Wednesday, 26 July 2017


Another Scottish word I've learned on my travels is smirs, which was taught to me by Dawn Brown (who also introduced me to some jolly good home baking). According to the dictionary, smir (or smirs, or even smirrs) is a form of light drizzle. Dawn tells me 'it's down from dreich, but up from scotch mist'.

It was smirring when we visited Crichton Castle. After it had smirred, the sun came out for us at Melrose Abbey.

Friday, 21 July 2017

The heat is on

This competition is for a piece of 'women's fiction' up to 2,500 words. Apparently this is 'the ultimate literary challenge'.

The prize is a mentoring session with Paige Toon and publication of your short story as an ebook, for which you might earn royalties.

I say 'might' not because I think the publishers won't honour that part of the deal, but simply because I'm uncertain that people will buy a single short story for £1.99. That seems a bit steep to me. Or maybe I'm under valuing my own short story collections? They're on offer at £1.99 too, but there are at least 24 stories in each.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017


I've been adding a few Scottish words to my vocabulary during my travels. I was introduced to guddle by Rosemary Gemmell. In the context she used it, guddle means a mess (as in an untidy room – and no she wasn't describing the interior of our van!) and/or a complex and confusing situation.

guddle is also a type of fish which can be caught by guddling. The guddling is done with bare hands so quite messy and the word apparently derives from making a mess around water – which is handy for me, as I've recently taken photos of various watery subjects in Scotland.

Monday, 17 July 2017


No, I'm not suggesting you give up writing. Quite the opposite.

This competition has a writing retreat in Dorset as its prize. Just imagine a few days away with nothing to do but write. If you won that, you'd have time to write something you could submit for this competition.

Ah. Anyway, here's a photo of my mobile writing retreat. Aren't I lucky?

Friday, 14 July 2017

A freebie

My short story collection, Up The Garden Path is currently FREE!

If you enjoy it, please do leave a review on Amazon.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017


An undertow is a current, below the surface of the sea, which is moving in a different direction to that of the surface current.

Today is our fith wedding anniversary – and the sixth anniversary of the day Gary proposed to me at sea. It happened just about here.

Feel free to complain about that news not being current, or suggest I've had him under tow ever since.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Tangling with Scott

Here's another of the places we've visited on our trip which has a literary connection. Dryburgh Abbey is the final resting place of Sir Walter Scott.

His tomb is behind the red and white sign on the right in this photo. (The other is for Field Marshall Douglas Haig.)

Scott wrote the lines "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!" I wonder if he was thinking about plotting his novels at the time? I certainly manage to get some of my outlines into tangled webs.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Waiting impatiently

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time again. Do sign up for the group if you're an insecure writer (which I reckon is just about every writer for at least some of the time).

Just sending off a piece of writing gives us plenty of 'opportunities' for insecurity. Did we follow all the guidelines or competition rules? Have we correctly interpreted the requirements? Is the formatting right?

If there's no immediate acknowledgement we worry it hasn't arrived. Then we convince ourselves it has and whoever is reading it hates it. After a while we start to wonder if the reply got lost. Should we chase up a response?

How do you distract yourself from worrying about your submitted work?

What do you do if replies don't come – and how soon do you do it?

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

A good excuse?

I've been posting some of my travel pictures on Facebook, but there's a literary connection with these, so I think it's fair enough to put them on the blog ...

This is a statue of William Wallace. The words on the statue's base (which admittedly you can't see) are by the poet James Thomson. There's also a poem about Wallace, by The Earl of Buchann, on the urn.

Further down the hill ( a lot further and it's a steep hill, especially going back up) is a temple of the muses, which the Earl built as a memorial to Thomson.

You might be thinking you've never come across James Thomson's work – unless you already knew he wrote the words to Rule Brittannia.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Limericks in limerick

The Limerick literary festival will include a limerick competition. There's a €500 prize and it's free to enter. The 'rules and guidlines' contain useful information about the structure of a limerick and tips on crafting a good one.

The only very slight snag is that to compete in the final, you'll have to go to Limerick.  

I'm not suggesting that going to Limerick is in any way a bad thing, but the date might not be convenient for everyone. I'll be elsewhere at the time myself, so can't enter. That's a pity, because I've already made a start. Perhaps you'd like to help me finish it?

There was an odd writer with a campervan
Whose poems hardly ever properly scan

Friday, 30 June 2017

Going on about getting out

I blogged about this competition earlier in the year, but as there's a month to go until it closes, I thought it was worth mentioning it again for those who missed it the first time round and as a reminder to those who didn't.

They're looking for travel writing, but this can be fact or fiction. First prize is £100.

Another thing I've mentioned before is my own travelling.  Here's a photo from one of my trips. Do you recognise the location?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


Suilline simply means of the pig family. You know, like feline for cats, caprine for goats, equine for horses and supine for blocked writers.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Let's hear it

Soundworks have a monologue competition, for pieces of up to 15 minutes on any theme. The winning piece will be recorded and published on the site.

Previously published work is accepted.

This photos isn't of a monologue, but multiple logs. Sorry.

Actually I'm not really sorry, I'm cackling to myself in a slightly disturbing way.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Good odds

There's still time to enter the Senior Travel Experts travel writing competition.

The organiser says, "because of the very specific theme of the competition - Travel for Seniors - entries are much down on previous competitions. 

Hence you have a much better chance of winning one of the 11 prizes on offer and getting your article published. The first prize is £100 and there are 10 runner-up prizes of £10 each. Competition entry is of course free of charge."

Thursday, 22 June 2017

We're at the seaside!

Here are a few recent photos from our travels in the van. (Dover, Dunkirk, Deal, Smallhythe)

If you can't get away to the beach yourself (or even if you can) you might be interested in this book of holiday reads which is currently free to download. (There's one of my stories in it.)

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


An apochromatic lens is one which reduces spherical and chromatic aberrations. (The first part is where stuff looks a weird shape in the photo despite being fine in reality and the other bit is that weird purple haze you sometimes see round the edges of photographic subjects.)

Although that definition gives me a reasonable excuse to post a photo of The Sphere, I have resisted. Instead I've used my own apochromatic lens to photograph a grapefruit. See, no aberrations!

Yes, I am married to a photographer and yes, the poor chap has been interogated mercilessly as I've worked on my latest novel, which features a photographer. Thanks for asking.

Monday, 19 June 2017

£500 for 25 words

Yes, there really is a free to enter writing competition which offers a £500 prize for just 25 words.

And yes, of course there are catches. Published authors aren't eligible (obviously that's only a catch if you are a published author, otherwise it's a jolly good thing) and the 25 words have to, somehow, be a novel.

I'm not eligible, which means I don't have to own up to the fact that I don't think I could come up with an entry, even if I were. Oh...

Paint Me A Picture is just over 101,000 words. That's after I edited it down from over 135,000. What's the biggest cut (words or percentage) you've made to one of your stories?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

A regular thing

Writing Writers run a monthly competition with cash prizes for both short stories and poetry.

Sometimes there's a theme or prompt, but not for June. Feel free to use this photo to get you started (I'll expect you to report back if it helps you create a piece which gets accepted anywhere).

Wednesday, 14 June 2017


To revivify is to restore to animation, activity or vigour. If I ever felt in need of revivification, I'd head off to the coast somewhere in the van.

As it is, I don't really need to be revivified, so I'm going to have to come up with another excuse.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Ideas on I.D.

The word factory are running a monthly flash fiction competition. You have up to 500 words to write on the theme of identity, citizenship and belonging. This theme may be interpreted in any way you like. There are prizes.

Thanks to Alyson for passing on the link.

I belong in the van, so I'm sometimes a temporary citizen of the place identified by this flag. Do you recognise it?

Friday, 9 June 2017

A fluffy (and cute) metaphor?

This duckling is tiny and weighs only a few grammes, yet still created a huge bow wave across the lake.

There must be a metaphor, or simile, or something in that, don't you think?

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Secure for sea!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. It's also nearly time for Gary and I to head off for another adventure in our campervan (which I think gives me an excuse to post a few pictures of the last one!)

As I was loading up the van, it occurred to me there are similarities with writing. Gathering together everything we want to take is rather like getting the first draft down.

As things are packed away, I'm likely to realise there are items I've forgotten and I may well have duplicate items, or stuff which won't be needed for that particular trip. Putting it right is similar to editing our story.

Once everything is in (which might require cutting down to just the essentials if I've written/packed too much) we have to ensure everything is 'secure for sea'. That's the phrase Gary uses to mean that nothing is going to fall or break during our travels – which often do include ferry crossings. The writing equivalent is double checking the address to send our work to, whether it needs to be in a particular format, making sure we've included everything we should and nothing we shouldn't.

What do you do to ensure your story is ready for its journey from your keyboard to the desk of the editor, publisher or competition judge?

Would you like to see pictures from the next trip?

Monday, 5 June 2017

First steps

If you've not yet recieved a fee for your writing, and are over 16, then you are eligible to enter this short story competition. The theme is 'journeys'. There's a £1,500 first prize!

Totally unrelated(!) to the above, is a reminder that the ebook version of Can't Choose Your Family is still on sale for 99p (99c) but only until tomorrow night.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

A baby donkey etc

Ha! I knew I could lure you onto the blog with a photo of a sweet baby animal.

Really it's just a crafty ploy to remind you that my latest short story collection is on sale for just 99p (99c) for a couple more days.

But now you're here, I'm sure some of you will be able to come up with witty, cute, or daft captions for some of these pictures...