Showing posts with label e-readers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label e-readers. Show all posts

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Here and Now...

The Present

Yes, I'm back. Four months since I last posted and you may have forgotten I exist...

I'm into a routine and writing again; important as the the RNA New Writers' Scheme deadline draws ever nearer...

The last four months have been busy.

The Past

The Covid-19 virus hit my family as the country went into lockdown. Writing stopped and the priority was dealing with the resulting health issues- those were scary days.

Putting up the
I did read, in fact I read so much that the battery on my Kindle e-reader finally died! As I discovered when I ordered a replacement, there weren't any and I'd have to wait for an unknown time. It took about a month, but it arrived.

There's been lots of research reading, baking and gardening going on too- though that's probably obvious from the pictures...

Making Fruit Scones...

Growing Salad Leaves
from seed...
Reading for Research,,,

The Future?

I've also been thinking about the future of this blog, and my Serena Lake website/ blog. No final decision has been made yet as I need to research further options, and the practicalities may mean compromises.

There's lots of catching up to do...

Thursday 23 March 2017

Can You Have Too Many Books?

Now I know that's a silly question to ask any writer, but I have to face it, I do have a lot of books.

As a consequence of all those books I also have six IKEA Billy bookcases downstairs and they're full. Okay at least one of them has books my OH has bought or received, so it doesn't sound as obsessive... :D

A few books...
There's quite a TBR (to be read) list on my Kindle e-reader. E-readers have enabled me to buy more books without anyone knowing.

I still buy physical books, probably more non-fiction than fiction. But I do still buy paperback versions of the latest books by my favourite authors. It's also easier to find a place to slot them in on the shelves than it would be trying to fit 20+.

A few I do read more than once because I enjoy the story and the characters so much.

Even though some readers won't buy an e-book, preferring the sensory delights of a book made of paper- be it paperback or hardback; I'll admit there is something very tactile about old cloth-bound books.

When I'm travelling or attending an appointment my Kindle comes with me, so I can choose a book to suit my requirements and my mood- or the time available.

Sometimes I do give books to a charity shop, but there will always be one or two that end up staying behind...

Unfortunately the time is coming when I will have to be ruthless and part company with a number of the older paperbacks.

We've got to have some work done inside the house this summer so it will mean temporarily moving furniture- and bookcases into store; hard decision will have to be made on what I'm keeping, and what will go to good causes- or friends.

So now it's over to you. Are you a book hoarder? Or do you pass on books after you've read them?

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Kobo, Mills and Boon and W H Smith Romance Writing Life Competition...

April seems to be the month for competition announcements.

Following on from my Sunday post, about Choc Lit, there's now another opportunity for writers of romance in the UK, Canada, and the United States, announced today.

The winning writer receives a publishing contract with Mills and Boon, which includes print and digital release; plus it will be "jointly promoted" by all three names: Kobo, Mills&Boon, and W H Smith.

There's a prize for second and third place- a Kobo Glo HD.

Now to take part, you must have an active Kobo Writing Life account to enter, and they do give you a helpful link.

The first of many?
Their link takes you to a page, but you need the create an account via the link on the bottom left (in light blue/green) and you can then proceed to sign up to Kobo Writing Life as an author.

Now that bit is the off-putting part of the process- I'd assume they class signing up as being the active bit...

So what do you need to submit?

A maximum 500 word synopsis, and the first chapter of your romance manuscript, no longer than 5,000 words. These will be "reviewed by a judging panel".

(I'm sure I don't need to remind you, but just in case, give the ending on the synopsis...)

They're including all romance genres, and while saying it's not limited to their existing categories, I do wonder how much that will play a part.

And for those who want to submit a title they've self-published - you're in luck.

The deadline for entries is the 14th July- but you might want to check whether that is UK time, or US.

As the successful writer will be announced a month later, 14th August, the winner will need their complete manuscript ready for submitting to Mills and Boon in September-with the release date of the winning entry in early 2016.

And the manuscript needs to be 70,000 words, or more...

For full details pop along to the Kobo Writing Life page. It has all the links you need, including the one for the application form- make a note of how they want your manuscript put together before you click submit...

If you enter, good luck.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti and

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?

Tuesday 12 February 2013

I've Been Reading...

This post should have been done yesterday, but I was out clothes shopping with one of my younger sons- the fashion aware one at that too. Needless to say I was exhausted by the time I got home, so the blog is being done today instead.

It did cross my mind that it would have been much easier in the 19th century; I could have just sent him along to the tailor to measure him up and make the clothes he needed...

So I thought I'd share with you a couple of the books I've been reading- both have been keeping me up until midnight just to finish the next chapter.

I've read a few of Trisha Ashley's books over the last two years, so when I was trawling through the kobo bookstore and saw 'A Winter's Tale' and read the brief description, I wasn't too sure if I'd enjoy it, so I downloaded the preview to read, and I was hooked.

Sophy Winter is a single mother who has just lost her job, but finds out she's unexpectedly inherited her childhood family home 'Winters End'. With family squabbles, a ghost ancestress and two men to deal with, as well as trying to come up with a plan to make the stately home pay its way, she's going to be busy.

The book was fun to read, and kept me guessing until the end whether Sophy would get her happy ending. I'd recommend it if you want an entertaining feel-good read.

Immediately after I finished 'A Winter's Tale' I started reading Erica James's 'The Real Katie Lavender'. Another book that I downloaded a preview of and then decided to buy.

I'm enjoying the book, but it's a bit more intense on the family dynamics front. I think Erica James is an author I might read again, but not without downloading a preview of the story first.

30 year old Katie Lavender is made redundant. At the same time she receives a letter from a solicitor who has instructions to give Katie a letter. The letter is from her mother who died a year previously. The contents lead her on a journey that will change her future...

I haven't quite finished reading it yet, but it's a, must just read the next chapter before I go to bed, type of book.

I'm hoping for a happy ending for a few of the characters at least...

By the time I finish this book, I will have read about 8 books so far this year. Well I did say to writer friends last year, that I was going to try and read more books in 2013, and try authors I haven't read before...

Have you read any books so far this year that you'd recommend?

Saturday 12 January 2013

I'm Back...Just.

Hello everyone, I'm finally feeling near normal and my head is clearer, so I can now concentrate to write and hopefully make sense...

I've done quite a bit of reading over the last two weeks, and have to say that my kobo e-reader has been a wonderful companion- thank goodness for the adjustable font size.

If you have your e-book/s on Smashwords then you'll also be likely to find it on the Kobo bookstore- so don't forget to tell your potential readers about it.
Yes, it will cost more than buying as a kindle book, but there are a lot of readers who don't have a Kindle- they want to avoid Amazon, but may instead have a Kobo, Sony or Nook e-reader, or one of the numerous types of tablet devices that you can read e-books on.

With e-books the first few chapters in a preview can make the difference in whether the  book becomes a purchase, or a potential reader is put off for ever.

Basically it's just like your first three chapters having to impress an editor or agent to make them want to read the rest of your manuscript...

I may have said this before, but I've found some of the previews I've downloaded sadly lacking, compared to others. And the lacking ones were not always the self-published e-books.

If the accompanying blurb (whatever the fiction genre) interests me, then I'll download the preview; if I like that, then I'll buy the book. Sadly I've found, in a dozen books so far this month, the blurb promised much, but the writing wasn't engaging- to me personally.

So here's a few of my recent purchases after reading the previews: 'The Real Katie Lavender' by Erica James; 'A Winter's Tale' by Trisha Ashley (I've bought a few of her previous Christmas tales and enjoyed them, but this was a little different ); and an Agatha Christie, Miss Marple short story, 'Strange Jest'.

I've also bought and read a few short stories and novellas by some of my favourite romance authors, and story collections by other blogging writers, and this is where e-books do come into their own.

Short stories, or collections of short stories, and novellas- which wouldn't have been considered by a print publisher unless you were a 'name', are now able to reach a wider (and appreciative) audience via e-books.

Writer Maggie Cobbett has just released her first collection of short stories on the theme of murder with a humorous edge- 'Anyone for Murder And Other Crime Stories' on Kindle. One reviewer said they were the sort of stories you could read in 5-8 minutes when you didn't have time for a full chapter of a book, and they do have a 'twist in the tale'.

Digital has giving writers opportunities that previously they could only dream about.

No, it isn't easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is...

Monday 10 December 2012

Books I've Been Previewing...

I have to admit that at this time of year I do tend to procrastinate more than usual...

Really I shouldn't as I have a lot to get organised still.
Christmas cards and letters to send; presents to wrap and label; and stocking up the freezer.

On the literary front I'm reading some previews of books that I downloaded onto my Kobo glo.

Previews are a great idea as you can try out an author you've never read before, or there's a book that's all the rage and you're not sure about it.

I've even decided to give new books by my favourite author a miss because they've not grabbed me with the preview...

I will be buying the full version of a few of the books I've previewed so far.

I've been trying to broaden my range of reading matter, so want to use Christmas as a catch up on my reading spell.

So here's a few of the books I've been previewing:

'The Casual Vacancy' by J.K.Rowling- the opening is promising, but the seemingly most interesting character drops dead at the beginning, and the others that we're then introduced to just bored me- they were selfish/irritating individuals. And I kept wondering how long it was going to be before something interesting happened- actually another character dropping dead might have been good, but I couldn't be bothered to buy the book to find out- I gave up before the end of the preview!

That's probably a deficiency on my part, not JKR's writing. I had no complaint about her characterisation; perhaps it was just her narrative style I disliked...

'Life, Death and Vanilla Slices' by Jenny Eclair- now I find her comedy very funny. She is a grumpy old woman in a fun way. Women of a certain age, or state of mind will recognise so much she says...

As individual chapters they were good, and if the book had followed through from the first character who had just bought the vanilla slice of the title, before her accident, and not then gone on to telling us about yet another character, I probably would have bought it.

I know stories that aren't linear can work, but again, I don't think I have the patience to wait around to find out how the different women connect together- if they do...

I can deal with stories that are going along, but then, with a flashback take the story back in time for quite a while, before coming back to the present.

I will be buying Sue Moorcroft's 'Want to Know a Secret'- When the lead character, Diane's happy life becomes unsettled; suddenly learning about a few things her husband has been keeping quiet about, but only after he has had a serious helicopter crash.
I got to the end of the preview and immediately wanted to know what happens next...

If you read e-books, do you find the preview facility useful?

And have you bought a book because of a preview that you wouldn't have bought otherwise?

Do please share your experiences of e-book previews...

Thursday 22 November 2012

Thursday's Radio Interview...

Another experience in the book promotion of the One Word Anthology has been achieved- the radio interview.

Nottingham has a BBC Radio and local news studio on the edge of the city, and that's where Catherine (Dalling) and I were this lunchtime.

We had an interview about the e-book on the Gareth Evans programme that airs between 12 midday and 4pm.
Our instructions were to be there by 1.30 for 1.40...

Actually we were there by 1.05, as we weren't sure how long it would take us. We were fortunate that the tram came along just as we were approaching the Royal Centre stop, otherwise we wouldn't have got there until nearer 1.30.

It's not far to walk from the tram terminus- about 5 minutes- so we had time to sign in, sit in reception and chat, and watch the four screens on the wall- we had a choice of BBC News reporting on the flooding around the country, the lunchtime antiques show, and at one end the local BBC news studio presenter preparing for the East Midlands report that follows the main One O'clock News, while at the other end and with sound, the radio presenter Gareth in his studio.

It seems the whole show for today was word related: with questions about words, fun news that was word related; so we were going to fit right in with the One Word Anthology...

We went upstairs and waited to go into the studio.

Then it was time. Introductions were done while the music was playing, we sat down and then it was time to put the earphones on.

Catherine and I naturally alternated answering the questions, and during the next music break we were able to tell Gareth about the contributors who are in Fiji, and Australia and Europe, as well as the UK and Ireland.

So when we put our earphones back on, this community aspect became part of the next question.

We talked about the words used in the anthology- why does the mind always go blank on important things? :)

Then it was time to tell listeners where they could buy the book, and say thank you.

It was the 2 o'clock news and we could leave the studio. Hopefully some of the listeners went and bought the book- or will do in future...

Everyone was pleased with how well it went; and fellow contributors were happy with our efforts. As were we.

The e-book
So here's an edited version minus the music. Interview.
Hope you enjoy it. (Thanks, John.)


Saturday 10 November 2012

Meet One of the Writers in the One Word Challenge Anthology...

As we're only a couple of days away from the launch of the One Word Challenge Anthology, on Monday the 12th, I thought it would be fun to introduce you to one of the writers in the anthology.

Catherine Dalling is not just a writer and friend, but also a talented artist.

Catherine Dalling
So to the questions and answers...

Tell the readers a little bit about yourself.

I’m almost 48, married with two teenage children, a dog and three cats.  I became a stay-at-home mum when the kids were born and other than a couple of part-time jobs have stayed that way.
 Twice a week I run a music quiz at a couple of local pubs and love it, even though I have to say I now know more useless information about one hit wonders and chart stats than I am probably ever going to need, unless one of my characters ever becomes a DJ.

What started you writing?

Up until the children were born I was predominately a portrait artist, people and pets,  but when you have two young children it's not easy to paint when you don't have the space. So the paintbrushes were put away and I got on with being a mum.  But something was missing, I needed something creative. 
I had been a prolific writer whilst I was at school, short stories (somewhere between the Famous 5 and the Hardy Boys) and rather bad poetry.  So I started writing a bit of fan fiction, then it mutated into not-so short stories - always dark, either realistically so or heading into urban fantasy.

As the kids got older I started painting again, but I have to admit I had the bug for writing. I enrolled on a writing course and really enjoyed it. I have very Gothic tendencies, but other than my beloved New Rocks (a particular type of boots) you wouldn't really notice it - well until you walk into my office that is...

Some writers concentrate on one genre, others a variety. Which type are you? And what are you currently working on?

I admit to a love of all things dark and macabre, but I don't do gore. I always think the less it's described the more it affects the imagination of the reader. So I tend to stick to what I know, and love.

I have a vampire serial that is at the stage where it needs a good edit, but to be honest I've popped it in the back of the cupboard as I feel the market is so saturated in blood that it will probably drown. My vampires can wait.

 I am focussing on what will hopefully become a series of books involving the Nephilim; it's still in the early stages but the characters are already shouting at me at inopportune moments, which is always a good thing.In my head the characters are real. As long as I don't walk down the street talking to myself we should be okay.

When you're writing do you need to shut yourself off from everything, or are you happy to work with everyday life going on around you?

Normally I like to be all alone, locked away without distraction, once the kids get home from school I have no hope of getting anything done. Or if I don't want to be distracted by the washing/cleaning (can't work in a messy house) I take myself off to one of the local cafes with my net book for an hour and have a couple of lattes and get my brain working. I can shut the noise out, or I can people watch (it's valid research – honest).

 I used to write in silence but now I tend to have music on, something that sets the mood for what I'm writing: a bit of HIM, or Within temptation, Bach, Beethoven, it varies, of course.

You have four stories in the anthology. How would you describe them to readers?

I have to say that the OWC has been an interesting exercise for me. I remember looking at it and thinking there is no way I can actually get my point across in 200 words (she has) - probably takes me more to tell people what they are about. So looking at the four stories, each is different, but very typically me.

  • In 'Heat' I wanted to get over the feel of the inner city on a hot summer night, the seedy underbelly of nightclubs, I think I did.

  • Bounce – you know that kid at the back of the class that you always thought was a bit odd?This is how he could have ended up, school wasn't the happiest days of everyone's life.

  • Chaos – A humorous look at the beginning of the Apocalypse.

  • Witness – A look at humanity from an unusual viewpoint.

As a writer in a rapidly changing book industry, do you see your genre as benefiting from them? Or having to adapt?

I think it's a two edged sword (to use rather apt cliché). When I was growing up dark fantasy/urban fantasy wasn’t seen as a serious genre. It seem to be changing. You only have to look at the plethora of vampires around at the moment - some better than others - to see that technology (and teenage girls) seem to be the vampires friend.

I remember when the books were either nestled in with the horror, or epic fantasy and you had to read the backs of covers to find what you wanted to read. Now it’s so much easier to find something that appeals, with no end of suggestions thrust at you when you have purchased online.

I think ezines are brilliant. There’s more scope to showcase writers who would probably never see the light of day otherwise.

I used to get the bi-monthly Fantasy and Sci-Fi (my abbreviation) periodical from the states (not overly expensive) but sometimes late etc; now I have it direct to Kindle for 99p - brilliant (I don’t own a Kindle but I have it on my phone) which means I read more as it’s always in my pocket.

What authors would you recommend new writers read?

I think it depends on what you want to write, but honestly, read whatever you can lay your hands on- especially if you aren't sure of what genre you fancy, or more to the point how you want to write it.

 I’d avoid how-to books until you’ve found your voice, as I think they can be slightly a negative influence; and if you read too many it will just confuse you. It’s like painting, you find your own way, or you just end up like someone else.

Don't feel you have to like, or emulate someone if it doesn't do anything for you. There is nothing wrong with not liking what someone writes. It’s not bad writing, it just isn't for you.

The same goes for your writing. Don't try to write to please anyone but yourself. If you love your characters and your story, it will show.

So read, read, and read. 

Read classics (in my case) Poe, Lovecraft, Wilde.  The Picture of Dorian Grey is a really well spun tale. 

As for vampires you can’t beat ‘Dracula’. Bram Stoker was a genius.

But for more recent authors (and again I can really only point you in the direction I go) look at  Jim Butchers 'Dresden Files', Mike Carey 'Felix Castor',  Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Tanya Huff, Laurel Hamilton, and Charlaine Harris.

Where can you be found on the web?

For my writing there is a fairly new blog which will be updated on a regular basis:

For my paintings: and

Thanks you for sharing your thoughts and inspirations with us, Catherine. And I'm certainly looking forward to reading your contributions  to the One Word Challenge Anthology on Monday.

And remember you're invited to the official launch on Monday, here, and on Facebook (The One Word Anthology) and on Twitter...

Monday 5 November 2012

An Exciting Week Begins...

The countdown to the launch of the One Word Challenge Anthology e-book begins today.

This is a very exciting week for me, as I have four pieces of micro fiction included in this e-book- two are by my alternative writing persona, Serena Lake.

And the very best bit of all, beside the price (99p direct) is that 10% of the cover price of each e-book will go to Medical Detection Dogs, a charity that trains dogs to assist people with life-threatening conditions.

Fantastic cover image by Marion Clarke
But I'm getting ahead of myself...

The book will be available to buy in a few days, direct from Alfie Dog Fiction.

It will also be available from Amazon and Smashwords but there's no definite date yet for those. (But I'll add links and prices when they become available.)

(Buying direct from the publisher will ensure the charity gets more.)

I'm one of 30 writers who have contributed to the anthology, so expect to see other bloggers posting, tweeting and taking about it on Facebook as the week progresses.

As the official launch is Monday 12th November, you're all invited to the virtual launch party I'm holding here.

Lola the Diabetic Alert Dog
A couple of days before, 9th/10th, I'll be bringing you an interview with one of the other writers' involved, Catherine Dalling.

If you want to find out more about the Medical Detection Dogs charity that the anthology is donating to, please look here.

(Lola belongs to one of the writers in the anthology; and the Talkback Writers have followed her progress through initial training to passing her final qualifications.)

More news in a few days...

A little bit about the book

Wednesday 24 October 2012

My New E-Reader...

Over the summer my Sony Pocket e-reader began needing the battery charging before I could open the reader, even when it was still three quarters charged- it was clearly malfunctioning.

So I accepted that I either paid a horrible amount of money to get it working again, or buy a new e-reader. Well there really wasn't a contest. I could buy a brand new reader and a few books for what it would cost to repair. And I needed more storage too.

I'd been considering a Kindle but didn't want to be locked into only buying e-books from Amazon, so I was interested by a display of kobo's in WH Smith (when I'd only popped in to look for a plastic box).

I was trying to work out how to get from one page on the reader screen to the next, when a child of no more than 8 years old, out with her grandparents, proceeded to whizz through the pages on the nearest device with a few slides of her fingers.

Yes, I hadn't understood that the idea of touch-screens was sweeping movements...I'm a simple basic phone person, nothing that needs sliding. :-)

Resorting to the tactic of all technology bemused adults, I got an assistant to help me.

The three latest readers, mini, touch, and glo were on stands and connected up so I got a demonstration of how they worked, and was able to ask the 'kobo' assistant questions and get an answer immediately-great customer service (if only other stores had staff like this).

My only question was which one did I choose?

Should I pay £59.99 for the mini- ideal for fitting in the pocket, 1GB storage, with built in wi-fi for downloading ease; or spend a bit more on the glo (£99.99) and have the added advantage of an integrated front-light with adjustable brightness, the 1GB storage, but with the ability to use a Micro SD card for extra storage if needed...

Now if you read in bed, or are travelling as a passenger in a car when it's dark outside, then the light option is essential, though using the light will drain the battery quicker.

I decided to buy the glo and the assistant even helped set it up while I was in store, so when I got home all I needed to do was sign into and download my kobo desktop, plug in my reader and synchronise it.

It was then an enjoyable hour (or two) browsing through the book categories, and then downloading a few free previews of books I'm interested in buying. Some are books by authors I've read before, others are new to me.

I'm sure there will be elements that confuse me, but I can pop in store and ask the assistant if I need to, which is great.

I'm mastering the sweeping motion, and not accidentally opening the dictionary too often now.

And best of all, I should be able to load the One Word Challenge Anthology onto it, when it's published in early December, so I can show relatives and friends my stories. :-)

My only problem now is resisting reading, so I can get on with writing...