Thursday 30 August 2012

Skinned knuckles and Short Story Frustration...

Today (Thursday) hasn't been as good as it could have been.

On the way to my excercise class I caught the toe of my shoe on the edge of the pavement and lurched forward. Fortunately my head missed the metal railings ahead of me, but my knuckles suffered a scraping.

So I started the day with small cuts and areas of missing skin- it was quite minor once it was cleaned up. But no experience is wasted, and if any of my characters ever scrape their knuckles, I'll be able to describe the sensation. :-)

I mentioned recently that I've been trying to write a short story for a competition at the writers' club. The judge wants a short fictional story based on a real event in history. And it has to be handed in next Wednesday...

Now I had the historic event decided three months ago, but no matter how hard I thought about it, no characters, and no plot ideas came to me; until a few days ago when my central character emerged, along with a brief plot idea.

So today I sat down with a blank document to start writing. Title? Nothing- which is not a good sign
as usually I have some sort of title at the start, even if I change it later.

I had my opening line, but it wasn't quite right, so I made a few changes, and the writing began.

I only managed to reach 161 words before I gave up.

There are problems and I know what they are:
  • I consciously decided to write it in the first person. Personally I prefer third person, but usually let my writing brain decide for me. If it's really a first person viewpoint then I'll start it that way without thinking about it.
  • The main character is hiding too much from me at the moment. I need to know her better.
  • (And the biggest issue) My writing mind has gone into novella/novel mood, ready for the annual autumn school/college term beginning, giving me undisturbed hours to write.
Really I wish I could be more flexible, but I've discovered from trying it previously, that short stories don't work when I'm in longer writing mode.

Unless a short story idea grabs me and swamps whatever I'm doing at the time, demanding to be written down immediately, I find it better (for everyone) to go with the flow than fight against it.

I'll let you know if I do get the story written...


Tuesday 28 August 2012

One Man's Rubbish is a Writer's Goldmine...

Before my move into my office (okay it's only one end of the dining room, but it's as near an office as I can get) I had all my writing stuff split up in different areas.

Whenever I saw an interesting article which was relevant to one of my projects, or future projects, I'd cut it out of the magazine, or newspaper and put it to one side; or I'd keep the whole magazine.

Then whenever there was a mini tidy-up they'd get put in a bag or a box, because I didn't have anywhere to store them...

Over the weekend and the Bank Holiday Monday my OH was shifting the boxes and bags that had got shoved into corners, and was about to throw the lot into the recycling bin. I didn't quite scream 'STOP!!!!' but I retrieved the bits and pieces- including postcards, some old manuscripts, pictures and articles, and put them in another box- as another family member was at the computer and blocking access to my box files.

So I better get to filing all these pieces away before they disappear again...

Am I a hoarder? Probably.

Are you a neat and organised writer- desk clear and everything in its place?

Or like me, books and papers left on the desk, the odd lottery tickets waiting to be checked, and the odd five pence piece lurking- or whatever you leave lying about?

But at least my OH now knows not to assume that a bag of paper related items is rubbish...

Friday 24 August 2012

Good News and a Competition...

First the good news, my triplets received their GCSE exam results yesterday (Thursday) and they got the grades they needed for their college courses.

The final lot of paperwork has been done and the last identity pass photo was taken today. Technology has moved on so much that the pictures look much better than they did when I went to college- no digital cameras then.

I looked like a dubious character in a police line-up on my college pass! And during the recent sort out it was rediscovered, and quickly lost again... :-)

As the return to school and college will be occurring in the next two weeks, I thought you might like a challenge to start the autumn term.

Bradt Travel Guides have launched the Bus-Pass Britain Rides Again Competition.

Hot on the success of Bus-Pass Britain: 50 of the Nation’s Favourite Bus Journeys, Bradt is on the hunt to find more bus routes for a follow-up book. Entrants to the competition write a short piece about their personal favourite. Bus-Pass Britain Rides Again
The winners will be invited to write about their chosen route for inclusion in Bus-Pass Britain Rides Again: More of the Nation’s Favourite Bus Journeys to be published in late 2013. Selected entries will also be used in a Daily Express/Sunday Express Travel feature to coincide with publication.
Bradt is looking for long and short journeys, rural and urban rides (and a few quirky routes that defy expectation), as well as a good regional variety across England, Scotland and Wales. The deadline is midnight 15th November 2012. Each winning entrant will be contacted by 25 December 2012 and invited to write up their route, in approximately 1,500 words, for publication in Bradt’s forthcoming book. (Press Release)

Entries can be submitted as a Word document (see the link above for submission details).

You'll find a link to T & C's here.

The route must be in England, Scotland or Wales. And not appeared in the previous book- you can find out which have already been done here in the Contents.

You can submit as many entries as you like, as long as they have not been published elsewhere.

And the prizes: All winners will receive one free copy of the book and a 50% discount on any further copies they purchase (postage free to one UK address). A small fee of £50 will be awarded to winners on publication of their article in the book.

Certainly different from regular competitions. Good luck if you enter.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Entering Competitions...

Writers have so many opportunities to enter a variety of competitions nowadays that we're really spoilt for choice.

Over the last few years I've started to enter more competitions, not just those at my writers club.

Actually making that move to outside competitions was a big step for me- it meant I felt my writing was now good enough to be inflicted on strangers. :-)

Last year I entered the Mail on Sunday novel competition. I didn't actually need a complete novel, just the first 150 words with the word 'row' in it. The results are due sometime in the next few weeks.

It was a free competition, so I expect a large number of entries were received-they have in previous years. Only the best entries will get shortlisted, and like any competition, one judge's preference is not going to be the same as another's, so not getting into that top percentage doesn't necessarily mean my writing is bad.

But the positive aspect, is that I've got a start to a story or novel that can be worked on in future.

At the moment I'm trying to come up with a short story for a club competition that has a deadline of next week. Hmmm, this isn't going very well, and it's not that it needs to be long- only a maximum of 1500 words but it has to fit a criteria. I know the setting, but my character/s are being reluctant.

The only downside of competitions in the outside world is that sadly there will always be the occasional rogue, a competition that is badly run, or worse, designed only to part writers from their money, and it can be difficult to spot them.

I follow this strategy: Does it have clear contact details given- a postal address, or is there just an anonymous contact form? I print out the competition details or note them down, so if the page or the rules change or the site disappears I have the relevant information. And check, have there been any adverse comments from writers or other groups about their previous competitions mentioned on the internet.

(Writers share the news about bad things, as well as good stuff.)

Competitions can help you improve your writing and develop your style, as while you're writing you're learning what works for you- and hopefully you will then go on to win, and that is one feeling you can't beat...

Saturday 18 August 2012

Story Ideas from Memories...

I'm looking forward to September arriving so I can get back to a set routine, and stop causing annoyance to my blog readers, due to my regular posting slots going awry.

All writers get ideas for stories from different sources and I thought I'd share with you a recent inspiration.

I'm very much a visuals person. When characters or situations arrive in my conscious I'm always presented with a scene from the viewpoint of one of the characters involved. Pictures will often get my brain ticking over...

I was looking at a few news pieces in one of the online national newspapers, and an article drew my attention, because it was about a place I'd visited a number of times when I was a child/teenager. The Dreamland amusement park in Margate, Kent.

Like many seaside places over the years, their parks have gone into a decline, run-down and then closed; but the visual archive in my memory still has pictures of the place. They just needed something to remind me.

After a day on the beach, first stopping to brush the sand off my feet, so I could put my white socks on, and then my sandals, we would walk along the prom to go into Dreamland for an hour.
I remember the various slot machines and the general pinging and clattering of coins going into or coming out of the machines.
Then out the back doors into an area where you could get a drink, a cup of tea or coffee, and observe various rides.
I remember greenery and big rocks mixed together as a moving object rides by. The areas beyond that didn't stick in my memories, but I suspect that's because that first outside area I saw-in my young mind-was to me, a jungle, a sparse jungle with hindsight...

I've since discovered that a few of my writer friends have their own memories of the place too.

So now I have a character on the outside looking in. I don't yet know her name, or age, nor what her problem is- perhaps she has a decision to make?

It was fun revisiting my childhood memories, and perhaps some of them will turn up in my mystery lady's story...

Have you ever read about a place you knew when younger, and used it as inspiration?

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Late Nights and Reading 'Crystal Gardens'...

The late nights started with the Olympic closing ceremony- I especially enjoyed Eric Idle's 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' performance with Nuns and Roman Soldiers (Monty Python links) in the background...

Then a couple of days ago I got an Amazon delivery of a book by one of my favourite writers, Jayne Ann Krentz, though this book was using her historical pseudonym, Amanda Quick. She also writes futuristic stories under her Jayne Castle name.

I started reading her books years ago, and have a mixture of old copies bought second-hand as well as those that I purchased at the time they came out. I even have a few of her books written as Stephanie James (they've also been reprinted over time with the JAK name mentioned on the cover).

For quite some time her books have been dealing with the paranormal/physic element around
the romance and mystery mix. I've read all the novels related to the Arcane Society and the Jones family...

I'm sure any prolific author will have one or two books that don't reach their usual high standard, and a few years ago there was one that sounded very much like the plot of one a few novels back and as a result it wasn't as good as I had come to expect.

But I'd seen this happen to other authors I'd been reading for quite a time, and they had all gotten over the blips and gone on to produce more good books.

So I was wondering whether to get 'Crystal Gardens', the first of The Ladies of Lantern Street novels, after reading a couple of mixed reviews. I decided that if I didn't like this one then I wouldn't buy the next one.

The book arrived and I started reading, and I stayed up a bit longer to have a quick scan of the plot further on in the book, and then it was gone midnight. The next evening I started reading again and it was a case of just one more chapter before I go to bed, and yes it was way past midnight again before I stopped reading.

I'm now three-quarters of the way through. Yes, I'm enjoying it, and I'm looking forward to the happy ending (which I know will happen) after the near the end moment when the villain may just ruin it all.

And as the heroine, Evangeline, is not only a professional companion but a writer of Victorian sensation novels, there were moments, and comments that she makes, that any writer of romances would smile at.

Finally if attempted murder, and the extremely handsome and intriguing hero, Lucas isn't enough for you, then you might be intrigued by the carnivorous plants... (And yes, there is a logical explanation for them.)

I've just got time for a few more chapters...

Friday 10 August 2012

More Waterstones, 'Dear Agent' and an Agatha Cristie Moment...

You may remember that's my post last weekend mentioned that book seller Waterstones were changing their store guidance on events in response to complaints, and also 'handselling' authors.
If you missed the item you can read it here.

Well today the Bookseller website has an article saying that the Society of Authors (SoA) and Waterstones are "engaged in dialogue" about creating a list of guidelines.

(Sadly the article is only available to subscribers (with a subscription cost of £186) so we'll have to wait for public release of information at some point in the future, either by Waterstones or the Society of Authors.)

Unfortunately I'm not yet within the eligibility criteria for even Associate Membership of SoA, but it's an organisation worth joining if you're eligible...

*   *   *

If you've bought and read any of Nicola Morgan's books, or e-books ('Write to be Published'; 'Tweet Right'; and 'Write A Great Synopsis') then you'll know her books are invaluable for the serious writer- and worth every penny.

Well today (Friday) is the publication day of her latest e-book, 'Dear Agent'. For this weekend it is only 77p on, so a great opportunity to get a helpful advice in clear language that we can all understand and act upon.

It's also available on here.

Agents better watch out, because they're going to be receiving some sharp submissions as a result of this e-book.

I've only had enough time for a brief scan, but I'm looking forward to having some quiet to read it and absorb the advice.

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E L James may be selling million of her 50 Shades trilogy, but she can't compete with the Queen of crime fiction, Agatha Cristie- she's apparently sold 4 billion books, and not only is it in Braille but in 50 different languages...

"Westminster council this week granted planning permission for a statue, designed by sculptor Ben Twiston-Davies, to be erected. It will be placed in the heart of Covent Garden, between Great Newport Street and Cranbourn Street. The location, in the middle of London's theatreland, was chosen to represent Christie's contribution to the stage." (The Guardian Books)

Good to hear of a statue being put up to celebrate a writer, rather than some strange obelisk of modern sculpture.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Just Catching Up...

I think this post really should be called Dust Catching Up!

Dust just gets in the most awkward places sometimes...

I'm just having a short break before it's back to the sorting, but I can report that the printer is finally in its new position- and I can start printing things again; I only need to swivel in my chair a little and I can reach out for the resulting paperwork.

If only I knew where my stapler had disappeared to...

It's surprising how many things get lost falling down the back of furniture. My OH pulled out a few relevant books on the 18th century that I'd forgotten I had; a quick dust and they're now relocated to my office shelves.

There are still a few pictures to put up but that will need my OH to do, as I can't fix anything up without it being lopsided- close up it looks straight but once it's fixed and I move away, it will have a definite slant that doesn't change however many times I try straightening the picture...

At the moment I'm trying to locate A5 size magazine/book files. (They come flat packed and you open them out and put in a few flaps, and hey prest you have a holder for booklets/magazines.
I can get the normal size but can't find the smaller ones. I have quite a few thin booklets from historic places, plus the magazine produced by our writers' club that I want to store.

So if you know of somewhere that sells them, please let me know. It may be they have a specific name and that's why I'm not finding them. So any information, I'd be grateful.

I have winning annual competition entries in the last two NWC Competition Specials (produced annually, early in the New Year) and these are A5 size too.

I keep a record of anything I've had printed since I've started writing again, either a photocopy or the printed publication. It's a good reminder if I ever get dispirited.

Well that's my rest time over, I better get back to the sorting...

Monday 6 August 2012

I Should be on Holiday...

But I'm not.

After getting most of my office organised- apart from a few bits and pieces that are elsewhere and currently inaccessible- OH and I are on a big sort and reorganise session.

Now I know lots of this should have been done years ago, but young children take up time and it's only now that they are old enough to help (after all a lot of the items downstairs are actually theirs in the first place) and tolerate the disruption that the reorganisation is underway.

Among my discoveries are postcards from various museums I've visited, interesting rooms set out for specific occasions or time periods- and I now have a box for all my postcards, with room for more.

Old pictures and articles with interesting images or information- just the sort of stuff to inspire any writer. (And yes I have boxes for them too.)

There's a lot of old paperwork from the late 90's that is now shredded paper and gone to be recycled at the tip- known nowadays as the recycling centre.

As I've been sorting items they've brought back memories, incidents and people long gone, but not really forgotten. And I'm sure they will pop up in my future writing somewhere...

The six weeks between the end of July and early September has usually been the time when I could recharge my creative batteries that are on low by July, and I usually do research while I'm getting back to full charge.

This year is different, I'm getting organised.

It's the start of a new future...

Friday 3 August 2012

Waterstones, Pocket Novels and Other News...

It's been a strange week, with the Olympics almost taking over the news, but don't worry writing news hasn't been forgotten.

So here's a round up of what's been happening.

There's been the sad news about the passing of two well known writers: Maeve Binchy and Gore Vidal. While I have to admit to never having read either author, I remember snippets of one of Maeve Binchy's stories on the radio, her words conjuring up the Dublin of her youth and the attitudes of society.

*    *    *
The My Weekly Pocket Novels are undergoing another change. Anyone buying copies recently will have noticed the more modern covers which are certainly more appealing to a potential reader.

This week Womag and Sally Quilford have been sent the new information on the major changes taking place.

Basically there's a name change to Easy Read, with 2 Romance genres: Caress and Liaison; and 2 Crime genres labelled Intrigue and Suspense.

You can read the explanations for each category over at Sally's blog- just download the flyer at the link on the page.

If you're unsure about some of the requirements Sally has a follow up post here, Maggie Seed has clarified a few aspects of the changes.

Like every magazine editor there comes a point when you have to modernise to reach a younger market but hopefully not change too much and lose your regular buyers.

They seem to be going for a Mills and Boon effect cover with elements of 50 Shades starkness. But I like the covers shown on the flyer, so it will be interesting to see w they look on the shelf.

(Meanwhile People's Friend isn't changing- see here.)

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For those who have books to promote and have been fortunate enough to arrange book signings in Waterstones stores, you might like to follow this Bookseller report up.

"Waterstones has issued new advice to its bookstores on running author events, after concern that customers were being put off by writers handselling their own books, and that signings were lasting too long. One author was told that going forward author events should last no longer than 90 minutes, and be staffed by booksellers." (the

Now I'd assume individual store managers will decide what happens, but one blogger reports cancellations of book signings already (link within the Bookseller article).

There's not enough staff in stores now, so I can't see branches wanting to provide an assistant for authors selling their books.

Authors with first books to promote don't naturally know best practise, or signing protocol. So perhaps Waterstones would be better having a standard sheet of what they do and don't expect of authors doing signings.

Waterstones need book buyers to keep them on the high street, that's a fact of life.

Yes, Waterstones is a business so it's understandable that they have concerns, and want people to buy books from them.

But you have to give people a reason to step inside the bookshop in the first place, and author signings do that.

If a 'handselling' author has promoted their book signing well then people may just go along, and once they're in the bookstore you might just find them buying other books from the shelves and display tables, or even deciding to come back again later.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

Thursday 2 August 2012

The Next Stage-Facebook...

When I joined Twitter earlier in the year I said the next stage would be Facebook.

Well today I joined Facebook and my head is now spinning!

It is really simple to get started- which I thought might not be what I call 'simple', but it really was easier than I expected-as soon as I'd gone through the settings adjusting where needed...

I have my main page-Carol Bevitt, and my Carol Bevitt-writer page.

At the moment finding my way around is a little daunting, but I'm getting used to the mechanics of it.

But I really must get some up to date photos done...

So many people use Facebook for getting information and staying in touch, as well as offers and competitions by companies I use, that I decided I had to spend some time getting organised.

In the autumn two pieces of my flash fiction will be appearing in the One Word Challenge Anthology e-book, so a writer/author page is important, and best set up and established before the anthology is released.

And I still have hopes for my short story sent to Woman's Weekly...