Special Offer for Storytelling Week

Standard

Who doesn’t love hearing a story told to them? Whether you’re a child listening with rapt attention to a bedtime story made up for you by your parents, or you’re an adult listening to an audio book in the car on the daily commute, there’s something magical about being told a story. As someone who reads quite quickly, and not always very carefully (in fact, sometimes I skim read – a terrible admission for a writer!), listening to a story sometimes helps me pick up nuances and details I’d otherwise have missed.

Well, this great oral tradition is celebrated during National Storytelling Week which this year runs from 28th January to 4th February. You can find out all about it here:

http://www.sfs.org.uk/national-storytelling-week

I’m afraid I don’t yet have any audio versions of my stories, though there are lots of other out there, such as Patsy Collins’ story “Uncle Mick” available to listen to here:

Not to be outdone though, in honour of all things short-story related, my collection The Camel in the Garden is free to download from Amazon Kindle this weekend.

If you take the opportunity to download it, you could always read it to someone else! And if you like the stories, and had time to leave a brief Amazon review, I’d be ever so grateful.

Thank you – and happy reading!

 

Writing Blue Monday

Standard

While there may not be any real scientific basis behind the Blue Monday phenomenon (I am of course referring to the “most depressing day of the year” rather than the excellent 1980s New Order song), there’s probably more than a grain of truth in Dr Cliff Arnall’s supposed calculations. After all the hype and excitement of Christmas, January always seems a bit flat, and yes, on a drizzly Monday, when your credit card statement has arrived, and you head off to the day job in full-on, term-time traffic, you can be forgiven for feeling just a wee bit low.

It’s an equally gloomy time for writers. You may have promised yourself you’d get loads written in the glorious Christmas holidays (in between festive movies, and eating half your own body weight in Celebrations just because the box is there in front of you) – but you probably didn’t manage quite as much as you’d planned. You may have started a new writing diary, or given yourself some at-the-time motivational goals, which, by week three of January already seem ridiculously onerous. You may have reviewed your previous submissions, and realised you’ve heard nothing about at least half the pieces you’ve sent out – some many, many months ago – and of course, with the Christmas holidays, there’s likely to be a further delay before you hear anything. You may have foolishly declared (during the safety cushion of the festive break) that this will be the year you’ll give up the day job and write full-time…and now the horrible realisation is dawning that you need to tax the car, pay the mortgage, feed the cat – and you won’t be able to do any of these things on your current annual writing proceeds of ninety-five actual English pounds, a magazine subscription, and a gift voucher.

Indeed, when your Amazon sales chart has flatlined, your inbox remains stubbornly devoid of jolly acceptance emails, and all inspiration has deserted you, you may wonder why you bother at all. You may question all those hours spent on promotional activities on social media which appear to have absolutely zero impact on your follower numbers, blog hits, or sales. You may wonder if it’s worth bothering to submit yet another story to yet another competition only to hear nothing. You may not want to “get out there” and network, but simply curl up on the sofa with a blanket over your head, reading other people’s stories instead.

It’s tempting. Just give up. Just go to work and spend the rest of your time like a normal human being doing normal “recreational activities”.

Except you’re not a normal human being, are you? You’re a writer. And, without asking, stories pop into your head and demand to be written. And when you look at all those books on your shelves, you want yours to be there too. And you keep looking at that motivational quote on your noticeboard:

motivational-quote-1

And you know it’s time to stop griping and get back to work. 😉

PS: If you have any tips for picking yourself up when things aren’t going quite so well, please pop them in the comments box. I’d love to hear them.

 

 

 

 

 

Should there always be a happy ending?

Standard

Voting has now closed for this year’s Costa Short Story awards, and the winner will be announced at the end of the month. The three finalists are:

  • Dirty Little Fishes
  • The Boatman
  • The Persistence of Memory.

Though voting is over, you can download them, either to listen to or to read here:

http://www.costa.co.uk/costa-book-awards/costa-short-story-award/

I’d be interested to hear what you think. They are all good, well-written stories, with good characters. But the subject matter in all three, it has to be said, is pretty gloomy. I find this quite striking as writers for the UK magazine market are actively discouraged from taking on gloomy themes. The women’s magazines look for something upbeat (or at least an upbeat ending, even if the themes tackled are sad), and entrants for the Writers’ Forum magazine monthly competition are advised in capital letters that stories “MUST BE ENTERTAINING/RIVETING NOT UNREMITTINGLY BLEAK” and should not rely on themes of death, abuse, etc.

A couple of years ago there was a reader’s letter in Writers Forum about the fact that stories printed in the magazine seemed to focus on the gloomier side of life, and Carl, the Editor, responded by “cracking down on stories that dwell on harsh realities” and so this accounts for the policy and the above instruction. His view was that “We point out time and time again that you have to think of the target market before you start writing, and so it is wrong of us to encourage writing for which there is no other outlet.” This is fair enough, as Writers Forum tends to be aimed at those writing for the domestic magazine market. But often when you read stories which are considered “literary fiction”, the themes are pretty bleak and if there is a move towards a more uplifting ending, it’s very subtle!

So, if we consider our target market, do we conclude that it is considered perfectly acceptable to focus on dark themes when writing “literary” fiction, but if you’re writing for the domestic market, you need to think positive?

 

Flash Fiction – One in a Million!

Standard

If you’re a writer of short stories or flash fiction, you may be interested in the “One Million Stories Creative Writing Project” at:

http://www.millionstories.net/index.html

As their homepage states, “It is our mission to discover, select and showcase some of the very best new short fiction being written today, and then publish it right here for you to enjoy…”

They have a specific page dedicated to flash fiction, called The Sharp End and they have just published my 100 word piece, “Sunburn”:

http://www.millionstories.net/TheSharpEnd.html

The One Million Stories Project is open for submissions now. They are looking for anything between 50-5,000 words.  Check out their guidelines here:

http://www.millionstories.net/contactus.html

And of course, if you like my flash piece, you might want to read my short story collection Beyond Words available here:

 

 

Writing Ambitions for the New Year

Standard

We’re five days into the New Year, so plenty of time to have broken a few resolutions if you made any! I tried not to, instead I’ve bought myself a pin board and have pinned up all my “To Do” lists and “Aims & Ambitions” so I can see them every time I sit at my desk. I’m hoping this will keep me focused. (I’ll let you know how that goes…)

That’s the other thing – I’m making an effort to sit at the desk every day and achieve something. (I’ve been doing this since before New Year, so I don’t think it counts as a resolution.) A competition entry, a sub to a magazine, an idea for a future piece, an edit of something previously abandoned. I’m aiming to find a home for as many stories as possible (and by now, there seem to be hundreds stored in my Dropbox files!). I also found out about the Pomodoro Technique last night on Twitter’s #writingchat – it’s a very simple approach to time management  which breaks down tasks into 25 minute chunks with an enforced break. I think this might work for me (as someone who is very easily distracted!). Find out more about it here:

http://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique

I have, though, achieved one of my writing ambitions this week: I’ve had a mention on Shirley’s blog (Fiction Editor at The People’s Friend). My story “A Promise to the Past” appears in the first issue of 2017, and is the first story Shirley mentions in her “sneak peak” summary – you can read Shirley’s blog post here:

https://www.thepeoplesfriend.co.uk/2017/01/03/fiction-sneak-peek-jan-7-2017-issue/

2017-01-05-21-19-43

As you can see, the story is (as always) beautifully illustrated (by Jim Dewar), and my heroine is rather glamorous (I’m always a little startled by this!). Hoping this will be the first publication of many during 2017 – but it’s definitely a good start.

Anyway, my 25 minutes is up, so I’ve got to go! Happy writing…

 

 

The Modern Writer’s New Year’s Eve

Standard

So here you are again –
Another cycle is complete
Just time to log on and look back
Before the “Happy New Year!” tweets

Your blog is looking healthy
Lots of followers and views
And you’ve followed lots of others
To keep up with all their news

You’ve been busy on your Facebook page
Uploading posts and gaining “likes”
You keep active in your interest groups
Hearing other’s joys and gripes

You’ve done your Twitter research
Checked the graphs on “Analytics”
Charted profile visits, top mentions
Who knew? An interest in statistics!

You check your KDP reports
For each and every sale,
Your current review rating,
And your ranking, without fail

You’re proud of all your efforts
And the benefits they’ll bring
It’s just with all these tasks to do,
You’ve had no time to write a thing!

 

Thanks for reading & following me this year – wishing you all the very best for a successful, inspirational, and fun-filled 2017! x

Erewash Writers Comp – Winning Entries

Standard

Last month I discovered I’d managed to place not one but two stories in the 2016 Erewash Writers open short story competition (cue slightly smug grin!). I’ve made it as far as the shortlist in past Erewash competitions, but to find this year that Resolution had been placed 4th, and Never Far From the Tree highly commended, was a real boost.

One of the nice things about Erewash competitions (as well as the fact they post the judge’s comments), is that the winning stories are published on their site: http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/winners-2016-open-short-story-competition-with-patsy-collins.html

If you enjoy Resolution and would like to read some more of my stories, don’t forget Raspberry Ripple is available free here: https://fictivedream.com/2016/11/27/raspberry-ripple / and if you’d like to read some others I’ve written which have been successful in competitions, you can find my ebook Beyond Words on Amazon, here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Words-short-stories-deception-ebook/dp/B01JWLPKW0

FINALBeyondWords

Hopefully the festive break will provide lots of reading (and writing!) time – and perhaps even a blog post or two. Until then, thanks for reading – and Merry Christmas! x

Christmas Gifts for Writers

Standard

So it’s Christmas time again
Black Friday deals are rife
And you’re wondering what to buy
For the writer in your life

In the past you’ve tried all sorts
‘How-to’ books, diaries, pens,
Fancy paper, post-it notes
A writer’s mug (again!)

But the best gift is often simple
You might not even have to buy it
Arrange to give them space and time
To write in peace and quiet

Nag them when they’re lazy
Cheer them up when they’re dejected
Give them wine and cuddles
When their stories get rejected

And when their book is published
Spread the word of their debut,
Buy a copy for yourself
Leave an honest, fair review

Tell all your friends who care to hear
And then tell all the rest
And I guarantee your writer
Will think you are the best!

 

 

PS: Socks are also good! :0) xx

Online Story Outlets – Fictive Dream

Standard

In the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a changin’, and whilst there may be fewer print outlets for short stories writers than there were in the past, on the web there’s a proliferation of ezines, blogs and pages devoted to flash and short fiction. At the moment, publication via these outlets generally won’t earn you any hard cash – and it’s up to the individual writer to consider whether or not they are happy for their work to appear for free. An established writer may not see much benefit, but if you’re new to writing and hoping to build a list of writing credits, or simply want the buzz of seeing your work “out there”, it’s a step on the literary ladder.

There’s also a case if, like me, you’re hoping to make links, and promote your other work. Having a story on a website devoted to the medium may bring you to the attention of a few more readers who otherwise wouldn’t have heard of you. If they like your free story, perhaps they’ll click the link to your Amazon author page, or start following your blog.

“Fictive Dream” which was launched six months ago, is one such online magazine dedicated to the short story, and is open to submissions from both emerging and established writers. Editor Laura Black is looking for “stories with a contemporary feel that give an insight into the human condition…  They may be on any subject. They may be challenging, dramatic, playful, exhilarating or cryptic. Above all, they must be well-crafted and compelling.”

In a recent email to her writers, Laura writes, “From the start, it became clear that the calibre of the Fictive Dream writer was going to be high. Almost all of you are experienced authors, many with short story collections, novels or plays already behind you. However, it’s also great to be including talented new writers in the early stages of their writing careers. “

Today sees the publication of my story Raspberry Ripple – I’m excited to see this story appear on “Fictive Dream” and hope readers enjoy it. Of course, I also hope that they’d like to read more of my work, and decide to visit this blog, or download one of my ebooks, but anything which encourages interest and enthusiasm in the short story gets a thumbs up from me.

To read Raspberry Ripple, or find out more about “Fictive Dream”, including their submission guidelines, visit https://fictivedream.com/

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Erewash Writers – Competition Results

Standard

Results are out today for the annual Erewash Open Short Story competition, this year judged by Patsy Collins. It’s a particularly encouraging competition, as Erewash Writers have two classes of entry – for new writers and those who are more experienced (they give details of their definition of “new” in the blurb for the competition, but if you’re thinking of entering and are in any doubt, you can get in touch to check first). They also publish their longlist and shortlist, so you can chew your nails down to the quick before the results are announced! This year they had over 100 entries, of which 30 made the longlist. Twenty of these made the shortlist and went to judge, Patsy.

Congrats go to winner Tony Oswick, with his story Mackintosh Man’s Near Miss. Tony wins £100, which is a decent prize considering the very reasonable entry fees. I entered two stories, and was delighted to discover that one was placed fourth, and the other was highly commended. The winning stories will be published on the website in the near future.

For full details of the winners, and the judge’s comments, visit: http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/winners-2016-open-short-story-competition-with-patsy-collins.html

To find out more about Patsy Collins, visit her website here:  https://patsycollins.uk/

And to check for forthcoming competitions in 2017, go to:  http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/