Mulling Over Story News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

(Though the image of Mulling It Over and Transformations under the Christmas tree was taken by me, as was the screenshot for the North Manchester FM radio show. More on that in the posts below!).

Facebook – General

Delighted to say my copies of Mulling It Over and Transformations arrived today. Stunning covers for them both and wonderful stories inside. A great mix of styles and mood. See more over at my Amazon Author Central page at

I have a short story in Mulling It Over and three pieces in Transformations. The latter is the paperback compilation of the three ebooks produced by Bridge House Publishing as a result of the last three years’ worth of Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition winning tales. And I am delighted that I have a story in each of the three ebooks and so three stories in this compilation. Also pleased to say these two books are now listed under my ALCS record (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society).

Can you have too many books under the Christmas tree? Of course not! (My wish list to Santa went in some considerable time ago!). It is more difficult to name favourite books though the great thing is nobody says you can only have so many! Just as well too.

Mulling It Over and Transformations under the Christmas tree

Lots happening this week.

Firstly, I’m taking part in the Christmas Book Hub party on 16th December right here on Facebook. I will be sharing a story video with a Christmassy theme (The Help) and there will be a prize too. I’ll be giving away a signed paperback copy of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on the night. Anyone who likes my story video post will be given a number via a random number generator and the person whose number comes up when I make the draw at about 9.30 pm will be the winner. Lucky dip the electronic way basically but all great fun!

I’ve used random number generators before for my launch in October and for From Light to Dark and Back Again back in 2017. Great fun. I use them sometimes to trigger story ideas too. How? I can use the number to mean something special to the characters in my story, or use it as a time (in seconds), or as door number, or a train time etc.

Secondly, I’m pleased to share the link to the radio show where my story, Up to Scratch, will be broadcast on Saturday afternoon (between 2 and 4 pm) on North Manchester FM. Many thanks to Hannah Kate for picking the story and also to Elizabeth Ducie for putting me on to this.

I will be sharing the link to the show itself after the broadcast. See for more and my screenshot below.

Lovely start to the week after a busy Monday (and Lady was busy too. She had a fab time with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddie this morning and is suitably tired as a result. I expect her buddie is too).

Screenshot_2020-12-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 19 December, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

Well, I’m glad I raked up leaves yesterday. Today has been a case of soggy Hampshire. Only too glad to be in for a lot of the day AND the countdown to Christmas has now started for me. Why? I watched The Muppet Christmas Carol tonight! One of the best adaptations of that wonderful story and I think the best thing The Muppets did too.

Christmas cards going by post now done and will be off in the box tomorrow.

Writing wise, I’m looking forward to “going” to the Christmas Book Hub Facebook event on Wednesday evening. And my story, Up to Scratch, is due to be part of Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM hosted by Hannah Kate later this week.

When I get more details about the time and/or a link to a playback, I’ll share here. It’s another first for me too in that it will be the first time I’ve had a story of mine narrated by someone else.

One of my Christmas Day traditions is a good read in the evening followed by watching some Morecambe and Wise to finish the day off nicely. Looking forward to all of that. And I hope you have plenty of books listed on your wish list to Santa.


Hope Saturday has been a nice day. Have continued my autumn/winter workout by raking up leaves. You appreciate coming into a nice warm house after that. An Options orange hot chocolate drink also goes down well after that!

Making good progress on the non-fiction book, have prepped a blog which will appear later this month (as in December I am keen to get anything like that done this side of Christmas – it pays!), and am delighted to say a flash tale of mine has been picked to appear on a festive flash fiction radio show (and a big thanks to #ElizabethDucie for putting me on to this).

I hope to share more details on that later next week but it will be a lovely way to end the year. Am also preparing something for a Facebook event mid-week, again will share more on that next week. (More on this above).

Am sketching out an idea for what will be my first CFT mini-series for 2021 plus continuing to write flash stories which I hope will make it into a third collection in due course.

But I do hope 2021 will see the return of writing events (as well as continuing to use Zoom to make events more accessible). I have missed the interaction which happens when you go to an event.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am hoping to get my Facebook posts up earlier than normal tomorrow as I will be taking part in the Christmas Book Hub Facebook party tomorrow evening (16th December). Looking forward to this as I know it will be great fun. And I’ll get to spread the word about the joys of flash fiction too.

The challenges of flash fiction, I suppose, are obvious – the reduced word count and finding the right market for your work, though the latter is true for whatever kind of writing you do. You do get used to the word count restriction though and these days, anything over 1000 words, seems lengthy to me even if I’m over by just one word!

It took me a while to realise my natural writing home (bar my Chandler’s Ford Today posts) is the sub-500 words kind of story. It is what most of my stories seem to naturally come in at and that’s fine. You then learn to play to your strengths but this is all part of the writing journey. You find out what you love doing the most writing wise (and this is what will come to you naturally as you are writing from the heart here). You then focus on that!

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New story video time. Please see the link for A Misguided Day Out which I hope you enjoy. (Definitely not seasonal in my part of the world right now!). What I am enjoying doing here is creating the video in Book Brush, uploading it to Youtube and scheduling it, then going back in to edit the video and add an audio track using the free music available in Youtube. All great fun. And little stories make a great quick read when time is off the essence, which I think is true for most of us right now!

What is your favourite part of a story? I’ve always loved the classic fairytale opening of “once upon a time”, but the bit I really couldn’t wait to get to was when our hero/heroine won through. I was always interested in seeing how that was going to be done (and what would happen the nasty beings getting in our hero/heroine’s way). I guess that should have flagged up a career as a writer could well be in the pipeline!

Even as a kid, I knew life wasn’t fair. Stories were a way of sometimes redressing the balance a bit. I still do find it quietly satisfying when one of my villains gets what’s coming to them and all that. And that is why I think I will always retain my love of fairytales and the fantastic (and why I have a soft spot for crime stories too).

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This story came about as a result of a writing prompt where I had to write a “love letter” to a cherished object. No real surprises at what I picked here!

I love every moment in your company. You do all that you are meant to do but with such flowing grace it is an absolute pleasure to work with you.
I’ve drafted so many stories with you. I save your cousin, the red pen, for the editing of course, but with you, the writing flows. I can just invent and have fun.
You are the humble biro.
More power to you, pen!
Allison Symes – December 2020

Goodreads Author Blog – Books FOR Santa.

Humorous post from me this time. I know I like to relax at the end of the day with a good book so what would Santa choose when he has completed a task well done for another year? I make some reading suggestions for the great man here

Now I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day I love my reading time. It’s the perfect way to wind down before sleeping. And there is nothing to beat putting your feet up and enjoying a good read unless you are doing that and eating a big bar of chocolate at the same time! (Let’s assume no mess!).

So let’s give some thought to someone who, when they finally get to put their feet up after a task well done, ought to be able to relax with a good book. So just what would Santa read? My list of books for Santa to read would include:-

  • Improve your World Geography Knowledge in Ten Easy Steps
  • How to Get the Best Out of Your Transport
  • Insulating Your Home The Easy Way
  • What You Really Need to Know about Elves
  • The All Time Great Flight Paths
  • A Christmas Carol (Scrooge prior to the ghosts’ visits would definitely be on the naughty list).
  • The Never Ending Story (Santa is likely to have a lot of sympathy with this one).
  • The Ultimate Gift Guide (not that Santa would really need this. It would be more of a case of keeping an eye on any possible competition!).
  • Perfect Parcel Wrapping – You Too Can Do This!
  • 1001 Carrot Recipes

I hope you have plenty of books on your list to Santa. It goes without saying I have!


Twitter Corner

Onwards and Downwards

Image Credit:  As ever, images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

Making progress on editing my flash competition story. You get to a point where you remove the “obvious” unnecessary words. (As you know, I get to cut very, actually, and that out as these are my pet wasted words. I still haven’t found a way of stopping myself writing these things in the first place but hey that’s what the first edit is for!).

The tricky bit is now when I’ve got what I want in place but need to find ways of rephrasing without losing meaning. There’s the challenge of flash fiction writing. I know this story will work well at the word count I’ve got to get it to. It’s whether I’m up to the job of doing it that is the issue here!

Onwards and downwards then (with the word count!).


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Am enjoying listening to the Classic FM Hall of Fame for 2020. Disappointed though one of my choices, Danse Macabre, has slipped down in the rankings, though I expect I’ll hear my other two choices sometime tomorrow. (Jupiter from the Planet Suite by Holst and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams).

Classical music is a wonderful relaxation aid which is why I have this on while writing. The more relaxed I am, the more I write.

Almost there on my flash fiction piece. Want to put it aside for a while so I come back to it with a fresh eye. It is amazing what a difference that makes. You spot things you missed etc. Also I look for how the story makes ME feel when I’ve had a break from it. If it still makes me feel the way the story is meant to make me feel, then it will do the same for a reader.

I was so sorry to hear about the loss of Tim Brooke-Taylor. Was a huge fan of The Goodies (and still am. Favourite episode? Hard to pick but Goodies Rule UK and the giant Dougal from The Magic Roundabout is an image that is hard to forget!).

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It hasn’t felt like a Bank Holiday Monday, has it? Still on the plus side, the bluebells and primroses are out, we are successfully wearing Lady out so know she is definitely getting the right amount of exercise, and the writing and editing continue apace.

Two of my nominees for the Classic FM Hall of Fame dropped places this year (yes, I know. I am beginning to wonder if there is an Allison effect here. If there is, it’s not a good one!). Jupiter, appropriately, rose though! Well done, Gustav Holst!

I’ll be looking at Reasons to Be Cheerful in my CFT post later this week and yes I am of an age to remember Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

My favourite picture, taken today, is of Lady with one of her favourite toys in her mouth, as if it was an overgrown dummy. Enjoy (she did – and promptly dropped the ball on realising Mum was trying to take pictures again!).

Lady with dummy

Lady with dummy! Image by Allison Symes

Coping with the downside of the writing life (rejections, competition entries not getting anywhere etc) takes time but it does get better over time. Why? Because I’ve learned if a story hasn’t done well in one place, I can look at it again, see if I can improve it, and submit it somewhere else. I’ve had work published by doing that.

Oh and I almost always can improve a piece of work. The one thing I’ve learned years ago is that nobody writes a perfect piece of work. All you can do is the best at the time and seek to grow and develop from that point. Yes, I look back at work I’ve had published for a while and I can see now how I could make it better, but that was where I was at as a writer at that time. What matters here is moving on and always striving to improve what you do.

That’s the challenge for any writer, published or not. Enjoy what you do, that’s crucial, but also seek to get better at it. In the striving, you WILL improve.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I look for in a flash fiction story when I’m reading works by other authors?

1. I want to be entertained. (Hey I’m just like that!).

2. I want the story to have emotional impact.

3. I want the point of change to be a good one with a real problem for a realistically drawn character to resolve.

4. I want to feel as if not one word could’ve been added to the story.

5. I want to feel as if not one word could’ve been taken out without the story losing something important.

6. I want to feel something for the lead character, whether it is to empathise with them, or to heartily hope they come to disaster because they’re a well drawn villain. But that character has to make me feel something (and separately to what the overall story makes me feel).

7. I want to read more by that author!

Naturally all of these points are a challenge to me too but that’s a good thing. There is no such thing as a perfect piece of work. It is the best you can make it at the time. What you want is for it to resonate with readers and for them to enjoy where you’re taking them with the stories.


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How do you know when you’ve found your writer’s voice? I think it is when you come up with a piece of work in a way that seems the most natural way to you. You see a competition, say, like the sound of it, and know instinctively how you’re going to approach it. Ideas may start coming to you based on how you’ve approached competitions before and obviously you go for what worked best for you.

In my case, I know I’m going to outline my character, then a story they could be in, and away I go when I’ve got that in place. The style of writing is an indicator. There is a lot of humour in my flash fiction but it is generally shown through the characters themselves. So based on that alone a competition which calls for a darker style is probably not going to be for me. (I’ve got to get a little humour in it somewhere and that’s not suitable for all topics/competitions).

Learning then where your strengths are and where your writing cup of tea is, I think, crucial to you finding your voice. Once you’ve got that, away you go.

Story time I think. Hope you enjoy. Hayfever sufferers, this one is for you.


After a fraught day in town, Hattie told Betty a soothing walk in Meresfield Park Gardens would do them both good. Tea and cake would follow.
The smell of the tea roses was so strong Betty thought she was being bathed in it.
It was a pity she suffered from hayfever.
It took her a fortnight to stop sneezing altogether.
It took her a month to speak to Hattie again.

Allison Symes – 13th April 2020

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While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.

A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.

To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.

A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.

No sagging middles!

A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.

To be a good advert for the other writing you do!



Goodreads Author Blog – Entertainment and Escapism

I can understand why, after the coronavirus is over, there will be lots of books and stories dealing with that topic. It’s just I can’t bring myself to write stories like that. I’m not sure about reading them either. Why?

For me, in times of trouble, I want books and stories to make me laugh and give me some escapism for a while. I don’t think that should be undervalued.

I raise a hearty three cheers for all who, by writing, seek to entertain and amuse us. It is not an easy thing to do.

So I shall continue to look for escapism and entertainment. Those can be very good coping mechanisms and books and stories are great vehicles for delivering on those things.

I do hope and pray though that the bookshops, particularly the independents, will recover well from this. I hope online buying of books has proved to be a lifeline.

The one thing that is clear to me is people still want stories. And I doubt if I’m the only one who wants entertaining right now!