Saturday, 27 February 2016

SHORT STORY ENTRY: 'Write Invite' Saturday 20th Feb 2016

Dear all,

Here was my entry to last week’s ‘Write Invite’ competition. To remind you, the competition goes live at 5.30pm GMT every Saturday and offers you three themes. You then have thirty minutes to pick one, write a short story using that theme; edit, proof and submit. If 6pm GMT comes and you haven’t submitted, then that’s it, you’re out! I started it a couple of weeks ago and it’s a great site, it is £4 to enter and the winner receives £50. I am taking part because I really miss that ‘examination’ feeling and the stress that comes from having a fixed deadline… sounds strange but it’s true! Don’t hate me. Anyway, each week three entries are shortlisted and then everyone who took part has the opportunity to vote on which one of the three they think should win. As I have said I am not in the least bit worried about being shortlisted and don’t expect anything, I am using this to improve. So what I thought I would do is share with you my entries (after the competition has closed for that week of course). You can visit the website here: to register (and have a go yourself!) and then you can see the short listed stories (but you can’t vote unless you took part). Here is my entry for Saturday 20th Feb 2016. The three themes were: (1) The Art of Leaving (2) Handbag and (3) Cold Hands, Warm Heart. I must admit for the first two, possibly three minutes I was totally blank and then the brain shunted into gear and an idea using theme (2) Handbag, emerged. I used every single second of the available time and clicked the submit button just in time. Here it is:

Little Angel

The brazen terror's all peaches and cream when it suits. The sod's a right little actor.
"Was it a cappuccino?" Melissa shouts above the crowd.
"Yes please!" I mouth back, ignoring several heads that turn my way. I was terrified earlier that today might just be the day I'd tell the brat to shove his head in between the panini griddle. I can't ignore it again. It's the right thing to do.
"Well, you should have been there, honestly Sammy, it was soooo funny," Melissa starts to reel off, scene by scene, an episode at the bank. It's to do with something about a mobility scooter, "... their shopping basket went everywhere... " and she isn't going to miss out a single second of the action, "... the daughter of that woman who runs the cafe, the one with eczema..." but my attention is elsewhere.
There he goes, there the little bugger goes.
"... literally covered in milk..."
He's swanning around thinking everyone loves him, that everyone thinks he's adorable and butter wouldn't melt.
"... then it must have short wired or something because the thing started speeding all around the foyer..."
I've got my eye on you this time. Ahh. He's seen me. He knows I'm watching. What are you going to do now you brat?
"... then the lady with the crutches goes up in the air! It was such a hoot! Sammy... Sammy, are you there? You with me, girl?" My nods and smiles mustn't have been convincing enough. She's got me.
"Sorry, Mel. Go on, I was just daydreaming then, go on, it sounds hilarious."
He saw me getting caught out there. Look at that smile, little git. I don't believe it. He's actually staring at me now. He's... he's bloody daring me the swine. He thinks I won't say anything! Go on! Let's just see about that!
"... I really needed a good laugh today Sammy, I really did. You know how crap this week's been. It was just what the doctor ordered, it really was."
I forgot Melissa's waiting on those results. I feel bad now, I should have at least pretended I was listening. I wrinkle my nose and thin my eyes at Timmy. He's still staring. Then Melissa's eyes start watering over.
".. I mean, I know everything's going to be fine, but you know, it's tough just thinking about..."
Oh god. She's off.
I don't believe it. The smug little sod is smiling right at me. He's going to do it. He's bloody going to do it! No. Oh my god the little... He's done it! He's reached right into that lady's handbag and taken something again. He's looking at me! Right. That is enough. I'm not letting you get away with it again you little...
"Do you think I'll get the time off work again, Mel? They've been giving me stick for weeks now. I can't afford to mess this up."
She's in tears now. I don't believe this. She's crying right in the middle of the coffee shop. He's going to win an oscar for this. I can't believe my eyes. He's running up to us. Brazen, cheeky, cheating, evil little sod. He's the devil.
"Mummy! Why are you crying mummy? Don't cry!" He's wrapped himself around Mel's legs and... yep, there we go. I see you. He gives me a dirty look as Mel leans over and hugs him.
He knows I won't tell his mum. Little sod.

So that’s two completed now and I’m quite enjoying taking part. I’m not too fussed about how good the stories are (I know that is the point of course, it is a competition) for now I’m just pleased to remember what it is like to work in a test condition (even if it is just 30 minutes) and start from scratch on actually produce a finished product in time, if ‘product’ is the right word.

I can’t enter today as a good friend received tickets to the UFC as a xmas present from his wife and asked if I wanted to go with him. I think it’s only the second time the UFC has been in the UK and although the idea of seeing this up close (why do I want to add ‘and personal’?) is a little daunting (I’m getting squeamish as I age) it should be an interesting experience. It also means missing England play in the Rugby Six Nations tournament so it had better be good!

Lastly, I have noticed that since changing the look of my blog a couple of weeks ago when I post a new entry, the linked Google+ post (I have set it so it automatically shares) uses my profile photo as an accompanying image BUT it lows it up to it's original size! So it looks as if I am posting a photo of myself every time! Slightly embarrassing! I think it is because lately I have not been including any images in my blog post so to test this out I am embedding an Instagram photo I took this week. It is for a short story idea I have (another competition) that has a character taking a walk around an old bronze age burial site that is near where I live. I'll share more with you when that competition eventually closes and I copy it here. Here's the image:

Have a great weekend,


R.G Rankine.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Author Websites & March Writing Competitions

Dear all,

Just a quick note to say I have finally created our author websites. I have owned the domains for nearly four years now but have only focused on the company website and social media pages. Because I have plans for offering a self publishing package soon (I’ll blog later about that) I felt that I couldn’t delay any longer as it is part of the package and we all know that it is an important part of establishing a closer, more personal relationship with readers. I have been collecting ideas on what makes a good site for a long time now and I guess part of the reason why I haven’t gone live with them up to now is that I wanted them to be full of content immediately. I wanted to be fully prepared with all the ideas I’ve had so that I could upload them all at once. Basically, that isn’t going to happen! There is too much to do and I am busy with so many different projects so it’s going to take ages! I’ll have to make sure I work on them as much as I can while juggling the other bits and pieces.  

For reference our sites are:

If you have any ideas on what makes a great author website then please feel free to share and once my sites are more developed I would also welcome your feedback. Let me know what you think, what I have missed, what isn’t working and anything you can think of! Come back and visit them every now and again and see how they are progressing… (I've also tidied up this blog. I much prefer the cleaner, less cluttered look.)

As I mentioned before I’m entering some competitions this year so if any of you are interested in entering too here are some with March deadlines:

I’ll post my entries (once the competitions are over) here on this blog.

Thank you for your time,

Have a great weekend,

R.G Rankine

Sunday, 14 February 2016


Dear all,

First of if you want to enter the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2016 Short Story Competition then it closes tomorrow so you need to get a move on!  Here’s the link:

Write On Site

Secondly, I thought I would share with you the first competition I have ever entered. There is a really interesting site: that I came across while searching out competitions. It’s not a competition in the sense of a big annual event but rather a weekly league table. The way it works is that (actually, they do offer more than this so check out their site for other events) every Saturday at 5.30pm (GMT) they announce on their website three topics. You then have thirty minutes to write a short story based on one of those topics. Entries (this is all done online) close at 6.00pm exactly so you have to make sure you do all your checking, read throughs and editing within those 30 minutes. It was really fun to do (It costs £4 per entry via PayPal or you can get discounts for multiple entries). As I mentioned in a previous blog post I am trying to destroy any sense of confidence that may still reside in me in 2016 by entering as many competitions as I can and overburdening myself. I am working on my first novel and I have also started selling a self publishing service through my company Thinking Plainly Limited as well as trying to continue developing a few other projects that are on the sideline. I know deep down that I am probably trying to do too much but what is over-riding that is the desire to be busy and active this year. I really want to get a lot done and I am not too worried about my personal life, it’s all about writing this year.

Anyway, I think it will be great to have this weekly competition in my diary. I am going to take it seriously and only enter it when I am not in the middle of something else so that I can give it my full attention. For instance, I couldn’t do it yesterday, as there was the important matter of watching Wales play in the Rugby Six Nations! I may have timed starting this wrong as there are still a few weeks left of the tournament…

The other point to make is that I am not using any pre-prepared ideas. After my first entry below I explain that I am using notes I have made over the years for other competitions but for this website every single sentence will come from the imagination set off by the firing gun of 5.30pm. I really like the idea of having an ‘examination’ style challenge every week. I am one of those weirdos that sort of misses school. Yes, sorry. I never actually minded exams and test, I found it a good way to focus and in a way, I wish I could bring that mentality back for my everyday writing. Hopefully, this site may help me with that.

So, check out the website and maybe I’ll see your name on the league table soon enough… I’ll keep sharing my entries with you, unless of course the unexpected happens and I am short listed (very unlikely but you never know I guess) in which case I’ll just post a link to the site and you can check it out there as it’s only fair and right those are read on the website itself.

For the first week, Saturday 6th Feb ’16, the subject I picked was, ‘ The Parting’. I’m afraid I can’t remember the two other subject options but I’ll know to make a note for next time.

The Other Side of the Front Room

"Can I say hello to granddad?"

"Give it five minutes," mum said. She wasn't looking at me but could feel the tugging at her coat. I knew she was listening, although it did annoy me the way she would still speak to others at the same time. I didn't mind her speaking to grandma or aunty Paula, but it would only take a second to glance down at me, you know, break away for like, one second.

"Okay," I walked over to the single seat armchair on the other side of the room and sat down, a bit on the heavy side, to make a point, not a strop exactly, but you know, enough.

It's been five minutes and mum's still chatting away to grandma. She hasn't moved from her seat, still has her coat on and the three carrier bags of shopping in her hand. Aunty Gemma has joined them so I sort of think I better give up. I could go and say hello to granddad myself, you know, on my own... but I'm chicken. I told mum before we came to take me in there straight away, as soon as we got there, because I knew, I mean seriously, I knew she'd get chatting otherwise and I'll be stuck on my own and then I'd be nervous the whole afternoon thinking about when was the right time to go to granddad. Yes, she said, fine, of course, don't worry... but then we get here and it's the same old thing, she totally ignores me and forgets what I said.

I try to catch mum's attention but it's hopeless. They're onto one of the ex-husbands now. They think they're being clever by not saying a name out loud but I'm not that stupid, I mean, I know what they're talking about for god's sake. They'll be ages. I look over to the curtain. It's not a curtain like you see on a window, you know, a normal curtain that everyone has. This one's enormous. It's like massive, honestly. It's like the one in my school, in the big hall. It's red though, not black. It's almost like blood in a way. It's in the middle of the front room. It's so heavy as well. I get nervous going through it, that's why I tell mum I want her with me. Granddads on the other side. That's his side. We're only allowed on this side, grandma's side, but it's okay to go over and say hello. I really like granddad, he's funny. I know he's meant to be strict too but I still think he's funny.

"Have you said hello to grandad yet?" mum comes back in from the kitchen and looks surprised I'm still sitting. I don't know why she's surprised. I told her I wanted her to come with me. She just doesn't listen.

"No. I was waiting for you."

"Well, he's about to have his tea so hurry up,"

I'm scared now. She's put me in a panic. I don't want to go.

"I can wait until after he's had his tea" I say. My voice is so nervous she must hear it, like you know, feel my nerves or something. She can't be stupid.

"No, go now. You don't want to disturb his nap." Mum walks out of the room. I stare at the big curtain. It's like space. When you're up close you can't see the sides, beginning or end. My hands start to sweat. Then I hear his voice.

"That you, Bill?"

I'm so relived I can't tell you.

"Hi grandad, it's me!" I run up to the curtain and pull the edges open just enough to squeeze through. I walk through to the other side and give granddad a huge hug.


As soon as I saw the title, ‘The Parting’, I thought of a big red curtain my grandmother used to have. The rest of the story was totally made up (that’s the exciting part of writing in test conditions like this, just going off and seeing what the brain digs up, not knowing where the next sentence will take you) but all I thought of was the idea of having a family split (the parting of a relationship, the parting of a family, the parting of a life spent together) and it being shown in the physical act of a split room (the physical parting of a room, the physical parting of your own living space) and seeing if I could match the two together to show the emotional and physical acts represented by someone only seeing one side, in this case, the physical curtain. Anyway, as I am more than ready to concede, I am not a skilled enough writer yet to transform my ideas into prose that represents what I want to say, yet I am happy enough to know, or rather, be satisfied by, the ideas appearing to me and to feel I have something to say. That’s why entering competitions this year is a way for me to test my progress, not as a way to have affirmation or recognition of my writing, I actually fear that; rather it is a way to monitor the strength and originality of my ideas and the way I present them. I’ll share with you my weekly (or post Six Nations weekly…) entries. Feel free to let me know what you think, all criticism welcome.

Other Comps

Another reason I feel it is time to enter competitions is that I have dozens of little scraps of ideas that now I am working on the novel I won’t be doing anything with. Rather than leaving them to rot for a year or more why not make use of them and develop them for competitions? However, I am setting some strict conditions. I will only spend a few hours on each one and the word count will be the minimum required, or a max of approx. 1000 if there are no restrictions. I am not going to divert all of my attention to them. I see them as a learning tool, to test out some ideas and develop my skills. I do not have any ambitions to win anything, which sounds self defeating, yes, but I see it as more of a practical and reality-checking safety net. I won’t be entering the same story twice. I will be entering a new work for each competition and that means I will be spending a lot of time on this so it has to have a purpose and an aim. At the moment, it looks like there are around four a month I could enter (some months more) so I don’t want it to overtake all my other work, which if I take them too seriously is a possibility, yet not taking them seriously enough means I will produce poor work and what would be the point in that! For me, those purposes and aims will be to learn and practice more. It is not about winning. So although I can feel the stress already… it’s in a good way! Once the deadlines have closed and the winners announced (so that I don’t break any rules) I’ll be sharing my entries with you.

All the best everyone, have a great week.

R.G Rankine.