshine.

Open Magnolia blossom

Saturday 9 April 2011

The Joys and Perils of Research...

Inspired by Sally Quilford's advice following her success with My Weekly Pocket Novels, I've been reading a selection of them (by various authors) over the past year-as I have a couple of ideas that might be suitable.

I say MIGHT because once I start writing it could change tone completely and end up entirely unsuitable for the market I was originally aiming at! And it isn't neccesarily my fault, it's those characters who decide they're totally different to what I imagine them to be... :-)

(Okay, I know I'm supposed to be the one in charge of the words that I type, but...)

Research can be fun and I do enjoy it, in fact so much it's easy to forget that you have to stop at some point and start writing, plus remembering that you don't need to put all you've learnt into the story- just a little of it.

But then comes the issue of keeping hold of it, so you can refer back to it when you need to. I've tried a few things, some worked, some didn't.

Sadly I don't have room for a filing cabinet (if only...) so I've tried:  lever arch files, which unfortunately got badly bent out of shape, so I now have numerous thin clear plastic sleeves each holding either a picture, article or face, all looking for a new storage solution.

I often have a similar problem with box files- mainly because there's no shelf space for them.

Suprisingly the best solutions for me have been a big plastic stacker box that can be moved around, and those flat packed cardboard storage boxes that you get in stationery stores, which you fold and slot together to make a lidded box file, they can be fitted into odd gaps around the shelves.
They're also great for storing any paperwork you need to keep, like invoices, receipts and so on.

I have hardback notebooks for different novels or novella length stories. In these I'll put snippets of dialogue, descriptions, thoughts about my characters, page references from specific research  books, postcards, leaflets of relevent tourist attractions, even weather descriptions from the area the novel is set.
Each long story has it's own notebook.

Some pictures I'll have on my computer, but most will be on a disc and/or memory stick as well as printed out (somewhere).

Relevent books can be on a number of different shelves in the living room, or in that big lidded stacker box that keeps moving...

One problem that I do have- and I'm sure other fiction writers do too-is that avenues of research often trigger other ideas for related stories, or even completely new novels just when you're working on the first project and don't need the distraction.

I'm getting better at just writing the idea down and any associated mental images that come with it, then forgetting about it while I try to get on with the other project. I know I'm not going to forget the new idea because those jottings will be enough to ressurect the thoughts and images even a year later.

The human brain is amazing.

So I need to take my own advice and get on with the short story that has been giving me trouble recently, then I can come back to the pocket novel market research later (when the longer length stories- recently announced- start being published).

And I'll leave you with this thorny question: research first then write, or write and research as you go?

Wednesday 6 April 2011

If You Tweet Please Help An Impersonated Writer...

Just a brief request for help for a fellow writer Rosalie Warren.

Rosalie has (like any other writer) been actively promoting her new book 'Coping with Chloe' since its publication date.

Last week her Twitter identity was assumed by someone else, read about it here. So sensibly she did what she could to make people aware what had happened and contacted Twitter about this impersonation.

Now under the rules of Twitter, Impersonation is wrong- whatever the reason it is not on. So she followed the rules and contacted Twitter, but has received a lukewarm response from Twitter.

From Rosalie's latest post:
"Now Twitter have replied - and apparently it's fine to nick someone's profile and pretend you have written their books, own their website, etc. For her to claim to be me, in fact, intentional or not. I just need to 'keep an eye on things' and report back if they get 'any worse'. "

So spread the news- Rosalie says:
"If you are on Twitter, please follow me at Ros_Warren and retweet my tweets on this."

Have any of you had a similar experience? If you have, please share how you got it resolved so we all know how to deal with it if it happens to another writer in the future. Thanks.

Monday 4 April 2011

Notebooks and the Subconscious...

If you're a writer you're likely to have a notebook in your bag or pocket-and a pen or pencil to write with. If you haven't, why not?

Even non-writers need to make notes sometimes.

Though I admit that I do know writers who use their phones to send an e-mail with those sudden bursts of inspiration, or even use a Dictaphone.

While I was waiting for an appointment this morning I thought I'd review what moments of insight I'd jotted down in the past year or two but hadn't looked at - okay, I admit the notebook contains as many pages with notes relating to names and phone numbers, plus other non-writing associated scribbles, but there are a few ideas, dialogue from my characters, all mixed among snippets of overheard remarks or sights seen.

But I did come across something which ran to three and a half sides of A5, though sadly at the bottom of the first side the words became an indecipherable scrawl as I was having a hypo at the time (a hypoglycemic reaction- low blood sugars).

I was surprised because the words have no mental visual images associated with them- which usually happens when I get an idea- so my mind is completely blank about them.

Here's what I jotted down that I can still read...

In the beginning we'd never believed Felicity would return. Return to this house of purity and truth.
Truth had never been the purpose. It had been the desire to resolve the truth of that photo.
That so revealing photo of  Mathew and Mark. So engrossed in a romance of love and desire that they...

Sadly I will never know the answer to what I was writing as from then on as it becomes unreadable.

Now that it is in my mind, my sub-conscious may start working on it and eventually I will find out who Felicity is. Who, or what Mathew and Mark are to her and what IS so revealing about that photo? And who is the narrator telling the story?

I'm a great believer in letting my subconscious work on writing problems while I get on with other things and it usually works.

If I ever find out the answers and/or write the story, I'll let you know...

Edited to add: I wouldn't normally use repetition  in the way I have above, that's just what came from my pen at the time.

Friday 1 April 2011

More Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Information...

Following on from my last post, writer Jay Mandal has kindly been giving me some further information and links-which has helped a great deal as I've been having a little computer trouble this week.

Jay's earlier books were made available as digital downloads (as well as paperbacks) from his publisher at a time when e-books were still unfamiliar to many readers. One of his stories has been included in each of the Best Gay Romance anthologies (2009 and 2010 are both available on Kindle) 2011 is currently in paperback.

Jay is a whizz at remembering information and finding links, so a big thank you from me...

So down to facts.

Whether you're buying an e-book from a publisher or setting one up for sale on Kindle Direct, price matters, it can be the difference between making sales and not selling at all.
Unlike the paper version, e-books are subject to VAT at 20% - so Amazon will put the VAT onto the price you set, you don't need to do that yourself, but you do need to remember it will be added.

In another post  this year I mentioned that market survey company Mintel had asked about e-book pricing in December 2010 and found :-

"(For anyone thinking about pricing of their e-books) those who expected to pay less-for an e-book-preferred a price of £3 to £6, while existing e-reader owners expected to pay £6 to £10."

Royalties are the big advantage of KDP and selling to the US, UK or CAN brings a 70% royalty, while other countries will bring a 35% royalty.
As each book is going to be individual in size and price here (scroll down for the GBP list) and here are a couple of useful links to read.

We've all heard the saying about the only two things in life that are certain, are death and taxes, well with KDP paying attention to taxes is important.

As a UK taxpayer, you'll obviously declare your income to HMRC, but unless you take action you could find yourself paying into the American tax system too.

If you're on Facebook then you may find it useful to find writer Ali Cooper who has just completed the paperwork to avoid the IRS taking that 30% from her kindle earnings. Her simple guide for UK authors to sort out US tax appeared on the 19th March 2011 at 16:22.

It is a three stage process and does require getting appropriate paperwork, proving identity and some expense, but if you're going to be saving 30% of your earnings it is probably worth it!

But do remember it may not be right for everyone, it will depend upon your own tax situation- so investigate thoroughly first.

There is an online form for contacting the IRS- Help With Tax Questions for International Taxpayers

I believe this system can also be used if you are resident in the UK and have solid books released and sold in the US. I'm not certain if it also applies to sales in US magazines, so if someone knows the answer to this please let me know so it can be passed on.

There's a lot more that could be talked about, but too much overloads the brain, so I'll stop there...