Back From Brechin

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.
Many thanks to Sarah Archibald for Brechin/Angus Book Festival related material. Also a huge thanks to Wendy H Jones, Caroline Johnston, Tony Collins, Maressa Mortimer, Ruth Leigh, and Sarah Grace for their fab author and book cover photos for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week.  My book cover images are from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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Am pleased to share Back from Brechin, my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at how the event went, the benefits of events like this, discuss my talk and workshop here, and give a shout-out to the contingent from the Association of Christian Writers who went, especially Wendy H Jones, who hosted us and ferried us around. (A huge thanks also to Maressa Mortimer for her valuable taxi services too!).

There were eight of us all including me and we covered a wide range of writing between us – literally everything from children’s fiction to crime to flash fiction to memoir and narrative non-fiction and YA stories to historical novels and Christian chicklit.

The event was great fun and useful experience, as well as it being the first major book event I’ve taken part in since before lockdown. What with this, and the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August, it is good to be out and about again. I love Zoom but getting together with people at in-person events has been something I’ve missed over the last year or so and it is good these are coming back.

Back From Brechin

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Brrr… back to the biting cold again. Not that Lady worried as she was too busy playing with Coco and Katima, two of her pals today. Mind you, Lady might have wondered why her owner insisted we kept walking around the park instead of staying still to watch her and her pals play. I was trying to get some life back into my feet!

Will be sharing my Back From Brechin post for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. It was such useful experience and good fun taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Link above.

Now I’ve talked before about using a variety of methods to trigger ideas for my short stories and flash fiction pieces. I do much the same for my blog posts. Events I go to are obvious topics to write up but I also look at aspects of writing which intrigue me (and I won’t be the only one to be intrigued – what fascinates one writer will fascinate others) and I adore interviewing other writers. I always learn something interesting and interviews make a great way about sharing who you are and what you do in an entertaining way without being too “in your face” with the old “buy my book” routine.

I’ve learned over time to keep a watching brief out for topics I think might be of interest to others. And that is the point – it is vital to think of your audience, always, regardless of what you write. It is also vital that you enjoy what you write as that comes through. It also makes it easier for you to sustain your writing over time.

 

Today has been one of those days though the highlights were seeing Lady play with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Coco, the lovely Labradoodle. Even better their mutual pal, a very smiley Hungarian Vizler, came and joined in the fun. The other highlight was getting my hair done. But other than that…!

Sent my author newsletter out earlier. See link. Always good fun to put these together.

Looking forward to going to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on Saturday. Will be lovely to catch up with friends. (Zoom and Facebook have been a lifeline but you can’t beat getting together in person where possible).

As you know I blog for a number of places and I can’t recommend drafting posts for future use highly enough. It has often proved a lifeline for me as it means I know I always have something which will be “good to go” as and when I need them. It pays to have a “stock” in of these and whenever I go out by train, I always draft blog posts like this once I’ve finished drafting some flash fiction of course!

Screenshot 2021-12-03 at 19-45-49 Allison Symes - December 2021 - Festive Flash and More

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My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is called Specialist Subject where my heroine, Doreen, finds a way of dealing with the local bore. Find out how via the link. My sympathies are entirely with Doreen incidentally!


Screenshot 2021-12-03 at 17-08-27 Specialist Subject, by Allison Symes

Unless I am writing for a specific website such as Paragraph Planet or Friday Flash Fiction or Mom’s Favorite Reads, I don’t worry about the word count until I’ve got the story down. With the three sites I’ve mentioned, I know their word count, what it looks like on a page, and know what to aim for so away I go.

But if I’m not writing for a specific market, I want to write without having to worry about the word count too much. Once I’ve edited the story so I know it is as good as I can make it, I then think either where can I send this piece (and I will know of a few places, I can also research some) OR I save these for open competitions.

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Amongst the many random generators out there is a random object one. Having a quick look tonight, I set two items as my parameters and came up with the words balloon and box.

Now you could just find a way of getting these words into a story. You could get your character(s) to love or loathe these things and your story is about why they feel this way and what led them to that. In the case of loathing, you could also examine what happens if the character is forced to deal with these items again. They’re in a situation where they can’t avoid the things. How do they handle that?

And you could find a way of framing your title around the items too. Plus you could have two characters with opposing views on these objects. How do they resolve their differences? For the above example, what if one character wants their kid to have loads of balloons and boxes at their party, it’s what they always had, while the other believes these are wasteful and doesn’t want any of them?

I’ve found using the different generators enormously useful in (a) coming up with ideas and (b) making me think differently about how I approach writing a story. They’re fun too!

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytales in the Christmas Season

Fairytales are a popular feature at Christmas of course thanks to pantomime in particular. (Think Cinderella, Babes in the Wood, Sleeping Beauty etc). I enjoy a pantomime where it is clear cast and audience are having lots of fun but overall I prefer reading the original stories.

What I hope the pantomime season does is encourage people to check out the original stories (even if the younger fans might be better off leaving that until they are a little older. Many of the original tales could not be staged as they were originally written).

Where I do enjoy my fairytales at Christmas even more is in certain films. I adore The Polar Express and consider that to be a fairytale (and one with an edge to it too). The same goes for Shrek where I love the way the ogre is the hero here. Fairytales have often been “subverted” and the Shrek films are great examples of that.

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This World and Others – Communal Celebrations

Does your fictional world have communal celebrations? If so, are they based on religion, on seasons of the year, or both? Does everyone take part in these? Are any celebrations from the past now banned and, if so, why was that done? How tolerant are your differing peoples of the celebrations of others?

Communal celebrations serve to bring people together and to lift the spirit (especially winter based events as these are often connected with celebrating light and foreshadowing the return of spring). Are these aims achieved in your fictional festivals? Do your characters join in with the events or choose to abstain? Is joining in compulsory?

What foods and drinks are served and who prepares these? Is magic involved in the celebrations? Answering questions like these will help you to picture what your fictional world would do. If that makes things clearer for you, it will do the same for your readers.

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What Books Mean to Me, Bridge House Publishing, and Random Questions

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, as was the photo of one of my stories from The Best of CafeLit 10. I also took the photo of my books at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Not so cold today and Lady got to play with her pal, Coco, who is a very lovable Labradoodle.

Looking forward to sharing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I’ll be writing about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival and sharing why events like this matter (and not just to the authors taking part either). Link up on Friday.

Am putting finishing touches to my author newsletter too and that goes out tomorrow, 1st December. Can hardly believe we’re almost at December already. (And I do hope you have a good number of books on your wish list!).

Also, I was delighted to come up with a new idea for a flash fiction story when I was taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group recently. Have written it up, polished it, and submitted it. Now fingers crossed time!

It’s my turn once again on the More than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about What Books Mean to Me and the challenge here was to keep to the 500 words limit!

Mind you, it is a topic every writer could go on about at length. We’re inspired by what we read. The more we read the bigger our “inspiration net” from which to fish. And we’re supporting the industry we want to be part of – win-win there I think.

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Brr… another cold day here. Am grateful for thick clothes, big coat, long scarf, and gloves for walking the dog. Glamorous? Err… no!

I’ll be talking about What Books Mean to Me in my blog for the Association of Christian Writers tomorrow. See link above. The challenge there was keeping that topic to 500 words! You can see how I did tomorrow when I put the link up.

Pleased to see more comments coming in on Moving Along, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction.

Am working on material for another Zoom talk in February and I’m almost there with material for my third flash fiction collection. It will need robust editing before I submit it but I am hoping to get that off by the spring of next year, earlier if possible. I am happy with the material in and of itself but I know thorough editing will sharpen what’s there and I enjoy that process.

But it is also a relief to know I’ve got the book “down”, the stories are a good mix, and editing will improve them still further. What’s not to like there? Do I wish it was a quicker process? Sometimes. But I know I need a decent break between writing the stories and then going back and editing them. Taking the time there has helped me enormously in the past to see more clearly what is working and what doesn’t. It then gives me my best chance of submitting the best I can to a publisher.

Screenshot 2021-11-26 at 19-21-09 Moving Along, by Allison Symes

Hope everyone is okay. Very stormy conditions in the UK today. Hampshire saw snow, sleet, rain, bitter cold, and strong winds for a lot of Saturday. Even Lady wasn’t that impressed. She isn’t usually fazed by the weather.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for sending out on 1st December. I share tips, prompts, video links and all sorts here. Head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if this sounds of interest.

I’ll be talking about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Many thanks once again to Lynn Clement for the recent two-part interview. It is always a joy to interview other writers for CFT as I always learn something interesting/useful to know (and often both).

The great thing with creative writing is that it is an ongoing process to find out what it is you like to write and then to try and get better at it. Good for the old imagination and the brain as a whole. And then there are all those competitions and markets to still try and crack… no excuse for becoming bored then!

Screenshot 2021-11-30 at 20-37-37 The Appeal of AnthologiesCreative writing is a joy

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Am looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on Saturday. It will be nice meeting up with Lynn Clement again, whose The City of Stories, has recently been published by Chapeltown Books. I recently interviewed Lynn to discuss flash fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Flash is a wonderful format for sharing on social media. For something to entertain without taking up too much of anyone’s time, it can’t be beaten. And it is easy to share at in-person events too. In the busyness of life, it is great to take time out for a very quick read indeed!

I’ve found it pays me to just get the story written and worry about the editing and word count later. Some flash pieces genuinely do work better at 250 words rather than 100 words, for example. It is only by getting the whole story down and giving myself breathing space to look at it properly later, I can see that yes, this needs to be kept in and that doesn’t.

Over time, you do develop an instinct for what will work better at a slightly longer word count and I’ve learned to trust that instinct when it kicks in.

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Back to my normal slot for story time. Hope you enjoy Going On. This one came about as a result of a question from a random question generator (what can you talk about for hours?). I’ve used the same question as the basis for my story for Friday Flash Fiction this week too. Good fun to do.


Am glad to report there’s a special offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon right now. See link below. And a big thank you to those who have picked up the Kindle version recently too. Much appreciated (and if you have time to leave a review, even better).

I’ve mentioned before I’m often using Sundays to produce new stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction respectively and I often use the random generators to trigger my ideas here.

Having a quick look at a random question generator, the question that cropped up was “what can you talk about for hours”? I don’t know yet if I will use that for my stories tonight but the thought struck me it would be a good question to ask your characters as you outline them. You are sure to find out more about what makes them tick by getting “them” to answer that. It should highlight some of their overall attitudes to life too.

For example, if the answer is “military history”, say, you could then dig deeper to find out why your character is fascinated by that. What does that reveal about them? Could an opponent use this against them in some way? And there’s your story outline as you think about the answers to those questions. Using one question to trigger others works for story outlining.

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I often write festive flash fiction. My last Chandler’s Ford Today post of the year usually features some. And I have just written a piece and submitted it on a festive theme. Will report back it if it gets taken. I often share a festive dribble (50 words) or drabble (100) words on my Facebook pages too. (The 50 word ones also work well on Twitter).

I see it as a nice way to wrap up the old year and hopefully the tales will raise a smile or two. Naturally I keep the theme for thee stories light. I do avoid any kind of whimsy though. Even tales featuring Santa will have a bit of a bite to them (albeit a nice bite!).

And when I do write a fairytale kind of story, again apt for the rapidly approaching season, there will be a twist or a sense of irony in the story somewhere. Fairytales were never meant to be twee. I think stories with humour are often the best for getting any kind of message across anyway. It helps to make it palatable.

But what I want most for my festive fiction is for there to be a sense of fun about them. I certainly have fun writing them and I hope that comes across.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Appeal of Anthologies

Naturally I am a bit biased here as I’m honoured to have several of my stories appear in various anthologies over the years. It’s a pleasure to write short stories for these and even more of a pleasure when said tales are accepted.

But, regardless of that, I have always had a soft spot for anthologies. Why? I like to see them as a reading “mixed assortment”. Who ever said that just worked for biscuits or chocolates?! It works for books too!

What I get most from anthologies is the wonderful range of talent on offer. I get to read authors I might not have come across otherwise and, when the anthology is to a set theme, it is fascinating to see how so many different writers bring their own take to that topic.

I deliberately read anthologies, including flash fiction ones, between novels. They do act almost like a “starter meal” for my next longer read. Indeed, if I’m not sure which novel to read next, by the time I’ve come to the end of an anthology, I know which mood (and therefore genre) of novel I want to read next.

So do check the anthologies out. (They’re also useful for seeing if you like the work of an author new to you. If you like their short work, it is highly likely you will like their longer books).

And happy reading – short and long form!

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Stories, Editing, and a Press Appearance

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Many thanks to Sarah Archibald for images related to the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing (though the image of CafeLit 10 was my usual keen author opening their box of books shot!). It has been a strange week. I started the week in Dundee, after a lovely time at the Festival, and am now back at my desk, getting down to the nitty-gritty of the writing life (and loving that). Am very appreciative of the joy creative writing has given and continues to give me.

Creative writing is a joy

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am so pleased to welcome back Lynn Clement to Chandler’s Ford Today. This week we talk about editing. I had the pleasure of editing Lynn’s flash fiction collection, The City of Stories, recently. Lynn shares how she found the vigorous three stage editing process Chapeltown Books has and what her approach to editing is amongst other topics. Hope you enjoy the post and pick up useful thoughts here. I hope it is some consolation that editing is hard work but oh so worth it when you know your book is sharper, tighter, flows better than it did before. It is worth it, folks, honest!

And what is really nice is I am due to meet up with Lynn again in person at the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on 4th December. Looking forward to catching up with her and other Bridge House/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books authors then (and many of us write for all three!).

Introducing Lynn Clement – Part 2 – The Editing

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Pleased to share the following link kindly forwarded to be by Sarah Archibald – a lovely write up and pic of the authors taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Must admit the last time I sat in a group like this, I was at school! (Also first time I’ve been in a newspaper so feeling a bit chuffed I must say).

Success for Brechin/Angus Book Festival event

Screenshot 2021-11-26 at 20-29-20 Success for Brechin Angus Book Festival event Angus World

Hope you’ve had a good day. I’m in that “back to the office after a break” kind of routine and am trying to catch up with paperwork.

Had a lovely time on the Association of Christian Writers Flash Group meeting tonight. Groups like this are useful for sharing tips and advice, reading stories out and receiving feedback. We’re not meeting next month (I’ll leave you to guess why!) but look forward to meeting up with everyone again on Zoom in January. And that will be with us before we know it. (Oh and I did come up with an idea I hope to write up soon as a result of our discussions tonight – I always welcome things like that!).

PS. Since writing the above post, I did write up the idea I came up with during this meeting and have since submitted the story. Will let you know if it goes anywhere.

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Am pleased I managed to get a story in for Friday Flash Fiction this week after all. Hope you enjoy my latest here (and many thanks for the comments in on it already). What could possibly go wrong when a witch decides to have a house rebuild? Find out here!

Screenshot 2021-11-26 at 19-21-09 Moving Along, by Allison Symes


Firstly, had a lovely Zoom session last night with the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group. Plenty of feedback and tips shared. (Another advantage here is there is a lot of great advice for writing flash that can be taken to help you improve standard length short stories too).

Secondly, I’m pleased to share a link to flash fiction on Mom’s Favorite Reads. Don’t forget the magazine is free, has a wide range of articles and stories, and I will be setting the theme for the next edition soon. Always fun to do that!

Last but not least, I will be talking again with Lynn Clement on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. I recently edited Lynn’s flash fiction collection, The City of Stories, for Chapeltown Books. Tomorrow Lynn and I will discuss the editing process. See link above.

 

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Pleased to share my latest YouTube story. Hope you enjoy A Turn Up For the Books. What happens when healthy eating impacts on the fairy world? Find out here!

Fairytales With Bite – Magical Livelihoods

What kind of jobs could exist in the magical world other than the obvious ones of wizard, fairy godmother etc? How about these?

Ingredient Fetcher – always out in the fresh air. Works for witches, wizards and those fairy godmothers who like to use wildlife in their spells. Must love amphibians (as eye of newt comes up a lot in this job).

Spell Book Translator – If you’ve ever read Old English, you will know how difficult it is to read (especially over a longer document). Old spell books are much the same. They need translating into more modern magical speech. And these things don’t happen as if by magic, oh no. Someone has to do them.

Food Preparer – Definitely not a cook. This job means taking the shiniest red apples the ingredient fetcher has brought you and selecting the very best to go through to the boss, who no doubt has something to add to them herself. And you dare not bring her anything less than the best. The boss won’t sack you if you do. She’ll just do a trial run of her special ingredient on the sub-standard apple you’ve brought her and make you eat it. Get it right though and there will be rewards (including getting to live for another day).

Cleaners – Always needed regardless of what world you live in. Use of magic to do the job strictly banned since that spot of bother with the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

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This World and Others – Employment Issues

What kind of employment opportunities exist in your fictional world? Do jobs match what we have here or are there work placements which could only exist in your fiction? Can anyone apply for jobs based on merit or is there a strict system where only those from a certain type of background can apply for certain types of work?

How does your society pay for goods and services? How are these things produced? Is magic allowed to be used? Is there such as thing as a working week? Are there employment laws protecting the workers? Can people better themselves through working hard etc?

What does your fictional world need in terms of employment and are those needs met? Does it need to import labour and/or services and, if so, where does it get these things from?

What does your lead character do for a living? How does that affect their outlook? And when they’re called up on to go on the adventure you’re sending them on, how easy do they find it to give up all they have known? After all, secure employment is a rarity wherever you go!

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