Snow, Subverting Expectations, and Traffic Rivals

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A nice mix of topics tonight I think!

My latest story video coming up further in the post.


Facebook – General

More snow flurries today. Central heating back on. Thick cardigans etc not being packed away just yet.

Glad to report my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover, will follow on from my Story Types post this Friday and will run for the remaining three weeks in April. Looking forward to sharing this week’s post and the series in due course.

Enjoyed listening to a poetry special on Hannah’s Bookshelf earlier today (I do love catch up listening!) and the imagery created was fantastic. Particularly enjoyed the lines from two poets. One was “thick as a Bible” (I have images of an old family Bible we had that was huge) and, in a separate poem, “Van Gogh stars”. Both just fantastic word portraits. Great examples of two poets making every word punch its weight.

This is one similiarity between poetry and flash fiction. I was not surprised to hear that some of Hannah’s guest poets had also taken part in her flash fiction shows. I don’t know how many flash fiction writers go on to be poets. Is there a correlation there, I wonder?

I do know that when I read the poetry columns in things like Writing Magazine, I pay particular attention to how the words are used and the tips for making every word count. That kind of information is useful no matter what you write.

It’s all about the impact on the reader.

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Brrr… it has been cold today! Had the odd snow flurry too (and yes odd is an appropriate word given I was just getting used to spring being here and then wham the snow turns up again!). Despite all of that, I hope you have had an enjoyable Easter Monday.

Managed to sub another flash fiction tale over the weekend to #FridayFlashFiction. There have been some wonderful comments on my two stories on the site so far so a big thank you for those. Made good progress on my third flash fiction collection too.

Am putting the finishing touches to a new series on Chandler’s Ford Today to be called Judging a Book By Its Cover. Looking forward to sharing this and the wonderful contributions from my guests for this too. Meanwhile, this week my CFT post will be about Story Types.

What was nice was over the weekend CFT’s lovely editor, #JanetWilliams, sent an email to the regular contributors that she had received from a fan of the site. That was lovely and I know the feedback was appreciated and not just by me. (Ties in with my post last week about Reviews nicely too – constructive feedback is invaluable).

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4th April – Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!

Delighted to see this came up on my timeline as a memory today – from four years ago.

My, how the time flies. From my first book launch for From Light to Dark and Back Again. (See photo below of the notebook and pen).

Look what came up on my timeline – a memory from 2017.

So much has changed in that time! I hadn’t heard of Zoom or Facebook Live when my first flash collection was launched. I hadn’t envisaged having my own Youtube channel, being interviewed on the radio, talking to a WI group, or taking part in an international writing summit either!

Memories like this remind me the writing journey is a continuous one. Sure, there will be times when you feel you are going nowhere or have headed straight into a cul-de-sac. But there are those wonderful moments when you know you are progressing. Progress can be anything from having something published to simply getting more work out there over the course of a year than you’ve done before or trying a new market and seeing what happens.

What matters I think is enjoying as much of the journey as possible and developing what you do in a way that you love doing. You are your own first reader so it is crucial you enjoy what you write.

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Hope you have had good Holy Saturday.

Many thanks for the positive comments, tweets etc about my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week called Reviews. I’m not too surprised this one has struck a chord! I can’t say I review every book I read but I do review the majority. I also find reviews useful for anything from books to my groceries. The range of reviews usually gives a pretty good idea of whether I’m likely to like something or not.

A big thanks also for the lovely comments on my two stories on #FridayFlashFiction.

Enjoying listening to the Hall of Fame countdown on Classic FM. That’s my listening for the weekend sorted. I often pick classical/classic like pieces when I’m creating my story videos for Youtube. They have an impressive audio library and often I’m looking for a particular mood when creating my video. Can’t say I’m too surprised it is the classic section I head most often to look for the right mood music.

Looking forward to sharing details of a new Chandler’s Ford Today series soon too.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A big thanks for the wonderful response to my story video, Traffic Rivals, yesterday. (Video below). I adore writing the very short flash tale, especially quirky ones like this, and story videos are a great way to share said mini tales.

Lady and I were not impressed with the snow today. The weather’s being quirky too.

It pays to mix up how you come up with story ideas. For one thing, it will keep things interesting for you.

With Traffic Rivals, it was a case of working out why a witch would take action against a speed camera. After all it wasn’t as if someone was going to dare book her for speeding, was it?! So I then came up with the answer to why she might care about the thing and the story took off from there. Even for a two-line tale, some initial thinking about who, what, why always pays off.

Delighted to see more subscribers to my Youtube channel. Welcome everybody! And I’m pleased to share my latest short story video which is about a witch’s attitude to a fellow witch and speed cameras. Hope you enjoy!



4th April – Easter Sunday

I’ve talked about wasted words in flash fiction before and one of mine is the word “very”. Why do I consider it to be a wasted word? Simply, it is because it adds nothing of value to a story. Something either is or isn’t something.
The very in front of a word doesn’t strengthen impact.

For example, “I was very cold” is a statement of fact but “I was freezing” shows you how the narrator is feeling. By cutting out words you don’t need, you will have a tighter writing pace and there will be a more immediate feel to it too. Freezing is also a stronger image. You can picture it. “Very cold” can mean different things to different people after all.

Photo by Immortal shots on

Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about using intriguing titles to get me started on a new flash fiction story. The Terrified Dragon is not the only time I “subvert” an expectation in my titles. Well, you wouldn’t expect a dragon to be scared, would you?

I use the technique again for Punish the Innocent in my From Light to Dark and Back Again. Have fun brainstorming title ideas that would draw you in. Then and only then work out what stories could come from them and write up the one you like the most, the one that makes you react the most. It will have the same effect on a reader.

You can also do this with well known proverbs and phrases. Change one word in these and see what you can do. I often use a notebook and pen for brainstorming. That just works for me but it also means if I’ve only got a couple of minutes before, say, I have to go out (I know – possibly not right now but bear with me on this!), I can jot down some ideas to work up later. Well worth trying.

Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Book Special For You?

It’s always good to start with a leading question, isn’t it?

Okay then, maybe starting with two of them is then!

Seriously, what does make a book special for you? For me, it is always about the characters. I have to want to know them and come to love or loathe them as the case may be but they’ve got to intrigue me enough to make me want to read their stories.

I’ve got to understand their needs and motivations, though I don’t necessarily have to like or agree with them.

And if at the end of the story, I feel sorry that I am “leaving” the characters behind, that is a good sign. Those characters really have got to me – the way they should do.

The characters don’t have to be human. I can understand the rabbits in Watership Down. Their needs, their quest is an understandable one. But there absolutely has to be something I can latch on to about whoever leads the story. It is their journey I’m following after all.

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Onwards and Downwards

Image Credit:  As ever, images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

Making progress on editing my flash competition story. You get to a point where you remove the “obvious” unnecessary words. (As you know, I get to cut very, actually, and that out as these are my pet wasted words. I still haven’t found a way of stopping myself writing these things in the first place but hey that’s what the first edit is for!).

The tricky bit is now when I’ve got what I want in place but need to find ways of rephrasing without losing meaning. There’s the challenge of flash fiction writing. I know this story will work well at the word count I’ve got to get it to. It’s whether I’m up to the job of doing it that is the issue here!

Onwards and downwards then (with the word count!).


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Am enjoying listening to the Classic FM Hall of Fame for 2020. Disappointed though one of my choices, Danse Macabre, has slipped down in the rankings, though I expect I’ll hear my other two choices sometime tomorrow. (Jupiter from the Planet Suite by Holst and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams).

Classical music is a wonderful relaxation aid which is why I have this on while writing. The more relaxed I am, the more I write.

Almost there on my flash fiction piece. Want to put it aside for a while so I come back to it with a fresh eye. It is amazing what a difference that makes. You spot things you missed etc. Also I look for how the story makes ME feel when I’ve had a break from it. If it still makes me feel the way the story is meant to make me feel, then it will do the same for a reader.

I was so sorry to hear about the loss of Tim Brooke-Taylor. Was a huge fan of The Goodies (and still am. Favourite episode? Hard to pick but Goodies Rule UK and the giant Dougal from The Magic Roundabout is an image that is hard to forget!).

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It hasn’t felt like a Bank Holiday Monday, has it? Still on the plus side, the bluebells and primroses are out, we are successfully wearing Lady out so know she is definitely getting the right amount of exercise, and the writing and editing continue apace.

Two of my nominees for the Classic FM Hall of Fame dropped places this year (yes, I know. I am beginning to wonder if there is an Allison effect here. If there is, it’s not a good one!). Jupiter, appropriately, rose though! Well done, Gustav Holst!

I’ll be looking at Reasons to Be Cheerful in my CFT post later this week and yes I am of an age to remember Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

My favourite picture, taken today, is of Lady with one of her favourite toys in her mouth, as if it was an overgrown dummy. Enjoy (she did – and promptly dropped the ball on realising Mum was trying to take pictures again!).

Lady with dummy

Lady with dummy! Image by Allison Symes

Coping with the downside of the writing life (rejections, competition entries not getting anywhere etc) takes time but it does get better over time. Why? Because I’ve learned if a story hasn’t done well in one place, I can look at it again, see if I can improve it, and submit it somewhere else. I’ve had work published by doing that.

Oh and I almost always can improve a piece of work. The one thing I’ve learned years ago is that nobody writes a perfect piece of work. All you can do is the best at the time and seek to grow and develop from that point. Yes, I look back at work I’ve had published for a while and I can see now how I could make it better, but that was where I was at as a writer at that time. What matters here is moving on and always striving to improve what you do.

That’s the challenge for any writer, published or not. Enjoy what you do, that’s crucial, but also seek to get better at it. In the striving, you WILL improve.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I look for in a flash fiction story when I’m reading works by other authors?

1. I want to be entertained. (Hey I’m just like that!).

2. I want the story to have emotional impact.

3. I want the point of change to be a good one with a real problem for a realistically drawn character to resolve.

4. I want to feel as if not one word could’ve been added to the story.

5. I want to feel as if not one word could’ve been taken out without the story losing something important.

6. I want to feel something for the lead character, whether it is to empathise with them, or to heartily hope they come to disaster because they’re a well drawn villain. But that character has to make me feel something (and separately to what the overall story makes me feel).

7. I want to read more by that author!

Naturally all of these points are a challenge to me too but that’s a good thing. There is no such thing as a perfect piece of work. It is the best you can make it at the time. What you want is for it to resonate with readers and for them to enjoy where you’re taking them with the stories.


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How do you know when you’ve found your writer’s voice? I think it is when you come up with a piece of work in a way that seems the most natural way to you. You see a competition, say, like the sound of it, and know instinctively how you’re going to approach it. Ideas may start coming to you based on how you’ve approached competitions before and obviously you go for what worked best for you.

In my case, I know I’m going to outline my character, then a story they could be in, and away I go when I’ve got that in place. The style of writing is an indicator. There is a lot of humour in my flash fiction but it is generally shown through the characters themselves. So based on that alone a competition which calls for a darker style is probably not going to be for me. (I’ve got to get a little humour in it somewhere and that’s not suitable for all topics/competitions).

Learning then where your strengths are and where your writing cup of tea is, I think, crucial to you finding your voice. Once you’ve got that, away you go.

Story time I think. Hope you enjoy. Hayfever sufferers, this one is for you.


After a fraught day in town, Hattie told Betty a soothing walk in Meresfield Park Gardens would do them both good. Tea and cake would follow.
The smell of the tea roses was so strong Betty thought she was being bathed in it.
It was a pity she suffered from hayfever.
It took her a fortnight to stop sneezing altogether.
It took her a month to speak to Hattie again.

Allison Symes – 13th April 2020

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While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.

A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.

To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.

A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.

No sagging middles!

A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.

To be a good advert for the other writing you do!



Goodreads Author Blog – Entertainment and Escapism

I can understand why, after the coronavirus is over, there will be lots of books and stories dealing with that topic. It’s just I can’t bring myself to write stories like that. I’m not sure about reading them either. Why?

For me, in times of trouble, I want books and stories to make me laugh and give me some escapism for a while. I don’t think that should be undervalued.

I raise a hearty three cheers for all who, by writing, seek to entertain and amuse us. It is not an easy thing to do.

So I shall continue to look for escapism and entertainment. Those can be very good coping mechanisms and books and stories are great vehicles for delivering on those things.

I do hope and pray though that the bookshops, particularly the independents, will recover well from this. I hope online buying of books has proved to be a lifeline.

The one thing that is clear to me is people still want stories. And I doubt if I’m the only one who wants entertaining right now!












Murphy’s Law For Readers

Time for some lightheartedness I think… hence my CFT post. More in a moment.

Image Credit:  As ever, all images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I thought a lighthearted post would be useful for my slot on Chandler’s Ford Today this week – hence Murphy’s Law for Readers! Hope you enjoy this and do send in your own Murphy’s Law suggestions for Readers via the CFT comments box.

The post takes in readers and books, readers and libraries, and readers and book events etc and so I’ve taken a broad approach here! Hope you enjoy.

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It is always good fun to write humorous posts for Chandler’s Ford Today and I hope the Murphy’s Law For Readers which is this week’s piece amuses you! It amused me when I wrote it so I hope that’s a good sign! (I wrote a piece on Murphy’s Law for Writers a year or so ago so that is everyone on the reading and writing fence covered now I think).

Many thanks to our church for sending a Good Friday service sheet for us to use at home today. It was great but must admit to missing seeing everyone and I hope it is not too long before we meet again. It really does not feel like Easter to me. Mind you, the weekends don’t really feel like weekends either at the moment.

I would be glad to have a writing routine anyway as I am one of life’s planners (as much as possible at the moment anyway) but am finding having this routine now to be incredibly useful. It’s a bit of normality in what is an abnormal situation for us all.

Nice lot of cheering in my neck of the words for the frontline workers. Well done all. (This is happening ever Thursday night at 8 pm in the UK for the duration of the lockdown here – I don’t know whether anything similar is happening elsewhere but I do think this show of appreciation is a very good thing indeed).

Looking forward to hearing where my choices for the Classic FM Hall of Fame come in this year’s chart. They count this down over the Easter weekend. My choices were:-

1. Jupiter (from the Planet Suite) by Holst
2. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams.
3. Danse Macabre by Saint Saens (and used as the theme for Jonathan Creek and the book trailer for my From Light to Dark and Back Again – see below! So this music will always have special meaning for me!).

Need a sort out of my writing desk so that is on the cards for me to do tomorrow. Yes, have been putting it off. I refuse to believe I’m the only writer who does that.😆😆

Have resumed playing tennis on the old Nintendo Wii to help with my exercise levels. Well I say playing… let’s say I give it a go! Lady doesn’t like it though and goes and hides while I “strut my stuff” here. Of course it won’t help she can’t possibly get the ball here and no collie will like that.

Writing wise, am working on a book proposal for my non-fiction idea but that will take a while to do. Am also fleshing out ideas for a flash piece for a competition so plenty to be getting on with.

My CFT post this week will be a lighthearted one about Murphy’s Law for Readers. I wrote one about a year ago for writers so it is only fair readers get their turn! Link up on Friday.

Am slowly getting back to reading again which is good. I’ve had no problems writing but think my focus has been on ONE creative activity rather than two.

Reading is a creative activity in its own right in that, for fiction, you should be able to engage with the characters. For non-fiction, you should be gripped by what you are discovering and hopefully go on to find out more about the topic you’re engrossed with.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am happily drafting a flash fiction piece for a competition at the moment. Have got the character and her voice as I like it. But she’s spouting on a little bit too much for the word count requirement so she is going to be shortened! It is one of those cases where I know she can be shortened without losing her style and indeed her style will come through better at the reduced count.

This is where I need to work out what is VITAL for the reader to know. Anything that is not something I could honestly call vital comes out.

This is why I do like writing the longer flash fiction stories too as those give you a bit more room to play with and there you can have characterisation that adds depth and strengthens the story. This is where you can have that “little bit more” which adds flavour to a story.

I think it is a good thing to write a mixture of word count stories so you get a real feel for writing short and spare tales and longer ones with added “value” that you simply can’t put into a shorter story. But what I do know is when I’ve got my character and their voice right, the word count has to suit that. I know I can simplify what I’ve drafted for my current story and I should do that anyway. It should take me to the required count but there are times I really can’t get a story down any further without losing something important – so I don’t! You do get better over time I think at working out when to call it a day.

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One thing I have found useful with regard to having an Amazon Author Central page is having my book trailer on it for FLTDBA. I very much hope later in the year when hopefully Tripping the Flash Fantastic is out that a book trailer for this will also appear.

I have had some fun on my website with book trailers too. (

As well as the ones for FLTDBA and the Bridge House/Cafelit/Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competition collections I’ve been involved in, I have created a basic trailer for one of my stories from FLTDBA. I hope to do more of this as and when but I mention it because flash fiction is ideal for this kind of thing! You want something nice and short that is easy to read on a screen… hmm… on to a winner there I think!


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What do I like best about story and flash fiction collections?

I like the range of moods that can be contained in one book (which directly inspired the title for my own From Light to Dark and Back Again of course).

I love being able to dip in and out of such a book, whether I read it in paperback or via the Kindle.

I love them as they are brilliant for those times when I don’t have time to read or don’t feel like reading a huge amount. Indeed it is often the collections that get me out of the latter mood and into reading novels and non-fiction again.

I also just love the whole idea of reading a book full of little self-contained worlds with a host of characters. They are just fun!

They’re huge fun to write too!

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Fairytales Have Done For Me

I’ve loved fairytales for more years than I care to remember, encouraged no doubt by my parents buying me The Reader’s Digest Complete Collection of Fairytales. This is a two volume set which I still have. (One of the books is bound up with tape to keep the spine together!). I spent hours reading the stories and admiring the wonderful illustrations. So what have fairytales done for me as a writer then?

  1. Fairytales have a strong message which they get across without lecturing and in an entertaining way.  I find that inspirational (and a challenge to always “raise my game” here).
  2. Fairytales don’t shy away from calling something evil that is evil. There is no mistaking the goodies and baddies here. The characters are clear cut and their actions and thoughts are consistent. That’s all useful stuff for writers.
  3. Fairytales have endings which are appropriate. Generally these are happy ones but there are exceptions and that’s  okay too. What matters is the ending is appropriate to the story.
  4. When magic is used in a fairytale, it is always used to assist and it is rarely the first resort. Characters still have to use their intelligence and take advantage of others forms of help coming to them.


This World and Others – The Arts

What place do the arts have in your fictional “other world”? Is there music? Painting? Creative writing? Are these things valued or despised? Does everyone have access to them or only the privileged few?

For your characters, what do the arts mean to them? What role can the arts play in their story?

When fleshing out your creation, think of the arts as a way of adding culture and depth to your created world. You can always use things like statues as well known landmarks your character has to reach to meet someone etc. That tells a reader there is sculpture in your world at least (and therefore likely to be other art forms too. It also reveals there is at least some appreciation of these things and this is a good indicator of likely intelligence levels too).

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