Reviews, Book Covers, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week.

To those who celebrate Easter (as I do), may you have a blessed one.

Writing wise, not a bad week and there’s another story of mine up on Friday Flash Fiction. This site is a great way to encourage me to write a drabble (a 100-worder) every week! More below.

Always fun to find out what happens next, writing wise!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

Delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post which is on a topic close to many a writer’s heart – Reviews!

I look at why authors need them, my policy on reviewing (including when I review National Theatre Live productions and shows put on by our wonderful local amateur dramatic company, The Chameleons). I also discuss hatchet jobs and share my thoughts about those (!). I also share why paid-for reviews are, for me, a huge no-no.

Like so much in writing, building up reviews does take time and it has to be done the right way to avoid running into difficulties with Amazon especially. Even ignoring that, the policy of paying for a review does make my blood run cold. It just doesn’t seem ethical to me. I want reviews to be honest and with thought put into them.

The old saying goes that he who pays the piper calls the tune but for a review, I want that “tune” to be an honestly considered one and not “bought in”. You really don’t want to be muddying the waters here, to use another old phrase.

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Pleased to share a More Than Writers blog from #WendyHJones tonight. More Than Writers is the blog of the Association of Christian Writers. Wendy’s post this time is all about book covers and, as well as discussing her latest cover reveal (for the lovely Bertie The Buffalo), she invited some fellow ACW members to share their latest book cover and a few words about it.

Many thanks, Wendy, for inviting me to take part in this. And do have a good look – there are wonderful covers here.

(Oh and my CFT post is up tomorrow).


My CFT post this week is all about a subject close to many a writer’s heart – reviews!

I talk about why they are useful, my policy for giving reviews, and share a few thoughts on how to write a review that will be useful to an author.

I also chat about my policy when I review stage productions, National Theatre Live plays etc (and I am so looking forward to being able to go to these things again and review them once more! It has been a long year and even more so for our great local am dram company, The Chameleon Theatre Group).

I also discuss hatchet jobs. Now the big question is do I manage that without carrying out a hatchet job myself? Well, you’ll have to find out tomorrow when I put the link up!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

I sometimes start a flash piece by coming up with an intriguing title. For example, in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, one of my stories is called The Terrified Dragon. I had great fun working out what on earth could possibly terrify a creature that is renowned for causing fear in every other creature that is not a dragon!

I do sometimes use a simple flowchart or spider diagram to work out different possibilities and I then go with the one that I like the most. That choice is nearly always determined by the impact the idea has on me. If the idea makes me laugh the most, or makes me cringe in terror, then it will have the same effect on other readers. I am always thinking about potential impact on a reader and that’s a good thing. I want to write with a potential audience in mind, always.

And good news, I have another story up on #FridayFlashFiction. Nice way to end a week! Hope you enjoy this one. Called Mustn’t Tell. I do like an “open” title which hopefully draws people in!


My latest author newsletter went out earlier today including an exclusive flash fiction story. If you would like to sign up just go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

As well as sharing exclusive stories here, I share writing tips and news, most of which is related to flash of course. This time around I’ve also shared a writing challenge and set a 250 word count for it.

It wasn’t something I planned but the 100 to 500 word mark does seem to be my natural home for flash stories. I gravitate to that word length almost as if I’m on auto pilot. (I’m not by the way! If possible I would save auto pilot abilities for boring tasks such as the housework!).

A screenshot from my latest author newsletter. I also share tips and writing prompts here amongst other things.



There will be a new flash fiction story from me in my new author newsletter, which will be going out tomorrow, 1st April. If you would like to sign up for this, please go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Have submitted another drabble to #FridayFlashFiction.

Am working on material for a third flash collection too so plenty going on to keep me out of mischief!

I’ve found the basic ingredients for a flash fiction story, regardless of length, are:-

  • A character (doesn’t have to be human!).
  • An action (sometimes a refusal to act can be the action).
  • Something indicating the story has to go on.

Get those lined up and you’re well on your way to producing a promising first draft!

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Fairytales with Bite – What Would Your Characters Wish For and Why?

Well, what would your characters wish for and why? Just as interestingly, is there any chance at all of them getting their wish granted? What would the consequences be?

Action and reaction. Cause and consequence. The basic building blocks of all stories.

A character outline is a useful tool for working out what your characters are likely to want and why. (I ignore the basics of wanting food, shelter etc because you can take them as read. Everyone wants those things, understandably). What you want to go into here is deeper than that.

Character A wants a loving relationship because they have had loneliness foisted on them all their life and they want to change that. (Interesting story here: who foisted the loneliness on them and why? Why wait until now to change things?).

Your outline would go into who Character A is, who or what has got in their way (and what happened to them incidentally), what they are planning to do to change things. You won’t have every idea immediately but what you should have is a glimpse into who Character A is and, as a result of that, how they are likely to try to change things. A shy character is going to use more reserved methods compared to an extrovert, say.

Just knowing that will get you off to a good start with your story (and finding things out as you go along is (a) fun and (b) should confirm whether or not you know your character well enough to write their story up.

You may well find you will find out more about your character as you go along and that’s how it should be but you should also find your outline did nail the core elements you needed to know about them before you got started. I always find that aspect reassuring.

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This World and Others – Limitations

What limitations do your characters have? How do they overcome these? Can they overcome them?

If they can’t, do they have ways of getting advantages from their situation? What limitations does your setting have? Can your people only live above ground for certain time periods due to restricted oxygen (or other gas) availability the rest of the time?

I write flash fiction and find the word count restriction there (1000 words maximum) doesn’t stifle creativity. It fuels it. Why?

Because I have had to learn to think laterally to get the most out of every single word I put into my stories. And you can do this with limitations on your characters and settings too. If your characters can’t use magic without weakening themselves significantly, they will themselves limit their use of it (and probably save it for life and death moments. You just would, wouldn’t you?! So what would they do the rest of the time?).

If your setting has limited capacity for supporting life, how would that capacity be used? Who would control it? Would someone find ways of boosting that capacity so more people could live?

All interesting thoughts to explore.

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P’s and Q’s = Publication News and Questions

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

Facebook – General

What have I learned from books I couldn’t finish?

Thankfully these are few but even these can help a writer. How? What I’ve learned from these includes:-

1. What doesn’t appeal in a character (to me at least). From that I can work out how to avoid this in the characters I create.

2. What kind of dialogue switches me off. This is almost always dialogue that goes on for too long and/or doesn’t tell me or show me anything useful.

3. What kind of description switches me off. Again, it is almost always description that goes on for too long. I want to get to the core of what is happening and long descriptive passages slow the pace down. Not only that, if they go for too long, they irritate! What I am after is the telling detail I really do need to know.

On a more positive note:-

What have I learned from books I’ve loved?

1. What DOES appeal in a character.

2. What kind of dialogue makes me glad to be “eavesdropping” on the conversation between characters.

3. What kind of description helps me to visualise something beautifully and the turn of phrase that takes my breath away in a good way.

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Publication News

A big thanks to fellow Swanwicker #PatriciaMOsborne for hosting me on her blog again today. I have been on before with her sub-100 words story challenge and am on there again today with my tale, Danger of Not Listening. I suspect this may resonate with many of you!

Please see link below.

The story was great fun to write and I hope you enjoy reading it. A big thanks to Patricia for having the flash fiction challenge. It’s good fun to take part in and to read the stories coming in!

 

classic close up draw expensive

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Facebook – General

Have picked another competition to have a go at for a short story. Also drafted more flash fiction over the weekend. Homes to be found in due course!

Favourite part of writing though remains that moment when I’ve got that first draft down and have something to work with. Even after all these years of writing, I still feel a sense of relief to have got to that point!

I like editing. I see it as giving my story or blog posts that “oomph” factor as well as taking out errors, repetitions etc.

When I started out writing, my goal was to prove to myself I could write stories. After that I aimed to be published. Then I aimed to keep on being published. Now my goal is to keep that going but to stretch myself with my writing (especially on the flash fiction), try competitions new to me, and explore my non-fiction side more.

The writing journey should be a fun one after all! It has its frustrations of course but generally you should be enjoying what you write. That enjoyment can make all the difference as to whether you keep going or not.

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I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week and look forward to sharing the link. It’s definitely what I call fairytale with bite!

My CFT post this week will be Part 3 in the mini-series where our local amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, share insights into life behind the stage. This week they’ll be looking at some of their favourite performances and sharing the reasons why they’ve picked these. Link up on Friday.

Have started fleshing out ideas for another competition. I like this stage of working out possibilities. The nice thing with this is the ones I discard I may return to at a later date. It is a case of the best fit for the competition. The other ideas may well prove to be useful for other markets/competitions later on.

I find the Scrivener templates very useful for outlining. I start with my lead character and as their major traits and what they want come to me, so often so does the story. Or at least an idea of what the story is likely to be.

But you can set up your own template. My top tip always would be to focus on getting the character(s) right. Work out what it is about them that intrigues you (as it will intrigue a reader too).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Finally got my story submitted today. Found one tiny error on my final read through, sorted it, checked it again, all okay, and send! I always do edit my stories on paper.

When editing on screen I think your brain fills in the gaps. It doesn’t seem to do it on paper. I’m sure there is some clever reason why that happens. All I know is it does and I’d never be without a paper edit and the old red pen!

Now to find another competition to have a go at …. and have got one! Not flash this time, a standard length short story, but I do like to keep my hand in there too!

Am continuing to draft flash from the Prompts book and hope to get those out to different places throughout the year.

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It was great fun to be part of #PatriciaMOsborne‘s sub-100 words challenge again today. Link below.

I do have a very soft spot indeed for the drabble (100-words story). It forces you to focus on what matters in your tale but there is room for that lovely telling detail on which many a wonderful twist depends.

I would also recommend having a go at writing 100-words tales as a form of writing exercise. It is a good way to warm up your “writing muscles” and the great thing is there is now a big market for flash fiction, both in publications and competitions. So those writing exercises, once honed and polished, can find a home somewhere and add to your writing CV if they get published.

What’s NOT to like about that?

 

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I’ve been known to interview my characters from time to time. For flash fiction, where I generally only have one to two characters, this can still be done but I do this in abbreviated form (appropriately enough).

Whatever I write fiction wise, I need to know the character’s major trait and what it is they want. Answering those two things alone will give you a lot of the drive for you to write your story.

If you know your character’s major trait is a desire for peace and quiet and they want to get rid of their very noisy neighbour… well all sorts of things can come from that.

I would see those two questions as the foundations of a character outline. Then think of what else YOU need to know about your character so you can visualise them, hear them, know how they would act and react. Yes, they can surprise you but the surprise should arise naturally out of your outline.

In the example above, the character would do all the legal things to try to get the noisy neighbour to stop being so loud but what if that all failed? Could the character become angry enough to commit murder?

Or do they believe revenge is a dish best served cold and find another way to get their own back on the neighbour? I would then need to know why that character longs for peace and quiet so much. (Noisy childhood? Prone to migraines? Desperate to have their own little haven? Having worked so hard for it, they’re not going to see this snatched away from them etc). But once I knew what was behind their major trait, I could then work out what they were capable of. There is always a reason! And the storyline comes together nicely having thought this all through.

 

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As well as interviewing your characters prior to writing their story, a writer can always ask questions of their “stars” as they get the first draft down. It’s useful to check every so often that your characters are “up to the job” of being in your story.

Putting your characters through the emotional wringer is a lot of fun (for the writer naturally) but it is a good way of finding out what it is your people are capable of and whether they can surprise you.

If you envisaged Character A as being timid, quiet, unassuming etc., what would a dramatic event do to them? Would it change their personality for good and if so, how? Would having to say, come to the rescue of someone else, bring them out of their shell?

All worth thinking about. The point of change is not just about the dramatic events in the story. It is about the point of change in the characters too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books for Difficult Times

Have your reading choices changed during this difficult period?

I must admit I’m not really in the mood for any kind of dystopian story when we seem to be living right in one!

For me, I’m reading short story collections, non-fiction on writing, and lighter works. I don’t need the “heavy” books in terms of mood right now.

One of the roles of a book, for me, is to provide entertainment, escapism, and uplift. So especially in difficult times, I don’t want difficult books to stretch me. I need to be in the right frame of mind for that.

I have found I’ve not had any problems writing stories during the lockdown. I have struggled to read. I can only assume my subconscious is fine with one creative activity but not more than that!

This is a pain but I know it will pass. If I become particularly tired, I find the same happens. When I am more rested, I’m away with reading again.

Have you found the desire to read increases or decreases with your mood? What do you do to overcome that?

For comfort reading, and there is a good role for that at the moment, I have to turn to cosy crime, short stories by Wodehouse, and usually favourite books I’ve read many times. I want the comfort of familiar material. Once I’m feeling better, then that is the time to try something new.

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