How Has Your Summer Been?

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

ADVANCE NEWS:  Delighted to say I’ll be sharing a platform via Zoom with Gill James of Bridge House Publishing and, fellow flash fiction writer, Dawn Kentish Knox on Saturday 26th September 2020 between 3 and 4 pm UK time. More details further down and I will flag it up again nearer the time. We’ll be talking about the writing life and our books and working with a publisher so plenty to enjoy. Tickets for the event are FREE but you do need to register. Link also below.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My post for CFT this week is called How Has Your Summer Been?

This could’ve been a short post – two words ending in “awful”. 😄It’s not, honest!

I look back at the summer and share highlights including my video for the Waterloo Arts Festival in July, which includes part of my winning story, Books and the Barbarians.Hope you enjoy.

Reviewing the summer, as I have done for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, is the kind of fun post I like to write every now and then. It is a good opportunity to look back and recall the positives as well as acknowledge the negatives.

This summer has been the strangest one I’ve known (and hope I’m likely to know. I do fervently hope next year is much closer to normal than where we are now.

I know people talk about the new normal and there will be that, but I also believe in the truth of the saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. I want what was good from pre-lockdown to come back/remain and my post reflects this.

 

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EVENT NEWS – 26TH SEPTEMBER 2020

ADVANCE NEWS and bonus post from yours truly.

I’ll be taking part in a special Zoom event on September 26th from 3 to 4 pm (UK time) with Gill James (Bridge House Publishing, Chapeltown Books, Cafelit) and Dawn Kentish Knox, fellow flash fiction writer.

Link for FREE tickets below and the blurb for the event also.

Eventbrite link for Bridge House Publishing event on 26th September 2020.

Some of our writers will read from their work and tell us about their life as a writer. We shall give some insight into the publishing process. There will be free gifts for all attendees.

(Dawn is in the middle of the top picture when you click on the link and her The Great War is such a moving example of what flash fiction can do and be. Always happy to recommend that!).

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Boy, did the heavens open at about 5 pm. So glad I didn’t go out with the dog until 6 pm! Still plenty of idiots not allowing for flooding on the road etc and driving without a thought for anyone else. Mind, I guess they’d do that anyway regardless of what the weather is. Keep well, drive safe, and avoid the huge puddles, everyone!

I’ve TWO CFT posts to share with you this week. My usual spot tomorrow night is my review of the summer (and there are good points, honest! I also get to share my Waterloo Arts Festival video so if you would like to hear an extract from my winning story, Books and the Barbarians, you can do so!).

Meanwhile, I do have a stories page on my website so if you fancy a quick read do pop over (see link below). I hope to add more stories to this page in due course. One lovely thing about flash fiction is it can make a great advert for the other writing you do and it is easy to share.

My second CFT post is a Local Author Post with YA author, Richard Hardie (Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords). He has special news to share and that post will go out on Saturday.

Also on Saturday will be my spot for the Association of Christian Writers’ blog page, More than Writers. I’ll be looking at Creating Characters which I hope you’ll find useful. I look forward to sharing that.

Above my desk I have a framed print which reads “Don’t give up on your dreams”. I’ve found that very encouraging and no doubt will continue to do so, but if I could add a modifier to it, I would put in something like “it’s perfectly okay to change your dreams if you need to!”.

I say that because I changed direction with my writing to focus on flash fiction (and I am so pleased I did that!).

Just because one dream doesn’t work out quite as you thought, that’s no reason to think ANY dream of yours is bound to fail.

I have unpublished work that I hope at one point might see the light of day somewhere (especially after work on it!) but I will not fret much if it doesn’t happen. (I would like to say I wouldn’t fret at all but writers always have something that niggles a bit and it is usually an unpublished MSS they would like to do something with! It can haunt you…).

Why? Because my dream was to be a writer and then to be a published one. I hadn’t anticipated it would be in short form fiction but that’s fine and it came as a pleasant surprise.

I would say it was more important to be open to trying new forms of writing as you may well discover an avenue that you hadn’t known existed and who knows where that might take you?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

F = Fun to write and read.
L = Length of story may be short but the impact is powerful.
A = Adjectives are made redundant as you find better choices of word to suit your word count limit! (This is a good thing. Makes you think about word choice more).
S = Story. It is all about the story. Something has to happen that a reader wants to find out about.
H = Hero/heroine – oh yes. But the number of characters in a flash tale are limited. You have to focus on one or two at most AND the most important point.

F = Fabulous settings and worlds are possible.
I = Imagination can be set free. The limits of flash fiction encourage you to think outside the box more. Just where can you set your characters? Anywhere, actually!
C = Characters. They are your stars. Flash fiction has to be character led, even if that character is “just” your narrator. Monologues can be effective flash fiction pieces.
T = Time. The time frame in a flash tale has to be limited but having a framework, I’ve always found, encourages creativity. Just what can you do inside that frame?
I = Intensity. Flash focuses sharply. You are looking at one/two characters and what happens to them in a short span. So a flash tale is intense and can pack a powerful punch emotionally precisely because of its short word count.
O = Originality. I’ve found writing flash encourages this. You learn to think differently. What can I get my character to be/to do in this short space? What reaction do I want to trigger in a reader and how can the character act in such a way so that happens? Your character can be in any point in time and space, can be any species you care to invent etc. There’s a lot of potential for originality there!
N = Nothing new under the sun? Maybe. The very short form of story writing has been around for a long time. Think about Aesop’s Fables, Jesus’s parables in the Bible etc. We just call it flash fiction now. So what can you do with your flash fiction writing? Have fun with it. Explore what YOU can bring to the table here.

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I’ve written a mixture of story moods and word count lengths for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, as I did with From Light to Dark and Back Again.

For TTFF though I’ve written a flash story in diary form for the first time, which was great fun to do, though it does come in at the upper limit for flash. It was good to experiment though and I do love the characters in this particular tale, especially the feisty Rose – and that’s all I can say for now!

I loved putting the collection together for Chapeltown Books. I like a mixture of moods in what I read so it is only natural that should be reflected in what I write.

 

 

Flash fiction might be stories in miniature but they still need to have a proper beginning, middle, and ending. A successful flash fiction story leaves the reader feeling as if no more could be said.

I like to think of flash fiction as precision writing as you need to select words carefully to make the most of the available word count but it does help with any other writing you do.

The habit of selecting words carefully carries over and that is so useful. So often the first choice of word is not necessarily the best one for what you are trying to say. It’s natural to reach for the “obvious” when something with more depth is what is needed to make your story become something special.

That doesn’t mean writing purple prose though. Clarity is everything. Think specifics.

For example:-

Harriet wore a coat that belonged to her grandmother. Granny always said a woman ought to have an outfit or something to match.

Not a lot of info there. Match what exactly?

How about:-

Harriet wore a red coat that belonged to her grandmother. Granny always said a woman ought to have an outfit or something to match.

Better. Have got a little more detail here and we now know Granny clearly liked bright colours and matching accessories. No subdued shades either. That may well reveal something about Granny and Harriet.

Better still:-

Harriet wore a scarlet coat that belonged to her grandmother. Granny always said a scarlet woman ought to have an outfit or something to match.
Allison Symes – 26th August 2020

Now that’s better! (And doesn’t Granny sound an interesting character!).

 

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Fairytales With Bite –

Which Fairytale Character Should You Be Wary Of?

I know, I know. Look out for the witch in the big, black pointed hat with a wand aimed at you. Yes, you should watch for her. But also look out for the disgruntled fairy godmother with a penchant for spinning wheels and very sharp needles.

Generally though I’d look out for the quiet characters in fairytales. They’re either going to end up as the unexpected hero/heroine or are a remarkably sneaky villain. And always look out for anyone who has a reason to get revenge because you just know they’re going to do so.

I’d also watch out for anyone who says they can do a little magic. Why? Because they’re either lying through their teeth and are experts OR they’re telling the truth and could kill everyone with their incompetence. (Think The Sorcerer’s Apprentice here).

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This World and Others – Time

How is time going to work on the fictional world you set up? Will it be the same as we have here or can it run backwards? Or does it run faster or slower than here? What are the impacts on the characters of all of this?

Think about how time is measured. Are your characters’ lives dictated by time (and by implication mortality)? If any of your characters are not worried about time, why is that? Are they immortal and what are the downsides to that? (There will be some and do see Doctor Who’s The Five Doctors for more on that. An excellent storyline!).

Is anyone able to control time? Anyone who could do that would hold a great deal of power so what would they do with that?

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Walkies and Interviews!

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated. The ones of Hiltingbury Flower Meadow were taken by me!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is called Walkies and I look at the joys of local walking and living with collies. I am also pleased to share pictures taken by me this week of our beautiful wildflower meadow at the Hiltingbury Recreation Ground. It is absolutely stunning and it always cheers me to see such brightness. See if you can spot the poppy by the way!

I also look at how walking dogs has helped me. I did think I would get loads of ideas for stories and blog posts when I was out walking a dog. My sum total of ideas that have come to me doing this is precisely zero!

I’m too busy keeping an eye on the dog, particularly my young mischief, Lady, but walking her (and my previous two) relaxes me, gets me out into the fresh air, and I come back, refreshed, having had a break from the writing desk. That is important. Tiredness is the biggest factor, I think, in stifling any kind of creativity.

Hope you enjoy the post.

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Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, Val Penny, for hosting me on her blog today (9th July 2020). It was great fun to take part! Hope you enjoy.

Amongst other topics, I talk about my writing routine and share some tips I’ve found useful over the years. I also talk about how I got into flash fiction writing. It wasn’t something I anticipated when I first started out but it is easily my happiest “writing accident”!’

I also talk about what I like and dislike about marketing. See what you think – do you agree with my choices?

Transforming Communities Full

My CFT post this week will be called Walkies! I share the joys of walking with Lady during lockdown, the latest pics of our beautiful wildflower meadow, which is looking stunning right now, and share how walking has helped me. Link up on Friday.

I did think when I first became a dog owner 15 years ago, I would be able to think up ideas for stories while out walking Gracie, then Mabel, and now Lady. Not a bit of it! Haven’t thought of one story idea at all walking them!

Mind you, I have made many wonderful dog owner pals and Lady especially has made a few four-legged friends too.

What walking the dog does do though is enable me to unwind. Ideas for stories are far more likely to come to me when I’m in a relaxed state after getting back home again. And of course there are plenty of opportunities for practising observational skills. A particular colour of a front door might strike me as nice for Character A’s cloak in a flash fiction story – that kind of thing.

Never despise the little details! They may come in handy in a story one day.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been a good week with another flash piece up on Cafelit (Rotten Day) and my interview on Val Penny’s blog post (see next piece down for the link to this).

Oh and a bit of promotional news – From Light to Dark and Back Again is currently on offer on Amazon. So if you fancy quirky fiction at a discounted price, do check the link out. Reviews are always welcome too.

My favourite story in FLTDBA? Hmm… tricky one though I do have a very soft spot for Calling the Doctor which you can check out for free on the book trailer. (See below!).

Whatever you read or write this weekend, have a good one!


A big thanks to Val Penny for interviewing me on her blog today. (9th July 2020). See link for more but one of the topics I discuss here is how I got into flash fiction writing at all.

Let’s just say it wasn’t planned! Let’s also say I am very pleased with how it has turned out and hope to keep going with it for as long as possible!

On a side note, interviews like this really make you think about what you’re doing and why and where your writing journey has brought you to date. That’s no bad thing. And interviewing your characters can make you as their creator think about what they’re doing in your story and why. It’s a good way to see who is really necessary to your tale and who isn’t.


Much as I love listening to classical music when writing, I haven’t used it in my stories. The only time I use it is when trying to pick something what would work well in book trailers or when I am creating videos of flash tales to put on my website.

Music can set mood of course and I think I would rather my characters did that directly through what they say and do. (And isn’t it always more interesting when what they do goes against what they say?! Hypocrites are always good fun to write stories for!).

 

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Fantastic has to come into it somewhere, usually in the form of magic being performed, usually to help the deserving.
A = Animals often play a crucial role and sometimes at least prove to be more intelligent than the humans in the story.
I = Inventiveness can come into the stories – you wouldn’t usually think of turning a pumpkin into a coach would you?!
R = Realism? Well maybe. Fairytales can show a great deal of truth about human nature, not all of it is pleasant either, but it is accurate.
Y = Your fairy godmother awaIts… hmm… not necessarily. The character often doesn’t know they’ve got one until they show up. Best not to assume here!
T = Tension between the forces of good and evil is a given in this world.
A = Animated versions of the tale are generally good but some of them can’t be as originally written given the latter are often more violent!
L = Love and its importance is a key theme. Not just the romantic kind either. Think of Hansel and Gretel and their care for one another. Also I thought Gerta was a magnificent character in The Snow Queen with her commitment to rescuing Kay. (And I so loved the idea that the girl was rescuing the boy here).
E = Elephants! Have always had a very soft spot for Dumbo. Always will do. I see it as a classic film fairytale.
S = Stories. The classic fairytales have very strong storylines behind them. Wrong is righted. Evil is confronted. Good prevails. Not always a happy ending though. And I love fairytales for all of those reasons.

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This World and Others –

Questions to Ask Your Characters

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying). So what to ask then as part of your outline?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).

Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).

Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

 

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Radio News and Preparation

Image Credit:  As ever, images are from Pixabay or Pexels if I’ve not said otherwise.

RADIO NEWS

RADIO NEWS: I’m thrilled to say I’ll be on Chat and Spin Radio tonight at about 9.35 pm TONIGHT (UK time) – 19th May 2020 – talking about my great writing love – flash fiction. See www.chatandspinradio.com

AND if you like their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chatandspin, you’re in with a chance of winning a £20 shopping voucher too.

I’ll be talking more about this later in the week, especially when I have a link to share!

Now for actors you say “break a leg” as a kind of good luck thing (though I know it sounds anything but!). What do you say for this? Don’t lose your voice, I guess!😀

I hope to share the link to the show in my next blog on Friday this week.

Image from Chat and Spin Radio

The above ties in with my next post too!

Facebook – General

Preparation is key for so much in writing. For my stories, as you know I outline my characters. It helps me work out whether the character I’ve planned really does suit the story I’ve got in the back of my head.

A feisty character needs the material to suit! A usually gentle character needs to show what she is made of when push comes to shove.

Preparation includes getting the story down and specifically allowing enough time away from it to be able to edit it properly. This is particularly relevant as I’ll shortly be working on final edits for Tripping the Flash Fantastic but the time away from it will help me take in and process my editor’s comments the way they need to be processed!

It also means allowing enough time for final polishing before still getting a story in ahead of a final deadline. I got into the habit of taking about a week off any official deadline for a competition and making MY date the day by which I’d get my tale off. This comes from the days of sending everything in by good old snail mail but it is still a good habit to develop now email submissions are the norm.

I’ve found it pays to plan ahead a bit. Knowing roughly what I’m doing when and why has helped me get more done.

Oh and the don’t give up advice below is something I’ve found useful though I do wish the picture came with an extra bit. It IS okay to change direction if you want to – after all that is how I discovered flash fiction!

 

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Always plenty of space to fill!  Pixabay

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Most of my dialogue writing is for my longer flash fiction tales (i.e. those over 750 words usually) and short stories (1500 to 1700 or thereabouts). I do enjoy writing dialogue. What I have to watch is not writing conversational “ping-pong” just because I can and I love doing it. It all has to be relevant to moving the story on. I always find editing dialogue the hardest to do but my golden rule is that it has to be so important the story can’t work without it.

I love the moment when I know I’ve got my characters right as it is then that I know instinctively the dialogue they’re coming out with is exactly what someone like them would say. It’s a good feeling. And when the words are really flowing it can feel a bit like taking dictation.

Now where’s my notepad?😆😆

 

 

Will have further publication news to share fairly soon so looking forward to that. Over the course of a week, I try to ensure I’ve got at least one story written, one resting, and I like to know what I’m going to be writing next too. I like to mix up the flash fiction and short story writing too.

My favourite part of writing? Difficult to say but I do love it when the characters come to life and the story just flows out. Mind you, I am always relieved to have a first draft done. It proves to me there WAS a story there. The editing refines and sharpens that story and I do like that element. I always overwrite but that’s okay. All unnecessary elements are ruthlessly struck out later.

But I learned a long time ago that, for me, I’ve got to write the story first and edit it later. I can’t edit as I go. I’ve got to know there is something there to edit first.

 

HONOURABLE MENTION!

Many thanks to Lance Greenfield, a fellow Swanwicker, for his honourable mention of yours truly on his blog, Write to Inspire. To find out more, follow the link and his post for 18th May 2020! All images of Swanwick were taken by me last year.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to be talking about flash fiction on Chat and Spin Radio later this evening. Will talk more about this later in the week when I have a link back to share. If you can tune in live, I’m on at about 9.35 pm. Links up above and I hope to share the link for the show itself in my next post here on Friday.

And yes I am always pleased to wave the flag for flash fiction as a writing form!

Oh and I am preparing this with just under an hour to go before I’m on. Nervous and looking forward to it all at the same time!

 

It was fun writing yesterday’s post about one-liners for well known characters (see below and see this as a bit of a tease!), but it is not a bad idea to be able to sum up your people succinctly.

When I’m planning characters for new flash fiction, I know what their major trait is and how that is going to help them or, even more often, land them right in the proverbial mire.

So I will think of something like rebellious fairy, has soft spot for kittens, and that soft spot is exploited by her boss in an attempt to get said rebellious fairy to do as she is told for once. So that makes for a good one line summary of the story.

Character summary? Rebellious fairy, soft spot for kittens.

And away I go.

 

 

 

Just for some fun, how about some one-liners for well known characters?

Cinderella – I could really do with a trip to the shoe shop.

Dracula – I have the devil’s own job getting an appointment at the dentists, can’t imagine why.

Snow White – I’ve gone right off apples for some reason.

Hansel and Gretel – well, yes, okay, maybe we should have got a sat nav.

I love using one-liners in flash fiction and often end a story with them. They’re great for humorous tales and are a fab way of ending a story on an upbeat “oomph” moment.

 

I don’t use a lot of dialogue in my flash fiction. That’s partly due to word count but mainly because I tend to focus a lot on telling you one character’s story. For that, I prefer to show you their thoughts and attitudes as “they” narrate the story.

I do use dialogue more in the short story competitions (1500 words or so) as there is more room and it is lovely being able to have more characters in the tale.

But I do love the pithy, precise nature of flash fiction writing. For me it is apt that my characters are direct to the reader in “their” commentary.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What I Look For In A Good Book

Regardless of genre, what I look for first in a good book is a gripping lead character. I don’t necessarily have to like them (!) but I do need to be intrigued by them enough to make me want to read their story.

This applies to non-fiction too if you accept the “narrative voice” of the text is a kind of character too. Does that voice grip me enough to keep on reading or does it send me to sleep? (Never a good sign that!).

Once I’ve finished the book, is it going to be one of those I enjoyed reading but won’t read again? Or will it reach the dizzy heights of being one of those absolute favourites I happily turn to time and again when I need them back in my life for a bit?

I don’t know about you but I do like light reading anyway and I especially like it now. I am not going to be reading the doom and gloom merchants (I can get that from watching the news).

I know the reality of what is out there but it doesn’t mean I have to read about it.

My reading is about entertainment and escapism and those things shouldn’t be despised.

So my criteria for what is a good book does boil down to its entertainment value and that is down to the character portrayal.

Oh and many thanks to #JimBates for a great conversation on this post! See the Goodreads link itself for that.

 

 

 

May Memories

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels supplied the images unless stated otherwise. I am glad to say I’ve contributed some pictures to the CFT post this week!

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

May is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. My CFT post, May Memories, takes a look at that and I also share memories of my grandmother who was also called May. I also share what is likely to remain the strangest deep memory recall I’ve had.

I give a round-up of my writing news as well this month and take great pleasure in sharing some gorgeous pics from Pixabay celebrating May (photos of roses always do that for me!). Some of the photos are from my garden too.

Hope you enjoy.

 

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but May Memories this week is one with personal recollections in it. I have very fond memories of my grandmother May and I’ve always liked it as both a name and a month. I also liked the old TV comedy series From May to December starring Anton Rodgers. Anyone remember that?

TV funnily enough has not yet sparked a story idea off in me. I tend to get my ideas from writing exercise prompts, proverbs (which give me a theme and often a title), thoughts about characters I could give a life to and so on and what would I do with them if I did write them up etc.

 

I’ll be sharing May Memories in my CFT post this week. It is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. (THE favourite is March, my birthday month so there!)😀

I share some personal recollections, a spooky (to me at least) deep memory recall experience – both of which are connected with my grandmother May – and a round up of my writing news for the month. We’re just coming up to the halfway point and it has been quite a busy month already!

But that is an encouragement to (a) keep going and (b) see what else I can get out there/get published etc. I’ve found that whenever I have anything published, it spurs me on to see what else I can do. When I have things rejected (or just not placed in a competition), that spurs me on to look at the story again and see what I can do to improve its chances when I sent it out into the big, bad world again. As I do.

Link up for CFT tomorrow.

PS As you will no doubt tell from the picture below, I can’t wait until I can get to the hairdressers again!

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Yesterday, I got to make my first video. It’s in connection with the Waterloo Arts Festival and I hope to be able to share it (or the link) later on after the Zoom WAF this year.

It was good fun to do and got me out of my comfort zone for a bit. Later, I also hope to put this up on my website and maybe do a couple of others where I narrate some of my flash fiction. Flash is great for this kind of thing. Doesn’t take long. Makes for good download times too!

I prepared notes. There was no way I could do something like this off the top of my head. Even if I could, I don’t think it would be a good idea anyway. I’ve long found preparation is key for so much in writing, even if you don’t always use all of the material you’ve drafted. (Some of it may come in handy as website material later).

Now on to my CFT post and this week I’ll be sharing some May Memories including writing news from me. Link up on Friday.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring writing wise!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction is a great vehicle for reading out loud precisely because it cannot take too long to do! Having made a video for the Waterloo Arts Festival event, I hope at some point to do more to put on my website as it occurred to me this would be another way of sharing stories online.

And I must admit I still love being read TO in the form of audio books. Much as I love reading to myself, there is something special about someone else telling you a story. So if you’re wondering what to read next, maybe it should be a case of what you’re going to listen to next?

Oh and a big thanks to Ana Coelho for the pic of me reading from my The Professional at last year’s Waterloo Arts Festival. (And also to Paula Readman for the Cafelit 8/Nativity shot, which is one of my favourite photos. Hey, I’m not going to pretend to be unbiased here!).

 

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Does classical music influence what I write at all?

No! What it does do is relax me and when I’m relaxed, I’m more productive so win-win here.

I have found in the past other types of music can alter my mood and therefore what I write and that can be used knowingly and deliberately but you do have to be aware of it happening. I once tried to write a murder scene in a longer short story when a cute love song came on. Threw me completely!

So classical it is and will remain!

 

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I chose Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens as the music for the FLTDBA book trailer. I’ve always loved the piece (I got to know it through the Jonathan Creek detective series which used it as the theme) and I wanted quirky music to go with my quirky fiction!

The music also reflected the theme of From Light to Dark and Back Again pretty well too. The lovely thing is I am a great fan of classical music and I’m sure I can think of something suitable for Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course. It’s not as if I’m going to run out of composers or anything…!

 

Fairytales with Bite – Three Words

For fiction writing, you could look at catchphrases for your characters.

Catchphrases have to be memorable to work, also you need not to get tired of them (and that’s even more true for your reader!), and so are best kept short to help achieve those points. I would opt for a three-worder here.

If your characters were limited to three words as their pet phrase, what would they be and why? (I suspect the most famous one here would be I’ll Be Back from The Terminator). But what would you choose for your creations?

Would your pet phrase match your character? That is, if they’re a feisty character, would their phrase reflect that? Or would they downplay that side of things a bit (especially if they wanted to put off an enemy)? Would they be sarcastic or would their phrase be a cover for what they are really like?

Food for thought, I hope. The important point is to know who your characters are, how they would speak and sound (to a reader) and, if a catchphrase would be appropriate for your characters, to choose one that fits them well.

 

This World and Others –

Questions to Ask your Characters

This is by no means a definitive list. I’m sure you’ll think of other questions to ask!

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying).

So what to ask then as part of your outline?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).

Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).

Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Does fear of or respect for others hold you back from achieving your objectives? How do you feel about this?

What are you like under pressure?
Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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Mixing Things Up

Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from the fabulous Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today looks at why mixing things up is so important for writers. I share some thoughts and tips as to how to do so too. Hope you find it useful and enjoyable. I also look at the advantages and disadvantages of writing to set and open themes for competitions. (And good luck if you’re entering any soon!).

Mixing Things Up is the theme and title for my latest CFT post of course but it would also make a great theme for stories!

How would your characters mix things up? Would they do this out of maliciousness or from a sense of mischief? What would the consequences be for them and for others?

Asking what the consequences would be is a great way of developing your story outline! To quote Isaac Newton: “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.”

Good thought for story writing too (though I doubt if he would have thought of it that way!).

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Am loving listening to Danse Macabre on Classic FM as I type this (on 19th March 2020). This is the theme used on my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I think of it as “my song”! 😆😆 See below!

I write with classical music on and find it relaxing. When I’m relaxed I find I write more. So that’s added reason to relax then! I don’t know quite what it is about classical music for it to have this effect. I do know other types of music simply don’t do the same thing – for me at least.

My post on CFT tomorrow will be Mixing Things Up and I will share some thoughts as to how a writer can do that and, just as importantly, why it matters.

 

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I’m glad the one-liner post the other day went well! The films were:-

The Italian Job (with the wonderful Michael Caine).

Carry On Cleo (with the wonderful Kenneth Williams. He had a marvellous narrative voice too).

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (With the wonderful Bob Hoskins). Bear in mind this film was made before CGI and he was acting to “air”. The cartoon figures were added in later including the anatomically impossible Jessica Rabbit!

It was great rediscovering The Great Escape a few months ago. Fabulous and true story, well acted, and a great score to it too.

Favourite film adaptation of a book for me is and remains The Lord of The Rings. No surprises there…

And my own favourite one liner from a story?

Probably “Still as I told Mother, if this is what I can do when I’m honest, just think of the possibilities when I’m not!”

For the rest see my Making The Grade in From Light to Dark and Back Again!

Allison Symes and published works

Allison Symes and some of her published works. Image by Adrian Symes

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Used one of the prompts in the Prompts book by Gill James to write a flash tale that I have now submitted. It was good fun to write.

My week so far has mainly been on non-fiction work so it was good to get some fiction writing in. That should be my main focus for the rest of this week now.

Will have more news on another book but will save that for tomorrow night’s FB posts. (Well, we all need something to look forward to at the moment, right?!).

 

The one thing I hope to come out of the current crisis is that people read more and keep the love of reading going when things eventually calm down again.

Reading is a wonderful way to relax and for writers it is the flip side of what we do. To write well, you need to read well. (It’s also a bit daft to say the least NOT to support the industry you want to be in so go on get those books in, you know you want to!).

I love flash for its immediate impact, the longer short story for being able to expand on characterisation, and the novel for depth of plot etc. And the great thing with reading? There’s no limit on what you can read in terms of genre, length, topic etc. So go on, get stuck in!

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Do you find it easier to write the ending of a story or its beginning?

I usually know when I’m brainstorming ideas whether a line I jot down is going to make a superb opening (I hope!) or a stunning finish. I then work out ideas from there and often use a spider diagram to help me get to the better storyline. (It is very rarely the first one I come up with!).

Sometimes the line can be open to being placed at either end of the story (and I love those). On my To Do list is to try to write two consecutive stories where the finishing line of one becomes the opening line of another. That could be fun to try (and good luck if you get to do that before I do! More than ever especially at the moment, it is important to still have fun and enjoy life as much as possible. Enjoying your story writing can be a key part of that).

 

Fairytales with Bite – The Downside of Magic

I’ve mentioned before that I like stories which show the downside of magic.

Firstly, something that powerful has to have disadvantages and would be prone to misuse/abuse (as with any kind of political power etc), though great stories come from exploring that.

Secondly, I love characters who use their wit and intelligence to get out of trouble in any genre and I want to see that in fairytales and fantasy too. Where magic is used, I want it to be appropriate.

I also believe there should be a downside to using it even when the intention is good. Something that powerful ought to have an effect on the user. For me, that’s realistic. I’ve always loved the section in The Lord of the Rings where Frodo offers Galadriel the Ring of Power because he clearly thinks the wretched thing would be best in the hands of someone good who would only use it for good (that’s my interpretation) and she reveals what that could mean.

What you don’t want is a wave of the wand getting characters out of trouble. Well, it’s not very interesting is it? Where a wave of the wand gets the character out of trouble but lands them right in it again in a different way because magic was used, now that is a lot more interesting to follow.

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This World and Others – Hobbies and Interests

So you’ve created an interesting world for your characters to inhabit. You’ve creating fascinating characters that will keep us glued to your book. Excellent!

Now think of rounding out your characters that bit more. What are their interests and hobbies? Why are they interested in these?

If your characters are on a quest, what interests have they had to give up so they can go on the quest? Is there any chance of them being able to resume that old life again? What are their attitudes to having to give anything up? What do they do in their down time?

I’ve always found when reading series novels that a character with interests is going to attract me more for the good simple reason that the character concerned has a rounded life and that’s what I want to read about. What they do about their main work in the story adds depth to them.

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Cyberlaunches, The End, and Flash Fiction

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay, unless otherwise stated. (Images of The Hayes, Swanwick were taken by Allison Symes)

It has been a fun few days as I was one of the co-hosts for Patricia M Osborne’s cyberlaunch of her second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son. What follows is a kind of a report on that. Many thanks to Patricia for inviting me to take part. It was great fun – as a good launch should be!

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I’m looking forward to taking part in #PatriciaMOsborne‘s cyberlaunch for her second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son, tomorrow evening. (I interviewed Patricia as part of my CFT series on What Books Mean To Me a while back and I have guested on her website as part of her blog and her 100 word challenge. We are both also huge fans of Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, not least because we met there).

This is the follow up to her debut book, House of Grace. Obviously more on that tomorrow but very best of luck, Patricia, and hope you have an absolute ball with your launch.

I had a great deal of fun with mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again. Cyberlaunches are a fab opportunity to celebrate books and support writer friends. Always worth dropping by!

One of the loveliest things about the writing community is it is so supportive and launches, cyber or otherwise, bring that out. And best of all they are fun!

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Many thanks to #PatriciaMOsborne for inviting me to take part in her launch of her second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son. This follows her debut novel, The House of Grace.

A very good time was had by all at the launch and the lovely thing about online launches is that the calories in the cakes and drinks provided simply don’t count!😆

I am planning to hold a cyberlaunch for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, when that is out later this year. Preparation is crucial for you as the writer to get the most out of it I think. It helped me to relax into the event and get a real party feel going.

(And it WAS a wonderful party at Patricia’s launch tonight too!).

Launches are important for the obvious reason of getting the news of our books out there, but they also help a writer to have fun with their book after all their hard work in writing and editing it.

Cheers to that!

And congratulations, #PatriciaMOsborne, for a wonderful launch for The Coal Miner’s Son. (I love that cover! Do check out the link to Patricia’s Amazon page, given above, to find out why I love it!).

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I always feel a sense of relief when I write The End for a flash fiction or short story. (I should imagine the sense of relief for a novelist is proportionately larger depending on their text length!).

I do know the hard work is shortly going to begin with the editing but there is that moment when you know you’ve got something to work with and that’s nice. It shouldn’t be unappreciated either. You have finished the first draft.

The great thing is nobody but you has to ever see that first draft. I know from mine what a good thing that is!

For competition entries, I always take at least a week (and usually a fortnight) off the official deadline to ensure I have time for any final tweaks and still get the piece off in good time.

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Hope to draft some flash pieces on my train trip to Birmingham today for an Association of Christian Writers’ event. It is a great form to draft on a smartphone!

The only thing I make sure of is to put plenty of story prompts on Evernote before I travel so I have more than enough to write up.

If I ever forget to do that, I brainstorm opening lines and then write them up. Of course sometimes what I think will be opening lines make far better closing ones, but it’s fun to find that out!

When I started writing short stories, I nearly always used the third person. For flash fiction, I still use that, but I’ve developed a great love for using first person. I love its immediacy. I can tak you right into a character’s head and I have my narrator for the story literally to hand.

Flash, due to its brevity, means you can’t have too many characters as you’d quickly fall foul of word count requirements.

For example, if you want three characters in the story, you’ve got to have at least one good reason for all three to be in there. How many words will you use to get those good reasons in?! And even if you manage that well enough, what room have you got left for the actual story after all of that?

So using the first person is a handy technique but that is all it should be. I make myself mix up first and third person usage to avoid falling into the trap of all of my stories sounding the same.

Good reasons to get a writing event if you can and that includes online events (so travel is not a problem!):-

1. You will make writing friends who will totally understand your addiction to writing (and it IS an addiction). They also celebrate your successes and commiserate with your woes and that is vital. The writing community is precisely that, a community. We take the “no man is an island” bit seriously!

2. Said writing pals will tell you about competitions and markets you had not heard of as no one person can know everything that’s out there. You will also share useful news on similar lines to them.

3. You will get a lot from the courses and talks you go to as well!

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Book trailers were completely new to me until Chapeltown Books produced the excellent one for From Light to Dark and Back Again. Yes, I know I’m biased… (am not sorry, so there!).

Flash is a great vehicle for book trailers since as a form it can fit into a trailer beautifully and give a useful free sample to potential readers. I prefer using the 100 words or under for this.

A sample of my flash fiction work. Job Satisfaction was first published in From Light to Dark and Back Again by Chapeltown Books in 2017.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Stalls at Writing Events

I love writing events anyway but I particularly enjoy having a good nose around book stalls/book rooms at these things. Wild horses wouldn’t keep me away and all that…

It’s always a joy to see works by friends, as well as my own, on these stalls too. But they also prove to be good opportunities to have a look at works and authors new to you.

So go on, at the next event you go to as a writer, put your reader’s hat on too and see what you can find. Explore reading avenues new to you as well as enjoying favourite genres.

And for non-writers, one of the best ways to support author friends is to go to their events. The great thing is you are likely to come back with your next good read too! And that is always a good thing!😊

 

Submissions, Reviews, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Thanks as ever to Pixabay for the images here.

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Good evening so far. Submitted a flash piece, pitched a couple of non-fiction ideas. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.

Also sorted out my bedside cabinet and organised my reading piles (one for books, one for magazines before you ask!). Feel both productive AND virtuous and, trust me, that doesn’t happen often!

Hope the weather isn’t causing too much havoc where you are. Mainly tree debris where I am. Always sad to see trees down (though Lady will end up having more sticks to play with than she ever thought possible so there is that to it).

The other thing to be said about the weather is if you needed encouragement to stay cosy and warm and get on with writing at your desk, you’ve got it. Well, you’re not going to want to go out now, are you?

It WAS a dark and stormy night – and writers everywhere took one glimpse at the horrible weather, got on with their latest epics, only too glad to do so!😀😀

Happy writing, everyone!❤️⭐️

I’m looking forward to sharing two separate items of publication news later on in the week. It has been a good few days. I wish they were always like that but there you go!

Am almost there on a standard length short story I want to submit for a competition. I hope to get that submitted by the end of this week. And I’ve picked out the next competition I want to have a crack at so need to start thinking out some ideas for that.

I’m also going to be working on the edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, so have plenty in the pipeline.

But that’s how I like it – a nice mix of non-fiction writing (CFT particularly), sending stories out to hopefully good homes (!), and editing.

Reading wise, I’ve recently started London: The Biography. It’s an interesting concept for a historical book – a biography of a city – and I anticipate an enjoyable read. I love history – fiction and non-fiction. I won’t be sorry if story ideas spark from reading this book. (I’d be disappointed if I don’t get something. Non-fiction can be a great source of sparks for stories).

Hope the weather rapidly improves where you are. It is calmer here in Hampshire though there is some flooding. Lady gets a bit skittish in high winds (a bit like some young children can do) so it’ll be fun walking her tomorrow when said high winds are back. Still, at least it’s going to be dry.

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What do you love writing the most? I love getting inside my characters’ heads and sharing their thoughts. Sometimes said thoughts surprise me and I think where did that come from but it’s a wonderful feeling when that happens. It confirms to me the character has backbone, is taking on a life of their own, and is going to resonate with readers. All good things to aim for!

But the danger here is to only focus on the things you like writing most. I do enjoy writing narrative but I’ve come across too many books in the past where the narrative has gone on for too long and is keeping me away from the character whose story I want to follow.

For narrative writing, I’ve learned to focus only on what a reader needs to know for the character and/or story to make sense and there are absolutely no massive descriptions of setting etc. That I feel belonged to a bygone era.

I got into conversation with someone (and I apologise now because I’ve forgotten the name) who felt that the long descriptions of setting particularly in classic novels were necessary then – no TV or film back then. I think that’s a valid point. Now, of course, books are just one form of entertainment amongst many. Everyone knows the kind of setting that would be in, say, an ancestral home thanks to things like Downton Abbey, TV adaptations of stories such as Pride and Prejudice, etc., so do you now need to write every aspect of that down? I think not. You just want enough to conjure up the appropriate images in a reader’s mind and leave it there. Less is more and all that.

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PUBLICATION NEWS

Delighted to share not 1, or 2, but 3 of my linked flash fiction stories called Story by Number published on Cafelit. Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her excellent prompt idea in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. My stories here are directly inspired by that.

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

The titles all reflect the number of words in each story. Hope you enjoy.

Will I write more of this kind of story again? I hope so. It is great for the old imagination muscle to mix up how you write a story. It keeps things fresh for you and will do for a reader too.

(The image I’ve added to the link below comes from a recent Chandler’s Ford Today post of mine called Numbers into Writing Will Go. It seemed appropriate! Link to article below.).

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Firstly, a big thank you to Val Penny for her lovely comment on the book on Twitter earlier today (18th February). Much appreciated, Val!

 https://twitter.com/valeriepenny/status/1229794879544479745

If you’re a reader and know some writers, I bet they’ll have asked for reviews of their books etc in the usual places. (My friends know I’ve asked them!).

If you think well hmm… I wouldn’t know where to start etc., I’ll just add that reviews on Amazon, Goodreads etc., don’t have to be lengthy write-ups. A line or two would do and whatever your tastes in reading, the author will appreciate those reviews. They’ve got to be honest ones though!

(Oh and a good place to start is what YOU liked about the book and yes what you disliked too. Reviews have to be honest to have any meaning and writers will learn a lot from feedback they receive this way).

Making writing friends online is great but meeting them in person is even better

I’ve mentioned before that I like to use character traits to help me “get going” with creating a new person to either write about or to be my narrator for my next flash fiction story.

I also talked about this in my interview with #WendyHJones which went out on Wednesday this week. Naturally that gives me a golden opportunity to share the link again! (Shameless plug and all that….! 😊❤️).

Episode 4 – How To Write Flash Fiction

Feature Image - Local Author News - Allison Symes - Podcast by Wendy H Jones

It was lovely being able to write a bonus CFT post for this. Image by Pixabay

But going on from there, one question could be “could you run out of character traits?”. Surely there are only so many.

Well that’s true but I like to combine them with something else.

For example if I have a character who is feisty, I’ll give them a vice such as greed. There could be a crime story there. There could be a comic story too if their greed dropped them right in it. The reactions from a reader here could range from horror and disgust at my character to laughter as my character makes a complete fool of themselves.

The trick will be making readers care enough to read about a character like that. There will be a certain amount of wanting to see if that character either gets their comeuppance (I love stories like that!) or somehow redeems themselves. Either way there is going to be a significant change in that character or their situation by the end of the tale and I hope I can make a reader curious enough to find out what that is.

Another character who is feisty I may well make charitable but their big mouth lands them in it from time to time. So there I would hope a reader would want to find out if the character can carry on doing their good works and their loudmouth has not ruined things completely. Or perhaps the being outspoken ends up bringing in much needed changes and my character is a catalyst for positive change.

Yes, there’s that word again – change. The single most important thing about any story of any length. There has to be change. Your character has to be different in some way by the end of the story whether it’s 50 words long or 50,000. The challenge is to have a character your reader HAS to follow to find out what happens to them.

Image supplied by Wendy H. Jones

Will have flash fiction publication news to share later in the week so am looking forward to putting the relevant links up.

Will be starting work soon on the edits for Book 2 – Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Looking forward to that. I do enjoy editing. Sure there are some tasks associated with that which ARE less interesting (yet another misplaced comma to remove etc etc!) BUT I keep in mind the overall goal is to improve my work and to get it to the best I can make it. That helps a lot.

I’ll be talking about short and long form fiction in my CFT post later this week and will share more on that on Wednesday. No prizes for guessing which is my big love here!

 

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How do you handle those times when you know your story hasn’t got anywhere with a market or competition?

My practice here is to look at my story again. If I spot anything that could do with strengthening, I do that but I then get the story back out again to another, suitable market or competition.

Another way of using a story that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is to look at why you wrote it in the first place and analyse it as if it had been written by someone else.

If this story had been in a magazine, would it have appealed to you? If there were bits that didn’t seem to gel with you, ask yourself why?

This is a good editing technique and by putting your reader’s hat on, you might find something about the tale that could do with working on and which, once done, will give it more of a chance in the big, bad world out there.

The one thing I’ve found is you have to be totally honest about what you think works in the story and what doesn’t work so well. The trick of course is to improve those latter sections so there are no bits which don’t work so well!

And be persistent too. One market or competition may feel it is not right for them (they may have taken something similar to your story recently, you will never know), but it doesn’t mean others will feel the same way.

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Just a quick reminder for Writing Magazine subscribers that you can advertise your book on their Subscribers’ Showcase. Proof of the pudding? See this link!

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Image from Chapeltown Books

I hope later in the year when Tripping the Flash Fantastic comes out to put that on here (probably with a link back to From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Meanwhile over on Cafelit, do check out my latest three flash fiction stories. Yes, three of them. They are linked though. Linked flash fiction is relatively new for me and this set was inspired by a prompt in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. (Thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her cracking idea which inspired me here).

 

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Goodreads Author BlogReading Piles

How many reading piles do you have? Mine include:-

1. My book pile.
2. My magazine pile.
3. Everything on my Kindle!

It’s probably enough to be going on with though I suppose I could split my book pile into two categories: novels and short story/flash fiction collections.

Note I said probably just now. I’ve just seen a lovely post on Facebook where someone has come up with a new idea for an escape room – you have an hour to get out of a well stocked book shop!

I don’t know about you but that’s me well and truly stuck then. One hour would just about give me enough time to have a good look around and work out what was where. I might get to decide where I would be starting first if I was efficient with my time!

I’ve mentioned before I like to mix up my reading. There are some evenings where I just HAVE to read magazines, rather than books, and the other way round. I don’t really know why that is but I love reading both overall so that’s okay. So therefore it is absolutely necessary for me to have reading piles that suit all my reading moods.

How do you organise YOUR reading?

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Trailers, Tea (Peppermint), and Time

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Pleased to say the book trailer for The Best of Cafelit 8 has now been added to the trailers page on my website.

I’m also delighted to say a copy of the paperback is now on display at The Framing Shop in Hiltingbury, along with a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again. Many thanks to Frith who runs the cafe there as there is now a selection of books by local authors in there. Naturally I hope to add a copy of Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course!

 

Books on display at The Framing Shop in Hiltingbury

Books on display at The Framing Shop in Hiltingbury. Image by Allison Symes

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Image from Chapeltown Books

Allison Symes and published works

Image taken by Adrian Symes

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Image from Bridge House Publishing

SEASONS IN WRITING - hot chocolate

Favourite moments in time include:-

1. Getting to the end of reading a great book and knowing you’ll enjoy it all over again when you re-read it. (You just know you will).

2. Getting to the end of a first draft of a story and knowing you’ve got the basics down. It’s now down to fine tuning it and cutting what you don’t need.

3. Getting that fine tuning and cutting done!

4. Hearing you’re going to be published. (That one gives a buzz which never fades away).

5. Coming in to a wonderful warm house after a cold winter’s walk with the dog and knowing you don’t have to go out again that day! (This is even nicer when you’ve got caught in the rain and can come in for a towel dry and a cup of hot chocolate. Naturally the dog just gets the towel dry!).

6. Discovering an adaptation of a favourite story actually works and hasn’t ruined the tale for you.

7. Your favourite piece of classical music comes on the radio. (Holst – Jupiter from the Planet Suite – before you ask).

8. You close down for the night, knowing you’ve got a lot of productive writing done. (That gives a great buzz too).

9. Swanwick Writers’ Summer School – the entire week. Enough said.

10. Meeting up with writer friends and picking up conversation from where you last left off, no matter how long ago it was you last saw them. (See 9 above).

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One problem series novelists can have is coming to loathe their creations. Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously did so with Poirot and Holmes.

Now as a flash fiction writer, I’m always creating new characters so surely this problem doesn’t exist for me then?

Not exactly. I’ve still got to really love the character I’ve invented to write their story with conviction. I’ve only had two occasions where I’ve abandoned a story and rightly never came back to it again. Both times the character just didn’t grip me and well if they didn’t work for me, they weren’t going to work for anyone else.

I hadn’t put enough thought into these particular characters. I’ve got to know what makes them tick and why. I don’t have to like them, many of my characters I’d never want to meet in life (!), but I do have to understand where they are coming from. If I haven’t got that, I haven’t got anyone to write about!

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One good thing about the cold weather is it increases your pace when walking the dog. (Not that Lady minds).

For story writing I tend to increase pace (when I need to) by:-

1. Keeping my sentences short.
2. Keeping my paragraphs short. (This also avoids having big blocks of text which can be offputting to a reader).

When reviewing my story I look for continual movement. What is my character doing? Why? When they are thinking, are those thoughts conducive to their attaining their goal or reveal things the reader needs to know?

By checking for this, I am also looking at the pace throughout the story. It should be building up towards the resolution.

When there are apparent periods of calm in the story, it should be that the character is about to be dropped right in it again by their creator!

Periods of calm don’t last long in a story. They can’t. Nothing happens. Boring for a reader. Equally boring for the writer. But a brief period of calm is fine. It enables both the reader and writer to get their collective breaths back, ready for the next event.

The important thing is to ensure there are no boring bits. The periods of calm should be used to show the reader something useful that connects with what has gone before and with what is about to come.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share news that FLTDBA is now on display at The Framing Shop in Hiltingbury (along with a copy of The Best of Cafelit 8). It is great that venues like this are supporting local authors (and in this case encouraging all local artists of any kind to display work).

Many thanks to all who kindly commented on my CFT post on Numbers into Writing Will Go and it was great one comment flagged up the the annual children’s 500-word story competition run by Radio 2. I’m thrilled this competition is encouraging children to enjoy flash fiction writing. I hope it leads to more engagement with reading as well as writing. Good luck to all who take part in the competition.

Less is definitely more for flash fiction and I agree with the commentator who felt so much could be packed into few words. It is one of the things I love most about the form though my absolute favourite is because it has to be character led, I can set those characters in whatever genre and time period I like. (And I do!).

Five Favourite Thoughts on Flash Fiction:-

1. It really does have to be character led but the great thing is you can set those characters wherever and whenever you want.

2. If one word count limit size doesn’t suit you, there are plenty of others to try! I love the drabble (the 100-words story) but sometimes I feel a story of mine has more impact at 150 words and would lose out if I tried to force it to fit to a lower count so I don’t do so. I would submit that story to sub-250 words competition/market instead of a 100-words one.

3. I think it has great possibilities of encouraging the reluctant reader precisely because the format is not asking too much of said reluctant reader in one go. Once you can hook someone into reading, then the delights of longer stories and novels await (I hope!). I also find flash stories brilliant to read when I’ve finished reading a novel and am not sure which one to go for next from my TBR pile.

4. Flash fiction is great for reading on screen so it can “catch” those who like to do their reading that way.

5. From a writer’s viewpoint, it is easy enough to share flash fiction on websites, posts like this one, to show what you do. The best way to “sell” flash fiction is to demonstrate what it is!

I’ve never really used colour in my stories (other than for a brief description of something). I tend to focus on the mood of the story in terms of whether it is a light piece, a dark one, or somewhere in between. (One huge advantage of that approach was it made finding a title for my first flash fiction collection that much easier!).

Where colour did come in was in deciding what worked best for the book cover. I went for the green but had pondered over a deep blue. I am looking forward to thinking again about that aspect of things for my next collection (though I am already thinking about this and what could be on the cover. It’s not a decision to rush! It IS one to savour though…!).

I’m not sure how you could define a “purple” story anyway but maybe it would be fun to find out…

 

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The one item I am most keen to get right in a flash fiction story is its ending. Why?

Well, nobody likes a story, of any length, that falls flat, for a start.

Also I love twist in the tale endings and these work particularly well for flash fiction. So I need to check the twist IS really a twist and that it is something which does develop out of the story. As someone once said, the clues are there…

I know if I can get the ending right and the beginning feels flat, I can change that beginning so it suits my super-duper finale.

Likewise, I’ve sometimes come up with a better idea for my title as a result of getting the ending right.

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Goodreads Author Blog – 

Books and Their Accompaniments

Is it possible to have too many book shelves?

No! Okay so you can run out of room to put up said book shelves, which is another reason I think to have at least some reading material on a Kindle.

End of problem (until your “shelves” on there fill up and you realise you’re not going to be short of things to read much before 2050 but hey it’s a lovely problem to have!).

The other book accompaniment I love is the good old book mark. Some of them are lovely and I enjoy collecting those issued by writer friends. Yes, I do put the book marks to good use too. You won’t find turned down book pages in THIS household (shudders at the thought…!).

I was delighted to find out thanks to a writer friend that a picture framing shop in our area, which has been around for years, is now displaying books by local authors. Naturally I popped along to put a copy of mine (From Light to Dark and Back Again) in there and a copy of The Best of Cafelit 8 where I have two flash fiction pieces.

The cafe area where this display is situated is lovely and the people behind this are keen to bring together local writers, artists etc. The idea of art as an accompaniment to books is one I love. After all, book covers are often works of art in their own right, are they not?

Oh and finally I do love pens with a book logo on. I hope to get some more done when my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, comes out.

But the best accompaniment of all to a book is a comfy chair and a cup of whatever drink you fancy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Characters and Being a “Proper” Writer

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General

What I look for in a great character:-

1. I totally understand why they’re acting the way they are. It doesn’t mean I have to approve though!

2. You can see how they got into the situation they’ve got to overcome and are keen to see if/how they get out of it again. You believe the character has the potential to get out of it and it’s a case of seeing whether you were right about that or not.

3. I love characters who come out with great one-liners but only as long as they arise naturally out of the situation and the character. It must never feel forced.

4. They stay with you in your imagination long after you’ve finished reading the story!

Examples of great characters for me:-

1. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy

2. Jeeves and Wooster

3. Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil Ramkin – Discworld

4. Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee

5. Aslan – Narnia

6. Ebenezer Scrooge (though I prefer him AFTER the visitations! Am very fond of the Muppet Christmas Carol. Thought that was the best Muppet film too).

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I’m delighted to share Part 3 of Peter Russell’s local history series on The Hutments for Chandler’s Ford Today. If you have any memories to share of a part of the community that has now gone, do comment via the comments box. I know Peter would be pleased to hear from you.