Free to enter short story competition – theme ‘A New Home’

story writing contest up to 2000 words

Short Story Writing Competition


Enter our FREE short story competition for a chance to win a cash prize and see your winning entry published online!


The winner will receive £200 and publication on the Solution Loans website, with £50 and publication for three runners-up.

How To Enter:

As the dark nights draw in and the weather turns cold we often retreat back into our homes. People start doing those DIY projects they put off over the summer, or perhaps they begin to think about changing or moving house.

We’re therefore looking for short stories with the title or theme of “A New Home.” You may choose to interpret the theme however you wish, but remember the advice from our judges in the last competition. Ultimately our judges said they shortlisted those stories which they felt combined a strong and engaging idea with overall great writing and story-telling.

Send us your story, between 1500 to 2000 words, in a single pdf, doc, docx, or txt file to with the subject heading:

Solution Loans short story competition

Competition Closing Date:

Your entry must be submitted before midnight on:

Thursday 28th February 2019

Entries will not be accepted after this date.



The Unholy Trinity – 3 linked drabbles up in the Friday slot on the Horror Tree…

All hail the power of the Three.

The Walls Talk/ Soul Stealer / A Murder of Crows

each one has its own animal/bird/insect behaving in aberrant ways you wouldn’t want to encounter.

The Walls Talk

Something is living inside the walls of an upper class Victorian house.

Soul Stealer

A brother and sister find an unknown animal’s carcass on the beach- photographing it turns out to be big mistake.

A Murder of Crows

Why  do we call a flock of crows a murder? Here is the reason.


Prize Giving afternoon at the Craft House for the Creative writing competition

Here is Mike Farren (far right), and the winners of our flash fiction and poetry categories- from l to r:- Colin Neville runner up for flash; middle Chris Grogan who took 1st place in both flash and poetry; then Martin Webster runner up for poetry, as photographed by April the owner and manager of the Craft House.

crafthouse competition winners group pic

It was a lovely afternoon, with the prizes being given out, the winners reading their work, then Mike read poems from his collection:-

Pierrot and his Mother Paperback – 26 Jun 2017

which is available to buy at Salts Mill bookshop or from the poet -here is his website

Mike also talked about how he turned to poetry, his experiences and successes. I read a new piece of flash fiction and after the break we had a mini q&a.

Drum roll- here are the winning pieces exclusive to my blog, as kindly given permission to post by the authors, who retain copyright.

1st place for flash fiction

A powerful, thought provoking fable of our times:-

Fading Fast

by Chris Grogan

The first thing Kate gave up was carbs. She swapped spaghetti for courgetti and tried unsuccessfully to make pizza without dough. When her daughter made muffins at school Kate showed her The Truth About Sugar on YouTube then chucked them in the bin.

Meat came next. Sunday dinners became a thing of the past and the mere suggestion of a burger provoked a shudder of disgust from Kate. Her husband started taking the children for walks after tea and Big Frank at the chip shop was happy to oblige, double wrapping cod suppers for them to eat in the park.

Dumping lattes for ‘Americano, no milk’ signalled the end of dairy and the fridge was purged of eggs. The kids rebelled and refused to eat the crispy kale that was no substitute for Walkers cheese and onion and made them both targets of ridicule at school.

Alcohol was the last to go. Kate struggled to accept that anything as reviving as her evening pinot grigio could be seriously bad for her.

You’ll fade away,’ said her mother, secretly wondering if a change of diet might do the same for her cheekbones as it had for Kate’s. Her reluctance to attempt to pronounce ‘quinoa’ in Aldi and her love of millionaire’s shortbread soon put paid to that.

By Easter (no chocolate, the children got grapes) Kate was colour coding her food. A traffic light diet of plant based, guilt free, clean-eating meals.

Green for breakfast, a smoothie of cucumber, spinach and kale. It tasted disgusting, a sure sign thought Kate it was doing her good. Amber at lunch time; pumpkin soup and carrot sticks and mango lassi made with almond milk and turmeric. And red in the evening for suppers consisting of cranberries, tomatoes and plums. Her husband took the children and moved in with his mother.

As her flesh melted away Kate experienced a lightness of body and mind she had never previously known. She rejoiced as the outline of her skeleton became clearly visible through her increasingly translucent skin, no longer muffled by pillows of muscle and fat.

She stopped going to work; shopping and juicing took up most of her time. She barely noticed her children were gone.

Before long her bones took on a crystalline quality. Still solid, but see though and shimmering. Passing the hall mirror one morning she was amazed to see the reflection of the coat rack that hung on the wall behind her quite clearly through the reflection of her own face.

Delighted, Kate reconfigured her menu to include only clear foods; ice cubes and cabbage water, ginger tea and lemon jelly set with agar-agar. She considered adding vodka but decided against it.

When her mother called round she was sure Kate was out. She was about to leave when she felt a draught, a stirring of the air in the apparently empty room.

Hi mum’, she heard Kate’s voice. ‘You’ll stay for a glass of water?’


1st place in poetry

Mothering On by Chris Grogan

She searches the rain sodden hillside

for sheep that have lambed on the fell

Alerted by crows to a cold-stiffened corpse

Eye sockets pecked clean

She lifts the dead lamb

Slits its skin from the throat to the arse

and peels off the pelt like Chanel

Malodorous jacket fits snug on an orphaned pet lamb

C’mon son. Time to meet your new mam

In the barn the bereaved yow resists

Not yet fooled her dead young has returned

He heat-seeks his way to her tits

Head-butting and mewling he persists

till milk flows

Binding tighter than blood

Job done

It’s called mothering on

She will not acknowledge my child

Can’t accept we are mother and son

Won’t admit to his place in my life

In my heart

Never uses his name, calls him boy

Says I’ll never know love

till I nurse my own kin

Till I birth my own young

That he’s not mothered on


Runner up in flash fiction

A witty, telling piece which plays with our society’s views and expectations before turning it on its head.

Case Study by Colin Neville

Sara took out her notebook. The couple and the young boy in the train seats opposite would be good for her case study.

‘Observe people.’ Barbara, the Counselling course tutor, had urged. ‘Look at how they relate to each other physically. Their body language can tell you important things about them.’

Sara wrote rapidly, casting glances at the trio.

‘Woman: 30-35. Man, similar age. Child: Boy, about 5 or 6.

The woman – boy’s mother? The child is all over the woman; won’t leave her alone.

The boy is ignoring the man. The father?

Man is completely indifferent to the woman and child – staring into space. Shaved head. Looks a bit aggressive.

Child and woman, leaning in toward each other, whispering. Boy seems besotted with the woman – must be his mother.

Man: fiddling with his Smartphone now- still no interaction with the other two.’


Sara continued to observe and make her notes. The District Line train passed through six stations on its journey into the east London suburbs.

‘Man seems in a world of his own.

Woman and boy – are they excluding the man. Or is he excluding them?’

Sara strained to hear the conversation between mother and child, but two teenage girls in the seats next to her were talking loudly into their respective mobile phones.

‘O my God! O my God! He didn’t say that, did he?’

‘It ain’t like that! You got that wrong, Wayne.’

Sara’s notes were flowing.

‘Man has cut the woman and child out of his life.

Clear break-down of communication.’


This is what happened with Jack and me. Sara almost said it out aloud. She looked carefully at the man opposite. He even looks a bit like, Jack. She scribbled on.

‘Man like a zombie.

Absolutely no connection between him and them.

Child over-compensating with the woman.’

The teenage girls left the train. Sara strained to hear the conversation between the child and the woman. The boy was fiddling with the woman’s necklace that hung low over her cleavage. He suddenly fondled her breasts. She gently pushed his hand away, laughing.

‘You’re too old for that now!’

‘Why? Daddy does it, and he’s older than me!’

The man and the woman looked at each other and burst into laughter, the man showing fine white teeth. His face was transformed.

The boy turned to the man and hugged him. ‘You do, Daddy!’

The trio left the train. Sara put a line through her notes.


Runner up poetry piece:-

The Little Blue Boy by Martin Webster

I see him lying there, here, but not here, still, new, blue, behind the flimsy barriers of the incubator, but glass-sharp memories cemented on a wall-top stop me looking over.

In my hope against hope he is boy me again, running home with a model aeroplane, spinning propellors swooping over ash heaps, loop-the-looping away from local bully Christopher Brown’s daily persecution. Camouflaged, the plane can hide, but my balaclava, knit blue-for-a-boy, kingfisher-flashes in his peripheral, predator’s vision.

And the chase is on.

Those holes in my plastic sandals designed to collect grit do their worst, pin-sharp predictors of an inevitable prat-fall onto the sweeter targets that are my hands and knees.

Up, with wings broken, cries unspoken, breathing loud across the Ghost-house garden, through limping iron railings to the street.

Mrs Greenwood, local bobby’s Mother, saves me with born authority. ‘I fell’ I tell her, as her Father had at Tobruk.

She knows my fear, knows my pain, knows my loss. She knows as only mothers do, as did my own.

I have no Mrs Greenwood here, in silent echoes looking-down at this tiny, blue boy. No grit burrowed traces on his palms and perfect fingers wrapped around nothing. Ever

No missing plane, just pain.

His counted blessings came up short of mine.

My only son.

Who will never run.

To a Mrs Greenwood.

To me.


Are Retreats a Feminist Issue?

Alison Taft’s latest blog post on the value of writing retreats and building up a daily writing habit- Alison is mentoring me this year (hurrah!) while I tackle my biggest ever writing project – a crime novel. I am excited but nervous. Am I up to this? Currently am tackling my novel’s time line. I might need a bigger whiteboard in my study for this.

Ali Harper Writes

I spent the week before Christmas on a writing retreat in Whitby. I’m incredibly lucky to be friends with Anna Chilvers, writer and creative writing tutor extraordinaire. We tutor writing retreats together (held at Wentworth Castle in the summer) but we also retreat ourselves – to Whitby, where it’s  just me and Anna in a two up, two down house that clings to the hillside. It has no wifi, no mobile phone signal, no TV and hardly any heating. It’s the perfect place to write. There’s nothing else to do.whitby-15168_640

I once went to a talk called Things I Hate About Writing by Michael Stewart, author of the great book King Crow. Retreats were one of his top three pet hates. He said writing should take place in life, not away from it. I agree – writing has to be part of my routine or I’d never finish…

View original post 262 more words

December 31- New Year’s Eve- a piece of flash up on cafelit today and my Trio of Terrors is out to buy in paperback…

A new piece of flash out today on Gill James’ cafe lit site – The Last Visit– is about an elderly woman spending her last day in her now sold home, visiting the derelict orangery in the gardens, which stirs up long ago memories of a forbidden love affair and its outcome.


The paperback version of my ghost stories Trio of Terror- Supernatural Tales is now up for sale on

I’m pleased I’ve managed to get this taster of my short stories up before the end of the year, (just) as it was one of my writing goals. It is priced at £3.80 and if you are kind enough to buy a copy please could you leave a review on amazon/goodreads/blogs/facebook? Thank you.

The stories are set in Filey, Bingley and Halifax.

Christmas story up on Horror Tree/Siren’s Call and 2019 writing plans… including Marilyn Monroe…

which is set in Keighley’s Cliffe Castle

This room features prominently in the story.

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – one Christmas Eve by Alyson Faye

The dead-eyed squirrel stares at me from its glass case, poised on its perch for eternity. We exchange looks. I blink first. Score one –  to the squirrel. Turning away I lock the cabinet doors and click off the overhead lights. The shadows rush in to swallow the taxidermists’ trophies.

Keighley Castle Museum is closing early as it’s Christmas Eve. Everyone’s packing up or getting ready to hit the shops, or go to the pub or meet up with their partners and children. The usual stuff. Me, I’m in no hurry. There’s no one waiting. Not any more…


Image may contain: one or more people and text

Free horror mag with great fiction in to download and read off Siren’s Call– try one- you won’t regret it. they are a really supportive editing team too.


What will 2019 bring for me?

I have signed up for a mentoring package with talented Leeds based thriller writer Ali Harper who will help me grow my crime novella set in post war Britain into a novel- big gulp ie about 90,000 words- I am excited but trepidacious- is that a word? Think film noir with a femme fatale, dashes of murder, sex and double dealing, twisting and turning through nightclubs and back alleys in Birmingham and London, leading to a femme powered conclusion.

I will try to write some short fiction along the way to keep my writing muscles in tone and I will be teaching a new workshop – on Marilyn Monroe – for another passion of mine is the Golden Age of Hollywood.

at the Craft House in May. Very much looking forward to this.

I will be attending Edgelit again in July 2019 in Derby Quad and I am involved in 2 local writing groups as well as teaching my own writers’ monthly drop in class at the Craft House.


Image result for images of marilyn monroe

Whatever you are doing in 2019 – enjoy it, let it empower you and try new things out.

best wishes to you all

Christmas fiction pieces from my monthly drop in creative writing group which I teach at the Craft House… have yourself a merry little Christmas read….

Light on Baildon Moor by Kath Wharton

Christmas passed like a ghost,

snow bones sidled

on moor’s open road.

Carols echo – choir to a cross,

red berry baubles

warm winter’s cold stare.

Evergreens whisper a prayer

on the skyline,

submerged in a Silent Night.

Lost voice in a dream,

mist surfs in air –

a first breath crept in

through stars open window.

Silhouettes following white light.

He passed like a ghost.

Image result for snow on baildon moor

or Gillian’s comic take with a spiritual serious note in the last line.

Christmas Eve by Gillian Wright

“Christmas Eve! I’m done with shopping,”

Congested traffic, people pushing,

The list gets smaller, but I’m still worrying.

Father Christmas, the children wanting.


Eligible male cousin who owns a salon,

Reached his apex at just twenty-one.

Designer label on a shirt made of chiffon.

Better than last year when I bought him a baton!


So no more ugly trips will I be making,

Instead the call of church bells ringing.

Listening to the choirs singing,

I wonder though when Christ went missing?


Bingley Poetess Kate’s humorous take on a salon trip with a difference:-


An ugly mop hung from

the apex of his crown.

Congestion of matted silky strands

lurked behind his ears

around his neck

down his shoulders

and who knows elsewhere.

A worried look seeped into

sad brown eyes

as dexterous digits removed

the collar with the label.

Warm water penetrated

dripped brown onto

the white slab

as gentle hands massaged.

Steel combs tufted

prickly brushes smoothed

shiny scissors snipped

clipped and coiffured.

All done now Deefa.

Quite eligible for Crufts!

Katharine Nicholas Dec 2018

mistletoe image

THE DUNG TWIG by Hannah Silcock

Parasite of
light and water,
poisonous healer,
shower of truths,
there she sits,
awaiting the
festive joy
of a stolen

poinsettia image


by Carrie Canning

Dark myth of toxic wolf sap

Hidden deep in sullied bracts

Ding Dong merrily your high

Rich mocking those who vilify

Black as pitch, pretty blood red star

Legend belies what you really are

Copyright remains with the authors who kindly allowed me to post their work on my blog.



Saltaire Craft House Creative writing winners have been chosen:-

Myself and poetry judge Mike Farren have selected the winners and runners up in the flash fiction and poetry categories after reading blind, over 50 entries. April who owns and runs the Craft house has acted as admin on this and she will email the winners tomorrow or the next day.

If you don’t hear anything, then sorry it’s not you this time. But thank you for entering and I hope you enjoyed the fun of the writing and entering.

There will be a prize giving/readings/q&a event on Tuesday 8 January 2019 2-4pm with food and drink where both myself and Mike will be there. Tickets are £5 to be bought from the Craft House in advance or on the day. There is a limit on numbers who can attend due to space limitations.

Craft House

Hope to see some of you there, and have a lovely creative Christmas, and New Year.


The latest e newsletter from Australian horror writer Deborah Sheldon, who is also in DeadCades …

Deborah Sheldon‘s horror fiction was new to me, when I was assigned an e interview with her by the Horror Tree- I read her ‘Thylacines’ first up and then carried on through Devil Dragon and her award winning short story collection Perfect Little Stitches


and I was hooked on her fast, pacy, enjoyable stories. Try her fiction – you won’t regret it.

ThylacinesDevil DragonPerfect Little Stitches and Other Stories

Ebook giveaway

Sometimes, the ties that bind are sharp enough to cut. In these eleven stories, set in contemporary Australian suburbia, Deborah Sheldon examines the darker side of family relationships. Unsettling and incisively written, each story of betrayal, envy, loss or bad blood resonates for a long time after reading.

Open to newsletter subscribers only. The giveaway will run for about one more month – until my January newsletter comes out. The winners will be picked at random. Please enter the competition here. Only the winners will be notified.

Short story acceptance

Dimension6 is the speculative fiction magazine brought out three times per year by Coeur de Lion Publishing, based in Australia.

My horror story, “The Tea and Sugar Train”, has been accepted for publication, and will appear in the October 2019 issue of Dimension6.

Christmas and holiday reading

These holidays, why not support independent publishers and discover your new favourite writers at the same time?

DeadCades: The Infernal Decimation (The Infernal Clock) – a horror anthology featuring stories set from the 1880s to the 2020s.

Aurealis magazine (Chimaera Publications) – Australia’s longest running small press science fiction and fantasy magazine.

Year’s Best Hardcore Horror (Red Room Press) – an annual collection intended to give recognition to the extreme, harder side of horror, stories that break boundaries and trash taboos.

Breach magazine (Breach) – a bi-monthly online zine for SF, horror and dark fantasy short fiction by Australian and New Zealand writers.

AntipodeanSF – online zine devoted to the promotion of the best in short-short speculative fiction from the podes and antipodes, and in the promotion of fresh, new speculative writers.

Upcoming ebook giveaway

In my January newsletter, I will start an ebook giveaway for my two crime-noir novellas, Dark Waters and Ronnie and Rita (IFWG Publishing Australia).

Each story a mirror-image of the other…
A bad man trying to become good.
A good man turning bad.
Both men motivated by love.

Free romance-suspense novella

When a robbery occurs during one of her cleaning shifts, Jayne McMurray becomes the prime suspect. She’s evicted from her rental property and fired from her agency. Enough is enough. Destitute and desperate, Jayne wants to track down the real culprits and wrest a cut of the money. But can she risk it with insurance investigator Ted Shepherd on the case?

Download your free copy from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble or iBooks.

Thanks for reading, and keep in touch

If you have any questions, comments or feedback, email me here.
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