Publication News, Alternative Worlds, and Dialogue

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing book covers from #WendyHJones.

Author publicity photos taken by Adrian Symes. Other images (including screenshots) taken by me, Allison Symes. Thrilled with my publication news this week, more below, especially as this is my first non-fiction work in print.

Creativity Matters - and my two flash collections

Facebook – General

Delighted to say my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing arrived this evening. And naturally that means photo opportunity time! (Thanks to my better half for taking the following).

I can confirm you never do lose the thrill of opening a box of books which you know you have written or contributed to. It’s just a pity you can’t bottle that feeling for drawing on later as and when needed!

Oh and given my chapter in Creativity Matters is Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories, I thought my two flash collections should get a look in too.

AND I’ll be chatting to Wendy H. Jones, who compiled and edited Creativity Matters, on Friday for Chandler’s Ford Today about what made her decide to publish other authors. Looking forward to sharing the link.

Hope you have had a good Bank Holiday Monday. Hope you had a great Monday if it wasn’t a Bank Holiday for you. Glad to hear the Inspector Morse theme came top in the Classic FM TV themes countdown. Also glad to hear Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens was in the top 30 as my first introduction to that wonderful music came thanks to it being used as the theme for quirky detective series Jonathan Creek. I suspect most people’s introduction to classical probably does come from TV and film themes and/or adverts.

It has been an odd day weather wise here in Hampshire. Murky and overcast all day. (I can think of some of my characters who could be described like that!). Am busy putting the finishing touches to my September newsletter and will be working on a super two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today to go out in the next couple of weeks or so. More details nearer the time but it has been encouraging I have had no shortage of material for CFT for many, many months now. Long may that continue! Am also working on presentations and workshop materials for use later in the year so plenty going on. And for the other reason I love Danse Macabre, see below!

Bonus Post – 29th August – More than Writers

Sorry, meant to share this earlier as it is my turn again on More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot. This time I talk about Being Back. I refer to my recent visit to Swanwick but also look at being back at live events again and how, whether we can get to these or not, we should definitely “be back” to encouraging other writers.

Screenshot 2021-08-31 at 20-52-12 Being Back by Allison Symes

Wow! The responses are really coming in for The Turn Around, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Many thanks, everyone. The general feel is my characters deserved each other. If you want to check the story out and decide if you agree or not, please see the link below.

Am so looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. This week, I welcome back #WendyHJones and I will be talking with her about her latest venture, Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing. This is the first time Wendy has published other authors, including yours truly (my chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories), and I wanted to ask her what made her decide to follow this path.

I also talk with her about what she has had to learn to do this. Wendy also shares with me how she balances her fiction and non-fiction work and balancing getting her own writing done, as well as publishing others. Link up later in the week (and I am on tenterhooks as my copies of the book are due with me any time. Cue the usual author holding up new book photo later this week I hope!). See above!

Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 17-10-59 The Turn Around by Allison Symes


Great to see the response to my blog round-up post Swanwick 2021 yesterday. Not at all surprised most of these are from fellow Swanwickers!

Just a quick reminder I will be sending my author newsletter out next week (1st September) so if you’d like to sign up for tips, news, prompts etc, please head over to my website (the landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I tend to compile the newsletter as the month goes on as (a) it means I don’t forget anything important and (b) it is easy to just finish off and send at the right time. Mind you, I schedule as many of my blog posts as possible whether it is for Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, or More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot.

Scheduling has been a boon for me but I still wish I had more time to write!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am so thrilled to receive my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writingtoday. (Link is for Hive.co.uk – an alternative to Amazon). The book is edited and compiled by #WendyHJones. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. I’ve mentioned before that I did not know flash fiction as a format existed when I first started writing seriously for publication. I am so glad I discovered it! (Pictures from my better half).

Am pleased to share my latest Youtube video. Hope you enjoy Wondering. Miranda cannot understand her neighbours’ fears about a local inhabitant. There is someone else they should be frightened of – as the video makes clear.


I sometimes have fun with flash stories set in alternative worlds. In A Day Out in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, for example, I have my character on his way to feed the ducks but these are no ordinary ducks and my character is not looking forward to the trip. So you can take elements from what we know right here, such as feeding ducks, and turn it into something comedic, tragic, horrific etc.

And in Job Satisfaction from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I show what a disgruntled fairy is prepared to do as part of her “dentistry work” as she carries out her rounds as the Tooth Fairy. Here I am taking the element of someone being fed up with a client she doesn’t like (with good reason) but setting that with a magical background so my operative has more options open to her than us mere mortals would.

So mix elements up and have fun. See what you can do with them. Taking the ordinary and turning them into extraordinary parts of a story is a great way to come up with some interesting and quirky fiction. And for another example of that, see below.

 


Looking forward to receiving my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing which I now know are on their way. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. Looking forward to doing the “author opening the box of books” pose again! Great fun (and we all need validation. It’s a funny thing but every writer needs it. It is just a question of degree).

It was also great to see a very familiar name (thanks to Bridge House Publishing) on Friday Flash Fiction recently (well done #HannahRuthRetallick). I am also thrilled to see a very dear friend of mine and fellow Swanwicker on CafeLit today with a fabulous story called Marmalade. Go visit and check it out. (Always worth scrolling through CafeLit. Lovely mixture of stories in terms of style and word count. Marmalade was out on 28th August 2021). My sympathy is entirely with her lead character, Annie. More power to your pens, Hannah and #JuneWebber.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Dialogue in Books

I love dialogue in books as long as that conversation is moving the story on in some way. I need the characters to show me something either about themselves or the unfolding plot (and it is often both at the same time) for their conversation to grip me and keep me reading. It is something I have to watch with my own writing as I love setting up my characters for a good “chin wag” but it must always be relevant to the story. So if it isn’t, out it comes.

What I don’t like is where characters can sometimes tell each other stuff they clearly must know. I don’t buy the “character needs reminding” business here. It is usually done because the writer needs to get information across to a reader, they know they mustn’t “tell” the reader and are conscious they need to “show” the information.

I totally sympathise and it was something I did when I was starting out but with time and practice, you learn to be more confident in allowing your readers to work things out for themselves. Flash fiction writing with its limited word count really encourages that. So it is a question of putting in the right clues in the right way so readers do something to work with so they can figure things out for themselves.

I’ve learned over time to put in an odd line or two where I reveal something to a reader rather than have a pointless conversation between characters telling each other what they must already know. It takes less time and word count and you don’t switch your readers off with a conversation they will quickly sense is more to help the author out rather than to help the story along.

But when dialogue does what it is meant to do – move the story along, keep up pace etc., – then it is amongst my favourite parts of a book. I want to eavesdrop what the characters are saying because I know I am going to find out useful, interesting things. And often in dialogue the tension rachets up as well, which I also like.

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Prompts, Story Collections, and Editing Flash Fiction

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

I hope my new story video, Acrostic, shared below, puts a smile on your face after what has, in the UK, been a wet and windy week. (It honestly feels more like November than May right now! Brrr…).

Oh and there is an offer currently on at Amazon for the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic (as at 25th May 2021).

Tripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Facebook – General

Okay, we did actually see some sunshine in my part of Hampshire today but the rain’s back. Not overly impressed as you may be able to tell!

I discuss Writing Prompts in my Chandler’s Ford Today post later this week. I share a few examples of prompts and look at why these are useful. I’ve also contributed to a couple of books of prompts produced by #GillJames – I find these so helpful in encouraging me to think outside of my usual imaginative box. And they’re great practice for when you go to writing conferences and the like where exercises are usually set. (These are often set on giving you a closing or opening line for example so practicing writing to these is a good idea). More on Friday.

Some of my published stories started life as a response to a writing prompt so, yes, I am biased in promoting using them. But you never know if you can write to a prompt if you don’t try, yes?

Occasionally I will jot down a line that I think could make a useful prompt but then end up using it as a theme (and even for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts on occasion, as my post on Friday will share). So there is a lot potentially to be gained from using these.

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What a day! Torrential rain, hailstones, glorious sunshine… I don’t think snow is on the agenda but there’s still a few hours left to the end of the day so who knows?

It was great to “go” to a Zoom event where two authors read from their latest works – #PaulaRCReadman (who has guested on Chandler’s Ford Today before) and #PinarTarhan. It is always lovely being read to but it was great being able to put questions directly to the writers afterwards.

Happily wrote another drabble and submitted it to #FridayFlashFiction. I love the way this site encourages you to produce more work for the following week. Great idea. (And yes there are other categories of flash here but they want you to have two 100-worders published with them first before you submit longer flash tales. Am having a ball writing the drabbles again though so I may be here for some time but that’s fine with me!).

My next author newsletter is due to go out on 1st June so if you would like to sign up please head over to my website (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com). This time I will be sharing my responses to two writing prompts I set in May amongst other things. And I have set another writing prompt to have a go at too.


It was lovely being back in church today and seeing people I’ve not seen for months. Nice start to the day (though Lady found it odd. For the last few months services have been on Zoom and she has snuggled between us on the sofa while they were on. I suspect she missed that today!).

I’m sharing a post on Writing Prompts for Chandler’s Ford Today later in the week. Hopefully it will prove useful. I’m fond of a wide variety of such prompts. They are a great way to kick start your writing when needed and I am especially fond of opening and closing lines. Can do a lot with those. Link up on Friday.

Talking of blogging, it will be my turn on More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers next weekend and I will be sharing a lighthearted post about genres. Looking forward to sharing that.

What is the one writing habit you wish you could ditch forever? Mine is getting off to slow starts. I find when I do get started, I’m up and running and a great deal of useful writing gets done but it is the getting started that can sometimes be tricky for me.

(It’s worse if I’m tired or run down and that is when I will deliberately turn to only writing short pieces, fiction or otherwise. The great thing with doing that is there is still the sense of accomplishment at finishing a piece of work, even if it is only a 100-worder. I find feeling positive is the biggest boost to creativity for me and so completing small pieces of work makes me feel positive, that in turn encourages me to write more and so on).


Hope your Saturday has been okay. Glad the wild winds of yesterday have settled down. Looking forward to getting back to church tomorrow. (Okay still have to mask up etc but it will be so nice being there in person).

Many thanks for the great comments so far on my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction, Sibling Surprise. It’s lovely and useful having feedback. Also welcome to those signing up to my website and/or newsletter. Good to have you aboard.
Will be drafting more flash pieces over the rest of the weekend, one to go to be a story video on Youtube.

I tend to write another piece for #FridayFlashFiction over the weekend and submit that. It’s great writing drabbles again on a regular basis. More recently I have either written the mini (under 50 words) tales for the videos or longer flash pieces of 500 words plus. So it is lovely to return to my first flash love here as it was the 100-word challenge from CafeLit that started the flash fiction ball rolling for me.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Many thanks for the great response to my story video Acrostic yesterday. (Link below). It was huge fun to write. Writing stories in acrostic form works well for flash fiction given, as with character studies, these things are best kept short.

Now when it comes to editing a flash story, you might be tempted to think because there are not a lot of words, there is less to do. Wrong!

As well as cutting repetition, typos etc., you do need to ask yourself whether the words you’ve chosen do have the maximum impact on a reader. Any weak words will show up horribly clearly in such a short form. I usually find a phrase I’ve used which is good can often be strengthened by a tweak here and there.

It is the tweaking – the paying attention to the fine details – that can take a good flash story and make it a truly great one. Yet another challenge to flash fiction writing here but trying to make your story the best it can be is something that engages me (and hopefully the finished result will be more likely to engage a reader. I believe most people who read regularly will be able to tell when a writer has poured heart and soul into their work, whether it is a 100,000 word masterpiece, or a 100-word drabble).

 

Story video time again. Hope you enjoy this one – Acrostic lives up to its name and I will say it is not based on fact, honest!

I do sometimes use acrostics to come up with a different form of flash story. They’re great fun to do but a fairly short word works best and it needs to be “open” enough to be able to taken in more than one direction.

 


I nearly always know the impact I want to make on a reader when I draft my flash fiction stories. I say nearly always as sometimes I do manage to surprise myself.

For Calling the Doctor, where the mood of the tale turns on the very last word, that did not come to me immediately but I did have the character fully pictured. I wanted readers to sympathise with a character who did not know the truth about the other person referred to in the piece. But it was only as I was drafting their story, the way of ending this tale came to me and I went with it.

It was then on reviewing the story I realised how much I had “upped the ante” on this story by having a dramatic twist like that. A sympathetic character study here would have worked well but twisting the mood on the last word lifted this story to greater heights and it remains a favourite story of mine.

It is also a good example of a dark tale without over-egging the darkness. So much is implied and that of course is the strength of flash fiction. I love it when I read a story or novel and I pick up on the implications by myself. That gets my imagination going and isn’t that part of the joy of a really good read?

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I sometimes use alliterative titles for my flash pieces. The most recent for these is Sibling Surprise which went up on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday. (See link given above). I try not to overdo this though as I don’t want titles to seem gimmicky so I like a mixture of alliterative, proverbs/well known sayings etc. For all of them I want something to conjure up the story mood and “advertise” the tale to come.

I usually do know the title first but sometimes a better idea comes along as I draft my tale so I just jot down the idea and switch titles later if the latter idea proves to have more of an impact. I find I have to have a “peg” to work to so I have to have some kind of title. But very little is set in stone so as long as I’ve got something to give me a starting point, that’s fine with me.

What I do know is that shorter titles work best. They’re easier to remember too which is handy when you’re coming up with titles for the next stories. I’ve only repeated once to the best of my knowledge but for both tales, I got very different stories from them so that was okay but it is not something I want to do often for obvious reasons. I do see a title as a story’s first advert so I want each one to be distinctive.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

As well as reading novels, I like to read short story and flash fiction collections. I often use these to help me decide which genre of novel I want to read next.

Now I’m not unbiased here, as I am the author of two published flash fiction collections and have been in a number of short story anthologies! But I am going to take the chance to wave the flag for both formats.

There are different challenges in writing short stories and flash fiction as opposed to novels, naturally, but the charm of the short form is in giving you a brief overview of a character’s life. In the case of flash fiction, it is a snapshot only but for things like character studies, which to my mind work best when kept short, this is an ideal format for that kind of story.

I like to mix up the type of story in terms of genre, length, and mood. It gives me a wide reading diet that in turn helps me with my writing. We are all inspired by things we have loved reading after all.

And sometimes less is more so do add short stories and flash fiction to your reading mix. I find them to be a wonderful “appetiser” ahead of the next “meal” of a novel!

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Snow, Stories, Patience, and Fish

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Lady wondering why I’m excited about a box of books was taken by Adrian Symes

An interesting title choice I think – see below for how these link up. Two of them are to do with stories I’ve produced this week!

 

Facebook – General


Many thanks for the great responses to my post yesterday.

Happily drafting more stories for what I hope will be my third flash fiction collection. I’m almost there at the word count requirement but know the draft needs a heavy edit (or several) so plenty still to do there.

Am also revising my non-fiction project. Generally happy with it but am tweaking at the moment. Next stage there will be to draw up a list of publishers I want to approach with it. Am hoping to get that out for submission in the next couple of months or so and I’d love to be able to submit the third flash book by the end of the year. Yes, that is my 2021 taken care of nicely!

I find once I get started on a writing session, it is like someone has fired the starting gun and off I go. It can be the getting started that can be tricky, especially if you’re tired etc as I mentioned yesterday.

My tip here is be gentle on yourself, don’t commit to too much, and on days when I feel like that, I focus on small amounts of writing I can polish up later. There will be places for a 100 or 200 word story later, that’s for sure, and I feel better for having got something down I know I can send off later.

Still no snow today so that’s promising! (I know, I know! Famous last words and all that. We’ll see!).

Not impressed with the recent wintry conditions in the UK. Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.

Snow again this morning. Other than that, it has been an okay but busy Monday. Hope you have had a good day.

Glad to hear Just a Minute on the air again. It’s not the first time they’ve used guest presenters but it is odd that the much missed Nicholas Parsons is no longer part of this wonderful game.

I’ve mentioned before I tend to write less on a Monday given it is one of my busiest days and tiredness takes its toll. But that’s fine. I know I’ll make up for it during the rest of the week. I don’t set myself a word count per day. I just want to write daily and there will be some fluctuations. It is a case of going with the flow. And that’s fine too but it has taken me some time to get to that point and to learn not to be too hard on myself.

 

Lady helps out! Image by Adrian Symes.


Still can’t believe how cold it is. Doesn’t feel like April at all. Oh and we had snow again today. Thankfully not for long but I suspect it will still be a while before our heating goes off!

Writing wise, I start my new Chandler’s Ford Today series on Friday. Called Judging a Book By Its Cover, this three-part series will see a range of guest authors and myself share our latest covers and talk about what we think of these. We also share some useful tips. Looking forward to sharing that later in the week.

Don’t forget I do have an author newsletter now. I send this out monthly and share exclusive stories and writing tips here. To find out more sign up (and receive a free giveaway) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am busy preparing the newsletter for May, working on my third flash fiction book, and editing my non-fiction project.

And the best thing of all about writing?

I get to write in the warm!

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Delighted to say I have another piece, Patience, up on Friday Flash Fiction. Day late sharing (sorry!) but if you like your stories on the darker side, this is one for you. And it is good to be writing drabbles again. Some of my most recent flash pieces have been on the longer side so it is great to be back to my first flash love here. After all it was the CafeLit 100 word challenge that drew me into writing flash at all!

Lady has had a good day. Got to see her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, on our way back home from the park so on a convenient corner, well out of the way of anyone, the two dogs had a playfight – as you do. Two tired and very happy dogs went home! (Would love to know how dogs can chew each other’s ears without causing any damage incidentally).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views on my Fish Out of Water story video which I posted yesterday. (Coming up below!). These mini-tales are great fun to write and then put into a video format like this. I like to mix up the mood of what I produce here and it was more than time for a lighter piece.

Incidentally, talking of mood, I should add that character mood does not necessarily match author mood. This is just as well for (a) all my author friends who write crime, (b) all my author friends who write horror, and (c) me when I’m having an off day! Also, thinking of some of the characters I’ve come out with in my time, it is just as well my mood would never match theirs!

Never assume a character’s mood is the same as their author’s one! Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.


Hope you enjoy my latest story video on Youtube. Fish Out of Water is one of my lighter tales. Well it is From Light to Dark and Back Again here! Also pleased to say I’ll be having another story on CafeLit next week, which will be one of my longer flash tales. More details on that nearer the time but it’s lovely to have an acceptance at the start of the working week!

 


One thing I am loving about submitting drabbles to #FridayFlashFiction is the feedback on my stories. Many thanks, everyone, for that. For my latest story, Patience, I have deliberately not specified the creature that is the “lead” in this.

This isn’t a word count issue, funnily enough. I am going for effect here. One of my earliest introductions to horror was the film Duel which I think was the first directed by a certain S. Spielberg Esq. It works because the plot is simple, scary, and you never see the enemy. I think it would have lost something had we been able to see who the enemy was.

This is another reason why I don’t always give a gender to the non-human creatures that turn up in my stories from time to time. “It” for me conveys a sense of horror when used in this context. 

 

Sometimes the creature in a story is best left unspecified. Doing that can be a more scary effect for a reader than if you spell everything out.

Hope you’ve had a good Saturday. Still cold!

When do I know a flash story is going to “work”? When I know the characters convince me is the answer to that. If they convince me, they should convince other readers. And to convince myself, I’ve got to want to read their story and find out what happens! How can that be for the person who wrote the story?

Simple. I put the story aside for a while and then come back to it after a week or so. Only then can I look at it with fresh eyes and assess it as a beta reader might.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Greatest Characters

The greatest characters in any story are for me the ones where I’ve got to find out what happens to them. Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings is an obvious one for me here, as was Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (especially after the sacrifice scene).

But characters who back up the main leads grip me too. I have a very soft spot for Sam (and Frodo would have failed in his mission without him). I also have a soft spot for Lucy in the Narnia Chronicles.

Any great character, for me, is one where I can identify with them in some way. They’re not perfect. Good. Neither am I. They have virtues I aspire to and flaws I’m glad I don’t have as well as some I know I do! But they come across as fully created beings I want to find out more about even if they’re not human.

Great characters for me include Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax throughout Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (though he makes my skin crawl with his miserly ways at the start of the story).

Great characters can also be redeemed as Scrooge shows and the theme of redemption is a powerful one.

So who would you nominate as your greatest characters?

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FLASH FICTION PERKS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Flash Fiction Perks shares what I think are some of the advantages of flash fiction.  Can you add to the list?  (I do love a list… but then you will have gathered that by now).  Flash fiction can be a great way of writing humorous incidents which, in themselves, would not be nearly long enough to make a standard story.  And there are plenty of markets and competitions out there.  What’s not to like?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Fiction Feedback shares what I look for in a good story adjudication.  I know, I know – another list! – but I hope this might help those trying to decide whether to go for a critique on their work or not.  (And where you can get word of mouth recommendation from another writer as to how good Publication X’s feedback is, so much the better).

FACEBOOK PAGE/A VERY BIG THANK YOU TO SOUTHAMPTON WRITERS’ CIRCLE

I had the great joy and privilege of judging the Greensleeves short story competition run by the Southampton Writers’ Circle this evening.  A huge thank you to all for the warm welcome and kind comments.  Look forward to seeing your stories in print in due course!!

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Whether you write flash fiction or other kinds of story, brainstorming sessions are invaluable. I have, less often, used them to generate ideas for non-fiction work. Image via Pixabay.

Whether you write flash fiction or other kinds of story, brainstorming sessions are invaluable. I have, less often, used them to generate ideas for non-fiction work. Image via Pixabay.