The Interview Fence and Humorous Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And below – well books are such magical places to be, are they not?

 

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Nice big walk with Lady today before the weather set in. Not looking forward to tomorrow. I suspect Lady and I are going to get a good soaking, no matter what time I take her out.

Have drafted answers to second set of interview questions so will be reviewing those and sending them off to the interviewer probably tomorrow.

Now I am on both sides of the interview fence of course. I love questions which draw a writer out of their shell a bit. So questions which always find favour with me will include things like:-

Why do you write what you do? What made you pick that genre?

This is a fab question as it makes you think well why did I pick that route and why am I still sticking with it? In my case with the flash fiction it is because I love the challenge and variety of it. But that sort of question makes you re-evaluate what you’re doing and that’s a good thing. It should confirm you really do love what you write and it is that love which keeps you going during the tougher times of the writing life.

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Hope Monday has been okay for you. Very busy with the old domestics today. Only too glad to get to my desk and write. Writing relaxes me and I always feel so much better for having got something down on the old laptop.

Looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for CFT on Friday. As well as sharing my experiences with Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I’ll be talking to two Authors Reach writers – Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer. Plenty of useful tips and thoughts given “normal” writing events won’t be back with us for a while, even if everything does go well with controlling, and eventually beating, You Know What.

Still one lovely thing about writing is there is always plenty to be getting on with and it is something positive to focus on. My goal for this week is to return the other set of interview questions I’m working on and prepare material for something special I hope to talk more about in the next month or so.

Plus there are always stories to work on and the new idea I referred to yesterday for a draft I’ve got prepared is something else I hope to write up later this week. I always jot down ideas like this in fairly detailed notes when I know I can’t write something up immediately. I’ve found it’s the only way to make sure I don’t forget something important.

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It is great fun being on the receiving end of the interview questions. I’ve just sent one batch back and will be working on another set but what is great is these questions stretch me and make me think. They make me think about what I write but also how and why. That’s a good thing. It pays writers every so often to take a step back and remind yourself of why you do what you do here. I look forward to sharing the links on these interviews later on.

Have drafted a story for submission, rested it for a week, and as so often happens a better idea for how to end the story has occurred to me so that will be going in. That is the whole point of resting a piece of work (and it applies equally well to non-fiction). You need distance between when you first wrote the piece and then when you look at it again.

Time away does help you see things more clearly, including where the story might be strengthened (and that is always worth doing. Someone said you should try not to write the boring bits that people skip when they read. It’s equally true you should try not to write the “weak” bits as people skip those bits too and you want readers hanging on your every written word!).

Had a lovely couple of writing Zooms over the weekend. Great fun to catch up with everyone and a much appreciated morale boost for yours truly – these things always are.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glad I delayed taking Lady out as the weather went from grotty to cold but sunny. She liked that too.

Just to say the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer via Amazon. See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more on that. Many thanks for all of the fabulous reviews so far on this. Would always welcome more of course!

Whether it is for my book(s) or those of any other author, well thought out reviews are always welcome. They don’t have to be long and can be as simple as I liked this book because…. Or my favourite story is …………. etc. A couple of minutes and you’re done and you’re supporting authors too. So what’s not to like?!

Of course one problem all writers have faced in the last 12 months has been the lack of our usual writing events to promote and sell our wares. This is why I wanted to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today.

That starts next week but my interview with Richard Hardie yesterday was insightful as to the challenges faced by publishers. I’ve found it pays to understand something about the way publishers operate as that helps me in turn to tailor my approaches in them in such a way it increases the chances of acceptances! It really does make sense, folks!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Is there anything about longer forms of writing I miss when it comes to focusing on flash ficton storytelling?
I suppose if there is anything, it is the lack of subplots. There simply isn’t the room for any in a sub-500 words flash story. (You can get a simple one in if you write up to the 1000 word limit and I have done this with my story Rewards from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Also this is a good story if you want to be wary of how you upset someone with the power to get their revenge in print!).

But then I do see the joys of novels with their twists and turns as something to savour separately from the flash tales where I do just focus on the one important moment. And the great thing?

Both have their place in storytelling.

Both have their place on my writing and reading lists!

And there’s nothing to stop you writing in more than one form.


Wow! Many thanks for the huge response to my most recent Book Brush adverts involving my flash fiction collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. That came as a very nice surprise after a tiring Monday. (I hadn’t twigged today is so-called Blue Monday. Mondays are tough days regardless of when in the year they are! I wonder if that is why Bank Holiday Mondays seem to be more of a holiday than they are. It’s not just a question of getting a day off, we’re getting a Monday off!).

I thought I’d reshare one of my most popular story videos from my Youtube channel. Last Request lives up to its title! Hope you enjoy. (I often create a new story over the weekend but did not have time to do so this time. Mind you, this story is a good example of the kind of quirky tale I love reading and writing).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXGNt9XndN8

F = Fun to Write
L = Language to be direct and specific
A = Action – conveyed in as few words as possible
S = Story complete in and of itself
H = Hero/heroine but room for only 1 or 2 characters.

F = Fairytales and fantasy work well in a flash format
I = Imagination – let it run riot and then hone what you come up with to produce a piece of hard hitting flash fiction
C = Characters. Have to make impact quickly as flash fiction has to be character led.
T = Truth – flash fiction is as capable of conveying truths about the human condition as an epic novel!
I = Intense. Has to be due to the word count restrictions (but that makes truth hit home quicker and harder)
O = Omnipresent narration can work well in flash.
N = No restrictions on what genre of story you use for flash.

TTFF - posh chairBookBrushImage-2021-1-3-16-443BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939


Have been having fun with Book Brush again re promoting for FLTDBA and TTFF. Easy to do too. (See above pics though the phone one I created a little while ago but is a favourite of mine).

One of the things I do enjoy on the promoting side is being able to share some of the stories. Flash doesn’t take long to read so it makes quite a good advert for itself!

A good advert is one you can remember years later so the ideal for book straplines is to try and do the same with those. This is where flash fiction writing can help, especially practising writing the one-liners. But it takes time, it is not always easy to judge if you’ve got it right so beta readers and the like can be an enormous help here.

Am looking forward to getting my third collection together too. That is one my tasks for this year. I’ve written a fair amount already but will be getting the rest up together while I rest my non-fiction project. These are the two major things I want to submit later this year. I like the balance of having a fiction and a non-fiction to work on and I did find using NaNoWriMo incredibly helpful so will be open to using that structure again.

Below is the video I created for the Waterloo Arts Festival back in the summer of 2020 as that had to go online. I share an extract from my story Books and the Barbarians here and talk a little about my work. Hope you enjoy.

Goodreads Author Blog – Humorous Books

If ever there was a time for humorous books, it is now isn’t it? Something to cheer people up with and I must admit I was pleased to see that sales of P.G. Wodehouse books have gone up during the pandemic. (I hope the same has happened with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books too).

And of course humour creeps into other genres too, including crime and horror. I do love a witty one-liner from a character where you know the character is capable of coming up with such things.

It is a bugbear of mind that humorous books aren’t taken more seriously. They are “proper” literature and shouldn’t be looked down on. If anything a writer capable of writing humour should be lauded simply because it is not the easiest thing to do. Humour is subjective after all.

Mind you, the written word has a huge advantage here. I love “seeing” puns come out, where appropriate to the storyline. Language, and playing with it to make stories, should be fun and I like to see fun in the final results.

I guess this may well be one reason that misery memoir really is not for me, no matter how well written it is. I’ve got to have some cheer somewhere and even a gripping crime novel, with the odd bit of humour in it, will always work better for me than that.

Have you any favourite funny books you turn to for literally light reading relief as and when you need it?

 

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Richard Hardie, Authors Reach, and Lockdown

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to Richard Hardie for supplying book cover images and his author photo for my CFT post this week.

And below, from the wonderful Pixabay, a great example of what fabulous books should do – draw you in!

Books invite you into their world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share this week’s CFT post – Richard Hardie, Authors Reach, and Lockdown. Richard is a local (to me!) YA writer and Authors Reach is his publishing company. Richard and I chat about the challenges of lockdown he has faced both as an author and as a publisher.

Richard Hardie head profile-1

Richard Hardie. Image kindly supplied by him.

This post makes a wonderful lead-in to my Launches in Lockdown series which starts next Friday. I will be chatting to other Authors Reach authors, writers from the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and from Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books.

Naturally I’ll be talking about my experiences of launching a book during these strange times as well.

Today’s post with Richard, as well as the series to come, offer I hope thoughts and ideas as to what can be done despite all the current difficulties. It is also good to know you’re not alone out there!

I must admit though the post I would love to write would be the one where I talk about going to live events again and setting up some of my own!

As they say, watch this space!

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I’m currently drafting a flash story for a blog and this is an interesting combination of fiction with non-fiction. I’m sticking to a strict word count to meet the needs of the blog (though this is excellent for flash fiction writing anyway!) and I’m writing the story in the first person from the viewpoint of my lead character. I have a soft spot for them already! To be fair I do like most of my “people”.

Occasionally I write a story with a character I loathe but I still try to get inside their head and work out why they are the way they are.

Do I enjoy making them get their comeuppance? Oh yes! That is one of the perks of the writer’s job after all!

But the fascinating thing with characters is there are infinite varieties to them and, as a result, infinite storytelling possibilities. It is a case of us “digging for gold” here and finding those stories but the process should be a lot of fun.

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Murky and damp day today, not that Lady worried. If she can get to the park and play, she’s happy.

Glad to say I’ll be taking part in two interviews in due course. Have got the questions in for one, am waiting on the ones for the second. It is great fun being on the “other side of the fence” for interviews! I also love looking at the questions I’ve been set and think yes, that’s a great one, it will draw me out.

The best interview questions always do that. You want a writer to share something of themselves and their work and what inspires them. Questions that draw people out are far more likely to achieve that than those where someone could get away with a simple Yes/No answer. (I’ve never seen the point of those kind of questions – where’s the fun in that for either interviewer or interviewee?!).

Oh and before you ask. Yes I do interrogate my characters from time to time. I don’t let them get away with simple Yes/No answers either!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The challenges of flash I think are:-

  • Coming up with new ideas constantly for characters. (I’ve always found story ideas comes from the characters so as long as I know them well enough I will be able to write their tale).
  • Working out whether a 100-word story (or drabble), say, is the best way to tell my latest tale or whether I would be better having a shorter or longer piece to do the character(s) justice. I resolve this one by writing the story, putting it aside for a while, then cutting out my wasted words. I then look at what is left and ask myself line by line is this one really necessary? Does it serve the story? It can be amazing how much can be cut out doing that as only a firm “yes” to both of these questions is enough for me to keep the line(s) in the story. And that is how it should be.
  • Deciding whether to save the latest creation for a collection, or submit it for a competition, or save it for use as a blog post for me on my Facebook page, especially this one (!), or turn it into a story video and put in on Youtube. I sometimes deliberately leave a story as a text tale only for Facebook as I like to mix things up but must admit I have been having a lot of fun creating mini videos using Book Brush!

Still, those challenges mean I have no chance whatsoever of being bored and I like that!

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Looking forward to sharing my CFT post tomorrow. I will be talking to YA author, Richard Hardie, about the challenges of lockdown he has faced as both author and publisher. Richard’s publishing arm is Authors Reach and some of the writers from his stable will be taking part in my Launches in Lockdown series for CFT which will start on 22nd January.

This is going to be a five part series, one of the longest I’ve written, but all of my wonderful guests share great insights as to how they’ve launched books during what has been such a strange period of history. We all hope the series will be a source of encouragement, given, even as things get better overall, “normal” life clearly isn’t going to return all at once. So thoughts and tips about managing online events will always be useful especially given the lack of physical book events will go on for a while (though hopefully only for a short while!).

Writing wise, I am more on the non-fiction side right now with two interviews to prepare for though I have drafted a flash piece for submission to a blog spot later on. The latter was interesting to write. As ever, I found getting inside the head of the character was crucial. Once I hear their voice and see where they’re coming from, the story then flows. It is my character’s story after all!

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It came as a nice surprise to see a friend had shared my You Said story video the other day and there were fab responses in to it from that source. So many thanks, #JuneWebber, and to all who have kindly commented on this.

This poetic flash tale had to be written in the first person but I knew the voice of the narrator at once. Very much the voice of someone who has finally had enough of a situation. And I think I’ve conveyed that in this piece. Video up again below in case you missed it. It is good fun writing this kind of story video but I’ve found they work best when kept short.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_3E9H0Sk-M

Fairytales With Bite – What You Wish For

The well known saying “beware of what you wish for” is so true for us but it should be true for our characters too. It can be great fun making a character fall flat on their face when they so richly deserve it! But you do need to show the readers why the character deserves it so they can cheer along when the comeuppance happens!

Think about what your characters would wish for and why. Are their wishes reasonable? What stops them obtaining these? And where wishes come true, has that helped your character become a better person or has it ruined them? Getting all you want isn’t necessarily a great idea (and that’s equally true for us as well as our characters!).

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This World and Others – What Does Your World Lack?

Is your fictional world self-contained or does it need to trade with other worlds? If the latter, how is this done? What does your world lack that it needs to buy in and could this be used to hold your world to ransom by a hostile power?

Does your fictional world learn to grow/produce the things it needs or, if this is impossible, what can they do to ensure they can’t be held to ransom by said hostile power?

How does your fictional world get on with others around it even when it doesn’t need anything from anyone else? Does it look to create stable relationships, benefiting everyone, or does it take an insular view on things?

How do the attitudes shown here affect the people who live in your created world? If your creation is insular, does it stop its people from reaching out to other worlds in things like cultural exchanges etc?

If your story is set just in the one world, the question about what it lacks is still relevant. A world will have a climate and that will have its advantages and disadvantages. How do your characters cope with this?

What can your world produce? What can’t it produce? Has the climate changed in any way over time? Was your world once able to grow wheat say but can’t now and how has that impacted society? (It would do too – no bread etc so what would replace that as a staple food?).

Jotting down your thoughts to questions like this can help you visualise your world more clearly and that in turn will help you “get it across” to a reader more clearly. You may discover hidden elements that will help you add depth to your story. If your world was once able to grow wheat but can’t now, how do the people in your world react to that?

Starting Flash Fiction and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

I don’t know whether it’s just me or does January feel like it has been with us for ages already?! Very muddy outing to the park with Lady this morning. Not that she worries… (and I do bless my late mum for leaving me with loads of towels. So useful at this time of year – and yes I’d be at a loss without my washing machine too).

Talking of necessary equipment, is there something crucial to your writing you cannot do without and if so what is it? I’ll take a PC/laptop with printer for granted but other than those things?

For me it is down to software. I can’t be without Scrivener and Evernote. And being old school the old notebook and pen still plays a major part in my life (and will do so even more when we can get to writing conferences and the like again).

Looking forward to sharing my CFT post this week. I’m talking to YA author, Richard Hardie, about the challenges of lockdown he has faced both as publisher and author. Most insightful.

After that will begin my month long series, Launches in Lockdown, where my splendid guest authors talk with me about how they’ve launched books during this strange period. A couple of them launched three! Now there’s a challenge…! (Actually if you count the anthologies I’ve been in recently, I can include myself in that number too – and yes it has been a challenge!).

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New Story Video

Pleased to share my latest story video, You Said. Hope you enjoy. Have been having fun choosing suitable audio tracks via Youtube to add to things like this though I always use the free to use ones. It is the audio equivalent to Pixabay for me! (Oh and a big thanks for the lovely responses to my Flying Too High story on CafeLit yesterday – see below!).

Lady got to play with her best friend today so, unsurprisingly, she is rather tired (and her pal will be too). They also got to play with a lovely staffy pup though at one point I did find myself as the “meat in the sandwich” between two muscular dogs – the young staffy and Lady’s Ridgeback pal. I moved quick! Dogs, bless them, generally do not look where they are going when they are busy having a riotous and fun time with each other!

Looking forward to taking part in an interview in February. More details nearer the time. And there will be blog news to share later too. So a nice start to the writing week though what is it about Mondays that are so draining? Answers on a postcard…!

 

CafeLit Publication News

Am delighted to share Flying too High on CafeLit. Start the year as you mean to go on and all that…

Also pleased to say my recent post about receiving a tote bag with my cover for Tripping The Flash Fantastic garnered an incredible amount of responses. Many thanks, everyone – and, of course, to Chapeltown Books!

What is the most challenging aspect of writing for you? Is it continually coming up with ideas? Is it dealing with rejections/no hears from publishers, agents etc?

The positive thing here is that there are precious few writers who’ve not experienced either or both of these so (a) you’re not alone and (b) I’ve found most other writers to be wonderful sources of tea and sympathy. Okay right now we have to make our own tea and share the sympathy over Zoom, Facebook etc but the support is still out there.

Hope you enjoy Flying Too High. It was great fun to write.

Screenshot_2021-01-10 Flying Too High


My story, Flying Too High, will be on CafeLit tomorrow so I look forward to sharing the link for that then. Nice start to the writing year. (First submission under the new system CafeLit are using but it worked well).

Must admit I do hope we can have our usual Bridge House events later on in the year but must just wait and see. Having said that, the Zoom events were good fun and it was great to see people that way.

Am currently drafting a standard length short story which I hope to submit to Bridge House in due course.

Am getting my Launches in Lockdown series together and that is coming along nicely.

I’ve mentioned before I usually listen to Classic FM when I’m writing as I find that kind of music relaxes me and when I relax, I write more (and I hope better!). But there are exceptions to this. I tune into podcasts too (mostly notably Wendy H Jones’ excellent The Writing and Marketing Show).

I deliberately save some writing tasks for when I’m listening to spoken word like this. This is the time for those tasks when I know what I’ve got to write and it is a question of just getting it down. When I need to focus hard because I’m working out an outline and story idea, it’s definitely time for the music because that can and does wash over me (but that helps me relax and ideas for me flow better when I’m relaxed).

You do get into a pattern of work that suits you. It took me a while to figure out what worked best for me but now I know, I stick to it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t know whether to bless or moan at whoever is putting the Tom and Jerry cartoons on Facebook videos… I have to ration myself strictly with these, having many, many happy memories of watching these when I was a kid. Of course the great joy with these cartoons is they are a complete story in and of themselves and by the time they finish, you have had a good laugh (and hopefully are ready for the next one).

Flash fiction can be like that! And the great thing is that, dependent on the mood of the story, by the time you’ve finished reading it, you should be ready for the next funny or scary piece, as the case may be.

Learn from the cartoons! Leave your audience having had a great time with your story and wanting the next one. Oh and deliver the next one, the one after that etc etc of course!

tom-and-jerry-2397258_640

I mix up how I start a flash fiction piece. Sometimes I will work to an opening line. Now every so often I will have brainstorming sessions and come up with a whole host of these for me to pick later on to work into stories. Highly recommend doing that. It means there is always something for me to fall back on to work into a story.

I also work to a closing line (and yes I have brainstorming sessions and list a whole host of these too).

Sometimes a phrase or proverb will catch my attention and I will often use these as the theme for my tale, though every so often, I will use it as the title as well.

And of course I am working my way through Prompts by Gill James. I will work my way through these eventually, honest!

Sometimes a character’s voice comes to me and I will start a tale with what “they” tell me.

My Punish The Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again began life that way. And the opening for that is:-

Dear Sarah,
They say the perfect crime is where the criminal doesn’t get caught. Wrong…

Well, with a strong character voice like that, I just had to go with it! (And if you want to find out more, you can check the book out at am Amazon Author Central page here!).

I also like mixing up how I approach a piece as it makes things more interesting for me and, I hope, for a reader too.

BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939BB - blue poster for booksPrompts by Gill JamesBookBrushImage-2020-11-16-21-040


Hope you enjoyed my Fairies acrostic flash story yesterday. Acrostics are good fun to write and they work best when they are kept short so are perfect as a different form of flash storytelling. It also means the individual lines can’t be too long either. Again no bad thing!

I decide on what the acrostic word will be first and then ideas come from that. Fairies, for example, are known to not always be that nice so that gave me the theme for this one.

I wouldn’t want to write this kind of flash tale all the time but every so often to ring the changes suits me.


F = Fantastical creatures who are not always that nice.
A = Avoid angering them as they will find a way of repaying you.
I = Imogen, silly, girl, jumped up and down and stamped out their magic circle.
R = Revenge came quickly – as anyone with any sense could’ve told her.
I = Imogen is now entrapped in her own magic circle.
E = Exiting it is out of the question and there she must stay unless…
S = She accepts she was out of order and humbles herself and says sorry

Two days later… she is still there.

Ends
Allison Symes – 9th January 2021

Hope you enjoy the above and mind who you annoy!

Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Gifts

Books make wonderful presents, of course. There is something for everyone in terms of genre and format. And they’re easy to post as well (which given the current situation with the pandemic proved vital for the Christmas we’ve just had. I wonder just how many book-shaped parcels Royal Mail delivered in December 2020!).

There is one dilemma with books given as gifts though. You have got to resist the urge to read the book yourself or you’ll find it harder to give it away. Get the book home, get it wrapped! It is the only way…. Or is it?

Okay, there is an answer to this one. Get two copies of the book. You get a book, your friend gets a book (which has not been read through by you first!) and the author will love you for it.

You know it makes sense. Support your local authors!

I’m always delighted to be on the receiving end of books as presents and for Christmas and my birthday, I end up making a list. No surprises there but as I always tell my family, it does mean I’m easy to buy for!

Yes, books are wonderful. Ideal presents. And for those who loathe shopping of any kind (and I know a few!), you can give them a list and simplify what they have to do so win-win!

 

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Favourite Writing Exercises and Why They’re Beneficial

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my latest CFT post – Favourite Writing Exercises and Why They’re Beneficial.

I remember being set writing exercises when I was first starting out as a writer and being terrified by the thought of them. There was also no way on this earth I would read any of my offerings out loud! How things have changed!

As I mentioned yesterday (see below!), the fact nobody expects perfect prose helps a lot. I also found listening in to contributions from others helped too. It kind of reassured me I was on the right lines with what I had drafted and that in time built up my confidence enough to start sharing my work out loud. Feedback from that helped still further.

I discuss in my post why it is a good idea to get used to writing exercises and practicing some of the most common ones set (opening and closing lines) also helps enormously.

I found it meant I was less unnerved when a speaker at a conference set such an exercise. I knew I’d already practiced them and while I wouldn’t know (rightly!) what the line would be I had to write to, I knew I could do the exercise. That in turn built up my confidence to draft something for that exercise and with time and practice, you get better at most things, including exercises like these.

Great comments coming in already for my latest CFT post. Do share what your favourite writing exercises are.

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Many thanks for the wonderful response to yesterday’s post about my tote bag with the cover for Tripping the Flash Fantastic on it and a big, big thanks to my publishers, Chapeltown Books.

Looking forward to sharing tomorrow’s CFT post as it is about writing exercises and I love these. I never used to do so. I used to feel terrified when I was set any at writing conferences etc but when I realised nobody was expecting perfect prose first go, I relaxed! That funnily enough was when I started to enjoy said writing exercises.

It helps to see them as a fun way to trigger ideas you can polish up later. And that is the whole point. You do polish them up later and from that who knows? I’ve submitted pieces of flash fiction and short stories which started life this way and then went on to be published on CafeLit etc. Talking of which I will have another piece on there later this week which will be a lovely way to start the writing year!

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Had a lovely surprise from my publisher today – a tote bag with my book cover for Tripping the Flash Fantastic on it! Guess what I’ll be using to take my books about with me when we can finally have live book events again! One chuffed author here…!

Lady was chuffed to see her best buddie, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, in the park today. A good time was had by all. Lady doesn’t get to see her bestie every day so naturally wants to make the most of things when she does. (And her buddy takes the same view!).

My CFT post this week will be about a couple of my favourite writing exercises and why I think they’re beneficial. Link up on Friday. Hopefully you’ll also find it useful.

For the rest of January and into February, I will be sharing via CFT various authors’ thoughts on the impact of lockdown on their book launches. One of those authors will be me of course! But I will be kicking the series off with an interview with someone who is both a publisher and an author and has had to face lockdown and all that has meant from both sides of the writing business. All fabulous stuff and I can’t wait to share these posts. So plenty to look forward to here.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do you look for most in a story? I look to be entertained and it is a case of deciding whether to be entertained by a crime story, a historical fiction piece, fantasy, or what have you. For me, stories are all about taking a reader to a different place for a short while (and in the case of flash fiction, it is a very short while – and hooray I found a very I could justify using there! Very is one of my wasted words and nearly always gets the red pen treatment! It is unusual for me to leave any in!).

I guess lockdown has proved again how important stories are. The great thing with stories is you can go anywhere you like with them without moving one step from home.

So your travel guide for this weekend – what is it to be? Fantasy worlds, a dash of flash, a non-fiction book (and yes non-fiction is a form of storytelling too). And if you’re not sure where to start why not try a short story or flash fiction collection? See them as mixed assortments and doesn’t everyone like those from time to time? No calories either!

Whatever you read this weekend, enjoy – and escape for a while! It is a lovely feeling…!

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I’ll be talking about writing exercises in my post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week (link up tomorrow) but I like to mix up the kind of exercise I do, whether I’m specifically using them for flash work or not.

I love opening and closing lines (the theme of tomorrow’s post) as these are my two favourite forms of writing exercise but there are all kinds of things you can use as a prompt to start writing. I’ll talk a bit more about that in my post tomorrow but you can pick a random object from your desk, say, and work it into a story. You can use my other favourite things, the random generators, to trigger things to again work into a story and/or use as the theme and/or use as the title.

I like taking pictures when I’m out anywhere (not that this is happening for the foreseeable future!) but do look up your old pictures. Can any of those inspire a flash fiction story?

And however you start writing your tales, be sure to enjoy the process. That matters. I believe at least some of the writer’s enjoyment of the process does come through in the finished work and readers pick up on that subconsciously.

Anyway, why wouldn’t you enjoy what you write?!


I’m currently drafting a short story which I suspect will end up being at about the 1500-2000 words mark, so well above the flash limit, but I mention it here as I’ve fallen for the lead character and know I have got right under their skin.

Now I do this for all of my characters but this one does have that extra sparkle about them and I adore that. Hopefully future readers will pick up on this and love this character too in due course.

You need to fall for your characters and get under their skin for flash stories too, albeit this has to be done on a smaller scale. It helps to focus on the one thing that makes your character worth writing for and the one incident that is their story. What is it you have to write up?

Outlining helps here as you list what you love about your character and what could happen to them based on their situation. You then pick the strongest scenario based on that list. It will be the one that grabs you the most. Take time out to think about why that is. I suspect it will be because the scenario will bring out something special from your character, whether it highlights their sense of humour, sense of fair play, or simply just shows them in their best light.

And then enjoy every moment of writing the story up!

 

Fairytales With Bite – Favourite Kinds of Fairytale Character

Do you have favourite kinds of fairytale character? I always root for the underdog but I also love characters like Shrek that overturn perceptions as to how their characters are normally seen. Well, why can’t there be a good ogre? The word ogre itself conjures up the image of something nasty but who gave it that link? It also leads to the interesting question of what is the difference between a bad fairy godmother and a good witch? Who would you rather have in your corner?!

I also think fairytale characters are metaphors for us. There are the goody-goodies who never put a foot wrong, the ones who start out wrong but turn out okay in the end, the ones who are just plain evil (and usually they’re the ones after power which naturally they will only use for their own purposes). Maybe this is why fairytales resonate with us all still. We recognise the character types.

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This World and Others – What Makes Your World Work for a Reader?

What is it about your fictional world that you need to get across to your reader? What do they need to know about how things work?

The ideal of course is for your characters to show your reader the world they live in.

Readers pick up on context so think about that when writing dialogue. Dialogue in fiction needs to sound as natural as possible but you also don’t want characters to tell each other what they might be expected to know.

Example 1:-
Character A: I hear our newly elected Lord Mayor Renstung is a complete….

Hmm… a lot of telling here… also you want your readers to judge the Mayor for themselves and not be told what to think.

And it is highly likely Character B will know about the recent election and the new Mayor so what would be a better way of showing readers the situation here?

Example 2:-
Character A: Did you like the results on Thursday?
Character B: No. I was hoping old Whatitsface would be our new Mayor, not that complete…. Well you know what Renstung is like.
Character A: Hardly likely to forget am I?
Character B: I know you’ve mentioned the burning of your village on his orders but I don’t think you told me how old you were when that happened.

Much better. Yes, a higher word count but you find out something about Character A here, Character B comes across as sympathetic, and you can sense why these two are likely to be friends. For one thing, their views on politics look similar just from this short exchange.

When it comes to narrative, and you need to describe, say, the Mayoral building, do so succinctly. Think impact. What do you want your readers to see?

Example 1:-
The Mayoral Hall was built in the 50th century and looked like a wedding cake carved out of marble. It had won awards for its architecture but the prize giving committee were all members of Renstung’s cabinet.

This is okay. You get an image.

Example 2:-
There was something about the marble Mayoral Hall that made people shiver as they went past it. It might look like a wedding cake but countless people had died inside It. Nobody was sure of the numbers.

I would go with this wording. You still know it’s marble (the age isn’t the most relevant thing so I’ve cut that out), I’ve still given you the shape of it, but I’ve also associated it with horror. And that would be the most important thing for your readers to know.

Always ask yourself if you were reading your work as if it it had been written by someone else, how does the writing make you feel and react? There should be a reaction!

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Living Up To A Name and Writing Challenges

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of The Writer’s Diary taken by me, Allison Symes, as this fab book was one of my Christmas presents!

Facebook – General

Brrr…. Another chilly day today, not that Lady seemed to notice.

My writing diary has a wonderful template for outlining characters and one aspect to that is talking about a character’s needs. These range from the basic needs (food, drink, shelter etc) to psychological needs (needing to be loved etc). But there is another aspect to this.

What does the character think they need? This will often not be the same as actual needs (basic, psychological or otherwise). The character may or may not be right to think they need these things. But what makes them think that they do?

This is a useful thing to consider when outlining your villains especially. Why does a villain think they need to dominate the world (and generally they so do!), for example? What drives them? Yes, the obvious reason will be the drive for power but what’s the reason behind that? That will colour how you outline your character so well worth giving further thought about.

If they honestly believe their actions are the only way to secure their own safety, that will drive them to keep going no matter what. It would also make their attitude understandable to a reader.

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Just to flag up Amazon have the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic on offer right now. See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more.

Have also just sent off a blog piece where I’ll be the guest sometime in March. Have another one to prepare. All great fun.

Am drafting a short story for submission later this month/early February. I have totally fallen for my lead character. It is a wonderful moment when you know you’ve got right under the skin of your character so accurately. It’s also nice this character is someone I wouldn’t mind having coffee with if they were for real. I can’t say that for all of my “people”. Some are definitely meant to chill you! Some are historical figures and long gone…!

Chilly one over at the park today though at least Lady got to have a good run around with her best buddie, the loveliest Ridgeback in these parts. Another doggy pal of them both came over and the three were very happy and above all warm, unlike their owners! Stamping life back into your feet can take a while…


I always find the time between Christmas and just after New Year a strange one. For a start, it can be tricky working out which day of the week it is (and not helped at all by the pandemic with most people being at home and again losing track of the days of the week). I guess this shows I need structure and I’m not surprised by that.

I have a structure to my writing after all, not just in terms of outlining my stories and characters, but also in terms of what I’ll be doing and when. For example, my CFT post for this coming Friday is already up and scheduled but I am working on the one after that and hope to get that sorted out probably by Wednesday or so.

I finish my day’s writing either by writing flash fiction, working on my non-fiction book or another longer term project. By the time I look back at the week that has just gone, I will have wriitten several thousand words and made good progress on my project. You build up on what you do. And I find that structure works for me.

I just can’t wing it though I have no problem doing that when I am set writing exercises say at places like Swanwick, I guess I know I’m going to be set those so subconsciously I’m ready for them even though I won’t know the topic.

The tricky thing is finding time to do the “housekeeping” (for example, updating the website and so on). These tasks I try to do at least once every couple of weeks (though with my twice weekly round up, I am adding fresh material to the website all the time).

Does a structure work for you? I find I do get more done than if I didn’t have one. Why? Simply because I tick things off my list as I go and it always makes me feel better to see that list go down a bit.

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Hope your Saturday has been okay. Nice quiet one here though appreciating the central heating right now! One good thing about the cold, dark nights is that it does mean an evening at the desk writing is even more appealing than it usually is!

Writing challenges that always need to be met:-

1. Getting started!

2. Committing time to write. (And if you only do have 10 minutes, commit to that. Over the course of a week, a month etc, those pockets of 10 minutes build up. And it’s a good time slot for drafting a piece of flash fiction say or trying out a writing exercise you’ve come across. I hope to be talking about writing exercises in a future CFT post. Watch this space!).

3. Silencing your inner editor. There is a time for your inner editor to get on and do some decent work but it’s never while you’re trying to get the first draft down. Just get your ideas and thoughts down. What needs to come out will come out in the edit later on. Don’t let your inner editor stump your efforts to get any work down at all. It can happen.

4. Convincing yourself you can write. Confidence is an issue for most writers. And most of us have had to fight (and keep fighting) Imposter Syndrome regularly. See that as part of the writing life. Rejections are part of the writing life too. These things are obstacles to be overcome. You can write. You can improve what you write (and therefore up your chances of being published). This takes time. It is not a race. Willingness to learn and improve what you do is what matters here. You can write. Nobody but nobody writes perfect prose at the first go. You do get better over time at avoiding the basic mistakes (as you’ve learned what to look for and avoid!).

5. Avoiding the scammers and vanity presses. There is always someone out there waiting to trip up the unwary writer. Always ask for advice from the Society of Authors and/or Alliance of Independent Authors.

Happy writing! (I appreciate happy editing is possibly not for everyone though I like editing, as you would hope!).


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my story video yesterday (see post below). One/two line stories like Living Up To A Name, my story from yesterday, work wonderfully for this kind of thing.

Writing such stories is also great practice for writing a blurb for books etc given they usually have to be one to two lines only. The more I write flash fiction, the more I appreciate (a) the beauty of the short form and (b) the shorter the form, the more difficult it is to do well (so a big shout out to all poets here as well by the way!).

Flash fiction to my mind is precision writing. You do have to think about whether each word is really punching its weight in your piece or whether a better word would have more impact. (This is something that all poets do too).

But it is huge fun to do – and a good challenge. Challenges keep you as a writer on your toes and that’s no bad thing.

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Story time – and a timely one too given it has been so cold throughout most of the UK. Hope you enjoy.

Living Up To A Name
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BHYEO8Cv98


My new writing diary comes with plenty of prompts and I hope to get around to do at least some of this year. Flash fiction is perfect for this kind of writing because often you’re asked to write 500 words on this or that or you find the topic given is best suited to a short piece. So using prompts as a way of practicing your flash fiction writing is a good idea. And if you can polish those prompts up and get work submitted and accepted as a result even better! Definitely worth a go!


One of my goals for this year is to get a third flash fiction collection together. I’ve written a reasonable amount on this already but it will be what I return to when I’m resting my other big project, a non-fiction one.

Getting a collection together is an interesting process. As well as looking at the individual stories I’m looking at how well the collection will work as a whole. Does every one of my selected stories help enhance that theme in some way? If they don’t, well those are stories I save for another collection and another time.

What has been fascinating is seeing what my editors have picked up on for both of my books and it has always been a lightbulb moment for me of “oh yes”. That’s a good sign. It means the editors have picked up on things I’m too close to see as the author. You need an editor to point these things out. Do see your editor as your best ally in helping you to get your work as good as possible. It is what we are here for!

Oh and I am probably going to leave the name of this page as it is because (a) I like it and it’s a nice nod to my first book, (b), it is different, and (c) the link to flash fiction is apparent as you read through a post or two!

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Goodreads Author Blog – BOOKS Acrostic

B = Beautiful, bindings to suit (paperback or hardback or chapbook, brilliant at taking you into other worlds.

O = Original thoughts from writers and can make you look at our own world in a different light while reading fantasy and science fiction

O = Overdosing on books is fine. The worst you will be is well read and short on book shelf space.

K = Kindle. One way around the shelf storage problem and you don’t have to limit books to take away with you on holiday, when we can do such things again.

S = Stories in so many forms including non-fiction because that tells factual stories.

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New Year 2021 – Apprehension or Hope?

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of The Writer’s Diary taken by me, Allison Symes. Much appreciated Christmas present!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s good to be back in business for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. It always feels a little odd when I don’t post there! My post this week is called New Year 2021 – Apprehension or Hope?

Well, folks, the post does what it says on the tin (readers of a certain vintage will remember the old Ronseal wood stainer adverts that had this as a slogan. Mind you, every time I hear Pachelbel’s Canon in D, I think of the old Wool advert from the 1970s but that does say more about my age than anything else!).

In my post, I discuss the coming 12 month and urge positivity (and I would so love to see a better balance between reporting news we need to know along with news that is more uplifting. I have found too much negativity saps the soul if you let it).

I also encourage building on the positive things. So a gentle start to my CFT writing for this year but that’s no bad thing. Am looking forward to bringing you some fascinating insights from other writers over the next few weeks. More nearer the time. Meanwhile I hope you enjoy this week’s post.

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Happy New Year everyone! Here’s hoping 2021 proves to be a better and happier year for as many of us as possible. And for those facing sad and difficult times that you have all the support you need. I don’t usually celebrate New Year. I almost certainly won’t stay up to see it in. I treasure my sleep more these days but will admit to not being sorry to see the back of 2020.

Writing wise, I hope to build on the good things that have happened this year. Am keeping what I can crossed that writing events such as conferences etc will be back on.

I chat about facing the New Year with apprehension or hope in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up tomorrow and once again Happy New Year!

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Great to see a fab review come in for Mulling It Over. This is the Bridge House Publishing anthology for this year. My story, It Is Time, is in there (and if you like a chiller of a story, it is for you). I love reading anthologies as well as being in them as I’ve always enjoyed books which give a wide range of stories. They’re also great ways of trying out authors who are new to you. For writers, of course, they make a great way of building up a publication track record so win-win!

Many thanks for the great responses to my More Than Writers blog spot called Planning Ahead from yesterday (see previous round up post).  Even if you’re not normally a planner, doing some will help you achieve more. (If nothing else jotting down possible ideas can help you rule out what you don’t want to do and that can save you time later).

Massive puppy party over the local park today. Lady had a wonderful time with her best buddy, who is the most sweet tempered Ridgeback. Both went home absolutely shattered (but oh so happy). One good thing about the hard frost this morning? The mud had frozen over so at least I wasn’t squelching through everything!

Anyone for a quick chorus of “always look on the bright side of life”?!!

Screenshot_2020-12-30 Mulling It Over eBook Multiple, Hobbs-Wyatt, Debz, James, Gill Amazon co uk Kindle Store

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I always find the 1st January to be a strange day, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. It never feels like a holiday. (And this year that feeling it isn’t really a “proper” holiday has increased thanks to the pandemic and the freezing fog. Mind, it has also not helped that the usual post-Christmas walks and family visits didn’t happen).

Have you made any writing plans yet? I’m continuing various things already “on the go”. I haven’t quite finished writing the first draft of my non-fiction project but am within sight of the finishing line so that’s good.

Below is a picture of my writing diary. Am putting this up now as this will be the neatest this book will ever look. My old one was beginning to look rather battered and tired (just like the year itself really!). I didn’t get to use any of the prompts from the last diary but hope to make amends for that this year. I’m sure there are plenty of prompts here I can use to generate flash fiction stories.

Onwards and upwards and forwards then. A New Year is always a time for hope. We really could do with a lot of that right now!

The Writer's Diary

Happy New Year, one and all. I was having a quick look through my flash collection indexes and have realised, while I do tell Christmas related stories, I haven’t written any about a new year. Hmm… if ever there was a time to put that right, I guess it is now, isn’t it?!

Watching the Clock by Allison Symes
I was having such a wonderful time I didn’t want it to end. Yes, I remembered what she’d said about being back home by midnight. But come on, midnight is no time to leave a party, is it?

So I stayed until the bells started to chime and then I did run. What would he think if he saw my shabby dress? I only wish I could have stopped the clock. If midnight never came, I could have continued dancing.

Still I made it home before they came back, full of gossip about who the beautiful stranger was. I couldn’t bear to hear it. I thought going to bed would stop that but no, they were full of it again the following day.

The only comfort I had was when the clock struck midnight this time, it only signalled the start of another day, another year. I wish I could believe it would be the beginning of something better but I have had years of disappointed hopes so I know not to dream any more. I won’t expect more from any new year, yet alone this one.

The dance though is something I will treasure all of my life. That I think is the fairy godmother’s real gift to me.

Hmm… what are they on about now? Something about the Prince marrying the girl whose foot will fit the glass slipper and every lady under 50 has to try the shoe on. I will have to work hard not to laugh when my step sisters try it on. Let’s just say their feet are anything but elegant and dainty.

Maybe this New Year will mean a New Start for me after all. I just have to wait then and keep the other slipper hidden. Wish me luck! It is time mine changed for the better.

Ends
Allison Symes – 31st December 2020

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Hope you enjoy what follows. I thought this would be a different way of getting across a universal truth for writers!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1f3YsXSdrBg

Fairytales with Bite – Wishes a Fairy Godmother Would Love to Grant but Can’t

You would have thought the upside of being a fairy godmother is being able to dole out the odd wish to yourself every now and again but there are rules against such things. For a start, the potential for abuse is obvious. So given the rules, what would fairy godmothers love to grant in the way of wishes that they are forbidden to do? My suggestions are:-

Always making the punishment at least twice as bad as the crime. Why forbidden? Because there would be the risk that fairy godmothers would outdo each other as to how hardline they could be (as nobody would want to be seen to be “soft”).

Also when they are bringing miscreants to book, fairy godmothers want said miscreants to survive to learn their lesson and be able to warn others.

Also the usual idea is to humiliate miscreants and you can do that without using more magical energy than is strictly necessary.

Magic drains the person using it so no fairy godmother is going to waste her powers when she doesn’t have to.

Making cats trainable. This was declared an impossibility millennia ago. No amount of magic is going to change this (which is one reason fairy godmothers have always suspected cats of being magical creatures in their own right, regardless of the connection with witches).

Banning all possibilities of mistranslating a spell. Sounds a good idea but, if granted, it would have meant Cinderella would not have had her glass slipper. That has now become iconic (despite being murder on the feet – though fairy godmothers would see suffering as part of life. The main point they want to make sure of is that they’re not the ones doing the suffering!).

Taking all calories out of chocolate, prosecco and the like. I know. Lovely thought isn’t it? The argument against is you wouldn’t appreciate these wonderful things without the calories. Besides the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t like it. Take out the calories and you’re almost certainly taking out the sugar. That puts her out of a job and she’s not having that.

This World and Others – Marking of the Seasons

How does your fictional world mark the passing of time? Is there such a thing as a year, yet alone a New Year celebration? (Not that there will be much of any of that for any of us this time thanks to the wretched Covid).
Do the seasons match up to what we know on Earth? Or does your fictional world have something unique we would never see here due to the geographical conditions you’ve set up?

Marking of the seasons is something that has been done for millennia and is closely tied to agriculture. You have to know when to sow seed and when to harvest the crops after all. You also need to know when everything is dormant (though there is plenty going on under the soil even in winter, we just don’t see it).

So is there agriculture in your fictional world and, if so, what form does it take? Is there a food based celebration when the crops are brought in? If not, how do your creations survive? What do they eat and how do they get that food?

Even in a hunting community, there should be some sense of seasons given your characters would need to know when they could hunt their food and when their “prey” needs to reproduce so there will be things to hunt the following year etc.

So time matters then. How do you reflect this in your writing?

 

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