If there’s an opportunity to receive a critique in a writing competition, take it.


There are some things in writing you should never pay for.

Never pay agents a reading fee to read your work. That is not how good agents work.

It’s up to you whether you choose to pay for a literary editing service. If you aim to self-publish, it’s probably a very good idea; a good literary editor will push you hard and help you iron out the technical kinks you never knew you had. It’s a lot of expenditure for a full manuscript, but getting an eye cast over those first three chapters can work wonders.

It’s entirely up to you whether you enter writing competitions which charge an entry fee. Check the cost of entry versus the sum of the prize, taking into account the prestige of the competition. If it’s £25 to enter a competition you’ve never heard of and the 1st prize is only £10… forget about it.

If a writing competition offers you a critique as part of either the prize or the entry fee, TAKE IT. Research the judges, obviously. Research the site/resource/publication in general. But they’re offering you gold, so TAKE IT.

I entered the first chapter and synopsis for two unpublished novels to the Novel Rocket Launch Pad Contest.

I didn’t win, but the critiques I was offered were so insightful that I felt like I had won anyway. They ripped my work apart, those master butchers, and they had clearly been wielding their knives with skill and clear-eyed dispassion for some time. They dissembled my musty old cadaver of a first chapter and showed me how to rebuild it into something that will soon not only stand up but walk.

I’ve been on plenty of online writing forums and I’m sure you have too. They’re great. They’re tough. They’re loving.

But they’re NOTHING like this.

This was my very first taste of high-level feedback from industry insiders , with highlighting of action beats and DNA-level sentence structure and stuff I’ve never before seen covered in forum critiques. I felt like Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Aslan strips away his dragon flesh layer by layer, finally returning him to the form of the boy he was meant to be.

Industry-level criticism is objective and it is there to make you improve. If you see an opportunity to get it via a writing competition, you’d be silly not to take it.

It’s a game-changer.

Images that inspire you to write

A friend of mine collects images that inspire her to write. They are mostly sunk sailing ships, or ghost sailing ships, or airborne sailing ships. What can I say, the girl likes ships. Also, she’s writing a novel about the captain of a sailing ship, which may have something to do with it.

I like this photo when I’m scribbling modern urban fantasy.


Etymaulogy: The coining, splicing, ruffling, condensing and mutating of words. Throwing words together to create something new.

When we do this with ideas, it is called inspiration, and the world grows.

When we do this with words, it is called etymaulogy, and the world grows.

Etymaulogy is a word I dreamed up a moment ago. It is an example of etymaulogy.


Protectoplasm – Does it protect you from the other side? Or does it protect the other side from you?

Prewarication – Sniffing round that thing you were meant to do, not approaching it, not entirely sure it is a thing that should be done.

Cornuphobia – The fear of plenty

Further examples of etymaulogy more than welcome 🙂

Top 10 Female Fantasy Writers

I was hugely gruntled to find out that not only are there some really good female fantasy writers out there, there are also more than ten.

A lot, lot more than ten. Oh my days, so many more than ten.

Literally  the only way I could deal with my shame for only including ten of them in this article was to try to fob people off with a joke about bears.

Check out The Top Ten Female Fantasy Authors on the fantastic, feminist book site For Books’ Sake. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and let people know!

They call her Flipper…


So I sent the YA story SEAL GIRL (think Celtic Myths crossed with Mean Girls) to the honey-tasty Buzz Books for their Mythology High series, and they accepted it. And I am truly grateful, because it was written bespoke for them and I’m not sure which other publisher would say “yes, we would like to take a story about a high school swim champion with Type IV syndactyly”.

But they did take it. And they said “will you do some tweaks please to make it a stronger ending?”

And I was all like “Ma’am, yes Ma’am.”

And they liked the tweaks. And then they said “would you maybe like to do a trilogy of reworked Celtic myths?”

And I was all like “Ma’am, yes MA’AM”.

For prospective YA authors, here is the link to the Buzz Books submissions page:

Buzz Books Submissions

TIMELESS blog tour. Win a copy of this ace YA historical romance with steampunks in it!

Buy the TIMELESS YA historical romance anthology on US or UK Amazon for cheap as elegantly cut chips!
TIMELESS author Kip Wilson interviews fellow TIMELESS author D.E. Atwood.  (click for your chance to win a free TIMELESS eBook!)


The first story I started to write was about a girl growing up on an army base in the 1960s who meets a water nymph in the lake behind the base. But the story, even though I could see it all in my head, wouldn’t flow. Then I woke up with the original first line for Roland’s story ringing in my head: The first time he escapes, he doesn’t know how it happens. And just like that, I had a story with fully formed characters in my head ready to burst onto the page and be written.

Just so you know, Kip Wilson did a fascinating reworking of an old German poem, and D.E. Atwood did a blindingly good story about a mute boy undergoing experimental treatment in a sanitorium who discovers that he can speak with the doctor’s son via thoughts and dreams.

You can also read TIMELESS author Kristine Carlson Asselin’s interview with Kip Wilson. Kristine is one of the tag-team duo (including Ansha Kotyk) who wrote STELLA’S HERO, about a Victorian seamstress who gets into trouble for falling from a boy from racially-segregated Chinatown.

And because Pugalicious Press is nothing if not egalitarian, Ansha Kotyk ALSO chatted to Kip Wilson. It’s a great interview because you get to see that old German poem in its full glory. Huzzah!

Under the linden tree

On the heather,

Lay our lovers’ bed,

There you can find

Lovingly broken

Flowers and grass.

Beside the wood in a valley


Sang beautifully the nightingale.

(go to the interview to read more)

Vampires vs Fantasy Orcs

I felt inspired to pen a piece for Mookychick about why I think fantasy appeals to a different part of the psyche than vampire fiction…
Vampires vs Orcs Fantasy Deathmatch – who wins?

The answer is that both fantasy and vampires are amazing and we all do…

Lime Jelly Recipe… In real limes!

To celebrate a few nice short story acceptances here and there (more on that later) I decided to celebrate by turning Monday into a weekend. Time for Glamorous Monday!

I created a brand-new recipe for lime jellies set into actual limes with a liberal dash of tequila to taste (see the tequila lime jelly recipe here, and add alcohol only if you want to).

They turned out beautifully, with such a tart-sweet flavour. I’m off to meet a few friends at the local second-hand bookshop, then we’re going down to have a whimsical picnic and see the Olympic Torch passed through our village (which has had a special stage erected in the middle of the ponds… in the shape of a vast swan).

Let tequila limes and swan times commence!

Buy TIMELESS YA or only £2.66

The new YA historical romance anthology TIMELESS (Pugalicious Press, ed. Joyce Shor Johnson) is out to buy on eBook for only £2.66 (or $4.22 if you’re from the US)!

Buy from UK Amazon: eBook (£2.66)
Buy from US Amazon: eBook ($4.22)

As a contributor I’m biased, but these beautiful stories have an eerie fairytale quality about them when you put them together as a whole, and although they feature young people falling in love the storytelling itself is very adult, very sophisticated. Timeless, yes.

A reworking of the Scheherazade tale that portrays the young storyteller as a gutter-thief down on her luck.

A reworking of an old German tale about a young woman who has to weigh up her love for a poet, her standing in the village and her need for freedom.

A LIGHT OF VICTORY by Jennifer Carson
If your love for a highwayman is eternal, then eternal is what it is. Put a candle in the window, and all will be well…

A prisoner fears to leave the walls of the notorious French prison because of his love for a ghost who is bound to the Bastille’s stone walls.

STELLA’S HERO by Kristine Carlson Asselin and Ansha Kotyk
A Victorian seamstress gets into trouble for falling from a boy from Chinatown when racial segregation is very much prevalent in society.

A mute boy undergoing experimental treatment in a sanitorium discovers that he can speak with the doctor’s son via thoughts and dreams. Very subtle steampunk.

IT LIES BENEATH by Magda Knight
The superficially beautiful city of Victorion is run on lode, steam, pride and the labour of diggers down in the Pits. Challenged to locate a mysterious underground threat, Ellie Darkbrow must find a way to survive.

Why I Love Dystopian YA


Dystopian fiction’s been around for a long time, but cultural anxiety means it’s rearing its head. And it’s especially suited to YA, because events like the zombie apocalypse or the hunger games ask the question that we’re particularly prone to asking when we’re young: “It’s all utter bollocks. Why is nothing being done about it?”

It’s somehow easier to ask this about fascists when they’re carrying laser guns, and self-involved masses when they’re groaning for your brainsssssssss. Or, if they’re vegan zombies, for your grainsssssss*.

With dystopian YA, you can make the whole system come crashing down (usually in a situation where the adults are all dead or ineffectual. Poor adults) and leave the characters and the reader asking themselves: “Just what am I going to do now? Because no-one else is going to do it. Big Ben has been destroyed and the adults are dead/useless/mad-scary. It has to be me.”

Honestly, a crumbled civilisation is terribly empowering. It is.

YA focuses on making decisions that begin to shape who you are, your role in society and what you want out of life. Plant these choices firmly in a dystopia and the consequences of your choices become even more starkly in-your-face than they are on a Sunday night when you realise the next day you have to go back to a school where everyone probably hates you and, because they’re unfortunately real living people not zombies, you can’t despatch them with an incinerator, and not just because you’ve built it all wrong and you haven’t got enough flame fuel.

Because it’s about choices, about strength in the face of adversity, dystopian YA isn’t necessarily pessimistic. Which is good, because I like things like jokes and hope and buttered crumpets, and I think other people do too. Relentless pessimism is relentlessly boring. Why read a book so grimly inevitable that the end sentence is “and they all died but you knew that anyway”?

To follow a story means you want to know what happens next, and that means that situations can be CHANGED. In a seemingly hopeless world, but your choices actually make things BETTER.

Again, empowering. And not entirely unlike the wonderful and complicated world we live in today.

*This joke belongs to Deborah Taylor. I have merely borrowed it for safekeeping.


1984 – George Orwell (best read for the first time when you’re a teen)

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE – Anthony Burgess (some would say this isn’t YA, but Alex and his droogs are older teen protagonists whose entire life is based around playing truant from school to do… other things.)

THE HUNGER GAMES – Suzanne Collins (Yep. Now we all want arrows and moss.)

DIVERGENT – Veronica Roth (lovely lovely feudy feuding tribal gangs)

A PLACE IN THE SUN – absolutely blinding short story by Joanne Harris

JABBERWACK – In the words of Bad Robot Productions, I made this! More choices, pickaxes and shovels than you’ve ever seen in your life, and an amputation in chapter 3. That’s a promise, folks.

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Shannon A Thompson

You need the world, and the world needs good people.

one bow...

Malena Lott Putnam | storyteller. strategist.

D.E. Atwood

...writes books she wants to read...

Kip Wilson Rechea

Write, travel, eat, repeat.

Encyclopaedia Vanitatum

a dictionary of spectral curiosities

Sarah Hans

Author, Editor, Educator

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