Guest Blogging, Intelligent Life, and Books For the Professions

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

My author picture taken by my other half, Adrian Symes.

Hope the weather is as okay as possible where you are – it has been rather cold here. There is a beauty about snow and ice but I prefer to admire it from indoors!

ice-crystal-64157_640

Facebook – General

Had some snow today but by mid-afternoon most had melted. Anyone else thinking no matter how many layers you do put on, it still isn’t enough? Okay, not just me then.

Looking forward to sharing Part 4 of Launches in Lockdown on Friday where I’ll be talking to the first batch of writers from CafeLit, Chapeltown Books, and Bridge House Publishing.

Again encouraging comments are coming in for this series so a big thanks for that. And I hope it does inspire writers who are wondering how on earth to hold their launches this year with ideas for just how they can!

There will be one part of this series on Friday week and after that I plan to write a round-up of what I’ve been doing as there have been developments over the last few weeks I’m longing to share. By the time this post is due, I should be able to share what I would like to share!

It is one of the oddities of the writing life that things tend to come in batches and often when you’re not expecting them. Still it all keeps me out of mischief and on my toes.

Most of my time at the moment is taken up with writing various non-fiction items which I’ll be sharing later in February and into March (and will be part of my round-up CFT post too). All good fun to do though.

I am enjoying making my short story videos for Youtube. They’re great adverts for my work and a fantastic way to share one and two line stories. (And all counts as part of my marketing of course!). See below for my most recent one, Intelligent Life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General – Guest Blog Appearance

Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, #ElizabethDucie, for hosting me on her blog today. Great fun to take part and I will have to get around to having the T-shirt made up (see the post itself for why!). It’s also appropriate for me when I’m wearing my editor’s hat (again see the post for why – come on, no spoilers here!).

I hope to meet up with Elizabeth again in August when hopefully Swanwick will be running again. She carries out sterling service running the Swanwick Book Room, something I know is much appreciated by everyone. (And it will be so nice having more than one book of mine there next time!).

No snow as yet here in my part of the world but the wind is building up in strength and it is so cold out there. Still nothing better than to settle down to my writing for this evening with a big mug of Options Hot Chocolate in my favourite Creme Egg mug alongside! (The irony here – the hot chocolate has far less calories in it than the Creme Egg!).

Fiction writers, what would you say was your favourite thing to write? For me it is either dialogue or a character’s internal thoughts and for the same reason – these show something of your character to your reader. These help your readers form judgments about those characters (and of course the fun then starts as your reader carries on with the story to find out if those thoughts were right or not!).

Managed to submit my short story today. Followed my own advice to take off a couple of weeks from the official deadline. Just as well I did too as I spotted an error in the way I’d titled my story. It has to be one of those which are submitted anonymously and I had missed something here so that was sorted out pronto and story then submitted.

It always pays to double and even triple check you’ve got your submission right for the requirements of the publisher or competition. That is never wasted time!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hope Saturday has been okay. We actually had some sunshine today and Lady had a bonus surprise as she got to see her best buddie over at the park today. Both dogs thrilled to see each other. Never let anyone tell you dogs can’t feel emotions – they so do. (Still a right mudfest in the park, mind you).

Writing wise I’m preparing material which I can say more about in March. Yes, I know (!) though March will be here before we know it. Am champing at the bit to share the news but it will keep for now!

I’m hoping to submit a short story later this weekend (probably tomorrow I think). Very happy with my character – she makes me laugh and yes she is meant to so if she does this for me, hopefully she’ll do so for others though it will be a while before I know the result. Delighted to have two stories in CafeLit 10 for later this year too.

Am also preparing and editing future blog material.

Worst writing challenge? I think it is knowing when to say that’s it, get the story or article out there, and test the water. The way I gauge things here is looking to see if any other changes would really add anything to the story. If the answer is no, then it’s time to get the work out there.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the likes for my Intelligent Life short story video yesterday. Much appreciated.

And the videos are different ways of getting the stories across, which pleases me. They make me think laterally about what images would work best for the story. Sometimes there are direct links (as in the UFO in this one). Sometimes I find a plain landscape background works better especially if I haven’t set a story anywhere specific in time or space.

I use Book Brush to create the videos, I upload them to Youtube, and then edit that to include an audio track. Did I think I’d be doing things like this when I first started writing seriously? Absolutely not for the good reason the technology to do it simply wasn’t there! I am from the era where Pacman was the thing in computer graphics (younger readers, check out the picture! It really was like that).

video-game-1332694_640


Is there intelligent life on earth? Well, my latest flash fiction story video gives two views on that. Which do you agree with?!

Oh and I think I found the perfect soundtrack for this one – many thanks, Youtube!

Online marketing and social media became even more important for writers and publishers in 2020


Flash tales work well across the genres, which is one of the things I love most about it, but I also feel humour comes across especially well here.

As you are looking to impact your reader with an emotional response with your story, why not go for the laugh? I often use twist endings in my stories but a good punchline is fabulous to end a story on and I love reading such as well as writing them. (Couldn’t we all do with stories that make you feel good right now? And a giggie is a fab way to go here!).

Also if you have a funny scene from a longer story that you can’t justify keeping in there because it interrupts the flow, doesn’t really add anything to the tale etc., instead of just binning the material, could you take another look at it and turn it into a self-contained flash piece? Would be worth a go I would have thought. If it works, you’ve got a piece you can submit elsewhere.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


For my author FB page tonight, I mentioned that one of the worst challenges for a writer is knowing when a work is finished and it really is time to get the work out there somewhere. I judge this by asking honestly if any further changes really would do anything more for the story. When the answer is no, the story gets sent out. Now this does apply to flash fiction obviously though there is one more check I do and it specifically relates to the flash fiction format.

Why? Because I am thinking of two things with my flash tales – impact and word count (and in that order too).

So my last edit on a flash story is to check certain phrases to make sure I have used the best, strongest words to conjure up the image I want readers to see and that the story does have the impact I want it to have.

An odd tweak here and there can make all the difference but when you have got to this point, you know this will be the final edit and after that the story gets sent out.

If I end up with a choice between two words and both have the same kind of impact, I go for the one that my character is most likely to think or say. If I have a pompous character, say, then whatever they come up with is going to reflect that pomposity (and hopefully in a humorous way too!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Books for the Professions

At the end (almost) of a busy week, I thought I’d share books for the professions. Some of these may have been edited a little!

Plumbers – Leak House, David Copperpipe.

Lawyers – Pride and (Without) Prejudice

Postmen – Going Postal (no editing there!) and any of the old penny dreadfuls though for these good people they would naturally become the old penny blacks!

Tree Surgeons – Wind in the Willows (also a good one for weather forecasters), The (tree) House on Pooh Corner.

Writers – The War of the Words, James and the Giant Pen

Interior Decorators – Curtain (Agatha Christie’s last Poirot novel).

Dentists – White Teeth (what else?!).

I’m very fond of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, which is on Radio 4, where the panellists will often have to come up with books or film titles for a specific profession. All good fun. Hope you enjoyed these and do send in your suggestions for suitable books for certain jobs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Twitter Corner

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Twitter Corner

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Launches In Lockdown – New CFT Series

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. 

Author pics and book cover images kindly supplied by the authors themselves in my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Launches in Lockdown.

Tonight’s images here are supplied by me, Allison Symes, (!), #TeresaBassett, and #FrancescaTyer.

And whatever you write, being creative with stories, non-fiction etc, is always a good thing!

Whatever kind of writing you do, exercises help you improve what you do

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I have been so looking forward to writing and sharing this post. My new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Launches in Lockdown, starts now and will run for the next few weeks.

I talk to a wide variety of authors about their experiences launching a book in such trying conditions, what they did, what they felt worked well, what they learned from the kind of launch they were able to hold and so on.

Fascinating insights to come from writers from The Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books.

But first up tonight are:-

1. Me! I share my experiences from launching Tripping The Flash Fantastic in 2020.
2. Writers from Authors Reach, Richard Hardie’s publishing company. You may recall I interviewed him last week about the challenges he has faced as a writer and as a publisher. Tonight, firmly from the writing desk, I chat to #TeresaBassett and #Francesca Tyer about how they fared as they launched The Time Crystals and The Firestone respectively.

A huge thank you to all of my guests over the next few weeks for taking part in this. If ever I could be said to have written a zeitgeist series, I think this is it! And everyone shares wonderful tips and advice so plenty to take in here.

But for now I hope you enjoy Part 1.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Nice to have sunshine today after yesterday’s storms. Lady appreciated it too (and playing with one of her other pals, Coco). The mud levels over the park are something else, mind you! Am so glad of my boots and suspect I shall be living in these until March at the earliest.

When is your best time to write? I mainly write in the late afternoons and evenings though if I can sneak in extra time to write, I’ll do so. I just need to start writing and away I go.

Best time for reading is bedtime though I love catching up with various writing magazines over lunch (and it was a real pleasure to discover a mention for Chapeltown Books in Writing Magazine yesterday).

Had a lovely time joining in with #writingchat yesterday. The topics are always interesting and make me thing. Learn a lot from it too. It is the main writing group I’m involved with on Twitter.

And last not but not least just a quick reminder my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow is Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown. (See above!). As well as sharing my experiences from last year, I talk to Authors Reach writers, Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking to authors from the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books. Plenty of insights and thoughtful tips tomorrow and in the other posts to come. Looking forward to sharing them all.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Delighted to read a wonderful piece about my publishers, Chapeltown Books, in this month’s Writing Magazine. Check out the Writers’ News section at the back and the UK Book Market piece. I do like having a quick look through the magazine when it comes in so I can play the “spot the person I know” game on the letters page, the competition winners and runners-up etc. It is a bad month if I spot less than four! I then read the articles at lunch so I’ve only just come to this bit! (CafeLit and Bridge House get a mention too).

I was right on one thing today – Lady and I did get a soaking this morning though it has eased off a bit since. Winds are still high though.

Am still reading London – The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. It is a fascinating read (though it is a long one. Let’s just say you don’t want to drop the paperback on your foot, yet alone the hardback!). All sorts of stories tucked into a wonderful work of non-fiction. It’s easy to take in information when it’s presented in an entertaining way as it is here – and that’s something for all writers to aspire to, whether we write fiction, non-fiction or both.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I love about working with Chapeltown Books is being able to contribute to what appears on the book cover. That doesn’t always happen with publishers. I must admit I had a lot of fun picking suitable images from Pixabay for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic.

For FLTDBA I chose the rippling circles to indicate stories have impact. Even the smallest flash fiction tale has the impact to move a reader. Also many of my stories have characters who are not always are as they appear to be and the rippling circles to me indicated characters capable of being disturbing and causing ripples in life wherever they go.

For TTFF the castle with the lights on reflects the fact I have historical flash fiction pieces in this book. I also think there is a sense of mystery, the unknown, about that castle and who might live in it. Given I write a lot of fantasy/fairytale with bite type stories, that was an appropriate image for me to convey.

It did take me a while to work out a shortlist of suitable images but it is so worth taking time over. When your book finally reaches you and you take the first one out of your parcel, you want to be so proud of it. You want people to be drawn to and intrigued by your cover (and then hopefully by the contents too!).


Every so often I will write a flash tale in poetic form and some of these appeared in Tripping The Flash Fantastic. This is an interesting challenge as you need to get the story down and ensure it is a proper tale and then get the rhythm of the poem right. I am partial to rhyming poems (and even more so to a good limerick!) so I like that kind of pace in my verses, but I have learned that the language you use has to be natural to you and make sense to the story. Forced rhymes stand out.

But this kind of scrutinizing what you are writing and why and have I really chosen the best word to (a) suit the story and (b) suit the rhyming pattern I’ve set up does keep you on your toes and worth having a go at if you want to stretch yourself a bit.

The majority of my stories will always be in “straight” prose but a spot of variety every now and again does no harm! That is also why I sometimes write tales as acrostics. The nice thing with those is there is a visual element to them and so they work quite well for posts on Facebook, story videos and so on. Even better for the story videos are the one to two line flash stories as you don’t want anything to be too long here. Never give the reader/viewer a chance to lose interest!

Do I identify with my characters? Hmm… now there’s a leading question!

The answer is mostly! I know, I know, very helpful – not! So what do I mean by this?

Most of my characters I like. I can identify with them easily enough. But I don’t like all of them. I can think of a fair few I would not want to meet in life! So how I can write about characters like that convincingly?

I try to identify why my characters are the way they are and there is usually something I can latch on to there.

Understanding where your characters come from does not mean agreeing with their choices! Understanding where they come from means you will write their story with more conviction. I mean I can see how and why Gollum in The Lord of the Rings turned out the way he did. Do I agree with him? No!

Getting into your characters’ heads is not always a comfortable experience, indeed it often shouldn’t be (as my crime and horror writing colleagues would no doubt confirm!). Even with the characters you like, they can’t be goody-goody. You need to be able to see and understand what their flaws are and how those play out in your story.

You can have the most wonderful character but what will really make them come to life for your reader is when they fail or screw up in some way. Okay your character overcomes that and goes on to better things but it is that failure which drives that change to overcome and that is what fascinates a reader. I know it always fascinates me.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales with Bite – The Problems with a Magical World

The major problem with a magical world is it is a magical world! Er… yes… but how come that is the issue? You want to write about a magical world after all!

True but the problems come in simply because if every character can just resolve problems by a wave of the old magic wand, either that world is going to come to a stalemate (as characters cancel other characters’ spells out) or it is going to blow itself apart with all that magic flying around. So there have to be some rules and that is where life gets more interesting. You as the author decide on what the rules will be and yes, that’s the fun bit! But you do need to be consistent with how you apply these.

If you decide certain species in your creation cannot do magic at all, that’s going to give them a major disadvantage against those you’ve decided can do magic. What’s to stop the latter from wiping the former out altogether? So every species then, whether magical or not, has to have something to ensure their survival.

Equally if everyone is going to be magical, what are the limits to ensure nobody can blow the world up by mistake?! Who sets the limits? Who polices them? Those with fewer powers will need to have some safeguards against those with much more (again to prevent them from being wiped out), so what will these be? Can magic, say, only be used in daylight hours? Can using magic drain people of energy so they have to be careful how much of it they use?

The other problem with a magical world is how is it going to treat neighbouring worlds/countries who are not magical? Will they treat them with contempt? Or will they ignore the non-magical kinds even when the latter could do with some assistance because they’re faced with, say, an illness devastating their people that they know the magical lot could help them overcome?

Plenty of food for thought there but I hope this highlights magic can cause as many problems as it seems to solve and that in turn can make for some interesting stories.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Dilemmas to Solve when World Building

This post follows on from the Fairytales with Bite piece above. There are plenty of dilemmas to resolve when world building, including the use of magic as mentioned above. You also need to decide how much of the geography and history of the world your readers need to know to make sense of your story. Also how do you get that information across?

I like to get characters to show me things wherever possible so I make them look at things and show me what they think of what they are seeing. If I mention Character A takes a brief look at the ugly Civic Hall, you know they’re in a town, they don’t think much of the architecture, and are clearly looking for something of more interest to them and whatever their quest may be. All of that in one sentence too!

There will be certain things you need to spell out to a reader. For example, if your characters need oxygen masks to be able to go outside, you need to mention that early on (and the reason why – it might not be an obvious one!). As the story develops, readers will get used to “seeing” your characters with these masks on and you won’t need much if any description later.

But I think it is a question here of knowing broadly what your story is going to be and from that working out how much your readers need to know. From there you can work out how to dripfeed that information into the story so readers pick it up almost unconsciously. No need for reams of description which can put people off.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Twitter Corner

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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?

 

Twitter Corner

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Richard Hardie, Authors Reach, and Lockdown

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to Richard Hardie for supplying book cover images and his author photo for my CFT post this week.

And below, from the wonderful Pixabay, a great example of what fabulous books should do – draw you in!

Books invite you into their world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share this week’s CFT post – Richard Hardie, Authors Reach, and Lockdown. Richard is a local (to me!) YA writer and Authors Reach is his publishing company. Richard and I chat about the challenges of lockdown he has faced both as an author and as a publisher.

Richard Hardie head profile-1

Richard Hardie. Image kindly supplied by him.

This post makes a wonderful lead-in to my Launches in Lockdown series which starts next Friday. I will be chatting to other Authors Reach authors, writers from the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and from Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books.

Naturally I’ll be talking about my experiences of launching a book during these strange times as well.

Today’s post with Richard, as well as the series to come, offer I hope thoughts and ideas as to what can be done despite all the current difficulties. It is also good to know you’re not alone out there!

I must admit though the post I would love to write would be the one where I talk about going to live events again and setting up some of my own!

As they say, watch this space!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m currently drafting a flash story for a blog and this is an interesting combination of fiction with non-fiction. I’m sticking to a strict word count to meet the needs of the blog (though this is excellent for flash fiction writing anyway!) and I’m writing the story in the first person from the viewpoint of my lead character. I have a soft spot for them already! To be fair I do like most of my “people”.

Occasionally I write a story with a character I loathe but I still try to get inside their head and work out why they are the way they are.

Do I enjoy making them get their comeuppance? Oh yes! That is one of the perks of the writer’s job after all!

But the fascinating thing with characters is there are infinite varieties to them and, as a result, infinite storytelling possibilities. It is a case of us “digging for gold” here and finding those stories but the process should be a lot of fun.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Murky and damp day today, not that Lady worried. If she can get to the park and play, she’s happy.

Glad to say I’ll be taking part in two interviews in due course. Have got the questions in for one, am waiting on the ones for the second. It is great fun being on the “other side of the fence” for interviews! I also love looking at the questions I’ve been set and think yes, that’s a great one, it will draw me out.

The best interview questions always do that. You want a writer to share something of themselves and their work and what inspires them. Questions that draw people out are far more likely to achieve that than those where someone could get away with a simple Yes/No answer. (I’ve never seen the point of those kind of questions – where’s the fun in that for either interviewer or interviewee?!).

Oh and before you ask. Yes I do interrogate my characters from time to time. I don’t let them get away with simple Yes/No answers either!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The challenges of flash I think are:-

  • Coming up with new ideas constantly for characters. (I’ve always found story ideas comes from the characters so as long as I know them well enough I will be able to write their tale).
  • Working out whether a 100-word story (or drabble), say, is the best way to tell my latest tale or whether I would be better having a shorter or longer piece to do the character(s) justice. I resolve this one by writing the story, putting it aside for a while, then cutting out my wasted words. I then look at what is left and ask myself line by line is this one really necessary? Does it serve the story? It can be amazing how much can be cut out doing that as only a firm “yes” to both of these questions is enough for me to keep the line(s) in the story. And that is how it should be.
  • Deciding whether to save the latest creation for a collection, or submit it for a competition, or save it for use as a blog post for me on my Facebook page, especially this one (!), or turn it into a story video and put in on Youtube. I sometimes deliberately leave a story as a text tale only for Facebook as I like to mix things up but must admit I have been having a lot of fun creating mini videos using Book Brush!

Still, those challenges mean I have no chance whatsoever of being bored and I like that!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking forward to sharing my CFT post tomorrow. I will be talking to YA author, Richard Hardie, about the challenges of lockdown he has faced as both author and publisher. Richard’s publishing arm is Authors Reach and some of the writers from his stable will be taking part in my Launches in Lockdown series for CFT which will start on 22nd January.

This is going to be a five part series, one of the longest I’ve written, but all of my wonderful guests share great insights as to how they’ve launched books during what has been such a strange period of history. We all hope the series will be a source of encouragement, given, even as things get better overall, “normal” life clearly isn’t going to return all at once. So thoughts and tips about managing online events will always be useful especially given the lack of physical book events will go on for a while (though hopefully only for a short while!).

Writing wise, I am more on the non-fiction side right now with two interviews to prepare for though I have drafted a flash piece for submission to a blog spot later on. The latter was interesting to write. As ever, I found getting inside the head of the character was crucial. Once I hear their voice and see where they’re coming from, the story then flows. It is my character’s story after all!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It came as a nice surprise to see a friend had shared my You Said story video the other day and there were fab responses in to it from that source. So many thanks, #JuneWebber, and to all who have kindly commented on this.

This poetic flash tale had to be written in the first person but I knew the voice of the narrator at once. Very much the voice of someone who has finally had enough of a situation. And I think I’ve conveyed that in this piece. Video up again below in case you missed it. It is good fun writing this kind of story video but I’ve found they work best when kept short.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_3E9H0Sk-M

Fairytales With Bite – What You Wish For

The well known saying “beware of what you wish for” is so true for us but it should be true for our characters too. It can be great fun making a character fall flat on their face when they so richly deserve it! But you do need to show the readers why the character deserves it so they can cheer along when the comeuppance happens!

Think about what your characters would wish for and why. Are their wishes reasonable? What stops them obtaining these? And where wishes come true, has that helped your character become a better person or has it ruined them? Getting all you want isn’t necessarily a great idea (and that’s equally true for us as well as our characters!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – What Does Your World Lack?

Is your fictional world self-contained or does it need to trade with other worlds? If the latter, how is this done? What does your world lack that it needs to buy in and could this be used to hold your world to ransom by a hostile power?

Does your fictional world learn to grow/produce the things it needs or, if this is impossible, what can they do to ensure they can’t be held to ransom by said hostile power?

How does your fictional world get on with others around it even when it doesn’t need anything from anyone else? Does it look to create stable relationships, benefiting everyone, or does it take an insular view on things?

How do the attitudes shown here affect the people who live in your created world? If your creation is insular, does it stop its people from reaching out to other worlds in things like cultural exchanges etc?

If your story is set just in the one world, the question about what it lacks is still relevant. A world will have a climate and that will have its advantages and disadvantages. How do your characters cope with this?

What can your world produce? What can’t it produce? Has the climate changed in any way over time? Was your world once able to grow wheat say but can’t now and how has that impacted society? (It would do too – no bread etc so what would replace that as a staple food?).

Jotting down your thoughts to questions like this can help you visualise your world more clearly and that in turn will help you “get it across” to a reader more clearly. You may discover hidden elements that will help you add depth to your story. If your world was once able to grow wheat but can’t now, how do the people in your world react to that?

Starting Flash Fiction and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

I don’t know whether it’s just me or does January feel like it has been with us for ages already?! Very muddy outing to the park with Lady this morning. Not that she worries… (and I do bless my late mum for leaving me with loads of towels. So useful at this time of year – and yes I’d be at a loss without my washing machine too).

Talking of necessary equipment, is there something crucial to your writing you cannot do without and if so what is it? I’ll take a PC/laptop with printer for granted but other than those things?

For me it is down to software. I can’t be without Scrivener and Evernote. And being old school the old notebook and pen still plays a major part in my life (and will do so even more when we can get to writing conferences and the like again).

Looking forward to sharing my CFT post this week. I’m talking to YA author, Richard Hardie, about the challenges of lockdown he has faced both as publisher and author. Most insightful.

After that will begin my month long series, Launches in Lockdown, where my splendid guest authors talk with me about how they’ve launched books during this strange period. A couple of them launched three! Now there’s a challenge…! (Actually if you count the anthologies I’ve been in recently, I can include myself in that number too – and yes it has been a challenge!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

New Story Video

Pleased to share my latest story video, You Said. Hope you enjoy. Have been having fun choosing suitable audio tracks via Youtube to add to things like this though I always use the free to use ones. It is the audio equivalent to Pixabay for me! (Oh and a big thanks for the lovely responses to my Flying Too High story on CafeLit yesterday – see below!).

Lady got to play with her best friend today so, unsurprisingly, she is rather tired (and her pal will be too). They also got to play with a lovely staffy pup though at one point I did find myself as the “meat in the sandwich” between two muscular dogs – the young staffy and Lady’s Ridgeback pal. I moved quick! Dogs, bless them, generally do not look where they are going when they are busy having a riotous and fun time with each other!

Looking forward to taking part in an interview in February. More details nearer the time. And there will be blog news to share later too. So a nice start to the writing week though what is it about Mondays that are so draining? Answers on a postcard…!

 

CafeLit Publication News

Am delighted to share Flying too High on CafeLit. Start the year as you mean to go on and all that…

Also pleased to say my recent post about receiving a tote bag with my cover for Tripping The Flash Fantastic garnered an incredible amount of responses. Many thanks, everyone – and, of course, to Chapeltown Books!

What is the most challenging aspect of writing for you? Is it continually coming up with ideas? Is it dealing with rejections/no hears from publishers, agents etc?

The positive thing here is that there are precious few writers who’ve not experienced either or both of these so (a) you’re not alone and (b) I’ve found most other writers to be wonderful sources of tea and sympathy. Okay right now we have to make our own tea and share the sympathy over Zoom, Facebook etc but the support is still out there.

Hope you enjoy Flying Too High. It was great fun to write.

Screenshot_2021-01-10 Flying Too High


My story, Flying Too High, will be on CafeLit tomorrow so I look forward to sharing the link for that then. Nice start to the writing year. (First submission under the new system CafeLit are using but it worked well).

Must admit I do hope we can have our usual Bridge House events later on in the year but must just wait and see. Having said that, the Zoom events were good fun and it was great to see people that way.

Am currently drafting a standard length short story which I hope to submit to Bridge House in due course.

Am getting my Launches in Lockdown series together and that is coming along nicely.

I’ve mentioned before I usually listen to Classic FM when I’m writing as I find that kind of music relaxes me and when I relax, I write more (and I hope better!). But there are exceptions to this. I tune into podcasts too (mostly notably Wendy H Jones’ excellent The Writing and Marketing Show).

I deliberately save some writing tasks for when I’m listening to spoken word like this. This is the time for those tasks when I know what I’ve got to write and it is a question of just getting it down. When I need to focus hard because I’m working out an outline and story idea, it’s definitely time for the music because that can and does wash over me (but that helps me relax and ideas for me flow better when I’m relaxed).

You do get into a pattern of work that suits you. It took me a while to figure out what worked best for me but now I know, I stick to it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t know whether to bless or moan at whoever is putting the Tom and Jerry cartoons on Facebook videos… I have to ration myself strictly with these, having many, many happy memories of watching these when I was a kid. Of course the great joy with these cartoons is they are a complete story in and of themselves and by the time they finish, you have had a good laugh (and hopefully are ready for the next one).

Flash fiction can be like that! And the great thing is that, dependent on the mood of the story, by the time you’ve finished reading it, you should be ready for the next funny or scary piece, as the case may be.

Learn from the cartoons! Leave your audience having had a great time with your story and wanting the next one. Oh and deliver the next one, the one after that etc etc of course!

tom-and-jerry-2397258_640

I mix up how I start a flash fiction piece. Sometimes I will work to an opening line. Now every so often I will have brainstorming sessions and come up with a whole host of these for me to pick later on to work into stories. Highly recommend doing that. It means there is always something for me to fall back on to work into a story.

I also work to a closing line (and yes I have brainstorming sessions and list a whole host of these too).

Sometimes a phrase or proverb will catch my attention and I will often use these as the theme for my tale, though every so often, I will use it as the title as well.

And of course I am working my way through Prompts by Gill James. I will work my way through these eventually, honest!

Sometimes a character’s voice comes to me and I will start a tale with what “they” tell me.

My Punish The Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again began life that way. And the opening for that is:-

Dear Sarah,
They say the perfect crime is where the criminal doesn’t get caught. Wrong…

Well, with a strong character voice like that, I just had to go with it! (And if you want to find out more, you can check the book out at am Amazon Author Central page here!).

I also like mixing up how I approach a piece as it makes things more interesting for me and, I hope, for a reader too.

BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939BB - blue poster for booksPrompts by Gill JamesBookBrushImage-2020-11-16-21-040


Hope you enjoyed my Fairies acrostic flash story yesterday. Acrostics are good fun to write and they work best when they are kept short so are perfect as a different form of flash storytelling. It also means the individual lines can’t be too long either. Again no bad thing!

I decide on what the acrostic word will be first and then ideas come from that. Fairies, for example, are known to not always be that nice so that gave me the theme for this one.

I wouldn’t want to write this kind of flash tale all the time but every so often to ring the changes suits me.


F = Fantastical creatures who are not always that nice.
A = Avoid angering them as they will find a way of repaying you.
I = Imogen, silly, girl, jumped up and down and stamped out their magic circle.
R = Revenge came quickly – as anyone with any sense could’ve told her.
I = Imogen is now entrapped in her own magic circle.
E = Exiting it is out of the question and there she must stay unless…
S = She accepts she was out of order and humbles herself and says sorry

Two days later… she is still there.

Ends
Allison Symes – 9th January 2021

Hope you enjoy the above and mind who you annoy!

Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Gifts

Books make wonderful presents, of course. There is something for everyone in terms of genre and format. And they’re easy to post as well (which given the current situation with the pandemic proved vital for the Christmas we’ve just had. I wonder just how many book-shaped parcels Royal Mail delivered in December 2020!).

There is one dilemma with books given as gifts though. You have got to resist the urge to read the book yourself or you’ll find it harder to give it away. Get the book home, get it wrapped! It is the only way…. Or is it?

Okay, there is an answer to this one. Get two copies of the book. You get a book, your friend gets a book (which has not been read through by you first!) and the author will love you for it.

You know it makes sense. Support your local authors!

I’m always delighted to be on the receiving end of books as presents and for Christmas and my birthday, I end up making a list. No surprises there but as I always tell my family, it does mean I’m easy to buy for!

Yes, books are wonderful. Ideal presents. And for those who loathe shopping of any kind (and I know a few!), you can give them a list and simplify what they have to do so win-win!

 

Twitter Corner

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Favourite Writing Exercises and Why They’re Beneficial

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

Delighted to share my latest CFT post – Favourite Writing Exercises and Why They’re Beneficial.

I remember being set writing exercises when I was first starting out as a writer and being terrified by the thought of them. There was also no way on this earth I would read any of my offerings out loud! How things have changed!

As I mentioned yesterday (see below!), the fact nobody expects perfect prose helps a lot. I also found listening in to contributions from others helped too. It kind of reassured me I was on the right lines with what I had drafted and that in time built up my confidence enough to start sharing my work out loud. Feedback from that helped still further.

I discuss in my post why it is a good idea to get used to writing exercises and practicing some of the most common ones set (opening and closing lines) also helps enormously.

I found it meant I was less unnerved when a speaker at a conference set such an exercise. I knew I’d already practiced them and while I wouldn’t know (rightly!) what the line would be I had to write to, I knew I could do the exercise. That in turn built up my confidence to draft something for that exercise and with time and practice, you get better at most things, including exercises like these.

Great comments coming in already for my latest CFT post. Do share what your favourite writing exercises are.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many thanks for the wonderful response to yesterday’s post about my tote bag with the cover for Tripping the Flash Fantastic on it and a big, big thanks to my publishers, Chapeltown Books.

Looking forward to sharing tomorrow’s CFT post as it is about writing exercises and I love these. I never used to do so. I used to feel terrified when I was set any at writing conferences etc but when I realised nobody was expecting perfect prose first go, I relaxed! That funnily enough was when I started to enjoy said writing exercises.

It helps to see them as a fun way to trigger ideas you can polish up later. And that is the whole point. You do polish them up later and from that who knows? I’ve submitted pieces of flash fiction and short stories which started life this way and then went on to be published on CafeLit etc. Talking of which I will have another piece on there later this week which will be a lovely way to start the writing year!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Had a lovely surprise from my publisher today – a tote bag with my book cover for Tripping the Flash Fantastic on it! Guess what I’ll be using to take my books about with me when we can finally have live book events again! One chuffed author here…!

Lady was chuffed to see her best buddie, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, in the park today. A good time was had by all. Lady doesn’t get to see her bestie every day so naturally wants to make the most of things when she does. (And her buddy takes the same view!).

My CFT post this week will be about a couple of my favourite writing exercises and why I think they’re beneficial. Link up on Friday. Hopefully you’ll also find it useful.

For the rest of January and into February, I will be sharing via CFT various authors’ thoughts on the impact of lockdown on their book launches. One of those authors will be me of course! But I will be kicking the series off with an interview with someone who is both a publisher and an author and has had to face lockdown and all that has meant from both sides of the writing business. All fabulous stuff and I can’t wait to share these posts. So plenty to look forward to here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do you look for most in a story? I look to be entertained and it is a case of deciding whether to be entertained by a crime story, a historical fiction piece, fantasy, or what have you. For me, stories are all about taking a reader to a different place for a short while (and in the case of flash fiction, it is a very short while – and hooray I found a very I could justify using there! Very is one of my wasted words and nearly always gets the red pen treatment! It is unusual for me to leave any in!).

I guess lockdown has proved again how important stories are. The great thing with stories is you can go anywhere you like with them without moving one step from home.

So your travel guide for this weekend – what is it to be? Fantasy worlds, a dash of flash, a non-fiction book (and yes non-fiction is a form of storytelling too). And if you’re not sure where to start why not try a short story or flash fiction collection? See them as mixed assortments and doesn’t everyone like those from time to time? No calories either!

Whatever you read this weekend, enjoy – and escape for a while! It is a lovely feeling…!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I’ll be talking about writing exercises in my post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week (link up tomorrow) but I like to mix up the kind of exercise I do, whether I’m specifically using them for flash work or not.

I love opening and closing lines (the theme of tomorrow’s post) as these are my two favourite forms of writing exercise but there are all kinds of things you can use as a prompt to start writing. I’ll talk a bit more about that in my post tomorrow but you can pick a random object from your desk, say, and work it into a story. You can use my other favourite things, the random generators, to trigger things to again work into a story and/or use as the theme and/or use as the title.

I like taking pictures when I’m out anywhere (not that this is happening for the foreseeable future!) but do look up your old pictures. Can any of those inspire a flash fiction story?

And however you start writing your tales, be sure to enjoy the process. That matters. I believe at least some of the writer’s enjoyment of the process does come through in the finished work and readers pick up on that subconsciously.

Anyway, why wouldn’t you enjoy what you write?!


I’m currently drafting a short story which I suspect will end up being at about the 1500-2000 words mark, so well above the flash limit, but I mention it here as I’ve fallen for the lead character and know I have got right under their skin.

Now I do this for all of my characters but this one does have that extra sparkle about them and I adore that. Hopefully future readers will pick up on this and love this character too in due course.

You need to fall for your characters and get under their skin for flash stories too, albeit this has to be done on a smaller scale. It helps to focus on the one thing that makes your character worth writing for and the one incident that is their story. What is it you have to write up?

Outlining helps here as you list what you love about your character and what could happen to them based on their situation. You then pick the strongest scenario based on that list. It will be the one that grabs you the most. Take time out to think about why that is. I suspect it will be because the scenario will bring out something special from your character, whether it highlights their sense of humour, sense of fair play, or simply just shows them in their best light.

And then enjoy every moment of writing the story up!

 

Fairytales With Bite – Favourite Kinds of Fairytale Character

Do you have favourite kinds of fairytale character? I always root for the underdog but I also love characters like Shrek that overturn perceptions as to how their characters are normally seen. Well, why can’t there be a good ogre? The word ogre itself conjures up the image of something nasty but who gave it that link? It also leads to the interesting question of what is the difference between a bad fairy godmother and a good witch? Who would you rather have in your corner?!

I also think fairytale characters are metaphors for us. There are the goody-goodies who never put a foot wrong, the ones who start out wrong but turn out okay in the end, the ones who are just plain evil (and usually they’re the ones after power which naturally they will only use for their own purposes). Maybe this is why fairytales resonate with us all still. We recognise the character types.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – What Makes Your World Work for a Reader?

What is it about your fictional world that you need to get across to your reader? What do they need to know about how things work?

The ideal of course is for your characters to show your reader the world they live in.

Readers pick up on context so think about that when writing dialogue. Dialogue in fiction needs to sound as natural as possible but you also don’t want characters to tell each other what they might be expected to know.

Example 1:-
Character A: I hear our newly elected Lord Mayor Renstung is a complete….

Hmm… a lot of telling here… also you want your readers to judge the Mayor for themselves and not be told what to think.

And it is highly likely Character B will know about the recent election and the new Mayor so what would be a better way of showing readers the situation here?

Example 2:-
Character A: Did you like the results on Thursday?
Character B: No. I was hoping old Whatitsface would be our new Mayor, not that complete…. Well you know what Renstung is like.
Character A: Hardly likely to forget am I?
Character B: I know you’ve mentioned the burning of your village on his orders but I don’t think you told me how old you were when that happened.

Much better. Yes, a higher word count but you find out something about Character A here, Character B comes across as sympathetic, and you can sense why these two are likely to be friends. For one thing, their views on politics look similar just from this short exchange.

When it comes to narrative, and you need to describe, say, the Mayoral building, do so succinctly. Think impact. What do you want your readers to see?

Example 1:-
The Mayoral Hall was built in the 50th century and looked like a wedding cake carved out of marble. It had won awards for its architecture but the prize giving committee were all members of Renstung’s cabinet.

This is okay. You get an image.

Example 2:-
There was something about the marble Mayoral Hall that made people shiver as they went past it. It might look like a wedding cake but countless people had died inside It. Nobody was sure of the numbers.

I would go with this wording. You still know it’s marble (the age isn’t the most relevant thing so I’ve cut that out), I’ve still given you the shape of it, but I’ve also associated it with horror. And that would be the most important thing for your readers to know.

Always ask yourself if you were reading your work as if it it had been written by someone else, how does the writing make you feel and react? There should be a reaction!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Twitter Corner

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js