Thank you for visiting this blog site. It's mainly writing-related posts including thoughts, tips, info and psychological aspects of writing. If you felt like following, well that would be great.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Competition to win a Millie the Detective book


Since I've a few paperback copies left of Millie the Detective and the Diamond Ring with the original cover - the 12-year-old detective's first case - I'm offering five signed copies in a draw (UK only). This is it:


Readership is around 7+ to 11; the other main characters are Millie's younger brother and his best mate, as well as Badger the bully, and of course Boris the dog. Deadline is end of Tuesday December 8th. 

To enter (one entry per person), please provide the subtitle of Millie's second case (see the side of this page!) in one of these ways:
(a) tweet to @JacquelinePye 
(b) message me on facebook (Jacqueline Pye)
(c) comment at the bottom of this blog with your name, and twitter or facebook
        contact details if you have them.

Winners will be drawn randomly, and I'll post names on this blog shortly after the Tuesday, with a link to it on twitter and facebook.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Winning Pieces of Flash Fiction - must there be a common strand?

My own submitted flash fictions have varied quite widely in their nature. Some have been quite dark - murder, other death, jealousy, obsession, weirdness, threat and so on, with several of these appearing in my collection Bottles and Pots. Others have veered towards the lighter and hopefully humorous. Guess which types have won or been placed more times?

As I enjoy writing and entering flash fiction, I do read a great number of others' entries, especially those longlisted, shortlisted or placed. What troubles me is that these - and this often applies to your actual short story winners - tend to be disturbing, stream of consciousness, surreal or generally depressing. Quite prepared to be contradicted; this is just my impression.

Wouldn't it be pleasing if, sometimes, lighter work and humour could be considered worthy? Guessing most of us study what's been winning before we submit, as is wise, but I'm imagining a tranche of flash fiction competitions that state the judges are looking towards fun/humorous skilful writing that manages to tell a story, show a snapshot, make a point, deliver a twist - or all of these.

This a bee in bonnet matter!

 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

October Round-Up: Ups and Downs

Further to  the previous post, some things came off well, others less so ...

The Portswood Library centenary celebrations went very well, with some staff in vintage clothing, lots of exhibits, and the mayor cutting the cake. Penny Legg and I each did a short turn about our books; small audience with one chap rapidly falling asleep but the rest giving their attention.

Then Southampton's Festival of Words SOToSpeak15 began!

Authors on the water Southampton-Isle of Wight was entertaining, although my pitch in the family lounge was surrounded by very vocal preschoolers so a talk was not possible. Even so, had some very nice chats with children about reading and writing, and sold some books. The Solent was slightly choppy but not enough to bother us.

Very small audience at the Boutique Village, but even the children who were too young for my Millie the Detective books watched and listened as I hammed it up with the actions of the school bully and the fretting of the goodie characters. And again I sold books. Maybe should consider a late career on the stage instead.

The writing group of which I've been a member for about 6 years was given our own competition with prizes in each of the four categories. At a very lively awards ceremony in local bar/restaurant The Stage Door, I learned that I had come first in both of the categories entered - flash fiction and non-fiction. This was a shock, but very heartening as during the weeks beforehand I had seriously considered giving up writing. Some of the prize money will go towards raffle prizes to be won at our fab group Christmas tea at the Grand Harbour Hotel in Southampton.

The one-day writers' conference sadly had to be cancelled. I had collected loads of books and leaflets for our writing group trade stand, sorted them into categories, and made a plan of how the table would look. However, it was worse for those who were booked as speakers.

Made the longlist but not the shortlist for the Bath Flash Fiction Award, again honestly unexpectedly. This rolling award has just restarted, and I think it's worth entering again and working even harder this time.

So it's been quite a month, which also saw self-publication of Millie the Detective's second case, The Thief Unmasked. Details are at http://tinyurl.com/p4n7soq - a five-star review already - and info about the first book is not far away from that.

Happy November, all, whether or not your plunging into NaNoWriMo!

  

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

October 2015 will be some month ...

Much of my activity this month relates to Southampton's Festival of Words, SOToSpeak15 - http://www.sotospeakfestival.org - which runs from October 23rd to November 1st. But not all.

October 2nd was meeting day for Southampton Writing Buddies, of which I've been a member since soon after the group was formed six or seven years ago. As the group owner was away, I chaired the meeting. Always a worry, as she's a Duracell bunny and a great group leader. Still, decent-sized turnout, lots of members in chatty mode, and a great workshop from magazine short story guru Barbara Dynes.

On October 4th I, along with up to 49 other writers, received a very cheering email to advise that our entry to the Bath Flash Fiction Award had been longlisted. Especially thrilling since it's the inaugural award and will be ongoing, always stopping after 1000 entries before restarting soon afterwards. I didn't have high hopes, as the competition comes from the prestigious Bath Short Story Award stable, but gave it my best shot.  

Still to come:
On October 22nd my local library, Portswood in Southampton, is celebrating its centenary. As part of the festivities, our writing group owner and I are giving short talks about writing and our books, and hopefully working our way through some cakes. Delighted to be invited to this; the library is very community-friendly and hosts regular events. Including cake sales.

October 26th, first weekday of local half term, will see me boarding Red Funnel ferry Osprey to the Isle of Wight for a straight there-and-back in the family lounge chatting about writing and about my two books for children. Planning to wear something sparkly. A number of Writing Buddies are doing this during the day, and we're all hoping for a calm sea ...

On October 27th I've a date at The Boutique Village in Millbrook, Southampton to chat with families about writing and my books. It's an open, free event, and again other Writing Buddies will be doing the same during the week.

As Southampton Writing Buddies are involved with the Festival, a competition was set up for members to submit fiction, non-fiction, poetry and/or flash fiction, with three prizes in each category. I have entered but shouldn't say what or which category until the judging is completed. On October 28th there's our award ceremony where we learn our fate in this competition. We're a fairly large but very cohesive group, and it does seem odd to be competing with one another, but a great incentive to get on and write.

October 30th is a big day - the Festival's Writers' Conference at Southampton City College. There will be some amazing writing-related talks and workshops throughout the day, and I'd be there even if I didn't have a part to play. Writing Buddies have a 'trade stand', and I'll be enjoying organising it. Have already amassed a good collection of books, booklets, laminated short pieces, biogs and other publicity material and have planned how it's all going to be displayed. Very fine displacement activity, that.

November will seem very flat, writing-wise, but time to relax.
 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

First 7 Lines

Can't believe it's been so long ....

Have had some successes with flash fiction along the way, currently my favourite writing genre. However, since there is a bit of a trend for people to link from twitter to the first 7 lines of one of their stories, here are the first 7 lines of the first story in my collection Bottles and Pots (see left for link). There's a full, different story in a previous post.

THE  ENEMY

The word that means a fear of clowns is 'coulrophobia'.
   
I know this because I read it in a book given to me last year for my eighth birthday. 
Didn't need to look it up - you could tell from the text and it made me feel sick. I never 
liked clowns, ever since we were at the circus when I was very young, and one 
pretended to throw a bucket of water over me when it was only pieces of paper. 
They are the enemy now.

----------
In the story, the narrator comes face to face with a clown with rather unfortunate results!

Monday, 23 June 2014

To Celebrate Prizes, a Sample Story from Bottles & Pots

Seem to have banged on about my two recent prizes everywhere else, so here's a quick summary for this blog.

The current issue (July) of Writing Magazine includes my story which won first prize in a Writers' News competition on the theme of 'Comeuppance'. Being familiar with my darkish short stories, some of my writing group could quite see why I entered! The story is She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not, told by a chap who watches his own funeral and the aftermath, and involves a naughty wife, a cardigan, a chubby chancer and a pink leather jacket.

I was also awarded second place in a competition run by our city council & their 'depot'. This one was The Butchers, and since I'm vegetarian I put the boot into them but as sweetly as I could.

Then I realised that I haven't, as it were, spread myself around in a literary way. So here is a short story (760w) from my first collection, Bottles and Pots. Not all are historical, and length ranges from flash fiction to 3,000w or so. Hope you like it.

 
ST ANSELM’S DAY 

The people of Fordwich held a festival each year on the feast day of St Anselm.
            He was their much-loved eleventh-century local saint, once archbishop of nearby Canterbury and now interred in the cathedral. Each year on April 21st the servants at the manor house were granted the day off, as were the labourers; shopkeepers and merchants closed their doors. Even lords and ladies from other manor houses would mingle with the crowd in the market place. And this year, 1263, events had been meticulously planned, for local records suggested that Anselm was canonised exactly one hundred years earlier.
            Milo Chaloner had lived in Fordwich all his life, as had his wife, Estrild. At this time they had been married for some ten years, and had been reasonably comfortable together, although there remained silent shadows in the background. Still, like others, they and their three children were looking forward to the next day’s festival. There had been another child, but he had died during his first weeks after crying bitterly and often during his brief time.  As was usual for little ones, his body, wrapped in its christening gown, had been taken to an ancient oak outside the village. A small tomb had been hollowed out for him within its massive trunk, and Estrild had gently placed him within, watching and weeping as the elders sealed the tomb with pieces of the bark held together by mortar. His remains would feed the tree in the months to come.
             Now Estrild was preparing the slaughtered pig, a job she loathed but it was expected of her.
            “You’re doing the hog roast again this year, Milo?” she asked, without looking up.
            “Aye. And the brewer’s supplying the ale.”
            “Anyone helping you with the roast? I’d rather not, myself.”
            “When you say ‘anyone’ …?”
            “I mean Alwyn. He usually helps you.”
            “Aye, and he helps himself, too. Not only to the meat, neither.”
            Estrild’s knife slipped and cut her hand. He watched as she went to find cloth for a bandage.
            On the day itself, the weather was fine. The maypole dances went well, with just the occasional knotting of ribbons, and much ale was bought and drunk. The Greene Man was splendid in his costume of branches, leaves and grasses, and he lit the bonfire as the day wore on. The travelling fortune-teller told Estrild that there had been sadness – of course everyone knew about the baby – but said there was more to come and dismissed her without taking her silver.
            Two farm hands helped Milo with the hog roast, but Estrild had no interest. Alwyn had stayed away, and she was sorry. She did not mention him further to Milo.
            As evening fell, the villagers formed a group and began, as was traditional, to walk the boundary of the village, laying their hands upon established trees in thanks and reciting prayers to St Anselm around any that held living tombs.
            As they approached the Chaloner baby’s tree, Estrild held on to Milo’s arm as the tears welled up. But his arm was stiff and he could not offer comfort. The prayer was said and the group moved on, but not before the Greene Man had noted some dislodged mortar. There was whispering and later he, with two others, returned to the tree. They studied the mortar carefully, and it was decided that the tomb must be checked.
            The replaced bark pieces were removed, and they peered inside. The body of the baby was decayed while the gown was in fair form, but doubled up and pressed against it was another that should not have been. A man, not long placed.
            “That looks to me like Alwyn,” said one of the farm hands.
            “It’s Alwyn all right,” said the other. And so it was.
            The news spread quickly back to the group, and they were shocked. Alwyn had been a striking young man who featured in the dreams of many of the local girls, though as far as anyone knew, he had not taken up an offer in the village. There were rumours of a lover, possibly in Canterbury itself, but no proof.
            Estrild was grief-stricken once again, and Milo spoke harshly.
            “It’s months since we lost the child. You’ve three others to look after, and they need you to be strong. So be strong.”
            As Estrild made her way tearfully to their bedchamber, she heard Milo muttering but could not make out his words.
            “Best thing for the bastard child. Together with his father until the tree be felled.”

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Song from the Teenage Heart!

A change of mood now. 

In my late teens I played folk guitar and occasionally wrote songs. I used to sit by an open window, playing and singing, in the vain hope that a record producer might walk by, hear me, and offer a record contract on the spot. At that time I was writing a pop music column for the local paper, and soon afterwards had a job as singer with a group of Cambridge undergrads performing at USAF bases in France for the summer vacation. Buddy Holly, Brenda Lee and all that. Then the others went back to university; I was invited to join another group to tour Germany, but being a romantic and my boyfriend being unhappy about the idea, I didn't go but came home instead to take up secretarial work.

Anyway, one song 'what I wrote' has recently been circulating in my head for some reason. I sang it and played guitar for an audition for Opportunity Knocks, though I got the old 'Don't call us, we'll call you'. Here are the lyrics - and I must stress they're not autobiographical! I was lucky not to be dumped at all ...

Each verse except the third is sung in a minor key. All together now:

I met him in the su-ummertime,
And loved him by-y the fall.
   He smiled at me,
   I couldn't see
He didn't ca-are at all.

He gave me pearls, he ga-ave me gold,
He gave me e-everything.
   He smiled, he said
   That we'd be wed -
I wore a diamond ring.

But came the spring, I suddenly knew
He wanted to be free.
   He smiled, he said
   That love was dead -
He didn't ca-are for me.

So if you meet the boy of your dreams,
With lips as sweet as wine,
   You may be blind
   And you may find
He'll break your hea-art like mine.

Have to add, ©Jacqueline Pye 2014 !