Thursday, 29 October 2015

Whatever the weather

Thanks to Beatrice for letting me know about this competition. The challenge is to write a story about climate change and the prize is $1,000. You can send up to three entries and have until 16th January to do it.

We get climate change round here. These pictures were taken: from my office window, in the garden, and at the end of the road.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015


Retrospection is the action of looking back or reviewing events and situations of the past, particularly those in our own lives. It also means to indulge or engage in retrospect. Eg, looking at my wedding photos provides happy periods of retrospection.

Retrospect means a a survey of past times or events, or to reflect on the past. Eg, in retrospect I'm glad I enrolled in creative writing evening classes fourteen years ago.

Oooh, the past is when castles were built! (It's almost like I plan this stuff.) Do you recognise this one? Or the handsome photographer  ahead of me?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Book Launch Night - An Insider’s Guide

Although I'm launching my fourth novel soon, I've never held the kind of launch people can turn up to. Vikki Gemmel has though and I've invited her here to tell us how it went.

On Friday 9th October I had the launch of my Young Adult Mystery debut novel, Follow Me, at the Argyle Street branch of Waterstones in Glasgow. My publisher, Strident Publishing Ltd. liaised with Waterstones to secure the launch and I popped into the store to say hello a couple of weeks ahead of the event so that I could meet the manager, and also ask a few logistical questions. When choosing your outfit for the evening, check what you’ll be sitting on…I was very glad I had chosen a longish dress to wear as the high bar-stool style chairs could have resulted in a thigh-flashing disaster situation.
I set up an Events invitation page on Facebook, as this was the quickest and easiest way to announce my plans to a wide range of friends. I emailed other people I knew, and friends and family also spread the word. For me, having so many friends and family present, was what made having a big book launch special and turned it into one of the best nights of my life. I can’t think of any other occasion where you get to fill a room with so many people from all walks of your life. My old Primary School Head Teacher even turned up, allowing me to thank her for the encouragement she gave me with my writing in my last year of Primary. It was also amazing to be able to launch my book in one of my favourite book shops! 
The amount of encouragement and support I received on the couple of days leading up to the launch helped to soothe my nerves. Miraculously on the day itself a weird sense of calm washed over me, (when weeks before I was breaking out in cold sweats at the thought of taking centre stage and talking about my book). I had managed to develop the mind-set that the evening should be a celebration with friends, and that was exactly what it was! 
My publisher, Keith, did a brilliant job of introducing me, putting me at ease, and turned our question and answer session into what felt like a friendly chat. My biggest worry was that the event would be staid, but we succeeded in keeping it informal and as fun as possible. As he knows my book nearly as well as I do, he was able to ask intuitive questions, which allowed me to explain key parts of the story, as well as talk about my writing process. 
Prior to us ‘going live’, he asked me what extracts I’d chosen to read, and he cleverly structured the questions so as to allow me to intersperse my short readings neatly into our conversation. He had also previously suggested that when he asked me the inevitable question, ‘What is your book about?’ that I read out the blurb as it explains the story concisely, without me descending into waffle. Here is the blurb for Follow Me

What is the deadly allure of the Barn?
17-year-old Kat Sullivan has been devastated by the loss of her twin sister, Abby, the most recent of five teenagers to have died in the town of Eddison, all within a year. No-one seems able to explain the circumstances surrounding her death.
As Kat struggles to move on, she is introduced to an underground hangout – the Barn – by Abby’s friends. There, she meets the enigmatic Rob and his friend Michael, art students who have re-created pop artist Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory, where creative types can construct art and socialise.

Drawn into Rob’s social scene, and seduced by the attention of this attractive stranger, Kat relishes the freedom and escape offered by the Barn’s non-conformity and creativity.
But the Barn holds a strange influence over those who frequent it, and soon Kat begins to realise how little she knew about her sister’s life.

Kat needs answers.
She also needs to stay alive.
I also decided to read my Prologue as the first extract, as it gives a taster of my writing style, as well as introducing the voice of my main protagonist, seventeen year old Kat. Here is my Prologue: 
We were Gemini Twins, my sister and I. Two halves making up one whole. She always said I took on all of the darker characteristics of the sign, moody and introverted. She was the sunshine to my darkness; outgoing and full of laughter. I dyed my hair black and matched my foundation to the colour of snow. Her hair shone of gold and she always had a smile on her face. She was the happy one. 

It made her suicide all the more shocking. 

My parents turned to me for answers. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I saw a trace of accusation in their eyes. Had my darkness seeped into her light and tainted her sunny disposition? 

I only had one answer: my beautiful carefree sister would not take her own life. She was not distraught or desperate.  

She was also not the only one to go. Our town almost didn’t react to the news of her death. Everyone was slowly switching off, becoming numb, as Abby became another haunting statistic.

Over the past year there had been other teenage suicides in our town. Abby was number five.  None of them left suicide notes and none of them said goodbye to their loved ones.  Why? It was the only question I had. I screamed it over and over in my head every minute of every day.

After reading this, it allowed me to expand on the fact it is Kat’s determination to find answers to what is really going on, which drives the story and provides the mystery element, as she refuses to believe her sister would take her own life. 
My publisher brought wine along on the night which helped everyone to stay merry. As my book has influences of the Pop Artist Andy Warhol I also wanted to bring something which would tie in with this theme, so I put together mini Coca-cola bottles, with a Marilyn Monroe Pop Art style badge attached to a label encouraging the audience to ‘be famous for fifteen minutes’ by sharing event photos across social media with the hash-tag #followmetothebarn. This was a hashtag I was already using on my author Pinterest and Instagram pages on the lead up to the launch. Now if you type in the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram you can see a whole range of photos and posts from my launch night. 
Waterstones also joined in the fun and took a picture of my cupcakes from the night (which had edible cake toppers of my book cover from the fantastic, sharing it on Twitter with the same hash-tag. The next day my publisher re-tweeted and hash-tagged some posts of his own. I shared a picture of my cupcakes on the Eatmyface Facebook page a week after the event, and they then shared this for all of their followers to see. My parents also provided other nibbles. These little touches added to the fun (and also made for some great, colourful photos!). 
A few weeks before the event I put in a new order of promotional postcards, (with my book cover as the main image), so that I could insert these inside some of my books on the night (mainly for people and teenagers who didn’t know me so well). The back of these postcards have my social media contact details. One friend left a postcard in the toilets of the after-drinks pub. By the end of the night this was the only cubicle still in order so it allowed me to announce to the queue, ‘Hey, see the postcard in there – that’s my book! Tonight is my launch.’ Launch night, when you’ve had a couple, is probably the ONLY night an author will get away with such an egotistical moment…
If I have one tip for authors on the run up to their launch it would be – Leave your nerves at home and enjoy every minute. You’ve worked so hard to get here, (and there’s plenty of work to do afterwards), so make this your night of fun! 

Follow Me is currently out in paperback and is available to buy on Amazon and can be ordered into your local Waterstones here.

Victoria Gemmell lives in Renfrewshire, Scotland, and her debut Young Adult novel Follow Me is out now, published by Strident Publishing Ltd. Whilst studying an undergraduate degree in Communication and Mass Media, Victoria developed a fascination with pop culture and Andy Warhol, which has influenced a lot of the ideas in Follow Me. Victoria works with teenagers on a daily basis as a careers adviser. 
Victoria has had shorter works published in journals such as the WordswithJAM anthology An Earthless Melting Pot, The Grind Journal, The Puffin Review, FlashFlood, Word Bohemia and The Bohemyth Literary Journal, writing under the name Vikki. 

Follow Victoria

Twitter: @VikkiGemmell

Friday, 23 October 2015

Sick note

£300 is on offer for this sci-fi competition, with the theme of medicine, health and illness. Personally I'd have thought that was three themes, which just goes to show what I know about science fiction.

In the future, sea urchins will be trained to roll in medicine and then over sick people. This will provide both medicine and an acupuncture session ...

What do you reckon, with characters and a plot could I be on to something?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

On the road again

Today I'm over at Rosemary Gemmell's blog, talking about the inspirations behind Firestarter.

And I'm at Rachel's, trying to convince people I'm not a crazed stalker.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


A blurb is a short description of a book or film for promotional purposes. They're devilishly difficult to write (though not as bad as a synopsis!)

Talking of blurbs here's the one for my new romantic comedy, Firestarter, which is available to 'pre-order' now and will be released on 5th November.

Alice has a fantasy. It starts with being rescued by a hunky fireman, involves the kiss of life and ends in him not needing his uniform. At the New Forest Show, Alice is offered an innocent version of her dream. Reluctantly she turns down fireman Hamish's invitation.

Despite Alice's blameless behaviour, boyfriend Tony's obsessive jealousy kicks in. Hamish wants to take Tony's place, but a hoaxer ensures Alice already sees far too much of Hampshire Fire Service. The threat of an explosive sprout surprise, her mum's baking, sister Kate's mind boggling pep talks and the peculiar behaviour of Alice's boss Miles provide distractions.

Is Alice really in danger? What is Kate up to? Can Hamish possibly be as perfect as he seems? It takes Alice masses of wonderful food, disgusting wine, smelly mud, red footed crows and steamy Welsh passion, but she finds the answers. And rethinks her fantasy.

And talking of promotion ... you can find all the details of my blog tour here.

Monday, 19 October 2015

A fortnight to go

There's still a couple of weeks before the Commonwealth Writer's competition closes. That's not long enough to qualify as a citizen if you happen to have been born elsewhere, but it might be enough time to polish a story if you do qualify.

The prize for each region is £2,500 with £5,000 for the overall winner.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Architecture of Health

If you can write a piece on the architecture of health, you could win £500 plus publication. I'll have to give this one a miss, as I'm not entirely sure I understand the question.

Tomatoes are healthy, aren't they? I don't think that's any help, but I don't have a photo of a hospital.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Brave new ending

For this competition, you're asked to write a new ending for Brave New World. The prize is a place on a playwriting workshop led by Nigel Planer.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


Evince means to reveal the presence of a quality or feeling, or to make clear and plain. I believe this photo of our front garden evinces my love of flowers.

Evincing is also a word, evinced by its presence in my dictionary.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The poised pen

Is your pen (or typing finger) poised? Fancy some word prompts to help you create a poem or piece of flash fiction? Want the incentive of £100 cash prize? I suppose you'd like free entry without even the need to print and post your work too?

Here you go then.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Just realised ...

... the latest post on my other blog is actually about a free to enter short story competition. I was thinking in terms of regular magazine publishing opportunities and didn't think to post about it here.

I'll try to remember that sometimes one link can bridge two blogs ;-)

Friday, 9 October 2015

A long night

Solstice shorts are looking for stories and poems with the theme The Longest Night. I'm unsure what the reward, if any, is. I do know they don't want anything really horrible. More details here.

Monday, 5 October 2015


Today I'm interviewing my friend, editing guru Anne Rainbow, to learn more about the madness which is NaNo.

Anne, rumour has it that you, and loads of other people, are going to try to write a novel in November - not just start it, but actually write it. Is this true?
Spot on, Patsy. Hundreds of thousands of Wrimos – writers from all over the world – take part in this annual extravaganza called NaNoWriMo. I can’t wait!

I know you can write and I’m sure lots of the other participants can too, but if you write a whole novel in just one month, isn’t it going to be a bit … um… rubbish?
By the end of November, I'll have 50K words – maybe as many as 100K – and that’s a great start. During those thirty days, I’ll have writing lows but I know from experience that these will be eclipsed by many more writing highs. When I'm in the 'zone’ - which comes from writing every day and having a daily target - my mind races and my fingers fly. For me, no matter how many words I accumulate, it’s never a finished-perfect-polished novel. It’s the best I can manage though, in those 30 days.

Why the heck would anyone do it then?
NANO is the perfect motivator. It’s like doing a marathon. If you’ve never run one before, taking the first step is the challenge: signing up for it. Committing yourself to the journey takes more courage than putting one foot after the other. Same with NANO. Step 1, Register. Before you know, you’re being swept along! Step 2: join a region. Step 3: turn up at a Kick Off meeting. Step 4: start planning. Come midnight on 31 October – yes, we start as soon as the clock finishes chiming midnight and it’s officially 1 November - bang goes the gun and you’re off.
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month
For me, the thirty days of November are more fun than Christmas or my birthday or any holiday jaunt. Normally, I fit my writing in around other responsibilities: running a house, new husband, family and friends. During NANO, I turn my world upside down. It’s the annual opportunity to express myself in novel form – and to give my creative writing priority over everything else. Everything!

Have you started any planning or anything like that?
Usually, I’m what’s called a pantser; the big day arrives and I pray for inspiration. Earlier this year, I discovered Scrivener and realised how writing with this magnificent software tool would result in a better organised draft. Everything in one place. Easier to write in November. Easier to edit, whenever that happens! So, I am adopting a different approach for NANO 2015. I already have a story idea and I’m all geared up to writing my 'Safari Supper' novel, using Scrivener. My ScrivenerVirgin blog reports on my progress. Anyone else new to Scrivener, or to NANO is welcome to tag along. No charge!

What tips do you have for anyone who’s tempted to join in with NaNo?
Go for it! Nothing to lose. Although perhaps I should add a health warning. NANO is addictive; I have the T-shirt, literally  - and I’m hooked on doing NANO each year. I first took part in 2009. Having burst through the 50K barrier with that draft novel, I then wore the mantle of  ML for Devon and Cornwall for a while. MLs – that’s short for Municipal Liaison - look after a region. This year, I’m not an ML, but I am supporting fellow Wrimos through free online webinars. You don’t need to live near me; you could be anywhere in the world and it’ll cost nothing but your time. My KickOff Webinar will be on 26 October – and other webinars will be scheduled during November and early December.

And afterwards? Do we just delete the whole thing, or is there any chance it could become a book worth reading?
Delete? Never! My advice is to spend December chilling out and reconnecting with your world, outside of writing. For me, January is all about completing my tax return and then the year slips by. At some point, May, June, July, I make myself a cup of coffee and read my NANO draft. Having created distance through time, I can look at it objectively. Then, the editing starts. Out with my Red Pen!

I know you and your Red Pen - you don’t just mean a biro of that colour, do you?
No, although there’s nothing to stop anyone using one for the purpose! No, Red Pen is the editing system I devised some ten years ago. Anyone can sign up for the free weekly Red Pen newsletter for editing tips, and there’s also an option to invest in training opportunities and mentoring.

Where do people go for all that?

Check out my ScrivenerVirgin blog at … where you can sign up for all the webinars and newsletters mentioned. The ScrivenerVirgin blog posting which is coming soon, will have all the details for NANO.

Anne's talked me into having a go (though I may 'cheat' and work on a novel I've already started). Anyone else tempted?

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A visit from Mac

Mac Wheeler has just published his 28th novel. Twenty-eigth!!! Just hearing that means I have to go for a lie down, so I'll leave him to tell you about his latest and the other books in his 6 ways series.

Book 3 of the 6 Ways Series

At eighteen it’s tough to decide a life path when the threat of pandemic hangs over the world, your brother is the genius who engineered the plague, and you’re repeatedly drawn into the fight against the terrorists spreading it. Plenty of people would kill an Abernathy on sight so it would be wise for Mar to visit the dojo, otherwise play invisible, but her brother is manipulating her into another adventure.

If you haven't read Book 1 or 2, and like to start at the beginning...

Alcoholic parents treated Margarite as an unwelcome stranger, then left her at fourteen with her thirty year old autistic brother. At sixteen, things really sour, thanks to her brother. A medical researcher, Reggie engineers the ultimate plague. Fanatics seek to control him. The government pursues them as terrorists. Margarite witnesses ruthlessness, compassion, and competence she couldn't imagine from her brother, but the world needs a miracle. The best she and Reggie can do is wing it.

Nightmares. Panic attacks. Depression. Margarite is hammered by the typical issues of a seventeen year old loner, whose parents sympathized with insane people intending to collapse civilization. The few who care about Mar have more concerns. Her drinking. Fighting. Jumping out of airplanes.

Her brother engineered the plague that’s breaking out across the globe and she holds a little guilt for not stopping it. Or being one of the first to die. Still, conspirators behind what they call The Correction are not done with her.

The Author
R. Mac Wheeler writes about characters with a lot of baggage, men who make many men look like wimps, tough chicks that can whip most men...puts them in situations that push them to the worlds that don’t overly stretch the imagination.

A former IT professional,  he now focuses full time on suspense, paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy  that leverages the quirkiness and baggage of real life more often than the far fetched.

Visit his Home Page: WWW.RMACWHEELER.COM

Friday, 2 October 2015

Have a word

Words mag offer regular free to enter writing competitions. (I was shortlisted in the June 'murder' one.)

The next one has an open theme and a deadline of the end of the year. First prize £50.