Brechin/Angus Book Festival – 21st and 22nd November 2020

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Top Tips image created on Book Brush (who use Pixabay images – I’ve recognised quite a few!).

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my latest CFT post – Brechin/Angus Book Festival – Local Author News – Allison Symes. Not perhaps the snappiest of titles I’ve ever come up with but it does do what it says on the tin, to quote the old Ronseal advert!

Very pleased to be in such distinguished company too and given book festivals celebrate stories and books, what is there not to like about that?

Pleased to say I’m “on” for the Sunday from 1.35 for about 20 minutes or so.

Hopefully “see” you there!

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Given I can’t go swimming at the moment, raking up leaves from my oak trees is proving to be a good replacement workout! Lady would love to be out “helping me” but we live on a main road so that’s not possible.

There are advantages to living on a main road by the way. Nobody but nobody parks in front of my house. Even delivery drivers never stop long….

True story: years ago, we were unfortunate enough to be burgled. We were lucky. We got our things back (my engagement ring, things like that) because they caught the thief red-handed literally further down the road from me.

A police officer came to see us after all was sorted out just to make sure we were okay and parked his marked car outside our drive. He and I were chatting when we heard this enormous bang.

Yes! Someone had driven round the corner and somehow had not seen a marked police car and went smack into it.

Would’ve loved to have seen the insurance claim on that one!

Writing wise, I’m looking forward to sharing my CFT post tomorrow about the Brechin/Angus Book Fest. Naturally I’m looking forward to taking part in that over the weekend.

I also hope to have further publication news in the not too distant future.

Favourite thing to write ever? For me it’s those magic words “the end” after I’ve got the first draft down. I then know I’ve got something to work with and that always comes as something of a relief even now after many years of writing.

Oh and a huge thanks for all the views on my Last Request story on Youtube. And a big welcome to all of my subscribers too!😊

How has your Wednesday been? Good I trust.

What made you start writing? I’d always loved stories and loved composition lessons in English where we had to write tales to whatever theme the teacher said. And there my writing remained.

I had in the back of my mind that it might be a nice thing to do one day but I didn’t write seriously until two major landmark events in my life made me realise if I was going to get any writing done, I ought to get on and do some.
My only regret in writing has been not starting sooner.

It takes you longer than you realise to find your voice and discover what form of writing suits you best and this is an ongoing process. As you know, I hadn’t started out by writing flash fiction but that is where I’m published.

What I would advise anyone who is thinking of writing is to go for it.
At best you will discover something that entrances you, keeps your mind active, encourages the development of your imagination, and hopefully you’ll end up published too.

At worst, you’ll discover it’s not for you or that you will only write occasionally for your own pleasure and that’s fine too.

It is important to love writing. It is what helps keep you going when the rejections hit the fan.

Okay, you’re not going to love all of it all of the time but, as long as most of the time, you can’t imagine your life without writing, then you’re on a good path!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking forward to waving the flag for flash fiction at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival over the weekend. I am “on” during Sunday from about 1.35 pm for 20 minutes or so.

See my CFT post at for more details. There is a direct link to the event as part of my post (as well as the first link given above).

Delighted to see that my Last Request very short flash story on Youtube has attracted almost 300 views. A big thank you, everyone. I plan to do more of these. They’re great fun to do and I hope make for an entertaining advert for my writing.

I don’t know about you but I never mind adverts that amuse or entertain me. I can think of several from years ago that I can remember now precisely because they were entertaining and/or amusing.

Flash fiction is, by its nature, ideal for this kind of thing!

Favourite tips for writing flash fiction and which have never let me down:-

  1. Focus on the character. It is their story. What matters to them? What is the problem they’ve got to overcome? What gets in their way? What helps them?
  2. Just get the story down and edit afterwards. My first edit starts by taking my wasted words out – very, actually, and that. I don’t worry that I seem to just write them in the first draft. I know they’re coming out and that bit can wait until I’m ready. What matters initially is just getting that story nailed down.
  3. When you think you’ve edited the story enough (note I say think!), read it out loud. This is easier to do with flash fiction writing I must say but I will pick up on wording I could phrase better when doing this. It is worth doing.

Happy writing!


A flash fiction story shines an intense light on one particular moment of change for a character. In a longer short story, that point could well be the start of the story and the tale would be long enough to show other moments of change happening (catalysts happen!).

What that moment of change is depends on the character to an extent. A feisty character is going to take major change more in their stride than someone who isn’t and therefore for the latter that change is more dramatic.

Ultimately, for me, any story is about how the character handles the situation they find themselves in. If your character, say, shows great courage, there should be some inkling that they are capable of it earlier in the story. In flash fiction, that inkling will be the odd seemingly throw away line which, on a second read of the story, proves to be pivotal.

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Fairytales With Bite – Be Wary!

If you’re a resident of a magical world, what should you be wary of? Plenty!

The little old lady/gent who looks harmless. Note I said looks there! They’re usually a witch or wizard in disguise and are anything but harmless.

Dragons, vampires, monsters of all kinds turning up. You live in a magical world. You get used to it.

Being unkind to the youngest son or daughter or a stepdaughter in particular. Things usually dramatically improve for them. Your fortunes on the other hand will sink completely the moment theirs shows any signs of that improvement.

Spells going wrong. Trick here is not to get in the way of any apprentices to wizards (who are usually looking to get out of doing cleaning the boring manual way) or trainee fairies. They are bound to make mistakes. You just don’t want to be on the receiving end.

Animals. Some of them talk. Some of them weren’t animals to begin with. If you’re invited to kiss a frog by said frog, think about what you might be letting yourself in for (it’s not giving birth to tadpoles by the way).

Any notices that invite you to “eat me” or “drink me”. Any truly good food and drink has no need to advertise itself in that way. Any food and drink that does… well there has to be a catch and you don’t want to be the one caught out by them.

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This World and Others – Settings Used as Characters

Yes, it is possible to use a setting as a character. Think about Wuthering Heights. The moors there play a pivotal role as does The Cobb in Lyme Regis in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

So how can you use a setting as a character?

It has to be distinctive. The story can’t happen anywhere else. It has to happen in the setting you’ve created.

It can be a threat to your characters. Think The Lord of the Rings or Narnia. Mordor and Narnia where it is always winter but never Christmas are not exactly fun places to be!

It has a mood of its own. Think moors and you generally think of damp, foggy places where people can easily get lost or injure themselves. Can the weather change quickly? Do you have to be a local to understand the mood of the setting and avoid its traps? Also can the setting in and of itself affect the mood of your characters?

It has to have some sort of input to the conclusion of your story. You can’t have The Lord of the Rings without Mordor being faced up to at some point.
What makes your setting unique? Why have you chosen it? What aspects do you want to bring into your story?

Plenty to think about there but, just as I outline a character, I think it pays to outline your setting too. Work out how you will use it to add depth to your story. Ask yourself what you want your readers to “see” and “feel” as they read your story and absorb the setting you’ve put it in.

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Twitter Corner

Looking forward to sharing this post tomorrow. I’ll be talking about the Brechin/Angus Book Fest which I’m taking part in over the weekend.— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) November 19, 2020

Brechin/Angus Book Festival – Local Author News – Allison Symes Delighted to share my CFT post. Not the snappiest of titles I’ve ever invented but it does do what it says on the tin! I’m “on” for the Sunday from 1.35 for about 20 minutes. “See” you there!— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) November 20, 2020

Running Orders, Book Brush, and the Brechin/Angus Book Festival

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Smashing autumnal walk with Lady today. Hard to tell who is more tired out of the two of us though!

Happy with the progress on my kind of NaNoWriMo project yesterday as I had one of those lovely moments where the words just flowed and it was just a question of keeping going with it. (That is the definition of the ideal NaNoWriMo really isn’t it?!). I’m adding new material now and enjoying it so hopefully future readers will do so too.

Am really enjoying playing with Book Brush. Latest effort below.

Oh and talking of CFT, my post this week will be a Local Author News one about yours truly in connection with the Brechin/Angus Book Fest I’m taking part in over the weekend. See for more details on the Festival, which is part of Book Week Scotland. I will also flag up more news here as I get it. (Oh and I also flag up my Youtube channel on my CFT post but more on that on Friday).

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

After Saturday’s deluge, and a world record time set by me for walking Lady (20 minutes, bare minimum, both of us returned looking like drowned rats), it was a relief to have a dry, reasonably mild day today.

Sight of the week and probably the year: Lady’s best buddie, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, having a wonderful run and play fight with another Ridgeback – 100 kgs of dog between the pair of them. Wonderful sight. Just stay well out of the way! Lady decided to leave the pair of them to it and focused on her Chuckit ball, probably wisely.

Delighted to say I’ve been playing with Bookbrush again and for the first time have used the video function. Hope you enjoy the very short story that goes with this. Naturally this went up on my Youtube channel earlier today (I do love scheduling!). (Have also included the video here).

Last Request by Allison Symes

Have spent time this afternoon doing some “housekeeping” on my website.
My About page is now my Home page and I’ve added new material to it, including those lovely images I created yesterday using Book Brush. (A big thanks for all the positive comments about those). Am so looking forward to using Book Brush more.

There is now a direct link to my Youtube channel on the About page too.
I like to add material to the website every so often to keep it fresh, of course, but it is easy to forget to do the housekeeping side of it such as removing things no longer relevant, finding better pictures than the ones you had originally and so on.

I’ve also tidied up my Books page too. I’ve not yet found a way of changing the URL slug for the Books page from Home to Books but will sort that out in due course I hope.

The ideal of a website is to make it easy to navigate, eyecatching, and fun for both you and your visitors.

Hope you enjoy the tidy up!


I went out with the dog once today. It was enough! So glad to be back at my desk. Still no watering of anything will need to be done for some time in my neck of the woods!

Many thanks to #LizHurst for her fab interview with me on Chandler’s Ford Today yesterday (Friday, 13th November, see previous post).

I’ll be talking about the Brechin/Angus Book Fest for my post next Friday. The fact I’m taking part in it is NOT coincidence! 😀😀

I’ve also been experimenting with graphics for my books (using Book Brush). See throughout this post for various images created since the weekend using this.  

This kind of marketing is fun! Hope to be doing more of this. This has come out of a Zoom event I was at on Friday night where I learned so much. Many thanks to #WendyHJones and #KathleenSweeney for running this.

Below are some of my earliest attempts at creating book adverts. Just need to replace the spaniel with my Lady for the dog one! Mind you, I suppose I could avoid telling Lady….

From Light to Dark and Back Again

Having a lot of fun experimenting with Book Brush. Latest effort for Tripping The Flash Fantastic below.

One thing I have learned though creating Feature Images for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts is to keep them simple and avoid over-complicating things. Great tip for writing flash fiction there too!

I like to hit the ground running with my stories, which is why I often use the first person as that encourages this approach.

It is often said for story writing that you have to get straight to the action and hook the reader immediately. That is true but flash helps you sharpen that skill which you can then adapt for any other writing you do.

Even for non-fiction you need to draw the reader in immediately.

Looking forward to sharing more about the Brechin/Angus Book Fest as and when I can later this week. I’ll be writing about it in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week as well.

Hope your Monday has been okay. I’ve posted a mini flash story, Last Request, on my Youtube channel at

Good fun to do and I love the bats and that’s all I’m saying about that here!

paper bats and spiders on orange background

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

I love many things about flash fiction but one of the major ones is that it is more flexible than it might at first appear. I’ve written stories across the spectrum from six words to the maximum of 1000.

I’ve written in the first person, the third person, and shown things from the viewpoint of a mother dragon (see my trailer for Tripping The Flash Fantastic).

It is a great format in which to have fun with your writing. If a story works well at 100 words, I leave it there. If it needs more and ends up at say 500 words, that’s fine.

I also think it is good discipline to practice writing to different word count lengths. For one thing, it means you can have a stock of stories in store ready to send to different competitions and markets depending on their requirements.

Happy story writing!

As well as selecting the stories for my flash fiction collections, thought has to go into the running order too. That isn’t an always obvious thing to decide.

For TTFF I deliberately kept two historical stories together as one is from the viewpoint of Richard III (Getting It Right) and the other is told by his niece, Elizabeth of York (Not Knowing). Those two were going to go together from the offset.

But I didn’t put all of the historical ones together in one batch. There are others later in the book.

I also look at the mood of the stories too. I like a mixture of funny, poignant, scary (think light horror – that’s as far as I go) and back to funny again. I also try to end a collection on a positive note too. Kind of “that’s a wrap, folks”!

Did I get the running order right immediately? Oh no!

Did I expect to? Definitely not!

But it is worth taking your time over. You want to think of the impact your stories will have on your readers and that helps a lot with working out an appropriate running order. I did the same for From Light to Dark and Back Again. It makes, I hope, for smooth seamless reads and an even more enjoyable reading experience for your reader.

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Well, I’m glad I don’t write stories which match the mood of the weather. Anything I’d come up with today would have been unremittingly grim!

Now you know I like the good old random generators for triggering story ideas. I’ve used random number, word, noun, and adjective generators to good effect. Ta da – I’ve found another one!

Welcome to the good old random object generator. Yes, really.

This particular site has four categories – All, Outdoors, Clothing, and Office.

You can select a number of items though I have found with all of the generators, you are better off selecting up three or four and no more.

So how can I use the random object generator in my flash fiction, I hear you cry?

1. The object has to be in the story somewhere.

2. The object has to have special meaning to a character in your story.

3. If you’re a crime writer, how about making the object either something to be stolen or the murder weapon?! (In my selection tonight, a pillow came up. I’m sure you can think of a way of using that in a crime story!).

But you get the idea. Have fun!


Goodreads Author Blog – Effective Blurbs

The book cover is usually the thing that attracts my attention to a potential new read, of course, but following that comes the blurb.

I like a blurb that is (a) short, (b) intriguing and (c) gives an idea of what the story is about without giving everything away.

My blurb for Tripping the Flash Fantastic reads as “Allison Symes loves reading and writing quirky fiction. She discovered flash fiction thanks to a Cafélit challenge and has been hooked on the form ever since. In this follow-up to her From Light to Dark and Back Again, Allison will take you back in time, into some truly criminal minds, into fantasy worlds, and show you how motherhood looks from the viewpoint of a dragon. Enjoy the journey!”

Was it easy to write that? Not particularly! The stories were easier to do but many authors find that. It is hard to capture the essence of your work without giving too much away. After all, the idea is to entice the reader in to read your book, not leave them feeling as if they have read it all from what you’ve put on the back cover!

Is it worth taking time and trouble over to get right? Oh yes.

Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What is it about your book that they would want to know to make them want to find out more? It is all about triggering interest and from that a wish to know more.

Happy (blurb) writing!

Twitter Corner


Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is a bit odd, I know, to start a CFT post with a picture loudly proclaiming “The End” but it is appropriate!

The sub-title for my CFT post, Wrapping Up, this week is “Is A Writer’s Work Ever Done?” It isn’t a one-word post starting with N and ending with O, honest! I do discuss balancing writing, editing, submitting, and marketing though.

I also look at having an online presence, building on successes (think series of little steps) and discovering new markets for your work in the process.
Hope you enjoy!

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Further to my CFT post earlier, I have to say it was a huge wake-up call to me when, having had my first book published, I discovered the need to market it. AND to do so without annoying the socks (or other hosiery items of preference) off everyone else in doing so.

My main focus has been to try to entertain or “give value” to anyone reading my CFT and other blog posts or my stories. I know I don’t like the hard sell. I DO love reading an interesting blog post by someone and then go on to check their books out. HOW you approach things I think makes a huge difference.

You need to engage with people and that means give and take.

Mind you, it is an absolute pleasure to celebrate with friends who have books out (though it is a shame we can only do so online right now). At the end of the day, books and stories are wonderful things and getting them out into the world is a fabulous thing to do.

So keep writing and reading, folks!

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Looking forward to sharing my CFT post tomorrow. I’ve called it Wrapping Up – Is The Writer’s Work Ever Done? And no it is not a one word post starting with the letter N and finishing with the letter O! Honest!😂

I do talk about getting the balance right between creating new work, editing current work and getting it submitted, and marketing. It is not an easy thing to get right and something I think all writers have to see as an ongoing process.

There will be times you get it spot on. Other times, despite best endeavours, you won’t. What helps here is to look at what you are achieving and to continue to get work out there.

You are in it for the long haul and you are looking to build on what you’ve achieved to date. Sometimes you will build a lot. Sometimes it will feel like you’re not building anything. (You almost certainly are by the way. You’re probably busy learning about what works for you and what doesn’t in terms of writing and marketing when you feel like this. I’ve found it is at times like that I learn the most and that helps me save time and effort later on).

Link up tomorrow.

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Am delighted to confirm I’ll be taking part in the Brechin Book Fest on November 21st and 22nd. It’s the first Book Festival I’ve taken part in and I’m looking forward to it a lot. (Link takes you to the Facebook event page for this).

Naturally it has to be online but it should be a lot of fun. And if you want to buy books as Christmas presents etc. (and you DO, don’t you?!), why not check out the Festival and see what takes your fancy!

I’ll be talking more about this nearer the time but am glad to say Scottish crime writer #WendyHJones will also be taking part in this.

Screenshot_2020-10-21 BRECHIN ANGUS BOOK FEST Facebook

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Another aspect to flash fiction to consider is you can take a piece of short work you’ve written and expand it to something much longer later on.

That in turn means you can submit the short piece to a flash fiction market and the longer one to, say, a competition for work over 1000 words long. The two pieces WILL be different.

And then you could take the basic flash idea and expand it out into, say, a play, or other form of writing.

I have done this occasionally. (I’m usually too busy working on the next idea and character(s) to do this as much as perhaps I should but do bear it in mind).

Below is a video of me reading The Back of Beyond from Tripping The Flash Fantastic. As you’ll realise when you come to the end of it, this idea here gives huge possibilities for extending a story outwards. And is one I’ve marked down to have a go at myself at some point.

– The Back of Beyond by Allison Symes. From Tripping the Flash Fantastic (Chapeltown Books – September 2020).

Now when I say I’m glad flash fiction has taken off as a format, you’re not going to be surprised. But aside from the obvious reasons why I would say that, I am glad it has because the world of words thrives on variety.

One kind of book does not suit all. The same applies to stories. And I am all for encouraging those who would rather read shorter tales and who, for whatever reason, just don’t want to go down the novel route.

You never know. By reading lots of shorts, that may encourage people to take steps into reading longer works. But even if not they’re reading and that is what really matters.

And I understand why, for some, it has to be the novel that they read. They want the scope and depth a novel can give them and perhaps don’t see the point of the short form where you can’t expand. Both have their place. And the authors of both would love your support!

A MASSIVE thank you for the wonderful reaction to my post yesterday re my book signing for a customer. I have been overwhelmed in a very good way by the support. Thank you one and all. (My better half took the pics and hoped they’d be okay. I have confirmed to him all is absolutely fine!).

With close to 650 people reached, it is easiest the biggest response to a FB post of mine. I am glad I was sitting down when I saw that figure…😊

You may have seen on my author page I will be taking part in the Brechin Book Fest on November 21st and 22nd. I’ll talk more about this nearer the time but naturally I shall be waving the flag for flash fiction.

Oh and if you want a taster from Tripping The Flash Fantastic, do look out for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. The subject is wrapping up and I ask if a writer’s work is ever done, can we ever say “it’s a wrap” as they do in movies?

Well, you can easily guess the answer to that one but I also discuss balancing writing with marketing and as part of that I share my book trailer for TTFF and my video of Judgement Day. Update since I wrote this post: numbers up to over 700. Thanks, everyone.

Enjoying my workAlways lovely getting to do some signingsSigning TTFF

Fairytales With Bite – When The Magical Element Goes Wrong

I’ve mentioned before I like fairytales and fantasy stories which show the downside of magic.

(And one forgotten element here is the continual pressure on those who can “do” magic to produce the goods as if expected to bring the rabbit out of the hat each and every time… oh… maybe they do! Joking aside, anyone with special skills will be expected to (a) practice them and (b) be able to reproduce them on demand. Any magical being that can’t do that is going to have a short life expectancy).

But another element is to consider is what if magic goes wrong. Who does the clearing up? (And there will be loads of clearing up to do almost inevitably).

Have they had to do this before? Do they get fed up being called in by those who have experimented with magic where they should not have done etc? There are story possibilities there (and potentially humorous ones too).

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This World and Others – Cultures

I am not talking yogurt here! In the world you’re setting up, how many cultures exist within it?

Which cultures always clash and what is the history of that? Does anyone try to break the mould there? What are the lovely sides to your cultures? What are the not-so-nice sides?

Within each culture, how do they deal with dissenters? Lots of potential for stories here precisely because there is clearly room for conflict and without that there is no story.

Is there one dominant culture and how do the other kinds react to that dominance? Does the dominant culture see their role in your world as a “burden of responsibility” kind of thing or do they see their dominance as a matter of pride and aggravate everyone else?

The cultures that are looked down on and despised – what do they do to fight back against that or do they prefer to be ignored and left to live their lives in peace?

Plenty of food for thought there but the main point is no one character is an island. They have to have a background and a major part of that will be a reflection of the culture they live in, whether they like it or not.

So it would pay then to not just outline your character but to outline their cultural background and how that makes them what they are. (Even if they rebel against it!). All of this will add depth to your story too.

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