Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Story material....

This has just got to go in a story, and might also serve as a warning to check - and check again - before choosing a name for anything.

On the tv the other night we saw an advert for an online bingo company called... With just one teensy alteration to one vowel, it becomes something else altogether, which is much too rude to print in a family-friendly blog like this. Although it might be closer to the truth, given how solitary most online bingo players must be... Even better, their tagline is 'Yes'. O.o

I'm making notes for a humorous noir as I type.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Losing a story - or my marbles

I spent over two hours yesterday trying to find a story that I was convinced I'd started several years ago, got bored with and set aside.

The reason I remembered it at all was that I was sure I'd rediscovered it only a few weeks ago while hunting out some other older stories to re-work for contests. I'd started it as erotica, but thought it would actually work better as noir. At the time I didn't have time to do more than glance at it, but I did take note of a rather memorable first line about someone jumping out of the cake at a birthday party.

I'd already decided it was going to be my first project in the new year, so yesterday afternoon I tried to find it again. I couldn't remember the title, but I looked through all my word processor documents - no sign of it. I went through again, and opened ANY file that I didn't immediately recognise as being something else - still no sign of it. I thought I must have deleted it, so got out my flash drive and my external hard drive with all my saved stuff on, plugged those in and searched both - still no sign of it. I even ran a search on 'cake' on the whole pc, and although it came up with all sorts of weird and wonderful files (how can you have 'cake' in a jpg?), there was STILL no sign of my story.

At that point I began to think I must have dreamed the entire episode - not just finding the story, but ever writing it in the first place. Not good. I was quite worried.

And then, just before I went to bed, I had another go. This time I was looking through old cd's, although I didn't think I'd ever saved it onto one of those, but while ferreting about an old folder caught my eye - the one with all my roughest scribblings of ideas. I hauled it off the shelf, leafed through - and there was the story, all one page of it, handwritten without even a title.

Phew! I'm not going mad after all!! (Well, no more than usual....)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fiona 0, Temptation 1

I gave in to temptation, and to the logic that netbooks are so new they probably won't be reduced in the sales anyway. So - I am now the proud owner of a Samsung netbook.

So far I've set it up to surf the net and use webmail. Next I'll be putting WordPerfect on, so I can use it to write while I'm away. After that, I might load it with my web authoring and ftp software so I can update my websites while I'm away.

I must say it's a very attractive little thing - and I can't believe the hard drive is eight times larger than the one in my desktop pc, in something not much bigger than an A5 envelope! The keyboard is surprisingly easy to use and I have a feeling it's going to come in very useful indeed.

And of course, I just have to take it away for Christmas now I've got it. ;)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas writing... or not

I find it incredibly difficult to concentrate on writing at this time of year. I find it pretty hard the rest of the time, too, but the run up to Christmas is just so... distracting. There are all those pings on the doorbell with deliveries and carol-singers and long-lost friends who 'just thought they'd pop in on the way past Birmingham'. There are cards to write and deliver, letters to write and remember to put in with the cards, the tree to find, put up and decorate, last-minute presents to buy and wrap, mince pies and non-traditional Christmas pud to add to the shopping list. It's all a lot of fun, but it means my brain is stuffed with tinsel and other sparkly things and I cannot. think. about. writing.

Added to that I've been working like a navvy the last two or three months, writing stories and firing off submissions like there's no tomorrow. Suddenly, my motivation has gone on strike. My get up and go didn't just get up and go, it stretched, wandered into the kitchen, made a cup of tea in the 'I'm allergic to writing' mug, and settled down for a snooze in front of Shrek the Third. Sigh.

It's hard, but perhaps I should just knock the whole writing thing on the head for the next three weeks, have a break, and come back refreshed in the new year, when hopefully my inspiration will be more cooperative. Or at least until the next idea bats me over the head in the middle of the night and I traipse off to the computer, bleary-eyed, at half past four because my brain is fizzing so much I can't get back to sleep....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rules of British noir

I've been reading quite a bit of noir fiction lately and it's inspired me to write a list of rules of the genre in case anyone else would like to try their hand at it. So here, in no particular order, are my (slightly flippant) top ten Rules of British Noir Fiction.

1. Everybody dies.
2. There's always a character called Albie, who is elderly, homeless, drunk - or all three.
3. All relationships are doomed to fail, no matter how promising they seem on the first page.
4. It's always either dark or raining, except when it's foggy.
5. Bouncers (doormen) are the most common characters - in fact they litter the pages like cigarette butts on a pavement.
6. Everybody dies.
7. Trips to the country invariably lead to the main character digging his own grave.
8. Pubs are always grubby and serve warm beer.
9. Female characters never wash their hair.
10. Everybody dies.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Strange research

It's amazing the things writers have to research sometimes.

I wanted to send a story off today - just a little flash thing about a vampire. But I realised on reading it through that I'd used very British language and the story was heading for an American market, and one or two terms in particular would have been baffling. And why baffle a potential publisher before they've even finished reading the story? They've got more than enough reasons to reject it without adding to them....

The worst offender this time was 'bin men'. In the UK, they're the people who come round once a week (or more likely once a fortnight as councils try to force everyone to recycle more...) and empty your dustbins (trash cans). I googled and googled but although I discovered a long list of regulations on the weekly trash collection in Philadelphia, nowhere could I find out what the collectors were called. I tried 'garbage collector' and 'trash collector', but both of those turned up pages about clean-up software for computers, and nothing about real life as opposed to virtual trash.

In the end, I put a call out on my LJ and a very helpful person stopped by and told me - it's 'garbage men'. The story has now been tweaked and sent off, and I'm delighted that I haven't bewildered the editor even more than usual.

But what's the oddest thing you've ever had to research?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Soooo tempted....

I'm not a massive fan of gadgets but I do like a decent laptop. Something I can drag round on holidays or weekends away, so I can stay in touch with email, surf the net and even do a spot of writing if the mood takes me.

I have a decent laptop (Advent, if memory serves me) which has coped very well with all of the above for a couple of years now. The only trouble is, that by the time I've packed it away in a bag with the battery, power supply, extra cabling, decent mouse (because I simply can NOT use those weird touch-pad things) and a mouse-mat, it weighs about the same as trying to lug the ruddy desktop with me. ;)

I've dreamed about having something so small it could go in my handbag and at last, it looks as though netbooks are catching on. They're small (10" screen), they're lightweight (1.4 kg or less) and yet they have most of the features a full-size laptop would have, in terms of operating systems, software, memory, capabilities etc etc.

Top of the bunch at the moment is this little fellow from Samsung. Not only does it have Windows XP and 160 gigs of memory, but it comes with a full-size keyboard so this particular touch-typist wouldn't be turning the air blue through hitting so many wrong keys.

I am oh-so-very-tempted. Maybe after Christmas, if they have January sales and I save up all my Christmas pennies...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Stand and deliver!

The latest call for flash fiction from Mslexia involves the theme of riding. I didn't want to do something dull about horses or bicycles, but this morning I suddenly thought of an idea about highwaymen - and a magician.

I scribbled the result, called it 'Trick of the Trade', and spent the afternoon polishing it. It's come out far too long for Mslexia in the end (their word limit is a measly 150!) - and I'm not sure it would have enough of a link to their theme even if I managed to trim it down. But hopefully I can find somewhere else to send it in the coming weeks. It would be a shame to waste it.

Linden Bay Romance to be sold

The biggest news in the electronic-to-print romance publishing world today is the sale of Linden Bay Romance to Samhain.

If you haven't already seen details on every other romance writer's blog between here and Outer Mongolia, you can find the full press release about the upcoming sale at the EREC blog.

Further details are understandably woolly at present but one or two LBR authors I know are crossing their fingers that their particular imprints will continue under the new Samhain umbrella.

Writers' rooms

There's a fascinating audio slideshow on the BBC website with photographs of the rooms well-known (or at least, established - I'd never heard of some of 'em) writers use to write in, plus a commentary by the photographer.

Some of the rooms are really surprising - the blood red one, the one that's in a basement with piles of stuff everywhere, the one that looks like a 16 year old's study. More are what you'd expect - filled with books and a lifetime of thoughts, pictures and memories. Those were the ones that appealed to me most of all - in fact, some of them made me chartreuse with envy. I'm lucky to have my own space to write in, but it's in the attic and the roof comes half way down the walls, which means no floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Having adored books since the age of five, I would love to have a room lined with them, but it's just not possible.

What would your favourite work-space involve? Lots of light and space? Something cosy and familiar? A wonderful muddle? A lap-top on your knees in front of the telly?

Interestingly, the photographer commented that he was originally going to do a series on writers' desks. But the advent of the lap-top means far more people have no fixed desk, but cart the lap-top around with them to work whenever and wherever they get the urge. So he had to widen his scope to the room they usually worked in instead. A sign of the times.

Incidentally, if you want to run the slideshow for yourselves, click on the tiny right-arrow under the main picture. They don't exactly make it clear!

Thursday, December 04, 2008


I've decided to try my hand at adapting a fun paranormal short story I wrote earlier in the year as a chick-lit novel. It'll need quite a bit of work, not least expanding from around 20,000 words to full novel length, and giving the main character a sex change from male to female. I read it through from start to finish to see where I could add new sections, where I could expand what I'd already written etc, and came to the rather horrifying conclusion that I'd really rushed the writing, because there are three separate stonking continuity errors in one longish short story. Aargh.

For starters, one character (a vicar who tries to carry out an exorcism) simply vanishes into thin air and is never heard from or seen again. Then I refer to someone's portrait as hanging in two different places at the same time. And finally, when the two main characters get up to a bit of hanky-panky it's in a bedroom lined with rediscovered paintings - and yet in spite of bouncing around on the bed they never disturb a single one!


I know I was writing it quickly for a deadline, but even so I'm usually more careful than that. It just goes to show that no matter how often you read something through at the time, you can nearly always find masses of bloopers later on. I've made a note... well, several actually. *blush*

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Kindle update

A writer friend of mine has now also discovered a long-out-of-contract book available on Kindle, so mine wasn't a completely isolated case. Please, do take the time to run a quick search on yourself on Amazon, to make sure your own old books aren't being sold when they shouldn't be. Remember, you could effectively be paying someone else (your publisher and Amazon), and making no money yourself, if you don't.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Warning on Kindle

A friend of mine has just discovered that 'Roses in December' is still for sale on Kindle via, some five months after the book's contract came to an end. I've written to the publishers for clarification but don't know yet if this is just an oversight or something that Amazon have started doing to try to increase their own sales. Either way, I thought I would pass on the warning. If you're an author with a book that's relatively recently come out of contract, it's worth checking on to see if it's still for sale as a Kindle product. If it is, it obviously has repercussions for both royalty payments and any future publication of the book and I can only suggest contacting your publisher to ask them to sort it out.