Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts

Sunday 24 February 2019

Guest Q&A: Alex Gazzola...

Today I'm delighted to be welcoming journalist, author and writing tutor Alex Gazzola to Carol's Corner to answer a few questions on his writing and books.

Alex Gazzola
Welcome to my blog, Alex.

Q1. Readers may only associate you with your Mistakes Writers Make books and the blog of the same name, but there's another side to your non-fiction work that some readers may be unaware of. Please tell us more.

The Mistakes Writers Make work stems from my long period working as a non-fiction writing tutor for the Writers Bureau. I was giving so much advice to my hundreds of students that it seemed a shame not to rework some of that material into a blog and share it more widely to budding writers looking for guidance. But I started out as a writer of all sorts of non-fiction, before beginning to specialise in health and nutrition, and then narrowing my specialism further by focusing on allergies, intolerances and gut health.

Allergies and sensitivities interest me because so many people have them, and quite a few struggle to get a diagnosis, and to avoid exposure to their triggers. There are all sorts of very unusual reactions to hundreds of different ingredients – be they in food, cosmetics or household chemicals – and there is I think a shortage of information for those who deal with them.

I write for a few specialist publications, such as allergy websites and charity newsletters, but also post a lot on my own website, Allergy Insight ( I’ve also written several books – on coeliac disease and IBS, for instance.

Q2. You've recently updated and self-published in paperback through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) your 50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make and 50 More Mistakes Beginner Writers Make. What challenges were there in updating and self-publishing the books that you hadn't anticipated?

#Book 1

#Book 2
Actually, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. KDP accepts documents in Word, which I’m very comfortable with, so there wasn’t too much trouble on that front. I think the only thing which was a bit fiddly was setting page numbering – it’s not always easy to format it as you want it or have the numbering start where you wish. The text I worked with was originally formatted for Kindle ebooks, so it required a little editing – for instance, removing the hyperlinks.
I had to write an index for each book’s print version, which took some time, but I’d always compiled my own indexes before, so again that was fine.

One problem was that I couldn’t find a way to use exactly the same cover image for both ebook and print book, so they’re slightly different, and I’m not fully satisfied with that, or with the designs. When I have more time I may try to improve on them.

Q3. Are there more books planned for this year – either writing or allergy related?

Yes, both. I’m working on the third book in the Mistakes Writers Make series, 50 Mistakes Writers Make, which is aimed at a more ‘intermediate’ level of non-fiction writer, who has perhaps read the first two and has had some success, but would now like a lot more! I might do a fourth, but I actually have other ideas for writing books which I’m more keen to pursue, and I’d like to update my Writing Your Non-Fiction Book ebook too.

As for allergy books, yes, I have lots of other ideas. I might do a book on understanding food and cosmetic ingredients and labels for people with allergies. I’m also interested in nickel allergy, which many women have, so I think a book on that is needed.

Q4. What essential piece of advice would you give to a writer who was considering writing a non-fiction book?

Whether you’re going the self-published route or via conventional publishing, you need a good idea. If it’s a niche subject but you’re sure there’s a dearth of information on it, then I would look at self-publishing. My latest book, on an allergy to a cosmetic preservative commonly called MI, has sold over 200 copies in just a few weeks – and I think it’s because there is no other book available on it. I’d say look for something unusual which you find interesting. If you think it’s more commercial, propose it to a mainstream publisher.

Either way, be aware that writing a book is a big job, that there is lots of research involved, but don’t be afraid of it. Break it down. Think of each chapter as a long article, perhaps. Also don’t feel obliged to start at the beginning. Knowing you have 30,000 words (or whatever) to write can cause you to freeze. Start in the middle if you like. Or write an ‘easy’ bit.

For my first book, I started by compiling some useful resources, I wrote the conclusion, I wrote the introduction, and a few other random odds and ends, before eventually pulling them together into what turned out to be the book. If the word ‘book’ or even ‘manuscript’ intimidates you, then just think ‘articles’, or ‘text’, or ‘bits of writing’ or whatever it takes … You can do it!

Alex's Mistakes Writers Make book series are also available as e-books...


Thank you Alex. I'm sure you'll have inspired more writers to start that non-fiction book they've thought about but never taken the next step...

It was Alex who encouraged me to approach the editor of Writing Magazine last year which led to my Womag Rights article appearing a few weeks later in the September issue.

On the 1st March over on Patsy Collins' blog Words about writing and writing about words, Alex's answers to the questions from a blog post earlier in February will be posted (the post a question option is now closed, but you will be able to read his answers on Friday).

Comments on my blog posts are always welcome...

Thursday 12 April 2018

In the Chair...

In the chair does sound a bit sinister, but it's not- thankfully.

It was the writers' club's AGM last night and the post of Chairman was up for election, so I went from Vice-Chairman to Chairman...

I've done the job before so it's not as scary as the first time I was elected to the role in 2012 for three years.

Another member of the club who is in the spotlight this week is talented short story writer Keith Havers.

Keith blogs over at Dream it, then do it, and you'll find a link to read the Writer of the Week spot over on the website of  People's Friend magazine; Keith is the writer this week.

In the distant past it was quite common for male writers to adopt a female pseudonym for the women's weekly magazine market, but Keith didn't follow the trend- and it made no difference to his acceptances.

Right I'm off to tackle my to do list so I can get back to draft 2...

image from Pixabay

Monday 3 October 2016

When Writers Meet...

It's always fun to get-together with other writers and talk about the highs, and sometimes lows, of writing. It's even better when there's coffee and cake involved somewhere.

Over the weekend I finally got to meet (in person) a couple of my writing buddies (and fellow bloggers) Patsy Collins and Maria Smith. The three of us are also involved with #writingchat on Twitter on Wednesday evenings.

Carol, Maria and Patsy
A big thank you must be said to Patsy's very patient husband Gary, who took photos of the three of us together, with our cameras, before departing for the peace of the campervan.

The weather was not good; cool and threatening to rain, so we went for a walk first to burn up the calories, before we retreated to the warmth of the cafe for coffee and cake- and more talking.

Fortunately we were inside when the heavy rainfall started, and were only momentarily distracted by the thump from nearby thunder, and an impressive flash of lightning.

The hours passed quickly, and I'm sure anyone looking at us chatting away would never have known it was the first time we'd actually met. We've known each other online for some time, so we weren't really total strangers.

It's made me determined to get out and attend more events in the next twelve months, and hopefully meet a few more of the many writers I know from blogging and Facebook/Twitter...

Look out for Patsy's Tuesday blog post for some #writingchat news.

Horse on a diet

Across the gravel pit the clouds approach

Sunday 10 April 2016

Coming Up on Tuesday- My Guest Takes the Next Step...

As I've had a very heavy day with computer updates, I'm a little late in sharing some very exciting news.

This week both posts will be courtesy of my guest, blogger Patsy Collins.

Patsy is a wonderful writer with numerous short stories (and collections) to her credit, and a number of novels, including her most recent, (it features a hunky fireman) Firestarter.

It was Patsy who encouraged me to finish and send off my cake-related short story to one of the women's magazines- more about that in the summer.

Patsy Collins
Patsy Collins
Patsy is also my writing buddy, and the purple-loving writer behind the very useful womagwriter's blog.

On Tuesday, Patsy will be discussing the advantages/disadvantages of taking your self-published work beyond the kindle e-book and into print, using Createspace.

Then on Thursday, you can discover more about the actual process, with useful tips and links to help you take that next step.

You'll still have to do all the work, but Patsy's experience may help you decide whether it's for you...

And to top it all off there's an offer you won't be able to resist.

So pop back on Tuesday to find out more...

Sunday 20 March 2016

Novel Competitions and the Oddest Book Title...

The oddest book title was announced last week and the Winner was 'Too Naked for the Nazis'. It was nominated by the author himself, Alan Stafford, so it clearly was a good publicity move.

Though the subject of the book is quite ordinary in fact- a vaudevillian trio, Wilson, Keppel & Betty-  that anyone born early in the 20th century would have heard of, and perhaps seen black & white film of them performing.

You can find out the percentage each book achieved in the Bookseller article link above.

*   *   *

Unpublished novelists have two opportunities to get a publishing deal courtesy of two high profile competitions.

There's the recent Richard &Judy competition, and earlier this week the news about the competition being run between the Daily Mail and Penguin Random House.

They both offer a cash advance, an agent, and publication of the winning manuscript.

Find out more about the Daily Mail/PRH competition via this article.

(EDITED TO ADD: this is the URL they have given for the full terms & conditions and it displays a pdf: )

Note you can't have had a novel published before-even self-published (so that will exclude lots of writers to start with); you can't currently be represented by a literary agent, and you must be over 16 years old, resident in the UK or Republic of Ireland.

The Richard & Judy 'Search for a Bestseller 2016' is supported by WH Smith, and the publishing deal is with Bonnier Zaffre.

Generally the terms are similar to the Daily Mail one, but the R&J competition terms specify that the partial novel hasn't been previously submitted to an agent, publisher, or entered into previous R&J competitions, or "released into the public domain in any format"- so bloggers beware.

So those will probably take quite a few entries out.

Sadly it does mean they're going to have to wade through entries from people who think writing a novel is easy.

They will find hidden talent in the end, but it's sad that they are excluding so many talented writers because they have self-published.

If you qualify and enter, then well done and I hope your entry is successful.

Monday 7 September 2015

Changes to Plans...

Lots of berries on the Hawthorn...
The past week has seen a lot of plans for the last quarter of the year change - but as the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens.

I'd planned to go and take some photos in Nottingham to go with a blog post on my website on Saturday.

Just as I was getting ready to go out the door, the Saturday post arrived with an important letter I'd been waiting for, and I needed to get it sent on asap.

So by the time I'd got all that sorted and ready for the post office- then to get it recorded delivery, I didn't have time for taking the pictures I needed :( so that's on my list of things to do soon.

Sadly, the Festival of Romance weekend in November, over at Stratford-Upon-Avon, has been cancelled. Though the New Talent Competition is apparently going ahead, and the book Awards section that would have taken place at the Saturday night dinner event will be held later in November- as far as the most recent message explained.

Hopefully 2016 will be another opportunity.

There's lots of preparations going on at the writers' club for October- we have a Sci-fi night with Alex Davis and a few authors who will be there to talk books and sign copies, among other things.

And I'm determined to put in as much time as I can to finish the last couple of chapters of the first draft of the contemporary romance. It's all sat in my head, waiting.

If the berries on the hawthorn are indicative of a bad winter as folklore suggests (my OH claims the bad winter is a result of the ideal weather earlier in the year, that gave fruit everything is needed to prosper) I'll be spending a lot of time indoors tapping away at the keyboard.

I bought a delightful A4 lidded box in Paperchase, so everything I need for my Nottinghamshire historical romance can be kept together, ready for the first revision. I'm eager to get on with it...

Next weekend my son returns to University, so we'll be getting everything packed up this week. This time last year we were getting organised for his first move away from home, and now he's going back for year 2.

A new routine is about to be set-up too so I don't procrastinate, and endeavour to make the most of my free time, though some weeks will be better than others I'm sure...

Thursday 20 August 2015

Label Your Photos Whilst You Remember...

Having two blogs to run, this one and Serena's, I thought I'd have a look through some of my old (back-up) CD/DVDs to choose a few of my archived pictures to accompany the next few posts.

Oh dear...

In (the past) my inexperience of digital photography I never individually labelled the images. So whatever was on the memory card at the start was what it was labelled.

It's not that I don't know the year they were taken, or where, I do, although I'll need to search the exact names of buildings shown in them.

But it's the odd ones that are the issue. Specifically this one.
Postcard image, source unknown...

It's a picture of a postcard of Weymouth Harbour, unknown date.

I've no idea where the postcard was on display, I just know the photo of it was taken on holiday in the summer of 2008.

It may be the detail is written down somewhere, but it wasn't on the photo information, nor on the back-up disc. Then about a year after that my old computer had to be wiped after a damaging virus got onto my machine- despite a security package. So a couple of documents and photos not backed up were lost forever... :(

Since then I've learnt a lot about correct labelling and adding tags to my images, so I don't have this issue now. And I always make a back-up copy too.

So I've now got a lot of pictures that need sorting out and relabelling-including numerous images of my (now grown-up) sons, buried in sand on Weymouth and Lyme Regis beaches, and in pebbles on Chesil Beach. :D

If anyone can enlighten me on the postcard, do get in touch; I want to credit the original source location of the postcard too.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Sorting Our Serena...

I've been busy this week putting together a website for my pseudonym, Serena Lake.

A few months ago when I bought my domain name, I also bought one for Serena. The intention was to create a website for her in the Autumn, but something has been telling me to get it done now.

I've learnt that it's advisable to listen (and action) those instinct alerts, because when I ignore them I quickly find out that it was the wrong thing to do.

I'm going to continue the Carol's Corner blog covering my writing, research and the news about competitions and other literature related items- that I sometimes venture into talking about. But while I may also talk about history related items here, I'll perhaps give a different slant or more detail on Serena's blog.

Serena's blog on the website will concentrate only the historical romance side of my writing- and reading. I may even share opinions of research books and useful websites.

I'm on the final adjustments now, and as soon as I'm happy I will get my domain transferred, and begin blogging. And of course let everyone know it's officially launched.

Making the website has taken a lot of thought as I had to decide what image I wanted to suggest by my choices of design, colour and pages, as well as their content.

Having learnt a few skills over the years with this blog I could at least create pages without any problem, though learning how to get where I want to is still a bit hit and miss. :-)

Serena's Lady with a Fan...

I'm going to let you have a quick look at the website before it is finalised- still trying to work out the contact options so that's still missing, but otherwise it's 90% there.

I'll be expanding pages when needed, and adding social media links.

So if you want a quick peek, then follow this link.

Sunday 5 July 2015

Scribd and Kindle Changes- Good or Bad?

The week just gone has seen a couple of changes relating to e-books that have implications for both writers and readers.

The unsettling announcements came days apart, so concerns and questions will depend upon which service is your priority...

I'd heard of Scribd, a subscription service for e-books, but never looked into it further.
I can see that if you're travelling every day then reading a book on your mobile device would be a good way to pass the time, and you could get through a number of books in a month, before you add on the number you could read at other times. So a one-off cost each month would be cost effective.

For the writer it's another sales avenue that doesn't rely on Amazon only, and gets their books out to more potential readers. But now it seems many romance writers will find their books delisted- though free offerings are being kept.

Smashwords who provide many self-published books to the service have an extensive post on their blog, and highlight the few advantages the culling of titles will bring- less competition being no.1, nice if your paying titles are kept, not so good if they've been removed...

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the news, here's a few links to find out more: Smashwords blog and the Guardian books section. And the Bookseller. Obviously there will be some duplication of content, but each has something different to say on the subject.

Now to the Kindle changes.

For those authors who have books in the KDP Select and the Kindle Owner's Lending Library, they will now be paid by the page read. This will be referred to as KENPC- Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count, so no matter how you've formatted it, it will be calculated to a standardized form that they've worked out.

There's a good explanation of how the money side works in this Bookseller article.

The brilliant thing about KDP was that there was finally a place to publish novellas- something many mainstream publishers didn't want. Every story has its own length, and not every one will be novel length, so authors of shorter works could suffer under this new regime- it depends on whether the amount they get per page equates to what they would have received under the previous system...

Writers who have been able to build up a readership over a number of books, probably have more choices available to them, plus the statistics to help them.

Likewise. those who have e-books with a mainstream publisher are in a different position to self-publishers.

Anyone just starting the self-publishing process needs to step-back for a moment and look at all the options available to them before they make a decision.

Yes, Amazon will triumph because they have the largest share of the e-reading market, and any writer who ignores that fact does so at their own peril. The option of which service you sign up to will be the difference...

It will be interesting to see what effect the Scribd and Kindle changes make, to both writers and readers of e-books, for the remainder of the year.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Sick Leave...

Having thought I'd managed to get through winter without any major health problems, the last bugs of winter have struck.

The nasty cold bugs that have been going round my family- and quite a few friends too- has finally overcome my defences, and I'm coughing and spluttering a lot- day and night; consequently my breathing is not as good as is desirable. So it's going to be a trip to the GP surgery to sort out my asthma...

Oh, and rearrange my dental appointments too. :(

So I'm sure you'll understand my brain is a bit hazy at the moment. But I do want to leave you with something to read about.

Last week a YouGov survey announced that 60% thought being an author was the most desirable job to have in Britain...

This announcement resulted in newspaper articles, that in turn got bloggers blogging.

Chas Newkey-Burden in the Telegraph books section gave '14 reasons why you shouldn't dream of being a full-time author', and while his reasons were all valid, most writers cannot afford to become full-time authors as they need their daytime job to pay the bills and eat- and if you're female there's often your family to factor into it all.

Tim Lott in the Guardian books section added his opinion too, including an obvious plug for his current writing related work with the newspaper.

These inspired Sally Quilford to write her response, '14 reasons I wouldn't want to be anything but an author'.

And another brilliant piece from Jane Lovering's 'From Behind the Keyboard'.

It's quite possible that within that 60% there were people who want to be authors, but haven't yet taken that first step on the very long and bumpy road; but sadly, I suspect many think that it is easy to write a book and be a JK Rowling, a Dan Brown or EL James, sell millions of books, make millions and get films made of your work, because the media makes so much of the breakthroughs.

If you want to write, you will do it, however long it may take you, and however much you need to learn.

We'll continue to write because we have to. Because we love doing what we do.

And honestly, you would not want to eavesdrop on my subconscious at any time- it would give you a severe headache. :)

Sunday 15 February 2015


I have recently been nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by the charming and talented writer, Rosemary Gemmell, whose next book The Highland Lass from Crooked Cat Publishing will be launched on Facebook next month- so pop along to Rosemary's 'Reading and Writing' blog to find out more.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award
Inspiring blogger award...
With this award comes a few rules- nothing difficult so here they are:

  • Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog.
  • Display the Award Logo.
  • Nominate other blogs and provide a link to them (so you can go and visit).
  • Go to their blog, leave a comment to tell them they've been nominated, and where to find the information they need to accept.
And finally: mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks.

1. Has to be last weekend's virtual romance festival (see my 8th February post). Professional development is important for any writer, otherwise we get left behind; and the Pinterest item certainly got my brain working, and thinking how it could help me put together visuals when I'm considering ideas for my stories.

2. A few Facebook pages that I keep in an Interest list relating to Costume. If you're on Facebook do go and have a look at the posts from: Historical Sewing, Mrs Daffodil, and Silk Damask Consulting. Pictures will feature that I can see my historical characters wearing- even those that are just a glint of an idea!

3. Coaches- whether they're the writing type, or the sports related type. They give their time and energy to children and young people, encouraging them to develop their skills and inspire their students to achieve.

See, that wasn't too difficult. :-)

Now these are the blogs and bloggers I'm nominating- if they would like to accept; there's no pressure to accept...


Sally Jenkins/ A Writer on Writing



Wednesday 21 January 2015

Virtual Romance Festival Back...

Just seen the news that the HarperCollins Virtual Romance Festival is returning for a second year- save the weekend dates of the 7th and 8th February in your diary.

I've just registered for the event- it's free.

As last year, one day will be aimed at writers, and the other for readers.

Again events will take place on Facebook, Twitter, the Festival's Wordpress site, and Google Hangouts.

Last year the Wordpress site got temporarily shut down, so hopefully that won't happen this time, as it kept everyone up to the moment on who was where...

Most of the 2014 writers day I spent on Facebook; as there was a different person/subject every hour, and I found it very useful. Lots of writers asking questions and sharing their experiences and thoughts.

And experts generously sharing their expertise and answering the barrage of questions.

Twitter was a bit too fast paced for me to keep up with that as well, but I was able to access many of the other events I missed from the links in the emails sent, and the Wordpress site when it was back up and running.

This announcement on the Bookseller website will give you some general information, and includes the link to the Eventbrite page to register.

Bookseller article with Eventbrite link, here.

If you're on Facebook you can like their RomanceFestival page.

So often it can be difficult for writers to get to Festivals and Conferences in person, so this virtual event is a fantastic opportunity to take part without leaving home.

If you missed last year's festival in June, then here's my blog post from last year sharing my experience of the writers day.

If you go, enjoy every busy minute. :-)

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...

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

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...





Sunday 8 June 2014

Asking Questions and Learning...

Asking questions and learning from the answers is fairly standard for writers at any level, but imagine that 10-20, 100 times over...

That was yesterday at the first day of the virtual Romance Festival (today-Sunday- concentrates on readers).

Everything kicked off at 2pm, and having checked out the programme first thing that morning, I'd decided to concentrate on the Facebook page- though I did pop in to have a quick look at the Twitter side #Romance14.

(At the time of writing this post, their blog has technical issues, so once it's back up and running you'll be able to access all the author Q&A blog posts at: so check it out later.)

Having the ability to ask questions of the guests, and at the same time discuss the subjects with fellow writers was good, as not all of those joining in were in the UK, so you got a different view. Add to that the guests were only there for 1 hour, you'll understand how active the page was- I had to refresh the page a few times to ensure I didn't miss anything.

The Facebook page started out with two novelists ( Anoushka Knight and Fionnuala Kearney) talking about their journey to publication.

3pm's book cover session was popular. This was with Mark Ecob, a cover designer, and there were discussion on fitting covers to genre,  typefaces that work, motifs and images, among the discussions.

All too soon it was over and another popular guest was introduced, agent Madeline Milburn. We all received answers to our questions, and there were useful tips on covering letters, and that she wanted to see a strong voice, and strong characters that hooked her into the story...

Probably the most valuable advice given was to research the agency's as much as possible, as she said there is a lot of information available on the web, especially with agent interviews and talks.

I liked the fact that she said she didn't represent specific genres, that she represented the author...

Moving on it was the turn of Mark Lefebvre from Kobo; he talked about Kobo Writing Life (the equivalent of Amazon's KDP) and you'll find links in some of his answers.

As you probably guessed Romance is one of their highest selling genres. I think we all wanted to know how others ranked. Well Erotica - "More Active Romance". :) was followed by Thriller/Mystery, then Fantasy and next, Sci-fi.

It was certainly an information filled session, so do have a look at it if you want to find out more.

The last couple of hours featured Harper Impulse authors chatting about 'What I've Learned In My First Year Of Being Published' and then author and journalist Tess Stimson who was talking about writing as a career.

I did pop over to Twitter to catch a few of agent Carole Blake's answers to questions, but by this time my head was buzzing and I needed food (amazing how using mental energy can make you hungry) so signed out.

Events like this enable writers and industry professionals to get-together without having to leave their desk (sofa, sun lounger or wherever they're accessing the web) and it benefits us all.

As great as it is to go to conferences and talks, it isn't always possible, or affordable when you add on transport and accommodation costs, so virtual events like this are fantastic.

Hope we can look forward to another weekend next year...

If you want to find out about today's programme, then look here.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Logged in at last!!!

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

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

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

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

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

I'm glad to be back...

Monday 17 June 2013

One Word Anthology Book Launch on Tuesday...

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

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

One Word Anthology in paperback available now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(This doesn't apply if you go direct to )

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

And you get a good read too...

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

Saturday 30 March 2013

There's Only So Many Plots...

Quite a few romance writers were surprised to read that Mills and Boon author Kate Walker and Harlequin had recently been the subject of a copyright violation case; and were happy to hear that Kate (and her publisher) had been cleared of any wrong-doing.

Kate revealed the news on her blog earlier this week. You can read it here.

Kate ran a Romance Writing workshop for Nottingham Writers Club in 2012 that I arranged, and I'd have no doubt of her innocence.

She would never infringe another writers copyright.

And the judge agreed...

Please read the judgement that you can find here you will learn a lot about the elements in romance writing that are not considered protected, and those that are. The detailed analysis starts around page 9.
It really is worth the time reading this judgement if you want to write romance...

The link was available on The Pink Heart Society blog, whose post 'A Troupe of Tropes' has an explanation of tropes and archetypes in relation to copyright, by the editor of the PHS blog, Michelle Styles, who is also an Harlequin Historical author.

It is sad that this case even came to court in the first place.(My personal opinion only.)

As a reader of category romances of over thirty years, I can recall a number of Mills and Boon novels that used scenarios and plots that 'the plaintiff' used in her unpublished synopsis, and first chapter (that formed a part of her claim for copyright infringement).

There are only a limited number of plots, whether you are writing a contemporary romance or an historical. They even apply to futuristic stories.

The scenarios of Star Wars and Harry Potter share many similarities, and it occurred to me today, that even Pip in Charles Dickens, Great Expectations has shared scenarios...Nothing is new, just the uniqueness of your story and the characters you've created.

We all want our heroes and heroines to fulfil certain demands in a romance. Whether you go for the tall dark and handsome man, or prefer the blue-eyed blonde, they are all recognisable.

And red hair does often genetically go with green eyes, like blue eyes with blondes...

My novella uses a returning character to resolve a past situation in the story. But so do a lot of romances...

The only essentials, with stories and characters, are what you do with them and the details that make them yours...

It's all just a variation on a theme...

Do you have a particular plot or scenario that you find yourself regularly using in romance writing? Or are there any you don't like, or wouldn't use?

Friday 22 March 2013

Reality Strikes Back...

In more ways than one.

You know those weeks when everything is progressing nicely and then you find you have a long to-do list. Well that's been this week for me.

I'm getting through the list, and still managed to write 1400 words this week, but the 5,000 word March total is looking doubtful. Well there's always April... :-)

The charming and talented Patsy Collins has nominated me for the Reality
blog award.

Now it does come with responsibilities- there are always rules to follow.

Visit the blog of the person who nominated you and link to them on your post. Then answer the questions and nominate other bloggers- and tell them of course...

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

So many things, both personally and in the outside world, but even the bad things can make us stronger. But if I really had to choose, then it would be my fear of spiders.

If you could repeat an age, what would it be?

Definitely my teens. I didn't fit in at school, and was persistently bullied by a few girls because I was different. I was tall, broad and wanted to learn and to do well in my exams to be able to have a career. If I could do that time again - but with the knowledge that everything will eventually be fine.

What one thing really scares you?

Getting Alzheimer's and losing my ability to create characters and give voices and personalities to my characters; and eventually losing that link of reality with my family.

If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be?

I honestly don't know. Because whoever I temporarily became I'd still have to do their job, and if I was going to be anyone then I'd be selfish and want to be someone who doesn't have any demands to be made upon them, or have any responsibilities- it is only a day after all...

So here are the bloggers I'm nominating for the Reality Blog Award:

Lizy-expat writer

Maxi- Scribbler Maxi's Musings

Keith- Dream it, then do it

Lorraine- From the Top of the House

Alan- snailmale-chez l'escargot