Sunday, 23 April 2017

Ink blots and poetic plots

Printerinks are running a free poetry competition with a £100 Amazon voucher as the prize. You have 45 lines and until 5th May to write poetically about new beginnings.

I used ordinary ink to create this test. If you don't do poetry (or even if you do) perhaps you'd like to play. All you have to do is say what you see in the pattern, and I'll give you a totally made up and extremely unhelpful interpretation of what that says about you.

Or you could do the same for me. I can see a bug-eyed and rather grumpy goat/dog hybrid. It's attempting to disguise its grumpiness by clapping its spindly little legs and throwing confetti in the air.

My husband, Gary, reckons it's a surprised viking.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Lost in translation

Brilliant fiction are running another free to enter 500 word fiction competition. The prompt is 'the dubash'. I had to look that one up. It means Indian translator or interpreter.

There are cash prizes, starting at €50 or local equivalent for the winner. All shortlisted entries will be published. Thanks to Alyson Faye for passing on the details.

Have you ever got lost or caused confusion due to language difficulties? It happens to me a lot in patisseries. I always only intend to order a couple, but somehow always end up with a much larger selection.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017


I'm sure you're aware that a sultana is a dried seedless raisin type thing and absolutely delicious when included in sticky buns which have been toasted and spread generously with butter and... Sorry, got distracted for a moment there.

The small yellow grape variety which produces these fruit is also called a sultana - as is the wife, mother, daughter or concubine of a sultan.

So a sultana could grow sultanas, dry them to make sultanas and feed these to the rest of the sultan's sultanas.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017


Well done to Alyson Faye, who saw a competition I'd listed here, entered and won! It's a regular competition, with cash prizes offered twice a month, so you can have a go yourself.

Do you enter any of the competitions I mention? Ever win any?

Sunday, 16 April 2017

A spot of lunch?

Thanks to Fay Knowles for passing on this submission opportunity, which she spotted on Morgen Bailey's useful blog (Morgen runs a free monthly 100 word competition with a writing course as the prize).

Lunch Ticket are looking for poetry, prose, fiction, flash, creative non-fiction and artwork. They have regular submission windows. The current one closes at the end of this month. (I don't think they pay.)

In case you were wondering, the photo shows a little light snack in the mobile writing retreat.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Send oldies packing

If you can write either a factual article, or entertaining short story on the subject of 'travel for seniors' in 750 words or less, you could win £200. Entry is free, anyone over 16 may enter and you have until 31st of July to send something in.

I don't quite qualify as a senior, but I'm practicising the travelling part, ready for when I am.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017


You know how you're aware a thing exists, but it had never occurred to you there was a specific word for it? (Or is that just me?) Well, those little strandy bits in an egg, which join the yolk to the ends of the egg, inside the shell, are known as chalaza.

Competitions for eggs on plates are an actual thing too. I'm sure there's a word for that... Whatever it is, I like the fact this happens so much, I recreated it in a scene in Firestarter.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Pen Pals

Over the last few days I've been meeting up with lots of writing friends. As quite a few of them write for women's magazines, I've posted the details on my womagwriter blog.

As you're here though, I have an excuse to share some other photos from the same trip...

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Third Word

The Third Word run a twice monthly flash fiction competition. It's free to enter, they only want 80 words and you can send multiple entries. There's a £20 prize each fortnight, plus the chance of publication.

It's hard to illustrate a competition where you can write about whatever you like, so here's a photo of something I like. I'll be extremly impressed if you work it into your winning story.

How do you feel about such tight words counts? Do they encourage you to have a go, or put you off?

Friday, 7 April 2017

Going to Galtelli?

There's not long left to enter this competition, but as the prize is €1,000, travel to Sardinia and accomodation whilst you're there, plus publication, you might think it's worth staying up late to get an entry written. 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed entries get the same, minus the €1,000.

Just to make it a little harder, your piece of up to 5,000 words should be inspired by Daledda's novel Canne al Vento.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Thanks, IWSG

The Insecure Writer's Support Group exists to allows writers to share their insecurities and to offer support to others.

A few months ago I made a post saying I had so many projects on the go that I was spending more time deciding which to work on than I was on writing. Thanks to the great responses I got, I was able to prioritise and do some actual writing.

The one I tackled first, Leave Nothing But Footprints, was for a competition. I 'only' had to get the first chapter and outline done by the end of last month. Whilst I wait for the results, I'm going to move onto somehing else for a while. Whatever the result, having a bit of distance from the story will be a good thing. To be honest, my chances of success in that competition are very slim, but having got my entry sorted out in time feels like a real achievement and has given me a confidence boost.

Have you ever asked for help with anything writing related and got a response which has helped you produce a result you're pleased with?

Sunday, 2 April 2017

I will if you will

The Scottish book trust run a monthly 50 word short story competition. If you write two words a day, you'll be in plenty of time to enter this month.

I double dare you to send something in!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017


Abiogenesis is the formation of living organisms from non-living substances. It sounds an unlikely thing to happen, but unless it was created from nothing at all, then this must be how life started on Earth. Unless it was brought here by aliens, in which case abiogenesis must have occurred on whichever planet they came from.

Oh, and the spontaneous generation of living forms is also called abiogenesis. Gosh, who'd have thought that explaining the creation of life would be complicated?

Here's a fluffy, baby living organism. If you don't know how babies are created, ask strangers on the bus. You'll be sure to get a seat to yourself.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Look sharp

This competition asks you to write something creative using one or more visual prompts. It can be poetry, fiction, non-fiction or smething experimental.

Whichever you choose, you'll need to write it promptly, as the competition closes at the end of the month. There's no entry fee and a cash prize of $25.

If you don't fancy the competition, maybe you'd like to use this photo to write something else?

Friday, 24 March 2017

Comedy Gold?

Theatre Cloud are looking for funny writing of up to 500 words. There are cash prizes including £300 for the winner. Authors retain the rights to their stories, but these are published on the site at the time of entry, so you won't be able to offer first rights anywhere else.

You have until 7th May to enter, but if you do so by 1st April, you'll qualify for discount thetre tickets as well as having a shot at the prize.

I told this chap a cheesy joke about how he could hide himself with marscapone. As you can see, he's laughing himself horse.

Hmm. Maybe I won't enter this one.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


I knew that engross meant to fully occupy, as in 'she was so completely engrossed in the Paint Me A Picture that she missed her stop and was late for work*'. What I hadn't realised was that there are two other definitions.

Engross can mean to make a 'fair copy' of a legal document or to reproduce something in a larger format.

Have you ever been involved in any kind of engrossment? Please tell me if you have, as I'm sure I'll find the details engrossing.

*I'm told this actually happened to someone. She's since bought other of my books, so I think I'm forgiven.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Lucky seven?

Thanks to Fay Knowles for passing on this link, to seven free to enter writing competitions. There are some great prizes on offer.

Here's a photo of a Welsh castle, because we had to cross the river Severn to get there ;-)

Do you have a lucky number? Ever have the urge to throw something at your computer while reading one of my blog posts?

Friday, 17 March 2017

Dash off a flash

Here's another flash competition which gives me the excuse to post one of my travel photos (I took this from the bridge of a ship on the Irish Sea).

The theme is 'journeys' you have up to 513 words and until the end of the month to write your story. Amazon vouchers are on offer for the best three entries.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017


If something (or I suppose someone) is lactiferous, then they're producing milk, or a milk like fluid. That makes sense as 'lacto' refers to milk and 'ferous' implies having or forming.

Euphorbias can probably be described as lactiferous as the sap of these plants looks very like milk. Don't go drinking it though, as it's a strong irritant.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Did you hear that?

Pin Drop Studio are running a free to enter writing competition. You have almost six weeks and can use up to 4,000 words.

The prize is to have your story narrated by 'a secial guest'. This is likely to be someone a lot of people will have heard of.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Fenland Freebie

Thanks to Alyson for letting me know about this competition from Ely Arts Festival. They're looking for 500 words inspired by 'The Fens'. It's free to enter and there's a cash prize.

The winner will be announced on 1st July at the Ely Writer's Day. That event is free and they suggest booking early if you'd like to attend.

I've not been to the fens (which is why I've used a photo of a completely different piece of wetland) - do you think I should visit?

Wednesday, 8 March 2017


To de-aerate something means to remove the air from it. If I did that to The Sphere, I'd have a plastic pancake.

But of course I never would.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Taking a risk

I may have mentioned this adventure novel competition before, but as there's £16,000 in the prize pot and both published and unpublished novels can be entered and entrants can be of any nationality, I reckon it's better to risk repeating myself than miss it out.

Do you have any adventurous plans for the coming year?

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Annual event?

Harpers Bazaar are running a short story competition. You have up to 3,000 words and nearly two months to write something with the theme of 'The Anniversary'.

The prize is publication in the magazine, plus a weekend in a luxury hotel. The winner will be notified in early July, which means if I won I'd probably have time to book the hotel for our wedding anniversary.

That'd make a change from spending it in the van as we usually do. Pity me if I don't win, having to rough it in some desolate location with almost nothing to eat, hardly any wine, the merest hint of cake and chocolate...

Ah well, I expect I'll cope.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Long distance

Brilliant Flash Fiction are running another competition. This time they're offering €50 for 300 words about overseas travel.

I know what you're thinking – I'm just mentioning this as another excuse to post up one of my holiday snaps. Well you're wrong as really I'm doing it so I can mention that I made the longlist of their last competition.

You still get a photo though. Can you guess were it was taken?

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Anything bothering you?

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post - this month I'm a co host along with, Tamara NarayanM.J. Fifield and Nicohle Christopherson. If you have any writing related insecurities do share them with us and we'll do our best to help – and if we can't, we will at least read them in a sympathetic manner.

This month's suggested question is; "Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?"

Over the years I've retrieved and studied some of my earlier pieces, with varying results. In a few cases I realised what I'd written was never going to make a good story and deleted it. I know we're told never to delete anything, but why shouldn't we if it has already served its purpose? Writing them helped me as I'm now much better at recognising if an idea is worth spending time on.

Other stories did have good ideas behind them, but at the time of writing I hadn't the skill to do them justice. As I learned more, I rewrote and improved them. My characters gained character, they started to speak like real people. I showed their motivations and reactions rather than simply reporting their actions. Some of these stories were then sold.

In one case, what I'd started with was really just a plot outline. Back when I wrote it, nothing I'd produced was over about 1,000 words. When I gained in confidence I worked on it and doubled the length. There's no doubt that it was far better than the original, written eight years before. It still got rejected everywhere I sent it.

Another eight years on, I took another look. And gave it another rewrite. After several rewrites, sixteen years and a threefold increase in the word count I sold it.

I find it hugely encouraging that I've improved so much in that time that I've had the confidence to co-author From Story Idea to Reader – an accessible guide to writing fiction. That won't be the end of the process though. As we write, review our own work, get feedback from others and read well-written pieces we can, and should, continue to improve.

How about you – can you see an ongoing improvement in your writing? Are you feeling insecure about anything writing related?

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Storyteller 2017

Amazon are offering a £20,000 prize to the winner of this competition. There are quite a lot of terms and conditions, which I advise you to read carefully before entering (as indeed you should with any competition). Basically though you need to write a book of at least 5,000 words, in English and self publish through Amazon's kdp Select Program before 20th May.

I have several books available through kdp, including Paint Me A Picture. Unfortunately they're not eligible as competiton entries need to be newly published.

Can't see me finishing my current project in time to enter... hmm, wonder if a short story collection would be acceptable?

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Writing about writing?

Fancy writing about writing? If so, you might like to consider submitting something to Authors Publish. They don'y pay a lot, but they do pay something and only require short pieces – 250 to 800 words.

I've already written quite a lot about writing, both for Writing Magazine and in this book, but I haven't run out of ideas or interest yet, so might give this a go.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Little one for the little ones

Print Express are running a short story competition for children. I don't usually blog about competitions for children, but this is free, offers loads of book tokens as prizes and I was asked nicely.

I don't have children, but I do have a kid which sits under my computer monitor.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017


I spotted today's word whilst looking up last week's. Perilymph is the liquid inside your ear which sloshes about and makes you dizzy if you spin round really fast. (Come on, I never actually said these posts wold be useful, did I?)

If you'd like to spin round fast without the sloshing part, take a look here.

If you'd like to read about me confessing to a couple of writing mistakes, have a look here.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Guest post by Helen Laycock

I'm pleased to invite Helen Laycock onto my blog today.

Back last autumn, a very nice lady called Jane approached me in the village library where I volunteer and asked if I gave readings. A friend of hers had enjoyed one of my short story collections, it seemed, and had passed it on to Jane, who had then passed it on again.

‘I loved it,’ she said, ‘and I know that my ladies would love your style, too!’ Her ladies are residents of the care home for the elderly for which Jane organises entertainment.

My ‘style’, eh? I don’t think Jane had come across my other stuff. No. Definitely not. After all, she told me that I was such a lovely lady. I shook my curls and smiled brightly, quickly dismissing any material from my two collections of dark, psychological tales about characters on the periphery of society, and thought about sunshine and flowers. La la la la la. I would focus on my light-hearted stories. Much more appropriate for the ladies (and Jane would still think I was lovely).

I decided not to select anything from ‘Light Bites’, the book she had read, as some of the ladies had also read it. Instead, I would put together a programme of carefully-selected stories which had not yet seen the light of day. I have quite a lot of new material ready to slot into three forthcoming collections – Fairytales for Grown Ups, Confessions… and (Sh! Don’t tell Jane) more disturbing stuff for a book which will have the title The Darkening. Last time I gave a talk, I broke up the story-reading with a few funny poems, a successful formula which I would repeat.

So, all I had to do was put together a programme.

‘That funny story about the cat! Yes, that always makes me laugh.’

‘But the cat dies,’ warned my husband. ‘You can’t read that. Old ladies love cats.’

‘They only think the cat has died. It’s actually under the bed eating the chicken fillets it stole from the shopping bag.’

But he was right. I crossed it off the list.

I would definitely read the one about the double booking of the Canadian log cabin in a blizzard over Christmas. Hilarious! But then Jane telephoned to ask if we could move the talk to after Christmas when their building work had finished, by which time it would be a bit of a stale subject, I thought. Back out with the black pen. Scribble scribble.

I then specially wrote an adult fairytale set in a care home for retired fairyfolk. It was funny… but would that be insensitive? Scrapped.

I did have a story which had done well in a competition and had been traditionally published. It was black humour, however, and set in a mortuary. A mortuary? What was I thinking? No. Scrapped.
More to the point, what would Jane think?

The more I re-read my stories, the more I became obsessed by details which might upset Jane’s ladies. Was a mention of alcohol appropriate? Drugs? Dating? S- (cough) -ex?

What I needed was bland. But, let’s be honest, who wants to listen to a bland story?

Finally, after weeks of re-reading, I had the perfect selection. I practised reading everything and developed an array of (rather good) character voices to bring the stories to life.

So, to the outcome:
I only got through half of my material; some of the residents were late arriving, and a few wanted to chat.

I introduced each story by briefly explaining what had inspired it and started with ‘A Recipe for Disaster’ (which will end up in ‘Confessions’). It’s about the (dastardly) lengths a woman goes to to replace the missing courgettes with cucumber when her neighbours come over for a meal – a good tip at the moment during the courgette shortage. You’re welcome! And, yes, something which I admit to doing, but, to clarify, I was a student at the time and it only involved vegetable-replacement, not dastardly deeds. This was followed by a new adult fairytale where I gave the giant a broad West Country accent, and then a funny poem which I had written after a painful pony trekking experience
– I am happy to report that I am (finally) over it.

A few ladies listened with their eyes closed. No, they had not fallen asleep… I like to think that they were imbibing my words in a state of full contentment. After checking that they wanted more, I read just one more ‘confession’ story called ‘That Sinking Feeling’, inspired by a true event from my teenage years when I was desperate for the loo after arriving at the home of my French Exchange family. It went down well. Then the hour was up.

They laughed in all the right places, clapped and congratulated me at the end. I particularly liked the phrase ‘You’re very clever’. Of course, I completely forgot to take photos, or to give out the bookmarks I had made (I left some with Jane). However, lots seemed interested in my children’s books which I had put on display, and, being completely computer-savvy, went off to order books from Amazon! I still have the second half of the talk which I can use next time I visit and I came home with a beautiful pot plant. So, all in all, a successful morning (as it should be after all that blinkin’ planning).

Friday, 17 February 2017

Heroes and Heartbreakers

Heroes and Heartbreakers are open for submission of romantic fiction in a range of word counts and sub genres. Any length from 15,000 to 60,000 is OK.

They're offering a $1,000 advance against royalties for accepted work.

Thank you to Rosemary Gemmel for making me aware of this publication opportunity.

Who is your hero?

Wednesday, 15 February 2017


I've always thought of peril as being a mild sort of trouble – the kind of thing you'd face with your chums before going home for lashings of ginger beer. The variations of perilled and perilling appeared even more benign.

I thought wrong.

Peril actually mean serious and immediate danger.

Don't know about you, but I'd rather avoid any and all forms of perilousness.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Horribly confusing

Severance Publications are looking for horror stories to include in a paranormal anthology. These can be 500 to 5,000 words. Or a bit more. Or a bit less. The guidelines 'are very simple' and just slightly confusing. Maybe they're no more normal than the entries they hope to attract?

At least one winner will get £50. It's not clear (to me at least) if all selected stories win a prize, or just the overall winner.

Friday, 10 February 2017

An opportunity you'll love

Mills and Boon are running a novel writing competition with Prima magazine.

If you can get the outline and opening chapter to them by the end of March you're in with a chance of an excellent prize package which includes publication, a cash prize and books. UK residents only are eligible to enter.

Assuming I can get something ready in time, I plan to enter a romance set partly in a cottage garden, a little like this one.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017


To excogitate means to think out or contrive. When I write these posts I excogitate the possibility of convincing you that one of my travel photos is relevant.

Here I am doing just that...

Sunday, 5 February 2017

A wee one

The Scottish Book Trust run a monthly 50 word story competition. Depending on the age of the entrant the prize is either a mug or books - plus publication on the website in both cases.

Anyone may enter, but if you live outside the UK, you'll have to pay the postage costs to recieve your prize.

There's a different theme each month, so you don't have to write about Scotland. However you do have to put up with another photo from my latest trip to that country.

Friday, 3 February 2017

A winner!

Today I'm pleased to welcome Kath Kilburn to my blog.

I won a competition! Well, to be specific, I jointly won the Soundwork free-to-enter short story competition in which the winning story is recorded for online public access.

Not normally one for entering comps where the only prize is ‘publication’ of whatever sort, what marked this one out as different for me was that they accept previously aired work. My story, ‘Don’t Trust Them, Daniel’, was due a well-earned retirement from its previous income-generation duties, so off it went. And what a lovely boost to find an email saying it’d been successful. Big yay for nice little surprises of that sort.

Oh, and I found out about the competition from this very blog, where Patsy lists free-to-enter comps. Thanks, Patsy.

You're welcome, Kath - it's always good to know that people find the blog useful and enter the competitions, and even better when they win!

Soundwork hold regular free entry competitions, in fact there's another one running now. Maybe I'll be able to do a post about your success later in the year?