Top Tip Of The Week

My weekly tips slot is having a mini holiday this week, so I’ll leave you with this piece of useful advice:

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Have a great weekend :-)

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My Weekly Writing Challenge

This week, your themes for a story or poem are:

  • Ghost
  • Horror
  • Crime
  • Romance

There should be something for everyone there! There’s no limit on the length of story or poem.

Last week’s challenge was to write a story or poem on one of the following themes:

  • The storm
  • Blood
  • Jealousy
  • Nighttime
  • Reflections
  • Time travel
  • Love
  • Nature

Here are the fantatsic and highly entertaining results:

Adhin Shamina sent in a lovely lot of pieces:

REFLECTIONS:

WHICH STEPS TO FOLLOW:

I see many directions ahead.
Some in straight lines,
others in twisted ones.
I can see imprints of steps
But they fade out at some distance.
So how to judge
which one will lead
to where I want to be.
Are straight lines better than twisted ones?
Do straight lines mean determination?
Do twisted lines mean escapism?
Or do straight lines mean compulsion?
And do twisted lines mean emancipation?
What if I follow the straight lines and they become twisted ahead?
Or what if I follow the twisted ones and they straighten ahead?
Whom will I blame for any unexpected change?
Or should I blame no soul
Coz the choice was open.
Or should I choose none?
Perhaps I should better
create a new line with a new pattern
coz I can see there is always enough space
for a new design.

NIGHT TIME:

DO STARS STARE:

The deep dark background
bearing the tiny shinning spots
spreading till the limit of vision
twinkling with oscillating brightness
at times some more radiant
at times the others
as if seeking the attention
of the contemplating eyes
on a night of fantasy
when standing by the window.
In cluster here
or lying lonely there
whichever way they present
yet equally eager to get noticed
then glimmering even more
whenever upon them eyes are laid.
Decking up an enlivening the black veil
and wanting to be a delight
for their embellishing nature
offering to the admiring eyes
the marvelous vista
of a dark but splendid canopy.
It seems as if they do
in anticipation of distinguished observance
but at us,
do the stars stare?

JEALOUSY:

REGRET REMAINS:

The circles evolving in the water stopped. Janice had a clearer image of herself. But the expressions she was offered were not what she waiting for. She raised her gaze then observed the image again. It did not change.

“Why are you making such a face? You got what you wanted?”

But there could be no reply. She was talking to herself after all. Janice was confused between guilt, jealously or pity for herself.

Janice and her family had been to the graduation ceremony of her younger sister. It was a matter of pride indeed . She could see the glowing faces of her parents and grandparents when her sister was being honored. She was happy too. Yet deep within she was uncomfortable.

“You are jealous. That’s it!” The allegation was burden-like.

“No. I can’t be jealous of my own sister.”

“Really ? Then why are you here and not sharing the happy moments of your own ones.”

“It’s just…”

“See! You have no words.”

Janice knew she was jealous for not being the one to get the praises, for not being the pride of her parents.

Janice was in her mid secondary education when she decided to stop her further studies. Her teens had been very difficult for her family to handle. Most of the time she would keep away from her parents and sister. Any interference on their behalf would make her wild. They felt compelled to the extent of agreeing for nearly all she demanded. Her lavish expenses were unbearable.

Once she asked for such a raise in her pocket money justifying that she felt inferior to her friends who wore much more expensive outfits and designer accessories. Her father, infuriated, decided to reduce her pocket money to half the amount. However her immature reasoning was far from the level of understanding, leading to her drastic decision of taking up a job. She thought being self dependent would give her the lifestyle she wanted.

Her coquettish attitudes being a plus, Janice was appointed as assistant in the salon she frequented. Her parents faced much disappointment and obligation to yield to her stupidity fearing she would take drastic steps.

Gradually as years elapsed, her younger sister grew up scoring good results at school. She came out first in her final exams and was awarded a grant for her tertiary education. And after five years she got her graduation certificate.

“You could have been somebody else rather than a hairdresser.” She carried the guilt and acknowledged she deserved the sarcastic taunts of her own self.

“My immaturity has cost so many years of my life to be wasted. They could have been better, if only…”

LOVE:

THE MAGIC OF LOVE:

The edge was sharp. She had to walk upon it. She knew the pain would be hard to bear. But it had to be that way. Life was to give her only the best in everything and for Lisa, nothing was nor should ever be the other way. That was it.

It was nearly dusk. The fading brightness of the sky reflected her state of mind. The stillness in the air made her realize she had brought the same in her father’s life since the death of her mother. It was the only thing she had no power to fuss over. And then the result of years of immature behavior had cost the same in solitude to her father.

Peeping through the window of her room, Lisa saw her father coming. She saw him, then observed and noticed what she had not all these years. He was alone. There had never been any companion to sit beside him whenever he was out. She understood how her selfish ego had taken away even the very last possibility of happiness in her father’s life. She knew her happiness was everything for him, the reason for which he stepped back whenever he was given a hand. But it was enough.

Lisa opened the door on the very first bell.

‘Dad, I need to tell you something.’

But she felt the same impulsive behavior empowering her again and she had to fight it. She needed time, for herself and for them.

‘Let me in first, dear. Ok. Tell me.’

‘Not here. Let’s go somewhere for dinner.’

‘Hm! That’s going to be really serious I sense.’ He gave her a wink, then smiled. ‘ Let’s go, sweetheart. Anything for you, anytime.’

So much love deepened her guilt. She smiled back then gulped hard. She knew what would remain afterwards. Meanwhile she had to prepare her confession with both of them before her. Her trembling fingers dialed the number. And she had no time to gather her words when Diana answered on the second beep.

‘Hello!’

Diana had not bothered to see the caller ID but that voice seemed familiar despite the fact they’d met only a few times without much interaction.

‘Lisa?’ Diana had no guess as to why she’d called her. It was nearly six months since she’d met them last. Diana still remembered the confused feelings she had for Lisa’s father. His gallant behavior showed his interest and Diana kept waiting for an official proposal. But everything winded up without conclusion. She was left wondering what it was, or was not. Lisa finally persuaded Diana to meet in a restaurant nearby without telling her the reason behind it.

Sitting at a table away from the crowd, Diana remembered it was there she first met Lisa’s father. Then her flashback broke when she spotted the two of them.

‘That lady over there, isn’t she Diana? I didn’t think she’d be here.’ Lisa’s father was uncomfortable.

‘Let’s go, Dad.’ Lisa grabbed his hands and led him to the table where Diana was sitting.

They exchanged glances. Lisa noticed their faces glowing. But they were trying to mask their expression thinking their feelings were one-sided.

‘Good evening, Diana. How are you?’ He handed her a hand to break the tense atmosphere. ‘Are you back?’

Diana frowned at his surprise. ‘Sorry? I am back? I don’t understand. Where did I go?’

‘You…’

Lisa did not let his father complete his words. ‘Ok, Dad. I’ll tell. That letter, I wrote it. I mean I asked a friend of mine, because you know my handwriting.’

‘What?’ He was confused.

‘What letter?’ Diana was lost too.
‘I knew you loved each other. But I was unable to share my father’s love with anybody else. I was his focus since mama died. And I feared to share this. I know I’ve been stupid. But now I realize what it means to be loved. If only you would forgive me, Dad. I am ashamed for what I did. I just want to be happy and for now enjoy this moment with one another. Have a nice time. I’ll wait for you at home. Then whatever you want to tell me, I’ll listen.’ And she went away.

When Lisa’s father recounted to Diana what had happened, she felt sad for her. Diana’s love for Lisa’s father and the wish for a family were much more important than the childish act of Lisa. And they were both proud that Lisa had the courage to tell the truth and more than that, she really cared for them.

When the door bell rang again, Lisa was not anticipating the same smile she got earlier. She opened the door with head bowed.

‘Lisa.’ Diana was facing her. ‘ I just want to tell you that I never was nor ever will come between the love of a father and a daughter. I just want to ask you for a little of all the love you both have. Can you give me that, dear?’

Lisa was crying. Diana too.

‘Hey! Hello! The dinner will get cold! And I won’t forgive both of you for that. Ok!’
And then life echoed, with laughter and happiness.

Keith Channing had this to say:

‘Take a look at http://channing.info/wp/2015/07/23/its-about-time-two/
You may find something to your (dis)liking…’

I’m sure your intrigued and want to take a look…go on, you know you want to!

Jason Moody has been missing for a while. Great to see him back:

I can see much clearer now, as my misted mind has cleared.
When finally the circus left, and all I had were tears.

My dear old Mum, God rest her soul, would often say to me.
Seek not my dear what you don’t have,
Be thankful, let it be.

When Julie Brown was new at work, I remember that first day.
When all about did blush and coo
Whereas I had nowt to say.

A day, a week, a month went by,
She was the office darling.
And now she’s set her sites on him,
Not the gorgeous Stuart Starling.

I was waiting until Christmas,
It was then I’d make my move
What’s she got that I ain’t got?
Like I had owt to prove.

It started with an evil look,
But soon would escalate
Before I knew, what I had done
I’m afraid it was too late.

Jealousy is a terrible thing
And revenge best not deployed,
I tell you of this sorry take
In my flat, alone, unemployed.

Riley Reed sent in a piece from a work in progress. Please visit her site for a great read:

https://rileyreedauthor.wordpress.com/2015/07/25/the-storm/

Jane Basil has been busy but managed to get one in. She’s very talented so do take a look:

https://janebasilblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/reflections/

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Markets For Writers

My market for you this week turns to poetry and the ‘Writing Times Bimonthly Poetry Competition’. The theme is an open one and there’s no strict word limit.

There is an entry fee of £2 and the winning poet will earn £25, publication in the magazine and they’ll also be interviewed for the magazine.

Entries are accepted from all corners of the world.

You can find out further information from the website

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funny-graphs-yeah

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Funny Of The Week/Amusing Signs Part Nine

It’s not every day you see a sign like this one…

funny-signs-522

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Flash Fiction Competition Results

Flash Fiction Fever

I’m pleased to announce the winners of my first short story competition. A huge thank you to everyone who entered. After weeks of deliberating, the judge has decided upon her winners. She had this to say:

“I was amazed by the very high standard of entries. The writers made my job very difficult. I expected there to be three which stood out straight away, but a number of stories were beautifully written and gripped me. Credit goes to every entrant.

Sadly a few very good stories had to be rejected because of mistakes. My advice is to always read your story through; everyone makes mistakes.

After several readings I arrived at my final three, but I feel a few of the stories deserve a special mention. Congratulations to you all. It’s been a joy to read all the entries and to judge writing of this calibre.”

So, the waiting is over…here are the winners and highly commended stories:

Winners:

1st prize: Jocelyn Barker – The Trip

2nd prize: Christine Steenfeldt – Dark Side of the Moon

3rd prize: Kanika Hope – Overheard

Highly Commended:

Susan McCall – On the Edge

Lesley Mace – Locked Out

Andrew Newall – Sorry I’m Late

Geoff Le Pard – Love

Janet Williams – New Life

Now read the winning entries:

1st prize:

The Trip

by

Jocelyn Barker

“Couldn’t tell me Mum the truth, could I? She’d ‘ave gawn ballistic! You know what she’s like, always on me case …”

Bazza was talking to his mates, Ronnie and Tom, supping lager at a beach bar in Ibiza.

“What d’you tell her, then?” said Ronnie.

“Said I’d got work abroad, putting in a swimming pool for some rich geezer. Liked that, she did. She’s always on about me getting work. Like I haven’t tried …”

“She doesn’t know you’re on holiday, then?” said Tom.

” ‘Course not. She even let me off rent to pay for me plane ticket. Didn’t tell her me Dad gave me a few quid, neither.” Bazza laughed at his own cheek and his mother’s gullibility.

Frowning, Ronnie asked:

“What you gonna say when you get back?”

“Job fell through. She won’t know no different.”

The lads were pondering Bazza’s genius when the sound of a toilet flushing announced the arrival of a text on his smartphone. He read it.

“Bloody hell! Stupid cow’s only gone and put her bloody foot in it!”

“Who?” asked Tom.

“Me mother. Says some bloke rang two days ago because a job had come up in the Garden Centre where I tried to get work last summer. Had me home number on their records.”

“That’s bloody brilliant news!” said Ronnie.

“No it ain’t! She told him I was fixed up working abroad.”

Ronnie and Tom said nothing.

“Stupid,” murmured Bazza, shaking his head and gazing into his empty glass.

2nd prize:

Dark Side of the Moon

By

Christine Steenfeldt

If the moon hadn’t been full that night, Jim wouldn’t have taken the short cut from the pub along the river and through the ginnel. And if Jim hadn’t done that he wouldn’t have seen a man sneaking into the alleyway from the back gate of his house and none of what followed would have happened.

He stood in the kitchen listening to the sounds of Angie in the bathroom. Washing off the scent of a man?

“Only me. Fancy a cuppa?” he called.

“Ooh, ta, that’d be lovely.”

He waited a few moments and then went upstairs, empty handed. Angie turned her head from where she lay in the bath, the water lapping at her breasts.

“Where’s the tea?” she asked, smiling.

Killing her was remarkably easy. She fought but catching her unawares gave him the upper hand as he pushed her under the water.

Later, after he’d mopped up, he went downstairs. He wanted her mobile, wanted to find out who the bastard was. He went into the lounge. Her handbag was lying open on the coffee table, its contents strewn. Had it been upended in the heat of their passion? He rummaged through it, opening zips, looking in pockets but there was no phone. He picked up the purse. It was empty. No cards, no cash. He let it drop to the floor where it lay bathed in the glow from the moon shining through the window. And he stood there, until light dawned.

3rd prize:

Overheard

By

Kanika Hope

“When you arrive, I will leave your Daddy. He’s always going to the King’s Head where he drinks too much and gets into a frightful temper. Last time he went there he smashed my face with his belt and kicked me in the stomach. He was so angry he might even have killed you, my pet. No, I won’t take this anymore. I’ll start work at the hair salon again – Martha will have me back. Now you promise me you’ll eat well and get a lot bigger, my little survivor. We’ll both be fine then, won’t we?”

I was curled up with my book in a secluded arbour in the park. The mother’s soft, crooning voice came from behind the rhododendron bushes. It was a one-sided conversation; she was presumably on the phone to the child, a child too young, perhaps, to grasp the meaning of her terrible words.

I resented this intrusion on my peaceful Saturday morning; I had overheard without meaning to, and had ended up with a nagging sense of responsibility.

There was a panting sound, like someone lifting something heavy. I peered over the bushes and saw her getting up from her bench. She was much younger than I’d thought, with curly brown hair forming a halo around her angelic face. Sure enough, an ugly red weal ran across her left cheek. Her slim, child-like body was disfigured by the most enormous belly. There was no phone – she’d been talking to her unborn baby all along.

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And The Prize Goes To…

The winners of my Flash Fiction Competition will be announced very soon! Watch this space…

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Top Tip Of The Week

Here’s my latest compilation of tips:

Top Tips…

On how to avoid a short story no-no

Writing short stories seems more competitive than ever, with fewer and fewer markets accepting them. But writers often unwittingly lessen their chances of acceptance through some common errors. Here are 10 to avoid:

1. Don’t open your short story with a long and wordy weather report about how the shimmering sky was a beautiful azure blue, the sun was shining through the trees and there was a soft and gentle breeze etc etc. You need to hook your reader’s interest in the opening paragraph. Incidental details about the weather may put the reader off your story even if the rest is good.

2. Be careful of your paragraph lengths, especially your opening paragraph. If a reader is faced with a big block of words, it can be very off-putting as can page after page of long and lengthy paragraphs. It’s good to have a mixture as this aids readability, though it depends on your market. For example, the women’s weeklies all use fairly short paragraphs. The best way to get it right is to check the publication you’re writing for and to see their preference.

3. Too many characters in a short story can lead to your reader being confused and the characters can easily become two-dimensional with no substance to them. In a short story, you only have a limited number of words in which to tell your story so make sure every character has a purpose for being there. The general rule is no more than four characters.

4. Over-used clichés such as, ‘Her skin was as white as snow’, ‘He looked outside and saw it was raining cats and dogs’ and ‘She looked as light as a feather’ will have a short story editor cringing and putting your work on the reject pile.

5. Exclamation marks can be effective tools in conveying strong feelings – if used sparsely. Overdo them and they detract from the story and lose their impact.

6. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of changing a character’s name half way through a story. So your story might start off being about Lesley and her troublesome son, only for her to morph into a character called Lindsay towards the end of the story. This shows that you’ve been careless so your story will almost likely fail.

7. Don’t try to make your story ending too clever or over-do the explanation. If your reader has to keep going over the ending to understand it, it could ruin an otherwise brilliant story.

8. One short story faux-pas, which has editors cringing is the ‘And then I woke up’ ending. It’s been done to death and makes the story lose all credence. Another version of this ending is where the character wakes up and at first thinks it’s all been a dream but it’s actually reality. Again, it’s been done over and over before.

9. Twist endings are very popular but the clues must be in the story. The reader wants to finish the story and then say, “Oh, of course. Very clever. Why didn’t I realise that?” If your reader says, “Where on earth did that ending come from?”, then you leave her feeling cheated.

10. If you want your story to succeed, it needs to be as error free as possible. A couple of mistakes won’t put an editor off choosing your story but if you have clearly not bothered to read your work through and it’s full of omitted full stops, questions marks etc, it’ll have the editor choosing another story.

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