Needs Met, Flash Fiction, and Mom’s Favorite Reads 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.

Screenshot of my Youtube channel front page taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the screenshot of a lovely description of me by fellow flash fiction writer, Rosemary Johnson, earlier this week.

Picture of Lady helping me to open my box of books taken by Adrian Symes.

Back to cold and wet weather in “summery” Britain right now…

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Facebook – General

Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about Mom’s Favorite Reads being at No. 1 in the Amazon charts. Much appreciated. Still buzzing from that news too!

Just a quick reminder that I post new story videos on my Youtube channel on a Monday. Do check them out at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2021-06-22 at 20-21-14 Allison Symes - YouTube

My most recent story is Needs Met, which is on the darker side, but if you like a tale that can make you shiver, this is one for you. I like to mix up what I share here, as indeed I do with my flash collections. After all, life is a mixture of light and dark and my fiction reflects that.

Have subbed another drabble for #FridayFlashFiction. The latest one is called Restless and I hope I can share the link with you on Friday for that one.

I’m preparing an excellent two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today at the moment. I love chatting to other writers here. Every writer has a unique journey and (a) I always find this fascinating and (b) I always learn something useful I can apply immediately or which might become relevant to my writing later. After all it is by chatting to other writers I have learned about markets and competitions. Looking forward to sharing the interview early on next month.

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News – Mom’s Favorite Reads

Hope you have had a good Monday. Weather wise, it has been more like autumn here. Not nice!

Delighted to that the June 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is doing so well on Amazon. See screenshot. (Thrilled my piece on Flash Fiction and Sharks is in this one. Have recently subbed something for consideration for the July issue). I’ve never been part of something that is No.1 on Amazon before! Now that is what I call a great start to the writing week.

Screenshot 2021-06-21 at 17-33-53 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , Smit[...]Screenshot 2021-06-21 at 17-33-20 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , Smit[...]
Also looking forward to being able to book my ticket to go and see The Chameleon Theatre Group when they return to my local stage in July. The Box Office is open again from tomorrow. Well worth seeing them. I was especially impressed by their version of Blackadder a couple of years ago. Also looking forward to reviewing the latest shows, which will be comedies, for Chandler’s Ford Today again.

And I have ordered a new railcard. I usually renew this annually and did so just ahead of lockdown so last year’s one was a complete waste of effort on everyone’s part! Still, I look forward to using the new one for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August, I have an ACW meeting in London to go to later in the year, plus I am taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Fest in November so I will be out and about on the train again, hooray! I’ve always loved train travel and usually get a fair bit of writing done on said train trips so it will nice to resume that again.

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My old grandfather used to say a British summer fell on a Wednesday afternoon. Given it is overcast again here today, I think he had a point.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is all about The Joy of Editing and I’ll be sharing some thoughts and tips. I like editing because I know it is here that my stories or blog posts will improve so take the view what’s not to like about that. Link up on Friday.

Busy getting my next author newsletter ready to go for 1st July. If you’d like to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – would be pleased to welcome you aboard.

Delighted to have taken part in a new flash fiction writing group earlier this week. Good fun and looking forward to doing more of this in due course. I set some writing exercises for this group and I plan to write mine up soon. I love writing exercises. I get useful draft stories out of them!

Have a good week.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Changeable weather here today.

One of the joys of Zoom has been in being able to keep in contact with writing and other friends around the country. That has been such a boon.

I’ve submitted the chapter I’m contributing to #WendyHJones’ book on Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing. There will be edits to come of course but am looking forward to working on those In due course.

A big thanks to all who’ve commented on my story, Security, on #FridayFlashFiction. The overwhelming feeling here is sympathy for my hero – for more see here.

Pleased to put in an order for Tripping the Flash Fantastic via Hive.co.uk (see https://www.hive.co.uk/ for more info). Yes, it does mean I’m gearing up for live author events (hooray!) and the lovely thing with Hive is I can donate a percentage of my order to an independent bookshop of my choice. I chose P&G Wells in Winchester (they’re the bookshop for the Writing Festival there).

Incidentally, never worry when they say “out of stock” on sites like Hive. All it means is it is a print on demand book and they have to order it in. I like having alternative places to shop for books and being able to support independent bookshops as well is a huge plus for me.

I get the double joy here of putting the order and looking forward to my books turning up. Always a nice parcel to get!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I usually listen to Classic FM when I’m writing. I find it relaxing and being in a relaxed frame of mind helps me to write more (and I hope better). Do I ever find it distracting or altering the mood of what I intended to write? Glad to say the answer to that is no. (Interestingly that wasn’t the case when I listened to pop/rock music – that did effect mood. Why this should be I don’t know. I just know it’s true for me).

Where I tend to block out the classical music is when I’m editing. I just get in the “zone” and I can be oblivious even to things like the 1812 Overture, cannons, fireworks, bells and all. (Wonderful piece of music it is too but I can be so focused on editing, I am oblivious even to that – and rightly so).

Mind you, I don’t know where my flash fiction would relate to in classical music terms. Definitely wouldn’t be a symphony! (I think the novel would have that accolade!). Short instrumental piece perhaps? Maybe.

I do know crafting a short piece of fiction takes as much care as does a longer work. I suspect the same is true for music too.

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If you like a little bit of horror in your fiction, my latest story video, Needs Met, is for you. The opening line was something I set as an exercise for a flash writing group I was leading last week (Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group) and this is my take on it. Note I don’t go in for a lot of description. It isn’t needed.

Oh and a shout-out to friend and ACW Committee colleague, Rosemary Johnson, for referring to me as a “flash fiction writer extraordinare” in her blog post which you can read here. (Lovely start to a Monday though I concede my story video is a creepy start to a Monday!).

Screenshot 2021-06-21 at 17-42-27 Reviewing, Flash Fiction and Other Things


Judging the length of a flash fiction story can be tricky at times. I write the story first, polish it, and then worry about the word count. Sometimes I’ve ended up with a 200-word tale where to take a word out would spoil it, as would adding another one. So I leave it alone and then look for a suitable market for it. I may have originally planned to write a 50 or 100 worder but if any alterations to a story would spoil it in some way, then I know now it is best to leave it be.

This is where it pays to draft and work on a series of stories though. You will then have a “stock” to consider for the latest writing competition or market to catch your eye. Hopefully you will end up with a batch of 100 worders, a few at 200 to 500 say and so on. You can then choose how to use them. Win-win there! And all the time you’re drafting stories, you’re giving the old imaginative muscles a good work out!

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I’ve become involved in a writing group recently (all about flash fiction – and fabulous fun!) and we were talking about openings. Especially for flash stories where every word has to punch its weight to justify its place in your wonderfully crafted tale, opening lines are key.

You are after the “have got to find out what happens next” moment. The next line of course then makes the reader to keep on wanting to find out what happens until you reach The End.

What I find helpful here to think along the lines of He/She/It (I’ve written many a tale from the viewpoint of an It!) and Action/Reaction. Anything that intrigues me writing the story is going to intrigue the reader.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Giving Up on a Story?

With my writing hat on, I must admit I’ve only ever abandoned two stories in my time and for the same reason. I managed to box myself in a corner and that was because I didn’t know my characters well enough. I avoid that mistake now by using a simple template that ensures I do know my creations well enough to write their stories up.

Have I given up on books by others though? Occasionally yes but I am glad to say it is a rare event. And it is for the same reason – their characters have not gripped me enough to make me want to continue to read their stories. There has been a lack of the “got to find out what happens here” in the novel or short story collection. Now this is useful. It tells me what to avoid!

You improve your writing skills by reading well. You learn from what others do. You look over well loved books and tales to figure out what it was about them that worked for you and then try to replicate that with your own creations. But it can work the other way round. You can learn what not to do!

But I am glad I only rarely give up on a book. Life is too short to waste time on a book that doesn’t grip you. I always think it a shame when you come across a book like that.

 

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Brand Recognition and Why Reading Into Writing Will Go

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.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her. Image of Joy Margetts kindly supplied by her.  Image of Maressa Mortimer kindly supplied by her. Images of me, Allison Symes, happily signing a contract taken by Adrian Symes. Think that covers everyone!

Hope you have had a good week. Busy on the blogging front today – more below. (And I have some exciting non-fiction publication news too).

IMPACT - Blogging. Pixabay

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post on Brand Recognition and Why It Matters. Years ago, any kind of marketing was done by publishers on behalf of their authors. That practice went out when Noah left the Ark…

Now every writer has to carry out at least some marketing to get their voice heard and books known about so it means we do all have to think about what “brand” we want to get across to potential readers. You want something so that people recognise yes, this is X’s kind of thing etc. In this post, I share some thoughts on creativity, persistence, accepting building a brand takes time, choosing a platform and so on.

Hope you find the post useful.

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

It’s a busy day on the blogging front for me. Am pleased to share my latest Authors Electric post – Reading Into Writing Will Go.

I think a love of reading is the biggest creative kickstart for writing there can be. A love of stories and storytelling has to come from somewhere after all.

I also share in this post how that love of reading, started by my late mother, was fuelled even further by excellent English teaching at school. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was the kind of teaching I had was going to come in so useful for writing my own stories so many years later.

And reading so well gives you an almost subconscious method of spotting how a book should look, how dialogue should be set out and so on. So let’s hear it for reading!

PUBLICATION NEWS


Am thrilled to announce I am taking part in a non-fiction book produced by #WendyHJones. What I can say now is the book will be called Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing and I will be “between the covers” with the following lovely people, as well as with Wendy herself.

Kirsten Bett
Lorraine Smith
Allison Symes (I have heard she’s okay – honest).
Nanette Fairley
Jennifer Ngulube
Andrew Chamberlain
Maressa Mortimer
Elizabeth Power
Janet Wilson
Fay Rowland
Joy Margetts

Looking forward to sharing more as and when I can. What I can also say now is this book will be the third in Wendy’s Writing Matters series (and it so does!). Very excited about this as it will be my first venture in print with the non-fiction side of what I do. Yay!

(And yes I am rather chuffed about it all as you may be able to tell).


Hope you are all well. A tad cooler today though storms are predicted later. Thankfully Lady is not fazed by thunder. My other two collies were terrified of it. Lady is not fazed by fireworks eit- ther though she does get annoyed thanks to the idiot near me who sets off the very loud ones late at night (and they really do sound like a bomb going off). You can hear Lady’s annoyance in her bark. Very much a “would you shut the hell up” kind of bark. No prizes for guessing where my sympathies lie.

Where do you go for publishing advice if you’re new to the business? There are two major ports of call as far as I’m concerned.

Firstly, the Society of Authors saved me a small fortune by pointing out what was wrong with a very dodgy contract I’d been offered. Beware the vanity press!

Secondly, the Alliance of Independent Authors is an umbrella group designed for indie authors and the self published so do check them out.

Thirdly, do regularly look at the Writer Beware! website. While US-based, the advice given is sound and boundaries are meaning less here as scammers will always seek to scam in more than one market if they possibly can!

Always check things out before signing up to anything.

You can (and should) walk away from anything you’re not happy about (I did and I had no sign of being published anywhere else at the time but I have never regretted doing this).

Never sign anything you have not had checked out by reputable sources.

Do check out the writing forums. People do share their experiences of publishing companies and services here and you can learn a great deal here.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest tale from #FridayFlashFiction – this one is called Security. It is not easy being a leprechaun charged with not allowing anyone or anything to steal the gold. See how he gets on in my latest 100-word drabble.

Screenshot 2021-06-18 at 11-42-11 Security, by Allison Symes


One of my favourite tricks of the trade is to stamp on adjectives. I know, I know. There ought to be a campaign against cruelty to adjectives but there isn’t so really tough luck. (See what I did there).

To be serious for a moment, I no longer worry about cutting words like this out. Why?

Compare the following:-

She ran quickly up the hill.
She raced up the hill.

For my money, the latter is by far the stronger image. You have a sense of speed and determination with that word “raced”, even a sense of urgency and that is conveyed in one word. Running quickly is far weaker. What is quick after all? That can vary so I would say this was not specific enough. It does not give you the sense of speed, determination, and urgency either.

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Many thanks for the great response to my WordPress blog round up on my https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com site yesterday. I issue these every Tuesday and Friday. I like to see them as a kind of magazine style round up (and it makes a great place to share videos and flash stories in one place). And this is it, of course, but I was particularly pleased with the response on Facebook for when I shared the link for Tuesday’s post. It was a good one!

Flash is a great vehicle for sharing on social media. I sometimes take part on Twitter in those posts which put up a picture and ask you to submit a six words or fewer story in response to it. All good fun.

The biggest overall benefit for writing flash though has been to sharpen up my writing across the board including for my non-fiction. It is an ongoing benefit too! It has taught me to look for where I can tighten my writing. There always is something. But that’s what the editing process is for after all.

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Fairytales with Bite – Top Ten – What Not To Do In a Magical World

  • Annoy anyone who looks as if they could wave a wand about menacingly. It’s never a good move.
  • Judge beings by their appearance. Best to assume even the most unlikely looking being is more powerful magically than you are. You won’t offend. They won’t curse you.
  • Assume just because you can read, you can make a spell book work for you. Things will go horribly wrong.
  • Gaze into a complete stranger’s crystal ball. What you will see will not be pleasant. Any sensible owner of such things will put something horrible over it to prevent what we would know as hacking.
  • Eat or drink anything where you don’t know what the ingredients are. This is a good move in non-magical worlds too.
  • Call for a republic when you’re in the Fairy Kingdom. It’s not going to go down well.
  • Despise the youngest of three – they usually turn out to be the hero/heroine. You will want them to remember you, be kind to you, and maybe help you get home again.
  • Refer to dragons as great, big ugly brutes. Not only do they want to be treated with respect, they have remarkable powers so assume your comments would be overheard. They would want revenge though it would be quick one.
  • Eat a complete stranger’s porridge, break their chair etc. It’s been done and it didn’t bode well for the culprit last time.
  • Buy cheap looking building materials from anyone wearing what looks like a very hairy suit. If you want to build a house to live in, always go for brick. The one in the hairy suit has motives of their own for selling you shoddy materials (though he does have a dinner date in mind. A one-sided one but it would be a dinner date).

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This World and Others – Classic Mistakes

Now a topic like this can cover classic mistakes made by characters or you, the writer. I’ll focus on the latter for this post as my Fairytales with Bite post above does indicate mistakes that can be made by characters.

Don’t feel you need to put in all the information you needed to create your world into your story. You need enough to convince yourself your world is real but the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know all of that. What a reader will pick up on is the writer’s confidence in their creation. Focus on showing your readers what they need to know to make sense of your world.

I love writing dialogue or even a character’s thoughts in my flash fiction and short stories. But it has to be relevant to your story and to keep it moving forward or it reveals crucial information. It is so tempting to keep an interesting conversation going between your people when it isn’t that important to the plot.

Don’t use too much of whatever language you’ve invented because readers will quickly become bored of it if they can’t work out what is meant from context. Use a little sparingly to give a flavour and that will work far better. I find reading Old English incredibly difficult, to name one example, and it is the story you want to get across to your readers, not the ins and outs of what you’ve invented to give them the story. (With The Lord of the Rings it is the overall story I’m interested in, not necessarily the appendices!). Keep it relevant Is a good motto.

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Acrostics and Focusing

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. Screenshot of part of my latest story video was taken by me.

It has been a hot few days here but Lady, my collie cross, prefers to keep it cool. Image of Lady and me taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

A bit cooler today. Lady and I weren’t sorry about that.

I’m going to have two blog posts to share on Friday. My Chandler’s Ford Today one is on Brand Recognition and Why It Matters. This is so important for writers given we all have to do at least some marketing. So therefore it pays to think what brand we want to put “out there” that readers associate with us and will like.

I’ll also have a post out on Authors Electric, which is called Reading Into Writing Will Go. Those of you of a certain age will recognise the words “will go” from the way division used to be taught in Maths. So what has that got to do with writing or reading? I look forward to sharing the link on Friday when you can find out!

So look out for two Facebook posts from me on Friday with two links.

Meanwhile back in Hot Hampshire I am so glad I live in a property that faces north. It means more heating in the winter but it comes into its own right now – it is cool here! (It is quite nice that something is cool here because I do know I’m not!).


Baking day – outside that is! Lady had a reduced exercise session before it got too hot. Although she is usually as daft as a brush, she is sensible in warm weather, knows all the shady spots to head to, and is the first of my three collies who willingly drinks water! I rarely go out without water for her and, in these conditions, it is one of the first things I get ready to take with us.

I have a good spot on our patio area where I can do a pavement test (back of hand held down on said area for at least 15 seconds. Let’s just say if I can’t keep my hand there for the required time, Lady doesn’t go out. One issue with going out later in the day is the ground has had time to bake, literally, so please if you’re a dog owner, always carry water with you, and do the pavement test before you go. If in doubt, don’t go). (Lady has happily curled up in the shade for the rest of the day and has been enjoying snoozing and woofing at my shopping delivery man so she has had a great day!).

Writing wise, a huge thanks for all the fabulous comments on my New In Town on #FridayFlashFiction. Feedback always appreciated.

Do you find it harder to write in hot weather rather than cold? Makes no difference to me as I make sure I’m comfortable enough at the old desk but I can understand if concentration levels dip somewhat. (I swear there are times my laptop is cooler than I am!). I don’t use weather in my fiction at all partly because I don’t want to fall into the “dark and stormy night” cliche trap but also I can think of several more important things for a reader to need to know than what weather my character is experiencing. I can only see relevance here if you’re sending your character on a quest (and generally you need longer than a flash fiction piece to do that well!).

Looking forward to sharing my next Authors Electric piece later on in the week too.

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Another warm and sunny day in Hot Hampshire (and a sympathetic salute goes to all hayfever sufferers!).
Stories come in all shapes and sizes but this goes for non-fiction too funnily enough. Especially when I interview someone for Chandler’s Ford Today, I want that person’s story and love to get behind what led them to write the books or stories they have. I suppose this is because (a) I’m nosey and (b) I know no two writing journeys are the same and I find it fascinating and instructive to learn from others here.

For fiction taking a bit of time out to think about what makes your characters the way they are leads to better characterisation (you really have got a handle on your person here) and stronger plot lines. So looking for the story behind the story then is always a good idea. We’re encouraged to dig deeper and not just go for the obvious ideas for stories. Looking into what makes your characters tick in more depth is a great way to achieve that.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glorious weather here. Lady enjoying it – sensibly. Currently curled up behind me in a nice cool study.

Coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today in the next month or so will be a fascinating interview with someone I first met a few years back at the Hursley Park Book Fair, which I wrote about for CFT at the time. Very much small world syndrome here but a delightful one and the interview is a smashing one. I’ll also be sharing how I met this author again as it is a great advert for networking in person where you can and online anyway. Looking forward to sharing more on all of that in due course.

Coming up this Friday for CFT will be a piece called Brand Recognition and Why It Matters – so I combine writing with some marketing for that one! (I also share thoughts and tips here and look forward to sharing this later in the week).

Thrilled to bits my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction, New in Town, has had a wonderful response to it. Acrostic stories are good fun to write though I have found you want something (a) short and (b) open to interpretation for this kind of thing. In case you missed it, here’s the link for it. Oh and it has been a great joy responding to the comments on the site itself on this one. Thanks, everyone.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the response to my acrostic flash tale called Fiction yesterday. Good fun to write and create a video for. I have discovered the joy of animations on Book Brush and used a “pulse” one for Fiction. I use Book Brush a lot for my blog work as it is lovely putting captions into the pictures I use – and they look better I think. Only downside? It is too easy to lose a lot of time playing with Book Brush but there are worse writing problems to have!

But it is creative and part of the old marketing so that’s okay then! (And the videos are a simple way to share mini-flash tales – basically under 100 words or so).

Screenshot 2021-06-15 at 20-42-49 Allison Symes

For the rest of the story you’ll have to go to the link – see below.


Pleased to share my latest acrostic flash fiction story video with you. This one is called Fiction and many thanks for the comment that has come in on this already. Hope you enjoy. There is a time for dancing in the streets…and a time not to!


I’ve mentioned before that titles carry a lot of weight in flash fiction. They indicate mood/genre of the story, freeing up precious word count room for what matters – the story itself. But it pays to keep your title short to maximise the impact of it and to allow for the fact some markets and competitions count the title as part of their acceptable overall word count limit. Do watch out for that! Also shorter titles are more memorable and that’s important to your reader (and therefore potentially to you too). You want your readers to remember your titles and the books they appeared in!

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Glad my story New In Town went down so well yesterday. Acrostic flash tales are good fun to do but work best, as I mentioned on my author page on FB earlier, when kept short and if the word or words chosen can be taken in more than one way. Double meanings, as well as hyphenated words, are great assets to the flash fiction writer!

Twice the meaning for only one “lot” of words and hyphenated words mean you get two words for the price of one. So glad to have discovered that one especially as I have made good use of it in my time. (No. You can’t just hyphenate any words – that would be cheating!).

Misjudging people can be a great theme for any story but I have used it in flash. In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my character, Walter, makes up his mind about the new postman in my story Identity. Can’t say more than that. The story is about whether Walter was right or wrong. But what was interesting here was I didn’t need to give you the postman’s backstory. You just see things from Walter’s point of view and then the story goes on to show you whether he was right or wrong.

I’ve mentioned before that with flash focusing on one character and one important incident is the way to go. Here it was a case of focusing on Walter’s viewpoint and then following it through to a conclusion. I could have brought in something from the postman’s viewpoint to indicate whether Walter was right or not. In not doing that, I’ve made the story more focused and, I think, it has greater impact.

Goodreads Author Blog – Kindles for Kinds of Books?

I love reading. Okay no big news there. I love reading in all kinds of formats and listening to audio books. Again no great breaking news story there. But I wondered if you save your Kindle or other e-reader for certain types of book. I do.

I use ebooks to test out authors new to me and for a lot of non-fiction (especially where the print version would be too big and bulky to handle. I can think of a few tomes here that would break your toes if you dropped the book on your foot – the Encyclopedia Britannica anyone?!).

I also use ebooks for short story and flash collections as these are ideal for reading on a screen.

The Kindle is one of the first things I pack whenever I get to go away (and that still won’t be for a while yet given Covid) and its finest “moment” is saving every avid reader from ever having to worry again about how many books they can fit into their suitcase. I appreciate my Kindle for that alone!

So do you save certain kinds of book for your e-reader and, if so, which?

 

 

 

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Finding Themes

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. Hope you have had a good week.

It has been a reasonable week. At least the summer has now turned up (not before time in the UK if you ask me!) and I share a new Friday Flash Fiction acrostic story too. (Screenshot of part of that story taken by me, Allison Symes. You’ll need to follow the link below to read the rest of it!). Screenshot of my profile page on CafeLit also taken by me, Allison Symes.

And whatever your writing/reading journey has been this week, I hope it was a good one.

All forms of fiction and non-fiction, short or long, will take you into different worlds and sometimes back and forward in time too

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share Finding Themes, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Glad to see comments coming In already. Do feel free to comment on the CFT page.

I discuss some of my favourite themes here and why I find having a theme useful in story telling. I also look at spotting the underlying themes in stories and what the purpose of themes is for a writer.

Of course any writing competition which isn’t an open one gives themes for writers to try so it is worth practicing writing to a theme. The classic ones come up time and again and rightly so as these have powerful resonance.

There is never going to be a time without love stories, justice tales etc. We relate to these things at deep levels. Fiction reflects life and what matters to us after all (and yes even the fantasy ones do as it tends to the characters we related to based on our own experiences of life).

Hope you enjoy the post.

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Finding Themes, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, is up tomorrow. Do themes come easily to you? I have certain ones that I adore (justice will out, eventually is one of mine) but I find that my characters can dictate the theme. For example in my The Pink Rose from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my two characters, mother and daughter, make the theme obvious – love continues no matter what life throws in the way. (Also that simple ways of showing love are often the best).

Certain themes dictate the kind of characters that have to serve them. For example, a justice will out theme has to have an antagonist and a protagonist. Someone must have done something wrong for that wrong to be righted. What can vary here is the kind of people you use here. They don’t have to be all action heroes. Perhaps an older person (or other being of choice) finds a way of righting a wrong they themselves committed long ago and they finally want to make atonement.

Link up for CFT tomorrow. (Comments always welcome on the CFT page incidentally).


Another lovely day and Lady gets to play with her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Both of them had an excellent day! Looking forward to a refreshing swim tomorrow. You can tell the weather is hot outside when the pool water feels refreshing rather than perishing cold (though I think the latter is a ploy to make you start swimming quickly – it works too!). Had my hair done again today too – lovely job done as ever by Lisa from Snips.

Writing wise, I’m busy drafting pieces for submission in the next week or so and I am trying to keep at least a week ahead on my Chandler’s Ford Today posts. I have found that pays off, especially with my longer projects on the go. My CFT theme this week is, appropriately, Finding Themes. Link up on Friday.

I have got into the habit of drafting blog posts for a variety of places, including here, that I can schedule in advance or have to hand to share when writing time is limited or if tiredness is getting the better of me. (It does for us all from time to time!). This is a great use for those pockets of time when I’ve got time to draft something short and fancy writing some non-fiction in that time. (Naturally when I fancy fiction, I’ll be drafting flash fiction stories).

There is no one way to write that will suit every author. How can there be? No two writers approach what they do in exactly the same way. We are all inspired by different things (though there will be things in common too). What is the “secret”for an effective and efficient writer is to work in a way that you can manage and sustain and still find enjoyable after xxx numbers of years writing.

I can’t imagine writing on the fly, so to speak. I am one of life’s planners. What I do like is jotting down ideas that I can play with and write up later. I don’t have any preset ideas here as to how I’m going to write up those notes but ideas do come. I think it is the case the act of jotting down that note plants something useful in my subconscious I can draw on later. It is also a question of refilling my imaginative well regularly too (and the best way of doing that by far is by reading! What’s not to love about that?).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thrilled to say my New In Town, a new acrostic flash tale, is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Many thanks for the comments that have come in on this so far – the feedback on this site is so useful. Like to think of this one as a cautionary tale. Hope you enjoy it.

Screenshot 2021-06-11 at 16-34-07 New In Town by Allison Symes

For the rest of the story, see the link!


I like to mix up the kind of flash fiction I write in terms of word count. Keeps life interesting! My favourite is the 100-worder (aka the drabble) but the advantage of the longer form (say between 750 and the 1000 words maximum) is that I can have more than one character in it. There’s even a little room for a minor sub-plot (but it has to be minor and serve the overall story to justify being in it).

Sometimes a flash story takes off and I end up with a 1500 words plus short tale instead but I simply edit this and then submit it to a diffferent market. Another lovely thing about CafeLit is they like tales of varying length too so do check them out if you like writing short stories and flash tales. There is a great mixture here.

My most recent one here, That Was the Week That Was, comes in at just under 500 words and spans a week in the life of my character. (Using a time frame for your story can work wonderfully for flash and short stories and I need to try and use this more often because it is an easy thing to overlook. Can help increase tension too as you read what happens day by day or hour by hour or what have you. Also there is a good structure built in with this kind of frame. You just need to decide how long that frame is going to be. In this case I knew it would be a week).
Allison Symes - Cafelit Profile page
I mix up the way I open a flash tale (or short story come to that). Sometimes I ask questions, which I then need to answer in the course of the story. Sometimes I make a statement which is out of the ordinary so readers have to read on to find out what is going on.

Sometimes I take a reader straight into my character’s head and that can be a fascinating, funny, or horrific experience, depending on the character I’ve written up and the genre of the tale. But what is common to all of this is that the opening has to intrigue. If I’m not intrigued by it, then a reader is unlikely to be.

And being intrigued enough to want to read on to find out what happens is the goal of any writer. Hook, hook, hook them in!

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical One-Liners

Potential throw-away lines from fairytale characters could include the following:-

Cinderella – You expect me to dance in glass slippers without cutting my feet to ribbons? Your wand is playing up isn’t it, fairy godmother?

Snow White – Of course I’ll have an apple with you, old apple seller. We’ve got to get our five a day in somehow, yes?

Goldilocks – What kind of bear has porridge for breakfast and lives in a house? Someone clearly hasn’t heard of the call of the wild then…

Sleeping Beauty – Time to wake up already? Can’t I just have another 48 hours? A girl needs her beauty sleep.

The Little Mermaid – Don’t let that fishmonger anywhere near me. I didn’t like the way he was looking at my tail….

The Snow Queen – It is never time to get the sunscreen out. We keep it chilled here. Mind, I do like ice in my drinks. It’s funny you should ask.

Hope you enjoy. (And I sympathise with Cinders here. I’d have been miffed to have gone out anywhere in uncomfortable footwear yet alone to a royal ball. Can you imagine the blisters on her feet the next day?!).

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This World and Others – World Building Favourites

When creating your fictional worlds, what aspect do you like best and why? For every type of story I write from the 100-worder upwards, it is the characters who intrigue me. I love inventing people (or those of other species. I’ve written a story from the viewpoint of a mother dragon in my time – well someone had to do so!).

Do you like the actual world building? I can imagine the great joy to be had in creating fantasy maps and the like – great fun to do I would have thought but given I’m useless at drawing (trust me Pictionary is not the game for me!), that one bypasses me completely.

I suppose because I am on the side of character in the great character -v- plot debate, it is no great surprise that I come in on the side of those who drive any story. It is the characters and what happens to them that we as readers want to find out more about.

But it is important to have fun with your writing, whichever aspect of it you like best. That fun and enjoyment helps to keep you going.

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Becoming a Flasher Queen, Transforming, and Gossip

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.

Screenshot of Mom’s Favorite Reads was taken by me, Allison Symes. The June 2021 magazine is now available free to download on Amazon – more details coming up.

It has been an interesting few days as tonight’s post title confirms!

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Facebook – General

Pleased and relieved that my better half and I have now had our second Covid jabs so that meant another trip out to the lovely city of Salisbury. A very slick operation and both of us came home wearing our “have had the Covid vaccination” stickers. I suspect we’ll end up having to get a booster every year but that’s fine. Lady now won’t be the only one in our household who has to have an annual booster (though she will remain the only one who gets treats from the vet for being a good girl!). (Lady has also had a good day today, getting to play with her Labradoodle pal, Coco, and having fabulous walks. Lady has now crashed out on the sofa, having thrown the cushions off first. It is her equivalent of an Olympic sport).

Does listening to music (of any kind) trigger memories of stories you’ve written or which you feel link to your characters in some way? Danse Macabre is one of mine as I used it for the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again but every so often I will hear a piece of classical music and think yes that would suit my character because… and I am right, it would. I find that encouraging. If my character is real enough to me to trigger that kind of response, they’ll seem real enough to a reader as well.


Dodgy start with the weather today but brightened up considerably. Lady did too on getting to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddy today, and other pals including a Labradoodle and a Hungarian Vizler.

Glad to report the June 2021 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now available to download FREE from http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B096BGP93Q

(It is available for a wide range of other Amazon stores but I thought it best to just share the UK link here).

My article on flash fiction and sharks is in there along with my story Dressed to Kill. There is a wonderful selection of other flash stories in there too and a wide range of fascinating articles. Do check it out.

Am thrilled to report I am now MFR’s Flasher Queen (!) and am looking forward to contributing regularly to this magazine.

Screenshot 2021-06-08 at 20-25-21 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , Smit[...]


Due to have my second Covid jab next week. It’ll be good to have that done. Nice weather again today. At least it’s feeling like June though we’ll see how long that lasts! My maternal grandfather, whose birthday would have been today, always felt a British summer fell on a Wednesday afternoon… sadly, he was often right!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post later this coming week will be about Finding Themes so I hope will prove to be useful.

Have just submitted another story to #FridayFlashFiction. This time it is a 100-word acrostic. Good fun to do. Best kept short and can be highly effective. You need to choose “open” words which can be taken in any direction. Will keep you posted on how it goes.

Also looking forward to sharing another acrostic tale, this time in a new story video, which will be up on my Youtube channel tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile, if you want to check out my other stories here, here is the link.

Screenshot 2021-06-08 at 20-28-53 Allison Symes - YouTube

And it’s back to the warm sunshine here. Managed to get out in the garden for a bit too.

Went to a highly enjoyable Zoom talk by #WendyHJones about killer first lines today. I always learn something useful from talks like that. And it doesn’t matter what you write – that first line has got to hook, hook, hook your readers in and keep them wanting to read.

In flash fiction, that opening line is even more important. It does a lot of heavy lifting. It sets the tone for what is to come and you don’t wait long for the delivery to come on the promise of that line.

And talking of flash, I’m pleased to share this link for obvious reasons. https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/06/05/flash-fiction/

As well as my article and flash tale here (Dressed to Kill) there are wonderful flash stories by other writers here. Check them out. I loved them. Sure you will too.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the great response to my Stories acrostic story video yesterday. It was good fun to write. Also thanks for the great responses to my story on #FridayFlashFiction (Gossip). Preparing the videos and, separately, the drabbles, is proving to be a good way of helping me balance out my fiction and non-fiction writing during the week.

One great thing about story writing is you get to choose what happens to your characters and how they respond to it. In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my story Enough is Enough shows what my character does when she is finally fed up with being body shamed. Let’s just say she’s a feisty soul, my favourite kind of character. You know a character like that is going to act and react in interesting ways! Characters have to seem real and readers need to be able to identify with them, even if they don’t like them. Characters have got to make your readers react.


Time for another story video and this is an acrostic called Stories. As ever I used Book Brush to create the video and then uploaded it to Youtube where I found a free to use audio track to add to it. The nice thing is I don’t have to wait for YT to add the track. As long as I’ve saved it, they’ll process it and when I next come back to YT, there is my video with the music added. I also like the smoke motif on this one. Hope you enjoy.

 


I talked about transformations over on my Goodreads blog yesterday (Transforming Storiessee below for link) – as transformation is the point of all stories, regardless of their length. Something has to change in a story. Something has to happen.

With flash fiction of course I have less word count room in which to do that but the upside of that is you can pack a more powerful emotional punch to the reader. There isn’t the word count room for that emotional impact to be diluted.

And in character studies, you can make the change or transformation as simple as a character realising something they hadn’t before and that it is clear this realisation is going to change their lives from that point onwards. Dramatic transformations are great fun to write and read but don’t neglect the more subtle types. Those are the ones that tend to grip the heart.


It has been a great joy over the last few weeks to have drabbles regularly appearing on #FridayFlashFiction. So how do I come up with the ideas for these? I’ve mentioned before I use odd pockets of time to jot down potential ideas and I am now writing these up so I have something to submit here.

The great thing is plenty of distance in terms of time has passed between when I first jotted that idea down and my writing it up. The ideas have still hooked me (and that is the test. If I suddenly think what was I thinking here, that is not a good sign, ever!).

What this also means is I will have to give myself another brainstorming session to jot down ideas for future use but that’s fine (and it is also fun to do).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Transforming Stories

All stories pivot on change. I write a lot of short stories and even more in the way of flash fiction where word counts are restricted but even in a 100-word story (a form I am fond of) there is a journey for the character. Okay, it is not a long one but it can pack the punch because the form is so short.

Transformations in characters don’t have to be dramatic. A character realising something is a change. Think of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Both of them change – one loses their pride, the other their prejudice – as they realise they do love each other. (And I refuse to believe that’s a plot spoiler after all this time!). Jane Austen was going to call this one First Impressions which is a fine title funnily enough but lacks the emotional punch of Pride and Prejudice I think.

Another favourite transformation for me is Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and the courage Frodo Baggins and Samwise develop in The Lord of The Rings.

So transformation matters then. (It is with some pride I can say I am in a book called Transformations from Bridge House Publishing with three of my stories. It is such a powerful idea to write and read about).

After all it is why we read. We have to find out what happens. And nothing happens without something or someone being transformed.

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Summer Here, Maybe; Gossip, and Transformations

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.

Image of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night taken by Penny Blackburn. Thanks, Penny! Also image of writers including yours truly at Swanwick was taken by Cheryl Holland on my phone. Thanks, Cheryl.

Screenshots re Mom’s Favorite Reads taken by me, Allison Symes.

Strange weather again this week but am pleased to be expanding my non-fiction work. And there is a new story to share. It is so good to be writing 100-worders aka drabbles again.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, Summer Here, Maybe? Given the weather this week, it is an appropriate title. (Still have central heating on in June… not good!)

I look at my writing plans, look forward to writing events, and discuss holiday reading. One lovely thing about books is they can help you escape from the cares of the world for a bit, so even if you’re not having a holiday as such, a good book and time to enjoy it can make you feel as if you have got away for a while, if only into the world of that book. (Yet another reason for me not to read too much dystopian fiction! When I escape into a book, I want to emerge feeling as if I have been refreshed and entertained, not plunged into doom and then face the news!).

I am also delighted to hear that our wonderful local amateur dramatic group, The Chameleon Theatre Group, are planning to be back later this summer. So hopefully that will mean a return to “CFT works outings” for my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams, and I! And it will so be good to welcome the Chameleons back. They have staged wonderful shows.

Summer Time, Maybe…

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Lovely chat with fellow dog walker in the park this morning. Her wonderful Hungarian Vizler is so polite. Whenever this Vizler shares water with Lady, she then gives me a huge lick as if to say thank you! (Lady’s best buddie, the Ridgeback, does this too). Lady, I’m afraid, gets her water down and doesn’t give another thought to it. What she will do is look up at me with happy shiny eyes after her playtime as if to say “Mum, that was great”. (Another good sign Lady has had a fab time is when she crashes out on the sofa – as she is currently doing).

So thrilled to be in Mom’s Favorite Reads this month. See https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/06/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-june-2021/ for more info. I’ve been wanting to expand my non-fiction work for a while so this is a great development.

(And of course preparing talks has been a new thing for me this year and that comes into this category too. All great fun to do, wonderful experience, and something I never anticipated doing when I started out. This is where it is wonderful that you don’t know where the writing journey will take you. There have been some lovely surprises along the way and this is one of them).

For your fiction, do your characters ever surprise you? Because I outline them before I write, I know what mine are generally capable of but every so often they can take me aback. I then look at my outline to see if I really did know my characters as well as I thought I did. I also look at the surprise they’ve given me (and it’s never without good reason) and work out what I can do with it. I also look at how that affects the earlier part of the story.

A “good” surprise (in terms of plot development) stays in. A “weak” surprise which doesn’t add anything useful but is merely an extension of the character’s personality stays out. I find better ways of showing the extension to the personality instead – and there always are better ways. Usually it’s because I haven’t been clear enough on something earlier on so that gets changed and beefed up accordingly.

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Strange day today. Started off warm and sunny. By lunchtime it was raining! Have gone from bodywarmer to thick dog walking coat in a space of a couple of hours. Hope tomorrow is more settled.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is called Summer Here, Maybe? Given today’s weather my question here is not so inappropriate after all! But I do share positive things in this post and talk about summer plans and holiday reading amongst other things. I also look at my writing plans and am thrilled to say The Chameleon Theatre Group, our excellent amateur theatre company, are planning their return this summer. Am so looking forward to seeing and reviewing their shows again.

It pays every so often to take a little time out to work out where you are with your writing. Are you where you wanted to be? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try but have never got around to writing?

Firstly, don’t worry if the answer to the first question is No. Plans change. You may discover new forms of writing, as I did, and focus on that. Also it is too easy to underestimate the time you need to find your writing voice and hone it.

Then there is the discovery of what works when submitting to this market, what works to submitting to that one and so on. One of the lovely things about writing is there is no retirement age. Have fun writing and if it takes you thirty years to get published, so be it. Your main focus must be on writing what you love to write. That love will help you keep going when the rejections come in and they will.

Secondly, if there is an area of writing you’d like to try, go for it. Do it for fun. Experiment. Have fun playing with words and if something comes from it, brilliant. If not, you will at least have the satisfaction of having given it a go.

And good luck!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thrilled to say my latest drabble, Gossip, is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy. This is one of those tales where the mood changes on two words – see if you can spot what they are! I love doing this kind of thing with my flash stories. Great fun and it is also a case of working out exactly where to place those “change” words for the best effect. It isn’t always right at the end of the story funnily enough. It isn’t here.


Thanks for the great response to my post about Transformations yesterday. I do miss going to the Waterloo Arts Festival and catching up with many Bridge House Publishing and CafeLit friends. (But I hope we can get to meet up later in the year and I am so looking forward to catching up with friends from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August).

Characters transform of course. That is the whole point of any story. There has to be change. Sometimes it is positive (Scrooge), sometimes it’s not. (Think about Marley with those chains on him for eternity. The only thing he could do was to try to help Scrooge. Marley’s realisation of the need to change came far too late).

But changes don’t always have to be the obvious “dramatic” ones. In flash fiction, changes can be more subtle. What your reader wants is to follow a character’s journey through from beginning to end and see how what character changed. In my character study They Don’t Understand the point of change for my lead here is in realising how one mistake made many years ago has led him to the situation he is narrating to us.

Changes also have to be reasonably realistic for your characters too. Unless set in a magical world, your lead character is unlikely to suddenly sprout wings and be able to fly out of trouble. (It is a good trick if you can do it though – it just wouldn’t make for a convincing story, even in fantasy. The ability to fly has to be signposted earlier on, you can’t just spring things on your reader!).

 

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I was delighted when Transformations came out. This is the paperback/ebook compilation of the winning stories from the last three years of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition. I was privileged to win three years in a row with stories in very different moods.

My Progressing is a humorous fairytale, The Professional is anything but funny but shows my character justifying what it is they do, and Books and the Barbarians looks at how emerging literacy changes a community. All great fun to write but so different in mood.

And I love that about flash fiction. All three of these tales are at the 1000 word maximum word count for flash but I took my characters in very different directions here.

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Fairytales With Bite – Magazines for the Magical

I’ve been delighted this week to appear in Mom’s Favorite Reads for the first time with an article on flash fiction (and I share a tale here too). See https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/06/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-june-2021/ for more info. (You can also find out what role sharks play in my writing journey too).

But this led me to wonder what kind of periodicals might be found in a magical environment (as you do!).

Witch Wand – well there has to be a magazine dealing with magical equipment. If you’re going to show off with what you’ve got here, you want to have the equipment with the best reviews. This magazine will help a lot there!

The Best Spells for Arrogant Heroes – one for the fairy godmother or witch wanting to cut someone down to size. This is usually done by transforming said arrogant hero into an unsightly beast for a bit. So your average fairy godmother and witch will want a useful guide as to which spells would work best so to have all that info in an easy to read magazine would do the job nicely.

Wizard World – definitely one for the blokes and has a handy job adverts page for those wizards seeking apprentices.

Food and Drink – A Magical Guide. Useful for evil stepmothers to work out the best foods to use for poisoning purposes. Also useful for those wanting to plant edible things that a visitor to their world will want to eat or drink so they can get to the next stage in their journey. (Greedy girls called Alice will like that).

Wildlife Care – Useful for those fairy godmothers who like transforming wildlife into footmen, coaches etc. Will give advice on how to look after those creatures before and after their transformations (assuming they survive it of course).

 

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This World and Others – Literacy

Is your fictional world literate? If not, why not? What does it do to be able to communicate and make its people(s) understand instructions etc if reading and writing are not options?

If it is literate, what is this based on? Texts as we know them or work that is written on stone tablets? Are only certain beings allowed to be literate? How is literacy taught and is there such a thing as fictional books in your world?

If you have a world that is trying to improve itself via literacy, what made them decide to do that? Are they making good progress?

If literacy is forbidden, why is this? Are there “underground” libraries or readers? Are books valued by the general population?

I know I appreciate literacy. I love history, both fictional and fact, and am well aware had I been born in medieval times, I would’ve been an illiterate peasant! I can’t imagine my life without books but that’s a good thing. But stories can be created by coming up with worlds and peoples where literacy is not a given thing.

Happy writing!

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Summer (finally!), The Author Voice, and Mom’s Favorite Reads

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. Summer weather now finally here in the UK and I have publication news too – for non-fiction this time and something I hope will be now be a new “regular” for me, Mom’s Favorite Reads. Screenshot of cover image of MFR taken by me, Allison Symes, as was snippet of my piece on flash fiction.

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Facebook – General

Another glorious day. For once the swimming pool water felt refreshing rather than like a blast from the icy North. (Am sure it is a ploy to make you start swimming quickly and to be fair it is an effective ploy!).

Sent out author newsletter today. Hope those of you who have signed up to it enjoy it. I love putting them together.

Delighted to say I am now in Mom’s Favourite Reads and this time I have a feature article about flash fiction (Flash Fiction and Sharks) in there along with a flash story called Dressed to Kill. Looking forward to contributing more to Mom’s Favourite Reads in due course.

It has been a gloriously sunny and warm Bank Holiday Monday in my part of the world today. This is more like it!

Looking forward to taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival later this year. (Also lovely that many of my writer pals are also going – it will be a blast!). More details as and when.

Also looking forward to giving another Zoom talk on flash fiction at the end of July. Can’t wait to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August too. So a promising summer and autumn lies ahead.

Now I’ve mentioned before that when I have odd pockets of time, I will jot down one or two liners which I will then write up into flash or short stories. Sometimes the ideas I jot down can become blog posts for Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, or More Than Writers. (From next month, I’ll be jotting down regularly ideas for articles for Mom’s Favorite Reads too).

It really does pay to to do this. I was feeling especially tired yesterday, the old imaginative tank was definitely running on low, so I went back over a couple of old ideas and wrote them up. One is a flash story which has become a story video (see my book page at https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes for the link to this – going up shortly after I post this!). Also see further down!

The other story has become a 100-word story I submitted to #FridayFlashFiction. (And I can let you know on Friday whether or not they took it!). I ended up finishing my writing session feeling considerably more cheerful than when I began it because I had something I could work with immediately and so off I went.

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Hope you have had a good Sunday. Lovely to see some “proper” May weather – nice sunshine, decent temperatures etc. Lady relished it when having her usual playtime in the park.

I guess I should’ve known the weather would perk up because my Chandler’s Ford Today post for later this week is called Summer Here, Maybe? There really is a Murphy’s Law for Writers!

On the plus side I do share some good news that has lately come to my attention in this post, discuss holiday reading, and anticipate returning to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later this year.

Mind you, I could easily have written 1000 words on the vagaries of the recent weather!

New newsletter from me out on Tuesday (1st June) so if you want to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I’ve been having great fun with Book Brush recently for a lot of my blog work as it has been great creating images I can use with the captions already in them, captions I invent. The images are still from those marvellous people at Pixabay but prior to discovering Book Brush, I had to add captions in under the image itself which, for me, was not as clear. And, of course, I’m using the same program to create my short story videos – all good fun. (Talking of which I will be sharing two exclusive short story videos in my newsletter on 1st June).

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Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers

I look at why it matters we hear from your characters, and not from you the writer, in my turn on the ACW blog, More Than Writers, this month. When we tell stories, we are showing readers what happens to our “people”. It is “their” story. We just create their roles for them. So let them speak, act, think etc. It is the characters that grip readers, the characters who keep people reading.

Now to ensure I get my characters to do the talking and acting, rather than have my author voice butting in, I outline those people first. I use a simple template so I know enough about my characters before I start writing them up.

If they don’t grip me at that stage by showing me, yes, these characters could do this, do that, really impact a reader this way, then I don’t write those characters up. If they don’t engage with me, they won’t for anyone else. I share a simple template I use a lot to help me get my characters “fit for purpose”. Hope you find this useful.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic is on offer at Amazon. See link for more info.

Also sharing the link for Mom’s Favorite Reads as I have an article on flash fiction and my story Dressed to Kill in there. Will be writing more for MFR in due course.

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Delighted to share my latest story video on Youtube – Mirror, Mirror On The Wall. (Yes, I do love using fairytales and nursery rhymes for story ideas. They can make great themes – and I’ll be talking about finding themes for Chandler’s Ford Today in a couple of weeks’ time). Hope you enjoy!

 

If you like inventing characters, flash fiction is for you. It has always been my favourite aspect to creating stories so this is a win-win situation for me. My favourite kind of character is the quirky type (and my heroine, Mary, from my story Assumptions which is on #FridayFlashFiction, is a good example. Let’s just say nobody is going to con or otherwise hoodwink my older heroines. I once came across the term CroneLit for heroines of a certain age and upwards. I like that).

And flash works brilliantly for those “one-off” situations which you couldn’t justify stretching to a full length short story (1500 words + generally). It also works well for quirky characters. Now to get on and invent some more!

 

Thanks for a great response to my story, Assumptions, on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday. Also thanks for the fabulous response to my contract news the other day. Am looking forward to writing up my chapter on flash fiction in due course.

Now I remain convinced one of the things that has helped flash take off so well in the last few years is technology and a change in reading habits. More of us are reading on screen (and I do so whenever print books are a little less convenient such as if I’m away somewhere – there are only so many books you can pack in a case and the Kindle does get around that issue!).

And something that is easy to read on screen is ideal – flash is perfect for that of course. It is also great to share on social media as a way of entertaining (hopefully!) your readers. It is great here as an advert for your writing work overall and to give something of value to your followers.

Less is more really could be the anthem for all flash fiction writers!

Goodreads Author Blog – What Puts You Off Reading a Book?

I know this is a bit of an odd question for a book blog spot but I think it a valid one. So is there anything which would put you off reading a book?

For me, hype tends to do it. I want to decide for myself what to read and I am always suspicious when a book is hyped. Lots of good reviews is another matter. People say what they think, I do so myself, and that’s fine. It’s when you get the “you’ve got to read this – everyone else is reading it” that tends to make me pause and think “well not everyone”. I don’t want to be told what to read while I am always happy with recommendations.

I still haven’t read Fifty Shades. Really not my style of book. The hype for it wasn’t going to make me change my mind either (if anything, it made me more determined not to do so).

I have got around to reading The Thursday Murder Club and loved that. I had word of mouth recommendations on this one (always the best kind to get) plus I checked out the reviews. (I still think the book was let down by poor proofreading though, always a disappointment and even more so when a big publisher is guilty of it).

So what would put you off reading a book? Is it a question that you know the genres you like and you stick with those no matter what? Comments welcome!

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Writing Prompts, Contract News, and An Artful Story

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 from the Share Your Story Writing Summit kindly supplied by the organisers. Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week. Have had exciting contract news in the last couple of days which I share below. (Images of me signing said contract taken by Adrian Symes).

Thrilled to be taking part in a book about writing by Wendy H Jones

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Writing Prompts, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. I share a few differing kinds, discuss why prompts are useful, and why it is a good idea to practice them. Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

A number of my published stories started life as responses to writing prompts so you now know why I am fond of them!

Oh and I’ll get a quick plug in for my monthly author newsletter too as I share writing prompts there too. If you would like to sign up for this, please head over to my landing page right here at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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Contract News!

Big news! Thrilled to say I have just signed a contract to produce a chapter on flash fiction for a book #WendyHJones is editing on writing. Look forward to sharing more as and when possible but meanwhile here are the pics of one very happy author!

Don’t forget my Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow and is all about Writing Prompts. Hope you find it useful. Link up tomorrow. (See above!).

(I couldn’t tell you how many writing prompts I’ve used in my time but they are a fantastic way to kickstart some writing and I have had published stories as a result of using them. What’s not to like about that?!).

Am also thrilled to bits that a dear friend of mine has a piece of flash fiction up on CafeLit. Do check this wonderful online magazine out. There is a wonderful mix of stories and styles here. Yes, yes, I know. I am biased, I write for CafeLit, yes, of course I’m biased but that’s not the same as being wrong! And I’m not here – go on, pop over and have a good read. You really will find several things to suit you here. 

Happy to sign a contract


Sun turned up today – hooray – and Lady got to play with many of her best buddies including the loveliest Rhodesian Ridgeback, a cute mini Jack Russell, a Hungarian Vizler, and a new chum, a lovely Whippet called Sky. Lady went home shattered but happy. Job done there then!

Questions to ask your characters. Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying. So what to ask then as part of your outline?

  1. What do you really want and why?
  2. What stops you getting what you really want?
  3. Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?
  4. How are you going to achieve your objectives?
  5. Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?
  6. Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on.
  7. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).
  8. What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?
  9. What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).
    Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).
  10. Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to say I have another 100-word story on #FridayFlashFiction.
Assumptions is about Mary who thinks she is good at art but is she? Hope you like it.

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I have very good cause to appreciate flash fiction. It has led to me having two books to my name (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic). It has led to me taking part in an international summit (the Share Your Story Writing Summit back in March).

It has led to me giving Zoom talks to a WI group and writing groups. It led to me having a book signing in a railway station (yes, really and obviously before You Know What).

It has led to me being on internet radion and being interviewed by the lovely #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM.

Then there is the podcast appearance on #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show. I’ve also judged flash fiction writing.

Talking of Wendy though, the latest big news is I will be contributing a chapter to her book on writing and naturally I’ll be writing about flash fiction. Am thrilled to bits. Will share more news as and when I can but meanwhile here are the very happy author pics!

(I don’t know whether it is a case of my finding flash fiction or flash fiction finding me but I am truly not sorry for a form of writing I discovered by accident thanks to CafeLit!).

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I sometimes have flash pieces published in the CafeLit anthologies and my Humourless is an example of this in the current book, The Best of CafeLit 9.

It is especially nice to have a flash story published here given CafeLit introduced me to flash fiction in the first place (and I am looking forward to sharing details of The Best of CafeLit 10 later on in the year where again I will have work published).

Do check out the CafeLit site. CafeLit are great in publishing a wide range of fiction, flash and otherwise, and from a diverse group of authors. It is always a joy to see friends’ work on here too.

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Fairytales with Bite – Changes

No world or character should stay static. A story revolves around change. The character does this, then that happens, this is what happens after that and so on. Of course, some changes are far more welcome than others and interesting tales can be generated by working out how your characters would handle the less welcome developments.

But changes shouldn’t be something that come out of nowhere. For example, if your change is where your character faces a magical disaster of some kind, there should be some hint early on in the story that magical disasters are a possibility here. For example if the build up of spare magical capacity can trigger earthquakes, your created world should have that as part of its history. Perhaps your story can then revolve around people not taking the necessary steps to prevent the disaster happening again. This means when your disaster happens your reader will not feel cheated. They know the possibility exists. The possibility happened.

Once the change has happened, there should be change in the characters too. Nobody remains unmoved by changes and that applies to characters too.

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This World and Others – Environments

What kind of environment is your story set in? Is it comparable to what we know here or something beyond the capabilities of our little planet?

Do your characters care about the environment they live in and how does that manifest itself?

Also think micro-environments – the immediate world around your characters. How does that impact on them? What are the threats they face? What are the nice things about their world they love?

Then there are things like political environments – dictatorships or democracy? How do your characters survive or thrive in these? Again, what is similar to here? It will be those things readers will latch on to – it is literally what we know and understand.

What dilemmas do your characters face as a result of their environment? The classic theme is survival in a hostile to life environment where the overall dilemma is to survive but there can be others. For example, if your character has to survive in their environment by killing something or someone, will they and how do they build themselves up to actually do that?

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Prompts, Story Collections, and Editing Flash Fiction

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.

I hope my new story video, Acrostic, shared below, puts a smile on your face after what has, in the UK, been a wet and windy week. (It honestly feels more like November than May right now! Brrr…).

Oh and there is an offer currently on at Amazon for the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic (as at 25th May 2021).

Tripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Facebook – General

Okay, we did actually see some sunshine in my part of Hampshire today but the rain’s back. Not overly impressed as you may be able to tell!

I discuss Writing Prompts in my Chandler’s Ford Today post later this week. I share a few examples of prompts and look at why these are useful. I’ve also contributed to a couple of books of prompts produced by #GillJames – I find these so helpful in encouraging me to think outside of my usual imaginative box. And they’re great practice for when you go to writing conferences and the like where exercises are usually set. (These are often set on giving you a closing or opening line for example so practicing writing to these is a good idea). More on Friday.

Some of my published stories started life as a response to a writing prompt so, yes, I am biased in promoting using them. But you never know if you can write to a prompt if you don’t try, yes?

Occasionally I will jot down a line that I think could make a useful prompt but then end up using it as a theme (and even for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts on occasion, as my post on Friday will share). So there is a lot potentially to be gained from using these.

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What a day! Torrential rain, hailstones, glorious sunshine… I don’t think snow is on the agenda but there’s still a few hours left to the end of the day so who knows?

It was great to “go” to a Zoom event where two authors read from their latest works – #PaulaRCReadman (who has guested on Chandler’s Ford Today before) and #PinarTarhan. It is always lovely being read to but it was great being able to put questions directly to the writers afterwards.

Happily wrote another drabble and submitted it to #FridayFlashFiction. I love the way this site encourages you to produce more work for the following week. Great idea. (And yes there are other categories of flash here but they want you to have two 100-worders published with them first before you submit longer flash tales. Am having a ball writing the drabbles again though so I may be here for some time but that’s fine with me!).

My next author newsletter is due to go out on 1st June so if you would like to sign up please head over to my website (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com). This time I will be sharing my responses to two writing prompts I set in May amongst other things. And I have set another writing prompt to have a go at too.


It was lovely being back in church today and seeing people I’ve not seen for months. Nice start to the day (though Lady found it odd. For the last few months services have been on Zoom and she has snuggled between us on the sofa while they were on. I suspect she missed that today!).

I’m sharing a post on Writing Prompts for Chandler’s Ford Today later in the week. Hopefully it will prove useful. I’m fond of a wide variety of such prompts. They are a great way to kick start your writing when needed and I am especially fond of opening and closing lines. Can do a lot with those. Link up on Friday.

Talking of blogging, it will be my turn on More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers next weekend and I will be sharing a lighthearted post about genres. Looking forward to sharing that.

What is the one writing habit you wish you could ditch forever? Mine is getting off to slow starts. I find when I do get started, I’m up and running and a great deal of useful writing gets done but it is the getting started that can sometimes be tricky for me.

(It’s worse if I’m tired or run down and that is when I will deliberately turn to only writing short pieces, fiction or otherwise. The great thing with doing that is there is still the sense of accomplishment at finishing a piece of work, even if it is only a 100-worder. I find feeling positive is the biggest boost to creativity for me and so completing small pieces of work makes me feel positive, that in turn encourages me to write more and so on).


Hope your Saturday has been okay. Glad the wild winds of yesterday have settled down. Looking forward to getting back to church tomorrow. (Okay still have to mask up etc but it will be so nice being there in person).

Many thanks for the great comments so far on my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction, Sibling Surprise. It’s lovely and useful having feedback. Also welcome to those signing up to my website and/or newsletter. Good to have you aboard.
Will be drafting more flash pieces over the rest of the weekend, one to go to be a story video on Youtube.

I tend to write another piece for #FridayFlashFiction over the weekend and submit that. It’s great writing drabbles again on a regular basis. More recently I have either written the mini (under 50 words) tales for the videos or longer flash pieces of 500 words plus. So it is lovely to return to my first flash love here as it was the 100-word challenge from CafeLit that started the flash fiction ball rolling for me.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Many thanks for the great response to my story video Acrostic yesterday. (Link below). It was huge fun to write. Writing stories in acrostic form works well for flash fiction given, as with character studies, these things are best kept short.

Now when it comes to editing a flash story, you might be tempted to think because there are not a lot of words, there is less to do. Wrong!

As well as cutting repetition, typos etc., you do need to ask yourself whether the words you’ve chosen do have the maximum impact on a reader. Any weak words will show up horribly clearly in such a short form. I usually find a phrase I’ve used which is good can often be strengthened by a tweak here and there.

It is the tweaking – the paying attention to the fine details – that can take a good flash story and make it a truly great one. Yet another challenge to flash fiction writing here but trying to make your story the best it can be is something that engages me (and hopefully the finished result will be more likely to engage a reader. I believe most people who read regularly will be able to tell when a writer has poured heart and soul into their work, whether it is a 100,000 word masterpiece, or a 100-word drabble).

 

Story video time again. Hope you enjoy this one – Acrostic lives up to its name and I will say it is not based on fact, honest!

I do sometimes use acrostics to come up with a different form of flash story. They’re great fun to do but a fairly short word works best and it needs to be “open” enough to be able to taken in more than one direction.

 


I nearly always know the impact I want to make on a reader when I draft my flash fiction stories. I say nearly always as sometimes I do manage to surprise myself.

For Calling the Doctor, where the mood of the tale turns on the very last word, that did not come to me immediately but I did have the character fully pictured. I wanted readers to sympathise with a character who did not know the truth about the other person referred to in the piece. But it was only as I was drafting their story, the way of ending this tale came to me and I went with it.

It was then on reviewing the story I realised how much I had “upped the ante” on this story by having a dramatic twist like that. A sympathetic character study here would have worked well but twisting the mood on the last word lifted this story to greater heights and it remains a favourite story of mine.

It is also a good example of a dark tale without over-egging the darkness. So much is implied and that of course is the strength of flash fiction. I love it when I read a story or novel and I pick up on the implications by myself. That gets my imagination going and isn’t that part of the joy of a really good read?

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I sometimes use alliterative titles for my flash pieces. The most recent for these is Sibling Surprise which went up on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday. (See link given above). I try not to overdo this though as I don’t want titles to seem gimmicky so I like a mixture of alliterative, proverbs/well known sayings etc. For all of them I want something to conjure up the story mood and “advertise” the tale to come.

I usually do know the title first but sometimes a better idea comes along as I draft my tale so I just jot down the idea and switch titles later if the latter idea proves to have more of an impact. I find I have to have a “peg” to work to so I have to have some kind of title. But very little is set in stone so as long as I’ve got something to give me a starting point, that’s fine with me.

What I do know is that shorter titles work best. They’re easier to remember too which is handy when you’re coming up with titles for the next stories. I’ve only repeated once to the best of my knowledge but for both tales, I got very different stories from them so that was okay but it is not something I want to do often for obvious reasons. I do see a title as a story’s first advert so I want each one to be distinctive.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

As well as reading novels, I like to read short story and flash fiction collections. I often use these to help me decide which genre of novel I want to read next.

Now I’m not unbiased here, as I am the author of two published flash fiction collections and have been in a number of short story anthologies! But I am going to take the chance to wave the flag for both formats.

There are different challenges in writing short stories and flash fiction as opposed to novels, naturally, but the charm of the short form is in giving you a brief overview of a character’s life. In the case of flash fiction, it is a snapshot only but for things like character studies, which to my mind work best when kept short, this is an ideal format for that kind of story.

I like to mix up the type of story in terms of genre, length, and mood. It gives me a wide reading diet that in turn helps me with my writing. We are all inspired by things we have loved reading after all.

And sometimes less is more so do add short stories and flash fiction to your reading mix. I find them to be a wonderful “appetiser” ahead of the next “meal” of a novel!

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Reflections

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 from the Share Your Story Writing Summit held earlier this year kindly provided by them.

Hope you have had a good week. I share a more thoughtful post on my Chandler’s Ford Today column this week and share a new story too. Weather wild and blustery here. Lady and I are not too impressed by it.

BookBrushImage-2021-5-21-17-1059

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post on Reflections. I look at this topic from a variety of angles. I consider how it is vital to the creative life.

You do need to take time out every now and then to work out where you are with your writing and how you would like it to develop further.

I also look at how character studies (ideal for flash fiction as these work best when kept short) can not only show you the character reflecting, they can cause you, the reader, to wonder whether you would have done the same thing as the character or not.

I also share how I’ve expanded my blogging activities recently and this was due to taking time out to look at ways of doing this, and taking opportunities that came my way to aid this.

Reflection can also play a part in a story as a character learns from their mistakes and (hopefully) goes on to better things. Stories hinge on a moment of change for a character. Sometimes that moment of change can literally be dramatic. But at other times, such as in character studies, the moment of change is when the character learns something or is prepared to accept they’ve made mistakes (which they weren’t prepared to do at the start of the tale).

So reflection has a big part to play in the creative life then.

Hope you enjoy the post.

Reflections

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Very gusty in Hampshire today. Am still in my huge dog walking coat and boots whenever I take Lady out. Had so hoped I’d have seen the back of those for a few months but clearly that won’t be happening for a bit yet. (And yes, this soft southerner does still have the central heating on!).

Just a quick reminder my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Reflections will be up on site tomorrow. I’ll look at how reflections impact on the creative life, your writing journey, and I ask whether reflecting is peaceful or scary. I also chat about how characters can reflect. Hope you will find it a useful and thoughtful post. Look forward to sharing the link tomorrow.

Am also looking forward to sharing my next author newsletter on 1st June. If you’d like to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for more on this. I share stories, tips, writing prompts, as well as news here.

Just to flag up there is currently an offer on Amazon for the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details.

Last but not least, I have seen that our excellent local amateur theatre company, The Chameleons, are looking to restart their wonderful plays from July. Very much looking forward to seeing their shows again and reviewing them for Chandler’s Ford Today again in due course.

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Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Have had lovely sunshine, heavy rain, and a right mix bag of weather today though it has been nice Lady and I have managed to miss most of the deluges.

I was chatting over at #Val’sBookBundle earlier today about childhood books. My favourites included The Famous Five. (A big thanks to all who responded to this post too). But I know it was my childhood love of reading that got me into stories and therefore writing at all.

Do you know what got you into creative writing and what helps keep you going when the words don’t seem to flow so easily? For me, I just know I feel better in myself when I’ve got something written down and that does help keep me going. Having deadlines (such as Fridays for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts) helps a lot too.

I also have specific writing sessions where I will draft blogs I know I’m going to need in the next couple of weeks or so. This means I have something to hand should I need it – and I often am grateful for having this to fall back on. (Life does get in the way sometimes, it can’t be helped, and it is a question of going with the flow and doing what you can when that happens).

Jotting down ideas for future use

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thrilled to say I have another drabble (100-word story) up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy Sibling Surprise (though it is debatable whether one of the siblings in my story will!).


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I will just mention I share flash tales and writing tips over on my monthly author newsletter. Some of these tales will end up in a collection later on, I hope, but readers to my newsletter get a first read on them! If you’d like to find out more, please sign up at my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – next newsletter is due on 1st June and it is great fun putting them together.

I like a nice chatty newsletter myself and prefer the monthly type on the grounds you don’t have too much hitting your inbox with this time scale but you get a nice read when you do!). A newsletter is something I should have got around to doing earlier, to be honest, but it was the Share Your Story Writing international summit I took part in back in March that made me finally get around to this.

I’m working on two major projects at the moment, one of which I hope will prove to be my third flash collection. I am at the heavy editing stage but this will knock that book into shape nicely once done.

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I was chatting over on my author page about what keeps you writing during difficult times. One huge advantage of flash fiction writing is it doesn’t commit you to too much in one go. So if life has got in the way and I only have time for a quick ten minute draft of something, I will usually draft a flash tale (100 words or less) or start making notes for future blog posts. I still feel like I’ve written something useful (and I have).

Another thought is to just jot down thoughts for future flash fiction stories. Later, when there is more time, you can write up the ones you like best. Random generators are useful for encouraging you to think differently and I have often found what comes up here produce story idea triggers. So I jot those down and come back to them later.

This is especially useful if I feel tired and uninspired (and it happens to everyone). I will just write down what the generators come up with and I can start forming links from that. Usually the act of writing them down helps kick start those links forming which is great as those links lead to a story outline and away I go later.

Writing, of all kinds, takes stamina and it pays to accept the fact that there are times when you will feel ground down etc and not feel up to producing as much as you would normally. That’s fine – and where flash fiction can really be your friend. A short story in not too many words – what’s not to like there!


Fairytales with Bite AND This World and Others – The Magical ABC


This post combines elements I would write for in Fairytales with Bite and This World and Others so I have combined this into one long blog spot split by pictures about half way through. Hope you enjoy.

A= Always ready with a wand or other magical implement, even when you’re not competent. (See The Sorcerer’s Apprentice for more on the lack of competence issue).

B = Books to be treasured either for their spells or legends and myths relating to the world your characters live in.

C = Charms – to be ducked if hurled at you by a witch.

D = Danger – to be expected in a magical world. It is all about who controls the magic/power and there will always be a Dark Lord somewhere who wants to grab that top spot.

E = Expectations – often turned upside down in a magical world. The little old man or crone is often much more than they appear to be. Expect the unexpected. You won’t be disappointed.

F = Fairies. All sweetness and light? Hmm…. Maybe not. Tinkerbell had a vindictive side.

G = Greatness. Don’t take this at face value either. Often the humble characters tend out to be the real heroes, the ones destined for greatness as it were.

H = Heroes. See G above but also bear in mind heroes don’t have to be humans here. So what kind of creature will your heroes be?

I = Imagination. The more imaginative the magical being, the more creative their spells are likely to be (with equally creative results. Could be good news. Could be bad news if you’re on the wrong end of this).

J = Judging by appearances is rarely good here. See E for Expectations above. It is best to assume there is more to someone than what they look like.

K = Kindness. Along with humility, kindness is greatly appreciated by the discerning fairy godmother and the like. They prefer their clients to have these things. They’re not going to help some arrogant so-and-so who needs a quick spell to get them out of trouble or to give them riches the fairy godmother knows they will only waste.

L = Language. Can be flowery, especially when spell reciting. Listen for tone. If a magical being seems grim when uttering their spell, you can be their spell will be equally grim. Best get out of the way and hide.

M = Magic of course. As with any form of power, it can be used for good or evil. There should be a counter-balance between good and evil in your fairytales. An all evil character needs a worthy opponent to deal with after all. An all good character needs to be tested and the evil character will do that well enough.

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N = Natural world. Now what does count as “natural” in a magical environment? Which geographical features would we recognize? Which are unique to your creation? What about the wildlife? Are they all magical or are there any non-magical ones? Do dragons and the like prey on the latter? If so, how do the latter survive? What advantages might they have on the magical creatures (and in the interests of fairness, they ought to have something! Will give them a chance to survive for a start!).

O = Overview. Is magic seen as a good thing by the majority of your population or as a menace? What does magic contribute to your society? Can anyone learn it or is its use restricted? If the latter, how is it restricted and why do the magical beings accept those restrictions?

P = Portents. Is prediction of any kind used in your magical world? Who has the ability to come up with these? Does anyone control them so only portents which suit the rulers ever get issued?

Q = Quest. Name a magical world without one of these! But the quest must be a matter of vital importance and ideally have a range of characters, including some very unlikely heroes. (Hairy feet and having second breakfasts have been done – see The Lord of the RingsI).

R = Reading. Yes magical beings need to read (their spells for one thing and accurately at that). Is magical ability linked to the ability to read? You could use literacy or its lack to control who could use magic. It would be a good way to keep the main population under control. They can’t read. They can’t do magic. They have to do as they’re told. So what would happen if someone rebelled against that and learned to read when they are officially not allowed to do so?

S = Spells. Like characters, there are nice ones, nasty ones, downright evil ones. Are there antidotes to spells or, in the case of Sleeping Beauty, can spells be modified to limit damage?

T = Taming the Beast. See Beauty and the Beast for a great example of how this is done. The Beast, after all, is cowed by the witch who cursed him and later by Beauty. But how about the magical creatures in your world? Can they be tamed or their potential damage limited in any way? Who could do this? Are there benefits to the beast as well as to your other characters? (You could say certain creatures got to live rather than being hunted to extinction because of their more dangerous qualities).

U = Universe. Is your created world a solo one or is it linked to others in its immediate universe? If the latter, how well do the different worlds get on or is there a history of war?

V = Vilification. This is as easy as breathing for your villainous characters. They of course are going to want to “do down” the heroes. You start by vilifying them (and the parallels with our own world here are not coincidental. I wish they were but that’s another matter).

W = Witches and Wizards. Both will consider themselves to be superior to the others, usually because of gender too. How does that work out in your stories? And can they ever get along for the common good?

X = Xeric. It is a word, honest and one I’ll remember for Scrabble the next time I play it. It means little moisture. So how does your magical world fare up when it comes to water supplies? Is it a green and pleasant land or prone to desert? That will directly affect how your characters live and drive their needs. Is magic used to conjure up water where supplies are short? What are the downsides to magical water as opposed to natural?

Y = Yummy. Is magical food and drink as delicious as it looks or does it hide something nasty? The visitor to the magical world would do well to avoid suspiciously red, shiny apples especially if being sold by an old woman with a basket.

Z = Zest. Be wary of young apprentices who show zest for using magic even though they are not fully trained. This takes us back nicely to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice again!

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