Hello Again – Hope You Had a Lovely Christmas!

Image Credits:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a lovely Christmas. A shorter post than normal due to the Christmas break but hope you enjoy it and find the tips useful. I moved my usual Goodreads blog post to Monday this week so that is included here. The period of time between Christmas and New Year is a bit of an odd one.

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This week is always an odd one in that the days after Christmas seem to blur into each other until we reach New Year’s Eve. I do know it doesn’t “feel” like a Tuesday even though I know it is!

Do your characters ever feel this way? Can their mistakes with dates/times etc create havoc in your stories? (Certainly there would be comic potential here). Are your characters punctual and, if so, what happens when they have to deal with someone who isn’t?

Time can be a useful device in a story – it is a good way of making things happen. Characters set up a meeting. There has to be a time for it even though the real story will be in the meeting itself and the outcome from it.

You can also use Time as a character too. Is Time cruel or beneficial or does the answer to that depend on the perspective of your character?

Hello again! Hope you had a lovely Christmas. We did (and I can confirm there is no such thing as leftover turkey when you have a dog in the house!). Nice to be able to see family and I am happily reading one of my presents – The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman. Enjoying it so far.

I resumed a little bit of writing late last night and have been putting the finishing touches to my next author newsletter, due out on 1st January.

For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I’ll be asking if it should be a case of Out With the Old? Link up on Friday. I hope to resume preparing YouTube videos and stories for Friday Flash Fiction later on in the week.

And I did have a nice surprise over the Christmas period. I received a review of Tripping The Flash Fantastic directly.


This is an interesting book of flash fiction; a fascinating way to read stories here and there and before I knew it, I accidentally finished the book. A book of flash fiction and short stories is a great way to engage in stories even when things are busy.

 

Many thanks to my reviewer and they hit on an important point. No matter how busy you are, there is something you can read – flash fiction is ideal for the quick read!

 

NO POSTS Christmas Day or Boxing Day

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There’s a special offer on Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon at the moment so if you want a quick to read New Year bargain, do follow the link!

In other news, I’m sending out my next author newsletter on 1st January (am not promising to be particularly early though!). Do sign up for this at the landing page for my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am also working behind the scenes on further workshop and talk material so plenty to keep me busy. Naturally I talk about flash. Am thrilled the form has taken off in such a big way. Good fun to write and read. Never waste a writing exercise again – polish it up, send it out as a piece of flash fiction. Why not? You have nothing to lose here.

Screenshot 2021-12-28 at 20-08-10 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

Good to be back at the old writing desk once again. Hope you had a lovely Christmas. Hope in amongst your book presents, there are some flash fiction collections included! I’m currently reading a couple myself, as well as Richard Osman’s latest. I often have more than one book on the go at a time. It saves me making up my mind deciding which one I will read next when I can so easily decide which two or three I’ll tackle next instead! Reduces the To Be Read pile a bit quicker too.

What I love about the festive season is there are many possibilities for coming up with some lovely flash tales. I’ve written about Santa, his helpers, used other characters from well known fairytales so often performed as pantomime at this time of the year, amongst others. This is very much the “light” side of what I do and it is great fun. I don’t just write these tales now either. I will draft up ideas as they occur to me throughout the year and then save them for this time of year.

NO POSTS Christmas Day or Boxing Day

Goodreads Author Blog – Stories at Christmas

Thought I’d put my blog up after Christmas this time. Next one will be back on Saturday.

I hope you received plenty of books in the formats of your choice for Christmas. Am currently reading the second Richard Osman book and enjoying that. I’m also reading a couple of excellent flash fiction collections. Whoever said you only had to read one book at a time?!

Naturally I enjoyed stories via film over Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The Muppet Christmas Carol is a must. How can you not love an adaptation where the narrator, in this case Gonzo, recommends you read the original book?

The other must is The Polar Express. I’ve not read the book but the film is wonderful. Has a bit of a dark edge to it as well. Definitely not twee and something to make you think about the nature of belief. Oh and Hogfather. I didn’t get around to re-reading the Terry Pratchett classic this time (I usually do) but did watch the film.

Have you found a good film adaptation makes you read the book? I have. One of my earliest introductions to Dickens was watching the Alec Guinness version of Oliver Twist. I just had to read the book directly after watching that. And yes it can be fun spotting where lines (especially of dialogue) are kept word for word with the book and where it is clear some editing has gone on.

Do I mind if the film adaptation doesn’t stick to the original book entirely? Not if it is done well. The Lord of the Rings is a classic example. Not everything from the books goes into the film version (and that goes for the extended version too) but the spirit of the book shines through those movies and that is fine with me.

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Merry Christmas!

Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I also took photos from my Scottish break this year to illustrate light and dark. See further down. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. I hope you have a lovely Christmas, however you celebrate it, and I hope there are plenty of books amongst your presents!

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my Merry Christmas post on Chandler’s Ford Today. I share the link to the Three Minute Santas festive flash fiction broadcast on North Manchester FM hosted by Hannah Kate and another story called Festivities.

I also discuss the joy of writing festive pieces and share some thoughts about “baking the perfect story”. I mention ingredients and method too! Hope you enjoy the post. And as the post says, Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

 

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Other half and I have now had the booster. Rest of family will be “done” tomorrow. Will be a relief to have it dealt with. And a big thanks to the lovely folk at Salisbury City Hall today. Hubby and I jabbed and out in under 10 minutes.

I’m sharing festive flash fiction on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up tomorrow. See above!

To all who were shortlisted in the Friday Flash Fiction festive competition, well done.

Best writing tip of the year for me was to record on Zoom a practice run of any talks/presentations ahead of giving them. Zoom converts any recording into a mp4 file. I found on playing things back I was speaking too fast. Yet it didn’t seem as if I was when recording.

Lesson learned here: you are not always the best judge of how you come across. You can’t fool a recording on play back! But worth noting and learning from.

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Indulged in some alternative creative therapy earlier – Christmas baking! Best of all, it meant I had to be in the warm on what has been a bitterly cold day for a lot of the UK. It is another advantage to writing – generally you do it indoors!

Have started indulging in my favourite Christmas stories – watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, which is just brilliant. Next up on my list will be Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.

No YouTube video from me this week and I will probably not submit anything to Friday Flash Fiction over the Christmas period but I will look forward to resuming both of those after a bit of a break.

Am currently reading two excellent flash fiction collections by other authors and hope to review those in due course. Yes, I read in my genre as well as outside of it. You do need to know what is going on in your field too. No two writers go about their storytelling in exactly the same way and I find the differences in style and approach fascinating.

What we can do is learn from one another – what works well, what doesn’t and so on. I know I’ve been grateful (and will continue to be) for learning this way. One aspect to creative writing is we keep on learning – how to improve our craft, get better at spotting what markets are best suited for our work etc – and that is so good for us in terms of this keeping our brains active and in terms of encouraging and developing our own creativity.

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Hope you have a lovely Christmas and get to enjoy plenty of books, stories, flash fiction tales etc. The latter is of course ideal for a quick read when time is tight! I’ll be back posting on here again next week.

Meantime, I’m sharing the link to my page on CafeLit where you will find a mixture of flash pieces and short stories. Hope you enjoy. Merry Christmas! (And yes it is a good reminder to me to submit more work to CafeLit next year!).Screenshot 2021-12-24 at 19-56-10 CafeLitMagazineM = More flash tales for 2022.
E = Exploring more genres and varying word counts
R= Remembering not to exceed the 1000 word limit for flash.
R = Rules can be stretched a bit – hyphenated words count as one word in flash.
Y = Yet noting you do still have to hyphenate where that is legitimate – no cheating!

C = Characters are the stars of the stories.
H = Hearing their tales, their voices is what readers want.
R = Readers are your audience of course so write with them in mind.
I = Imaginative characters in unique settings will grab readers’ attention.
S = Stories – it is all about the story and its impact on readers.
T = Truth is often revealed by characters, usually showing some aspect of our nature.
M = Mirroring life, stories can share what we might not like to discuss in more palatable ways.
A = Always be truthful in your writing even when telling stories – you have to believe it first.
S = Structure and editing – don’t rush either as it pays to get these right.

Merry Christmas!

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Turning the tables on a character is great fun to do and I’ve used this for my longer short stories too. (My It Is Time from Mulling It Over by Bridge House Publishing is a good example of this).

You have the ending set up in advance – the moment the tables are turned and this is especially true for a flash story where it works best as the last line. What you need to work out is whether the character deserves having the tables turned like that or whether you are going to leave your readers with a sense of pity for your character where such a thing is undeserved.

If your character does deserve what is coming to them (and most of mine do), then you need to work out why. Also are your characters going to have a chance to redeem themselves, say, or do they blithely ignore all of that and what hits them hits them?

One of the reasons I love A Christmas Carol is because Scrooge does deserve the fright he gets but he recognizes this and accepts the need to change. That kind of story is so positive and I love them.

And it’s perfectly feasible to do this in flash. This kind of story is where I do work from the ending back to the start and use a spider diagram to help me work out the best start. I’ve found that technique for this kind of story is especially effective as it ensures I have the “turn around” written and good to go. I can then work out what led to that. You don’t have to always write A to Be. B to A can work really well too. Give it a go!

Fairytales with Bite – Light and Dark of Fairytales

Fairytales reflect the light and dark side of life. They show cruelty up for what it is and ensure the villains get their comeuppance, though this doesn’t usually happen for a while. Pantomime, which so often uses fairytales as the story base, adds humour into the mix. But both of these don’t shy away for calling out the dark and ensuring the light triumphs.

Maybe, because we know so often that doesn’t happen in real life, the appeal of fairytales is very long lasting. I think there is a deep-rooted need to see wrong being righted. I know I feel that way.

Fairytales are also realistic about what human nature can be. We don’t question Snow White’s stepmother’s murderous intent. We just know some people are just like that, again motivated by envy a lot of the time, or being unable to accept the person they’re feeling murderous towards for other reasons.

But fairytales can also show virtue being rewarded and I’ve always loved that aspect, again because it so often doesn’t happen for real (even though it should!).

So fairytales are far from twee then. They’re open to interpretation and cover a wide range of emotions we recognise in ourselves. Light and dark both have to be shown – and shown honestly – and I feel fairytales are brilliant at that. I don’t feel they will ever lose their appeal simply due to that.

 

This World and Others – Deciding What You Need to Know

Every writer, regardless of what they write, needs to decide what they need to know before bringing their story to life. I need to know my character’s major traits (and as a result what can come from those). I don’t need to know what they look like and, even when I do, that comes in later for me. Other writers need to have an idea of what their people look like before fleshing them out more. Different strokes and all that.

When it comes to world building, what do you need to know there? Do you need to know the physical geography of your setting or its political make up? Do you need to know both and one directly affects the other? If so, how? What will make your fictional world seem real to you? You have to believe it first before any reader might.

It would pay to take time out then. You have this great idea. You have fantastic characters you can’t wait to bring to life on the page. So what do you need to know to make the most of these, to get the best out of them? Even if you don’t usually plan, a little forward planning could save you considerable time on the editing later on.

And it may well be you will need to know things the reader does not but that knowledge will help you write your characters with more conviction. It is my belief (as a reader and a writer) that sense of conviction does come through.

It is what I think keeps readers glues to characters and their stories. It definitely pays to work out in advance what you need to know to convince yourself. You will write with more confidence. You will know this character. You will know their story. I hope you find a bit of forward planning helps you against the wretched Imposter Syndrome which affects most writers at some point.

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Christmas Plans and Writing Across the Genres

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you had a good weekend, the last before Christmas. Have not finished my preparations for Christmas but am getting there!

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Am enjoying listening to the carol concerts on Classic FM as I write. Soothing and I can join in with the carols – win-win as I love a good sing. (Of course whether anyone else appreciates me having a good sing is a completely different matter!).

I’ll be taking a couple of days off over Christmas but there will be another blog round up on Christmas Eve. And my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday will be sharing some festive flash fiction. I will probably “pop up” over the period between Christmas and New Year but I don’t anticipate “normal service” being resumed until after 1st January. Whatever you do for Christmas, I hope it proves to be a blessed time for you.

I did manage to get a story submitted for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize. There is still time to enter that one if you’re interested – deadline is 31st December.

There will be a Chandler’s Ford Today post on New Year’s Eve where I will be talking about Out with the Old?

I will take the chance to say a big thank you now to those authors I’ve interviewed for CFT over the last year. I very much hope there will be further interviews to come in 2022.

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A big thanks for all the lovely comments coming in on All In the Blend, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated (and it gives me another excuse to have another read of the wonderful collection of tales on there so win-win!). It is good to be back writing the 100-worders regularly again.

What do I enjoy most? Usually on my draft, I end up at anything between 150 and 200 words initially. What I love is the honing and pruning to get the story to 100 words without losing anything of value. That is where the challenge lies and I find it to be great fun.

Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 19-28-36 All In The Blend, by Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good Sunday. Finally got my Christmas cake iced. Am very late on it this year but it looks good and I shall look forward to having some next Saturday!

Will be slowly winding down as we head towards Christmas but I will be sharing a festive flash fiction post on Chandler’s Ford Today on Christmas Eve. As well as including the link to listen again to the Three Minute Santas flash fiction special hosted by Hannah Kate yesterday, I will also share another story and talk about the delights of writing festive pieces. Hope it will prove to be a very positive note to go into Christmas with!

I plan to do my usual blog round-ups on Tuesday and Friday this week but that will be about it for a few days. Am looking forward to my usual Christmas story intake of favourite films and books too.

My next author newsletter will go out at some point on 1st January though I cannot promise it will be particularly early!

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Delighted to share the first of two posts here tonight. It was a pleasure to have a festive flash piece on Three Minute Santas hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Wonderful to listen to the collection of stories on here. Great start to the 7 day countdown to Christmas! Link below is to the listen again service and the show is divided into two halves – first hour and second hour. I’m on during the first hour with my tale The Night Before Christmas.

Listen Again Page on North Manchester FMScreenshot - Three Minute Santa pageScreenshot 2021-12-20 at 20-21-57 Hannah's Bookshelf pre-Christmas Christmas Special - 18 12 2021Lovely to be on North Manchester FM again

I look at Book Products for my post on Authors Electric this month. I look at what I like here and what I loathe. I also share what I would like to see on the market including a gizmo for ensuring I never lose a notebook or pen again! Now that would be a best seller!

Screenshot 2021-12-18 at 20-12-49 Book Products by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like writing across the genres with my flash tales. It’s great fun and I see no reason to restrict myself here. The one restriction that counts for anything here is the 1000 word count limit for any individual flash story.

Given flash has to be character led, I may as well set my characters wherever and whenever I want and see what they come up with. This is where my love of reading over the years comes in as naturally that plays a major part in the kinds of story I love to read (and thus to go on and write myself as you write from the heart).

With my historical flash pieces, the one “conceit” I allow is in getting my characters to speak and think in a style of English we will understand. They are communicating their tales to us and it is a question of ensuring we understand them.

I also think using old English is a little like using accents and dialects in storytelling. You want a little of it to give a “flavour” of the era, perhaps, but not so much it “over-balances” the entire story. Nor do you want to make the story difficult to read (and Old English is difficult to read so again it makes sense to limit it!).

For my flash tales where my word count is restricted, every word has to work hard to justify its place to be in the story at all and, again, gives me a reason for not using old style language. It would, I feel, get in the way.

fromlighttodark_medium-2Tripping the Flash Fantastic Small.jpg

It’s Monday. It has been a long day. It’s story time then! Hope you enjoy my poignant festive tale, Getting By.

 

I’ve always sided with character in the character -v- plot debate as I’ve mentioned here before, but flash fiction writing has made that call even easier to make. Why?

Simply because I haven’t got the word count room to give lots of lovely description and intricate plot points. I have got to focus on what my character thinks says, and does – and I absolutely love doing that!

But this is precisely why I need to know my character well enough first and why I find a simple template invaluable in getting to know that character. Think of it as interviewing your character. You do want your character to “say” I do like this, I don’t like that because…

The interesting bit here will be in the because as it will be the reason given which will show you even more aspects to your character. I’ve found that makes it easier to write them and their stories up as a result.

writing-advice707359_S.jpgImage - Allison Symes - Light and Dark - these questions can help you establish which applies most to your charactersCharacter Needs are everythingQuizzing my characters


It was a joy to be on the Hannah Kate show again today with my story The Night Before Christmas. I love the idea of a Three Minute Santas festive flash fiction special show. Flash works really well when read out and this show proves that.

The collection of stories is varied and each of them conjures up its own little world. I loved listening to it and I am all for things like this which promote flash and show what it can do and be. Perhaps flash comes into its own at this time of year when everyone is busy and reading might take a bit of a back seat for a while.

Well, you can still read/listen to flash! Hope you enjoy the stories on here.

Joy to hear stories as well as read them

Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Presents

I don’t know how many books are given as presents at Christmas but it must run into millions. Hardbacks, paperbacks, audio books, ebooks – a fabulous celebration of the written word, fictional and factual. I love that aspect. Yes, I’ve got books on my wish list this year – I always do – no surprises there.

I still have an annual (The Friendship Book which is still going strong after many decades and published by that marvellous publisher, D.C. Thomson of Dundee). I wonder how many kids got into reading thanks to having an annual every Christmas. Certainly they’re a great way to encourage reading.

Comics and comic books can serve the same purpose. Flash fiction, my genre, can do so too because these can tempt the reluctant reader in – you don’t have to read a brick of a novel (a) all at once and (b) as your way into reading. You cam start smaller and build up or read the brick a bit at a time.

The important thing is to read and I hope whatever book presents you receive this year, you have a fabulous time reading them!

 

The BHP book stall

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock upBridge House anthologiesHow many books will be on your wish listBooks as presents

people reading books in library

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FINDING IDEAS - The finest way I know to feed my imagination is to readWhere will your fiction take your readers and will it make them laugh

 

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Prep Work

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. Busy preparing for Christmas here but at least the cards have been sent! It all counts as writing…!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today which is about Prep Work. Apt for this time of year of course! But I look at the topic from a writer’s viewpoint.

I share how prep work is an important part of my writing life, look at the benefits of it, and discuss how having a rough outline of what I plan to write when over the course of a week helps me stay on track and get more writing done overall.

Hope you find the post useful, especially if like me you are a planner rather than a pantser though I think some loose structure to a writing week would benefit most people. I know it has done wonders for my productivity.

Prep Work

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I’ll be discussing the usefulness of Prep Work in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up tomorrow.

Also looking forward to sharing the link to Three Minute Santas in due course.

Just to flag up there is an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon at the moment. Looking for a last minute present for someone who likes short stories, especially quirky ones? See the link for more details.

And don’t forget the one thing you can do for authors whose work you love – leave a review! Doesn’t have to be long (indeed keeping it short helps make it more memorable and effective) but a thoughtful review is appreciated by every author.

Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 20-23-22 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes, Allison Amazon co uk Kindle Store

I was chatting about ideas yesterday and it is as I develop mine, I often remember books and stories which have influenced me. As I outline my characters, I know from books and stories I love the kind that work the best for me. (Not every book does this for me – I still dislike Miss Price from Mansfield Park and I love Jane Austen’s work as a rule but this case did show me what I don’t want in my characters so still useful!).

And I try to replicate what I like best in my “people”. I say people but then I have written flash pieces from the viewpoint of a mother dragon and responded to a challenge to write a piece about the inside of a ping-pong ball. My characters are definitely not all human but I still need to portray them in a way to either gain reader sympathy or to have readers happily root for them to fail, depending on whether they’re villainous or not.

All great fun and even more reasons to keep reading. I see it as research and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking forward to hearing wonderful festive flash fiction on Three Minute Santas hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM tomorrow. I hope to share the link in due course. I also hope to include it in my Chandler’s Ford Today post for Christmas Eve which will be a festive flash post.

Lighthearted stories take as much care to hone and polish as the more serious kind and I think even more in fact.

Why? Because you know the effect you want to produce in the reader – you are aiming to amuse and/or cheer and everything you write for this story has to serve that purpose. Also what one reader will see as lighthearted others will dismiss as frivolous. You just accept there is no pleasing everybody and you go for what your Ideal Reader would like. That Ideal Reader won’t be just you, honest!

With a sad story, you know what would make you sad, what would make most people sad so you can use that in your storytelling. But humour is notoriously subjective which is why it is not as easy to write as it might appear. It is good fun though and well worth the effort!

BookBrushImage-2021-12-17-19-5235Screenshot 2021-12-08 at 16-07-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 18 December 2-4pm - Hannah Kate


Pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy All In The Blend.


Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 19-28-36 All In The Blend, by Allison Symes

The nice thing with flash fiction is it has more scope than you might think. You can set your characters anywhere and everywhere, in the present day or the past or the future, and don’t forget you can vary the genre too. I’ve written historical flash pieces, crime flash, humorous stories and so on. You can also vary the word count as long as you don’t go above the 1000 words limit.

So if a piece works out better at 500 words rather than 100 then that’s fine. You just can’t submit that piece for a 100-word competition or market but there will be others where you can submit it. When I keep a story at 500 words, rather than reduce it down, it is because there are telling details in that story I feel make the tale more powerful and the character more memorable.

If I feel the story would lose something vital if I were to cut further, I don’t! I leave it as it is and find an alternative market for it.

The trick is in working out what is vital. If certain details help a character make more of an impact on the reader then those things stay in. But you do have to ask yourself honestly do I really need this? Does this detail give the reader something useful?

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Looking forward to the Three Minute Santas broadcast on Hannah Kate’s show on North Manchester FM on Saturday 18th December between 2 and 4 pm. My story, The Night Before Christmas, is on there and I am delighted to know other writing friends will also be having their tales on there. A great way to get into the festive mood.

I have a very soft spot for writing festive flash pieces. They’re light-hearted, just what you need I think at this time of the year, great to share on social (and other) media, and a bit of a reading pick-me-up. I will share the link to the show in due course if you can’t tune in on Saturday.

Oh and naturally I am going to love flash stories being shared in this way – it’s another method to get people into flash writing and reading I hope!

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Fairytales With Bite – Dressing Up

The most obvious example of dressing up is when the fairy godmother turned up to transform Cinder’s rags into a decent ballgown. But are there any opportunities in your stories for your characters to dress up? What events would they dress up for? And what would they actually wear? How is this different from day-to-day clothing?

Does your fictional world have tailors, clothes designers etc or is everything produced magically? If the latter, how does this work? Would your characters need to have some kind of currency to get a magical costume produced? And if they were poor, what would they have to “make do with”?

Occasions dictate costumes as well so what events would mean everyone, regardless of their means, has to dress up? How would the poorest manage this? And what elaborate costumes would the elite wear and why these? What is the history behind them?

Events usually commemorate something and, for everyone to have to join in, these would have to be of national importance. Can you link the history of your fictional world to what people are wearing now? As ever, with this kind of thing, there is always someone who will want to go against tradition – who, why, what are the consequences of them doing so? Does their choosing to dress differently inspire others to look at why they do things traditionally at all?

Clothing can indicate status too and you could use that as a shorthand way of showing how rich or otherwise your characters are.

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This World and Others – To Map or Not to Map?

Hands up time. I looked at the map in The Lord of the Rings once, maybe twice, on my first read of that wonderful trilogy. I was too engrossed in the story to want to go back to the map at all. So how useful do you find a map to be in fantasy works, especially the longer kind?

I can understand why the writer would need a map. Literally it is a visual aid to them to help them picture things and to thus write about their created world successfully. But do the readers need to see the map? Does film take away the need for such things now? Do feel free to comment!

I do know I couldn’t draw a map if paid to do so. I know I need an idea on setting for my flash and short stories though I find I need to know the characters much, much more. The characters will often dictate to me where they have to be set. I like that as it means I picture them and their location in one go.

And a lot of what I need to know about my characters doesn’t end up in the finished story. It doesn’t need to go in but I needed to know it to write that character up with conviction. Even if I could draw a map. I suspect the same would be true here!

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Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
A huge thanks to Gill James for the YouTube clip in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Also thanks to Lynn Clement for her fab author-editor-publisher photo which is part of this post. Other photos in this post were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. Have been busy on the flash fiction front with stories submitted for competition as well as in my usual outlets. And I have news on another story of mine which will be broadcast soon.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m pleased to share the link to my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today which is called Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing. I look back at the recent Zoom and in-person events and discuss why events like this matter. I also share some tips on writing to a theme in this post. This is relevant as BHP set the theme for the next anthology at the celebration event.

It was great to meet up with friends old and new at both the Zoom and in-person event though I am sure the Christmas tree at Waterloo Station by the world’s second most famous clock (after Big Ben, though I know that’s the bell rather than the clock!) has shrunk. Check the pictures out and see what you think!

Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing

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Have started on the Christmas cards! I guess it counts as writing…

I enjoy writing them but it is the getting started on them which can be tricky but now I am underway and know I will now finish them. It is exactly the same thing for me when it comes to writing flash fiction tales! Get me started and away I go!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing where I take a look back at both the Zoom and in-person event. Always a lovely way to finish the writing year.

And apologies – I forgot to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction which came out last Friday. It’s a fun one too. Just what will Alison do with the witch who has crashed into her bungalow? Find out with my story The Best Remedy.

A huge thanks to all who have commented on this one already – it was a joy to reply. I do appreciate the feedback on this website. It is so helpful. Like most writers, so often you never hear back so to get thoughtful feedback is very much welcomed.

Screenshot 2021-12-09 at 19-43-00 The Best Remedy, by Allison Symes

BROADCAST NEWS

Hope you have had a good day. I now have a list of all the writers who will be taking part in Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas flash fiction show on North Manchester FM on 18th December between 2 and 4 pm. See screenshot below (and thanks to Hannah for putting this up). I plan to share a link to the show later too. Well done, all.

How do I go about writing a piece of festive flash fiction? Without giving anything away about my story for the show, I will say I decide on the character I am going to write about first, work out where they are set, and, often, putting those two things together gives me an idea as to what the story is here.

And you can have a lot of fun with the setting – for example with one of my flash pieces that ended up in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I started with the idea the story had to be set in Santa’s factory and the character had to be an assistant who was concerned about his boss. (That ended up being called The Help).

Really looking forward to listening to Hannah’s show and not just because I’m part of it, honest! I loved the mix of stories from last year and listening to the variety of tales was lovely so very much want to do that again!

Screenshot 2021-12-08 at 16-07-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 18 December 2-4pm - Hannah KateTripping the Flash Fantastic Small.jpg

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Been a busy week on the flash fiction front. I’m going to share two stories from Friday Flash Fiction as I know I forgot to share one “properly” and you get the links to two stories in one go. Hope you enjoy them both. See links below.

Am thrilled my festive flash piece will be on Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas show on 18th December 2021 between 2 and 4 pm (UK time) on North Manchester FM. Will share the link later.

And I’ve sent in a piece this week for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize competition. Fingers crossed time for that one.

There is still time to enter this competition – the deadline is 31st December. Maximum word count is 500 words. Fee for entry is £10.00 if you’re a WM subscriber, £15.00 if not. First prize is £1000, second prize is £250.00, third prize is £100.00. I’ve mentioned before I always check competition fees against the prize on offer. I would expect a higher entry fee for a higher prize and this one seems fair enough to me.

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/the-best-remedy-by-allison-symes
https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/specialist-subject-by-allison-symes

 

Don’t forget I regularly post flash fiction videos on my YouTube channel. Subscribers always welcome! I also have my two book trailers on here for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. These both include a story to give a flavour of what I write. Hope you enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2021-12-10 at 19-22-29 Allison Symes - YouTube

F = Festive Flash Fiction is fun to write.
L = Light-hearted and not too long, ideal for a busy time of year.
A = Animals, workers in Santa’s factory, fairies, elves – there are all kinds of characters to write up.
S = Satisfying short stories that raise a smile – that is the point of festive flash I think.
H = Have fun writing it and reading/listening to it!

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Fairytales with Bite – Twists in Fairytales

Twists work so well in fairytales. The hero/heroine is probably going to be an unlikely one – for example, it’s not often you get a talking cat in footwear being the star of a story!

You know that the villain is going to get their comeuppance at some point, which for me that was one of the joys of fairytales when I was a kid. Even then I knew the world wasn’t fair. Somehow in fairytales things mainly are righted where they need to be. What you don’t know is how exactly that comeuppance is going to happen – and there is plenty of manoeuvre room for good twists there. It also keeps readers glued to the page – you have to find out how the villain gets stopped.

Even though you know magic is going to be involved somehow, the twist there is will it work as it is supposed to do or will another magical character thwart it (as happens in Sleeping Beauty).

So we can think about what twists we can put into our magical stories. Some thoughts here, which I hope inspire ideas, include:-

  • The magical element going wrong.
  • The supposed hero proving to be anything but and not worthy of magical help – how will they be taught a lesson? Will they learn and be redeemed or will someone else, more worthy, become the hero instead? The latter often comes into play when you have three characters in a story. It is usually the youngest son out of three brothers who proves to be the hero eventually.
  • Having your story set in a place where magic cannot happen so other ways of dealing with problems have to be found. That is going to be a problem for your average fairy godmother wanting to assist a client. How will they assist instead or will their client have to resolve their own problems?

Have fun with your twists, readers will pick up on that (I know I do when I read stories like that), but ensure the twist is logical for the story. The twist has to be something a reader can look back through the story and think yes, that could happen here.

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This World and Others – Characters and Their Motives

Motives make the character seem real to a reader. The motives don’t have to be good ones but a reader should be able to understand why your character has them. Basic motives won’t change much regardless of your setting. Sentient beings will need food, drink, shelter, security, the ability to reproduce etc, but where you can bring in variety is in how these things are achieved in your setting.

Let’s say your setting bans war, any kind of fighting (if only!), etc, how would characters with conflicting needs resolve this instead with one major way of resolving issues taken away from them?

Motives can change over time too so that is something which can be reflected in your setting and characters. The desire to reproduce lessens with age (as does the ability of course for example so your Character A can go from wanting this to not wanting it at all). How does the change of motive affect them and those they are closest to?

Conflict comes from two characters wanting different things but again there has to be good reasons for those characters wanting what they do and why they feel the other is wrong. Ideally your readers will be able to empathise with both characters (though will usually root for one in particular to succeed. I do this all the time!).

All of this is why I like to outline my characters and know what their major traits are before I try to write them up into stories. I really do have to know where they are coming from so I can picture them and hear their voice. I’ve found it has paid me to work out what I need to know. Every writer will have differing ideas about what they need to know but it can be fun to experiment to find out what you need to know.

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Back from London, Festive Flash Fiction, and Random Name Generators

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. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were the photos of the Theodore Bulldog pub in Charing Cross. Yes, I’ve been out and about again. More to come on that on Friday’s post. Also thanks to Lynn Clement for her author and book cover pictures. Thanks to Adrian Symes for the author pic of yours truly. (I am rubbish at selfies incidentally).
Hope you have had a good weekend/start to the week. Wild weather in Britain right now. Am thankful writing is generally an indoor activity.

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Facebook – General

Am so pleased to say a festive flash fiction piece of mine will be broadcast on Hannah Kate’s show on North Manchester FM on 18th December. More details nearer the time (and I hope to share a link to the broadcast later too). I just love the sound of her Three Minute Santas flash fiction special – definitely had to send something in for that one.

Huge congratulations to Rosemary Johnson, who will also have a story of hers broadcast on the show. Looking forward to listening to that and the show full of stories. (That is such a lovely thought, isn’t it?).

In other news, I will be looking back at the recent Bridge House Publishing events (on Zoom and in the in-person one) for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up on Friday.

Allison Symes - Chandlers Ford Today headerAlways a joy to talk or write about flash fiction


Yesterday, I used a random name generator to trigger thoughts for a story for Friday Flash Fiction this week and for my YouTube channel. I only picked first names and it came up with Alison! (Yes, really and spelled the usual way rather than mine with the double l. My late parents could not have foreseen the invention of email and the need for me to spell out my name in full each and every time to ensure I get any email at all!).

Anyway, I will share on my book page shortly the YouTube story I’ve come up with based on my mysterious Alison. Link further down. Will let you know on Friday if the other story was taken by Friday Flash Fiction.

Good fun to do and I don’t recall using a name generator before. The one I used allowed you to set first name only, first name and surname, and even concoct a life story for the name generated. I might have a look at that at some point but I do think it much more fun to concoct the life story myself – that is the story! (I must admit though I am a little curious as to what the generator might come up with).

 

Quiet day today. Bitterly cold again too. Looking forward to seeing how Doctor Who pans out tonight. It is about the only programme I watch live now. Am interested to see how the story threads tied up with this series given it ends this evening. Naturally I am bound to take an interest in that.

I will be thinking soon about my end-of-year post for Chandler’s Ford Today. I usually wrap up with some festive stories, limericks etc. Great fun to do.

And I am pleased to say the latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now now – do see the link. The magazine is packed full of wonderful items and it is free! What is there not to like about that?

Am thrilled to see my two flash fiction collections showcased here as one of MFR’s authors. And this month I talk about Festivities. I share a festive related flash piece here and a big thanks to those who sent in flash pieces on the theme. They are a joy to read.

Screenshot 2021-12-05 at 17-01-01 Mom‘s Favorite Reads eMagazine December 2021

https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/12/04/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-december-2021/

Have been to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event in London today. It was lovely to see so many friends in person again. The ones who couldn’t make it – you were missed!

I’ll chat about this more for my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week but when I say the event started with a wonderful lunch at the Theodore Bulldog pub, you can guess what a fabulous time was had by all!

Many thanks for the great comments already in on Specialist Subject, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction.

On a more serious note, I will flag up I block anyone who posts on my threads asking for friendship. You make a friend request properly or not at all.

Usually I take the original post down but the latest comment came in on my post yesterday sharing the link to my story.

I thought this time I would take the chance to call this behaviour out. At best it is phishing and I don’t want to know. I’m here to talk about writing, share links to where I have work published etc.

I am a little amused so many widowed US generals and Army surgeons want to be my friend though!

Anyway, please be aware, folks.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I had a lovely surprise at my Slimming World group tonight. Back in 2017, I held a book signing at my local railway station for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I was chatting to someone tonight who remembered it.

I was hoping to do the same again for the launch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic last year but You Know What scuppered that. I do hope to have another launch at this location again at some point as the community people who are behind looking after the local stations are all for it and I found it worked really well.

It was easy to show people what flash fiction is by reading some and that did lead to sales. Also flash fiction is perfect for a quick read – when you’re out and about on the train or bus, well it would fit in very nicely there. But I was touched that my event was remembered. That means a lot.

It’s the start of the working week. It’s story time once again! Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube video called Clearing Up Again. Find out why Alison would never be surprised at a teddy bear’s picnic. (Alison is the name generated by a random name generator. I often use these to trigger ideas “outside of the box” for stories. I don’t recall using one for names before though I have used random noun, adjective, questions, and even number ones before).


The latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. My column here is about Festivities and I share various ways in how this theme can be used to produce excellent flash fiction stories, as well as sharing one I’ve written. And do check out the flash stories people wrote to this theme. There is a wonderful mix here. And it is a free read – there is never a time when that isn’t good news. If you like a good mix of articles and stories, check out Mom’s Favorite Reads.

 

Good to see flash fiction celebrated as part of the Bridge House Publishing celebration event today.

It was especially nice to catch up with Lynn Clement, author of The City of Stories, which was recently published by Chapeltown Books. I edited this one and interviewed Lynn for Chandler’s Ford Today but it was so nice to meet up in person once again.

And if you want to write but don’t know quite where to start, why not try the shorter forms of fiction? There are indie publishers out there who take collections and writing the shorter forms will help you hone your skills for longer narratives.

Goodreads Author Blog – Books Acrostic

B = Bound to be several styles of book to suit you in terms of genre and format.
O = Original, captivating stories of all word counts are out there waiting for you to discover them.
O = One book or a series? Your call and there are many wonderful examples of both.
K = Kindle – a great and cheap way of discovering authors new to you.
S = Stories – one of the very best things about humanity. Think of the imaginations behind them.

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Twitter Corner

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What Books Mean to Me, Bridge House Publishing, and Random Questions

Image Credit:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of one of my stories from The Best of CafeLit 10. I also took the photo of my books at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Not so cold today and Lady got to play with her pal, Coco, who is a very lovable Labradoodle.

Looking forward to sharing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I’ll be writing about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival and sharing why events like this matter (and not just to the authors taking part either). Link up on Friday.

Am putting finishing touches to my author newsletter too and that goes out tomorrow, 1st December. Can hardly believe we’re almost at December already. (And I do hope you have a good number of books on your wish list!).

Also, I was delighted to come up with a new idea for a flash fiction story when I was taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group recently. Have written it up, polished it, and submitted it. Now fingers crossed time!

It’s my turn once again on the More than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about What Books Mean to Me and the challenge here was to keep to the 500 words limit!

Mind you, it is a topic every writer could go on about at length. We’re inspired by what we read. The more we read the bigger our “inspiration net” from which to fish. And we’re supporting the industry we want to be part of – win-win there I think.

Screenshot 2021-11-29 at 19-35-05 What Books Mean to Me by Allison Symes

Brr… another cold day here. Am grateful for thick clothes, big coat, long scarf, and gloves for walking the dog. Glamorous? Err… no!

I’ll be talking about What Books Mean to Me in my blog for the Association of Christian Writers tomorrow. See link above. The challenge there was keeping that topic to 500 words! You can see how I did tomorrow when I put the link up.

Pleased to see more comments coming in on Moving Along, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction.

Am working on material for another Zoom talk in February and I’m almost there with material for my third flash fiction collection. It will need robust editing before I submit it but I am hoping to get that off by the spring of next year, earlier if possible. I am happy with the material in and of itself but I know thorough editing will sharpen what’s there and I enjoy that process.

But it is also a relief to know I’ve got the book “down”, the stories are a good mix, and editing will improve them still further. What’s not to like there? Do I wish it was a quicker process? Sometimes. But I know I need a decent break between writing the stories and then going back and editing them. Taking the time there has helped me enormously in the past to see more clearly what is working and what doesn’t. It then gives me my best chance of submitting the best I can to a publisher.

Screenshot 2021-11-26 at 19-21-09 Moving Along, by Allison Symes

Hope everyone is okay. Very stormy conditions in the UK today. Hampshire saw snow, sleet, rain, bitter cold, and strong winds for a lot of Saturday. Even Lady wasn’t that impressed. She isn’t usually fazed by the weather.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for sending out on 1st December. I share tips, prompts, video links and all sorts here. Head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if this sounds of interest.

I’ll be talking about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Many thanks once again to Lynn Clement for the recent two-part interview. It is always a joy to interview other writers for CFT as I always learn something interesting/useful to know (and often both).

The great thing with creative writing is that it is an ongoing process to find out what it is you like to write and then to try and get better at it. Good for the old imagination and the brain as a whole. And then there are all those competitions and markets to still try and crack… no excuse for becoming bored then!

Screenshot 2021-11-30 at 20-37-37 The Appeal of AnthologiesCreative writing is a joy

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on Saturday. It will be nice meeting up with Lynn Clement again, whose The City of Stories, has recently been published by Chapeltown Books. I recently interviewed Lynn to discuss flash fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Flash is a wonderful format for sharing on social media. For something to entertain without taking up too much of anyone’s time, it can’t be beaten. And it is easy to share at in-person events too. In the busyness of life, it is great to take time out for a very quick read indeed!

I’ve found it pays me to just get the story written and worry about the editing and word count later. Some flash pieces genuinely do work better at 250 words rather than 100 words, for example. It is only by getting the whole story down and giving myself breathing space to look at it properly later, I can see that yes, this needs to be kept in and that doesn’t.

Over time, you do develop an instinct for what will work better at a slightly longer word count and I’ve learned to trust that instinct when it kicks in.

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Back to my normal slot for story time. Hope you enjoy Going On. This one came about as a result of a question from a random question generator (what can you talk about for hours?). I’ve used the same question as the basis for my story for Friday Flash Fiction this week too. Good fun to do.


Am glad to report there’s a special offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon right now. See link below. And a big thank you to those who have picked up the Kindle version recently too. Much appreciated (and if you have time to leave a review, even better).

I’ve mentioned before I’m often using Sundays to produce new stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction respectively and I often use the random generators to trigger my ideas here.

Having a quick look at a random question generator, the question that cropped up was “what can you talk about for hours”? I don’t know yet if I will use that for my stories tonight but the thought struck me it would be a good question to ask your characters as you outline them. You are sure to find out more about what makes them tick by getting “them” to answer that. It should highlight some of their overall attitudes to life too.

For example, if the answer is “military history”, say, you could then dig deeper to find out why your character is fascinated by that. What does that reveal about them? Could an opponent use this against them in some way? And there’s your story outline as you think about the answers to those questions. Using one question to trigger others works for story outlining.

http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

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I often write festive flash fiction. My last Chandler’s Ford Today post of the year usually features some. And I have just written a piece and submitted it on a festive theme. Will report back it if it gets taken. I often share a festive dribble (50 words) or drabble (100) words on my Facebook pages too. (The 50 word ones also work well on Twitter).

I see it as a nice way to wrap up the old year and hopefully the tales will raise a smile or two. Naturally I keep the theme for thee stories light. I do avoid any kind of whimsy though. Even tales featuring Santa will have a bit of a bite to them (albeit a nice bite!).

And when I do write a fairytale kind of story, again apt for the rapidly approaching season, there will be a twist or a sense of irony in the story somewhere. Fairytales were never meant to be twee. I think stories with humour are often the best for getting any kind of message across anyway. It helps to make it palatable.

But what I want most for my festive fiction is for there to be a sense of fun about them. I certainly have fun writing them and I hope that comes across.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Appeal of Anthologies

Naturally I am a bit biased here as I’m honoured to have several of my stories appear in various anthologies over the years. It’s a pleasure to write short stories for these and even more of a pleasure when said tales are accepted.

But, regardless of that, I have always had a soft spot for anthologies. Why? I like to see them as a reading “mixed assortment”. Who ever said that just worked for biscuits or chocolates?! It works for books too!

What I get most from anthologies is the wonderful range of talent on offer. I get to read authors I might not have come across otherwise and, when the anthology is to a set theme, it is fascinating to see how so many different writers bring their own take to that topic.

I deliberately read anthologies, including flash fiction ones, between novels. They do act almost like a “starter meal” for my next longer read. Indeed, if I’m not sure which novel to read next, by the time I’ve come to the end of an anthology, I know which mood (and therefore genre) of novel I want to read next.

So do check the anthologies out. (They’re also useful for seeing if you like the work of an author new to you. If you like their short work, it is highly likely you will like their longer books).

And happy reading – short and long form!

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