Christmas and Stories

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A night early due to having lovely family commitments to look forward to tomorrow and Saturday! I take a look back at my highlights of 2018 which includes everything from a wonderful wildlflower meadow to my writing high points. I hope you had a lovely Christmas and wish you all the best for 2019!

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Watched The Muppets Christmas Carol. Fab film. I love the “Marley and Marley” sequence (it’s only in the last year or so I got the gag about Jacob and ROBERT Marley – yes?! Reggae fans catered for here!) and Gonzo recommending reading the book itself at the end of the film. Don’t ask why I didn’t get the gag before. Couldn’t believe I hadn’t spotted it before but there you go.

Also watched the film version of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather a few days ago. Loved that too. Thought Michelle Dockery was a superb Susan. Next thing to watch will be the Patrick Stewart version of Dickens’ classic and at some point over the festivities I will try and rewatch The Ladykillers with Alec Guinness. I catch up with old favourites on film as well as in book form at this time of year!

What makes for a good adaptation? It should stick reasonably faithfully to the book. (I say reasonably as I accept some things would have to be cut). It’s more important to stick to the spirit of the book, I think. Whoever is cast should be utterly believable in the role. Michael Caine is as Scrooge with the Muppets. Reminds me of the classic Eric and Ernie “Andrew Preview” sketch – it had to be played seriously by all parties for the humour to work – and yes I’ll be watching that again too. All time favourite comic sketch for me.

Whatever you watch, listen to, or read this Christmas, have a wonderful time doing it!!

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Just after Christmas, I do an annual “stock take” of where I am writing wise, what I’ve achieved this year, and what I’d like to achieve during the next 12 months. Naturally, the latter list is always longer than the first one! But I find it helpful to look back and make myself take some time out to think about specific writing hopes and then get on and try and fulfil them, of course.

Just about ready for Christmas now. Had a lovely Carols by Candlelight service tonight. Some lovely poems in amongst the singing fest and Nativity readings.

Another aspect to the season is that having a dog in the house means there is no such thing as leftover turkey ever again! Lady loved her first Christmas with us last year, she has left the trees alone (much to our relief! Our vets have a tree in their surgery which looks lovely but I do wonder about this. It’s a matter of time before the lights on it fuse because every dog that goes in HAS to go over and at best sniff it and… well you get the picture).

Am winding down on writing for the next few days but will relish it the more when I do get back into my usual routine.

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I’m not surprised the Christmas cracker joke writers prefer to remain anonymous. For example, these were taken from our recent informal carols night.

Why did the scarecrow get a payrise?  Because he was outstanding in his field.

What do you get if you cross a vampire with a snowman?  Frostbite

How many letters are there in the alphabet at Christmas time?
25 – there is No L at this time of year.

Is there such a thing as a bad pun? Of course. Still make me groan and smile in equal measure though. And to finish for a few days break I leave you with:

There was once a cracker joke writer
Whose puns made people curse the blighter
So when his pen was taken
He felt forlorn, forsaken
But the world felt much brighter!

Allison Symes – 24th December 2018

Merry Christmas! Back in a few days…

Hope you had a lovely Christmas and that you received all the books you wanted to have as presents. Well, you did ask for some, yes? Am pleased to report my To Be Read pile has gone up again – no surprises there!

Won’t be back completely to my usual writing routine until Sunday as will have having a lovely time with family tomorrow and Saturday. Glad to grab chance to write now though!

I enjoyed the break away from the PC but must admit am raring to go again properly from Sunday. It is great to be eagerly looking forward to writing again though. It is a good feeling.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Do you like your own characters? I think like many writers, I love some of them, loathe others, and the rest I definitely wouldn’t want to meet in an alley in broad daylight, yet alone at any other time. Good thing? Yes, it means I’ve created characters I believe in and react to – so readers should believe in and react to them too. In many ways, the first person you’ve got to convince about the veracity/worthiness of your story IS YOU!

This is why it pays to put work aside for a while after first writing it because I’ve found there are two reactions to a piece you’ve just finished. You either think it is a work of genius (the Move Over Shakespeare school of thought) or, even more likely, it is total rubbish (the Why Did I Think I Could Write school of thought).

Neither is true! What you will have written is something that has promise but needs a decent edit (and ideally more than one) before the work gets submitted anywhere. I’ve also found coming back to a piece after a break means I will look at it with fresh eyes. You do spot the mistakes better. You also spot the things that work (which cheers you up a lot!). So literally give yourself time here.

‘You do know at what speed you were travelling, sir?’
‘Er… no… officer, I’m afraid I was concentrating on getting to my next destination. I have to cover everyone on my list, you see, and I don’t have much time. Was it important?’
‘I’ll say so, sir. You will cause chaos flying at that speed. If everyone did that there’d be accidents galore.’
‘But, officer, it’s Christmas Eve, I’m Santa Claus, there’s nobody up here except us and I’d love to know how YOU got here.’

Allison Symes – 23rd December

Hope you enjoy. This was inspired by a Pixabay picture I recently used where Santa is on the ground but his sleigh is parked in the sky with reindeer on standby! See below!

There's a story here not least in how Santa got down from his sleigh, see where he has parked it - Pixabay

HOW did Santa get down from his sleigh? Look at where he’s parked it! Pixabay image.

Flash fiction lives up to its name both in its brevity and the way it illuminates one moment in time for a character. It is like shining a spotlight on one particular aspect and there should be a sense of the resulting intensity coming from that. There should also be a sense that the story is the correct length and would be spoiled somehow if a word was taken away or added to. Tough order but writing flash will improve your editing skills.

‘Have I passed the MOT then, young man?’ The elderly gent peered at the guy, who could easily have been his grandson. ‘Can I resume my duties now?’
‘Oh yes, Grand…er… sir. And you are getting the correct CPM out of your chosen fuel source too.’
‘Carrots Per Mile, sir. You must be feeding your reindeer well.’
The elderly gent smiled. ‘Quality will tell, it always does. I don’t suppose there is anything you can do about the lead one’s red nose is there? I swear it stands out even in the thickest fog and I know Rudolph is embarrassed by it.’
‘Sorry, sir, you will have to go back to the manufacturer on that one.’
The elderly gent sighed. ‘That will have to wait. I’ve got places to go, people to see, and the big boss will want me to get that done first.’
And with that Santa and his reindeer took off as Christmas Eve broke. It would be a busy night.


Allison Symes – 24th December 2018

Merry Christmas! Back in a few days…

Hope you had a great Christmas and got to enjoy lots of stories, whether in book, audio, or film formats! I was given 365 Stories which is a wonderful book where for each day of the year there is one story at 365 words exactly. I have already demolished January!! (There is no way I am reading ONE story per day. It’s like trying to stop yourself taking a second Quality Street. You’ve got to have a backbone of steel for that and, frankly, I haven’t!).

And yes flash is great for this time of year. Too busy with all the festivities? Too tired to read much afterwards? Then just dip into a flash fiction collection and enjoy. A brief dip into the world of fiction is particularly refreshing when you know you haven’t time for a “full immersion” (i.e. a novel!).

Goodreads Author Blog – Merry Christmas!

Hope you have a wonderful time at Christmas and all the best for 2019. I hope you have many fantastic book-related presents under the tree this year. One of my favourite times of Christmas Day is that lovely period when I curl up on the sofa and start “tucking into” my festive reading material!

Have recently enjoyed film versions of some of my favourite stories. Don’t think you can beat the Muppets’ Christmas Carol. What’s not to like about Gonzo recommending reading the book itself right at the end of the film?! I’m not surprised A Christmas Carol has never been out of print since it was first published and it must be Dickens’ biggest earner even now.

Have also watched the film version of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather. These are two must sees in the countdown to Christmas.

Aim for next year is to try to read more (and to review more too). There’s a lot on my Kindle I haven’t updated as finished here! (Bet I’m not the only Goodreads fan guilty of that though).

So whether you take in your stories in book form, audio format, film or what have you, enjoy. And here’s to looking forward to more reading in 2019.

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Fairytales with Bite – Tis The Season for Fairytales?

I love fairytales no matter what the time of year is, but the Christmas season I think makes those who don’t usually read the genre more open to it.  I think a lot of this is due to the influence of pantomime (at least in the UK it is.  Several of the best known pantomimes are fairytale based – The Babes in the Woods, Aladdin, Cinderella, Puss in Boots etc).

Also it is the perfect time of year in the UK when it is cold and gets dark early to curl up with favourite stories and books and again fairytales play a huge role here.

The one thing I wish I could wish away is the image of fairytales being twee.  They are  NOT.  Just look at what Hans Christen Andersen wrote!  Also I’d like to get rid of the “it’s just a fairytale” statement that people come up with sometimes.  There’s nothing “just” about being a fairytale.

Fairytales contain truths, show up humanity for what it can be like, and can be scathing about greed and unkindness.  Justice can be on the rough side too!  So no unfair dismissal of fairytales then?  I think that’s a good wish for 2019!

Happy New Year!

This World and Others Christmas Stories

Due to (lovely) family commitments, this post is going up a day early.  Christmas Stories ties in with a recent CFT post though naturally this week’s one, as we rapidly approach 2019, is my usual end of year/highlights of year post.

What are your favourite Christmas stories?  Mine are:-

1.  The Nativity
2.  A Christmas Carol
3.  Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
4.  Twas the Night before Christmas – it IS a story, albeit one told in poetic form!

I hope you had lots of lovely books as presents and whether you enjoy stories in book form, audio, or as film, I hope you managed to find time to relish your favourites again here.

Of course the dark and cold (at least in the UK!) encourages you to stay in and curl up with a good book, though I could be living in sunnier climes and still want to curl up with said good book!

The great thing about reading is it encourages your own writing (ideas spark from other ideas) and you learn so much about story by indulging in your love of reading them.  So read on!