The Dragon of Wantley, Live Events, and the Writing Life

Image Credits:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. A huge thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Company for supplying most of the images for my review of their recently staged The Dragon of Wantley for Chandler’s Ford Today.
Hope you have had a good week. Weather improving here. Hints of summer in the air too.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-28 The Dragon of Wantley - Chameleon Theatre Company - Review - Chandler's Ford TodayScreenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, my review of The Dragon of Wantley. This wonderful pantomime (loosely based on a true story) was recently staged by the fantastic Chameleon Theatre Company.

My lovely editor at CFT, Janet Williams, and I had a fabulous time and spent most of the evening laughing (a sure sign of a successful pantomime well performed). For more details and a good flavour of what went on, do check out the review. It is so nice getting out to live events again and being able to review them once more too.

(And if you’re in a position to support your local amateur dramatic company, do so. I’ve watched many gems performed by The Chameleons and discovered plays new to me and I look forward to that continuing. Watching a live performance is a fabulous way of taking in a story when all is said and done).

A huge thank you to The Chameleons for the great pictures for this post too.

The Dragon of Wantley – Chameleon Theatre Company – Review

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Looking forward to sharing my review of The Dragon of Wantley, the recent production staged by the Chameleon Theatre Company, for Chandler’s Ford Today.  See above. It has been lovely getting out to live events and reviewing them once again. I’ll resume my In Fiction series on 13th May.

Why did I start to write? Well, I’ve always been a reader. I loved what was known as composition lessons in English in school where I could invent stories. It just took me a while to realise I could carry on doing that as an adult!

What do I want from my writing? I want to improve on what I do, to continue having fun creating stories, and to be published as often as possible. I don’t expect to make my fortune (which is just as well!) but the moment writing stops being fun is the moment I will consider hanging up up my PC/pen. Writing has to be fun.

And creating something which is unique should be a joy (though it is also hard work and there are bound to be moments when any writer will wonder if the slog is worth it. I often find when I feel like that it is because I am tired. That is when I back off a bit and start being kinder to myself. Then the joy of writing comes back. I don’t think that’s a coincidence).

I know now as well in a way I could not know when I was starting that the writing life is a roller coaster. It helps to know to expect the peaks and troughs and this is all normal, It isn’t just me!

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4th May!

Hope you have had a good day (Star Wars related or otherwise!). Am busy getting workshop material ready and looking forward to presenting both in due course. I love going to workshops too and always learn a great deal from them.

This is where my trusty notebook and pen gets a good workout too! The act of writing something down helps embed what you are writing down into your memory so there’s another reason to do it! Is there a writer out there who doesn’t have the dilemma of which notebook and pen combo to use? Oh well. It’s a nice dilemma to have.

I do sometimes read out a flash piece or two of mine when giving a workshop as I select stories which will back up the points I’m making. The nice thing with flash of course is that this doesn’t take too long. I think it’s easier to take the points made on board too.

So practicing reading out loud is a good idea too. The biggest thing I’ve had to learn to do here is slow myself down when reading. That also makes it easier for me not to trip over my own words.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m pleased to share my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. My One of Those Days is based on ideas triggered by a random noun generator this time. I generated two items – a waitress and a tiara. See how I used them here! Hope you enjoy the story.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

One of my own favourite openings comes from Helping Out in From Light to Dark and Back Again. This reads as:-

It’s not everyday you untangle Hanacrill, a fairy who, Merlin knows how, got caught in a Leylandii hedge but being a witch means being able to handle anything though I’m not meant to rescue fairies.

Why do I like this one?

Firstly, you hear the character voice clearly. You can sense the attitude!

Secondly, you’ve got a fantastical setting spelled out in only a few words (fairy, witch, Merlin etc).

Thirdly, you’ve got a situation which I hope makes the reader curious. Just why would a witch come to the rescue of a fairy? How did that fairy end up getting tangled up like that?

Fourthly, you have a named character who has to be important to the story somehow – and so does the unnamed narrator. They’re telling the story after all so they have to be “in on it” in some way.

Fifthly, you can sense the mood. There is humour here if only in the idea of a fairy getting caught up in a hedge.

If I was writing this again now, I would split the sentence after the word hedge. This is a long one by my standards and I usually prefer short and punchy lines. But this one does work and I do love lines which show a lot of information like this. No need for lots of description. You an imagine what a fairy might look like and do the same for the unnamed witch.

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4th May – Star Wars Day!

When I’m reading a flash collection by someone else I’m looking for a nice mixture of story moods. I do like a good selection! It helps with the tempo of the book too. I like a nice mix of upbeat and lower beat stories.

Life is like that so I like my story collections to reflect this. It also means there will be a good mixture of characters in the collection. Some will serve humorous pieces better than others, for example. And I like to “meet” a nice range of characters in any anthology.

When I’m putting a collection together, I like a nice balance of characters and stories knowing it is what I would like to read (and other readers will feel the same way. Again I have my Ideal Reader in mind here.). I also like to vary the flash word count used too. I’ve mentioned before I think of my books as mixed assortments of stories so it makes sense to me to vary the word count element too.

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Fairytales With Bite – A Wand’s Tale

Woe to the one misusing me.
Who thinks that by casting a spell
He can get out of and be free
From fetching water from the well.

Who using objects for his work
Means he can take things so easy
Magic is not meant to let you shirk
Life isn’t so easy-peasy.

So guess who then called the big boss
When things went so horribly wrong?
His Nibs won’t let anyone “doss”
He’ll make them sing a different song.

That young smart alec apprentice?
You should’ve seen him go bright red
It was all rather momentous
Hearing what the big boss then said.

He came up with a naughty word
Oh I blushed as the big boss swore.
The apprentice didn’t – he’d “heard”
It from the owner of the store.

Where our lad “worked” briefly last time.
Boss there sacked him with a rude mime!

Allison Symes – 4th May 2022

And before you ask, I do love the music and story of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice!

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This World and Others – When Things Go Wrong

Hope you enjoyed the above. It was fun to write. Now things did go wrong for that lazy apprentice and he was taught a lesson.

When things go wrong for your characters in your settings, how do they learn their lessons? Was it something they did need to learn of were they a little bit unlucky? What kind of machinery etc exists in your created world and what are the consequences when that goes wrong?

For the rulers of your setting, what things could go wrong for them and what do they do to try and prevent this? Would this explain why they rule by dictatorship, for example?

Understanding where your characters come from is important. It will help you picture them better and write them up more convincingly because you will believe in them precisely because you do know where they are coming from. Readers will pick up on that too.

Of course things could go wrong in a humorous way too. How do your characters react to that? Do they find it funny? What would happen when one character did find something amusing and another one finds it to be anything but hilarious? How would that change the nature of the relationship between the two? What impact would that have on the rest of the story and would it lead to other things going wrong, which are not so funny?

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Workshop News and Questions


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you had a good weekend. Tonight’s post looks at questions and aspects of flash fiction writing. I also share some exciting workshop news.

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Facebook – General

Hope Tuesday has been a good day. Lady loved being with her buddy, a smashing Hungarian Vizler, today. Still a bit chilly for April, mind you.

There are offers on both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the links (and the screenshot) for more.

My train tickets for my trip to London to run a workshop for the London Jesuit Centre arrived today. News on the workshop further down.

I was impressed with that. I only booked the tickets over the weekend – and these were sent out by second class post too. I nearly always book tickets like this online. It means I’ve got them and, as ever, when I go on trips like this, I hope to get a certain amount of writing done thanks to Evernote enroute. I vary what I draft here – from potential blog posts to flash stories, to my To Do list – it all proves useful!

Screenshot 2022-04-26 at 20-06-33 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes

Loved listening to the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on Classic FM just now. It always gets my vote in their annual Hall of Fame. Music can conjure up images and with this one it is an image of time travel all the way back to Elizabethan England. Absolutely adore that (and I think it is far better than The Lark Ascending so there!). I listen to classical music as I write and find it helps me unwind. A relaxed me writes more!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be on Originality in Fiction. Link up on Friday.

Am off to a (postponed) panto on Thursday (it was due to be on in January). Am off to see The Dragon of Wantley as performed by the Chameleon Theatre Group, my local amateur dramatic company (and very good they are too).

Looking forward to meeting up and having a good chat with Janet Williams, my lovely editor at CFT, who is also going. Review to follow in due course. And I know what will be particularly nice about this show will be the laughs – panto is wonderful for that and I can’t help but feel that will be a much needed tonic for many right now.


Sunny and blustery today. Weather still a bit odd. The wind is almost gale strength at times.

Booked my train tickets for the workshop I’m running at the London Jesuit Centre in May. (Again see further down). Looking forward to that.

Am also getting my May newsletter ready. To sign up for that, just head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

A huge thanks for the wonderful comments in on my Where Am I?, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. The feedback on this site is fantastic and I’ve found it so useful. It is also nice to know you’re not on your own – there is a supportive writing community out there. Thank you, all!

 

Hope Saturday has been okay for you. Busy out in the garden mowing the lawn and kicking Lady’s ball for her at the same time. Yes, it is do-able! Makes for an interesting if somewhat unusual workout! Used to do this for Gracie and Mabel too.

Workshop News

I’m running a workshop called Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started for the London Jesuit Centre in May. Looking forward to this very much. See the link for more information.

Will be running my flash fiction workshop for the Association of Christian Writers as part of their Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire over the weekend of 3rd to 5th June (and yes, we will raise a glass or two to Her Majesty as well!).

Looking forward to seeing everyone at both workshops!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As I mentioned on my author page, there are offers on both of my flash collections. See the links for more. Grab yourself a bargain!

Another thing flash has shown me is how important character is when I enjoy a story, whether I write it or read it. I’ve got to care about what happens to the character for a story to work for me. Genre is far less important. And to care for a character at all, I’ve got to understand what motivates them and what they are aiming for. I do need to see where they are coming from and yes that goes for the villains too. I just don’t have to agree with the latter!

I wasn’t expecting to write more in the first person when flash fiction entered my life but it happened and I sometimes write monologues as a result. These work well for flash as monologues are at their best when they don’t go on for too long.

The important thing is to ensure your character has a strong enough voice to carry a monologue. Why would the reader want to know what this person has to say? What keeps the reader reading? Because they’re intrigued enough to find out what your character has to say and in flash you know you don’t have to wait too long to find out. So flash and monologues can be a very good match up.

Monologues can also work well for my YouTube tales.

Talking of which, I hope you enjoy my latest one – Mirror, Mirror.

 

I talked about asking questions yesterday and, continuing with that theme, another advantage to doing this is that it gives you a basic story structure immediately. Why? Simply because the question set has to be answered in some way by the end of your story.

All stories have to have a point of change and here the answer to that question is the point of change. Also there has to be conflict and resolution in any story – the question is the conflict which has to be resolved and the answer is the resolution.

The character can answer the question directly. Equally you can show them “acting” the answer out. For example, if my question was something like does love change anything?

I can get the character to “show you” by getting them to reflect on whether they think this is true or not. They can narrate something of their life to show the answer. I do this in my They Don’t Understand from From Light to Dark and Back Again.

I can also get the character to “show” how their idea of love answers that question. If they are trying to obtain love and they succeed, then they are showing you that love does change something – it changes their life.

Questions are useful then. Even when I don’t use a question directly, I always ask questions of the characters I’m outlining and that triggers story ideas. The answers that come to me tell me what I am going to do with that character and away I go and write their story up.

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Asking questions is a great way of fleshing out ideas for a story. I’ve often used questions as the theme for a story too. Sometimes I’ve used them as a title. But I mainly use them to get to know my character better. What do I ask?

Things like what is your major trait? What kind of trouble could this lead you into? (A great story always has trouble in it!). Could your major trait, if generally seen as a virtuous one, ever be misconstrued? What is your attitude to others? What kind of things can’t you stand at any price?

Questions that reveal a character’s underlying attitude to life are excellent for getting to what they are really like. Once I know my character, I find I can write them up. I know what their journey is likely to be. They can still surprise me but those surprises will fit in with the traits I’ve uncovered. I usually get my surprises as I am asking those questions of my lead characters. That’s when I sit up and take notice and ask myself what can I do with this? I usually find something!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Must Read

Every so often lists come out showing books you must read (and sometimes by a certain age at that). I admit I take absolutely no notice of these lists (other than to note they are out again)! Why?

Because the books I must read are the books I must read. I am always happy to take recommendations from friends (including via Goodreads) but most of the time I pick the books I want to read and leave it there. Some of my picks are based on my genre (I read flash fiction and short stories as well as write them (and I love reading outside my genre too).

I think it is more important to have a good mixture in your reading “diet”. I like to read magazines, books, novellas. I like to read non-fiction as well as fiction. I like to read online as well as print books.
I’m not a huge fan of literary fiction. I do like genre fiction (and utterly dislike the snobbery against it in some quarters. I’ve never understood this. Good writing is good writing, whether it is in a literary form or in a genre book).

Life is too short to read books you’re “supposed” to read. I focus on reading books I know I’m likely to enjoy. My non-fiction reading is where I go outside of my comfort zone a bit because here I specifically want to learn something (but it can still be done in an entertaining way).

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Hooks, Simple Ideas, and Character Attitudes


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
What does snow, ice-cream chimes, and simple ideas  have in common? They all appear in this post – and I discuss character attitudes too.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Glad to report there is an offer on Amazon on both of my flash fiction collections – see link for more. Go on, pick up a bargain!

I see there is a film about to come out called Operation Mincemeat based on the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre. Loved the book. Film looks promising – hoping they’re faithful to said book.

Looking forward to sharing Laughter in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I love writing all of my posts but there are some which are sheer fun and this is one of them. Mind you, the topic helps!

I forgot to mention this last month but I am so pleased to be a member of the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Society. I have free membership of this thanks to being a member of the Society of Authors. I was really pleased with my pay-out from ALCS last month, which was up from last year. Definitely worth looking into to if you have books out there. And updating the online form when you have new works out is easy too.

I joined the Society of Authors years ago after receiving invaluable advice from them over a publishing contact I’d been offered. It was from a vanity publisher. I turned the contract down, got my manuscript back, and joined the Society. Never regretted any of that!

Screenshot 2022-04-04 at 19-51-16 ALCS

Cold but no snow today so I count that as a win! See post further down for why I say this! Hope you have had a good Sunday. Much as I dislike the clock changes twice a year, I must admit it is nice having the lighter evenings. It means Lady gets a longer evening walk for one thing and she is happy about that.

Regardless of the length of story I write, I do like a good hook in the opening line. I am a great believer in the “hit the ground running” approach.

Sometimes I do this by getting a character to do something. Sometimes I will open with an intriguing line of dialogue. I also open with a set up that has to be followed through in some way and the only way a reader is going to find out is by reading the story through.

And yes I deliberately mix up the approach I take here. It keeps things interesting for me and I hope that comes through to readers too.

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Bizarre weather again today. I was doing some gardening, (”doing” being the operative word as I am no expert!), when snow fell again and at the same time I heard the charming chimes of an ice cream van! (I passed on that).

Many thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on The Way Time Smells, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Using the senses is encouraged in fiction as they all help readers “picture” things, they also make characters seem more real to me, and I was glad to get in a scent I have fond memories of as a child into this story.

I’m looking at Laughter in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week and look forward to sharing that in due course.

One positive thing about the cold weather is it makes it even more easy to stay indoors and get on with the writing!

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-31 The Way Time Smells by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was talking yesterday about how I came up with the idea for my latest YouTube video, Away. Link below. It was based on a simple premise and, especially for such a short form as flash fiction, it pays off to keep the idea simple. Flash is not the place for the convoluted idea and again this is another example of the form of flash ensuring you do have to stick to the point.

I’ve also found, naturally, a simple idea is easier to deliver on (and stick to the word count with). There’s an old saying about not “over-egging the pudding” and that comes into play with flash fiction writing too. Just because an idea is simple, it doesn’t mean the story is simple. You can still show a wealth of emotion via the simple tale of one character telling another just what a hellish time they’ve had of it lately. Basic plot right there.

And the other character’s reaction whether it is sympathetic or not can show a reader just how caring or not that other character is and, to an extent, whether the first character deserves that sympathy or not. Yet that all stems from a simple idea.

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It has been another hectic Monday. Time to slow down and enjoy a story then. Hope you enjoy Away, my latest tale on my YouTube channel. I used a random picture generator to come up with the idea for a story based around chairs in a park and thought about who might have put them there.


I’ve talked before about how I sometimes write a punchline or a twist ending first and then use spider diagrams to help me work out how I could get to that closing line. The other advantage of this is this approach usually gives me a good idea of how long my story is likely to be.

If my spider diagram produces a result where I am likely to need more than one character in the story (as opposed to one or more being referred to – a kind of “being offstage” scenario), then I know my tale is likely to be between the 500 and 1000 words mark for flash. For short stories, I’m definitely looking at 1500 to 2000. That then gives me a good idea of where I’m likely to find a home for the finished tale.

What I don’t do is decide on the word count and then work out the story from there. I always go for the spider diagram option that resonates the most with me because it will do the same for a reader. The one that resonates most with me is one I’m going to love writing up because already that idea has triggered me and I will be itching to write it up.

The only times the word count is almost (!) the most important factor for me is when I am writing to a market which calls for a specific word count such as Paragraph Planet or Friday Flash Fiction. And even there I jot down ideas and still go for the one that makes the most impact on me. I am putting myself in my readers’ shoes here and asking myself what would they like from this idea. Then I go for it!

Having your reader in mind from the start is a good idea. It helps you keep on track too.

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Every now and then I write a story where the sentences open with the same words. In my The Wish List from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, all but the last sentence starts with the words I wish.

The advantage of doing this is that it creates a kind of rhythm to my story and, in this case, the “I wish”in each and every sentence ratchets up the tension and that in turn builds up to a conclusion.

It is not something I would wish to do all the time (the I wish being a deliberate choice of phrase there!) because I wouldn’t want it to come across as gimmicky and I fear frequent use of something like this would do precisely that. It does make a refreshing change every now and then though.

Goodreads Author Blog – Character Attitudes

What hooks you into following a character’s story though to those magic words The End? Something about the character has to draw you in and, for me, it is usually to do with their attitudes towards other characters, themselves, and life in general.

One of my favourite characters is Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series. Not only do I like following Sam through one novel I have loved watching that character develop over the series of Discworld novels he stars in – and boy does he develop. That is a sign of a truly great character. They’re never static! And his attitude varies depending on who is dealing with but there’s never any doubt about him wanting to see justice done. (And doing his level best to ensure it is).

I also like characters who acknowledge their own shortcomings but overcome them. (Pride and Prejudice, anyone?). A character who isn’t willing to change when it is clear change would bring them (a) happiness and (b) make them an all round better person is not a character that’s going to hold my interest for long.

Characters reflect us and what we know about life so a character’s attitude generally is something we will need to have understanding of, even if we don’t entirely agree with it.

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Dialogue in Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. I hope to be on a train on my way to Derbyshire by the time this goes out (and it will be lovely to meet up with members of the Association of Christian Writers Committee once again, I’m their Membership Secretary). I’ll be at The Hayes, Swanwick – and I got to book my place for that in August this week so it has not been a bad week at all!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I look at Dialogue in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I also include internal dialogue (aka thoughts in this and discuss the use of dialect. I also share my policy on whether a character should swear and list what I think the functions of dialogue should be in any kind of fiction. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Dialogue in Fiction

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Hope you have had a good day. Has been a bit mad here. Glad things are winding down a little. Posts from me over the next couple of days will be at differing times as I am away on Association of Christian Writers business for a couple of days.

Before you ask, Lady isn’t coming but she will be spoiled rotten while I’m away. She always is! She’ll sulk a little when she knows I’ve gone (she tends to look around my side of the bed just to double check I’ve not sneaked back during the middle of the night) but will mug me for all she is worth when I do get back.

Now what is it that you like best about books? Yes, I know. It’s a question of where to start on this one, isn’t it? For me, it’s where I’ve got to the point in the story where I’m rooting for the character to succeed or fail because I know the book has now gripped me and I will just have to read on to find out what happens. And it doesn’t matter whether I’m reading a flash piece or an epic fantasy trilogy, that point doesn’t change for me.

My next favourite bit is getting to the end of the tale and finding the author has made good on their promise – the character has succeeded or failed, as is appropriate for them and the story they’re in. I must admit I do feel so disappointed if I’ve read a story with promising and interesting characters and then find the ending falls flat. But the best ending in the world won’t work for me if I’m not gripped by the characters in the first place.

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Many thanks for the views on No B Gratitude, my latest YouTube story. This is a short and fun tale and I manage to get a pun in on the choice of music for this too. I’m off at an ACW Committee Retreat soon so I may well be putting up a video later than usual next week. Will just have to see how things go. Likewise for getting a piece in to Friday Flash Fiction but I am really enjoying producing something for both of these things once a week. Keeps me on my toes and I am finding more uses for the random generators I love so win win!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope by the time you read this I will be in lovely Derbyshire on Association of Christian Writers business for a couple of days. (I’m their Membership Secretary). But right now it is the end of the week and time for my weekly drabble. Glad to share my latest on Friday Flash Fiction and this one is called Timing. Again I used a random generator for this and the question behind it was what was the most recent silly thing you did? So I got my character here to answer that one! All great fun and I hope you enjoy it.

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/timing-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-02-04 at 08-57-53 Timing, by Allison Symes

Screenshot 2022-02-03 at 21-31-38 Friday Flash Fiction

 

Your first audience for any story you writer is, of course, you. If you’re not gripped by the characters and the situation they’re in, nobody else will be. This is why I outline my character so I can get a “feel” for who they are, what they’re capable of, and as a result I can determine whether they really do have a story in them that should be told.

With flash fiction I reach that “yes, got to write this character up” stage very quickly indeed and you get better over time (and with practice) at spotting promising characters earlier. I don’t always know the length of the story at this point unless I am writing to a specific word count market such as Friday Flash Fiction, but I don’t let that worry me. I get the story down. I edit it. I leave it for a bit and then look at it again and read it as a reader would. I ask myself tough questions particularly of the “do I really need this in here” variety! That question is useful because you have to be able to say an emphatic “yes” to that one.

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady got to play with her best pal, the Rhodesian Ridgeback today. Two tired and happy dogs went home again. I do sometimes write flash pieces based around dogs. One of them is Jumping Through Hoops from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Let’s just say I am very much on the side of the poor dog in this one!

Fairytales with Bite – Dreams and Nightmares

Most of the classic fairytale characters go through a nightmare stage before their dreams come true (though it is always useful if you have a kindly fairy godmother turn up armed with a large wand and bigger pumpkin!).

In your fictional world, are your characters able to make their dreams come true and is this dependent on magic (whether it’s their own or someone else intervening to help them)? What would count as a nightmare situation for your characters and how do they overcome that?

Of course one person’s nightmare could be someone else’s dream – the villain wants their schemes to succeed, it would be their dream come true. How can you ratchet up the tension between Character A trying to make those schemes succeed and Character B who desperately needs them to fail? There should be plenty at stake here – just what do your characters have to lose or gain?

In a magical world, is the meaning of dreams taken seriously? Who interprets them? Do they do this honestly and do your characters act on what they have been told? What are the consequences of that?

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This World and Others – Interactions

Fiction is dependent on interactions between characters. Story is dependent on conflict and resolution (even if the latter is not a happy one) so there has to be a case of a character wanting something and something/someone else getting in the way of them obtaining that.

Sometimes the conflict can be an internal one – the character wants to change some aspect of themselves and struggles to do so. You see glimpses of this with Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. There are times Frodo’s more positive attitude towards Gollum seems to be paying off and other times when Sam’s cynical view of Gollum is justified.

So yes a character can interact with themselves and Gollum does that a lot. Not necessarily to his own benefit either. For the record, I see Gollum as a tragic, evil character whereas Sauron is just evil. There is a huge difference here. I don’t like Gollum but the possibility of redemption is there – whether he takes it or not is another matter.

How do interactions between your characters play out? Does on character always seem to get the upper hand or is there more of a balance? The problem with dominant characters, as with dominant people full stop, can be they cause resentment (and rebellion) in others. Interactions matter – they fuel the conflict which is the heart of any story.

So give thought to what you want your characters to do and why they are the way they are. With Gollum, you can see what led him to become the creature he became. Your readers need to do that with your characters – and indeed with mine!

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Starting and Finishing and Creativity


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you had a good weekend. Nice quiet one here but lots of exciting news to report this time plus I hope a useful blog I prepared for the Association of Christian Writers on Starting and Finishing.

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Facebook – General

You know how sometimes there is no news and then all of a sudden there is loads to share – well today is one of those days for me.

Delighted to say my new author newsletter is now out there (for more do see https://mailchi.mp/22ec1b09a6da/allison-symes-february-2022-newsletter).

Many thanks also for the comments in on Tears Before Lunch, my most recent Friday Flash Fiction story. See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/tears-before-lunch-by-allison-symes for more.

And I’m delighted to share the link to the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads which is free. See https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ – the range of articles in here is amazing. Do check it out.

Has also been a good day for another reason – I’ve booked my place for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to go and there is plenty to look forward to before then.

I’ll be at the Scottish Association of Writers conference in March and running a workshop on flash fiction there. So looking forward to that – https://www.scottishassociationofwriters.com/workshops-speakers/

 

Hope Monday hasn’t been too trying. Newsletter out tomorrow, new story video out (will share link on my book page shortly), and pleased to have submitted a new story to Friday Flash Fiction. I’ll be discussing Dialogue in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday.

I use more dialogue in my short stories (1500 words plus) than in flash though I am counting thoughts as internal dialogue and I do use that a lot in flash. It’s a great way of taking you straight into a character’s head and showing you their thoughts and attitudes. You see things as they see them and I think it a good way of developing character empathy. Okay you may not always agree with them but that’s another matter! You at least see where they are coming from.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Lovely to catch up with writing friends on Zoom last night. Always such a morale boost. Am getting my next author newsletter up together ready for sending out next week. If you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news, stories etc., head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

What would you say was your favourite kind of story? I suppose mine comes from my life long love of fairytales in that I love to see wrong being righted and the underdog to do well. Mind you, that does open up a lot of possibilities for reading material as well as for writing stories. Wrong being righted is a common theme to crime stories after all. And the underdog aka the hero nobody expects to be a hero is a common theme in fantasy.

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I talk about Starting and Finishing for More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers, this month.

I discuss how I often get into starting a story by using a random generator and share why spider diagrams are so helpful too. As for the other end of the story, I look at how for twist in the tale stories, it is a good idea to write that twist down first and then look at what could lead to that point.

I also look at whether planning your work out kills off spontaneity.

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out and you can download it for free. See the link at https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ for more.

In my column this month (see Page 42), I talk about Creativity. I look at some of the different ways I use to trigger story ideas and fuel my own creativity (and I discuss picture prompts and random generators amongst other things. I hope to talk more about random generators for a future column as these are so useful). My theme for people to write to this time was What Creativity Means to Me and the responses to that were wonderful but don’t just take my word for it – go and treat yourself to a good and free read!

 

Hope you enjoy my new YouTube story – No B Gratitude. This story was inspired by something that came up on a random question generator – the question was what was the most recent silly thing you’ve done?
So I got my character to show you! (There’s also a pun in the choice of music chosen for this one – I was so pleased to find it available to use from YouTube’s comprehensive audio library which is the audio equivalent of Pixabay for photos).

Just to flag up there is an offer on From Light to Dark and Back Again at the moment over on Amazon.

What do I love most about reading flash fiction by other writers? Firstly I learn a lot from seeing what other people do with the format. Secondly, I love to see what writers do when writing to the same theme and word count.

The Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competitions held in the last few years were a great example of this – the fifteen winners for each year, including yours truly, all wrote to the same theme and word count yet the stories were so vastly different.

Last but not least, it encourages me to “up my game” and see what I can do better. Why is that a good thing? Because it fuels the old creativity “grey cells” and helps me produce (a) more work and (b) better work because I have tried to stretch myself a bit.

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Twist endings work beautifully in flash fiction precisely because you don’t have to wait long for the pay-off! I’ve always loved that aspect of things. And the nice thing here is you don’t have to limit twist endings to crime stories, though that is the obvious home for them.

Twist endings can also be punchlines so will work well for humorous tales. And a monologue can be enlivened by a surprise ending too. For this kind of tale, I always write the twist first and then work backwards to get to the start. It seems an odd way of doing things to begin with but you do get used to it. It also means you have a logical plot leading to that final twist. You don’t want your twist let down by a weak start or flabby middle.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books and Trains

Books and trains are a match made in heaven (especially publishing heaven!). As well as stories inspired by train (and my favourite here is Murder on the Orient Express – the ultimate train, yes?!), books are the best form of portable entertainment and a fabulous way of passing the time.

I must admit I wait to read until I know I am on the train I want otherwise there is the risk I will still be reading at the platform long after the train has gone! (It helps a lot if I know I’m going somewhere like London Waterloo which is the end of the line as I know I can’t miss my stop either!).

It is no coincidence that the major stations have bookshops on them. For me the perfect way to escape the cares of the world is to read, ideally while listening to classical music via my headphones. (If there’s a cup of tea or hot chocolate to hand, even better!) And if I’m not reading stories while travelling, I am writing my own so I love that too.

It probably helps that I write flash fiction which a dear friend described as a “bus stop read”. It works well on trains too!

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Back to Earth after Swanwick

Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Had a fab time at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (and a huge thanks to Fiona Park for the image of me signing books there recently), but also glad to be back home and at the old writing desk once again. (Lady went bananas on my return and in such a sweet way!). Image below taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

Have started work on my next author newsletter (to go out on 1st September – to sign up for this just head over to my website – landing page – at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com). I share news, tips, exclusive stories etc here. I hope later that some of those stories will make it into future flash collections but newsletter readers get “first dibs” on reading these.

Am pleased to say most of my slots for Chandler’s Ford Today are full until towards the end of next month and that’s always a good sign. Plenty of fantastic interviews to come and I will be sharing Part 2 of Writing Humour with Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh this coming week. Link up on Friday.

I will also be looking back at a wonderful week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for CFT soon too. (It’s a good way to celebrate the fact Swanwick happened at all and gives me a chance to share some of the benefits of going to it).

Writing Tip Time: One writing tip that has always stood me in good stead is to read work out loud, especially dialogue. What looks good on the page or screen does not always read well. If you stumble on something, your readers will too. I’ve made many an amendment to a story due to that alone. It is worth the time. That extra polishing up can make all the difference to whether a story is accepted or not.


Back to the usual writing week after a fab week at Swanwick. I’ll be drafting blogs later this evening but since coming home I have submitted a flash fiction piece for #FridayFlashFiction and I will be sharing a YouTube video of mine over on my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly.  See further down for the video. (I wrote the story for that video yesterday).

I like to have a good balance of non-fiction and fiction achieved over the course of a week and as long as I manage that, which I normally do, I’m happy. I am also carrying out editing work at the moment which is always interesting.

Funny day with the weather today. Think it’s still trying to make up its mind whether it’s summer or not…

I’ve mentioned before I sometimes use random word generators (nouns, adjectives, questions, numbers even) to trigger story ideas but another way to use them is simply to come up with say half a dozen words and ensure they are somewhere in your tale.

I tend to use the generators to trigger themes and/or title ideas, but the “have to use the words somewhere in the story” ploy is one I need to do more often. I’ve always had fun with this when doing these in the past. So I think it pays every now and then to look at prompt types you used to use and perhaps don’t write to so often now and have a creative trip down Memory Lane and revisit these.


Hope you have had a good Sunday. I know every day this week I’ll be thinking back to what I was doing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this day last week! Swanwick gets to you like that but it is in a lovely way.

Just a quick heads up to say my debut flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again – the paperback – is currently on offer at Amazon. (Sounds a bit like a film franchise, you know the kind of thing, when I put it like that. I promise not to name my eventual third collection XXX – This Time It’s Personal!).

Looking ahead this week, Part 2 of a fabulous interview with #FranHill and #RuthLeigh will be on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Have blogs to put up and schedule too and there is always flash fiction to work on. I drafted some while at Swanwick and I need to give some thought as to where I’ll submit those. I have ideas for both. I have the nice task of deciding which I like best. And I am working on workshop material ready for events later in the year. I’m looking forward to sharing details nearer the time.

Learning to plan out what I write when has been a useful tip I have made good use of over the years and it is coming into its own for me now.

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Had a lovely afternoon and evening with family members I’ve not seen for months. Today was the first time in so long that we could have a proper chat and Lady was besides herself with excitement. She loves visitors. She thinks they all come to see her of course. (Oh and she did go bonkers on seeing Mum had returned from Swanwick yesterday. Naturally Lady had to make sure Mum really was back by giving big cuddles to said Mum. Mum did not mind in the slightest!).

Have plenty of blogs and stories to get on with but I will resume my usual writing routine from tomorrow. I always find I need a little bit of “come back to earth” time after Swanwick. Am also looking forward to reading the books I brought back with me though I have already made a start on those. One of my great “home treasures” are my book shelves, packed with signed books by writer pals.

Many thanks for the comments in on my It’s an Ill Wind (up on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday). That was lovely to come home to!

Screenshot 2021-08-13 at 19-12-37 It's an Ill Wind, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Alliteration Always Advantageous – In titles for flash stories or collections? Not necessarily. (There’s some more alliteration for you!).

I am wary of anything that might come across as gimmicky so I use alliteration sparingly. It can work well but I think as something different to the overall “mix” in a collection. I also want to keep titles open to interpretation and/or mood so trying to dream up something with alliteration can mean I restrict myself unnecessarily here. You wouldn’t want a whole book of alliterative titles. I could see that becoming boring.

As with the stories themselves, your titles should have an interesting hook to them. I’ve used random generators (especially the question one) to come up with ideas for titles I can use directly or adapt. Often changing one word makes all the difference. And I want my titles to have impact. So anything gimmicky could reduce that impact.

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16th August
Pleased to share my latest YouTube video based on a story I wrote yesterday. Hope you enjoy Knowing the Basics though I am glad I do not have Sandra’s attitude to flying. I am even more glad pilots don’t have Sandra’s attitude. See the video for why!


I mix up the kind of prompts I use to produce flash fiction. I will often start with my favourite, an opening line, but have worked to a closing line. I like picture prompts too and random words (either to get into the story somewhere or to use as a title and/or theme) also work well for me.

Stories from viewpoints of alternative characters got me into print in the first place with my A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing) but are great fun to do. You do have to put considerable thought into which character you will use for this and why you have picked them.

On switching to Scrivener, I was delighted to discover it comes with character and setting templates in the short story format. I just adjust these to my own use as I don’t need all of the pre-set information given. But it makes a great starting point and thinking about your story before you write it works well for me.

I like to know I have got tracks to follow before getting on with the story. I guess it’s a reassurance to me I have got something to work up into a story in the first place.

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I was glad to take part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic night again. I chose two stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again (Serving Up a Treat and Calling the Doctor). From Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I chose Judgement Day. See book trailer below for Calling the Doctor. I’ve always been proud of this one – I change the mood of the story with the very last word. Great fun to do.

You have a maximum of five minutes to read (and it is always better to come in a little under that time if possible) and the joy of flash here is you can easily do that with one longer piece or a couple of shorter ones.

It does pay to read your stories out loud and/or record yourself reading them and playing them back. I’ve found dialogue I think looks okay on the paper does not necessarily read well and if you trip over something, your reader will too. At least with flash this does not take long and it is a good thing to hear how your story comes across as that is how your reader will take it in.


Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events and Paperbacks

I’ve just come back from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which has been my first live book and writing related event for well over a year. (It was fantastic catching up with old friends again and the array of courses and workshops was as amazing as ever).

Swanwick has its own Book Room for the duration of the school and it was lovely being able to put my two flash fiction collections in there and pick up books written by friends. (Naturally I got them to sign them during Swanwick week and it is always a thrill to be asked by others to sign your own books).

Is the paperback alive and well? They certainly went down well at the Swanwick Book Room! I think the paperback is still relevant as a format. After all, you can’t exactly put a Kindle out on a table for a book event! Nor can the writer be asked to sign a Kindle (well, I’m not aware of any way of doing this anyway).

From the writer’s viewpoint, paperbacks are relatively easy to transport to an event (note I only say relatively as it does depend on the size. Thankfully I am not writing a three volume epic so that helps a lot!). But people do still like physical books and I think it is healthy to have a wide range of formats as not one size suits all.

When I’m away I do take my Kindle to save luggage space but I would never want to be without physical books. There is something about the texture and feel of them too (and I still love that new book “smell”). And long may that continue!

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Genres, Opening Lines, and Publication News

https://morethanwriters.blogspot.com/2021/06/genres-by-allison-symes.htmlImage Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope all is well with you. Glad to share two new stories this time – one from Friday Flash Fiction and another from my Youtube channel. Hope you enjoy. Also have publication news from CafeLit and an update about my contribution to Wendy H Jones’ book on Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing so plenty going on. (Images of me signing my contract for the latter were taken by Adrian Symes).

AE - July 2021 - Whether you love or loathe the characters, they should make you feel something


Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers

Delighted to share my blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers. I talk about Genres this month and define a few (having fun doing so too!). I chat about why I love ghost stories where the ghost is not the villain, give you pointers regarding major things to look out for in a fantasy novel, and ask you what are your favourite genres and why amongst other things.

So what are your favourite genres and why? Fairytales/fantasy are it for me though I do love crime and historical fiction as well. Is there a book that took you by surprise as to how good or bad it was? For me, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey surprised me in a good way and changed my view about Richard III.

I don’t have any time for the snobbery that can prevail around genre fiction. A good book is a good book and if it is accessible to more people because it is in a certain genre, so be it.

You sometimes have days when there is lots to announce. Today is one of mine!

1. I’ve seen the book cover for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing by Wendy H. Jones where I am contributing a chapter on flash fiction and short story writing. Can’t reveal the cover yet. Looking forward to doing so. It looks great. Trust me on that!

2. Delighted to say From Light to Dark and Back Again is now up on the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop. Oh and the great thing about the bookshop is there are a variety of places to buy from too. See link for more.

3. There will be some fabulous author interviews to come on Chandler’s Ford Today, starting this very Friday, 2nd July, with part 1 of my chat with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews. (I always learn a lot from reading/listening to author interviews which is why I love having writers on CFT).

4. I’ll be on the More than Writers blog spot tomorrow (for the Association of Christian Writers) with a humorous piece about Genres. Looking forward to sharing the link for that tomorrow. See above!

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Hope you have had a nice Sunday. It was lovely having family over in the garden yesterday (and what change in the weather today – it’s chucking it down as I type this!).

I’ll be sharing the first part of a fabulous interview with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews, later this week on Chandler’s Ford Today. Looking forward to sharing that. I always learn so much from author interviews and it is a pleasure to be doing them.

I’m thrilled that so many wonderful comments are coming in on my latest #FridayFlashFiction story, Restless. You can check it out at https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/restless-by-allison-symes

Have sent another story in for them and I’m delighted to say I’ll be having another story up on CafeLit before too long as well. So it has been quite a productive weekend.

Hope you have a good week! (I also hope the weather improves somewhat but we shall see).

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Today (26th June) would have been my Dad’s 84th birthday. It’s a strange day in many ways, as you can imagine. I was pleased he got to see my debut published book, From Light to Dark and Back Again, as my late mum only got to see my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing). There is a kind of symmetry to that I think.

I occasionally use a character’s memories in my flash tales. The obvious two are The Pink Rose in Tripping the Flash Fantastic and They Don’t Understand in my debut collection.

Flash fiction can be a great vehicle for character studies like these precisely because they work best when kept short. The impact on a reader is greater too because of the brevity. What matters is getting across what is the important thing about the character you are writing about. What is it about them that readers have to know?

(Oh and on a very happy note, I’ve booked my train tickets for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to catch up with people there).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do you know your flash fiction or short story character “works”? When they intrigue you enough to write their stories up is the answer that works for me. As I outline my character and discover more things about them, if they grip me at that point, they should do so for a reader as well so away I go.

Also just a quick reminder I share writing tips and exclusive flash stories over at my author newsletter which I issue monthly. The next one is out on 1st July so if you’d like to sign up for this do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you’ll find the relevant sign up form. You’ll receive a welcome email initially with a link to a free pdf download where I chat about flash and share exclusive stories there. (And a big thank you to those who have signed up already – it is great to have you aboard).

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Pleased to share my latest story video here. Hope you enjoy Borrowing.

 

27th June
Delighted to say I’ll be having a flash piece, written as a result of a writing exercise I set for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group, up on CafeLit on 5th July. That is what I call a result and I look forward to sharing it then.

I love opening lines as an exercise. There are usually at least two or three directions in which to take them too. (That makes me feel like a kid with the keys to the chocolate factory!). I suppose the reason I love them so much is I know I am “away” once I’ve got that line down, and knowing who my character is and what they’re capable of, means I’ve got the opening line and a structure in place. I find that so useful.

Funnily enough it’s not a question of then joining the dots. I still have to show my character developing and changing but my structure means the change is reasonable for the character and so will make sense to a reader.

I can still wrongfoot a reader (and often do) but if you then went back over the story you would find the clues were there to indicate the wrong-footing was possible given what you are shown of the character. (I love this when other authors achieve this with me whether it is a short story or a novel. It keeps me on my toes and I have learned so much about how to place things in a story to achieve this).

Have managed to get another flash pieces “off” this weekend – another one to #FridayFlashFiction. I am having so much fun writing the drabbles (100 worders) again as those are what drew me into flash fiction writing in the first place.


One idea for a story is to take a date that is special to you and make it special for your character. The reasons could be the same or the polar opposite. Either way you could write an interesting character study out of this.

Dates mean something for a reason and, especially if you don’t choose the well known ones such as Christmas or Mother’s/Father’s Day, you could show us a character with a unique take on life due to the reason they cherish the date you’ve picked for them.

Also, are there dates your characters would be keen to avoid and what would happen if they can’t get out of whatever is happening on the date in question? There’s potential for comedy and tragedy there – up to you which direction you take it.

But having a special date will reveal something of your character to you as the writer. If that appeals, it will appeal to a reader also. (Also there would be broad sympathy given most of us have dates that mean something to use and not to others).

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Good Story Ending For You?

Story endings don’t have to be happy ones. For some tales, a happy ending would be inappropriate. But what would you class as a “good” story ending?

For me the ending has to be appropriate for the kind of tale being told and for the character.

It was clear in A Christmas Carol, for instance, that Scrooge would have to change. It was a question there of how it would be done. Had Scrooge not changed, there would have been no point in the visitations of the ghosts and there would have been no story.

So I am looking for change to have happened by the end of the story. Being a fairly positive person, I like these changes to be as upbeat as possible. Failing that, I’ll be happy with a kind of “yes, that’s appropriate for this character”.

What you don’t want is a feeling of disappointment that the story hasn’t been closed off properly. There should be no loose ends. The character should have learned something and moved on from the starting point of the story. If that learning something and moving on is something I can identify with, then that makes it an even better ending for me.

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Effects, Impact, and Hidden Gems

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Lady, so far, has had a brilliant one though she wasn’t impressed at my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic! Image taken by Adrian Symes.

Lady looks distinctly unimpressed! Image by Adrian Symes

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Lady played with her “gentleman friend”, Bear, today. Bear is a lovely tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd. Lady generally prefers to play with her girl friends (and she got to do that again today with the smashing Coco) but Bear is one male dog Lady does have a soft spot for. And boy can they both run! Took home a tired but very happy dog.

Looking forward to giving a talk about flash fiction on Zoom next week.

For my Facebook book page a couple of days ago, I suggested a new way of finding ideas for a story (using a random word generator and Pixabay) and mentioned I would have a go at this myself. I duly did so and I will be posting the results on my From Light to Dark and Back Again page shortly. (Also see below in my From Light to Dark and Back Again section here – the image below is the image I’ve chosen for my flash story idea).

Always good to keep ways of finding story ideas fresh and challenging. Mixing up ways of approaching a story I find makes things interesting for me (and hopefully for a reader). The one thing that does not change, whichever method I use, is ensuring I do know the character well enough first. For me, that is the only way to be sure the character is “worthy” of having a story told about them! Well, they are the leading character. They’ve got to be up to the role!


Lady had a great time playing with her pals over the park today. Came back tired out but happy. And it takes a lot to tire out a collie!

Looking forward to sharing the final part of my Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by its Cover, on Friday. This week I’ll be talking covers with guests from CafeLit, Bridge House Publishing, and Chapeltown Books. This has been a great little series. Many thanks to all who have taken part so far and who will be joining me in Friday’s post.

Loving listening to Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on Classic FM as I type this. It is one of my favourites, I voted for it again in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, and was pleased to see it went up to No. 3. I love this music because it seems to take you right back in time and that is such a wonderful effect to create.

Of course as writers the effects we create are with words but positioning of words, thinking of strongest impact possible on a reader etc., all have a part to play in making sure what we create is exactly what we mean to create. Flash fiction writing, where you are honing your word count right down, encourages the creation of effects via the minimal amount of language so every word I do use really does have to punch its weight to justify being in the story at all.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. It is nice coming back from a long walk with Lady without having to clean all the mud off her! (And you should see where she can get the mud. She also believes in sharing it around – but at least it is only mud!).

Do you remember the first characters who made a huge impact on you at the time of discovering their stories? Mine mostly come from books but there are some TV characters who made a huge impact on me too – mainly because they were girls who did things (Including writing!) and didn’t just hang around waiting to be rescued. I became tired of that very quickly, even as a kid.

My favourite characters include Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), George (The Famous Five), Jo March (Little Women), Lady Penelope (Thunderbirds), Sarah Jane Smith (Doctor Who).

As for my own characters, unless they do something useful, they’re not making it into any of my stories! After all the whole point of a story is to find out what happens and you need your characters to make things happen.

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Glorious sunny day today. This is more like it! Great to have a Zoom chat with writer pals yesterday – always a great “pick me up”. Looking forward to when we can get together for actual live events again.

Do you find it hard to get motivated to start writing sometimes? I find that is more of a problem if I am really tired so I just go easy on myself. Just draft something useful I can turn into a blog or short story later on. I always feel better for having done something creatively and that in turn helps me for the next writing session. I am encouraged to go on with the thought well maybe I can do something with what I drafted yesterday and if I could write something useful then, I can do it again now.

It is important to be kind to yourself. If you can only manage five minutes writing, for whatever reason, then go with that. Don’t despise small pockets of writing time like that. They build up over time.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I mentioned a new way of creating a story using Pixabay and a random word generator the other day. (See post further down). I selected my sixth random word and the sixth image I found on Pixabay relating to my topic. The topic I chose was raindrops. And here is the result! Hope you enjoy.

Hidden Gems
‘Boring, Dad, this is so…’
‘I know, boring!’
I wish I could say I was surprised at Karen’s attitude but unless there was a decent shopping centre within a mile of her, she made it clear to the world at large she was hard done by. Why bring her to this wildflower meadow then?
I promised her mother I would try to get some love for the natural world into our daughter before she hit the terrible teens. Since losing Sarah to the Big C, all Karen wanted to do was shop, shop, shop.
Even the kingfisher in flight hadn’t impressed Karen mainly because I swore she missed seeing it, though I was amazed at that flash of brilliant blue.
‘There are hidden gems everywhere, Karen. Keep your eyes open.’
‘Yeah, Dad, right. I know Mum wanted you to bring me here but this is so boring. And it’s been raining.’
I knelt by a flower. ‘Isn’t this beautiful with the raindrops on it?’
Karen gave me the “you must be kidding me” look.
I sighed. ‘Okay, Karen, tell me, if this was a piece of artwork would you want it? Go on, get down and have a good look at the flower and see what you think.’
To my surprise, she did. And it started something special.
Karen is in her thirties now, just married and I hope at some point she and her chap, Stephen, will present me with a grandchild. But what does Karen now do for a living?
She’s not become a botanist or anything like that.
She’s a jeweller. She creates exquisite items based on inspiration from the natural world.
I guess it is one way of learning to appreciate the joys of our planet!
Her pieces sell well too.
She presented me with a smashing tie pin. It was in brilliant blue and in the shape of a kingfisher. On the card that came with it were the words ‘I didn’t miss the kingfisher, Dad. Is it really twenty years ago since we saw that?’
I smiled. Those words meant I kept my promise to Sarah after all.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 27th April 2021


Pleased to share my latest story video on Youtube with you. Hope you enjoy A Rotten Day. We all get days like these…

One of my nice tasks for the week is to create a story video and schedule it on Youtube. I look forward to sharing my next one with you tomorrow, having set one up today. (I do love scheduling!). But the images I use for my stories don’t always tie in with the tale itself so, as for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, I have to think laterally. Sometimes I go for a relatively plain background image if there is no obvious link I can get to directly or laterally.

But it occurs to me there is nothing to stop you (or me for that matter) looking up random images on Pixabay and the like and using them as an inspiration for a flash tale. You could even use a random word generator to trigger words to put in the search bar for Pixabay and perhaps decide you will pick the sixth picture (or whatever number you decide) as the image you will use to generate your next flash tale.

Worth a go? Definitely. And I will give this a go myself and report back I hope later in the week. (See post above). I’ve selected the sixth random word and the sixth image on Pixabay for my topic. Hope to share a new flash tale based on this later in the week.

And do have fun with this!

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I chatted over on my author page about being kind to yourself when you’re finding it hard to start writing anything. Just write for five minutes and see this as something you can polish up later on. The great thing with flash of course is it is perfect for short periods of writing time and, once polished up, those little bits of work can become published stories and, eventually, make it into a collection.

Five minutes of writing time is always better than none and I must admit I always feel better in myself when I have written something. I also feel better knowing what I’ve drafted has the potential to become something that can be published and that spurs me on too.

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Disappointments

Are there any books that have disappointed you? I’m glad to say mine are few and far between and it is almost always because I’ve not been convinced by the characterisation. Something doesn’t quite ring true for me and that lets the whole story down.

The good thing about that is you can learn from it if you’re a writer. I do try to analyse what I liked or disliked about a story and its characters. I also look at how the author shows us what their characters are like. I want to see for myself that Character A is mean to their granny or what have you. I don’t want the author telling me. I want to work it out myself. And great stories and books always allow you to do just that.

After all, what do we look for in a good read? A story and characters that will take us away from our daily lives. Therefore the characters have to “take us with them” on their journeys and be such that we will want to go with them.

Even in the case of a villain, it will be a case of wanting to find out how they get their comeuppance but if you have got to the stage where you want that, the author has written their character well to get you to feel that way.

I must admit I resent book disappointments more now than I used to as I don’t want to waste time on reading something that is going to let me down and make me wish I’d been reading something else instead. Also I am only too aware there are so many wonderful books out there, so I don’t want duff stories getting in the way!

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Snow, Subverting Expectations, and Traffic Rivals

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A nice mix of topics tonight I think!

My latest story video coming up further in the post.

 

Facebook – General

More snow flurries today. Central heating back on. Thick cardigans etc not being packed away just yet.

Glad to report my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover, will follow on from my Story Types post this Friday and will run for the remaining three weeks in April. Looking forward to sharing this week’s post and the series in due course.

Enjoyed listening to a poetry special on Hannah’s Bookshelf earlier today (I do love catch up listening!) and the imagery created was fantastic. Particularly enjoyed the lines from two poets. One was “thick as a Bible” (I have images of an old family Bible we had that was huge) and, in a separate poem, “Van Gogh stars”. Both just fantastic word portraits. Great examples of two poets making every word punch its weight.

This is one similiarity between poetry and flash fiction. I was not surprised to hear that some of Hannah’s guest poets had also taken part in her flash fiction shows. I don’t know how many flash fiction writers go on to be poets. Is there a correlation there, I wonder?

I do know that when I read the poetry columns in things like Writing Magazine, I pay particular attention to how the words are used and the tips for making every word count. That kind of information is useful no matter what you write.

It’s all about the impact on the reader.

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Brrr… it has been cold today! Had the odd snow flurry too (and yes odd is an appropriate word given I was just getting used to spring being here and then wham the snow turns up again!). Despite all of that, I hope you have had an enjoyable Easter Monday.

Managed to sub another flash fiction tale over the weekend to #FridayFlashFiction. There have been some wonderful comments on my two stories on the site so far so a big thank you for those. Made good progress on my third flash fiction collection too.

Am putting the finishing touches to a new series on Chandler’s Ford Today to be called Judging a Book By Its Cover. Looking forward to sharing this and the wonderful contributions from my guests for this too. Meanwhile, this week my CFT post will be about Story Types.

What was nice was over the weekend CFT’s lovely editor, #JanetWilliams, sent an email to the regular contributors that she had received from a fan of the site. That was lovely and I know the feedback was appreciated and not just by me. (Ties in with my post last week about Reviews nicely too – constructive feedback is invaluable).

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4th April – Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!

Delighted to see this came up on my timeline as a memory today – from four years ago.

My, how the time flies. From my first book launch for From Light to Dark and Back Again. (See photo below of the notebook and pen).

Look what came up on my timeline – a memory from 2017.


So much has changed in that time! I hadn’t heard of Zoom or Facebook Live when my first flash collection was launched. I hadn’t envisaged having my own Youtube channel, being interviewed on the radio, talking to a WI group, or taking part in an international writing summit either!

Memories like this remind me the writing journey is a continuous one. Sure, there will be times when you feel you are going nowhere or have headed straight into a cul-de-sac. But there are those wonderful moments when you know you are progressing. Progress can be anything from having something published to simply getting more work out there over the course of a year than you’ve done before or trying a new market and seeing what happens.

What matters I think is enjoying as much of the journey as possible and developing what you do in a way that you love doing. You are your own first reader so it is crucial you enjoy what you write.

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Hope you have had good Holy Saturday.

Many thanks for the positive comments, tweets etc about my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week called Reviews. I’m not too surprised this one has struck a chord! I can’t say I review every book I read but I do review the majority. I also find reviews useful for anything from books to my groceries. The range of reviews usually gives a pretty good idea of whether I’m likely to like something or not.

A big thanks also for the lovely comments on my two stories on #FridayFlashFiction.

Enjoying listening to the Hall of Fame countdown on Classic FM. That’s my listening for the weekend sorted. I often pick classical/classic like pieces when I’m creating my story videos for Youtube. They have an impressive audio library and often I’m looking for a particular mood when creating my video. Can’t say I’m too surprised it is the classic section I head most often to look for the right mood music.

Looking forward to sharing details of a new Chandler’s Ford Today series soon too.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


A big thanks for the wonderful response to my story video, Traffic Rivals, yesterday. (Video below). I adore writing the very short flash tale, especially quirky ones like this, and story videos are a great way to share said mini tales.

Lady and I were not impressed with the snow today. The weather’s being quirky too.

It pays to mix up how you come up with story ideas. For one thing, it will keep things interesting for you.

With Traffic Rivals, it was a case of working out why a witch would take action against a speed camera. After all it wasn’t as if someone was going to dare book her for speeding, was it?! So I then came up with the answer to why she might care about the thing and the story took off from there. Even for a two-line tale, some initial thinking about who, what, why always pays off.


Delighted to see more subscribers to my Youtube channel. Welcome everybody! And I’m pleased to share my latest short story video which is about a witch’s attitude to a fellow witch and speed cameras. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

4th April – Easter Sunday

I’ve talked about wasted words in flash fiction before and one of mine is the word “very”. Why do I consider it to be a wasted word? Simply, it is because it adds nothing of value to a story. Something either is or isn’t something.
The very in front of a word doesn’t strengthen impact.

For example, “I was very cold” is a statement of fact but “I was freezing” shows you how the narrator is feeling. By cutting out words you don’t need, you will have a tighter writing pace and there will be a more immediate feel to it too. Freezing is also a stronger image. You can picture it. “Very cold” can mean different things to different people after all.

Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com


Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about using intriguing titles to get me started on a new flash fiction story. The Terrified Dragon is not the only time I “subvert” an expectation in my titles. Well, you wouldn’t expect a dragon to be scared, would you?

I use the technique again for Punish the Innocent in my From Light to Dark and Back Again. Have fun brainstorming title ideas that would draw you in. Then and only then work out what stories could come from them and write up the one you like the most, the one that makes you react the most. It will have the same effect on a reader.

You can also do this with well known proverbs and phrases. Change one word in these and see what you can do. I often use a notebook and pen for brainstorming. That just works for me but it also means if I’ve only got a couple of minutes before, say, I have to go out (I know – possibly not right now but bear with me on this!), I can jot down some ideas to work up later. Well worth trying.


Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Book Special For You?

It’s always good to start with a leading question, isn’t it?

Okay then, maybe starting with two of them is then!

Seriously, what does make a book special for you? For me, it is always about the characters. I have to want to know them and come to love or loathe them as the case may be but they’ve got to intrigue me enough to make me want to read their stories.

I’ve got to understand their needs and motivations, though I don’t necessarily have to like or agree with them.

And if at the end of the story, I feel sorry that I am “leaving” the characters behind, that is a good sign. Those characters really have got to me – the way they should do.

The characters don’t have to be human. I can understand the rabbits in Watership Down. Their needs, their quest is an understandable one. But there absolutely has to be something I can latch on to about whoever leads the story. It is their journey I’m following after all.

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Writing Wish List and Flash Fiction Formats

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

All images related to the Share Your Story Writing Summit are provided by the organisers, Creative U, or are screenshots from their website.

Free Writing Summit, Join Me There – 18th to 23rd March 2021.  (So looking forward to being part of this!)

https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq 

Allison Symes3. writers IG 2021

Facebook – General

Delighted to say I’m now booked in for my covid jab. Will be having the first one on my birthday in a couple of weeks time. An unusual gift but one I welcome and look forward to – as much as you can ever look forward to a vaccination.

I am asthmatic so having the vaccine is a no-brainer for me. I know people who have been seriously ill with Covid and given my lungs are not all as I would wish (!), I’m not taking any chances here. I would far rather take my chances with the vaccine (and I don’t usually have reactions to them. I’m taking the view even if I do with this one, I will just wind back my levels of activity until fully back to myself again. And if no reactions at all, even better).

Even better is my other half will be having his jab five minutes after I’ve had mine – our first “date” in ages and we’re off to a clinic!! I would far rather it had been to one of our favourite pubs etc., but hopefully that will happen in a few more months.

Writing wise, I am putting up a bonus CFT post tomorrow giving all the details and links to the Share Your Story Writing Summit I’m taking part in from 18th to 23rd March. Am looking forward to catching up with the other speakers too as there are plenty of topics of interest for me to follow up on here. Link up to the bonus post tomorrow (and quick link up above to the summit details).

My normal post on Friday will be about Book Trailers and Story Videos and I look forward to sharing that link then.

Screenshot_2021-03-05 summit presenters 2021


Pleased to share another story video. Hope you enjoy Doing What You Must, an everyday tale of a monster having to re-evaluate its career options. As you do…and especially after a busy Monday.

 

Has been a good writing weekend. Just sent out my bonus newsletter with details about the Share Your Story Writing Summit which runs from 18th to 23rd March. Sign up details for newsletter are on my landing page

Have put finishing touches to my WI talk. Have created a new story video which I hope to share tomorrow. Am also preparing future blogs. My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be looking at book trailers and story videos. The one on the 12th will be about places to go for writing advice and will be especially useful for new writers. Looking forward to sharing these.

Have also started work on a book proposal and am starting to collate material together for a new flash fiction collection. So plenty to keep me out of mischief for some considerable time to come!

Every so often I will brainstorm for future story and blog post idea as I’ve mentioned before. This makes for a great imaginative work out. I will jot down the ideas and what I think might come from them. I rest them for a bit. If they still seem good when I come back to them, I draft them.

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Hope your Saturday has gone well. Do you have a writing wish list? My writing wishes are:-

  • To get better at what I do/produce more work (the two are closely connected)
  • To widen my range of markets for flash fiction and short stories (ongoing project that one!)
  • More reviews on Amazon for my books (which is on every writer’s wish list and again is an ongoing thing).
  • To expand what I do in terms of writing itself (one reason I’ve had for trying a longer work of non-fiction) and in terms of spreading the word about what I do. (Working on that and the Share Your Story Writing Summit, the WI talk, and the radio interview with #HannahKate are all going to help a lot with that!).#
  • To have more writing time. I’d happily ditch housework anyway but especially if I could give that time over to writing!

What I want to know is when my writing fairy godmother is going to turn up and help me with all of that! So far there has been no sign of her. Oh well, best get on with it myself then!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My favourite format for flash is the sub-500 words kind and it does seem to be my natural writing home. When I do go over this bench mark, I find I’m usually writing right up to the 1000 words upper limit. The joy of those is I can put in a simple sub-plot and give more depth to the characters, which I love doing. But the sub-500 words stories I love for the sharpness of their impact. I like a story which in relatively few words can make me go “Wow”!

The joy of flash overall though is having this flexibility to write to the word count you prefer as long as you don’t go above the thousand. I find I will write in batches. It’s not unusual for me to write a couple of longer pieces, then have a real field day on the shorter ones for a while, but it is all great fun!


Occasionally I can use a list as a story format. In Tripping The Flash Fantastic, my The Wish List has all but one of its sentences start with the words “I wish..”.

The exemption is the last line which is the punchline to the story. I use the “I wish” statements to build up the story layer by layer until I reach that punchline.

This kind of storytelling is best kept short but then that’s what flash is all about so win-win!

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If I’m running out of time in a writing session for any major work, I will do one of two things.

  1. Brainstorm for future ideas for stories or blog posts, make a new notes, put aside for a while.
  2. Draft flash fiction. In ten minutes, say, I can usually draft a reasonable length piece (say a 500 worder) or two smaller works. I find homes for them later!

One thing I have learned over the years is never despite those small pockets of time we all get. You can do some useful writing indeed in those times.

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I like experimenting with form for my flash fiction and one I especially enjoyed was using the diary format. I used this for Losing Myself in Tripping The Flash Fantastic. For this kind of story, you do need pretty much the full 1000 word count allowed for in flash but it was fun to do and the different dates in my fictional diary make effective scene breaks. It’s a form I’ll try again at some point.

I have used letter format as well in Punish the Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again. That was a 500 words+ story but unless I am writing to a specific market or competition asking for a specific word count, I decide on the final word count only once I’ve edited the story and I feel as it is good as I can make it (at the time. You always see things you could improve on later – it is the lot of the writing life!).

Both of these tales had to be the length they are. Any less would have spoiled the effect and you do get better over time at knowing when to stop editing and get the pieces out there.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Where I Want A Book To Take Me…

A lot depends on what I’m reading, naturally. For fiction, I want to explore the writer’s created world and characters and be immersed in that for the duration of the book. For non-fiction, I want to stretch my mind and learn. For both I want to be entertained while all of that is going on! No pressure then…

I am thankful that the days of non-fiction being the poor relation to fiction are over. No more boring books of lists and dull facts. What we have are books that engage with the reader, making you want to find out more, actively encouraging further reading in the subject.

As for fiction, even the world is not your limit. I love the way fiction can take you to fantasy worlds, worlds that could exist out there somewhere, maybe, and the books that help us explore our world, right here and now and backwards and forwards in time.
Books have the potential to take you anywhere and that’s just how it should be.

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