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?

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

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?

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?


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!

Wednesday 24 October 2018


Today's word of the week was suggested by Carolyn Henderson, after I used it in reply to a question she asked on Facebook – What does pumpkin taste like? My response was 'faintly vegetably'. That's about right, isn't it?

Vegetably means, of or relating to plants, reminiscent of vegetables, or with vegetative properties. I wonder what they are? That bit made me think of a caped swede (as opposed to Alexander Skarsgård who is sometimes a caped Swede and who I don't think of as often as you might imagine).

The word can also mean containing vegetables. Eg the beef pie was very vegetably, or with respect to vegetables.

My most recent book cover is rather vegetably, and the vegetables are pumpkins, so that all ties in very neatly and gives me an excuse to mention that Slightly Spooky Stories II is available now as a paperback or ebook and free to read if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Wednesday 17 October 2018


An acanthus is a herbaceaous plant or shrub of the genus Acanthus. They have spiny leaves and tend to be big and noticeable. The kind of plant you'd describe as handsome, architectural or impressive, rather than pretty.

Talking of architecture, acanthus leaves are often the inspiration for stylized representations of plant life, often created from stone, used to decorate buildings, especially the tops of columns. Those can be called acanthus too.

Wednesday 10 October 2018


A hare is any member of the animal family Leporidae.

They can run really fast, which is why my second shot is a bit blurry! It's also the reason the lures used in dog racing are called hares. I'm not sure, but the fact these go round in circles might be why people who dash about all over the place are said to be haring around.

To be hare-brained is to act in a rash or wild manner.

Should you try to remain on good terms with both parties during a difficult situation, you may be described as running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.

The Hare and Hounds sounds to me like one of those pubs which looks all nice and traditional on the outside, then tries to sell you 'deconstructed' food and refuses to serve it on plates.

To start a hare can be to open up a lively discussion or to set something in motion.  Hmmm... what do you think about restaurant food you have to assemble yourself, or which is served in a shoe, on a bat, or wrapped in a nappy?

Wednesday 26 September 2018


A muselet is the little wire cage thingy which holds the cork into a bottle of fizzy (and usually alcoholic) liquid. I know this because my lovely husband told me, adding, "Did you know there was a word for that?"

My reply was, "Yes, love, I did. There's a word for everything. Do you not read my blog?"

He then suggested he remove the muselet from a bottle he'd previously put in the fridge, so that was OK. (The photo shows more than one night's 'research' – honest!)

Talking of liquid, for those who've not yet read my small taster collection of short stories, Not A Drop To Drink, it's still available as a free download.

Wednesday 19 September 2018


To be on your tod means to be alone. If you're British, the chances are you knew that – but did you know the phrase originated as Cockney rhyming slang? The Tod in question was a jockey called Tod Sloan. Whether he was most often alone at the front or the back of the field, I can't tell you.

Alternatives are on your pat (Pat Malone) and on your Jack (Jack Jones). Who Pat and Jack were is something else I can't tell you. Maybe that's something you can tell me?

Here's me apparently on my tod in Rhodes.

Wednesday 12 September 2018


Mull can mean to think ponderously or deeply. E.g. Patsy mulled over an idea for her next novel. I do a lot of mulling.

Alternatively it's a soft muslin fabric, a layer of humus, or the practice of heating liquid, usually wine, with spices to make a delicious warming drink.

There's a good reason for Mull being today's word of the week – it's the Scottish island in the inner Hebrides where the mobile writing retreat is currently located.

Wednesday 29 August 2018


A kyle is the term for a narrow channel between islands, or an island and the mainland – but only in Scotland. There's one between the island of Skye and the Scottish mainland, called the Kyle of Lochalsh (because it's at the end of Loch Alsh). I think this is it ...

There's also a village called the Kyle of Lochalsh. There are other places in the area with Kyle in the name, such as Kylerhea and Kyleakin. My navigation is haphazard at best, so we sometimes visit places we hadn't intended too. Luckily the whole area is so beautiful that we're rarely disappointed, wherever we end up.

A reminder – my new short story collection, Perfect Timing is currently on offer for 99p / 99c.

Wednesday 22 August 2018


An oddity is a strange thing, person, occurrence or a peculiar trait. It can also mean the state of being odd.

When I was a kid, some people considered me a bit of an oddity, but they didn't know I was going to become a writer. As writers go, I don't think I'm especially weird. I'm barely eccentric really, if you catch me on a good day.

Are you an oddity?

Wednesday 15 August 2018


Candystripe is a pattern on just about anything, including candy, which is striped in alternate pastel colours, usually pink and white.

The #writingchat writing cat (aka Scribbles) is candystriped.

#writingchat is a weekly twitter chat – about writing! It happens between 8 and 9pm, Wednesday evenings, and there's a different topic each time. To take part, just tweet using the hashtag. Everyone (and their cats, fictitious or otherwise) welcome.

Do you have anything candystriped? Or a cat? Or a candystriped cat?

Wednesday 8 August 2018


An Anglophile is fond of, or admires, the English and/or our culture and traditions. I think that one is fairly well known, but it wasn't until I came to write this post that I discovered Caledonophile, Hibernophile and Cambrophile for lovers of the other parts of the UK. Had you heard of those?

Here's me pouring tea and looking vaguely embarrassed, which is about as English as it gets.

Do you especially like the people or culture of any particular country (including your own)? If so, which one, and why? 

Wednesday 1 August 2018


A pitfall is a trap. Either in the physical sense of a hole dug in the ground to trap animals, or in the more metaphorical sense of a snare or drawback. In either case, you could be happily walking along, minding your own business and ... splat! you've fallen into one. Avoiding them can be tricky, but climbing out again if you don't is even harder.

Pitfalls are often difficult to spot, which is why they're so dangerous. That also makes them hard to photograph, so here's a waterfall instead - they're something else worth looking out for which you probably don't want to accidentally fall into.

Here's a free to enter poetry writing competition which offers €500 as the prize. Don't fall into the pitfall of not reading all the rules before entry and therefore being disqualified – you do have to write the right kind of poem, and be able to get yourself to Limerick.

As it's the first wednesday of the month, it's time for an Insecure Writer's Support Group post. This

month's (optional) question is –

What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

I'd say don't expect too much, especially when you get your first success, and don't be discouraged if your hopes aren't realised. 

I remember, after months of trying, having two stories accepted for magazines quite close together and thinking I'd made it! The next batch of rejections hurt more than any I've had before or since.

A similar thing happened after I won a novel writing competition. I had visions of the book being on the shelves of bookstores and libraries countrywide and earning me a decent royalty cheque. Unfortunately the publishing company was new, with very limited resources – they couldn't promote the book, or offer the kind of discounts major retailers demand. I did get to do a book signing in Waterstones, and some libraries stock it, but I earned only a very small royalty before the publisher ceased trading. That was a while ago now, I'm long over the disappointment and have self published that book – and lots more.

Of course some writers do 'make it' quite quickly and earn lots of money. There's no harm in hoping you'll be one of them, just as long as you realise that a slower route to success of more modest proportions is more likely.

Wednesday 11 July 2018


If the word liveable is applied to a building, area, climate etc it means that it's fit to live in. When applied to a life, it means one which is worth living and when it's a person, they're someone you can get along with.

The ease with which these things may be achieved will depend on the standards of liveability which you demand.

If you like you can also spell liveable as livable.

Gary and I happily spend months at a stretch in the van, which just goes to show how chock full of livableness we both are. Especially me ;-)

Wednesday 4 July 2018


Ultimate means last or final, maximum, best and that beyond which no other exists. It can also mean fundamental or un-analysable or a final fact or principle.

Have you ever noticed that when climbing uphill, you keep thinking the bit you're on is the ultimate peak, but you discover it's a false summit and you have to go on until ultimately you reach the ultimateness which really is the top?

If you're the ultimate winner of this free to enter short story competition, you'll win £500 (UK residents only).

See yesterday's post for the IWSG and my ultimate writing goals.

Wednesday 27 June 2018


The word gizzit isn't in my dictionary and I'll be surprised if it's in yours. Does that mean it isn't a real word? Not in my opinion. I reckon if it has meaning to the person who uses it, and at least some of the audience, then it's a real word.

A gizzit is a freebie, usually given out for promotional or marketing reasons. The word is a shortened form of 'give us it' which I suppose is the reaction those who're offering them want. Not A Drop To Drink is a freebie, and I hope people want to download a copy.

My friend Susan Jones made these key rings and fridge magnets for me, to help me promote my books (see here if you'd like her to make you some). Aren't they nice? Actually they may be a bit too nice to use as gizzits, so I'll have to think of other ways to use them. Susan suggested attaching a keyring to any bags I use, so it will always be on display. Any good suggestions for other ways to use these, and where to display the fridge magnets?

Now you know what a gizzit is (or maybe you knew already) do you agree with me that it's a real word?

Wednesday 20 June 2018


Obviously air is the mix of gasses we breathe and which birds, planes and balloons fly in. It can also refer to our manner or behaviour e.g. at times Patsy has the air of a romantic writer (I believe it's the pink scarf and celtic clip, which do it) and we can put on airs and graces, in the hope of making an impression.

To air the laundry is to warm it (usually done inside, not out in the fresh air). We can open windows to air a room, or open our lungs (or tap away madly on social media) to air a grievance. Melodious music can also be referred to as an air.

My latest short story collection is In The Garden Air. I've dedicated it to my late grandparents, all of whom were very keen gardeners who encouraged me to develop that same passion. I'm lucky in that the three of them lived long enough to see me create gardens of my own (sadly I never knew the fourth).

My current garden contains plants raised from seeds, cuttings and divisions which were once in their gardens. Whenever I'm in the garden, it feels a little as though in some way they're still with me – my memories of them really are in the garden air.

Granny and Grandma were both great readers. They'd have been delighted to hold books I'd written, and thrilled to see my stories in the magazines they read, so I know they'd have been pleased to see their names in the front of In The Garden Air, which is the fourth of my plant and garden themed collections and contains 24 stories.


Wednesday 13 June 2018


A nugget is a lump of gold, or other precious substance, as found in the earth. It can also mean anything else which is valuable for its size, particularly something abstract such as a useful nugget of information.

As I lack both lumps of gold and the skill to photograph abstract concepts, here's a picture of Hev-Ock. She may be small, but I treasure her. My oldest (yet still incredibly youthful) friend gave her to me for luck and since then she's been a little nugget of inspiration.

Wednesday 6 June 2018


It's summer – and there are plenty of distractions from writing. I mean the definitions of 'something that distracts; an interuption' and a relaxation from work, amusement. Those are good forms of distraction and for me involve being out in the garden, or away in the camper van.
 Being distracted is often associated with a loss of concentration on the job in hand. Another, far less pleasant, meaning of distraction is confusion, perplexity – even a frenzy of madness. For example, trying to promote my latest book of short stories drives me to distraction

If I was suffering in either of those ways, I'd definitely be needing the help of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, who'd no doubt reassure me that I'm not alone in often being distracted and probably offer advice on overcoming the issue. They're good like that!
For a writer, being considered distracting is an excellent thing. We want to make the reader forget the reality around them and immerse themselves in the worlds our words create. I've had readers tell me they've been so distracted by my novels that they've missed their stop on a train, let the dinner burn or continued reading long after they'd planned to stop.

I'm sorry about the spoiled food and hope they weren't late for anything fun, but otherwise very pleased by such comments.

If you've written a really distracting unpublished novel, and live in the UK then you might like to enter it in this competition and be in with the chance of winning £30,000. Gosh, just planning what to spend that cash on could keep me distracted for hours!