Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

This is the traditional time for looking back and making plans for the future. I like a bit of tradition ...

I became a full time writer part way through 2013 (following redundancy). I'm really enjoying it and have put more time and effort into my writing and it seems to be paying off. I could do better though and that's my aim for 2014.

How was 2013 for you?

Do you have any plans for 2014? I hope the New Year opens the door to all kinds of possibilities and success for you.

If you are thinking of reading more, learning about, or are a simply a fan of, Shakespeare then this free online course might appeal.

Maybe you'd rather write for the BBC?

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Happy Christmas!

I hope you all have a lovely time over the next week or so whether you celebrate Christmas or not.

Here are a few freebies and offers in case your plans include reading -

My short story collection is still free. My publisher, Alfie Dog have a few other freebies too.

Sally Quilford is giving away two of her Regency novels between now and Christmas Day.

If you've signed up for Amazon Prime you can read Paint Me a Picture or A Year and a Day for free.

Using code DQ88A will get you 30% off Escape to the Country until the end of the year. Or try DY25F to get Robert Crompton's Leaving Gilead for free.

Ana Salote's book Oy Yew will be free on Boxing day (her birthday)

Katie Stewart's Mark of the Dragon Queen will be free from 26th to 30th December.

Finally, I have Surprise Gift, a new and appropriate story up on Alfie Dog. Not on special offer, so you'd have to pay the full 39p for that one.

If you're running your own free promotion, feel free to mention it in the comments.

btw, in case you were wondering what authors like for Christmas, I can assure you sales/downloads are on the list. So are reviews from anyone who enjoyed their work.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


A skeuomorph is a design feature that's no longer needed but included because previous versions of the item (often made using different materials or in a different way) had whatever it is.

For example the decks of cruise ships are no longer made from planks of wood (as it's a fire risk) but they're likely to be finished in a brown material laid in strips to resemble planks. Modern compact cameras no longer have shutters, but they often make that distinctive cur-lick when a picture is taken, as they have a device added to reproduce it. Chocolates sometimes still come individually wrapped because back in the old days people didn't always eat a whole tinful in one sitting ...

Can you think of any more examples?

Thanks to Julia Hones for telling me about this free to enter competition with a cash prize (there are also paid submission opportunities mentioned on the site)

This opportunity to write for the BBC has been mentioned on several blogs, but here it is again in case you've missed it.

If you'd like my opinions on writing what you know, please take a look here.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Chain Reaction

Samantha Tonge (author of Doubting Abbey) has suckered me into a chain blog thing. Thanks sooooo much, Sam! ;-)

First I have to answer four questions. Here goes.
1)     What am I working on?
Well, I thought I'd concentrate on my novel, so naturally I've come up with lots of short story ideas! I've given in and am writing them.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That's tricky when writing, as I do, mostly for women's magazines. The stories do have to be original and not the dreaded 'well worn themes' but they can't be too different or they'll not be suitable for the magazine. To achieve this I try to look at things from a less obvious angle and to write about situations the reader may not have experienced, yet can still relate to.

Character is the most important thing, I think. If the character is believable and the story is theirs then it shouldn't feel like we've heard it before.

3)     Why do I write what I do?

 Because those are the ideas that come to me.

4)     How does my writing process work?

I get an idea and write it directly onto the computer as soon as I can. Then I'll go through correcting and improving. That stage is repeated until I feel it's as good as I can get it. Feedback from writing friends helps a lot with spotting areas which need work.

Now I select three victims. They are -

Wendy Clarke is a short story writer. Her stories have been publishes in The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly.

Sheila Crosby started writing ats chool in Leeds and never stopped. She's published 50 short stories, including an anthology of quirky science fiction, “The Dodo Dragon and other stories” Sheila went to La Palma in the Canary Islands with a six month contract, met a tall dark handsome Palmeran in the Isaac Newton telescope and has stayed for 22 years so far.  Last year she published “A Breathtaking Window on the Universe: A guide to the observatory at the Roque de Los Muchachos”  “The Seer's Stone: 12 stories inspired by La Palma's starry skies”, will be on sale in January.

Susan Jane Jones is a fellow Alfie Dog author. She writes short stories and articles and is working on a novel, 'Hats off to Love'. You can visit her website here, buy her stories here and more here.

Do vist their blogs next week.

Phew, that's that done.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


It was my writing group's Christmas party yesterday (so I won't be writing about it in present tense). We each brought wrapped books we've read and enjoyed as presents for each other and enjoyed food practically presented on disposable plates.

All the members were present, except one (he's presently on holiday). The results of our competition were announced and the winner presented with a trophy (I was second*). We gave the judge a small present to thank him for his presentation on humour in writing, and his feedback.

*I mention that to present myself in a good light.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The end!

At last, I've got to the end of the list of free to enter writing competitions I started last week. (I'm not stopping doing them, but I'm now up to date with those I've found so far) nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty.

After all that, I hope you'll forgive me for advertising 'A Wish for Christmas' - a lovely collection of festive short stories available from the publisher or Amazon.

Want another quiz? Ok then, there are two versions - this one is for all those who don't forgive the advert ... add the prize money from all thirty of the competitions posted this week and multiply by the number of words in War and Peace.

And for those who do - multiply the entrance fee for all thirty* by the number of stories in my FREE collection.

*clue - they all cost the same to enter as it costs to download Not a Drop to Drink.

There's another free (and short) read here.

Friday, 6 December 2013

To continue the continuation ...

More free to enter writing competitions - thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen. (I think there are more than six left, but I'll put them all in the next post anyway)

Keep on eye out for Friday Freebies from Alfie Dog - just share the appropriate post to be in with a chance to win a story download.

And for an instant freebie, take a look at my story up on Writer's Who Rock.

And another quiz - can you name a book that has one or more birds in the title? (have you read it? Any good?)

I'll start with To Kill a Mockingbird. I've read it and recommend it.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

All in All

It's time for the last Insecure Writer's Support Group post of the year so I decided to look back on my insecurities over the last twelve months.

Being made redundant was a cause for both optimism and concern. At last I had the chance to write almost full time - but would I be any more succesful than I had previously?

When I got acceptances, or the writing was going well, I felt quite confident. When I'd had nothing but rejects for months I was insecure.

I'm starting to feel that, on average, I might not be any more insecure than most other writers. What do you think - are we all a mixture of gloom and cheer?

(If you came looking for free to enter writing competitions you'll find several on the last two posts and there are more to come on Friday and Sunday)

Monday, 2 December 2013

To continue ...

To continue the list of links to free to enter writing competitions I started in my last post - seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. (There will be more on Friday)

And here's another word/geograhpical quiz (or maybe it's a discussion point) Is this house located in Wessex?

Saturday, 30 November 2013


I had lovely organised bookmark files with all my competition links in. One each for those I'd already blogged about, those I had yet to mention and those I intended to enter. Had. Past tense.

The whole morning has been spent searching the internet for free to enter competitions. I've found a lot, including some new ones. So many that I'm going to post them in batches of half a dozen over the next few posts. Some of course I've already mentioned but I'm going to add the links anyway as I can't be bothered to check for the benefit of those who may have missed them the first time.*

Here's the first batch. One, two, three, four five, six.

*Strange as it seems there are people who don't hang on my every word.

Here's a combined word and geography quiz ... use part of the location in the photo to complete a well known simile for hunting down relevant information, amongst all the other stuff, on the internet.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A few things ...

.... you may be interested in.

Sally has details of a poetry competition here.

Sue has details of a competition to win a one day writing course.

And I've been chatting to Jeanne about, amongst other things,  large meals eaten towards the end of December.

And here's an old household appliance - can you see what it is?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The C word ...

No, not that one. I'm far too ladylike to blog about such a thing! The one I mean is defined in my dictionary as 'the annual festival of Christ's birth, celebrated 25th December'.

I don't want to talk about it yet, but as a writer I do have to think of it (and other festivals, holidays, events and seasons) well before the event itself. Even if I write my Valentine's stories in February and Hallowe'en ones in October, they're no good to magazine editors then.

Here's a competition for very short festive stories with an interesting prize selection.

And here's a really lovely book you can buy. The paperback version would make a wonderful gift, or how about sending the e version instead of a card?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Hot and Cold

Although we've had a few bright, sunny days this week it's clear that winter is on its way. We've given in and put the heating on. I'm not a huge fan of winter. It goes on too long for my liking. I feel the same way about Christmas. If we could confine both of them to the same two weeks at the end of December and beginning of January, I'm sure we'd enjoy them far more.

Talking of doing things in a short time, you've not got long to enter this poetry competition from
Dappled Things. It has a $500 prize.

A warm fire is good on a cold night. Fire is also the theme for Poem Pigeon's latest competition. There's a £25 prize. You can read my heartwarming entry here.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


Synecdoche is a word I'd never come across until I opened the dictionary at random just now. Despite never having heard of this device previously, I have used it. I wouldn't be surprised if you have too.  A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which part of something represents the whole.

For example you might refer to a traditional Sunday lunch as 'a roast' even though the vegetables and gravy were cooked in another way. It's generally understood that 'a blonde' will have more body parts than just her hair. When we refer to writing a book we generally also mean planning, rewriting, editing, proofreading and trying to find a market, not just bashing out a first draft.

Here's a picture of a couple of birds - which, I think, is a synecdoche for a picture of a couple of birds and their shadows and a dead leaf, on some grass which has been marked to form a football pitch.

Reader's Digest are running a short story competition with a £1,000 prize. As you're limited to 100 words, you might find a synecdoche or two comes in handy. Here's a poetry competition with a $175 first prize. Apparently synecdoches are often found in poetry, so if you enter I hope you'll use one.

Monday, 11 November 2013


Buy my books or the dusty paper flowers get it!
Promotion's a pain, isn't it? Writers don't generally like doing it and most readers don't want to be presented with a constant stream of adverts every time they look at an author blog, Facebook page, twitter account etc.

Advertising isn't something I'm good at, but I have to try or no one will read my books - and if they don't there's no point writing them. Sigh.

If you have a book to promote, or are looking for something to read, you might like  iAuthor. They offer a free book advertising service.

How do you discover the books you read?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

OK actually

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time again. It's whizzed round so fast that I've been caught out feeling pretty OK about my writing at the moment.

For a start I've got to grips with the new laptop much more quickly than I'd expected, so I'm writing instead of fretting about the things I can't make it do or looking for lost files.

Secondly, if you were to pop down the newsagent's (in the UK) you could pick up three different magazines with my stories in.

 Thirdly the post hasn't come with today's rejects yet.

Fourthly I've not put myself under the pressure of doing NaNo this year. I'm doing my own less challenging challenge.

Fifthly (which doesn't feel like a real word although if firstly and secondly are then it should be) I can get men to take off their shirts just because I tell them it'll help sell one of my short stories.

As I was so rubbish on the insecurities front the least I can do is to find you a couple of free to enter competitions.

Here's a poetry one (I'll enter it and won't win, if that's any consolation)

And here's a short story one.

And another.

And another.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Samantha Tonge

Today Samantha Tonge is visiting to chat to me about her tasty short story collection, Sweet Talk.

So, Sam the important question first - did you bring any sweets with you to stop me asking awkward questions?
Yes – a large gobstopper! (Oi!) No, I didn’t bother because if you are anything like me, it is impossible to put a sweet in your mouth without you quickly chewing or crunching it!

How many sweets did you 'have' to eat to research the book and while writing it?
Not so many sweets, but lots of chocolate, cake and biscuits – all in the line of duty, of course! I am actually not a huge sweet fan. I prefer toffees, fudge and chocolate. 

I know the book isn't actually all about confectionary - what other sweet stuff is in there?
A wide range of stories featuring kittens, stick insects, firemen, sisters, Christmas wishes... but they all have one thing in common: they are uplifting and guaranteed to leave you feeling good. Plus one is a little bit saucy! Please let it be the one with the firemen. Oh sorry, what we were talking about? Oh yes ...

Copies of Sweet Talk are in a nail salon local to you, aren’t they? How else are you promoting the book?
I am very excited about doing a signing in a couple of weeks, at a high school, during a ladies night Christmas fashion show/craft fair event. I have been practicing my signature!

You write for The People's Friend and I know they like nice feel good stories. Do you ever get the urge to write about really horrible people or things?
No, because whilst the stories are all feel-good, I can still write a wide variety and never get bored. I recently sold two stories in the voice of a cowboy, set during the Californian Gold Rush. They were huge fun to write!

Out of all the characters in the book, which can you relate to?
Ooh, quite a few but probably  most of all Wendy out of ‘One Lump orTwo’. The story revolves around a cooking faux pas she made, when guests came to dinner – that’s exactly the sort of thing I’d do and the story is based on a mistake I made one Chirstmas!

In case you're not visiting Sam's local nail salon anytime soon, Sweet Talk is also available from Amazon and the publisher.

Samantha’s debut novel, Doubting Abbey, is out soon from digital-first CarinaUK Harlequin. Find out more here.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Thanks for pitching up to read my latest word of the week post.

Pitch can mean to slope downward, put up a tent, or the space said tent occupies. It can be to throw something, fall headlong or submit a suggestion to an editor. It's the movement of a ship in a longitudinal direction, angle of a roof or where cricket is played. Pitch is a quality of sound, the gloop you get from distilled turpentine or where a market trader displays his wares.

It can also be to express something at a particular level - I do hope I've pitched this post correctly. I also hope I've got everything right and we won't need to have a pitched battle over my definitions.

The pitch of these steps was so steep that if the ship had pitched or rolled I'd have pitched down them.

This poetry competition has a $500 prize and you're allowed to submit work that's been pitched elsewhere or published on your blog. Thanks to Julia for pitching in with the link for that one.

If you've written a children's novel set in Scotland, you might like to pitch it here and be in with the chance of a £2,000 prize.

Monday, 28 October 2013

E J LAmprey

Today's guest is E J Lamprey. I've invited Elizabeth to tell me a bit about her latest book and how she came to write it.

Elizabeth says - Statistically there are more people over fifty getting married than ever before and the senior singles market is thriving. My latest whodunit gleefully dives into the murkiest end, where the predators lurk, and has a bit of fun with on-line dating. I’m not saying it’s the most dangerous, but it’s very popular. Anyway, as I write novellas, with only forty thousand words (give or take) to set my story and solve my murders, a narrow focus is essential! 

It is also the only type I’ve tried in recent years (oh yes, still trying – optimism will always trump experience) and I’m a great believer in sticking to writing what you know.  Anyone who has computer-dated will remember the combination of hope and nervous laughter; at least you survived, eh? 
When the police start investigating alarming irregularities into the senior singles on-lining dating world, Edge is asked if she’d be the dating face of the investigation. She’ll be monitored at all times, so no there’ll be no danger at all … 

This is the third book in a series of cheerful murder mysteries tackled by the ‘villagers’ in a retirement village in Scotland.  The first kicked off with the murder of an unpopular resident. As the blurb puts it, the police could do with some inside information, and fortunately Sergeant Kirsty Cameron’s slightly eccentric aunt is right on the spot.  Helping the police solve the murders in One Two Buckle My Shoe involved Edge’s friend Vivian, and forged new friendships with bon vivant William, and the sardonic Donald. The friends enthusiastically waded into investigating a couple more murders in Three Four Knock On My Door, and thoroughly enjoy the social side of Five Six Pick Up Sticks.  

The books are clean as a whistle, lightly Scottish, and the attentive reader should solve the case a beat ahead, or a beat behind, the amateur detectives. They’re weekend reads, cheerful and carefully plotted, and if you enjoy them I’d love you to leave a review.  

I live on the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh, and my daughter is getting married next spring.  I suspect there’ll be a wedding in one of the next books as it seems to be taking up a huge amount of my thoughts, even though she’s doing most of the organizing! I’ve lined up three mother-of-the-bride outfits (thank you eBay) so that whatever the winter throws at what was once my figure I will be dressed. One is too big, one is too small, and one is just right – call me Goldilocks. 

I’m on Twitter as Elegsabiff, have a blog called Quite Contrary, and a Facebook page for E J Lamprey – if you ‘like’ the page, please leave your own page url posted as a comment so I can return the favour. 

Thank you Patsy for this invitation, loving your work and have been known to giggle helplessly on the train when reading you! 

Patsy Says - Aww, thanks, Elizabeth. Your book sounds like it will be lots of fun too. Get Five Six Pick Up Sticks here.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Shiny and new

I have a new computer.

I didn't really want to change, but my old one was falling apart. It's a 5 1/2 year old laptop that's travelled with me on my push bike, buses, trains, ships and boats. I've used it in the van, in Russia and Spain, at the beach and on honeymoon. It's written two novels and hundreds of stories.

The new one will be good I'm sure, once I get the hang of it. It's smaller, lighter, quicker and has twice the battery life. They keyboard lights up in the dark (handy as I can't touch type). It's shiny and doesn't have a little mark on the screen that looks just like a stray apostrophe.

Now, let's see if I can find anything ...

Oh yes, here's a short story competition, with a nice shiny prize.

And the picture is of a shiny new day.

Monday, 21 October 2013

All at Sea

Here's a competition to write a romance set at the seaside. Appropriately the prize is a romantic break at the seaside - or at least it could be romantic if you take the right person. There's also some cash for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. If I'm not around for a while, you'll know I'm doing research for this one ;-)

Life at sea is the theme of this competition, which has £1,000 as the top prize, plus three more decent prizes in both the fiction and poetry categories.

I did write a story about life at sea. Even though it's romantic I can't enter it in either competition as it's already been published. Suppose I'd better get on a write another one - after the appropriate research of course.

Gary, where are you?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Something new

Here's a competition for new (or unpublished) writers to win a writing course (via email or post) All you have to do is say why you'd like to win. 

This one is for writers using 'new' media. Interactivity is a key element of this apparently. The prizes are good; £1,000 for the overall winner, £250 people's choice award and for a qualifying entrant there's also the chance of a 3 month paid work placement.

Here are some new pigs (new as in young, they're an old breed) I have to look at cute animals as research for my new book.

What's new with you?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Keep going

Keep is a good word (not least because it gives me another chance to post a photo of a castle - do you know which one?)

It means to continue to have something, to save something for future use, store in a regular place (we keep The Sphere in the garage), continue in a particular position or activity (she kept her head down) or to remain in good condition (fresh bread doesn't keep very long). It can also mean to do something you promised to do (I keep my promises) to provide accommodation and food - or the money for those things (he earns his keep)

If you have a friend with enough money you could be a kept woman. You might want to keep up to date, or with the Jones'. Or perhaps you'll attend keep fit classes (which generally means get slightly less unfit rather to maintain an existing state of fitness in my experience) and of course it's the strongest part of a castle.

Not bad for just four letters, eh?

One thing I keep doing is entering competitions. This one has a £500 prize, plus a place on an Arvon course. This regular one - you could sat it keeps going ;-) offers a voucher worth £150 each month. This one offers a £50 prize and gives a list of themes to keep away from. Writing something for this one might keep you awake at night. That has a £50 prize too. As always, they're free to enter.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


A secret is something that's kept, or intended to be kept, from most people. You might think the meaning of the word isn't a secret, but switching on the television or picking up a newspaper or magazine will soon show how wrong you are. Almost every day someone will be offering to share their secrets of success, beauty secrets, reveal whose secret love child they are etc etc.

Here's a top tip, if you want to keep something secret, don't give the details to the papers, or TV reporter. If you want lots of people to know, then what you're offering isn't a secret - it's a tip, piece of advice, comment, item of gossip or most frequently a blatant publicity stunt. (Maybe I should have picked cynical as this week's word?)

Now don't tell right, this is just between us - I've found out about a short story competition. The entry process is a bit complicated, but you could win £1,000.

Julia Hones told me about this poetry competition with a $100 prize. I'm sure she won't mind me sharing it with you.

Friday, 4 October 2013

On the up?

Are there more free to enter writing competitions than there used to be, or am I just getting better at spotting them?

The second round of this short story contest is now open, there's a bunch of poetry competitions here, here's another short story one, and another poetry one and another for short stories (you'll need to get a child to write it for you though) and one for travel writing.

Do you know of any I've missed?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Ups and downs

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's Insecure Writer's Support Group time.  Am I feeling insecure? Yes, sometimes - about as often as I get a story rejected and that happens quite often. I imagine it'll keep happening as long as I keep sending stuff out.

I get acceptances too though. To prove it there's a story of mine in this month's Woman's Weekly Fiction Special. It seems wrong to have favourite stories, but if I did then this would be one of them.

Alfie Dog Fiction have taken some more of mine, too.

Getting an acceptance cheers me up and the effect lasts long enough to counteract the next few rejections. Competition wins would have the same effect, I'm sure. That's why I've already sent an entry to this one (which has books as the prize), will be trying this one (with £100 prize), and this (to win a residential writing course). As with all the competitions I feature, these are free to enter.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Win a book deal

If you write romance and have a novel ready, this competition is worth a look. Unfortunately mine isn't ready. Maybe next year? This one might be even better, as it's open to any genre and guarantees the publishing deal is worth £50,000. For both of those you need to submit the opening and a synopsis of the book you're hoping to get a publishing deal for. Winners will also have the backing of big names and are sure to do well.

This competition also offers a publishing deal for a romantic novel. Weirdly though they're making the selection based on a short story. Oh and they seem to think laundry is romantic ... Here's another competition where you could win a publishing contract on the strength of a short story. The theme is war or peace - not both, they want it short, remember!

btw Using my own book cover to illustrate this post isn't just blatant advertising. Escape to the Country was published because I won a novel writing contest, so it's also relevant.

Personally I'm concentrating on short stories at the moment. I'm over at Maria's explaining why. Leave a comment there for the chance to win an ecopy of Up the Garden Path. Admittedly that's not quite as exciting as a book deal, but you don't need to write much to be in with a chance.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Gooooood morning!

I've been practising trying to sound bright and chipper early in the morning - is it working? The reason for that is I was on the radio again. Hi if you're visiting after hearing me chat to Steve Harris on radio Solent this morning*. The free collection we talked about is available from Amazon or the publisher. Feel free to grab a copy and stick around to chat if you'd like to. And of course hi to everyone who didn't get up at dark o'clock to listen to me. And hi to Steve - he told me he looked at the blog and likes Wednesday word of the week.

*Friday 27th at about 6.40 in the MORNING!!! If you want to book me for a TV appearance, or to chat to your writing group, please make it after breakfast time. :-)

If you like listening to stories, then this competition to win three Lee Child audio books might appeal.

Quirk books sounds like a company I should write for, doesn't it? Unfortunately I'm not going to get my novel finished in time for this competition. If you have a weird romantic novel ready you could send it in a try for the $10,000 prize.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Parbuckle is ... what I get when I ask my husband for a word of the week suggestion. He reckons it's topical because it's been in the news (as a way of righting the partly submerged cruise ship Costa Concordia). A parbuckle is a rope or sling used to raise or lower casks or other cylindrical objects.

When used to right a ship, I suppose parbuckling is the opposite of careening. I used to talk about careening in my day job, but as I don't do it any more, I'll spare you the details. When not used in a nautical context careening means to swerve about. None of it has anything to do with this romantic novel writing competition, but if you say it quickly it sounds like it might.

Here's a picture of a ship which, sensibly, stayed away from the rocks and therefore remained the right way up. I careened (slowly) up a nearby mountain to take the photo.

That's two weeks this month I've done a double word of the week. I must get a grip.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Seasonal seasoning

How do you feel about reading or writing seasonal stories and poems at the 'wrong' time of year?

Do you want ghost stories at the end of October when the nights are drawing in, the wind is blowing and scary kids, demanding you hand over your chocolate supply, could descend any minute? Or would you rather read a summer romance then?

By the time December 25th comes round are you in the mood for a magical tale of peace and goodwill, or does a murder mystery hold more appeal?

The magazine stories I read often reflect the time of year, but other than that I can read anything anytime. When it comes to writing, I write the story when I think of it. It can be a little disconcerting to look up and see that although I've spent the last hour on a hot beach everyone else has been scraping ice off their windscreens, but it's no worse than realising I'm no longer planning an Easter egg hunt, organising a firework display, plotting to overthrow the government or doing whatever else occupied the main character just a few minutes previously.

Here's a seasonal poetry competition with a £25 Amazon voucher as the prize. My entry is here.

Fancy winning novel writing software or other writerly goodies? Then pop over and see Hawk.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Cassa Storm

Comment on Alex’s blog this week for a chance to win a Cassa mug, mousepad, magnet, and swag!

By Alex J Cavanaugh

From the Amazon Best Selling Series!

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

“With a talent for worldbuilding and a compelling cast of characters, Alex J. Cavanaugh combines high powered space battles and the challenges of family dynamics to provide readers a space opera with heart.” 
- Elizabeth S. Craig, author of the Southern Quilting and Myrtle Clover mysteries

“I thought the revelation was going to be one thing and I was completely wrong … CassaStorm pushes the limits…”
- Tyson Mauermann, Speculative Reviews

“…mesmerizing story of survival, personal sacrifice, tolerance, and compassion. It’s a rare jewel that successfully utilizes both character and plot to tell a story of such immense scope and intimate passion…” - Nancy S. Thompson, author of The Mistaken

$16.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 268 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction/adventure and science fiction/space opera
Print ISBN 9781939844002 eBook ISBN 9781939844019
$4.99 EBook available in all formats

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Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013


My dictionary doesn't think fettling is a word. It's wrong.

Gary spends quite a bit of time fettling. Our friends Geoff and Edna, who often indulge in a spot of fettling, tell me it's the present participle of the verb fettle. All three of them use it to describe sorting out, tidying up and tiddlying off.

Fettle is in my dictionary. It means condition or trim - as in 'he felt in fine fettle'. It can also be what you do to tidy metal castings or pieces of pottery before firing them.

Fettler is also in my dictionary. A fettler is a person who fettles. You'd think that'd make them really spruce wouldn't you? Apparently it's most commonly used for railway workers.

I can't say for certain this pot was ever fettled, but my Black Pearl chili growing in it is in fine fettle, don't you think?

Quite a bit of fettling of my stories is needed before I'm ready to submit them to magazines or enter them in competitions, such as this one. By entering you're also submitting work for possible publication. The prize is $250.

If you're interested in the lengths I'll go to research my stories, take a look here.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

How to Eat Loads and Stay Slim

Today I'm joined by Della Galton and Peter Jones who've come to tell me how they came to write How to Eat Loads and Stay Slim. (I've got a copy of this and I'm doing really well with the eating loads part!) They're sharing a healthy dessert recipe too. 

So come on then, what's the story behind the book?

Peter - Anybody who knows me intimately will tell you that two of my greatest passions in life are eating, and writing. So you might assume that after some careful deliberation I chose to write (my half) of How To Eat Loads and Stay Slim out of a desire to combine both interests. You'd be wrong.

Some time ago I was chatting to friend and fellow author, Della Galton, about what sells books. We both agreed that a good title is critical. Good titles sell books. Take for instance my first book - 'How To Do Everything and Be Happy'  - that, so Della told me, is a very good title.
"In fact the only way it could have been better," said Della, "was if you'd called it something like How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim"
"That is a good title," I admitted. "though not really anything to do with happiness!"
"Well, I wouldn't say that," said Della.
"Fair point" I conceded.
"Actually," I said, my inner nerd waking up to the possibility of some serious geekiness, "weight management is something that I have some experience in."
"Really?" said Della, "So do I."

Della - Yes, I remember that - although if you'd warned me how seriously whacky some of your weight control ideas are, I might not have been quite so enthusiastic about proceeding with this book. I mean, I have a reputation to maintain!!!  OK, that last remark is a little tongue in cheek but seriously - some of your theories are pretty 'Out There'.  At least they are to someone who comes from a traditional sensible dieting background like myself. 

But I was intrigued enough to hear you out. I thought I knew everything there was to know about losing weight and staying slim. It turned out, I didn't!

Actually, this may sound odd, but one of the reasons I wanted to proceed with this book was because I felt our different perspectives would make very entertaining reading…

Peter - Excuse me! My ideas aren't 'wacky'! I'm just fed up with the notion that only way to lose weight is to either eat less and move more. Even you've got admit that they're soul-destroying ways of managing your weight. I was convinced there had to be a smarter way. Turns out there is. OK, the stuff about the 'fatometer' is a little strange - but the science behind it is completely sound and has actually been around for the best part of fifty years. The only reason why nobody knows about it (as far as I can see anyway) is because there isn't any money to be made from educating people on how the body actually controls hunger, and the bottom (the huge wobbly bottom at that) might fall out of the slimming industry if people actually knew.

Anyway, it's up to the reader how 'out there' they want to be isn't it? It's not like we haven't given them enough ideas to pick from!

Della - True - we certainly have mentioned lots of ways our readers can eat loads and stay slim. But whilst I admit your geeky ideas are all 'grounded in science', so are mine. What exactly have you got against fat free healthy eating anyway, Mr Jones - especially as you know we share the same abhorrence of bland, flavourless foods? I don't remember you turning your nose up at my fat free quiche.  "Absolutely delicious," I think were your exact words.  And while we're on the subject of fat free versus whacky, can I just ask which of us is actually the slimmest, slenderest, thinnest, smallest-waisted, and most petite? I think you'll find it's me. Not that I'm being competitive. I don't have a competitive bone in my body - as well you know ;)

Peter - I haven't got anything against healthy eating at all! Quite the reverse in fact. I just think that 'fats' have been unfairly demonised. It's 'hunger' that's the enemy - in my humble opinion. And might I remind you Ms Galton that despite your scorn you have eaten quite a few of my geeky dishes on several occasions - and finished the lot I might add! And I can't think of anyone who would be more qualified to write a book entitled "How To Be Competitive About Everything"!

Della - Now that's not a bad title for a book, not bad at all…

LIKE us on facebook, or pop by howtoeatloadsandstayslim.com for more details. Click here to buy the book.

Fat Free Jellies with Fruit and Yoghurt - serves four
These are rather lovely for a summer afternoon dessert - or for any other time of year come to that.

400 g Strawberries (fresh cherries work really well too – de-stone them first)
200 g Blueberries
2 fat free strawberry yoghurts (or cherry if using fresh cherries) I use Muller light or M&S Count on Us range
1 sugar free strawberry jelly – made up as per instructions

To serve – four knickerbocker glory dishes.
Prepare fruit.  Hull and chop strawberries. (reserve four for decoration). Place in bottom quarter of knickerbocker glory dishes.
Make up jelly as per instructions. Pour jelly mix over fruit to cover.
Layer remaining fruit with yoghurt.
Then top up with remaining jelly mix.
Refrigerate till set – about 1 and a half hours.
Garnish with remaining strawberries.

Enjoy!  The beauty of these is that they are fat free - so if you don't happen to have any guests coming round, you can have more than one - and it's not often you can have more than one dessert and not feel guilty! Oh and by the way, the little glass dish in the picture is leftover fruit and jelly - just in case you want to eat even more guilt free dessert!