Wednesday 18 December 2019


Nice generally means pleasant, kind or satisfactory. It can also be used to show fastidiousness, a subtle distinction or something requiring careful thought.

This free to enter competition is for short stories of up to 600 words. The prize is a £30 Amazon voucher and publication on the site. It sounds as though they want entries to be nice so here are some pictures to get you in the mood ...

Talking of nice, it was Alyson Faye who kindly sent me the link to this competition.

(I'm featuring a different free to enter writing competition every day from the 8th December until Christmas Eve.)

If you know anyone 25 or under who is or was in care and is resident in the UK, be nice and tell them about this free writing competition in which they could win shopping vouchers.

Wednesday 11 December 2019


An idea is a concept or plan formed by mental effort, a mental impression, an intention, vague belief or fancy ... and what you need to start every piece of writing.

A Year of Ideas: 365 sets of writing prompts and exercises is a book by me! You can try to win yourself a kindle copy by telling me, in 50 words or fewer, which day you'd like a writing prompt and why. Your answer can be true, funny, silly – whatever you like as long as you specify a date and give a reason.

Entry is by comment on this blog post only.

Closing date is midnight on the 18th December.

The winner will be announced on the 20th. Sorry, the prize can only be redeemed by those in the UK.

If the winner already has this book, then they may choose one of my novels or a short story collection instead.

(I'm featuring a different free to enter writing competition every day from the 8th until the winter solstice.)

Wednesday 27 November 2019


Philology is the science of language. Keen as I am on English, that doesn't make me a philologist, as I don't do anything scientifically. However an alternative definition is the love of learning and literature, so I probably am a philogian, or at least partly philological. How about you?

Btw, there's still time to enter the mini competition to win an ebook. Just leave a comment which includes one of the M words here, before midnight tonight.

Wednesday 23 October 2019


A threshold is a point of entry, either real or metaphorical. Traditionally new brides were carried over the threshold of their marital home. A scientist could be on the threshold of an amazing discovery. Threshold can also mean a limit. It's said women have a higher pain threshold than men.

Originally a threshold was a raised strip of wood or stone. It was placed at the entrance to rooms such as kitchens and pantries where rushes, often scented with herbs, were strewn on the floor – as a kind of temporary carpet. Once dirty or wet, they could easily be swept up and replaced.  The rushes were known as thresh and without the threshold to hold them in place, would have been spread throughout the house.

If you're on the threshold of completing something which involves new media, get it finished and enter it into this free competition to be in with a chance of winning one of 5 prizes ranging from £500 to £750.

Wednesday 16 October 2019


A censor is an official who studies books, films, plays and the like and suppresses any parts they feel shouldn't be made public. This could be because they're illegal, obscene, a threat to security or anything else their employer doesn't want let 'out there'. They may decide a work is acceptable only to a limited audience – those over 18, or with security clearance for example.

Censor also means to make the changes the censor decided need to be made. That generally means removing the offending section. If that happens to your work, you've been subject to censorship.

We can also mentally censor ourselves. Often that's a good thing as it prevents us blurting out secrets or making inappropriate comments. I don't think it's something we should do when writing – at least not in the first draft. Get it all down first, then you can start censoring (or editing if you prefer the term) by removing anything you feel shouldn't be there.

Thanks to Kath Kilburn for passing on details of this free to enter writing competition, with the theme of The Censor. You can submit a short story or a piece of creative non-fiction. The best dozen or so will be published and the authors will receive two copies of the anthology, plus £150. The overall prize is £2,000!

Wednesday 9 October 2019


A word is said to rhyme with another when the sounds at the end are the same. Round rhymes with sound, time rhymes with mime (and rhyme). Half rhymes are words which nearly, but not quite, rhyme. Orange and lozenge is an example. Eye rhymes are those words which look as though they'd rhyme, because the endings are spelled the same, but don't. For example tough and through. Lost rhymes are words which used to rhyme, but due to changes in pronunciation, no longer do.

A rhyme can also mean a verse or poem which contains rhyming words. These generally come at the end of lines. If they're elsewhere they're known as internal rhymes.

Rhyming slang is a way of speaking which replaces a word or phrase with another which rhymes, although the actual rhyme may be omitted. In 'taking a butcher's' the word butcher's refers to a butcher's hook, which rhymes with look, and therefore means have a gander or a shufty.

Thanks to Bea Charles for passing on the details of this free entry poetry competition. The winner will get a personalised £100 book token with their poem on and £300 worth of poetry books. The judge is Pam Ayres. I like her. (The rules don't state that the poem must rhyme.)

Wednesday 11 September 2019


We're back home after ten weeks away in the campervan! (The photos are all of homes, or former homes, we saw on our travels.)

Here's a free to enter writing competition. Be sure to include your home address on the entry, so they know where to send the £100 prize, should you win.

The word home is usually used to mean the place where we live, but it can be used in a wider sense to mean the area, or even country we, or our family, originate from. It can mean our wider family and background, an institution, the end of a race, a position in sports and games ... It's where someone, or something, belongs.

To me, home means either the house, or the van, depending on which I'll be sleeping in that night. It's where Gary is, where I cook and eat, the place I read and write.

What does home mean to you?

Wednesday 21 August 2019


I really wanted 'grotesque zoomorphic corbels' as the word of the week, but as Gary pointed out, that's more than one word. Still, I can use them as the illustration, can't I? These are on the Castle Acre priory.

Something which is zoomorphic has, or represents, an animal form.

Thanks to Sharon Boothroyd for passing on the details of this free to enter poetry competition. It's open to UK residents only (dead or alive!) and there's a £100 prize. If you can work zoomorphic into your winning entry, I'll be really impressed!

Thursday 15 August 2019


A lapidarium is a collection of carved masonry and gravestones. This one is at Coldingham Priory.

I hope you appreciate the lengths I go to in order to find you interesting words ... Coldingham is 409.8 miles from my home!

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Lin, win and In(secure)

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?

That's this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question. (If you'd like to join the group you can do so here – but you don't have to be a member to join the discussion.)

My answer is YES! I don't think I could keep writing if that wasn't the case. When I start writing, I don't always know the direction the story or character's will take. I don't know if that story will sell, win a prize or be one of those which doesn't quite make it.

Competitions wins have surprised me – I had a poem performed in the House of Commons and a novel published as the result of winning competitions. As a result I'm always on the look out for free to enter competitions, such as this poetry one, which I regularly share on this blog.

The biggest surprise though has been the change to me as a writer. I started off 17 years ago, writing just for fun, imagining it to be a short term hobby I'd quickly abandon when a new enthusiasm took over (that's happened before). Today I'm a full time writer. I even present workshops to encourage other writers, such as this one in Nottingham next month.

Another thing which can surprise me is the English language. I'm always learning new words (which is why I post my regular word of the week). Today's is lin. A lin is a 'collection' of water – it can mean a pool above or below a waterfall, but is generally applied to the waterfall itself, or to a ravine through which water is forced, producing a torrent.

The photos are of The Lin of Dee (apparently Queen Victoria's favourite picnic spot) and The Black Lin (centre). On our current trip we've also seen The Lin of Quoiche and The Lin of Tummel (my favourite in terms of names). They're all in Scotland.

Wednesday 31 July 2019


Artificial is something made by people, rather than occurring naturally, especially that which is a copy of something natural (eg artificial sweetener).

Artificial can also be used to describe insincere or affected behaviour.

I'm not keen on things which are artificial or false – I much prefer the real deal.

Can you think of any examples where the artificial version is better than the natural one?

Thanks to Alyson for sending me the link to this free short story competition. The theme is Artificial Intelligence and the prize is £500.

There's still time to enter last week's Friday Freebie and win a signed copy of Gail Aldwin's The String Games.

Wednesday 24 July 2019


Subreption is the method of obtaining something by surprise or misrepresentation.

I've had quite a few twist ending stories published – do you think it's fair to say that I obtained those sales by subreption?

Misrepresentation won't help you win this short story competition, but writing something which surprises the judges might. The prize is $1,000.

Wednesday 17 July 2019


An excursus is a detailed discussion of a particular point in a book, often placed in an appendix, or a digression in the narrative. It comes from 'excursion', which makes sense.

How do you feel about books which sometimes stray off the main point? Do you enjoy the excursion, or prefer to stay on track?

The photos are from one of our excursions in the van – I'm not digressing from the writing theme of this blog by posting them, as I'm writing a story set in this location.

If you won the $1,000 prize in this free to enter writing competition, you could afford a lovely excursion – where would you go?

Wednesday 10 July 2019


Medicine can mean the science or practise of diagnosing and treating or preventing disease. It's also any drug or preparation used to treat disease – I think that's what most of us immediately think of when we hear the word. Medicine can also describe a spell or charm thought to cure disease.

Taking your medicine means to put up with something unpleasant, whereas having a dose of your own medicine means to endure something you've inflicted on others.

A medicine man is someone with powers of healing within themselves, rather than a dispenser of drugs. A medicine chest is any container which holds drugs or medication.

Herbal medicines are traditional remedies, some of which work extremely well. Next time you have a sore throat, try gargling with sage tea. Tastes awful, but does the trick. Talking of traditions, you might like this free to enter short story competition from On The Premises, which has that theme. First prize is $220.

Am I the only person who doesn't trust any medicine which tastes nice?

Wednesday 3 July 2019


Ongoing means in progress, under way, continuing, being worked on. I have a novel that's been ongoing for years and now looks as though it will be more than one book (the big project I mentioned last month).

The amount of work involved, and not knowing if it will be a success at the end of the process, was making me feel a little insecure. Thankfully several members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group did what they're there for and offered support and encouragement. Amongst the helpful suggestions was a common theme – just go for it, do a bit at a time and don't put obstacles in my way. Since then I've added more words and am feeling just a little less daunted.

Other meanings of ongoing are progressing, advancing and growing. The story is doing that, albeit slowly. They're the aspects I'll try to focus on, rather than how much more there is to do and what might happen when I eventually finish.

This ongoing competition from The Third Word asks for just 80 words, which can be a complete story, scene or extract from a longer work. I won once and that was with a novel extract.

Wednesday 26 June 2019


Napper is an 18th century slang word for the head. Did you know that, or did you, like me, think it was a word for people who take naps?

Don't get caught napping and miss this free competition. If you use your napper and come up with something good enough to win, you'll have it recorded by a professional actor and made available on their website. Previously published work may be entered.

And here's a free to enter poetry competition.

And this is for Dr Who fans.

Wednesday 19 June 2019


Elbows are of course the joint halfway down our arms which allow them to bend. They're very useful to writers!

A piece of piping shaped into a right angle, or any similarly shaped bend or corner can be known as an elbow bend or elbow joint

If you jostle your way through a crowd then you can be said to be elbowing your way into a space, and those displaced in this manner are elbowed out. Once you have sufficient space around you, you'll have plenty of elbow room

If you give something elbow grease, you've put effort into it. Giving a person the elbow is to dump them. Being out at the elbows (either a person or item of clothing) means to be tired or ragged.

Find yourself some elbow room, apply creativity and elbow room and enter this free poetry competition. If you win the £100 prize you'll be able to replace something you own which is out at the elbows. You'll also have your work published and illustrated and will receive a copy of the book.

Wednesday 12 June 2019


Verdigris (pronounced verdegree) is best known as the effect on metals such as brass and copper when they're exposed to weather or seawater. In a short space of time they go from bright and shiny to a dull blueish-green. It's commonly scene on roofs, pipework and weather vanes.

The verdigris can be polished off, but will soon form again.

Historically verdigris was used as a pigment for artists, producing the most vibrant shade of green available in the middle ages.

Did you know that verdigris can also be used to describe sailors? I guess it could be quite apt if they're under the weather.

I'll be green with envy if you win this free to enter competition from Amazon. There's a £20,000 prize. All you have to do is write something great, polish it up, publish on, enroll it in kdp select, sell lots of copies and get lots of good reviews and you'll be in with a chance!

Wednesday 29 May 2019


Fictive means creating or created by imagination. It can also mean not genuine.

Are works of fiction, such as my lovely romance Leave Nothing But Footprints fictive? I don't think they are – at least not entirely. Although partly produced fictively there's far more to creating a novel than fictiveness.

Authors often need to research facts – I learned a huge amount about photography to write this book, drew on my memory for  details such as campervanning disasters and toasting marshmallows, and took some of the walks through gorgeous Welsh scenery along with my characters.

I'd argue that even elements of a story which come directly from the author's imagination may still be genuine. For example Jess values the support of friends and learns to take pride in doing something well – those things are genuine, aren't they?

Then we come on to the actual typing out of the words, the editing, proofreading, cover creation, marketing etc etc. Some of these tasks may well require imagination, but the work doesn't stop there.

What do you think – are novels fictive?

If you've written something, fictive or otherwise, you may like to try this free entry writing competition. There's $4,000 on offer for 'the best short story, novel excerpt, poem, one-act play, graphic story, or work of literary nonfiction published by a new or emerging writer in Narrative.

There's still just time to enter the draw for a free book in last week's Friday Freebie.

Wednesday 22 May 2019


Secrete is an interesting word in that it can mean almost the opposite of itself. 

In some cases secrete  means to put away, hide or conceal. I'm sometimes the secretor of seeds when visiting gardens (please keep my secretory secret!)

Secrete can also mean to produce something – a secretion. Our eyes may secrete tears (I'm not absolutely sure it is our eyes that do this, in fact I'm fairly sure it's a separate gland or duct or something, but the only alternative I could come up with was a festering wound secreting pus and frankly that's way too icky.)

If you've written a first novel, don't secrete it away in a draw – enter it in this competition and you could win a £20,000 advance, the services of a literary agent and guaranteed publication.

Wednesday 15 May 2019


Reciprocity is 'the condition of being reciprocal'. It's doing something in return, mutual actions, give and take, inversely correspondent, complementary. 

After I plant flower seeds, they reciprocate by blooming. This act of reciprocation is then follwed by another – bees visit to collect food, pollinate my plants and continue a recrocating cycle.

Have you ever behaved reciprocally?  

If you win the £16,000 first prize, or even one of the three £8,000 awards for this free to enter playwriting competition, as a result of seeing it here, I hope you'll reciprocate my kindness in posting about it by buying me a cake. A big one. With a cherry on top.

p.s. I have a new collection of short stories out. Family Feeling is currently on sale for the reduced price of 99p (99c)

Wednesday 8 May 2019


Lichen is the variously coloured mossy type stuff you often see on trees and rocks. It's composed of a fungus and alga in a symbiotic relationship. There are a LOT of different types.

Lichen is also the name of a skin disease, but let's not go there.

Lichenology is the study of lichens and things which have been lichened.

Personally I pronounce the word litch-in (as in litch-gate which I feel is appropriate because churchyards are a good place to see lichen). The alternative is to say it as though it were written liken. 

Lichen forms when something just stands about doing nothing. You can't afford to do that if you want to enter this free crimewriting competition, as it ends at the end of the month. The prize is a two book contract with Avon (an imprint of Harper Collins). 

Wednesday 24 April 2019


To go withershins means to travel in a direction contrary to the sun's course and is sometimes thought to be unlucky. Another meaning of withershins is anticlockwise.

Withershins can also be wrtten as widdershins. I'm not sure which version I like best – do you have a preference?

Did you leave a comment on this post to be in the draw for a paperback copy of Escape To The Country? You have until midnight to try.

Wednesday 17 April 2019


Cosy, as I'm sure you know, means comfortable and warm. It can also mean friendly, as in a cosy relationship

Less favourably the word can be used to imply complacency. It probably is a good plan to leave the cosiness of the easy and familiar to try something different occasionally.

A cosy can be a canopied seat for two, or something intended to keep something else warm – usually a pot of tea or a boiled egg. My friend Anne Rainbow gave me this lovely tea cosy.

Cosy crime is a genre of writing, which although it may deal with terrible crimes avoids gore and gruesomely graphic details. I think this book qualifies – it's warm too.

The prize for this free to enter short story competition is a cosy pair of writing gloves. I've absolutely nothing against cash as a competition prize, but I have a soft spot for those which offer something more unusual. Perhaps that's because my first ever writing success (17 years ago!) earned me cake and books tokens.

What's the cosiest thing you can think of?

Wednesday 10 April 2019


To assuage is to calm or soothe a person or issue. It also means to relieve or appease an appetite or desire. 

My wish to travel around in our campervan and visit castles and stuff can only be assuaged by travelling around in our campervan and visiting castles and stuff. If Gary reads this post and takes the hint then he'll be an assuager and the resulting trip will be a form of assuagement.

If like me you enjoy travelling, then don't forget the 'Just Back' travel writing competition. It's free to enter and there's a weekly £250 prize – winning that might assuage your guilt over how much you spent on ice creams!

And if you fancy trying other non-fiction writing competitions, you'll find lots here. (Unlike the ones I feature here, not all these are free to enter.)

I'm not at all keen on promoting my books, but having them on price promotion helps assuage my reluctance. Keep It In The Family, a collection of 25 family themed stories, is currently available for 99p/99c.