Characters, Podcast, Interview, Summit and Talk News – Yes, it has been a busy week!

Image Credit:- All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of Wendy H Jones were kindly supplied by her.

Many thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for the images of me reading at Open Prose Mic Nights at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (pre-2020 obviously!).

Image of me signing Tripping the Flash Fantastic in front of a distinctly unimpressed Lady was taken by Adrian Symes.

And I think the above will be my longest blog post title ever! 

ANNOUNCEMENT:  I launch my author newsletter on Monday, 1st March 2021 and there is a giveaway with it (which you link to in the Welcome to my Newsletter email you receive on signing up). Sign up page here

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

After what has been a busy, fun, and especially creative week, I’m delighted to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post which shares some of what I’ve been up to (!) and looks ahead to what is to come.

I’m thrilled to share here the link to #WendyJJones’ podcast, the fabulous The Writing and Marketing Show, where I was her guest back in late January talking about writing a regular column.

I discussed with Wendy, amongst other things, how to find ideas and to keep on finding them. Naturally Chandler’s Ford Today was well plugged here and I should stress that though it is an online community magazine, many of the articles go beyond local.

My posts here are aimed, mainly, at writers and I specifically aim to write posts that will prove timeless and therefore useful to people for longer. So do go and have a look!

I also discuss a little about what is coming up including when my interview with #HannahKate will be broadcast, about the international writing summit I’m taking part in, and about a WI talk I’m currently working on for delivery in mid-March.

See https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/local-author-news-allison-symes-summits-talks-and-interviews/ for more.

And a big thanks to Wendy once again for hosting me on her podcast. Also thanks for her contribution, and to all of my other guests for theirs, to the recent CFT series Launches in Lockdown.

Feedback on that has been good (many thanks, folks!) and I hope it proves useful for anyone planning their launch this year. What was particularly positive about that series was the range of ideas people had for overcoming the obvious difficulties in trying to have launches during a pandemic. I was also encouraged to see though that, despite all the miseries of the last year, book sales went up considerably. Now that is always good news!

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When I first started out as a writer (the last T-Rex had just left the planet to give you a rough idea of time scales!), the thought of talking about my work or networking would have brought me out in a cold sweat (and did. Thank goodness for deodorant!). Now, it’s fine. Why the change?

I cheered up about the thought of networking when I realised it often meant chatting with another writer about my work over a cup or glass of something lovely. They’d ask me about my work. I’d ask them about theirs. Before I knew it, a good conversation was being had and I made new writing pals. So win-win.

(I’ve only ever come across the odd one or two who only wanted to talk about their work and I learned from that this is not the way to make writing pals. It is no coincidence the best writing pals are the ones who take an interest in what you do and of course you take an interest in what they do. I’ve learned something useful from every writer I’ve ever chatted to, regardless of their genre, and it is true that to have writing pals you need to be one yourself first and foremost.).

But I realised before going to my first writing conference all those eons ago that I would have to think of something to say to introduce myself and what I did then writing wise. So I drafted something. The old pen and paper came in handy here, I drafted something useful and it made sure I didn’t forget anything either and it gave me that little bit more confidence when I went to that first conference as I rehearsed it to myself too and I knew I at least had something to say!

I was very nervous but I quickly found writers are a friendly and welcoming bunch and before I knew it I was chatting away as if I’d known these good people for ages. And that’s the way it should be and one of the major things I love about the writing community.

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It was a joy to be interviewed by #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM today. I look forward to sharing the links later but it was a real pleasure to talk about flash fiction and blogging. It is a funny thing I fell into both of those things by accident but the writing journey is unique to each writer. We all face our twists and turns but sometimes those twists turn out to be smashing ones!

In other news, my Chandler’s Ford Today post is going to be a summary of my recent news, including mention of the interview with Hannah, but also includes the link to #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show podcast where I was a guest a little while back talking about writing a regular column. (I didn’t want to interrupt the Launches in Lockdown series, otherwise I would have shared this sooner). I’ll also be sharing a little about what is happening in March as it is going to be a busy month with most of the prep work done for it this month!

It is often the way with the writing life things come in batches and then nothing for ages. You do get used to it!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve found mixing up the way I approach writing flash fiction interesting and useful. It keeps me on my toes for a start! I always start by knowing who my character is but I don’t necessarily write from A to B until I reach The End. Sometimes I write from B to A (and this is a specially good technique for twist in the tales. You know what the twist is and then work back logically to where the start should be).

Sometimes I know the mood of the story I want to write. For example, let’s say I feel like writing a funny story that will make people smile and, better still, laugh. I then think about the kind of character who would serve that kind of tale well.

And I do the same if I want to write a tale that makes you shudder. What kind of character could produce that kind of reaction?

I’m sure you can see from all of that why I think characters are what makes a great story (or not. A promising story can fail miserably if the star performers, your characters, are “not up to the job”. I’ve only ever abandoned a couple of stories in my time and both times it was for the same reason. Weak characters, a story that didn’t grip me precisely because those characters were weak. And my conclusion? It was all my own fault for not getting to know these characters well enough before writing them up. I try hard not to make that mistake now!).


One of the things I’ve found when talking to people about what flash fiction is all about is that demonstrating it by reading one or two of my 100-word stories goes down a treat and does the job nicely! In the days when we could still have live events (hopefully soon to come back again!), I made sales doing that!

And it shows the impact of the very short form in the best way imaginable too.

When taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights, such as the ones at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, it is a great way of finding out whether the impact you think the story has really does have that.

Gauging audience reaction is not just useful for the story you’ve read out but it can guide you as to how approach writing others, especially if the reaction is not quite what you thought it would be (and that happens). Mind you, it is wonderful and appreciated by me when a story does produce the reactions I’d hoped for and people do laugh when I wanted the story to produce that.


I write a mixture of flash tales – ghost stories, historical, crime, fantasy, humorous, slice of life etc – which is why I sometimes describe my collections as “mixed assortments”. They don’t just work for chocolates! But each type of flash I write has its own challenge in that I have to convey the type and setting without using too many words to do so.

With a historical piece, I use the character to take you back in time. That saves a wealth of description for one thing but I can also show you the world that character lives in through their eyes. And what they see tells you the story is set in the past.

With crime, I often show it is one with the last line as twist in the tale endings work so well for this. I also use an interesting first line sometimes to indicate a crime has either just happened or is about to happen.

For fantasy, I often show this via the character. For example in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my story Where The Wild Wind Blows starts with the two words “The Witch” so that shows you immediately this has to be a fantasy setting (as opposed to your local High Street, unless it is a very odd High Street!).

But I love mixing up the kind of flash tales I create and again it keeps me on my toes as I have to work out what is the right approach to them and no two stories are exactly the same here.

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Fairytales With Bite – Who are Your Minor Characters?

For longer works, I like spotting the minor characters who end up playing a major role in the overall story. I try to guess at the start of the tale which of these will end up with a kind of starring role.(For The Lord of the Rings for example, I would put Merry and Pippin in this category. They’re not so important as Sam but they will still play an important role that contributes to the overall plot).

The main thing to make sure of, naturally, is such minor characters really do serve a purpose and are not just there for decoration or to make up the numbers. (Writing flash fiction means I can’t do that. I have to focus only on what serves the story but it is a great technique to develop for all forms of writing, including non-fiction).

So who are your minor characters? What roles do they play? Do the major characters realise the contribution from the minor ones?

I also wouldn’t kill of a minor character for the sake of it. There has to be a good reason for them to go, otherwise the reader will see straight through it. Everything and everyone in the story has to serve a useful purpose, otherwise out they go!

I outline my characters so I know who they are before I write their story up (and I like to think of it as being their story and not mine. That also helps me make sure my author’s voice does not come into it). I do this by asking a series of questions.

For minor characters, you won’t need to know so much but you do have to be crystal clear that they are necessary to your tale and why.

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This World and Others –

What I Like to see in a Fictional World

I could write chapter and verse (appropriately!) on this one so it is a question of working out what is the most important and I think of that in terms of what I think the reader will consider most important. So my suggestions?

Interesting Characters – no story without these. I want to see fully formed characters who intrigue me enough to make me want to find out what their story is going to be. (I also have a soft spot for quirky characters but there has to be a good reason for them to be quirky and in your story).

A Sense of Their World – I don’t need every detail. Nor do your readers, otherwise you run the risk of sending them to sleep with too much description etc. I do need to know where the characters live, how they provide for themselves, and what kind of government they live under (as that gives me a feel for what liberties they have, or don’t have, as the case may be). Even here a broad overview is fine. And you can build up what you “feed” readers, a bit at a time. Think about the “need to know” basis, it’s a good guideline. You as the writer will always need to know more than the reader but not all of that necessarily has to go into the story.

Level of Education – This can be shown by how the characters speak. Readers will deduce what is normal, what is not from context. Also references to books (or not) can indicate whether the society is a literate one or not. It can also be shown by how the characters communicate. If it is an oral tradition, there will be no written records, as we would know them for example.

Conflict – No conflict = no story. Even when the character struggles with themselves, there is conflict. And the conflict should be based on what readers find out about your fictional world from what you choose to show them. We should be able to see Country A hates Country B because…

Resolution – As ever with any kind of story, this doesn’t have to be a happy one but it should be appropriate for what has gone before.

Writing Challenge, Advice, Story Video and Interview News

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. It has been a busy few days but fun!

Picture below gives you an idea of what is coming up (and I am glad to report my recording for the international writing summit last week went very well. Am looking forward to sharing more on that as soon as I can).

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Facebook – General

I had an interesting writing challenge today. Some of you may know I’m the Membership Secretary of The Association of Christian Writers and on our Facebook page today, I was “thrown the gauntlet” by #WendyHJones to come up with a flash fiction piece involving certain words. Those words were “gentle, throat, print, chairs, church”. Now I often use all kinds of random generators to come up with story idea triggers (e.g. random words, numbers, questions even).

So did I meet Wendy’s challenge? But of course… here is the result.

A gentle clear of the throat was all I needed as I looked at my work. The print run was done. The service sheets were on all of the chairs. I checked that three times. I can’t wait until I resume my old task and welcome people back to church.
Allison Symes – 23rd February 2021 – approximately 9.30 am!

I don’t often get to write a piece of flash fiction before I get to take the dog out for her big playtime/walk! Lovely creative and fun start to a Tuesday. Many thanks, Wendy.

Hope your Monday has gone okay. A huge thanks for the great response to my new Book Brush adverts yesterday (see images in next post down). I was pleased with how they turned out.

Finally nailed down a longer flash piece I’d been working on for a while, polished it, and submitted it. Sometimes it goes like that. I know I needed to tighten the piece up but didn’t see immediately how to do it. Time away from the piece worked wonders (so I do take my own advice, at least some of the time!).

Am looking forward to sending my first author newsletter on 1st March. I’ve gone for the 1st as it’s an easy date to remember. It would not surprise me at all if 99.9% of all authors with a newsletter have also gone for the 1st for their chosen date! If you want to know more do check out my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ – you go straight to the sign-up page here. (I’ve changed my original home page to this one as it makes more sense).

If you want to know more about my flash collections, do go to my website and then on to my Books page where you will find my trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will repeat below too.

The plan with the newsletter is to share writing tips, news, and flash stories before they are published anywhere else. Hope to see you aboard (and many thanks to those who have signed up so far).

Newsletter advert

I’ve been having fun with Book Brush again creating a couple of adverts for my website and books. See below! I love this kind of thing but have to make sure I “play” like this once and only once I’ve got my writing done for the day. It’s too easy to lose lots of time with this kind of marketing as it is so much fun.

Seriously though, given every writer has to market their books, you do need to find ways that you can enjoy (and therefore keep going for the long term). I haven’t engaged with Instagram or Pinterest at all but am loving creating the videos for my Youtube channel. So that gives me a visual medium to enjoy working with (and when I add free to use music tracks it’s an audio one too).

You also need to decide what you’re going to try marketing/social media wise, what works for you and what doesn’t, but I must admit I find the hardest thing to get right is apportioning time to writing new material/revising draft material and marketing. It’s not an easy balancing act and every writer I know faces this dilemma.

When you have a new or relatively new book out, you know you’ve got to concentrate on the marketing for some time to give that book its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world. What’s tricky is working out when to stop and back pedal a bit so you can get on and produce new writing that will make it into another book for marketing later on.

I try to make sure some of my writing sessions during the week are for purely writing (though this post counts as both writing and marketing!). Others are for purely marketing or developing materials to use for marketing, If I can look back over the week and see I have managed a good amount on both, I’m happy. I can’t claim any scientific method to this, far from it, but it works for me. I’ve also accepted nobody ever gets this totally right. It is working out what is right for you.

Delighted to share another fab review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks #MaggieFarran.

Reviews help authors more than non-writers, I think, might always realise. If you wonder whether it is worth doing, basically the answer to that is yes, it is! And Maggie’s great example shows a review does not have to be long (or take long).

In other news, I spent Friday night recording my presentation for the international writing summit I mentioned earlier this week. All went well. I loved doing it. Many thanks for all the support and prayers from writing friends. I was calmer than I thought I would be and that helped a lot. And I can really worry when I put my mind to it, trust me on that.

The ironic thing here is you do need a certain amount of adrenaline going here. It helps fuel your creativity funnily enough but if you have too much of it, it tips over into anxiety etc and that definitely does not help you come across well.

As for the summit itself, I hope to have links etc in early March and am looking forward to sharing those.

Next week, I’m due to be interviewed by #HannahKate for her North Manchester FM radio show so am busy getting ready for that. All great fun and I love to talk about writing, specifically flash fiction, so this will be huge fun to do. Will share links for that as and when I have them though it will be after the show goes out. The nice thing here is my publisher, Chapeltown Books, is Manchester based so a nice link there.

Screenshot_2021-02-20 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my A Bad Day for A Fairy Godmother story video yesterday. See below. The Youtube videos are proving to be a great way to share one and two line flash tales. Those one and two liners in turn make great vehicles for humorous/slightly off the wall/both kind of stories, which I adore writing.

And it’s a sad day indeed when there isn’t time for a short, sharp, funny flash tale.

Now it is thought that Cinders’ glass slipper was a mis-translation. It was meant to be a fur slipper (though these days I would hope it would be a fake fur slipper and that’s as “political” as I get, folks). Having said that, the idea of it being the fairy godmother’s spell going wrong was fun to run with so I did! (Oh and no glass or any other kind of slipper was needed for me to do that!).

Am looking forward to being interviewed tomorrow afternoon by #HannahKate for North Manchester FM. Will share links as and when I get them but it will be good to wave the flag for flash fiction.

If you want proof anyone can have a bad day, check our my latest Youtube flash fiction video (made using Book Brush, uploading to Youtube, and then adding a free to use audio clip from Youtube’s audio library. A big thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for putting me on to that. I’ve had a lot of fun picking music tracks for my stories – and music is wonderful for setting mood).

I’ve found over time (a lot of time!) my natural flash fiction “home” is the 100 to 500 words mark.

For the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition though, I had to write to 1000 words and for all three of my winning entries (Progressing, The Professional, and Books and the Barbarians), I came in at about the 990 mark.

Unless a competition or market says it has to be so many words, nothing more, nothing less, I always take off about ten words from the final count to allow for any changes to title and so on. There is always something at the last minute before you submit work that you need to change and you must factor that into your overall word count restriction and give yourself enough time to make any changes. No last minute submissions for me then. I like to know I am well within the date set for entries to be in by too.

Also bear in mind for the majority of these things, the word count is the maximum you write to and, unless the rules state otherwise, it is okay to come in at under that count. I like to do so to make absolutely sure there is no way I’m going over the limit. (In most competitions, going over by even one word is enough to instantly dismiss your entry because it is not fair to do otherwise on those who have stuck to the word count rules so it is worth making sure you do have this right).

For this competition, I felt an appropriate count for me, to give me word count room for changes etc., would be at about the 990 mark. I try to pitch these things so I am not far off the limit but am still under it. And it works!

A tip I’ve found useful is when you’re not sure what to write next, get some drafts done. In my case I draft flash fiction and blogs of course. When you haven’t got a lot of time but could draft something, do so (and the great thing with flash is with its short word count, this can be done in a relatively short period of time. I’ve drafted a 100 worder in 10 minutes for example). Why mention this?

It’s just that you get periods when you are busy marketing in some way so having the time to create something new can be difficult. You do run out of time but by having drafts to hand, I can pull one of those, work on it, ensure I’m happy with it and then get it out somewhere quite quickly. It means even when my main work has to be those other things, some new flash fiction is being created, based on those drafts written a few weeks back. It is worth having a stock of drafts like this.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Sells a Book to You

What would you say sells a book to you once you have read it? You’ve loved the cover, the blurb, and you’ve enjoyed the story but what was the stand out element for you?

For me, it is always about the characters. They have to grip me so I want to follow their story through. They don’t necessarily have to be likeable. They do have to be memorable. I have to understand where they are coming from, even if I disagree with the route they’ve taken. And if a character makes me want to shout at them or what have you, then that’s a good sign. It means they’ve engaged me, even if they’ve annoyed me! I then look further at why they’ve annoyed me too.

What I really dislike are insipid characters because you think what is the point of their story. No writer wants that one!

Twitter Corner

 

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New Blogging Spot, Launches in Lockdown – The Finale, and Flash Talking

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Have had a great time on the blogs this week too. I share below my first post for Authors Electric and am looking forward to writing more for them.

Many thanks to all of my fabulous guests for my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown. Book cover and author pics provided tonight by #AmandaJones (aka Amanda Baber), #GailAldwin, and #Gill James.

And a very familiar sight here… I had better get on and add THIS post!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share the finale of my zeitgeist series, Launches in Lockdown. Many thanks to everyone for taking part. The feedback on this series has been stunning. Thanks, all.

Tonight I chat with #AmandaJones (aka Amanda Baber), #GailAldwin, and #GillJames.

Usually my CFT series are only three parters but there was such a wealth of information to share, I knew I had to expand this. And I could think of many excellent authors I would have loved to have added to this so the series could have been much longer!

In the meantime, I hope you continue to find the series useful and informative. And good luck to all who are launching books this year.

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

Am delighted to now be blogging for Authors Electric on the 18th of each month. For my first post, I thought I’d share some of my life changing books. Have you any nominations?

Further to my earlier post about Authors Electric, I couldn’t resist the temptation to nominate some of my favourite and life changing books. So I didn’t! The trick here is limiting it to a few! And that is tough.

A while back for Chandler’s Ford Today, I wrote a post called Desert Island Books where I could take eight and that was also tough. Good fun to write though. Blogging stretches the little old grey cells and makes you think not just about content but how to present that in an entertaining way to readers.

So let’s hear it for the blog! A fabulous invention (and really the modern equivalent of writing a diary or journal I think but with capacity for more. Not many diaries or journals end up published. I’m not including the fictional ones here (I loved the Adrian Mole ones). Blog posts can inspire article ideas which might be published elsewhere. Besides which the blogs themselves are published and can be shared easily with a far wider audience than a private journal).

Talking of CFT, the finale of my series Launches in Lockdown is up on site tomorrow. A massive thank you to all of my guests for this series ranging from Authors Reach, the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit and, naturally, Chapeltown Books. Naturally as my flash fiction collections are published by them and appropriately for my post tomorrow, I shall be talking to the creative force behind the last three contributing places – Gill James.

Screenshot_2021-02-19 Authors Electric

If you’re wondering who the handsome stone gentleman is, it is Richard III, picture from Pixabay. Go to my Authors Electric blog and see why he is relevant (after reading the rest of this of course!).

Every so often I will take time out to brain storm. Sometimes I set myself a task such as to brain storm ideas for future story titles. Sometimes I jot down character templates so I have “ready made” people good to go for future stories. Often when I do the latter, one of the characters takes my fancy and I start working out situations where they would shine (for good or for ill) and before I know it I have another flash story drafted.

So brain storming is a great idea! It’s also a fabulous way to use those pockets of time when you don’t have time to write much but you are itching to write something. And if you use a warm up writing exercise before you do your main writing work, well not why not look to brain storm as a form of exercise? It will encourage creative and lateral thinking and that is always a good thing, no matter what your main writing work might be.

(Oh and a good place to start with brain storming is to play a game of Word Association but just write down what you come up with. Links will start forming).

To quote that wonderful detective, Columbo, just one more thing – I’m looking forward to sharing my first blog for Authors Electric tomorrow. (See above!).

 

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The magnificent Columbo as played by the late Peter Falk. Pixabay image.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A little later this evening, I shall be recording my flash fiction presentation which will be part of an international writing summit that will be “out” in March. I’m looking forward to sharing links etc when I have them but meantime it is a privilege to speak about a form of writing I am passionate about.

Flash fiction is my big writing love. The impact of the very short form of story writing has impacted me a lot! I hope it continues to do so!

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My two flash collections – and to think I discovered flash fiction by accident!

Many thanks for the great response to my flash fiction and word count tip post yesterday. I guess I can speak from direct experience in saying that the more you write, the more you learn.

Using flash fiction as a warm up writing exercise is something writers in other fields might consider doing to “flex” the old creative muscles. The nice thing of course now is that those writing exercises when suitably polished up and edited could well find a market or competition now that flash has taken off as a genre.

One word of warning though. I have found flash fiction (and indeed blogging) incredibly addictive so once you’re in, you’re in, but that’s not a problem for me!

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When I first started writing flash fiction, I worked to specific word counts, especially the drabble at 100 words. I do still do that but more often these days, I will get the story down, rest it, edit it, and then decide on the word count. Why? Because I have found some tales simply work better with more depth at 200 words, than 100, say, and it is then a case of finding the right market/competition for the 200-worder. And that’s fine.

I have learned not to squeeze something to fit a word count. The story has to be the right length for what it is and not be made to fit something it really doesn’t quite suit. But it has taken me a while to learn how to judge when to leave well alone, I must admit!

Fairytales With Bite – Non-Magical Characters in a Magical World

Do you have any non-magical characters in your magical story worlds? If so, how do they manage? What have they got that perhaps the magical ones need and which helps guarantee survival?

This could be something as simple as the magical ones will lose some or all of their powers if they harm the others (and who is going to want to risk that?). Maybe food has to be grown and produced using normal agricultural techniques and those with magical powers aren’t going to dirty their hands doing that kind of work?!

You could also explore the frictions between the two different groups. Do the non-magicals resent those with powers (or vice versa – maybe the magicals see the others as a waste of space but cannot act against them?).

For me, I would have a lot of sympathy with a non-magical character using the skills and talents they have (and maybe some luck) to end up being the hero/heroine over and above those who are more obviously talented than they are. I think this is one reason I am so fond of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of The Rings. I like the characters who are under-estimated precisely because they don’t have powers.

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This World and Others – Codes

What role do codes play in your stories? I’m thinking of several different kinds of code here:-

Codes of conduct – (what happens when these are breached? You just know someone will breach them!).

Codes used in language – (maybe certain groups use terms which are meaningless to anyone but others from their groups and it would seem like code to those not in the know)

Mathematical codes – (are there machines which need coding? If so what are these, what codes are used, what are these machines used for? And the purpose could be anything from the simple to the sinister).

Codes used for spying – (who is being spied on and why? What encryptions are used in your fictional creation? Who is the spymaster and who do they work for?).

What happens when the codes are breached or broken? Would this threaten the security of your characters and/or their world? How can they overcome that and undo the damage done?

Plenty to think about there!

Twitter Corner

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When Wishes Are Not Granted and Launches in Lockdown 4.

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And one good question for all writers to answer is given below.

CHARACTERISATION - If you, as writer, are not convinced by the characters, nobody else will be

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share the link to Part 4 of Launches in Lockdown for Chandler’s Ford Today. My guests this week are #PaulaReadman, #Dawn Knox, and #AmandaHuggins. They didn’t just launch one book during launchdown – oh no! They launched several! For more on why they chose the launches they did for their books, do see the post.

A huge thanks to everyone who has commented so positively on this series, whether directly on CFT or on my FB timeline. If ever there was a zeitgeist series for me to write, this is it I think.

Final part of this series next week. What has been lovely throughout has been the wealth of ideas and tips shared here. Many thanks to all of my guest authors for that but we all hope this will be a source of encouragement for those wondering how on earth they will hold their launches, given we can’t know when restrictions will be lifted etc. Do see this series as a good place to start for some very useful ideas to start you off!

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Delighted to share a link to another great review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. This one comes courtesy of Big Al’s Books and Pals, an American book blogger site. Many thanks to Al and I am all for spreading the word about the joys of flash fiction on both sides of the pond!

As ever, I will put out the word for reviews for authors. Remember they don’t have to be long but they all help. And it is the best way I know of supporting other writers. So win-win there, yes?

Looking forward to sharing Part 4 of Launches in Lockdown for CFT tomorrow. All fantastic thoughts and tips throughout this series and Part 4 continues that fine “tradition”. And a huge thanks to everyone for the positive comments on the series so far – I guess those count as reviews!

Do see the link for the full review and once more thanks to Al!

Not convinced by my phone telling me it is 3 degrees out there. Certainly doesn’t feel like it. Still it does encourage a brisk pace when out with the dog. Lady not at all bothered by the cold (and is almost certainly the only member of the immediate family not moaning about it too!).

I’m preparing a couple of presentations at the moment – yes very exciting. Hope to be able to share more news soon. The writing life can be full of stages and there are times when you realise, yes you have just hit another one. I’m at that point now. All good fun!

I mentioned in my Writing Magazine spot (Subscribers’ News this month) that I discovered flash fiction by accident. It is also true that one thing in writing leads to another and it can be great fun finding out where these different steps take you. My short story writing led me to discover the joys of flash and what I’m working on now is as a result of my writing flash and being published in the form. The writing journey is not always a straight line route but it is important you enjoy the trip!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Do I have favourite flash fiction tales of mine? Hmm… I do know I have more than one! It is like asking me to choose what kind of chocolate I like. There is no way I am going to stick at just picking one!

I am especially fond though of stories with a twist ending and funny tales that make me laugh. The latter often end on a punchline, which in a way is a kind of a twist ending I guess.

I am, I think, most proud of Calling The Doctor, where the mood of the story turns on the last word. See my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again for that.

Having said that, the thing which drives me most as a writer is the wish to keep on improving on what I do. That’s a good thing. It means you’re not resting on your laurels (other green plants to rest on are available though I wouldn’t recommend opting for the holly!).

Also you are striving continually and that means when opportunities come your way, you are more likely to be open to giving them your best shot and who knows where that will take you?

It can be fun finding out though and bear in mind this is from someone who hadn’t even heard of flash fiction when I started out. I certainly didn’t expect to be published in it.

I am going to have news to announce soon which involves flash fiction and I am looking forward to sharing that as soon as I can.

If flash fiction writers had a motto, I guess it would be less is more! We do have to convey a lot in as a few words as possible but that also means we have to make choices from the outset. We have to decide what is relevant for a reader to know. The downside of that is not having the joy of subplots. You do need the longer story forms for that.

But what flash does give you is focus. It is exactly like shining a flashlight on one particular spot and seeing what you can see in that light. Because you can only see so much, the effect is more intense and the impact on a reader more powerful as a result.

Knowing that in advance means you can come up with suitable stories to make the most of powerful impacts. My own favourites are the funny flash tales. A short belly laugh at a tiny tale always goes down well with me. Something of that humour would be lost if it was set within a longer story.

Now I’ve mentioned using various random generators to trigger story ideas. There are some fabulous ones out there – verbs, nouns, adjectives, questions etc. The great thing with all of them is you can set your own parameters such as the number of words you generate. You can choose the first and last letters of the words you want generated in a lot of cases as well so if you like specifics, that is for you!

The ironic thing with having parameters (and this is true for flash fiction as a whole due to its word count maximum) is they can free the writer up to come up with better ideas.

You know you are working with limits so you have to think laterally to make the most of the limits you have. And it does encourage you to cut your wasted words. You want every word to count so you’re not going to leave any in unless it does add something valuable to your story. That alone makes your story stronger and it is a great writing practice to get into and will benefit every form of writing you are involved in.

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Fairytales with Bite – When Wishes Are Not Granted

An interesting line of enquiry to follow for stories set in a magical world is to ask what happens when wishes are not granted.

How does the one making the wish react to that?

Does the fairy godmother, say, have phenomenally good reasons for not granting the wish that perhaps she can’t reveal (at least immediately)?

One good reason here by the way would be to force the person making the wish to find their own way to solve a problem (and it may well be that anger at magical help being turned down might motivate that character to find their own way and learn to manage on their own).

Politics can come into play to a certain extent too. If a fairy godmother was to grant a certain wish, would it land her in trouble with her boss and/or other magical species? If the different species are keeping the peace by agreeing not to use excessive magic, would the fairy godmother’s actions to help your hero/heroine/anti-hero/anti-heroine breach that agreement? What would the consequences of that be?

Interesting story thoughts there!

And don’t forget the possibilities of when wishes are granted that little bit too late.

Now this could lend itself to humour. Do we have an inept fairy on the loose, say? Who reins her in or helps her sort out her timings? Good fun could be had there.

But this would also lend itself to tragedy – for the main character and/or the magical being. Again good stories to be found.

It is worth asking the question “what if” for story planning. Spider diagrams or flowcharts can also be useful in working out what the best ideas. And always write up the one that grabs you the most. It is likely to grab your readers too and you will write the tale up with enthusiasm and that comes through in your writing.

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This World and Others – Working Things Out

How do your characters work things out? Do they rely on their own wit and intelligence? Or are they smart enough to know their own weaknesses and find expert help as and when they need it?

Do they read? Are there libraries (and if so are they like ours?). Do other characters help your “stars” or do they get in the way? And are your characters savvy enough to know that a certain course of action might lead them into conflict with those far more powerful than they are? Can they avoid this? Can they work out better ways of doing things or how to overcome the risk of conflict?

As in real life, some characters will be planners, others will be pantsers. But what if you put your people in situations where they have to act differently from the way they normally would? For example, what if your typical pantser finally finds they do have to plan something out carefully to give them any chance at all of (a) success and (b) survival? How would they handle that? (Initially not well I would expect! But how do they get over that so they do what they have to do?).

As a writer, working things out I find incredibly useful. I like to work things out with regards to my characters first. Who are they? What are their major traits? What are their flaws? Nearly always ideas for stories spring up as a result of answering those questions. It can sometimes show me the mood the story is likely to be too. A pompous character is someone I am likely to put into a funny tale precisely to show them up (and have great fun doing so!).

But there are different ways to work things out for you as the writer and for your characters, It is a question of working out which method would work best for you, this particular character, this particular story.

Happy writing!

Guest Blogging, Intelligent Life, and Books For the Professions

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

My author picture taken by my other half, Adrian Symes.

Hope the weather is as okay as possible where you are – it has been rather cold here. There is a beauty about snow and ice but I prefer to admire it from indoors!

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Facebook – General

Had some snow today but by mid-afternoon most had melted. Anyone else thinking no matter how many layers you do put on, it still isn’t enough? Okay, not just me then.

Looking forward to sharing Part 4 of Launches in Lockdown on Friday where I’ll be talking to the first batch of writers from CafeLit, Chapeltown Books, and Bridge House Publishing.

Again encouraging comments are coming in for this series so a big thanks for that. And I hope it does inspire writers who are wondering how on earth to hold their launches this year with ideas for just how they can!

There will be one part of this series on Friday week and after that I plan to write a round-up of what I’ve been doing as there have been developments over the last few weeks I’m longing to share. By the time this post is due, I should be able to share what I would like to share!

It is one of the oddities of the writing life that things tend to come in batches and often when you’re not expecting them. Still it all keeps me out of mischief and on my toes.

Most of my time at the moment is taken up with writing various non-fiction items which I’ll be sharing later in February and into March (and will be part of my round-up CFT post too). All good fun to do though.

I am enjoying making my short story videos for Youtube. They’re great adverts for my work and a fantastic way to share one and two line stories. (And all counts as part of my marketing of course!). See below for my most recent one, Intelligent Life.

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Facebook – General – Guest Blog Appearance

Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, #ElizabethDucie, for hosting me on her blog today. Great fun to take part and I will have to get around to having the T-shirt made up (see the post itself for why!). It’s also appropriate for me when I’m wearing my editor’s hat (again see the post for why – come on, no spoilers here!).

I hope to meet up with Elizabeth again in August when hopefully Swanwick will be running again. She carries out sterling service running the Swanwick Book Room, something I know is much appreciated by everyone. (And it will be so nice having more than one book of mine there next time!).

No snow as yet here in my part of the world but the wind is building up in strength and it is so cold out there. Still nothing better than to settle down to my writing for this evening with a big mug of Options Hot Chocolate in my favourite Creme Egg mug alongside! (The irony here – the hot chocolate has far less calories in it than the Creme Egg!).

Fiction writers, what would you say was your favourite thing to write? For me it is either dialogue or a character’s internal thoughts and for the same reason – these show something of your character to your reader. These help your readers form judgments about those characters (and of course the fun then starts as your reader carries on with the story to find out if those thoughts were right or not!).

Managed to submit my short story today. Followed my own advice to take off a couple of weeks from the official deadline. Just as well I did too as I spotted an error in the way I’d titled my story. It has to be one of those which are submitted anonymously and I had missed something here so that was sorted out pronto and story then submitted.

It always pays to double and even triple check you’ve got your submission right for the requirements of the publisher or competition. That is never wasted time!

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Hope Saturday has been okay. We actually had some sunshine today and Lady had a bonus surprise as she got to see her best buddie over at the park today. Both dogs thrilled to see each other. Never let anyone tell you dogs can’t feel emotions – they so do. (Still a right mudfest in the park, mind you).

Writing wise I’m preparing material which I can say more about in March. Yes, I know (!) though March will be here before we know it. Am champing at the bit to share the news but it will keep for now!

I’m hoping to submit a short story later this weekend (probably tomorrow I think). Very happy with my character – she makes me laugh and yes she is meant to so if she does this for me, hopefully she’ll do so for others though it will be a while before I know the result. Delighted to have two stories in CafeLit 10 for later this year too.

Am also preparing and editing future blog material.

Worst writing challenge? I think it is knowing when to say that’s it, get the story or article out there, and test the water. The way I gauge things here is looking to see if any other changes would really add anything to the story. If the answer is no, then it’s time to get the work out there.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the likes for my Intelligent Life short story video yesterday. Much appreciated.

And the videos are different ways of getting the stories across, which pleases me. They make me think laterally about what images would work best for the story. Sometimes there are direct links (as in the UFO in this one). Sometimes I find a plain landscape background works better especially if I haven’t set a story anywhere specific in time or space.

I use Book Brush to create the videos, I upload them to Youtube, and then edit that to include an audio track. Did I think I’d be doing things like this when I first started writing seriously? Absolutely not for the good reason the technology to do it simply wasn’t there! I am from the era where Pacman was the thing in computer graphics (younger readers, check out the picture! It really was like that).

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Is there intelligent life on earth? Well, my latest flash fiction story video gives two views on that. Which do you agree with?!

Oh and I think I found the perfect soundtrack for this one – many thanks, Youtube!

Online marketing and social media became even more important for writers and publishers in 2020


Flash tales work well across the genres, which is one of the things I love most about it, but I also feel humour comes across especially well here.

As you are looking to impact your reader with an emotional response with your story, why not go for the laugh? I often use twist endings in my stories but a good punchline is fabulous to end a story on and I love reading such as well as writing them. (Couldn’t we all do with stories that make you feel good right now? And a giggie is a fab way to go here!).

Also if you have a funny scene from a longer story that you can’t justify keeping in there because it interrupts the flow, doesn’t really add anything to the tale etc., instead of just binning the material, could you take another look at it and turn it into a self-contained flash piece? Would be worth a go I would have thought. If it works, you’ve got a piece you can submit elsewhere.

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For my author FB page tonight, I mentioned that one of the worst challenges for a writer is knowing when a work is finished and it really is time to get the work out there somewhere. I judge this by asking honestly if any further changes really would do anything more for the story. When the answer is no, the story gets sent out. Now this does apply to flash fiction obviously though there is one more check I do and it specifically relates to the flash fiction format.

Why? Because I am thinking of two things with my flash tales – impact and word count (and in that order too).

So my last edit on a flash story is to check certain phrases to make sure I have used the best, strongest words to conjure up the image I want readers to see and that the story does have the impact I want it to have.

An odd tweak here and there can make all the difference but when you have got to this point, you know this will be the final edit and after that the story gets sent out.

If I end up with a choice between two words and both have the same kind of impact, I go for the one that my character is most likely to think or say. If I have a pompous character, say, then whatever they come up with is going to reflect that pomposity (and hopefully in a humorous way too!).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books for the Professions

At the end (almost) of a busy week, I thought I’d share books for the professions. Some of these may have been edited a little!

Plumbers – Leak House, David Copperpipe.

Lawyers – Pride and (Without) Prejudice

Postmen – Going Postal (no editing there!) and any of the old penny dreadfuls though for these good people they would naturally become the old penny blacks!

Tree Surgeons – Wind in the Willows (also a good one for weather forecasters), The (tree) House on Pooh Corner.

Writers – The War of the Words, James and the Giant Pen

Interior Decorators – Curtain (Agatha Christie’s last Poirot novel).

Dentists – White Teeth (what else?!).

I’m very fond of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, which is on Radio 4, where the panellists will often have to come up with books or film titles for a specific profession. All good fun. Hope you enjoyed these and do send in your suggestions for suitable books for certain jobs.

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Titles,Writing Magazine, Publication News, and Part 3 of Launches in Lockdown (and Lady news update!)

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A huge thank you to Val Penny and Jen Wilson for their author pics and book cover images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

This post title should indicate what kind of week I’ve had – good but busy! Am just hoping the drink in the Pixabay picture below is a nice hot chocolate… I’m not a coffee fan. (I know, I know, writers are supposed to be but there you go).

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The advice and tips given in this series so far has been top-notch, not to be missed etc., (and the good news is there is more to come!). A huge thank you to #JenWilson and #ValPenny for their contributions this week.

Jen, Val, and I are huge fans of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which is where we met and we are all hoping to meet up again there this year after last year’s event sadly had to be cancelled due to You Know What. We are also part of a team there called the Prosecco Queens (anyone fancy a guess at why we went for that name? Anybody? Anybody at all?!).

Last week’s post was from writers from the Association of Christian Writers. Now I mentioned earlier this week one of the joys of reading Writing Magazine is spotting how many of your writing pals you spot in between the covers, so to speak. I have to say it is usually a fairly even split between people I know from Swanwick and people I know from ACW. Keep going, folks!

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Hope Thursday has worked out okay for you. Glad to report Lady is now running again (and is very happy to be doing so, I can tell you). Mind you, it does look like she’s had a mud bath by the time I get her home. Thank goodness for my late mum’s old towels… perfect for dog cleaning duty! Also thanks goodness for an excellent washing machine!

Writing wise, I am looking forward to sharing part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up for that tomorrow.

This week I feature two fabulous guests and writing friends I’ve come to know thanks to the marvellous Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (So not only have I learned from the wonderful courses there, I’ve made fantastic friends and they are the best support any writer can have. Who else but another writer knows the elation when things are going well and you have work out there? Equally who better to sympathise with when rejections are all that seem to appear in your inbox?).

Further news. I had a fab time appearing on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show last week. I’ll be writing a CFT piece about that and resharing the link once the Launches series has finished so that is my CFT diary full for February!

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One of joys of subscribing to Writing Magazine is opening it up and spotting your writer friends in there. This month it’s my turn! My February edition has just come in and I’m on the Subscribers’ News page, talking about my happy writing accident in discovering the joys of flash fiction writing. Naturally my website and Tripping the Flash Fantastic get a mention! (And It was fab my publishers Chapeltown Books had a good write-up last time).

Also delighted to see another 5 star rating come in for From Light to Dark and Back Again. A good day then!

Lady had her first proper but limited run today and loved it. Her paw is fine. The only thing we could have wished for was better weather but it is supposed to improve as the week goes on.

Looking forward to my first blog appearing on Authors Electric on the 18th. Meanwhile do check the excellent posts out there at https://authorselectric.blogspot.com/

Towards the end of this month is going to be a bit busy as I’ve lined an interview up amongst other things and I’m looking forward to all of that (and to being able to say more about the other things too).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve discussed titles before here but it is an important topic and they carry more weight in flash fiction stories than in other types of fiction. Why?

Firstly, the right title will set the mood and tone of the story in and of itself and that will save you on the word count for the tale itself.

Secondly, some websites and competitions do include the title as part of the word count (so always watch for that) so you want the title to do some of the “heavy lifting” for you.

Some other thoughts:-

  • Keep your title short. It makes it more memorable and saves on word count.
  • Impact of title is more important than word count (but that’s true for the story too!).
  • Does your title idea reflect the mood of the story or can it be open to interpretation? I am fond of the latter as it gives so much flexibility but there are times I want to set the mood so I choose an appropriate title accordingly.
  • Alliteration Always An Idea but Don’t Overuse It!
  • Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first came up with isn’t working for you. I find I need a title to work “to” when drafting but have changed it when a better idea comes up.

I’ve had the privilege of judging a flash fiction competition, which was interesting to do, but I was surprised to find some stories didn’t have titles with them. The really important thing to remember about a title is it is your story’s first “advert” to hook the reader in with and you want to make the most of that.

Remember only the Ten Commandments were set in stone so my advice would be to go with a working title and then change it later if you think of better (and that often does happen as you write the story. A better idea will “just come to you”. Note it and then examine it later in the cold light of day to see if it is as good as you thought and/or better than your initial idea. If it is, go for it!).

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I’ve often discussed, especially on my author FB page, the joy of outlining. I find it helpful to outline my characters. Now can you do all of that for a 50 or 100 word piece of flash fiction? Of course you can!

Like the story itself, the outline won’t be a long one, that is all. Less than a short paragraph like this usually does the job nicely – and I then get straight into writing the tale. Prep helps a lot! I’ve found it saves me a lot of time later as the outline has stopped me from going off at a tangent etc. Tangents are fun but are often not relevant to the character or plot so they shouldn’t go in. Everything has to be relevant!

So for a flash fiction outline (and especially for those tales which will be under 500 words), I ask myself a couple of questions.

  • Why do I want to write about this character? (In many ways it is for this character, it is their story I’m telling).
  • What mood is the story going to be? (This does affect the type of character I’m going to produce for the tale. If I want a funny tale, you don’t necessarily need a funny character to service it. What you do want are characters full of their own importance who need taking down a peg or several. That’s where the humour is, not necessarily directly in the character. Often a character who thinks they are funny are not and can often be tragic.).

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Publication News

Many thanks for the great response yesterday to my plug for CafeLit now the list of those appearing in The Best of CafeLit 10 is now known. (And yes this is another crafty way of getting another mention in for CafeLit and the book!). Yes, it does include me – see next post down. Sometimes a date order blog round up goes against you!!

For me the success of any story, regardless of its length, depends on the character(s). If they grip me, I’m reading the rest of the story, book or what you. If they don’t…. Well, life is just too short to perservere with something that just isn’t engaging me.

And that is the continuing challenge for me as a writer. Just how can I make my characters appeal to a reader (and especially one who may well not have come across my work before. There is a certain truth in the saying you only have the one chance to make a first impression and with my stories, I want my characters to hook readers in right from the start. You have got to have that “must find out what happens next” moment and to keep that going until you do reach the end).

One way I try to achieve this is to come up with characters readers can understand. They don’t have to like them but they do have to get where the character is from (and ideally ask themselves if I was this character, would I be doing this? If not, what would I be doing instead? If a reader is asking questions like that from a character, you know what character has intrigued them to keep on reading).

This is where outlining the character helps. And the great thing is you can pick the kind of outline that suits you. I don’t particularly need to know what my character looks like (that can come later) but I do need to know what their major traits are and what their flaws are. Think about what you would want to know from your character if you could interview them “for real” and use that as a basis for a useful outline template you can use over and over again.


Fairytales With Bite – When the Wand Isn’t Enough….

Okay, we’re in a magical world in our stories. How can a wand ever not be enough?

Well, firstly, if a wave of the old wand solves every problem, you haven’t got any stories to write. Where is the conflict in that? Problem A arises. Problem A gets resolved with said wave of magic wand. There’s no character development. And just reading problems being resolved like that will become boring so quickly! Readers want to find out what the characters do and how they react and it takes more than a wave of the magic wand to really show readers what the characters are truly made of. Are they sterling stuff or treacherous rats etc?

Also when everyone has a reasonable amount of magical power, there has to be a way of distinguishing between them (and it helps your readers to tell them apart too).

It is also a reasonable assumption to work on that some species will have more powers than others either by learning or by inheritance or both so what do the weaker species do to ensure they can survive? They’ve got to find ways of beating “their betters” without the use of magic (and that’s when stories can become really interesting. Characters are having to think on their feet here though of course you as the writer have planned this all out!).

So just as writers we shouldn’t rely on magic or coincidences getting our characters out of trouble, the characters themselves need more than the old magic wand waving too.

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This World and Others – What do Characters think of their Environment?

The answer to this question will also tell readers a fair bit about what your characters are like.

Do they care about the environment or are they oblivious to it?

If your created world has different climates and regions, are the characters you’re writing about aware of all of this or is there a certain amount of Here Be Dragons about their attitudes?

Here Be Dragons was something written on old maps where a map maker had literally got to the limits of where they were prepared to go to make their maps so anything unknown had this slogan added to it! They could get away with it because it was highly unlikely anyone was going to challenge them (and I’m sure they worked on the theory, well there could be dragons!). (Never get away with it now due to Google etc!).

How characters treat the world around them is likely to flag up to readers how they are likely to treat other characters. One of my own favourite characters in Losing Myself from Tripping The Flash Fantastic appears to be one who cares much more about the environment and natural world than any other of her own kind. That was an interesting story to write because it made me think deeply about what would make a character be or become that way.

And then there will the opposite – those who do not see or care about the environment around them. How did they get to be that way? And is there a point where they have to change their attitude?

So my lead question here can be a great way into some interesting story ideas.

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CafeLit Publication News and News of a Poorly Paw!

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And the great thing with books and stories? They can take you anywhere in space and time. You just need to enjoy the journey!

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Publication News

Delighted to receive the list of all who will be in The Best of Cafelit 10 later this year. It is a big list too! Always lovely to spot my name in said list!

Congratulations everyone and many thanks to all who voted for my two stories, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of the Day Job, to be included. It will be lovely to be “between the CafeLit covers” with friends, old and new. And don’t forget you can always check out the previous CafeLit anthologies. They are a wonderful mixture of styles and moods with something to suit most.

And if you want to know more, I can do no better than take you to my Amazon Author Central page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

I’ve had the joy of being published in several of these (the most recent being CafeLit 8 and 9). And they make perfect books for dipping into if you are between “big”reads and don’t know which will be your next one.

Give the short form collections a try!

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock up

Am not sorry to see the back of January. Goes on for far too long but in positive news, Lady is going from strength to strength (see poorly paw story further down!), and my snowdrops are in bloom in the garden. That’s a positive for any time but especially for a Monday I think.

Many thanks for the wonderful responses to the Launches in Lockdown series so far on Chandler’s Ford Today. I’ll be sharing invaluable insights from two fab writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this Friday. What my guests and I all hope is that this series will be encouraging and helpful to those writers who are having their launches this year, when none of us can be certain about what will happen and when in terms of lockdown restrictions easing etc.

One thing I have learned as a writer of many years standing (and of course sitting!) is a little encouragement and good tips do go a very long way. I hope they do for you too.


Many thanks for your best wishes over Lady’s poorly paw. Am glad to report she is feeling much better and has cheered up considerably. The claw will grow back so the next time she might experience a little discomfort will be when that comes through again probably in a couple of weeks or so. (A bit like us with teeth really!).

Having said that, Lady is a young, highly active dog, and this is the kind of accident that does happen to dogs like her though Lady would be glad (as would I) if it didn’t happen again! The other good thing though is young active dogs do recover quickly which is a mercy.

Writing wise, I’m setting up interviews at the moment where I’m on the other side of the interview desk. Am looking forward to sharing more details as and when I can.

I’m also working on something else which will end up on my website right here (!) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and again I look forward to sharing more details when I can. It’s been something I’ve been toying with doing for a while and something has cropped up that has told me, yes go for it, so I am!

The writing life is often like this. You make some developments, then you need to build on that so you end up doing more! But this is a good thing. The writing life is not meant to be static. What is lovely is looking back every so often and seeing where you’ve come from while looking ahead to further developments and seeing where they take you. And, as ever, the best thing is to enjoy the journey.

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Hope your Saturday has gone well. Now in dog news, I have to report Lady is recovering from a poorly paw.

Apologies in advance if you’re eating but she managed to rip a claw. Vet removed claw and sealed the wound. Claw will grow back. Not a great day yesterday, Lady understandably feeling sorry for herself, but much better today and is coming on leaps and bounds.

I just need to stop her doing literal leaps and bounds for a couple of days to make sure all is as well as it should be. Huge thanks to Lady’s bestie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her human mum for the fuss and cuddles you gave Lady yesterday. It was the only bright spot in her day yesterday!

Okay that’s the kind of drama no dog owner ever wants to have (but inevitably gets every so often. It’s why you insure your pets!). How about the kind of drama writers want?

I must admit I don’t like melodrama. Never have. It’s always struck me as being over the top but what I do want to see is actions and reactions that arise naturally from the characters and the situation they’re in. (So no aliens landing at Mansfield Park for me. I don’t really get the mash-ups. I understand either genre – sci-fi and classic here – but not the pair together).

I want to be able to feel that yes, this character could do this because they have shown they can be silly so to be silly again is not unexpected and, as a result, the situation they find themselves in has the potential to become very silly indeed. But that all ties up and I guess that is the point.

Character = situation = one develops from the other. For me, the character always comes first. Get them set up correctly and the situations will arise naturally. Even in fantasy with magical elements, this applies. You’ve established your character is in a magical world and what abilities they have or lack so the situation will arise from that.

And the situation will always involve conflict. If a character wants more powers than they’ve got, what will they do to achieve more? Do it the proper way and learn their skills or try to cheat their way to the top? But get your character set up and you can take them where you want to and more importantly take your readers with you.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to say two of my flash tales, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of The Day Job, will be in The Best of CafeLit 10 later this year. Nice start to February! Don’t forget to check out the Cafelit site for a wide range of stories, short and long, at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/

You can find my page at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/Allison%20Symes

And of course it is CafeLit I have to thank for introducing me to the wonders of flash fiction so I am definitely going to plug them whenever I can!

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Hope you enjoy my new story video – The Dragon and The Clock. These shorts are great fun to do and a marvellous way to share one and two line flash tales!

 

I’ve always loved writing and reading dialogue and hearing characters speak. (Also in reading between the lines of what they’re saying so you get a sense of the real character behind what they say).

When I’m reviewing stories, I try to listen to my characters, that the words I’ve given them I can “hear” them saying, and nothing is inappropriate or out of kilter for them. I often speak work out loud, especially dialogue (and the great thing with flash is this is easy to do and doesn’t take long!).

Speaking dialogue out loud is the sure way to pick up any thing that does not ring true or if what looks right written down is tricky to say out loud. If you find it tricky, so will your readers. I try to stick to the Keep It Simple principle for writing (and especially for dialogue). It works.

Now with my flash fiction, I often have stories with only one character. So yes, I do get them to speak out loud. You can, of course, get them to speak into a phone. But much of what applies to dialogue writing can also apply to writing internal thoughts. After all that is the character talking to themselves so again the style of thought, what they’re coming up with, should be apt for the character you’ve created.


I approach writing a flash fiction story in several ways.

  • I have a prepared character I want to put in a situation and see what happens.
  • I have a theme I want to write to (or one I’m having a crack at for a competition, say) so I know what I’m writing about from the get go. It’s a question of picking the right character for this kind of story.
  • I brain storm ideas for titles, pick a few I like and then work out what kind of characters would work for these and then go with the ones I like the most.
  • I know the ending to a story (and this is almost always a twist tale) and it is just a question of working out how the story would get to that point. That almost inevitably leads to the kind of character who would end up in a twist like that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What I Like to See In A Book

Hmm… this is a good statement, isn’t it? I could give chapter and verse here, appropriately, but for me one thing only is key to whether a book is good or not.

It’s all down to the characters. Do they grip me? Do they get me rooting for them to succeed or fail? (Funnily enough, either is fine, and I do love to see a “good” villain get their comeuppance eventually. I blame my love of fairytales for that one).

If a character does not grip me, I switch off. I love Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett is a fabulous character and ahead of her time. She says what she thinks and I love that.

Conversely, I am not gripped by Mansfield Park as I think the heroine there is dull and, to my mind, not worth of being a heroine. Her happy ending does depend on the misfortunes of others, in my view, but Elizabeth had to work for hers and it was by no means certain it would happen until close to the end.

I wanted to see Miss Price do so much more to “earn” her happy ending but there you go. (I guess it’s a kind of warning to all writers that even the best can come up with characters who don’t engage with their readers and I know there are those who love Mansfield Park but it has never done anything for me because of this).

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Twitter Corner

 

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Writing Joys, Podcast News, and Launches in Lockdown 2

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Thanks to #RichardHardie, #FrancescaTyer, and #TeresaBassett for supplying images used below too.

A huge thank you to #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones for their images and book cover photos for my Chandler’s Ford Today Launches In Lockdown series this week.

And I am delighted to say I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show earlier this week. Will share link further down. I talk about writing regular columns for online magazines.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Launches in Lockdown Part 2

What a busy day it has been as there are two posts on here from me tonight!

For this post, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I think if I can make a claim to write a zeitgeist series, this one is it!

Part 2 tonight shares wonderful insights from three authors from the Association of Christian Writers (I’m the Membership Secretary). #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones have all had books out in the very recent past and have plenty of useful tips and thoughts to share in this week’s post.

Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Next week I’ll be chatting to writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

It is very much an Association of Christian Writers weekend for me as I am at an online Committee meeting tonight and tomorrow. Much will be said. Much will be done. All thanks to Zoom!

And it is my turn on the ACW More Than Writers blog too. This month, I use my spot to talk about Writing Joys. I can’t stress enough how important it is to love what you write. (Okay you won’t all the time, nobody does, but you should be looking forward to your writing sessions and what you’re working on most of the time. It is that love for the work which drives you and can help keep you going during the tougher writing times which happen to us all).

Delighted to say my interview with Richard Hardie recently on Chandler’s Ford Today is now up on the Authors Reach website (very much with my blessing!). Authors Reach is Richard’s publishing company and I was chatting to him about the challenges he has faced as an author and publisher during the pandemic. The AR link is https://www.authorsreach.co.uk/post/richard-hardie-authors-reach-and-lockdown – well worth another read!

And tomorrow sees Part 2 of my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown, go live. This week I’ll be chatting to three lovely writers from the Association of Christian Writers – #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones. One of them has also come up with the funniest book title of 2020 in my view. You’ll have to wait for the post tomorrow to find out who the author is and whether you agree with me or not! (Trouble with doing a blog round up in reverse date order is you will already have spotted the answer to this one!!).

PODCAST NEWS –

WENDY H JONES CHATS TO ALLISON SYMES

Am thrilled to share the link to my interview by Wendy H Jones for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. I talk about writing a regular column (for Chandler’s Ford Today), how I find ideas (and keep coming up with them) and the joys of an online magazine.

With more of us using technology to read (smartphones, I-pads etc), it makes a huge amount of sense to have intelligent, interesting, and entertaining content available for that technology. And online magazines do need writers to provide it. Hope you enjoy. And many thanks, Wendy, for hosting me again. It was such fun to do!

Podcast News:  https://www.stitcher.com/show/the-writing-and-marketing-show/episode/writing-a-newspaper-column-81142120

Screenshot_2021-01-27 The Writing and Marketing Show - Writing a Newspaper Column on Stitcher

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A huge thanks to everyone for the great responses so far to my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown. Whether you’ve been launching flash fiction collections (as I have) or longer works, I think it is fair to say the last 12 months have been difficult. But social media and Zoom have helped.

And I think this all shows the importance of networking too. Thanks to networking over the last few years, I have a lovely wide range of people to approach for CFT interviews, but it does also mean that same pool can be invited to my launches.

Naturally this is two-way traffic. I get invited to theirs and I go to as many as I can. You learn from what other writers do and they learn from you too. I love the give and take of the writing world here.

I guess also writing flash is excellent practice for writing short, pithy pieces for your online book launches too!

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Am thrilled to see a great number of views for my recent story video, Dress Sense. The thought of Red Riding Hood giving the Big Bad Wolf fashion tips has obviously gone down well! Many thanks, everyone. (Oh and I think she’s right by the way – see the link and see what you think!).

Dress Sense Video Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVs_GEWh5To

Tripping The Flash Fantastic is on offer in paperback on Amazon at the moment. Go on, pick up a bargain! See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more.

F = Fun to write
L = Lively character(s)
A = Action immediately
S = Stories great for ending with a twist
H = Heroes/heroines are dropped right in it from the start

F = Finite story length but you do have some choice
I = Imagination intense to make an intense story work
C = Character(s) has/have to grip you immediately.
T = Tension, yes there’s plenty of that and not a lot of space to resolve it.
I = Intensity can vary. Reflective pieces can work well but the character has to be compelling to make that successful.
O = Oh my… what is your flash tale’s ‘oh my’ moment?
N = Narrative take? I often favour first person.

Thought I’d share another story video here – hope you enjoy.

Fairytales with Bite – Magical Reading

What kind of books would your magical characters read? Would they read about uses of magic or do they want to get away from all of that? Well, it would make sense if they did. I know when I read I want to escape the every day world and its cares. In a magical world, the magic is the everyday world and its cares! Same old, same old, and all that!

Having said that, maybe they would want to carry out research and use it to improve their skills.
Some suggestions for possible research reading material then though I accept the titles could do with some work (and abbreviating!):-

Fairies – 10001 Things To Do With Your Wand Not Involving Turning People Into Frogs

Witches – How to Sabotage Fairy Spells So They Produce Useless Things Like Glass Slippers – A Beginner’s Guide.

Wizards – How to Produce the Perfect Smoke Ring Without Appearing to Use Magic To Do It

Elves – How To Be A Right Cobbler (see the story of The Elves and the Shoemaker here).

Dwarves – Gold and How To Find It (always of interest)

Dragons – Wing Technique for the Bigger Flying Animal and How To Get It Right and Surprise Your Prey (and I am assuming dragons are very intelligent creatures who can read, so there!).

And talking of dragons, let’s hear another story from their viewpoint.

 

This World and Others – Education, Education…..Er…. What Does Your Fictional World Consider to be Education?

So what would your created world consider to be a good standard of education? Is it just the ability to read and write? Would there be topics like history, geography, any of the sciences etc? And is the education open to all but only a few?

In an uneducated world (judging by our standards only), how would news be communicated to those who cannot read? Does the lack of an education hold people back or have they not known anything else? Is there any sense of people wanting to improve their situation here?

And if so, what or whom is stopping them and for what purposes? (Usually it is a question of being able to control people who don’t enough to question things but what if the ruler has genuine reasons for fearing what education could do? Are they right? What are those fears? How can those fears be misproved and the ruler shown a good standard of education would be beneficial?).

If there are schools, colleges etc., do they resemble what we have here? What are the differences?

And if education has always been around, how has it progressed or is it progressing during the course of your story?

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Twitter Corner

 

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An Electric Author and Podcast News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones, podcaster extraordinaire, kindly supplied by her.

Snowy garden image taken by me, Allison Symes, on the rare event of a decent amount of snowfall in Southern England.

And where will your writing and reading take you this week? Some possibilities below!

It's amazing what worlds can be created on paper - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Thoroughly enjoyed being quizzed by Wendy H Jones this afternoon for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. We were chatting about writing regular columns, as I do for Chandler’s Ford Today. Plan to share the link tomorrow when the podcast goes out.

Lady was pretty good throughout though she did let out one bark towards the end – our postman was later than normal! And you can’t expect a dog not to woof at a postie… especially one she knows!

Good to see a quick report earlier to say book sales have reached an eight year high. Not too surprised. Books are a wonderful form of escapism, regardless of what format you pick. Hope the upward turn continues. Though I must admit I would love to be able to browse in a bookshop again… it’s funny the things you miss.

My Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today continues with contributions from authors from the Association of Christian Writers this week. More details later in the week and link up on Friday.

IMG_WendyHJonesFB

Wendy H Jones, author and podcaster

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

Plenty going on so far this week (yes, I know it’s only Monday!).

Firstly, I now have an About the Author spot on the Authors Electric website. Many thanks to #DebbieBennett for ensuring this ended up in the right place. I use Blogger for a few things I write but I’m not an admin on it so am just used to posting on the posts “bit”.

Having said that, I am looking forward to sharing my first post here on 18th February. It’s also great to see some familiar faces on this site and I am relishing reading more of the posts. (Tip: to make sure you don’t miss any, subscribe to the blog itself. I know it sounds obvious but it is easy to forget to do this. Let’s just say it’s not a mistake I make now! Incidentally because I do blog, I like to keep up to date with what is out there in my field and while it is impossible to keep up with everything, I do follow as well as contribute to blogs. I see both the reading and writing of blogs as vital research).

Secondly, I am being interviewed by Wendy H Jones tomorrow afternoon for her podcast due “out” on Wednesday. I have two sides to my writing life (I know – as if one wasn’t enough but in fairness it often isn’t for writers!), and last time I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show I talked about flash fiction. This time I’ll be talking about my blogging work and generating ideas for a weekly column.

I’ve written a weekly column for online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, for some time now and one great thing about doing this is it keeps me on my toes. I have to write something every week and to a deadline. I’m looking forward to talking more about this with Wendy and to sharing the link on Wednesday.

And if you pop over to my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page in a moment, I have further news! Phew… I think it is going to be one of those fun but mightily busy weeks!  (See below for this!).

The snow did turn up! The view below is taken by yours truly from my back window and, before you ask, Lady does love the snow. It’s only the second time she has been able to play in some. On the plus side it did mean I didn’t have to take her water bottle out with me today – I knew she’d eat the snow. Is there any dog that doesn’t do that? (I will pretend I am not hearing all of my cat owning friends laughing at this point, given this is an issue they’re unlikely to face!).

News: I’ve been invited to take part in a monthly blog for Authors Electric. Excited about this and looking forward to sharing my first post on the 18th. Brief: blog has to be book/story/writing related in some way. Yes, I tick the boxes there well enough!

I prepare my blogs in advance (trust me, it pays!) and when I can I draft “spares” and save them for those times when I’m away or struck down with the dreaded lurgy (not that one, to date at least, thankfully) so I can just schedule these and that’s all done.

I love scheduling. Aside from Scrivener, it is probably one of the most useful things I’ve finally worked out how to do properly! I sometimes use it for Twitter too and I need to make more use of that. You may have noticed I often put a Twitter Corner spot in my twice weekly blog spot for my website. This is to encourage me to make more use of Twitter and the use of graphics with my tweets makes a nice addition to my blog round-up as well. I like a good balance of text and graphics and it seems to go down well with my followers here (thank you, everyone).

Snow View as at 24th January 2021

Brrr…. a cold one today. No snow where I am in Hampshire though some is forecast tomorrow. We’ll see. (I did – see above! Murphy’s Law is working well – had I not said anything, would there have been the teeniest, weeniest snowflake? Course not!).

At least I’m not going anywhere other than by foot (which in turn is powered by sturdy walking boot with a decent grip!)!

Many thanks for the great response to Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I learn so much from chatting to other authors and it always a pleasure to interview them here. Hopefully the series will prove to be encouraging to those who are wondering what they should do with their launches this year, given this will still be an issue for some time. Even when normality does return, it is highly unlikely to be “all at once” (and it wouldn’t be a good idea I think even if that did somehow prove possible).

Now on to another favourite topic. Story time! Did you have such a thing at school? I did at primary school (roughly aged 5 to 7 years). It was for about the last 15 or 20 minutes before going home and I found it then a great way to unwind and relax. I still do though my own story time these days tends to be at bedtime!

I much preferred school story time to the free milk we used to get in the third-of-a-pint bottles. I love milk, don’t get me wrong, but the bottles were either left by the radiators and I just can’t stand warm/hot milk or, especially at this time of year, the milk in the bottles had frozen and nobody was going to risk breaking their teeth trying to drink it! Oh and you can imagine what it was like during a hot summer… Funnily enough, I do love yogurt now!

At junior school level (roughly ages 8 to 11), we used to have something called SRA cards where there was a story on one side and questions about the story on the others. These were colour coded and you worked your way through the system. Adored that. (Often used when the English teacher wanted to catch up with marking. Excellent idea all around I think!).

At secondary school level (ages about 11 to 16), if you wanted to read a book, you did it on your own, unless in English Literature, but the school library was a good one so I spent a lot of time in there.

Encouraging people of all ages to read though remains a very good thing indeed. And great storytelling which draws people in is a great way to achieve that. No pressure then! Back off to the writing!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One form of flash writing is to base it on the Twitter character count. Gill James has done with this with her 140 x 140 flash fiction collection. I suspect my one-line stories, the type I often use for my videos, would probably count for this though I ought to give it a go “officially” at some point and put these on my Twitter feed. That’s a good thing to put on my To Do List and another way of writing and advertising flash fiction! (Ernest Hemingway with his famous For Sale: One Pair of Baby Shoes would be well under the character count here!).

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One ongoing thing for most writers with books out is to try and get reviews (and please do review, it helps more than you know. Also a one or two line review is absolutely fine – five minutes and you’re done). Anyway, while I was working on this, I discovered something I had not known. It is possible to put videos on your Goodreads Author Profile page.

Now I expect I’m late to the party here (I can hear you going “yeah, yeah, yeah, knew that ages ago”) but I was pleased to discover it. Naturally I’ve added the book trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic to my page. See the link. Worth doing I think if you’ve not done this already.

Screenshot_2021-01-26 Allison Symes

 

Delighted to share another story video with you. Dress Sense shows Red Riding Hood’s attitude to life and the big bad wolf beautifully I think! Fans of quirky tales will like this one. Hope you enjoy.

Dress Sense Video Link

There is no such thing as the perfect character so it is a question of getting the character “perfect” from your, the writer’s, viewpoint. If you need your character to be a pain in the neck, then have you created the perfect example? Do all aspects of that character fit in to create that type?

The “perfect” character then has to be fit for the purpose you’ve created them for. Are they portrayed strongly enough to carry out what you want them to do? The reader has to believe the character is at least capable of behaving the way you’ve set them out to do without there being any “jarring notes” that would make that open to question.

The way the character speaks, even the way they dress, their minor traits etc should all add up to create a composite picture and it should be the one you want to show. Have your characters ever surprised you with what they’ve come up with? Mine have!

It’s a good thing – it shows there is life to them but it can also show you needed to get to know them better before writing for/about them! This is why I now I do spend some time outlining a character as well as their story so I can be sure I know my person really well. It saves time later on in the editing too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading/Writing Guides

Do you find reading and/or writing guides helpful? For reading, I still like the BBC’s Big Read Book of Books compilation of books that made it into their top 100. They produced a series of programmes to discuss the books chosen too and if I remember correctly there was a celebrity who would champion a particular book or author. (Some authors have more than one entry here. I’m not giving away anything major by saying Dickens was amongst these!).

The compilation book is beautifully illustrated, gives you a precis of what each book is about, and details about the author. Lovely book and a good way to fill in gaps in your knowledge and add to your TBR list of course! The latter of course was the whole idea behind the Big Read.

Maybe it is time for an update? I would welcome one. Would much change? We’d still have the classics in there (and rightly so, they’re classics for a reason) but the contemporary novels would change and it would be interesting to compare what would come in now as opposed to when this programme and book first came out in the early 2000s.

For writing guides, I like those which are down to earth and full of practical advice. My favourite here is On Writing by Stephen King but I am also fond of books such as Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez. Lots of practical tips and I love the layout too. (You also can’t beat a good index for books like this so let’s hear it for the indexers!).

Naturally I like The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and the Mslexia Indie Press Guide. Information all in one place – let’s hear it for the well thought out book! And the good news? There will always be plenty of room on the bookshelves for books like this.

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Twitter Corner

 

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