Friday, 18 April 2014

My How To books now available in paperback!

I'm delighted to announce that my books Short Stories and How to Write Them and Ghost Stories and How to Write Them are now both available as paperbacks. Both books have been expanded, and the second editions are also available as ebooks. Actually they were published a couple of weeks ago but I've been on holiday and had no time to advertise them! 

The books are selling on Amazon for just under £5 for the paperback, and still at £1.53 for the ebook.
The links above are to but they are available from all Amazons, also from Barnes and Noble. 

I've also got a small stock of books at home, so if you'd like a signed copy send me an email via the Contact page above and I'll send you a copy (UK only, sorry).  

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Blogging and Novella competitions

A few competition links for you today.

Firstly, one for all bloggers and article writers.

Write an article on the theme of “Generation-Y” and receive a cash prize of $200

Generation-Y, also known as Millennials, or the YOLO Generation. The generation that are into selfies, swag, drunken snapchats, instagramming your food and #hashtaging#everything#you#say. Every generation has its own set of aspirations and challenges, and these are both exciting and uncertain times to be living in.

What are your thoughts on Generation-Y?

We're calling all bloggers, writers, thinkers, part-time philosophers and aspiring journalists to write an 800 word article on the theme of Generation-Y. Enter it into our Gen-Y competition on ReadWave and the article that receives the most 'likes' will win a cash prize of $200 (or equivalent value in your local currency).

We accept entrants from all over the world. Articles that are over 800 words will not be considered. The deadline for submissions is 14th April. For more information, visit

And two for novella writers:

In 2014, Manchester Metropolitan University’s Cheshire Faculty is launching the inaugural MMU Novella Award, the first iteration of what will become a bi-annual literary prize. The competition will conclude with a one-day Novella Festival at the Cheshire Campus consisting of readings, talks and panel discussions. Novelist Jenn Ashworth will front the judging panel and decide the winner after a team of internal readers whittles down the submissions to a shortlist.

The Write Time: a unique writing competition for previously unpublished authors aged 50+
If you have always dreamed of being a published author, here is an opportunity that you won’t want to miss. We have launched a writing competition for the over 50s, exclusively for Mature Times readers.
“The Write Time” competition offers the winner a two-year digital publishing contract, with full editorial and marketing support, and a generous royalty on all sales.

Sadly, or is it happily, I'm too young to enter that last one but it looks like a great opportunity so if you're old enough (no need to be 'mature' though!) unpublished and have a novella kicking around, do check it out. 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Guest Post by Julie Phillips

Julie Phillips has been a blogging and facebook friend of mine for many years. She's a short story and article writer, and if you've bought any UK writing magazines over the last couple of years you are sure to have read some of her work. She's recently published a book, The Writers' Group Handbook. I asked her for a guest blog post for this blog, and what she's produced will I am sure strike a chord with many of you. Over to Julie:

Less is More

It can be said that a writer's work is never done. There is always so much to write about and never enough hours in the day to do it. Life can get frantic and, more often than not, it's our writing time that is the first thing to go as our time is pressurised by family commitments and emergencies or work deadlines.

It can be tempting, after disruption to our writing time, to try and cram as much writing as we can into the remaining time available. But is burning the candle at both ends and playing catch up the way to go? It used to be for me, until I realised something; the more I tried to catch up and the more I worried about what I hadn't written, instead of what I had achieved. I became more and more frustrated, unable to think clearly and rationally or enjoy what I was writing and my productivity and the quality of my work plummeted.

I was stuck in a vicious cycle and my worries about not being able to write enough and being behind on my writing schedule actually stalled me even further. The situation had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Enough was enough! It was time to stop fretting, moaning, pulling my hair out and gnashing my teeth because I wasn't achieving what I wanted with my writing. It was time, instead to stop, take stock and formulate a plan of action on how I was going to get out of the rut.

The first thing I changed was to re-design my writing agenda. I write around my day job in a school, so writing 9am-5pm for me is not an option. I was writing part time but scheduling as if I was writing full-time. It was no wonder I was falling behind. I realised that I had inadvertently set myself up to fail!

So I allowed myself 15 hrs a week to write. This would happen in the evenings for 2-3 hrs per evening and then a few hours over the weekend, with a full day off a week. I also reduced what I expected myself to do during my allotted writing time from working on three items to two.

By doing this, the pressure was off and, quite often, I now find that I am actually ahead of myself most weeks. If this happens, I don't pile more pressure on myself by adding new tasks - that would just bring me back to square one! Interestingly, though, my productivity has actually gone up, but because I'm spending more time and effort on my projects, the quality is better. So next time you're fretting that you're not getting enough writing done, think of it in terms of quality rather than quantity and remember that less is more.

Thanks Julie! I can certainly relate to this: I also have a full time job and lots of other demands on my time. I don't manage 15 hours writing a week, so I take my hat off to you for that. But I do try to make the writing time I have really count.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Compass books - a growing collection of books for writers

If you fancy writing erotica, then Passionate Plots could be the book for you, published by Compass Books.

Or if you run or belong to a writing group, The Writers' Group Handbook, by womag and article writer Julie Phillips, is a good and useful read. I'm hoping to persuade Julie to write a guest post for this blog soon, so keep an eye out for that!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Call for submissions

Pulse Romance are putting together a couple of anthologies of short stories and are open to submissions. Details below.

Call for Submissions – Holiday Romance Anthology
Sweet or sensual, Pulse is looking for summer holiday romance short stories for an upcoming anthology. We're open to any setting as long as the weather is warm and the romance is dramatic or interwoven with a dramatic story line. Word length guidelines aren't strict but we're looking for stories from around 2,000 up to 7,500 words. We're offering an advance of £30 per story and a share of the anthology royalties. Closing date: 30 April 2014. Send your stories to submissions AT

Call for Submissions – Emergency Romance Anthology

Sweet or sensual, Pulse is looking for romantic stories involving the emergency services! Fire, police, ambulance, it doesn't matter which emergency service as long as there is romance and emergency drama involved. We're looking for pulse racing stories for an anthology themed around the Emergency Services. Word length guidelines aren't strict but we're looking for stories from around 2,000 up to 7,500 words. We're offering an advance of £30 per story and a share of the anthology royalties. Closing date: 31 May 2014 Send your stories to submissions AT

Hmm, stories about firemen, wahey! My pulse is racing just thinking about the possibilities! 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Catching up

Sorry it's been so long since my last post on this blog! Life's doing that speedy-up thing it does now and again, when there's too much to do and not enough time to do it all in. Weekends have been busy and that always puts me behind - I need weekends here at home to get writing, blogging, housework, running done, as well as a bit of relaxing in between.

Anyway - here's a great link for you and news of what I've been working on lately.

Link first. Ever wondered what happens to submissions after they're delivered to your chosen market? Della Galton followed the journey of hers at Women's Weekly, and wrote it up in a blog post here, along with photos. It's a fascinating post - do go and look!

And what I've been working on: as well as pushing onwards with the latest novel, I've been putting together second editions of each of my How To books. I've added a couple of stories and more discussion to both books, along with a section on ideas and prompts. And both books will be available as print books as well as ebooks. There's a little way to go yet, but I'm getting closer to pressing the Publish button on the CreateSpace website. I'll let you know when they're available!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Back to Creative Writing School

I recently read Bridget Whelan's ebook, Back to Creative Writing School which is available as a Kindle ebook for all of £1.70.

I have to say it is one of the most inspiring and unusual How To books I have ever read, and I whole-heartedly recommend it. So do many other people - go and take a look at her Amazon reviews!

It's formatted like a school year - 3 terms, 10 weeks per term, and a lesson for each week including exercises to inspire and energise you.

Some exercises are very quick, others would take an afternoon of solid work. They all look worth doing, and I think I'm going to need to take a year off and do the entire course! Whether you're a new writer wanting to get going and learn some skills, or a jaded and faded writer getting long in the tooth, I think this book won't fail to get you up and running, producing your best work ever.

10/10 to Bridget for this one. Gold stars, grade A*, first class honours degree - however you're scoring things this one comes out top.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

From books to films

Many of this blog's readers will know Cally Taylor - she's a friend of mine who started her writing career by selling to the womags, before finding an agent and publishing a couple of rom coms. The second of these was Home for Christmas, and she guest-blogged about it here around the time of its publication.

I'm delighted to say that an independent film company based in Brighton want to make a film of the book, using the real life Duke of York cinema (Cally's inspiration) for the setting. They've signed some big names - for more details see Cally's blog.

And YOU can get involved, and get your name on the credits as an executive producer, by sponsoring the film for any amount from £10. You get some goodies for this - signed Christmas card from the cast, copy of the script etc. Go here for details and to donate if you'd like to be involved. Or if you work for a company who'd like a credit or a bit of product placement - they can have that for a larger donation...

Cally's come a long way in her writing career since she and I shared a second prize in a small competition back in about 2005. She's a real inspiration, and because of that I've sponsored this film. Hope some of you can, too! 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Judge a book by its cover - guest post

Peter from has written a guest post on the thinking behind some of their recent book covers. Anyone who has self-published will know how hard it is to produce a good cover for their books and I think you'll agree, Soundhaven have done a great job on these. hasn't been around long. About two years give or take. But in that time we've published twenty four titles under our own imprint, and helped several authors start their own. We've learnt a fair bit in those two short years, particularly when it comes to designing covers.

That age old advice, "never judge a book by its cover", is as ignored today as it's ever been. Perhaps more so. In a world where book-covers are more likely to seen as thumbnails on a screen, than through the window of a bookshop, it's never been more important to make sure the cover of a book stands out from its competitors, and in that briefest of moments communicates some semblance of the wonders that might lay within the pages it enshrouds.

Just for fun then, here are a handful of covers that we've designed, and what we were thinking when came up with them.

cover paperback

Ice And A Slice by Della Galton

Popular magazice Author Della Galton had some pretty clear ideas about what she wanted for the cover of her latest full length novel. From our perspective it was important that the cover worked just as well in print as it does on the screen - for this reason we were keen to find an image we could wrap round the spine and continue onto the back. We're particularly fond of strong photographic imagery, but sometimes the image needs a helping hand communicate what the book is about, which is why we played around with some of the words and letters in the title. Does the word 'and' seem out of focus to you? And did you happen to notice what the pink letters spell out?

toolshed1 kindle cover
toolshed2 kindle cover

The Writer's Toolshed Series by Della Galton

Sticking with Della, The Short Story Writer's Toolshed was one of our earliest titles. This short book is a based on a series of articles Della wrote for the rather excellent Writers' Forum magazine, so it seemed logical (to us) to give the cover that authentic 'magazine' feel in an effort appeal to those same readers that the articles had originally been written for. A year later we persuaded Della to bring out a follow up book, and again we went for that magazine look. However, even though Della is wearing a different jacket, and standing in front of a different shed(!) in retrospect I wish we'd made the covers more different, perhaps by changing the colour of the font, or the overall layout. I still wake up in the middle of the night fretting about whether her readers have figured out there's two books!

RGB versionFITI kindle

How To Start Dating And Stop Waiting Series by Peter Jones

When it came to our most recent 'series' we went all out to try and make sure that whilst the titles are clearly related (same font, similar layout, similar colour pallet), they're very different (if anyone confuses them I think I might just cry). It was important too to come up with a design that could be used to brand the associated website and a facebook page. And finally we were keen to continue the graphical theme that Harper Collins established with Peter's first book and pick icons that give you some idea what each book is about. Have we succeeded? You decide.


Shadowman and Meltwater by Della Galton

Our two most recent covers are amongst our all time favourites. And whilst the titles aren't related (they're not even the same genre) we rather like how they look together. Fiction titles don't generally have a subtitle, which is partly why we're strong believers in the importance of an intriguing 'movie-style' strap-line.

We hope you like our covers as much as we do. You might be interested to know that even if you're not one of our authors for a small fee we can be bought! We offer a number of publishing services of which cover designing is just one.

'How To Start Dating And Stop Waiting' comes out February 14th 2014.
'Meltwater' will be available in the coming weeks.
Visit for details of both.

Hmm. Think I may need to use Soundhaven's services for my next publication...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Lovely new review!

I'm delighted that the prolific blogger and reviewer Morgen Bailey has reviewed my Short Stories and How to Write Them on her blog today. I've often spent a comfortable hour or two browsing her blog which is stuffed full of writerly goodies, and it's an honour for me to now appear on it. Thanks, Morgen!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Let's Talk Tax

I predict at least half my blog readers will read the title of this post and quickly surf onto something different, and to be perfectly honest, I really don't blame them.

Samantha Tonge of Doubting Abbey fame, posted a question about tax on her facebook page today. (If you're FB friends with her, do go and read the whole thing.) She got a lot of responses, and there's some very useful information in there which she suggested ought to be passed on to the wider writing public. That's you lot, dear blog readers!

This applies to UK residents only. If you're elsewhere in the world, breathe a sigh of relief and consider yourselves excused to leave this blog now. The rest of you, if you're earning from your writing, either read on or emigrate before the end of January.

So the question is, say you've sold a couple of stories and had no other income so are well below the tax threshold, do you need to register for tax?

And the short answer is, Yes.

You won't have to pay any tax if your profits (plus any other income) fall below the tax threshold. But you still need to register for tax, fill in a tax return, declare all income from writing (and anything else unless you're employed and on PAYE), claim all expenses, and if the overall profit is over the threshold pay any tax due. Failure to do so could result in a fine, plus big tax bill when HMRC catches up with you.

I'm absolutely no expert on tax - I have a day job, I'm on PAYE, I do a tax return and include any writing income (ie nothing really since I switched to writing novels!) and include the family allowance income since they changed the rules, and don't claim expenses (but I should).

I've read through the post on Sam's FB page, which includes some great input from full time, well-organised writers such as Simon Whaley, Geraldine Ryan and Emma Darwin. Here's the gist.

If you earn anything from writing, you need to do a tax return. This needs to be completed by the end of January, to cover the year up to the previous 5th April (so the current tax return would cover 6th April 2012 - 5th April 2013). You can do a tax return online but need a government gateway id which has to be sent to you via the post, so if you don't have one, go here now to register for one, as time is running out. (You can also do tax returns on a paper form, but that has to be submitted before 31st October so way too late for this year.)

You need to declare all income from writing - sales, competition prizes (I think), payments for critiques or writing courses etc.

You can claim for all writing-related expenses - paper, ink, stamps, your computer and printer if they're not used for anything else, and for a percentage of them if they are, course fees, travel if writing-related eg to a course, books, possibly a percentage of your heating/lighting bills as your home is your workplace. Basically you're self-employed and anything which is a business expense can be claimed for.

All expenses are added up, and subtracted from your writing income. This gives your profit. Profit is taxable.

If your profit is over the threshold you need to pay tax. If your expenses exceed your income (ie you made a loss) then this loss can be carried over and set against any profit made next year. So if you're earning sod-all this year but are expecting this to go up substantially (eg you've just ensnared an agent and are expecting to sell a novel for a large advance) then completing a tax return this year and claiming expenses may actually reduce your tax bill next year.

Ideally you should have receipts for all expenses. Where this is not possible eg claiming driving milage, a note in a diary should suffice - anything to help you prove you really did incur the expense.

If in doubt, phone the tax office. They will help you do the right thing in the right way, and will help ensure you pay the right amount of tax, neither too little or too much. Lots of useful information here.

And if you're becoming serious about writing, do get yourself organised. Start keeping receipts - maybe an A4 envelope for each month. Tot up expenses and income in a spreadsheet as you go. The more you do during the course of the year, the easier the tax return will be. Employ an accountant if you need to and can afford to, but it's all really about being organised, keeping records, adding and taking away. We all ought to be able to do that!

Note to self: must start keeping expenses receipts for next year's tax return. Very important because I have actually earned something from writing during 2013-14 tax year, thanks to my two How To books! 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

New Year, new blog to follow, new articles to write

A good friend of mine, now blogging under a new name of Millie Bowen, has started a new blog - The A-Z of Writing Romance. This will be a great one to follow if you are considering writing romances. Millie, under a different name, has had dozens of romances published (and the ones I've read have all been excellent.)

If your new year resolution includes writing more non-fiction articles, check out Douglas McPherson's column on article writing in Writers' Forum. He's always looking for questions to answer for this column, so if you have any, send them to him at

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

At this time of year I traditionally write a post making my New Year Resolutions public. It really helps me keep to them! This year I've put that post over on my personal website - here.

I hope you all had a good time celebrating the New Year last night. Happy New Year to all my blog followers - may 2014 bring you everything you've worked for!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Woman's Weekly Workshops 2014

Woman's Weekly have announced a whole series of workshops for both short story writers and serial writers to take place during 2014 in London.

Go here for details.

I have never tried to write a serial but must admit I'd quite like to try one, so I think I might go to one of the serial writing workshops. Now then, where's my diary?

Many thanks to Sam Tonge for alerting me. By the way if you haven't read her book, Doubting Abbey yet, you're missing out. I absolutely loved it. Currently it's selling on Amazon for just 59p (or 96c on the US Amazon site). And no, it's not one of the badly formatted ones I was having a moan about a week or so ago.

This will be my last post before Christmas unless something really urgent comes up in the next two days, so let me wish you all a very merry Christmas. Hope you get everything you dreamed of, and have a fun time whatever you are doing. I'm off on our annual Christmas skiing trip (yahoo! wahey! and other exclamations of deep joy!) this weekend. I'll be back before New Year so see you all then.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Wonderful winter reading

Some of the most prolific womag writers have published short story anthologies recently. So over the Christmas break, why not treat yourself to a few and see how the best writers do it? Most of the following are sitting waiting patiently on my Kindle, along with about 60 other To Be Read books. So many books, so little time!

Karen Clarke's collection of twist-ending stories is a bargain at £2.99 because it contains 55 stories - a very generous collection!
Karen's a wonderful writer who has sold hundreds of stories over the last 3 or 4 years.

Behind Closed Doors and other tales with a twist

Teresa Ashby is a writer who appears in UK women's magazines most weeks. She's certainly one to learn from.Here's her latest collection, more twist enders.

The Painting & other stories

Let's stick to the theme of twist enders for a while longer. Della Galton has published a whole series of her short stories, in her Daily Della collections. This is one of the range which contains several twist in the tale stories.

One Step Ahead (and other twist in the tale short stories)

If you're a regular reader of Take A Break's Fiction Feast you will know the name of Jo Styles, who sometimes seems to monopolise its pages. I adore her stories. And now she's published a collection. What a great no-nonsense title - does what it says on the tin!

Jo Styles Short Story Collection No.1

And finally, if your aim next year is to try to win writing competitions, why not take a look at Jo Derrick's collection of prize-winning stories, and see if you can work out why the judges chose them?

Twisted Sheets

There, that little lot should keep you going. All links are to the Kindle editions on but the ebooks are also available on other Amazon websites - easiest way to find them is to search on the author name.

If you enjoy these books please leave an Amazon review. We do love Amazon reviews. They make us feel all loved and appreciated.