Saturday, 28 June 2014

Seasonally adjusted

The summer solstice has been and gone, but there's still time to enter this poetry competition with the longest day as the theme.

While you're doing that I'm going to have a look at my stock of Christmas stories. I think I need to write more.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


I've just had a story acceptance from Alfie Dog. Hurrah! The editor pointed out two errors. I like to know about these so I can try to avoid them in future. One was that I mixed up the character's names. I have no excuse as I know how prone I am to that and should have checked more thoroughly.

The other was that I'd used phased instead of fazed. A phase is a stage or increment. Faze is to disconcert or disturb. My blog title is misleading as actually I was a little fazed. Not that I'd made a typo. We all do. It was because although I knew the two different meanings, I hadn't realised they were actually two entirely different words with different spellings. How can I not have known that?

Can I blame it on phases of the moon, or claim it's just a phase I'm going through? Maybe I need to start phasing more time with the dictionary into my day?

Talking of Alfie Dog, there's still plenty of time to enter their short story competition and win £200 plus publication (and royalties) of your own collection.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Just Kidding

If you've written a funny book for children or young adults then you might be interested in this competition. Actually it's OK if you've only started writing it which is just as well as the closing date is the end of the month.

Here's The Sphere getting ready to read a bedtime story to baby Sphere.

Monday, 23 June 2014

What gets you going?

There's not long until this competition closes, but if you happen to have a story ready on "the links between Britain and the Czech/Slovak Republics, or describing society in transition in the Republics since 1989" you could win yourself £300. Your entry can be fact or fiction.

You have a little more time for this one and a lot more freedom over the subject matter. Publication is the only prize mentioned.

What do you find more motivating - deadline, theme or the chance of earning some cash?

(Photo by Gary. I asked for something to illustrate anything in this post - and got it)

Saturday, 21 June 2014

By My Side

By My Side is a new collection of 20 romantic stories from Alfie Dog Fiction. I'm delighted my story 'Ad Lib' is included.

The book is available from the publishers and Amazon. Around £2 for an electronic version and £7 for the paperback.

If you'd like to get your own work in an anthology and are a cat lover, take a look at this.

And if you'd like Alfie Dog to publish a collection that's all your own work, earn royalties and get a £200 prize, have a go at their competition.

Find out about my super power here.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Freebie Friday

You might have seen my posts about visiting Thomas Hardy's birthplace and house. Seeing where he wrote and learning more about him made me keen to read more of his books. I've just discovered that lots of them are available free, so I've downloaded a good collection. (If you don't have an ereader you can download a free app to read these and other kindle books)

Maybe I'll sit out in the garden tomorrow and read The Mayor of Casterbridge. I studied it at school, but that was a long time ago. I lived in a cottage back then, just as Hardy did as a boy. Like him I had a grandmother living next door who told me stories.

All this gives me a feeble excuse to post another picture from my garden. The one at the top was taken at Hardy's cottage. The other in my garden. What do you think? Are they the same?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Look at me!

Gosh I'm a super writer. You can read my stories in a multitude of magazines or download them from Alfie Dog or buy one of my books and what's more you jolly well should!

Er, sorry about that. I was just demonstrating what it's like to be bumptious. It means to be annoyingly confident and self-important. I'm not really like that am I, at least not all the time?

I know, we'll put it to a vote (that couldn't possibly go wrong, could it?) Is the picture appropriate because -

A) I'm looking jolly smug as I'd just won a poetry competition (which was ages ago and yes I'm still going on about it) or

B) Because of the location?

If you were to win a competition like this one, with its $5,000 grand prize I think you'd be entitled to be bumptious for a little while. Or maybe you'd like to try this one? No cash prize, but pretty good bragging rights.

Monday, 16 June 2014

That Kind of a day.

Continuing with my year of meeting up with people I know from the internet, I recently spent a morning with my publisher Rosemary Kind from Alfie Dog Fiction, and her husband, Chris.

Tea and scones were involved (that happens to me a lot) and I got to stroke the dogs and walk round a lake with them. I'm stroking Shadow and Rosemary has Aristotle (Shadow's son.) They're cousins of Alfie

I've mentioned the Alfie Dog competition before, but it's a good one - a prize of £200, plus publication of your story collection and royalties - so I think another mention is justified.

You can find all my Alfie Dog stories here. They're 39p each to download.

27 points to anyone who can name the breed of dog.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Wessex Tales

Max Gate is the house Thomas Hardy designed and had built after he'd sold a few of his novels. Garden pictures are here.

He felt his social status had gone up since his birth in a humble cottage where he'd lived with his mother who was a former servant. His new home reflected this.

While we were there a very charming man read some of Hardy's work, sang songs and played tunes which are mentioned in his novels.

I love the fact he had special windows fitted in his office, so he could look out at the garden. That's one of my favourite forms of procrastination too.

This seems an appropriate time for a reminder about this competition for a story set at, or inspired by, a historic house.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Me ... again

It seems none of my writing friends are currently have a free promotion, so I'll remind you of mine  (or here for the US) and mention the Alfie Dog summer sale.

If you run a free promotion and would like it featured here, please contact me.

Should you be interested in my early writing influences, you can read about them here.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


To go lickety-split means to rush headlong towards something, or travel at full speed. To me, it rather suggests one should be heading in the direction of a couple of frightfully nice chaps, serving lashings of ginger beer.

We don't generally go lickety-split in our van (it doesn't half rattle if we do) but we expect it to go where we want when we want. The other day it wouldn't go anywhere. Fortunately the RAC where able to coax it back into action.

Fancy free RAC membership and £500? That's the prize on offer in this short story competition.

We visited this castle with our van. I climbed the first turn of steps lickety-split, but by the time I reached the top it was more ... well what word or phrase do you think sums up the red-faced, gasping mess I was when I got up there?

Monday, 9 June 2014

Far from the Madding Crowds.

This is the cottage where Thomas Hardy was born and later wrote Far from the Madding Crowd and Under The Greenwood Tree (my favourite so far)

Pictures of the lovely garden are here.
This is the living room where his mother taught him to read. He was a sickly child, so it was thought better for him to be encouraged academically rather than for him to join the family's building business.
 Music was a family tradition. Both his father and grandfather were good musicians. The songs they played feature in some of his novels.
This is a replica of his desk in the bedroom he shared with his brother and where he wrote several of his novels and poems.

His writing success freed Thomas of a life which would not have suited him and of the inferiority he felt due to his low social class.

If you can write about freedom you might like to try this competition (do read the t&cs first)

Sunday, 8 June 2014

WM in WM

I've been off on my travels again, this time down (or across? Geography isn't my strong point) to Dorset. The first stop was Wimborne Minster where I met a couple of friends I met through Writing Magazin'e talkback forum.

 Lorraine, Helen and I managed to get through quite a reasonable quantity of tea and cake before visiting Gulliver's bookshop.

It was a good day for characters. Outside the minster a lovely lady stopped to tell us about this grotesque - I'm hoping to work both into a story.

We also came across some interesting names amongst the list of previous church officials. Thomas Toogood, William Raven and Gary's favourite, Hugh Oldham amongst them.

More about my travels soon.  Talking of things in instalments, how about having a go at the second part of Creative Frontiers' accumulator competition?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Slave Driving!

I've just got back from running a workshop for the lovely ladies of Titchfield Wordwrights.

I snuck round taking pictures while they completed some of the exercises. Certainly look like they were working hard enough, don't they?

Jo and Judith

Lesley and Jenny
 Rosa, Rosie and Margaret

Notice how much happier they look once it's time to go? Can't think why that'd be.

It was great to meet such an interesting group of writers - and their equally interesting characters.

Now I'm off to walk through Dorset, with an ex surgeon, during the war, whilst avoiding the kidnappers and lustful tormentors before drinking magical mead from Gran's best china cups and being careful of my injured hand.

Thanks to Ed for the group shot.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

To review or not to review?

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time again. This month's insecurity is about Amazon reviews. Not about not getting them (although I really would like more) but writing them.

Usually I only post a review if I enjoyed the book. It doesn't have to be perfect, but unless I can honestly say something positive and award at lease three stars, I don't review. I mostly read fiction and generally whether or not I enjoyed the book is as much about personal preference as it is about the author's skill, so I think that's fair.

What though if the book is truly awful? What if it's just a lot of repetitive waffle that doesn't go anywhere and it's a non fiction how-to book giving dreadful advice? (I recently downloaded one of these.) Should  I say that and give it one star - or keep quiet?

Being a writer myself makes a difference, I feel. I worry that negative reviews might look like sour grapes. What do you do? Only give 'good' reviews, or a mixture, or none at all? If you don't give any, please do consider leaving them for books you've enjoyed, especially if the books hasn't already got dozens - you'll help that author feel a lot more secure.

Update I prepared this post a few days in advance. This morning I got a lovely new review for Paint Me a Picture which has brightened a wet, grey morning.

Monday, 2 June 2014

In good company

Just a quick brag - I have a story in the current (July!) issue of Woman's Weekly Fiction Special. There are also stories by Teresa Ashby, Della Galton, Wendy Clarke and some of my other writing friends.

I've mentioned this ghost story competition before. At the time I hadn't realised it was monthly. There are 12 chances a year to win the top prize of £100 and publication. There are cash prizes for runners up too.

Talking of company, I've arranged to meet lots of writers over the next few weeks - and the rest of the year. I mentioned a few of the visits when I was on the radio last week. My bit starts 12 minutes in.

How about you? Anything to brag about? Are you meeting new or old friends soon?