Monday, 30 September 2013

Win a book deal

If you write romance and have a novel ready, this competition is worth a look. Unfortunately mine isn't ready. Maybe next year? This one might be even better, as it's open to any genre and guarantees the publishing deal is worth £50,000. For both of those you need to submit the opening and a synopsis of the book you're hoping to get a publishing deal for. Winners will also have the backing of big names and are sure to do well.

This competition also offers a publishing deal for a romantic novel. Weirdly though they're making the selection based on a short story. Oh and they seem to think laundry is romantic ... Here's another competition where you could win a publishing contract on the strength of a short story. The theme is war or peace - not both, they want it short, remember!

btw Using my own book cover to illustrate this post isn't just blatant advertising. Escape to the Country was published because I won a novel writing contest, so it's also relevant.

Personally I'm concentrating on short stories at the moment. I'm over at Maria's explaining why. Leave a comment there for the chance to win an ecopy of Up the Garden Path. Admittedly that's not quite as exciting as a book deal, but you don't need to write much to be in with a chance.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Gooooood morning!

I've been practising trying to sound bright and chipper early in the morning - is it working? The reason for that is I was on the radio again. Hi if you're visiting after hearing me chat to Steve Harris on radio Solent this morning*. The free collection we talked about is available from Amazon or the publisher. Feel free to grab a copy and stick around to chat if you'd like to. And of course hi to everyone who didn't get up at dark o'clock to listen to me. And hi to Steve - he told me he looked at the blog and likes Wednesday word of the week.

*Friday 27th at about 6.40 in the MORNING!!! If you want to book me for a TV appearance, or to chat to your writing group, please make it after breakfast time. :-)

If you like listening to stories, then this competition to win three Lee Child audio books might appeal.

Quirk books sounds like a company I should write for, doesn't it? Unfortunately I'm not going to get my novel finished in time for this competition. If you have a weird romantic novel ready you could send it in a try for the $10,000 prize.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Parbuckle is ... what I get when I ask my husband for a word of the week suggestion. He reckons it's topical because it's been in the news (as a way of righting the partly submerged cruise ship Costa Concordia). A parbuckle is a rope or sling used to raise or lower casks or other cylindrical objects.

When used to right a ship, I suppose parbuckling is the opposite of careening. I used to talk about careening in my day job, but as I don't do it any more, I'll spare you the details. When not used in a nautical context careening means to swerve about. None of it has anything to do with this romantic novel writing competition, but if you say it quickly it sounds like it might.

Here's a picture of a ship which, sensibly, stayed away from the rocks and therefore remained the right way up. I careened (slowly) up a nearby mountain to take the photo.

That's two weeks this month I've done a double word of the week. I must get a grip.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Seasonal seasoning

How do you feel about reading or writing seasonal stories and poems at the 'wrong' time of year?

Do you want ghost stories at the end of October when the nights are drawing in, the wind is blowing and scary kids, demanding you hand over your chocolate supply, could descend any minute? Or would you rather read a summer romance then?

By the time December 25th comes round are you in the mood for a magical tale of peace and goodwill, or does a murder mystery hold more appeal?

The magazine stories I read often reflect the time of year, but other than that I can read anything anytime. When it comes to writing, I write the story when I think of it. It can be a little disconcerting to look up and see that although I've spent the last hour on a hot beach everyone else has been scraping ice off their windscreens, but it's no worse than realising I'm no longer planning an Easter egg hunt, organising a firework display, plotting to overthrow the government or doing whatever else occupied the main character just a few minutes previously.

Here's a seasonal poetry competition with a £25 Amazon voucher as the prize. My entry is here.

Fancy winning novel writing software or other writerly goodies? Then pop over and see Hawk.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Cassa Storm

Comment on Alex’s blog this week for a chance to win a Cassa mug, mousepad, magnet, and swag!

By Alex J Cavanaugh

From the Amazon Best Selling Series!

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. 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, 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 return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

“With a talent for worldbuilding and a compelling cast of characters, Alex J. Cavanaugh combines high powered space battles and the challenges of family dynamics to provide readers a space opera with heart.” 
- Elizabeth S. Craig, author of the Southern Quilting and Myrtle Clover mysteries

“I thought the revelation was going to be one thing and I was completely wrong … CassaStorm pushes the limits…”
- Tyson Mauermann, Speculative Reviews

“…mesmerizing story of survival, personal sacrifice, tolerance, and compassion. It’s a rare jewel that successfully utilizes both character and plot to tell a story of such immense scope and intimate passion…” - Nancy S. Thompson, author of The Mistaken

$16.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 268 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction/adventure and science fiction/space opera
Print ISBN 9781939844002 eBook ISBN 9781939844019
$4.99 EBook available in all formats

Find CassaStorm:
Amazon -

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Book Trailer html -

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


My dictionary doesn't think fettling is a word. It's wrong.

Gary spends quite a bit of time fettling. Our friends Geoff and Edna, who often indulge in a spot of fettling, tell me it's the present participle of the verb fettle. All three of them use it to describe sorting out, tidying up and tiddlying off.

Fettle is in my dictionary. It means condition or trim - as in 'he felt in fine fettle'. It can also be what you do to tidy metal castings or pieces of pottery before firing them.

Fettler is also in my dictionary. A fettler is a person who fettles. You'd think that'd make them really spruce wouldn't you? Apparently it's most commonly used for railway workers.

I can't say for certain this pot was ever fettled, but my Black Pearl chili growing in it is in fine fettle, don't you think?

Quite a bit of fettling of my stories is needed before I'm ready to submit them to magazines or enter them in competitions, such as this one. By entering you're also submitting work for possible publication. The prize is $250.

If you're interested in the lengths I'll go to research my stories, take a look here.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

How to Eat Loads and Stay Slim

Today I'm joined by Della Galton and Peter Jones who've come to tell me how they came to write How to Eat Loads and Stay Slim. (I've got a copy of this and I'm doing really well with the eating loads part!) They're sharing a healthy dessert recipe too. 

So come on then, what's the story behind the book?

Peter - Anybody who knows me intimately will tell you that two of my greatest passions in life are eating, and writing. So you might assume that after some careful deliberation I chose to write (my half) of How To Eat Loads and Stay Slim out of a desire to combine both interests. You'd be wrong.

Some time ago I was chatting to friend and fellow author, Della Galton, about what sells books. We both agreed that a good title is critical. Good titles sell books. Take for instance my first book - 'How To Do Everything and Be Happy'  - that, so Della told me, is a very good title.
"In fact the only way it could have been better," said Della, "was if you'd called it something like How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim"
"That is a good title," I admitted. "though not really anything to do with happiness!"
"Well, I wouldn't say that," said Della.
"Fair point" I conceded.
"Actually," I said, my inner nerd waking up to the possibility of some serious geekiness, "weight management is something that I have some experience in."
"Really?" said Della, "So do I."

Della - Yes, I remember that - although if you'd warned me how seriously whacky some of your weight control ideas are, I might not have been quite so enthusiastic about proceeding with this book. I mean, I have a reputation to maintain!!!  OK, that last remark is a little tongue in cheek but seriously - some of your theories are pretty 'Out There'.  At least they are to someone who comes from a traditional sensible dieting background like myself. 

But I was intrigued enough to hear you out. I thought I knew everything there was to know about losing weight and staying slim. It turned out, I didn't!

Actually, this may sound odd, but one of the reasons I wanted to proceed with this book was because I felt our different perspectives would make very entertaining reading…

Peter - Excuse me! My ideas aren't 'wacky'! I'm just fed up with the notion that only way to lose weight is to either eat less and move more. Even you've got admit that they're soul-destroying ways of managing your weight. I was convinced there had to be a smarter way. Turns out there is. OK, the stuff about the 'fatometer' is a little strange - but the science behind it is completely sound and has actually been around for the best part of fifty years. The only reason why nobody knows about it (as far as I can see anyway) is because there isn't any money to be made from educating people on how the body actually controls hunger, and the bottom (the huge wobbly bottom at that) might fall out of the slimming industry if people actually knew.

Anyway, it's up to the reader how 'out there' they want to be isn't it? It's not like we haven't given them enough ideas to pick from!

Della - True - we certainly have mentioned lots of ways our readers can eat loads and stay slim. But whilst I admit your geeky ideas are all 'grounded in science', so are mine. What exactly have you got against fat free healthy eating anyway, Mr Jones - especially as you know we share the same abhorrence of bland, flavourless foods? I don't remember you turning your nose up at my fat free quiche.  "Absolutely delicious," I think were your exact words.  And while we're on the subject of fat free versus whacky, can I just ask which of us is actually the slimmest, slenderest, thinnest, smallest-waisted, and most petite? I think you'll find it's me. Not that I'm being competitive. I don't have a competitive bone in my body - as well you know ;)

Peter - I haven't got anything against healthy eating at all! Quite the reverse in fact. I just think that 'fats' have been unfairly demonised. It's 'hunger' that's the enemy - in my humble opinion. And might I remind you Ms Galton that despite your scorn you have eaten quite a few of my geeky dishes on several occasions - and finished the lot I might add! And I can't think of anyone who would be more qualified to write a book entitled "How To Be Competitive About Everything"!

Della - Now that's not a bad title for a book, not bad at all…

LIKE us on facebook, or pop by for more details. Click here to buy the book.

Fat Free Jellies with Fruit and Yoghurt - serves four
These are rather lovely for a summer afternoon dessert - or for any other time of year come to that.

400 g Strawberries (fresh cherries work really well too – de-stone them first)
200 g Blueberries
2 fat free strawberry yoghurts (or cherry if using fresh cherries) I use Muller light or M&S Count on Us range
1 sugar free strawberry jelly – made up as per instructions

To serve – four knickerbocker glory dishes.
Prepare fruit.  Hull and chop strawberries. (reserve four for decoration). Place in bottom quarter of knickerbocker glory dishes.
Make up jelly as per instructions. Pour jelly mix over fruit to cover.
Layer remaining fruit with yoghurt.
Then top up with remaining jelly mix.
Refrigerate till set – about 1 and a half hours.
Garnish with remaining strawberries.

Enjoy!  The beauty of these is that they are fat free - so if you don't happen to have any guests coming round, you can have more than one - and it's not often you can have more than one dessert and not feel guilty! Oh and by the way, the little glass dish in the picture is leftover fruit and jelly - just in case you want to eat even more guilt free dessert!

Friday, 13 September 2013


I know it's not Wednesday, but today seemed the perfect opportunity to introduce the word Paraskevidekatriaphobia to those who don't already know it. As it's not Wednesday I'm not giving you the definition - but I think you can work it out.

So, how's everyone feeling today? Happy and full of enthusiasm or staying safely under the duvet, well away from mirrors, black cats and ladders?

If you're feeling optimistic you could write something for this short story competition. The organisers do say submitting can be nerve wracking, but you won't let a little thing like that put you off, will you?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


A valetudinarian is a person who pays excessive attention to preserving their health. Did you know that? Do you know such a person?

Maybe anything that we can do to stay healthy is simply common sense. I think it is, but then I consider eating and drinking things I enjoy and lounging on the sofa reading to be healthy activities.

I'm sure winning a competition would be good for my health too, especially one with a £5,000 top prize like this one.

Here's The Sphere getting into shape. He's doing really well, he used to look like a beach ball ...

btw, while The Sphere's working out, I've popped over to Amanda's for a chat.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Got it covered

Climbing Mountains
Holiday Temptation
I've been making 'covers' for some of my Alfie Dog stories. (I'm not sure cover is quite the right word for a story download, but I can't think what else to call them.)

Well, it was either that or get on with some actual writing*!

Would you rather get on with actual writing? If so, this competition is perfect. First you write a story good enough to win, and then as your prize you have a workshop where you'll learn to write good enough to ... no, I'll stop being cynical. It's not a bad prize at all and at the workshop you'll get a goody bag of books and stuff.

Lest We Forget
Can't be bothered to do the actual writing but still want your name in a book?    Then this competition is perfect for you.

*Actually it isn't total procrastination. I'm still having photography lessons with the amazing Gary Davies and when it comes to anything technical I have to do things a lot of times before I get the hang of them.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Ficta Fabula

Today I'm joined by the lovely Darlene Poier, publisher of the excellent Ficta Fabula (and I'm not just saying that because Darlene has recently accepted one of my stories) Anyway, I'm sure you're more interested in what Darlene has to say about her publication and her advice for getting your work in there than you are my bragging, so I'll get on with it.

'Darlene, you're the person responsible for Ficta Fabula (previously Pages of Stories), can you tell us a little about that?' 
Thank you Patsy. This time around for Ficta Fabula, I’ve had the great good fortune to have my friend Laura Crowe edit this magazine. She took on that challenge with a tight time frame and did an excellent job. The editing process we go through is probably very similar to other magazines with a few notable exceptions. Because it takes a different skill set to write a short story than it does a novel or a novella, we also have to edit it a little differently. What I’ve noticed with many of the short stories we’ve published, is that a story can be completed in about 2,500 to 3,000 words. The challenge for the author is to ensure the entire story line is captured and completed within that word count, that there aren’t too many characters so that the ones that are there have enough time and space to be developed. So when I’ve edited in the past, I’ve looked for continuity of plot and character development. I’ve looked for redundancy in the setting of the environment and – even though it’s fiction – sometimes fact checking is still a part of this.

'What do you look for in a submission to the magazine?'
Any genre of fiction is accepted as long as the minimum word count is met. Interesting and unique characters work well in a short story and / or a well developed story line. What I want to give our readers is a quick fiction fix that will allow them to escape for a few minutes that day into another world where they don’t have to solve problems and can just enjoy the story unfold.

'Is there anything the writer should avoid doing if they want their story accepted?'
I really value correspondence with the authors that have submitted the stories. I like knowing a little something about the people that have sent their work to us and one of the things I ask is that if an author is considering submitting a story to Ficta Fabula, send an email requesting the guidelines. Because the guidelines can change at any time it’s really best to get the most current copy. This also allows for dialogue to start with the author. I know that many publishing companies can have a trying relationship with their authors, I’m determined to not be that way. Sometimes in the past I’ve received emails from potential authors with no message and just “guidelines request” in the subject line. I find that unprofessional and lazy.

'What's the most fun part of your job?' 
Definitely reading the stories! There is so much talent out there that it can be really challenging to whittle the stories down to 25 to send off to the story selection committee.  It’s a challenge I love.

'How can people download a copy of Ficta Fabula?'
There's both an Android app and an Apple app available. There will also be pdf and epub downloads available off the Ficta Fabula site sometime in the next few months. (You can download 'bits' which is a free taster, here)

'I believe there's a print version too?'
Yes, you can just send an email to info@pagesofstories if you want a printed version.

Darlene thought it only fair to allow her editor, Laura Crowe to reply too. That seems reasonable to me. So, Laura, Can you tell me a little about your job what do you look for in a submission?

Thanks, Darlene and Patsy. When editing for Ficta Fabula and my other clients, I look for several things: a story opener that catches the reader’s attention; well-developed characters that are real and use natural sounding dialogue; characters that act in ways that both fit their personalities and manage to surprise the reader, creating a interesting plot; an ending that resolves the story and gives the reader a sense of satisfaction, even if it’s a little open-ended; unnecessary words or scenes that detract from the main thrust of the story.

After I completed the editing for the July edition of Ficta Fabula, I communicated with each author, sending them an edited version of their story and answering any questions they had about the changes I had made. On the whole, the authors were very gracious and appreciative. It was a great experience and I am looking forward to doing it all again for the next edition!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Dogged by insecurities

Another month (and season) gone already? It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the group. I've not been a member since the beginning, but I've been reading some of the posts and benefitting from support since the early days. If you want to join, then just click the link.

So, my current insecurity? Well, I've been working on a novel (shhh, don't tell my husband). That could be cause for concern on its own of course, but my particular issue was that I couldn't see some of the characters. There's a horse and three dogs who will be fairly important to the story. The horse at least has a name, but the dogs were just 'dog'. It might not seem a big thing, but picture this scene ...

Greg (my main character) drives into a farmyard. He's feeling nervous because he's hoping the farmer (whom he's not yet met) can help him with something important. Greg gets out his car, calls 'hello' and immediately three West Highland terriers rush up to him. They wag their tails and seem eager to slobber on his hands.

Now, rewind to Greg standing by his car and calling. Before his voice has died away, three Rotttweilers have him pinned against the vehicle. Their hackles are raised and they look set to sink their teeth into any body parts they can reach.

It's a different story, isn't it?

I've decided to go with daschunds - and there will be a scene where they have him surrounded and unwilling to move away from his car, but not because he thinks he might get hurt. Phew, glad that's sorted. Now I just need to sort out the horse, oh and all the people. And the plot. And write it.

My novel, provisionally called Poppyfield Farm, will include a crime so it might just be eligible for this competition. Unfortunately I'm not, which is a shame because it looks a good one.