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Monday, September 29, 2008

Free Contest for Writers Bureau Students

If you are, or ever have been, a student with The Writers Bureau (the UK's largest distance learning college for writers), here's an opportunity you should definitely check out.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, The Writers Bureau are offering 2000 UK pounds' worth of prizes in their new article-writing contest.

The main condition is that entrants must have taken a course with The Writers Bureau at some point in the last 20 years.

Entry is free, and the prizes are 1000 UKP for the winner, 500 UKP for second place, 200 UKP for third place, and 50 UKP for six runners-up.

Article must be between 700 and 1400 words, and reveal how the author's Writers Bureau course has helped them develop as a writer and how it contributed to their writing career. No prizes for guessing that The Writers Bureau are hoping to get some good new testimonials out of this!

For more information, and to print out an entry form, click here to visit the competition website. The closing date is 31 December 2008, and the winners will be announced on 1 February 2009.

By the way, I used to be a tutor for The Writers Bureau, and also wrote some of their course material. If you want a writing course that includes one-to-one feedback from a personal tutor, in my view they are well worth considering. For more of my musings on this topic, see my blog post Some Thoughts About Writing Courses.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

New Products From WCCL

Many of you will know that this blog is sponsored by the electronic publishing house WCCL. They also sponsor my forum and the online radio station WritersFM.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested to hear about a couple of new products that have just been released by WCCL, even though neither is aimed directly at writers.

The first is called Internet History Cleaner. WCCL describe this as the world's most powerful privacy tool. With just a single keystroke, this software will automatically erase Internet history for Internet Explorer or Firefox, wipe clean all Windows history, and erase all popular program histories.

Internet History Cleaner is one of WCCL's growing range of Internet security and privacy products. Visit their Privacy Central website to see the whole set.

The other new product is of particular relevance to UK citizens. It's a new guide all about the British medical environment called NHS Secrets.

NHS Secrets is packed with tips on how to get healthcare from the NHS on a par with private health, including how to access shorter waiting lists, how to get free dentistry, and even how to get free cosmetic surgery. The author is an expert on how to get maximum value for money from the NHS - which, remember, YOU pay for via your taxes.

As with all WCCL products, 100% satisfaction guarantees apply, and 24/7 support is available from their customer support website at

If you've bought any WCCL products in the past, you'll know that the quality is uniformly excellent and the customer service first rate. If you could benefit from either of these products, in my view it's well worth checking them out now while the launch discounts still apply.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Search Me!

Just a quickie to let you know that you can now search My Writing Blog using the dedicated Google search box in the right-hand column.

Simply scroll down the page to find it. Here's a screengrab to make locating it even easier...
You can use any of the normal Google search commands to narrow down your search. For example, if you put a search term in double quotation marks, only pages from my blog including that exact term will be listed.

If you want to find all the pages of my blog that refer to my course Quick Cash Writing, say, just enter "Quick Cash Writing" in the search box and click on Search.

I actually added this feature for my own convenience, as with nearly 400 posts on the blog now, it can get quite hard otherwise to remember when I posted a particular item. But I hope - and expect - it will prove useful for readers as well.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Amazon Vine Review: The Painted Man

I recently read and reviewed my latest book from the Amazon Vine programme. I thought perhaps you might be interested to see it.

The book in question is The Painted Man, by Peter V. Brett. It's the first book in a planned trilogy of fantasy novels. With certain minor reservations I found it an enjoyable read. Here's a (slightly edited) version of my review.

The Painted Man is the first book of Peter V. Brett's Demon Trilogy.

It follows the lives of three young people growing up in a world where demons are very much real rather than fantasy figures. They rise from the world's core at nightfall to attack human beings, who can only protect themselves by hiding behind 'wards' - magical sigils the demons cannot (usually) pass.

The three main characters are Arlen, a talented warder (drawer of wards), Leesha, a healer, and Rojer, a jongleur (travelling minstrel). All three feel destiny pulling at them to finally rid their world of the demon plague.

Peter V. Brett has crafted a compelling fantasy novel with some original ideas, generally sympathetic characters, and an absorbing, fast-paced plot.

The Painted Man is decently written in a plain, unadorned style, though it is never going to win any literary awards. Brett's prose lacks the depth and lyrical qualities of, say, a Robin Hobb or a Robert Silverberg, two distinguished current fantasy world-weavers. There were also a few places where I felt the plotting creaked a bit, notably in the strand concerning Leesha.

Nonetheless, this is a promising debut by a new fantasy author. Anyone who enjoys reading an exciting adventure novel, without expecting it to be a literary masterpiece, is unlikely to be disappointed. I'll certainly be looking out for the second volume.

Here's a permalink to my review on, in case you'd like to read it in situ. As ever, if you like the review, a 'Helpful' vote is always appreciated!

Finally, I've included image links to the book's sales pages at and at the foot of this post. Note that, while The Painted Man is available from now, the US version won't be available till March 2009 (and for some reason it will be called The Warded Man in the US). Note also that if you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see the image links.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale

I heard about this new book by Doctor Who writer/producer Russell T. Davies and journalist Benjamin Cook on the BBC Breakfast Show this morning. I've immediately added it to my list of 'must-read' books when it is published on 25 September.

I am just about old enough to have watched Doctor Who from the very beginning, and it's a show I will always have a great deal of affection for. It gave me a life-long interest in science fiction, and undoubtedly inspired some of my own writing.

Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale covers, I gather, a year in the life of the series, as told by the show's Head Writer and Executive Producer. Here's an extract from the description at

...the book explores in detail Russell's work on Series Four, revealing how he plans the series and works with the show's writers; where he gets his ideas for plot, character and scenes; how actors are cast and other creative decisions are made; and how he juggles the demands of Doctor Who with the increasingly successful Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures spin-offs.

Russell's scripts are discussed as they develop, and Russell and Benjamin's wide-ranging discussions bring in experiences from previous series of Doctor Who as well as other shows Russell has written and created, including Queer as Folk, Bob & Rose, and The Second Coming. The reader is given total access to the show as it's created, and the writing is everything you would expect from Russell T Davies: warm, witty, insightful, and honest.

Fully illustrated with never-before-seen photos and artwork including original drawings by Russell himself The Writer's Tale is a not only the ultimate Doctor Who book, but a celebration of great writing and great television.

Even allowing for the hype, this book sounds like essential reading for anyone interested in TV scriptwriting (and Doctor Who fans, of course!). Anyway, I've added image links below to the title on and for those who would like to find out more.

As ever, if you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see the images.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FieldReport: A New Market for True-Life Stories

If you enjoy writing (and/or reading) true-life personal experience stories, FieldReport is a new website you should definitely plan on visiting soon.

FieldReport, which is run from San Francisco, is partly an ongoing writing contest, partly a growing community of writers.

As mentioned above, FieldReport publishes true-life stories, with a maximum length of 2000 words. Stories are rated by other members, and the top-rated story in each category every month receives a $1,000 prize. Winning category stories also become eligible for the annual grand prizes of up to $250,000. The categories are as follows:
  • Breaking News
  • 36 Hours
  • Teen Report
  • Animal Beings
  • Brush With Fame
  • Crisis Mode
  • Food & Drink
  • Friends & Family
  • Home & Garden & Auto
  • Love & Hate
  • Life & Me
  • Music & Arts
  • Oddball Events
  • On the Job
  • Parenting & Pregnancy
  • Spirituality & Religion
  • Sport & Challenge
  • Style & Beauty & Body
  • Travel & Nature
  • Witness to History
  • Adult Experience
Teen Report is restricted to teenagers, while the Adult Experience category is open only to those aged 18 and over.

Perhaps the best - and most surprising - thing about FieldReport is that no entry fees are required. You do, however, have to earn 'review credits' by reading and rating other members' work before you can submit a story of your own.

With its generous prizes and membership-based judging process, FieldReport is definitely well worth a look. I was also pleased to see that, although they only want original articles, you can still submit work if it has only previously been published on a personal blog or in a print publication with a circulation of under 1,000.

There is a lot to view on the FieldReport site, so a good place to get your bearings is their Quick Start Page. I also recommend reading the comprehensive list of frequently asked questions.

Finally, in accordance with my usual policy on this blog, I would like to disclose that I am receiving a small incentive (an Amazon voucher) for writing this post. This has not, however, influenced my review of FieldReport in any way. I do strongly recommend checking the site out.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Short Story Radio Update

About a year ago I wrote this post about Short Story Radio, a new web-based radio station operating from the UK and devoted to recording and broadcasting original short stories.

Since then, I'm pleased to say, Short Story Radio has gone from strength to strength. The website now looks more professional, and they are starting to pay writers of stories featured on the site. Here is an update I received recently from Ian Skillicorn, the station manager...

Over the past year we have been developing relationships with writers and many writing organisations. The latest additions to the website are recordings from three winners of the New Writing Partnership's Escalator Prize, for writers in the East of England. This summer we redesigned the website and added some new features.

I am pleased to tell you that we are now in a position to pay a writers' fee for stories that will appear on the site. At present we are approaching writers ourselves rather than taking unsolicited stories, but hope to be able to have an open submission round in the near future.

Our next project is a series of short stories that have been recorded specifically for hospital radio and will be available to hospital radio stations around the UK and beyond. The first four stories will be available for radio, and on our website, later this month. They are by award winning writer Sue Moorcroft, whose stories have appeared in many national magazines, and are read by Tamara Kennedy, whose acting career includes 14 years in Take The High Road and roles in Taggart and Monarch of the Glen.

In addition, I noticed that Short Story Radio is currently running a competition for a short story of under 3000 words in one of the following categories: drama/romance, historical fiction/memoir, humour, magic realism, mystery/thriller, science fiction.

The first-prize winner will get their story professionally recorded for broadcast on Short Story Radio, a free website worth 250 UK pounds (around $400), and five CD copies of their story for personal use. The closing date is 31 October 2008.

There is an entry fee of 8 UKP (around $14) per story in this competition, which in my view is a bit on the steep side. However, stories for Short Story Radio are recorded by professional actors, and I guess their services don't come cheap!

If you enjoy writing - and reading/listening to - short stories, Short Story Radio is well worth checking out.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Get More Traffic From Squidoo/Hubpages

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a fan of Squidoo. I wrote about it a while ago in this blog post.

Briefly, Squidoo is a free service that lets anyone create attractive-looking, single page websites, even if they have few if any skills in HTML.

What's more, Squidoo makes it easy to generate money from your site (or Lens, as Squidoo sites are properly called). You automatically get a share of the Google AdSense income generated. In addition, you can add money-making modules from, eBay, and so on. If you like, you can check out three of my lenses by clicking on the links below:

How to Write a Book Lens
Greece Travel Tips Lens
Pseudotube Business Opportunity Lens

Anyway, I recently invested $5 in a new guide that shows you how to create more effective Squidoo Lenses and Hubpages (a similar service) Hubs. It's something I'd not thought of before. I'll quote from the sales page for the report:

Step One: Create a Hubpage or Squidoo Lens.
Step Two: Do this trick.
Step Three: Start Getting Traffic Instantly!

Unlike some cheap reports I've seen recently, this 10-pager is concise and fluff-free. It's well written and illustrated with screengrabs. The 'trick' looks like something anyone who uses these services can benefit greatly from. I'm definitely planning to apply it to my own Lenses - and Hubs if I get into that (and the report recommends I should) - in future.

You can pick up your own copy of the report by clicking here.

By the way, this is one of those '100% instant commission' offers. You can sell it yourself if you have a website, or blog, or Lens/Hub, and keep 100% of the fee. So all you have to do is sell a single copy and you'll have covered the (modest) cost of your report!

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Getting Customer Support for My Courses

I shan't be around a great deal over the next couple of weeks, so I thought it might be a good time to remind you of the best way to get customer support for my writing courses and manuals and other products published by WCCL.

If you have any queries, either before or after buying, by far the best thing to do is visit WCCL's customer support website at and raise a ticket there.

This is very easy to do - just click on 'Contact Us For Support' and fill in the online form, then click the box at the bottom of the form to submit it. You will be allocated a unique ticket number, and can log in to Myhelphub at any time using this number to see if your query has been answered.

The kinds of question Myhelphub routinely answer include:

* I've lost - or never knew - my password.
* I can't access the contents of the CD.
* When was my CD sent out?
* What do I do if my CD doesnt arrive?
* Will [name of product] work on a Mac?
* Will you supply CDs to my country?
* How long will it take my CD to arrive?
* I have an idea for a new WCCL product.
* And so on...

Myhelphub is staffed 24/7, and they aim to reply to all queries within 24 hours (most are answered much sooner than that). If you need help with any WCCL product - and certainly if you need technical support - I strongly recommend that you contact them rather than me!

Just one other point I'd like to stress, though - you must use the ticket system to contact them. Myhelphub are not set up to receive emails. The reason for this is that nowadays email is simply not a reliable enough medium to use for this purpose.

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