Saturday 30 June 2012

Reading at the Lowdham Book Festival Fringe...

Well I've survived.

And I have the photos to prove it. So the next time I have the opportunity to read in public they will be there to remind me that I've done it before and can do it again.

The last day of the Lowdham Book Festival usually sees the village crowded with people and cars, so it was strange to see everywhere so much quieter than usual. And to get a parking space!

There were still events going on at various locations around the village, so it was good to have time for a wander along the village high street, and pop into The Bookcase- the local independent bookshop run by one of the organisers of the Book Festival-Jane Streeter (who has just completed her term in office as the President of the Booksellers Association ).

They also host quite a few book launches and signings of Nottingham based authors. So who knows, one day...

So onto the main event- for me at least.

The Ship Inn is an old pub in the centre of the village, across from the village hall- a regular drop-in point for everyone on the last day. You can see a picture of the venue on the local crickets club's website, here.

It has a couple of traditionally decorated and very comfortable rooms. We were in the lounge bar which has tables, chairs, and stools on two levels, so you have to look over to the audience in the upper level too.

Following the advice from fellow writers who have read their work to an audience before, I chose a bright outfit, had a glass of water handy, and tried to remember to smile at everyone.

There was a microphone available if we needed it, but the three of us have reasonable reading voices, and the appreciative audience that had gathered wanted to hear the readings so we weren't competing with background noise.

After the previous group ran a little over time with their very entertaining selection of work, the other two Nottingham Writers' Club members, poets Viv Apple and Ken Swallow, took their positions ready to start.

Introductions in The Ship, Lounge
                                                  (All photos courtesy of, and © of Richard Bevitt)

I did the general intoductions and was very relieved my voice had greatly improved since Thursday.

I handed over to Viv Apple, a very good poet and also a member of Nottingham Poetry Society.
She read four poems, including First Bra, which tells the tale of her teenage-self going with her mother to buy her first bra, with all the angst and pride associated with it.

Then it was my turn- my three pieces of flash fiction.

I started with a brief explanation of what had inspired 'Positive Exposure'- a radio interview with an actress who had appeared in one of the early Star Trek (the 1960's tv series) episodes, who described having to wear a brief outfit with no straps to hold the top half in place, which didn't when she breathed in- and to remedy the wardrobe malfunction, tape was used.

This was well received and the audience laughed at the final line and clapped- mentally I was breathing a sigh of relief.

I moved on to my second piece, 'Surpises', and mentioned the e-book anthology it would be appearing in later in the autumn.

My final piece 'Expectations' is another piece that came from the monthly One Word Challenge competition that is held each month on the Talkback writers forum.

Enjoying the Performance.

More applause and with my section over,  I handed over to Performance Poet, Ken Swallow for a couple of short action pieces.

Viv finished the performance with her amusing poem, 'I Don't Know You From Soap'. An Australian alternative to the 'I don't know you from Adam' phrase (apparently).

I finished by thanking the audience for listening to the club members work, and it was over.

The organiser of the Fringe event is hoping that it will be repeated next year, and perhaps with a longer running time, into the early evening.

I'm hoping more writers' club members will want to be involved next time too. (I'll be writing about it for the next issue of the club magazine 'Scribe'.

Would I do it again?  

Yes. :-)

 Looking at the audience
 and smiling.

What did I learn from it?

That an audience really likes to hear fun pieces, so having something light in the chosen selection helps.

If you've never read to anyone outside of your friends and writers' group, and you get the opportunity to read your work to an unknown audience, do it. You really will enjoy it, and learn a lot.


Thursday 28 June 2012

A Slight Delay...

Just a few words today, while I recover.

I've got a cold and bunged up lungs at the moment so my asthma is bad. Sitting upright in bed is not a comfortable way to sleep, nor when I was woken up coughing- at least twenty times...

I felt so ill this morning that I did think I was going to have to back out of this weekend's events.

But I've now got some medicine and I'm hoping it will improve my breathing enough to get through my performance on Saturday.

So I'm off to print out the pages I need, and some business cards (just in case), then I'm off for a nap.

Hope the weather is a bit dryer and brighter where you are, we have dark clouds, rain and thunder, plus the Olympic Torch is making it's way to Nottingham city centre this afternoon.

Monday 25 June 2012

Progress and Leaks...

As I write this on Monday evening we're waiting to find out where the gas leak is.

There was a strong smell of gas earlier this evening at the bottom of the short driveways on our side of the road, so the national grid gas leak service was called out and arrived a couple of hours ago; at the moment the gentleman with the device for detecting leaks has moved across the road and is inside one of the houses there, so it doesn't look like we have a gas leak this time- I'm glad to say.

Anyway, back to the progress bit of the title.

I got my trip to IKEA on Saturday and the Billy bookcase is now installed (thanks to my OH, patience and a screwdriver) and is slowly being filled. Admittedly there's still a lot of boxes to go through, but another little section of my office is emerging.

My outfit for Saturday (reading at the Fringe event at the local book festival) is almost decided; black trousers and a cerise pink cross-over top (at the moment) but this could change if it's cold. Cerise is just enough brightness for me.

The hairdresser is booked for later in the week, for a trim and colour wash.

Now I know this might seem a little over the top for just twenty minutes in total, but it all helps the confidence quotient- and I don't get many opportunities like this so I'm going to enjoy myself while I can...

If I can persuade my OH to stay and take some pictures of the event, I might be able to show you a few next week.

(The Gas man has gone now, so it looks like the leak was across the road.)

5 days to go...

Friday 22 June 2012

Best, Fifty Shades and Zombies...

I regularly trawl the book related sites to keep in touch with the world of literature. Some months are quieter than others, but fortunately the summer months are usually busy.

So I thought I'd highlight a few things- just in case you'd missed them, or have got bored of my office saga and my spells of self promotion. :-)

News of short stories in Best magazine comes from writer Vivian Hampshire. Apparently there are no guidelines yet, but 800-1,000 word stories are wanted. Though studying the magazine's current style will be essential to target your stories. One story a week isn't much, but it's better than no stories at all; and fiction has been appearing in the seasonal specials I'm told

Best's website is being revamped as is the magazine, so perhaps details will appear once it's all completed.

* * *

Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James and her other two books in the trilogy have been setting sales records.

"James, a London-based former TV executive, is now the first author ever to see three of her books sell more than 100,000 printed copies in just one week. She has also broken the weekly sales record for a paperback novel after the first book in the trilogy sold 205,130 copies in seven days, beating the previous record of 141,000." (Guardian books.)

You can read the rest of the article here.

Now I don't begrudge any writer success, good luck to her.

The book apparently has page turning quality- but from something a non writing reader told me this week, turning the page to get back to the story might be part of it.

A few months ago I received a regular newsletter from the publisher promoting their upcoming books and these three were prominently displayed.
There was already lots of discussions about the book on the web so I clicked through to the publisher's website and took up the opportunity to read the first few chapters of the first book.

I was not impressed- it needed a good editing- so I didn't bother looking at the other books, or buying them.

That was probably part of the problem. I'm a writer who has been taught to edit out inconsistencies, cliche's and all those other bad things drummed into us on how to improve your manuscript before you even think about submitting it to a publisher or agent.

If you're not convinced, then do see Sally Quilford's enlightening reviews of book one starting here, though I've been told by an acquaintance that (the second book) was nothing but erotica and BDSM- how true that is, I can't say...

* * *

Finally if you happen to know any fans of Charlie Higson's The Enemy series of books, there's a competition for a chance to appear as a zombie extra in the trailer of the fourth book, The Sacrifice.

"Would-be zombies must be over 16 and have to send a photo of themselves and 50 words, or less, describing why they would make a good zombie to by 26th June" and filming is set to take place on the 30th June.

So you need to be quick- not something zombies are usually good at, or so I'm assured by one of my sons who is a fan of the books.

Have a good weekend. I'll be sorting boxes.

LATE NEWS: A Harlequin/Mills and Boon opportunity is coming in a few months, see here.

Thursday 21 June 2012

The Read-Through Went Fine...

Last night was manuscript night at the writers' club and the three of us (who will be reading at the fringe event at Lowdham Book Festival on the 30th June) did a run through to check our timings, so we could make any changes needed to fill our 20 minute slot.

(I am the prose between a poet and a performance poet.)

Now I have to admit that I spent some time yesterday morning reading my pieces of flash fiction aloud and seeing how long it took me- allowing for suitable pauses for audience reaction.

So when it came to my section last night it filled my allocated 6 minutes.

I'm reading 3 pieces of flash fiction, my favourite character, Lola de Cortez, of 'Positive Exposure' will be starting my selection-it's 250 words.

Then I'm following this up with a 200 word flash called 'Surprises', which is historical. This piece will be appearing under my Serena Lake pseudonym in the One Word Challenge Anthology e-book (publisher Alfie Dog Ltd) later in the autumn.

Here's a brief snippet...

   The pristine white shift decorated with French lace and tiny intricately knotted bows lay demurely on his plump four-poster bed.
   Jason didn’t know who it belonged to, but its absent owner had most certainly left their underclothes in the wrong bedroom...

©Carol Bevitt 2012

And my final piece is only a 191 words long. 'Expectations' is another historically set story, and the viewpoint character commits patricide at the end...

So I hope the audience will appreciate the variety. :-)

9 days and counting...


Monday 18 June 2012

Getting There...

Well I would be if only we had some dry weather...

The flooring in the office area is now down, and it does look very good- plus it will be easier to keep clean and hoover.

A couple more small prints are temporarily hung up on the wall- they're scenes of London places in the Georgian era.

But the sorting of all the boxes is taking time. Mainly because it's been raining so I can't take stuff outside and sift through. The local weather forcast is promising a couple of days of dry weather, so hopefully I can make some progress this week.

Even though I have managed to amalgamate the contents of a number of storage boxes, the heap just doesn't seem to be reducing...

I'd love to go to IKEA to stock up on some bits and pieces- and a new Billy bookcase for the corner- if they still do them- but my OH has an aversion to driving me there, probably because he knows he'll have to spend the next few hours putting something together as soon as we get back home.

I think storage is an issue for any home. In fact most homes never seem to have enough storage space built into them, which may explain why there's a lot of warehouse type places where you can rent units to store your possessions.

One thing I have had to decide on, is reducing the pile of fiction books that I keep.

So I can see that once I have my mini office in place there's still going to be a lot of sorting out left to do.

Friday 15 June 2012

Reading at the local Festival Later This Month...

This month is  Lowdham Book Festival 2012 between the 1st and 30th June.

Festival SignUsually the last day (a Saturday) is full of free talks and events, second hand book stalls, new books, writers groups and organisations.

Sadly this year the usual format won't be taking place, but there will still be lots of book related events going on during the day of the 30th. (See the link above for times and ticket details.)

I saw a mention of John Harvey, and Jon McGregor ( who very recently won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award) during the Reading Group Day in the Village Hall.

Between 11am and 5pm there will be performances in the pub, called Fringe at The Ship. And at some point during the 12 midday and 12.40 pm slot, I will be reading a couple of pieces of flash fiction along with two members of the writers' club- a poet, and a performance poet.

We were originally scheduled for 4pm, but this clashed for one of the members, so we're sharing an earlier spot with another group.

As we're in the pub we can be sure of some audience.

This means I have two weeks to time my pieces and refine my presentation, and also coordinate with my fellow readers.

Now I'm used to standing up in front of people I know (or don't know) to read aloud at the writers' club, but to do so in front of total strangers in the pub is actually a little daunting.

But I'm a writer, so it's good practise for the future...

My only remaining dilemma will be what to wear. :-) Casual but comfortable certainly, but so much will depend upon the weather on the day.

If you have any advice, I'd be grateful for your comments.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

The Queen in Nottingham...

Nottingham received a royal visit today (Wednesday). Her Majesty the Queen, accompanied by their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, travelled by car from Nottingham railway station to the Old Market Square to be greeted by thousands of cheering and flag waving people, of all ages.

Obviously there were a lot of roads closed and buses unable to stop at their regular locations, so the guests of honour could use the quick route and avoid the roadworks...

I'd arrived at 9.30 and the main part of the square was already filled- the front row had been there since about 6 o'clock.  So I found a spot at the rail behind the water feature (almost at the far end of the square) but I had a reasonable view of the balcony of the Council House- and my OH's camera with a reasonable zoom on it.

The tall buildings around the square had workers inside leaning out the windows, or on balconies. There were even a few who came out onto the flat roof of their building to look at the view...

It was quite fun watching the poor bloke on the roof getting the royal standard ready to raise- he took his jacket off before he started, so it must have been warmer up there than at ground level!

There was a band of musicians, but we couldn't really hear them at the back.

The big screen was great for everyone much further back because we could only glimpse the
tops of hats and the cars.

They did a brief walkabout saying hello to those at the front, and accepting lots of flowers.

The Queen was wearing a matching hat and coat, apparently it was green, but it looked more blue from a distance.

But amid the crowds and officials she certainly stood out.

There was a big cheer when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were seen.

Everytime they appeared on the screen one or other of the numerous people escorting them, unaware of the camera man, would get in the way, and you could only see the back of the Duke's head- he has a bald patch, or the Duchess's brown hair with the little blue hat perched atop her head.

Everything settled down when the royal guests went into the Council House, but everyone was waiting for the balcony appearance.

And when they stepped out there was a roar, cheering, waving of flags, and hand waving.

I know they couldn't see me, but I did wave at them. :-)

At the back we couldn't hear the music for the National Anthem, so we couldn't join in, but those at the front did.

The Queen smiled a lot, and after another wave they went back inside, into the Ballroom.

Some of the crowd left then, but the majority waited about another twenty minutes until they came out to get in the car to go to their next engagement in Basford.

Then the crowds casually dispersed in all directions, some to shop or go on to work, others to take their children back to school, or like me to go home.

Yes, it was a bit chilly standing around for a couple of hours, but it was worth every minute...

Monday 11 June 2012

Decorating the Office Area...

After the leaking pipework that caused big problems over the Jubilee weekend, my office area is now a step closer.

Although the proposed office area of the dining room is still full of loaded plastic boxes, I'm glad to say the surface of the concrete floor has dried out, and further inspection of the wooden skirting board has proved that the wood is dry, so apart from a small bit of wallpaper damage and the piece of soaked carpet, it shouldn't be too long before the move is underway.

As it was warm and generally sunny yesterday (Sunday) we put the boxes outside and I started sorting through them. Sat atop a box in a large carrier bag I found the bubble wrapped, framed, coloured coaching scene print that I'd bought for £3 in a local charity shop a couple of years ago.

It's actually a 20th C reprint, and the colours are more muted than the original, which you can see here. I would have photographed my framed copy but the room light would have shown up in the glass reflection...

When I'd originally shown the print to my husband, he hadn't been keen on it, so I'd left it wrapped up, and it was forgotten about. But as we'd been able to move the sideboard to it's final place there was now a big expanse of wall above it that just pleaded for this picture to be hung.

So my OH reluctantly drilled the holes for the screw fitting (already affixed to the back of the frame) and it is now on the wall; and when the rest of the room is finished I'll be adding some other small prints I have of London scenes.

I have to admit that there are a few more prints from this set I'd like, but I won't have the room. And as my OH is the one with the drill, a little pictorial restraint is required... :-)

Earlier in the week I bought some big purple box files for storing newspaper cuttings, pictures of people from the past and the present, old building images, museum info and so on. So more storage is being gathered ready for those items currently packed away.

I'm getting quite excited about my small office area, and being able to have the items I need close at hand. It will make life much tidier for everyone.

Have you found any literary or decorative gems in a charity shop?

Friday 8 June 2012

My Novella Can Be Stretched...

I don't mean length-wise, though that's a possibility.

If you haven't seen Sally Quilford's post today about the new My Weekly Pocket Novel guidelines, then follow the link here.

I think the addition of a Medical genre will prove popular and I know one writer friend who will certainly be encouraged. Personally I spend enough of my life dealing with the medical fraternity so don't want to use my spare time writing about them in any form.

My Nottinghamshire novella set in 1802, with my delicious hero Hugh, was hopefully destined to be a pocket novel submission, but despite all my groundwork something just wasn't right; as I had my other writing projects I decided to put the novella on hold and let my brain work on it in the background.

Since the MW (My Weekly) pocket novels have been updated (a much more attractive cover design) there's been a lack of pre-20th C settings and I did wonder if this was just scarcity of submissions or editorial preference.

Personally I thought the extended length- moving from 30,000 to 50,000 words may have been too long for some stories, but not long enough for others.

And with the expanding e-book market there's a lot more options available - without the restrictions the writer needs to be aware of for a PN (Pocket Novel).

I think it was those elements that blocked me because I was too aware of them as I wrote, rather than just getting on and writing it, even with the no-nos in, and editing them out later...

With the guidelines making a strong reference to specific times: " Pocket Novels can be set in any time era from the Second World War onwards." My novella certainly won't fit...
I'm not sure what I will do with it when it is finally completed, but I can look at potential markets in the meantime.

In some ways knowing it will no longer fit means I'm not restricted in the way I was previously, so my baddie can be punched in the jaw by my hero, because said baddie has almost caused the heroine's death.

And if the intimacy between Hugh and Sarah goes beyond a stolen kiss, that is no longer a problem-which I'm fairly sure will make my characters a little more cooperative.

Yes, I know there are the conventions of the time, but records show pre-marital sex did actually happen- social and economic histories are not totally boring... :-)

Will the latest PN guidelines be encouraging you to try this market?

Thursday 7 June 2012

Trying For a Repeat Win...

As I've had the house to myself today, I've been writing.

It's been a bit chaotic recently with the boys going out for their exams, coming home at times they'd have normally been in lessons; then the Jubilee celebrations and the plumbing disaster at the weekend, so writing has taken a back seat and nothing has been done since I sent my short story off.

So today I began my entry for the 2012 Mary Street Memorial Shield competition for Romantic Novelist of the Year.

(See my success in 2011's competition here.)

I'm using my first incomplete novel that I began in 1998 and gave up on in 1999 at 40,000 words. I've always intended to go back to it one day and rewrite it, and as it's been on my mind recently I decided to use it for this year's competition.

(Somewhere in a box are those original 40,000 words and all my research notes, but I can't think where they were put. So I'm hoping they'll turn up while I'm sorting all my packed boxes out.)

It will then go into my queue of future novels, and all the relevant bits currently turning about in my conscious brain will be written and out of the way while I get on with my novella and the novel.

(In fact my Dorset novel started interfering in this Coaching Town novel all those years ago.)

Competitions are a great way to improve your writing skills, and there are a lot of free ones available if you look for them.

If you belong to a writing group then you'll usually have opportunities to enter different types of writing competition and you may find there's something you have an infinity for.

Even if you don't find it hooks you, you'll still be using your writing skills and developing your style.

A few years ago (2009) I entered the NWC annual drama award for a short play- I've acted in plays, and seen lots of plays, but never tried to write one. So I decided to go for it.

The maximum length was 15 minutes, two main characters- strangers- meet and engage in conversation on a bench outdoors, and a third minor character was allowed. With the added comment that a twist ending would be appreciated. (It was being judged by a local scriptwriter.)

I managed a 12 minute piece, and although it wasn't technically perfect I'd fulfilled the requirements of the theme; it had amusing elements, plus I'd managed the twist end which I was satisfied with.

And I won that one. But I decided not to take up play writing.

This year I've agreed to set and judge the drama competition. I had to choose the criteria for the type of drama setting-studio; and I wanted it to be simple but challenging at the same time so potential entrants wouldn't be put off from trying it, but they would still need to use their writing skills to make it work. (I would have revealed what I set, but the competition details won't be out for a couple of weeks yet.)

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the club members who enter (using a pseudonym), produce...

Do you enter competition? Do you feel entering competitions has helped your writing?

Tuesday 5 June 2012

The Best Laid Plans...

First I have to say that the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations have been spectacular over the weekend and Bank Holiday Monday, and I've enjoyed watching them in between the unexpected disasters of the last few days...

The first couple of days was spent boxing up the stuff in the dining room area, so it was yesterday that we started to move the existing furniture, and that was when we found the problem- damp patches and mould at the bottom of the walls and on the carpet.

Now we have a downstairs bathroom and the tiled bathroom wall adjoins the dining room wall in the corner where I was intending to move into with my desk and computer.

It turns out we had a leak in the bathroom and as a consequence part of the concrete floor in the dining room is wet and needs to dry out before we can lay the new floor covering.

The walls have lost patches of wallpaper- they came away when I wiped the walls and skirting board with hot water and disinfectant ( fortunately the wallpaper is the type you can wipe over to remove marks).

So every dry and available surface is covered by boxes at the moment. And I'm still at my desk in the living room.

Fortunately the emergency plumber came out very quickly last night and did what he could-drained the hot water, so there was no hot water to wash with this morning.

And another plumber came back this morning to complete the work and finally sort our leak out. I'm glad it wasn't as bad as it first appeared to be.

Like any older house our pipework is in Imperial, while plumbing parts now are in Metric, so you can imagine how much difficulty that creates, the supplies on hand don't fit properly...

I'm glad to say the leak has been stopped, and very shortly there will be hot water available.

As to my move into the dining room area that's temporarily on hold while the corner of the floor dries out...

Saturday 2 June 2012

Add Your Suggestions to the Guardian's Interactive Map

Just a brief post before I start moving my desk.

The books section of the Guardian online newspaper is launching an interactive map of the UK's best bookshops and literary locations, and you can add bookshop reviews; while booksellers can add their bookshop to the map, or add a description if it's already listed.

This is a wonderful idea.

If you live in a city or the surrounding suburbs you may not actually know the location of small independent booksellers, and this is an easy way to find out where they are so you can visit them.

Alternatively if you're away from home, it's good to know where you can buy books, especially if you want to avoid the main high street book retailers and support these smaller sellers.

You can look at the map here, and there are links to add information on the page.

I hope there's no rain tomorrow, so I can move boxes outside while the furniture is shifted around indoors. (But the weather map on TV does not look good.)

By the time I write my next blog post I should have my desk and computer moved to it's new position; my reference books and material neatly stacked on a bookshelf close by and not a speck of dust to make me cough...