Sunday 31 December 2023

Writing Trivia A New Year’s Eve quiz for you.

1.      Who started writing cookery books in order to give her husband something to publish?

2.      Which writer finally learnt to write what she knew and then invested the hard-earned money from this in the railways, thereby becoming very rich?  One of her well-known characters is also a woman who writes.

3.      Which writer walked up to fifteen miles a day?    

4.      Which hard-up writer was gifted a boat-house to live in?

5.      Who is writing further Agatha Christie style books at the behest of the Agatha Christie estate?

6.      Which crime writer has passed on his most well-known character to his brother?

7.      Which husband and wife team produced amazing picture books for children, including one about well-known fairly-tale characters and a postman? 

8.      Which writer died after collapsing on stage playing a character in one of his own plays? Doubly ironic, as it was a play about medicine.

9.      Can you name a language in which the word “story” and “history” are the same word?

10.  Why “novel”?  How does this word come about?

11.  Which writer used up to sixty pencils a day?

12.   In A Christmas Carol how many ghosts visit Scrooge?

13.  The royalties from which children’s book support a children’s hospital?

14.   Which novel opens with the line, “The Mole had been working very hard all the morning spring cleaning his house”?

15.  Which writer of horror stories was involved in an unexpected road accident while out walking in 1999?

16.  What is the name of the author who wrote the short story “I, Robot” which was also made into a movie?

17.  What is the title of the longest-running play ever written?

18.  Whose novels were published after his death, even though he had asked for his work to be destroyed? We now use an adjective from his name to describe the bizarre and uncanny.  

19.  Which French writer lived mainly on coffee?

20.  Which writer was the son of a beer-taster and glove-maker, survived a pandemic and really wanted to be an actor?

Answers here.

Thursday 14 December 2023

AI - embrace it or fear it?



It seems odd to me that we fear it yet we inverted it. We could pull the plug, couldn’t we, and surely it ought to be in our control? Yet we let it continue because we sense it could be used and should be used for good.

I’m reminded of my initial reaction to Google translate. I’ve worked for over twenty-five years in teaching modern languages and speak French, German and Spanish reasonably fluently. As a secondary school teacher I might have been horrified if someone had used Google translate to prepare work. Yet I find myself doing that from time to time for my French, German and Spanish U3A conversation groups. One colleague who runs a French group and a German group has recently joined our Spanish group. He uses Google translate all the time. There are a couple of tricks here; you must know enough to know when the translator has made a howler. But anyway it introduces you to new vocabulary quickly. It is in the end another way of learning.

Can AI do the same for our writing?

I recently asked Chat GPT to put something together on the advantages and disadvantages of self—publishing. I was creating some Tip Sheets for my creative writing students.  Each subject should be covered in no more than two pages of A4. So, I asked for about 300 words in bullet points. It obliged. I rejected a couple of its arguments.  I added in a couple of extra ones of my own. I rewrote most of it so that it more resembled the style of the other tip sheets. It didn’t really tell me anything I don’t already know. Not much anyway. It in effect helped me to gather and marshal my thoughts. .

Before Chat GPT came along I might have done a Google search. Or similar. After all, Google is your friend. Except sometimes it leads you up the garden path.  Again, as with Google translate, you have to know how to recognize the fake and clumsy. We are used to that now, aren’t we?  

I read an article yesterday in an academic journal about how one professor encouraged his students to produce their essays using AI. The trick it seems is to make the essays the type that requires original and critical thinking. I remember being encouraged to set up open-ended projects so that each student’s work would be unique. This helped in the war again plagiarism.

Similarly therefore one can use AI to collect and collate the data. How to interpret and apply it remains a human activity.  

I guessing I’m tapping into the Zeitgeist a little at the moment. My latest SF YA novel includes a piece of AI that is becoming more and more sentient but still knows it has to serve humans. And I am becoming a little concerned that we are enslaving AI. I’m only half glad to see that local authorities are beginning to use robots to sort out the recycling. What if they rebel?           

Thursday 7 December 2023

Newsletter November 2023


Writerly activities

Sometimes I feel so privileged to be a writer and therefore to be allowed to indulge in several activities that aren’t exactly writing but might be described as “writing related”. There have been two this week:

I attended a meeting of the Manchester City of Literature partners.  Yes, we’re very proud that Bridge House is a partner. Take a look at the other partners here:  And have a look at what the City of Literature does. Even more exciting was to find that one of my former students from the University of Salford now works for them. Another former student was representing one of the other partners. Our meeting involved some brainstorming about the year’s literary calendar in Manchester. We also talked about the aims and objectives of the organisation.  This was followed by a social event where I was able to network and made a lot of useful contacts.

We Talking About My Generarion  reporters were invited to a show case of some younger reporters’ work: It’s probably also the first time I’ve been to Stretford, so new experiences all round.

I also love going to the theatres and have two visits planned next week. I’m going to the Bolton Octagon to see Around the World in Eighty Days  and Home to see Little Women This helps satisfy my continuous need for story. And I can convince myself it’s work; it helps my understanding of how plots work.      



Writing news


I’m pottering on with Peace Child 6. I’m now just finished the fourth draft which looks at the logistics of time with the novel; no two year pregnancies and enough time / space for characters to eat and sleep. I also had to work on the transition between two chapters where it wasn’t clear how much time had passed.  I tend to have cliff hangers at the end of chapters in this novel, so picking up the story again is important.   

I continue to write for Talking About My Generation. I have written a review of a play at our local Whitefield Garrick, and I’ve taken a look at the new episodes of Neighbours:

I’ve also supplied a few ideas about mincemeat:

I may have mentioned last time that I’m having a go at poetry? Yes that continues, but I’m still on ‘A’ in Alison Chisolm’s The Poet’s A-Z

Another book has appeared in my Kofi-shop. You can now buy 140 x 140 there.

If you would like to know more about the Creative Writing Tip Sheets I mentioned recently, you may like to watch this video: Creative Writing Tip Sheets    



On My Blog

This month I’ve talked to several people who have appeared in our Gifted anthology. Read all about them here:  Hidayat Adams, Linda Flynn, Adjie Henderson, Paula Readman, Seamus Norris, Ellen Sullivan,Allison Symes

Their account make interesting reading.


The Young Person’s Library

I’ve added just two books this month, both are teen  / YA. Totally Deceased by Sue  H Cunningham, a humorous murder mystery where a young heart transplant patient and the ghost of the girl whose heart she has received investigate who murdered the latter and why.

Happiness Seeker by Jennifer Burkinshaw is totally different though may appeal to the same reader. It all takes place at Grange-over-Sands, which can be dangerous enough.  Peer pressure and modern slavery make it even more perilous for the young people involved. This is a well-written novel with a strong sense of place and well-developed characters.       



Recommended read 


So, this month I’m recommending: Happiness Seeker by Jennifer Burkinshaw

Yes, again I’ve chosen a text for younger readers again.  I could hardly put this one down.  

Allie is at Grange-Over-Sands on a school trip. The very place is beautiful and dangerous at the same time.   

There are other delights and dangers too. Allie is irritated by the relationship developing between her best friend and her nemesis. Then she becomes romantically involved with the mysterious Mareno. He is threatened not just from the shifting sands and strong currents. Allie’s attempt to put this right is doomed to failure.  When her greatest enemy attempts to right a wrong, four lives are put in danger. There are deaths and near misses. This text tackles some modern but also age old problem: migration and modern slavery.            

Happiness Seeker is beautifully narrated by the very talented Jennifer Burkinshaw.    



Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs.

This month I’m offering The House on Schellberg Street, the first in my Schellberg cycle.  

Renate Edler loves to visit her grandmother in the house on Schellberg Street. She often meets up with her friend Hani Gödde who lives nearby. This year, though, it is not to be. Just a few weeks after a night when synagogues are burned and businesses owned by Jews are looted, Renate finds out a terrible secret about her family.

At a time when the world is at war and the horrors of the Holocaust are slowly becoming apparent, Renate has to leave behind her home and her friends, and become somebody she never thought she could be.

The house on Schellberg Street needs to stay strong. Will it and those who work in it be strong enough? Will Renate ever feel at home again? And what of those left behind?


Grab it  here:  You may have to copy and paste the link.   

And please, please, please leave a review, perhaps on Amazon, Good Reads and / or Story Graph, when you’ve finished.    

Note: Normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99.  Most on Kindle are about £2.99 and the average price for paperback is £8.00. Writers have to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.


The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.  They may also be interesting for other readers of historical fiction.

I’ve not added nay new material this month, but there are over 370 posts and 30 pages of extra information, so it is worth a browse?  Take a look at The House on Schellberg Street.  



Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.


Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.


The Bridgetown  Café Bookshop where you can buy my books and books published by Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books and The Red Telephone.  Visit us here.     


Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.


The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   


Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   


Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  


Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.


A Publisher’s Perspective Here I and some other editors blog as a publisher. Access this here.   


The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   


CaféLit Stories Find these here


Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.


Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    


Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.


The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.


Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.  I also invite other writers to provide prompts and work for critique.     


Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 


The Young Person’s Library The children’s book catalogue. Access it here.


Fair Submissions  Find it here.   

Opportunities for writers are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  

Happy reading and writing.

Friday 24 November 2023

Ellen Sullivan chats to me about Gifted


How did you interpret the them for this anthology? 
I believe there are times when you receive something you think you don’t want, but it turns out to be a gift and that’s what occurs in my story.

How did you find out about our call for submissions? 
I found your call for submissions when it was featured on Duotrope which I use regularly to manage my submissions.
What are the merits for you of the short story form? 
The short story form allows me to dive deeply into a moment in a life to explore how small changes come about in the often intractable thing we call our self. Of course, there are times when my exploration doesn’t reveal any change. That’s also interesting to me as a chance to discover what truly is at the core of a person.
Tell us a little about you as a writer
My first short story was published in 2008. Since then I’ve had about a dozen stories published along with a chapter in a co-written book. I began writing plays about fifteen years ago and I've had numerous short plays in festivals across the country and in Canada. 

Do you have any more forthcoming publications or events
My next publication is scheduled to come out in 2024, a short story, Mother Love, which has been selected to appear in the literary journal Big Muddy.
 Find out more about Ellen at:  

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Seamus Norris talks to me about his contribution to the Gifted anthology


How did you interpreter the word "gifted"? 
The gift or Talent a person has or had.

How did you find out abut the call for submissions? 
Online search for opportunities to publish.

What do you like about short stories? 
You can tell the stories you want in a short form which make the stories accessible to more readers.

Tell us abut your journey as a writer 

I became interested in writing from an early age, after I got a present of a copybook from an Aunt. I was about 9 years of age. I started to write my first novel. It was a Western with a working title of “The United Family”. I wrote several chapters in very bad pencil handwriting (Thank God for Keyboards). The novel is as yet unfinished.  I still have the copybook! My interest in writing, particularly fiction was encouraged by my English secondary teacher in Carrick-On-Suir Vocational School, who left my imagination to its own devices.

 After secondary school, the writing bug dried up until I joined Piltown Macra Na Feirme in 1987. After watching the club perform in the county one-act drama competition, I decided to become a playwright because although I thought the actors were great, I thought the script was awful and dated.  My first play was a farce called  When The Cats Away, Everybody Plays which was performed in the following years drama competition, even getting to the county final.  I directed and cast it myself.  From there, I wrote several one act plays and sketches.  Several more of which were performed by Piltown Macra Na Feirme. I won best director and best actor awards as I took to the stage myself. I advanced to full length plays and then short stories.  Then I started writing poetry, mainly for the poetry competition at Ireland’s oldest agricultural show, the Iverk Show in Piltown.  

 In the 90’s, I also started writing for newspapers such as the Kilkenny People and Kilkenny Standard provincial newspaper which was an opportunity to write more factual content and tackle more serious local items. I was never afraid to write the truth. Some articles were published in national newspapers. 

Next up was song lyrics. One of my songs reached the final of the Glinsk Song Contest in 1999.  

Then to my first novel called Quest For Justice.  It has everything from romance to violence and action, to intrigue to science fiction and is predominantly Irish based.  It is still unpublished. I have since written another crime Novella called “Jamie” and started another novel call the “The Underdog” aimed at younger adults. 

During COVID, I wrote a short play called the “Power Of Love” which was streamed online by Barnstorm Theatre Arts in Kilkenny as part of their Love in Lockdown project and can be viewed on YouTube. When all restrictions were lifted it was performed live. I have built up a decent portfolio across many formats which is available to view on my website and I do intend to return more often to the keyboard in the future. Many ideas in my head that need to get out! Still the goal is to get as many of writings published or performed.  My stories come from my exciting and vivid imagination, mainly revolving around Sport, Westerns, Romance and Crime or are Irish themed, based on dramatised versions of his own life experiences. The stories range from drama to comedy. My motto is Dreams and Ambitions Have no Limit!

Is there anything else in the pipeline? 

Nothing planned but plenty of hope that more submissions will capture the eye and the imagination.  Gifted should certainly help there. Thanks to all at Bridge House.


Author Website           - 

Facebook                     - 

Twitter                        -           @seamusdnorris

Instagram                    - 


Thursday 16 November 2023

Allison Symes talks to me today about her involvement in our Gifted anthology


How did you interpret the word “Gifted”?

I took the meaning to be talented. That in turn led me to wonder about having a story about a character who has talent but is also horribly accident prone. It is clear she needs to find her true calling and without doing too much damage in the meantime. Her boss’s assistant is petrified of what my character can do but the boss finds uses for it.

My character is indeed gifted but not in the way she, or those closest to her, anticipated. The nice thing was this lent itself nicely to a humorous tale, which I always love writing. I love open themes like "gifted" because you can take something like this in so many different directions.


How did you find out about our call for submission?

By attending the Bridge House Publishing celebration event in London last year where the theme was announced. I then looked out for the submission date via the website. Having said that, knowing what the theme was so early did mean I could get drafting something earlier. I always appreciate things like that. Gave me more time to polish my draft up too before I had something ready to submit.


What are the merits for you of the short story form?

Short stories are wonderful forms in their own right. They capture moments. They give the pay-off so much more quickly than a novel can. They tell tales which, at best, would be a scene in a longer work and, just as likely, would not make it into a book at all.  

I enjoy writing a mixture of flash fiction (1000 words or fewer) and short stories (1001 words plus). I like being able to write different genres in these forms. I’ve written humorous tales, crime ones, ghostly types, and have loved being able to “play” with writing in the first person and the third in the shorter form.

It’s always a joy submitting stories (and even a bigger one when they’re accepted). I love the challenge of continually coming up with interesting characters and situations. Keeps me on my writing toes!


Tell us a little about you as a writer?

As well as writing flash fiction/short stories, I blog regularly. I write weekly  for online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, often on topics of interest to writers, and I often interview authors too. I blog for Authors Electric and More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

I write for and am part of the editorial team for Writers’ Narrative, which is written by writers for writers.

I also run flash fiction and editing workshops.

I was one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition three years in a row. I was impressed with how the fifteen winners each year came up with such different stories when we were all writing to the same theme and word count.

I have had my flash stories broadcast on North Manchester FM on the Three Minutes Santa show hosted by Hannah Kate and often have 100-word stories published on Friday Flash Fiction.


Do you have any more forthcoming publications or events?

I have submitted my third flash fiction collection to Chapeltown Books and am happily drafting a fourth. I am taking part in Flash NANO again where, for the month of November, I am given thirty prompts, one a day, to respond to - am finding this fun and challenging as I did last year. I also love the whole idea of having thirty new stories to edit and polish after November! You are also encouraged to post on the Facebook page associated with this how you are doing and, if you wish, excerpts of your drafts. Great way to interact with other writers.

Am looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event in London in December. I hope to be back at The Writers’ Summer School, Swanwick next year. In 2023 I ran a workshop there and am hoping to get to do that again.


Author Bio

Allison Symes, who loves reading and writing quirky fiction, is published by Chapeltown Books, CafeLit, and Bridge House Publishing. Her flash fiction collections, Tripping The Flash Fantastic and From Light to Dark and Back Again are out in Kindle and paperback.







Friday 10 November 2023

Linda Flynn, Gifted contributor, talks about her writing.

I interpreted the title Gifted as being talented, but I decided to subvert it and take more of a Noir approach.

For many years now I have looked for the Bridge House challenge in January, and although I don't immediately decide to enter the competition, the title will often play in the back of my mind until I write it.

Short stories are exciting to write as you can play around with so many structures and forms. Their compactness can also make them very memorable to read.

I'm currently working on a YA fantasy book. I intended to write it many years ago, but work commitments made it difficult to complete. Now that I'm writing from home, the ideas have developed further and I am enjoying the process.

I've had 33 short stories accepted and been published in 30 books. Amongst the most recent releases have been an anthology, I Knew it in the Bath and two children's books: Santa's Supersonic Sleigh and Playing Together.

Thursday 9 November 2023

Short and simple from Adjie on Gifted


How did you interpret the word “Gifted”?  
I didn't interpret it 

How did you find out about our call for submission?  

What are the merits for you of the short story form? 
It's just more fun

Tell us a little about you as a writer? 
Totally undisciplined

Do you have any more forthcoming publications or events? 
Some short stories

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Paula Readman talks to me today about her involvement with our Gifted project


How did you interpret the word “Gifted”?

I thought about a small gift, something unexpected when I started writing my story, ‘Just a Packet of Seeds’. As the saying goes; from little acorns, mighty oaks do grow. Sometimes the smallest gifts give the greatest pleasure and from these come the best memories.

How did you find out about our call for submission?

I’ve been writing for Bridge House Publishing for many years now, so I always check out their web pages to keep up-to-date with their submission.

What are the merits for you of the short story form?

Short stories were the best way for me to learn how to write to be published. It can be tough tackling a novel first, which can sometimes be soul-destroying. However, writing short fiction can help you master the basic skills you need for writing your first novel. By writing to a word limit, you can learn how to choose your words wisely, keep your sentences concise, and understand the importance of editing and working on a deadline. Submitting your short fiction can help you develop a thicker skin to deal with rejection. The upside with all the rejected stories is that you have a back catalogue of short stories. A quick re-edit and then you can submit somewhere else. I learned quite quickly that no stories go to waste. You can revisit them as many times as necessary until a spark of inspiration helps you create a story that finally finds a home.

Tell us a little about you as a writer.

I embarked on my writing journey twenty-five years ago when I was thirty-nine. It was a personal challenge to get something published before my fortieth birthday. Despite being poorly educated due to dyslexia, which left me embarrassed about my awful handwriting and weak spelling, I was determined to learn the basics of grammar and punctuation, and also to understand how the publishing industry works. This gave me an insight into what publishers were looking for when submitting my work.

Since I was a single mother working full-time to support my young son, and myself I had limited funds and time. Attending writing courses was not an option for me. Instead, I taught myself from 'how to write' books I found in charity shops, on eBay, and books borrowed from the library.

My effort paid off in 2010 when English Heritage published my first short story. Since then, I have published over a hundred short stories and six books. Although it has been a long journey, I am proud of what I have achieved so far.

Do you have any more forthcoming publications or events?

My latest book is a novella published by Demain Publishing called Never Reaching The End. It tells a tale about a young couple buying a house. It seems some houses don’t let go of their past. I have two short stories published one in CafeLit, the second in Gifted.


Twitter: Paula R C Readman @Darkfantasy13

Amazon Author’s Page:

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Hidayat Adams talks about his involvement with our anthology Gifted


I interpreted the word "gifted" in three ways in my story entitled "The Sealed Heart". (a) The story looked at a gifted or very talented surgeon. (b) It looked at how a patient returns the doctor's empathy as a gift by reminding him why he became a doctor in the first place. (c) The third gift was the doctor's wife falling pregnant and the child being the gift to both of them.

I found out about your call for submissions on Facebook. I belong to a group that updates members about writing competitions, and that's where I saw the announcement for the competition. I can tell you that I was extremely excited about the idea, but it took me quite a while before I felt I had the right kind of story. It was influenced mostly by my own experience at the time, as I was in and out of hospital for kidney and kidney stone treatments. It thus felt natural to set my story in a hospital and have the main character be a doctor. I based the character on my surgeon who was treating me.

I love the short story form because I can't seem to write anything longer than 6000 words. My fantasy novel wrote itself, as the story flowed effortlessly, but although I've started writing part two, it's just too much effort. The short story allows me to create a full story with interesting characters, and then move on to another story. I don't have to keep track of who's who, or who said what or what happened as I would have to do with a novel. I also love the fact that I can choose to have all loose ends tied up neatly, or present the reader with an open ending for them to figure it out. Additionally, I can experiment with a variety of genres from horror to comedy to romance to fantasy to science-fiction...

I am an English Academic Support lecturer at the College of Cape Town. I'm a self-published author of one fantasy novel and four short stories anthologies. I am a loner by nature, but I'm not anti-social. I just prefer my own company and being indoors. Aside from writing short stories, I also write poetry. I've had one of my poems published in a local poetry magazine, and three other poems have been selected by an online magazine to be posted on their site during November and December. I'm a bachelor for life, I love to bake (my speciality is a lemon meringue tart) and I am generous to a fault.

I am currently working on three novels, each at various stages of development. I've written the first four chapters of Part Two of my fantasy series; I've nearly finished a supernatural thriller which I started writing last year this time, and I started a new fantasy novel at the beginning of October. Unfortunately, all these projects have stalled, but I hope with the upcoming December holidays, I will be able to carry on with them and even finish one or two.

I have a Facebook page called Hidayat's Corner as well as a Facebook Profile for Hidayat Adams.
I have three books on that are  free to read.
Some of my poems can be found on