Swanwick Countdown, Networking, and Stories From A Petulant Goose

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good few days. I think I’ve surpassed myself with a title for a blog post here!

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Cooling down nicely after a very warm afternoon. Lady happily napping.

I use Booklinker to create a universal link for my flash fiction collections. (It’s shorter as well than, say, the Amazon string). Booklinker have been revamping their website and I like the new look. Both of my books are available in various places so a landing page has been created on my Booklinker page for each of these – I like that too. For more information on them check out their FAQ page at https://booklinker.com/faq

Four days to Swanwick – there has to be a countdown! Getting together with other writers was one of the things I missed the most during the pandemic. Zoom helped a lot and still does of course) but if you can get together in person with other authors, there is just something special about that and you all get ideas and useful advice from each other too.

 

Hope you have had a good Monday. Lady got to see her two best girlfriends today so came home happy (and before it became too hot).

Am so touched comments are continuing to come in for Age Is Just a Number on Friday Flash Fiction. Many thanks, all.

Have started packing for Swanwick. Okay, so far, it is only my toiletries bag but it is a start! No. I tell a lie. I have packed my books to go in the Book Room there (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic). Getting my priorities sorted, don’t you know!

Am happily working on my third flash fiction collection. Am hoping to submit that during the autumn. I’m later on this than I intended but good things, as well as life, have got in the way a bit but I am now back on track. These things happen and I don’t beat myself up on this the way I once would have done. What does matter is getting on with the book when all is said and done.

Talking of books, I have a little something to share with you regarding The Best of CafeLit 11. I hope you enjoy it.

 

It’s getting hotter again in my part of the world and the week ahead looks to be going the same way. Hope you can keep as cool as possible. Lady and I intend to though I must admit this week for me will mainly be a countdown to Swanwick!

Looking ahead, my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Short Form Writing. Well, they do say write about what you know! I’ll be looking at the advantages and disadvantages to the short form – yes, am being strictly fair here. There are advantages to novels the short form can’t hope to match. Mind you, the short form is not meant to do so. Its strengths are elsewhere. Link up on Friday.

After that I’ll be interviewing the lovely Val Penny, Scottish crime writer of the DI Hunter Wilson series. Looking forward to sharing that too. It’s nice getting back to interviewing again.

Now I’ve mentioned before I have been known to interview my characters. I use a simple template for this and work out what it is I think I need to know about them. Usually I need to know their major trait, whether they generally get on well with others or not and so on.

I usually discover all sorts of other things as a result of asking questions like that and I get a fuller picture of said character. I find it well worth doing, but it does pay to work out what you think you need to know. I know I don’t necessarily need to work out what they look like. I can figure that out later. I do want to know what they’re capable of doing/saying, especially when pushed.

I like to know my character's major traits

Hope you have had a good Saturday. Lady got to see a pal over the park today which was a unexpected surprise. She and the Labradoodle had a fab time together. Always nice to see.

One week from today I shall be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Am looking forward to packing next week. This is my big annual treat and it will be lovely to catch up with many friends, make new ones, and enjoy the workshops. I’ll be posting as usual during that week but at different times. Hope to do a write-up for Chandler’s Ford Today on my return. In the meantime am busy scheduling posts for CFT and going over what I need to take with me for Swanwick.

Benefits of networking: it’s fun; you learn tips from other writers; other writers get what you do and your need to do it; you often pick up useful information from other writers and in turn are able to share information you know (which is lovely as it’s a great way to pay back).

Not to mention coming back from networking events feeling inspired and encouraged – that has helped me so many times. And don’t forget there are all manner of writing events – one day courses to week events, to online ones. There is bound to be something to suit. Worth looking out for.

Networking encourages your zest for writing

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views coming in on The Hiss Factor, my latest YouTube story. It was fun to write and I must thank #GillJames for encouraging me to turn my goose story into a story. See below for video.

(I only hope the fox that came into my garden a day after the goose turned up didn’t get to turn the goose into dinner but that’s a story I won’t know the ending of!).

Do you struggle to write in the heat? I find I am more likely to get off to a slower start but once I am into a piece of writing, away I go. It’s a question of doing what you can and staying hydrated, I think.

I’ll be talking about Short Form Writing for my Chandler’s Ford Today post up on Friday. Naturally flash gets a good mention!

 

You remember the story of the petulant goose I mentioned a few days ago? Well, in the end I had to get a story out of it. Hope you enjoy The Hiss Factor!

 

I’ve sometimes used a random picture generator to trigger ideas for my flash tales. I don’t describe the landscape in my story but I do give enough of its essence so people can work out where my story is set.

For example, just now I generated a picture of a remote Scottish castle on the beach with the tide out. Here I might get a character looking out of a window wondering if someone will be back in time ahead of the tide. I can use the character’s thoughts and worries here to help a reader to conjure up the right image.

When giving Zoom talks, I will use the pictures directly as illustrations, quite literally, of what can be done using these as a prompt. I find landscapes work better for me because I can then think of the type of character likely to live there, the problems they would face and so on. As ever, I just need a way into my story.

Random generators of all kinds are great for this.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "Write lots. Write more. You will find out how you prefer to put stories together and you can then build on that. KNOWLEDGE EXPERIENCE SKILS COMPETENC ABILITY TRAINING G-ROWTH"

Many thanks for the comments continuing to come in on Age Is Just a Number on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated.

No writer can ever know for sure how a story will go down before sending it in, as even reports from beta readers etc will give a general guide of what they think and there will always be someone who loves what you do regardless. Sadly, there will always be someone who loathes what you do regardless.

You learn to accept you can’t please everyone all the time and you keep on writing to be true to yourself and your characters as you see them. You apply the writing advice that you know can genuinely help you improve. Not everything is appropriate or comes at the right time. When I was starting out flash fiction advice would not have been applicable to me as I didn’t write it. It is applicable now though!

Goodreads Author Blog – Soothing Reading

I read for all manner of reasons. I read for entertainment. I read to escape. (And with the news so grim everywhere you look, this is an important one!).

I read books by friends because I want to find out what they’ve come up with and to support them. Given they write outside of my genre of flash fiction, I expand my reading tastes doing this and ensure I get plenty of contemporary reading done too so win-win here. I read non-fiction to find out things in, hopefully, an entertaining way.

And I read comfort books when life is especially grim. My go-to here is humour. Who doesn’t need a laugh? Another advantage to networking with fellow writers is I also get useful ideas to add to my reading list. There is always plenty of room for more books on there.

I see nothing wrong in having reading materials specifically to sooth. There is plenty of room for the challenging books. I find you have to be in the right mindset to appreciate those. But soothing reading is always welcome. There is never a wrong time for that kind of reading.

Screenshot 2022-08-06 at 20-48-18 Soothing Reading

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Quizzes and Word Games

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Photos of The Hayes, Swanwick, were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Mine started with a petulant goose but has ended without one (it has literally waddled off) much to Lady’s relief. Best of all, my copies of The Best of CafeLit 11 arrived. Always lovely to open something like that.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share a lighthearted post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I‘m looking at Quizzes and Word Games, favourite things of many a writer, including yours truly. I have a soft spot for Scrabble in particular.

What are your favourite word games? Do share your thoughts on the CFT comments page.

Next week I am interviewing the lovely crime writer, Val Penny and looking forward to sharing that.

And the goose continues to keep away so Lady is well pleased. From her viewpoint, an odd week has ended well, especially as she got to play with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback this morning.!).

Quizzes and Word Games

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One thing I never tire of… drum roll, please… is opening up my new arrival of books! Pleased to say my copies of The Best of CafeLit 11 arrived today. I was especially pleased as I wasn’t expecting these until next week so that was nice.

Nice and quiet here without the hissing goose.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is a fun one on Quizzes and Word Games. Apt for writers. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Has playing word games helped my vocabulary? Oh yes. Especially playing Scrabble. Have any of the words I’ve learned made it into a flash fiction story or blog post from me yet? No. Give it time!

In breaking news… NO goose turned up today. I have a much happier dog! A much happier me come to that. I haven’t checked what my broom feels about it but it too has had a quieter, less eventful day.
Now that goose was clearly a bit out of place so how about a writing prompt to come from this?

Have your character out of place. There has to be a good reason for it. Show how they got into that state and how they got out of it again. Good potential for funny or sad pieces here I think. I may well have a go at this myself later on in the week. Will keep you posted. Have fun with it.

Characters have to have good reasons for their actions, even if they’re the only ones who think so. Your readers should be able to see where your characters come from but they don’t have to agree. I often disagree with my characters but that’s fine. I know where they’re coming from. I just don’t want to be there with them! And if they get poetic justice, as often happens in my stories, I relish writing every word of it!

The writing life can be great fun at times… I’m just glad there isn’t a Character Protection From Their Own Authors Society. I can think of several of mine who would want severe words with me.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction which is Age Is Just a Number. A huge thank you for the comments coming in on this one already. I suspect I may have hit a nerve or something here.

Screenshot 2022-08-05 at 09-15-22 Age Is Just A Number by Allison Symes

Hope you have had a good day. My copies of The Best of CafeLit 11 arrived, the goose has gone, and I’m settling down to an evening of what I love most – writing – so it’s been a good day here.

Looking forward to going to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in just over a week’s time. Will be so wonderful catching up with friends and being immersed in the world of writing full time for a week.

I’m running a one hour course there on Editing – Both Sides of the Fence and taking part in Lift Up Your Pens (early morning writing) and Lift Up Your Hearts (the latter is a short Christian devotional). Naturally I shall be waving the flag for flash fiction as well.

There is something about being with other writers that encourages and inspires. I am glad Zoom helps here too and it is also a great medium for sharing the joys of the mini stories.

Now a couple of years back a writing exercise I did at Swanwick as part of a course ended up becoming a published story online (CafeLit). I wouldn’t mind that happening again!

 

Hope Wednesday has passed off well. No hissing goose here today so Lady and I think the day has gone well!

Writing Prompt for you: What is the one thing what would make your character think a day has gone well and why? Think that could make a nice piece of flash fiction, say 300 to 500 words. Good luck.

I also followed my own advice here. The prompt idea came about as a result of my preparing this blog post so I jotted it down immediately and realised there would be a story prompt here. So something to add to this blog post too!

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Fairytales With Bite – The Purpose of Fairytales

I love stories that “just” entertain. To me, there’s nothing “just” about it though I do wish some would not look down on genre fiction and indeed fairytales for doing that. They’re doing their job!

Fairytales do serve another purpose – they serve as warnings about behaviour affecting outcome. There are consequences for rotten behaviour in fairytales. The baddies generally do not get away with it.

Fairytales also show there can be poetic justice (and sometimes rough justice). They warn against arrogance. Also to not look down on the poor. And given so often in fairytales, the Rule of Three crops up, the important points are emphasized to ensure they stick in the memory. That was vital when most could not read or write.

Fairytales can be enjoyed by most ages and are usually the way into stories as a whole for children. They were for me. I still have my Reader’s Digest collection of fairytales, a huge two volume set of books with beautiful illustrations.

They’re a great way of getting a message across without being preachy. Readers/listeners pick up the message from the story. From a writing viewpoint, they show characters in action and how to get a story across without the tale itself necessarily being a long one. Lots to learn from that, especially if you go into flash fiction with its restricted word count, as I have done.

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This World and Others – Characters Seeking a Purpose

All characters in any story should have a purpose to justify them being included but of course they themselves may need to find out what their purpose is as the tale progresses. Do other characters enlighten them? Do they find clues? Do circumstances force them to find out what their purpose is?

Most heroes in stories don’t set out to be a hero – they are pushed into it – it is a do it and survive or not as the case may be! When faced with that kind of choice, you’re going to get on and be a hero, aren’t you?

How do your characters react when they find out what their purpose is? Do they handle it well or badly? Not everyone would take well to suddenly discovering they’re a royal, a wizard, a fairy godmother or what have you.

Do the characters go on to accept their purpose or do they reject it and try to get their life back to “normal” (or what they thought of as normal anyway)? Even if they accept their purpose, what do those closest to them make of it? What further complications could that put in your lead character’s way?

Characters seeking a purpose may find the one they end up with is definitely not one they would have chosen! What does this do for them/to them? Do they find they’re better as people because of it? Can resentment from friends and family erode that purpose, even lead to the lead character failing?

A story can be about a purpose that does not work out and the consequences of that failure (though it would be difficult to have an upbeat ending here).

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Writing Time, Lines, and a Petulant Goose

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good few days. It’s got off to an odd start for me as the title above confirms.

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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Had a most enjoyable swim earlier. When I started swimming more often I thought I’d be using the time in the pool to work out story ideas, dream up further ideas and so on. Not a bit of it. My mind tends to go blank when swimming! Make of that what you will!

I’ll be looking at Quizzes and Word Games for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’m fond of word games so this post was a particular pleasure to write. I suppose it makes sense that a writer unwinds by playing with words!

Many thanks for the continuing comments in on Moving On, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. The feedback on this site is so helpful.

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Glad to say the August edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. Treat yourself to a free read. Plenty of fascinating articles and stories here. I talk about Funny Flash Fiction this time and share useful tips here. As well as setting a flash fiction challenge in my column, I respond to it myself so you get a story from me here too – and do check out the wonderful tales that came in as a result of the challenge.

Screenshot 2022-08-01 at 19-26-15 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine August 2022

Is there ever enough writing time? Probably not but I suspect the answer to this dilemma is working out how to make the best use of the time you have got. In my smaller pockets of time, I’m jotting down blog ideas, story titles, possible opening lines etc. In my longer pockets of time. I’m writing those ideas up! I also plan my week around my Chandler’s Ford Today post. Generally I have that written and scheduled by Tuesday. I then start work on the one for the following week.

I plan my monthly blogs so I have them ready in good time. I like to have those scheduled at least a week before due date. Now life gets in the way sometimes but giving myself this leeway means I still have a few days to get something in and I like knowing that I have this safety net. I rarely have to use that safety net. It is a relief to have it when I do.

So yes I outline my writing time too and have found doing that pays off.

Also my next author newsletter goes out tomorrow. To sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Newsletter has gone out but new subscribers are always welcome.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Looking forward to catching up with some Swanwick friends on Zoom tonight ahead of seeing them in person again soon.

Many thanks for the comments in on Moving On, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Don’t forget comments are welcome over on my Chandler’s Ford Today blog post pages as well.

I do enjoy getting my monthly posts together for Mom’s Favorite Reads and am just putting the finishing touches to my piece for September. My piece in the August edition, which is due soon, will be about Funny Flash Fiction, which is is also a joy to write.

Screenshot 2022-07-29 at 09-28-29 Moving On by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Further to yesterday’s post and in breaking news, the goose came back!

Again I was hissed at. The dog turned tail and ran (back into the house). Yours truly scared the goose off into the wooded bit of the garden with the aid of a garden broom. Am not having my dog too scared to go out into her own garden. My herding skills were okay (I have clearly learned something from my collies over the years). Most annoying thing of all – I can’t write this up as a story. It’s a bit unbelievable, isn’t it?!

The goose is fine, Lady is fine, I’m fine, but I still don’t get why this bird isn’t flying – it isn’t injured and its attitude – well it would have that anyway. There is no sign of injury or anything like that. Have shut the garden gate on it so hopefully that will send it back to where it should be at the lakes about a mile away from where I live where there is a colony of geese and ducks.

They say you can’t make it up. Well, as a writer I would dispute that. It is a question of whether you can use the material at times!

In other news, am looking forward to getting my copies of The Best of CafeLit 11.

CafeLit11 Small

It’s Monday. It has been a long, hot day. It has been an odd Monday. I got hissed at by an irate lost Canada Goose in my own garden this afternoon. There are a group of them on nearby lakes and it clearly had got lost. I am betting it is male and didn’t want to ask for directions!

Why the barking of Lady didn’t persuade it here was not a good place to be I don’t know but it did wander off eventually. (Lady would happily have chased it off but one slightly bonkers dog and an annoyed goose did not seem like a good combo to me!).

So as I say it has been a long day. It’s Monday when all is said and done. Definitely time for a story. Hope you like Acting Your Age, my latest on YouTube.

 

PS. Will keep you posted if anything odd turns up here tomorrow. Am hoping not though I suppose I can always get a flash story out of it. See above – The Goose Came Back! Not a typical day or two in the life of a flash fiction writer, I can tell you!

Understanding what makes your characters tick
Wow, another month gone. It won’t be long before I’m writing my festive flash pieces!

Am not kidding. For the short story market, you have to work on these much earlier in the year than I need to on my festive selections. But it still pays to give yourself plenty of time to write and hone your festive flashes so around summer/early autumn is not a bad time to start on that.

I find having a rough schedule to write to means I produce more finished writing. I like that aspect.

While flash is shorter prose, it still takes time to edit and hone. I can get a draft down relatively fast but it is the editing that takes the time. And that is how it should be too, no matter what you write. The writing is in the re-writing.

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Opening lines have to intrigue the reader enough to make them want to read on. This is even more important in flash where you do have to hit the ground running. You don’t have the word count room to expand on things later. In my The Silence (Tripping the Flash Fantastic), I start with It was the perfect way to shut up Mr Know-it-all.

I imply questions here – hopefully the reader will want to find out what the perfect way is, did it work, and who is the character behind this. Sometimes I use questions directly as opening lines but implying them also works well. It is key to provoking reader curiosity, that have got to find out what happens here moment. And then the tricky bit – delivering on the promise to answer here!

This is a key reason why I outline. I set up the question. I want to know in advance what the possible answers could be. It means I know where I am heading as I draft the tale. And I always go for the answer that makes me go “wow” – If I do that, it is likely someone else will. Naturally my hope here is that someone else will be a publisher, editor, or a competition judge!

Tripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Goodreads Author Blog – Reading Between the Lines

I write as well as read flash fiction and implying happens all the time here. You do get your readers reading between the lines all the time. You just give them what they have to know to be able to do that.

With my reading hat on, I love having to read between the lines. Crime writers do this constantly too – give us clues to work things out and you accept some of them will be red herrings. All great fun.

I don’t want tonnes of description. I just need enough to be able to picture the character and the setting. Specific details often work better anyway. A moth-eaten chair conjures up a stronger image than just saying an old chair. (Well, how old? Are we talking antique here or something that is only 30 years old?). ]

Specific details matter. Whenever a writer put them in, I am looking to see how important these things prove to be later on in the story. They usually are important. At the very least they have significant meaning for the lead character and that’s the important thing (if only because their opponent could use that against them).

I love reading between the lines then. The great stories encourage this I think.

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