Monday 30 July 2012

More Words With Jam Competitions...

Bigger Short Story Competitions are open for entries-details and entry form here.

Words with Jam have an annual short story competition, but this year it's not just one competition but three.

There's the up to 2500 word one, and another for up to 1000 words, and finally a category for stories up to 250 words- so if you've been honing your flash/micro fiction skills, here's an opportunity.

There's no theme.

The closing date is 31st October this year.

Short Story Judge (up to 2500) Jane Fallon
Shorter Story Judge (up to 1,000) Benjamin Myers
Shortest Story Judge (up to 250) Zoe Fairbairns

1st prize in each category - £300
2nd prize in each category - £100
3rd prize in each category - £50

"5 runners up in each category will be published in the first volume of our Short Story Anthology (of which they will receive a copy), and awarded £10.
All winners and runners up will receive a printed copy of our first Short Story Anthology (inclusion optional*)."

As this is a pay to enter competition you need to make sure you read the rules and follow them.
But entry is online (so there's no queueing up in the Post Office to pay horrendous postage costs) as is the payment system- details on the page link above.

The main niggle I have is that regardless of category the first entry is £6 and further entries are £4. So if you just want to enter the shortest story of 250 words you're paying the same as a 1,000 or 2,500 word entry...

We all have to make individual judgements when considering pay to enter competitions- is the entry fee too much? Is the cash prize good enough? And, the anthology itself- with this one you do get a free copy (not always given in some competitions I've seen and heard of).

So if you do enter, good luck. :-)

Saturday 28 July 2012

History and the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics

Now I'm not the type of person glued to the tv when this four yearly sport event is taking place. But I do like to watch the opening and closing ceremonies.

Well the opening ceremony last night (Friday) was brilliant- considering there was 90 minutes to encapsulate UK history, culture and society in both an entertaining and thoughtful way, but still spectacular enough for a world-wide tv audience (27 million in the UK alone) and the thousands watching in the stadium.

Starting with a green 18th century pastoral scene- including a group of young ladies in Jane Austen style dresses with bonnets and shawls strolling around the base of the Glastonbury Tor- a big mound of green with paths and a big tree at the top (later used for placing all the national flags of competing nations).

Then moving to the emerging chimneys and dirt of industrial Victorian England with the 'forming' of the giant rings.

Films, books and music played a big part.

My favourite bits were, first, James Bond (actor Daniel Craig) turning up to escort her majesty Queen Elizabeth to a helicopter for the ceremony- yes the actual Queen.
Of course we know it was then actors jumping out of the helicopter and deploying their union jack parachutes, but it was fun...

And then when the orchestra under the control of Simon Rattle began to play the opening chords of Chariots of Fire, that was when the audience saw Mr Bean (actor Rowan Atkinson) was involved and the audience waited to see what chaos he might create.

The fantastic beach running scene from the film had Mr Bean included as his daydream while he is bored playing the same note on the keyboard...

There were the serious moments too- silence for those lost in wars, and the victims of the explosions on the day after it was announced London had won the games seven years previously.

The UK can do spectacle, pageantry and humour.

There was so much included covering so many aspects of life in the UK past and present; the NHS, and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Congratulations to everyone, be they volunteers, or paid staff, it was a fantastic evening.

And good luck to all the athletes taking part.

Monday 23 July 2012

In the Office...

I'm now relocated to my new office area at one end of the dining room.

There's still a lot of boxes to sort through, but my shelves are starting to fill up, and essential items are at hand.

Ever since we got broadband at home we've had a router (we're on our second one) and it's started to wear out, so at the end of last week I contacted our broadband supplier and moved to the latest device. Plus I asked if we could replace our old rental phone with a newer model, and yes we could do that too.

The new equipment arrived this morning, so I've got some reading to do before I start connecting anything.

Technology has moved on so much in the last five years and it will also improve the space available for the essentials.

I've still got a big box with books, manuscripts and stationery to empty and arrange on the shelves, so it's still a work in progress, but I can start working meanwhile.

I can now sit at the computer out of the way of the rest of the family, and sheltered from the everyday noise and movements through the house. And when the phone rings I'm there to answer.

And best of all I can't see the tv...

Saturday 21 July 2012

Austen and Bronte Classics Turned into Erotica...

No, I couldn't believe it either when I heard it, but sadly it is happening.

The 50 Shades trend has now reached the literary classics: Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Jane Eyre. :(

Now I've always thought there was an underlying sexual tension between the hero and heroine of these well-known novels; but that could just have been my imagination of course. :-)

And this isn't the first time that Jane Austen's characters have been given new lives in other genres.

There's been Mr Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange, and Vampire Darcy's Desire: A Pride and Prejudice Adaptation by Regina Jeffers.

Admittedly there's always been new stories or alternative versions of the original story- too numerous to mention.

Even P. D. James (Baroness and a best-selling crime novelist) had a novel featuring Darcy and Elizabeth, Death Comes to Pemberley (published in 2011) which takes place six years after Pride and Prejudice, and features Lydia Wickham arriving on the eve of the annual ball declaring her husband-the scoundrel George Wickham- has been murdered.

That I can accept. It's a new story-even though the characters were Jane Austen's invention.

But honestly, an erotic makeover for Pride and Prejudice is so wrong.

If you want to read an example- though the excerpts are quite tame- you should look at this piece from The Independent by Sherna Noah; and if you want to see the book covers, there's a gallery here.

I have to say the covers wouldn't be too out of place among many of the historical romances from US publishers.

Will I read any of them? I honestly don't know.
If I could read a longer excerpt first I might consider reading the rest.

It's sad that literary classics get mucked about with like this just to make money because erotica is the latest big selling trend.

At heart I believe books should be published because they are good and readers will buy and enjoy them. But as a writer who lives in the real world I accept that this no longer seems to be the priority.

Friday 20 July 2012

Milestones and Technology...

I've had a busy week with technology issues, so there wasn't a blog post Wednesday/Thursday.
So now you're getting two posts in less than 24 hours.

My writing life has been very constrained for many years- because triplets take up a lot of energy and time, so every year I've made an effort to do a little more writing as ages and resulting demands of my family have changed.

Today lots of schools finished for the summer holidays; and for my three teenagers school has finished forever, and the grown up world of college beckons.

In some ways it will give me a little more free time to write.
So the office area is even more important now. And if the weather is dry this weekend I'll be sorting more boxes and finally filling the bookshelves.

Technology wise the old phone is being replaced with a newer all singing and dancing type- okay it can't sing and dance :-) but I won't need a separate answer machine to record messages. I've got to wait a few more days for its arrival, but at least I know it's due soon.

The old router has come to the end of it's life- I can't tell you how many times I've just typed out a comment on another writer's blog post and the connection has gone just as I click submit... So hopefully the new broadband device will arrive tomorrow.

And in future I'm going to check for driver updates for my computer regularly. I hadn't thought about it since the new computer arrived last year, so there's quite a few to do, and I'm still working my way through them...

So I'm starting another phase of my development as a writer- being an up-to-date and organised one.

Monday 16 July 2012

Writers Love Stationery...

I had a day trip to Yorkshire on Saturday and visited Elvington Air Museum, which is why there was no blog post at the weekend.

But back to normality now.

The office area is coming along slowly. The main problem is storage and disposal. Once I sort items out into keep or dispose, I have to arrange disposal so that pile has to hang around for a while. And the stuff I'm keeping has to be stored in boxes until other furniture is moved so I can get to the empty cupboards... I'm still not totally recovered from last year's accident, so shifting furniture solo is out at the moment.

But I have chosen a shelf for my numerous notebooks, those in use and those waiting to be opened and for their pristine pages to be finally written upon.

The notebooks in use are more numerous than those waiting- which is probably a good sign.

Now I know writers generally have an irresistible urge to buy stationery, but we each have our personal preferences.

I know a few people who love Moleskin notebooks, and although I've looked at them a number of times in Waterstones and John Lewis, I just can't see what's so enticing.

My personal preference for notebooks is a hardback with an attractive cover design and the round spring style spine.

And the paper has to be thick enough for my preferred choice of pen, as I tend to be heavy handed when writing, and if the paper is not thick enough, so that I can see the ink through the other side of the page, that really annoys me...

And my pickiness even extends to diaries.

Not only must I decide on the type- day-to-a-view or week- to-a-view, but does the diary have those extra pages of information, calendars and charts, and blank pages for notes in it?

Then it's cover colour preference- silver, black, red or navy?

My ideal diary would have (for each week) two pages for a week to a view, but then for that week also a page a day following it.

I need an overview of the week, but I also want a full page for each day so I can write in detail when needed, rather than a few key words and times.

So if there are any stationery companies who'd like to try it out, I'll volunteer. :-)

I think I'll be buying a page a day diary for 2013, even though it's thicker than a weekly view, as I'm going to start putting regular reminders in it about competition deadlines and events I want to attend.

I have a few appointment reminders for early next year already, so it will start being used as soon as I find one I like.

And I've seen a few notebooks I would like to add to my waiting box too...

Thursday 12 July 2012

Short Story Downloads...

Glad to say I'm enjoying a spell of sunshine and a relatively dry atmosphere which is helping my lungs feel better.

So while I continue recovering I thought you might like to read more about the short story download site Alfie Dog Ltd.

Australian writer Katie W Stewart (author of the successful 'Treespeaker' and 'Mark of the Dragon Queen' e-books) has an interview with Rosemary J Kind here, the writer behind Alfie Dog Ltd and the short story download site.

Rosemary answers questions about formats and prices of downloads, and also her reasons for starting the site.

So if you're a reader looking for a good short story, you'll find something to entertain you. And if you're a writer with any short stories lurking on your hard drive doing nothing, they may find a  new home.

I know that Rosemary is currently preparing an exciting addition to the website- a blog. And actively working to get the story download site well known.

My winter project is to revamp some of my older stories-that don't fit women's magazine- and submit them for consideration by Rosemary.

If you haven't visited Rosemary's website yet, then click on the link here.

Monday 9 July 2012

Brain Drain...

My brain has decided that it needs a rest.

I fit my writing in around the other demands of my life, so I have busy spells when I get very little writing done, and other times when my creativity is at full flow and hours at the keyboard go by.

Every writer finds what works for them, and my brain has decided that this week it's on go slow!

When I'm not writing then I find it easier to read, and I've finally settled down to a kindle book, 'Pets on Parade' by Malcolm Welshman, which has been sat on my computer for a couple of months. (This is his second book. I read the first one -now called 'Pets in a Pickle'- when it was first published some years ago, so I'm looking forward to revisiting some of the characters.)

If I'm in the creative spell then I'm either in writing mode or editing mode. This year these two elements have really started to become distinct. Likewise, I'm either in a short story spell, or happier with one of my longer length works.

Now I have to admit I do minor editing as I go along, as I re-read what I've written during the previous session and make minor changes to things that aren't quite right. This way I'm back in the story and ready to write the next stage of the plot.

As to editing, I really think it is something you learn best as you go along. Yes, you can read about it, but like writing you need to do it to improve.

I look in horror at all the things I missed in the editing process in my very early manuscripts...

And I still wonder why it is so easy to see the edits needed in someone else's manuscript, but still miss the odd item in my own work?

I know breaks away from the work in progress before edits are important, but I do find I need to have a long break to get a decent perspective.

I need to spend the rest of this year working toward consistency, and getting a little further along with one of my longer projects.

Now if I can just have some dry weather to get the office area box free... :-)

Friday 6 July 2012

E-book Piracy and DRM (Digital Rights Management)

Writers are very aware of piracy.

We've seen what happened with the music industry and we want the publishing system to avoid the same thing occuring with e-books.

But the issue that divides many writers and readers is DRM- digital rights management.

Who hasn't borrowed a book from a friend, because they've suggested you'll like it?

With DRM on an e-book you can't do that, the system prevents you from loaning that e-book to your friend or friends. It also means you can't usually read it on any other device capable of reading the e-book- as you have actually bought it for your preferred reading system...

You can understand why the big six publishers chose to go with DRM. They are a business and you don't grow your business by neglecting the fine detail and allowing someone to steal from you.

In other words the publisher doesn't want to put a book out that can be ripped off within hours of it being released into the market and losing income.

Perhaps the important difference is whether you're talking DRM on fiction or not. Fiction books are going to make more money for the pirates than non-fiction.

This article by Rod Younger of  Books4Spain, suggests that reasonable pricing of e-books and accessibility would reduce piracy.

Now I agree e-book pricing (non-Kindle) is daft. But until the agency pricing issue is resolved once and for all, and a balance is found, cost will be an issue.

Sadly some Kindle authors have had their books pirated, but keeping a watch is important and helps.

I recommend you read this piece by Rosie Fiore freelance writer and author of the book 'Babies in Waiting', that I came across on Twitter today, 'dear stinkle01, you're a thief.'

We've all seen the 'reasons' given by those who download pirated e-books; look at any newspaper article online on the subject and you'll see those same excuses left by commenters.

Too many think that they have a right to get the books for free, like music. Well they don't.

We have to start educating children in primary school to understand that piracy is wrong, so they don't grow up thinking they can get everything for free.

Those who pirate will carry on doing so until they are caught. Those who knowingly download pirated e-books are not going to suddenly turn round and say 'ooops, I've been naughty, I promise I won't do it again.' and start buying the genuine article.

DRM has its drawbacks for the genuine e-book buyer, but it does help the author who has worked hard to get a publishing deal and is trying to earn a living from their work.

Take away DRM without a robust system of protection to replace it, and you're as good as saying to the pirates, take what you want...

Thursday 5 July 2012

Flash Fiction Workshop with Sally Quilford...

It was very hot in Nottingham, Wednesday evening, and I think quite a few members of the writers club were at home watching tennis in the least Andy Murray won this time round!

But the rest of us had a great evening with writer Sally Quilford who travelled to Nottingham to do her flash fiction workshop.

Now I'd been writing most of yesterday, so I thought my brain would be on strike, but the first exercises immediately got my creativity working.

We had to write about ourselves in under 100 words and it all had to be lies.

Ten minutes later we all read out our fabrications- from the strange to outright bizarre (but as I've been entertained by many members writing at manuscript evenings, I could see where some of these outlandish statements had first emerged in their fictional characters).

Though where the sushi and champagne diet idea came from in my case- I have no idea. :-)

There were some interesting discussions about how flash fiction could differ from a standard short story, and it certainly caused a few raised eyebrows, but that's good.

Thinking about how a story can be written in a different way but still be effective is a beneficial exercise, as until you try it you never know if it will be a style that works for you.

The prompts  section was a great success. The audience called out a number of objects/scenarios- we had 10 in the end- and we spent time writing about our chosen prompt/s. Muddy Boots seemed to be popular...

It was great to see the variety, and there were certainly a few stories emerging that I would love to hear completed, and hope the writers finish them.

We then had to edit the pieces by 10%, and actually most managed to reduce the wordage by quite a bit more- which did seem to surprise a few.

It was an evening of fun and learning, and I'm sure we all took some insights away with us-I certainly did. Sally kindly provided handouts, so we can refer back to them when needed.

Brilliant evening- thank you Sally.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Catching Up and Thanks...

Okay, I admit it, I left my weekend post up a bit longer than usual so I could bask in the glory of my first public reading of my work.

I don't get many opportunities like this, so forgive me for enjoying it just this once. :-)

Actually I think adrenaline was as much responsible for getting me through the event, as was the advice from fellow writers.

But one person I really do want to thank, for all she taught me about reading aloud, putting expression into my voice and standing in front of a crowd and performing, is/was my English teacher, Mrs Brant, from my days in Hillview Secondary School for Girls in Tonbridge- in the 1970's.

She not only ran the after school drama club, but was the writer of the annual school productions that Year 10 and 11 pupils took part in. Mrs Brant and other staff members and pupils made the costumes, did the music, stage backdrops and make-up.

It gave me so much confidence that is still with me today.

As one of the taller girls in my year, and with short hair, I always got the part of a male- one year I played Sir Thomas Boleyn (father of the future Queen Anne Boleyn), and the next year, Mr Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre- the clothes really do help to get into the mindset of a Victorian man, that and the long side whiskers...

Somewhere, lurking among the numerous photos I have, is a picture of me in my Sir Thomas costume. We did a fashion parade for the whole school (the day after the play's final public performance) and photos were taken of us in character.

If I find it, I'll see if I can scan it into my computer...

So thank you Mrs Brant- wherever you are now.