A Novel Approach, Favourite Books and a Free Story

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A big thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for supplying many of the photos for her interview on Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I welcome #JenniferCWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today.

This time, we discuss her venture into non-fiction with her recently released book, A Novel Approach.

The theme for this summer on CFT has very much been one of changing direction and Jennifer’s interview continues that idea.

Do check out her thoughts on the benefits of finding a good writing group amongst many other gems here.

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but interviews, I think, are the most fun of all. Why?

Because I always learn something useful, interesting, entertaining, and often all three from my guests. (So thank you one and all!).

No one author can know it all and learning from other writers is a crucial part of how we all develop. Reading interviews and, in my case, hosting them as well, helps enormously here!😊

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We all have favourite books, many of which go back years. So what made you decide Book A was said favourite? Is it a question of working out what books you have you simply can’t manage without and favourite status is conferred upon them due to that?

In my case, one of my favourite books is definitely a nostalgic one as this was given to me by my late parents. Others, such as Josephine Tey’s wonderful The Daughter of Time I came across by accident and I was so happy to find it!

Still others are books written by friends and, not only do I love the stories, but every time I look at the books, I am reminded of happy times meeting up with said friends. (Usually at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Bridge House Publishing or Association of Christian Writer events it has to be said!).

So what are your favourite stories and why do you love them so much? Do you have room in your life for new favourites? (The answer to that should be of course!). Which book is your most recent addition to the favourites list?

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Am delighted to be welcoming #JenWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Jen will be talking about her change of direction into non-fiction writing with her recently released A Novel Approach. There has been a lot of this change of direction in the air this summer! It has definitely been my theme for this year for CFT.

Jen will be discussing how she came to write the book and shares her thoughts about what a good writing group can do for you amongst many other gems. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss especially if you are thinking about writing a novel.

Meanwhile if you want to check the book out do see the link.

 

JenniferCWilson-ANovelApproach-Cover

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Free Story!

I couldn’t resist having another go at the random noun generator. This time I opted for three random nouns and what came up were “shirt”, “marriage”, and “ladder”. Now there’s an interesting mix!

Hope you enjoy the following. A humorous end to the week is always welcome!

THE SPECIAL OFFER

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the sign. “Buy a shirt and your dearest wish will come true”. I’ve seen plenty of dodgy advertising in my time. So I went over to the market trader and challenged him. How on earth could a shirt grant wishes? Especially such a bright one. Vivid purple was never my style fortunately.

‘You’ve heard of magical lamps and rings, why can’t a shirt be magical too?’ was his response.

I guess on logic alone, he had a point, but when I think of
shirts and magic, it is only in terms of being able to get leaky ink stains out of a shirt in one go in the washing machine. And that doesn’t happen often I can tell you. Unlike leaky ink stains going flaming everywhere.

‘Anyway,’ I told the guy, ‘how can a shirt know what my wish is to grant it?’

‘You tell the shirt when you get it home, silly.’

That was me told.

Now don’t judge me here. I did buy the shirt. I needed to get a present for my nephew so I thought a vivid purple shirt would be the thing. (You should see the colour of his trousers. You need sunglasses, I tell you, so a bright shirt would suit him beautifully. Okay, I didn’t envy his mother the task of washing the wretched thing. That purple would be bound to run but I’ve long told my sister she ought to get her boy helping around the house more so she can start by getting him to wash the wretched thing).

Did I make a wish? Yes. For a laugh. I know my sister is concerned about her lad’s prospects so I wished that his life would take off in a good way so she could stop worrying. Covers both of them and it’s a nice wish I think.

I didn’t tell my nephew, or my sister, where I got the shirt or about the advertising for it.

But I was taken aback when a week after I’d given the present, he and his mother came around with news. Robbie was to be married to the young lass who worked at the launderette and knew everything there was to be known about washing colours separately.

Apparently, he’d borrowed his father’s ladder, went around to the young lass’s house, and proposed at the top of the ladder on Valentine’s Day Night. He had meant to do so when he took her out for a meal but lost his nerve.

That is so like him. As was tumbling off the ladder but fortunately he landed in a huge shrub and no damage done. The shrub was all right as well apparently.

The marriage takes place next month and now I’m off to the market stall. If there are any more of those shirts, I’ll get him a load. I’ve made a list of wishes that will be of real help to a young, married couple.

It’s the least I can do.

Ends

Allison Symes – 21st August 2020

 

Flash fiction may be a quick read but it isn’t necessarily a fast write! I get a first draft down quickly but the work is in the editing (as it is with all forms of writing I think).

Honing a story to ensure every word justifies its place in the tale takes time. And I will often rewrite a section to maximise the impact of that part of the story.

I ask myself if the impact is strong enough? Will it affect the reader the way I want it to do? A change of word, sometimes where I place the word in a sentence, can make all the difference.

It is only when I know any further changes to a story would weaken it that I submit the story somewhere.

Was listening to #WendyHJones‘ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this evening and discovered a new term for what I call wasted words. The term was weasel words and I love that.

It is some comfort to know every writer has these literary pests (and mine are actually, very, and that, as I’ve mentioned before).

Still, when it comes to the edit, I know what’s coming out first and I find, with this done, it seems to get the rest of the edit off to a flying start. I find that helpful so maybe my wasted words have some use. They just don’t stay in!

Image of Wendy H Jones below kindly supplied by her. (Do check out her podcast. I was on episode 4 talking about flash fiction).

Fairytales With Bite – 

The Influence of Fairytales on Literature in General

The obvious influence is that fairytales are a genre in their own right, correctly so too. The next biggest influence I think is given most children’s introduction to literature is via fairytales, said stories act as a gateway into the wonderful world of books per se. That has to be a good thing! This was the case for me and I’ve never regretted having a lifelong love of stories and books as a result.

With that comes the influence on those children who go on to become writers. The marvellous Roald Dahl with his works aimed at children was, to my mind, clearly the successor to Hans Christen Andersen (especially as he knew children liked to read about characters who were not goody goody. Know your market always!).

Fairytales for children can lead to fairytales for adults and I would say A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a prime example of that. What an influence that particular story has had on so many of us!

The idea of wrongs being put right isn’t just for crime writing! There’s a good case for saying fairytales were well ahead of the game there.

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This World and Others – Fascinating Facts

When it comes to creating your own fictional world, and thinking of how it is all going to come together, do some research. This is where non-fiction reference books can be so useful to fiction writers. A lot can be done online of course but do go for a variety of books. This will help in ensuring you get facts right but almost inevitably you won’t find all you want in one book.

You want to create a new planet for your characters to live on. Okay. What are they going to breathe? What are they going to eat and drink? What will their climate be like? All of those things you can research based on what you know/can find out here on good old Planet Earth and then adapt for your own purposes.

If you want your creations breathing something other than oxygen, what do they breathe instead and how do their bodies manage this? Think about fish breathing through their gills. What would your people do?

Have fun working this all out and then show readers what they need to know to make sense of it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Words and What Flash Fiction Isn’t

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My flash fiction story, Dangerous Words, is now up on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy it. There’ll be another from me here on 16th March.

I love getting straight into the heads of my characters and letting them get on with it! The writing seems to flow better when I do this.  And here is the link to my page on Cafelit.  Hope you enjoy the stories!

When you think about who your favourite authors are, do you stop and think about why they’ve made it on to your list of favourites?

No reader or writer worth their salt ever has one favourite author only! You are reading widely across genres to help inspire your own creativity, aren’t you?!

Besides, with such a wonderful wealth of books out there, why stick to just one genre? (I’m the same about chocolate – yes I will always prefer milk, but there’s no way I’m missing out on dark and white!).

I strongly suspect the big draw will be the characters your favourite author(s) created. A well drawn character will have you sympathising with their predicament, their hopes, the obstacles they’ve got to overcome to have any chance of realising those hopes etc.

So turn this around then and ask yourself what you can do with your characters to make readers feel all that about them. Readers should be able to identify with said predicaments and hopes (though not necessarily agree with them or the way your characters handle matters).

I’ve been sharing on Twitter some of my favourite books, the kind you have to take to the mythical desert island with you. Amongst the list are Men at Arms (Terry Pratchett), Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie), and The Daughter of Time (Josephine Tey). A nice mixed bunch so far but then I’ve never seen the point of limiting your reading to just one genre.

What do I look for from a good book? An entertaining story, characters that make me want to root for them, for good to prevail over evil, and where the story can make me think as well, even better. The Daughter of Time remains, to date, the only novel to make me change my mind over something (Richard III and whether he was innocent or guilty of the murder of the Princes in the Tower).

The challenge as a writer is to create your stories in such a way they resonate with your readers long after they’ve read them. I’ve only ever read To Kill a Mockingbird once (at secondary school) but certain images and the way it made me feel against injustice remain with me to this day. I’ve not read the follow-up and I don’t know if I will but to be able to haunt your readers long after they’ve finished your book is something to aspire to, I think.

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I love getting right inside the heads of my characters when writing stories and often use that as a way to get started on a piece.

I like to think of it as hitting the ground running, because a brief incursion into the character’s mind will reveal (a) what they’re facing and (b) their attitude to it. That’s when the sparks fly!

It also means I’m showing you the story from the viewpoint of that lead character. No telling here! It does mean you’ve got to know your character well enough from the outset so you can write them convincingly but this is where outlining a few thoughts comes into its own. That outline can be as detailed or not as you want, but as long as YOU know enough to write the character, that is what matters. How to tell?

Ask yourself how your character would react to a situation you are not actually writing about for this story. Do you instantly know how they would react? If so, good. If not, you need to flesh your character out more to yourself so you can turn that no into a yes.

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Delighted Dangerous Words is now up on Cafelit. I’m very fond of stories where the main character reveals a lot of what appears to be backstory but is very relevant to what they are facing at the time! I’m also very fond of stories about little old ladies who aren’t quite as innocent as they might seem to be.

How easy do I find writing flash fiction?

The simple answer is I never know when I write flash how it is going to turn out until I do it so I take an idea and run with it and see what happens.

Sometimes that idea will work better as a longer standard length short story (and that’s okay because there will be markets and competitions for it). At other times, something I thought would make a great flash fiction idea really isn’t strong enough.

Flash fiction ISN’T a diluted short story. It has to be a complete story in and of itself. It captures a moment in time (a short story can capture more than one) but it has to be a moment worth sharing! One moment finely honed. And it takes practice too. But that’s true of any form of writing.

Learning to write short will help with creating blurbs for a novel amongst other things so practising writing flash fiction I think is great for all writers to do. The editing and polishing skils you pick up over time will pay off in other writing work you do.

The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings – the ultimate in dangerous words is on this ring!. Pixabay image.

The writing prompt in my diary for this week was of a bird watching its potential mate carrying out a ritual wing display. (The mischievious side of me would have loved the picture to have shown the female holding up a score card – you know the marks out of 10 kind of thing – but then that’s my quirky sense of humour).

The prompt was to tie in with Valentine’s Day and I’ve drafted a flash story (in poetic form) where the female wishes she could have the special treatment more often during the rest of the year, that it wasn’t all down to mating etc, that there could be something special during the day to day effort to survive. My draft needs a lot of work (as all drafts do) but I sympathise with my character’s viewpoint here.

For all writers, the heady moments are (a) when you know you’ve created something good, (b) when you hear you’re going to be published, and (c) when the book contract (a good one obviously) turns up for you to sign! The nature of things means those heady moments are “spaced out” and we have to cope with the daily nitty gritty, which is far less “glamorous”.

The nitty gritty then for all writers is to get the writing done, get it out there, cope with the rejections that will come in, and so on.

And on that note I must get on!

Does flash fiction have its limitations?

Well, there is the word count of course, but I suppose the main one would be is it is not the vehicle for an in depth character study! What it can and should do is show a reader enough about a character so they fill in the gaps themselves. It is like shining a torch and you pick up ONE thing to focus more attention on.

I’ve always loved it when writers don’t tell me every last detail. I want to be able to work things out myself and flash fiction IS the perfect vehicle for that!

I really enjoy reading and writing flash fiction stories which end with a punch. Sometimes that can be literal (!) and is most satisfying when the character has deserved it (and that will be the view your readers will take too). One huge advantage of fiction is wrongs can be righted in a way they’re so often not in real life. I believe that is one reason why fairytales are always popular!

I also love the witty one-liners that can close a story. It’s good to finish a story on an “uplift” where that is appropriate. Of course the set up for that finish happens much earlier in the story and it can be as simple as showing your character has the type of attitude which will make a witty one-line retort likely. (It usually is a retort!).

Above all, it is fun, which is what writing should be after all.

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Goodreads Author Blog Hooks into Books

I seem to have a “thing” for rhyming titles at the moment. Sure it will be a passing fad…!

What attracts you to a book? Is it the title, the blurb, the cover, or a combination of the lot?

For me, the cover draws me in but the blurb is what clinches a sale for me, whether I’m reading on Kindle or a paperback. If I like the premise of the blurb, I will “look inside” a Kindle book or look at the opening page of a paperback. If it seems to deliver, I’ll go ahead and buy.

There is no such thing as a foolproof system but this works for me!

Of course, another great hook is reading a book by an author whose works you know you like. I love series novels and my favourite of these has to be Discworld. Each book original and entertaining but there’s enough familiarity with the world to make you feel right at home as you continue to enjoy the series.

Whatever you read, enjoy!

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When a Story Has “Got You”

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Thinking about picture books with regard to my most recent CFT post, Picture Books and Other Hooks, made me also think about what my reading journey has been.

Every reader of fiction owes a huge debt to children’s writers as the vast majority of readers have grown up loving and reading books, moving from stage to stage and genre to genre as they grow. You get to experiment with the genres you love most (and ideally end up loving loads!).

Writing for children then underpins books overall, I think.

We almost all start with rhymes and fairytales (the latter is somewhat ironic given so many fairytales can be grim!). Picture books play a vital role bridging the gap between “baby” books and the first books we read for ourselves.

So let’s hear it for children’s fiction, especially as it is notoriously difficult to get right.

 

I’ve listed below books that have either made me change my opinion about something or I’ve had to re-read several times. (Usually the book concerned falls into both categories). They’re not in any particular order of importance.

1. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
5. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett.
6. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
7. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
8. Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
9. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
10. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

For many of the authors, I could’ve listed more than one of their books. The lovely thing with books is discovering the joys of new ones and, when re-reading, catching up with “old friends”.

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Book Offer News

Quick heads up! Amazon have currently got From Light to Dark and Back Again on offer at:-

£2.99 – Kindle edition
£4.04 – for the paperback.

Link takes you to the Kindle edition.

 

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When do you know a story has “got you”? When you are so gripped by the characters, you have to keep reading no matter what, and you get distinctly irritable when anything minor, like life, gets in the way of you reading! Confession time: have been distinctly irritable many a time due to this.

Of course the challenge for writers is to come up with a story that will make readers feel like that! Whoever said writing was easy has never actually done any. The great thing is nobody has to see your first draft, your sixth or what have you, until you are ready to let them see it! Nobody but nobody creates a perfect story first go. I do take a lot of comfort from that thought.

The great thing with writing is you have two interests in one here, the other being reading of course.

To feed your own writing “muscle”, you need to read widely in and out of your genre. I recommend reading widely in non-fiction too. Your creative spark will come from ideas that occur to you as you read other stories and non-fiction.

This author did this in this way. How would I do it? I’d have written this character this way because… etc etc. All sorts of great story ideas can come from asking yourself questions like that and then seeing what you do come up with.

Re non-fiction: I’ve found the creative spark ignites when I discover something interesting I hadn’t known and realise I can use it in a story setting.

It always pays to cast your imaginative net wide!

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Far Flung Book News!

Many thanks to Raewyn Berry for supplying these pictures of From Light to Dark and Back Again in New Zealand!

My book in NZ 1

FLTDBA in NZ. Image kindly supplied by Raewyn Berry

My Book in NZ 2

Always good to see books about and it’s very special if one of them is yours! Many thanks to Raewyn Berry for the picture.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have drafted a piece from the viewpoint of a groundhog which is this week’s prompt in my writing diary. Good fun to do but needs work but then the great thing with a first draft is only you need ever see it. Also I never envisaged starting a FB post with that opening line!

I often use sayings as titles for my flash fiction and generally that sets the theme and mood too. But a good title is always capable of having a twist put to it, so work out what would suit your character best. They’ll be “carrying” the story so if they are of a quirky nature, the story should reflect that.

 

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I do love poetic justice stories and flash fiction is a great vehicle for them. You have to set things up immediately and deliver on the pay-off quickly too! My A Kind of Hell and The Circle of Life are examples of this.

Poetic justice stories work well within a short time frame, which is why they suit flash fiction. I don’t like to spin poetic justice stories out for too long a time span. My worry is a reader could get bored waiting to find out if there is ever going to be a pay-off. No danger of that in 100 words or so!

You haven’t got a lot of room in flash fiction to go into characterisation deeply. So what I do is pick the major trait/flaw/virtue of the character I’ve got in mind for a story and weave the tale around that.

The good thing with this approach is you can imply a lot (and flash fiction is brilliant for implying things!).

For example, if you decide your main character is going to be cowardly, all sorts of things are going to come out of that. How does the cowardice manifest itself? Do they know they’re cowardly? (Often a character will not think they’ve got the faults others think they have!).

Equally, are they prepared to lie to defend their position? Almost certainly yes to that one, I would have thought. Okay then, if they’re prepared to lie, what else would they do? You can already see how things could escalate (as will the tension in the story which is exactly what you want).

So pick a good place to start and away you go!

Time for some one-liners then.

1. Nobody saw the aliens leave with as many minerals as their spaceships would carry.

2. “I’m an endangered species, I’m allowed”, cried the dragon, after flaming the farmer’s field to get barbecued sheep for a mid-morning snack.

3. When even the rats run away, you know you’ve got problems.

4. I usually have no problems with pest extermination but you humans are beyond a joke.

5. It was funny how the beef always vanished whenever Joey the border collie was in the room.

Hope you enjoy.

Allison Symes – 12th February 2019

Goodreads Author Blog – Picture Books and Other Hooks

I don’t believe in wasting a good title! I used this for my Chandler’s Ford Today post recently when I interviewed a local author and her illustrator about a children’s picture book they had brought out. This in turn made me think about my own reading journey and what a debt we all owe to children’s writers.

Most readers have grown up loving books. Someone encouraged that love of story, bought them books, and in time they had the great joy of buying their own stories. I always remember one of my great wishes was to have a library of my own with books I’d chosen to be on the shelves.

Wish fulfilled there I’m glad to say! I’m also glad that there’s a special space on my shelves for books written by friends of mine. And of course my From Light to Dark and Back Again is on display too!

I was trying to think back to what was the first book I could read all by myself. Got stumped there but the Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales is a well read and taped up book (the spine needs support!) that would have been amongst the first of my “proper” reads. Has gorgeous pictures too. Never underestimate the power of good pictures to encourage reading and the development of imagination.

Someone “sees” the story and they “get” it. They can go on at a later date to read stories without pictures but there is still something of that hankering for images for most of us I think. Why else do we really love a great book cover?

And I’ve still got a good spot for books with good maps in them – The Lord of the Rings is superb here.

My favourite reads when growing up was Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Little Women (I always have loved Jo March as a character). I liked Heidi and Black Beauty too. I went on to discover Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, and Terry Pratchett. I do believe in a good mix!

So what were your favourite childhood books? What did you “graduate” to?

And let’s hear it for the children’s fiction writers too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAVOURITE BOOKS AND READING OUT LOUD

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What is your favourite book and why? What I read depends on my mood when I’m reading so I can’t possibly have one overall favourite. I’ve chosen below one from each major character when an author has several in their canon. A good way of squeezing more books in!

I’ve also deliberately chosen books from deceased authors. I love a wide range of contemporary writers too but thought for this post I’d take a look back at some of the books that have developed my love of reading (and ad a result my love for writing too).

Historical Fiction – The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Agatha Christie Novel – Murder on the Orient Express (Poirot)/The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence)/Nemesis (Miss Marple).

Terry Pratchett Discworld Series – Men At Arms (Vimes Series)/ Raising Steam (Moist von Lipvig)/Maskerade (Witches series)/Reaper Man (Death series)/Interesting Times (Rincewind/Wizards series).

P.G. Wodehouse – The Code of the Woosters (Jeeves and Wooster)/Heavy Weather (Blandings)/Uncle Fred in the Springtime (Uncle Fred)/Cocktail Time (for its send-up of what banning a book achieves – as relevant now as when PGW wrote it!).

“Letters” books – PGW’s “A Life in Letters” is a fantastic read. Also love the Evelyn Waugh letters. Kenneth Williams wrote some great letters too.

“Diaries” books – Kenneth Williams’ one is very sad in places but is also brutally honest. Such a shame he underestimated his skills in comedy and I don’t think truly realised how loved he was, especially for his Just a Minute appearances.

Playwright – Shakespeare, naturally.

Charles Dickens Novel – A Christmas Carol

Jane Austen Novel – Pride and Prejudice

Poem/Hymn – the words to Abide With Me (and I also love If by Rudyard Kipling).

Children’s Series – The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

So what would you choose?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The best way of showing people what flash fiction is? Read some tales to them! Great way also to improve public reading skills. Lovely thing with reading flash fiction out loud is, by its nature, it doesn’t take long and so people are more inclined to listen! It is my fervent hope that those who won’t read or feel they don’t have time to will discover flash fiction as it is a form that gives bite-sized reads for those in a hurry! (From my point of view as a writer, it keeps people reading, I hope).

My own love of reading (and as a result of that for writing too) came directly from being read to as a child. I then went on to read my own choice of books (such freedom to choose what I wanted! I love my late mother’s collection but show me a decent bookshop and I can spend hours in there if allowed to do so. Note to self: Don’t spend too long at Foyles at Waterloo or you will miss the train home from the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown event next weekend!).

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Bookshops are vital to encourage literary - image via Pixabay.

TRUTH AND DISHONESTY

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Truth and Dishonesty looks at how these traits show up in characters and asks what are the consequences of brute honesty from a character?  Are there times when a “kind lie” is better?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Favourite Books looks at what characters would read and why.  Are books treasured in your fictional setting?  What is the role of the storyteller in your setting?

FACEBOOK PAGE

There have been some lovely reviews on Amazon for my debut flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again.  I thank those behind these and discuss reading habits.

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My debut flash fiction collection from Chapeltown Books

My debut flash fiction collection from Chapeltown Books