Tuesday 24 December 2013


As I take a break for the Christmas holidays I just want to wish all my friends and blog readers a peaceful and joyous Noel...

And a Happy New Year...

image courtesy of jannoon028/freedigitalphotos.net

Sunday 22 December 2013

Review of my 2013...

I'm still rushing to get everything finished, and blogging has just not got to the top of the list, so sorry for my absence...

I always think it's good to look back and see what has been achieved in the year, and then see what can be done to improve the weak areas in the following year...

The biggest improvement has been in working on the novella. I've almost got to the end of the first draft; it is only the skeleton at the moment, running order, dialogue, high points and notes for where I need to check information.

In 2014 I'll be concentrating on the major revision. I already know where I need to make adjustments in the plot line, so that's going to take work.

Despite a few setbacks in available time, most of the 23,000+ words have been on the novella.

I've also found that I can get more done in the first 6 months of the year than the final 6!

Once again I read a couple of stories at the Fringe event at the Lowdham Book Festival.

The One Word Anthology became available in paperback on Amazon via the createspace service.

A few months ago a piece of my flash fiction was published on the CafeLit site- it was fun to write it and eventually see it up on the screen...

Had a wonderful time earlier in November at the Festival of Romance. It was fun, but also an opportunity to meet other writers, and learn more...

I won two of the quarterly prose competitions at Nottingham Writers' Club earlier in the year- for which I received a gift card at Awards Night this month.

And finally Serena Lake has started to emerge in the writing world. Serena tweets about her interests @Serena_Lake.

So what does 2014 hold beside more work?

January sees the announcement of the Nottingham Writers' Club, Writer of the Year winner (delayed from December).

There are a few exhibitions I want to visit, especially the Georgian costume exhibition at the Fashion Museum in Bath.

And finally I need to organise some sort of timetable to make the most of my time. Having targets does help.

Have you achieved all that you wanted to this year?

Friday 6 December 2013

Awards Night at the Writers' Club...

Another Awards Night has been and gone.

Now this year I was in the running for the Nottingham Writers' Club, Writer of the Year Award. This is for the four winners of the club's quarterly prose competitions (from Autumn last year to Summer this year).

Unfortunately because of unforeseen delays- more than one of them in fact- the judge wasn't able to get the result back in time, so no one yet knows who won.

There are actually only three writers this time, as I won two of the four competitions- still amazed at that.

So it will be January before the winner is announced and the trophy presented. And that will be mid-month, as our regular first meeting in January next year is New Year's Day! So no meeting as the venue is closed due to it being a public holiday.

After the awards are presented, and the food is eaten, the competitive and humorous nature of the writers starts to emerge with the quiz and games.

The social secretary, Pat, puts together a simple, but fiendish quiz of questions about what has been in the news during the year- it is amazing how many things you forget, and how many minor facts get remembered...:-)

All I am going to say is never invite any of us to do Countdown...Not unless you've handed us the rulebook and stood over us while we've read it!

As it was a party I dressed up- I've got to get some use out of my Festival of Romance Ball outfit...

Glammed up...
Despite the delays in the trophy presentation- there were a couple of others who were also away and couldn't receive theirs either- I did receive a gift card for my two first place wins.

Now it's back to reality and the Christmas to do list...

Sunday 1 December 2013

The Great British Write Off Competition...

" Are you the next big women's fiction writer?"

Well if you think so, then have a look at this competition showing on the handbag.com website. They've teamed up with booksandthecity.co.uk and publisher Simon & Schuster UK.

They want to find and publish a debut women's fiction writer. Full details here.

"The plotline can be anything; the only requirement is that it must fall within the women's fiction genre."

Entrants are required to: " submit your short story, which should be a maximum of 2,500 words" (and this is done by copying and pasting into the entry form on the main page).

The closing date is 5.30pm on the 31st January 2014.

The winner will get some fantastic opportunities.

  • Publication of the winning e-book short story in April 2014.
  • An agent advice session with Lizzy Kremer, director of David Higham Associates.
  • An author mentoring session with Sunday Times bestselling author Milly Johnson.
  • And a book jacket and feature on Simon & Schuster's social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
The winner gets a standard e-book contract.

(details from www.handbag.com)

You'll find full details, t&c's, and links you need on the main page- see my link at the top.

Apologies to overseas writers once more, this is only for UK residents aged over 18 years.

If you enter, good luck. 

APOLOGIES for the appearance of white blocks behind quoted text. I haven't been able to get rid of it. 

Friday 22 November 2013

Competition News...

If you know a new writer, or one who has been writing for a while, and who is starting to send stories out, then please spread the word about the inaugural Nottingham Writers' Club Short Story Competition.

The club want to encourage new, and less experienced writers to enter.  As the club's ethos has always been to support and encourage writers, it's especially important to those newer writers building up essential skills...

It's open to non-professional writers in the UK.

(For clarification, non-professional has been defined as a writer who has not earned more than £500 from short story writing in a year -in this case 2013.)

And yes, there is money for the winner, and also for 2nd and 3rd place. Plus 12 extra prizes donated by Random House, Tesco and Morrison's.

1st: £200, 2nd: £100, 3rd: £50. The winning entry will be posted on the Nottingham Writers' Club website. All writers retain copyright of their entry/entries.

The subject is 'Emotion' and stories can be up to 2,000 words.

The story can be any subject or genre.

The entry fee is £5 per entry, or you can enter 3 for £12.

The judge is short story writer, and author, Sally Quilford.

Sally is well-known for her long-running column in Writers' Forum magazine (which she recently passed over to Helen Hunt) so she could pursue other projects.

The competition is open for submissions between the 1st January and the 31st January 2014.

For full details and an entry form, use the contact form here.

Friday 15 November 2013

Fun and Learning at The Festival of Romance...

I finally have time to share a few snippets from my visit to Bedford last weekend for The Festival of Romance.

I had to write a piece about my trip to the festival for the Nottingham Writers' Club magazine, with the deadline of yesterday (Thursday).

I also ended up writing a couple of other items for inclusion in the forthcoming issue, in between appointments.

Next time I go, I will keep the week following, clear...

So what did I learn?

So much. From being able to talk to other writers, listen to them reading their work aloud, and on the Sunday from the editors of the various romance publishers talking about what they're doing currently, to what they're looking for in submissions - and encouragement to submit.

There were one to ones available, but I wasn't ready for that this year, so didn't put in a request when the opportunity was offered a few weeks prior to the festival.

After an evening of readings, from authors in historical dress, set against a background of drawings and paintings by the pre-Raphaelite artists in the art gallery on the Friday night, I was glad of a good night's sleep before Saturday's events.

There was the Romance Fair where you could buy a wide selection of books by various authors attending the festival. I moved onto the Coffee and Cake to listen to more authors reading excerpts from their novels.

I did the 3 hour workshop in the library run by Sue Moorcroft and Christina Courtney on 'Irresistible Heroes'. I learnt a bit more about one of my heroes in waiting, Hugo, during the practical sessions.

And following that the talk, How to Stand Out, Get Published and Stay Published, given by author Miranda Dickinson and her HarperCollins editor, Sammia Rafique. Miranda described her journey to publication, while Sammia explained her role in the author’s books. 
There was a very useful question and answer session. I wanted to know the current length they required, and for their books it’s at least 90,000 up to 120,000. (Other publishers have their own specifications.)

I can actually be seen at the Ball (on Table 4 in purple and glasses) in the video of the after dinner entertainment- I'm in the background for a while; amazing I was still wide awake as that was at 11pm and I'd been up since 7am that morning...


Sunday was conference day, with an early start of 9.30am.

Spread throughout the day there were author led panels, including one on building an author platform.

The presence of editors from the main romance publishers was keenly anticipated.

Mills and Boon covered the 5 UK acquired series they deal with: Modern/Presents, Cherish, Historical, and Medical. Guidelines can be found on their website.

I've read their historical novels on and off over the years, and they have changed a lot in that time- length has increased too, they're now at 70,000.

Piatkus Entice is a digital first imprint at Piatkus Fiction.

The important message that came over was that stories needed to be a commercial proposition. And like all the other publishers they wanted 'voices' - fresh, engaging and consistent.

Carina UK - this is an imprint of Harlequin UK. They are a digital first publisher, with their first print title due out early 2014. They talked about their interest in trans-media projects, a different method of reaching readers...

And the good news is that they don't just publish romance. They're seeking, women's fiction, new adult, contemporary young adult, and erotica. And if you happen to have a WW1 romance ( considering next year's anniversary of 100 years since the outbreak of war) it could find a home.

Mira publish Women's Fiction and Crime, aimed at the older reader. Heroines 40+, well written, a hook, and commercial were important words, and they will accept unagented submissions.

Harper Impulse, another digital first publisher. Again like other digital first publishers length is not an issue. You could send a 1,000 word short story that could be read on a phone. They like to get a full manuscript, covering letter and short synopsis.

Generally: They all had a presence on Twitter. Many of the editors can be followed on Twitter; and writers having a social media presence was very useful.

Just as with any publisher, they want good stories, and fresh voices, stories that will sell.

But again and again the editors kept saying submit it! Don't worry if it's not perfect, or you're not sure it's quite right for them, just submit it.

There was so much useful information, that it was hard to take it all in. That's why I made good use of my notebook.

I learnt a lot, and have started putting into action the elements that I was missing- in social media.

But most reassuring was that my writing seems to be going in the right direction...

Tuesday 5 November 2013

I'm Back!

Life has been catching up with me this past month.

With my sons new college days, my previously settled writing schedule has been disrupted and I've been finding it difficult to settle, or find a new routine that works for me.

I'm struggling to get used to short writing sessions, rather than longer ones-which is more natural for me and my longer work.

I have added to the novella, but I'm finding the penultimate chapter slow going, as I'm dealing with the final confrontation between the hero and his cousin.

Everything is getting busy at the writers' club too, as we approach the Christmas party and Awards Night at the beginning of December.

This year I'm a contender for the Writer of the Year trophy, alongside two other very good writers- one of whom is fellow blogger and club member Keith Havers.

Only the two Competition Secretaries will know who the judge has chosen (someone from outside the club, who has read the four winning prose competition entries from the past 12 months); and the winner only finds out when their name is announced on the night.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 6th) is the club's annual Manuscript of the Year competition. Members are given a theme and have 250 words to write a story.

Now my mind is in blank mode at the moment, so no 'Why Me' story. This theme was one of the suggestions from club members, on another evening, earlier in the year. For the poets there's a Verse of the Year that happens each March - same formula.

One day I may astound myself- and everyone else - by entering a poem! :D

The Festival of Romance in Bedford happens this weekend. There's still just enough time to buy tickets...

It's going to be a busy information packed, and fun, couple of days.

There are so many things I'm looking forward to - an Irresistible Heroes workshop with Sue Moorcroft and Christina Courtney early Saturday afternoon, and the ball in the evening, among the numerous events on Saturday.

I finally found a suitable outfit for the Ball, last week, after searching for months. I no longer need worry that I'll look like Cinderella before the transformation... :-)

There's a conference on the Sunday, with romance publishers doing one to one sessions- I'm not ready for that this year so didn't apply. But they have editors doing short talks, among lots of useful topics.

I'll also get to meet a few of the writers who I know from Facebook, at some point...

So I'm finally leaving the men in the family at home to look after themselves, while I immerse myself in romance...

I'll review my weekend experience when I post next week. And I'll try and get some photos taken in between events.

And if you're going to the Festival and see me, do say hello.

Image 'Rose Petals and Glass Heart' courtesy of Victor Habbick and http://freedigitalphotos.net

Thursday 3 October 2013

Disappointment is a Fact of a Writer's Life...

The short story that I entered into this year's Wells Literary Festival short story competition, didn't get into the shortlist.

I know it isn't that my story was utter rubbish, nor was it the victim of poor spelling and grammar, or even that I'm a rotten writer.

It's just didn't make the grade against other entries, those that were eventually chosen for the shortlist.

But that's life.

I now need to decide this story's future.

I still believe it has potential. And it doesn't deserve to just be put away in the box file and forgotten about.

So it will be going off to another place for consideration.

Fingers crossed it will be third time lucky... :-)

But if it's another no, then it may just end up in that file box for a while...

Monday 23 September 2013

Weaponry Research for the Writer...

If you want to see old weaponry on display, and in context, then you will get a lot out of the Royal Armouries in Leeds. But don't expect to see everything in one visit, so be prepared.

It's a National Museum, so it costs nothing to go in- though they welcome donations- and there are additional activities inside, and in the jousting yard, that you pay for, but the rest is FREE.

There are five floors with different displays, as well as an outdoor area for specific displays (they run on set days/weekends, and times, you also need to pay for these).

They have an inexpensive guidebook which it it worth buying, but if you don't there is a sheet to help you find your way around- it's essential to get the best out of your time there.

A few things to bear in mind; you can take pictures, but many areas you can't use the flash on your camera, so check for the unobtrusive warning notices.

If you have a problem with heights, stay away from the window alcoves as can almost see straight down, because of the building design. (I feel wobbly just thinking about it).

This is sunlight falling on the floor from the floor to ceiling windows in the self defence section. It also gives you some idea of the lighting without the camera flash...

                                            A selection of Cannon in the ground                                               floor area of the Hall of Steel...

Looking up at the weapon array in the Hall of Steel. Each section is covered with a selection of arms. You can climb the stairs that surrounds this area and look through the windows as you climb.

                                  This is a pair of flintlock pocket                                         pistols- French, from about 1780.

(They triggered the arrival of another new character for me to discover...)

This is a detail from the large display, including a Civil War Cavalryman on horse.

(In the War section there was a full size display of soldiers from various time periods including this Parliamentarian.)

I have to say I was quite pleased it was just a model, as the fully armed cavalryman looked very intimidating...

There is also a library on the ground floor for researchers, but that wasn't open when we went at the weekend, and you can't just turn up to use it when it is open, booking is required.

Now, I've saved my favourite for my last picture - duelling pistols.

Many historical romance writers will be familiar with the name, Manton. Well in one of the display cabinets among a variety of duelling pistols- and a fully equipped box- was a Manton.

Now it's a good quality version, and could have been used for duelling, but that wasn't its sole purpose; but even so, it was in its own way beautiful -but still deadly.

(This photo has been created by taking the Manton pistol image out of the display cabinet picture I took- big thanks to my son Dane for his editing skills to create the picture for me so you could see it properly.)

                                       A gentleman's Manton                                               flintlock pistol.

Hope you've enjoyed looking at my pictures from my visit to the Royal Armouries.

If you want to copy any of them, please credit the source, myself/blog link, and the Royal Armouries who allow visitors to take photos.

The Best Laid Plans...

When you think everything is going along nicely, you can guarantee something comes along to muck it all up!

I've started back to writing the novella, but it's hard work at the moment, as I desperately need quiet without any interruptions to get my mind into the historic time period, but unplanned changes to my sons timetables is giving me 'quiet time' issues...

It doesn't help when I'm writing anything else either! :)

Today has been the first day for months where everyone is out at the same time.

So I'm blogging and then getting back to the novella.

And finally, my next post is definitely my trip to the Royal Armouries in Leeds. 

I'm off to put it together now...

Monday 9 September 2013

Normal Routine is Resuming Slowly...

I always thought the six weeks school holiday was enough of a break from my term-time routine, but this has been the first summer since my sons started college, so I wasn't prepared for the 10+ weeks of having them around.

First my brain went onto go slow before finally grinding to a halt, only to perk back up at five and a half weeks ready for the new term...I will have to retrain my brain. :D

So today the first of the three went back to college; two more still to go.

My immediate plan is to get into a new routine to get as much writing time as possible, which is almost guaranteed to be disrupted for the first week or two...

Anyway, I will be sorting out the remainder of my holiday photos, so you will soon see some of the interesting things I saw in the Royal Armouries (Leeds) last month.

It's a fantastic place to visit, free entry- though they welcome donations- and you won't be disappointed in the variety.

More in my next post, but meanwhile here's a picture to start with...

Hall of Steel seen through the viewing mirror

Tuesday 27 August 2013

A News Flash...

Just had an e-mail to tell me my submission to Cafelit is up on the website and blog, so you can read it here.

It's called 'A Tight Squeeze', as you'll see why when you read the story.

It actually started out as a 200 word story for the One Word Challenge competition, on the Talkback forum of the writersonline website. The judge that month gave me some useful comments, so I did a rewrite of the first half of the story- a great improvement.

It's been a long month waiting, but it's wonderful to see even a short piece of my writing out in the world for people to read.

On target
I hope you enjoy reading it...

image courtesy of http://freedigitalphotos.net

Monday 26 August 2013

My Holiday Visits-Part 1...

The issue with holidays is how long it takes to get back to normal once you return home- in my case a week...

Last Saturday I was in York. The weather was a bit iffy, so we decided to visit York Dungeons.

This took about an hour, but in that time you went through history, and audience participation was requested from simple booing to 'volunteering'.

The actors in a few centuries were scary, the odd one or two OTT, but it was fun.

Unwisely one of my sons heckled the judge and ended up in the dock charged with despicable crimes- fortunately he was allowed to go free after that...

But if you do go, I'd advice staying at the back unless you want to get harmlessly splattered, and or volunteered...

As it was raining when we came out we went for coffee, and then a book browse in York Waterstones- not much choice in the romances I was looking for- the ones I found, I already had. :(

There were a lot of people going up Clifford's Tower, but having been right up to the top of the building many years ago, I gave it a miss. It's a great view, but I'm not great with heights any more...

Now I'm leaving you with a picture that relates to the next place I visited and will be showing you some photos from.

At last, a cut out display that makes me look regal.

And I got to do some weaponry research... :)

Saturday 17 August 2013

Festival of Romance- win tickets...

I've already booked my tickets for this exciting weekend in November- it's the week before my birthday, so it's an early present to myself. :-)

This year's Festival of Romance is taking place in Bedford between Friday evening on the 8th and Sunday the 10th November- finishing mid-afternoon.

The Saturday is busy from morning until night. See the programme here.

I've booked to go to the Irresistible Heroes Workshop in the Central Library, led by Sue Moorcroft and Christina Courtney.

And I couldn't resist booking a ticket for the Festival of Romance Ball. I have the shoes, the make-up and the jewellery, I just need to find a suitable dress... :D

You can do as much or as little as you want. There are a few free events, but you still need to get the ticket from the bookings page. It is sent to your e-mail address...

Now if you would like to enter to win tickets for two, courtesy of the Romantic Novelists Association, pop over to this page, fill in the form and keep your fingers crossed. And enter by the 30th September. You will find all the details of what the prize covers on that page too.

Good luck.

Thursday 15 August 2013


This time I'm talking about the real type Butterflies, not the tummy type...

My office window looks out onto the side of the house and over the years a buddleia bush has grown. Every spring it gets cut back, and each summer it grows huge and produces long purple flower spikes.

The last few summers there have been very few butterflies to use it, but this year WOW.

I've seen anything from 7-10 of them on the flowers at the same time- all bar one, are Peacock's.

Now it's also started to get a few bees feeding on the flowers too.

So I took a few pictures. Surprisingly I was able to get quite close up to them, but they were so intent on feeding that I think they weren't bothered I was there.

The one on the right kept folding it's wings up as it moved around, and it took a couple of attempts to get it with its wings open.

The second picture required some contortion, ducking under the branches to get in the right position...

Some of the flowers had two or three butterflies on them at a time. This one had had a third one, but it flew up onto one of the other flowers just as I got into position for the picture, so I only got two of them together...

It's been fascinating to look up and see them climbing around, folding their wings together against a rush of wind that has the flower spikes bobbing up and down as they hold on...

Hopefully the good summer will ensure we have plenty of butterflies next year.

Have you noticed an increase in butterflies where you live, or any colourful insects?

Logged in at last!!!

I couldn't get into my blog at the weekend.

Now I had changed my password a few weeks before but had no problem remembering it, except suddenly it was gone.

Tried every password that I'd ever used on the blog sign-in, but it wasn't any of them.

Then with my OH being home and starting the sorting and reorganising that had to be put off when I had the accident 2+ years ago, I've only today had the time and quiet to use the speedy verification code system.

Had to do it twice to get it to work properly, but I'm now signed back in and can start posting again.

I'm glad to be back...

Monday 5 August 2013

My Characters Are Calling...

Some of my characters in waiting have started getting impatient, reminding me they are there and they are waiting for me to get on with their story...

Unfortunately I can't handle two different romances at the same time. Each hero is different and it won't help continuity if characteristics from Marcus (from my Dorset novel) start transferring themselves to Hugh (in my Nottinghamshire novella).

I may have to assign different days of the week to each story just to keep them happy.

At the moment another couple of characters are popping into my mind, so I think I need to do some brain clearing- writing down all the ideas/characteristics that have developed since I first started to give them reality (at Sally Quilford's Pocket Novel workshop a few years ago).

I'd like to attend Sally's next workshop in September, but I won't be able to; but do go if you can, you'll learn a lot and enjoy it.

You can find out more on Sally's blog, here. It's titled 'Recipe for Making Love Stories'- and if you book now, you get it for less.

I've just finished reading Sally's latest My Weekly pocket novel, 'Take My Breath Away'. It all starts with Cleopatra- at least the making of a film about her... :-)

I was so near the end of the story, and didn't want to wait until the following day to finish it, so I stayed up until nearly one o'clock in the morning.

Right, I have to go. I need to start recording my characters' latest revelations...

Do your characters-in-waiting start trying to interrupt, when you're writing something else?

Saturday 27 July 2013

Getting Brave- A Submission...

Not sure what has changed, but I'm finally feeling brave enough to start sending my short stories and flash fiction out into the world.

So far I've sent an entry into the Wells Literary Festival short story competition- closes on the 31st July so you still have time to enter online if you're interested.

Today I sent a piece of flash fiction off to e-zine CafeLit. Submission details here.

I have looked at it before but never felt I was good enough- lots of writers feel like that at some time I'm sure.

But I decided this little piece of flash fiction might fit. I suppose it's a slightly quirky story.

At the Fringe event at Lowdham last month, when I read it to an audience, I referred to it as the 'underwear story', especially for the males in the audience who may have never come across shapewear before, or even known that's what it's called!

It's surprising what unusual items can create a story... :D

Now I have to get on with life while I await a yea or nay on my submission.

While I hope it gets a yes, I'm realistic enough to accept that it may be a rejection. That is the less pleasant aspect of the writers' life.

But at least the waiting for an answer time, is very much shorter than for some magazines...

I decided that this year I'd take up opportunities that arise, even if they weren't in my plan for the year.

I'll let you know the good or bad news when it happens...

Monday 22 July 2013

I've Ground to a Halt...

Yes, I know I've been missing for weeks- sorry.

I didn't realise how tired out I was until my brain went on strike and I began sleeping late on a weekday- very unusual for me...

This year I've been able to do more concentrated writing than I have before- at least 15,000 words on the novella since mid-January. It may not seem a lot, but it's the most I've written in six months before.

(I just need to get my busy weeks organised better, so I can get a few writing sessions in...)

As soon as normality returns I'll get the last two chapters of the first draft completed, and then the really hard work starts with the 2nd draft- putting flesh on the bones of the basics that I've been concentrating on so far.

There are a few 'information needed' queries that I need to delve into, so I'm making a list to work through over the remaining summer holidays.

I'm thinking about going to this year's Festival of Romance (November) but haven't actually mentioned it to my OH yet- who will have to hold the domestic fort if I do go...:-)

As my short story writing has finally improved, I'm going to make an effort to write a few more before the year ends.

I also have to catch up on my reading- both paperback and e-books.

Serena is still lacking a website, but she does now have an e-mail address. So I have to make some decisions there too.

So I may have ground to a halt in one way, I realise that the 'to do' list is building up... :-)

Monday 8 July 2013

Another First Place...

I mentioned in my last post Lowdham- photos and a story, that one of the
A second one...
stories I read to the Lowdham, Fringe audience was being judged for a Nottingham Writers' Club competition;  so I couldn't tell you more at the time. 

As I knew the judge lived in different part of the country, I felt I was fairly safe to read it at the Fringe event...

It's always difficult to write a story when you know the judge- even when a pseudonym is being used for entries, 
so they won't have any idea who has written the stories.

Last Wednesday evening our Prose Secretary, was able to announce the results of the Spring prose-they were waiting for her when she arrived home from work...

The important bit- I got first place.

The judge (Patsy Collins) gave each entry helpful feedback- which is always appreciated. Mine highlighted my tendency to write long sentences, which could have been broken up. 

Patsy's the second person (recently) who's mentioned I use long sentences, so I'll be watching for this when I edit...

The story had to feature a tin of treacle, a bird and the weather (mine was a bit weak on the weather, but it was used); I had my protagonist, Jenny, bake a treacle and lemon cake- which the judge said was " an unusual, quirky combination and seemed to give those characteristics to the baker."

And with a baked cake comes cake crumbs, so cue a bird... :-)

I have to admit that when I write any contemporary short story, my characters and plots do tend to be on the quirky side.

When I was putting the story together, my only concern was actually getting the three items into the story in a way that seemed natural and not contrived. Plus having it ready by the deadline for handing in.

I was probably thinking about the story for longer than it actually took to write! 

So perhaps this is the method that works for me- as the same thing occurred with my Autumn Prose win too...

The 'Ladies of the G.O.D. Club' will get revised to deal with the minimal use of the weather- it could be used more and there's word count to do so. 

Then I'll decide what its future is.

Hopefully you'll get the opportunity to read it somewhere, and if it makes the wider world, I'll let you know.

I'd basically given up on writing any new short stories, but this has reassured me that I am capable of writing them...

image courtesy of http://freedigitalphotos.net 

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Lowdham- Photos and a Story...

Okay here's a few photos from Saturday at the Lowdham Book Festival- I've yet to master the finer arts of Photoshop Elements 9, so apologies for the light on my glasses.

In the Village Hall
The village hall is the central hub of the festival with a couple of other venues to host other talks, and marquees out on the grass behind the hall. There's always activities for children provided so no one misses out.

I would have liked to have gone to a few of the events in the afternoon, but there was a steady flow of people from 10.30 am onward, so I only left the club stall for the Fringe and a quick look at the second hand book stalls in the marquee.

(I was quite restrained; I only bought one second-hand book.)

Nor did I get to sample any of the cake on sale from the kitchen hatch- it's usually very yummy cake...

When I wasn't answering queries and promoting Nottingham Writers' Club, I was able to talk to my neighbours, Leicester Writers Club and a lady who was selling her fantastic photographs of wildlife and nature.

There were lots of writers with books to sell; including a couple of authors published by Pen & Sword books. Their wall posters stood out well, but of course the Duke of Wellington is very distinguished even in one dimension.

I bought a book (signed by the author) for my OH- who is wonderfully supportive on days like this, driving me to the village hall, keeping everything running at home, then returning to collect me at the end...

So to the performance... 
Talking to the audience while
posing for the photo

There wasn't as many people in the room as last year, but it was a sunny day this time.

In one bar there was music, and in the other the literature.

I was one of three NWC members performing.

Jennifer Appleyard began with the start of her novel, ' Touch the Earth' (Hayloft Publishing Ltd) and from there Viv Apple took over with a selection of her poetry to lighten the mood.

As we had time limitations I'd chosen short pieces. There was a 200 word story on illusion (see below) and the audience were surprised at the last line revelation as I'd hoped.

The 1400 word story that went next is currently being judged in a club competition, so I won't say anymore, but the audience liked it- hope the judge does too!

I finished off with a very short piece that I referred to as 'the underwear story' (for the benefit of any men in the audience who didn't know what shapewear is). It's actually a misadventure tale, but luckily the unfortunate woman survives the experience... :-)

So here is the first story I read. I hope you enjoy it...


Work beckoned.
    Rachel stepped out the shower, patted her skin with soft Egyptian cotton, then slathered herself in ‘Opium’; its fruity, spicy aroma began her transformation and she revelled in it.
    Slipping on the black lacy thong and matching suspender belt she began to slide the sheer black stockings up each leg in turn, and with a light-fingered fix, was done.
    Contact lenses in, she admired the view in her mirror and wished she could wake up one morning to find her pale blue eyes turned this olivaceous shade.
    With deft artistic strokes of brushes and sponges she changed face; a touch of colour to highlight the cheekbones she usually hid, and a black flick of gel liner to suggest the exotic.
    The Teal, Suzy Wong style dress with the seam slit to her right thigh displayed her stocking top and she gained extra height with gold strappy shoes via four inch heels.
    Then with a wielding of heated tongs to create a mass of curls, and a final spritz of hairspray, the illusion was complete.
    Rachel was gone; in her place stood Orchid, wild, alluring and luscious.
    Ready to ensnare the cheating husband she was employed to expose.

 © 2013 Carol Bevitt

 (Photos courtesy of Dennis Apple.)

Saturday 29 June 2013

I Survived the Last Day!

Just popping in to say I'm back from the last day of the Lowdham Book Festival.

It was an early start from home, and cool.  But by midday was warm and sunny, which is always encouraging.

Nottingham and the surrounding areas had quite a few events going on, including Armed Forces Day; but I'm glad to say lots of people did come to the Festival even if they left it later...

Many of the free talks were full and people had to be turned away as capacity had been reached.

A good sign this year was people actually buying new books (and not necessarily those by well-known writers) and not just second-hand ones.

When there was a temporary lull in footfall I was able to leave the writers' club stall to look at books. I bought a new (signed by the author) book for my OH (who drives me to events, goes home and then comes to collect me later).

And I found a 1978 book on fans (the decorative type for wafting in your face) for £3, for myself, so I was happy.

The Fringe at the Ship event went well (more later with pictures) and my lighter contemporary stories were appreciated - at least those listening laughed at the right points and clapped at the end of each one without prompting... :-)

It's been a long day and I'm going to catch-up on Facebook, and sift through the growing list of e-mails that invariably fill my inbox on a Friday night/Saturday morning...

When the pictures arrive from the NWC photographer, I will share a few of them...

Hope Sunday's weather is just as good, so I can recover...

Thursday 27 June 2013

PLR and Other News...

I've been busy trying to get as much as possible done this month with limited time and hands to help, so apologies for my recent silence on the blog pages...

After today my writing time is going to be spasmodic, as college has finished and the house will not be as quiet as it is normally on a week-day when everyone is out.

I'm getting ready for the last day of the Lowdham Book Festival too- every event on Saturday is free to attend, so if you're nearby and can spare an hour or two I know you'll find something to interest you.

I'll be on the Nottingham Writers' Club stall, and then at midday at The Fringe at the Ship, before returning to the table to promote the club and members work...

Last week's cyberspace book launch of the One Word Anthology was a great success, so a big thank you to everyone who popped into the launch page on Facebook- much fun was had by all... :-)
*   *   *

Now to the serious stuff...

Many writers were unhappy about the proposed move of control of the Public Lending Rights service (probably) to the British Library when it was proposed in 2010. Sadly even with an overwhelming majority against the move in the 2012 consultation, the intention to make this change has continued.

Yesterday (26th) the scrutiny committee of Culture, Media and Sports declared its findings:

" The CMS committee, chaired by Conservative MP John Whittingdale, concluded that: "It was resoundingly clear from the public consultation that there was overwhelming opposition to the Government's proposal to abolish the Registrar of Public Lending Right and to transfer its functions to another public body. We continue to believe that the British Library is not a suitable host organisation for the PLR function given its many responsibilities and the risk that these could take priority over the PLR function." " (The Bookseller - here.)

Unfortunately the Government can ignore the opinion of the committee and carry on with it's plans. Money can be saved by this change, so change they will. :(

*   *   *
Another related PLR issue is e-books. Authors do not receive PLR on library e-book loans, so they are losing income.
 And the Society of Authors (SoA) has found that authors may not be receiving the correct payments from their publishers for e-book library loans by treating them as if they were sales rather than licences...
 If you go the item in the SoA's News and Events section, you can read about it in more detail- here.

Digital is giving writers so many opportunities, but it's also giving them a lot of 'virtual' headaches in trying to ensure they get the money they have a right to...

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Happy Launch Day - One Word Anthology...

Last November when the e-book version of the One Word Anthology was released I officially crept into existence.

Serena Lake has been evolving for many years - and was originally going to be called Persephone Lake, but writers have to be practical and Serena Lake fits better on a book cover!

Actually Serena is a little more earthy than Persephone. And Serena sounds like an historical romance writer too.

The two, 200 word stories in the One Word Anthology are both moment in time pieces.

In 'After Heat' for the word 'Heat' one of my characters in waiting, Jago, is sharing a moment in time with the woman he is falling in love with- now considering he is a typical alpha male who just seems to have women falling over themselves to get his attention, that moment is quite significant.

I just have to discover how they reach that stage...and write the rest of it. :-)

The second story 'Surprises' for the word 'Shift' was a little bit of a struggle.

The only idea that shift brought to mind was the underwear type - (I'd been studying historic costume for a different character at that time). I had this scene of a cabin, but the size of a cabin (the old traditional sailing ship cabins not modern liner cabins) wouldn't work for how I saw the idea, so adjustments in location had to be made and by being flexible it solved the problem of how to keep the reader- and Jason guessing...

Jago and Jason are both in the queue for their stories to be written...

Now Serena ( otherwise known as Carol) is working on a novella set in 1802, so hopefully the next time you see the name Serena Lake on a book cover, it will be for this story.

But I'll always be grateful that I was able to step out into the world in the One Word Anthology by the Talkback Writers...


Come Along and Enjoy the Launch Today...

Today is the day.

The paperback version of the 'One Word Anthology' is officially launched at 11.00.

Read the words from new voices...

You can join the Talkback Writers on Facebook any-time from 11 am onward to celebrate the launch, and have some word fun...

The book has been on sale a couple of days now and we hope to improve on our #6 in poetry anthologies and #47 in anthologies ranking.

And there's even a trailer for the book which I'll be adding soon- thank you to Catherine Dalling - one of the anthology writers - for creating it for the launch.

Enjoy the party...
the book launch...

Book cover artist: Marion Clark

Glass illustration courtesy of http://freedigitalphotos.net

Monday 17 June 2013

One Word Anthology Book Launch on Tuesday...

I was very excited last November when the Talkback Writers launched the e-book version of the One Word Anthology- as it was the first book to feature any of my stories for sale to the reading public.

(Serena will be talking about this too...)

One Word Anthology in paperback available now

Each author did what publicity they could (Catherine  Dalling and I did a guest spot on BBC Radio Nottingham talking about the book) and the e-book is still getting sales, but quite a few people wanted a paperback version to buy.

After initially thinking that a paperback wouldn't be possible cost-wise, we were delighted when our publisher Alfie Dog Ltd told us they were looking into producing a print copy of the anthology.

And now it's here. The official book launch in cyberspace is tomorrow starting at 11.00 am on Facebook and we hope to have enough time (and people) to spread out onto Twitter and a couple of blog posts too.

You won't be able to obtain it in your local bookshop unfortunately, but you can buy it via our publisher, here, and this link will then take you through to Amazon who will be doing the rest- and delivery is free.

As with the e-book there will be a contribution to our chosen charity, Medical Detection Dogs, who train animals to assist and save lives.

I'm sure you'll remember the adorable Lola in her official red coat...

Lola the life-saver
10% of the profits of the book will go to the charity, and for each copy ordered via the alfiedog.com link our publisher will add a donation too.

(This doesn't apply if you go direct to Amazon.co.uk )

Originally the book was priced at £5.99, but you can currently buy it by parting with £5.65, and knowing that you're also contributing to a very good cause.

And you get a good read too...

Pop back tomorrow for the official launch. You'll be very welcome...

Saturday 15 June 2013

A Busy Month Coming Up...

Variety for the weekend...

My short story entry to the Wells Literary Festival competition is now on its way. :-)

My story really didn't need too much extra work as it was very minor things; changing the placing of a short paragraph here, and on the first page where an issue nagged me, I just rewrote the same sentence in a slightly different way, and it was much better.

A year ago I didn't see those little improvements that could still be made, and perhaps they were the aspects that got the story rejected...

*   *   *

The other exciting news is that the One Word Anthology by the Talkback Writers (of which I'm one- well two, as my pseudonym Serena Lake has stories in there) is shortly coming out in paperback form.

The e-book is still available for 99p from Alfie Dog and other book buying outlets (though there may be slight price differences due to the way the book buying sites work).

The paperback will be £5.99, and 10% of the profit will go to the charity Medical Detection Dogs...

Out soon in paperback
(More news and about the book launch when I have a definite date.)

I better get on with sorting out my author page on Amazon...

It's two weeks to the final day of the Lowdham Book Festival ( 29th June) when Nottingham Writers' Club has a stall promoting the club and members work. So I'll be found on the stall for most of the day.

EXCEPT from just before midday when I and two other club members will be located across the road in The Ship pub to take part in the second Fringe event, reading a selection of our work for 40-45 minutes.

Various groups will be performing throughout the day and into the early evening, so if you're nearby, then do pop in, grab a drink and enjoy the events.

*   *   *

Then on the 3rd July, Nottingham Writers' Club has a ticket event. Novelist and Biographer Miranda Seymour will be discussing 'sleuthing and biography'; and will be talking about her forthcoming book, 'Noble Endeavours: Stories from England and Germany' due to be published in August.

Tickets will be £2.50 on the door to non-members; £1 for members. 
Miranda Seymour
Miranda Seymour

Starting 7pm, 3rd July 2013, at the Nottingham Mechanics, North Sherwood Street, in the city centre.

If you need any further info you can ask for details via the Nottingham Writers' Club contact form, here.

So I have a few busy weeks to come...

Monday 10 June 2013

Entering Competitions...

Well I finished my entry for the Spring prose competition at the writers' club in time. It was written and edited in two days. May not have been as good as it could have been, but considering I wasn't 100% well, it's amazing it was completed at all. And the three things that the story had to contain: the tin of treacle, a bird and the weather, actually didn't turn out to be as difficult as I thought...

I've been considering entering a larger short story competition for a couple of years now, but haven't taken that final step yet.

I know I'm not ready for Bridport prize- and quite honestly I don't think I ever will be - so I decided to just step up a level.

There are lots of writers' groups who run open prose and/or poetry competitions, and others that run with literary festivals.

I've decided to put an entry into the Wells Literary Festival short story competition - I posted the details about it last month.

Yesterday I printed out the entry form and details.

It does have the option to pay and submit online, but for this one I'm going to post it - I think it's a psychological thing - if I put it in an envelope and take it to the post office (and put it in the box)  I'm taking another step, and next time I probably will submit online because it won't have the same significance.

So today I'll be looking over my short story in case there's anything I want to revise, and then making a fresh copy that conforms to the rules - title and page numbering stuff.

Then if I'm happy with it all, it will be fill in the form and the entry fee cheque (£5) and off to the Post Office tomorrow.

But if you're not ready for this stage yet, then I can recommend the competitions run by Erewash Writers Group, you can see the current competitions, here.

I still have a few entries to do for some of the annual competitions that Nottingham Writers' Club runs for members each year. The deadline for these is the end of the month, so I better get on with those too.

Then I will be ready to get back to the final two chapters of the novella- draft 1. :-)

Saturday 1 June 2013

Medicines in History...

Sadly I'm indoors with an oil burner infusing the air around me with Eucalyptus pure essential oil- a couple of the family have had a cold and now it's got me- always happens during half terms when everyone is home and exposure is at the maximum- while they recover I get poor breathing...

As much as I'd have liked to spend time in the 18th/19th century, I really wouldn't want to have lived there forever- I would never have survived the various bugs and germs that were lurking...

There's some info about medicine through the ages, here.

Having blood tests done for valid reasons nowadays is bad enough, but bleeding someone as a general treatment for curing many ills as was done in the past, I can only say thank goodness we've moved on!

And you'll find some of the medical equipment used at the time displayed on Pinterest, here.

The local chemist, near where I grew up, still had the big glass jars in the window, (like the big one filled with blue liquid here) and at the back behind the counter area, the chemist's domain, still had the original polished and labelled wooden draws and counters- must have been a high class pharmacy in it's heyday. Sadly the shop is long gone...

Those old shops really had character...

Tuesday 28 May 2013

In the Mood for Short Stories...

After three days of lovely sunshine and warmth it's back to cool and wet weather- it's also half term so everyone is around and there's the accompanying noise that goes with it, so the novella has gone on hold for a week...

I have a couple of short story ideas that I want to work on - jotting down points and character notes doesn't require quiet (fortunately).

I've got a few months worth of Woman's Weekly Fiction Specials to read too.

But I have a deadline for one story for Wednesday of next week.

At the writers' club we have a quarterly prose competition and the Spring prose deadline is next week.

Now for this story the judge has asked we include 3 things- a tin of treacle, the weather and a bird. I have been pondering these items for the last 10 weeks and coming up with various ideas, but nothing was quite right, until the sunny weather arrived the other day and my brain went into overdrive and began creating a back story for my character...

Having had further thoughts this morning I can see it has potential to be (another) longer story, but I think I can rein this one in and keep it within the maximum length- 2,000 words.

Before I go I just want to put in a mention for Rosemary Gemmell's new novella that is launched today 'The Aphrodite Touch' as Romy Gemmell  and published by Tirgearr Publishing, an Irish independent.

Do pop in to Rosemary's Reading and Writing blog to help her celebrate, and for a chance to win a free e-copy...

Friday 24 May 2013

DC Thomson contract- see Simon Says...

Just wanted to let anyone know that there's a very helpful blog post by writer Simon Whaley who asked the Society of Authors to look at the contract sent him.

It's a long post but you will find it worth the time to read- especially overseas writers who may find specific issues for their circumstances.

'DC Thomson: Me, The Society of Authors, and a DC Thomson Editor.'

Sally Quilford is following up on the Pocket Novel aspects, so look out for her posts...

And there is a post by Sally on the large print issue, here.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

More on the Contract Issue...

Following on from the concerns raised by writers on the new DC Thomson contracts- which I mentioned in my last post- Womag has received a response with clarification from Shirley Blair, who is the fiction editor at People's Friend.

You can read it on Womag's latest post, here.

I don't think it acceptable to re-use a writers work without further payment- unless the fee you're paid initially is increased to reflect that fact.

Interestingly the new contract has a much wider reach:

"Our legal department decided that it was necessary to develop new contributor terms that apply right across our publishing business and are relevant to magazines, newspapers and digital publishing."

So this will effect not only the Scottish newspapers they produce, but also The Weekly News, The People's Friend, My Weekly, Beano, The Official Jacqueline Wilson Mag, teen magazine Shout, and Dandy Extreme, The Scots Magazine, and Animals and You- aimed at the younger market.

There's been an explanation of the Clause 8 concern. But saying there will be an" additional payment" if a collection is done, which suggests it will be a one-off payment and not royalties.

And the Joint Contributions aspect will certainly have a knock-on effect. The large print publishers who print previously published pocket novels (that are often in libraries and earn PLR) will now find they can't just use them as before, because they can only have the writers original, not the edited for publication version...

They will answer questions and concerns about the new contracts, which is good.

But, the new contracts are not negotiable, so if you don't sign it, they won't buy your work.

So it will now be down to individual writers to decide whether they sign the contract and continue to be paid for their work, or they don't sign and lose an income source...

Monday 20 May 2013

Understanding Issues...

Last week went so quickly and I was trying to get so much done that I missed any blog posts.

Plus a trip to the dentist on Friday for root canal work just makes me glad I don't live in the 18th/19th century with the dentistry of the time...

Finally got some more of the novella completed; these last chapters are certainly picking up the pace as the past starts to unfold and there's trouble afoot.

Originally the novella was being written for the pocket novel market, but then changes were made to what was wanted- 20th century onwards.

DC Thomson (who produce the My Weekly Pocket Novels and those by People's Friend) have been a topic for discussion re rights and contracts over the weekend.

Apparently they are sending out new contracts to writers and the new terms have caused a few upsets.

Now I'm a great believer in not giving up your rights, or limiting your rights, unless you are paid an adequate amount to compensate, so I was interested in what the issues involved were.

So let me refer you to Womagwriter's blog post from Friday. Womag has seen an actual contract...

Okay, I've not been in a position to be offered a contract by DCT so I'm not a writer who finds themselves faced with agreeing to such terms or losing a portion of their regular income.

But it does rather seem they want a nice portfolio of stories they can use again and again in assorted media without paying more for it.

And as for that restrictive Clause 8: " In the case of a collection of your contributions where you are the sole or majority author in book form, you commit to offering the Company the right to first refusal to publish any such collection in any format... such an arrangement would be subject to new contractual terms..."

(Now, I am not a lawyer, so this is only my personal opinion of how that clause reads.)

So they can say, yes we want to publish your collection. But if you don't like the contractual terms they're offering, and you can't negotiate on those terms to your satisfaction, then it's goodbye to you publishing your collection yourself, unless they turn down your offer...

Some years ago I read an interview with an author who had been contracted for a second book. The publisher didn't like the second book presented to them, but being bound by the contract she could not offer that book to anyone else...it does sound like it could be a potentially similar scenario...

Writing is a business, and we mustn't lose sight of that fact.
The publisher wants to get the best deal they can, and so does the writer. Sadly the writer is usually the one who loses and ends up doing all the hard work to promote their story/novel for less financial return.

(Is it any wonder that self-publishing to Kindle/Smashwords is thriving?)

We all know that magazines are struggling.

The elusive younger end of the market do everything online (and admittedly not just the young nowadays)- or so it seems. With Smart Phones and iPads, magazines are actively pushing digital subscriptions, as print figures for many magazines drop...

While these are not magazines with short story markets, Bauer have closed 'More' magazine; and 'Full House' is closing too. I've also heard that glossy 'Easy Living' is on the way out...

Could changes in contracts be an advance sign that magazines are trying to build potential collateral that could make the difference between them closing, or being bought out by another publisher?

In the world outside publishing, if a business fails it has more chance of being bought out or taken over if it has an order book/a market; publishing is no different.

But I do worry that if DCT's contract doesn't get revised, then other publishers will start to go that way too, and that won't be good for any writer...

As a last word on rights, you might like to peruse "Authors and book rights – some more truths" - from the futurebook.net website- a digital blog from The Bookseller- it was taking too long to load as a link, so I've just included the name here.

As writers we need to protect our rights, so if you aren't clear on the subject start reading up- there are numerous rights you hold and unless you understand them, you could be signing away a potential source of income.

If you have any thought on this issue, or rights generally, then do please leave a comment.

Monday 13 May 2013

My Workshop Experience- Writing for Children...

First, I must say a big thank you to Ann Evans who ran the workshop for Nottingham Writers' Club on Saturday.

It was only a group of 10, but it did mean we could ask lots of questions as we went along.

Now I don't write for children, but sometimes I do need to have children in my stories- as Sarah, the heroine in my novella is having memory flashes and dreams/nightmares from when she was a child, I'd been finding it very difficult to convey the thoughts and language of a 10-12 year when she's experiencing these moments.

So I was hoping that elements of the workshop would help me get a grip on that.

We began with picture books and worked up...

I learnt that the pages are spreads, so if you open the book and have two pages in front of you, that is a spread.

I'd never really thought about how you would lay out a manuscript for a picture book, but it is nothing like a standard manuscript; it's broken up into stages, so the editor knows what the visual clues are (for the illustrator) and the text for each page...

The language use and sentence construction needed for the younger age range proved that it is as hard work as a longer length work.

There was discussion on the skills needed for producing stories suitable for older children who have a lower reading ability. The exciting stories required by their age, but the text not being as complex as you'd usually get. These are referred to as Hi-lo stories.

Writing for young adults did seem to be popular- and it is an expanding market...

There were exercises to do and it was the last set that gave me the breakthrough with Sarah.
We did bullet points about our character- character traits and so on. But we had to include their aim- either for the day or their life, and the thing they fear.

Now Sarah fears storms, so that was easy enough. But as I slowly began to tune into Sarah as a child, I recalled my own care-free childhood around the same age, and like most children wanted to grow-up to be like my mum.
In the past life wasn't as complex as today, so our parents were our role models, who we aspired to be like, so I'm sure Sarah would have felt the same...

As the exercise progressed I found there was a depth to Sarah I hadn't been aware of, and in doing so I discovered why she is so concerned about an aspect of her friends lives in the present.

I will certainly be doing this again, with one of my secondary characters who is a bit two-dimensional at the moment. I haven't quite found the key to him...

We had a variety of discussions, including age ranges and book lengths. Nothing seems hard and fast with lengths, as a publisher may have specific requirements for a particular country/market.

So generally: Ann suggested; picture books approximately 300 words.

4-5 year old- books with line drawings, 1,800-2,000 words or less. At this point parents will be reading the book to their child/children, and then the children will eventually be able to read the book themselves.

7-9 years old- 12,000-25,000 as an average.

9-12 years old- 25,000-60,000.

But clearly every child is different. Consider how many younger age range children were reading Harry Potter tomes- each book seemed to get thicker with a larger word count than the previous one...

While I may never write books for children, I'm not going to forget that the back story of each of my main characters includes their childhood influences and experiences.

After all our childhood is a part of who we become later...