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