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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!).

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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!).

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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!

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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…!

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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.

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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!

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Twitter Corner

 

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Voices, Radio Story, and Relaxing Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School were taken by Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn respectively (and in succeeding years at the school. We all hope to be back there in 2021).

Facebook – General

It is odd not writing about what my Chandler’s Ford Today post is going to be this week, but even I take a week off occasionally. A huge thanks to my lovely CFT editor for the surprise “Legends Box” parcel which reached me today. Lots of nice goodies inside with a flyer saying the sender thought I was a legend!

Better still, all proceeds from these parcels go to the Trussell Trust. Imaginative and positive gift ideas for next Christmas I think and such a lovely thing to do. So many thanks to my editor again and to the people behind the Legends Box idea. I like things like this. My church a few years back supported the Send-a-Cow charity and we managed to send two cows and a goat I believe.

I AM working on CFT behind the scenes however. I am working on what will be an informative mini-series which will hopefully go up in January plus another interesting feature with a writer/publisher. So plenty to look forward to then!

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Delighted to share the link to Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. My story, Up to Scratch, was broadcast here on Saturday 19th December. My story comes in at about the 1 hour 28 minutes mark but the show makes for a wonderful celebration of festive flash fiction. Hope you enjoy. I loved taking part and hope to do so again at some point. A big thanks to #HannahKate and also to #ElizabethDucie for flagging this up to me.

Link:  https://www.mixcloud.com/Hannahs_Bookshelf/hannahs-bookshelf-pre-christmas-christmas-special-19122020/

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One of the highlights of Christmas for me is the Carols by Candlelight service. Of course, this year the way it is held is different. It was pre-recorded and then put on Youtube. It was lovely to be able to sing along. I gave one of the readings (I went down to the church to record it a couple of weeks back) but the whole service cheered me no end. Yes, sure, it is not the same as being there but it was the next best thing so a huge thanks to all who worked so hard on making this happen.

By this stage of the writing year, my poor old writers’ diary is looking more than a bit tired (as indeed is this writer!). But I do find this an invaluable aid to planning out what I am writing and for when. I know it seems old-fashioned to write with a pen in a paperback diary but it works for me! I didn’t use any of the writing prompts in the diary this year. I will try and make up for that in 2021.

Am almost at the end of the first draft for my non-fiction project so am pleased with that. I am on target to have this written by the end of the year (though possibly not this side of Christmas). There will be no Chandler’s Ford Today post from me this coming Friday (I wonder why!) but I will be posting on New Year’s Day. And I’ve got a good initial draft of a third flash fiction collection to work on while I’m resting my non-fiction for a while so I can resume work on that with a fresh eye in due course.

But I must admit I do hope we can get back to some sort of writing events where we can meet people. Here’s hoping!

Candlelight - Book Brush

Delighted to say it was my recording of my reading Up To Scratch that went out on Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM earlier this afternoon. Many thanks, #HannahKate for picking my story. I hope to share the link to the show in the next couple of days or so.  (Done, see further up!). Well, there is always time for a flash festive fable! (And I do hope to submit stories to Hannah’s Bookshelf in the future. Flash works well on audio given it is so short).

This story was one of those where I had the “voice” for my characters immediately and is a tale told entirely in dialogue. Good fun to do. I’ve always found dialogue tales work best when kept short so they’re a good choice for flash fiction writers.

How do I know when I’ve got the voice for my characters? It isn’t just a question of knowing how they sound funnily enough, It is a question of knowing yes this is the kind of thing they would say, the kind of vocabulary they would use because…. , and also knowing what wouldn’t suit them. For example the two characters in this story would not swear. Therefore, they didn’t!

Oh and to make sure I don’t forget to do this, please find below a little something created using Book Brush this afternoon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTenqfNs3k8

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I love about writing for Chapeltown Books has been helping to choose suitable images for the book covers. For From Light to Dark and Back Again I choose rippling circles with light playing on them. For Tripping The Flash Fantastic I chose a castle with lights shining in it with lightning seeming to strike one end of the castle. That image was not my first choice but it proved to be better than what I had chosen initially given there are historically based flash stories in this book. I also liked the idea of the lightning flash as being a kind of clue to the book genre.

What I do know is you have to be happy with your book covers and a good one will convey something of what the contents are likely to be. You then hope someone picks up the book, looks at the blurb, and looks inside to find out more (before going on to buy it of course). But it is easier for the writer to do the necessary marketing work if they themselves love the cover, the blurb, and the book itself. One of my favourite Wodehouse quotes is “God may forgive Herbert Jenkins Limited for the cover of……… but I never shall”!

Glad to say that has not been a problem for me!

TTFF squareBookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939BB - blue poster for books


Taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights was not something I anticipated doing when I started writing flash fiction seriously but it is a very good vehicle for developing your writing skills, funnily enough. It pays to read your story out loud to yourself a few times before you do an event like this. You’re looking for anything that might make you stumble over your words. If you find anything (and you inevitably do), it’s time for a rewrite. The aim is for a smooth read for you and a smooth listening experience for your audience. Recording a story and playing it back to yourself helps too. All of this helps you hone your editing skills further too so win-win!

The Open Mic for Prose night

Many thanks to Geoff Parkes for this image of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night.

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Quick plug alert! Amazon say that the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic can be with you for 22nd December if ordered today. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more.

If anyone would like a signed copy directly from me, just send me a Direct Message and we’ll take things from there. I would really need to get books off in the post by Tuesday, 22nd December at the latest to have any chance of getting this to you in time for Christmas. If you’re not in a hurry, then just message me anyway and we can sort things out after Christmas and Boxing Days.

And do remember if you are on the receiving end of book presents this Christmas (you are, aren’t you?!), please do review the book in the usual places. Reviews don’t have to be long but they do help the author.

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Horrendous weather off and on in Hampshire today. Mud levels in the local park are quite something now too. Not that Lady minds! I am blessing my dear old mum for leaving me a shed load of old towels. They do for Lady nicely!

Delighted my story Up to Scratch was on the radio this afternoon. Will share a link when I have it. This story was an all dialogue on between two characters only (though others are referred to in the tale).

I like the challenge of writing all dialogue stories from time to time but I think they are best used sparingly. The advantage of “standard” prose stories is I can take you into the heads of the characters and show you their thoughts. I can’t do that if I’ve got them talking to you!!

But that is where the challenge lies. What could a character be reasonably expected to know to be able to say to another character? It’s also got to sound like natural conversation (though without the ums and ahs we all come up with).

This kind of story makes for a good writing exercise too. Try it some time and see what you come up with. I’ve found this kind of story is best kept short (and I keep mine to about the 100-`150 word count length). It keeps the tale tight and to the point and you really don’t want characters wittering on!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Perfect Books To Relax With

What kind of book do you like to relax with? My favourites are fantasy (especially the humorous kind such as Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld stories) and crime (though I am more at the cosy end of the market).

Though right now I am loving Peter Ackroyd’s London, which is a biography of the city. An interesting way of writing up a history and full of fascinating tales. It’s a fairly big paperback but is an engrossing read so very happy to recommend it.

If a writer’s style draws me in, as it does here, it doesn’t matter how big the book is! They’ve got this reader to the end (which is a challenge for all of us writers to ensure we try and do that with our own writing).

I can’t read in the bath. I’d be worried about dropping a book or Kindle in the water. Neither would come out well. This is why my main reading is just before I go to sleep. I am so relaxed then. It’s not the time to read a gripping vampire novel though. Mind you, I wasn’t planning on doing this so that’s okay.

For me books have to be entertaining and help me relax. If I want a challenging read, I will carve out time during the day when my brain is better able to cope with said challenging read!

I hope you have plenty of excellent new reads for Christmas and I hope you have a safe and as good a celebration as possible. If ever there was a year, we all needed books to help us escape, it is in 2020.


Twitter Corner

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LAST BUT NOT LEAST

My next round-up will be on Tuesday 29th December. I’m having a couple of days off over Christmas though I still plan to write my weekly Goodreads Author Blog post. I am likely to move this to Sunday 27th December.

In the meantime, I wish you all as safe and happy a Christmas as possible in what has been such a strange year and I look forward to seeing you back here next week!

Many thanks for your ongoing support. It is much appreciated!

merry christmas sign

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

The Joy of Photos – and Finding My Feet

Now there’s a post heading I hadn’t expected to write! All will be explained below…

Image Credit:

  • All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
  • Images from Scotland were taken by me for my Chandler’s Ford Today this week bar one. That was the one with me in it taken by Adrian Symes.
  • Images of me reading at Bridge House and Swanwick events taken by Dawn Kentish Knox and Penny Blackburn respectively.
  • Image of me signing a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again for the talented and lovely Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, was taken by Jennifer C Wilson at Swanwick. We all missed Swanwick this year, cancelled due to Covid.
  • There! I think I’ve credited everyone I need to now! And a big thank you to all for the pictures. Appropriately my CFT post this week touches on the importance of photos!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Double bubble from me this evening. Firstly I talk about The Joy of Photos in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. The great thing with this post is I had no trouble sourcing images for this one at all! I share a few of my favourites, some of which naturally involve Lady, but also discuss the impact of photos on writers.

Not only is there the author pic we all need to have so people know who we are, but then there are the book cover images, book trailers etc. Without still images, there would have been no moving ones either. So photos are definitely something to celebrate.

Hope you enjoy the post! (Oh and I was thrilled to find the Feature Image for this post. Pixabay, my darling people, you came up trumps here!).

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Second post tonight and publication news. My humorous story, Finding My Feet, is now up on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy and that it makes you smile. Great fun to write and one of my favourite kind of tale – that of the fairytale told from a minor character’s viewpoint. It always makes for an interesting perspective! (Teaser below but do follow the link for the whole story).

Screenshot_2020-10-30 Finding My FeetFLASH - Ideas will spark others, something else I love flash fiction for - Pixabay

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

Well, they say you should write about what you know so I did! I talk about prep work for a cyberlaunch in my blog spot this month for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog.

There is no ONE correct way to have any kind of launch, online or otherwise, but whatever you decide to do here, preparation is key. It really does pay off. See the post for more.

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As well as my story page on Cafelit, there is also a page for each of many of the regular writers here. I’ve just updated mine to include an update on my website details and naturally my book list!

And I’ll have a new story on Cafelit on Friday so am looking forward to sharing that (see above!). My CFT post about The Joy of Photos is also out on Friday. (Nice thing for that post is I sourced most of the pics from the ones I’ve taken earlier this year and I discuss why I like them. I also look at how photos play a big part in most writers’ lives).

I talk about preparation for a cyberlaunch in my More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers and will share the link for that tomorrow. Hope it will prove useful. (Again see above).

Idea for a writing prompt: take the same opening line, change just ONE word in it, and then use the line for TWO stories! I’ve done this in Tripping The Flash Fantastic with my tales, Mishaps and Jumping Time.

My opening lines here?

1. Going back in time had its drawbacks.

2. Going forward in time had its drawbacks.

I had a great deal of fun with this and I used the same lead character in both stories. I hope to write more linked flash fiction like this.

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From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to have another funny flash tale on Cafelit this evening. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Cinderella story as this tale will also show!

But surely the story of Cinderella is so well known, it can’t bear any more re-tellings?

Hmmm…. no!

I love writing from the perspective of minor characters, indeed it is how I got into print with Bridge House Publishing over a decade ago now. And it opens up a host of new story possibilities simply because you can (a) invent your own minor character or (b) use one that is already in the canon of the story so to speak.

Have fun with these people. It is their turn to shine!

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Story time! Well, mostly. One thing I’ve been active with this year has been producing videos of me reading from my work and sharing a little of how I came to write the stories.

This is from my winning entry for 2020’s Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition. I was one of the winners and this is an extract from my tale, Books and the Barbarians. Great fun to write. Hope you enjoy!

Video for Books and the Barbarians by Allison Symes. Copyright 2020.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/iqeepkzyud5u7l9/Waterloo%20Art%20Festival%202020%20-%20Allison%20Symes%20Video.mp4?dl=0

As well as my two collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I have a number of flash and other stories in various anthologies. See my Amazon Author Central page for more. See
See my next post tonight for one of my winning stories from one of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competitions (see above and hope you enjoy the video!).

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For my flash fiction writing, as it has to be character led, I focus on getting the character right before I plunge into the tale itself. So my outlining is focussed on working out who my character is and their traits, for good or ill, will play a major part in the story I’m about to write.

That’s because if a character is arrogant, for example, you can bet that arrogance is going to land them right in it during the tale. Indeed, it ought to! What I need to decide then is whether the story is going to be a funny or serious one.

I like to know what makes my character tick before I write them. They do still sometimes surprise me and that’s fine. If the surprise proves to be better than what I originally outlined, I go with the surprise every time!

Fairytales With Bite – Never Ignore the Underdog!

One of the early lessons I learned from reading fairytales is to look out for the underdog! The fairy godmother will be turning up to help them for one thing. You learn quickly that the underdog is likely to turn out to be the hero or heroine. Nor do they let the circumstances in which they’ve become the underdog grind them down.

Also the underdog is generally the nicest character by far. What makes your underdog “worthy” of being helped? What can they do to help themselves improve their situation? Does magic help or hinder their progress?

The underdog never gets the happy ever after ending straight away either. They do have to go through difficult times to get to that point. They usually learn something which helps them develop as a character directly due to the difficult times they’ve been through.

So let’s hear it for the underdog then, albeit they won’t get their just deserts immediately! (Meaning the other qualities they must have are patience and endurance!).

This World and Others – What Convinces a Reader Your Created World is “real enough” to Read about?

I’m convinced by the reality of a fictional world by the little details. Yes, I love a good fantasy map (all hail The Lord of The Rings for that), but I also like to know how a place is governed.

I need an idea of the species that live in the fictional world and whether they get on or not. Politics plays a part too. After all fictional worlds still have to be governed by someone and they are bound to have opposition (whether that’s justified or not).

So a sense of how ordinary life is lived is crucial, as well as reading about the inevitable extraordinary changes your characters will be facing in your story. Those little details help give your creation a solid foundation.

I know they help me visualise things better and that in turn draws me even further into the tale. A character swearing about the dreadful weather will be understandable to everyone even if their species is the most bizarre it is possible to imagine!

And characterisation is of the utmost importance. Your characters may have sky blue pink skin tone and have three heads, but we still need to know what makes them tick, what their motivations are and so on.

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Twitter Highlights

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WRAPPING UP

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.

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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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Seasonal Books

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

I talk about the types of book I read at certain times of year in this week’s CFT post. Which books do you save for particular times? Which can you read at any time? Comments as ever are most welcome on the CFT comments page.

Oh and happy reading!

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Further to my CFT post this week about seasonal books, do you write seasonally? Are there specific types of story you only write at certain times of year? Do the seasons help with your writing in an way?

I keep roughly to the same amount of time in writing throughout the year and see advantages to all of the seasons. The lighter evenings improve mood and that can help creativity. The darker evenings encourage me to spend more time at my desk writing so win-win there!

I have written Christmas based stories for both From Light to Dark and Back Again and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic. I can’t honestly remember what time of year I wrote them. I DO know it wasn’t at Christmas. I do take some time off around then for one thing. For another, I also sometimes submit these kind of flash stories to Cafelit and I like to get them in well ahead of time.

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It is always the characters I remember in well loved books, films etc. Sometimes I remember a killer line such as “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” from The Italian Job. But mainly it is the characters I recall. Why?

I suppose it’s because most writers, including me, are interested in what makes people tick. We need to understand motivations so we can give our own characters credible ones readers will latch onto and accept (even if they loathe the characters themselves. Mind you, there is nothing to beat booing at a “good” villain now, is there?!).

And people watching will spark off ideas for characters and stories. I’ve used the colour of someone’s hat that I liked amongst other things. And, of course, there is the old favourite of overhearing something, always out of context incidentally, but wondering what would make YOUR characters come out with something like that. (This is especially true if what you hear is funny!).

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Am busily preparing a book trailer for Tripping the Flash Fantastic as well as finishing off blog pieces to submit. All good fun!

It’s always interesting being on the receiving end of questions, by the way. I love interviewing other authors for Chandler’s Ford Today but it is always fun to be quizzed myself. The best questions always encourage an interviewee to expand. The worst kind are those where you’ll only get a Yes/No answer.

I’ve mentioned before the idea of interviewing your characters as it helps you outline your “people” and you get a better idea of what they are capable of before you write their story. Pretty much the same applies here – again ask your characters interesting questions. Make them talk!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Just a quick reminder I’ll be on Chat and Spin Radio talking about the joys of flash fiction tomorrow night, 3rd October, at about 9.15 pm.

Also just over a week to go to my cyberlaunch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Hope to see you “there”. And if you have questions about flash fiction, do send them in on the night.

Flash is a fantastic form to write and to read and well worth celebrating. It is also my hope it can be used to draw in the reluctant reader to the wonderful world of books.

Focusing on what really matters is important to any kind of writing but the spotlight is turned up a LOT when your word count is DOWN! But the benefits of that are you have a more intense story precisely because it is short and the impact on a reader can be stronger too.

Screenshot_2020-10-02 Tripping The Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch Facebook

Flash shows you a very brief moment in time for a character but oh what a moment! And that’s the whole point. That moment must be something truly transforming for the character. It doesn’t have to be in a good way either.

In Tripping The Flash Fantastic, in my story Understanding, I used a narrator showing the reader something about another character’s life. Liked the way this worked and I hope to do more of this in future. Seeing something through someone else’s eyes can shed a whole new perspective on things and that can be true for fiction too.

BONUS POST. Two bits of late news, as they say.
1. I’ll be on Chat and Spin Radio this coming Saturday, 3rd October to chat about Tripping the Flash Fantastic. I’ll be on at about 9.15 pm and will share the link with the interview later.

2. I’ve finally got around to creating a story for me on Facebook.


Wet Wednesday here. Lady not overly impressed. I was even less impressed. Still, one good thing about bad weather, is it makes getting back to a nice warm room to get on with some writing even more appealing!

Delighted to share part of another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Many thanks to “Fish Lady” for:-

Allison’s stories always make you stop and think a little – there is something slightly off-centre in the way her characters see the world, and she switches effortlessly from humorous tales to stories with a harder bite. A real treat for readers who enjoy being taken on a mystery tour.

It’s always great to know when your stories impact on readers positively. And a huge encouragement to keep on writing.

The writing life is full of ups and downs and the encouragements help enormously when things are on the down side.

This is another reason I like writing flash fiction I think. I can produce something fairly quickly and submit it. I don’t have to wait too long for results and, if they’re positive, it ends up being that I receive a steady stream of encouragements. And that helps so much.


Fairytales with Bite – Transformations

Transformations are a classic part of fairytales. I wonder what the rats who became footmen remembered when they became rats again! And how easy did they find becoming bipeds when usually they were quadrupeds? Did the spell on them take away all thought of what they had been? Hmm…

Transformations can often be for good, of course, but not always. Sometimes they can be questionable. I doubt if the fairy godmother in Cinderella would have won any prizes for the humane treatment of animals given her transformation of the rats. They had been quite happy being rats after all!

All stories do need some sort of transformation. There has to be a change for there to be any story at all.

Whether you make that transformation good, evil, or questionable will depend so much on (a) you and your personal tastes and (b) your characters.

The transformation must be true to the character though always. If someone evil is going to transform into something better (and you define what that better is!), then you do need to show that character as at least having second thoughts about their behaviour in the run up to that transformation. It will make the transformation more realistic for your readers and they will be more willing to believe it.

The only place things happen by magic is in the fairytales and even in Cinderella you have the situation where the godmother has to look around for things to use. That is a signal to the reader that something is about to change.

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This World and Others – Reflections

Do your characters ever reflect on their actions and if so, how? You generally don’t want monologues here but a character wondering about a course of action is a character showing signs of self-doubt, vulnerability even, and that is likely to appeal to a reader. Certainly readers will understand it. We all have those moments after all.

Does your world reflect this one or have you set up something totally different? (Even the latter can be a reflection of life here to an extent!).
What would you like your characters and/or world to reflect? This could be anything from what you would like them/you to be or they could be the opposite to you and you use your stories as chances to see how things would play out.

Have fun! But a story that makes readers reflect on what they would do if they were in your character’s shoes is a story that is making an impact and that is always good.#

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New Book, New Anthology, New Zoom Event!

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am always pleased to share my Chandler’s Ford Today posts but this one is bound to be a bit special! The title explains all!
I’m so pleased to share three pieces of good news in this week’s post.
My new flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, is now out. I have two stories in the newly released The Best of Cafelit 9as well.
I am also taking part in a Zoom event with #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox on 26th September between 3 and 4 pm. The event is FREE but you do need to register. All details for that are in my post and on the link here.
The three of us will be talking about our books and writing related matters and sharing stories so if you love being read to (as I do), then do register and join us! There will be giveaways too.
This will be my first event for Tripping the Flash Fantastic but I am planning a cyberlaunch in October and hope to share details about that soon.
My CFT posts are always a joy to write and to share but this one is special. No prizes for guessing why!

What does good writing do for you?
A tremendous story will take you right into its world so you completely forget about this one. Now there IS a good idea for you right now!
Great writing will move you. It might even make you change your opinion. You will get to see where characters are coming from and that is easy to relate to behaviour we see all around us.
Reading a lot does encourage empathy. If you write as well, you get double the effect here as you have to work out why your characters would act the way they are for the purposes of your story.
You don’t have to like what they do (I frequently don’t with mine!) but you do have to understand. And encouraging understanding has to be a good thing, I think.
Tripping the Flash Fantastic and The Best of Cafelit 9 are now up on my Amazon Author Central page. See https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
That probably counts as my marketing for today!
In case any one is wondering whether it is worth submitting details of new books etc to ALCS (the Authors’ Copyright and Licensing Society), it IS. I had my first modest payment from them earlier this year so yes, at some point this week, I’ll get the two new publications added to the records they hold for me.
I have free membership being a member of the Society of Authors but you can join directly. (Oh and I’m not on commission for ALCS by the way. I’ve forgotten who told me about ALCS but thank you! And I hope this post will encourage someone else to check ALCS out in their turn).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ll be sharing a couple of stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic on the Zoom event on Saturday 26th September. I always love reading aloud and being read to so am also looking forward to listening to stories from #gilljames and #dawnkentishknox. See the link below.
The event is free, there will be giveaways too, but you do need to register.
Also bring along questions. Gill, Dawn, and I look forward to seeing you “there”!

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Hope Thursday has proved all right for you. Have placed my book order for The Best of Cafelit 9 and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. So naturally can’t wait for those to arrive! Nothing beats the feeling when you open a box of YOUR books.
Choosing what goes into a collection can be an art form in itself. I like a mixture of moods in my books, as you know. Just as life isn’t all sweetness and light, neither is it all doom and gloom (no matter how much it might feel like that right now!). So I like my stories to reflect that.

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After discussing random noun generators a little while ago, I thought I should take a look to see if there was such a thing as a random adjective generator. Well, you just would, wouldn’t you?
And yes there is!
So further scope here to trigger ideas for flash and short stories.
I chose three adjectives and what came up and the following appeared:-
1. absurd
2. well-groomed
3. wild
Again, you can use the words as a title or a theme. For something like absurd, you could use that to set the mood of the tale.
You could also use this tool to help you flesh out your character(s). Your main character could be absurd, well-groomed (perhaps taking that to the height of absurdity), but wild when they think nobody’s looking.
Your story could then be centred around someone else discovering that wild side to your main character’s chagrin. How would they react to being found out?
Have fun! (And I am always pleased to find more random generators to add to my idea generating list!).

Fairytales With Bite – Realism in Fairytales

The obvious response to that title is to say “what realism”? How can there be realism when a kindly older woman with a pointed stick with a star on it is likely to turn up at any moment to bestow wishes on the downtrodden but deserving characters in the tale? (See Cinderella for more on that!).

For me, the realism in a fairytale is based on character portrayal and also in showing what we are capable of. There is a lot of cruelty in fairytales (again see Cinderella and then there’s poor old Snow White facing the real threat of being murdered). While we should not approve of the wicked stepmother’s wish to kill Snow White the fact her jealousy of the younger woman is so well portrayed means we are not surprised when that jealousy leads to drastic actions. How often have we seen things like that in soap operas, the news etc?).

Fairytales DO shine a light on human behaviour and what we see is far from flattering but it IS truth.

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This World and Others – Exploration

When you set up a world of your own for your stories, do you get your characters to explore it? If so, how do they do it? What transport is available? How easy is travel? What do your characters do to overcome difficulties here?

Readers like to explore fictional worlds. I love reading little details about a world to help me get a proper “picture” of it in my own imagination.

Often those details are given in passing. Two characters are talking and there is a little description of their location. The name of a street can sometimes tell you a fair bit about the setting.

Terry Pratchett was brilliant at this in his Discworld series. I just loved the thought of Peach Pie Street!

Fantasy, of course, has given the world the fictional map and probably the most famous example (well it is to me!) is the one Tolkien created for The Lord of the Rings. But the map has to be useful and it was handy to know where Rohan and Gondor were in relation to one another and to Mordor.

What details do you think your readers will need to know about your fictional world to make sense of it? How can you drip feed these into your story?

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