Sep 20th

Random question re Women's magazine publication

By Catasshe

Dear all, 

This may seem a silly question, but a little while ago, when particularly strapped for cash, I started considering submitting stories to women's magazines. (Years ago I had a short story published in The Lady magazine, before they stopped doing a short story slot.)

So, a few weeks ago, I bought a bunch of magazines to check the type of stories they're printing - Take a Break, TaB's Fiction Feast, The People's Friend, Women's Weekly. I was really disappointed by the calibre of the stories, which I can only describe as a bit 'fast foodish'. Some were downright cringeworthy... All predictable. 

However, I have just written something that may be suitable for a women's magazine - being a romance, and light in tone. (Although, maybe a bit too ironic/clever for what they're looking for...)

In short, I'm having a dilemma. I don't feel as though, from a literary perspective, it's anything like as cool to put on the writerly CV that I got into TaB, for example. But, then again, I've read they can pay up to £400 for a short story... and they have a huge circulation.

Does anyone have any thoughts on whether it's worth trying to taylor the stories I'd naturally write to fit what the mags are looking for? Or is this something I might regret long term...? What would a mainstream publisher feel about seeing the women's weekly type mags on your CV?




Sep 14th

Vanishing Point

By Dolly

When I was young I was advised to travel. 'Travel broadens the mind, widens your view of the world you live in.' At least, that is what I was told. So I did. I went to big places, small places, empty places, packed to the wall and ceiling places, obscure places, strange places, felt the loneliness of crowds, the vibrating streets, and coughed in the grime of the traffic, mauling river-split cities.

Now I'm old. I have a broad mind. My view of the world is so wide, that I can see both sides of the road, as far back as the shadow of the trees, and the push of rivers. As far back as the sculptured, sometimes rugged, mountainous landscape, that stops at the sea, and the whisper of the muttering tide. I can also see the vanishing point, a place I shall become intimately familiar with in the near future, when I begin the adventure that involves my demise.


This is the third blog I've posted to to with death, having just turned 76 probably has something to do with it, and I can see it coming, not in a macabre or morbid way either, in fact, I'm starting to find it interesting. Body slowly breaking down, mind and senses at times, not quite working right. When I was young I was immortal. I was going to live forever, well, that is what it seemed like.

Sep 13th

Whispers and Glances

By Athelstone

I intended to post this on Friday 15 September, but I’m ready to go so why wait?

Many of you know that AlanP started a series of short story challenges that ran from autumn until the first sign of spring was in the air the following year. Alan decided to step down after several tremendously successful years and I am now having a crack at it. I’m very grateful to Alan and I have shamelessly stolen many aspects of his approach to the challenge. However, for it to be a success I am relying on you.

The challenge is to write an original short story following a theme that I provide. There will be plenty of time to complete this and at the end of the allotted period for writing, you are asked to decide on your favourites from those stories written by the other contestants. Your choices, together with those of all the other writers are used to decide on a winning entry and two runners-up.

That’s the formal bit, but in many ways not the important bit. My experience is that it’s one of the most engrossing, satisfying and rewarding ‘contests’ that I’ve ever been in. There’s something very special about working on a story over this length of time, about seeing the other stories posted, getting to know them and the people who wrote them.

The challenge begins with a bit of fun that will also stretch you – just a bit. I don’t reveal the theme. Not at first. In addition you need to make a number of choices, three, that influence how your story will unfold, but you won’t know what the choices mean until the theme is revealed. And that’s a bit of a tester. In short, I’m suggesting you sign up to a short story challenge with no idea of the theme and committed to a set of choices that have implications that you don’t understand either. Who on earth would do that?

There’s a new group called Whispers and Glances. Seek it out and the topics that I’ve posted there will explain everything. If you fancy having a go, join the group and take a leap in the dark by making some choices. The group is open now, but in a few weeks I shall close it and nobody else will be able to enter the challenge. That’s when the theme will be revealed and the choices make sense.


Have a look. What harm can it do?

Sep 12th

Stories for Homes 2 - update

By Debi

We have a launch date for the e-book anthology for SfH2: 28 September. The paperback will be launched in November. We can then start raising serious money for Shelter. SfH1 raised over £3000 and we're hoping to double that this time.

Please check out the website. There are tabs for the online anthology (free stories on the theme of home), real life stories, stories from the frontline (a series of articles by a professional who works with homeless people) and a news page, which will be regularly updated.

There are many Cloudies among the authors and other supporters of the project and everyone can get involved by joining our Thunderclap if you're on FB, Twitter and/or Tumblr. If you join up, you're giving Thunderclap permission to send one tweet or post from your account on 28 Sept - e-book launch date - giving us the best chance to get the hashtag #SfH2 trending. It only takes a minute to sign up and is completely legit and safe to do. Please do join us and help us to make a difference.




Sep 12th

Adverbs (and adjectives)

By Catasshe

I'm currently engaged in a heated debate with my mother on the use of adverbs. Her comedic story is littered with 'firmly', 'gradually' and 'dangerouslies'... I'm trying to convince her that all these need to go, but she remains grimly (that's one of hers too...) unconvinced.

She argues that these words lend colour, while I argue that they are redundant, annoying, and lead to more telling end less showing. 

Is this 'no adverb' thing really a modern fashion? I have a feeling older novels may have used more of them. (Fielding, Austen and the like) 

Is it true adverbs are coming back into fashion in popular fiction?

I personally agree with Stephen King about them... how they're like dandelions. What are your views on adverbs (and adjectives) Cloudies?

Sep 9th

parlour tricks

By mike

This is for Jackie and is about ghosts and the theatre.  It is about a  play I saw last month. The chances of anybody seeing this play are slim, so I’ve tried a sort of  precis but teachers might be a bit more accurate.  I am reading all the way though the Father Brown  stories and many of these involve spiritualism and ghosts of a kind.  Chesterton seems to use the same ambiguity as Walter De La Mare.  The plots are  similar to a TV series called Jonathan Creek which is about someone who exposes events of a supernatural nature as parlour tricks.  But the theatre often uses the ambiguity of Walter De La Mare or Chesterton rather than tricks of a theatrical nature.  

   Last night I attended a production of ‘Follies’  This is a musical by Stephen Sondheim and it  is being staged at the ‘National Theatre.’  I can assure you I am not rich.  I had passed the theatre in the morning and there was one free seat at the back of the dress circle which was one of their day seats. If you wish to see this  production,  it will be a live screening at a cinema near you.  But ghosts often appear in theatrical productions - even in modern plays.  I remember a recent production of an early Arthur Miller play in which the author appears; inspecting his own youth.  Who is  - are - the ghosts?

    In ‘Follies’ , a  group  of aging theatrical troupers attend a party at a Broadway theatre that is to be demolished.  Their younger selves also attend the party.  I was at the top  of a very large theatrical space, and my view would not be the same as someone in the stalls, for whom the production might be more brightly coloured;  but their younger selves were portrayed in a way that is similar to  ghosts.  The ghosts view their older selves silently with what seems to be sadness.  The men wear the clothes of the thirties compared with the black dress suits of the modern party.  The women appear as the troupers - the singers and dancers of the ‘Follies- the farces of the Broadway of the thirties.   The two groups interact.  If there is a message in the play it would be to avoid theatrical  folk.

   But this blog is about a production at the Globe I saw about a month ago.  There seems to be no photographs of the production and there were only three performances, but that does not mean it will not be staged again.  ( ‘Mrs Orwell’ has moved from a pub theatre to another fringe theatre in South London and might well move around  England, and even abroad,

   The play at the Globe was ‘The Woman in the Moon’ by  John Lily who, according to the notes provided by the company, was the Oscar Wilde of the  Elizabethan age, though having seen the production and, taking into account the relationship between the theatre and the court, Noel Coward might be a more suitable comparison. John Lily ‘allegedly’ was a big influence on Shakespeare and, in particular, A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

    The play was staged in a small Jacobean theatre - The Sam Wanamaker theatre  - and there are plenty of images of this theatre on google.  The only prop is a round bed on which lay a body,  This prop is on the  stage when you entered the theatre.   I splashed out and got a pit seat which meant I was some dozen feet from the actors,  The term ‘shared space’ is used to describe these productions and the only light is provided by candles.  This is one of the smallest theaters in London.  All the seats are uncomfortable and church pews are a joy in comparison.  But there are compensations - brilliant accoustics to begin with.

   Mortals appear  and wish for a woman. They supplicate the  moon - nature.  Nature grants their wishes and appears in a costume which might have suggested Elizabeth !!  The body on the bed is the  Eve figure,  The company decided on a restrained birth and their is no suggestion of Frankenstein’s monster or biblical miracles with waving candles etc.  Nature merely breathes into the corpse.

   The mortals   wear Wellington boots, pullovers and shorts - to suggest yokels, I suppose. They are delighted with Eve, but who is to  have her?  The, planets are not amused.  Their authority has been usurped and a farce ensues in which Eve is given the temperaments of each of the planets - Mars etc.  Mayhem ensues. The mortals are dismayed and the planets amused.  But the play is consummately plotted and the cast spoke the lines clearly and slowly.

   The planets are portrayed in modern dress, with attributes according to their temperaments,  with a nod, I think, towards celebs.  They wear sunglasses and when they put these on, Eve takes on their respective temperaments.   Eve finally chooses folly as her temperament and a preference to be a mortal with mortal failings.

    I enjoyed the play but I can see it might be of minority interest.  I’ve written this from memory, but think I got the play roughly right.  From Jackie’s point of view, the play would be a party at which Gods attend,

   There are two film versions of ‘The Clash of the Titans’ and the early one portrays the Gods in a way that Ancient Greeks might understand whereas a later version is just special affects.





Sep 7th

Dr Hairy and the QCQ, Part 7

By Edward Picot

Crapzy image (Dr Hairy & the QCQ, part 7)
The seventh in a new series of puppet-animations about the life and misadventures of an ordinary (but rather hirsute) GP.
Grabber's mother goes through a bright door, Grabber comes into some property, and Dr Hairy's outspoken email about the results of his QCQ inspection finds its way to the Department of Health - with hilarious results!
YouTube -
Vimeo -
- Edward Picot - personal website

Sep 1st

Party time

By Kate

Some of you may remember an earlier blog I wrote in which I asked for help in furnishing an immortal's house. Your wonderful suggestions brought that scene to life. I'm now in the last chapter of my re-write (gulp) and I'm back in that same house having a party. Immortals have descended on London from all over the world.

My paragraph starts with this. 'A fancy dress party without a theme.'

Any suggestions for outlandish characters and the intricacies of their clothes would be much appreciated.

Aug 31st

Burned, bombed and banned books

By SecretSpi

I had an attack of arty-fartyness last weekend and visited documenta14 in Kassel. It's an exhibition of contemporary art, and the 14 is not to confuse, or be arty, or be behind the times: it's the 14th time that the exhibition has been held.


I was a bit disappointed this time, having visited in 2012 and 2007. I can't put my finger on it, but everything seemed so depressing, predicatable and worthy. I wasn't shocked or surprised. Nothing made me laugh. There was nothing I'd label as outrageous. The closest I got was that an old 1970s Post Office Building in a rather grim part of town is being used as one of the galleries, and the invasion of hipsters and intellectuals wondering whether the Turkish hairdressing salons and Syrian bakeries in the area were real or merely arty installations was priceless.


One work that you can't avoid at documenta14 is from the Argentinian artist Marta Minujin. It's called 'The Parthenon of Books' and is a life-size replica of the original,  built from banned books. A bit different from matchsticks, anyway.


Ms Minujin is no stranger to creating Parthenons Parthena Parthenae - dammit! Where's my Latin O Level when I need it (or is it all Greek anyway ... ?) in that she created something similar in Buenos Aires in 1983 at the time the military junta were on their way out, using confiscated books that were languishing in cellars.


The documenta14-commissioned Parthenon has been erected on the Friedrichsplatz, where two thousand books were burned by the Nazis in the 1930s. In the nearby Friedricarium, which was being used as a library at the time, 350,000 books were lost as a result of an Allied bombing attack in 1941.


A few thousand books destroyed deliberately, or hundreds of thousands as collateral damage: which is worse? A philosophical (or is it ethical?) question to which there is no answer, only opinions.


There is still time, if you like, to supply a book for the Parthenon. It is undeniably an impressive work of art, in its concept and from a distance. Close-up, it's slightly disappointing. If you follow the link at the beginning of this para, you'll see that the books included are based on a shortlist of 170, and there is also a more comprehensive list, currently standing at 120,000, being developed by the University of Kassel. Maybe it is inevitable, but the same books appear again and again in the columns, almost like a product placement or sponsorship from the publisher. The main suspects:


The Germany version of 'Guantanamo Diary' by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. OK - fair dos - I haven't read it but it sounds like something controversial.


'Twilight' and others in the series by Stephenie Meyer. Now ... funnily enough, this doesn't seem to appear on the short or long list although maybe it has been banned as being an affront to literature, somewhere.


In fact, there were a few books that many would think were banned for good reason and should stay so. I expect my son would like to see 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' by Goethe banned once more and no longer forced on German teenagers at school.


I'm still not sure what will happen to the books when documenta14 is over, but I won't be queuing up for a copy of 'Twilight' even if it has been part of a work of art.

Aug 30th

Need help re: agents predilections

By Hilly

A query for all you wonderful Cloudies. If any of you live abroad, do you put your address/foreign telephone number down on the cover letter when you send out submissions? Or might this put prospective agents/publishers off? I know the world has become smaller with emails and the internet, but can this make a difference? Has anyone any experience of this and can advise?

The next query is, I have been long and short-listed in a number of big competitions. Great, eh? The thing is, it’s for different genres and target markets. Should I only let them know about the ones in the same genre or all of them?
Should I also let them know I have written ten novels but in a variety of genres and for different target markets? Or will I simply ‘shoot myself in the foot’ and they’ll think I can’t focus on one consistently?

It’s all a bit tricky, isn’t it. I’d love to hear any views on this as I’m pretty confused right now.


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