Wednesday, 27 February 2013


Today's word of the week is abaft. It means 'nearer to the stern than'. Eg the 'When navigating around a cruise ship it helps to remember the dining room is generally located abaft of the cocktail bar'.

OK, I admit I picked this one just because I had a nice picture to illustrate it with, but it's still a good word, isn't it?

If you've ever fancied writing for the BBC take a look here and here.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Groping in the dark

Frustrating isn't it when we get those 'thanks but no thanks' letters and emails. Is our work rubbish, OK but not what they're looking for right now, brilliant but on a theme they've recently used? If we're very lucky we might get a line or two of explanation which is of some help but few editors have time for even that. They're there to edit the magazine - not our submissions!

Feedback can be very useful to a writer so if you can, join a writing group or class (there are versions of both online as well as out there in the 'real' world). Alternatively some competitions offer a critique service (usually for a small fee)

If you'd like some feedback and advice from a publisher pop along to The Fiction Clinic. Could be just the thing if you're struggling with a particular issue or have a section that just isn't working - and it's free!

Once you've got your feedback and sorted out any issues you'll be able to enter short story competitions such as this dark one. Prize £50 plus five submissions 'win' publication in the magazine but there's no fee paid. All winners will get a free ecopy of the mag though.

Or you might like to try this much lighter one(prize $1,000 plus 9 more of $100 Amazon giftcards) Or perhaps a poetry contest (the prize for this is £1,000)

I thought I had the perfect photo (of a dark dungeon) to illustrate this but when I found it I saw I'd used flash so it wasn't dark and you can't really tell it's a dungeon so here's a picture of some birds with rather nice feet instead.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Cassa Storm cover reveal.

Ninja Captain* Alex J Cavanaugh has a new book coming out and this is the cover. It's his third, following on from the popular Cassa Fire and Cassa Star.

*He's called that because of his total awesomeness. You may have heard of the A to Z blogging challenge and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Alex is behind them and many other blog hops. He uses his own, regularly updated, blog to offer advice and encouragement and to support and promote the work of his many writing friends and followers (known as the ninja army). He does Nano, he plays guitar, watches movies and sport and has a life away from the keyboard. Anyone who can do all that just has to be ninja.

CassaStorm by Alex J. Cavanaugh

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, his only struggles are occasional rogue pirate raids and endless government bureaucracies. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, shaking Bassan to the core and threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could be on its way back. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

Release date: September 17, 2013
Science Fiction - Space Opera/Adventure
Print ISBN 9781939844002
E-book ISBN 9781939844019

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Publication without pay

As promised, here's an interview with Rosemary Kind from Alfie Dog Publishing (the best short story download site) on the subject of publication without pay.

[Patsy]Rosemary, I understand you're starting a campaign to ensure writers get paid for their work. Can you tell me more about that?

[Rosemary Kind]  All too often writers are asked to give their work for free in the hope that it will raise their profile. Can you imagine ringing the plumber and saying 'I need to you to put in a new shower. I won't pay you but your work will get seen by anyone who uses my bathroom. It will be good for your reputation.'? The chances are the plumber wouldn't visit. It's all very well arguing that the arts are different, but as with all professions a writer has to earn a living and giving their work away for free is not going to put food on the table. It isn't just the sites which ask for submissions for publication without payment, there are also the competitions which charge you an entry fee but for which the prize is publication in an over-priced anthology, which the writer then has to pay for, because they want to see their work in print. It's hard for writers. Of course we want to see our work published, but some of these competitions are an outright rip-off for the writer.

[Patsy]Most competitions, free to enter of with a fee, are legit but there are a few dodgy ones. Do carefully read the t&cs before taking part.

So you pay your writers?

[Rosemary Kind]  Yes, we share the royalties half and half between the author and Alfie Dog Fiction. One of the main reasons we set up in the first place was because we were concerned that the number of paid outlets for writers was declining and in particular that once a story had been used in one place it rarely had another chance to earn money for the writer.

[Patsy] It sounds like a good idea to me, but as a writer I'm biased. You're a publisher - wouldn't it be better for you if you got work for free?

[Rosemary Kind]  I might be a publisher, but I'm also a writer. My priority has been to develop a platform that is fair to the writer and which gives excellent value to the reader. If our writers can't find success then neither will we it is in our mutual interest to achieve success.

[Patsy]I've allowed my work to be used for free on occasions - was I wrong to do that?

[Rosemary Kind]  No, as long as you are in control of what you are doing and understand what you are trying to achieve by doing that, but there is a time and a place. It is one thing using a free piece of work as a promotion, but it is quite another to find increasing pressure to give away work. What alarms me most is that many sites not only state that they make no payment but ask for original unpublished submissions. It's scandalous. If a site is not going to pay they should at least have the decency to allow you to have obtained payment elsewhere first. The other problem is that the more the public perceives writing as something which is available for free, the less they feel inclined to pay for it.

[Patsy] I reckon it's worth trying the paid options first but considering unpaid 'markets' if we're new to writing and eager for our first publications, for hard to place pieces and for previously published work which deserves another outing. So, if what, if anything, can we do to ensure we get fairly paid?

[Rosemary Kind]  We need to be discerning about where we submit work to. We also need to question some of the small print, for both publication and competition submissions. If your work is good enough then your first publication rights have a value. If the piece of work is not good enough then it isn't going to build you a following, so giving it away for free is not going to be of great benefit. It's better to hone your craft, learn from your mistakes and then publish work that is good enough to earn you a return for your labour. If you can't find a suitable outlet then writers can always go down the Amazon or Smashwords routes of publication, if you do then you need to make sure your work is thoroughly edited and properly formatted for publication.

[Patsy]You publish on the internet. Some people seem to think everything on the internet should be free and/or that it's fine to use anything they find on the internet without permission. How do you feel about that?

[Rosemary Kind]  Copyright is very important. A writer's work should be protected and not reproduced without their permission for any purpose. Many people have been swept up by the notion promulgated by companies such as Google, that all information should be available to everyone for free. The Google Books Project is one of the most alarming projects I have ever come across. Not only are they intent on making all books available regardless of copyright, but the books are then displayed with ads alongside, which has been proved in studies to diminish the reading experience. The more pressure there is on artists to give their work away for free the lower the quality of the art will become. No one will be able to afford to study and learn their craft and work on it as a profession. All the arts, not just writing will be limited to hobbies or the pursuit of the wealthy. Those who think writing should be available for free would most likely be amongst the first to complain if their employers were to say they were expected to work for free. Why should writers be treated less well than any other occupation? If we want a future for the arts we have to recognise that the arts is of value to any civilised people.

[Patsy] Over to you. Would you allow your work to be published somewhere that doesn't pay? Do you think it's wrong to do so?

Friday, 15 February 2013


If you want your writing published you'll need to send it out ... but where? If you've not yet been published then cafelit or runningoutofink might be good places to try. They don't pay but that does have the advantage that competition is likely to be less fierce than some other places (although it doesn't mean they'll accept any old rubbish). It also means they don't have to charge readers, so both are good places to head for if you want something to read.

Understandably many writers wish to be paid for their work, even if it's just a token amount. In that case you can try here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here. Again these are all good places to go for an interesting read.

You might like to try AlfieDog who pay commission so the amount you earn will depend on how many times your stories are downloaded. It's an excellent place to go if you want something to read - the best short story download site.

If you're hoping for a bit more cash you might like to try Pages of Stories who've just reopened for submissions as Ficta Fabula.

I know opinions are divided about publication without pay (stand by for a post and interview with an editor on this issue later this month). One thing I will say before that is that if money is changing hands then it should be going toward, rather than away from, the writer. Other than competition entry fees, please don't pay to have your work published. If it's worthy of publication you don't need to do that.

Oh and don't expect anyone to hand you money, or a publication credit, on a plate. You will actually have to submit your work.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


According to my dictionary the only meaning of the word hunk is a 'large or clumsy piece'.

That's a shame as I thought I was going to have to persuade a bunch of Royal Marines to strip off just so I could illustrate this post. Still, a hunk of cake is just as good ... isn't it?

It's not relevant in any way, but here's a link to the radio interview I did yesterday. My bit starts just over 11 minutes in.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Playing About

I've had a go at quite a few different forms of writing; short stories, novels, non fiction, poetry and flash.

I've never attempted script writing though (I did attend a script workshop along with JJ Cocker which was fun but also convinced me I preferred prose) So I won't be able to enter this competition and try for the £16,000 top prize (or one of the three £8,000 other awards)

Here's another one I can't try. Still the prize money there is only £6,000.

Do you prefer to stick to one form of writing or prefer reading and writing across a wide range?

(Yeah, I know the picture illustrates the wrong sort of playing, but all my famous actor friends are away on filmshoots so I had to use this rather wooden amateur)

I'll probably never make it onto stage or screen (though I'd love to see my name in the credits as author of the original idea) but I will be on BBC radio Solent tomorrow morning (probably just before seven)

Friday, 8 February 2013

Getting competitive

I know it looks like I'm here, but really I'm over at Romance Reader talking about writing competitions (and giving those who comment over there a final chance to win a copy of A Year and a Day) Please do visit me there if you have time.

Hopefully after reading the interview you'll feel like having a bash at a couple of competitions. Luckily I have some for you. This one offers a $250 dollar prize for a 250 word flash. This one closes tomorrow night* and has complicated rules, but again it's for 250 words and it offers a cash prize plus (paid) publication so it's worth a look.

Unfortunately I couldn't find 248 other competitions with the same word count. I do have one that needs only half that amount. So that's 2.5 x 250 word competitions and this one (for reviews) does offer a £25 prize so it all sort of holds together numerically.

If you count carefully I think you'll find there are 250 petals in the photograph.

*closed now. I just got my entry in on time.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Worries? What worries?

It's Insecure Writers' Support Group time again! Am I feeling insecure? Actually no, not right now. I might be next month as I'll have left the day job then and will be trying to scrape an income from writing, but I'm trying not to let that worry me yet. Something might come up.

If I could win a competition such as this one that'd be a huge help. Winning this competition wouldn't help my finances, but the publicity might be useful - what do you think?

btw, I'm the 'featured author' at Alfie Dog this week.

Monday, 4 February 2013

On my (virtual) travels

Today I'm over at Maria's being interrogated asked nicely about how I ever came to get published and about A Year and a Day. I hope you'll visit me there and not just because there's a chance to win a free copy of my book.

In real life I'm grounded (like these black headed gulls) for a few more weeks, but I hope to be off in the van quite soon.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Some good news

Just when I needed cheering up, I've had a couple of short story acceptances from The Weekly News and I've won a short story competition in Prima (although the photo they've used is of someone else!) 

I also have a short story in February's Woman's Weekly Fiction Special - along with several of my writing friends. Yesterday I wrote a new story I'm quite pleased with, and a 100 worder for a competition.

The sun is shining too - so I went out in the garden this morning and found more to smile about.

Whilst things are going so well, I think I'll get on with a few more competition attempts. Humorous poetry perhaps? (shame there aren't competitions for poetry to make people groan and slap their heads, I'd be shortlisted every time)

 Essay writing might not be quite the thing for me either. I do struggle when I'm forced to stick with the facts.

short story, that's more like it! There's not much time though and it does look like they might want sex in it. Better make it a quickie then! (sorry)