Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Never Say Dai!

Surprise reply from US Print Journal wanting 2 AK stories.

So we make 31/31 after all (with two hours to spare)!

Takes Boot Camp to 32 Hits and a couple of "Notes" (very small hits) for the year with 15 Prizes-Finals including 4 First Prizes and Two Seconds


30 Hits, but not 31

Another very early start.

My wife was flying to Edinburgh so I was up at 05:15. Soon I'm going to give up sleep altogether, it's such an inconvenience.

Whoopee, I thought two early-morning hours, no disturbance, a chance to write a good draft of something. Then BLOCK. Blank Screen, Duh! So I did some subs that I'm not posting until tomorrow ( I like to win), then read a bit. I'll get my 1,0000 word minimum out later (like November).

Good news at 10:00, yet another BC Finalist just announced, Tom C again, this time a comp in Australia, results TBA. I had given up on BC getting 31 hits in January, but now we've an outside chance again.

Of course 31/31 isn't the point. The point is to get the work out there, get feedback, get read. It's the steady application that makes the difference, which is why I push and one reason why we call it Boot Camp.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Two More Hits for BC!

I was having a bad day (tax return!) so it was good to hear that two Boot Campers featured in the winners for the JBWB Winter Competition.

TomC wins $100 Second Place

Colin U wins Highly Recommended

That takes Boot Camp 2006 to:

04 First Places
02 Second Places
01 Third Places
03 Highly recommended
04 Named Finalists (two already in print)

14 Prizes and Places in 2006

Earnings $1,185

As for overall hits, 29.

Looks like we'll hit February down on our ambitious target of 1 hit per day average


Why is Everyone in Bed?

When I'm up? Doesn't seem fair.

At least my wife is doing the school-run this morning, so as soon as I've posted this blog I can settle in for some serious writing. (Wouldn't it be great if I actually had an idea? Still, nothing's perfect!)

I'm re-reading "Silent Spring" (Rachel Carson) one of the early "green" books and I was shocked to realise it was published in 1962, 44 years ago, four times my daughter's eleven years.

That's frightening. I think of the book as contemporary, and to my daughter it must be a historical artefact. Apparently I sing when driving (I have the worst male voice in the whole of Wales) and yesterday I was singing "Eve of Destruction" by Barry Maguire. My daughter asked me what it was (a ploy to stop me singing) and I told her.

It is so strange to not feel old but the calendar says something else. Us children of the sixties (and we mean teenagers then), all that flower-power, Kennedy's Death, Martin Luther King, Bobby K, "Let's Go to San Fransisco". Radio Caroline and the start of Radio One (Flowers in the Rain), The Beatles, Stones, oh sheesh.

My God we dreamed a lot.


A few prompts from the pre-official batch at Boot Camp this morning

Silent Spring

Supper With Franz

Half Welsh, Half-Human

This Isn't About E M.

Travelling to Key West

Dark Red Biplane Flying Across the Sub

Minor, Miner, Minor, Mynah

A story beginning, "They Brought Him Out Just after One O'clock

She Was Beautiful

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Only 30 lbs!

I was looking for something in some archives, family tree stuff and found, "ByteWrite" Autumn 1984 the Byte Shop's "newspaper' full of adverts and stuff.

This caught my eye, an advert for the IBM portable.


Dual Floppy Drives, capable of containing 360K of information each!

9" anti-glare screen (mono, I presume)


Prices FROM £2,245 (plus VAT)

Jeez, we've come a long way.


Poetry, Um, Yeah, Right

Up at some stupid hour (again) and it's bloody FREEZING.

Had a poem going round and round in my head and it had to be written down.

I'm studying poetry this year. I'm a pretty decent short-story writer and I know how to teach it, how to edit, how to judge. But poetry is a great big mystery to me. Sometimes a poem "hits" me (almost immediately) and I think, "Yeah!" but there are hundreds, thousands, that no matter how I try, nothing happens between my ears or in my gut.

I've had more than one poet read my stories and ask if I'm a poet. I have to say no.

But, my view of poetry now is like my view of short-stories years ago. In fact my view of anything literary. I remember reading Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" and thinking it was boring crap. Carver would have had me reaching for my cut-throat razor.

It's not that these things are an acquired taste. It's more about loosening up and learning to read, learning to see.

Cotswold Closes Tuesday

For those who don't know, The Cotswold Prize is Stories and Shorts MIXED. That is the £500 winner could be either. I emailed the organisers a week or so ago and have only just heard. I shall enter cos I'm a sucker, but it feels strange.

A STORY (correction) won last year. Does that increase the likelihood of a poem winning this year?

The closing date is Tuesday 31st so get your poems/stories in the post tomorrow.

Here's a few prompts,the Sunday morning batch from Boot Camp. And Don't forget the 7th Quark Frantic Flash this coming weekend.

Frost on Sunday

Listening to Chimes

He Parked His Car and Walked Away

A Long, Hot Bath, a Glass of Sherry

The Difference Between a Long Poem and a Short Story

Dressing for Her Suicide

Blink Verse

Scrabble, Fall

Capel, Chapel, Church, Des Three-Bed

And dirty thugs unchained just for the game

Sylvia Plath's Cat.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

BCers Still Doing Well

Went to watch my little soccer team today, away to the side in second place and they won 2-1, yeehah!

Came back to two more BC hits, one paper, one web, taking us to 27 for 2006 so far

Four First Prizes, a Second, a Third, a HR and 5 Finals ($1,075 earned)

Competition Hits

Highlands & Islands Short Story Competition
Dame Throckmorton
Night Train
Seventh Quark
Adult Short Story of the Year at Killie

Aesthetica (print)
Leaf Poetry (print)
QWF (print)

Outsider Ink
Thieves Jargon
Wild Violet
Scorched Earth
Green Silk
BBC Radio

A few BCers are aiming high and on long lead times, other are new, eager for small publications. It's tough after that first flurry of successes to raise your sights and take the much reduced hit-rate, but all good, improving writers have to do this.

It seems to me pretty much pointless to be aiming at comps and winning $1,000 then a year later aiming at comps where the prize is so tiny (or non-existent) that there will be no serious competition. A recent competition had a china mug as its first prize. Would we expect serious writers in it, or decent writers sending their best stories?

I agree with the writer who wrote on this a few months ago on a beginner site: (I'm paraphrasing)

I'm coming to the conclusion that spending time subbing to little known ezines and so on is an utter waste of time, after the first few acceptances. We should see the writing on the wall, stop, aim higher. Nothing that doesn't pay, for example, or no comps with a prize under a couple of hundred pounds. I think it has to do with self respect, hasn't it?

(AK) I can't agree with the "no pay" point. I was thrilled to get an acceptance from Archipelago. Just a glance at the contributors explains why. If Raymond Carver could publish without payment, I think I can too.

But there is another worry and that is, do low-level hits work against a writer or could they?

The writer above wondered the same. She asked what if you're marginal at a good place and they Google your name. If they see strings of hits at poorly-edited start-up zines full of beginner work, they might think perhaps they don't want to be associated...

(AK again) I know I have been guilty of letting some stuff go out too easily and not landing at the highest level it can achieve. I get carried away sometimes, especially if Boot Camp is on a push to get work out. That can be costly. I had two stories turned down at small mags paying $40 a story. Those stories went on to win big prizes and earn (so far) $4,300 between them. Now tell me, were the subs to the smaller places a mistake, or not?

It's normal for newbies to aim low, and that's fine, but soon they have to aim higher. What is awful is to settle for the level that's easy, the level where you place without effort. I see that far too often. Sometimes you'll see writers actually lowering the level of their target subs "just for numbers" or for a feeble, transient, trivial boost.

Racking up hits easily means you are aiming too low. A mix of targets, but always (at least with the first 1-2-3 subs) a little hopeful, stretching is a good idea. If your hit-rate is better than 1 in 3, chances are you are subbing too low or sleeping with the editor.


Next Weekend Another Frantic One

Next weekend (February 4th & 5th) we get back to the normal Frantic Flash schedule and from then on we we'll have Frantic Flash Weekends on the weekend that includes the first Sunday of the month.

The recent FF had just 27 entries, virtually all old-hands at Flashing, and we rarely get more than 40.

This is policy. I like to run lots of small, regular competitions for the buzz, but not have competitions that are so large and have hundreds of entries that take me away from my own writing for too long.

Just to remind you. You receive an email (if you have signed up) at 0900, 1800, 2100 on both the Saturday and Sunday. The prompts are in the email plus they are displayed n my blogs and the 7Q site. You then have 75 minutes to write your story and submit it. If you email immediately to say "I'm in! You get an extra 5 minutes. Entry is £5, Prizes are Half the Pool, typically £50-£100.

All timings are UK Time.

Here are this morning's Boot Camp Prompts.

Email: Wrong Number

The Sadness of Weddings

Her Family Tree is a Willow, I am Pine

One or Two Natural Wonders of the World

Last Tango in Basingstoke

One Hundred Million Pounds

In His Cottage Kitchen, Just Talking, About Books

After They Leave

Lawrence of Bulgaria

The Bitter Things, and Time

Friday, January 27, 2006

Publication Overload!

Buzzwords was a print mag for 24 Issues
then economics drove it to the web.

Picture by Dave PR

I've just had an email to tell me that Buzzwords 30 is up. There are four Boot Campers gracing the pages (is that a record?) and one ex-Boot Camper (but we don't count exes in our stats).

I Only Want You - Dave Prescott

Manhole Under the Hollyhocks - Alexandra Fox

A Lack of Control - Jason Jackson

Meredith Twp Evans - Alex Keegan

Can I have my tea now?

Correction !

I said there were four Boot Campers and one "ex".

Cancel that, both Vanessa Gebbie and Jan Bradshaw are ex BC, Van leaving last summer after 20 months, Jan just 2-3 weeks ago when BC went all Pro.


A Publication, Character & Theme v Plot

Up today to a quiet morning and a little publication in New Zealand, a small magazine that both prints and publishes on the web at the same time.

Before I point at the story, here's where it came from.

Picture by Judith Wolfe

I advocate character-character-character and have written articles such as Plot is a Four-Letter Word and given talks such as "Never Mind the Plot: Feel the Character".

I believe absolutely that the key to good writing comes from allowing characters the space to act "independently of the author". I believe,though that the characters we choose and the way they react is NOT random or casual but that they come from the depths of us and are subtly, even if not consciously, "chosen".

I believe like Dorothea Brande argued, that what we see and react to matters to us, and that when we respond (again whether conscious or not) we do so with a tone, an attitude, a setting, and characters that are PRODUCED by the aches, responses, internal pressures.

Thus if we have a nagging feeling about writing something in-the-general-area-of, merely by coming up with a character and a start point (provided we let it happen and do not force it) those elements will directly connect to our ache/pressure.

Then, if we "write with light hands" our characters will do as we hoped and the theme of our stories will naturally emerge.

In the article above (and in other writings) I talked about how plotting consciously is cold, left-brained and almost always obvious. Apart from maybe a tenth of one per cent, so-called "ingenious" plots are rarely a real surprise.

I have often run a simple classroom exercise to show that plotting is crap.

I tell writing students this:

The ingredients are, a man, a woman, a car, two children, a stormy night, a hitchhiker, and an announcement on the radio that a lunatic has escaped from a local mental asylum.

I then ask the students to write an outline of their little story.

If you haven't done this, why not do it now before reading on?

Did you?

Students produce a number of obvious and typical plots. The most obvious is man and wife and their kids in car, storm, p/u hitch-hiker, random stuff, radio on, "Oh no. Madman!"

Then either they fight and man wins, fight and HH wins, fight and wife kills HH.

These plots (and a few variations) I call "The Big Match!"

Occasionally someone will have the same start, HH has lift, they let him out and THEN hear the message. I call that plot "PHEW!"

There are minor variations to the above. The driver is the lunatic, his wife is, one of the kids is, they ALL are, but it's still the same "Big Match!"

In larger classes, the occasional bright spark will attempt to do something else. Favourite is the plot I call "Oops!" Where the man kills the hitch-hiker only to hear the news that the lunatic was recaptured an hour ago.

But as a teacher, run this scenario past a few hundred students and what happens is predictable, WHEN STUDENTS PLOT.

What I ask is things like, "Why have you used all the ingredients? Did I say you HAD to? Why is every single story set IN THE CAR? Did I say it had to be? About 98% have the man and woman as spouses or partners? Did I say they were?

What nobody does is simply play with character and see what happens.

My story, just a fun little thing, is my example of using a character and winding up the mood (of the character but also the author) until the character (deep part of the author) appears to act spontaneously.

Before I leave to get some writing fone (already written 1200 words today) check out the nifty, quirky drawings Judith Wolfe creates for stories in the magazine

Hennesy Drives


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Well It Works For Tom

This was posted at BC today

My way of writing (as opposed to writing style) has changed completely since joining Boot Camp. I've discussed this here before: in the past I pondered over every bloody word, wrote and rewrote paragraphs; after a week I'd still be on the introduction and I'd forgotten what it was I wanted to say anyway. It was a negative, unfulfilling way of writing, but I didn't know anything else. I thought that's what you did.

So I came here and found flashes. Read about spontaneity, writing the feeling and so on. Since then I've written what? - 100 stories or shorts? Prior to that what? A dozen, probably.

I've written humour, horror, womag (sorry), literary, surreal, nonsense, poetry, character studies, action stories, even romance. I've covered cross-dressing, cannibalism, deaths of many varieties, suicides (several), murders (a few), fratricides (too few to mention). I've been down wells, up trees, in the mountains, stuck in bed. I've had way too much sex, or none at all, I've eaten too much and fainted from hunger.

Before BC, I only had two voices: humorous and dark. I mostly still do, to be honest, but at least I now know that, and I'm working on it, and I consciously try to write differently. I try to do different stories, in different ways, each time I sit down to write.

All of this is because of, not in spite of BootCamp. I've posted stories on here I would never dare post anywhere else, for two reasons: one, it's anonymous so it doesn't matter; two, because people will crit them as stories, not tell me how and why they offend them personally.

It's probably fair to say that without BC I would have stopped writing by now and found something easier to do. The environment keeps me going, keeps me inspired, makes me work. The learning I get keeps me improving.

D'you know what? I kinda like it here.

Tom C

Evening Primrose, Evening Prompts

Boot Camp, among other things it does, is to have regular flash sessions and we post at least three sets of prompts every day, sometimes four or five. Here are tonight's...

Different Day, Different Meds, Different Core Principles

Bob Dylan and The Sharecroppers

Justification: A Woman of a Certain Age

Microscopic and Macroscopic

Disney World, The Serious Writer and Other Fantasies


Tanner Hop, Jack, Tell Twp Evans

Today's Personality is...


Allusion, Delusion, Serenity, Sincerity

A Wooden Truck

Remember, We Are Going Halves...


More Wins for Boot Campers

Final judging of the Seventh Quark 9th Frantic Flash couldn't split Michael Hulme and David Prescott.

These were two very different stories and it was hard to pit one against the other. Interestingly when first marked they came out with identical scores of 111, a definite step clear of Lexie Fox's story "Moonlight" and well-clear of the rest of the field.

So it's a joint first prize to those two!

Lexie Fox's disappointment must have lasted about 30 seconds as she heard her story about a boy with CJD had won adult short-story of the year ($600) in "Killie". Lexie now has a full house this year, a first, a second, a third, one highly-recommended and a named finalist.

I just want her to do that every month!

Latest Figures

030 Stories
135 Story Critiques
117 Flashes
350 Flash Critiques
147 Submissions
026 Hits

048 Rejections
005 Paper Publications
015 Web Publications
020 Total Publications
004 First Prizes

001 Runner-Up Prizes
001 Third Prizes
006 4ths, HRs, Named Finalists
012 Total Prizes and Named Finals

$1,085 Payments*


*US Dollar payments recorded in US Dollars
UK Pounds x 2 to record as dollars

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A few more hits!

Tom C informs us he was a finalist in The Highlands and Islands Short Story Competition. That means there were three BC stories in the final! Tom has also had an acceptance from Scorched Earth.

And one for me, a very nice hit, I think, at Archipelago. When I sent my story off I had read some of the articles and poems, looked at the bios, and thought, sheesh, am I out of my depth subbing here? But faint heart never won fair lady, in for a penny etc, and I'm very pleased to say I have an acceptance there for the next issue.

That takes us to 24 hits for the year, but I've told the Boot Campers they need to start some serious work as I would like to average 1 a day.

I'm a great believer in getting stuff out there and not leaving it in a drawer, but a big push for subs has its downside and I have to always be alert to "story-dumping", getting placements at the very, very low end of the spectrum just for the sake of numbers.

About a year ago I had to ban a few sites to Boot Campers.

Well not "ban", just say they didn't count as hits because the quality of their acceptances was woeful. When our choices (or is that non-choices?) leaked out it caused a furore, but "showcases" are still showcases and an awful lot of their work was VERY poor.

It is so easy to give away stories at a level lower than they deserve; too easy to just go for easy acceptances rather than aim higher. I was looking tonight at the recent publications of an ex Boot Camper and was shocked to see that she had dropped at least two levels. Oh sure the acceptances are there, but the places accepting are start up zines run by unqualified editors, beginner sites, and one I think is a scam.

We should all be subbing at the highest levels possible (ie we have an outside chance) and living with a rejection rate of 1/3 or 1/4 (1 in 5 or 6 if you can hack it).

I know from experience that I can cope with a rejection rate of 1 in 3 and that a big hit gives me the resilience to accept 1 in 4 for a while. But I also know that in the past I have been desperate to place something.

Both my Bridport Second Places ($2,000 each) were turned down by magazines paying ten pounds ($20) a story. (Thank-you God). if you don't reach a bit beyond where you know you can hit, you will always be a minnow.


Twenty-One Today!

Michael in BC reports an acceptance of his story "Kites" at Outsider Ink taking us to 21 Hits and a few "Notes".

"Notes" are small hits that we used to simply log as hits but now acknowledge but don't count. For example 1-2-3 in a small comp is a hit, but if they name the top ten (and there were only 30 entries) it's an achievment, but how much of one?

I have been watching a discussion of theme in the short story on an internet site. I was amused this morning to see someone who has been writing for many years without a publication telling someone that the thread could be more succinct.

When I was learning to write I think it took me five years hard labour to first understand theme, and once I was into the box I found it ever more subtle. Reading discussions of theme it's amazing how far out many people are. Example, "The theme is hate" but my greatest amusement (the disease of the web) is that people who patently show they are totally unsuccessful as writers argue with such conviction "on an equal footing" with prize-winners.

This isn't pomposity or "displaying badges" on my part (which is how this take of mine is always displayed) but a simple, obvious way of testing the probability of a process being a good one.

If a writer says he uses process X and is very successful, writer Y says it's a terrible idea and he is UNsuccessful after years of trying (writing and subbing in the same areas) should we not think that it's at least more likely that X's process is the better one?


Here are a few Flash Prompts, posted in Boot Camp as an extra at o7:20 before the official 0900 set

A Wriggling, Invisible, Fish

Message From the Sub-Continent

A Wild Justice

Her First Pommegranate

How to Eat and Why

Book Gulag

God's Seven Spreadsheets, the Devil Has One

Black, Soft and Rising, Gentle

The Man Who Found a Fish

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Hate Admin!

Photo by Nancy Saunders, Taken in Llyngwrrl

Still trying to catch up logging the work done by Boot Campers. It's only when you break that you discover what you do every day. A week's work, with stuff still landing, is not a lot of fun!

2006 Figures So Far

027 Stories
117 Flashes
145 Submissions
040 Rejections

Photo by David Prescott travelling to Course in Wales

020 HITS!

002 First Prizes
002 Second Prizes
001 Third Prizes
005 Named Finalists

010 Total prizes and Finals

Actual Publications in 2006

015 Publications on Internet
005 Publications on Paper
020 Publications Total

Another Photo by David Prescott

A Few Flash Prompts

Up stupidly early today, dropping the Mrs off at the station at 06:45, get the kids' breakfasts, make the lunches, then get some writing in before daring to surf. We have a points system for activity in Boot Camp and "Prelog" words score five times as well as words written later in the day.

Silly, right? Why bother with activity logs, words written before logging on to the web or reading emails?

Yeah, it's silly, except every time we have had a campaign for more prelog words the total number of words written has rocketed, AND SO HAS THE QUALITY. Second, the best predictor of publication and prize performance has always been, WORK and nothing else.

A few years back we had a Boot Camp where some old hands ("ex" Boot Campers) used to hang around in the BC Coffee Shop. Two of these both very good writers and now both editors had slipped into that mode where they were talking about writing, living off old stories etc but doing almost nothing fresh. One said he had written "effectively nothing" in the previous six months.

Both joined the pre-log push. Ten days later one had written 8,500 words, the other considerably more. One "faded' back to that problem behaviour but one didn't. But both now knew how to break out from the problem.

A day lost is a day nearer your death. You never get it back. NEVER.

Writers are writers 24-7 and for 365 days a year.

We all need to remember that.


Some Prompts

The Shield

When the Women Come Out to Dance

Literary Big Brother

1,001 Dalmations

Homestead, Toothbrush

Creative Writhing

The Blacksmith's Arms

To Be Blunt

Tree, Dark Blossom, a Cleaner, Sun

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Saddest Day

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Few More Hits

Still trying to get my head back into gear.

Just noticed that the previous entry was "Saddest Day" etc. I had meant to mention the news article that explained how some psychologists had worked out it was the worst day of the year based on S-A-D (Seasonal Affective Disorder), crap weather, the Xmas bills coming in etc. My forgetting to add that makes me look a saddo!


Back to business, catching up on figures. Lexies Fox gets a HR (basically joint 2-3-4-5th) in a short story comp in Scotland. She also gets another story into the final. Colin U has a story accepted by Buzzwords Magazine (due out very soon) and we have three more finalists in a comp (results shortly) taking this years hits total to 20, and two first places


If you are thinking of entering the Cotswold Short Story Competition, you had better be sharp.

It closes 31 Jan

The Saddest Day of the Year?

Back after a week's teaching, talking writing or writing from 0700 sometimes through to 0200 and I'm drained, low, achey, you name it. I find it hard to believe I'll ever write another thing.

Hence I need to run two flash sessions tonight before I start believing it (we welcome visitors BTW)

The course began one evening with Dave and Michael, then at the end of the second full day, Nancy, Lexie, Fleur and Caroline arrived (interesting changes to the dynamics). Dave managed 3 full days after the evening, Michael four, and Fleur left the same time (on the Saturday morning). I mention this only to remind myself how many times the dynamic changed, affected by individual personality, gender mix, numbers, and the knowledge that X or Y or A&B were leaving shortly.

There were writing lessons in this alone.

In the middle we managed to visit the chapel, that may well, in a year or less's time be a home and a writing school.

Is anyone surprised I ended up in the pulpit?

Actually I declined thirteen offers before climbing up, and of course cameras appeared, but the whole setting is fascinating, the way the pulpit adds aura and presence, raised up, with a painted background to highlight the preacher. (My great grandfather was a deacon in the English Congregational Church, Senghennydd, Glamorgan

The course(s) were tough, long, emotional, intense, and we wrote more than we usually do. I managed a few articles, 3-4 poems and two flashes, one inspired by (more on that in a later blog).

We concentrated a lot on openings, voice, theme-music, intent, "shaping the reader" and so on. What was interesting was to put a lot of one individual's stories together, or stories from round the room and to note how often the voice chosen was "generic" and did nothing for the story, making the language work harder, the direct actual meanings work harder.

Dealing with this, breaking away is very hard, but one writer, "King Generic" produced a great piece second night, so different it was hard to believe it was from the same author.

We noted that some authors were locked into first-person or third, or mostly wrote "themselves" or had one single linguistic style. We can get away from all these "limiters" but it hurts.

More later


Monday, January 16, 2006

FF Provisional Results


Britain's Smartest Rodents
Tennis With Dennis
A Spill of Moonlight

Close Up

A Big Fish
I'm OK, You're OK
Toot, Half Welsh
Outside, Alive
Power of One: Eleven Reasons
Is It That Time Already?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Last Set of Frantic Flash Prompts

16 Prompts. Good Luck

This is Harry, Mr Privation Officer

An Officer and a Gentleman (When Sober)

Tea or Coffee? Cocoa? A Kick in the Nuts?

Jasmine Jones and the Delicate Odour Problem


The Philosopher & The Sewage Farm


Casablanca, Lawrence, Just 39 Steps, My Friend

The Power of One

They're Not Hanging Level, Jones

Why It's Obvious God is Welsh and the Devil Was Born in Lithuania

Las Vegas is a Carbunkle

Tarzan and the Tool-Eater Jaguar

The Boys Who Stole the One Ton Safe From the Local Post Office

Life is Just a Towel of Cherries

Blue, By Blenkinsop, Wagstaff White,


1800 Sunday More FF Prompts

Losing Chelsea

The Long Winding Road Through Wales

Atilla the Bun

A Gooseberry in a Lift

Laughter From Another Room, The Light Fading


It's a Flower, Pink, Looks Like a Daisy

Jenny Jenny and the Junipers

My Name is eddie, I'm a Coward

Meeting After the White Gate

Shall I Compare the To An Outside Toilet?

A Gazzunder Goes Under the Bed

Black & Bright

Tosser, Screwit, Furkup and Soddem, Solicitors


Brighton Bag Ladies' Annual Conference

Good Luck,


More Hits and Pubs

After finishing 2005 with so many important hits, perhaps it was inevitable this year would start with some smaller ones.

But hey, they all count and we have a number of total newbies and not that many experienced members

On the publications side, two more web pubs for a couple of first-year Boot Campers, a mini-story ay Opium and a second-prize story (a hit in 2005) finally up at Mad Hatters Review

025 Stories
105 Story Critiques
080 Flashes
287 Flash Crits
110 Submissions
014 Hits
027 Rejections
003 Paper Publications
014 Web Publications
017 Total Publications
001 First Prizes
001 Runner-Up Prizes
000 Third Prizes
003 4ths, HRs, Named Finalists
005 Total Prizes and Named Finals

Hits as they come

01 COLIN wins Eurofiction First Prize Slingink (£100?)
02 LEXIE wins second, Dame Eliz' Throckmorton ($125)
03 ALEX makes final 12 of Night Train's "Yates" Competition
04 CALLY has "Odd Socks" accepted for Aesthetica
05 CAROL places a poem at GreenSilk Journal
06 CHRIS places Flash, "Cherry Pie" at Smokebox
07 CHRIS places "Pink Stinks" at Quicktion
08 TOMC places Flash "One Kiss" at Smokebox
09 ISSY place CIN Flash "Eyes" at Smokebox
10 CHRIS places The Harrogate Question at Smokebox
11 ALEX makes anthology at Leaf Books Poetry with CIN Poem
12 LAURIE makes anthology at Leaf Books Poetry with Poem
13 MJH places story at BBC Radio broadcast Feb 14
14 TOMC places CIN Flash "Clouds of Witness" at Wild Violet

Comp Wins & Places List

01 COLIN wins Eurofiction First Prize at Slingink (£100?)
02 LEXIE wins second place, Dame Elizabeth Throckmorton ($125)
03 ALEX makes final 12 of Night Train's "Yates" Competition
04 LAURIE makes final (anthology) at Leaf Books Poetry
05 ALEX makes final (anthology) at Leaf Books Poetry


03 Chrissie
02 Alex
02 Tom C
01 Lexie
01 Cally (Britbird)
01 Issy
01 MJH
01 Caroline (Nightwriter)
01 Laurie (Nartje)
01 Colin


01 Eclectica 01-01 Moulding Reality (Nancy) (WINS $100)
02 Eclectica 01-01 Thoughts of an Otherwise Nature (Nancy)
03 Eclectica 01-01 Getting Bendy With Apeneck Sweeney (Nancy)
04 Eclectica 01-01 The Clock Has Struck 13 (Nartje) Wins $50
05 Eclectica 01-01 Footballers (Fleur) Wins $25
06 Eclectica 01-01 Blue (Colin Upton)
07 Eclectica 01-01 Yellow (Tom Conoboy)
08 Eclectica 01-01 Updike Messes With the Wrong Steward (Dave Prescott)
09 Eclectica 01-01 Shock and Awe (Dave Prescott)
10 Eclectica 01-01 Night Classes (Alex)

11 Eclectica Fiction 01-01 Rules Rules Rules (Walter)
12 Flashquake 01-01 Waiting For Kate ("Laura Sixpence")
13 Cadenza Magazine "Ten" Lexie £200
14 Cadenza Magazine "African Story" Fleur £50
15 Leaf Books "The Greengrocer's Apostrophe" Lexie £200
16 "The Devil" at Opium (by Jason Jackson)
17 TomC's second place story at Mad Hatters Won £100?

Two more small payments totalling $35

15 Prompts, 0900 Sunday Frantic Flas

Here They Are and Good Luck.

Up Too Early, A Day to Die

The Open University Tutorial on Terrorism 101

How Not to Read

Deadwood, on Stage

The Mouse That Thought

Choose China, Charming Charles

A Rose, a Name, By Any Other

Thou Art Whole, and I, I am Undone

If Music Be the Food of Love, What's a take-Away at One in the Morning?

Tennis With Dennis

The Budgie With a Badge

The Scent of Chrysanthemums

Here Cum Dee Train

General: Did You Come Here to die?
Soldier: Nah Sir, I cummed yer Yester DIe

Nuclear Chocolate


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Saturday Night (21:00) Flash Prompts

Here they are!


Dinner With Saddam

The Mother of All Headaches

Bluetooth and Other Bastards

Ice-Skating for Lunatics

Swimming to the Azores

A Blessing, a Dressing, a Settling, and Down


Half Welsh, Half Scottish, Half Irish, Can't Do Sums

Twice a Half of Two-and-a-Half

Kissing Barney Stone

A Kidney? You're Kidding Me

You Put Your Left Leg in, You Bring Your Left Leg Out, But Still Your Yogi Doesn't Love You

Brown, Vicar


Grinding On

Frantic Flash Weekends are tough with six sets of prompts going out, stories coming in and being read and marked within a few hours. Eight so far received and more tonight, then three session tomorrow!


Boot Camper Michael J Hulme has a story accepted, coming out on BBC Radio Norfolk February 14th (the big softy). This takes the Boot Camp total for the year to 14 hits.

Michael Recently at an Award Ceremony

019 Stories
096 Story Critiques
070 Flashes
281 Flash Crits
108 Submissions
014 Hits
027 Rejections
003 Paper Publications
013 Web Publications
016 Total Publications
001 First Prizes
001 Runner-Up Prizes
000 Third Prizes
003 4ths, HRs, Named Finalists
005 Total Prizes and Named Finals

Nothing spectactular this year, just good solid work and a lot of stuff going out there, with a LOT of competition entries. Hopefully we will see a turn-up in fortunes later in the year when the early work starts to bear fruit.

We have 4-5 brand new members this year, obviously with a lot to learn. Soon we have to start "persuading" them to send stuff out and become creatures of habit. Write, rewrite, submit!

Do You Have an Apple Computer & a PDA?

The PLEASE tell me how to synchronise mine. One minute they appear to be talkingto each other via Blue tooth and then they say they don't exist, I don't exist, Newbury has disappeared and there's no such place as the United Kingdom.

These problems I could do WITHOUT!

Hey I found this, an old contact sheet, hopelessly damaged, but


Frantic Flash Prompts at 1800 Saturday 14th

Here's the evening prompts. Have fun and good luck.

Moldo the Magnificent (on his nights off)

Jack in the Doldrums

Circumnavigating the Globe Solo With a Friend

Peach, Vanilla, Peach

Seven Lucky Breakaways

Acceleration is On

Chimney Cheese

The Invoice

Focus, In Focus, Out-of-Focus


Jimmy Jewell and The Travers Girls

Silent Night, What a Fight

The Soft, Slow Drip of Blood of Night

Frantic Flash Prompts

Eczema and Other Joys

The Blonde, the Redhead, The Brunette, and Two Pounds of Butter


The Nigerian Who Really Did Have Millions to Get Out of the Country

4AM, Tea, Self-Pity

Jack Spratt, Would Eat No Fat

Run It Up the Flagpole, See Who Salutes

Cake, Lobotomy

Gently, Gently Down the Stream

Acid, Sugar, to Mars, Ping-Pong

Fifi the Flea, Fell in Love, With a Clown From a Flea Circus

In a Hole, Still Digging


SCREEN OFF CHALLENGE: With screen on, type: The Light is Red, Weeping, Bleeding


people using this prompt may take an extra five minutes (to tidy) BUT MUST SEND IN THE RAW VERSION OF THE STORY (UNTIDIED) AT LEAST FIVE NINUTES BEFORE THE NORMAL DEADLINE.

That is you must send in the unedited version by 70 minutes, but have until 80 minutes to send the tidied up version. WE MUST RECEIVE BOTH VERSIONS, ONE IN 70, SECOND WITHN 80. (This is to prevent cheating).

Frantic Flash Advice

(78 Minute Warning)

Frantic Flash Prompts at 0900

When Boot Campers and others raised money for Children in Need, they wrote a flash an hour for up to 30 Hours straight. Already 35 of those flashes have placed and many others are out there under submission.

In my own case I think at least half of the flashes are solid/good and maybe 5-6 are really good. Those I have sent to good competitions.

For those who have never tried writing fast to a deadline, consider it. You may "freeze" the first few times, but once you learn to "let go" your unconscious will surprise you.

THIS was a flash, and THIS and THIS

Flashwriting (one word) releases ideas and attitudes that often surprise us. We break away from the obvious and predictable. The unconscious is a powerful place. We should use it more!

When you see prompts, don't dive in, but also don't think too hard. Read all the prompts and "stay loose". Allow the bizarre combinations to enter your spirit. Roll them around, join prompts together. The harder you think, the more concrete, the worse will be your story.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Life? Don't Talk to Me About Life.

I was listening last night, to an Open University CD, support material for the A103 Arts/Humanities Foundation Course. It wasn't exactly rocket-science stuff but interesting for any number of reasons.

In Flanders Fields (by John Macrae)
Memorial Tablet (Siegfried Sassoon)
Where Have All the Flowers Gone (Pete Seeger)
Universal Soldier (Crucified by Buffy St Marie)
Futility (Wilfred Owen)

Then Benjamin Britten mashing that poem with some over-the-top arrangement

What struck me was remembering how, as a youngster songs like "Universal Soldier", "Eve of Destruction", "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", "It's Good News Week" (and God Help me, stuff like "Let's Go to San Franscisco") were, at the time, DEEP & MEANINGFUL whereas in fact they are trivial, simplistic, lacking depth or reality.

Hey, I LIKED these songs, but are they naive, or what?

But what struck me was the pop-idealism (and the fact that they were hits) (and the fact that at the time they "mattered" to me) is paralleled to some extent with what I see winning short-story competitions.

The tidy, neat, with a touch-of-rhythm, a quick-simple "hit" of an idea, instantly accessible, nothing-to-ponder. Smooth vanilla that doesn't frighten the competition readers, with a tiny flourish, almost the equivalent of a great single line in a song, or a memorable riff. In the end though, the songs were mere feel-good, transient, making no changes.

Do we imagine, for example, that after hearing "Eve of Destruction" soldiers put down their rifles and walked away?

I have a theory that many readers for competitions are excited by stories that they think THEY could write (on a good day, with a following wind, downhill). Stories that are MORE than this; rich, complex, challenging, deep, or languaged are "frightening" or the reader perhaps feels "insulted".

My way of dealing with difficult stuff when I was younger was to ATTACK it, to disparage. It was "lah-dee-dah" or "posh crap" or "poofy public-school stuff". The writers were "disappearing up their own arses". This wasn't WRITING, wasn't COMMUNICATION. It was just poncing around.

But then I loved Mickey Spillane books back then and then moved up to Dick Francis. I probably would have devoured Harry Potter whereas these days the very mention makes me think of kittens, knotted sacks and stinking canal water.

So rich, right?

No, not necessarily.

It's more about truth, honesty, clarity.

Last night, for the first time, I heard the Britten butchering of the Owen poem. It was like finding a perfect piece of delicate fish and dropping it in a barrel of cheap curry sauce. All those sopranos lathering on the latin mass, and then some horrendous middle-class operatic baritone, all performance and no heart, somehow managing to take away all the raw simplicity, the power, the sadness.

I felt like I was sitting in the back of a Rolls Royce and my fellow passengers were looking out and saying, "Ooooh, POOR people!"

Fuck that.

Underneath, poem, song, story, we must have a story that matters. Everything else should be subordinate. That doesn't mean I never use "language" (in the sense that the story is obviously word-heavy)...

Jack Sherman's word today is miasma. He is thinking of the morningfaint stench of misplaced semen, pussy, of feet and toenails and armpits, visitors, paper, print, of red wine drying to a sediment in glasses by the sink, the tiny ozones of television, carpetmites and spilled coffee, aerosol-dampened shit, wash'n'go, exhaust fumes, tyre-slick, colours of sirens, CD residue, atoms.

Yesterday - (milieu) - Jack had thought of lies, protestations, fabrications and confabulations, of subtle underdigging, of sexgame alluding, of hurt and scathe and fluttering, the words first. He thought of proximities, knees which parted, pale hamstrings flashing, of stretches, openings, arms, mouths, legs (briefly), fingers flexing, intellects and raw ape.

I critiqued a story in Boot Camp today (that was depressing) and it was Benjamin Brittened. Whatever story there might have been was swamped by the "performance".

The author was aiming at tricksy techniques, not because they added meaning, but because they seemed cool. We had big words, "clever" allusions and the result was that after a little while ALL WE SEE IS THE WORDS.

But worse, the more we concentrate on performance, the less attention we pay to content, to the plot, the structure, the actual themes.

In the end I trashed the story and I await the backlash (others rated it).

It seems to me that much of literature is the Universal Soldier, dittyish, cute, superficially attractive, or it's the Britten end. All sauce, no food for the soul. The best example of that must be the laughable, appalling Booker winner this year.

Banville and Rowling should be put in the sack together, and dropped quietly in that canal...


Frantic Flash Time!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Frantic Flash This Saturday and Sunday

Seventh Quark has had 7 Frantic Flash Competitions and one FF for an iPod. After a little break they are back, this weekend and again at the beginnig of February.

There are six time slots.


Saturday and Sunday

Entrants get the prompts by email (and they are displayed on the 7Q site and here). They then have 75 minutes to send in a story using one or more of the prompts. If they email me to say "I'm in!" they get until the 80th minute.

Marks are posted very rapidly and the shortlist should be posted around midnight Sunday.

Entry is £5 per flash (£5:50 if paid by PayPal) and the prize is guaranteed to be £50 or higher. Currently we have 20 sign-ups but some may well enter more than one story. The Prizes may reach £100 if the usual last-minute entries turn up.

Contact Alex at alex.keegan@btconnect.com


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Just a Technical Hitch

Not a happy bunny here. Think I have the bug that hit my kids on the weekend.

And my incoming email has been 95% down now for almost two days.

Infuriatingly it lumbers into life and dribbles out emails, but from any one of three or four days, no sequences and makes the senders seem mad. (Well, most of my correspondents are a bit loopy.)

I'm feeling a bit "critted out" at the moment. 47 Flash crits, 11 BC Story crits, one crit of a 4,000-worder for a client and another 31 Flashes/Stories read and critiqued since the 23rd Dec. That's 90 and this weekend there'll be 20-50 Flashes in the latest Frantic Flash to read and shortlist.

Response from others on the BBC World Service Winners is a bit slow. I scored one story 62 (being kind) another 95. (The threshold for a paper publication is 110, meaning I don't think two of the winners is PUBLISHABLE!)

So far only heard about one other story and my correspondent said, "some of the metaphors made me wince".

Do you, like me wonder who the hell JUDGES these competitions?

I read the winner of the latest Rhys Davies Awards (in Wales) and was shocked by the "quality" of the winning story. It was a cheap, immature story of a sad, near-cocky, teenager looking at a young "slag" on a bus a la Little Britain.

The winner was a young writer, and maybe she had promise, but I know the calibre of some of the writers who submitted to that competition and got nowhere and I'm bewildered by the choice.

It's a common topic for discussion in Boot Camp when new results come out. The most common word is, "Huh?"


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Can they READ at the BBC?

A quiet day (makes a change) and the 60th and 61st flash landed and the 240th crit followed.

Someone at BC posted the URL for the BBC World Service Short Story Competition Winners

Here they are!

I've read one (and I am still recovering). Have any readers of this blog read any?

I'll swap comments but I'm not sure if I can post what I think here without starting an international incident.


and now I've read another. OK it's not as bad as the first, but heck, are these really, truly the best five stories submitted? From how many thousands. If these are the best, what about the rest?


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More Work, and Another Small Hit

Poem accepted for Leaf's "Out of Love" anthology takes us to 12 Hits for the year to date.

Our second story deadline is Sunday, when we should get 8-15 stories in and probably have passed 100 Flashes by then. It will be time for a writing-breather soon!

Also passed 100 submissions for the year

015 Stories
096 Story Critiques
059 Flashes
214 Flash Crits
100 Submissions
012 Hits
026 Rejections
003 Paper Publications
012 Web Publications
015 Total Publications
001 First Prizes
001 Runner-Up Prizes
000 Third Prizes
002 4ths, HRs, Named Finalists
004 Total Prizes and Named Finals

BC 2006 has a few total newbies but they seem to have dropped into the right attitude straight away.

ie work damn hard and be ruthlessly honest, leave your ego at the door.



Another small hit for Chrissie and another paper publication, this time for Lexie Fox, her competition winner "The Greengrocer's Apostrophe" coming out at Leaf Books

This takes BC figures for 2006 to:

015 Stories
065 Story Critiques
055 Flashes
190 Flash Crits
092 Submissions
010 Hits
024 Rejections
003 Paper Publications
012 Web Publications
015 Total Publications
001 First Prizes
001 Runner-Up Prizes
000 Third Prizes
001 4ths, HRs, Named Finalists
003 Total Prizes and Named Finals

$385 not including Lexie's Prize at Leaf (logged in 2005)

Early-Morning Prompts & Stuff

Up at 06:00 (went to bed at 03:00) Oh JOY!

Had it been a brilliantly successful writing night I could feel pleased, but it wasn't. Instead I spectated what happened when an Internet "Literary Zine" posted to a writers site about its soon to be announced writing school.

One "teacher" was selling her "brilliant" approach-letter system. This system had got (she said, and don't forget this is her advertising!) 22 publishers/agents from 65 approached to look at her manuscript.

This resulted in (try not to get excited) another twenty or so rejections and the author eventually being taken on by an "agent".

The fact that the agent is "not recommended" by Predators & Editors and the fact that the manuscript remains resolutely UNSOLD, and the fact that this "teacher" has never sold ANY fiction didn't seem to worry these deluded folk.

Quite rightly, a few people on the board asked for some writing credits. The cheek, eh?

The result was the sudden appearance of strange new names chastising these ingrates for "flaming" and "negativity". Then along came a HEAVYWEIGHT, a masculine-sounding "big-name writer" with TWENTY YEARS EXPERIENCE and represented by an (alleged) big agency.

Surprise! After twenty years, this superstar had still not actually SOLD a novel, and "his" name did not actually appear on the agency listings "because the work wasn't sold yet".

A few minutes surfing revealed that this heavyweight author of twenty years experience had published a little bit of erotica (you too can join the website for $29.99 a month) and "women's short romantic fiction" (womag stories to you and me) under a pseudonym.

Now we all start somewhere. I love helping beginners. But these "beginners" are setting themselves up to TAKE YOUR MONEY as teachers. If I am going to pay someone to teach me I expect them to be damn good at what they do. In the writing world that means they should be published at a level as high and higher than the level I am aiming at.

This is the second time this year (and the year is ten days old!) that I've been canvassed by a very low-level ezine run by editors with appalling standards, asking me would I like to be taught (for money) by clowns who either cannot write at all or write cheap shit that sells on the web or appears in dreadful showcases.

Maybe I was lucky but my first query letter had a serious publisher write back and got me a three book deal. This was the first publisher I approached (Hodder-Headline in the UK) and I didn't have an agent.

Look Here

Boot Camp Early-Morning Prompts

The Teacher & the Internet

Grit Lit

Pastry and Other Distractions

Blame it on the Bossa Nova

On the Street Where You Live

A Long Way in a Mini

The Fraud, the Charlattan the Thief and the Internet Publisher



Four & Twenty Virgins and Mike Energy, East Grinstead

Monday, January 09, 2006


No hits to report today but the Boot Campers are writing faster than I can critique, and critiquing faster than I can log the crits.

(I always log things because that way nobody can cheat.)

It's amazing how much harder people THINK they have worked than the actuality.

Facts are cool.

9th January and we have passed 260 critiques. Admittedly 190 of them are skimpy feedback on flashes (but we are not a workshop, so that's fine) but the work keeps coming. Just remember a few months down the line when the hits start coming in, that it's nothing more complicated than sheer hard work, good critical feedback, team-spirit and a never-say-die attitude that gets Boot Camp its results.

Another deadline for STORIES on Sunday, and I take a batch with me to Wales [so the punters get heavy-duty crits and (maybe) editorial feedback to compensate for my temporary absence]. Maybe after a lacing they'll wish I hadn't bothered!

Good news on Capel Bethel with everything proceeding smoothly. This time next year I could be teaching from a pulpit (unless someone offers me silly money for it. Some of them go for thousands of pounds!)

I didn't know Llwyngwyril was a surfer's place and still very close to Cader Idris, and there's a chapel just down the road links back to the 7th Century!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

At Home

I go away for a day and a half and the Boot Campers become human!

While I am SLAVING over a hot story someone posts a photo of their workspace and others follow suit.

It's fascinating to see the range of places/conditions people write under. They vary from scruffy poky cupboards to beautiful, polished precise (and anally neat) drawing rooms where "one writes a little. you know".

I think I'm definitely down at the scruffy-and-cluttered end of the spectrum.

My office is about 17 x 8 and above you can see about a quarter of the books.

When we moved in here the lounge had the wrong dimensions, so we put a wall in with stained glass (note the Kingfisher) and I got the 17x8 "annexe". When the Mrs works from home she is upstairs and about as far away as she can get (well there's always the phone...)

I am a bookaholic and gradually I am walling myself in with bookcases. I started with 3-4 bookcases and eventually ended up with two walls completely covered (actually to the ceiling) then I started bringing some bookcases out from the walls at 90 degrees, then one on the stairs, one in the hall, one in the bedroom. and two each in the kids rooms. Most of the shelves in my offices are packed with books two-deep.

And if I stopped now I am sure I couldn't read them all before I die. What is it about simply OWNING books that feels so important? I read somewhere that book-buying is often a reaction to a deprived childhood. That would make sense in my case, but it's probably BS.

PS Just realised you can't see the Kingfisher.


Portmadoc is CLOSED!

Had to travel to Wales (God's Country) Friday Night, returning early Monday morning ( few bits of maintenance on some log cabins in Snowdonia, and we managed to sell one!)

I had been feeling guilty because two Boot Camp stories had received nine critiques but not my crit. So Friday night I stayed up critiquing (wired from driving fast through the night) and on Saturday I drove into Pormadoc to arrive for 9AM.

There's an Internet Cafe, and your hero was going to post some crits while away. The place was DEAD and the Internet Cafe (I was informed) would open at 09:30. By ten it was still closed and I realised my informant hadn't specified AM or PM.

Good deed scuppered.

But we had an efficient weekend installing a computer and printer into one of the cabins (perfect for a writer's retreat, folks!) and met some friends for lunch and took them to see the chapel, or CAPEL BETHEL to be precise.

When we first saw this place and stepped inside it OOZED feeling. It's full of character and loads and loads of rich wood. I can't wait to bring it back to life and spend time there with friends, or reading and writing.

The minstrel's gallery is lovely, the stairs up perfect. The front of the gallery (is balustrade the best word?) is a piece of turned wood that would cost thousands to buy.

There's an organ there too and young Philip Cave played Phantom of the Opera for us on it!

Look at the WOOD!

Came back to another small hit for a very new Boot Camper ("Issy") who has just managed to place a flash from the Childrenn in Need Night.

By my reckoning that's 34 flashes (at least) that have now been placed.

Back to Normal Monday


Friday, January 06, 2006

Away for a Couple...

The BC gang have just hit 42 Flashes and 150 Flash crits for the year (and 11/72 Stories/Story Crits).

222 Critiques, and something to learn from every one of them

The treadmill never stops!

I have a feeling, however that things will slow down soon, but we can't be too unhappy with 74 subs by January 6th and 53 new pieces, that will soon be going out.

For my sins I have to shoot to Wales tonight, sort out one of the log-cabins, then rush back for my son's big soccer game on Sunday. I LOVE it up there, but not when I drive there (four hours) and 30 hours later, drive back.

Hey I found an old shot of a few Boot Campers at a Kingfisher Barn (Newbury) Course.

After this meal we started talking about some great short stories and I got started on "The Ledge" by Lawrence Sargeant Hall.

I ended up blubbing.


If On a Winter's Night a Traveller

Crawled in late tonight to another pile of flashes to critique. This is beginning to feel like work. That makes 42 flashes posted in 2006 by the group. I just hope they slow down and stop dieting soon.

Wales looms closer. Here is a picture of near the cabin, last winter...

Another small hit tonight, TomC, until recently "BCFree" but now stepped up to the plate. Tom's flash from the Children in Need Marathon "One Kiss" has been accepted for Smokebox.

I must get around to subbing from my output that night. I have a poem from the night in a competition shortly announcing and I had a story in the Leaf Anthology and one in Eclectica.

But being busy-busy-busy can have the effect of distracting a writer from the act (of writing, editing, submitting) (or is that three acts?) BE AWARE OF THE DANGER!!

Set yourself minimum targets and meet them!

Even if that's only 500 words a day (pre-log, we hope) DO THEM


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wales! Wales!

Off to Wales in about ten days running two courses which overlap. We use some delightful log-cabins which sleep 4/5 (sadly I now have to sell two of these, a steal at £52,000 each)

Before I forget, another little hit for relative newcomer Chrissie, a story "Pink Stinks!" accepted by Quicktion.

That takes the year to a healthy:

011 Stories
060 Story Critiques
032 Flashes
098 Flash Crits
073 Submissions
007 Hits
015 Rejections
002 Paper Publications
012 Web Publications
014 Total Publications
001 First Prizes
001 Runner-Up Prizes
000 Third Prizes
001 4ths, HRs, Named Finalists
003 Total Prizes and Named Finals

$385 Earned

The Wales courses are a riot. The poor bastards get AK for about 18-19 hours a day!

We start early, but only have tea and toast, break late morning for "brunch" at Mrs Jones' in the village. Work hard all afternoon, break for a shower etc then go to dinner at Mrs Jones'.

When we come back we usually do at least one flash, talk writing till it comes out our ears, and drink a LOT of wine.

AK usually gets wobbly around 2AM but some of the others (younger, Hah!) seem to get by on virtually no sleep. The flash sessions are brilliant. When you are laced already and there are 3-10 people furiously typing away, and then, not long after you get to read them to the group, it gets WILD!

I have still to place one story from the last course. I could see a book on the shelf (Short Stories Since 1945) and one of the flash prompts I got from that was 1,945 Stored Shorties.

My story was about a man convinced the US Government had kidnapped his girlfriend (only a foot tall) who he loved so desperately. The part where he snuck her into soccer games under his top hat, and the bit about her pygmy lover, had a few going, but it was their love-making that brought the house down.

Problem was (and I'm not kidding) it was supposed to be sad.


0700 Thursday A Few prompts

Busy today. Here's a few prompts to be going on with.

Whipping Boy

They found his teeth and spectacles

The Blackboard Bungle

On the third quack it will br ten to duck, precisely

Oliver's Army, Not a Model

Falling Off the Catwalk

Twelve Reasons Not to Be a Burglar

A story beginning, "Eggs, did you mean EGGS?

Write About "Intelligent Women in History" (if you're stuck, you can...)

HTML for Divorce?

Black Monday, Ruby Tuesday, Sheffield Wednesday

Forty Shades of Green

The Woman Who Couldn't Leave It Alone

Have Fun!


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lots of Work & Another Little Hit

An incredibly heavy day setting up various things for 2006 and dealing with the admin for two new Boot Campers.

But the good news is Seventh Quark Magazine now has an on-line presence and I've started a zine-blog for quality flashes (while, of course, BC trundles on). Recent BC Signee "Nightwriter" tells us she's had a poem accepted by new zine Green Silk

012 Stories
027 Flashes
070 Submissions
006 Hits
015 Rejections
002 Paper Publications
012 Web Publications
014 Total Publications
001 First Prizes
001 Runner-Up Prizes
000 Third Prizes
001 4ths, HRs, Named Finalists
003 Total Prizes and Named Finals
$385 Payments to Date

Personal Stuff

But maybe it means something to writers.

Until yesterday we were the "proud owners" of a BMW X5. Well, actually it was Debbie (my wife)'s Company Car and VERY old. We had to return it and take "something" and ended up with a mini! Talk about "from the sublime to the ridiculous".

We had to do it though. If you want to write what you believe in and not sell out as a cheap local journalist or something, you have to be incredibly lucky and a genius (and I ain't lucky) to make a living. Down-sizing the car will save us about £200 a month. (We're still trying to downsize the house.)

Expect a few anti-gaz-guzzler stories from me now.

How could ANYBODY drive a 4 x 4? Don't they CARE about the planet?


The Return of the Frantic Flash

In 2005 Seventh Quark ran Seven "Frantic Flash" competitions. These were originally scheduled for the first Sunday of the month but then we added the day before! That is NOT "The first Saturday and Sunday of the month because we might have 31st and 1st.

We missed the beginning of January so we are running a Frantic Flash, FF8, on January 14th and 15th.

There will be six available time-slots 0900, 1800, 2100 on both days (Saturday & Sunday) - UK Times.

Interested parties register that interest with AK and then go on the mailing list. At the six appointed times all "entrants" receive a set of flash prompts by email, plus they will be displayed on the 7Q Web Site, here, and in the Public Area of Boot Camp.

Entrants will have 75 Minutes to write a flash and submit it to AK and/or the competition secretary.

We ask entrants to confirm they are "in" as soon as they have received their emailed prompts. In the event of a blow-out and no story we would stil like the £5 please!

Finalists are announced by midnight Monday. Winners & Places within 2-3 days.

Entry is £5 by UK Cheque, £5:50 by PayPal.

Entrants can enter 1-2-3-4-5- or 6 slots but a payment is due for each time. Because some people enter 4 or more times we do NOT limit entrants from winning more than one prize.

Unusually, all entrants can meet up after the sessions and on the Monday in a private forum and discuss the stories and the process. This will be a non-public annexe of Boot Camp.

Prizes will be at least 50% of the entry pool and are expected to be £50-£100 in the first few competitions. Winners and places are eligible for publication in Seventh Quark Magazine ans shortly you will be able to see some early winners/places on our sister blog, "Seventh Quark Mag On Line".


Another BC Hit

Chrissie, one of our newer members from Spain tells us she's got a flash accepted at Smokebox; out in a coupla weeks

Our fifth hit of 2006

Lexie tells us that two of hers recently published have earned a few pennies ($35) meaning we've hit $385, which is slightly better than a smack in the face with a kipper.

011 Stories, 45 Crits
027 Flashes, 85 crits
062 Submissions
005 Hits
013 Rejections
002 Paper Publications
012 Web Publications
014 Total Publications
001 First Prizes
001 Runner-Up Prizes
000 Third Prizes
001 4ths, HRs, Named Finalists
003 Total Prizes and Named Finals


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Few Comps Closing Soon

05 January Writers Forum

£10 Entry
Prizes £300-£150-£100.
Word-Length (1500-3000)

14 January Leaf Books: Short Stories for Children

£10 Entry
First Prize £200
Max Length 3,000 words

14 January Chapter One Promotions

£8 Entry
Prizes £2500-£1000-£500
Max Length 2,500 words

Glimmer Train

That's the home page for Glimmer Train.
It's a very tough set of competitions they run and the next one closes January 31st and is for very short fiction. They take on-line submissions and payment and have a neat manuscript audit trail.

31 January Glimmer Train
$10 Entry
Prizes $1200-$500-$300
Max Length 2000 words


Very Short Fiction Award

We are interested in reading your original, unpublished stories! (We don't publish stories for children, I'm sorry.) Multiple submissions are fine. (You can send more than one submission per competition, if you like, or submit the same story for different categories, if it qualifies). Please, no simultaneous submissions. When we accept a story for publication, we are purchasing first-publication rights. (Once we've published your story, you are free to, for instance, include it in your own collection.)


November 1st – January 31st.
Results on May 1st.

May 1st – July 31st.
Results on November 1st.

Reading Fee:
$10 per story.

1st place wins $1,200,
publication in Glimmer Train Stories,
and 20 copies of that issue.

2nd/ 3rd-place: $500/$300, respectively.

Other considerations:

Open to all writers:
Stories not to exceed 2,000 words.

31 January Cotswold Writers £5 £500 Prize?

A Boot Camper won this last year and the prize then was £500

I'll see if I can confirm details Wednesday, but this is off the web.

Cotswold Writers' Circle Open Writing Competition.
£200, £75 and £25 are on offer.
Prose 1,000 words max.
Closing date 31 January.

The winner will be published in the anthology Pen Ultimate.
Copies from the address below, £2.50 post-free.

Cotswold Writers' Open Competition,
Beeches Park,
Hampton Fields,

It's Early: A Few Flash Prompts

Feel free to borrow BC's early-morning flash-prompts today. Eyeball these, then write for 50-70 minutes. Don't think, respond. Let your unconscious play.

Tidy it later!

A Fight to End All Fights

The Well

Mummy, Mummy, Don't Throw Me Down the Lift-Shaft, Lift-Shaft, Lift-Shaft

The Subtle Art of Friction

Tomatoes, Flamingos, Lemmings & Other Interesting Facts

Walking to the Sun

A story beginning: "Sometimes it's best to just say it's over

Communal Birthing

A Dove, a Blood-Red Sky

Champion, The Wonder-Gerbil

Black-White, Red; Black-White, Red.


Monday, January 02, 2006

More Good News

I can't say I love all this admin, but we had another newcomer join Boot Camp today from Saudi. We now have two members from there, one in the Ukraine, two in Spain, another from Canada, one from the US, one in Wales!

British Member Cally announces she's had an acceptance from print magazine Aesthetica, out in February. Cally is doubly-pleased as she had only just scored her first-ever print hit in Leaf's CIN Anthology.

BC Stats are now, 12 Stories, 25 Flashes, 71 Critiques, 50 Submissions, 12 Rejects, 4 Hits, 2 Prizes $350

Beacon Hill

It was damn cold up there yesterday and windy too. The picture at the top of this post is Bridie with Debbie trying to get out of the picture. She says if I post this she'll divorce me. Anyone know a good lawyer?

The one below here is the two kids almost getting on with each other.

PJ (son Alex) Looking Taller Every Day

Just had an enquiry from Mallorca, would I run a course there.

I'LL RUN COURSES ANYWHERE as long as the money covers things and I get a decent bed! Watch this space for details if that one comes off.


09:00 Flash Prompts

I haven't done my pre-log-on writing yet (but had to post prompts for Boot Camp) so I thought why not post them here?

How long we get varies. It's been 45 minutes, an hour, 100 minutes and 75.

My belief is 75 is the longest you should ever have. Longer and the thinking reverts to the way people are when told to write a story. They think too much. To Flash VERB is about speed, about letting go, about allowing the unconscious to make connections you don't get by thinking hard.

So 60 or 75 minutes is my recommendation. Read the flashes, or print the list, go make a cup of tea (all costing you time) and then start to write, even if the piece feels like it will be crap.

Use 1, 2, 3 or many prompts. Just let go.

99 Death Street and The Black Dog

100 Postage Stamps

But Ought's as Far Away From Is and Does as Is and Was Lives maybe Far Behind

Parrot & Parrakeet

Here's Another Ending

Butter & Bread, Bread & Butter

The Sewers Beneath Our Pretty Streets


A Month With No Internet, NO Internet

Wrong Number, You Wish

Young Hear Crying

When the Women Come Out to Dance