Friday, 29 December 2017

Life writing

Do you fancy having a go at life writing? If you're wondering what it is, it seems to be like life drawing, except you're the model, it's your soul rather than body which is shown in its naked state and you paint the picture with words.

At this point, I was starting to worry about how I'd illustrate this post. Luckily I remembered my life involves quite a lot of swanning around.

" The Prize rewards the winner with £1500, an Arvon course, two years’ membership to the Royal Society of Literature, a development meeting with literary agent Robert Caskie and a development meeting with an editor at Unbound. Two highly commended writers receive £500, a writing mentor, a development meeting with agent Robert Caskie and a development meeting with an editor at Unbound."

You can enter here.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017


Hydromania is a craving or passion for water. 

I'm not sure my wish to be on a beach qualifies as hydromania, but I would quite like to be somewhere sunny and sandy, with gentle waves rippling on to the shore and gulls wheeling overhead...

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Happy Everything!

The Druid, The Sphere and I all wish you a very happy anything you care to celebrate around this time of year.

If you have any terrible festive jokes or puns, the comment section of this post is the place to share them.

Just to set the tone ... Santa has three gardens, as he likes to ho, ho, ho!

Friday, 22 December 2017


This competition, run by the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook is for short stories of up to 2,000 words and offers a writing retreat as the prize.

I must be a winner, as I already have a writing retreat!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017


Matins, which may also be written as martins, is a service of morning Christian prayer. Or it may be a night 'office of prayer', but it can also happen at daybreak or in the evening. There, aren't you glad I cleared that up for you?

Matins (or mattins) is both the singular and the plural, so at least that's simple.

You may recall me moaning about poets getting an extra definition for the word bedew (no reason you should remember, but you might). They're at it again with matins as they can use it to describe birdsong. Only in the morning though.

Sunday, 17 December 2017


For this competition you're asked to submit one or two pieces of flash fiction, or a photograph for possible inclusion in an ezine from which you'll earn royalties.

The guidelines made me laugh so much I felt obliged to enter, but then I do have an odd sense of humour.

Talking of which ... Here's a trophy I won earlier this week. It's tricky to read, what with the shadows, reflections and my thumb print, but I promise you it's for humorous writing.

If you live in Yorkshire you may be interested in this competition for short stories or poetry. Thanks to Alyson Faye for telling me about it and that the deadline has been extended until 22nd December. She should know - she's judging it. It's free to enter and there are nice prizes.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Next Top Writer Contest

I've been asked by Sydney Liu, a co-founder of Commaful, to pass on these competition details:

"We are hosting a writing contest called the Next Top Writer Contest where the winners get shared to an audience of over 4 million people. The contest features 8 judges that span from award winning writers to best-selling authors. The regularly hosts other contests that can be found here and this is the biggest contest to date!

The competition is 100% free to enter!

Entry is via the site itself. You can transfer past works or write something new on the site.

I think this will benefit a lot of people :)"

I've put in an entry, mostly to see what was involved. You can read it here.

There are to be unspecified prizes from the judges and sponsors as well as 'massive exposure' for the winners. Does having your work read by four million people appeal?

Wednesday, 13 December 2017


Salacin is a bitter substance with analgesic properties, which can be obtained from willow bark.

The trunk you can see at the right of this picture is our willow. If you'd like some salacin, please come round and help yourself to a branch as it could do with pruning.

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Drabble

A drabble is a story of less than 100 words. The Drabble is a site which publishes these.

There's no reward, other than the possible glory of your piece being chosen as the editor's pick, but when I came across the site I was tempted to submit something.

You can read it here.

Do you fancy having a go yourself?

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Facebook group

Rosemary J Kind and I have set up a Facebook group called From Story Idea to Reader as an online companion to our book of the same name. Group members are invited to ask questions about any writing related subject.

We’ll also be offering writing tips and support. You can join up here, if you'd like to - no pressure!

Friday, 8 December 2017

It's Murder!

There's still time to enter the Wordsmag short story competition.  The theme is murder, max word count is 2,000 words, it's free to enter and there's a cash prize of £50.

Btw, after mentioning Ad Hoc Fiction's weekly flash competition, I decided to have a try. The first prompt I saw generated a 1,000 word piece instead of 150, so I sent that off to a magazine and tried again last week. My story made it through the first round. You can read it, and others here. Whichever is voted the best will win.
The competition is still running. The prize each week is free entry into the Bath Flash Fiction Award - and the prize for that is £1,000.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017


No, I didn't write 50,000 words of a novel in November and so 'win' Nano. I didn't even come close (just over halfway). No, I'm not worried about that, nor do I feel like a failure. The novel is further advanced than it would have been if I hadn't signed up. I also wrote seven short stories and a piece of flash last month. Seven is more than I manage in some months where I don't do anything towards a novel, so that's pretty good.

More important than the words I've written is what I've learned about the best method to write. Best for me that is. I couldn't keep writing because I didn't plan my NaNo project well enough, because I didn't know the characters well enough to know how they'd react to the situations I put them in, because I hadn't started writing them, because the plan wasn't complete. That sounds like a vicious circle, but it isn't really – not unless I'm trying to write the entire first draft in one go. When I'm not attempting to do that, I can plan a bit and write it, then plan a bit more and write that, on and on until the end.

Another thing I've learned is that I can write seven short stories in a month if it'll get me out of writing something else. Hmmm, maybe in December I'll add a big chunk to the novel in order to get out of writing short stories?

Most importantly though, I'm learning not to feel insecure because I'm not succeeding in the same way as other writers. If we judge ourselves against others, there will always be someone who writes more words, or submits more work, or sells more, or gets better reviews, or earns more, or something.

Instead I'm going to judge myself against the me of the previous month. The current me has written more, submitted more and sold more than the old me. The Insecure Writer's Support Group hasn't lost a member though – I'm not sure any writers ever totally overcome all their insecurities.

How about you? Did you 'win' NaNo? Do something else with your time? Has the current version of you added to the achievements of the you from last month?

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


This free to enter writing competition is for the Keats-Shelley Prize of £3,000. To enter you'll need to write a poem about Liberty, or an essay about the romantics and their circles (or both - you can submit two of each.)

To be honest, I'm not absolutely sure I understand the question, so I'll be sticking with romance, rather than romantics.

Are you familiar with the hymn, or in possesion of interesting facts about Keats or Shelley?

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Small story - big prize.

The Reader's Digest are again running their 100 word short story competition. (Thanks to Carrie Hewlett for reminding me.) It's free to enter, you have until mid February to come up with something good and the prize is £1,000!

Are you wondering about a catch? There are a couple. Reader's Digest take world copyright as a condition of entry. Despite this, there will be an enormous number of entries, making your chances of success quite slim.

What do you think - is it worth a try?

I couldn't think of a way to illustrate this post, so here's a random photo of mine that you may, if you wish, use as a story prompt. If it inspires a piece of writing, of any length, please let me know.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Going up

For this competition you're asked to write an uplifting 500 word story. The prize is publication in Lothian Life and a six week online writing course.

Thanks to Gail Aldwin for passing on the link.

If you were going to be lifted up what, or who,  would you like to be responsible?

Wednesday, 29 November 2017


According to my dictionary, to bedew means to cover with dew or sprinkle with drops of water. That part seems fair enough, but it goes on to state that poets can also use the word to mean sprinkle with tears.

Does it seem fair to you that a poet's characters' cheek may be be bedewed with tears but mine may not?

No, I didn't think so. Oh well, sometimes life isn't fair, so I'll confine all my bedewing to that involving unsalted water.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Financial help for writers

Would having more money help you to write?

If so and you're not under contract to publish and have not previously published a full length book of prose, you may be eligible to apply for this award of £10,000. 

I'm not entirely sure why they think those of us who have published books will automatically be in a better financial situation. Oh well, I'll just have to hope people buy my books.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Crime pays

Sorry, there's not much time left to enter this competition. It's a good one so I thought it was worth mentioning despite that.

If you happen to have an unpublished crime novel of at least 50,000 words, are over 18 and live in the UK and would like £10,000 to help towards having it published as an ebook, take a look here.

Hopefully they'll be no crime at Elmore Angling Club's Christmas Fair tomorrow. I'll be there (Lee-on-the-Solent seafront) selling my books from 10am to 2pm. It's free entry, so if you happen to be in the area, do pop in and say hello. I'll give you a free bookmark if I have any left.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017


To conflate is to blend or fuse together two sets of information – usually texts. When Rosemary J Kind and I worked on our joint book, she conflated her contribution with mine. The resulting conflation is From Story Idea to Reader.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Ad hoc flashing

Ad hoc fiction run a regular flash fiction competition. They provide a prompt and ask for 150 words.

If you win, you'll get free entry into the Bath Flash fiction award. For that they want 300 words and are offering a prize of £1,000.

(It's a lighthouse... they flash!)

Friday, 17 November 2017

That's sound

Soundworks are running another of their short story competitions. Entries can on any theme and submitted from anywhere in the world and be up to fifteen minutes long. That last bit is because the prize is to have your story recorded and made available for people to listen to on the site.

There's no charge to listen, or to enter. Previously published stories may be entered and it's an
interesting experience hearing your story read in this way (I know as I'm a previous winner).

There's just a few hours left to enter this competition, but as they only want 100 words, you might manage it. (Note - now closed)

Seagulls are noisy birds, aren't they? Have you heard the racket they make whenever the feel the need to protect their young?

Wednesday, 15 November 2017


To miaul is to cry like a cat, or to mew. I have no idea, other than the spelling, how it differes from miaow. Do you know?

Bagpuss doesn't miaul, he snores.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Paid for reviews

I've received the following email - "I just found out on Goodreads that you are looking for reviews for your book. If you are still looking for reviews, please do contact me. I have an extremely affordable review tour service available for authors. With the help of my service, you can reach out to more than 14,000 readers and 2,000 book bloggers. Only SERIOUS inquires will receive a response, thanks. "

In common with all writers, I really, really want reviews on my books (If you're read one of mine please, please pretty please, leave a review on Amazon/Goodreads) and I totally understand the temptation to resort to unethical ways of getting them, but please don't. When you get found out, it'll undermine all credibility in your own writing – and tarnish the reputation of other indy authors, even those who don't cheat in this way. 

Not A Drop To Drink is still free and reviews for that will be just as welcome as those for my other books.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Coming and going

This competition is for a poem on the theme of migration. The human kind, not birds and animals.

There's a £200 prize.

I don't really know what came over me, but I've entered this one.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Would this be cheating?

I'm doing Nano, and I was on track until yesterday, when a magazine editor asked me to rewrite a short story I'd subbed. I think I was entirely right to do that – but perhaps not to slip back into short story mode so fully that I forgot about the novel and drafted another short story.

Although I wrote 2,500 new words, they don't count towards my NaNo total. Unless ...

Would it be completely cheating for my main character to pick up a magazine and read an entire short story? If it is, how else can I get myself back on track?

Local – if you're from the West Country

This novel writing competition is for any author 'based in Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall or have written on a subject matter that is directly relevant and closely related to those counties'. I do most of my writing on location, in the camper van, I wonder if that will be enough to qualify me. 

As well as living in the right place, you need to produce your book as printed copies either by self publishing, or through a local independent publisher. The prize is £1,000.

I took this photo somewhere in Dorset, but didn't make a note of the precise location. If you're a local, perhaps you could remind me where it is.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017


A contranym (or contronym or even autoantonym if you prefer) is a word for which there are two opposite or contradictory meanings.

As examples–

 'Left' can mean remaining or departed. When the girls left the room, the boys were left behind.

'Trim' can either mean adding or removing something. I trim my hat with flowers, but trim the hedge with shears. 

'Refrain' is either to stop or repeat depending on the context. I might sing the refrain, or refrain from singing. (If you're nearby, you'll prefer the latter.)

Can you think of more examples?

Tuesday, 7 November 2017


Do you use your local library? Over on my womagwriter blog, I'm running a poll asking that question   - please pop over and vote if  you have a minute to spare.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Less privileged?

This competition is for a  'talented writer from a less-privileged background who is in need of financial assistance in order to be able to join one of Curtis Brown Creative’s six-month novel-writing courses'.
To be eligible, you'll need to be on an income of under £23,000 (or £30,000 if you live with someone) and you won't have had two parents who both went to university.

Hmmm, by that definition I'm VERY underpriviledged as neither of my parents went to uni, and my writing isn't bringing in as much cash as that. Odd, as I think I was lucky in my upbringing and I'm very happy with my current lifestyle. 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Win a publishing contract

Lulu and Writing Magazine are running a novel writing competition. Entries can be in any genre and from published or unpublished authors – although the actual entry must not have been published in any form.

The prize is to have your book published. You'll earn royalties on sales and they're offering marketing support, so it seems like a pretty good deal. There's no fee to enter, other than the time and dedication needed to actually write a novel.

One of these books was originally published as the result of me winning a novel writing competition. Can you guess which? (Here's a massive clue.)

Friday, 3 November 2017

Book busking

This is me in action 'book busking' as a small part of the Bristol literary festival. I read a couple of stories from my collection Slightly Spooky Stories I.

 While I was there I met up with some writing friends and attended an interesting talk on self publishing. That was realistic about the difficulties we Indy authors face, but it hasn't entirely put me off!

From Bristol we went castle spotting in Wales and then spent hallowe'en listening to owls, watching the mist shrouded moon and photographing abbey ruins.

Monday, 30 October 2017

One Act

Here's a competition to write a one act play. The shortlisted playes will all be performed in the Daneside theatre.

It's free to enter, open to anyone in the UK or Ireland and there's a £150 prize.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

One in four

If you're a debut novelist, with 'experience of single parent family life' and have written a book which celebrates single parent families, you can enter this competition. (There's a bit more info here.)

The competition is run by Trapeze in association with Gingerbread and The Pool. You'd think that would give me plenty of scope for an illustration, but this was the closest I could manage.

The requirements are quite precise, but that means competition might not be as fierce as for other more general competitions. The prize is excellent  – £10,000 a publishing contract and mentoring.

Friday, 27 October 2017

A good idea

There isn't long to go until this competition closes. There's no theme though, so you may have something you can polish up and send off. The prize is £300.

Only those who've never been published, nor won a writing competition, may enter.

If you're fairly new to writing, or are returning to it after a break, or are struggling with motivation, you may find the book From Story Idea to Reader helpful. I think it's excellent, but don't take my word for it - read these reviews for the audible version (most of them are on the .com version).

The book is also available in paperbook and ebook forms and can be borrowed from some UK libraries.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017


A while ago I used gaddabout as the word of the week. I was informed by Jim that I'd missed off gadfly. My excuse reason for that is it's not quite the same word.

A gadfly can be an actual fly – an annoying one. Horse flies and botflies irritate horses, cattle and people. I suppose that in rushing about trying to avoid being bitten by the pesky things, it might seem from a distance that their victims are on the gad.

A gadfly is also a person who upsets the status quo. Why anyone would want to I'm not sure - don't we all love rocking all over the world...? Sorry.

On our trip to the Outer Hebrides, Gary and I had very little trouble with midges, but on Eriskay we were plagued by horse flies at one particular spot.

What do you reckon; was it Jim's coment or the change to post more of my travel pictures which encouraged me to make gadfly the word of the week?

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Get going

The Telegraph are still running their 'just back' travel writing competition.

You know the main reason I remind you of it is that it gives me a good excuse to post some of my holiday pictures, but it isn't just that... 

There's a weekly prize of £200 and £1,000 for whichever entry is considered the 'article of the year'.

Ten points if you can name the island where I took these pictures.