Reviews, Transformations, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I also took the images from inside CafeLit 10.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images relating to Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing were kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones, some were created by me in Book Brush, and the proud contributing author pics were taken by Adrian Symes. Always tricky trying to take those kind of photos yourself. If your other half needs to know how they can support the author in their life, taking their author pics (and doing a good job of it) is a great place to start!

Hope you have a good start to the working week. Not a bad start here with publication news for next week and reviews coming in for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing.

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Facebook – General

Pleased to say I’ll be having another story on CafeLit next week (found out today). Will share more details nearer the time but that kind of news cheers up any Tuesday!

I submitted another story about my hapless magical being, Sarah, to Friday Flash Fiction and hope that will appear later this week. I usually create a video for my Youtube channel on a Sunday and schedule it to appear on the Monday. If you would like to check out the videos I’ve created so far, see the link below which will take you to my YT “home page”.

Over the course of a week, I aim to have a good balance of fiction and non-fiction writing completed (or in the case of longer projects to have made progress on them). It keeps my writing life interesting and means I’m never short of things to do.

Youtube channel – Allison Symes

Youtube iconScreenshot 2021-09-14 at 20-33-09 Allison Symes

Busy old day as it usually is for me on a Monday. Was pleased with my productivity yesterday though. I wrote a couple of flash stories (one of which I’ll share on my book page in a moment as I turned that into a Youtube video). I used a random word generator to trigger ideas for one of them. The other story I’ve submitted to Friday Flash Fiction. And I’ve created a second, exclusive Youtube video with a new story, which will go out as part of my newsletter on 1st October.

I’ve also drafted various presentation materials too and am looking forward to delivering them in due course! Am looking forward to a nice break with better half and the dog later in the year and I plan to edit my non-fiction project during that time.

(I can’t NOT write. Sad muppet? Maybe but I am a productive one! And the dog, my better half and I will be getting in lots of lovely walking during the day so by the time we get back to where we’ll be staying, we’ll all be glad of a sit down. For me that’s a trigger to get the red editing pen out!). Am pleased with it generally but I know I can sharpen it up further so that will be my focus in the latter half of the autumn.

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Hope you have had a good weekend.

I look forward to sharing Part 2 of my interview with #MaressaMortimer on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. (And many thanks for the great responses to the share of Part 1 last Friday).

Busy preparing workshop and other material including blogs at the moment. All good fun.

And it was lovely to catch up with some Swanwick friends on Zoom yesterday.

Don’t forget if you want to sign up to my author newsletter (packed full of tips, flash stories, news etc), then please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

And Amazon have an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the moment. See link for more.

 

Delighted to see some wonderful reviews coming in for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing. (There is a blog tour going on right now which Wendy H Jones organised). I am going to share the link for this one though – and a huge thanks to Val Penny for this. It’s the kind of post that will put a smile on any author’s face.

In separate news, I’m making good progress on workshop and other materials for events later in the year (the Brechin/Angus Book Fest) so am well pleased with that too!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Funny old weather today – started gloomy, rain threatening, thunder predicted. Ended up warm and sunny and no clouds in sight. A complete transformation in what was expected.

Now it is possible to get a character transformation across in a flash fiction piece but it has to be a convincing transformation. You also need to be specific about what kind of transformation is likely as you don’t have the word count room to let your readers guess too much. And there has to be clues early on that transformation of some sort is going to be possible and will happen.

In my Seeing Is Believing from Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I open with “When Ben was unwell, strange signs appeared in the sky above his house.”.

That tells you immediately there has to be something special about Ben to make those strange signs happen. You can also reasonably expect to see some of those signs in the course of his story (otherwise why mention it?) and you have an idea of location.

House indicates an ordinary every day setting yet something is unusual here and that is the hook to draw the reader in with. You have the sense that something is going to happen either because of Ben or to Ben because of those strange signs. And that is how it should be. There is the sense something or someone is going to be transformed and the likelihood is that it has to involve Ben. It will be a question then of finding out what happens and how he handles it.

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Story time again. Hope you enjoy Being Bettered. Who will come off best – the witch or the fairy godmother?


I’ve mentioned before I need to have a way into a story but those ways can vary. Sometimes I am responding to a set prompt. Sometimes I use a proverb or well known saying as a theme. Sometimes I use an issue that means something to me.

My story Enough is Enough in Tripping the Flash Fantastic is a good example of this as it shows my character’s response to being body-shamed. (Yet another form of bullying, which is something I’ve always loathed). What I do with this story is get my character doing something positive (though whether you would necessarily agree with her idea of positive is another matter). What she doesn’t do is feel sorry for herself. She does get up and do something.

Stories hinge on the “what happens” question and the role of the character/story is to answer that question in some way. Sometimes the answer will be a good one (e.g. the traditional fairytale happily ever after ending is an example of this). Sometimes it won’t be (e.g. the character doesn’t win through despite their best efforts) but the ending will be appropriate for the character and story. And we as readers find out what happens isn’t necessarily what we would have liked to have seen happen. But then that is another way fiction mirrors life.

 

Pleased to say a fab review has come in for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing on Amazon. See link for more. My chapter in the book is called Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. Let’s just say I say (and in some depth!). The nice thing with this book as a whole is if you would like to write but don’t know where to start, Creativity Matters will give you plenty of ideas. It also shows you how much variety is out there too in terms of what to write.

And don’t forget to check out Friday Flash Fiction for a wonderful batch of 100-word and other flash tales. My Almost Right is my contribution for this week.
Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-06-14 Almost Right, by Allison Symes


Goodreads Author Blog – Anthologies

Now I must put my hand up here and confess to being biased. I’ve had stories published in a number of anthologies over many years (mainly CafeLit and Bridge House Publishing). As well as the joy of being published, I love reading the other stories and discovering what my fellow writers have come out with for their contributions to the books.

As a reader, I love reading anthologies in between reading novels. Often an anthology will help me decide which novel is going to come off my To Be Read list next. A short story in an anthology might put me in the mood for a good crime novel or a fantasy one etc. I also like mixing up the kinds of things I read so I like to have anthologies in between the novels and novellas.

In celebrating the written word, I definitely want to include the short stories as well as the longer works.

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Being an Indie Author and Editorial News

Image Credit-:

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of me reading at Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights were kindly taken by Penny Blackburn and Geoff Parkes.

Author picture, where the author writes images, and book cover images kindly supplied by Maressa Mortimer for my interview with her for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Images connected to Creativity Matters:  Find Your Passion for Writing were kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones. Images connected to the Share Your Story Writing Summit held earlier this year were supplied by the summit’s organisers.

Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good week. It’s been an interesting one here – more below – but the picture below indicates what it is connected with.

Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-13-33 Amazon com mom's favorite reads september 2021

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to welcome #MaressaMortimer to Chandler’s Ford Today for Part 1 of a two-part interview where she discusses life as an indie author. This week she also shares the wonderful story of how she came to publish a book by accident. She also talks about her love of stories and what led her into self publishing. Great insights here and some useful tips too.

Maressa has guested on other CFT posts but this is the first time she has had a post “to herself”! I am already looking forward to sharing Part 2 next week.

What I love about author interviews like this is that every writer’s journey is different and there is something useful to learn from all of them.

Introducing Maressa Mortimer – Being an Indie Author – Part 1

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady is currently resting on the sofa having had a good run around with a flat coated retriever on this evening’s “walk”. Great time had by both dogs though I think the retriever was a bit surprised at how fast Lady is – she has been known to outrun a whippet in her time. Is the only member of my household who can do that. For a start I don’t run. Secondly, even if I did, it would be slow. (I would expect to be overtaken by a tortoise with the wind behind it, put it that way).

Just going to flag up my debut flash collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again, is currently on offer on Amazon (the paperback is on offer at under £4.00 – what a bargain). The link takes you to my Author Central page (and yes, Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing is now on there too).

Looking forward to the next Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting later in the month.

And I’m chatting to the lovely #MaressaMortimer in the first part of a two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up tomorrow. See above.

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EDITORIAL NEWS

Am thrilled to announce I am now on the editorial team for Mom’s Favorite Reads. I am joining as their flash fiction and short story editor and look forward to further developments in this area for the magazine. And don’t forget you can read the magazine for free – see the link.

For this month’s issue, I am talking about using frames in flash fiction. I don’t use them all the time but I’ve used a diary format as a frame, for example. Also, in my What The Neighbours Think from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my opening line is a question. That question is then answered in the last two lines.

My favourite way of getting into a story is with an intriguing opening line but I sometimes know how the story has to end before I write it up thanks to that opening line. I like to think of that as having the top and bottom of my story picture there ready and I just have to fill in the middle.

If you like a good structure in place before you write, a frame is a useful technique to have. Bear in mind, you can also use time as a frame if you give your characters a certain amount of time only in which to resolve their problem. You have a frame right there – a kind of countdown.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Glad to say my story Almost Right is up on #FridayFlashFiction. What will Lizzie do when she realises something is not right about the lipstick on her bedside cabinet? Find out here!

Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-06-14 Almost Right, by Allison Symes

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/almost-right-by-allison-symes

I’ve mentioned before one of the joys of flash fiction is it is a delight to read out at an Open Prose Mic Night. It’s not long enough to send your audience to sleep (!) and it is a great way to demonstrate the form and what it can do. (It also helps you get better at reading to an audience).

I find the 100-word stories work perfectly for this. Usually at these things you have a short time span in which to read, mainly to ensure everyone who wants to take part does get to do so, but that works well for this. In a few minutes I can read three stories out so I can decide whether I want contrasting story moods or stories that work to a theme etc.

Incidentally, it does pay to record yourself reading your work out loud as a practice run. I did this via Zoom for when I was preparing my talks earlier this year. Zoom converts your recording into a mp4 file for you when you end a recorded meeting (with yourself!). I discovered for my talks that I was speaking too fast and, of course, you are more likely to trip yourself up over words doing that. You have to learn to slow yourself down a bit.

So for reading flash out loud, I deliberately only choose three stories, which I know I can read in the time limit and not rush them out to the audience either. (And audiences never mind if you still come in at under the time. What they generally don’t want is people going over the allotted time span. It is also not popular with your fellow readers).

Many thanks to #Penny Blackburn and #Geoff Parkes for taking the images of me below reading at different Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights.

81c3b525454b4749288740f600b1f96a.0The Open Mic for Prose night

I mentioned this over on my author page but I’m delighted to say I am now the flash fiction and short story editor for Mom’s Favorite Reads. As you know, I am always keen to highlight the wonderful form that flash fiction is and how any and every writer can benefit from it so this is a logical step for me.

Later in the year I will be at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival and will be running a workshop on flash, as well as giving a separate author talk. More details to come nearer the time. But am very excited about these developments as you can imagine.

Am going through the draft of what I hope will become my third flash fiction collection in due course. It needs a lot of editing but that’s fine. I like the process of that, “knocking” the book into shape, and ensuring each story not only works but is in the right place in the book, which in turn helps with reading “flow” and a better experience for a reader. It was that process which helped me come up with the title for my debut book as I realised my stories in that were taking me “from light to dark and back again”!

Fairytales with Bite – Crime and Punishment in the Magical World

How does the law work in your magical world? Is crime recognised as such and is it the same kind as we have here? When you think about it, Snow White is really a story about attempted murder, yet it will always be classed as “just a fairytale”. (That does make me grimace. There is so much depth to most fairytales and that shouldn’t be underrated).

What would happen if someone uses magic they’re not supposed to be able to access?

What kind of punishments are carried out? Often people are humiliated for their pride and arrogance by being transformed into something hideous until love redeems them (for example Beauty and the Beast). But in your setting, who defines what the crimes are and what the punishments should be? I can imagine a major punishment for infringement of magical law (well, you don’t want everyone doing it) but is there anything in your world we would not consider worthy of punishment but they do?

Is there an appeals procedure? Are there trials as we would know them? Or is guilt assumed?

No world can survive for long if crime is left unchecked. It would lead to chaos. So this applies to your magical world too. How do they rein in potential chaos especially if there are a number of magical species with different capacities for magic?

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This World and Others – Geography

Does your fictional world’s geography have any bearing on your story or is it just used as a backdrop? What do your readers need to know to be able to visualise it? What kind of problems can the physical landscape cause your characters as they set off on their adventures?

What kind of natural or other disaster can afflict your creation and what can your characters do to prevent or minimise the impact?

What would your world find odd about ours and also think about this the other way round? Think about what you need to have in your setting. Your characters will need food and drink of some kind so how is that produced? Is the land conducive to agriculture or does everything have to be imported in? What happens if that goes wrong?

Also, think about whether you would like to live in your setting or not and the reasons why. What is it about your setting that readers will identify with the most and how can your characters make the best of it?

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Festival News, Pockets of Time, and an Online Bookshop

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good few days since the last post. This time, I share a new story video and exciting Festival news for later in the year. The pic below is a big clue!

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 19-44-05 Authors events


Facebook – General

Had a wonderful swim this afternoon. Was able to have a longer session in the pool as we don’t have to pre-book a session any more. Loved that and it was the perfect sunny day to be in the water for a bit. (I suspect Lady would have liked to have joined me. Unlike my other collies, she isn’t fazed by water, but even if it was allowed… well let’s just say she’d cause chaos swimming up to everyone else in the pool to say hello!).

Am looking forward to sharing Part 1 of a fabulous chat with #MaressaMortimer on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

My train tickets arrived today for the first in-person event the Association of Christian Writers have held for well over a year. This will be in October and I am looking forward to seeing so many friends again. Plus in November, as I mentioned the other day, I’m off to take part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival so plenty going on. And I strongly suspect there will be a future CFT post about that Festival from yours truly in due course!

What is the most difficult aspect of storywriting? For me, it is getting started which is why I have to have an outline of some sort to give me the kickstart that I need to get going.

Intrigue the reader
Pleased with work done over the weekend. Managed to get a story out for Friday Flash Fiction. The lovely thing with that is it won’t be long before I know whether it’s on site or not! Have also created a new story video which I’ll share over on my book page on FB shortly. Am drafting future blogs and presentation material for events later in the year. Talking of which…

I’m delighted to share the screenshot below. I’m one of the authors taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival in November. More details to come nearer the time. Looking forward to this immensely. It will also be a joy because other author friends of mine are taking part in this and it will be lovely to see them in person too.

On a side note, I am going to get use out of my railcard this year! I renewed it just ahead of the lockdowns last year. Hmm…now that was a waste of time. It won’t be this year!

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 19-44-05 Authors events

 

The writing journey is not meant to be static


It has been a lovely sunny Sunday here in Hampshire today. Much appreciated by Lady and I.

This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post is the first part of a splendid interview with indie author, #MaressaMortimer. Maressa and I know each other thanks to the Association of Christian Writers. Maressa is the only person I know who has published a book by accident, yes really! For more details on that and for wonderful insights into life as an indie author, do check out the post later this week. Link will go up on Friday, part 2 on the following Friday.

A good use of small pockets of time is to draft blog posts. When I’m not brainstorming for ideas for stories, titles etc., I will start drafting blogs for a general audience as I know I will get to use these later on. I can then choose which market I will use them for. So never despair at having only ten minutes to write on any one day, you can still write valuable things in that time.

I’ve drafted the opening paragraphs to future blog posts, a complete flash story etc in pockets of time like that. And by having just the opening paragraphs of a blog there already, when I do have more time to get back to it, I find I “hit the ground running” with the rest of the text for that blog. Having something there to start me off encourages further creativity I find. I guess it is because it is not an entirely cold start and I have found it is worth doing.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Mine has ranged from going to an ACW Committee Meeting via Zoom to walking the dog to mowing the lawn and now to writing. A right old mix!

Music can trigger memories of stories. I think of that as I enjoyed listening to the Classic FM TV theme countdown on Bank Holiday Monday and many favourite memories came back – Poirot, Morse, Thunderbirds, Eye Level (Van de Valk theme), Black Beauty, Jonathan Creek (which uses Danse Macabre appropriately as its theme) – all thanks to the themes used for the shows.

Thinking of your characters, could you name their favourite TV theme? Why would they choose it? What does that choice say about them? For many of my quirky characters, quirky music such as Danse Macabre and Gershwin’s Walking the Dog would suit very well. Mind you, I think they suit me quite well too! Oh and Lady loves Walking the Dog too… can’t imagine why.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As well as writing flash, I love reading it – and if you want a place to check out various collections, may I recommend you pop over to the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop.

The Chapeltown Books collections stand out thanks to being square with distinctive pictures in the middle of their “cover frame”. You will also find the short story anthologies on here too – and there are a range of options for buying too. It doesn’t just have to be through You Know Who.


Screenshot 2021-09-07 at 21-05-25 The Bridgetown Café Bookshop

Story time once again (and always a nice way to start a week I think). Hope you enjoy Wordsearch.


I’ve sometimes used objects in my opening line to a flash piece. It flags up immediately to the reader this object is important and it is often a case then of finding out why that object is important. I use boots being missing as an opening hook in my Shoplifting from From Light to Dark and Back Again. For Getting It Right I used a shiny red apple which should be an immediate flag to any lover of fairytales!

And there is such a thing as a random object generator if you need somewhere to start. The one that came up on my search engine allowed you to choose how many objects to generate so you could use all you choose or just pick the one or two you like best.

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Am looking forward to drafting more flash stories tomorrow (I often use Sundays for this) ready for submission to Friday Flash Fiction and for use on my YouTube channel in due course. All great fun to do. And if you want to check out my YouTube videos, you can do so here. More subscribers always welcome.

The nice thing about preparing the story videos is I have to think about what would work well visually. Sometimes I can’t find an appropriate video for the story I want to share so I think laterally around my character and/or setting and/or theme and I can usually find something that way.

Goodreads Author Blog – How To Books

Do you like how to books? I love the creative writing ones and have found them useful. My overall favourite is On Writing by Stephen King though I also love How Not to Write A Novel which is funny as well.

What I’m looking for in books like these is information written in a down to earth style. I don’t want jargon or complicated theories. A “kind of” how to book is The Seven Basic Plots which is a huge book but you learn so much from the way the author outlines these plots and you can see for yourself how so many films and books have used these time and again. (With good cause – a great story on a theme which is timeless is always going to work).

I’ve also found things like Scrivener for Dummies useful. A good how to book always has a decent cross-referenced index. I appreciate the art of the indexer far more now. I have read a few non-fiction books without such a thing and you do feel the lack. And every writer needs a source of advice and practical tips to help them along their writing way. I know I’ve appreciated the useful tips and hints I’ve picked up by reading a good quality how to book.

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Creative Matters: A New Direction and Mom’s Favorite Reads

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones (as was her own author pic). Some images for Creativity Matters created in Book Brush by Wendy H Jones and Allison Symes. Image of yours truly proudly holding up one of her copies of Creativity Matters taken by Adrian Symes.

Other images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos as usual. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

A busy week with Creativity Matters now being out and my latest article is also out in Mom’s Favorite Reads. 

Moms Favorite Reads - September 2021

Creativity Matters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to welcome back #WendyHJones to Chandler’s Ford Today to talk about Creative Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing.

Wendy shares with me what made her decide to go into publishing other authors and how she has found this aspect of her own writing journey. She also shares fabulous tips for writers on working with editors and publishers, as well as marketing tips.

All great information regardless of what stage you’re at in your own writing journey. I’ve found from experience that what might not be directly relevant to me now becomes so later on and I have been so grateful to have that information to fall back on when I needed it.

We also discuss the technical side of bringing books out and Wendy shares what skills she has had to learn to take on something that is brand new for her. She has written from the cradle to the grave, in terms of audience, but publishing others is a first. There are always learning curves but these are what keep us on our toes as writers and help us develop and achieve more than we might once have thought possible.

Wonderful information here and a big thanks to Wendy for sharing this.

Creativity Matters – Wendy H. Jones – A New Direction

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Pleased to say the September 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. My topic this time is Frames in Fiction and I look at how I use a frame format for some of my flash fiction writing. See my article for more on why this is a useful thing to do and do check out the excellent stories that follow which are on the topic of framed. Loved reading those. Hopefully you will too! My story on the theme is part of my article.

What with Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing, it has been a busy week for celebrating and talking about flash fiction!


A huge thanks for all of the wonderful responses to my post about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing yesterday. It is always a joy to share author pics, proudly holding book etc! Especially since in the early years, I received outright rejections or simply didn’t hear back from publishers. (The latter is even more common now given time constraints for most publishers and agents).

Persistence and willingness to learn from mistakes are crucial attributes for any writer. You do get better the more you write. You learn what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.

I recently judged a flash fiction competition for The Byre Writers. Great fun to do and many congratulations to the worthy winner, #SuzanneMilne with her Why Can’t You Hear Me? I often talk about impact in stories, especially flash fiction. You are looking for the “wow” factor. This one had that in spades.

When I enter competitions I try to come up with unforgettable characters who will move me. If they move me, make me laugh, cry, scream, or what have you, they’ll do that for someone else, including hopefully the competition judge!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Confession time: forgot to submit anything to Friday Flash Fiction this week but I was pleased to see more stories by more people I know on there. (Particular shout out to #HannahRuthRetallick, #VeronicaBright, and #ElaineLangford here).

Browsing the stories on here every week is a great joy and is a fabulous way to discover the wonderful world of flash fiction. Submission rules are easy to follow too so why not give it a go? (And yes I plan to get another story on there again soon).

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 20-22-56 Friday Flash Fiction

Just a quick reminder that I’ll be talking with #WendyHJones about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing tomorrow in Chandler’s Ford Today. Link further up. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories and it was a joy to write. I’m always up for celebrating flash fiction and spreading the word about what a wonderful format it is… not that I’m biased… much!

I am also in the September issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads and discuss using frames in flash fiction writing. See link for more. And don’t forget Friday Flash Fiction if you are looking for somewhere to send your 100-word stories. The feedback I have had here has been incredible and so encouraging. This is nice because this doesn’t always happen online. Happy to share the link for MFR twice – it is a fab magazine with a wide range of articles and stories. It is a joy and pleasure to write for it.

 

One of the things with flash fiction is working out exactly where to end the story. I know, I know, that’s true for any story, I hear you cry. True but given you have less room in flash, it is even more important to get it right.

This is one reason why I will often “start” with a closing line (which is often a twist or a punchline) and then work backwards to get to a logical start. Let’s call it writing from B to A rather than A to B. (Mixing up how you approach is a story is good fun and keeps you on your toes. It also encourages you to think in different ways which encourages lateral thinking and greater creativity as a result).

I aim to leave a story where the tale is concluded but the reader senses the characters could go on to “live” in other stories not told by me at this time. That’s a good sign of characters coming to life for the reader and helps maximise character impact. I know when I read works by other writers, one of the things I love most is, having got to the end, I can still envisage those characters living lives outside of the novel or short story concerned.

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical History Lessons

In your fantasy setting, what role does history play? How much of your created world’s history is known by your characters? And do mistakes from the past come back to haunt your characters now?

When it comes to education, whose version of history is the “accepted” version taught in schools etc? Is there an alternative history that is suppressed because it is a threat to those in power?

When it comes to fairytale history, do stories such as Cinderella and Snow White form the basis of what is taught as in a magical setting, those could be “real life” tales and be treated as such? Are there fairytales that are considered unacceptable and so are not taught? Why are these “banned”? What would happen if word about them got out? Would it make your people re-examine what they’d always taken to be the truth?

Whatever your setting is, whoever your characters are, there has to be something “behind” them in terms of history. Characters have a past. The setting also does (and you could examine what changes have happened over time here too. Are they better? Is the environment damaged by the changes? Has it affected people’s magical abilities in the same way pollution here on Earth would and does choke our planet? All interesting story ideas to explore).

What matters is getting across to a reader what they need to know but to do it in an interesting way. You almost slip the information in so readers pick it up, almost without noticing. What you don’t want is “info dump” and characters should never tell each other what they ought to know. Readers will see right through that, correctly too, as a way for an author to get information across without “telling” you but it doesn’t really work. Dialogue has to be what you would reasonably expect characters to say and I know I don’t tell people I know what I know they already know! So our characters mustn’t either.

What you could do is get a character to ask another what they opinion is on a historical event in their world which is having impact on their world today. We say history goes around in cycles. There’s nothing to stop that being true in your fictional creations.

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This World and Others – Compare and Contrast

A good way to get started with creating a new setting is to compare what you think you want to write about with what we know exists here. For example:-

Planet Earth has 71% of its surface covered in water. That in turn means we have all sorts of creatures living in water or around it or who are dependent on food from it. So what if your fictional world didn’t have water? What would it have it instead? What creatures would live in that substance? Equally if there is a reason for your world not to have water, as we know it, what is that reason? Is it because your world is a gas giant say and what your characters depend on is being able to breathe using that gas?

Politically, you can take what we know here about democracies and dictatorships and apply them directly to your creation or come up with direct opposites. Equally you can have your world have something that is far superior or inferior to what we have here, depending on your preferences.

For characters, you can take what we know about human behaviour and apply that directly to your alien being. Or your alien being has a totally different nature to ours – e.g. it is not motivated by a desire to survive, it is motivated by a desire to befriend other species so all survive.

But comparing and contrasting is a great place to start. It can help you find a way in to your world and character building.

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Thought it would be useful to share my latest newsletter here too. If you want to sign up please head up over to my landing page.

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Publication News, Alternative Worlds, and Dialogue

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing book covers from #WendyHJones.

Author publicity photos taken by Adrian Symes. Other images (including screenshots) taken by me, Allison Symes. Thrilled with my publication news this week, more below, especially as this is my first non-fiction work in print.

Creativity Matters - and my two flash collections

Facebook – General

Delighted to say my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing arrived this evening. And naturally that means photo opportunity time! (Thanks to my better half for taking the following).

I can confirm you never do lose the thrill of opening a box of books which you know you have written or contributed to. It’s just a pity you can’t bottle that feeling for drawing on later as and when needed!

Oh and given my chapter in Creativity Matters is Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories, I thought my two flash collections should get a look in too.

AND I’ll be chatting to Wendy H. Jones, who compiled and edited Creativity Matters, on Friday for Chandler’s Ford Today about what made her decide to publish other authors. Looking forward to sharing the link.

Hope you have had a good Bank Holiday Monday. Hope you had a great Monday if it wasn’t a Bank Holiday for you. Glad to hear the Inspector Morse theme came top in the Classic FM TV themes countdown. Also glad to hear Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens was in the top 30 as my first introduction to that wonderful music came thanks to it being used as the theme for quirky detective series Jonathan Creek. I suspect most people’s introduction to classical probably does come from TV and film themes and/or adverts.

It has been an odd day weather wise here in Hampshire. Murky and overcast all day. (I can think of some of my characters who could be described like that!). Am busy putting the finishing touches to my September newsletter and will be working on a super two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today to go out in the next couple of weeks or so. More details nearer the time but it has been encouraging I have had no shortage of material for CFT for many, many months now. Long may that continue! Am also working on presentations and workshop materials for use later in the year so plenty going on. And for the other reason I love Danse Macabre, see below!

Bonus Post – 29th August – More than Writers

Sorry, meant to share this earlier as it is my turn again on More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot. This time I talk about Being Back. I refer to my recent visit to Swanwick but also look at being back at live events again and how, whether we can get to these or not, we should definitely “be back” to encouraging other writers.

Screenshot 2021-08-31 at 20-52-12 Being Back by Allison Symes

Wow! The responses are really coming in for The Turn Around, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Many thanks, everyone. The general feel is my characters deserved each other. If you want to check the story out and decide if you agree or not, please see the link below.

Am so looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. This week, I welcome back #WendyHJones and I will be talking with her about her latest venture, Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing. This is the first time Wendy has published other authors, including yours truly (my chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories), and I wanted to ask her what made her decide to follow this path.

I also talk with her about what she has had to learn to do this. Wendy also shares with me how she balances her fiction and non-fiction work and balancing getting her own writing done, as well as publishing others. Link up later in the week (and I am on tenterhooks as my copies of the book are due with me any time. Cue the usual author holding up new book photo later this week I hope!). See above!

Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 17-10-59 The Turn Around by Allison Symes


Great to see the response to my blog round-up post Swanwick 2021 yesterday. Not at all surprised most of these are from fellow Swanwickers!

Just a quick reminder I will be sending my author newsletter out next week (1st September) so if you’d like to sign up for tips, news, prompts etc, please head over to my website (the landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I tend to compile the newsletter as the month goes on as (a) it means I don’t forget anything important and (b) it is easy to just finish off and send at the right time. Mind you, I schedule as many of my blog posts as possible whether it is for Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, or More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot.

Scheduling has been a boon for me but I still wish I had more time to write!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am so thrilled to receive my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writingtoday. (Link is for Hive.co.uk – an alternative to Amazon). The book is edited and compiled by #WendyHJones. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. I’ve mentioned before that I did not know flash fiction as a format existed when I first started writing seriously for publication. I am so glad I discovered it! (Pictures from my better half).

Am pleased to share my latest Youtube video. Hope you enjoy Wondering. Miranda cannot understand her neighbours’ fears about a local inhabitant. There is someone else they should be frightened of – as the video makes clear.


I sometimes have fun with flash stories set in alternative worlds. In A Day Out in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, for example, I have my character on his way to feed the ducks but these are no ordinary ducks and my character is not looking forward to the trip. So you can take elements from what we know right here, such as feeding ducks, and turn it into something comedic, tragic, horrific etc.

And in Job Satisfaction from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I show what a disgruntled fairy is prepared to do as part of her “dentistry work” as she carries out her rounds as the Tooth Fairy. Here I am taking the element of someone being fed up with a client she doesn’t like (with good reason) but setting that with a magical background so my operative has more options open to her than us mere mortals would.

So mix elements up and have fun. See what you can do with them. Taking the ordinary and turning them into extraordinary parts of a story is a great way to come up with some interesting and quirky fiction. And for another example of that, see below.

 


Looking forward to receiving my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing which I now know are on their way. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. Looking forward to doing the “author opening the box of books” pose again! Great fun (and we all need validation. It’s a funny thing but every writer needs it. It is just a question of degree).

It was also great to see a very familiar name (thanks to Bridge House Publishing) on Friday Flash Fiction recently (well done #HannahRuthRetallick). I am also thrilled to see a very dear friend of mine and fellow Swanwicker on CafeLit today with a fabulous story called Marmalade. Go visit and check it out. (Always worth scrolling through CafeLit. Lovely mixture of stories in terms of style and word count. Marmalade was out on 28th August 2021). My sympathy is entirely with her lead character, Annie. More power to your pens, Hannah and #JuneWebber.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Dialogue in Books

I love dialogue in books as long as that conversation is moving the story on in some way. I need the characters to show me something either about themselves or the unfolding plot (and it is often both at the same time) for their conversation to grip me and keep me reading. It is something I have to watch with my own writing as I love setting up my characters for a good “chin wag” but it must always be relevant to the story. So if it isn’t, out it comes.

What I don’t like is where characters can sometimes tell each other stuff they clearly must know. I don’t buy the “character needs reminding” business here. It is usually done because the writer needs to get information across to a reader, they know they mustn’t “tell” the reader and are conscious they need to “show” the information.

I totally sympathise and it was something I did when I was starting out but with time and practice, you learn to be more confident in allowing your readers to work things out for themselves. Flash fiction writing with its limited word count really encourages that. So it is a question of putting in the right clues in the right way so readers do something to work with so they can figure things out for themselves.

I’ve learned over time to put in an odd line or two where I reveal something to a reader rather than have a pointless conversation between characters telling each other what they must already know. It takes less time and word count and you don’t switch your readers off with a conversation they will quickly sense is more to help the author out rather than to help the story along.

But when dialogue does what it is meant to do – move the story along, keep up pace etc., – then it is amongst my favourite parts of a book. I want to eavesdrop what the characters are saying because I know I am going to find out useful, interesting things. And often in dialogue the tension rachets up as well, which I also like.

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Swanwick 2021

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to Fiona Park for the picture of me signing Tripping the Flash Fantastic at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School – August 2021. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

It has been a busy week with Creativity Matters: Finding Your Passion for Writing coming out on pre-order in paperback and ebook. (Out on 1st September 2021 so not long to wait). Book cover image from Wendy H. Jones.

It has been a joy to look back at Swanwick though and I hope my CFT post shares something of why it is special for writers.

Feature Image - Swanwick Writers Summer School - August 2021

Facebook – General

27th August
It’s that time of the week again – time to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week, I look back at Swanwick 2021. All of my CFT posts are a joy to write but some stand out as being really special and this one does as it brought back many happy memories of a wonderful week at Swanwick this year, and from previous ones I’d attended.

I look at a little of what the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School has to offer writers (and it can only be a little as otherwise the post would be far too long!). Can’t wait for the booking slot to be open again for Swanwick 2022!

And it was fabulous meeting up with another Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books author for a good chat. #LindaWPayne, I hope to get to see you again at the next Bridge House event!

Swanwick 2021

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Hope you have had a good day. Just sent off some blurb and an author headshot for an event I will be taking part in later on in the year. Loved the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group meeting last night. Great fun – I have a story to work on as a result which is good. Nice talk about markets as well, always useful that.

Meetings like this are wonderful places to exchange information. You never know when something someone says then suddenly is of direct relevance to you. That’s happened to me a lot.

I was told about Chandler’s Ford Today – and now write for it.

I was told CafeLit were issuing a 100-word challenge (and look what has led to – two published flash fiction collections).

I was told about Mom’s Favorite Reads – and now write for it. So if you ever wondered if there was any point to networking with other authors, there’s your answer – yes, there is!

And it is great fun. The support and encouragement along the way is appreciated too – it especially helps with things are not going so well. We all get writing ebbs and flows.


Nice to see some sunshine today and Lady was besides herself with glee. She got to play with her best friend, the Rhodesian Ridgeback today, and her other best pal, a Hungarian Vizler. All three dogs went home tired and very happy.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I look back at my week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. What has going to that done for me? Well… (takes big intake of breath)…:-

1. Made lots of writing friends.
2. Had so much encouragement.
3. Learned so much from the courses and workshops.
4. Taken part in things I had not done prior to Swanwick, most notably the Open Prose Mic Night. Great fun.
5. Sold my books.
6. Bought even more books! It is one of my great joys to walk past my book shelf and see books by friends, signed by them naturally, on there.
7. Have a week just focused on writing and nothing else. Bliss!
8. Come out of my shell just a bit! Chatting with other authors helps you share what you do and they share with you about their work. You learn to speak about what you do much more naturally. I was a bundle of nerves when I first started doing this kind of thing.

Can’t wait for Swanwick 2022!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest drabble (aka 100-worder) on #FridayFlashFiction is called The Turn Around and I look at how my characters David and Mary spend their tenth wedding anniversary. Does it turn out as either expect? Hope you enjoy reading the story to find out (and a huge thanks for the great comments in on this already. The feedback from this website is encouraging and useful.).


Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 17-10-59 The Turn Around by Allison Symes

 

Repetition can work in flash fiction, funnily enough. You might think it would be the first thing to avoid given the limited word count flash has. But it has been useful, not all the time, but for when I want to produce particular effects.

I’ve sometimes used repetition in titles (Enough is Enough is one example from Tripping The Flash Fantastic).

But what works better, especially if I am writing a “circle” story is have the last line mirror the first line but with a slight tweak to the words so they’re not exactly the same but 90% of the words, say, do match.

Another thing I’ve sometimes done is to start a couple of sentences with the same starting phrase. In my Good to Go, I have two consecutive paragraphs start with “He looked at”.

My The Wish List has all but one line start with the words “I wish”. You can get a rhythm in the prose using this kind of repetition. It can be so effective for emphasis.

It’s not the kind of thing I want to do all the time (I don’t want it to look gimmicky) but repetition, every now and again, can be distinctive and help create the impact you want your story to have on the reader.

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I’m going to be talking about the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (link up on Friday). What has been so encouraging has been to see the development of flash fiction as a format over the many years I’ve been going to writing events. When I first started doing this, flash was not “on the radar” so to speak.

Now it is a recognizable form, with all sorts of competitions and markets catering for it. And the bigger established competitions such as The Bridport Prize have added it to their categories. I am sure the switch to more people reading on screens has helped fuel the growth in flash fiction as it is so easy to read on screen.

I would like to say onwards and upwards for flash fiction but it really should be onwards and watch the word count limit!

 

Fairytales with Bite – Writing from an Alternative Character’s Viewpoint

Writing from an alternative character’s viewpoint is great fun and it was how I found my way into print back in 2009. My story, A Helping Hand, was published in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing).

The idea was to take an alternative character from a fairytale and write their story up. I chose the youngest stepsister to Cinderella to write about. Great fun to do. I could make that character narky about Cinder’s success and so on. (And if you would like to check the book out you can do so here.

This kind of thing is a great writing exercise. It makes you think about the “bit part” players and explore their personalities. What stories do they have if they were allowed to take the starring role for once? Is there resentment against the well known one’s success or do they hope that some of that “luck” will rub off on them? Do they do anything to try to earn that “luck”?

Do they have success that surpasses the well known character’s new life? Are they reliant on magical help or do they make their own success? Could the well known character end up envying them? All great ideas to explore.

Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 20-13-07 Allison Symes

This World and Others – Where Magic Is Normal, What Isn’t?

It’s a fair question I think. So your created world has magic as a normal thing. What else is normal that wouldn’t be considered normal here? Is there a price to be paid for magical usage (such as it draining the user so they have to be careful how they use it and ensure they don’t waste their own energy)?

What would your magical creations consider unusual about life here on Earth? They would see the absence of magic as abnormal but what would they make of science, for example? What would they make of technology and medical developments? Would they see them as almost magical?

I’ve mentioned before it is important to set parameters for magic. If everyone can use it, where is the story? Where is the conflict? But have certain species only able to do this kind of magic, others able to do everything, and you can set the scene for clashes (and interesting stories). If your magical world wants to spread its magic to other places, how will it deal with another setting which is resolutely opposed to it but can fight back using non-magical weapons?

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Exciting News: Creativity Matters

Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing book covers supplied by #WendyHJones.

Some images created in Book Brush by me, Allison Symes, for the Creativity Matters book and with Pixabay images for other posts.

It has been a fabulous start to the week with very exciting publication news. More details below. (Image below, which I LOVE as you can imagine, provided by #WendyHJones, as is the one further down showing all of the authors taking part in the Creativity Matters book).

Allison Symes and Creativity Matters

Facebook – General

Nice to take Lady out on a big walk this afternoon after I resumed swimming again. Nice to get back to that too.

Swanwick feels like an age away now! I’m pleased to say I’ll be taking part in another writing event later in the year. More details nearer the time but am looking forward to it as I will be running a workshop and giving an author talk.

Just a quick reminder I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month. I share writing tips, stories, news etc in this and sometimes share an exclusive YouTube video of a mini flash tale. When I thought about what I should put in a newsletter, I put my reader’s hat on and went for features I knew I would enjoy if I was receiving the newsletter myself. To me, that seemed a sensible starting point.

If you would like to sign up for (and a big hello to those who already have), please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Delighted to say that, despite only being on pre-order at the moment (until 1st September so not long to wait for actual availability) Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing is doing extremely well on Amazon. Lovely start to the week for all of us involved with this book and well done to #WendyHJones, the mastermind behind this book.

Am also thrilled to say the book has reached No.1 in the Hot New Releases category (see screenshot) and the paperback is now available on pre-order. So lots going on! It was a joy to write a chapter on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories.

Creativity Matters - Number 1 Hot New Releases


Hope you have had a good Sunday. Many thanks for the wonderful response to the pre-order news about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing yesterday. See below. I now have the Amazon link for this – see below for that.

This week on Chandler’s Ford Today, I will be talking about how special the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School is and looking at the benefits of going to it. I can say those of us who went are suffering withdrawal symptoms but it was so good to meet up in person again with friends I’ve not seen for such a long time. I am grateful for Facebook and Zoom keeping communications going in the meantime. Both of these things have been a lifeline for me this last year or so.

Am working on non-fiction in another capacity too at the moment as I am preparing presentations for future use. I used to use PowerPoint years ago but then it fell out of fashion. Zoom has effectively brought it back as it is an excellent tool to use when screen sharing. Again not something I was doing a year ago but prove again, if needed, the writing journey is not static and you do keep learning. That in turn is good for the old brain and your creativity overall I find.

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PUBLICATION NEWS

Am thrilled to announce Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing is now available for pre-order. It comes out on 1st September. Currently in ebook only but it will be available in paperback as well soon. Will share details on that as and when I can but watch this space as they say.

My chapter in this book is Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories and it was a joy to write. This will be my first non-fiction work in print and I hope there will be more to come in this area for me over time.

Later, on 3rd September, I will be posting on Chandler’s Ford Today my interview with #WendyHJones as publishing other authors is a new venture for her. I look forward to sharing a great in depth talk with her about why she went this route on her own writing journey, the new skills she had to learn to do this, and she shares three fabulous tips for writers for getting the best out of working with their editor and publisher. All very useful material and I can’t wait to share that soon.

Creativity Matters-2

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Despite technology, it still pays to keep a notebook and pen to hand. Why?

If I’m feeling ground down and uninspired (and it happens to us all, usually a case of life getting in the way), I turn to said notebook and flick through it looking for ideas that give me a “spark”. I usually find something and once I’m drafting the story, I feel much happier.

I jot down in said notebook ideas for stories but also things like interesting titles. For those, I work out what I could do (often using a spider diagram to work out different lines of approach). It is also reassuring to have that notebook to hand so I know I’ve got something to refer to – and while I still like pen and paper, I do also use Evernote for this kind of thing. Who ever said you had to only have one notebook?

It is perhaps appropriate for a flash fiction writer to have brief notes for later use. I’m well under the 1000 words limit when I’m jotting ideas down.

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It’s not every day I hit No.1 in the Amazon Hot New Releases category but Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing has done that today. (23rd August 2021). Well done to all of the other authors involved and to #WendyHJones. (You can now pre-order ebook and paperback – hooray!). So a great start to the week.

In other news, as they say, I am delighted to share my latest YouTube video. Hope you enjoy Decisions.

 

I now have an Amazon link for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing. See below for that. It was a great pleasure to write a chapter praising the merits of flash fiction and short story writing.

Talking of flash pieces, may I say a huge thanks to all who have already given feedback on my latest #FridayFlashFiction story, Discretion. The feedback is much appreciated. And congratulations to all of the writers who were listed in their recent competition, which was designed to blend in with the Edinburgh Festival competition.

Am also looking forward to taking part in an online flash group meeting (Association of Christian Writers) next week. Flash fiction is great to share on Zoom as well as in Open Prose Mic Nights.

Screenshot 2021-08-20 at 19-19-31 Discretion by Allison Symes

The big news is the release in ebook of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing. I contributed a chapter called Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories and it was a delight to answer that question in said chapter! The book is compiled and edited by #WendyHJones and will be out in paperback as well soon. I am delighted to be “between the covers” with excellent writers for company and thrilled this is my first non-fiction work out in print (as opposed to online).

I am always happy to write and talk about flash fiction and short stories!

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction

Goodreads Author Blogs – “Real” Books

What do I mean by “real” books? I have no time for the “proper” book -v- ebook debate. Both have their merits and disadvantages. I also hope ebooks have encouraged more reading by bringing books to a screen very near you – that is one in your own pocket! I also want people to discover the joy of paperbacks from reading ebooks if books in general have been a closed chapter to them prior to reading on screen.

For me a “real” book is a novel that has characters who gripped me all the way through and wouldn’t let go until I did find out what had happened to them.

For short story and flash collections, I want to be gripped by the characters, but also by wanting to find out what the next story is about, the one after that and so on.

For non-fiction, I want to be gripped by the way the author is putting the information across so I have to find out what the conclusions were or, in the case of say a Ben Macintyre book, what happened to the real life character he is writing about.

The ultimate test for a “real” book is whether you can bear to put it down to do other things such as go to sleep. If you do so reluctantly, it is a great and “real” book all right!

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Writing Humour, Reviews, and Discretion

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. A huge thank you to Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh for taking part in a fabulous two part Chandler’s Ford Today interview about Writing Humour. Book covers and author pics supplied by Fran and Ruth for the interview. Ruth also supplied images from her garden. Isabella would be at home there!

I love the mix in my title this week! It has been a busy week on the blogging front…

BookBrushImage-2021-8-20-19-3611

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share Part 2 of Writing Humour, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Here #FranHill and #RuthLeigh discuss the joys and challenges of writing funny material. Fran writes memoir. Ruth is a novelist who has used a diary format for her book. So different styles of book then but the problems and joys of writing humour are the same for both writers.

This week the ladies share with me whether or not they outline, given funny material has to arise naturally from the characters they portray. They also share their favourite one-liners and discuss marketing funny books. They also look at how their writing has developed and I ask the “killer” question. Given we all have to edit our work many times before sending it anywhere, is there a risk the humour wears thin for them on repeated reading of their own material? Check out the post to see how they respond to that.

And many thanks to Fran and Ruth for a wonderful two-part and very in-depth interview which sheds a spotlight on a form of writing which is difficult to get right. Tastes in humour vary for a start but when a funny book is “done” well, the impact of it can be tremendous. Think what a poorer literary world it would be without Austen, Wodehouse, and Pratchett.

After the last year or so with the pandemic, I think the world needs more funny books and material. Not that I’m dropping a hint to Fran and Ruth or anything…!

Part 2 – The Joys and Perils of Writing Humour – Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh

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Hope you have had a good Thursday. This time last week was my last full day at Swanwick 2021. Has this week at home been strange getting back into the usual routine? Yes, but you need time back at home to process all you have taken in and work out what you are going to do with all those lovely ideas you came up with while in the wonderful company of inspiring writers. Inspiration breeds inspiration.

I’ll be sharing Part 2 of Writing Humour where I chat to #FranHill and #RuthLeigh about the trials and joys of writing what is a difficult form to get right. See link above. Humour is subjective after all. Link up for that tomorrow. (And I am looking forward to reviewing my week at Swanwick for Chandler’s Ford Today on the following Friday. Lovely pics to follow with that one too).

Still can’t get over the weather. It is bizarre for August. Very murky and autumnal almost out there. (Lady doesn’t care. She’s happy to have me home again!).


It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this month I am talking about reviews. Do you love them or loathe them? How easy or otherwise do you find getting reviews for your books and stories? Do you have a review policy for other writers and their works? I discuss all of these in the blog but can’t stress enough how useful a review, no matter how brief, can be for a writer. Other than buying our books of course, reviewing them is probably the next best way a reader can support their favourite authors.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest flash piece on #FridayFlashFiction is called Discretion. I return to my hapless Sarah, the magical being on Earth who has been sent on a mission to get humans to believe in magic again without performing any to prove its existence that way. How does she fare this time when told to produce something in front of a human yet still not use obvious magic? Hope you enjoy finding out!

Screenshot 2021-08-20 at 19-19-31 Discretion by Allison Symes

I’ve had the pleasure of judging some flash competitions (and hope to do more in the future) and what I can say from that perspective is the title definitely matters! It is the first hook to lure your readers in to discover what your story is all about. And most flash competitions don’t include the title as part of the overall word count allowed so make the most of that. (Some do include it so always double check the rules but the majority I’ve come across do not).

You can use the title to set the mood and genre of the story without then having to spell that out in the tale itself. Open titles, that is anything which could be taken in more than one direction, are my favourites as those entice the reader in to find out which direction you have taken with it. (I love these as a reader. I enjoy it when I guess right but am more impressed when the author betters me here!).

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I discussed alliteration yesterday (see below) but I do like to mix up how I approach finding titles for my stories, as well as for the way in which I write the tales up. I often use proverbs and well known sayings for titles but I sometimes change one word to bring a unique twist I can make good use of for my story.

When I have brainstorming sessions, I often jot down ideas for titles only. Later I will come back to these and work out story possibilities from there. (This is where spider diagrams or flowcharts are useful as I can easily see where the different ideas are taking me. I always go for the one that makes the most impact on me as that will be the idea I will write up with the most conviction. It’s coming from the heart because it has had that impact on me. Also if it appeals to me, it is likely to appeal to others).

I keep titles short. (Generally one to three words. The most I go to is about seven. I want my titles to be easy to remember and when I do go for longer ones it is because I am using a proverb I need to quote in full – e.g. Time Waits For No Man – or where the title wouldn’t make sense without the “extra words – e.g. Time Is For Others to Worry About).

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Fairytales with Bite – Messages in Storytelling

One aspect to fairytales I especially love is that the classic stories get across timeless messages without preaching. For example, the classic message from The Ugly Duckling is to not judge by appearances. (That is also the message from Beauty and the Beast).

Another popular one through so many tales is that good will overcome evil, even if it does take its time doing so. Think The Snow Queen, Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel amongst many, may others.

You learn to look out for character types in fairytales too. I can’t remember what age I was but I did know early on that if a wizened character turns up, look out for them. They’re likely to be someone important in disguise. I don’t know how many stories I had to read and re-read to get that message but I did get it!

Likewise, you develop a kind of sixth sense as to which characters really are up to no good despite their fine words.

Best of all, the fairytales show us the messages and leave us to come to our own conclusions. And that is what we need to do for our tales. We need to think about our message, the characters who could deliver it, and then let the characters and the story unfold as the readers go on. Timeless messages are the ones that work best. When will there ever be a time when we don’t want to see evil overcome?

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This World and Others – Would You Live in your Created World?

Well, would you live in your fictional world? If not, why not? Think about the aspects of it you dislike. Why are they in your story? Are you reflecting your dislikes of things we know about here in your stories?

It’s absolutely fine doing that but it pays you to be honest with yourself about why you are writing these things the way you are. By understanding this, you will make sure you are getting across what you need to get across.

If, for example, I wrote a story about anti-bullying (I loathe bullying of all kinds), I could write this from the viewpoint of a victim (yes, I was once). I could easily show the horrors of bullying and the impact it can have on people. I could also write from the bully’s viewpoint (though I think I would find this far harder to do and I think I would probably have to go down the “it is part of expected culture” school of thought as it gives the bully a reason to do it. Indeed, if the bully was threatened for not wanting to do it, you could use that to generate some sympathy for them).

So you have to know why you’ve chosen things you dislike because it will help you to write those things up with more conviction. That does come through to a reader. I know I’ve read things where I instinctively feel yes, this author has been here or knows someone who has. It makes the story “live” for me.

An anti-bullying story would reflect my loathing of bullying but I need to have realistic characters and their behaviour to make sense, even if I dislike it. It has to feel real. My loathing of bullying is a good starting point but I need to move on from there to create a story readers would get behind.

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Back to Earth after Swanwick

Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Had a fab time at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (and a huge thanks to Fiona Park for the image of me signing books there recently), but also glad to be back home and at the old writing desk once again. (Lady went bananas on my return and in such a sweet way!). Image below taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

Have started work on my next author newsletter (to go out on 1st September – to sign up for this just head over to my website – landing page – at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com). I share news, tips, exclusive stories etc here. I hope later that some of those stories will make it into future flash collections but newsletter readers get “first dibs” on reading these.

Am pleased to say most of my slots for Chandler’s Ford Today are full until towards the end of next month and that’s always a good sign. Plenty of fantastic interviews to come and I will be sharing Part 2 of Writing Humour with Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh this coming week. Link up on Friday.

I will also be looking back at a wonderful week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for CFT soon too. (It’s a good way to celebrate the fact Swanwick happened at all and gives me a chance to share some of the benefits of going to it).

Writing Tip Time: One writing tip that has always stood me in good stead is to read work out loud, especially dialogue. What looks good on the page or screen does not always read well. If you stumble on something, your readers will too. I’ve made many an amendment to a story due to that alone. It is worth the time. That extra polishing up can make all the difference to whether a story is accepted or not.


Back to the usual writing week after a fab week at Swanwick. I’ll be drafting blogs later this evening but since coming home I have submitted a flash fiction piece for #FridayFlashFiction and I will be sharing a YouTube video of mine over on my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly.  See further down for the video. (I wrote the story for that video yesterday).

I like to have a good balance of non-fiction and fiction achieved over the course of a week and as long as I manage that, which I normally do, I’m happy. I am also carrying out editing work at the moment which is always interesting.

Funny day with the weather today. Think it’s still trying to make up its mind whether it’s summer or not…

I’ve mentioned before I sometimes use random word generators (nouns, adjectives, questions, numbers even) to trigger story ideas but another way to use them is simply to come up with say half a dozen words and ensure they are somewhere in your tale.

I tend to use the generators to trigger themes and/or title ideas, but the “have to use the words somewhere in the story” ploy is one I need to do more often. I’ve always had fun with this when doing these in the past. So I think it pays every now and then to look at prompt types you used to use and perhaps don’t write to so often now and have a creative trip down Memory Lane and revisit these.


Hope you have had a good Sunday. I know every day this week I’ll be thinking back to what I was doing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this day last week! Swanwick gets to you like that but it is in a lovely way.

Just a quick heads up to say my debut flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again – the paperback – is currently on offer at Amazon. (Sounds a bit like a film franchise, you know the kind of thing, when I put it like that. I promise not to name my eventual third collection XXX – This Time It’s Personal!).

Looking ahead this week, Part 2 of a fabulous interview with #FranHill and #RuthLeigh will be on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Have blogs to put up and schedule too and there is always flash fiction to work on. I drafted some while at Swanwick and I need to give some thought as to where I’ll submit those. I have ideas for both. I have the nice task of deciding which I like best. And I am working on workshop material ready for events later in the year. I’m looking forward to sharing details nearer the time.

Learning to plan out what I write when has been a useful tip I have made good use of over the years and it is coming into its own for me now.

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Had a lovely afternoon and evening with family members I’ve not seen for months. Today was the first time in so long that we could have a proper chat and Lady was besides herself with excitement. She loves visitors. She thinks they all come to see her of course. (Oh and she did go bonkers on seeing Mum had returned from Swanwick yesterday. Naturally Lady had to make sure Mum really was back by giving big cuddles to said Mum. Mum did not mind in the slightest!).

Have plenty of blogs and stories to get on with but I will resume my usual writing routine from tomorrow. I always find I need a little bit of “come back to earth” time after Swanwick. Am also looking forward to reading the books I brought back with me though I have already made a start on those. One of my great “home treasures” are my book shelves, packed with signed books by writer pals.

Many thanks for the comments in on my It’s an Ill Wind (up on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday). That was lovely to come home to!

Screenshot 2021-08-13 at 19-12-37 It's an Ill Wind, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Alliteration Always Advantageous – In titles for flash stories or collections? Not necessarily. (There’s some more alliteration for you!).

I am wary of anything that might come across as gimmicky so I use alliteration sparingly. It can work well but I think as something different to the overall “mix” in a collection. I also want to keep titles open to interpretation and/or mood so trying to dream up something with alliteration can mean I restrict myself unnecessarily here. You wouldn’t want a whole book of alliterative titles. I could see that becoming boring.

As with the stories themselves, your titles should have an interesting hook to them. I’ve used random generators (especially the question one) to come up with ideas for titles I can use directly or adapt. Often changing one word makes all the difference. And I want my titles to have impact. So anything gimmicky could reduce that impact.

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16th August
Pleased to share my latest YouTube video based on a story I wrote yesterday. Hope you enjoy Knowing the Basics though I am glad I do not have Sandra’s attitude to flying. I am even more glad pilots don’t have Sandra’s attitude. See the video for why!


I mix up the kind of prompts I use to produce flash fiction. I will often start with my favourite, an opening line, but have worked to a closing line. I like picture prompts too and random words (either to get into the story somewhere or to use as a title and/or theme) also work well for me.

Stories from viewpoints of alternative characters got me into print in the first place with my A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing) but are great fun to do. You do have to put considerable thought into which character you will use for this and why you have picked them.

On switching to Scrivener, I was delighted to discover it comes with character and setting templates in the short story format. I just adjust these to my own use as I don’t need all of the pre-set information given. But it makes a great starting point and thinking about your story before you write it works well for me.

I like to know I have got tracks to follow before getting on with the story. I guess it’s a reassurance to me I have got something to work up into a story in the first place.

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I was glad to take part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic night again. I chose two stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again (Serving Up a Treat and Calling the Doctor). From Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I chose Judgement Day. See book trailer below for Calling the Doctor. I’ve always been proud of this one – I change the mood of the story with the very last word. Great fun to do.

You have a maximum of five minutes to read (and it is always better to come in a little under that time if possible) and the joy of flash here is you can easily do that with one longer piece or a couple of shorter ones.

It does pay to read your stories out loud and/or record yourself reading them and playing them back. I’ve found dialogue I think looks okay on the paper does not necessarily read well and if you trip over something, your reader will too. At least with flash this does not take long and it is a good thing to hear how your story comes across as that is how your reader will take it in.


Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events and Paperbacks

I’ve just come back from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which has been my first live book and writing related event for well over a year. (It was fantastic catching up with old friends again and the array of courses and workshops was as amazing as ever).

Swanwick has its own Book Room for the duration of the school and it was lovely being able to put my two flash fiction collections in there and pick up books written by friends. (Naturally I got them to sign them during Swanwick week and it is always a thrill to be asked by others to sign your own books).

Is the paperback alive and well? They certainly went down well at the Swanwick Book Room! I think the paperback is still relevant as a format. After all, you can’t exactly put a Kindle out on a table for a book event! Nor can the writer be asked to sign a Kindle (well, I’m not aware of any way of doing this anyway).

From the writer’s viewpoint, paperbacks are relatively easy to transport to an event (note I only say relatively as it does depend on the size. Thankfully I am not writing a three volume epic so that helps a lot!). But people do still like physical books and I think it is healthy to have a wide range of formats as not one size suits all.

When I’m away I do take my Kindle to save luggage space but I would never want to be without physical books. There is something about the texture and feel of them too (and I still love that new book “smell”). And long may that continue!

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Writing Humour and My Swanwick Report


Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Images from the 2021 Swanwick Writers’ Summer School taken by me, Allison Symes.

Am learning so much at Swanwick and it was lovely catching up with a fellow Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books author, Linda W Payne, too. More below.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Firstly, it was a joy to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Oh how I have missed so many friends there.

Glad to meet up with most of them again (and I hope to catch up with the rest this time next year, God willing). As ever, the courses, workshops, and guest speakers were excellent.

And the quiz team I’m part of, Prosecco Queens aka this year as Prosecco Avenue(!😄😄), finished in medal position for the general knowledge and literary quizzes. (Silver and bronze respectively before you ask…☺). Great fun. Oh and Minnie the Minx turns out to be older than I thought. It is amazing what you can learn from these things!

Secondly, I am delighted to welcome back to Chandler’s Ford Today Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh, who write wonderfully funny books in very different ways. Naturally this two-part interview had to be called Writing Humour.

Fran and Ruth share fabulous insights into the joys and perils of writing humour. Hope you enjoy the post. Can’t wait to share the concluding part next week.

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The Joys and Perils of Writing Humour Part 1 – Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh


Final part of the flash fiction course at Swanwick today (Thursday). Focus was on marketing and it was good to get plugs in for CafeLit and Friday Flash Fiction. Also sold another From Light to Dark and Back Again afterwards, which was unexpected and lovely.

Also enjoyed the Competitions course, which was packed to the brim with tips and useful advice.

And I’m pleased to say my Side Benefits of Writing article is now up on Mom’s Favorite Reads.

 

Had a fab Wednesday here at Swanwick. (This is the nearest I get to being a roving reporter by the way!😄).

Della Galton’s flash fiction course is engrossing and yes I have flash pieces from it. I’ve entered one of them for the flash competition here. And I will submit the other one after I get home. Have a few ideas where it would fit.
Also went to a non-fiction workshop which was packed full of useful info. I do have a long term project on the go here so this hour session was timely.

Also went to Diana Kimpton’s course on creating a series. Could I apply that to flash writing? Well, the course has triggered ideas.

Outside of Swanwick, Part 1 of a fab interview with Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh on Writing Humour will be on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Looking forward to sharing that. (See above).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Was on way home from Swanwick as I drafted this. So good to be using Evernote again. Drafted some flash pieces for me to work on further and got on with editing a bigger project too so pleased with my efforts.

Thrilled to have had my best year at the Swanwick Book Room too. You can never know how these things will go. But I can say I waved the flag for flash fiction, which is something I love to do.

Delighted to come home and discover It’s An Ill Wind is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it.


Screenshot 2021-08-13 at 19-12-37 It's an Ill Wind, by Allison Symes


Final day at Swanwick. The week flies by. Final part to the flash course was very good and looked at editing and marketing. Always useful topics.

Hope to get a piece in for Friday Flash Fiction over the weekend. I sent in a piece before Swanwick so hope to check if it made the cut for this week on my trip home tomorrow.

 

Glad to say all copies of Tripping The Flash Fantastic in the Swanwick Book Room have sold. Thank you, everyone.
Good to come across other flash authors here. I love the differing things you can do within the format. Don’t forget many a writing exercise can be turned into flash stories. Why not give that a go?

Fairytales with Bite – Five Things to Avoid

  1. Trying to be clever with magic you are not qualified in as this has never ended well.
  2. Annoying older folk. Just be aware they may not be all they appear. Many an arrogant idiot has discovered that nanoseconds before being turned into something ugly.
  3. Misreading a spell. It won’t be you in uncomfortable footwear but a heroine with feet cut to ribbons won’t do much for your career advancement.
  4. Annoying wildlife. In a magical world they will be more intelligent than you.
  5. Coveting gold. Not a good idea in any world as it could lead you into legal and other trouble. In a magical world, you could face being blasted away by a dragon. I know. I’ve written on the topic!

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This World and Others – Five Things to Include

  1. A sense of where your created world is in the overall scheme of things.
  2. Who lives in it, how they survive, and how the world is ruled.
  3. The similarities and differences between your created world and what we know here.
  4. How your created world gets on with others in its solar or equivalent system. Or not as the case may be.
  5. Does your world send out explorers or welcome any coming to it?

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