Publication News, Alternative Worlds, and Dialogue

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

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

Creativity Matters - and my two flash collections

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus Post – 29th August – More than Writers

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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


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

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

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

 


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

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

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Dialogue in Books

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

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

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

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

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

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Exciting News: Creativity Matters

Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

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

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

Allison Symes and Creativity Matters

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creativity Matters - Number 1 Hot New Releases


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

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

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

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PUBLICATION NEWS

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

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

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

Creativity Matters-2

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction

Goodreads Author Blogs – “Real” Books

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

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

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

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

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

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Back to Earth after Swanwick

Image Credits:-

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

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

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

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events and Paperbacks

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

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

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

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

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

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Talks, Stories, Mom’s Favorite Reads, and Swanwick

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

It has been an interesting few days what with my talk on flash fiction going down well with Byre Writers, some lovely comments on my writing and that talk on Twitter, and looking ahead to seeing friends I haven’t seen in person for two years at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Talking of Swanwick, the image of me reading at the Open Prose Mic Night was taken by the lovely Penny Blackburn. The side image of me reading was taken by the equally lovely Geoff Parkes. All other Swanwick images were taken by me.

I plan to post as normal next week from Swanwick if I can but times are likely to be different. (Looking forward to having these two books in the Swanwick Book Room. Last time I went I only had From Light to Dark and Back Again out).

Framed Flash Collections

Facebook – General

Stories – I can’t imagine my life without them. I don’t care if they’re in written form, audio, film, or what have you, though I love them all. What I want is a good story well told which keeps me engrossed until those magic words The End. And for me that means being gripped by the characters and having to find out what happens to them.

The nice thing is stories come in all manner of styles and word counts. It has been a joy to discover flash fiction as a format (and especially since I’ve been published in it!). Styles and fashions in storytelling may come and go but the basic premise of having a story so good you have to finish reading it remains.

I look at some of the older novels I have on my shelves and the levels of description in them would almost certainly go above a flash fiction word count but most of these were written in pre-television and film days when most people, for example, would not have known what London looked like so did need a description to help them get their bearings in the story they were about to read.

The advantage we have as writers now is not having to do that. We can give a reader the salient details they have to know and they can fill in the rest themselves. Most will have an idea of what London looks like (and it is also easy enough to look things up now. Google Maps anyone?!). So we can focus on the things that will drive the story on (and our pace also increases as a result of that. Particularly useful for short form fiction writing of course).

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Hope you have had a good start to the working week. (So looking forward to being at Swanwick next week!). Lovely to see Lady play with her pals this morning. Lady now happily curled up on sofa, snoozing.

Just to say the August 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out and I have a piece in there about Side Benefits of Writing. See link below for more. Have already submitted a piece for the next issue. It is great fun to write for MFR.
Hope to be sharing further publication news later this month too. Watch this space as they say.

Oh and to flag up Writing Magazine now have a Grand Flash Prize. I hope to have a crack at that one. (First prize is £1000, second prize is £250 and there are other prizes too – definitely worth a go).


Sorry I realised after it was too late yesterday I had sent out my author newsletter a day early. Oops! Mind you, I am finding it hard to believe it is August, given the recent bizarre weather. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

On the plus side, this time next week I should be enjoying my first full day at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Can’t wait for that. Am hoping for good weather (and am looking forward to being out and about on the train again too).

A huge thank you to #JuliaPattison and, separately, #PeterMarshall for your wonderfully encouraging comments respectively about flash fiction and the Byre Writers workshop I ran yesterday. Feedback like this is always welcome but especially so when it comes out of the blue.

Also a huge thank you to the lovely people at The Chameleon Theatre Group for arranging access for me to pictures from their recent comeback production. I will be reviewing their show next week for Chandler’s Ford Today but as well as putting on great shows, The Chameleons take some great pictures too. And I hope The Chameleons have got off to a good start with their charity fundraising for this year which will be for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance Service.

Last but not least, thank you also for the great response to my recent CFT post about Wildflowers. It seems to have struck a chord with people but then maybe we all need to take time out to appreciate the natural world more often, especially after the last very trying year or so.


It was a great joy to talk about flash fiction writing to Byre Writers this morning. Many thanks to #KathrynHolme and to all who came to the talk via the wonders of Zoom for making me so welcome. It was great fun.

One of the nice things about flash fiction writing is it is easy to demonstrate and I usually read out a couple of my published works at talks like this to show what flash can do and be. I like to choose stories with contrasting moods to show this. And, while flash is short, its impact is all the greater on a reader because of that. A well-told flash story can “hit the reader in the guts” very quickly indeed!

I like to mix up whether I produce stories to make readers laugh, shudder, or what have you. I like a nice mix of moods in the stories that I read so I like to reflect that in what I write.

In further news, my author newsletter went out earlier today. If you’d like to sign up for this, please head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

And a week from now I should be at the writing highlight of my year – the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I plan to put up my FB posts as normal but times will differ and I hope to write up a review of this year’s school for Chandler’s Ford Today later on in the summer to give a flavour of what goes on. What am I looking forward to most? Easy-peasy. Meeting up with friends in person whom I have not seen for two years! Can’t wait.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Amongst the many things I’m looking forward to at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School is the Open Prose Mic Night. I’ve taken part in that a couple of times and hope to do so again. Flash fiction works wonderfully for this as, by its nature, it’s difficult to go on for too long (which is the besetting sin of any Open Prose Mic Night!).

And it is a joy to listen to the other participants. It is wonderful to be read to – doesn’t happen often enough for my liking – and the stories they come up with are amazing. I see that very much as an encouragement and Prose Nights are also a good way to test out material and get used to reading to an audience. That in turn is useful practice for book signings hopefully later on.

 

My latest YouTube video is called Not Taking Advice. It follows what can happen when someone doesn’t! Hope you enjoy it.

One of the joys of talking about flash fiction is it is very easy to demonstrate what it is by reading some examples. I did this yesterday for Byre Writers and deliberately mixed up the moods of the stories I read out to show just what flash can do and be.

Another nice thing about submitting regular work for #FridayFlashFiction is I get to read the other stories on there and can genuinely consider this market research! Market research in terms of seeing what other flash authors are doing, the kinds of stories the website likes and so on. That kind of research is never wasted. Best of all, it is great fun.

Oh and talking about flash fiction writing, the latest edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out. I talk about the side benefits of writing in this issue. The theme I set for this issue for flash stories was coming out of your shell.

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Many thanks to the lovely people at Byre Writers for inviting me to talk to them about flash fiction writing this morning. It is always a joy to talk about flash. I shared some ways “in” to creating a flash story and the advantages of flash fiction writing. Even if you mainly write something else, there are still benefits to be had from flash writing.

Am looking forward to taking two books to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School’s Book Room next week. When I last went, I only had From Light to Dark and Back Again out. It will be really nice to see Tripping the Flash Fantastic in the Book Room this time as well. (I am also hoping to see some other books in there by Chapeltown writers).

Glad my Oddity, the latest tale on #FridayFlashFiction, is going down well. The feedback is much appreciated. And if you want to find out what flash fiction is out there, do check the website out. You’ll have a good read as well as get a good “feel” for the kind of stories you can produce for flash.


Screenshot 2021-07-30 at 18-42-48 Oddity, by Allison Symes

Goodreads Author Blog – What Do You Want To See in Your Favourite Books?

What I want to see in my favourite books are characters I can root for. Even when they’re villainous, I want to understand what drives them to be the way they are. Nobody says you have to like characters but you do need to be able to see where they’re coming from.

Stories can reflect on us. Unrealistic characters will not draw people in to read their stories. Yet a character you can understand, no matter how bizarre they and/or their setting might be, will draw people in to find out more.

I like crisp dialogue which gives me enough information to work some things out for myself. I like enough description so I can picture the scene but I don’t want too much of that. Again, I want there to be some gaps I can fill in for myself.

Above all, I want the “have got to keep reading to find out what happens next” to be there throughout the whole book or story. No dull bits. Life is too short for that.

And at the end of the story or book, I want to feel like I’ve been taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions but for that to be a journey I would happily take again because I loved the story and book.

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Talks, Flash, and the Character -v- Plot Debate

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images of Lady, of CafeLit 10 books, and my stories in it, and screenshots all taken by me, Allison Symes.

Summer weather, a mini heatwave, finally here in the UK. The dog and I are busy keeping cool.

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Facebook – General

Many thanks to the lovely people at #DundeeCityWriters for making me so welcome at last night’s Zoom talk. I spoke about short story writing as opposed to flash fiction this time. All great fun.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. It’s a local author news post this time about yours truly where I give an update on what has been happening/is going to happen over the summer for me. And I am glad to share news on both the fiction and non-fiction fronts for the first time here as well.

Lady, you’ll be glad to know, is keeping well and as cool as possible. She’s generally as daft as the proverbial brush but not when it comes to weather like this heatwave a lot of us in the UK are experiencing right now. (I know, it’s July, it is to be expected, but I have no way of telling the dog this!). She drinks plenty, stays in the shade, and enjoys gentler exercise sessions away from the main heat. She can go back to her usual athletic running about when the weather cools. And it will.

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Pleased to be speaking later tonight to the #DundeeCityWriters. Zoom is a wonderful thing!

Great to see so many lovely comments coming in on my #FridayFlashFiction story, The Unpaid Shift. Many thanks, all.

Working away also on my author newsletter. That will come out on 1st August. I share news, tips, writing prompts, and exclusive flash stories here amongst other things. If that sounds of interest, head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you can sign up.

And if you head over to my From LIght to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly, you will find my latest YouTube video as well. See below!

(Lady keeping cool and drinking well. I’m drinking well but do feel as if I’m melting right now. But at least it is the kind of weather you expect for July!).

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

Pleased to share my post on Authors Electric this month. I talk about character -v- plot (and many thanks for the great comments which have come in so far).

I also look at a character I don’t care for much in this post even though I love the author. Mind you, this kind of thing is useful for me as I think about my characters. I do look at what I love and loathe about characters produced by other writers and I can learn so much from that. If a character is dire, I can examine why that is and try to avoid doing this for my own creations.

I also look at how a character makes me react and discuss series novels where a character can develop over time. I also name my favourite example of the latter as my top pick is a masterclass in how a character can develop over several books.

Screenshot 2021-07-20 at 19-35-10 Character -v- Plot by Allison Symes

 

Hope you have had a good day. A huge thanks for the wonderful comments on my The Unpaid Shift currently on #FridayFlashFiction. So enjoying writing the drabbles again. If you missed it, see the link.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week which will be a Local Author News one from me where I have exciting updates to share.

Am also looking forward to sharing great author interviews later on in the summer. So plenty going on here.

But more immediately, I am looking forward to sharing my Authors Electric post tomorrow. This time I’m writing about the character -v- plot debate. Give some thought as to where you stand on that one and maybe pop a comment up when I share the post link tomorrow. See above.

Screenshot 2021-07-16 at 18-47-03 The Unpaid Shift, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the lovely response to Self Defence, my latest YouTube video. These are great fun to write and produce. And they are a great way to use the mini-flash tales which are only a sentence or two. See below for video.

I was giving a Zoom talk to #DundeeCityWriters last night about short story writing but many of the techniques I use for flash I can and do use for the longer tales. For example, I have to have a rough template of what I am going to write and then off I go.

The main difference for a short story (anything over 1000 words) is I need to have some rough pointers for what happens in the central part of the tale so I avoid the dreaded saggy middle! (Not wanted in cakes. Not wanted in stories either!).

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Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube story video. It appears self defence can, in the right circumstances, apply to inanimate objects.


Thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about writing more in the first person for flash. I hadn’t anticipated doing this earlier in my writing career. I’m not sorry about the development as it had been a kind of writing I’d gone out of my way to avoid. Why?

Because all I could see were the limitations of it. You can only see through that one character’s eyes. Everything the character sees, hears, or could be reasonably expected to know is what you have to play with.

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What I hadn’t seen immediately was that kind of framework Is useful for stopping me head-hopping and in making me focus on the lead character. I can’t go off at a tangent here. That in turn encourages creativity as I work out what the lead character can see, hear, be reasonably expected to know etc.

I’ve also come to love the immediacy of the first person narrator.

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I’m writing more in the first person with my flash stories as it is a very easy way to “hit the ground running” with my character. I can literally take you right inside the “I” character’s head and show you their thoughts, actions, and reactions. I can’t “head-hop” either as I have to focus on just that one character.

But when I do have more than one character in a story (usually one of my 500+ word tales), I do work out who the lead character is and who the support will be. I still have to know whose story it is and why and what the role of the support will be. (Of course the support may do anything but support the main character but that’s fine. I just need a defined sense of who does what and why).

Goodreads Author Blog – Annuals

Did you use to get annuals when you were younger? Do you still get them?

I am fond of The Friendship Book (D.C. Thomson – those wonderful Dundee based publishers have produced this for decades). This is one of those books that is always on the present list at a certain time of year I won’t mention yet because we’re still in the summer. I refuse to think of the C word until the autumn at the earliest (and just wish the shops would do the same).

When my family was younger, they loved The Beano annual, and when we could get it, The Bash Street Kids one. They weren’t the only ones to read them either! I still have a soft spot for Minnie the Minx in particular. For anyone who might not know, The Beano is veritable institution amongst comics and again produced by D.C. Thomson and again going back decades. I think I’m right in saying it is well over 50 years old.

I’ve got no time for snobbery around comics, comic books, annuals etc. The important point here is they do get people reading (and the hope is of course they go on to read books with a higher text content later. My family did. What matters is getting that love of reading to develop and annuals and comics can be a great place to start).

I still like comics like The Beano. The world they take you into generally makes you laugh. And I count comics as much a part of the reading life as books.

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Balancing Fiction and Non-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.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

More publication news this week and Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, chats to me on her blog. More below.

Storytelling shows us so much about ourselves

Facebook – General

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday where I’ll be chatting about Youtube for Authors. I’ll share how I use Youtube and why I am finding it useful, creative, and great fun. Going down this route was not something I anticipated doing even three years ago.

Don’t forget my author newsletter goes out on the first of the month so if would like to sign up please head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com (landing page) – and a big welcome to those already aboard. You receive a welcome email on sign-up along with a link to a giveaway where I share flash fiction stories, a brief piece about flash fiction, amongst other things.

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Hope you have had a good day. Thunder coming in here. Lady okay with it, especially now we’re back at home, but I cannot think of an odder July, weather wise. Glad the weather is supposed to get better from tomorrow but I am not holding my breath!

Glad to say I will be giving a couple of Zoom talks later on in the month so am getting ready for those.

Looking forward to going back to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Will be wonderful to catch up in person with lovely friends I’ve not seen for two years, though am deeply saddened by news of those Swanwickers lost since we last met. The support from other writers here is amazing. It will be nice to be out and about on the train again too (and yes, I have renewed my railcard. I renewed it last year not long before the first lockdown…oops!).

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Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on my No More Miss Mousy story which is up on #FridayFlashFiction. Great feedback – much appreciated.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’ll be talking about YouTube for Authors and the idea came from Part 2 of my interview with #HelenMatthews shared here on Friday.

Do you schedule your writing over the course of a week? I have a rough outline of what I want to see done by the end of the week but I can adjust this (and do) as and when the need arises. Friday of course is always CFT day, Sundays are usually when I prepare a flash tale to put up on YouTube and submit something to #FridayFlashFiction. For the rest of the week, I like to write a mixture of fiction and non-fiction and if I manage to do that, I feel it has been a week well spent.

Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 18-40-02 No More Miss Mousy, by Allison Symes


Two posts today as lots to share. I’ll start by saying a huge thanks to the lovely #ValPenny for hosting me once again on her website. Back in March I was talking about my writing journey and today’s post is an update. A lot has happened since March, mainly involving Zoom.

Am also looking forward to catching up with Val in person when we get back to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later on in the summer. (I know – summer, she says laughingly but officially it is summer anyway). Will there be enough prosecco to go around I wonder… I’m sure we’ll manage!

Screenshot 2021-07-13 at 20-12-36 Zooming Around by Allison Symes


Secondly, I am delighted to say the July 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now up on Amazon. I talk about Patience in Flash Fiction Writing. I am their flasher queen after all! Hope you enjoy the magazine. It has a lovely combination of features. Best of all it is free – what’s not to like about that?

Screenshot 2021-07-10 at 16-53-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021 eBook Publishing, Goylake, Howe, Hannah , Smith,[...]

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I cover a wide range of emotions in my flash tales and I hope that range shows the depths flash can reach, even with its limited word count. I believe the limitation on word count encourages creativity rather than stifles it because I have to think of better ways of getting something across to a reader to make the most of whatever word count I have chosen to write to for that story. My usual word count range is between 100 and 500 for the shorter pieces and 500 to about 750 for the longer ones. I do write right up to the 1000 words maximum allowed but don’t do this often. The fun for me with flash is keeping the story as short as I can while still having the maximum impact on a reader.


I always enjoy preparing my videos on YouTube but this one gave me extra enjoyment and I hope it does for you too. My favourite form of writing is what I call fairytales with bite which are often humorous and/or come with a twist in the tale.

Hope you enjoy Getting The Workmen In.


E = Editing is something writing flash fiction has taught me not to fear.
D = Driving me on to make my flash story as perfect as I can make it at the time.
I = Imagination comes into play even here as I work out how to show a reader what they need to see in as few words as possible.
T = Time – allow plenty of it for this, a good edit is not something to be rushed even in a 100-word story.
I = Instincts will kick in as you realise over time what your wasted words are and you start spotting your repetitions quicker – you know to cut these immediately and will get better at doing so.
N = Naming your weaknesses helps you to spot them and overcome them – I have to watch myself for my wasted words and unnecessary punctuation (am a sucker for brackets – see!).
G = Great editing will strengthen your story and help your flash writing have more “oomph” to it which will go down well with readers.


It is a joy to be talking about flash again in the July 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. I set the theme for flash stories for them and write a post around the topic I’ve chosen. Do check the magazine out. It is free and there is a wide range of lovely articles in there.

This time I’m talking about patience. It has taken me time to learn different techniques for writing flash. Also I can get my characters to show just how patient or otherwise they are so it is a good open topic. And I like those – it means stories can be taken in any one of several different directions and I love the freedom of choice there.

And I’m getting to wave the flag for flash fiction. Am always glad to do that!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Balancing Fiction and Non-Fiction

I like to read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction though I suspect my reading “see-saw” is tilted more to the fiction side of things. I am reading more non-fiction than I ever have and hope to keep doing this, especially as I am now writing more non-fiction than before too.

My non-fiction reading side is tilted towards history where I’ve always had an interest and I’ve loved many of the Ben Macintyre books. I love the development where non-fiction is using some of the techinques used in fiction writing to grab the reader.

Gone are the days are boring old big reference books. In are non-fiction books which have speed and pace and make you wonder what will happen next. I hope that development encourages more people to read more non-fiction. I know it has worked for me!

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Genres, Opening Lines, and Publication News

https://morethanwriters.blogspot.com/2021/06/genres-by-allison-symes.htmlImage 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 all is well with you. Glad to share two new stories this time – one from Friday Flash Fiction and another from my Youtube channel. Hope you enjoy. Also have publication news from CafeLit and an update about my contribution to Wendy H Jones’ book on Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing so plenty going on. (Images of me signing my contract for the latter were taken by Adrian Symes).

AE - July 2021 - Whether you love or loathe the characters, they should make you feel something


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

Delighted to share my blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers. I talk about Genres this month and define a few (having fun doing so too!). I chat about why I love ghost stories where the ghost is not the villain, give you pointers regarding major things to look out for in a fantasy novel, and ask you what are your favourite genres and why amongst other things.

So what are your favourite genres and why? Fairytales/fantasy are it for me though I do love crime and historical fiction as well. Is there a book that took you by surprise as to how good or bad it was? For me, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey surprised me in a good way and changed my view about Richard III.

I don’t have any time for the snobbery that can prevail around genre fiction. A good book is a good book and if it is accessible to more people because it is in a certain genre, so be it.

You sometimes have days when there is lots to announce. Today is one of mine!

1. I’ve seen the book cover for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing by Wendy H. Jones where I am contributing a chapter on flash fiction and short story writing. Can’t reveal the cover yet. Looking forward to doing so. It looks great. Trust me on that!

2. Delighted to say From Light to Dark and Back Again is now up on the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop. Oh and the great thing about the bookshop is there are a variety of places to buy from too. See link for more.

3. There will be some fabulous author interviews to come on Chandler’s Ford Today, starting this very Friday, 2nd July, with part 1 of my chat with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews. (I always learn a lot from reading/listening to author interviews which is why I love having writers on CFT).

4. I’ll be on the More than Writers blog spot tomorrow (for the Association of Christian Writers) with a humorous piece about Genres. Looking forward to sharing the link for that tomorrow. See above!

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Hope you have had a nice Sunday. It was lovely having family over in the garden yesterday (and what change in the weather today – it’s chucking it down as I type this!).

I’ll be sharing the first part of a fabulous interview with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews, later this week on Chandler’s Ford Today. Looking forward to sharing that. I always learn so much from author interviews and it is a pleasure to be doing them.

I’m thrilled that so many wonderful comments are coming in on my latest #FridayFlashFiction story, Restless. You can check it out at https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/restless-by-allison-symes

Have sent another story in for them and I’m delighted to say I’ll be having another story up on CafeLit before too long as well. So it has been quite a productive weekend.

Hope you have a good week! (I also hope the weather improves somewhat but we shall see).

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Today (26th June) would have been my Dad’s 84th birthday. It’s a strange day in many ways, as you can imagine. I was pleased he got to see my debut published book, From Light to Dark and Back Again, as my late mum only got to see my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing). There is a kind of symmetry to that I think.

I occasionally use a character’s memories in my flash tales. The obvious two are The Pink Rose in Tripping the Flash Fantastic and They Don’t Understand in my debut collection.

Flash fiction can be a great vehicle for character studies like these precisely because they work best when kept short. The impact on a reader is greater too because of the brevity. What matters is getting across what is the important thing about the character you are writing about. What is it about them that readers have to know?

(Oh and on a very happy note, I’ve booked my train tickets for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to catch up with people there).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do you know your flash fiction or short story character “works”? When they intrigue you enough to write their stories up is the answer that works for me. As I outline my character and discover more things about them, if they grip me at that point, they should do so for a reader as well so away I go.

Also just a quick reminder I share writing tips and exclusive flash stories over at my author newsletter which I issue monthly. The next one is out on 1st July so if you’d like to sign up for this do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you’ll find the relevant sign up form. You’ll receive a welcome email initially with a link to a free pdf download where I chat about flash and share exclusive stories there. (And a big thank you to those who have signed up already – it is great to have you aboard).

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Pleased to share my latest story video here. Hope you enjoy Borrowing.

 

27th June
Delighted to say I’ll be having a flash piece, written as a result of a writing exercise I set for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group, up on CafeLit on 5th July. That is what I call a result and I look forward to sharing it then.

I love opening lines as an exercise. There are usually at least two or three directions in which to take them too. (That makes me feel like a kid with the keys to the chocolate factory!). I suppose the reason I love them so much is I know I am “away” once I’ve got that line down, and knowing who my character is and what they’re capable of, means I’ve got the opening line and a structure in place. I find that so useful.

Funnily enough it’s not a question of then joining the dots. I still have to show my character developing and changing but my structure means the change is reasonable for the character and so will make sense to a reader.

I can still wrongfoot a reader (and often do) but if you then went back over the story you would find the clues were there to indicate the wrong-footing was possible given what you are shown of the character. (I love this when other authors achieve this with me whether it is a short story or a novel. It keeps me on my toes and I have learned so much about how to place things in a story to achieve this).

Have managed to get another flash pieces “off” this weekend – another one to #FridayFlashFiction. I am having so much fun writing the drabbles (100 worders) again as those are what drew me into flash fiction writing in the first place.


One idea for a story is to take a date that is special to you and make it special for your character. The reasons could be the same or the polar opposite. Either way you could write an interesting character study out of this.

Dates mean something for a reason and, especially if you don’t choose the well known ones such as Christmas or Mother’s/Father’s Day, you could show us a character with a unique take on life due to the reason they cherish the date you’ve picked for them.

Also, are there dates your characters would be keen to avoid and what would happen if they can’t get out of whatever is happening on the date in question? There’s potential for comedy and tragedy there – up to you which direction you take it.

But having a special date will reveal something of your character to you as the writer. If that appeals, it will appeal to a reader also. (Also there would be broad sympathy given most of us have dates that mean something to use and not to others).

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Good Story Ending For You?

Story endings don’t have to be happy ones. For some tales, a happy ending would be inappropriate. But what would you class as a “good” story ending?

For me the ending has to be appropriate for the kind of tale being told and for the character.

It was clear in A Christmas Carol, for instance, that Scrooge would have to change. It was a question there of how it would be done. Had Scrooge not changed, there would have been no point in the visitations of the ghosts and there would have been no story.

So I am looking for change to have happened by the end of the story. Being a fairly positive person, I like these changes to be as upbeat as possible. Failing that, I’ll be happy with a kind of “yes, that’s appropriate for this character”.

What you don’t want is a feeling of disappointment that the story hasn’t been closed off properly. There should be no loose ends. The character should have learned something and moved on from the starting point of the story. If that learning something and moving on is something I can identify with, then that makes it an even better ending for me.

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The Joy of Editing

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.

Weather all over the place here in the UK – still it is only June! Writing wise, very pleased with response already to my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. (Screenshot of part of my latest story, Restless, taken by me, Allison Symes – hope it tempts you to read the rest! Link below).

AE - July 2021 - A great character drives the plot


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post about The Joy of Editing. I share my thoughts on why editing can be as creative as the initial act of getting a story down. I also share thoughts on how outlining characters or ideas for blog posts can save a lot of time on editing later on (and avoid that oh-so-easy-to-fall-into trap of going off on interesting but usually irrelevant tangents which only have to be cut out later). I also list what I think of as my editing stages and what I do for each one. Hope you find it useful.

(Oh and advance notice. I’ll be interviewing the lovely #HelenMatthews in an in-depth conversation on 2nd and 9th July. Helen shares lots of useful insights into the writing life and I am so looking forward to sharing these interviews).

(Further advance notice – my latest author newsletter will go out on 1st July. If interested please sign up to it at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com).

The Joy of Editing

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Enjoyed my swim earlier today but you can tell when the weather is “iffy” – the water feels cold. When It is hot, as it was last week, the water feels refreshing and I don’t want to get out. (Mind you what helps is knowing the shrivelled prune look when you have been in the water for too long suits nobody!).

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. This week I’m talking about The Joy of Editing. And, yes, I know you will say Allison, you are an editor as well as a writer, you are bound to be biased. Yes, sure, guilty as charged there, but there is much to be said for editing as I will share in my post tomorrow.

So looking forward to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest (and comeback) performance later in the summer. Along with singing in church and meeting up with friends, I think not seeing their wonderful shows has been the thing I missed most last year. (Their performances also raise money for different charities each year so well done to them and it’s another great reason to go and see their shows if you are local to Chandler’s Ford. If you’re not, I’m sure there will be great amateur theatre groups you can support near you – try them out and see!).

From a writing viewpoint, it is interesting seeing words performed rather than just read.

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Hope you have had a good day. More like a proper June day today and Lady got to play with her best mate, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Two tired and happy dogs went home.

Have got my ticket for the comeback shows from The Chameleon Theatre Group for the end of July. So looking forward to watching them on stage again. (Review to follow on Chandler’s Ford Today in due course naturally – it is so lovely to get back to this kind of thing again).

I’ll be sharing a fabulous two part interview with #HelenMatthews on 2nd and 9th July so plenty of good things to come on CFT. I met Helen at the Hursley Park Book Fair which I reported on for CFT a couple of years ago and again at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. You never know where networking with other authors might lead you! Anyway, really looking forward to sharing this interview as it is packed with great author insights (just one of many reasons why I love sharing author interviews here!).

Behind the scenes, I’m also working on workshop materials so yes watch this space for further news in due course.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction called Restless. A HUGE thank you to all who have commented on the tale so far. This is so much appreciated. (I also love the way this kind of thing helps writers engage with readers directly).

Restless is a different kind of flash tale for me in that every sentence starts with the same word. It’s an interesting technique, fun to do, but is something I would only do every now and again. (Generally speaking given the restricted word count in flash anyway, I wouldn’t normally repeat anything other than say the unavoidable ones such as the, and, but etc.


Screenshot 2021-06-25 at 19-03-20 Restless, by Allison Symes


Thanks for the great response to my acrostic yesterday. I use the technique sometimes for mini-blog posts as well as flash tales!

Looking forward to taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group later in July. Glad to report we had our first Zoom meeting a week or so ago and it went down well. (I also get to write up flash tales from the exercises set, whether these are set by someone else or me. I’m sure I can find a home for these stories at a later date!).

The benefits of flash fiction writing are learning to write with precision, to think about impact, to think about what your reader needs to get from your story, and to lose all fear of editing. Those things transfer well to other forms of writing too.


F = Fun to write – but the work really begins in the editing.
L = Looking for maximum impact on the reader so word choice is so important here.
A = Any genre, any character – have fun with the format.
S = Story, story, story – it is your character’s tale, let them tell it.
H = Have an outline for your characters before you write the story – it can be as simple or as detailed as you like but it will save you going off on unnecessary tangents. You will know what your character is capable of and why. I know this tip alone has saved me a great deal of grief (and work) later on in trying to fix characterisation problems. By working this out at the start, you can hit the ground running with the story itself because you know what your character is likely to do and say.

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Fairytales With Bite – Why the Bite?!

The classic fairytales have plenty of bite. Indeed, that is one of the things I love most about them. They don’t mince their words when it comes to villains. The stories show you the villains for what they are. The wicked stepmother is wicked (and definitely not in a good way).

The classic stories also like their heroes/heroines to do or be something worthy of being helped by a passing helpful fairy godmother and the like. Said passing fairy godmother is not going to help the lazy, those who just want riches and so on.

Right is also seen to be done. Evil comes back to bite those who commit it (which so often doesn’t happen in life and even as a young child I was aware of that).

What fairytales are not are twee. The characters are clearly portrayed and they are what they are. They also show characters can be redeemed. Fairytales are about choices made and not every character makes the right one.

So bite then is a vital ingredient to fairytales. From my perspective, it is what makes a fairytale a fairytale, much more so than a magical being waving a wand about.

Fairytales are truthful too – and again bite comes in here too. They show you aspects of human nature, a lot of which are not the pleasant kind. They hold a mirror up to our own behaviour – you just need to accept some of what you will see through the stories will be the kind of things we usually like to pretend are not there. Our own stories need to reflect this to be true to the genre. Our characters need to reflect that.

Even the tales read to very young children will show this. We know from a very young age the Big Bad Wolf is not to be trusted.

So when it comes to writing our own tales, we need to be brutally honest with our character portrayal. Are they the kind of character a fairy godmother would help? If not, why not? What role will this character play in your story? If they’re not someone who would “earn” magical help, how are they going to get said help when they need it? Are they going to change in some way so they do end up “earning” that help and what makes them realise change is necessary? Plenty of story ideas here.

Character change is key to a successful story. And there’s nothing a fairy godmother likes better than a character redeeming themselves to get her help. Readers like that too. So give your characters plenty of bite. They must not be twee. We need to see where the characters are coming from and where they are heading.

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This World and Others – Reaching Out

How do your characters reach out to others? Are they the kind of characters who would help others? If not, why not? Are they held back by fear or resentment of others and can they overcome that?

Does your fictional world reach out to other worlds near it or is it an insular one?

When characters reach out, is that as successful as they hoped it would be or does it backfire? Are good intentions misunderstood, deliberately or otherwise? Does this stop your characters from reaching out after that (as it would, at best, knock confidence)?

What is the impact of reaching out on the society immediately around your main characters? Does your society encourage reaching out or make it more difficult? Can your society be changed for the better by your characters who do reach out to others?

Hmm… I think there are story ideas there!

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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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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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