Launches In Lockdown – New CFT Series

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. 

Author pics and book cover images kindly supplied by the authors themselves in my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Launches in Lockdown.

Tonight’s images here are supplied by me, Allison Symes, (!), #TeresaBassett, and #FrancescaTyer.

And whatever you write, being creative with stories, non-fiction etc, is always a good thing!

Whatever kind of writing you do, exercises help you improve what you do

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I have been so looking forward to writing and sharing this post. My new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Launches in Lockdown, starts now and will run for the next few weeks.

I talk to a wide variety of authors about their experiences launching a book in such trying conditions, what they did, what they felt worked well, what they learned from the kind of launch they were able to hold and so on.

Fascinating insights to come from writers from The Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books.

But first up tonight are:-

1. Me! I share my experiences from launching Tripping The Flash Fantastic in 2020.
2. Writers from Authors Reach, Richard Hardie’s publishing company. You may recall I interviewed him last week about the challenges he has faced as a writer and as a publisher. Tonight, firmly from the writing desk, I chat to #TeresaBassett and #Francesca Tyer about how they fared as they launched The Time Crystals and The Firestone respectively.

A huge thank you to all of my guests over the next few weeks for taking part in this. If ever I could be said to have written a zeitgeist series, I think this is it! And everyone shares wonderful tips and advice so plenty to take in here.

But for now I hope you enjoy Part 1.

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Nice to have sunshine today after yesterday’s storms. Lady appreciated it too (and playing with one of her other pals, Coco). The mud levels over the park are something else, mind you! Am so glad of my boots and suspect I shall be living in these until March at the earliest.

When is your best time to write? I mainly write in the late afternoons and evenings though if I can sneak in extra time to write, I’ll do so. I just need to start writing and away I go.

Best time for reading is bedtime though I love catching up with various writing magazines over lunch (and it was a real pleasure to discover a mention for Chapeltown Books in Writing Magazine yesterday).

Had a lovely time joining in with #writingchat yesterday. The topics are always interesting and make me thing. Learn a lot from it too. It is the main writing group I’m involved with on Twitter.

And last not but not least just a quick reminder my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow is Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown. (See above!). As well as sharing my experiences from last year, I talk to Authors Reach writers, Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking to authors from the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books. Plenty of insights and thoughtful tips tomorrow and in the other posts to come. Looking forward to sharing them all.

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Delighted to read a wonderful piece about my publishers, Chapeltown Books, in this month’s Writing Magazine. Check out the Writers’ News section at the back and the UK Book Market piece. I do like having a quick look through the magazine when it comes in so I can play the “spot the person I know” game on the letters page, the competition winners and runners-up etc. It is a bad month if I spot less than four! I then read the articles at lunch so I’ve only just come to this bit! (CafeLit and Bridge House get a mention too).

I was right on one thing today – Lady and I did get a soaking this morning though it has eased off a bit since. Winds are still high though.

Am still reading London – The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. It is a fascinating read (though it is a long one. Let’s just say you don’t want to drop the paperback on your foot, yet alone the hardback!). All sorts of stories tucked into a wonderful work of non-fiction. It’s easy to take in information when it’s presented in an entertaining way as it is here – and that’s something for all writers to aspire to, whether we write fiction, non-fiction or both.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I love about working with Chapeltown Books is being able to contribute to what appears on the book cover. That doesn’t always happen with publishers. I must admit I had a lot of fun picking suitable images from Pixabay for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic.

For FLTDBA I chose the rippling circles to indicate stories have impact. Even the smallest flash fiction tale has the impact to move a reader. Also many of my stories have characters who are not always are as they appear to be and the rippling circles to me indicated characters capable of being disturbing and causing ripples in life wherever they go.

For TTFF the castle with the lights on reflects the fact I have historical flash fiction pieces in this book. I also think there is a sense of mystery, the unknown, about that castle and who might live in it. Given I write a lot of fantasy/fairytale with bite type stories, that was an appropriate image for me to convey.

It did take me a while to work out a shortlist of suitable images but it is so worth taking time over. When your book finally reaches you and you take the first one out of your parcel, you want to be so proud of it. You want people to be drawn to and intrigued by your cover (and then hopefully by the contents too!).


Every so often I will write a flash tale in poetic form and some of these appeared in Tripping The Flash Fantastic. This is an interesting challenge as you need to get the story down and ensure it is a proper tale and then get the rhythm of the poem right. I am partial to rhyming poems (and even more so to a good limerick!) so I like that kind of pace in my verses, but I have learned that the language you use has to be natural to you and make sense to the story. Forced rhymes stand out.

But this kind of scrutinizing what you are writing and why and have I really chosen the best word to (a) suit the story and (b) suit the rhyming pattern I’ve set up does keep you on your toes and worth having a go at if you want to stretch yourself a bit.

The majority of my stories will always be in “straight” prose but a spot of variety every now and again does no harm! That is also why I sometimes write tales as acrostics. The nice thing with those is there is a visual element to them and so they work quite well for posts on Facebook, story videos and so on. Even better for the story videos are the one to two line flash stories as you don’t want anything to be too long here. Never give the reader/viewer a chance to lose interest!

Do I identify with my characters? Hmm… now there’s a leading question!

The answer is mostly! I know, I know, very helpful – not! So what do I mean by this?

Most of my characters I like. I can identify with them easily enough. But I don’t like all of them. I can think of a fair few I would not want to meet in life! So how I can write about characters like that convincingly?

I try to identify why my characters are the way they are and there is usually something I can latch on to there.

Understanding where your characters come from does not mean agreeing with their choices! Understanding where they come from means you will write their story with more conviction. I mean I can see how and why Gollum in The Lord of the Rings turned out the way he did. Do I agree with him? No!

Getting into your characters’ heads is not always a comfortable experience, indeed it often shouldn’t be (as my crime and horror writing colleagues would no doubt confirm!). Even with the characters you like, they can’t be goody-goody. You need to be able to see and understand what their flaws are and how those play out in your story.

You can have the most wonderful character but what will really make them come to life for your reader is when they fail or screw up in some way. Okay your character overcomes that and goes on to better things but it is that failure which drives that change to overcome and that is what fascinates a reader. I know it always fascinates me.

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Fairytales with Bite – The Problems with a Magical World

The major problem with a magical world is it is a magical world! Er… yes… but how come that is the issue? You want to write about a magical world after all!

True but the problems come in simply because if every character can just resolve problems by a wave of the old magic wand, either that world is going to come to a stalemate (as characters cancel other characters’ spells out) or it is going to blow itself apart with all that magic flying around. So there have to be some rules and that is where life gets more interesting. You as the author decide on what the rules will be and yes, that’s the fun bit! But you do need to be consistent with how you apply these.

If you decide certain species in your creation cannot do magic at all, that’s going to give them a major disadvantage against those you’ve decided can do magic. What’s to stop the latter from wiping the former out altogether? So every species then, whether magical or not, has to have something to ensure their survival.

Equally if everyone is going to be magical, what are the limits to ensure nobody can blow the world up by mistake?! Who sets the limits? Who polices them? Those with fewer powers will need to have some safeguards against those with much more (again to prevent them from being wiped out), so what will these be? Can magic, say, only be used in daylight hours? Can using magic drain people of energy so they have to be careful how much of it they use?

The other problem with a magical world is how is it going to treat neighbouring worlds/countries who are not magical? Will they treat them with contempt? Or will they ignore the non-magical kinds even when the latter could do with some assistance because they’re faced with, say, an illness devastating their people that they know the magical lot could help them overcome?

Plenty of food for thought there but I hope this highlights magic can cause as many problems as it seems to solve and that in turn can make for some interesting stories.

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This World and Others – Dilemmas to Solve when World Building

This post follows on from the Fairytales with Bite piece above. There are plenty of dilemmas to resolve when world building, including the use of magic as mentioned above. You also need to decide how much of the geography and history of the world your readers need to know to make sense of your story. Also how do you get that information across?

I like to get characters to show me things wherever possible so I make them look at things and show me what they think of what they are seeing. If I mention Character A takes a brief look at the ugly Civic Hall, you know they’re in a town, they don’t think much of the architecture, and are clearly looking for something of more interest to them and whatever their quest may be. All of that in one sentence too!

There will be certain things you need to spell out to a reader. For example, if your characters need oxygen masks to be able to go outside, you need to mention that early on (and the reason why – it might not be an obvious one!). As the story develops, readers will get used to “seeing” your characters with these masks on and you won’t need much if any description later.

But I think it is a question here of knowing broadly what your story is going to be and from that working out how much your readers need to know. From there you can work out how to dripfeed that information into the story so readers pick it up almost unconsciously. No need for reams of description which can put people off.

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Twitter Corner

 

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Behind The Scenes

Image Credit:   As ever, unless stated, most of the images were from Pixabay or Pexels. A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for their images. Also thanks to Richard Hardie for supplying images related to his and Francesca Tyer’s events for World Book Day.  (And yes it has been a busy few days!).

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

Yes, count them, not one but two CFT posts this week.

First up, the start of a new mini-series.

I’m delighted to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The #ChameleonTheatreGroupChandlerFord share interviews showing what life is like behind the stage. They share some fabulous insights into directing amongst other things in Part 1 (see link).

This series will run at intervals over the next few weeks. Many thanks to The Chameleons for wonderful material and the photos, as ever.

I’m looking forward to their next production, Spring Quartet, in April.

 

I’m always interested in behind the scenes looks at life, whether it is to do with creative writing or amateur theatre. So it is a joy to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today where The Chameleon Theatre share their insights into life behind the stage.

Why the interest on my part? Well, partly it IS because I’m nosey (!) but that’s a good thing. Why? Writers have to be interested in what makes people tick. Knowing that helps us to develop convincing motivations for our characters and make their portrayal that much more believeable.

I’m also interested in behind the scenes looks because it opens up worlds that are new to me. That’s a good thing for increasing knowledge and understanding, I think. Understanding is also crucial in creative writing. You also get to understand yourself better I think.

And now for my second CFT post this week!

Am pleased to share a bonus CFT post this week. Every so often CFT has Local Author News slots. The last one was for me when I appeared on #WendyHJones‘s excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show talking about all things related to flash fiction.

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-writing-and-marketing-show/e/67280384

Up tonight is a piece with news from local YA author, #RichardHardie, and debut Authors Reach novelist #FrancescaTyer. They share news of their World Book Day eventsrecently. Francesca’s debut novel The Firestone was recently published.

Hope you enjoy. (Oh and remember the best things you can do to support local authors you know are to go to their events where possible and review their books in the usual places).

(My normal CFT post link will be up tomorrow where I start the first of a mini series from #ChameleonTheatreCompany-Chandler’s Ford. They share insights from life behind the stage. More tomorrow).

 

My CFT post this week is Part 1 of a mini series which will be spread out over a few weeks. As you know, I often review plays put on by our excellent local amateur theatre company, Chameleon Theatre Company.

They have recently been putting together some mini interviews which give a fascinating insight into life behind the stage. With their blessing (obviously!), I have compiled some of these interviews and Part 1 will be up on Friday.

Many thanks to the Chameleons for their wonderful material and photos and I look forward to sharing this post and the others to come.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What fascinates you most about a character?

For me, it has to be their motivation. I’ve got to know why my character thinks it is okay to act the way they are, especially when they’re the villain! It doesn’t mean I have to agree with them though…

The LEAST important thing for me is knowing what they look like, funnily enough. I find once I can hear their voice and know their motivations, physical appearance comes to me then. Mind, I’m not motivated by physical appearance myself. After all the best con men often wear a suit!

I love stories and books that “just” entertain. Yes, sure, I like those that give good messages too but there is a lot to be said for sheer escapism value, especially when life is more challenging than usual.

Let’s just say I probably won’t be reading much in the way of dystopian stories for a while. (It is definitely not a good sign when you can get your requirements there by tuning into the news…).😕

So how to go about being “just” entertaining? As ever, for me, it is all in the characters. I do enjoy setting up a character knowing I’m going to be throwing all manner of things at them to knock them right back down again (and ideally to make me and potential readers laugh). Okay, okay, nobody said a writer had to be nice to their characters. Indeed, it is better when we’re not as any crime or horror writer would also tell you!

I love those characters who deserve being knocked back a bit too. You know the kind of pompous character who needs bringing down a peg or several. The ultimate fall guy in many ways! (Well, they are for me).

For humorous prose especially I do need to get a sense that the writer enjoyed creating their characters. I believe something of that fun does come through in the writing.

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How difficult do you find coming up with a suitable title for your story?

I know I need a “peg” from which to hang my story so I always have a working title. Most of them don’t change and suit my purposes just fine. Sometimes though a better title idea will occur as I draft my tale and that’s fine too. I just swap to the better idea.

I’ve mentioned using phrases and proverbs before and I often use them as themes, but don’t overlook them for use as potential titles. I’ve used a few that way.

You can also see them as a way to get started on a story if, like me, you need some kind of peg to help you get on your way with a draft. I think I have a bit of a mental block over any story that doesn’t have a title to it! There’s some unconscious thought at play here which associates no title with no story. I can’t be having with that so I put in a title to get me started. Nothing is set in stone after all but that is a great thing about a draft. You know it’s not going to be the final version. I’ve found it helpful to take that attitude with titles too.

Fairytales With Bite – Wishes

One of my favourite things about fairytales is when wishes are granted. The greedy never get away with theirs precisely because they always ask for the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

I love that aspect of things. I was very conscious even as a kid there was so much unfairness and cruelty in the world. The idea of a fairy godmother turning up to put things right for their ill-treated goddaughter always appealed (though I still wonder why Cinderella’s one turned up so late in the day. Come on, she could’ve helped Cinders a lot sooner. There is only so much domestic drudgery that could be claimed to be good for the soul and Cinders had gone well past that point when her fairy godmother deigned to make an appearance).

So in the grand scheme of things, what would your characters wish for and why? You are their fairy godmother as you bring them to life on the page. So what attributes would you grace them with and why? What would your characters strive for and why?

Do you think your characters are worthy of achieving their objectives? They don’t have to be. Villains are never worthy but should have understandable reasons for being what they are. What do you want your characters to be and why?

If your characters are allowed wishes, how will these turn the story and in what direction? Wishes being granted but proving to not be all that the character wanted could make a good story too.

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This World and Others – World Essentials

For me, what I want to see in a created fictional world would be:-

1. A system of government (even if it is not the point of the story. There should be some sort of reference. For one thing, a reader would want to know if the main character was one of the governing or one of the governed).

2. What characters eat and drink and how those things are produced. A line or two is usually enough to convey that. When a character is on a journey, what food do they take with them? Where did they get it?

3. A sense of where the world is going. In The Lord of the Rings there is no doubt the world there is in turmoil and every part of that world is affected by it.

4. What your characters make of the world they’re in. They don’t have to like it!

5. How is transport organised? Does everyone have access to the same kind of transport? Is there a “them and us” situation here?