LESSONS

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels generally. Pictures of my dogs are by me, Allison Symes.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share the link for a two-part series for Chandler’s Ford Today called Lessons.

In Part 1, I look at my favourite lessons in school and those I loathed. I discuss learning to drive later in life and how I’ve learned different things from my three dogs. All three have had great personalities but all have needed different handling. You are always on a learning curve with a dog!

In Part 2, next week, I will be looking at lessons learned from my writing life, which have not just helped with professional development, but with my life in general. Now over to you. Which school lessons did you love or loathe and why?

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I don’t know about you but I’ve always got plenty on my To Do lists (yes, plural!). It is my writing To Do list that gives me the most joy though. No real surprises there. (If anyone can find a way of making housework, doing the laundry etc., fun, they’d be on to a winner).

The order in which I tackle my writing To Do list does depend on what time I have available on which night. My overall goal is to get so many tasks done in a week to ten days. If I can tick off a fair few, I’m happy, With longer projects I break these down into more manageable tasks and ocmplete those over a couple of weeks.

It is a question of working out what works best for you.


My CFT post this week is the first in a two-parter called Lessons. This week I look at lessons in life. For Part 2, due out on 11th September, I’ll be looking at lessons learned from writing which have helped me in all kinds of ways and not just in professional development.

But back to this week’s post. I look at what were my favourite and loathed school lessons and how having more than one dog can teach so many different things based on their personalities, amongst other topics.

Lessons are an ongoing thing. I like the idea of never stopping learning. It keeps you on your toes and, if nothing else, that has to be good for mental health. I’m definitely all for that! Link up on Friday.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I talked about lessons in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (and will be specifically talking about writing lessons next week). But the most important things I’ve learned is to be open to:

  1. The idea that story ideas can come at any time. I know where and when my main triggers for idea generation happens so I ensure I can either make a note on Evernote on my phone or I’ve got a notebook to hand. I lose fewer ideas this way.
  2. The idea there is more than one form of writing and it is perfectly okay to play with different writing styles.
  3. The idea you can’t know you can write, say, flash fiction until you do write it!
  4. The idea rejection is nothing to fear. It is never personal. You can usually learn something useful from it and that can help you with further writing projects.
  5. The idea that no writer is really in competition with one another even if we write in the same genre. We have unique voices. I can only write as Allison Symes. Anything else would be a pastiche, and not a very good one either, so I will write what I can write in the way that I write it. I will stretch myself and aim to keep on improving on what I do. That is where any competition lies. Can I write another story? Can I write it better than the last one?

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One nice aspect to writing is that ideas can fuel other ideas. One of the stories in Tripping the Flash Fantastic was inspired by a writing prompt idea I shared during the cyberlaunch of From Light to Dark and Back Again.

I shall have to see if I can do that kind of thing again for the cyberlaunch for TTFF! Mind you, it would be nice to come up with more than one idea I think. Otherwise the next collection will take forever to get together!

As with FLTDBA, the new book is full of characters, some of whom you’d like to meet and others you definitely wouldn’t. I’ve used a mixture of first and third person and there is a good representation of the word count spectrum. I hope to share the book cover in due course and am really looking forward to doing that.

Ideas don’t always come at convenient times. I tend to sleep heavily so having the old notebook and pen by the side of the bed in case I wake up “inspired” is a complete waste of time for me. Said notebook and pen would remain unused (and I never wake up inspired!), but I do find ideas will come when I’m out about. This is where I find Evernote on my phone handy. I can jot thoughts down and come back to them later.

It pays to work out when ideas are most likely to come to you. Do certain triggers such as time of day set them off? Or is it a question of needing to be out and about in the world and picking up story cues from there?

By knowing what your own personal trigger is, you are less likely to forget good ideas. Oh and they never come to order either! My other trigger is to be busy working on another piece of writing and then a great idea for another project pops up so I make a note of it and come back to it later.

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It has been an autumnal day here in Hampshire today. Sun, rain, a real dip in temperature, and my big cardigan is coming out of the wardrobe ready for regular use over the next few months.

Do you use the seasons in your writing at all? I mainly use Christmas given I have written fairytales based around Santa. No hiding the season there! But other than that, the seasons don’t feature in my writing much.

I suppose it is because I have always been much more interested in characters rather than in the time of year they happen to be inhabiting at the time of the story.

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Fairytales With Bite – Spot the Fairytale

C = Characters need to be believable, even if the world in which they live is not. (Maybe especially if it not!).
I = Instinct for what is right and wrong often plays a big role in fairytales. Think of the number of “old” people who turn out to be wizards or fairy godmothers in disguise who are looking for the right “lead” to get the benefit of their magical help.
N = Narrative voices can be animal voices in fairytales.
D = Drama plays a big role in fairytales. Think of the classic tales and what the heroes/heroines are put through.
E = Expect magic to play a role in the story but it will always be for the deserving. (The undeserving either get nothing or are humiliated in some way).
R = Romance can play a role. Most of the classic fairytales involve a love story but it is always a case of ensuring the right people get together here. And so often it is the underling that is the right groom etc. Think of Aladdin for example.
E = Energy. I’ve found fairytales have an energy and rhythm of their own. The Rule of Three often turns up. (Three sons – you can bet it will be the youngest one who will be the hero). You know that good will overcome evil and the pace of a fairytale is generally fast. The longer fairytales such as The Snow Queen are broken into sections to help try and keep that sense of pace.
L = Longing. The main character will inevitably be longing for change of some sort, whether it is to escape domestic abuse or to make their fortune.
L = Listening ability is important. The lead has to take the wizened old person seriously to do what they are asked to and then be surprised in a good way when said wizened old person turns out to be far more powerful than they thought.
A = Always expect an appropriate and usually happy ending!

This World and Others – Location, Location, Location

Which location have you chosen to use for your created world and why? What makes it different from Earth? What are the similarities? What is it about your location that enables your characters to survive in it? Could we do so?

Have you ever wanted to visit fictional locations? I know I have. I’ve always fancied visiting the chocolate factory in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I would definitely want free samples!

I’d also like the idea of exploring Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings, especially The Shire, which looks charming. I’d give Mordor a miss. And I would go to Narnia the moment Christmas was restored and celebrated properly. Having said all of that, I’ve never fancied accompanying Alice down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.

So what do you like about fantasy settings and why? I like the crossing of the ordinary with the magical. Youngsters still need schooling of some sort, regardless of what species they are.

What is it about your world that readers have to know and why does it matter? Answering questions like these will help you hone in on what is most important and it will be that and only that which remains in your story.

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Welcome to Tripping The Flash Fantastic

Facebook – General

Well all good things must come to an end and I am now travelling home. Fantastic tour of Scotland on the way, mind you. (As at 12th September!)
 
Am looking forward to holding a cyberlaunch for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will post about that separately. Am looking forward to taking part in author event with Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox later this month. Next few weeks will be busy, busy, busy but all in a good way.
 
As you can imagine, I’m thrilled to have two published books to my name and hope there will be more in due course.
 
Naturally I am proud of the anthologies my work appears in too.
 
Did I have any idea any of this would happen when I started out as a writer? Of course not. The writing journey is a rollercoaster ride and I can’t tell you how many rejections I’ve had. I gave up counting to be honest.
 
What I do know is not giving up and being open to trying different forms of writing worked for me. There is no Use By Date here either so hope these things continue to work for me.
 
 

Many thanks, everyone, for your kind words, likes etc., since I announced the “arrival” of Tripping the Flash Fantastic.
 
I look forward to sharing news of a cyberlaunch in due course but the first event will be the 26th September one where I will be talking about the book and sharing some stories from it.
 
I also look forward to hearing what #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox have to share. Do join the three of us from 3 to 4 pm on 26th September. I will be posting about this on Chandler’s Ford Today later this week and all details for how to register etc will be on that.
 
Oh and you can get a flavour of TTFF if you pop across to Amazon and use the Look Inside feature. (See link below and above).
 
whats-your-story
 
Have started the process of updating pages like this one (my Facebook author page) with my book cover image for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Thought I’d include a couple of images where I’ve been reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again. (I do LOVE the Chapeltown frames. Do check the entire series out incidentally. The books are a real eclectic mix but that frame makes them stand out as far as I’m concerned).
 
Many thanks to #PennyBlackburn for the one of me reading at Swanwick (I’m behind the stand for that one). Also thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for the one taken of me reading at a Bridge House Publishing event.
 
A big thanks to my other half for the picture of me with published works, though he is going to have to redo it! (Am hopeless at selfies to be honest). All part of the marketing though.
 
Have started the process of catching up with everything after a holiday. I need a fortnight I think..!
 

Just a quick post to say I’d contacted Amazon to update my Author Central page and they did so within 24 hours. 

Hope your Tuesday has proved to be okay. Very warm in Hampshire. Coming back from Scotland at the weekend, well it does seem like someone has turned up the thermostat in Hampshire! (It’s either that or I’m having more hot flushes than I realised!).
 
Writing plans at the moment are focused on getting ready for the Zoom event and my cyberlaunch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, plus of course my CFT posts and other blogs I write for.
 
Am looking forward to getting some goodies prepared with my book cover on so will no doubt be spending some time on a certain well known company’s website at the weekend, working out what I’d like to get in! I loved this aspect of things for From Light to Dark and Back Again.
 
How long does it take to get a collection together? For me, it is about 18 months. That is partly due to the fact I like to have a couple of writing projects on the go so therefore a collection is bound to take a bit longer to put together.
 
The advantage of this approach though is I am blogging in different places, entering competitions, revamping earlier stories and submitting them and it makes my writing life beautifully varied and interesting.
 
I’m also taking part in blogs and interviewing authors especially for CFT and I do see posting my blogs as part of my overall marketing. It gets my name out there and I hope the blogs prove to be useful and interesting. I love reading a well crafted blog myself and always learn plenty from them. I do limit how many I read though otherwise I wouldn’t get any writing done!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The journey home from Scotland is a lovely scenic tour and I love glimpses into the places I pass by. What will I miss most on going home? The gorgeous views around where I was staying.
 
What would your characters miss most if you took that away from them?
 
If another character tries to take that away, what would your lead character do to stop them? What revenge is your character capable of?
 
Plenty of story ideas there!
You would be right if you thought I might be a tad excited about TTFF coming out! But on to other issues as there is a question I’d like to put to you, yes you.
 
Quick survey. Which do you like LEAST about the writing process?
 
1. Getting the first draft down.
2. Editing
One thing I try to avoid with my flash fiction is in writing “the same old”. This is why I like setting my tales in different worlds, time periods etc., and to use varying genres for the stories themselves.
 
There is so much variety in writing historical flash fiction, crime flash, horror flash, funny flash etc. The other advantage of this is it means I’m never going to be short of something to write!
 
I like to think of my books as “selection boxes” of stories. Who doesn’t like a selection box from time to time?!😊 I often read flash and short story collections in between reading novels. By the time I’ve finished reading a collection, I know what genre of novel I want to read next!
Hope you like the change of picture at the top of this page!  (My Facebook book page). With a new book out there is plenty to do but the good news is it doesn’t all have to be done at once. I am planning to share a couple of stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the Zoom event on 26th September. Look out for my CFT post on Friday which will give more information and the link for this.
 
I love opportunities to read my stories aloud so am so looking forward to this event. And I am looking forward to hearing what fellow authors, Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox, will share with us too.
 
The challenge of flash fiction writing doesn’t diminish. You have to think of new characters all the time and work out what to do with them. You get through characters very quickly. But that is all part of the fun for me. Inventing new people was always the big draw for story writing for me so win-win here!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Audio Books

Audio books come into their own for long car journeys. It has been a joy to re-listen to Raising Steam and Snuff from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series on my way home from Scotland. Hope to listen to his Reaper Man later too.

And it is lovely to be read to as well. From a writing viewpoint, I get to hear how dialogue works. And I can always learn from that.

What are your favourite audio books? Do you prefer the book in audio or in print? What makes a book work for you in audio?

For me it has to be the way the narrator brings the characters to life. A good narrator makes all the difference.

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Lessons from Writing and Scenic Scotland

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. Scottish pics and images of Lady, the daft but loveable Border Collie cross, were taken by me, Allison Symes.


Book cover images for The Best of Cafelit 9 and Tripping The Flash Fantastic supplied by my publishers – Bridge House Publishing and Chapeltown Books respectively.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share the link to Part 2 of my Lessons series on CFT. This week I look at lessons learned from the writing life, all of which are useful beyond that.
So over to you. What lessons have you learned from writing and how have you applied these in other areas of life?

Went back to Dunnet Bay. Such a wonderful beach. Lady thinks so too! Walked for miles though it always seems further on sand than it actually is!

Plenty of brisk fresh air. Managed to see buzzards fairly close up (could make out the colouring underneath. Don’t usually get to do that). Also spotted a kestrel, sand pipers, and oyster catchers.
Now drum roll please… Very exciting news on Tripping The Flash Fantastic to come soon but in the meantime, take a peek at this!


Achievement of the week and possibly the year for me  – I climbed 600 feet in about a mile exploring the track that runs behind where I’m staying. Yes, it was a very steep track! But see the views below. 

Lady bounded up it with no issues at all before going on to have a splendid playtime on Dornoch Beach later in the afternoon. Result? One tired but happy dog!

What would be the perfect day for your characters and why? What would they do to anyone or anything that got in the way of them having that perfect day?

There are story ideas there for a start but also use questions like this for outlining your people. Work out what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Different writers have varying requirements here but what you do need is enough for you to get going on a story with characters who deserve to be written about.




Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I’ve learned so much from the writing life as I discuss in this week’s CFT post. The great thing is I know that learning will continue.
My hopes with regard to flash fiction is to continue to develop characters and stories.

Maybe try different genres within flash? Maybe write a novella in flash one day – who knows?

But while I know there is writing to do and things to try within that, I know the buzz of writing won’t diminish. And I love that!😄

Big news is that I can now do a book cover reveal for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will be sharing more news soon on this.
I will be talking about TTFF as part of an author talk with Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox on 26th September.

More details next week and my CFT post on 18th September will give details on how to register for the FREE Zoom event at the end of the month.

Am I a happy bunny right now? You bet!
Lovely day back at Dunnet today. One great thing about dog ownership is that our pets break down barriers. I’ve had far more lovely chats with people since owning a dog than before! 
Although 2020 has been an awful year, I am so pleased to hear in one week The Best Of Cafelit 9, where I have flash stories included, and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, are “out there”. (Kindle only at moment for TTFF but paperback to follow).
Would still like 2020 to dramatically improve though and I know I’m not alone there.

I love autumn. I love the changing leaf colours. And the heathers on the hills around where I’m staying at the moment are such wonderful colours.

But there is a sense of transition this early in September as we leave summer behind. 
Flash fiction is great for demonstrating those senses of transition in your characters.

They go from one state of being to another – that is the story you’re writing after all.

What you need to figure out is which moment of transition is the important one to write up.


Fairytales With Bite – Favourites


My favourite part of most fairytales when I was a kid was when the fairy godmother etc turned up and you knew somehow from that point, everything was going to work out okay.
My favourite part of a fairytale now is harder to define but I like to see characters contributing to the fairy godmother’s efforts to help them.

I also like to see the villains get their comeuppance.And I know that last like is something I’ll always have!
I refer to a lot of my work as fairytales with bite precisely because they are not twee. Nor am I writing to the children’s market (Roald Dahl was the past master there in my view!). 
I’ve never liked it when someone dismisses something as “just a fairytale”. There is no just about it. Fairytales are deeper stories than some give them credit for!

 

This World and Others – Geography


I don’t refer to geography a lot in my flash tales but did use it in my unpublished (as yet!) fantasy novel.

I needed to know something about the landscape my characters inhabit and whether that gets in their way. Also I wanted to look at the differences and similarities with our world.
This is where photos come in handy for sparking ideas. I totally understand why so many fantasy works have a map with them. (I must check out the Discworld one for The Streets of Ankh-Morpork as that is one map which will be fun!☺).
The nice thing now is there are far more avenues of research available now. Archives, libraries, the web etc. I guess the danger now might be you could have so much fun researching, the writing takes a back seat!

So it would pay I think to plan out your research just as much as you would plan out the story itself.

Think about what you need to know, jot down where you think further research might be needed later, and write.

Also make a note of sources of research in case a publisher asks and in case you need to retrace your steps. It happens!

Holidays and Publication News

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. Scottish and Lady pics by me, Allison Symes. Book cover image by Gill James for The Best of Cafelit 9.

Facebook – General

Am heading to Scotland for a short break. First time I’ve been there in the autumn. Looking forward to lots of lovely walking on deserted sandy beaches and to exploring the forests.
Now the fantastic scenery won’t in itself inspire story ideas. My imagination doesn’t work like that.

What the scenery and walking will do is blow away the cobwebs and relax me. Then the ideas will flow. And I am all for that!😄

Gorgeous day walking at Lairg and Golspie. Dog very tired but happy. Literally dog-tired! Lovely to be able to join in with Zoom church service this morning too.

Planning to draft some blogs and flash tales this week. Writing and reading relax me so they are the perfect wind down.

There is a well-stocked book shelf here too so will be investigating that too. I recall the last time I was here there was a copy of Somerset Maughan’s A Writer’s Notebook. Must dip into that. Insights into the writing life always fascinate me.

Delightful day at St Dunnet Bay today, the top edge of the UK mainland. Lady had a wonderful time but is now struggling to stay awake. The price dogs pay for fun!😄😊
Am delighted to say The Best of Cafelit 9 is now out and I have stories in here. Hope to chat more about this next week but did want to congratulate all of the writers with work in here meantime.

If you like a good mix of stories and styles, do check out the Cafelit series.

Spent day walking along Golspie beach and at Lairg woods. It is amazing how much sand a black collie can collect! Lady is happily snoozing away as I write this. Always a good sign she IS getting her exercise well enough!

One major difference with us holidaying now rather than in May is that we’re not seeing the deer in the field opposite where we’re staying. We guess they’re up in the hills preparing for the rut.

Writing wise, I’m drafting bits and bobs as the wonderful Scottish fresh air is not just knocking Lady out for six! But am enjoying my “pottering” writing wise and my reading too. Sometimes it is good to “tick over”.

Facebook –

From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is fascinating seeing the country change as I go up to Scotland for a brief holiday.

Changes are interesting. They are vital too.Changes in character behaviour are what drives a story. Something has to happen. Something has to change.

But a character changing their mind can be the trigger for your story. Change doesn’t necessarily have to be dramatic.

Elizabeth Bennet changing her mind about Darcy turns Pride and Prejudice (as does his changing his mind about her).

How has your Sunday been? I’ve enjoyed glorious walking with hubby and dog on the NE coast of Scotland. Fab weather and good temperatures too.

Am looking forward to my annual challenge of getting as much info on a postcard as possible and sending same to my nearest and dearest. Still this is appropriate for me – flash fiction has been called postcard fiction!

And an interesting idea that came out of the creative workshop via Zoom I “went to” recently was to use the text as well as the pictures on old postcards to trigger story ideas. I might try and use the pics on the cards I pick up and see what I can do.


It is a privilege and pleasure to have flash stories included in anthologies, as well as in my own books.

On that note I’m pleased to report I have stories in the newly released The Best of Cafelit 9.

I hope to chat more about this later in the week when back from Scotland but it is lovely to have further publication news to return home for.

Am surrounded by beautiful old stone walls where I’m staying now. So many stories behind the building of those I suspect.

One thing I adore about visiting places such as Salisbury Cathedral is you do get to find out how the building was constructed, the names of the families doing the work and so on. Glimpses into a past world.

And that is what flash fiction is all about – giving readers glimpses into the past, the future, the present, the strange universe you’ve created etc. You choose where to set your stories and what glimpses your readers see.

Goodreads – Holiday Reading

– Holiday Reading

Do you make promises to youraelf to do so much reading while on a break? I do! Most of them I do achieve.

This time, while I’m in Scotland, I’ve promised myself to catch up with one paperback and three books on Kindle. Can’t wait to “tuck in”! I hope to catch up on reviewing too.

And the positive thing about heading into autumn with the nights drawing in, it does encourage more reading.

Creating Characters

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Also a big thank you to Richard Hardie for the images supplied for my second CFT post which appeared over the weekend, more below.

Facebook – General – bonus Chandler’s Ford Today post

A busy week on CFT for me this time. My second post this week shares news from YA author, Richard Hardie, about his link with Doctor Who. All very exciting and a feather in the cap for Richard. Well done! Check out the post for more details.

Facebook – Association of Christian Writers

More Than Writers blog spot – Creating Characters

It’s my turn on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

I talk about Creating Characters and share hints and tips, including a list of questions that will help you outline your “people”.

Hope you find it useful. (And many thanks to those who have commented on this. Much appreciated).

A good TV or film adaptation of a book only works if the images shown roughly coincide with the images I had from reading the text. The Inspector Morse series did this, as did the Poirot and Miss Marple series (with David Suchet and Joan Hickson). Film wise, I thought Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings had it spot on.

Are there any books you would like to see made into series or films? Which ones and why? Are there adaptations that haven’t worked for you? (I couldn’t get on with the Marple series. For me, Joan HIckson was perfect in the role and that was that).

When it comes to writing my stories, I put myself in my character’s shoes and see the world their way. I don’t always like my characters by the way! (Oh and a big thanks for a tremendous response to my ACW post on More Than Writers yesterday which was all about Creating Characters. Glad it was useful).

What I have found is you DO have to inhabit your character’s space so you can write about them/for them effectively.

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One very tired Lady on the sofa tonight. Had a great big play with several pals, including her “boyfriend”, a lovely Collie gent, and her best pal, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I should imagine they’re pretty shattered as well!

Enjolyed listening to the Movie Music Hall of Fame on Classic FM today. I was right about the top two and pleased about them too. Must remember to find out where the Pink Panther theme came in (and there’s an earworm for anyone of a certain age!).

I usually write with classical music on as I find it helps me relax and when I relax, I’m more productive with the writing. Other things I have to have on my desk are my dictionary, my Scrivener for Dummies guide, my publisher guides (Writers and Artists and Mslexia) and plenty of pens (I know! I’m using a laptop, what do I need pens for? I guess I just like to see them around!).

I don’t have any rituals before writing. I just open my laptop and get on with it but I do like to see the accoutrements on my desk. I suppose it’s a case of Allison going into her comfort zone sort of thing.

And now I am IN my comfort zone, time to get on with more writing then!

 

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I can’t say a particular writer made me pick up my pen and start writing. I’ve loved books and stories for as long as I can recall. I loved writing stories in English lessons at school (and I’ll be talking a bit more about that in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week).

But it took me a long time to figure out I really ought to get around and write seriously. It took two major life events to wake me up here! My only serious regret with writing is NOT starting a lot sooner than I did.

But it is wonderful to say that all of the writers whose books are on my shelves (and the electronic one too!) have added to my love of stories and storytelling. For that I will always be grateful. And then there’s the joy of discovering new writers too.

If I could invent things I would invent:-

1. Elastic time so I never run out of time to read or write.
2. Calorie free chocolate.
3. Calorie free prosecco.
4. A stamina “topper-upper” for those times you could really do with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t know about you but I find it unsettling it is 8.30 pm in August in the UK and it is pitch black out there! (Not due to the weather either). The seasons are definitely shifting. Talk about going from light to dark!

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favourite writing exercises is writing to a set opening line. The ones that work best for me are the ones that can be taken in more than one direction. For example:-

1. The door remained locked despite her efforts.
2. He was on time, as the note insisted, but nobody was about.
3. The fairy godmother was on early shift.

Now all three opening lines here have comic as well as dramatic possibilities. (The door could remain locked because it took her a while to realise she was using the wrong key. He might be on time but what if he turned up at the wrong place and forgot to check? As for the fairy godmother, what could she expect to have to do on early shift that she might not face later on in the day? Definitely scope for humour there and that would almost certainly be the way I’d take these story ideas).

I find it useful to jot down initial ideas from an opening line and then go for the one that is a little way down my list. That is the idea which is not likely to be the obvious one and could well be open to my putting a twist on it, which I always love doing.

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One of my favourite stories in my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, involves a librarian and a snake. Can’t say more than that at the moment but it was great fun to write! By all means, let your mind boggle at the thought of that!

But then that is the fun of fiction. You can write in any genre, any time period, and the impossible isn’t so much in things like fantasy, magical realism etc.

Whatever you write, it is important to enjoy it. I mentioned to a friend and fellow author (the lovely #ValPenny) that you have to enjoy what you write, especially if it is a book, because you’ll be promoting said book for a long time.

You as the writer have got to be able to live with what you’ve written and enjoy living with it too! That’s an aspect to the writing life which isn’t often considered I think.

But commitment to what you write shows up here and not just in the hard work it needs to get those stories written in the first place.

Writing is good for you as it stretches you and develops your imagination. It is also good fun experimenting with different forms of writing and discovering where your strengths are. But even when you’ve found the style of writing that suits you best, writing should still keep pushing you.

Pushing you to keep on producing good work.

Pushing you to discover new markets/competitions for your work.

Pushing you to get better at editing your work and polishing it as well as you can to give it its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world.

Pushing you to develop new skills including but definitely not limited to reading your work to an audience, making the most of technology to produce items that can help you market your work more effectively, and so on.

What writing doesn’t do is allow you to rest on your laurels and that’s a great thing. Why? Because you want to keep on developing. The writing journey should be as much fun as possible. Different things come up along that journey, things you would not have expected when starting out, and by developing you will be ready to tackle those things and have more strings to add to your bow.

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Am looking forward to taking part in the Zoom session with #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox on 26th September. I hope to be reading a story or two, including one from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. You did hear it here first!

I will share the link to the event later in September. You do need to register but the event is free. I’ll also be flagging it up via Chandler’s Ford Today in due course.

Flash is great for reading aloud at events etc. It doesn’t take too long to read. It makes an immediate impact and the “deeper” stories resonate with you and linger long in the memory afterwards. Nothing to dislike there!

And I’ve said before it is a good idea to read your work out loud so you can hear how it flows, whether the dialogue etc comes across as smoothly as you’d like etc. If you trip over your words, a reader almost certainly will. Again with flash, this doesn’t take long. I’ve spotted things I’ve needed to change many a time doing this.

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Goodreads Author Blog Book Dilemmas

What book dilemmas, I hear you ask?

Well, there is the obvious one of which book you are going to read next from your naturally huge TBR pile.

I refuse to believe that doesn’t give you pause for thought from time to time! (I get a little annoyed with myself for doing this. I realise the half hour I spent deciding what I’ll read next could have been spent on reading!).

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll reduce the TBR paperback pile or the one on your Kindle.

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll read short stories or another novel or non-fiction.

There is no one right answer to how you answer these.

I find I read a load of things on my Kindle for a while, then switch back to paperbacks for a bit, and that’s fine with me.

I just need to stop wasting half hours every now and again making up my mind and just get on with what matters – the reading!

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How Has Your Summer Been?

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

ADVANCE NEWS:  Delighted to say I’ll be sharing a platform via Zoom with Gill James of Bridge House Publishing and, fellow flash fiction writer, Dawn Kentish Knox on Saturday 26th September 2020 between 3 and 4 pm UK time. More details further down and I will flag it up again nearer the time. We’ll be talking about the writing life and our books and working with a publisher so plenty to enjoy. Tickets for the event are FREE but you do need to register. Link also below.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My post for CFT this week is called How Has Your Summer Been?

This could’ve been a short post – two words ending in “awful”. 😄It’s not, honest!

I look back at the summer and share highlights including my video for the Waterloo Arts Festival in July, which includes part of my winning story, Books and the Barbarians.Hope you enjoy.

Reviewing the summer, as I have done for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, is the kind of fun post I like to write every now and then. It is a good opportunity to look back and recall the positives as well as acknowledge the negatives.

This summer has been the strangest one I’ve known (and hope I’m likely to know. I do fervently hope next year is much closer to normal than where we are now.

I know people talk about the new normal and there will be that, but I also believe in the truth of the saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. I want what was good from pre-lockdown to come back/remain and my post reflects this.

 

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EVENT NEWS – 26TH SEPTEMBER 2020

ADVANCE NEWS and bonus post from yours truly.

I’ll be taking part in a special Zoom event on September 26th from 3 to 4 pm (UK time) with Gill James (Bridge House Publishing, Chapeltown Books, Cafelit) and Dawn Kentish Knox, fellow flash fiction writer.

Link for FREE tickets below and the blurb for the event also.

Eventbrite link for Bridge House Publishing event on 26th September 2020.

Some of our writers will read from their work and tell us about their life as a writer. We shall give some insight into the publishing process. There will be free gifts for all attendees.

(Dawn is in the middle of the top picture when you click on the link and her The Great War is such a moving example of what flash fiction can do and be. Always happy to recommend that!).

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Boy, did the heavens open at about 5 pm. So glad I didn’t go out with the dog until 6 pm! Still plenty of idiots not allowing for flooding on the road etc and driving without a thought for anyone else. Mind, I guess they’d do that anyway regardless of what the weather is. Keep well, drive safe, and avoid the huge puddles, everyone!

I’ve TWO CFT posts to share with you this week. My usual spot tomorrow night is my review of the summer (and there are good points, honest! I also get to share my Waterloo Arts Festival video so if you would like to hear an extract from my winning story, Books and the Barbarians, you can do so!).

Meanwhile, I do have a stories page on my website so if you fancy a quick read do pop over (see link below). I hope to add more stories to this page in due course. One lovely thing about flash fiction is it can make a great advert for the other writing you do and it is easy to share.

My second CFT post is a Local Author Post with YA author, Richard Hardie (Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords). He has special news to share and that post will go out on Saturday.

Also on Saturday will be my spot for the Association of Christian Writers’ blog page, More than Writers. I’ll be looking at Creating Characters which I hope you’ll find useful. I look forward to sharing that.

Above my desk I have a framed print which reads “Don’t give up on your dreams”. I’ve found that very encouraging and no doubt will continue to do so, but if I could add a modifier to it, I would put in something like “it’s perfectly okay to change your dreams if you need to!”.

I say that because I changed direction with my writing to focus on flash fiction (and I am so pleased I did that!).

Just because one dream doesn’t work out quite as you thought, that’s no reason to think ANY dream of yours is bound to fail.

I have unpublished work that I hope at one point might see the light of day somewhere (especially after work on it!) but I will not fret much if it doesn’t happen. (I would like to say I wouldn’t fret at all but writers always have something that niggles a bit and it is usually an unpublished MSS they would like to do something with! It can haunt you…).

Why? Because my dream was to be a writer and then to be a published one. I hadn’t anticipated it would be in short form fiction but that’s fine and it came as a pleasant surprise.

I would say it was more important to be open to trying new forms of writing as you may well discover an avenue that you hadn’t known existed and who knows where that might take you?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

F = Fun to write and read.
L = Length of story may be short but the impact is powerful.
A = Adjectives are made redundant as you find better choices of word to suit your word count limit! (This is a good thing. Makes you think about word choice more).
S = Story. It is all about the story. Something has to happen that a reader wants to find out about.
H = Hero/heroine – oh yes. But the number of characters in a flash tale are limited. You have to focus on one or two at most AND the most important point.

F = Fabulous settings and worlds are possible.
I = Imagination can be set free. The limits of flash fiction encourage you to think outside the box more. Just where can you set your characters? Anywhere, actually!
C = Characters. They are your stars. Flash fiction has to be character led, even if that character is “just” your narrator. Monologues can be effective flash fiction pieces.
T = Time. The time frame in a flash tale has to be limited but having a framework, I’ve always found, encourages creativity. Just what can you do inside that frame?
I = Intensity. Flash focuses sharply. You are looking at one/two characters and what happens to them in a short span. So a flash tale is intense and can pack a powerful punch emotionally precisely because of its short word count.
O = Originality. I’ve found writing flash encourages this. You learn to think differently. What can I get my character to be/to do in this short space? What reaction do I want to trigger in a reader and how can the character act in such a way so that happens? Your character can be in any point in time and space, can be any species you care to invent etc. There’s a lot of potential for originality there!
N = Nothing new under the sun? Maybe. The very short form of story writing has been around for a long time. Think about Aesop’s Fables, Jesus’s parables in the Bible etc. We just call it flash fiction now. So what can you do with your flash fiction writing? Have fun with it. Explore what YOU can bring to the table here.

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I’ve written a mixture of story moods and word count lengths for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, as I did with From Light to Dark and Back Again.

For TTFF though I’ve written a flash story in diary form for the first time, which was great fun to do, though it does come in at the upper limit for flash. It was good to experiment though and I do love the characters in this particular tale, especially the feisty Rose – and that’s all I can say for now!

I loved putting the collection together for Chapeltown Books. I like a mixture of moods in what I read so it is only natural that should be reflected in what I write.

 

 

Flash fiction might be stories in miniature but they still need to have a proper beginning, middle, and ending. A successful flash fiction story leaves the reader feeling as if no more could be said.

I like to think of flash fiction as precision writing as you need to select words carefully to make the most of the available word count but it does help with any other writing you do.

The habit of selecting words carefully carries over and that is so useful. So often the first choice of word is not necessarily the best one for what you are trying to say. It’s natural to reach for the “obvious” when something with more depth is what is needed to make your story become something special.

That doesn’t mean writing purple prose though. Clarity is everything. Think specifics.

For example:-

Harriet wore a coat that belonged to her grandmother. Granny always said a woman ought to have an outfit or something to match.

Not a lot of info there. Match what exactly?

How about:-

Harriet wore a red coat that belonged to her grandmother. Granny always said a woman ought to have an outfit or something to match.

Better. Have got a little more detail here and we now know Granny clearly liked bright colours and matching accessories. No subdued shades either. That may well reveal something about Granny and Harriet.

Better still:-

Harriet wore a scarlet coat that belonged to her grandmother. Granny always said a scarlet woman ought to have an outfit or something to match.
Allison Symes – 26th August 2020

Now that’s better! (And doesn’t Granny sound an interesting character!).

 

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Fairytales With Bite –

Which Fairytale Character Should You Be Wary Of?

I know, I know. Look out for the witch in the big, black pointed hat with a wand aimed at you. Yes, you should watch for her. But also look out for the disgruntled fairy godmother with a penchant for spinning wheels and very sharp needles.

Generally though I’d look out for the quiet characters in fairytales. They’re either going to end up as the unexpected hero/heroine or are a remarkably sneaky villain. And always look out for anyone who has a reason to get revenge because you just know they’re going to do so.

I’d also watch out for anyone who says they can do a little magic. Why? Because they’re either lying through their teeth and are experts OR they’re telling the truth and could kill everyone with their incompetence. (Think The Sorcerer’s Apprentice here).

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This World and Others – Time

How is time going to work on the fictional world you set up? Will it be the same as we have here or can it run backwards? Or does it run faster or slower than here? What are the impacts on the characters of all of this?

Think about how time is measured. Are your characters’ lives dictated by time (and by implication mortality)? If any of your characters are not worried about time, why is that? Are they immortal and what are the downsides to that? (There will be some and do see Doctor Who’s The Five Doctors for more on that. An excellent storyline!).

Is anyone able to control time? Anyone who could do that would hold a great deal of power so what would they do with that?

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Being Interviewed

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Interview News:  It was fabulous being interviewed by Paula C Readman on her blog. More details below.

Facebook – General

Is it me or are the nights drawing in earlier than usual for August? Still I suppose the upside to that is it encourages me to be either at my desk writing or curled up with a good book reading.

Talking of which, most of my reading I do at bedtime. I’m not seeking to analyse a story at this point! I just want to be entertained and go to sleep having enjoyed a good read. I DO, however, make a note of whatever particularly grabbed me about the book/short story. You can learn a lot from that.

I mix up reading fiction and non-fiction too. A good non-fiction book will grip me just as much as an excellent novel etc and reading non-fiction regularly can help trigger ideas for stories. Having said that, you should see my TBR pile, “real” and electronic versions! Still, those will keep me out of mischief for some time and that is never a bad thing!😀

I am delighted to be on the other side of the interview desk tonight with my appearance on #PaulaReadman‘s blog, Funeral Birds to Stone Angels. Hope you enjoy the interview (and do check out the other interviews on here too (see the Guest Book Tour Page). The chats are fabulous and I find I’m always entertained by what other authors have to say. I usually learn something useful too so win-win!).

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Delighted to see this on the Waterstones site. Looking forward to seeing Tripping the Flash Fantastic on there too!

I do enjoy writing character thoughts. I love creating dialogue too but with my 100 word stories in particular, I often don’t have room for my characters to get a conversation going!

I can get them to think though and thoughts reveal so much about the character.

What would you make of a character who thought something such as “I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s”?

What would your initial thoughts be? That the character was lazy? Dog tired and just can’t face going out?

A lot of the assumptions you make here will depend on how much of the story you’ve already read.

But what if that was the opening line? You would be expecting to see a lazy character maybe get their comeuppance perhaps? That might be the point of the story. And it may well be BUT one thing I also love is layering so how could I layer that line to get something more from it?

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here.”

Now what would you think? Maybe you would feel more pity for this character now? I know I would.

The lovely thing about layering is you get to direct how it goes and you can throw in a red herring too.

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here. I reckon that agoraphobia she says she has is just an excuse to never go out. It only needs one bus ride to get here. Just what is her problem?”
Allison Symes – 24th August 2020

Any sympathy for this character has now gone right out of the old window, yes?

Work out what you want to reveal about your character and remember you don’t have to share it all at once!

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I can’t say I was impressed with Storm Francis. (I should imagine the Pope might not be too happy at having a storm named after him. I wasn’t impressed there was a Storm Alison a few years back – okay having the second l in the name was probably too much to hope for. I know I can be a right shower at times but a storm? Really?! 😀😀).

Have got an interesting challenge for this week’s CFT post. I’m reviewing the summer! No. Stop it. It is NOT a two word article ending in the word “awful”. Honest. Link up on Friday. Probably best leave it there I think!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope you enjoyed my story, The Special Offer, in my last post. It was great fun to write and I do love using the random generators to trigger ideas. With most of them you can set your own parameters too.

The great thing with all of them is you can choose how to use what you generate. Will the words be a title, a theme, or just be placed in the story somewhere? And you can combine all or any or all of that of course.

With the number generator, you could use the numbers for times (as I’ve mentioned before), but how about a number being used as a house address where something spectacular happens? Or where the number has special meaning for your character?

It can be useful to write down a list of ideas that occur to you. The first few will be the “obvious” ones but those further down the list are unlikely to be so self-evident. THAT is where you may well find the germ of an idea that YOU can turn into something special.

Have fun!

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It was great fun taking part in #PaulaReadman‘s post on her blog today. Just so you know, I do have an interview page on my website, to which I gladly added my appearance on Paula’s blog earlier today. Scroll down and enjoy the read! Hope you enjoy the other interviews on there too. (And Paula is very generous with the cake too!).

It’s always an interesting experience for me being interviewed given I spend a fair amount of time doing the interviewing for Chandler’s Ford Today. Best thing of all? I get to talk about my big fictional love – flash fiction!

 

I hope Monday has been okay for you. Can’t say I’m looking forward to the storm that’s heading to most of us in the UK tomorrow. Still I guess I won’t need any help blowing away the proverbial cobwebs tomorrow!

I’ve just shared on my author page a flash story I created to illustrate a point I was making about layering your characters and not revealing everything about them all at once. I’ll share that story here too.

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here. I reckon that agoraphobia she says she has is just an excuse to never go out. It only needs one bus ride to get here. Just what is her problem?”
Allison Symes – 24th August 2020

Now you’ll notice immediately there’s one thing missing. Something I’ve often said is important to a tale and that is the title. It is the first “lure” into a story for your reader. So how do I go about choosing a title

?Sometimes a title comes about as a result of the theme of the story. Sometimes it can be based on the character name or their attitude. But here what would I go for and why?

I’d probably call this I’m Not Going Again because (a) it fits the story and (b) will hopefully intrigue a reader enough to find out who is the I in the tale and why they’re not going to somewhere again.

The reason why is important in fiction. Readers lap up a story because they have got to find out what happens. And that’s a good thing.

Think of the stories you’ve loved. What kept you reading them?

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I was right not to be impressed with the storm. Oh it was windy and rainy all right, but Lady and I were not sorry to get back home after our walk today. Was nice to see some sunshine later though.

Now when it comes to my flash tales I write a mixture of “sunny” tales and others which are darker in tone. This is partly due to my writing reflecting what I like to read and directly inspired my first book’s title of course.

Also because I cannot write “light” all the time.

I think it was Terry Pratchett who said you needed to have some tragic relief sometimes. The older I get the more I appreciate that.

My first love will always be light prose (and ideally funny with it) but I do think you need the darker stories as well. Doesn’t that reflect the human condition? Okay there is a limit to how dark I go but I love a well crafted crime novel as well as a funny memoir or short story collection. And there will always be room on my shelves for both.

Flash fiction is fantastic here as the form lends itself well to playing with character and seeing what you can do with them. Therefore it gives you plenty of opportunities to write lighter tales and darker ones and every which shade in between.

Goodreads Author Blog –The Wonders of Non-Fiction

The majority of my reading, whether in paperback or on my trusty Kindle, is fiction to be honest. But I’m a fiction writer so you would expect that.

However, my non-fiction “reading diet” has increased over the last couple of years, partly because I also blog for an online community magazine and a good general knowledge, as well as good sources of research, are useful for that.

But I have found I wanted to read more factual work in between the escape from it all in fiction kind of books.

I’ve enjoyed a few of Ben Macintyre’s books and have developed a greater appreciation for what is known as creative non-fiction.

Gone are the days of worthy tomes gathering dust on shelves somewhere and rightly so. You want books to be in the hands of eager readers and that goes for non-fiction too.

And non-fiction writers still have to know their audience and draw their readers in every bit as much as fiction writers must do.

So what do I look for in a good non-fiction work?

1. I still want to be entertained and often that is with a narrative that grips and is telling me an exciting “story”. The only difference with fiction is that here the story is a true one.

2. I want to learn something new and/or back up the knowledge I already have on a topic. (Ideally I’d do both).

3. I want the non-fiction book I’ve picked to encourage further reading on the topic and give me a source of ideas as to where to turn next.

So what are your favourite non-fiction books? Have you made any great discoveries this year?

 

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A Novel Approach, Favourite Books and a Free Story

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A big thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for supplying many of the photos for her interview on Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I welcome #JenniferCWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today.

This time, we discuss her venture into non-fiction with her recently released book, A Novel Approach.

The theme for this summer on CFT has very much been one of changing direction and Jennifer’s interview continues that idea.

Do check out her thoughts on the benefits of finding a good writing group amongst many other gems here.

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but interviews, I think, are the most fun of all. Why?

Because I always learn something useful, interesting, entertaining, and often all three from my guests. (So thank you one and all!).

No one author can know it all and learning from other writers is a crucial part of how we all develop. Reading interviews and, in my case, hosting them as well, helps enormously here!😊

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We all have favourite books, many of which go back years. So what made you decide Book A was said favourite? Is it a question of working out what books you have you simply can’t manage without and favourite status is conferred upon them due to that?

In my case, one of my favourite books is definitely a nostalgic one as this was given to me by my late parents. Others, such as Josephine Tey’s wonderful The Daughter of Time I came across by accident and I was so happy to find it!

Still others are books written by friends and, not only do I love the stories, but every time I look at the books, I am reminded of happy times meeting up with said friends. (Usually at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Bridge House Publishing or Association of Christian Writer events it has to be said!).

So what are your favourite stories and why do you love them so much? Do you have room in your life for new favourites? (The answer to that should be of course!). Which book is your most recent addition to the favourites list?

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Am delighted to be welcoming #JenWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Jen will be talking about her change of direction into non-fiction writing with her recently released A Novel Approach. There has been a lot of this change of direction in the air this summer! It has definitely been my theme for this year for CFT.

Jen will be discussing how she came to write the book and shares her thoughts about what a good writing group can do for you amongst many other gems. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss especially if you are thinking about writing a novel.

Meanwhile if you want to check the book out do see the link.

 

JenniferCWilson-ANovelApproach-Cover

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Free Story!

I couldn’t resist having another go at the random noun generator. This time I opted for three random nouns and what came up were “shirt”, “marriage”, and “ladder”. Now there’s an interesting mix!

Hope you enjoy the following. A humorous end to the week is always welcome!

THE SPECIAL OFFER

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the sign. “Buy a shirt and your dearest wish will come true”. I’ve seen plenty of dodgy advertising in my time. So I went over to the market trader and challenged him. How on earth could a shirt grant wishes? Especially such a bright one. Vivid purple was never my style fortunately.

‘You’ve heard of magical lamps and rings, why can’t a shirt be magical too?’ was his response.

I guess on logic alone, he had a point, but when I think of
shirts and magic, it is only in terms of being able to get leaky ink stains out of a shirt in one go in the washing machine. And that doesn’t happen often I can tell you. Unlike leaky ink stains going flaming everywhere.

‘Anyway,’ I told the guy, ‘how can a shirt know what my wish is to grant it?’

‘You tell the shirt when you get it home, silly.’

That was me told.

Now don’t judge me here. I did buy the shirt. I needed to get a present for my nephew so I thought a vivid purple shirt would be the thing. (You should see the colour of his trousers. You need sunglasses, I tell you, so a bright shirt would suit him beautifully. Okay, I didn’t envy his mother the task of washing the wretched thing. That purple would be bound to run but I’ve long told my sister she ought to get her boy helping around the house more so she can start by getting him to wash the wretched thing).

Did I make a wish? Yes. For a laugh. I know my sister is concerned about her lad’s prospects so I wished that his life would take off in a good way so she could stop worrying. Covers both of them and it’s a nice wish I think.

I didn’t tell my nephew, or my sister, where I got the shirt or about the advertising for it.

But I was taken aback when a week after I’d given the present, he and his mother came around with news. Robbie was to be married to the young lass who worked at the launderette and knew everything there was to be known about washing colours separately.

Apparently, he’d borrowed his father’s ladder, went around to the young lass’s house, and proposed at the top of the ladder on Valentine’s Day Night. He had meant to do so when he took her out for a meal but lost his nerve.

That is so like him. As was tumbling off the ladder but fortunately he landed in a huge shrub and no damage done. The shrub was all right as well apparently.

The marriage takes place next month and now I’m off to the market stall. If there are any more of those shirts, I’ll get him a load. I’ve made a list of wishes that will be of real help to a young, married couple.

It’s the least I can do.

Ends

Allison Symes – 21st August 2020

 

Flash fiction may be a quick read but it isn’t necessarily a fast write! I get a first draft down quickly but the work is in the editing (as it is with all forms of writing I think).

Honing a story to ensure every word justifies its place in the tale takes time. And I will often rewrite a section to maximise the impact of that part of the story.

I ask myself if the impact is strong enough? Will it affect the reader the way I want it to do? A change of word, sometimes where I place the word in a sentence, can make all the difference.

It is only when I know any further changes to a story would weaken it that I submit the story somewhere.

Was listening to #WendyHJones‘ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this evening and discovered a new term for what I call wasted words. The term was weasel words and I love that.

It is some comfort to know every writer has these literary pests (and mine are actually, very, and that, as I’ve mentioned before).

Still, when it comes to the edit, I know what’s coming out first and I find, with this done, it seems to get the rest of the edit off to a flying start. I find that helpful so maybe my wasted words have some use. They just don’t stay in!

Image of Wendy H Jones below kindly supplied by her. (Do check out her podcast. I was on episode 4 talking about flash fiction).

Fairytales With Bite – 

The Influence of Fairytales on Literature in General

The obvious influence is that fairytales are a genre in their own right, correctly so too. The next biggest influence I think is given most children’s introduction to literature is via fairytales, said stories act as a gateway into the wonderful world of books per se. That has to be a good thing! This was the case for me and I’ve never regretted having a lifelong love of stories and books as a result.

With that comes the influence on those children who go on to become writers. The marvellous Roald Dahl with his works aimed at children was, to my mind, clearly the successor to Hans Christen Andersen (especially as he knew children liked to read about characters who were not goody goody. Know your market always!).

Fairytales for children can lead to fairytales for adults and I would say A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a prime example of that. What an influence that particular story has had on so many of us!

The idea of wrongs being put right isn’t just for crime writing! There’s a good case for saying fairytales were well ahead of the game there.

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This World and Others – Fascinating Facts

When it comes to creating your own fictional world, and thinking of how it is all going to come together, do some research. This is where non-fiction reference books can be so useful to fiction writers. A lot can be done online of course but do go for a variety of books. This will help in ensuring you get facts right but almost inevitably you won’t find all you want in one book.

You want to create a new planet for your characters to live on. Okay. What are they going to breathe? What are they going to eat and drink? What will their climate be like? All of those things you can research based on what you know/can find out here on good old Planet Earth and then adapt for your own purposes.

If you want your creations breathing something other than oxygen, what do they breathe instead and how do their bodies manage this? Think about fish breathing through their gills. What would your people do?

Have fun working this all out and then show readers what they need to know to make sense of it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Dreams and Reading Acrostics

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Weather cooler again today – yippee! (Dog pleased too). Easier to concentrate and write too. Am preparing some blog pieces to send to various places in due course. As with the flash fiction, those are lovely to write during those pockets of time when I can only write for short bursts.

I forgot to share on this page the link for my latest Cafelit story, Sweet Dreams, (though I did share it on my book page). Hope you enjoy! This was a prompt from #GailAldwin in Gill James’ Prompts Book and it was good fun to write.

Now, without giving too much away, a favourite chocolate bar comes into this story. You’ll have to read it to find out why!

But it is useful to consider favourite and loathed things that your characters might have. Not only can you use those to add depth to your characterisation, you might be able to get short stories out of these things in and of themselves, as I’ve done here, thanks to Gail’s excellent prompt.

Oh and it’s a definite thumbs-up for writing to prompts set by others. They do make you think outside of your own writing box and that’s a good way to stretch yourself and what you can come up with as a result.

Happy writing!

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Hope you have had a good weekend and that the week to come is a productive and fun one. I did enjoy using the random noun generator (yes, there is such a thing!) to create a new flash story for my From Light to Dark and Back Again FB page yesterday. I will be using the noun generator again. NB.  The story I created, Misunderstood, will appear further down under the FLTDBA again section. Hope you enjoy it!

You can set as many nouns as you want and even choose the opening and finishing letters. I just went for two nouns at random and the great thing with that is you could use these as a title, the theme, or just work them into the story somehow.

I see all of the random generators I’ve used (word, phrase, question, noun, and even number!) as an alternative method of finding story prompts. And the great thing here? You’ve got an endless supply!

Give them a go and have fun. See what you can create. Playing with words and having fun in this manner is a wonderful trigger for creativity. And I’ve always found once you’ve got a creative spark going, you want to keep it going and you end up being more productive than you might have been otherwise.

Also the stories you draft here can be polished and edited and submitted later.

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I outline my characters as I’ve discussed before. What do I look for in said characters?

1. Basically a good reason for me to tell their story.
2. Go back to 1!

So what would count as a good reason then?

1. They have the qualities to overcome adversity even if they themselves don’t realise that to start with (and the best characters usually don’t). They don’t easily give up. They take good advice. They have the ability to recognise good advice when they hear it.

2. They are usually from a background that would make others consider them to be the underdog. I do love underdog winning through type stories and they are a mainstay of the classic fairytales too.

3. They have a moment of change they have got to see through, ensuring their lives can never be the same again. Stories like that are always fascinating.

4. They will often experience internal conflict as well as the obvious external type. Really gripping characters will have moments of self doubt (as we do) and that is what readers will identify with. It is then how the characters overcome that which will keep the readers reading!

 

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I’d thought I’d share some favourite moments in writing (and as ever this is not the be all and end all of lists. Am sure you can think of some things to add here).

1. Knowing I’ve picked exactly the right word for whatever it is I’m putting my poor characters through. I’m even more pleased if this is in dialogue. Good dialogue has emotional “whoomph” and shows a reader how the character is feeling.

2. Knowing my first draft is completed and I now have something to work with. This is where the work begins for me. It IS all in the edit(s) – and yes, there is always more than one! Sometimes considerably more than one!

3. Knowing my first edit has significantly improved my original story and I am getting glimmers of how it can be improved further. Out comes the trusted red pen and away I go…

4. Reviews for From Light to Dark and Back Again (and a big thanks to all who have reviewed it).

5. Having positive feedback on my Chandler’s Ford Today posts as that shows the piece has engaged with readers well.

So over to you then. What are some of your favourite writing moments?

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

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I’ve found a new random generator! I’ve sometimes used random word, phrase, question, and even number generators to trigger story ideas. And now I’ve found a random noun generator which could be fun. Let’s see what can be done.

I set the generator to trigger two random nouns for me. Nouns generated were “foundation” and “actor”. (Incidentally as well as choosing how many to generate, you can set the first and last letter of each noun as well if you wanted to but I like to keep things simple).

Now the nice thing with the generators is you can use what comes up as the theme of your story, the title, or ensure you use the words that are triggered in that story at some point. Or you can combine any/all of that. The important thing is to have fun with this!

So what can I do with foundation and actor then?

MISUNDERSTOOD
The actor frowned as he dug out the foundation for the new amateur theatre building. He’d been promised an audience. Sure he had one. They were all yelling unspeakable things along the lines of this being the hardest they’d ever seen HIM work. Not what he’d expected at all.

He expected the finest foundation all right. He expected it to be applied to his face as he gave the starring performance of his life, which naturally would then receive glowing reviews all over the country, and lead to bigger, better roles.

He guessed it served him right for daring to mention Macbeth on stage last week. HIs fellow actors told him it would bring him bad luck.

He’d laughed then. They laughed now.

Allison Symes – 15th August 2020

Hope you enjoyed that. I loved writing it.

 

Really loved using the random noun generator yesterday. Will definitely add that to my list of story prompt generators. You can never have too many of those! Okay, you need the time to write up all the ideas, I grant you that, but this is a dilemma every writer faces and has to find their own way of tackling.

Flash is an ideal vehicle for those lovely story ideas that are best shown quickly. My story yesterday, Misunderstood, worked best as a quick tale only. I often find my humorous tales work better that way. If flash has taught me anything (and it has taught me loads!), it is to never, ever pad your story out. If it works better at 100 words, keep it there. If it works best at 1000, keep it there and so on.

Have a good writing week!

 

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You’d think a flash fiction writer would have no problems coming up with the blurb for the cover of their book, wouldn’t you?!

Now, okay, the word count is not an issue for me here. What can be tricky is choosing what HAS to be on the cover and what would be nice to have but is not the end of the world if it doesn’t make it. Inevitably it won’t! Why?

As with the fiction itself, only the crucial details can go on. You want every word to hook in potential readers so there can be no preamble, waffle etc. You have to be realistic with yourself as to what could be seen as waffle and cut, cut, cut.

I change the way I lead into a story as this keeps things interesting for me (and I hope in due time readers as well!).

Sometimes I will use a character’s thoughts. At other times I will show you the character doing something.

I try to get into the scene quickly so a reader picks up where they are nigh on immediately and there must be something about the character to draw their interest to ensure they read on and find out what happens to them.

In She Did It Her Way, Kind Of, I start with the line “Jane Westbrook knew it was too late to do anything.” Now that sounds like it might kill a story right from the start but what I planned here was that readers would want to find out why she thought this and whether she was right or wrong.

Curiosity about a character is a really good hook and one I enjoy using.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Acrostics

R = Riveting
E = Entertaining
A = Alternative Worlds
D = Drama and Dialogue
I = Imagination
N = Narrative
G = Genre Fulfilling/Crossing

All of the above are what I look for in a good read.

Regardless of genre (and I have a soft spot for those books which cross genres), I want the book to be riveting, entertaining, and for the drama and dialogue to keep me gripped until I reach The End.

I want to be amazed (in a good way!) by the author’s imagination. There can’t be a dull moment in the narrative either.

And yet some people still think writing is easy!!

G = Gripping
E = Educational
N = Nuanced
R = Readability
E = Enchanting

And again, regardless of genres, I want whatever I read to be capable of the above. Yes, fiction can be educational. You can learn from the mistakes the characters make for a start!

For me, nuanced means the characters have to be balanced. Nobody is all evil or all good. The only over the top characters I accept are Mr Toad in The Wind of The Willows and Cruella de Ville in 101 Dalmatians but they are written specifically that way and their characters wouldn’t work any other way. But those are rare exceptions to the general rule. Characters should be balanced.

At the end of a book I want to have experienced an enchanting time reading said book. I want something about it to transport me to its setting and to regret leaving it at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Why

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A huge thank you to Wendy H Jones for supplying images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is a real pleasure to welcome Scottish crime writer, Wendy H. Jones, back to Chandler’s Ford Today and for something very special indeed.

Wendy is the only UK author involved with The Power of Why, an inspirational book featuring 23 women who started their own businesses.

G capital

Wendy shares why the question of why matters. Below is a short extract from the blurb for The Power of Why.

The Power of Why

If you are not starting your business by asking yourself “Why?”, then you are starting in the wrong place.

Five main questions should be answered when contemplating starting a business – What, Why, How, When and Where? Often women entrepreneurs do not give thought to the order of these, yet research by top universities shows the most important is Why?

Compiled by Purvi Tantia, this book tells the stories of 23 powerful women from around the world, who share the fears and aspirations which led to their Why. This book should be the starting point for any woman wanting to understand the Power of Why in her life.

Wow! Now that is quite a statement but check out the interview for much, much more. You won’t look at “Why” in quite the same way again, I think.

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Despite not being at Swanwick as I should’ve been, today has been nice.

Firstly, I had my first swim since the lockdown. It was lovely and, yes, I was slow! Second question – correct, I don’t care! I will improve…! But it was so nice to be back and the centre I go to had laid everything out perfectly and the one-way system was easy to use.

Secondly, I was delighted at #PaulaReadman‘s post earlier about her excitement at discovering her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow, is on Waterstones website. Huge congratulations to her. I thought I’d put my own name in the search bar and see below for what emerged!

SCREENSHOT - Allison Books on Waterstones online

Absolutely thrilled at this. Many thanks to Paula as, without her post, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to look. So this came as a nice surprise. Alternative Renditions, the other book shown, is where I had my first story in print published – A Helping Hand. I will always have a very soft spot for that particular tale!

I know that Paula and I would want to give a huge shout-out to our fantastic publisher, #GillJames, for all of her support at Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books.

Oh and finally the temperature has come down a bit in Hampshire. Thunder and rain this afternoon though it looks like there is more to come.

And I’ll be meeting up with some fab Swanwick ladies online shortly so, all in all, a great Thursday! Hope yours was a good one too. (It was so good to chat online with #ValPenny, #BeatriceFishback, #JenWilson,#JuneWebber, and #PennyBlackburn. See you good ladies another time!).

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My CFT post this week will be a wonderful interview with Scottish crime writer, #WendyHJones. She’ll be talking about a very special anthology called The Power of Why and showing why matters, especially to women. Very much looking forward to sharing the link for that on Friday.

(Oh and kudos alert: Wendy is the ONLY UK author featured in this book. Find out more about her involvement with this later in the week).

One of the joys of interviews is being able to set questions in such a way they encourage a discussion. The best author interviews I love reading always do that. What you want to avoid are the straight Yes/No answers so I try to never ask questions where that could be given as a response.

Now here’s a thought for the fiction writers. I outline my characters and work out what I need to know about them before I write “their” story.

So when quizzing your characters to find out more about them and what drives them, use some techniques from non-fiction interviews here.

Again avoid having a character be able to tell you a simple yes/no answer. You want to know why! The answer to why is where you’ll get the “gold” to work with in your story. That is what will show you what makes your characters “tick”.

I said why was important. And Wendy will confirm this on Friday! (Images of The Power of Why and Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by Wendy, all others from Pixabay).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Publication News – Cafelit – Flash Fiction

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

chocolate-2202151_640

An appropriate image to go with my flash fiction tale, Sweet Dreams, on Cafelit. Pixabay image.

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Delighted to discover FLTDBA is on the Waterstones website. See the link. Nice to say you can get my book at Waterstones. Most authors dream of being able to say that… I know I have.

I found this out thanks to #PaulaReadman spotting her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow (Chapeltown Books), was on there and I thought I’d just put my name in the search bar and see what happened. So glad I did.

I guess it shows another aspect to making writing friends. They can and do show you aspects to this business you might not have thought of. No one author can know it all after all. And that is something I learned a long time ago!

Mind you, the upside to that and it is a HUGE upside, is that there is always something to learn in writing, whether it is on the creative and/or marketing sides. This in turn keeps you on your toes and that is good.

Well, you wouldn’t want to become stale now, would you?

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Delighted to see this on the Waterstones site. Looking forward to seeing Tripping the Flash Fantastic on there too!

Alternative Renditions Small

A very special book in my memory! My first printed story, A Helping Hand, was in here!

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

What I love to see in flash fiction:-

1. Characters that intrigue me.

2. Characters I could see working well in other flash tales.

3. A punchy funny ending which makes me laugh (where appropriate of course).

4. A “killer” finishing line which wraps up the story and you just know it was the perfect ending for that tale.

5. An equally “killer” opening line which means you just HAVE to read on and until you’ve finished the story (which at least with flash is not going to take too long!).

6. A fabulous twist which I can either see coming (but I am looking for it to be delivered WELL here) OR one where I am wrongfooted by the author. (Always a good hat tip to anyone who can do that to me!).

7. A moment of illumination and reflection in quieter stories which have an impact long after that initial first reading. It is often this type of story I come back to again later when I want reading to soothe or reassure me.

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Fairytales With Bite – Fantastic Settings

No matter where your story is set, or how outlandish your fictional world is, it still has to be populated by characters whom we can understand and either root for, or love to hate. They must generate an emotional reaction in us. Their motives must be ones we can understand.

The setting should also be one we can get behind. After all, we know how our planet works/is run. How is this done in your fictional setting? Are there corrupt politicians for example? (I refuse to believe that could just be on Earth!).

Especially in a fantasy world, some ideas of what it looks like, how the species live, what kind of wildlife is there etc deepen your characterisation of the setting itself. (Setting can often be a character in its own right and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to treat it as one. It means you think it out for a start!).

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