Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Happy New Year...

A brief message to all readers of my blog posts, thank you.



Finally, my total word count for 2019 is 52,488.

Balloons image by Shahid Abdullah from Pixabay.com with additional text and decoration via Canva.com

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Merry Christmas...

The next few days will be even busier than they have been so far- Muffins, and Fairy Cakes are done, but the fruit cake is still to do.

On the present side I'm trailing behind; at least I have the wrapping paper and labels ready...

Whatever you may have planned, I hope you enjoy the Christmas break. And for anyone suffering from the winter bugs that emerge at this time of the year, I hope you feel better soon.

Merry Christmas...


Christmas message postcard via Canva.com



Monday, 16 December 2019

Review of 2019 - Did I Meet My Targets?...

This is a slightly longer post...

2019 I was concentrating on my novel manuscript for the Romantic Novelists Association's New Writers' Scheme...

This year has been more about writing, learning, and developing my skills, but then writers never stop doing that.

This year...
I made a quick start on my 2019 plans, when at midday on the 2nd January, my email requesting a place the RNA's 2019 New Writers' Scheme (NWS) was submitted. Then, a few hours later I received the confirmation I was successful and had one of the available places.

Exciting and scary at the same time.

I began a 30 day trial of Scrivener in January, and by early February I was a convert. As the first nine chapters of my second draft were still in the (now) unsupported Word 2007, Chapter Ten onward was on Scrivener.

Scrivener helped me feel more confident and in control of my manuscript, as I was at the point where I was adding the scenes and elements absent from the first draft.

Mid-March was the Spring #SelfPubCon2019 (online conference) via the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). Consistently interesting and worth setting time aside to watch/listen...

~ * ~

By April I'd made inroads into the new chapters, but there was an issue that I couldn't resolve and I had to consider adding a short prologue to the novel- a controversial point for many writers.

(I used a short one, but only once I'd completed the rest of the draft.)

May and June were the two bad months of the year, stress and then more stress when our change of broadband and phone supplier went badly. It's when you don't have instant access to broadband that you realise how much of life has moved online, and how vital it can be when you need to check a simple thing such as a bus or train timetable.

Fortunately, I could still access Scrivener, but it was time-consuming looking references up in books, and those times when the saved link I needed to refer to was in the bookmarks on my browser. All I could do was make a note for checking it later...

~ * ~

July was much needed fun with the RNA Conference in Lancaster. Beneficial in lifting the emotions, learning, socialising and saying hello to online friends who you've not met in real-life before- this year it was the lovely Rosemary Gemmell...

August was long hours on the manuscript as the countdown to the NWS deadline loomed at the end of the month. I don't think you can ever know how you'll deal with the situation until you face it.

I've learnt how I write and how I can do better next year.

September was a mixed month. I had the good and the bad. Good was meeting up with friend and blogger Patsy Collins, who stopped off in Nottingham to deliver a workshop to Nottingham Writers' Club members and visitors.

Two weeks later, I had my reader's report back from the New Writers' Scheme.

~ * ~

The second half of October was busy; there was an opportunity to hear from Amazon KDP (arranged by the Society of Authors) at the Nottingham Mechanics in the city centre. An interesting evening...

Following a link on Twitter I discovered the Romance Writers Summit, and it was worth the time as several sessions helped me resolve a few of the issues identified in my NWS manuscript.

The Nottingham RNA Chapter held an afternoon workshop on being social media savvy.

I was back in Leicester at the New Walk Museum for the book launch of Rosemary J Kind's latest novel, Unequal by Birth. A good event and lovely to meet Rosemary, whom I've been online friends with for many years, but never met in person until this event.

November has been carrying on the tasks I began in October. I've been improving my knowledge, identifying my writing weak spots and working on them. I'd begun loading two other novel drafts onto Scrivener and updating the notes, character bios and research points along with the chapter outline of a contemporary first draft.

Now it's December and I've renewed my New Writers' Scheme membership for 2020.

Across the year I've continued to attend regular meetings of the Belmont Belles, and the Nottingham Story Weavers- the Leicester, and Nottingham RNA Chapters. Wonderful and supportive writers in both.

Belmont Hotel
in Leicester...
I'm still part of the team running Nottingham Writers' Club, so nothing changes there.

~ * ~

Did I meet my 2019 targets? Yes.

I got a place on the NWS and kept working on that second draft for August. And I also took up opportunities that came along (even though they weren't necessarily writing).

My annual word count aim was to break through the 50,000 point. My word count is now at 51,429 with two weeks and one day to go...

~ * ~

2020 targets

I'm following my original plan for the RNA's NWS; submit my historical in 2019 and one of my contemporaries in 2020. (I'm just finishing some necessary research for it) and I have begun rewriting the first chapter of the 2nd draft.

(As soon as I complete the contemporary, it will be back to rewriting the historical.)

Again, I'll be open to writing and writing-related opportunities throughout the year.

I'll continue to learn new things and improve my writing.

Next year's word count target is 60,000.

I didn't think I'd done much besides writing, but reviewing the year I realise that I have done much more than I thought...


Belmont Hotel image: Carol Bevitt
2019 image: Ulrike Leone via pixabay.com

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Bad Sex and the Oddest Book Title...

A quick post to update on the results of the recent Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of 2019, and the Bad Sex in Fiction award.

To the
Winners...
Now the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title has been getting less press coverage than in past years, which is a pity as there's been many chuckle-inducing titles over the years.

My favourite for the title was the bible stories, Noah Gets Naked..., with the Ending the War on Artisan Cheese as a strong contender. Sadly the Cheese related book came in second place with 24% of the vote; While the Bible Stories title came third, garnering 18%.

The winner for 2019 was The Dirt Hole and its Variations by Charles L Dobbins that won 40% of the public vote. Sadly he died twenty-two years ago, so a posthumous winner.

Read more about it at the Bookseller.

The Bad Sex in Fiction Award (like the Booker Prize this year) has announced two winners; Didier Decoin for The Office of Gardens and Ponds- my choice for this year. And John Harvey's Pax.

You can read about the judge's dilemma in choosing a winner also over on the Bookseller.

That's those two awards for another year...

Thursday, 28 November 2019

The 2019 Bad Sex in Fiction Shortlist is Out...

It's that time of year when the Literary Review's annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award shortlist is revealed.

Of course the extracts in the news reports are only a part of the novels they appear in, so put in context they may work okay, but in isolation they don't.

This year's contenders- with some unexpected names appearing:
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (Bloomsbury)
  • The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin (MacLehose Press)
  • The River Capture by Mary Costello (Canongate)
  • The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith (Allen & Unwin)
  • Pax by John Harvey (Holland House)

You can read about a few of the well-known authors who escaped the list this year in this Guardian article.

The shortlisted extracts from each novel are revealed on another Guardian page.

Having read the extracts, they are not as bad as in previous years.

But I'm sorry Didier Decoin, your extract would get my vote any day, just for the ponds and omelette rolls...

The winner will be announced on the 2nd December.

It's that time again.../









Monday, 25 November 2019

Reading, Writing, Learning and Improving...


Only a month to Christmas Day and I've just started thinking about all that I need to do.

Usually that's because November is busy with family birthdays so I don't think about the festive season until they're over.

I'm determined to get the Christmas cards into the post sooner rather than the last few posting days- which usually happens.

Since I received my readers report back from the RNA's New Writers' Scheme I've read it again and analysed what I need to concentrate on this time- I've identified my weak spots...

There are other aspects in the historical that need further thought, so while I resolve those, I'm going ahead with my original plan to do my contemporary romance idea for the 2020 NWS.

So, I've been learning more about character arcs which has helped me understand the issues with my historical romance protagonists- and for my contemporary where I'd gone astray in the first draft.

I've got a better understanding of beats in the three act structure, but need to work on the middle 50% of the story.

Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Life of Britain's Country Houses 1939-45 by [Summers, Julie]
Image from
Amazon.co.uk
As I've been able to set the new story up on Scrivener from the start (rather than half way through) it's given me time to identify changes I hadn't considered before, but need.

The good news is the first 25% of this one is doing what it should do, so I've begun the rewrite on those chapters, while I continue the outstanding research items.

My current reading is Our Uninvited Guests by Julie Summers.

It was pure chance that a Google search led to a mention of it in an article; then I searched for it on Amazon to find the kindle e-book on offer for 99 pence- a definite sign I should buy it! (It's now £3.99.)

An interesting read too.

It does have relevance; indirectly...


Have you ever gone looking for a book and found it's on offer just when you need it for research?












Friday, 1 November 2019

The Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title 2019...

I was beginning to think that this may not be happening this year as the shortlist announcement is later than in 2018.

The mystery is solved and you can read the wry introduction to the 41st year of the prize over on the Bookseller website and the mention of last year's winner- kettles and water were involved...

This year's shortlist:

  • How to Drink Without Drinking by Fiona Beckett.
 (As it's not due out until January 2020 I'm ruling it out of my possibles.)
  • The Dirt Hole and its Variations by Charles L Dobbins.
 (Hunting related.)
  • Viking Encounters: Proceedings of the 18th Viking Congress by Anne Pedersen and Søren M Sindbæk.
  • Ending the War on Artisan Cheese by Catherine W Donnelly.
(Sadly not released until 28th November.)
  • Noah Gets Naked: Bible Stories They Didn't Teach You at Sunday School by Xanna Eve Chown.
  • Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich by Eric Kurlander.
 (Published May 2018.)
You can vote via the link at the bottom of the page on the Bookseller website (link above) and there's time to consider the options before the 22nd November deadline.

This is going to be a tough choice. But I think many of them aren't so odd when you read the other text on the cover- you can find most of them on Amazon.

I suspect the Noah one will get lots of votes, it's definitely odd... so odd I voted for it.

It's a fun annual prize and the winner gets a bottle of Claret...

It's red wine from
Bordeaux...




Image by gerttaeymans from https://pixabay.com






















Monday, 21 October 2019

A Book Launch in the Museum...

Usually when I'm in Leicester, it's on a Friday for a Belmont Belles RNA Chapter meeting, so going to the city on a Saturday was unusual, especially when there was a big football match and memorial parade at the football stadium.

This time I was there for a book launch at the New Walk Museum, for Rosemary J Kind's new release, Unequal by Birth.
Cover design...

The museum was busy and popular with families. Just inside the entrance there was a large Lego figure displayed- think it was an Astronaut.

I will definitely visit another time as there was so much to see, including the art gallery that I passed through to get to the book launch in the Lord Mayor's room.

There were refreshments provided in the area outside the meeting room before the launch began, which gave me time to say hello to Rosemary in person- we've been friends online for many years but never met because of distance and no opportunity to be in the same county.

Rosemary's books for sale at the launch...
Rosemary read the opening chapter, that carries on the story of her characters from the earlier book New York Orphan.

There is another book in production...

Rosemary talked about the research she'd undertaken and the part the Orphan Train Movement in late 19th century America, featured in the first novel.

The Q&A followed, then there was the opportunity to buy a Rosemary's book (or books) and get them signed.

It was a lovely afternoon and I'm sure Rosemary's latest book will do well- she told her guests that on Saturday morning it was in the kindle charts ahead of Hilary Mantel and just behind Ken Follett- there's a screen shot on her Twitter account...

Sadly, I couldn't stay longer as I needed to get my train before the football match finished and lots of people headed for their trains home.
Fortunately, the station was only a five-minute walk away, barring getting across the road via a series of new pelican crossing points!

New Walk Museum
Leicester...
It was good to get away from my desk for an afternoon...

Have you been to a book launch in a place that wasn't a bookshop?




Sunday, 20 October 2019

A Week of Learning...

It's been a busy week so you'll be getting two posts today and tomorrow, otherwise it would be a very long post to read.

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed earlier last week and saw a link for the Romance Writers Summit. There was a free sign up to see the sessions released each day for five days- though this was a time zone in America.

After signing up I watched a few of the six sessions and they were interesting and useful. There was an email waiting the next morning in my inbox with the link to sign-in and go to page for playing each session.

It was like the online conference that the Alliance of Independent Authors do twice a year; you can access the content for a limited time but after that you need to buy an access pass, but with this summit that would give access to additional content and downloads related to some sessions.

Having been struggling with the beats in Act 2 of the Three Act structure- I'd been reading up on it and was still not clear around the middle mark, but then it all fell into place with NYT Bestseller, author Marilyn Brant. Her session 'Breaking Down Pride & Prejudice by the Beats' finally made sense of the troublesome middle.

Now I need to apply what I've learnt to my own novels!



Back to offline life, Friday was a workshop session held by the Nottingham Story Weavers, my local RNA Chapter, on Social Media & the Savvy Author with author Talia Hibbert.

She is brilliant and a lovely person too...

Talia has a book coming out early November with Avon, 'Get a Life, Chloe Brown'. So we received some insights on her social media use around the new book, and on using several social media platforms.

We all see writers with great social media posts, photos and images with the accompanying text. I've wondered how to do these correctly. Well, now I know and it's not complicated. 

There were examples of specific tools that make the process user-friendly. I will definitely try them out.

There were three things (among many others) that Talia emphasised as important: a website and a mailing list for your newsletter, and your author brand. 

For the couple of hours we had, there was a lot of practical and helpful content with the visual displays- and the handout with the website links we needed.

By the end we were all buzzing with a renewed energy.

If you'd like to find out more about Talia and her books, then pop over to her website.


Join me tomorrow to read the second post about my day in Leicester...



image:pixabay.com



Monday, 14 October 2019

When Amazon's KDP Met East Midlands Writers...

East Midlands writers heard from Darren Hardy, manager of the KDP UK (kindle direct publishing) at an event organised via the Society of Authors last Thursday evening.

They held the event at The Nottingham Mechanics- the regular venue for Nottingham Writers' Club meetings, so this was a local and a great opportunity to attend.

This was only the second time KDP had run this session so they're still refining the event and learning from each one.

Though I'm not sure Mr Hardy was quite prepared for the RNA members attending.

Basically, it was KDP promoting and showing how easy it was to self publish with them and generate up to 70% in digital and up to 60% in print on demand royalties.

They provided a helpful A4 handout with relevant details and URLs and examples of royalty calculations.

For those who had not used KDP there was a run-through of the process, though the images on the screen were not large enough to read the text from a distance, it was explained and key aspects highlighted.

Apparently the help button on the dashboard connects to a tech team whose only job is to sort out the technical issues or queries writers may have during the process. There are also webinars, which if you can't watch at the time they're running, you can access later via the video library.

Questions were raised during part one and more again with the part two content.

There were insights into Author Central and how the writer could use their profile. Their suggestion that authors should link all their social media accounts to their Amazon author profile was met with scepticism by some audience members; I raised the question of algorithms and writers losing reviews, or being banned from leaving reviews.

Mr H said this was only when there was a financial connection, a gift card or cash had been paid for a review. He said that if an author contacted them about disappearing reviews, they would look at it. A human would look at it...

Sadly, he did not appear to believe that authors were losing reviews when they'd done nothing wrong, but as they would not tell the writer the actual reason for review removal, and consequently not reinstate them (some are); it was not a satisfactory answer.

But the audience were also told to contact the Society of Authors with the details of when and what had been removed, so the Society could feed that back to KDP. He admitted that there had been a glitch last year, and they had reinstated those reviews but was unaware of any recently.

There were complaints of cover colour inconsistency from the print on demand service, but again there was no explanation, just let the Society of Authors know as well to feed it back.

Four RNA members I know of had received damaged books in the last few months because of poor packaging, including one sent back by the carrier, before it got to the author, because of the state it was in. It appeared Mr H was unaware of these type of complaints.

Another attendee asked about the get 50 reviews and visibility improves. That isn't right, we were told. It's the metadata, so using the best categorisation and effective keywords in relation to the book is the important thing.

There are some promotions that authors can be invited to take part in, but, unlike those occasions when Amazon reduces the price but the author still gets their set royalty rate, the invited promotions will be at a reduced royalty rate...

KDP encourage writers to set up their author central profile on each of the Amazon sites, but they have to be done individually, so sign in, apparently using your normal Amazon log-in details, and complete your profile for each one. Cut and paste is the only shortcut for this.

Print & e-book...
There's more but hopefully you'll get the opportunity to attend their future events in other parts of the country, so sign up to the Society of Authors non-members newsletter- if you haven't done so, as this was how I heard the news of this free event and booked.
While I learnt a few useful things, I went away disappointed.

The KDP manager was not as well briefed as he could have been, so when he couldn't really answer the negative issues writers raised, it showed and suggested, right or wrong, that KDP thought everything was rosy.

Hopefully, he'll take back those negatives and get them resolved.

The good news is that one RNA writer who had received damaged books a couple of months ago, received her latest author copies in good condition and better packing. So maybe there's hope for solutions.

If KDP do more of this event, hopefully, they'll be able to answer any difficult questions writers raise.

All that said, any opportunity to hear from KDP direct is to be welcomed...





image:Pixabay.com





Monday, 7 October 2019

Pressing the Pause Button...



I've been taking a break from writing to catch-up on reading for enjoyment and learning, but most of all not putting pressure on myself...

Trying to get my head around character arcs was giving me a headache until we discussed the topic on #writingchat on Twitter last Wednesday.

On the recommendation of several writers, I bought Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody.

I'm working my way through it and it's helping put some sense of proportion on the novel's current state.

Though I've been a little down the last few days, I've assorted writing events coming up this week and next. It's good to go out and meet other writers.

I'm especially looking forward to attending a book launch in Leicester in a fortnight, for Rosemary J Kind's latest novel, Unequal by Birth. Having known her online for many years we've never met- she lives in North Yorkshire, so it will be wonderful to say hello in person and support her launch.

Do you remember me mentioning the #SelfPubCon2019 sessions put together by ALLi
Vine Leaves Press
Notebook...
(Alliance of Independent Authors) last month?

Well, the Vine Leaves Press session about Video Marketing to Sell Your Books, ran a giveaway for their notebooks.

A few weeks ago was delighted to receive an email telling me I was one of the winners and asking which of the three notebook designs I wanted to receive and my address for delivery.

This is the one I chose (on the right) in the paperback form - they have a hardback version of each design too...

I received it at the weekend. Lovely isn't it?

Now I just need to decide what to write in it...





Notebook image via Amazon




Monday, 23 September 2019

Disappointment & Determination...

It surprised me to receive an email on Friday telling me the reader's report from the New Writers' Scheme was ready to access. I hadn't expected it so soon.

I considered ignoring it until later in the day, once I was home from meeting up with the Nottingham RNA Chapter, but I gave in and had a quick look through.

It was worse than I'd expected.
Wine...

I went out as planned.

Sharing my angst with the chapter members when we met up, I received sympathetic advice and helpful suggestions. Lunch and a glass of wine later, I had a more positive frame of mind.

Following one of the helpful suggestions I received, to print it out and go through the report with different colour highlighters, I could see the positives not just the negatives.

Many of the major points raised in the report I'd known about, but hadn't left enough time to fix before the August deadline- a lesson in time-management for next year's submission.

And the synopsis, let’s not go there...

There were a handful of positives, which gives me hope that with hard work I can improve the manuscript. But it will take time and thought.

Having learnt from this year's submission and report, I will apply that to another first draft I have waiting.

No, I'm not giving up on this story. I knew there was still plenty of work to do on it, along with the additional research points that popped up as I'd worked on the draft. But for now I need a short break away from it.

Getting it right is never easy...






Image: epicantus at pixabay.com





Sunday, 8 September 2019

Workshops and New Projects...

It's been a busy month so far and it's only the first week...

Yesterday (Saturday) I was at a workshop at Nottingham Writers' Club. The guest writer was Patsy Collins who was leading us through Characterisation and Dialogue.

Personally I think the latter element is really helped by getting the former element pinned down.

Patsy Collins & a few
of her books...
Something I will definitely be applying to my characters is how do my other characters see my main characters?

It was good to know my creativity was kicking back in again with the writing exercises.

For the first three days after getting my manuscript into the RNA's New Writers' Scheme my brain just went on temporary strike.

I put in a lot of hours in that last week- 15 hours on the Friday into the early hours of Saturday morning alone- as well as having spent a few hours at the walk-in centre on the Tuesday after a bad fall- catching my toe on the door ledge stepping in from the back-garden.

Yes, my mind had been on my manuscript and that approaching deadline rather than what I was actually doing at that moment...

 I damaged the ligaments either side of my right knee and bruised my tibia. Pleased to say nothing was broken. The bruises are now fading and after taking everything slowly I was moving around with care by the end of this past week, so no problem attending the workshop.

The broken tooth is being sorted later this week.

*   *   *

As I knew it would be a few months before I heard anything from the RNA NWS, I decided to make a start on setting up one of my other novels on Scrivener, but which one?

I have a complete first draft of a contemporary or the first five chapters of a 1920's story- the first three chapters and synopsis won the NWC 2018 Mary Street Romance Novel Shield. Admittedly the first draft novel (the synopsis and first three chapters of it) also won the 2016 Mary Street competition.

A 1920'S hat...
I know I have quite a lot of background research I need to do on the 1920's story, but it was calling to me, so I decided to start setting it up on Scrivener first and use the elements I hadn't used on my main manuscript.

I first started using Scrivener back in April when part of my historical was already in Word 2007 and as I was still becoming familiar with how Scrivener worked, I didn't have time to sort out all those helpful little aspects of the programme. It was get the second draft written!

This year I've learnt a great deal about how I write and put my novels together, so I'm now putting the knowledge I've gained into action with my other projects.

My Dorset novel needs looking at again to see what I need to research there too. That's at a similar stage to the 1920's novel, but will need complete rewriting as my voice has changed since it was started.

Priority is still to complete my 1802 Nottinghamshire novel, but I'm not going to waste the time in between...

Do you have more than one project on the go?




Saturday, 31 August 2019

I've Survived August- Now for September...

It's the last day of the month and as of 4.30 am (BST) this morning, my submission to the RNA's New Writers' Scheme went in.

Now I just have to wait for the eventual email telling me the reader's report is ready. I don't know who the published writer reading it will be, nor whether they're male or female. But whoever gets to read it- thank you.

The part I hadn't expected was how much time checking through the manuscript takes.

When I start the next draft I will be tougher on myself. I know I can do it now, it's about me being better prepared and organised during those busy everyday life events. Even 300-500 words a time soon builds up. I know I still have a lot to work to do in the next draft...

This weekend I relax, catch-up with all those things I didn't have time for- Sanditon on catch-up is first on my list...

Next Saturday (7th September) I'll be attending a half day workshop (I've been involved in organising it) at Nottingham Writers' Club.

Our guest is friend and blogger Patsy Collins The Travelling Writer, with her Effective Characterisation and Dialogue workshop from 1-5 pm.

Patsy Collins is coming to
    Nottingham...
There are still places available, so if you, or anyone you know are within reach of Nottingham and would like to attend, do please pass on the link.

Nottingham's Tram network links the railway station to a nearby tram stop less than 5 minutes walk away from our venue; plus the Victoria bus station and bus routes into the city centre are 5-10 minutes walk...


Then on the 14th I'll be at my desk tuning in to #SelfPubCon2019 it's 24 sessions online over 24 hours. (I won't be sat at my desk for 24 hours though...)

You need to register via ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors) you'll find them on Facebook, Twitter and their website. The three-day pass is free- just register with name and email.

I've tuned in to the past two: spring this year and fall of 2018. Both times I've learnt something I could put into action...


Do you have any writing related plans for September?



Image provided by Patsy Collins.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Almost There...

One week to go to my final deadline.

Today (Sunday) I've done about seven hours at the keyboard- obviously I did get up to make coffee and eat an occasional snack- okay there was a few pieces of dark chocolate involved. The result was the completion of Chapter 23.

My antagonist gets punched in the nose by my hero- with justifiable cause...

I'm at the stage of tying the various strands together in these last chapters.

I know some of the strands are still vague in the first half (I'll have to sort those out in the next draft) and they'll definitely need a lot of attention. I might have to try working backwards...

The downside of getting my submission in so close to the deadline for the RNA's New Writers' Scheme is I'll have a longer wait for the reader's comments to come back, but it gives me time to develop a couple of future stories.

#writing-romance

My first draft had 17 chapters; by the time the second draft is finished it will be at least 25 chapters and approximately 50,000 words.

 Normal blogging about a variety of subjects, annual book related events and topics will resume as soon as I have my partial submitted- and I decompress.

Almost there...



image: pixabay.com