Monday, 3 August 2020

I'm over there!

This blog has now been combined with the Womagwriter one.  It's all a bit experimental at the moment.

My plan is that I'll include free to enter writing competitions, Wednesday word of the week, Insecure Writers' Support Group, information about writing for women's magazines, my own writing news, guest posts, other random stuff I think writers and readers may find interesting or useful and lots of photos. I'll use the number of comments to gauge which of those elements to continue with, and which to drop.

If you'd like to, as well as visiting the blog, you could follow me on Twitter, or Facebook, sign up for my newsletter (you'll get a free story if you do) or take a look at my website. You could even buy my books!

Wednesday, 29 July 2020


I was surprised to find blog isn't listed in my dictionary. Then I looked at the cover and saw how old it is. That was a surprise too. The nineties don't seem all that long ago – but it's time enough for blogs to have become popular and start to decline.

A few years ago My Weekly asked me for a few words about myself, to put under one of my stories. I mentioned this blog and the editor helpfully described blogs as online diaries, for those who were unfamiliar with them.

I'm not sure precisely how long I've had this blog, but I recall mentioning my engagement on it and that was over nine years ago. That's a lot of posts!

I'm thinking of somehow combining this blog with my Womagwriter one (which is for those who write for women's magazines). Although I'd still have the same amount of research to do, I think it would be slightly easier and less time consuming to only have the one blog.

What do you think about that? Any suggestions for the best way to go about it? Or maybe I should just stop one of them?

Fellow blogger Paula Readman recently invited me over to her blog for a virtual tea and chat.

If you're interested in the subject of blogging, you may like to join #WritingChat this evening. This is a Twitter event held 8-9 (UK time) every Wednesday evening. There's always a theme – this week it's 'Does blogging still work for writers?' Participants are encouraged to suggest topics for further discussions.

To take part, just tweet at the appropriate time, using the #WritingChat hashtag. (Without that, we'll probably miss your comments.)

And now for what you probably visited this blog for – free to enter writing competitions.

The Val Wood prize is for feel good stories of 2,000 words. There's a £100 prize, plus publication.

Amazon are offering a £20,000 for 'outstanding writing'. I know I'm cynical, but as readers play a significant role in deciding who wins, outstanding marketing is also going to play a big part. Still; like all the competitions I blog about, it's free to enter. If you intended to publish through Amazon anyway, you might as well have a go.

Bardsy are offering $345 and a six month placement on their Elite Writers' Scheme to the winning writer of a short story about dreams.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020


Dressed is the past tense of dress or dressing.  Most of these words are connected with putting things on – a person wearing clothes is dressed, as is a salad sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Gardens can be dressed with compost or fertiliser, a Christmas tree with baubles, or a graze with a plaster.

We can get dressed up in our smartest clothes, or give a dressing down to those who didn't make the effort. If we really want to get things right, we may even have a dress rehearsal.

Stone and meat can both be dressed – in these cases it means trimmed to get them ready for cooking or building.

Lots of things can be dressed up in an attempt to make them seem better. Probably best not to try that with our writing though. Editors, publishers and competition judges will soon see through a dressy font, pretentious wording and fancy formatting. If you try either this monthly free short story competition, or this one, or even this one, put your efforts into what you write, not how it looks and you could win a cash prize.

My latest short story collection is called Dressed To Impress. Here's the blurb –

We choose our clothes to help us stand out, make a statement, or to hide inside. They may show who we really are or be our disguise. Perhaps they'll help us play a part, get the job done, or be a means for revenge.

Clothes can warm, comfort and reassure us. We might buy or borrow them, damage or repair, give them away or have them taken. The items in our wardrobe might bring back memories, express hope for the future, or offer a surprise.

From glasses to shoes, fancy dress to fancy dresses, designer wear to charity donations, the clothes we wear all have a story to tell. This book contains 24 of them.

What kind of dressing do you like best?

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

A new image

I've got a new logo! (You'd tell me if it wasn't purple enough, wouldn't you?)

This was needed for my newsletter. If you'd like to sign up, you can do that here. You won't be bombarded, I promise – there will be about ten a year. As well as news on my writing life there will be a few exclusive special offers and maybe even some free stuff.

One of my novels, A Year And A Day, is having a new look too. Despite the old one having a heart shaped arrangement of rose petals, I didn't think it did enough to show it's a romance. The background of an Italian flag seemed appropriate because Luigi, one of the main characters, is Italian and quite a lot of the story is set in Trio, his restaurant (writing those scenes made me hungry!) Now though I think maybe it's misleading, as the story isn't set in Italy.

And the bit in the middle is just confusing, isn't it? That was supposed to represent the letter Stella received from the gypsy fortune teller to prove her predictions were correct. The new cover shows Stella at a point in the story where her love life is particularly complicated.

What do you think? Is it a change for the better?

Something which hasn't changed is the fact I'm still including links to free to enter writing competitions in my blog posts. This one, for UK residents only, offers a £500 prize for a short story on the theme of home.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

When did you start?

Although I made up stories for my little brother from when I was about five, I didn't start writing until my mid 30s. Sometimes I wish I'd started sooner, but perhaps I simply wasn't ready? When did you start, or plan to start writing – and what do you think is the best age?

This free to enter writing competition is for children aged 12 and under. They want 'funny, weird or otherwise unique' creative writing. This poetry competition is for kids aged 11-17. Do you know any child writers? (If none of you do, I won't bother sharing details of competitions for them.)

This competition is for mystery and suspense writers of any age. There's a $950 prize, but unfortunately it's one of those decided by 'reader engagement' so more a popularity contest than test of your writing. Still, it's free to enter, so you might feel it's worth a try.

Whatever your age, if you'd like to write but don't know where to start, or used to write and want a nudge to get back to it, or just want some ideas about what to write next, these two books could help. Both From Story Idea to Reader and A Year Of Ideas: 365 sets of writing prompts and exercises, do what they say on the cover.

Tonight's #WritingChat topic is 'reading for pleasure'. All readers and writers are welcome to join in by tweeting 8-9 UK time, using the hashtag. You don't need to follow me on Twitter to take part, but feel free if you'd like to do that.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020


Industry is a type of trade or manufacture, it can refer to trade and manufacture collectively. Those things will often happen in an industrial environment. Industry may also mean great activity or diligence. Those who demonstrate this are industrious.

Publishing is an industry. We don't always like to think of it that way, but it is. In common with most other industries money is the main driving force. It's often not the only one, but it's very important. If (for example) a magazine doesn't sell enough copies to buy more paper, it can't print the next issue.

If a publisher doesn't think our book will sell, they can't risk paying for an editor, cover designer, print run etc, or they won't be able to pay the royalties earned by their existing authors – and that wouldn't be fair, would it?

This month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question is – There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

I'd like to see things level out a bit more. Instead of a few authors making vast fortunes and the rest struggling to make any kind of profit, I'd like more of us to earn at least the minimum wage. But then I'd like that for those who work in all other industries too.

Things could be worse though. There are opportunities for 'ordinary' writers. Free to enter writing competitions are part of that. They offer the possibility of winning some money, improving your craft, building confidence, perhaps even getting noticed by someone in the industry. (Which is one reason I blog about them so frequently.)

This one from Nottingham Writers' Studio is for up to 5,000 words of fiction or non fiction to be included in an anthology titled Black Lives. The top prizes if £250. All published entries will earn at least £30.

For the Perito prize, you're asked to write between 1,000 and 2,000 words of fiction on the theme of accessibility and inclusivity. The top prize is £500. There's an anthology involved there too.

This competition from Southampton University is for children. They're asked to write books on sustainability, for which they could win £200. (It's the 3rd competition down – you'll find others on the site for adult writers.)

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Writing for a cause

Sometimes we feel so strongly about a subject we feel we must say, or even write something. Does that happen to you?

If you support the things Extinction Rebellion stand for then you may be interested in this opportunity to be published by them.

Personally I haven't written directly about any causes, other than to speak against all rights contracts. I've done that via the Womagwriter blog, and it's one of several topics of discussion in my interview for the Healthy Happy Writer Show.

Instead of writing solely about causes, I work subjects I'm interested in into my fiction, and characters often share at least some of my views. For example my books Firestarter and Leave Nothing But Footprints both include references to taking care of wildlife and picking up litter. They're not what either book is about. They're both romances, but the characters care about more than just finding love.

Which causes have you written about?

Wednesday, 17 June 2020


Judging by the response to last week's post, in which I asked for your competition news and provided the usual three links to free writing competitions, that subject is no longer of interest to my readers, so I'm dropping it for now. Instead Wednesday word of the week is back!

Wallpaper is, of course, paper sold to stick on walls to make them look pretty, or cover cracks, or both. Oddly I haven't got a single photo of wallpaper. Here's some fancy panelling (at Bolsover castle). It's a wall covering and made from the same stuff as paper ...

Wallpaper can also mean an unobtrusive background, often background noise.

I don't recall every coming across wallpaper as a writing term until it appeared in a lovely review of Firestarter last week. (Ooops, I seem to have 'accidentally' included a more recent one too!)

In this context wallpaper means background, setting or location. It can form an important part of the story, or just be there to stop the reader feeling the action happening in a void.

What kind of wallpaper do you like?

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Competition and Novel News

It's been a long time since I finished the draft of a novel – but today I have! I'm celebrating with a cup of tea, then I'm going for a walk along the seafront.

That novel is pretty much all I've written since lockdown started (I'd made a start on the novel years ago and abandoned it.)

Obviously there's lots of work still to do before the novel is ready for publication, but I'm going to take a short break and do something else for a while.

Maybe I'll enter one of the free competitions I blog about every week?

It won't be this one as it's for children, and it won't be this one as it's for people over 70. Maybe this one? It is for novels, and it's an excellent prize.

I'd love to hear your competition news.

Have you entered any comps? Had any luck? Heard about interesting contests? Got any tips to pass on? (Although I only feature free to enter competitions in my posts it's fine to share news about other competitions too.)

For those who are unsure, this post explains how to leave a comment. (If you've subscribed to the blog by email and wish to respond, you'll need to click on the link and add a comment – it's not possible to do this by replying to the email.)