Friday, 30 August 2013

At home with poetry

Brace yourselves, or skip the next few lines, I've written another poem*.

*That is a short piece of writing with rhymes in, not anything actually poetic.

There was a writer called Patsy
Who lived in a London taxi
Her dear brother
lived in another
but their sister had an Austin Maxi

My aim in composing that was to make you feel you could do better. Did it work?  If so, you might like to try this competition. The best poem about your (UK) home town, or someone or something from your home town will win £1,000.

If you have two homes, or just two ideas then you could try this one too. There's a £100 prize for a poem about a neighbourhood that's important to you. They're looking for something with 'universal resonance'.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


A hound is a type of dog used for hunting or tracking, a person in keen pursuit of something (eg newshound) or a despicable person (you ain't nothing but a hound dog). It can also mean to urge on or nag and to pursue relentlessly. (Sometimes I feel I'm hounding editors with my submissions.)

The dog in the picture isn't a hound, I know but Hev Ock is cute isn't she? She sits on my desk underneath the monitor between a glass goat and a musket ball.

I need a dog, well at least three actually, in the novel I'm working on - Poppyfield Farm. I can't decide on the breed. I want one that seems friendly rather than intimidating and isn't too big. For various reasons it can't be a border collie, Jack Russell or English setter. Any suggestions?

I've sniffed out this competition - don't send them a shaggy dog story!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Spruce is a coniferous tree of the genus Picea, the wood from such a tree and a type of beer flavoured with its needles and twigs. I knew that. It's not the stuff in retsina, that comes from pine trees, but there is a tree known as a spruce pine.

Spruce can also mean neat or smart in appearance. I knew that too. Don't think I've ever heard a person actually use the word spruce on it's own in that way, but 'getting spruced up' is a fairly common expression round these here parts.

I think the spruce looking trees in the photo are yews. It wouldn't be a good plan to drink anything made with those.

Apparently spruce is also slang for lying, malingering, evading a duty or to practise deception. I'd be sprucing if I said I knew that before I looked it up.

Would you get spruced up to watch your one act play performed on Broadway? Win this competition and you'll have ten chances to do just that.

Monday, 19 August 2013

First Chapters  is a new book discovery site where readers can sample the first three to four chapters of great books free of charge. (See here and here for examples!)

First Chapters promotes books in all categories and genres, including poetry and short stories. 

Although the website only went live a few weeks ago, it has already received thousands of hits and is being followed by hundreds of readers. New features will be added soon.

First Chapters uses ‘crowd power’ techniques to publicise the site. Authors and readers are encouraged to promote First Chapters on their own blogs, and on social networking sites.

Authors may post the first three to four chapters of any book on this site free of charge. Once published, your material will remain on this site indefinitely. We will remove it within 48 hours if you request us to, for any reason.

There is no minimum or maximum length. The chapters must be consecutive, i.e. chapters 1-3 inclusive, or 1-4 inclusive. We never publish non-consecutive chapters.
First Chapters was created by Malcolm Turner. A former journalist with a lifelong interest in leadership, he has spent the last twenty years of his life devising and organising events which celebrate the work of leaders and achievers. He has personally presented leadership awards to – among others – Senator John McCain, Senior US Senator for Arizona; and John Rose, former Chairman and Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer.

He has also presented awards to mayors and leaders in cities from St Louis, to Amman and Lagos.

In 1997 he devised the SET Awards scheme which has become Europe’s leading award for science and engineering undergraduates. When not working he skies, rows and tries to raise funds for London Rowing Club. He writes novels under the pen name David Conway and recently published Cruel Sister.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Am I a professional?

If you write Sci-fi or fantasy, or can illustrate those genres, you might be interested in this competition. The prizes are pretty good - starting at $1,000 and going up to $5,000. Sadly I'm not eligible as I'm too professional for them - having sold more than three short stories.

I could enter this one though. They too think three sales mean an author is a professional - but only if the sales are to publications on their qualifying list. I don't count as professional. I rather suspect they wouldn't consider JK Rowling, John Grisham or Alexander McCAll Smith professionals either, so I'm in good company. (Reckon Stephen King is probably barred from entry though) The prize for this one isn't quite so high at £200 but it's not bad.

So the answer to my question is yes ... and no. That proves nothing about me, but does show it's important to read competition rules very carefully.

Here's an old picture of me daydreaming what it would like to be a professional author. I've used it partly as the location makes it relevant, but mainly so I can tell you I've just chucked those jeans out because they're now too baggy!

What would be your definition of a professional writer? I'm not completely sure of mine, but it does involve the person concerned doing some actual writing, so I'm off to do that now.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Well, what I thought discrete meant was tactful, unobtrusive, not making a big hoo-ha. And that's exactly what Suzy was when she pointed out I was wrong. Discreet is the word I wanted (so I had the right letters, just not in the right order)

Discrete is a real word, but it means individually distinct or separate. Discrete and discreet are discreetly different words! Did you know that? 

It might pay not to be overly discreet if you have a go at this novel writing competition. The prize is a publishing contract, editorial guidance and marketing support. I'm very tempted to give it a try.

The picture is of the buttonhole my uncle wore at my wedding (I asked everyone to wear something purple) Pretty discrete, I reckon.

Want to tell me about a time you've been indiscreet?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Ducks in a row

I'm not naturally an organised person, but I do keep proper records of which stories I've sent where and which competitions I've entered. That came in handy recently when a magazine editor had a computer problem. He knew he'd recently accepted something from me, but not what. I was easily able to tell him and send a replacement copy.

If I enter this poetry competition, as well as being sure to include the word 'feather', I'll update my spreadsheet to say I've sent it in. Who knows, maybe I'll also get to update it to show a £25 win?

Could you write an essay on bird brained pseudo science? If so this competition might appeal, as might the £5,000 prize. Get it winging it's way in quickly though as the closing date is 25th August.

Have you backed up your work recently? And do you know where the 'ducks in a row' phrase comes from?

ps the mojo is back, thanks to support from all my lovely writer friends, a sale to Woman's Weekly and a a few cocktails in the Fiction Hotel.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

What's the point?

It's another first Wednesday, so time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post (anyone can join - just follow the link.)

I'm not sure that I'm exactly feeling insecure, more sort of bleurgh or phweurr (You know, that noise teenagers make whilst blowing a bit of their flopping fringe in the air.) A general can't be bothered feeling.

Writing takes so long, doesn't it? And editing makes my brain hurt. It'll probably just get rejected anyway even when I've polished it to shiny perfection. So not taking the trouble to sort out the tricky bits, that'd be hard to get just right, doesn't really matter anyway, does it?

The lack of mojo is probably/hopefully temporary. A competition win would sort me out, I reckon. Hmmm, what could I enter?




Ah, here's a short story competition! I'd only have to write 1,000 words by the end of the year and the prize looks OK. (I don't actually know what a SGD is worth, but 2,000 of them is probably worth having and there's a trophy too) The theme is quantum physics. That's it. I quit.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Pay attention ...

... or you could miss the boat. (sorry)

I confess that I tend to skim through things like terms and conditions - they're boring aren't they and all pretty much the same anyway? Well maybe, but they're important as you'll realise if you read the interesting notes following the results* of this competition. 44% of entries were disqualified for not complying with the rules!

Entries are now being accepted for phase 2, so if you'd like £100 get your entry in, but not until after carefully checking the t&cs

Guess whose novel has been picked as book of the day over on First Chapters.

*congratulations, Tracy and Teresa!