Preparing An (Online) Party

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Book cover image from Chapeltown Books.

Image of Val Penny giving a wonderful talk at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School kindly provided by her and used in previous CFT posts.

Images of Gill James and Dawn Knox also provided by them respectively and again used in CFT posts.

Many thanks also to Penny Blackburn for her picture of me reading at the 2019 Open Prose Mic Night at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Many thanks to everyone who has already reviewed Tripping the Flash Fantastic and/or has shown support for my cyberlaunch. Very much appreciated. (Further down I share a link to a wonderful review on Val Penny’s Book Review Blog and I hope to share further reviews in due course).

No prizes for guessing why I wrote this piece for CFT this week! See link below (and I do like the way this aspect of the new WordPress works).

My CFT post this week is all about that launch with all relevant details included, BUT I also go on to talk about the advantages of this kind of event. I also share some thoughts on how people can support their writer friends. Hope you enjoy.

Preparing An (Online) Party

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Also, just a quick reminder about the author event I am taking part in tomorrow afternoon, with Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox. Would be good to see you “there”!

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It has been a good day. Delighted to get off in the post copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic to someone I know who has been waiting for the book to come out almost as much as I have! So first sales – yippee!

Did I mind going round to the Post Office in a mask for that one? Not a bit! (Got a sneaky bit of advertising in while I was there too. You know how they always ask you what is in the parcel…. well I told them!).😆😆

Also delighted to see the latest review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic is now up on Val Penny’s Book Review Blog. Many thanks, Val. (It is particularly nice to see the covers for both of my books forming part of this review).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about my cyberlaunch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. All the necessary details will be there but I’ll also be sharing thoughts on the advantages of having launches this way.

There are several advantages (and not just for the writer either. Events like this can be huge fun for the audience and I love attending the ones my writer pals hold for this reason. A good event should be entertaining. The idea is to engage with an audience and, yes, hopefully generate book sales but engaging with the audience is SO important. The event has to be fun for them as well as for you.).

I’ll also discuss how readers can make a huge difference in supporting their writer friends holding this kind of event. Link up on Friday.

And just a quick reminder that #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox and I will be on Zoom this coming Saturday between 3 and 4 pm discussing our works. There will be stories. There will be giveaways. Hope to see you at both events! Should be fun!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

For both the author event I’m involved with tomorrow and my cyberlaunch on 10th October, I am particularly looking forward to is reading out some of my flash fiction. Flash works excellently for this kind of thing as it is short and to the point and I’ve always loved being read to! Hope you enjoy that too.

I read work out loud regularly as it helps me to literally hear how the story flows. If I trip over words while reading, then I know readers will, so I can correct that. I sometimes record and play back too (usually for longer pieces) and that is also helpful.

Have a lovely time with your reading and/or writing this weekend!



I’ve mentioned before that flash, despite the word count limit, has more flexibility than you might think. Not only can you vary the word count you choose to write to (up to 1000 maximum of course), you can vary the genre of flash story you write.

In both FLTDBA and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I have deliberately exploited that. I’ve written crime tales, historical ones, fantasy ones, and so on. I’ve also varied the format of my flash tales. In TTFF there are stories told in poetic form. I’m working on linked flash stories for what I hope will end up being my third collection eventually.

I like to mix up the way I approach a flash story because it keeps things interesting for me and it makes me “up my game”. It’s not a bad thing for a writer to be kept on their toes. Indeed I’ve found it helps my flex my imaginative “muscles” and the more you use those, the more you find you CAN use them.

That is one reason to write regularly. Naturally you need to read regularly too to help feed that imaginative muscle too. We are all inspired by the stories that have come before us. It would be nice to think later others will be inspired by the stories we’re writing now.

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I love that moment when I know I’ve got a character “set” and ready to go. It means I know what makes them tick and, whether I then put them into a funny story or a darker one, I know they will “rise to the occasion”.

For me, a story of whatever length is always about the character. It’s their story. It is them I want to find out about. (Mind you, I am a curious soul like that!).

That doesn’t mean plot is irrelevant. Far from it but you do have to have a “cast” who can get the most out of the plot you devise for them.

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Fairytales With Bite – Magic in Words

A good story has a magic all of its own. It will make you forget the cares of this world for a while and take you into the created world the writer has set up for you. This is why a story that is written “just” for entertainment should not be looked down on in my view. Helping people escape for a while through stories is a wonderful thing to do. And stories inspire people, which is another reason to love tales of all kinds.

So there is magic in the words we write then but for me, as you know, it is all down to the character. They have got to draw you in and one of my favourite ways of doing this is to ensure a reader HAS to find out something about said character.

That can mean showing the reader a character’s obvious flaw and the hook here is to see what that flaw does to that character during the story. If my character is a bossy boots, how does that flaw get in their way to achieving their objective? Does the character realise the need to change and how do they do it? There is the story. A reader has got to be curious enough to want to read on. So always think about what your hook is going to be. (And that’s a good marketing tip too!).

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This World and Others – Advantages of Using An Alien Setting

A number of my flash stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic involve alien worlds to a certain extent. Due to the restricted word count with flash, I can’t show a lot of the settings, but I can imply such an alien world in few well chosen words.

For example in my story, Job Vacancy, I start with the words “Wanted: Wizard’s Assistant”. Now that tells you immediately, the story has to be set in a magical world and your imagination can conjure up (pun intended!) what that might look like while I get on and show you the rest of the wizard’s job advert!

In The Terrified Dragon in TTFF, I have arranged things so said terrified dragon is surrounded by angry humans right at the start of the story. Now that means this story could be set on an Alternative Earth where dragons existed. Or we go right back in time right here on the planet we know and love where dragons could have existed. I leave that to the reader decide while I again get on and show you what happens to the dragon.

With alien settings which are either directly spelled out or implied, that gives me freedom to suspend some rules. If my story is not set here but on some strange planet at the back of beyond, then maybe that is a place where gravity doesn’t exist or the sky is coloured British Racing Green. People accept all of that and more as long as it is clear from the outset that the world is alien to what we know and, as a writer, I can have a lot of fun with that.

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And once again, thanks to Val Penny for a fab review of Tripping the Flash Fantastic.  See screenshot for more.

Screenshot_2020-09-25 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes, Allison Amazon co uk Kindle Store

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Cyberlaunch News – Tripping The Flash Fantastic

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Book cover images for Tripping the Flash Fantastic by Chapeltown Books. Picture of very happy author by said author’s husband! Screenshot by Allison Symes

Facebook – General

Goodreads profile and Amazon Author Central pages updated. See Goodreads screenshot.
 
(The books shown are the most recent for me except Alternative Renditions which is where I had my first story published, A Helping Hand, way back in 2009. Is it me or does that seem like a world away now?! That Bridge House anthology will always have a special place in my heart! You always remember your first time as they say….!!).
 
Also delighted to share here an interview Gill James has put up on her Goodreads page with yours truly. I chat about the Waterloo Festival Writing Competition held earlier this year AND there is an excerpt from my winning story, Books and the Barbarians. Hope you enjoy and many thanks to Gill.
 
And as a bonus, I’m sharing again here the video I made for the Waterloo Festival where there is a further extract from Books and the Barbarians.
 
– Allison Symes – Waterloo Festival 2020 video.
 
Screenshot_2020-09-19 Author Dashboard
So thrilled at the first two reviews for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. A lovely way to go into the coming week.
 
Am hoping to share news of my cyberlaunch later on in the week PLUS am looking forward to taking part in the event on Saturday with Gill James and
Dawn Kentish Knox. Will re-share the link during the week. Have also decided to share it further down the page.
 
Now waiting with eager anticipation for MY order of the book to come in. You don’t lose the buzz of opening a box to discover your creation inside it! You don’t WANT to lose the buzz etc…
 
I only wish I could bottle that feeling for those days when you feel the world IS out to get you and we all get days like that…
 
Hope the week proves to be a good one!
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Facebook – General – and Cyberlaunch News

Two pieces of news tonight. Firstly, I’m thrilled at another lovely review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic.
 
My reviewer singled out two particular stories – The Cake Bake and The Pink Rose and the latter is one of my favourites. It is also a tribute to someone special and I hope to be talking more about this during my cyberlaunch.
 
Talking of which, the second piece of news is I now have set up an online event for Tripping the Flash Fantastic.
 
Date: Saturday 10th October 2020
Time: 7 pm to 9.30 pm
Venue: Wherever you are with your laptop, phone, I-Pad etc!
 
Hope to see you there.
 

Screenshot_2020-09-22 (2) Tripping The Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch Events Facebook(1)

And naturally it was time for the first picture and post to go up on the discussion page on the TTFF events page.

The first post had to be this one really. The moment every writer lives for I think. (Apologies for the hair – I swear sometimes it has a life of its own. Hmm… there’s a story in that somewhere!).😀

One very happy author

As you may well have seen from my first post on the TTFF cyberlaunch page earlier (see above!), I received my copies of the book today. Such a wonderful moment.
 
But a lot of work goes into that moment, both from the writer’s and publisher’s end of things. So is it important to cherish the special moments? Oh yes.
 
The writer’s life is full of ups and downs and you do get used to that. You become more resilient too, which is no bad thing. But I’ve found you appreciate the special moments more too and that is also good.
 
My first published flash story was A Study in Magic on Cafelit back in 2013. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/A%20Study…
 
I’ve come a long way since then and that is exactly how it should be.
 
Writing is good for you precisely because it encourages you to keep pushing yourself and, even when you have found the exact genre you want to write in for ever and ever amen, you still want to be improving on what you do all the time.
 
Well. that’s how it has been for me to date and I hope that continues for a very long time. (For once, I’ve found a justified reason to use the word “very”. Very is one of my usual suspects of wasted words which usually are cut out!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ll be sharing a couple of stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic on the Zoom event on Saturday 26th September. I always love reading aloud and being read to so am also looking forward to listening to stories from #gilljames and #dawnkentishknox. See the link below.
 
 
The event is free, there will be giveaways too, but you do need to register.
 
Also bring along questions. Gill, Dawn, and I look forward to seeing you “there”!
What is my favourite kind of character?
 
I like one who can stand up for themselves.
 
I love humorous characters who can laugh at themselves as well as at the situations they find themselves in and, even more so, when the trouble they’re in is of their own making.
 
I like a character to have some “fire in their belly” (which is why I can’t get on with Jane Austen’s heroine in Mansfield Park – far too wishy-washy for me. Elizabeth Bennet is a very different matter!).
 
I like characters who show me something of themselves and can still surprise me. I always appreciate wit and irony.
 
I like characters who know right from wrong and don’t tolerate evil. It’s why I’ve always been a huge fan of the fairytales, I guess.
 
Having said that, I can and do have a soft spot for a villain if I can see why they are the way they are. I don’t like villainy for its own sake. There has to be “just cause” behind it even if it is only just to the villain.

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Sent off book order for Tripping the Flash Fantastic✔️
 
Sent off order to well known print company for various goodies.✔️
 
First reviews in for TTFF. ✔️
 
Delighted I’ve found the tick emoji, finally! ✔️✔️✔️
 
I will be reading a couple of my stories from my new book at the event on Saturday. Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox will be sharing from their work too.
 
Looking forward to reading a couple of selections from mine and listening to what Gill and Dawn share. Will put the link up again later in the week. Is available now further up the page!
 
One joy in the book production process when working with an indie press is in working out what the book cover should be with my publisher. There IS an art in getting the image right.
 
Appropriately for a flash collection, I wanted an image that would conjure up the essence of my book in one picture. It took a while for both of my books to get this exactly right but it was so worth it.
 
Both FLTDBA and TTFF have covers I will always be proud of. Why does that matter? Well, firstly as a writer, you do have to like your own books. If you don’t, why should anyone else? Also you will be promoting so you should be proud of the product!
 
A book’s cover should entice you into reading it after all. It is the first advert for the book. And not every big name author has been pleased with the covers they’ve had for theirs. One of my favourite quotes from P.G. Wodehouse said “God may forgive …………………. for the cover of …………….. but I never shall!”. Hmm…
 
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Delighted to see this on the Waterstones site. Looking forward to seeing Tripping the Flash Fantastic on there too in due course!

Flash fiction can be set in any setting you choose but don’t forget you can also go forwards and backwards in time too. I’ve done this in Tripping the Flash Fantastic but will be doing more of this in my follow-up to that. (Yes, I’m working on a third collection though naturally that has to go on the back burner for the moment).
 
The important thing is to have fun with what you write. You are your own first reader. If you enjoy it, it is highly likely others will.
 
And, later, when it comes to promoting your work, it will be a joy to do because you yourself like what you have written. That is SO important because promoting IS hard work so you really do need to enjoy what you choose to do here.
 
And the support of other writer friends helps SO much. Thanks, everyone!
One of the joys of flash is having to continually invent characters. I’ve always loved that aspect of fiction writing so win-win here for yours truly.
It is, I think, behaviour under a specific set of circumstances (i.e. the story) that fascinates me. There is a lot of psychology behind writing and most of it subconcious to the writer!
 
The themes that fascinate us most will come out in our writing. And with flash that can be intense as you are shining a spotlight on one single moment in a character’s life.
 
I use the What If question a lot when working out my characters and stories? It’s a useful place to start.

Goodreads Author Blog – Reading While Travelling

Can you read while you travel?

I never used to be able to do so when a kid. I was lucky enough never to feel travel sick but reading while a car was moving just felt odd and so I didn’t bother! Why make myself feel odd when I could just look out of the window and play I-Spy or Pub Cricket? Also, we tended to listen to music a lot while going to see family etc and, while I can write with classical on, I prefer to read in silence and always have done.

These days, reading while travelling (when possible!) is less of a problem but I tend to stick to using the Kindle for this. That is partly convenience – one device, loads of books to choose from! I’ve always liked that about the Kindle.

I tend to read light works when out and about. I like to save the murder stories etc for when I’ve got to my destination. Oh and magazines. I can manage the odd one of those while travelling. I often catch up on Writing Magazine articles this way.

So what do you read when you travel and why?

New Book, New Anthology, New Zoom Event!

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels.  Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am always pleased to share my Chandler’s Ford Today posts but this one is bound to be a bit special! The title explains all!
I’m so pleased to share three pieces of good news in this week’s post.
My new flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, is now out. I have two stories in the newly released The Best of Cafelit 9as well.
I am also taking part in a Zoom event with #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox on 26th September between 3 and 4 pm. The event is FREE but you do need to register. All details for that are in my post and on the link here.
The three of us will be talking about our books and writing related matters and sharing stories so if you love being read to (as I do), then do register and join us! There will be giveaways too.
This will be my first event for Tripping the Flash Fantastic but I am planning a cyberlaunch in October and hope to share details about that soon.
My CFT posts are always a joy to write and to share but this one is special. No prizes for guessing why!
What does good writing do for you?
A tremendous story will take you right into its world so you completely forget about this one. Now there IS a good idea for you right now!
Great writing will move you. It might even make you change your opinion. You will get to see where characters are coming from and that is easy to relate to behaviour we see all around us.
Reading a lot does encourage empathy. If you write as well, you get double the effect here as you have to work out why your characters would act the way they are for the purposes of your story.
You don’t have to like what they do (I frequently don’t with mine!) but you do have to understand. And encouraging understanding has to be a good thing, I think.
Tripping the Flash Fantastic and The Best of Cafelit 9 are now up on my Amazon Author Central page. See https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
That probably counts as my marketing for today!
In case any one is wondering whether it is worth submitting details of new books etc to ALCS (the Authors’ Copyright and Licensing Society), it IS. I had my first modest payment from them earlier this year so yes, at some point this week, I’ll get the two new publications added to the records they hold for me.
I have free membership being a member of the Society of Authors but you can join directly. (Oh and I’m not on commission for ALCS by the way. I’ve forgotten who told me about ALCS but thank you! And I hope this post will encourage someone else to check ALCS out in their turn).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ll be sharing a couple of stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic on the Zoom event on Saturday 26th September. I always love reading aloud and being read to so am also looking forward to listening to stories from #gilljames and #dawnkentishknox. See the link below.
The event is free, there will be giveaways too, but you do need to register.
Also bring along questions. Gill, Dawn, and I look forward to seeing you “there”!

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Hope Thursday has proved all right for you. Have placed my book order for The Best of Cafelit 9 and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. So naturally can’t wait for those to arrive! Nothing beats the feeling when you open a box of YOUR books.
Choosing what goes into a collection can be an art form in itself. I like a mixture of moods in my books, as you know. Just as life isn’t all sweetness and light, neither is it all doom and gloom (no matter how much it might feel like that right now!). So I like my stories to reflect that.

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After discussing random noun generators a little while ago, I thought I should take a look to see if there was such a thing as a random adjective generator. Well, you just would, wouldn’t you?
And yes there is!
So further scope here to trigger ideas for flash and short stories.
I chose three adjectives and what came up and the following appeared:-
1. absurd
2. well-groomed
3. wild
Again, you can use the words as a title or a theme. For something like absurd, you could use that to set the mood of the tale.
You could also use this tool to help you flesh out your character(s). Your main character could be absurd, well-groomed (perhaps taking that to the height of absurdity), but wild when they think nobody’s looking.
Your story could then be centred around someone else discovering that wild side to your main character’s chagrin. How would they react to being found out?
Have fun! (And I am always pleased to find more random generators to add to my idea generating list!).

Fairytales With Bite – Realism in Fairytales

The obvious response to that title is to say “what realism”? How can there be realism when a kindly older woman with a pointed stick with a star on it is likely to turn up at any moment to bestow wishes on the downtrodden but deserving characters in the tale? (See Cinderella for more on that!).

For me, the realism in a fairytale is based on character portrayal and also in showing what we are capable of. There is a lot of cruelty in fairytales (again see Cinderella and then there’s poor old Snow White facing the real threat of being murdered). While we should not approve of the wicked stepmother’s wish to kill Snow White the fact her jealousy of the younger woman is so well portrayed means we are not surprised when that jealousy leads to drastic actions. How often have we seen things like that in soap operas, the news etc?).

Fairytales DO shine a light on human behaviour and what we see is far from flattering but it IS truth.

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This World and Others – Exploration

When you set up a world of your own for your stories, do you get your characters to explore it? If so, how do they do it? What transport is available? How easy is travel? What do your characters do to overcome difficulties here?

Readers like to explore fictional worlds. I love reading little details about a world to help me get a proper “picture” of it in my own imagination.

Often those details are given in passing. Two characters are talking and there is a little description of their location. The name of a street can sometimes tell you a fair bit about the setting.

Terry Pratchett was brilliant at this in his Discworld series. I just loved the thought of Peach Pie Street!

Fantasy, of course, has given the world the fictional map and probably the most famous example (well it is to me!) is the one Tolkien created for The Lord of the Rings. But the map has to be useful and it was handy to know where Rohan and Gondor were in relation to one another and to Mordor.

What details do you think your readers will need to know about your fictional world to make sense of it? How can you drip feed these into your story?

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Welcome to Tripping The Flash Fantastic

Facebook – General

Well all good things must come to an end and I am now travelling home. Fantastic tour of Scotland on the way, mind you. (As at 12th September!)
 
Am looking forward to holding a cyberlaunch for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will post about that separately. Am looking forward to taking part in author event with Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox later this month. Next few weeks will be busy, busy, busy but all in a good way.
 
As you can imagine, I’m thrilled to have two published books to my name and hope there will be more in due course.
 
Naturally I am proud of the anthologies my work appears in too.
 
Did I have any idea any of this would happen when I started out as a writer? Of course not. The writing journey is a rollercoaster ride and I can’t tell you how many rejections I’ve had. I gave up counting to be honest.
 
What I do know is not giving up and being open to trying different forms of writing worked for me. There is no Use By Date here either so hope these things continue to work for me.
 
 

Many thanks, everyone, for your kind words, likes etc., since I announced the “arrival” of Tripping the Flash Fantastic.
 
I look forward to sharing news of a cyberlaunch in due course but the first event will be the 26th September one where I will be talking about the book and sharing some stories from it.
 
I also look forward to hearing what #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox have to share. Do join the three of us from 3 to 4 pm on 26th September. I will be posting about this on Chandler’s Ford Today later this week and all details for how to register etc will be on that.
 
Oh and you can get a flavour of TTFF if you pop across to Amazon and use the Look Inside feature. (See link below and above).
 
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Have started the process of updating pages like this one (my Facebook author page) with my book cover image for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Thought I’d include a couple of images where I’ve been reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again. (I do LOVE the Chapeltown frames. Do check the entire series out incidentally. The books are a real eclectic mix but that frame makes them stand out as far as I’m concerned).
 
Many thanks to #PennyBlackburn for the one of me reading at Swanwick (I’m behind the stand for that one). Also thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for the one taken of me reading at a Bridge House Publishing event.
 
A big thanks to my other half for the picture of me with published works, though he is going to have to redo it! (Am hopeless at selfies to be honest). All part of the marketing though.
 
Have started the process of catching up with everything after a holiday. I need a fortnight I think..!
 

Just a quick post to say I’d contacted Amazon to update my Author Central page and they did so within 24 hours. 

Hope your Tuesday has proved to be okay. Very warm in Hampshire. Coming back from Scotland at the weekend, well it does seem like someone has turned up the thermostat in Hampshire! (It’s either that or I’m having more hot flushes than I realised!).
 
Writing plans at the moment are focused on getting ready for the Zoom event and my cyberlaunch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, plus of course my CFT posts and other blogs I write for.
 
Am looking forward to getting some goodies prepared with my book cover on so will no doubt be spending some time on a certain well known company’s website at the weekend, working out what I’d like to get in! I loved this aspect of things for From Light to Dark and Back Again.
 
How long does it take to get a collection together? For me, it is about 18 months. That is partly due to the fact I like to have a couple of writing projects on the go so therefore a collection is bound to take a bit longer to put together.
 
The advantage of this approach though is I am blogging in different places, entering competitions, revamping earlier stories and submitting them and it makes my writing life beautifully varied and interesting.
 
I’m also taking part in blogs and interviewing authors especially for CFT and I do see posting my blogs as part of my overall marketing. It gets my name out there and I hope the blogs prove to be useful and interesting. I love reading a well crafted blog myself and always learn plenty from them. I do limit how many I read though otherwise I wouldn’t get any writing done!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The journey home from Scotland is a lovely scenic tour and I love glimpses into the places I pass by. What will I miss most on going home? The gorgeous views around where I was staying.
 
What would your characters miss most if you took that away from them?
 
If another character tries to take that away, what would your lead character do to stop them? What revenge is your character capable of?
 
Plenty of story ideas there!
You would be right if you thought I might be a tad excited about TTFF coming out! But on to other issues as there is a question I’d like to put to you, yes you.
 
Quick survey. Which do you like LEAST about the writing process?
 
1. Getting the first draft down.
2. Editing
One thing I try to avoid with my flash fiction is in writing “the same old”. This is why I like setting my tales in different worlds, time periods etc., and to use varying genres for the stories themselves.
 
There is so much variety in writing historical flash fiction, crime flash, horror flash, funny flash etc. The other advantage of this is it means I’m never going to be short of something to write!
 
I like to think of my books as “selection boxes” of stories. Who doesn’t like a selection box from time to time?!😊 I often read flash and short story collections in between reading novels. By the time I’ve finished reading a collection, I know what genre of novel I want to read next!
Hope you like the change of picture at the top of this page!  (My Facebook book page). With a new book out there is plenty to do but the good news is it doesn’t all have to be done at once. I am planning to share a couple of stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the Zoom event on 26th September. Look out for my CFT post on Friday which will give more information and the link for this.
 
I love opportunities to read my stories aloud so am so looking forward to this event. And I am looking forward to hearing what fellow authors, Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox, will share with us too.
 
The challenge of flash fiction writing doesn’t diminish. You have to think of new characters all the time and work out what to do with them. You get through characters very quickly. But that is all part of the fun for me. Inventing new people was always the big draw for story writing for me so win-win here!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Audio Books

Audio books come into their own for long car journeys. It has been a joy to re-listen to Raising Steam and Snuff from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series on my way home from Scotland. Hope to listen to his Reaper Man later too.

And it is lovely to be read to as well. From a writing viewpoint, I get to hear how dialogue works. And I can always learn from that.

What are your favourite audio books? Do you prefer the book in audio or in print? What makes a book work for you in audio?

For me it has to be the way the narrator brings the characters to life. A good narrator makes all the difference.

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Lessons from Writing and Scenic Scotland

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. Scottish pics and images of Lady, the daft but loveable Border Collie cross, were taken by me, Allison Symes.


Book cover images for The Best of Cafelit 9 and Tripping The Flash Fantastic supplied by my publishers – Bridge House Publishing and Chapeltown Books respectively.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share the link to Part 2 of my Lessons series on CFT. This week I look at lessons learned from the writing life, all of which are useful beyond that.
So over to you. What lessons have you learned from writing and how have you applied these in other areas of life?

Went back to Dunnet Bay. Such a wonderful beach. Lady thinks so too! Walked for miles though it always seems further on sand than it actually is!

Plenty of brisk fresh air. Managed to see buzzards fairly close up (could make out the colouring underneath. Don’t usually get to do that). Also spotted a kestrel, sand pipers, and oyster catchers.
Now drum roll please… Very exciting news on Tripping The Flash Fantastic to come soon but in the meantime, take a peek at this!


Achievement of the week and possibly the year for me  – I climbed 600 feet in about a mile exploring the track that runs behind where I’m staying. Yes, it was a very steep track! But see the views below. 

Lady bounded up it with no issues at all before going on to have a splendid playtime on Dornoch Beach later in the afternoon. Result? One tired but happy dog!

What would be the perfect day for your characters and why? What would they do to anyone or anything that got in the way of them having that perfect day?

There are story ideas there for a start but also use questions like this for outlining your people. Work out what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Different writers have varying requirements here but what you do need is enough for you to get going on a story with characters who deserve to be written about.




Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I’ve learned so much from the writing life as I discuss in this week’s CFT post. The great thing is I know that learning will continue.
My hopes with regard to flash fiction is to continue to develop characters and stories.

Maybe try different genres within flash? Maybe write a novella in flash one day – who knows?

But while I know there is writing to do and things to try within that, I know the buzz of writing won’t diminish. And I love that!😄

Big news is that I can now do a book cover reveal for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will be sharing more news soon on this.
I will be talking about TTFF as part of an author talk with Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox on 26th September.

More details next week and my CFT post on 18th September will give details on how to register for the FREE Zoom event at the end of the month.

Am I a happy bunny right now? You bet!
Lovely day back at Dunnet today. One great thing about dog ownership is that our pets break down barriers. I’ve had far more lovely chats with people since owning a dog than before! 
Although 2020 has been an awful year, I am so pleased to hear in one week The Best Of Cafelit 9, where I have flash stories included, and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, are “out there”. (Kindle only at moment for TTFF but paperback to follow).
Would still like 2020 to dramatically improve though and I know I’m not alone there.

I love autumn. I love the changing leaf colours. And the heathers on the hills around where I’m staying at the moment are such wonderful colours.

But there is a sense of transition this early in September as we leave summer behind. 
Flash fiction is great for demonstrating those senses of transition in your characters.

They go from one state of being to another – that is the story you’re writing after all.

What you need to figure out is which moment of transition is the important one to write up.


Fairytales With Bite – Favourites


My favourite part of most fairytales when I was a kid was when the fairy godmother etc turned up and you knew somehow from that point, everything was going to work out okay.
My favourite part of a fairytale now is harder to define but I like to see characters contributing to the fairy godmother’s efforts to help them.

I also like to see the villains get their comeuppance.And I know that last like is something I’ll always have!
I refer to a lot of my work as fairytales with bite precisely because they are not twee. Nor am I writing to the children’s market (Roald Dahl was the past master there in my view!). 
I’ve never liked it when someone dismisses something as “just a fairytale”. There is no just about it. Fairytales are deeper stories than some give them credit for!

 

This World and Others – Geography


I don’t refer to geography a lot in my flash tales but did use it in my unpublished (as yet!) fantasy novel.

I needed to know something about the landscape my characters inhabit and whether that gets in their way. Also I wanted to look at the differences and similarities with our world.
This is where photos come in handy for sparking ideas. I totally understand why so many fantasy works have a map with them. (I must check out the Discworld one for The Streets of Ankh-Morpork as that is one map which will be fun!☺).
The nice thing now is there are far more avenues of research available now. Archives, libraries, the web etc. I guess the danger now might be you could have so much fun researching, the writing takes a back seat!

So it would pay I think to plan out your research just as much as you would plan out the story itself.

Think about what you need to know, jot down where you think further research might be needed later, and write.

Also make a note of sources of research in case a publisher asks and in case you need to retrace your steps. It happens!

Holidays and Publication News

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. Scottish and Lady pics by me, Allison Symes. Book cover image by Gill James for The Best of Cafelit 9.

Facebook – General

Am heading to Scotland for a short break. First time I’ve been there in the autumn. Looking forward to lots of lovely walking on deserted sandy beaches and to exploring the forests.
Now the fantastic scenery won’t in itself inspire story ideas. My imagination doesn’t work like that.

What the scenery and walking will do is blow away the cobwebs and relax me. Then the ideas will flow. And I am all for that!😄

Gorgeous day walking at Lairg and Golspie. Dog very tired but happy. Literally dog-tired! Lovely to be able to join in with Zoom church service this morning too.

Planning to draft some blogs and flash tales this week. Writing and reading relax me so they are the perfect wind down.

There is a well-stocked book shelf here too so will be investigating that too. I recall the last time I was here there was a copy of Somerset Maughan’s A Writer’s Notebook. Must dip into that. Insights into the writing life always fascinate me.

Delightful day at St Dunnet Bay today, the top edge of the UK mainland. Lady had a wonderful time but is now struggling to stay awake. The price dogs pay for fun!😄😊
Am delighted to say The Best of Cafelit 9 is now out and I have stories in here. Hope to chat more about this next week but did want to congratulate all of the writers with work in here meantime.

If you like a good mix of stories and styles, do check out the Cafelit series.

Spent day walking along Golspie beach and at Lairg woods. It is amazing how much sand a black collie can collect! Lady is happily snoozing away as I write this. Always a good sign she IS getting her exercise well enough!

One major difference with us holidaying now rather than in May is that we’re not seeing the deer in the field opposite where we’re staying. We guess they’re up in the hills preparing for the rut.

Writing wise, I’m drafting bits and bobs as the wonderful Scottish fresh air is not just knocking Lady out for six! But am enjoying my “pottering” writing wise and my reading too. Sometimes it is good to “tick over”.

Facebook –

From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is fascinating seeing the country change as I go up to Scotland for a brief holiday.

Changes are interesting. They are vital too.Changes in character behaviour are what drives a story. Something has to happen. Something has to change.

But a character changing their mind can be the trigger for your story. Change doesn’t necessarily have to be dramatic.

Elizabeth Bennet changing her mind about Darcy turns Pride and Prejudice (as does his changing his mind about her).

How has your Sunday been? I’ve enjoyed glorious walking with hubby and dog on the NE coast of Scotland. Fab weather and good temperatures too.

Am looking forward to my annual challenge of getting as much info on a postcard as possible and sending same to my nearest and dearest. Still this is appropriate for me – flash fiction has been called postcard fiction!

And an interesting idea that came out of the creative workshop via Zoom I “went to” recently was to use the text as well as the pictures on old postcards to trigger story ideas. I might try and use the pics on the cards I pick up and see what I can do.


It is a privilege and pleasure to have flash stories included in anthologies, as well as in my own books.

On that note I’m pleased to report I have stories in the newly released The Best of Cafelit 9.

I hope to chat more about this later in the week when back from Scotland but it is lovely to have further publication news to return home for.

Am surrounded by beautiful old stone walls where I’m staying now. So many stories behind the building of those I suspect.

One thing I adore about visiting places such as Salisbury Cathedral is you do get to find out how the building was constructed, the names of the families doing the work and so on. Glimpses into a past world.

And that is what flash fiction is all about – giving readers glimpses into the past, the future, the present, the strange universe you’ve created etc. You choose where to set your stories and what glimpses your readers see.

Goodreads – Holiday Reading

– Holiday Reading

Do you make promises to youraelf to do so much reading while on a break? I do! Most of them I do achieve.

This time, while I’m in Scotland, I’ve promised myself to catch up with one paperback and three books on Kindle. Can’t wait to “tuck in”! I hope to catch up on reviewing too.

And the positive thing about heading into autumn with the nights drawing in, it does encourage more reading.

LESSONS

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels generally. Pictures of my dogs are by me, Allison Symes.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share the link for a two-part series for Chandler’s Ford Today called Lessons.

In Part 1, I look at my favourite lessons in school and those I loathed. I discuss learning to drive later in life and how I’ve learned different things from my three dogs. All three have had great personalities but all have needed different handling. You are always on a learning curve with a dog!

In Part 2, next week, I will be looking at lessons learned from my writing life, which have not just helped with professional development, but with my life in general. Now over to you. Which school lessons did you love or loathe and why?

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I don’t know about you but I’ve always got plenty on my To Do lists (yes, plural!). It is my writing To Do list that gives me the most joy though. No real surprises there. (If anyone can find a way of making housework, doing the laundry etc., fun, they’d be on to a winner).

The order in which I tackle my writing To Do list does depend on what time I have available on which night. My overall goal is to get so many tasks done in a week to ten days. If I can tick off a fair few, I’m happy, With longer projects I break these down into more manageable tasks and ocmplete those over a couple of weeks.

It is a question of working out what works best for you.


My CFT post this week is the first in a two-parter called Lessons. This week I look at lessons in life. For Part 2, due out on 11th September, I’ll be looking at lessons learned from writing which have helped me in all kinds of ways and not just in professional development.

But back to this week’s post. I look at what were my favourite and loathed school lessons and how having more than one dog can teach so many different things based on their personalities, amongst other topics.

Lessons are an ongoing thing. I like the idea of never stopping learning. It keeps you on your toes and, if nothing else, that has to be good for mental health. I’m definitely all for that! Link up on Friday.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I talked about lessons in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (and will be specifically talking about writing lessons next week). But the most important things I’ve learned is to be open to:

  1. The idea that story ideas can come at any time. I know where and when my main triggers for idea generation happens so I ensure I can either make a note on Evernote on my phone or I’ve got a notebook to hand. I lose fewer ideas this way.
  2. The idea there is more than one form of writing and it is perfectly okay to play with different writing styles.
  3. The idea you can’t know you can write, say, flash fiction until you do write it!
  4. The idea rejection is nothing to fear. It is never personal. You can usually learn something useful from it and that can help you with further writing projects.
  5. The idea that no writer is really in competition with one another even if we write in the same genre. We have unique voices. I can only write as Allison Symes. Anything else would be a pastiche, and not a very good one either, so I will write what I can write in the way that I write it. I will stretch myself and aim to keep on improving on what I do. That is where any competition lies. Can I write another story? Can I write it better than the last one?

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One nice aspect to writing is that ideas can fuel other ideas. One of the stories in Tripping the Flash Fantastic was inspired by a writing prompt idea I shared during the cyberlaunch of From Light to Dark and Back Again.

I shall have to see if I can do that kind of thing again for the cyberlaunch for TTFF! Mind you, it would be nice to come up with more than one idea I think. Otherwise the next collection will take forever to get together!

As with FLTDBA, the new book is full of characters, some of whom you’d like to meet and others you definitely wouldn’t. I’ve used a mixture of first and third person and there is a good representation of the word count spectrum. I hope to share the book cover in due course and am really looking forward to doing that.

Ideas don’t always come at convenient times. I tend to sleep heavily so having the old notebook and pen by the side of the bed in case I wake up “inspired” is a complete waste of time for me. Said notebook and pen would remain unused (and I never wake up inspired!), but I do find ideas will come when I’m out about. This is where I find Evernote on my phone handy. I can jot thoughts down and come back to them later.

It pays to work out when ideas are most likely to come to you. Do certain triggers such as time of day set them off? Or is it a question of needing to be out and about in the world and picking up story cues from there?

By knowing what your own personal trigger is, you are less likely to forget good ideas. Oh and they never come to order either! My other trigger is to be busy working on another piece of writing and then a great idea for another project pops up so I make a note of it and come back to it later.

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It has been an autumnal day here in Hampshire today. Sun, rain, a real dip in temperature, and my big cardigan is coming out of the wardrobe ready for regular use over the next few months.

Do you use the seasons in your writing at all? I mainly use Christmas given I have written fairytales based around Santa. No hiding the season there! But other than that, the seasons don’t feature in my writing much.

I suppose it is because I have always been much more interested in characters rather than in the time of year they happen to be inhabiting at the time of the story.

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Fairytales With Bite – Spot the Fairytale

C = Characters need to be believable, even if the world in which they live is not. (Maybe especially if it not!).
I = Instinct for what is right and wrong often plays a big role in fairytales. Think of the number of “old” people who turn out to be wizards or fairy godmothers in disguise who are looking for the right “lead” to get the benefit of their magical help.
N = Narrative voices can be animal voices in fairytales.
D = Drama plays a big role in fairytales. Think of the classic tales and what the heroes/heroines are put through.
E = Expect magic to play a role in the story but it will always be for the deserving. (The undeserving either get nothing or are humiliated in some way).
R = Romance can play a role. Most of the classic fairytales involve a love story but it is always a case of ensuring the right people get together here. And so often it is the underling that is the right groom etc. Think of Aladdin for example.
E = Energy. I’ve found fairytales have an energy and rhythm of their own. The Rule of Three often turns up. (Three sons – you can bet it will be the youngest one who will be the hero). You know that good will overcome evil and the pace of a fairytale is generally fast. The longer fairytales such as The Snow Queen are broken into sections to help try and keep that sense of pace.
L = Longing. The main character will inevitably be longing for change of some sort, whether it is to escape domestic abuse or to make their fortune.
L = Listening ability is important. The lead has to take the wizened old person seriously to do what they are asked to and then be surprised in a good way when said wizened old person turns out to be far more powerful than they thought.
A = Always expect an appropriate and usually happy ending!

This World and Others – Location, Location, Location

Which location have you chosen to use for your created world and why? What makes it different from Earth? What are the similarities? What is it about your location that enables your characters to survive in it? Could we do so?

Have you ever wanted to visit fictional locations? I know I have. I’ve always fancied visiting the chocolate factory in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I would definitely want free samples!

I’d also like the idea of exploring Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings, especially The Shire, which looks charming. I’d give Mordor a miss. And I would go to Narnia the moment Christmas was restored and celebrated properly. Having said all of that, I’ve never fancied accompanying Alice down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.

So what do you like about fantasy settings and why? I like the crossing of the ordinary with the magical. Youngsters still need schooling of some sort, regardless of what species they are.

What is it about your world that readers have to know and why does it matter? Answering questions like these will help you hone in on what is most important and it will be that and only that which remains in your story.

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Creating Characters

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Also a big thank you to Richard Hardie for the images supplied for my second CFT post which appeared over the weekend, more below.

Facebook – General – bonus Chandler’s Ford Today post

A busy week on CFT for me this time. My second post this week shares news from YA author, Richard Hardie, about his link with Doctor Who. All very exciting and a feather in the cap for Richard. Well done! Check out the post for more details.

Facebook – Association of Christian Writers

More Than Writers blog spot – Creating Characters

It’s my turn on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

I talk about Creating Characters and share hints and tips, including a list of questions that will help you outline your “people”.

Hope you find it useful. (And many thanks to those who have commented on this. Much appreciated).

A good TV or film adaptation of a book only works if the images shown roughly coincide with the images I had from reading the text. The Inspector Morse series did this, as did the Poirot and Miss Marple series (with David Suchet and Joan Hickson). Film wise, I thought Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings had it spot on.

Are there any books you would like to see made into series or films? Which ones and why? Are there adaptations that haven’t worked for you? (I couldn’t get on with the Marple series. For me, Joan HIckson was perfect in the role and that was that).

When it comes to writing my stories, I put myself in my character’s shoes and see the world their way. I don’t always like my characters by the way! (Oh and a big thanks for a tremendous response to my ACW post on More Than Writers yesterday which was all about Creating Characters. Glad it was useful).

What I have found is you DO have to inhabit your character’s space so you can write about them/for them effectively.

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One very tired Lady on the sofa tonight. Had a great big play with several pals, including her “boyfriend”, a lovely Collie gent, and her best pal, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I should imagine they’re pretty shattered as well!

Enjolyed listening to the Movie Music Hall of Fame on Classic FM today. I was right about the top two and pleased about them too. Must remember to find out where the Pink Panther theme came in (and there’s an earworm for anyone of a certain age!).

I usually write with classical music on as I find it helps me relax and when I relax, I’m more productive with the writing. Other things I have to have on my desk are my dictionary, my Scrivener for Dummies guide, my publisher guides (Writers and Artists and Mslexia) and plenty of pens (I know! I’m using a laptop, what do I need pens for? I guess I just like to see them around!).

I don’t have any rituals before writing. I just open my laptop and get on with it but I do like to see the accoutrements on my desk. I suppose it’s a case of Allison going into her comfort zone sort of thing.

And now I am IN my comfort zone, time to get on with more writing then!

 

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I can’t say a particular writer made me pick up my pen and start writing. I’ve loved books and stories for as long as I can recall. I loved writing stories in English lessons at school (and I’ll be talking a bit more about that in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week).

But it took me a long time to figure out I really ought to get around and write seriously. It took two major life events to wake me up here! My only serious regret with writing is NOT starting a lot sooner than I did.

But it is wonderful to say that all of the writers whose books are on my shelves (and the electronic one too!) have added to my love of stories and storytelling. For that I will always be grateful. And then there’s the joy of discovering new writers too.

If I could invent things I would invent:-

1. Elastic time so I never run out of time to read or write.
2. Calorie free chocolate.
3. Calorie free prosecco.
4. A stamina “topper-upper” for those times you could really do with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t know about you but I find it unsettling it is 8.30 pm in August in the UK and it is pitch black out there! (Not due to the weather either). The seasons are definitely shifting. Talk about going from light to dark!

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favourite writing exercises is writing to a set opening line. The ones that work best for me are the ones that can be taken in more than one direction. For example:-

1. The door remained locked despite her efforts.
2. He was on time, as the note insisted, but nobody was about.
3. The fairy godmother was on early shift.

Now all three opening lines here have comic as well as dramatic possibilities. (The door could remain locked because it took her a while to realise she was using the wrong key. He might be on time but what if he turned up at the wrong place and forgot to check? As for the fairy godmother, what could she expect to have to do on early shift that she might not face later on in the day? Definitely scope for humour there and that would almost certainly be the way I’d take these story ideas).

I find it useful to jot down initial ideas from an opening line and then go for the one that is a little way down my list. That is the idea which is not likely to be the obvious one and could well be open to my putting a twist on it, which I always love doing.

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One of my favourite stories in my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, involves a librarian and a snake. Can’t say more than that at the moment but it was great fun to write! By all means, let your mind boggle at the thought of that!

But then that is the fun of fiction. You can write in any genre, any time period, and the impossible isn’t so much in things like fantasy, magical realism etc.

Whatever you write, it is important to enjoy it. I mentioned to a friend and fellow author (the lovely #ValPenny) that you have to enjoy what you write, especially if it is a book, because you’ll be promoting said book for a long time.

You as the writer have got to be able to live with what you’ve written and enjoy living with it too! That’s an aspect to the writing life which isn’t often considered I think.

But commitment to what you write shows up here and not just in the hard work it needs to get those stories written in the first place.

Writing is good for you as it stretches you and develops your imagination. It is also good fun experimenting with different forms of writing and discovering where your strengths are. But even when you’ve found the style of writing that suits you best, writing should still keep pushing you.

Pushing you to keep on producing good work.

Pushing you to discover new markets/competitions for your work.

Pushing you to get better at editing your work and polishing it as well as you can to give it its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world.

Pushing you to develop new skills including but definitely not limited to reading your work to an audience, making the most of technology to produce items that can help you market your work more effectively, and so on.

What writing doesn’t do is allow you to rest on your laurels and that’s a great thing. Why? Because you want to keep on developing. The writing journey should be as much fun as possible. Different things come up along that journey, things you would not have expected when starting out, and by developing you will be ready to tackle those things and have more strings to add to your bow.

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Am looking forward to taking part in the Zoom session with #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox on 26th September. I hope to be reading a story or two, including one from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. You did hear it here first!

I will share the link to the event later in September. You do need to register but the event is free. I’ll also be flagging it up via Chandler’s Ford Today in due course.

Flash is great for reading aloud at events etc. It doesn’t take too long to read. It makes an immediate impact and the “deeper” stories resonate with you and linger long in the memory afterwards. Nothing to dislike there!

And I’ve said before it is a good idea to read your work out loud so you can hear how it flows, whether the dialogue etc comes across as smoothly as you’d like etc. If you trip over your words, a reader almost certainly will. Again with flash, this doesn’t take long. I’ve spotted things I’ve needed to change many a time doing this.

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Goodreads Author Blog Book Dilemmas

What book dilemmas, I hear you ask?

Well, there is the obvious one of which book you are going to read next from your naturally huge TBR pile.

I refuse to believe that doesn’t give you pause for thought from time to time! (I get a little annoyed with myself for doing this. I realise the half hour I spent deciding what I’ll read next could have been spent on reading!).

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll reduce the TBR paperback pile or the one on your Kindle.

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll read short stories or another novel or non-fiction.

There is no one right answer to how you answer these.

I find I read a load of things on my Kindle for a while, then switch back to paperbacks for a bit, and that’s fine with me.

I just need to stop wasting half hours every now and again making up my mind and just get on with what matters – the reading!

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