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Sent off a story submission tonight so pleased with that. Had drafted the story a while ago but wanted to leave it to one side and come back to it with a fresh eye. The voice of my character comes through loud and clear!

This piece is just under 1000 words, which is LOADS compared to my favourite 100-worders! But that is a major joy of flash fiction – it has divisions within it and there is nothing to stop you sticking to one type or mixing and matching. I like the latter approach.

Sometimes a character does need to be “let off the leash” for a longer distance and that was the case with this story.

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Whenever I watch/listen to an adaptation, whether it is a panto, a play or a novel turned into a TV series, am I looking for a word-to-word faithful rendition?

No! What I am looking for is the adapation to be faithful to the spirit of the original book, play or what have you. There is also a strong reason to adapt, say, fairytales for pantos and the like, given so many of the original stories are far too grim (some pun intended!) to be staged exactly as they were originally written.

I want the characters to be recognisable as the ones the original author created. I don’t like mish-mashes of characters, as can happen. Those never seem real to me, precisely I think because now I can spot the joins!!

Am looking forward to sharing my CFT post as it will be a review of a recent panto put on by The Chameleon Theatre Group. The style I’ve used for this one is a bit different too but suits the material well. More on Friday! (I think we need pantos in January given it seems such a long month and the weather’s generally awful or cold or both).

Making good progress with the novel. Am “brewing ideas” for a story competition (deadline end of March) so plan to start outlining hopefully later this week/over weekend.

Also hope to finalise third flash fiction collection in the next couple of months. The material is pretty much all there now but it needs a darned good edit! Mind, there is nothing I write (with the possible exception of the annual holiday note to the milkman) that DOESN’T need a darned good edit!

I discuss impact in my turn on the More Than Writers’ blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers.

I look at the impact I hope to achieve in the stories I write by deciding in advance what I’d like that to be and then selecting the words to best achieve that. The rest, of course, is down to the reader. You can put down the pointers but it is up to reader if they “run with them”.

Having said that, I have found thinking about impact like this means I’m trying to engage with readers from the outset. It also stops me going off at unhelpful tangents (and that is too easily done!).

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Looking ahead to some of the writing prompts coming up in my diary, there are some promising thoughts for new flash fiction stories. Some of the prompts are asking for character studies (with some being based on a specific name. I’ll have fun with that when I get to the week for that one. A name is just a peg after all. It’s what you do with the peg that matters!).

There are also some word association prompts. That will be fun too. A great way to allow yourself to go off at tangents to generate further story ideas. I love playing with words like that.

One huge advantage to writing flash fiction is it can give you a way of getting work out there while working on a much longer project, such as a novel.

I’m happily revisiting a novel of mine and using the editing skills writing flash fiction has given me. This should sharpen the novel up and I hope give it a better chance “out there” when I’m ready to submit it.

Naturally, this is going to take time but when not working on that, having flash fiction stories on the go is a great way of building up publishing credits and so on. I hope all of that will prove useful with regard to the novel later on. Watch this space, as they say!

One of the hardest things to do is cutting out a character you love but you know doesn’t really fit into the story or novel you’re writing. At one time you thought they did, that’s why they were there at all, but you have come to realise, often on repeated reading, that they’re not doing that much and if you cut them out, they wouldn’t be missed. (By anyone other than you naturally). Of course they’ve GOT to go but it seems such a shame…

Well, have you thought about seeing if you can write some flash fiction for them? Waste not, want not and all that. If a character can’t justify a full length story, can they be useful in a much shorter piece?

Food for thought I hope!

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Linking on from my theme of impact which I discuss in my monthly spot on More than Writers (the Association of Christian Writers’ blog), flash fiction has the huge advantage that its impact is immediate. It has to be.

That doesn’t rule out having “big themes”, far from it, but in a flash fiction story, you touch on them briefly and leave the readers to ponder on them.

I love this when I read flash fiction by other authors. I like being given the room to think on the impact of the stories I have just read. When a piece really inspires me, I look at how I think the author achieved that and learn from this. One shared joy of reading and writing is there is always something to learn to add greater enjoyment to what you read/help you improve your own writing.

Goodreads Author Blog – Delving into the Past

Delving into the past has great connotations for readers and writers alike.

Firstly, there is the whole range of historical books to explore – fiction and non-fiction. Then there’s the delight in exploring your favourite historical eras and discovering ones you hadn’t known much about.

For me, coming across Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time was one of those moments when a book really does change things for you. It completely altered my views on Richard III. Do check out the book and see if it does the same for you!

Secondly, there is the joy of rediscovering the stories that were favourites of yours in your own past. I’ve done this recently by, of all things, going to a panto and revisiting a story I’d not read in years – Ali Baba. The panto was great but the story reminded me that fairytales are anything but twee and when justice is served, it is usually with a very rough edge!

Other books connected to my past are my late mother’s Dickens collection. Some I’ve read, others not, but I do know I’m not running out of reading material any time soon! This is a VERY good thing!

So if you are stuck for something to read (I know, perish the thought!), delve into your past and look again at wht you used to read. Why did you stop reading that? Is it a question of going, say, from “childish” fairytales (though I’d argue fairytales are anything but childish) to more adult magical realism and fantasy stories?

Above all have fun delving into your literary past and see where it takes you now!

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Stories – and why Flash Fiction isn’t new

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My latest CFT post The Story of Stories – Ali Babais effectively a two parter in that I discuss how I discovered the story of Ali Baba and next week’s post will be a review of that as a panto recently performed by The Chameleons.

It is always a great joy when writing these posts coming up with suitable Feature Images and I can’t recommend Pixabay and Pexels (both free to use sites) highly enough. Tonight’s image is my favourite to date. Many thanks, Pixabay!

I also discuss some of my favourite character types in this post and why fairytales definitely are NOT twee.

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Had a great time at Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the pantomime staged by The Chameleons this year. Review to follow on CFT next week though for tomorrow’s post I do share where I came across this story and the special memories the book it was in has for me.

Yes, everyone did join in at the appropriate times in the panto.

Oh yes they did!

Reorganised my TBR pile earlier today. It is as large as ever but in a much neater heap now! To be fair, the pile IS slowly coming down but it is always the way I finish a few books, then somehow a few new ones make their way on and I’m back where I was!

Have almost finished drafting a story I want to submit later this month/early in February for a competition I took part in last year. Have got ideas for the annual Bridge House story too and want to flesh those out and go with what I like best.

I’m talking a little about the story of stories and why I think oral storytelling will never die out in my CFT post this week. Link up on Friday.

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In many ways flash fiction isn’t something new. It just hasn’t been known by that name. Many of the parables of Jesus come in at under 500 words (and quite a few under 100!) and I suspect that many of Aesop’s Fables would also qualify.

The ideals of the very short story are conciseness and clarity. There really is nothing more to be said! It is an art form to get to the level of conciseness required though but this is why I think every writer should try flash fiction. It beefs up your editing muscles a LOT!

I don’t have an issue with serious stories. They serve a major purpose and can be a great way of getting a message across and usually on causes needing that.

However, I am a huge fan of stories “just” being for fun and things like pantomimes, where the story is acted out, and a great time is had by the cast and the audience are, I think, vital for keeping a proper balance.

There has to be light AND dark in fiction I think.

Can you cover concepts such as freedom in flash fiction, given its limited word count?

I think so. You can show what it means to ONE character. You can show your character’s attitude to it. You can’t go into much depth due to that word count restriction but you can imply so much with your character’s attitude and reaction. The reader can then figure out just how important (or otherwise) the concept is to that character.

You can show a character’s attitude to freedom by what they do to attain it (and that can be to restrict the freedom of someone else or to remove them if they are seen to be the obstacle to that freedom). Actions and attitudes then are the way to convey what a character really holds dear.

Fairytales with Bite – Where Stories Go Wrong

Where stories go wrong can be down to a number of factors but I list what I think are the most important points below.

1.  Character not strong enough.
By this I mean the character does not grab the reader’s attention.  There is not enough in the character to make the reader want to have their attention grabbed!  A reader needs to either identify with the character and so follow the story to see if all works out in the end, or be very happy to see your character get their comeuppance and again follow the story through to find out if they do!  (I remember wanting to cheer when Molly Weasley in Harry Potter “dealt with” Bellatrix Lestrange – and sorry but I refuse to accept that’s a plot spoiler now!  The point is the characters or Molly and Bellatrix grabbed my attention.  One I wanted to succeed, the other not to and so I was hooked).

2.  Story not strong enough.
There isn’t enough conflict or drama to warrant there being a story!  Things have got to happen in a story and sometimes those things are not necessarily dramatic but they are everything to your characters.  The reader needs to find out how your people will react if things do or don’t turn out well in the end.  Is there enough in your story to make readers want to find out what happens next?  It can be a good test to step aside from your work for a bit and come back to it as a reader would.  Is your story the kind you would eagerly pick up from a book shop because its opening lines and its blurb grip you?

3.  Characters not distinguishable from each other.
Each major character has to have their own voice.  A reader should be able to tell who is who.  If they can’t confusion sets in and nobody will read a story like that.

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This World and Others – The Story of Stories

I look at this in my latest CFT post and it was a temptation to go straight into a history of stories.  Instead I focused on one – Ali Baba (partly because I’m reviewing the panto of it next week!) – but what is fascinating about stories like this which cross cultures and time is why they have.  My own feeling is that the characters and themes of the stories still resonate and they will continue to survive because of that.

The challenge for us as writers then is to ensure our own characters and themes resonate so readers will want to engage with them.  How can we do this?  By ensuring that our characters have virtues we aspire to and failures we can sympathise with!  No goody-goodies.  No villains who act in ways we can’t understand.  There has to be a reason for them acting the way they are, even if the reason isn’t a good one.  A reader has to be able to see where the character is coming from even if they think (rightly or wrongly) the character is going in totally the wrong direction!

As for themes, you can’t beat the big ones of love, justice, redemption etc.  What matters is the take we bring to these themes.  My voice (and therefore my characters) will be unique to me, yours will be unique to you.  Mix things up.  Often the themes of love and redemption are used together and very powerfully too.  So write about what matters to you.  If justice is your raison d’etre, then how can you convey that in a story?  Do you have a character who fights passionately for justice or who has been a victim of injustice?  What makes your character special that they’re going to stand out to, firstly, an editor and, secondly, readers?

Work out what you would like your story to convey.  Planning is vital, I find, to stop me going off at a tangent.  Focus.  Edit. Fine tune your story so you ensure it meets your theme.  Cut out anything that doesn’t help the story with that objective.  And have fun doing it!




















Flash Fiction and Successful Writing

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When is writing considered successful? When you are published? When you submit more work in a year than you’ve done before? When you have more acceptances than rejections? When you can make a living from writing?

All of those things matter, of course they do, BUT if you are committed to your writing, and seek to always improve on what you do, I’d say that was being successful. Why?

Because you do need stamina to cope with the ups and downs of the writing life. You need to recognize you do need to keep striving.

And whether you seek publication for one book, lots of books, or just want to win short story competitions from time to time, then that’s fine. Decide what you would like to achieve and give it your best shot.

Good luck!


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Whatever writing you do, I think the two most important things are to enjoy it and use it to help you develop.

If you write flash fiction, as I do, seek to find more ways of generating ideas and find more markets/competitions for your work.

Writing is a journey after all and, even after publication, you will still face rejections. You will want to get better at what you do. There are always things to spur you on.

My overall goal? To be the best writer I can be.



West Bay Beach on a gorgeous day in December 2018.  Image taken by Allison Symes.  Walks along a beach can be a good place to reflect on what you would like to achieve as a writer.

Enjoyed the writing prompt in my diary tonight. I had to use certain words to come up with an opening to a story or a poem. A poem emerged! Needs a lot of work mind you but enjoyable to draft. What was nice about this was I could “hear” the rhythm of the draft and knew from that, this would a poem and not a piece of flash fiction.

I like the mixture of writing prompts in this diary. They’re going to keep me on my toes this year. I also like prompts as a chance to play with words and just see what comes out. Later will come more fun when I look at these drafts in the cold light of day and assess what works and what doesn’t and then obviously go with what does. I know now NOT to try and write and edit the same piece in the same session. Doesn’t work. I find I need to give myself some distance before appraising anything.


Off to the panto later this week. Oh yes she is! Oh no… etc etc.

Don’t think I’ve seen Ali Baba before and it’s been a long time since I last read the story. Should be a good fun evening and panto I think is about the only time nobody cares too much how noisy the theatre audience gets. (That may just be me remembering childhood pantos too vividly though!). Review will follow on CFT in due course.

My favourite panto story is probably Robin Hood though as I’ve always adored that tale.🏹🏹 Recently rewatched Prince of Thieves. (The much missed Alan Rickman IS the definitive Sheriff of Nottingham.)

Back to normal after a lovely weekend away. Why is it that, wherever it is you go, no matter for how short a time you’re away for, you always come back feeling jetlagged, even if you’ve been nowhere near a plane?!

My CFT post later this week will take a brief look at why the oral tradition of storytelling will never die out. I also look at how I came across the story of Ali Baba, the panto I’ll be off to see on Thursday, and the special memories of the book I have where I first read the tale. Much as I can see the point of decluttering, I draw the line at books!

Practically all of mine have special memories attached to them and it is a great pleasure to have a shelf of books written by friends of mine. (Take a bow, #ValPenny, #JenniferCWilson, #BeatriceFishback, #DawnKentishKnox, #GillJames, #RichardHardie, #BrendahSedgwick amongst others!). I look forward to filling other shelves with books by friends and, of course, my own!

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Drafted another flash story on the train yesterday. Plan to polish that and submit it I hope sometime next week.

Never despise “only” having 5 minutes to write or what have you. These pockets of time are really useful for getting some drafts written. You’d be surprised at how much time those pockets can mount up to and therefore how many drafts you can get done!

Some one-line stories for tonight’s post, I think.

1. The red dragon thought it would defy being out of time by sitting on the clock tower and crushing it.

2. The fraud would work, she knew, but did she have the guts to go through with it?

3. It had a 90% risk of failure, and that would mean death, but he liked odds like that for bringing out the best in him.

Flash fiction lends itself well to having fun experimenting with genre writing. Why?

Because it has to be character led, you can set that character anywhere you want. So you can write fairytales, crime stories, historical fiction etc. The framework is that you are writing a flash story. It may even help you discover what your favourite genre to write in is – I will always have a very special fondness for humorous fairytales. But I do enjoy coming out with crime flash fiction every so often.

Mixing things up keeps ME thinking and stretching the old imaginative muscles, which is always a good thing.

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I’m enjoying tackling the weekly writing prompts in my diary. Some are picture prompts, others you have to use certain words, and still others you have to write a description of a particular thing. All good creative stuff. Loving the mix too.

The one for last week was to use certain words as an opening for a poem or story. What was lovely was I heard the voice of my narrator immediately and they were demanding their words be written as a poem. Well, when you’re told like that, you have no choice do you?!

When writing is really going well, it can seem as if you are taking dictation from your characters, but that is a very good thing. It shows they’re real and if they engage you, they’ll engage readers too.

Flash fiction is wonderful for stories which are moments in time for a character. These moments are not enough in themselves to make a standard length short story but are of enough interest and insight to justify being “out there”. And those moments can be as funny or as sad or as horrific as you care to make them.

The great irony with flash fiction is, despite its restricted word count, it does actually give the writer a great deal of freedom as the stories HAVE to be character led. Of course it is up to you where and when and how your characters lead us! The important thing is you as the writer have fun here and we as the readers will pick up on that and love reading what you write.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Going Away

Sorry, post a day later this week, as have been away this weekend, but I use opportunities like that to revise what I am reading and what I want to take with me while away. It helps with packing too! I won’t take the huge volume of stories which takes up far too much room. I WILL take the Kindle and one of my slimmer paperbacks..

So when you go away what crucial books do you HAVE to take with you?

I was catching up on Peter Ackroyd’s The Civil War over the weekend – like his style and this is a period of history I know a bit about but am conscious I ought to know more. Good to get back to this book again.

I usually finish Kindle books before I move on to something else but can sometimes get sidetracked, especially if a friend has a book out I really want to get on and read, but I do catch up in the end. Am always glad to do so too.









Wishing and Outlining

My post is up a night early due to other commitments over the next few days but hope you enjoy.  There is still time to take advantage of the book offers as part of my author of the week promotion but you only have until tomorrow, 18th January.


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Delighted to share my latest CFT post, Three Wishes. Great fun to write. So go on then – what would your three choices be? Have a look at the ground rules and assumptions (they’re not arduous, really, and I think they’re fair too) and then have fun picking your three. Comments on my CFT page would be great.  (And find out why space comes into my choices).

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My CFT post will be going up a night early so look out for Three Wishes tomorrow. What would you wish for if your fairy godmother turned up and allowed you to have said three wishes? There are ground rules (no wishes for more wishes for a start! She has got a busy round you know) – see the link tomorrow. Great fun to write this piece. Looking forward to sharing the link.

Also am off to the local panto next week with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams. Will be a hoot, I’m sure. Whenever I go out like this it’s for Shakespeare, a funny or serious play, and panto! Still, I guess it is a good mix!

feature image - three wishes

My latest CFT post. Pixabay image.

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Linking in with my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week about Three Wishes, what would you choose as a flash fiction writer? Mine would be:-

1. To always get the word count right for the story. (Not necessarily the competition or market. You may just have to find a competition or market the story suits better but the story HAS to be right).

2. To never run out of ways to find ideas for stories. (Random word generators, slogans, classic themes, the old question of What If? all come into what I use for mine but it is good to have a variety of ways to generate those ideas. For one thing, it keeps things fresh for you).

3. To never run out of ways of generating titles. Due to flash fiction’s restricted word count, getting the title right is hugely important. It can be used to convey the mood of the story and its genre and save you precious words doing that in the body of the tale. As with any story, the title has to tempt the reader in to reading the rest. You want to get it right!

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Am away at the weekend so hope to draft a LOT of flash fiction while on the trains! Great use of dead time. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how quickly I got used to (a) using an app on a smartphone to write stories, blogs etc while travelling and (b) that using the stylus was no problem at all.

Main thing I loathe is my local train company has taken OUT all of the mobile phone recharging points that were on board (and put there by the previous train company, whom I miss a lot). The new lot have literally blank-plated the plug sockets out! Why? I saw the recharging points as a useful customer service and I really can’t quite believe that a lot of power would’ve been drained. Nobody is plugged in ALL the time! Oh well…

Echoes can be useful in flash fiction. In my Pen Portrait I refer to a character that follows the “Shirley Williams school of thought rather than Margaret Thatcher’s” when it comes to caring for hair!

If you recall both of those politicians, you will remember they had very differing hair styles. I’m sure the latter’s would not have moved an inch even in a hurricane. (Also for those who don’t recall but wish to do so, it’s easy enough to look up pictures of these two. Indeed you only need to look up one of them to get some idea of what the other would be like here).

What’s useful is the mention of these two politicians will give a reader an idea of the age of the character without me spelling it out, as well as what their approach is to brushing their hair!

Think about what you could use to convey information across to readers like this. Echoes are a great word count saver!

Fairytales with Bite – Wishing, Just Wishing

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is called Three Wishes and asks what would you choose if your fairy godmother turned up and granted you the customary three wishes?  Naturally, there are ground rules but check the post out and have fun picking yours!

For this post, I thought I’d look at what your characters would wish for.  Okay a lot is going to depend on your story, genre, etc but some general pointers I think would cross all of that and be true for most of them.  These then are:-

1.  To be well thought out before my writer puts me to paper or screen
I’ve found outlining a character to be a useful tool.  I don’t put down every single thing but I need to know their major traits, what might send them “over the edge”, what drives them etc. By the time I’ve thought about all of that, I can hear the voice of that character and once I’ve got that, I can write them into existence!  I’ve found that time spent initially in thinking about what I need to know here has saved me time later in editing and not having weaknesses in characterisation and/or the plot.  The lovely thing here is each writer can decide what they need to know.  It will vary from writer to writer.  It can vary from story to story too.  For example if you know you are going to write a humorous tale, you can ask what would your character dread happening to them because they’d be so embarrassed?  There would be a lot of humour potential there!

2.  To give me dialogue I can actually speak and which doesn’t sound like “authorese”.
This is where reading your work out loud pays off.  You can literally hear if the words flow or not.  If you stumble over dialogue, a reader will too.  Time to edit then! Speech itself, as well as speech patterns of characters, must seem natural.  You want to convey that this is something a “real” person in these circumstances might actually say (even if the setting is fantastical).

3.  For the writer to know what they are doing!
We’re back to outlining again.  Your characters need to have a function to justify their place in your story.  So you really do need to know what they are doing in your story and, as importantly, why.  Once you know that, you can write with confidence (and it does show through).

This World and Others – Outlining

Do you outline? Should you outline? Is there one absolute way TO outline?

Firstly, I do outline and I have found it has saved me a lot of time editing and fixing problems in the characters/plot because I’ve worked out the main points first.  That to me is the best reason of all to outline.

Secondly, I think most writers should outline.  Working out your direction before you start off, especially on a major project, makes a great deal of sense.

Thirdly, no!  For a flash fiction piece, I once wrote one sentence as I knew my story idea could go in one of two directions and naturally I wanted to go with the strongest idea.  By writing down that sentence, I could then see what was the strongest idea and I went with it.  For short stories and novels, I obviously outline more.

I don’t outline every single thing.  For characters, I look at what drives them (as that reveals their attitudes to life, to others etc).  For a story I want the beginning and end and a point in the middle which will usually prove to be the turning point.  I deliberately allow room for my imagination to kick in and have found when ideas come to me as I write the story, I can jot them down, look at my outline, work out where they’d fit in and away I go.

I will sometimes outline a setting to help me get a clear picture of it in my head.  For a setting I already know well, I may look at what might surprise me about it and see if I can be surprised by it.

Outlining is a tool.  How you make use of it is up to you but it is good to have that tool in your writers’ toolbox.  Use it to serve your writing.  I’ve found it pays off.








Why Write and Using Writing Prompts

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Scribblers Books also shared details of the special offers on my writing available for this week only, folks!  A reminder about these offers follows shortly.

One of the nicest things a writer can experience is signing one of your books for a reader! Congratulations to Jim Bates who will be receiving a signed copy of my From Light to Dark and Back Again in due course. (You don’t tire of signing books for things like this!).

And a huge thank you to everyone who has supported my being author of the week for Bridge House by sharing posts, sending congratulations etc. Much appreciated!🙂💐💐♥️


Book news! I’m Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown’s author of the week and there are free books up for grabs AND special offers on others. What’s not to like?

I’ve had the great pleasure of being published by BHP/CB in various anthologies as well as with From Light To Dark and Back Again. These form the basis of the package below.

BOOK PACKAGE: There are SIX, count them SIX, publications where I have work on offer for £4.00, all as mobi-files. This includes To Be…To Become (the Waterloo Festival competition, anthology), Baubles (BH anthology), The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 AND 6 and From Light to Dark and Back Again, my first flash fiction collection.

And for those of you who would like print paperbacks there’s an offer for you too.

PAPERBACK OFFER: My first published story was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions. That isn’t available on Kindle BUT is in paperback and that along with From Light to Dark and Back Again is on offer at a mere £7.00 for the two!

GIVEAWAY:  Still available,  I’m giving away one signed copy of:-

Alternative Renditions OR
Baubles OR
One of the Best of Cafelit books I’m in.


If you’re interested email my lovely editor, Gill James, at with your contact details. Also let her know which of the books you would like and Gill and I will take things from there.

All of the above books are available on Amazon.

And if you would like to try some of my work out first, head over to Cafelit at…/l…/Allison%20Symes


Scribbler also shared the links to my Chandler’s Ford Today author page where I often write on topics of interest to the writing community (such as The Benefits of a Good Writing Conference, Creativity is Good For You, Fiction -v- Non-Fiction etc etc)

Next challenge? Get more out there! Pic below is of my flash fiction collection on sale at last year’s Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Bookshop. Always a thrill to know your book is in there!

Oh and the offer ends this Friday, 18th January.

What Barbara Large's writing classes will help writers discover - what is their story - image via Pixabay

A good writing group will help you discover this. Pixabay image.

Loving the writing prompts in my diary. (Pictures like the woodland and other landscape ones below are great for suggesting atmosphere and therefore what type of story I’m likely to come up with). Looking ahead a little, there is a nice mixture of picture prompts, suggestions of words to use to create an opening for a story or poem (flash fiction in my case), and pieces asking you to describe something in a setting (for example a journey in winter, which is the one for this week). These are going to make a nice challenge for me. 52 new flash fiction stories at least then this year!

I like coming up with title ideas every so often and will come up with a dozen or so. Then I write the stories to suit. I deliberately choose “open” titles, open in terms of what the mood/setting of the story could be. I like to have plenty of possibilities to play with and then I go with the one I like best. The other ideas I will revisit at a later date. They may suit another story.

Why write?

1. Because you have to. There is just something hardwired into your brain driving you to write.

2. To give something back to the wonderful world of stories you’ve enjoyed (and still enjoy) being part of.

3. Because there are characters and stories you simply have to develop. (Ties in with 1 above though 1 can apply to non-fiction writers just as much).

4. Because you read something awful and know you can do better. So you rise to the challenge and do it!

5. Because it’s a joy to do, whether you seek publication or not.

6. You always loved inventing stories at school so why stop there?

7. To see if you CAN do it and then see if you can improve on what you do.

8. To explore what it is you actually want to write and maybe discover areas of writing you had not known about before.

9. You come across a writing competition you really like the sound of and you think it may have your name on it. There’s only one way to find out if that’s right!

10. You believe most people have some sort of creative/artistic “bent” to them and writing is the most natural for you.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Is it harder to write a book or promote one? Answers on a…well I don’t think a postcard would be big enough.

Both have their challenges and rewards of course. Getting the balance right between doing both is tricky. Always has been, always will be, and I think every writer has to work out what works for them.

It is one of those things that when I first started writing seriously for publication, everything was still sent by snail mail. These days practically every story I submit anywhere is by email.

And to not be involved with social media in some way (even if you focus on one, say) is a serious disadvantage. What I like best about social media is the way it can help you to engage with other people and ultimately isn’t that what we’re trying to do through our writing, whether it is for educational or good old sheer entertainment purposes?

(No time for trolls though – the only place for those is in a fairytale!).

When writing light stories, what are you looking to achieve? I want to write stories that make people smile (I’m not necessarily aiming for the laugh out loud moment). The impact I want to leave on a reader is one of them having had a hugely enjoyable read. I know I’m always cheered up no end reading stories like that.

As for the dark stories, I sometimes want to make the reader shudder, I want to make them see how and why my character would act the way they are, and then be glad they’re not in the situation I’ve put the characters in!

I like a balance of both types of story in my books and I also like reflective character study pieces too. I find, when reading this kind of story by other writers, they’re the stories that make me think the most. The “would I have done that in those circumstances?” kind of story has a quieter impact than the funny or scary tales, but the impact is there all the same.

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When writing a story in flash
Don’t decide you’ll be oh so rash.
By just writing everything down.
Tangents occur to make you frown!
Plan your ideas, a note will do,
Sketchy, detailed, it’s up to you.
Stories are stronger if they’re planned.
Saves many a tale being panned!

Allison Symes – 14th January 2019

This one comes from direct experience! Sometimes my outlines are as little as a sentence. For longer stories, I go into more detail. I deliberately don’t plan everything out. I want to encourage the imagination to “fire up” and not stifle it but a plan sends me in the right general direction.

I love the Scrivener templates for character and setting outlines. I draft those and they get me into the world of my story idea so quickly. But there is no reason why, if you don’t use that kind of software, you can’t think of a useful template of your own. Think about what you need to know about your characters before you start writing about them. Base a template on that. It will come in handy many times.

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Echoes can be useful in flash fiction. In my Pen Portrait I refer to a character that follows the “Shirley Williams school of thought rather than Margaret Thatcher’s” when it comes to caring for hair!

If you recall both of those politicians, you will remember they had very differing hair styles. I’m sure the latter’s would not have moved an inch even in a hurricane. (Also for those who don’t recall but wish to do so, it’s easy enough to look up pictures of these two. Indeed you only need to look up one of them to get some idea of what the other would be like here).

What’s useful is the mention of these two politicians will give a reader an idea of the age of the character without me spelling it out, as well as what their approach is to brushing their hair!

Think about what you could use to convey information across to readers like this. Echoes are a great word count saver!

Goodreads Author Blog – Good Books

What defines a good book for you?

For me a good book is one that fulfils its purpose, whether that is to make me laugh, show me a world I did not know previously, or help me improve my history knowledge etc.

It has to keep me gripped to The End. I have to be eagerly looking forward to reading the next chapter when I read in bed. (And be mightily miffed if the Sandman comes along a bit early and I don’t get to read for as long as I’d like).

A good book will have writing that takes my breath away with the joy of how it is put together. P.G. Wodehouse is the master there as far as I’m concerned.

Humorous books have to not only make me laugh out loud, but to keep me smiling until The End. I love books which are obviously funny but which raise smiles by their subtle use of language, puns etc. Again Wodehouse is brilliant here and so was Terry Pratchett.

Crime fiction has to bring out the “I’ve got to find out what happens next” feeling. And it must deliver on its promise. Historical fiction has to make me feel “yes, it could have been that way” and so on.

Good books I always re-read. Maybe that is the true test of a great read.

Says it all really and both must balance out Pixabay image

So true. Pixabay image.


Tried and Tested – and Book Offers!

A very busy night tonight and a special post about book offers too and I will start with those I think!  Also included this week is a link to my guest spot on crime writer Val Penny’s wonderful Book Review blog.  Many thanks to her for hosting me.


Book news! I’m Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown’s author of the week and there are free books up for grabs AND special offers on others. What’s not to like?

I’ve had the great pleasure of being published by BHP/CB in various anthologies as well as with From Light To Dark and Back Again. These form the basis of the package below.

BOOK PACKAGE: There are SIX, count them SIX, publications where I have work on offer for £4.00, all as mobi-files. This includes To Be…To Become (the Waterloo Festival competition, anthology), Baubles (BH anthology), The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 AND 6 and From Light to Dark and Back Again, my first flash fiction collection.

And for those of you who would like print paperbacks there’s an offer for you too.

PAPERBACK OFFER: My first published story was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions. That isn’t available on Kindle BUT is in paperback and that along with From Light to Dark and Back Again is on offer at a mere £7.00 for the two!


I’m giving away one signed copy of:-

From Light to Dark and Back Again AND
Alternative Renditions OR
Baubles OR
One of the Best of Cafelit books I’m in.

First come, first served, naturally. Also one book per customer.

If you’re interested email my lovely editor, Gill James, at with your contact details. Also let her know which of the books you would like and Gill and I will take things from there. I’m looking forward to getting some books off in the post next week!

So two lucky people can be in for a free read! What are you waiting for? Gill is waiting to hear from you!

All of the above books are available on Amazon.

And if you would like to try some of my work out first, head over to Cafelit at…/l…/Allison%20Symes

Do check out the other wonderful stories here. You’re in for a great read, I promise.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Busy night tonight but fun! Hope you saw the book offer posts earlier. Meanwhile back to CFT and I’m glad to share my Tried and Tested Writing Tips this week. Hope you find it useful.

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Will be a busy day tomorrow. As well as my usual CFT post (all about tried and tested writing tips), I’m Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books author of the week and will have news of book offers so stay tuned.

Re my CFT post: I’ve picked those tips I use most often and go into detail as to why they are useful.

Absolutely delighted to have been guest blogger on Val Penny‘s Book Reviews blog. Many thanks to her – it’s been a good week writing wise when it comes to getting the word out there!

And talking of words, the ones I’ve found most helpful are the ones that encourage when all that seem to come in are rejections etc. This is why you need writing friends. We know what it is like – both the joys and the down sides. It is a roller coaster ride but nobody says you have to be alone on the thing!

Am delighted to share the link to the great blog from crime writer Val Penny. The fact that I am her guest on it tonight is not at all coincidental!

Many thanks, Val, for the invite. The questions were great fun to answer. Val and I met at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (or more accurately just outside Derby Railway Station just ahead of us both going to Swanwick!) and we’ve been great friends ever since.

It is also lovely being on the receiving end of questions too!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m due to be Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books author of the week. News of book offers tomorrow.

Getting the balance right between writing new material, revising and improving material that has not yet found a home, and marketing has never been easy to get right. Has there ever been a writer who doesn’t feel there is always something they could be doing better in any of these departments? I don’t think so!

One advantage to flash fiction of course is it can be a great way of getting work done and “out there” while working on longer projects. (And if said work is published, you’re building up your writing CV too).

What questions would you put to your characters to get the best out of them before you write their story?

One of my favourites here is “what drives you?” I use it to dig deep into a character because there will be an answer that is something nobody would mind revealing – the public face, if you like.

However, it is the answer the character (and we as individuals) try to keep to ourselves that is the really interesting one to work with! It can also reveal things about our characters that make us realise we can do so much more with them. It IS worth digging that bit deeper to get to these points.

Your stories will be deeper and have more impact as a result – even the shortest of flash fiction stories will benefit. If I know my character thinks they’re capable of, say, robbery, but I dig deeper and find in certain situations, they could kill, guess which story I’m going with!

You DO want to dump your characters right in the mire and put them under as much stress as possible and really see what they’re made of. Let the drama play out. Have fun with this, I do! (Oh and nobody said writers have to be nice to their characters, often it’s the opposite in fact!).


Many thanks to #ValPenny for hosting me on her Book Reviews blog. It was great fun answering the questions.

Questions like these are really useful for making you evaluate why you write and whether the “how” could be improved. (The answer is almost certainly “yes” to that by the way!).

Fairytales with Bite – Storytelling

Storytelling is one of our oldest traditions of course. You can understand the appeal of fairytales especially when it comes to the oral storytelling tradition. A simple plot, a structure that works, a clear goodie and baddie, and a happy ever after ending. Perfect way to end the day!

Now, of course, we expect our characters to be more nuanced. There is no such thing as the perfect hero. Villains have to have good (and understandable) reasons for acting the way they are (and that can include the fact they simply enjoy being evil. To them, that is reason enough!).

What I love about stories is that there is no one perfect format. I love books in all their forms but totally understand why audiobooks work for some, whereas the print format doesn’t. Our focus as writers is to come up with stories that can work in several formats. Our focus is to entertain. I’ve never understood why some look down on escapism. The world is sad and bad enough to make a wish to escape understandable. After all why did our cavemen ancestors tell stories? To remember what was important. To bring the community closer together. To escape the cares of their day and the ones to come for a while.

So as a writer then I want my characters to appeal to readers. I also want to drop my characters right in it whenever I can. I want my books to engage people. It’s a good thing to aim for: to improve your storytelling as much as possible. You discover better ways of expressing things, learn what works and what doesn’t. Enjoy your storytelling and relish every moment of it.


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This World and Others – Tried and Tested

My latest CFT post is Tried and Tested Writing Tips, which I hope you find useful.

How are your characters tried and tested?  Do they pass the tests you set them?  In almost any story you can think of, it is only when the characters are put right through the emotional wringer, do you see what they are capable of and where their limits are.  That is also where sidekick characters are useful – to help see your leads through to the bitter end and to get them through that “about to give it all up” moment.

Testing doesn’t need to to be overly dramatic either.  It can be as simple as a character having their patience tested by a relative who is trying to goad them (deliberately or otherwise, it’s not always consciously done).  Your character is very patient to begin with, then they become slightly less patient as time and the goading continues, and so on before they snap or do something they would not ordinarily have done.  Your character may be aware of this process so what do they do to try and fight it?  To not give in to that urge to snap no matter what the provocation?

Think about what would stress your characters out.  Think about their coping mechanisms.  What would happen if they failed or weren’t available when needed?

Have fun finding out!


Facebook – General

Does the mood you are in affect what and how you write? My own answer to that is it depends!

If I’m in a flat state of mind but the writing I’m working on has a character in a similar state, then I can use my own mood to help write that piece! (I get something useful out of being in a flat mood! Ironically that knowledge cheers me up so win-win!).

Sometimes I deliberately write opposite to my mood so, again if I feel flat, I try to put myself in the head of a character in a lighter mood and find myself writing light. Again that can be a mood booster for me. Writing can be amazingly therapeutic at times.

What I do know is writing anything is a good “outlet” and later, once in a better frame of mind, I can evaluate any writing done in a flat state and see what I can do with it. But the great thing is I have still written, I still have work to do something with, so my advice would be, if you feel flat and don’t feel like writing, try to write something, even if it is a very short piece. I’ve found many times once I get started, I keep going, and writing takes me to a different, better place. Again, win-win there, I think.