Sunday, 30 December 2018

2018 / 2019

It's the time of year when we traditionally look back on the last twelve months and make plans for the next. I'm a traditional girl so ...

In 2018 Womag writing was a bit up and down. A big blow came when the owners of Woman's Weekly demanded all rights for any new stories. I consider this incredibly unfair. Other magazines have contracts allowing the publishers to use stories as often as they like and in any format, for no extra fee – yet still allow the authors to retain moral rights and reuse the stories themselves. I won't give up all rights to my work, so have lost my biggest market. The entire issue severely knocked my enthusiasm and for some time I didn't write anything.

There was good news though. I had my first ever publication in The People's Friend (then a couple more – and more will follow). I also made my first sale to In The Moment magazine. Thanks to a large backlist I actually sold more stories than I wrote this year!

More good news came in the form of several competition wins and placings – all of them from free to enter competitions I'd featured on this blog. My prizes included a book token, publication, certificates, signed books and cash.

I made very little progress on my novels, but I have put together several short story collections, including collaborating on this free one.

As well as writing I've been encouraging others to have a go, through my blogs, a Facebook group and writing workshops. I've also been trying to encourage people to read my books, by giving talks to a book club and at my local library. I'm delighted to have books stocked in several libraries as well as The Bookshop at Lee-on-the-Solent.

Most importantly I got to meet some lovely people; readers and writers who've been friends for years and those I'm just getting to know.

For 2019 I've already agreed to take part in a panel event as part of Portsmouth Bookfest and to tutor at the Hope Cove Writers' Workshop Weekend. Hopefully I'll be taking part in other events for readers and writers and meeting more interesting people. Perhaps the campervan will take me to you? I'll post details of any events on my website.

I'll still write and submit womag stories, but it won't form such a large part of my writing life – simply because the market is now too small to keep me fully occupied. I'll be entering more competitions, and of course will share the details here. There will be more books – and yes, I'll mention those too!

How about you? How was your writing year – and what plans do you have for 2019?

Friday, 21 December 2018

Happy winter solstice!

Wishing you a very happy winter solstice, season's greetings, festive felicitations, joyful New Year, wonderful time during anything and everything you celebrate, and lots of good things in 2019.

Future reading

The Roswell Award is a competition for sci-fi writers. Finalists will have their stories 'read dramatically' by a celebrity guest and get a certificate. There are also cash and special prizes on offer.

If you could have your work (in any genre) read or performed by someone famous, who would you choose?

I'm not famous (yet!) but I have done readings of my own work, and I've had some read and recorded by others. Really I prefer to just write and have it read silently, but I also want my stories to reach as many people as possible, so I might well do more of that kind of thing.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018


Seisin, which is sometimes written as seizin, is a legal term. It means the possession of land by freehold, the act of taking such possession and that which is held.

We're fortunate enough to own our own home, which I assume means that the land on which it stands and our garden is seisin, or we've seisinned it, or we were seisinning when we took out the mortgage, or something.

What I'm sure of is that the garden grows some lovely flowers. Here are a few examples.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Not the solution

Thanks to Alyson Hilbourne (who previously came second in one of their competitions) for telling me that Solutions Loans are running another free to enter short story contest. First prize is £200.

As you may have guessed, I'm a big fan of free to enter writing competitions. The same cannot be said of loan companies. If you find yourself in financial difficulties there are better (in my opinion) ways of dealing with the problem than accruing more debt at incredibly high interest rates. Please talk to your bank, if appropriate contact a charity or support organisation connected with your personal circumstances, or seek advice from somewhere such as Citizen's Advice.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018


A cento is a composition made from the quotations of other authors. I can imagine it might be quite fun to create, but that it would be rather disjointed to read – and quite possibly in breach of copyright.

Just in case you fancy a go, here's a quote from my book Leave Nothing But Footprints that I'm giving you permission to include in any cento you may decide to create.

"The action was frozen a split second before the water found its target."

I picked that because I think it could be used in various ways. That's not the case with the paragraph I got just from opening the book at random.

"As Jess made a pot of tea, Eliot said, "I'm going to impress you even more now by showing you the advantages of HDR." As he brought up five images taken inside a church they'd photographed earlier in the week, he explained that by combining over and under exposed images he could capture all the details in the shadows without burning out highlights in the better lit areas."

It's hard to see how you could use that in anything other than a work involving photography. You'd probably be able to leave out the campervan though.

Did you know a cento was a thing? Would you like to read or create one?

Friday, 7 December 2018

All to play for

Here's an interesting sounding competition for script writers. It's run by the Drip Action Theatre Company.

Plays of 30 to 40 minutes are invited. Eight of these will be performed as part of the Arundel Theatre Trail, earning the creator a £150 writer's fee. The very best one will also get a £250 award.

Do you enter any of the free competitions I blog about? I sometimes do – and I came joint third in the adult poetry category of this one, which I mentioned back in October. I'd forgotten about it until my certificate and book voucher arrived in the post yesterday.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


Historically a host is a large number of people, or an army. In Christian religion it may be the consecrated bread used to represent the body of Jesus, or the heavenly host may refer to angels or perhaps other bible figures – although the heavenly host can also be used to mean the sun, moon and stars.

A host might be a person who has recieved a donated organ, or any living organism which carries a parasite or disease. The landord of a pub, compere of an event, or person who invites others into their home could all be described as hosts.

This week I'm co-hosting the Insecure Writer's Support Group along with J.H.Moncrief, Tonja Drecker, Chrys Fey and of course our Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh. This organisation exists to support insecure writers (as you may have guessed!). This is done through blog posts on the first Wednesday of each month, where members share their anxieties, offer tips only avoiding such concerns and offer encouragement to those who are feeling insecure.

There's also a Facebook group, website and twitter account, so there's always someone available should you wish to ask a question, or recieve (or offer of course!) a word of reassurance.

To join, just click here and add yourself. It's free and all you're committed to is a posting once a month (you can drop out temporarily or leave completely any time.) There's an optional suggested question each time, so no need to worry about being stuck for a topic.

Have you hosted anything? Are you an insecure writer? Are you a member of, or considering joining the IWSG?

Oh, by the way (she drops casually into the conversation) would you like to download this short ebook myself and three friends have created? It's free!

Monday, 3 December 2018

Tiny books

Third Word Press have an ongoing, free to enter, writing competition. Each fortnight there's a chance to win £20 for an 80 word piece of writing. It may be a complete story or extract from a longer work.

The best pieces will be made into a tiny book, which will be sold to raise money for the homeless (a little like the Big Issue, but these are teeny). I have a piece in their last book, and hope to get into the next.

I found this stone, partly hidden under some heather, when we climbed up the hill in Ullapool.

Isn't the painting of the tiny book lovely? I was seriously tempted to keep it, but eventually hid it again for someone else to discover. I hope they enjoy the surprise as much as I did.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Facebook Live – and other book promotion stuff

You probably know that I've written some books. That's the easy bit –  selling them is an entirely different matter. In the past I've tried promoting them through radio interviews, talks to writing groups, book signings, a public reading...

What with travelling so much, and other not very good excuses, I'd pretty much stopped all marketing activity. Unsurprisingly that didn't help book sales, so I'm now putting in a bit more effort.

Yesterday I did a Facebook Live post for a Facebook book group. That was a first for me. It's rather weird talking to people who, although you know are there as they can 'like', leave comments and questions, you can't see or hear. Other than that, and the initial fear that I'd mess up the technology and be talking to myself, I quite enjoyed it.

If you try this yourself, I now have a few tips –

1. Don't panic if you don't get comments etc straight away. These take a while to filter through.

2. Because of that, be ready with something to say, rather than just sitting and waiting for questions (I did, but not enough and had to talk at random for a while.)

3. Have something ready to read in case you're asked to do that, or have time to fill. I was asked and didn't know what to pick, so faffed about a bit until a kind listener requested something specific.

4. Make a note of anything you especially want to say. (I totally forgot to mention this free ebook and it would have been the ideal place to do so.)

In a couple of weeks I'll be chatting at my local library and in March I'm a panelist as part of Portsmouth BookFest. Both of these will be new experiences, but I have spoken to groups before, so I'm not too nervous about those. Any tips will be very welcome though!

Have you attended/watched/listened to any book promotion events?

What book promotion stuff have you tried and how did it go?

Wednesday, 28 November 2018


A bluebell is a flower with a blue (except when it's white or pink, obviously) bell shaped flower. Which particular flower depends on where in the world you live. 

 These are English bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) – which I photographed in Wales.

These are Scottish bluebells (Campanula rotundifolia) known as harebells in England.

These are Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica).

Which flowers do you think of as bluebells

Monday, 26 November 2018

Are We Nearly Famous?

I reckon I must be almost famous – I surveyed some of my friends and family and every single one of them had heard of me! (Oddly not many of them wanted to listen to my jokes.)

Actually I don't really want to be famous. Not in a 'daren't go out in public for fear of screaming fans, and paparazzi trying to catch you doing something mildly embarressing' way. I'd quite like more people to know about my books, and ideally buy one or two, though. Three of my writing friends, Sheila Crosby, Rosemary Kind and Lynne Pardoe felt the same way, so we decided to create this free ebook, to share stories, reveal a litlle about why we write, and promote our work.

You can download Are We Nearly Famous? for free here.

My story, The Mysterious Stone Of Ogham, is set at Gigha in the inner Hebrides. Of course I've visited and photographed (and swum in a little lagoon at the edege of) this beautiful Scottish island.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Very cool

Thanks again to Alyson Hilbourne for notifying me of another free to enter competition.

They're looking for short stories, poems or essays on the theme of equality and offering a free place on a writing retreat in Iceland to the winner. Do read all the details to ensure you want the prize and will be able to accept it.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018


A font can be the object in a church which holds holy water for splashing onto those being baptised, a reservoir for oil in a lamp, or an old-fashioned word for spring or fountain.

The font is also the typeface in which something is printed or appears online. There are lots to choose from – Times New Roman if you want to be taken seriously, Comic Sans if you don't and Bickham Script should you wish to be incomprehensible.

Which fonts do you like best?

Friday, 16 November 2018

Worth a try?

On The Premises are running another of their mini contests. You're asked to submit between 30 and 50 words, one of which must be 'zebra'. There are cash prizes. (I got an honourable mention in the last one and Alyson Hilbourne, who often supplies competition links for this blog, came third!)

There aren't any zebras around here – even the crossing down the High Street is devoid of zebras, so I've used my incredible Photoshop skills, combined with my awesome artistic abilities, to create one. (If this picture paints a thousand words, 978 of them are incorrectly spelled, and the punctuation is decidely dodgy.)

Do you ever think that these competitions which cost nothing to enter, are very easy to submit to, and offer money as a reward to the winners, sound somehow too good to be true? That there must be some kind of catch? Sometimes there is – the most common being 'rights grabs' or a hard sell on books containing the winning entries. (With paid for competitions there's a very small risk that the entry fee will be accepted, but no prizes ever awarded.)

Although I'll warn of any potential issues I'm aware of, I simply don't have time to fully research every competition I mention here, so do read all the terms and conditions thoroughly and only enter if you're happy with them. You might also like to carry out an internet search to confirm previous winners really exist, or that no issues have been reported.

I'm naturally a little on the cynical side and probably would have been more wary of these free competitions, had I not won the first time I was persuaded to enter one (in 2002). Since then I've tried lots more and sometimes won cash and other nice things. I've never encountered a problem as a result – the closest I've come to that is ending up on a mailing list, but these days it's easy to take yourself off those.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018


Perchance is another one of those words my dictionary claims poets are allowed to use whenever they like, but the rest of us should limit to historical works.

It means perhaps, maybe, by chance, or by any chance. For example, 'would you care to buy my book, perchance?'

Hmm, perchance my dictionary is right – it does sound very dated, doesn't it?

Monday, 12 November 2018

There once was a woman who lay on a rock

I have good news about this competition – The first prize is $1,000, you have until April 1st to enter and as usual with the competitions I mention here, there is no entry fee.

The downside is that they want poetry. Funny poetry. Maybe you'll see that as another plus point, but I'm going to sit this one out. Oh, that's no good – I could sit at my desk and attempt to write poetry couldn't I? I'll go for a quiet lie down instead.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018


This post has been scheduled as I'll be at sea when it's due to go out and won't be able to do it then. I do a lot of travelling, so it's not that uncommon for me to be without wi-fi access. Even so, I do sometimes feel a little insecure if I can't easily contact other people. Maybe that's the writer's need to communicate?

I'm sure writers are very familiar with schedules. When we make a list of things we intend to do, we're scheduling our time, we might schedule social media posts to promote a book, and the publications we write for may have a payment schedule.

Other meanings of schedule include making an inventory or table of contents, or including something, for example a rare bird, for preservation or protection and anything which runs to a published timetable. For example this ferry was exactly to schedule.

It's appropriate that my need to schedule this post is connected with an insecurity as this is the first Wednesday of the month and therefore an Insecure Writer'sSupport Group post.

Does being disconnected from the World Wide Web make you feel insecure?

Do you pronounce the first syllable of schedule as shed, or sked?


Friday, 2 November 2018

Sound good?

Soundworks are running another of their short story competitions. Entries of up to 2,500 words should be submitted by 28th February. Previously published work is eligible. The prize is to have your story read by a professional actor, recorded and placed on the site for all to read for free.

It's weird hearing your work read by someone else. Has that ever happened to you, and if so did you enjoy the experience?

One of my fabourite sounds is the sea breaking on the shore. What do you like listening to?

Wednesday, 31 October 2018


A tassel is generally a tuft of wool, or other thread used as a decoration on cushions, scarves etc. Some plant heads or flowers are also refered to as tassels, if their stamens or other parts appear tassel like. Young sweetcorn cobs are an example.

A tassel can also refer to a piece of wood or stone supporting a joist or beam.

Jackie Sayle indulged in a spot of tasselling when she created my druid initiate*, as she tasselled yarn for the hair. She makes lots of brilliant knitted characters which she sells to raise money for a charity which helps people with cancer.

*originally a gnome, but she and her friends are converting.
Happy hallowe'en!

Monday, 29 October 2018

Whatever you like,

There's no theme for the current Writers' and Artists' Yearbook competition. Stories do have to be no more than 2,000 words, original and unpublished, but other than that you can do what you like. Entry is open to everyone and you have until mid February to come up with something. The prize is an Arvon course.

If you don't win, but fancy going on a residential writing course, you might like to consider this one.

I don't know about you, but I find the idea of writing about anything often leaves me thinking of nothing at all. I much prefer to have a theme, prompt or some kind of guidelines. If you're the same, then how about trying to combine the things in these photographs into a single story?

Friday, 26 October 2018

Lost and found

You only have until 2nd November to enter this competition from On The Premises (click 'more' to see the details) but they only want 50 words, so I reckon you can do it.

The theme is 'lost and found' and there's a $25 prize for first place, then $15 and $10.

When we were on the Island of Mull earlier this year, we found a camera card with photos of sunsets, taken over a year previously, on it. We posted details on social media hoping to trace the owner, but no luck. (These are my pictures, not from that card.)