Animals in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for shots taken of me at Open Prose Mic Nights at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (Looking forward to being back there again!).
Hope you have had a good week. I think I’ve had the best comment ever on any post I’ve written in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. See further down for more on this.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share Animals in Fiction, my post for Chandler’s Ford Today for this week. I look at favourite animal characters as well as explore their use in stories. I also look at writing from the viewpoint of an animal, which is something I’ve done from time to time.

And I am thrilled comments are coming in on this one already, including one that I think may well prove to be the best comment I’ve ever had on a CFT post (and possibly on any blog post!). Once you’ve read the post, scroll down and check out what one of my readers’ dogs made of the theme for Jaws! My sympathy is with the dog.

Also, do send in your own comments on the CFT post about your favourite animals in fiction.

Animals in Fiction

 

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Good news – Lady got to see her best buddy briefly today. Latter is much better and the two dogs were delighted to see each other, especially since today is not one of the days they usually meet.

I’ll be sharing my Animals in Fiction post for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. Looking forward to sharing that. I loved animal characters when I was a kid. I have a soft spot for them still (helped no end by being a dog owner I suspect). Give some thought as to the ones you loved in books. Comments are always welcome over on the CFT page – link up tomorrow – would love to hear your thoughts on this topic over on that page then.

I have written stories from the viewpoint of an animal though I mainly focus on humans/humanoids but every so often it is good to turn the tables. I can use animal stories to show what I think they might think of us!


How has Wednesday been? Lady’s had an okay day but she missed her best buddy today (and that’s because her pal isn’t feeling too well, poor thing. Very much keeping everything crossed, paws included, that all is well again soon). It is lovely to watch how dogs make friends with each other.

Talking of friends, how do your characters measure up here? Do they have plenty of them? Or do they believe in quality over quantity? Equally, how good a friend are they to others?

There are plenty of stories where friends come to the rescue but how about writing one where a friend lets someone down and then goes on later to make up for it? Could have a lovely emotional rollercoaster of a story there. Rebuilding trust is difficult though not impossible. How do your characters manage it?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share Dodging by Numbers, my new story on Friday Flash Fiction. I used a random number generator to come up with the number 766 and you can find out how I worked that into a flash fiction piece here. Hope you enjoy it.

The more observant may have noticed I used the same number for my YouTube story this week, Lucky Number.

You know how coincidences don’t really work in fiction, right?

You know you have to plant clues for the readers so when your event happens they know it was within the realms of possibilities for your character so don’t feel cheated, right?

So the wise author never ever uses coincidences because they know they won’t be believed by a reader, right?

Well, there was no coincidence here either!).

Screenshot 2022-01-13 at 21-22-24 Random Number Generator

Screenshot 2022-01-14 at 19-00-29 Dodging by Numbers, by Allison Symes

 

I have a “stock” of stories for reading out at Open Prose Mic Nights. Flash fiction works brilliantly for this as you can’t go on for too long – and everyone likes that!

Naturally I mix up the mood of the flash tales I read out. I like to start and finish with an amusing piece and have something darker and/or more reflective in the middle section. And I do practice reading the stories out loud first at home. (For one thing I have found knowing I’ve done that helps steady the old nerves a bit!)

Delighted to say I’ll be giving a Zoom talk on flash fiction again soon. Always happy to spread the word about what a wonderful format it is!

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I must admit I do a lot of my reading in bed – it’s a wonderful way to unwind. But we all get stressful days when perhaps it is more of an effort to read. This is where I do turn to flash fiction and short story collections. I am still reading wonderfully crafted stories. I’m just going for the shorter form. I also deliberately read collections in between novels. I like to mix up what I read in terms of author, genre, and length of story too.

Writing flash fiction gives me a great opportunity to mix up what I write too in terms of word count, genre I write in (as I’ve written crime flash, historical flash, fantasy flash etc). And it is such fun to do especially if you like creating people as I do. I’ve found flash has helped me to develop my show and not tell technique as well (which can of course be applied to any length of fiction).

Writing short is also marvellous practice in preparing material for blogs, advertising, blurbs etc.

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Fairytales With Bite – Time

How is time measured in your fictional world? Does it have the same divisions? I’ve used time in my flash fiction stories (and in one crime story I had 1a clock as a murder weapon!).

Do you use Time as a character? I’m drafting a story with this in mind and am showing Time as a character who cannot be cheated. The fun here is in showing how another character tries to be the one who will finally achieve that. There is always someone who will try to do that which has not been done before and you could make that a comedy story or a tragedy.

What impact does time have on your characters? Are they ruled by the clock or other time measuring device? How does time affect the way in which they live? In your fictional world, is there anyone who can control time and how do they do this? I would expect there to be a heavy price to pay for that ability (with great power should go a sense of great responsibility and, if not, misusing the ability to control time should have consequences. Note I said should there!).

How does time affect what your characters can do and when? Do different characters appear at differing times of the day/week/year etc? Why do they only come out at certain times?

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This World and Others – Reacting to Time

How does your world measure time? Does it worry about keeping “tabs” on time? Or do your characters just go with the flow? Do your characters age, as we understand the term? If they get to one age and then stop at that point until, presumably, they die, why does time stop for them?

Time, of course, has a big impact on us all and governs so much – everything from when we get up to making the most of natural daylight before having to go inside for the night. We can’t keep going for 24/7 – sleep has to happen. Time tires and ages us. But when we are having a lovely time of it, don’t we want those times to last for ever?

Now think about your characters. What are their attitudes here? How do they react to time? Do they see it as kindly or as a cruel thing (and age would probably have a role here in how your characters respond to that)?

With time of course there comes the point when it has to stop. We’re mortal after all. How do your mortal characters handle this knowledge? Do they make the most of the time allotted to them?

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Getting Into Character Heads and New Stories

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images of me reading at Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights taken by Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn. Image of me book signing at Swanwick was taken by Fiona Park. Many thanks, folks. Looking forward to seeing you again at Swanwick later this year hopefully!
Hope you enjoyed the weekend. Glad to be back to producing stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Many thanks for the views coming in on Lucky Number, my latest YouTube video. It is always great fun putting these together. I adore using the Book Brush tool for videos here and being able to add a music track from YT’s library of free-to-use clips.

I don’t have a lucky number. I don’t believe in such things but characters can and do. How would their belief in a lucky number affect their behaviour? How would other characters respond to their behaviour? Equally what would their belief in an unlucky number cause them to do?

If you set your story in another world, what numbers would that world consider lucky or otherwise? Thirteen, for example, is often considered unlucky because there thirteen people at the Last Supper of Christ, including the traitor, Judas Iscariot. There usually is some reason why numbers have luck associated to them. Could you find interesting stories to tell about that?


Glad to get to my desk to sit and write for a while. Mondays are always horrendously busy for me. Is there a particular day of the week you find challenging? For me it is a relief to get to my desk on any day of the week but especially on Mondays. I find writing so therapeutic and I can feel myself relax as I start).

I don’t know quite what it is but getting into the heads of characters and bringing them to life is just wonderfully relaxing and a challenge. Responding to that challenge gets the old imaginative sparks flying and before I know it I am taken out of myself which I guess is the point! Characters should seem real to you for them to stand any chance of seeming real to a reader.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Weather better but colder today.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is called Animals in Fiction and I am looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I share some of my childhood favourites here and what I think would be the downsides to writing animal characters. Mind you, this is from someone who wrote a story from the viewpoint of a mother dragon! See below.


Has been a blustery and wet day in soggy Hampshire. Hope things have been better with you (though given the power cut earlier this week I am just thankful to have got in from walking the dog to a nice cosy home!).

Do you find it harder to get your creative juices started at this time of year when it is dark and gloomy (in the UK at least) or does the time of year not matter? I find when I get started, I end up being on a roll. It can be the getting started which is tricky which is why I use a number of ways to help me begin a story. I’ll be talking more about that in my next column for Mom’s Favorite Reads but in the meantime there is always the January issue to enjoy.


Screenshot 2022-01-01 at 17-16-40 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine January 2022 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , S[...]

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ll be looking at Animals in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I sometimes have animal characters in my flash fiction but I prefer writing human/humanoid characters. It is easier to give them thoughts and dialogue!

But animals can (and have been used to) represent human behaviour, especially in fables. Many of those would fall within the flash fiction category thanks to their word count. The best fables are kept short. They’re easier to remember this way and especially in the days before print that mattered.

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Pleased to share Lucky Number, which is my latest YouTube story.  See link further up. I used a random number generator to come up with 766, the “lucky” number in this tale. It isn’t usually a number associated with luck, good or otherwise, so why is it considered lucky by my character, Denise? Check out the video – hope you enjoy.
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One of the joys of flash is being able to capture those moments which would not sustain a full standard length short story of 1500 words or more, yet is still a complete tale in and of itself. It means nothing is wasted here.

So if you have a writing exercise jotted down which won’t come to more than 1000 words, why not review it and see if you can turn it into a piece of flash fiction? It doesn’t just have to sit in your notebook!

And given there are more competitions and markets for flash now (especially the indie press), there’s every reason to try and get it published too. Good luck!

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Many thanks for the comments coming in on New Start, my first story of the New Year for Friday Flash Fiction.

Am looking forward to the ACW Flash Group Meeting later on in the month too. That took a break for Christmas and it will be lovely to see everyone again, even if we are in a Zoom box!

When choosing pieces of flash to read out, I usually focus on the 100-worders. They’re to the point and are effective at showing what flash is quickly. If I’m reading at an Open Prose Mic Night, I usually start and finish with a 100-word tale and then have something a little longer in the middle.

Even then I tend to go for the 250-300 words and no more. These stories still have the “oomph” effect of flash but also show you can put in a little more, relevant, detail which adds detail and information that you can’t do in the drabbles.

And it is fun to mix up the word counts I write to – give it a go! There will be markets and competitions for the differing lengths of story.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Why Reviews Matter

Every writer with a book out longs for reviews but they can be difficult to come by. I’ve never really understood why. Reviews don’t have to be long. Indeed the short one or two liners often work better.

And, aside from buying the book itself, leaving a review is one of the best ways you can support authors.

What I like to see in a review (and try to do when I give them) is for the reviewer to give a flavour of what the book is about without giving too much away.

I like to see mention of characters that have grabbed the reviewer’s attention and, in flash and short story collections, which were the “stand out” tales.

Reviews obviously help raise an author’s profile. The author can quote from them on their website, Facebook and social media posts etc. And they really don’t take long to write.

My policy here is to review a book as soon as I have finished reading it. It ensures I don’t forget to do it. Maybe that is where the problem lies. Any thoughts?

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J is for January (and power cuts!)

Image Credits:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good start to your New Year. Bit of an “iffy” one here given a major power cut took me offline for several hours on a very cold night this week. Mind you, when power was restored, I found I really appreciated lighting, heating, being able to have hot drinks etc again!
Onwards and upwards though and I am glad to share my first CFT post and Friday Flash Fiction story for the New Year here.

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share my first post for Chandler’s Ford Today for 2022. J is for January looks at what I like and dislike about the month, shares some amusing “national” days associated with the month, and I discuss its usefulness for planning out what you would like to achieve, writing wise, for the year to come. I also flag up using historical events for story and article inspiration and share a useful link, naturally for events linked to January!

Screenshot 2022-01-07 at 19-28-56 J is for January - Chandler's Ford Today

Hope you enjoy the post. It is such a relief not to be writing by torchlight and tea light. See below for more on this – it has been one of those weeks! It has not been the best of starts to a New Year but do I appreciate my lighting, heating, being able to write properly etc now after that power cut? You bet!

J is for January

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5th and 6th January

Sorry not able to post on Wednesday as major power cut in my area went on several hours. I remember the Three Day Week back in the 1970s when power often went off and this reminded me of that. Not a good reminder either!

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What I had hoped to post is below.

Came home from the dentists today (went okay) to then have the house plunged into darkness thanks to a power cut! I am typing this by torch light. Have no idea when power will be back on though the powers that be say to allow 3 hours. (Update: It wasn’t. Closer to 12 hours!).

On the plus side Lady got to play with her best friend, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her other pals, a lovely Hungarian Vizler and Labradoodle respectively, and a marvellous time was had by all. There was another Ridgeback out, a lovely gent of a dog, and it is quite some show when two Ridgebacks decide to have a play fight! Given they weigh 100 kilos between them, you stand back and watch the show! Even Lady does…

Writing wise, I’m working on a talk I’ll be giving in February and looking forward to sharing my J is for January post for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I am also brainstorming ideas for a short story I want to write up.

Now you know I’m a big fan of characters. For me they make the story, they drive the story, they are the story. When we think of books we’ve loved it is, for me at least, the characters I recall. So what is it about characters that will make them work for me?

They have to be believable, even if they are set in an incredible setting. I have to be able to see where they are coming from and to understand their objective even if I disagree with it. I either have to root for them to succeed or for them to fail, depending on whether I agree with their objective or not. I have to care about what happens to them.

And that is the challenge for me as a writer. To come up with characters readers will care about.

And it is not just a challenge, it is great fun!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is a joy to be sending stories in for Friday Flash Fiction once again. Am pleased to share my first for the New Year. Appropriately it is called New Start and I hope you enjoy it.
Screenshot 2022-01-07 at 15-13-01 New Start, by Allison Symes

5th and 6th January

Sorry not able to post on Wednesday due to major power cut. My part of the world was without power for several hours on a very cold night – no happy bunnies around here I can tell you! What I had hoped to post is below. (I couldn’t even sync on Evernote – needs net connection for that!)

Have to admit typing by tealight and mini torch thanks to a major power cut is not fun. I guess it shows that (a) the smallest of lights helps against the darkness and (b) extending that out, the short form of story can show something of human nature just as much as the longer forms can. Indeed the short form can be more intense.

Flash light illuminates then. So does flash fiction! It can be a question of asking what reaction you want to bring about in your reader as a result of their having read your story. So what do you want to illuminate – the dark or lighter sides of human nature?

I like to write both (though there is a limit to how dark I go due to personal taste and my faith). I suppose it is because we all know life is not a laugh a minute and I guess I like my fiction to reflect that. Yes, there are laughs but not always.

BookBrushImage-2022-1-6-20-1432fromlighttodark_medium-2Tripping the Flash Fantastic Small.jpgreflection-is-a-major-part-of-lifeWRITERS DAYS - Try to give your writing an uplift

Fairytales With Bite – Attitudes

What are the prevailing attitudes of the characters in your fairytales? I have a very soft spot indeed for feisty aka take no nonsense heroines. I have no time at all for those who seem to be helpless but whom you know if they put some thought in it could help themselves (if only by avoiding the obviously stupid things).

What are the attitudes of those in authority in your setting? Do they lord it over everyone or do they seek to serve? Is there a democracy or a benevolent dictatorship? What are the attitudes of the people to those who rule over them?

What is the general attitude towards magic? Is it seen as just one of those things and taken for granted or is its power, and those who wield it, feared, resented even? What problems could those attitudes cause for your characters?

Attitudes affect actions. A belligerent character could be useful in a situation where toughness, determination to see something through matters. They could be a complete pain in the neck where you need diplomacy and levelheadedness to see your characters through!

So attitudes matter. It pays to give thought as to why your characters have the ones that they do and how these are going to shape your story because they will. They kind of have to as characters make the story and attitudes make the characters.

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This World and Others – The Role of Magic

Is magic a major asset or hazard in your created world? The answer to that will depend on the attitude of your characters. Do they use magic or have they been used by it? Is magic in the hands of the elite or is magic controlled by someone else the elite answer to? Who would that be? How have they come to wield the power that they have?

Also, have there been any kind of magical accidents which have impacted on the landscape of your created world (politically, geographically or both)? I would expect here people to be wary of magic due to that but what happens when magic has to be used? How are fears overcome so magic is used in a safe way?

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New – and Looking Forward


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books, Bridge House Publishing, and Wendy H.Jones.
Welcome to 2022! Hope you enjoyed the Christmas and New Year break. I did but am pleased to be back in the writing “saddle” once again. Oh and it was a real pleasure to include a certain YouTube clip below to tie in with one of my posts. Think Hebrides…

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Facebook – General

Bitterly cold today, not that Lady minded. Good to get back to swimming today after a Christmas break. You can always tell when it is really cold outside because it is the only time the water in the pool feels remotely warm! I’m sure they keep it at the temperature they do to ensure you get swimming quickly – it works!

Will be subbing a piece to Friday Flash Fiction shortly now that submissions are open again. Good to get back to that. Am thinking up ideas for a longer short story I want to do. The old brain is ticking over nicely!

Many thanks also for the views so far on my first YouTube video of the year. Appropriately the story is called New. Possibly I should create something for the end of the year so I can call that Old!

 

It has been a Bank Holiday today (and I believe the Scots have another one tomorrow – enjoy!). I find these days feel a bit surreal.

I get on with my usual bits and pieces so I can get them out of the way so I can then settle down to do what I really want to do – write – but the world outside my door is a lot quieter than it often is and it all feels a little odd. And I know I shall “feel” as if I am a day “out” all week! Ho hum… Mind you, I am looking forward to resuming swimming tomorrow after a break for Christmas. Could do with it too!

Christmas was very enjoyable! (Lady gets a bit confused too – she will wonder where my family are tomorrow- there is no way you can explain holidays to a dog).

Now writing wise this week, my Chandler’s Ford Today post will be called J is for January. I look at the positive and negative aspects and share some interesting “national days” associated with the month. Link up on Friday.

I’m back to creating my YouTube videos again and I will be sharing my latest one over on my book page (From Light to Dark and Back Again) shortly. Also see above!

Feels good to be back in the writing “saddle” again.

Screenshot 2022-01-04 at 20-35-02 From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook

What are you looking forward to most this year in terms of writing and/or books you want to read? I want to keep going with the blogging, get my third flash fiction book submitted, and try and submit a book proposal for the non-fiction project I’m working on.

I want to have another crack at the Bridport Prize flash fiction category later on in the year too. As mentioned yesterday, I hope to get to Swanwick in August and I hope there will be other writing days throughout the year. I’m also looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June.

Reading wise, I want to bring my To Be Read piles down (and the one on my Kindle as well) significantly though I am making good progress here. (My main problem with reading is I tend to read in bed and when I am too tired, the reading gets put on standby for a bit. This is something I try to avoid as much as possible).

And I’d like to be published and published again and published again etc etc!

Better get my head down and get on with some writing then!

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1st January 2022 – New Year’s Day

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you have had a good start to the new year. Am looking forward to various writing events including the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August and getting out and about to day events again. It was nice to be able to start to do that again in 2021.

And the January edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out – see link. My theme for the flash fiction column this month is New, an apt topic for this time of year.

You can take the topic in various directions – new beginnings for a character, a character having to face up to being forced to do something new and how they handle that, a character picking up an object new to them and how that changes them.

I also share a flash fiction tale of mine which involves a character having to get new furniture in thanks to the antics of a greedy golden-haired child – for more see the link.


Screenshot 2022-01-01 at 17-16-40 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine January 2022 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , S[...]

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope it has been a good first day back to “normal” where that applies. (So much depends on what you define as normal too!). I’ve mentioned before that I listen to classical music when writing and have just finished listening to The Hebrides Overture on Classic FM. It is my favourite Mendelssohn piece. Why? Because it really does conjure up images of that fantastically beautiful part of the world via music. Amazing work.

When writing flash fiction pieces, I do give careful thought as to the images I want to “plant” in the readers’ minds. If I’ve decided to write a humorous piece, I will think about how and where the laughs or smiles will come and then work out what images of my characters in action could lead to that. (I don’t always aim for outright laughter here. A story that makes someone smile is equally good. I remember those that make me smile and I know they always lift my mood).

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Nice to get back to creating the YouTube videos again after a brief Christmas break. Hope you enjoy the latest one called NewAnd the Mendelssohn clip above may be “old” music but it is still pretty wonderful. In with the New AND in with the Old!


My column in Mom’s Favorite Reads this month talks about New. I set a different challenge this time too. As well as inviting fiction pieces in on my theme, I have also opened it up to include flash non-fiction pieces on the same topic of up to 300 words. And if you want to check out the magazine, do see the link. Also see the Facebook link below.

It is great fun choosing a topic and writing an article around it. I like themes which are open to interpretation. It gives writers more to work with. I think you’re more likely to come up with something unique too.

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1st January – New Year’s Day

Happy New Year, everyone. This time of year reminds me of a pivot because this is the point where many of us take time out to consider change etc. It’s what New Year resolutions are for after all. Flash fiction by its nature has to have one pivot which changes the character and the course they are on, though it can come right at the end of the story and be a twist ending.

Equally you can set the character what seems like an impossible challenge they have to meet right at the start of the story. That’s the pivot, the point of change, which must come in any length of story. And both types of pivot are great fun to write up! Hope you have a fabulous writing and reading New Year.

Goodreads Author Blog – New Year, New Books, New Authors?

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you received lots of lovely books for Christmas. Am currently working my way through the latest Richard Osman one and a couple of flash fiction collections, and am loving them all. The To Be Read pile shows no sign of going down much though I think that is how it should be!

So with a new year ahead of us are there new books you’re looking forward to? Are there new authors you discovered in 2021 whose works you really enjoyed? A new year gives us the chance to try new books and writers new to us and I hope to do plenty of that over the next twelve months.

I like to mix up classic and contemporary reading and going to book events, whether I take part in them myself or not, gives me plenty of opportunity to boost my contemporary To Be Read pile!

What matters is enjoying plenty of stories. And I must admit I have finally got to watch the latest Bond film No Time to Die. I thought the storyline there was excellent. However you take your stories “in”, whether you read them, watch them, listen to them, or do a mixture, as long as the tale grips you, you are on to a winner. And I was gripped by this one. As ever with any great story, the characters make it work. They are the story.

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