Flash Flexibility, Writing Workshops, and Supporting Other Writers

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. 
Hope you have had a good few days. Summery weather at last which Lady and I have loved. I have publication news too so it’s a good start to the week in that department too.

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Facebook – General

Lovely day today and Lady is very happy because she got to “boop” her best mate, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback. Usually the Ridgeback boops Lady. For dogs, it really is the little things in life that bring them the most joy (oh and dinner of course!).

Delighted to say I can now reveal I will have another story on Cafelit on 27th June. Looking forward to sharing the link on that then. The piece comes from a homework exercise I set for members of the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group.

Will be off to the theatre again in July with my lovely editor from Chandler’s Ford Today, Janet Williams, Looking forward to seeing the latest production from The Chameleon Theatre Group. Will review in due course. I should’ve finished my In Fiction series for CFT by then – wish me luck finding something suitable for the letters V and X! I hope my years of Scrabble paying might help here!

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Hope your Monday has been okay. Busy as ever here though the weather was lovely. Glad to say I’ll have further publication news to share soon so that’s a smashing start to the week.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is about Underlining In Fiction. I’ll be looking at how to stress points to a reader without needless boring repetition and talking about planting the right clues. Link up on Friday.

Amazon currently has offers on the paperback of both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the link.

Writing Tip Number 3,004 or something like that but one I’ve found incredibly useful: time away from a piece of work is crucial. You do need the distance in terms of time away from it so you can see where it has strengths and, more importantly, where it hasn’t!

With my judge’s hat on, I can spot those stories where an author has clearly given themselves enough time away from their story as they have then edited it effectively too.

The trouble with editing a story immediately is there tends to be two responses to it – this is a work of utter genius, no work needs to be done to this deathless prose, or this is a work which I really shouldn’t have bothered with, everyone will loathe it. Neither are true. The truth is your story will have promise but needs polishing up and sharpening to show bring its potential out.

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Many thanks for the comments in on Time Off, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Some smashing feedback, all appreciated.

Going back to my Authors Electric post yesterday on Writing Workshops, I can’t stress enough how important it is to support other writers (something Friday Flash Fiction does very well, as does CafeLit). Nobody produces a perfect bit of work immediately (and is there any such thing anyway? I can look back at my earlier stories and see immediately how they could be bettered but they were where I was at during that time of my writing life).

We all have to start somewhere. We can all improve on what we do. It takes time and practice. There are no shortcuts for anyone.And people remember those who support them. They also remember those who were unsupportive. Which would you rather be known as – a supportive writer or not? I know what camp I want to be in! (That thought is assisted by the old saying make your words sweet as you never know when you’ve got to eat them!).

18th June – Authors Electric
It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this month I’m talking about Writing Workshops. I discuss what I love about these, whether I run them or go to them, and look at how old school pen and paper can come into their own at these things. Hope you enjoy (and I’m looking forward to running another workshop at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash has more flexibility than you might think. Yes, there is the word count issue but I’ve written stories in the first person, the third, as diary extracts, as well as setting my characters backwards and forwards in time. I’ve written fairytales with bite, crime tales, the odd ghost flash piece etc.

What influences all of this are the kinds of story I’ve loved reading over the years and which I continue to love and read. It really has paid off for me to read reasonably well and widely (I don’t think anyone can claim to be perfect here. Why would you want to be anyway? You want there to be other books and genres to discover after all!).

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Many thanks for the views on my YouTube tale last week (or should that be tail?) – The Unexpected. But it is Monday once again and time for another video. Hope you like this one – The True Picture. I used a random verb generator which triggered the word picture and here is what I came up with for that prompt.

Sometimes I have an idea for what I think will be a flash piece but the story really does deserve a larger word count. So I simply write that piece for the short story market instead (and my stories tend to come in at 1500 to 2000 words for that). Sometimes what I think could make a good short story really does work better as a shorter, tighter flash piece. And that’s all fine.

It’s why it has paid me to ensure I have a foot in both camps when it comes to short form storytelling. What matters is the story is right for the character (and vice versa) and the story has a proper beginning, middle, and end. The story ends with a proper resolution to the dilemma the story is about and sometimes that will come in at a longer or shorter word count that you might have originally anticipated.

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I’m chatting about Writing Workshops for Authors Electric this month (see my author page on this – https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50) and one advantage to flash fiction here is these are easy to share when you want to discuss elements of story writing. They don’t take too long. They also demonstrate the points you’re trying to make. (And it’s another way of spreading the word about flash fiction so win-win there!).

I’ve found flash pieces are especially useful for demonstrating the old advice of show, not tell. Precisely because I don’t have the word count room for description, I do have to get my characters to show the readers what matters. And showing a point gets things across more clearly I find. I’ve been on the receiving end of that benefit many a time from workshops I’ve been to and have always appreciated that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Covers

For a book to grip me, I have to be gripped by its characters, but the right book cover is what is going to get me to look at the blurb, the opening page, and then go on to buy said book. I want the cover to show me something of the mood/genre of the book, to be attractive, and to intrigue me enough so I do pick the book up in the first place. Not asking much. Hmm…. No wonder book covers are so difficult to get spot on.

My favourite quote on the topic comes from the wonderful P.G. Wodehouse who, in a letter to a friend, said “God may forgive Herbert Jenkins Limited for the cover of……… But I never shall!” Book title deleted here to protect the guilty. I highly recommend the Wodehouse books of letters by the way – there is a wonderful one edited by Frances Donaldson (Yours Plum, the Letters of P.G.Wodehouse which is where I came across this quote) and another which was edited by Sophie Ratcliffe (Wodehouse: A Life in Letters). Both are fascinating reads.

It is some comfort to me as a writer that even the big names didn’t/haven’t always liked the book covers they’ve been “given”. I’ve been fortunate here in that my small indie publisher has ensured I have had some input into my covers which is something I’ve appreciated.

The author ought to have some idea of themes etc that their book cover could draw on though, rightly, the publisher should have the final say given they know what has worked for them already and can drawn on that kind of knowledge one author is simply not going to have.

So then what works for you with book covers? I don’t like over-complicated ones. Indeed my Agatha Christie collection (good old Odhams Publishers) are simply red hardbacks with gold lettering – simple but effective. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has Gandalf striding out in bad weather and again works well (I know immediately this has to be a fantasy quest).

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Time Generation and Must Have Books

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing images kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones. Many thanks to Fiona Park for the image of me signing books at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Other book photos taken by me.
Hope you have had a good weekend. Nice to have a quiet one after my London trip the week before. The dog wasn’t sorry to have me at home either! Image below taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

Glad to be able to share the Amazon link for the October issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads. Please note it IS a FREE magazine. Plenty of interesting articles to read. My column on flash fiction this time focuses on Light and Dark in Flash Fiction.


It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this time I look at Drawing People into Reading. This post came about as a result of something I experienced at a Book Fair many moons ago. Why is reading considered as boring in some quarters when good books take you into fantasy worlds, science fiction, backwards and forwards in time? What can be done to correct that impression? Any thoughts welcome over on the AE page.

 

Have tried to make the most of nice autumnal weather this weekend given the rain is back next week. Lady had a wonderful surprise when she got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback best buddy today and then Lady’s “boyfriend”, a lovely Aussie Shepherd called Bear, also arrived. Three tired but happy dogs went home, feeling the day was well spent. It is quite a sight to see Lady play fighting with her Ridgeback pal. You stand back, stay out of the way, and enjoy the show! And who can herd the best – a Border Collie cross or an Aussie Shepherd? Hard to pick a winner but both of them ran beautifully, tails going nineteen to the dozen.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for November. Always a joy to put that together. Please head over to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up. As well as news, I share exclusive stories, prompt, and tips here. (I try to make my newsletter something I know I would want to read if I was on the receiving end and I take the same approach with my stories and blogging. It’s a good starting point because I am trying to see things as a reader would and am tailoring my work to what I think a reader would want. It also helps cut out any temptation to put in things that are not strictly needed).

A tip that I’ve found useful many a time when perhaps the week has been especially tiring is a simple one. Just write what you can when you can and don’t beat yourself up. It is important to enjoy what you do and I would rather have a ten minutes writing session that I loved every second of than to have three times that long and I struggle. And for short periods of writing time I take the chance to jot down ideas for future use or might to do some light editing, things I know I can do in the time and which will help me feel as if I have achieved something. That is important too.

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Lady had a Saturday bonus today in that she got to play with her Labradoodle pal, Coco, today. Both dogs went home tired out and happy. I managed to cut our lawn today. I suspect it will be the final cut of the year too.

Writing wise, I look forward to sharing my next CFT post where I’ll be discussing Good Writing Topics. I am also back on Authors Electric on 18th and my theme for that will be Drawing People Into Reading.

And don’t forget if you contribute to Mom’s Favorite Reads, the online magazine, my topic this month is Memories. What 300 word stories can you share on that theme? This edition will be the November 2021 issue. I’ll share the link as soon as I can after publication so you can have a good read (!) but I know some who follow my website are fellow contributors to the magazine.

I like to pick open themes (the reason for which is something I’ll discuss more on Friday for my CFT post) but an early lesson in writing taught me to go that way as I did make the classic writing mistake of boxing myself in on a story. Never again I hope!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Amazon currently have an offer on From Light to Dark and Back Again. See link.

Looking forward to sharing stories from that and Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the Brechin/Angus Book Fest during my flash fiction workshop. One of the best ways of demonstrating what flash fiction is and can be is to read some!

 

It’s a dark, damp, dire Monday in Hampshire so definitely time for story time I think. Hope you enjoy Scrabbled. What message would you spell out on the game board?


I’ve scheduled a new mini-flash tale for tomorrow on my YouTube channel and look forward to sharing the link then. See above!

I’ve also prepared a new story which I hope to submit to #FridayFlashFiction. And I used something different for this one.
I found a time generator! You can choose random times within parameters (which you can change). I chose five times within set hours (9 am and 5 pm). I will definitely do this again. The tale was great fun to write and it made me think about what my character would actively be doing as as well as when. Having specific times in a story meant I had to make my character focus and it gave a nice rhythm to the story too. Assuming FFF take the story, I’ll share the link when I have it.

Now if only I could have a “real life” time generator to help me get all the boring chores done so I had more time for writing and editing etc! Will let you know if my story makes it on to Friday Flash Fiction’s website this week.

Meanwhile you can check out my other videos at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

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I don’t write to the seasons as such though I do like some Christmassy flash fiction stories and have some in both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. But there is no reason why you couldn’t take the seasons as a theme for a series of flash tales.

Likewise, the weather could be a “mood” for your story. Stormy has an obvious link to stormy characters and situations but how could you make “sunny” interesting enough for a reader to want to read on? I think my take on this would be to have a sunny character whose world is turned upside down. Do they find their sunny nature again or is that gone forever? Now there’s the story.

Goodreads Author Blog – Top Ten Must Have Books

Okay, no list is going to be perfect. I suspect some titles will drop out off any list in one year and come back on it again the next year etc but here is my list of Top Ten Must Have Books.

The Lord of the Rings
Pride and Prejudice
Murder on the Orient Express
Raising Steam (Terry Pratchett)
The Code of the Woosters
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Daughter of Time (Josephine Tey)
P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters. (Fabulous book and I love reading books of letters).
The History of Britain (Three volume set based on the TV series presented by Simon Schama some time ago but oh so worth reading).
A Christmas Carol

Which books would be on your list?

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Pinch, Punch, The First of The Month and Trying Hard

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. Many thanks to Fiona Park for the fab photo of my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at Swanwick 2021.
Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. New story out and a new More than Writers blog post which has attracted a fair few comments but then I did ask about people’s Writing Niggles. It seems to have hit a spot!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s that time of the week again and time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week’s one is called Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me, writing wise. I also look at the origin of the saying and ask why white rabbits are considered lucky. Any thoughts on that? If so pop a comment over on the CFT page. This post will tie in nicely with next week’s one where I’ll be taking a look at sayings and their uses in creative writing.

Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month

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A huge thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on my More Than Writers blog spot yesterday. See further down. My post about Writing Niggles obviously hit a sore spot or several! Mind you, the one comfort here is we all have writing niggles. It is working out a way of (a) managing them and (b) limiting the irritation they can cause you that are the tricky bits to get right.

My post tomorrow for Chandler’s Ford Today is all about Pinch, Punch The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me now (author newsletter send out day!). I also look at the origin of this strange phase (which will also tie in with my post on the 8th October as I will be talking about sayings and their uses in fiction and non-fiction).

Oh and is it just me or have the light levels in the evening just plummeted into complete darkness so far this autumn? There has been no gradual fading of the light. It looks as if someone has gone in and taken the bulb out! Dark by 7.30 pm… I wasn’t expecting that until much later into October.

It’s my turn on the More Than Writers blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This month I talk about Writing Niggles and it is a rare writer indeed that doesn’t have at least one. I share some of mine (yes, some!) and solutions I have found that have helped me. A huge thanks to everyone for the wonderful comments on this subject which have come in already.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Will my hapless Sarah finally make things right with her neighbour in Trying Hard?

Screenshot 2021-10-01 at 18-59-48 Trying Hard, by Allison Symes

One of the biggest things flash fiction has done for me as a writer is to help me understand what “show, don’t tell” means in practice. It took me ages to get my head around that.

Because I have to write to a tight word count, I have no room for “extras” and showing a scene rather than telling it can take up a fair bit of said word count. I’ve found it helpful to focus on one thing I have to show a reader for a story that is 500 words or less. I’ll show two for 500 to 1000 words. So I have to work out what is the most important thing to show a reader and focus on that alone. That in turn does help me keep my word count down.

I’ve mentioned before my “she wears a red coat” and “she wears a moth-eaten red coat” as these are great examples of tight writing and how one word can change perspective. I don’t need to tell you my character is poor in the second example. I’ve shown you (and hyphenated words, since they count as one word for flash fiction, are the flash writer’s best friend). So think of ways in which you could show something.

Anger – character slamming something.

Sadness – character being asked by another character something along the lines of “what’s up with you?” and then getting the first character to sob.

Happiness – Showing your character walking jauntily, whistling a cheery tune etc.

So you can show a mood quickly. Setting can be done with the selective use of detail. A poor house can be shown as characters moaning about the roof leaking again etc. Think about what you want to show and then what words you can use to do that. Always pick the strongest. A roof leaking is far more powerful than characters moaning about how poor they are. Readers do pick things up on context (I love doing this). We just need to give them the right clues so they can.

BookBrushImage-2021-9-30-20-354Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer on Amazon. See link for more.

Will also be sending out my author newsletter on 1st October. I share tips, prompts, flash stories here (and these are often exclusive to newsletter readers) as well as my news. Do head over to my website (the landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where the landing page takes you straight through to the sign-up. There is a giveaway too.

Fairytales with Bite – Seasonal Magic

Do your magical characters use their powers more at certain times of year or spread the use evenly throughout the twelve months? In your fictional setting, do certain seasons encourage the use of magic or, conversely, limit it? In the darker times of year, is magic more difficult? Is there any link to available light levels and when there is light, is it easier for a character to “produce the goods” when it comes to using their powers?

Do physical weaknesses limit magical use? After all, we are prone to colds, the flu etc more in the winter months and that affects how we “perform” so could your characters be affected by something similar?
Also, can your characters adapt their spells to match the time of year? For example, when it is dark and gloomy, are they on call for “lift me up” charms to help get people through these times? (For me a cup of hot chocolate, a cosy home, classical music, and a good book would do this for me nicely!).

Are your people expected to produce more magic at certain times of year? If magic can be equated to energy, are they on call to produce more of this at certain times of year to help keep their environment “going”? (Think Monsters Inc where the monsters need energy from children’s screams and then run into problems when they find youngsters aren’t so easily scared any more).

How do the seasons affect your people? In good ways or negatively and how could that change the outcome of your stories (or do your people “compensate” and, if so, how? What matters here is that you know how things work here even if you don’t need to share all of that with your readers.

You inevitably won’t share it all but you could have a character exploiting weaknesses here to their advantage. You would need to know what they are exploiting, how, and what would be the outcome? Also could the exploited hit back by using your natural world against whoever is trying to pull this trick off?).

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This World and Others – Seasons

I love the seasons. See some of the above pics for proof! The last one with the summer house is from my garden earlier this year. There is beauty to be found in each, even in winter (and there I also have the delicious compensations of hot chocolate, a cosy home etc to enjoy). Okay, so we have the four, but what does your created world have? More or less? Same as ours or totally different?

How do the seasons work in your created world? Especially if you have magical characters, is there anything they can do to influence how the seasons work and, if so, how? What would they gain from this?

Seasons tie in with celebrations too so what seasonal events would your world hold? Why are these things special to them?

As for the climate, can it compare with ours or is yours worse or better? How do your characters manage the ups and downs of the seasons and the climate?

There are seasons in life too. How do your stories reflect this in your characters, especially as they age? Have they learned anything useful from their younger years (especially what not to do) that benefits them now? Do they appreciate the season of “maturity” or do they resent not being young any more?

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Reviews, Transformations, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

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

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

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

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

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Facebook – General

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

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

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

Youtube channel – Allison Symes

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

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

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

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

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Hope you have had a good weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

 

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

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


Goodreads Author Blog – Anthologies

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

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

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

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Being an Indie Author and Editorial News

Image Credit-:

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

Introducing Maressa Mortimer – Being an Indie Author – Part 1

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

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

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

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

Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-24-49 Allison Symes

EDITORIAL NEWS

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

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

81c3b525454b4749288740f600b1f96a.0The Open Mic for Prose night

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

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

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

Fairytales with Bite – Crime and Punishment in the Magical World

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – Geography

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

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

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

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

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Writing Joys, Podcast News, and Launches in Lockdown 2

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Thanks to #RichardHardie, #FrancescaTyer, and #TeresaBassett for supplying images used below too.

A huge thank you to #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones for their images and book cover photos for my Chandler’s Ford Today Launches In Lockdown series this week.

And I am delighted to say I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show earlier this week. Will share link further down. I talk about writing regular columns for online magazines.

podcast-4209770_640

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Launches in Lockdown Part 2

What a busy day it has been as there are two posts on here from me tonight!

For this post, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I think if I can make a claim to write a zeitgeist series, this one is it!

Part 2 tonight shares wonderful insights from three authors from the Association of Christian Writers (I’m the Membership Secretary). #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones have all had books out in the very recent past and have plenty of useful tips and thoughts to share in this week’s post.

Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Next week I’ll be chatting to writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

It is very much an Association of Christian Writers weekend for me as I am at an online Committee meeting tonight and tomorrow. Much will be said. Much will be done. All thanks to Zoom!

And it is my turn on the ACW More Than Writers blog too. This month, I use my spot to talk about Writing Joys. I can’t stress enough how important it is to love what you write. (Okay you won’t all the time, nobody does, but you should be looking forward to your writing sessions and what you’re working on most of the time. It is that love for the work which drives you and can help keep you going during the tougher writing times which happen to us all).

Delighted to say my interview with Richard Hardie recently on Chandler’s Ford Today is now up on the Authors Reach website (very much with my blessing!). Authors Reach is Richard’s publishing company and I was chatting to him about the challenges he has faced as an author and publisher during the pandemic. The AR link is https://www.authorsreach.co.uk/post/richard-hardie-authors-reach-and-lockdown – well worth another read!

And tomorrow sees Part 2 of my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown, go live. This week I’ll be chatting to three lovely writers from the Association of Christian Writers – #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones. One of them has also come up with the funniest book title of 2020 in my view. You’ll have to wait for the post tomorrow to find out who the author is and whether you agree with me or not! (Trouble with doing a blog round up in reverse date order is you will already have spotted the answer to this one!!).

PODCAST NEWS –

WENDY H JONES CHATS TO ALLISON SYMES

Am thrilled to share the link to my interview by Wendy H Jones for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. I talk about writing a regular column (for Chandler’s Ford Today), how I find ideas (and keep coming up with them) and the joys of an online magazine.

With more of us using technology to read (smartphones, I-pads etc), it makes a huge amount of sense to have intelligent, interesting, and entertaining content available for that technology. And online magazines do need writers to provide it. Hope you enjoy. And many thanks, Wendy, for hosting me again. It was such fun to do!

Podcast News:  https://www.stitcher.com/show/the-writing-and-marketing-show/episode/writing-a-newspaper-column-81142120

Screenshot_2021-01-27 The Writing and Marketing Show - Writing a Newspaper Column on Stitcher

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A huge thanks to everyone for the great responses so far to my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown. Whether you’ve been launching flash fiction collections (as I have) or longer works, I think it is fair to say the last 12 months have been difficult. But social media and Zoom have helped.

And I think this all shows the importance of networking too. Thanks to networking over the last few years, I have a lovely wide range of people to approach for CFT interviews, but it does also mean that same pool can be invited to my launches.

Naturally this is two-way traffic. I get invited to theirs and I go to as many as I can. You learn from what other writers do and they learn from you too. I love the give and take of the writing world here.

I guess also writing flash is excellent practice for writing short, pithy pieces for your online book launches too!

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Am thrilled to see a great number of views for my recent story video, Dress Sense. The thought of Red Riding Hood giving the Big Bad Wolf fashion tips has obviously gone down well! Many thanks, everyone. (Oh and I think she’s right by the way – see the link and see what you think!).

Dress Sense Video Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVs_GEWh5To

Tripping The Flash Fantastic is on offer in paperback on Amazon at the moment. Go on, pick up a bargain! See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more.

F = Fun to write
L = Lively character(s)
A = Action immediately
S = Stories great for ending with a twist
H = Heroes/heroines are dropped right in it from the start

F = Finite story length but you do have some choice
I = Imagination intense to make an intense story work
C = Character(s) has/have to grip you immediately.
T = Tension, yes there’s plenty of that and not a lot of space to resolve it.
I = Intensity can vary. Reflective pieces can work well but the character has to be compelling to make that successful.
O = Oh my… what is your flash tale’s ‘oh my’ moment?
N = Narrative take? I often favour first person.

Thought I’d share another story video here – hope you enjoy.

Fairytales with Bite – Magical Reading

What kind of books would your magical characters read? Would they read about uses of magic or do they want to get away from all of that? Well, it would make sense if they did. I know when I read I want to escape the every day world and its cares. In a magical world, the magic is the everyday world and its cares! Same old, same old, and all that!

Having said that, maybe they would want to carry out research and use it to improve their skills.
Some suggestions for possible research reading material then though I accept the titles could do with some work (and abbreviating!):-

Fairies – 10001 Things To Do With Your Wand Not Involving Turning People Into Frogs

Witches – How to Sabotage Fairy Spells So They Produce Useless Things Like Glass Slippers – A Beginner’s Guide.

Wizards – How to Produce the Perfect Smoke Ring Without Appearing to Use Magic To Do It

Elves – How To Be A Right Cobbler (see the story of The Elves and the Shoemaker here).

Dwarves – Gold and How To Find It (always of interest)

Dragons – Wing Technique for the Bigger Flying Animal and How To Get It Right and Surprise Your Prey (and I am assuming dragons are very intelligent creatures who can read, so there!).

And talking of dragons, let’s hear another story from their viewpoint.

 

This World and Others – Education, Education…..Er…. What Does Your Fictional World Consider to be Education?

So what would your created world consider to be a good standard of education? Is it just the ability to read and write? Would there be topics like history, geography, any of the sciences etc? And is the education open to all but only a few?

In an uneducated world (judging by our standards only), how would news be communicated to those who cannot read? Does the lack of an education hold people back or have they not known anything else? Is there any sense of people wanting to improve their situation here?

And if so, what or whom is stopping them and for what purposes? (Usually it is a question of being able to control people who don’t enough to question things but what if the ruler has genuine reasons for fearing what education could do? Are they right? What are those fears? How can those fears be misproved and the ruler shown a good standard of education would be beneficial?).

If there are schools, colleges etc., do they resemble what we have here? What are the differences?

And if education has always been around, how has it progressed or is it progressing during the course of your story?

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The Interview Fence and Humorous Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And below – well books are such magical places to be, are they not?

 

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Nice big walk with Lady today before the weather set in. Not looking forward to tomorrow. I suspect Lady and I are going to get a good soaking, no matter what time I take her out.

Have drafted answers to second set of interview questions so will be reviewing those and sending them off to the interviewer probably tomorrow.

Now I am on both sides of the interview fence of course. I love questions which draw a writer out of their shell a bit. So questions which always find favour with me will include things like:-

Why do you write what you do? What made you pick that genre?

This is a fab question as it makes you think well why did I pick that route and why am I still sticking with it? In my case with the flash fiction it is because I love the challenge and variety of it. But that sort of question makes you re-evaluate what you’re doing and that’s a good thing. It should confirm you really do love what you write and it is that love which keeps you going during the tougher times of the writing life.

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Hope Monday has been okay for you. Very busy with the old domestics today. Only too glad to get to my desk and write. Writing relaxes me and I always feel so much better for having got something down on the old laptop.

Looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for CFT on Friday. As well as sharing my experiences with Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I’ll be talking to two Authors Reach writers – Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer. Plenty of useful tips and thoughts given “normal” writing events won’t be back with us for a while, even if everything does go well with controlling, and eventually beating, You Know What.

Still one lovely thing about writing is there is always plenty to be getting on with and it is something positive to focus on. My goal for this week is to return the other set of interview questions I’m working on and prepare material for something special I hope to talk more about in the next month or so.

Plus there are always stories to work on and the new idea I referred to yesterday for a draft I’ve got prepared is something else I hope to write up later this week. I always jot down ideas like this in fairly detailed notes when I know I can’t write something up immediately. I’ve found it’s the only way to make sure I don’t forget something important.

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It is great fun being on the receiving end of the interview questions. I’ve just sent one batch back and will be working on another set but what is great is these questions stretch me and make me think. They make me think about what I write but also how and why. That’s a good thing. It pays writers every so often to take a step back and remind yourself of why you do what you do here. I look forward to sharing the links on these interviews later on.

Have drafted a story for submission, rested it for a week, and as so often happens a better idea for how to end the story has occurred to me so that will be going in. That is the whole point of resting a piece of work (and it applies equally well to non-fiction). You need distance between when you first wrote the piece and then when you look at it again.

Time away does help you see things more clearly, including where the story might be strengthened (and that is always worth doing. Someone said you should try not to write the boring bits that people skip when they read. It’s equally true you should try not to write the “weak” bits as people skip those bits too and you want readers hanging on your every written word!).

Had a lovely couple of writing Zooms over the weekend. Great fun to catch up with everyone and a much appreciated morale boost for yours truly – these things always are.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glad I delayed taking Lady out as the weather went from grotty to cold but sunny. She liked that too.

Just to say the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer via Amazon. See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more on that. Many thanks for all of the fabulous reviews so far on this. Would always welcome more of course!

Whether it is for my book(s) or those of any other author, well thought out reviews are always welcome. They don’t have to be long and can be as simple as I liked this book because…. Or my favourite story is …………. etc. A couple of minutes and you’re done and you’re supporting authors too. So what’s not to like?!

Of course one problem all writers have faced in the last 12 months has been the lack of our usual writing events to promote and sell our wares. This is why I wanted to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today.

That starts next week but my interview with Richard Hardie yesterday was insightful as to the challenges faced by publishers. I’ve found it pays to understand something about the way publishers operate as that helps me in turn to tailor my approaches in them in such a way it increases the chances of acceptances! It really does make sense, folks!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Is there anything about longer forms of writing I miss when it comes to focusing on flash ficton storytelling?
I suppose if there is anything, it is the lack of subplots. There simply isn’t the room for any in a sub-500 words flash story. (You can get a simple one in if you write up to the 1000 word limit and I have done this with my story Rewards from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Also this is a good story if you want to be wary of how you upset someone with the power to get their revenge in print!).

But then I do see the joys of novels with their twists and turns as something to savour separately from the flash tales where I do just focus on the one important moment. And the great thing?

Both have their place in storytelling.

Both have their place on my writing and reading lists!

And there’s nothing to stop you writing in more than one form.


Wow! Many thanks for the huge response to my most recent Book Brush adverts involving my flash fiction collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. That came as a very nice surprise after a tiring Monday. (I hadn’t twigged today is so-called Blue Monday. Mondays are tough days regardless of when in the year they are! I wonder if that is why Bank Holiday Mondays seem to be more of a holiday than they are. It’s not just a question of getting a day off, we’re getting a Monday off!).

I thought I’d reshare one of my most popular story videos from my Youtube channel. Last Request lives up to its title! Hope you enjoy. (I often create a new story over the weekend but did not have time to do so this time. Mind you, this story is a good example of the kind of quirky tale I love reading and writing).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXGNt9XndN8

F = Fun to Write
L = Language to be direct and specific
A = Action – conveyed in as few words as possible
S = Story complete in and of itself
H = Hero/heroine but room for only 1 or 2 characters.

F = Fairytales and fantasy work well in a flash format
I = Imagination – let it run riot and then hone what you come up with to produce a piece of hard hitting flash fiction
C = Characters. Have to make impact quickly as flash fiction has to be character led.
T = Truth – flash fiction is as capable of conveying truths about the human condition as an epic novel!
I = Intense. Has to be due to the word count restrictions (but that makes truth hit home quicker and harder)
O = Omnipresent narration can work well in flash.
N = No restrictions on what genre of story you use for flash.

TTFF - posh chairBookBrushImage-2021-1-3-16-443BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939


Have been having fun with Book Brush again re promoting for FLTDBA and TTFF. Easy to do too. (See above pics though the phone one I created a little while ago but is a favourite of mine).

One of the things I do enjoy on the promoting side is being able to share some of the stories. Flash doesn’t take long to read so it makes quite a good advert for itself!

A good advert is one you can remember years later so the ideal for book straplines is to try and do the same with those. This is where flash fiction writing can help, especially practising writing the one-liners. But it takes time, it is not always easy to judge if you’ve got it right so beta readers and the like can be an enormous help here.

Am looking forward to getting my third collection together too. That is one my tasks for this year. I’ve written a fair amount already but will be getting the rest up together while I rest my non-fiction project. These are the two major things I want to submit later this year. I like the balance of having a fiction and a non-fiction to work on and I did find using NaNoWriMo incredibly helpful so will be open to using that structure again.

Below is the video I created for the Waterloo Arts Festival back in the summer of 2020 as that had to go online. I share an extract from my story Books and the Barbarians here and talk a little about my work. Hope you enjoy.

Goodreads Author Blog – Humorous Books

If ever there was a time for humorous books, it is now isn’t it? Something to cheer people up with and I must admit I was pleased to see that sales of P.G. Wodehouse books have gone up during the pandemic. (I hope the same has happened with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books too).

And of course humour creeps into other genres too, including crime and horror. I do love a witty one-liner from a character where you know the character is capable of coming up with such things.

It is a bugbear of mind that humorous books aren’t taken more seriously. They are “proper” literature and shouldn’t be looked down on. If anything a writer capable of writing humour should be lauded simply because it is not the easiest thing to do. Humour is subjective after all.

Mind you, the written word has a huge advantage here. I love “seeing” puns come out, where appropriate to the storyline. Language, and playing with it to make stories, should be fun and I like to see fun in the final results.

I guess this may well be one reason that misery memoir really is not for me, no matter how well written it is. I’ve got to have some cheer somewhere and even a gripping crime novel, with the odd bit of humour in it, will always work better for me than that.

Have you any favourite funny books you turn to for literally light reading relief as and when you need it?

 

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