Friday 28 September 2012

Magazine Fillers...

All writers eventually get to a stage when they feel they are good enough to make some money from their writing. Sadly that isn't as easy to do nowadays.

While I continue to get on with the fiction, I thought I'd start looking at fillers-writer friends had earned varying sums over the years, so I decided to see what was out there that I might be able to submit to...

But it looks, like unsolicited fiction, that the opportunities are reducing (as far as the regular weekly magazines are concerned).

I've yet to look at the specialist magazines, so there may be some openings there.

Just like book publishers' imprints, the best known magazines that you'll see on the newsagent shelves will be part of a big group and produce a variety of magazines.

Bauer, for example, produce 'Take A Break', 'TV Choice' and 'Spirit and Destiny' alongside 'Take A Break's Take A Puzzle' magazine.

IPC Media have 76 different magazines from 'Chat' to 'Horse and Hound' and even the 'Woman's Weekly Fiction Special'.

Every year magazines start up, and unless they've got a lot of financial support to back them, they will struggle, and many will close.

So it's not surprising that in tough financial times magazines have cut back.

Previously employed journalists have lost their jobs and moved to freelancing.

The magazines have glossy websites with loyal readers that can contribute to online forums for those who sign up- be it fashion, cookery or life, there will be free content.

Magazines that were once very conventional moved toward the celebrity obsessed end of the market, and also embraced real life stories - 'my husband was an alien bigamist' (I know this example is daft but I don't want to offend people) but you know the sort of stories I mean.

So today I bought a 'bundled' magazine- this is where more than one magazine is sold with another, and cheaper than if you bought both separately.

I got 'Prima' with 'Best' and a 2013 Calendar with seasonal bakes each month, and a booklet of money-saving vouchers ( a number requiring you to spend money to get the 20% discount). Plus free eye gel which you have to send off for by post and pay postage for it to be sent to you...

In Prima Extra, a section at the back of the magazine you can find a few money making fillers. Wise Words can win you £25, but you need to visit the Prima Facebook page for the latest Wise Words question.

If you're good at puzzles there's a whole section including a number which could earn you £100 to £500 if you're the lucky entrant drawn.

And if you have any useful tips and it's published you win £25 too. I'll need something original...
I haven't got anything vaguely antique or collectable that I could send a picture of that might get the highest value item shown and win £50.

Now here's something I might be okay with, a 300 word story that can be e-mailed, but sadly no cash for the winning story writer-you can win a Kobo eReader, and the runner- up will get a year's subscription to the magazine. Neither prize to be sniffed at, and your winning story will get read by lots of people.

Letter pages seem to offer prizes for the star letter now.

Well that's only one magazine, there are a lot more out there, and the next one I pick up may be perfect. So next Friday I will be found perusing the shelves of WH Smith, looking for opportunities...

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Wednesday is Novella Day...

Wednesday's have become the day I get on with writing my Nottinghamshire novella.

(This was originally going to be written for the My Weekly Pocket Novel market, but as we now know the My Weekly Pocket Novels have not only undergone a change in cover design, they're now gained different categories - see my blog post from August with useful links.
There's also a good article in the current edition of Writers' Forum (October) which has an interview with MW's Maggie Seed discussing the pocket novel changes and what she's hoping for.)

So, my novella's progress to date.

I did 600 words today, which added another scene to my third chapter.

I think it was a little bit of a struggle because I was dealing with a scene I'd written before- a couple of years ago- and it was much better than what I wrote today (at least that's what my memory tells me).

It's probably saved on one of my floppy disks, so I'll have to plug in my floppy reader and search through my box of disks.

This scene today also had one of the secondary characters, who isn't very pleasant, in it.

In fact this chapter doesn't actually have my hero present, except in thought, which is important.

At some point in a romance the hero and heroine will be apart; unless they're trapped somewhere together, they each have their own daily lives to lead so can't be together all the time.

Yet their love interest still needs to be there in some way so the reader doesn't lose interest. After all it is meant to be a romance.

With a contemporary story contact between hero and heroine can continue - a mobile phone, skype, e-mail or text message. They could even send a message with a picture of themselves...

But in an historical romance you're limited by when the story is set, and what technology is available- if any.

In 1802, there were conventions of everyday behaviour to begin with, so messages going back and forth would be difficult to keep quiet unless you can be sure your messenger is trustworthy and not going to turn to blackmail- that's another plot entirely.

As my story is set in a village in the early part of the 19th century there's no opportunity to use the language of flowers or fans to pass a message.

(For flowers have a look here and here, and for fans there's this silent British Pathé film from
1932- see - The Language of a Fan.)

So for winter I'm aiming for every free Wednesday to be Novella writing day, just to get the main body of the story down. I have it planned out chapter by chapter so I know where I'm going. I just have to work hard to get to the end.

Then the revisions start...

Monday 24 September 2012

Short Story Competition List and Erotica Opportunities...

Over the weekend I started the search for a new potential home for my short story, and I made some interesting discoveries along the way which I intend to share with you today.

Starting out with Sally Quilford's Writing Calendar I clicked onto the heading Other Writing Comp Listings and from there another link reached the website for the Booktrust ( they have a lot of interesting pages that are worth spending some time with). They have a list of organisations running short story competitions, and include a clickable link to find out more.

So with 3 clicks of my mouse I found a couple of potential competitions that might suit my story. And others to inspire the creation of more stories. :-)

Hope you find something to interest you too...

*   *   *
Erotica is now mainstream. The big name publishers have embraced the genre with relish. (This does relate to short stories too.)

If you've never attempted erotica, or you're developing your style within the genre, an article from yesterday's  Mail on Sunday, You Magazine may be of interest. (Thanks to Viv on the Writers News/Writing Magazine, Talkback Forum, for sharing the information).

(The article also contains the booking information for the workshop, and the competition details mentioned. See link to article below.)

"Gillian Green, Eden Bradley and Rachel Blowes. Gillian is editorial director for commercial fiction at Ebury Publishing, which this month is relaunching its erotic imprint Black Lace, with five sexy titles, including The Dark Garden written by Eden. Rachel is a member of a book group at one of Ebury’s sister companies, which is asked to read and comment on books pre-publication, including erotic novels." (John Koski, You Magazine)

They share their 10 basic rules.

There's details of a workshop being held on the 6th November, from 6 to 8.45pm - at Ebury Publishing in London- there's only 35 places and you need to book tickets asap; They cost £10 per person, but you do get "drinks and canapés and a goody bag to take home."

Phone number and times for booking by phone are given in the article.

Finally, there is also a a short story competition.

The winning entry will be published by Black Lace Books as part of an e-book collection.

The judges are: Gillian Green, Editorial Director, and authors Portia Da Costa and Kristina Lloyd.

Closing date for receipt of entries (of approximately 4,000 words) is 31st October. Include your name, address and full contact details with your entry, whether you send by e-mail, or by post.

(Details of where to send your competition entry is included in the article- see the link above.)

IMPORTANT: Do read the terms and condition at the bottom of the article as there are specific word counts boundaries for the story, and for the synopsis.

 A shortlist of 10 entrants will be contacted by the Publisher by the 1st December, and the winner announced by the 14th January.

Even if you don't win and only get into the shortlist, the T&C's state "shortlisted entrants may also be offered publishing deals with the Publisher."

If you enter, fingers crossed for your story to be successful.

Updated to add some information: The current edition of Writers' Forum magazine (October) has an article 'How To Break Into Erotica', and talks to three writers, Fran Tracey, Elizabeth Coldwell and Eden Bradley who share their insights.

Friday 21 September 2012

It Was Going So Well...

You may remember that back in May I finally sent my short story off to Woman's Weekly. It had been a lot of hard work to get it to a stage that I felt it was finally good enough - and ready- for sending out for consideration.

Woman's Weekly say they take about four months, so each month that went by without a rejection letter was a good sign. Previous submissions had been rejected earlier.

As I was a week off the four month point I was hopeful that I stood a good chance of success this time.

But it was not to be.

Thursday morning my SAE dropped through the letterbox, and attached to my manuscript was the standard rejection letter.

I was gutted. Four months and then rejection.

Sadly it's common currency for writers, and after a few hours disappointment (and sympathy from writer friends) my rationality returned and I decided that next week I'll look at the story again, and if I'm still happy, then I'll be looking for a new home for it.

But it's frustrating too. Unlike a novel that can be submitted to more than one place at the same time, you really can't do that with a short story, so you have to wait for a yes or no.

For writers trying to get their first woman's magazine acceptance- to a paying market- it's getting harder. Over the past two to three years the number of magazines accepting submissions has fallen rapidly.

My Weekly and Candis have moved to accepting stories only from writers from whom they've bought from before. Others have dropped fiction completely.

Only this week on Womag's blog, it was mentioned that the Australian magazine Woman's Day was no longer publishing fiction. You only need to look at the list of magazines in the sidebar of her blog to see how few are left.

Obviously magazine editors get hundreds of submissions each week and can't comment on each one; writers understand that.

In an ideal world, those fiction departments which have readers first, would do something as simple as mark an 'x' or a '√', so the rejected writer knows how far along the system their story has actually gone.

Something as simple as that would help both the writer, and the fiction department.

No writer wants to waste either their own time, or an editor's, submitting stories that aren't of publishable standard, so it remains hit and miss until that first acceptance.

So finding a new home for my story is now on my to do list. And find one I will...




Wednesday 19 September 2012

Update on Publishers and the Agency Model...

If you've been keeping up with the controversy surrounding publishers who adopted the 'Agency Model' for retailers selling e-books, it appears that The European Commission (who began investigating a number of publishers over possible contravention of EU regulations) has made an initial finding.

For anyone who's missed the ongoing saga, the agency model is where the publisher sets a price that retailers must sell that publisher's e-books for; this prevents retailers from offering their own discount deals. I've been posting about this agency issue since late 2010.

Earlier this year the same publishers were faced with an agreement with the US Justice Department concerning the future of the agency model. But even this is still ongoing as this Bookseller item explains ' Publishers and Apple want delay in settlement agreements' claiming, " “The government is seeking to impose a remedy on Apple before there has been any finding of an antitrust violation.” ".

So to the EU.

The Competition Commission in the UK earlier this year stopped their investigation as the EC decided they would take action on potential breaches of legislation. And obviously they would have a bigger shovel to hit publishers with compared to the UK by itself...

"The publishers and Apple have agreed for two years not to "restrict, limit or impede" retailers from reducing the price of e-books or offering discounts. They have also agreed not to enter into any e-book agreement that contains a the most favoured nation (MFN) clause for five years." (Bookseller article)

This does not apply to Penguin, who have not reached an agreement with the EC.

"The EC is now road-testing the agreements and has called for observations to be submitted within one month, otherwise they will become binding shortly thereafter." (Bookseller article)

So the battle is far from over, but by early next year I'd expect to see a few pricing changes.

Sadly I don't think it will bode well for e-book royalty rates for writers contracted to those publishers. And I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes even harder for unknowns to be taken on by the big firms, even with an agent.

This may be the time for independent publishers to see a further leap in interest and more submissions...


Monday 17 September 2012

Thank you and Competition Results...

First I wanted to say thank you to all of you lovely people/friends who left comments to help me celebrate the second birthday of this blog last Thursday: Fiona, Patsy, Marion, Paula, Shirley, Rosemary, Debbie and Helen.

(Do visit their blogs/website, you'll find them interesting and useful.)

And to Anonymous who couldn't subscribe to my blog feed- I'll have a look into the problem and see if there's a resolution.

Now to the competition results- drum role...

The prize was for the person drawn out of the bag with the right answer to the question set and would win a copy of Jayne Castle's 'The Lost Night'.

This was the question: What is the name of the paranormal society that has featured in a number of the author's books?

The correct answer is, the Arcane Society.

Now as there were only two people who attempted to answer, Debbie and Helen, and both gave an understandable answer- the heroine of The Lost Night was raised in a Harmonic Enlightenment community, which was mentioned in the free to read first chapter on Amazon's Kindle.

So I decided that I would still make the draw between the two people who attempted to answer, and the winner's name is Debbie W.

So Debbie, please e-mail me at my blog e-mail address (on the sidebar) so I can arrange to send you the book. Congratulations.

Year 3 starts...

Thursday 13 September 2012

My Blog is 2 Years Old Today...

I started this blog on the 13th September 2010, and it's now 13th September 2012. Time sure passes quickly...

To celebrate I have a little competition to win a book- more later.

Since last September I've been busy.

I've entered a few outside competitions, sent off a story to Woman's Weekly- no rejection yet and it's been out just over three months. I won the Romance novel trophy at the writers' club in December. And in April I became Chairman of Nottingham Writers' Club (NWC).

In May I enjoyed a day long workshop on Writing Romantic Fiction led by Kate Walker, at NWC.

Even social media hasn't been safe from me. I joined Twitter earlier in the year, and in the last month, Facebook. (Contact details are in the sidebar.)

I've recently started using my new office area and can say it certainly has made my writing life easier. I have the phone by the computer so I can limit disruptions; and like this morning, when I was working on my novella, I could slide my chair a short distance over to the bookshelf and pluck the reference book I needed off the shelf to check something.

I don't know what year three will bring, but I'll be sharing the writing related aspects with you.

I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my blog, and an especial thank you to all of you who leave comments.

Virtual birthday cake for everyone...

                        Image from

Now to celebrate I have a copy of 'The Lost Night' by Jayne Castle (otherwise known as Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick) to give away. (Sorry, only to those within the UK postal system.) You can read the start of the Kindle version here.

Question: What is the name of the paranormal society that has featured in a number of the author's books?

Leave your answer in the comments and all correct entries will go into a bag and I will pick one out at random on Sunday, and announce the winner on Monday. Good luck.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Tomorrow I'm Having a Competition to Win A Book...

Though I'm just about back on my normal blogging schedule, my mid-week blog post won't appear until the early hours of Thursday, as tomorrow is another milestone day.

I'm having a competition to win a book- 'The Lost Night'.

More tomorrow...

Monday 10 September 2012

Thinking Time and Solutions...

When I'm writing anything, thinking time is essential.

I don't have a contract requiring a book a year, so if I hit a brick wall in my novel, I can do something else while my subconscious works on the issue.

But when you have a theme, and a short deadline for submission, as in a flash or short story competition, I find my creative brain freezes.

Sometimes it will unlock and I get the writing needed done. Other times it melts a bit but still leaves a big frozen chunk in the middle and little progress is made- like the short story I needed last week.

So I've been considering methods to help me improve how many pieces I submit- to a good standard of writing, of course.

I have a few competition that I want to enter with specific themes- with deadlines from the end of this month onward.
So I've decided to try writing the theme words on a bit of card or coloured paper, and pining them to the small cork board I have resting against the wall- it's just within eyesight on my desk; so I'll see if keeping the words within sight assists the creative process.

I won't have the excuse that I forgot the details, or the date it's needed by, if it's always there.

And it should ensure that the thinking time is taking place, even if I am doing something else.

If you have any methods you find particularly useful, it would be interesting to hear them.

Friday 7 September 2012

A Few Competitions...

The Mail on Sunday Novel Competition results were published last Sunday (thanks to Viv on the Talkback forum for the list) and congratulations to the winner, Catherine Roberts - there was a tie for 4th place between three entrants.

So you might want to know the details of the competition now running - winners announced Autumn 2013.

The word to be included in the new competition is TRAIN.

Closing on 29 October.

Write the opening to a novel to include the word in any form - train of a dress, train of thought, railway,etc. Whatever inspires your plot. 50 - 150 words.

Send to: The Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, 84 Drayton Gardens, London, SW10 9SB.

Typed or clearly written, with name, address, tel and email all on same page. Results next summer. Usual prizes - Arvon course for winner, plus book tokens for all 6 finalists.

And a few more competitions you might like...

Erewash Writers' Group recently announced the winner of their short story competition, and they have now opened two FREE competitions.

Flash Fiction competition

Up to 500 words on the theme 'twins'. This is being judged by Author Rosalie Warren- you may have seen or read her book 'Coping with Chloe'.

Prizes: A signed copy of 'Coping with Chloe' and £10 cash and web publication for the two winners.

Closing date is the 8th November 2012.

The second competition is the Creepy Christmas Chiller.

This is for a seasonal scary short stories up to 2,000 words. There are two categories, adults and 12-16.

"We want to read stories set in the festive season which contain all the necessary ingredients to scare the Santa suits off us.

Many an excellent ghost story has been written for Christmas, yet whether you include a ghost in your story or not is entirely your choice.

Your story could be held on any of the three main days of Christmas, or set in a couple of months running up to the big event, or specifically within the twelve days of Christmas. Your story will include tension, suspense and all the elements needed to make us feel we are sharing the frightening experience of your character (or characters)."

Prizes for six winners, three in each category: First £40, Second £15, Third £5 (plus a charitable donation will be made). Web publication.

Closing date: 8th November 2012.

All details, address for entries and terms and conditions (please read) can be found on the Erewash Writers' Group website, here.

And if that isn't enough for you then buy the latest issue of Writing Magazine- October 2012 issue, out now. Not only will you get a copy of Writers News, but you'll also receive the annual Competition Special supplement, with 203 competitions to enter.

Plenty of opportunities to spread your writing wings. (I will be doing a few of the competitions mentioned.)

If you enter any of the competitions mentioned, then good luck, and happy writing.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Sock Puppetry - It's Bad...

I doubt there are many writers who haven't seen the news about fake reviews posted by authors to praise their latest book. Or others buying bulk reviews.

But the admission by crime writer RJ Ellory that he'd been posting fake reviews for his books, and making adverse comments on reviews of novels by fellow writers is unacceptable.

I don't think any of us are naive enough to believe that fake reviews don't exist. You only need to look at Amazon and after a while you can pick out the dubious reviews because they sound wrong.

Yes, your book might be brilliant, but there will still be readers who don't like it and will say so.

I try to be realistic about the business. But I can't help but be irritated that a writer, who has been fortunate enough to be taken on and published by a mainstream publisher, with the publicity advantages that brings, feels the need to big up their books by fake reviews.

If he had stopped at fake reviews, I could have understood; but to make adverse comments about fellow writers books is beyond the pale. Especially when there are enough readers around to say completely the opposite.

He's apologised and admitted that he's in the wrong straight away. (Always a good idea to admit you've made a mistake when it becomes open knowledge.)

Sadly there will be long term consequences on his reputation as a writer, and as a colleague of numerous other crime writers- what will be their attitude toward him next time they meet?

(See this piece on the Bookseller website.)

And the reading public? Will they now think they can't trust anyone's reviews, and will other writers suffer a drop in sales? (Especially those who have self-published and rely on good reviews and word of mouth recommendations.)

When I leave a review on Amazon, I have read the book, and if I've liked it, I'll say so-if I haven't I'll say why. Even if the book is by a friend, I won't give it a great review just because they are a friend.

Okay, I've not got a novel out vying for sales against numerous other competitors within my genre. But if I did, I wouldn't resort to buying reviews, or creating identities to review my own book. It's unethical and dishonest.

My work has to stand on it's own two feet and take the knocks that may come to it.

A writer once said at a talk I attended, if you can't take criticism then don't go into publishing.

It's a tough business...

Sunday 2 September 2012

Keyboard Troubles Are Now Over...

I'm now back in writing action after a few days of keyboard troubles.

It's only when your keyboard starts to randomly malfunction that you realise how valuable the Shift key actually is...

I'm a creature of habit, whenever I log on, the first thing I do is check my e-mail accounts, so when I found I could only get ' instead of the @ symbol I jumped to the obvious conclusion that I'd not pressed the shift key, but when I tried again and it still happened (repeatedly) I panicked.

Okay I only went into panic mode for a moment, as common sense returned and I used the diagnostics on my computer. It made a few changes and the shift keys started working again. Until later it did it again.

By yesterday I'd lost any symbol that needed the shift key to access it. I had to resort to copying and pasting the @ symbol to get to my e-mails, or to log in to Twitter and Facebook.
I couldn't ask a question as I couldn't get the ? and I didn't think it was right that a writer should ask a question and not use a question mark. :-)

So this morning my OH went and purchased a new keyboard- a drive to the nearest retail park.

What a shock.

All the keys are raised on this Advent keyboard, including the up and down buttons and separate number pad. This is the first time I've used this type of keyboard, and now I'm getting used to it, I quite like it.

My nails slipped down the edges at first, but as I'm a one or two finger typer I can adjust as is needed.

The letters of the alphabet appear larger which I'm finding helpful. As I don't touch type I'm scanning for the less frequently used keys as I go, but I'm now finding the raised keys very useful as it's much easier to locate the correct letter, so in fact I'm typing quicker.

And of course all new products have to be energy efficient; this one has a Power/Sleep/Wake Up keys too.

I'm pleasantly surprised; and looking forward to seeing if it helps me when I'm in a long writing session.

I'm off to catch up on all the interesting blogs and articles I've missed the last couple of days...