Proud to be one of Northamptonshire’s authors

The lovely Lisa at the Bookalicious blog has included me in her gallery of local (to me) authors… I’m sure you’ll recognise some of the other names too.

Yes, that’s me there on the right. Lisa’s put us in alphabetical order so, as Bailey, I proudly lead the honourable gallery…

Click here to read the whole article.

 

H.E. Bates Short Story Competition: 2015 winners

H.E. Bates rulesI was honoured to be invited to be the Head Judge for the latest H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, and the results were announced at a ceremony earlier this month.

The winners’ stories are listed in full on the H.E. Bates competition website but here’s a taster…

First Prize Winner: Louise G Cole with ‘Five Staves and An Instant’

I am friend to the old five bar gate into our yard, and she to me as she holds back the world from my grandparents’ place. It’s a time when childhood days pass long and quick, short and slow.

She is oak-beamed and seasoned heavy with age; I am the spindle-legged orphan brought to this wilderness for the solid calm, the reparation of the country.

I have no recollection of what brings me here.  Whenever possible I wriggle away from my grandmother’s gulping, moist-eyed hugs and we don’t talk about what has happened.  I’m aware of conversations that stop when I enter the room, and the old people who are my grandparents’ friends who can’t quite look me in the eye. ‘Bless you,’ they murmur, clattering cups and saucers in trembling hands.

Read more here.

Second Prize Winner: Dan Purdue with Last of the Sand Dragons

As he is about to leave, Michael realises he’s made a mistake. He shuts off the car’s engine, gets out, and opens the boot. He takes out a small, carrier bag-wrapped bundle, locks the car, and hurries towards the house.

Inside, as quietly as possible, he pulls down the loft ladder and climbs its creaking aluminium steps. He moves with practised stealth to avoid disturbing his wife, finally asleep after another restless night. Pausing on each rung to listen for signs of her stirring, it seems to take forever to reach the boarded floor of the loft where he can move in relative silence again.

Read more here.

Other Winners:

  • Anne Corlett won the Third Prize with The Look Of Leaving, and
  • Julia Thorley won the Northamptonshire Prize with Scoring An Own Goal In Tennis.

Congratulations, everyone.

If you like entering short story competitions, take a look at my 100-word comp and 500-word challenge, both free entry where you could either win my Online Courses or Editing & Critique.

H.E. Bates Short Story Competition closes 4th Nov!

the short story writer's toolshedThe H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, run by one of my writing groups, Northampton Writers Group, closes tomorrow, Monday 4th November (midnight UK time).

This year we have Della Galton as our Head Judge (as Chair of the Group, I see and mark all the entries).

If you have a short story (up to 2,000 words) that you’re proud of, take a look at https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/competitions-calendar/he-bates for details.

#NaNoWriMo 2012 – Crime Novel ‘Once Perfect’ – Days 17 to 19 & Festival of Romance

Every day around 5pm (UK time) during November, instead of the 5pm fiction slot (because it’s on hiatus for November / December – there are only so many hours in the day, even mine), I shall be updating you on my progress of my NaNoWriMo novel.

Where have the past three days gone? I spent the weekend at the Festival of Romance, Bedford (just under an hour from Northampton). Despite me not really being a romance writer (I say “not really” as my NaNoWriMo 2009 debut novel is a girl-meets-boy-boy-boy-boy… – I could go on, she meets over 40 of them! – chick-lit) I had a wonderful time and really enjoyed meeting up with some ‘old’ friends and meeting new ones.

I wasn’t expecting to get any writing done and I managed a big fat zero on Saturday then 142 words yesterday (don’t ask me how!) but have made up for it (almost) today with 2,815 words today. I’m still over 13,000 behind (13,618 to be exact) but still not panicking. I’m home all this week so hopefully if I have few distractions I should keep the momentum going.

The lovely NaNoWriMo stats tell me that at this rate I’ll finish on December 22nd (it said Christmas Day earlier today) so if I can squeeze 33 days into the next 11, I’ll be fine.

How are you doing? I know some of my Facebook and Twitter compatriots are not only storming ahead but they’ve passed the finish line (woo hoo!) but as long as I get over it I’ll be happy. Plus I’m loving what I’m writing (tighter perhaps than it should be but that’s no bad thing) so that’s what’s important.

More on the Festival of Romance (report on the Sunday morning pitch session and photos from the Saturday night rock art party) to follow shortly.

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You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: How to be a weaver bird – and win a story contest by John Yeoman

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of competitions is brought to you by author, editor and writing competition judge John Yeoman.

How to be a weaver bird – and win a story contest

Are you a peacock or a weaver bird? Some writers – peacocks – flaunt their lovely words and beg us to admire them. Others are weaver birds, patiently building a structure that’s serviceable but dull.

Some preen. Some delve.

Or so I’ve discovered from three years of judging the Writers’ Village story competition. Who wins the prizes? Peacocks or weaver birds? Neither. The cash goes to those who combine both colour and craft, preening and delving – with flair.

Here are three fast ways to blend colour and craft and write a best-selling story – or, at least, win a cash award in a story contest:

1. Draft it quickly

You have a plot idea, right? A few dramatic events? A snatch or two of dialogue? Scribble it all down as fast as you can. Don’t wait for the ‘right’ words to come to you. Clichés, stagy incidents, clumsy expressions? Welcome them. They’re fine. Just get the tale written!

Then throw it in a closet for a month.

Pluck it out with a sniff, tone it down and tune each sentence so it sings. The job should now be easy.

‘She rolled her eyes to heaven. “Joe,” she spat. “You are a lying bastard!”’

That’s formulaic. Boring. What are you really trying to express?

‘Camilla toyed with her bread stick. She wouldn’t look at me. “Is there somebody else?”

I tried to smile. “Of course, not.” I leaned back in my chair.

“That’s what you said before.” The bread stick crumbled in her hand.’

Now the incident, underplayed but loaded with body language, has gained depth.

2. Knock out the ‘show off’ language

Peacocks love to display their metaphors, fine sensibilities and erudite tropes. Tropes?  ‘Tropes’ is itself an erudite term. They wouldn’t buy it at WalMart. Why didn’t I simply write ‘tricks of style’? Because I was showing off.

‘Show off’ writing stops the reader. It says: ‘forget the story. Look at me, the author!’ In commercial fiction, we are allowed to use just one show-off expression per thousand words. More than that and our name is Umberto Eco and the reader loses the plot.

‘Literary’ works are another matter. If our name is Umberto Eco we can strut our ego in every line. Alas, our name is not Eco.

3. Firm up the structure

A good story is a ‘globed compacted thing’ (Virginia Woolf). Every word, incident and exchange of speech should support the plot. Is your structure strong? Does your story cling close to the plot? Is your first paragraph arresting and the close emphatic and clear?

Does the reader finish your story and sigh? Like somebody who has just consumed a filet de bouef without a shred of gristle?

True, you can end with a mystery or question but the reader must feel: ‘nothing could have been added or taken away from this. The story works.’

Here’s a tip. Give your tale to a friend who has no cause to love you. Ask: ‘does it work? Can you spot my deliberate howler?’ Bless them when they frown and chortle and ask you: ‘What’s the point of all that silly chatter between Joe and Madge? Why does Joe dump her? Why doesn’t Madge protest? And what, exactly, is the wretched story all about?’

It’s music to your ears. We’re all too close to our own story to spot passages that do nothing or are obscure to the reader. Or, for that matter, stories that make no sense at all.

Just apply that three-step process. Add flair. And you’ll be points ahead of the average story contestant. Gulp, I might enjoy your story. I might love it so much that I read it three times. Worse, I may even have to pay you a cash prize!

Let’s hope so. Thank you, John!

Dr John Yeoman has 42 years experience as a commercial author, newspaper editor and one-time chairman of a major PR consultancy. He has published eight books of humour, some of them intended to be humorous.

Dr John Yeoman, PhD Creative Writing, judges the Writers’ Village story competition and is a tutor in creative writing at a UK university. He has been a successful commercial author for 42 years. A wealth of further ideas for writing fiction that sells can be found in his free 14-part story course at: http://www.writers-village.org/contest-success.

‘How to be a weaver bird – and win a story contest’ reveals a 3-step process that can help writers draft their stories quickly and tidy them up painlessly, based on the author’s own experience of judging 3000+ stories in the Writers’ Village contest.

If you’re after competitions also take a look at my Competitions Calendar which includes details of the H.E. Bates Short Story Competition that one of my writing groups is running (deadline 31st October).

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with science fiction and fantasy author, short story and article writer, blogger and teacher Nina Munteanu – the four hundred and eighty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 

5a.m. Flash 120812 – August deadline writing competitions

Every now and then at 5a.m. (probably posted by my clone) I will be bringing you a newsflash, update on what I’m doing, invited guest piece, or whatever takes my fancy, and today I’m talking about writing competitions…

It’s been a while since I mentioned the competitions listed on my blog and I’ve been adding loads in the past few weeks. The page is laid out in a calendar format with the current month at the top, and I know we’re already half-way through the month but you may have something already written with nowhere to go and one of these might just be the perfect place…

NB. I may well not have tried these competitions myself so please take a good look at the websites before parting with money and submitting your hard work!  ALSO please note that not all the competitions run each year so please check their validity before entering (and their guidelines do change from year to year).

Colour Key: blue = external websites, purple = emails, green = pages on this blog

Details of the H.E. Bates Short Story Competition (deadline end October) that one of my writing groups runs is here. This year we have a theme (and new judge: Stephen Booth): ‘A walk at midnight’.

AUGUST

and then not forgetting those that aren’t date-specific…

WEEKLY
  • Flash FictionIndies Unlimited hosts a weekly 250-word max. prompt competition – see Indies Unlimited. Co-run by interviewee Kat ‘K.S.’ Brooks. Also see ‘Short stories’ below.
  • Poetry: Buxton’s Word Wizards slam poetry competition runs in the coffee lounge at the Grove Hotel, Buxton, Derbyshire, UK at 7:30pm on the last Tuesday of every month. Entry is £2.50. More info can be obtained by e-mailing Rob at: poetryslamUK@aol.com.
  • PoetryWell Versed is the weekly poetry column of daily UK newspaper the Morning Star, published every Thursday, in print and online. Poetry editor Jody Porter. Under the stewardship of the late and esteemed John Rety, Well Versed developed into a widely-read forum for new and established writers. Send submissions, with biographical information, to: wveditor@gmail.com. Poems need not be overtly political, but space is limited so they must be short to medium in length.
  • Short storiesFlash Fiction Online are currently closed to submissions (I guess because they’re overwhelmed), but it’ll be worth checking their website every now and then.
MONTHLY
  • MixedMixedPockets and Creative Print Publishing (both have different themes each month), Opening Editions (free).
  • Screenwriting: Canada-based Wildsound run monthly screenwriting competitions.
  • Short storiesBrighton COW (currently on hiatus), Coast to CoastWriting / Writers’ News magazines and Opening Editions.
  • Short storiesBound Off now take submissions via Submishmash.
  • Short storiesHayley Sherman runs a monthly short story competition for submissions on any subject up to 2,000 words. The winners are published on the website, promoted online and receive a £10 First Writer voucher. All entrants are also considered for publication in The New Short Story Annual at the end of the year. Deadline 25th of the month.
  • Short storieshttp://www.fivestopstory.com/write: 2012 competitions cost £4 per entry (2 for £7, 3 for £8, optional feedback £5) and have monthly prizes of £50. There is also a £150 prize for the overall winner of their 2012 league table and you can become a member for £25 which entitles you to 3 free entries per month (2012).
QUARTERLY
ONGOING
COMPETITION WEBSITES

If you discover any broken links, closed competitions or know of ones that I haven’t listed here, please do email me with details.

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You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Stephen Booth is H.E. Bates Short Story Competition 2012 Judge

The long-running H.E. Bates competition is back and has a theme and a new judge! I’m delighted to announce that prolific crime novelist Stephen Booth is our judge this year.

‘A walk at midnight’ was chosen as our theme for 2012 because many of his stories depict life in the rural Midlands of England, particularly his native Northamptonshire and, as Wikipedia says, H.E. Bates was partial to taking long midnight walks around the Northamptonshire countryside and this often provided the inspiration for his stories. Bates was a great lover of the countryside and the people, as exemplified in two volumes of essays entitled Through the Woods and Down the River. Both have been reprinted numerous times.

Herbert Ernest Bates, CBE (1905–74), better known as H. E. Bates, was an English writer and author. His best-known works include Love for LydiaThe Darling Buds of May, (starring David Jason and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Pam Ferris amongst others) and My Uncle Silas. Bates was born on May 16, 1905 in Rushden, Northamptonshire, and educated at Kettering Grammar School. After leaving school, he worked as a reporter and a warehouse clerk.

Run by the Northampton Writers Group (of which I am Chair and therefore a competition panelist :)), the details of the H.E. Bates competition can be seen here (and rules / entry details here) but the following is a summary:

  • Write us a short story to a theme of ‘A walk at midnight’.
  • Entries must be no longer than 2,000 words in length.
  • Email / postal entries accepted.
  • The competition is open to all writers, from anywhere in the world.
  • 1st Prize £150; 2nd Prize £100; 3rd Prize £50
  • Special prize for the best story written by a Northamptonshire writer £50 (not awarded if the story has won 1st, 2nd or 3rd Prize).
  • In addition, a prize of £50 will be awarded for the best story by a writer who is under 18 years old on the closing date for entries.
  • The entry fee is £4 for each story submitted or 3 stories for £10 (£1 for each story submitted by an Under 18 writer). Entrants are invited to submit as many stories as they wish.
  • The initial judging panel will comprise members of the Northampton Writers’ Group
  • Head Judge is a well-known crime writer – name t.b.a.
  • Closing date for entries is midnight (UK time) on Wednesday 31st October 2012.
  • Prizes will be awarded at a prize-giving ceremony a few weeks later. Date and venue to be announced.

A former newspaper journalist, Stephen Booth is the creator of two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry, who have so far appeared in 11 crime novels, all set in England’s beautiful and atmospheric Peak District.

The Cooper & Fry series has won awards on both sides of the Atlantic, and Detective Constable Cooper has been a finalist for the Sherlock Award for the Best Detective created by a British author.

In 2003 the Crime Writers’ Association presented Stephen with the Dagger in the Library Award for “the author whose books have given readers most pleasure.”

The novels are sold all around the world, with translations in 15 languages, and are currently in development as a TV series. The most recent title is Dead and Buried. His other books include The Devil’s EdgeLost RiverThe Kill CallOne Last Breath, and Blind to the Bones.

You can also watch Stephen’s video about his novel ‘Kill Call’, the Peak District location and why he writes crime fiction… and read my review of his novella ‘Claws’ here. 🙂

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I have to say (well, I don’t have to but I’m being kind) that one of the stories I read last year didn’t have a beginning or end (only a middle) so lost points for that (I start at 10 and work downwards). Nick, our competition organiser, let it go through to the panel which I wouldn’t have done as to me it wasn’t a short story so he’s clearly even kinder than me. 🙂

So there you have it. Nick (who gets your stories first, removes the names then distributes them), myself and the other group members look forward to reading your stories. I always say I’m firm but fair (you can hear how I critique in one of my red pen podcasts) and whilst I can’t be bribed (unless it’s with banoffee pie), if you have any questions feel free to email me.

The Northampton Writers’ Group (critique group) meets every other Thursday night in central Northampton, England – do email me if you’re local and are interested in joining.