Wednesday 31 December 2014

Happy New Year!!!

While I haven't been writing my brain has been providing scenes for three of my longer works. All I can say is thank goodness for notebooks and pens...

Among my Christmas presents I had a couple very suitable for a writer; a lovely small paperblanks lined notebook- a Blue Cats and Butterflies design, and very elegant, which will be perfect for putting in my handbag when I go out in the evenings (I have different sized notebooks for different handbags :D).

Also a book, 'How to Be a Victorian' by Ruth Goodman (the historian from the BBC Victorian Farm, the Edwardian, and Tudor versions too).

My 1st. January tradition is to watch the New Year's Day Concert from Vienna on TV. It's usually on the radio too, but you don't see the dancers in their beautiful costumes as you do on television. The music certainly conjures up images of the past...

Well that's it until next week when normal blogging resumes.

Meanwhile I wish you all a happy and successful 2015.

Image courtesy of krishna arts/

Friday 19 December 2014

Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year...

My last post before Christmas is finally here.

I've still got things to do before Thursday- as usual- and there's never enough time to do everything of course, but I'll somehow manage most of it.

My son returns from university this weekend, so I'm back to cooking for the full complement of six...

I've booked my first writing related event of 2015. The Writers' Conference at the University of Nottingham is very local for me, and I've wanted to go in earlier years, but never got there; so when I received the email with the details I decided to buy my ticket straight away.

Enjoy yourselves over the holidays and I'll see you in 2015...

Christmas photo: Christmas Merry-Christmas.gif

Image courtesy of HDcafe68 from

Thursday 11 December 2014

The Review of 2014...

I find it helpful to look back at what I have, and haven't, achieved with my writing life during the year.

I start out with a general plan for the coming year; but I have learnt over the years that it's better to set myself realistic targets and accept that some will be achieved, while others won't be.

Sometimes other unexpected opportunities come along and if they can be done, then I'll do them, but there's no point taking on more things if it will only derail my main objective.

So starting with my objectives for 2014:
A new timetable for my writing routine; exhibitions I wanted to visit and revising the novella.

I've certainly found a writing routine that suits me, and my sometimes disrupted life. The novella got temporarily put to one side, though the revision process was started, but needed more time away from it. My baddie needed some thinking about. Plus there's been all the admin work that being on the committee of the writers' club generates...

Here's 2014:

January- I received (the belated) Writer of the Year trophy at Nottingham Writers' Club. Was one of the initial readers for the club's National Short Story Competition.

February- I completed the first draft of the novella.(Where has time gone!)

March- Tidying up some short stories.

April- Trip to Bath booked, and I bought my new camera- any photo on my blog now, unless credited to someone else, has been taken with this camera.(It's given me some good pictures to remind me of places needed for research.)

May- This was a busy month. I still hadn't started my entry for the Mary Street trophy at the writers' club; took photos of the May speaker (Gail Simmons) for the club magazine-one of them was later requested by the writer for her to use with name credit. Went off for my weekend in Bath- took lots of photos, and that weekend resulted in 3 blog posts with pictures.This trip was partially a research trip as well as a break.

June- Lowdham Book Festival month. I've been attending the last day of the festival for nearly 10 years now.
I created a name banner for the stall for the writers' club, set up and spent the day on the stall. (It's also a good way to learn how to present yourself and watch how writers promote and sell their books.) After abandoning my romance novel entry I started another one.

July- I was among a large group of readers and writers in Nottingham who took part in a Reading Flashmob in the city centre one sunny Saturday lunchtime. My synopsis and 3 chapters for the romance novel competition entry was finally handed in.

August- Received the news that my very short story 'A Tight Squeeze', which was published on the Café Lit site in August 2013, had been chosen to be included in the Best of Café Lit 3.

September- Writing as and when I could, around getting one of my sons off to University.

October- Been blogging for 4 years this month.

November- Continuing the first draft of my contemporary romance.

December- Results of the Mary Street Memorial Shield for a Romance Novel announced at Awards Night, and my entry was the winner. Mislaid trophy to be presented in January 2015.

In some ways it doesn't seem that I've done much writing, but when I look at how much I have written in between those events, 26,043 words to date, that's actually 3,000 more words than 2013. It's at least a positive, but I need to be writing more.

March and April are the two months I need to work on in 2015.

Targets for 2015:
Complete the contemporary romance, revise and eventually submit it. Then hopefully by this time next year I'll be back to the historical romance novella and into the 2nd draft. If anything else pops up that fits in, I'll consider it.

As it's now only 14 days until Christmas Day, I'll be moving to a once a week post until the end of the year. I still have cards to write and send, and presents to buy. I'm determined to not be rushing around doing everything in the last few days as I have the past three years.

Normal blogging routine will return in January...

Thursday 4 December 2014

Winning is Great...

Now that Awards Night is over I can finally reveal that I won the Nottingham Writers' Club, Mary Street Memorial Shield for Romance Writing for 2014.

The Mary Street Shield is a bi-annual award that alternates with the Gwladys Bungay Rose Bowl for a Novel (any genre/subject); both require a synopsis and the first three chapters.

(The latter of the two ladies was published by Mills and Boon as Gwladys Duke in the 1960's.)

My winning story is actually a contemporary romance for a change- and my current work in progress.

The synopsis and first three chapters were written in just over six weeks, after my intended entry just wasn't working and it got temporarily shelved.

The contemporary idea had been lurking in my brain for some time, inspired by a book purchase, the cover instantly created a visual image in my mind, my heroine Felicity is stood looking up at a painting, and she's wearing an identical outfit to the woman in the portrait- and that moment eventually turns up in chapter four.

This competition was judged by Suzanne Ross Jones, who also writes as Suzanna Ross, and has had five My Weekly Pocket Novels published, (four now on Kindle), and lots of other published stories.

I'll admit now, there were a few minor points that would need a little work, but I agree with Suzanne's remarks regarding them.

Here's a bit of the feedback:

"I adore stories about writers and about libraries - and this has the best of both of those subjects. This is a traditional romantic set up and you've met my expectations of the genre with characters and situation. The writing is polished and assured and I was thoroughly entertained as I read the three chapters."

Now I have to admit that my hero is a little bit older than you usually get in romances, he's forty, but an attractive forty; Felicity is a thirty-two year old librarian, and has recently been made redundant from her job. Life is about to change for both of them...

"I was actually quite sad when I got to the end of chapter 3 - this is the sort of book that I'd like to read through at one sitting."

Now normally I'd have a picture of me with the trophy, but the shield got left behind when the other trophies were transported to the venue earlier in the day. It was only realised when we collected the silverware from the locked cupboard. So I'll be getting the actual shield in the New Year.

As it was also the Christmas party I dressed up in a seasonal colour.

NWC Awards Night 2014

And if you wondered what the book was that inspired the story, and the item that appears in it, well it's this...

Inspiration for my
winning story

I'm not going to tell you more, you'll just have to wait until I finish writing it, and it gets published. But this is the priority project for early 2015...

Monday 1 December 2014

Mills & Boon Romance Writing Masterclass News...

Interesting email received today from Mills and Boon; they've announced that in January 2015 they will be holding their first Romance Writing Masterclass, at Paradise Heights in Richmond.

It's an " intense one day workshop" being held on Saturday, January 24th 2015.

Places are limited, but tickets go on sale next week- no idea of cost.

You're asked to email Author Lab, details on this page.

It looks like a long, hard working day.

Described as, "designed to take you from zero to sixty in your romance writing skills." Those attending will leave with "a clear understanding of the romantic fiction market and an idea of the next steps to take in the writing process."

(This doesn't sound like it's aimed at those who have been developing their romance writing skills for some time already...)

There will be a Mills and Boon guest author- presumably they will be revealed when the details are sent out.

The course will be run by Harlequin's senior editorial team, as well as the guest author.

And to finish it off there will be a drinks reception at the end of the day, and the "chance to sign up for our mentoring program."

This could be a costly day when you put travelling onto the potential ticket cost, and depending on how far you have to travel from, overnight accommodation might need to be added into the total.

There could be some cost to the mentoring program - if you look at how other mainstream publishers have been moving into the mentoring sector in the past year or two.

Perhaps M&B are looking to expand further into the romance market, and they see this as a way of nurturing what they want next; or maybe it's the start of a big future change...

Sunday 23 November 2014

Workshops and Festivals in 2015...

As I missed this year's Festival of Romance in September- it was the same weekend as my son was moving into halls at university- I was hoping that I'll be able to attend next year.

Well the dates and location have been announced.

6th to the 8th November 2015 at Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire.

I spent many summers there going to the theatre- a whole week to visit places during the day, and in the audience at the RSC performances in the evening.

It's been a very long time since I last visited...

You can keep a watch for future details on the Festival of Romance website, here.

2015's date is in my diary already. :D

*   *   *

If you're in the UK and within travelling distance of London, then you might be interested in the dates for the Women's Weekly fiction workshops being held in 2015.

I know a number of writers who have attended them and enjoyed the day- they always fill up quickly, so if you're interested get booking.

Each one day workshop costs £75, and starts with coffee and biscuits at 10 am and finishes at 4.30 pm, with an hour for lunch. 

It's held at the Blue Fin Building, in London, which readers may recognise from the magazine address.


Serial writing is running: February 9, April 20, July 3, and October 9.

Short Story: March 2, August 24, October 5, and November 9.

Crime Writing: March 23, October 2.

Twist in the Tail Short Story: April 13, September 7.

You can find out more details by clicking on the workshop date you're interested in, here. You can also book your place and pay online there too.

I'd like to go to one of the short story workshops, but then I'd also be interested in attending one of the serial writing sessions too.

Choices, choices...

Thursday 20 November 2014

Openings to Stories...

Wednesday night at the writers' club I was in charge of the evening; it was a 'Discuss and Read' session.

This month's topic was openings- whether a novel or a short story- and the idea was to bring in a book where the start grabbed you and made you want to find out more...

Writing the opening of a story?
I took along the latest issue of the Woman's Weekly Fiction Special as there were a few interesting opening paragraphs that immediately made you want to read on- well a few of the older men didn't find them intriguing, but they weren't the target market of the magazine! :D

It was interesting to compare the openings of 'The 39 Steps' by John Buchan, written as a serial in the summer of 1915 before being published as a book a few months later, and Michael Frayn's, 'Towards the End of Morning' originally published in 1967.

Both these books didn't follow the grab your reader in quite the way it would be now. They were a more subtle winding of tendrils around the reader, luring them in out of curiosity rather than an outright, yes I want to know more now reaction.

 I had that, I want to know more now reaction to a modern sci-fi/fantasy type opening read by one of the members- when I can get in touch with her and find out the title and author, I'll let you know.

Like the other two, the opening was centred around the thoughts of the viewpoint character, but in this case you knew something was going to happen to this one any moment, and it wouldn't be good.

Obviously the writing style of those 20th century written novels were different to the current demands. Novel lengths were shorter, and long paragraphs weren't frowned upon because that was the norm.

Openings are never easy, and I do wonder whether these earlier writers went through the same indecision with the start of their novels, that writers nowadays often experience.

Personally I couldn't narrow down my choice of openings that have stayed with me, from all the novels I've read...

Do you have a favourite opening to a novel that has stayed with you?

Image courtesy of Nuttapong via

Monday 17 November 2014

It's National Short Story Week...

The 17th to 23rd November is National Short Story Week in the UK.

After years of decline the short story has had a resurgence, and the organisation behind this week, works hard to encourage and promote short stories, as do the organisations that support it.

Collections of short stories are becoming very popular, as they can be turned into an e-book, or find a home with a small publisher like Alfie Dog Fiction.

Many of my blogger friends (Patsy Collins, Rosemary Gemmell and Teresa Ashby to name just a few) have had lots of stories published, and they are now giving them another outing in collections.

If you pop over to Sue Moorcroft writes you'll be able to find out more about Wendy Clarke and her new short story collection, "Room in Your Heart". Wendy's name will be recognisable to anyone who has read The People's Friend magazine.

Do you remember a few months back, I was going to try and get an entry done for The Historic House Association Short Story Competition?

In the end I didn't have time, but you can find out who won, the names of the runners-up, and also those who were shortlisted and highly commended, via the National Short Story Week website, here.

Writing short stories are a good way to learn the skills you need to eventually write serials and even  novels. While the parameters are larger in a novel, the same skills in dialogue, narrative and characterisation are needed.

The wonderful thing about short stories is that you can read them anywhere, whether you have five or ten minutes, or an hour...

Long live the short story...

Thursday 13 November 2014

It's November So It's Bad Sex in Fiction Time...

I admit, I do enjoy reading about the shortlisted entries for the annual Bad Sex in Fiction award-the winner is announced 3rd December.

Some years the entries get more publicity than others, and I suspect 2014 might get more than usual as there are a few well known names among them: Kirsty Wark, Wilbur Smith and Michael Cunningham.

You can read the shortlisted entries in this Guardian article. You can even take part in their own vote on who you think should win.

If you have missed this before now, the Literary Review's purpose for the award- in it's 22nd year- is to bring attention to, "poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them."

Now admittedly, these extracts are only a small part of the book- I've just had to rewrite that sentence, as my original words sounded like a deliberate double entendre... :D

This year's nominees include Man Booker Prize winners, current and past; and a former winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Fortunately these high tokens of literary esteem don't take bad sex scenes into account in the judging process.

Having read through each extract in this Guardian article I went from thinking that Kirsty Wark's wasn't that bad, but as I read the rest it quickly became: good grief, that's really bad- and the really bad ones- five in my opinion.

My nominations for possible winners: 'From 'DD-MM-YY' In Things to Make and Break', by May-Lan Tan, and 'The Hormone Factory', by Saskia Goldschmidt.

You can find out more on the Literary Review webpage here.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Learning from Feedback...

Finally had time to grab a moment to blog.

November is always a busy month with family birthdays, organising for Christmas, and the run up to Awards Night and Christmas Party at the writers' club.

I took on the role of Prose Secretary around this time last year just as a stop-gap, but I decided to carry on with the job, as next April I complete my three year stint as Chairman and have to hand over to whomever is standing for election to the role.

Occasionally I also get an opportunity to judge a competition- which I've just done.

Feedback is a vital tool in enabling writers to improve, and it was while I was typing up my notes that I realised how much I've learnt, not just from reading and writing, but from the generosity of other writers giving their time and experience- whether as a competition judge, during workshops, or even informative blog/website posts.

When I think back to my manuscripts 12 years ago, I can now see how much I've learnt- and still continue to learn of course.

I don't think we can ever have a total disconnection from our stories and characters, having lived with them so closely during the writing process. So a competition judge will be reading our work with a fresh perspective and will pick up the faults we might have missed. Because we know that's what our characters are thinking, it's easy to miss getting that over to our readers...

So in just under a month I'll be handing back a number of manuscripts from the club's annual competitions- ghost stories, romance, radio, and this year's non-fiction, article writing- and the first thing the majority of the writers will do is read the comments.

Admittedly we don't need to follow the judge's feedback completely, as there's bound to be things that we don't agree with- I was devastated one year when a judge said that one of my character's who was dead was the most interesting, and then the next judge who read it liked it, and awarded it first place.

My current work in progress was entered in this year's bi-annual Romance Novel competition, so the judge's comments on the synopsis and first 3 chapters will be very helpful when I get to the revision stages.

I'll tell you how my entry got on after the December 3rd evening...

Meanwhile there's still a lot to do, and writing to get on with. :-)

Thursday 30 October 2014

Autumn Colour...

My assumption that I would be back to normal in a few more days has proved to be over-optimistic, as my ability to concentrate is still short term, so I'm holding off on my planned post- probably until next week.

In the meantime I thought I'd share a few autumn views. Even these simple images inspire ideas in my brain...

You may have seen my butterfly pictures from previous summers, so as soon as the Buddleia bush is trimmed back-to avoid fence damage in autumn high winds- I can enjoy the view of the Cotoneaster with its ripening berries, and the arrival of Blackbirds to gobble their way down the stems- between now and next spring.

Cotoneaster berries- inspiring story ideas...
In the Summer this bush gets swamped by the long branches of the Buddleia bush next to it.

This wasn't planted by us, but was seeded by the birds from droppings many years ago.

A few weeks ago the berries were at the
orange stage.

The Ivy has to be trimmed regularly, but it looks wonderful in the snow...

Ivy growing around the Buddleia
And the reminder that winter is on the way, but spring will return...

Last roses of the year...

Saturday 25 October 2014


I'm now getting back to normal- slowly admittedly- but I'm catching up.

This past week has been awful- I had an infection under a back molar that was extremely painful, and caused my face to swell up from cheek to jaw. And not helped by lost sleep...

Certainly made me realise how dreadful, and deadly, toothache would have been hundreds of years ago- no strong antibiotics.

I did try writing one day, but after 300+ words I gave up. There's probably 100 usable ones among those 300+.

Now it's back to all the other writing related projects that have been on hold, and as a few have imminent deadlines I' won't post until Wednesday/Thursday, rather than my usual Sunday.

I have an idea for this next post, but I need to speak to a few other writers first...

Hope the remainder of your weekend is problem-free.

Sunday 19 October 2014

What Has Happened to Historical Romance Novels?

In the 30+ years I've been reading historical romance novels, there has been a lot of change.

But...I don't believe the change has been as wide-ranging in the UK as it has been in the US over that time.

If you're in the UK and not familiar with the US romance market, then you might find this Huff Post Books article 'What Happened to the Historical Romance Novel?' by author Maya Rodale an interesting read - although it is long- but it will help to read it all.

I do buy and read contemporary romances, but if you looked in my bookcases you'd notice that at least 75% of the contents are historical.

Once I'd moved beyond Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer I wanted more, but the choice was limited. They never seemed to have enough time to develop the sub-plots, and even the main story line seemed to be limited to a certain level of intensity- because anything more wouldn't have fitted the pre-set length the publisher required; and of course everything stopped at the bedroom door...

For some years I was able to get my historical romance fix by getting imported US editions from Waterstones or second hand copies from a book stall, whenever I came across them.

Then for a while it picked up. Some of my favourite authors began to have their latest books in a UK edition- usually with a completely different cover, much more artistic and restrained.

With the emergence of Kindle and e-books, readers now have instant access to any type of romance novel they might want, and the wider author base means even more books to choose from.

I've got no problem if an historical romance author writes a traditional no-sex romance, as their characters might be the 'wait until we're married' type; I've read a number like that, and it would have been quite out of place for those characters to have done anything different.

These traditional style stories haven't been any less enjoyable, or lacked depth and intensity.

I certainly noticed more sex scenes in novels (by a few of my favourite authors) a couple of years ago, but that trend seems to have reversed and they've returned to how they were before with one or two such scenes being the norm. Perhaps that was more to do with the 50 Shades of Grey effect...

Personally I think historical romances published in the UK have adapted slightly, but they're a long way from their American cousins. Whether that's good or bad is for each author/reader to decide...

There are now a lot of smaller publishers printing romance novels too...

Contemporary romance heroines certainly don't have the issues that their historical sisters have to deal with...

Whatever your preference, the good news is that romance is thriving, so that's good for every writer, and for their readers.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Dialogue & Dialects...

Last week at Nottingham Writers' Club we had a mini-workshop on dialogue.

Now dialogue has never given me issues, description yes, but not dialogue. But we all have areas of difficulty in our writing, and it doesn't mean we won't improve if we work at it.

For those who may not know, dialogue can be used to display character, provide information, but it must help move the story along...

When I was a teenager and started writing, my stories were dialogue heavy- emphasis on heavy. :D

I was fortunate to be exposed to different accents as a child; visits to my Somerset or London relatives, and regular trips to Lewisham market with different cultures emerging (in the 1960's).

Television and Radio no longer restricts what we hear to 'received pronunciation' (old style BBC English), and with regional BBC programmes you'll hear a wider range of accents. Actors no longer have to lose their natural accents to guarantee employment either.

Consider how many programmes have used regional accents/dialects and been successful: 'When the Boat Comes In', 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet', and 'Rebus' among them.

But what about dialect in books?

There was a recent article in The Guardian online, 'A Difficulty with Dialect' by author Debbie Taylor. She wrote a book called 'Herring Girl' and was advised to get rid of the dialect before submitting- she said she went for the "dialect lite"option. She regretted how much she'd taken out when she read it out to an audience at a launch party.

At our workshop some of the attendees didn't favour limiting dialect. As an experiment one member spoke in his natural dialect, and while some understood, or were able to make a reasonable guess at what he said, others couldn't. But we all agreed that it was easier to listen to, but probably wouldn't have been if we'd been reading it.

Personally, I prefer the occasional word or phrase that the reader might associate with a particular accent, and paying attention to whether a slightly different sentence construction is characteristic of the natural speech.

There are resources available if you want to hear how people from different parts of the country sound. Here's a few:

British Library- Sounds Familiar?

The International Dialects of English Archive.

The BBC-Voices.

(These will also help with social history too.)

Even though I've lived in the East Midlands for nearly thirty years I still have my southern twang- long sounding a's in words such as glass and bath being the most noticeable. :-)

So what are your thoughts on dialogue, accents and dialect?


Wednesday 8 October 2014

A Couple of Competitions for You...

In the last few days I've received notification of a couple of competitions: the Words with Jam 'Bigger Short Story Competition', and another running with that has a great prize for the winner- 12 months coaching with Chris Wellbelove of Greene & Heaton literary agency. Fiction Competition

The winner will receive 12 months coaching, which includes four face to face meetings, and interim reports by email. If the winner doesn't live in London, it can be done by Skype.

There will be ten shortlisted entries which will be assessed by an expert panel of judges (from Shortlist, and Greene & Heaton) and published online.

So here's the basic stuff.

You must be U.K resident and over 18.

Send the opening 500-1,000 words of your novel to and it must be 'written and formatted on a Word document only'. Entry is online only.

Closing date 5th December 2014.

Do make sure you read the rules completely.

*   *   *

Words with Jam: Bigger Short Story Competition 2014

This has 3 categories.

Short story up to 2500 words on any theme; shorter story up to 1,000 words, and the shortest story category for up to 250 words.

Closing date is the 31st October- the end of this month.

There's cash for 1st-3rd place winners in each category, and 5 runners-up in each category receive £10 and will be published in their anthology- and receive a copy.

The judges for the respective categories are: Emma Darwin, Sam Jordison, and Debbie Young.

Entry fees: First story submitted £6, and £4 per story from then on- whatever the category is. Can be paid by Paypal or cheque.

You must be 16 and over to enter.

Full details can be read here, and ensure you follow the instructions.

No one wants to pay an entry fee and then realise their story won't be considered because they didn't follow the instructions precisely. :(

If you enter any of these competitions, good luck. :-)

Monday 6 October 2014

Book Formats- Any Preference?

Books have been around for a long time, and I think we'll still have them in one form or another for a long time to come.

Yet every reader will have a preference: hardback, paperback, audio or e-book. Maybe even a mixture of them all.

Book reading and buying has undergone massive changes, and no doubt there will be more in the future.

The history of reading still visible - above a modern store
in Milsom Street, Bath, Somerset
Different formats co-exist and the reader can choose them all, if they want to.

Perhaps the more forms of technology we have the more our book purchases get diluted (as far as the various gathered statistics are concerned); so maybe the decline in purchases in one format or other is due to what the data covers.

Before the arrival of e-books it was a simple choice: hardback or paperback?

While audio books existed in some form they weren't covering mainstream fiction until the late 1980's. I still have (somewhere) cassette tapes of poetry from the 1970's...

Audio books have continued to develop in the background while the 'battle' between paper and e-books has developed.
I've noticed there are less abridged versions available now- books that were abridged was the main aspect that put me off buying audio fiction in the past.

A recent survey by Nielsen's claims that paperback/hardback sales outsold e-books in the first half of 2014.

As this appeared on the Publishers Weekly website at the end of last month, I'm assuming this is sales in the US market. But it could be an indicator of the future situation in the UK in 12-18 months- only time and the book buying public can decide.

(And of course it doesn't cover self-published work which continues to grow.)

You can read the start of the Publishers Weekly article here.

Book buying is a very personal thing.

Whilst I buy quite a few e-books now, I do still buy paperbacks (my favourite authors) and the occasional hardback. I'll even admit to having bought a paperback copy of a few books after reading the e-books- though they tend to be reference books.

Space is a major issue. Homes are smaller, and I'm sure we'd all love to turn one room into our own personal library, but that just isn't possible for most readers. So we either buy e-books and limit solid copies to favourites (whatever your criteria of choice) or find other storage solutions.

 Many give books away when they've finished with them- go into any charity shop in the UK and you'll find lots of paperbacks for sale...

The most important thing is that readers are still buying books, and while people want books they'll need writers to write them.

So are you a digital convert, or a paper book stalwart? Or like me, a mixture of the two?

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Four Years Have Gone By...

A couple of days ago I realised that I'd been blogging four years- where has that time gone?

Persuaded by writer friends that I should try writing a blog- and if I didn't like it I could always delete it- it was with a big amount of trepidation that in September 2010, I set up Carol's Corner.

The appearance of my blog has undergone a few changes, and I'm going to be looking at adjusting a few minor things soon, but my blog will continue to be a mixed bag: my writing and research, my travels, along with book related news, and competitions of course.

I won't be changing the wallpaper either as I really like it. :D

Over the years my writing life has undergone a number of changes too.

Quite a few of my writing plans got disrupted by the accident I had just over three years ago, and it has resulted in my slowing down and re-evaluating how I'm going to handle my work-load in future.

I'm not going to say I'd never try for a publishing contract, but for the moment self-publishing is going to be my likely course.

I know it's a lot of work, but at least I'm in control and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I get a little bit edgy when I see stuff going wrong, but I can't do anything about it.

So, in these past four years:

  • I've won a couple of the annual competitions at the writers' club; most importantly the Romance Novel trophy, and in January this year, the Writer of the Year trophy to add to earlier successes: the Manuscript of the Year (a 250 word story voted by the audience on the competition night) and The Little Moe trophy for a Drama.

  • Four of my very short stories- 200 words each- originally written for the One Word Challenge competition on the Writers Online,Talkback forum- were published by small publisher Alfie Dog Fiction, in the 'One Word Anthology' as both an e-book, and a paperback via Amazon's Createspace.

  • I launched the existence of my pseudonym, Serena Lake.

  • I've read some of my short stories and flash fiction in front of the public at the Lowdham Book Festival's 'Fringe at The Ship' event.

  • A few months ago I heard that my short, 'A Tight Squeeze', will be in 'The Best of Cafe Lit 2014'.

  • I have the first draft of my historical romance novella completed.

  • A synopsis and first three chapters for my Dorset novel.

  • And the current WIP which is a contemporary romance, which I will eventually self publish.

  • Numerous other ideas, characters and notes for further stories.

  • I've found what works for me- at the moment.

  • I've been Chairman of my local writers' club- my three year term finishes in April 2015.

Best of all I've made new friendships both personally and professionally- thank you all. :)

So what are my plans for the rest of  2014 and into 2015?

'Just keep writing' is going to be my motto.

I've found life tends to throw curve-balls when I make too definite plans, so I'm going to be flexible and take up the challenges as they approach, and aim for getting one of my projects published sometime next year...

I hope you'll continue to pop in and read my posts- I'm certainly intending to read more blog posts by others too.

So do continue to leave comments as it's good to know you're there.

Meanwhile, full steam ahead... :D

Thursday 25 September 2014

Contemporary or Historical Romance?

Over the years I've read a lot of contemporary romance fiction as well as historical romances. Though I never thought I would actually try writing a contemporary romance, I am persisting.

My ideas always present themselves in an historical context, and the majority of them would not work in a contemporary setting, but with the current story it was the reverse.

Meanwhile my historical novella is sitting in first draft form waiting for me to continue the revision notes, while I continue with this contemporary romance.

Set aside the fact that they are about a couple falling in love whichever type you write; my experiences have certainly highlighted the differences.

Writing about the past you have a lot of aspects to absorb, and keep in mind.

I find I have to cut out the outside world completely to get my head into my characters in the past. It truly is going 'into the zone'. So much so that the phone ringing, or letters being put through the postbox are alarming; as my brain can't work fast enough to adjust and put me back into the present with all the normal everyday sounds.

Writing about the past you have to take into account the way society- generally- worked. The limitations and risks women faced. Manners and dress codes were more defined, and preparing and cooking food was time-consuming. Even war and politics played a part.

Yes, we still have the war and politics today, the main difference is technology and that we're part of a global community too, compared to the past when today's allies were once the enemy, and Britain 'ruled the waves'.

The internet has made a lot of research material available, which is good for both writers of historical and contemporary romance.

So what advantages are there to writing contemporary romances?

Our heroines are no longer limited to pre-defined roles in life. If you want her to be an Engineer, or a Detective she can be, and you may even know one or two personally; or at least know how to find out more about their jobs from your research.

Women have jobs, they own their own homes, have their own money and control their own lives- generally. 

We are living in the now so we have a lot of influences, but we also have a lot of accrued knowledge that we can use while we write. Our only limitation is our imaginations- and what publishers and readers want. :)

While the last fifty years is history, personally I consider it a midway point. I was a child in the 60's, but I can still remember aspects of it. Some memories can be triggered by a simple comment on Facebook, or by an object that was very familiar.

If you want to write a story set in the latter half of the 20th century then you can ask questions of people who lived through those times, and there's a lot of documentary evidence from television. 

Digital channels will often be re-running shows and dramas written and filmed in the 70's and 80's. Just like today the cars, the looks and clothes influenced the young men and women of the time, and can be a useful reference point.

Social documentaries were the reality shows of their day.

When the original series of Charley's Angels came out, many young women went for Farrah Fawcett Majors' distinctive hairstyle in the mid to late 1970's.

If you write about now, you don't have to concentrate to the same degree on the attitudes and morality of your characters.

To say it's not important would be wrong, because it does matter to both the reader and the writer. But the boundaries are no longer as tight as they once were, a hundred years ago.

Even though some aspects of modern life may not sit comfortably with every reader, as writers we each decide what aspects of life, as it concerns our characters, to use.

Life today, like life in the past, is certainly not roses all the way.

Comparing writing a romance set in the past, and one set now, I'd say contemporary has the edge on how long it takes to write, but writing an historical romance has something else.

When I attended the talk by Lindsey Davis at The Pump Room in Bath, during my trip in May, she said, "writing about the past has levels to it." I'd agree with that-whether you're writing crime, romance or a straight historical.

I'm enjoying the freedoms of writing for the now, but I appreciate the depths of the past...

Saturday 20 September 2014

Getting Back into Routine...

Normal service resumes from today...

Last weekend was very busy with shopping for last-minute items, and helping my son pack up everything he needed to take with him to university.

Sunday was a very emotional day. Friends had warned me I would cry, but I'd promised myself I'd try not to, but that was a fail on my part. I did shed a few tears, and for a good few hours felt like a piece of my chest was missing.

All is well and he starts lectures on Monday. He's not burnt anything yet, or set the fire alarms off- though a few have already this past week- including one at about 4 am.

So now I'm getting back to my current work in progress, and discovering more about my characters as I write. I've realised my heroine isn't as subdued as I thought she was at the start; and my hero has a cheeky side to his character I didn't know about...

Wednesday evening (17th) I did a session at the writers' club on Manuscript Presentation. It was only meant to be about 40 minutes (with time for manuscript reading in the second half) but every aspect generated discussion, and while it was good that everyone could share their experiences, it took up the whole meeting.

To show how important it was to really read every word and line looking for errors before sending, I gave everyone a brief exercise.

I used the first 153 words of Pride and Prejudice printed out with the punctuation and sentence structure that Jane Austen would have been familiar with. It's an opening most people will recognise.

The one thing I didn't do was remove any commas, as they can be tricky. Austen's language is much more formal and drawn out than nowadays, so I was sure we would have all disagreed on where any removed commas should have gone. So I limited it to creating spelling errors, missing words and general punctuation errors.

Some attendees were finished quite quickly, while others took longer. When it appeared everyone was done we went through line by line, with the victims  volunteers saying what errors they had found.

There were only 7 to find, and while many did find them all, others missed 1 or 2. So it was a good exercise to finish with.

I have great respect for all those writers who regularly do workshops and talks, as it takes a lot of thought and preparation time before the event even takes place.

Honestly, those first ten minutes were scary, but I was fine after that... :)

Sunday 31 August 2014

Making Progress...

Have just finished the first draft of Chapter 4.

It was just the end of the scene which has been swirling around in my head each night as I'm going to sleep, and the fact I haven't been able to finish it (until today) was irritating me.

I think having had to write the synopsis for the Mary Street competition entry, to go with the first three chapters, has got my brain working in the background, building on those ideas, so chapter 4 was nearer my normal 3,000 words per chapter.

I've also discovered, that by having the image board by my desk, my brain never completely switches the story off, so even when I've not been able to get back to the story for a week, having the visuals close by has made it easier to pick up where I left off at my last writing session.

Looking back, the last couple of years have been a big learning experience.

I've found what works best for me and my life, so I'm making progress...

Making progress...

Image courtesy of artur84/

Saturday 23 August 2014

A Small Success...

All is going okay at the moment on the 'getting son ready to go off to university'.

I've managed to grab a couple of hours writing today, and chapter four (draft 1) is almost finished.

Friday (yesterday) was a good day, as I received an email with some good news.

You may remember that last August I had a 200+ word story on the Cafe Lit website, called 'A Tight Squeeze'.

Well my story will be appearing in the Best of Cafe Lit 2013. I will be joining fellow blogging writers, Patsy Collins, and Helen Laycock, who also made the cut.

The full list is here so see if you recognise any of the other names.

Considering there was a year's worth of stories to choose from, I was pleasantly surprised that I made it into the best of list - 29 writers.

Small steps, I know, but it's a good way to begin the autumn... :)

Saturday 16 August 2014

Short Break and University...

I'm going to be busy for the next week or two, so there may not be many blog posts-if any.

One of my triplets got the results he needed to go to University next month, so we're going to be helping him prepare for the move from home.

Meanwhile I'm still writing as and when I can, so keep a watch of my writing totals to see my progress - just added 735 words to chapter 4 before my writing session was disrupted this afternoon.

Sadly no holiday away from home this year because there's so much going on.

But as soon as this slightly chaotic period is over, I'll get back into routine.

In the meantime have fun.

Sunday 10 August 2014

The Image Board Works!

That cork board for pinning images has been really worthwhile.

Since last weekend additional pictures have been added - bearing in mind the senses I know what cologne my hero wears and there's a picture of the bottle on the board now.

I also didn't have a title I was happy with when I  bought it, but three days later the new title jumped into my conscious, and a quick check on existing book titles on Amazon didn't show a book with that exact title. It also fitted the plot perfectly.

Sadly it will be a few months before I can reveal the new title, as my first three chapters and synopsis have gone off for submitting to the judge.

The first three chapters went through intense rewriting, and I needed to take bits of chapter 4 and make them part of chapter 3, which in turn created a better, but new, Chapter 3 ending. Then it was minor tinkering, changing a word here, a sentence there, or cutting a complete paragraph.

No doubt by the time I finish the complete first draft there will be more ideas I need to include early on, but I'm going to get on with it while my brain is co-operating.

I will certainly be carrying on using the image board with my other stories in future too, as they just made the connections between characters and ideas easier to include or discard.

Also I've realised that for me, writing a little and often soon builds up, and may actually work better for my sometimes hectic family life...

Working hard...

Image courtesy of supakitmod/

Sunday 3 August 2014

Using Image Boards...

As I have a number of stories in various stages of development and/or writing, I also have a lot of images in folders, and my mind.

A couple of days ago I got really fed up of having no room for the images for my Mary Street competition entry; at the end of every writing session they had to go back in the folder, and that cut the connection with the story and the characters. Plus there were numerous bits of paper slipping off my desk!

It's never been a problem with my historical based stories as I know the plots and the important images are set in my mind. But this competition entry is being created as I write, so I need the constant contact with the people I've imagined and the plot ideas in this story.

So yesterday I bought a large cork board-self-healing- and it has a surround with corner fittings so you can screw it into the wall (not that I'll be doing that with it). 

An image board-minus the images...
My images are now pinned and working on my brain,
and everything is starting to come together...

I was quite surprised how quickly I responded to having the images in one place, as every time I see the board my sub-conscious gets a jolt.

It also acts as a reminder I should be writing rather than chatting on Facebook!

Perhaps it will also help me sort out a suitable title.

I will definitely be using it for my other stories from
now on.

Do you use an image board, or do you just blu tack your pictures on the wall?

Sunday 27 July 2014

Historic Houses Short Story Competition...

I've been busy getting on with my entry for the Mary Street Romance novel competition at the writers club, so I've been missing blog posts.

It's progressing well, but I don't know if it will be one for putting to one side and giving it time to develop, or just writing it and getting it out of my brain, then putting it away until I have time to redraft it...

I do want to get back to the first draft revision of my Nottinghamshire novella.

In the meantime I've come across a short story competition that opened for entries earlier this year in March, and closes to online submissions at 4 pm on the 26th September 2014.

The Historic Houses Association (HHA) has partnered with the publisher Corazon Books for this short story competition.

You can only submit one story between 1,500 and 2,500 words; the story must be set in or inspired by a historic house. You can enter whether you're published or unpublished. And entry is free.

Corazon state, "We are looking for a compelling tale with lots of atmosphere. It can take place in the past or present, in either a real or fictional setting, so writers can let their imagination take them, and us, whenever and wherever they wish!"

The only drawback for the winner will be the cost of taking up the main part of the prize, unless you live close, or have friends you can stay with: the winning writer and their guest will receive a private tour and afternoon tea with the owners of Levens Hall in Cumbria, a cash prize of £150, and a double Friends membership for the HHA. 

There are two runner-up prizes of the double Friends membership of the HHA.

Corazon Books intend to publish an e-book anthology of the best entries, and the writers included will receive royalties for their published story. The author retains the copyright of their contribution.

There's a lot to read, and do make sure you follow the instructions on submitting your manuscript.

Royal Naval College Greenwich
(not part of the HHA)

So here's the links:

General information here.
Submission here.
Terms and conditions here.

You can find out more about the Historic Houses Association here.

Image courtesy of Robert Radford/

Sunday 20 July 2014

Seven Things...

I've been nominated for a Versatile Blogger award by two lovely talented
I try to be versatile...
 ladies, Teresa Ashby, and Patsy Collins.

I have to tell you 7 things about myself...

I'm a closet sci-fi fan. My current addictions are Farscape and Stargate: SG1. 
Every weekday evening I turn on the digital channel Pick, and from 7-9 pm I'll be watching...

In the scones debate and the butter/cream and jam order, I do have butter on mine, then jam, followed by a big dollop of clotted cream. That
was how I was taught as a child during summer holidays...

I collect postcards.
Not the black and white type, but of places I've visited, museums and old stately homes, and castles.
I especially like those showing fashion- dresses, shoes, hats etc. I have a few that I bought at exhibitions in my twenties when I lived within easy travelling distance of London. And of course I added a few more during my weekend in Bath.

A few of the postcards
 in my collection
Some people are coffee drinkers, and others prefer tea. I haven't drunk tea since I was a teenager.
When I was about 15, I went on a school trip to Switzerland, and we stayed in a hotel beside Lake Lucerne- well there was a steep path down to the lakeside. And that was when I started drinking coffee. When I came home a week later, the taste of tea was horrid, and although I've tried tea in the years since, it still tastes horrible...

My favourite flowers are roses and pinks.
I'm fortunate to have some scented red roses in my garden, and I love the scent on a warm evening. Sadly I've lost a couple of the rose plants that were in the garden when we moved into our house, so I'm happy to see my pruning is encouraging new stems, and lots of buds on the surviving ones....

I don't like scary/horror films.
It could just be I let my imagination run off into horrible possibilities, but I have never been the same since I saw 'The Fog'. My (now) husband and I were visiting my brother, and while there we watched the film without any problem. It was only when we finally got home- after a drive through dark country lanes- that I couldn't cope with the bedroom light being turned off!
I now never watch a scary film just before I go to bed...

I have a lot of long scarves.
Now this is a new habit I've developed over the past year. Although my muscles have finally healed after the accident I was involved in three years ago, I've discovered my neck and shoulder muscles give me issues if they get cold, or I lift anything too heavy- just covering the back of my neck makes all the difference. So I'm building up a selection of colours, patterns and weights for different times of the year.

So that's seven things. Now I need to nominate 15 people, and as with any of these awards no doubt quite a few will have been nominated before.

Here's 10 for now...