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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Voices, Radio Story, and Relaxing Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School were taken by Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn respectively (and in succeeding years at the school. We all hope to be back there in 2021).

Facebook – General

It is odd not writing about what my Chandler’s Ford Today post is going to be this week, but even I take a week off occasionally. A huge thanks to my lovely CFT editor for the surprise “Legends Box” parcel which reached me today. Lots of nice goodies inside with a flyer saying the sender thought I was a legend!

Better still, all proceeds from these parcels go to the Trussell Trust. Imaginative and positive gift ideas for next Christmas I think and such a lovely thing to do. So many thanks to my editor again and to the people behind the Legends Box idea. I like things like this. My church a few years back supported the Send-a-Cow charity and we managed to send two cows and a goat I believe.

I AM working on CFT behind the scenes however. I am working on what will be an informative mini-series which will hopefully go up in January plus another interesting feature with a writer/publisher. So plenty to look forward to then!

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Delighted to share the link to Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. My story, Up to Scratch, was broadcast here on Saturday 19th December. My story comes in at about the 1 hour 28 minutes mark but the show makes for a wonderful celebration of festive flash fiction. Hope you enjoy. I loved taking part and hope to do so again at some point. A big thanks to #HannahKate and also to #ElizabethDucie for flagging this up to me.

Link:  https://www.mixcloud.com/Hannahs_Bookshelf/hannahs-bookshelf-pre-christmas-christmas-special-19122020/

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One of the highlights of Christmas for me is the Carols by Candlelight service. Of course, this year the way it is held is different. It was pre-recorded and then put on Youtube. It was lovely to be able to sing along. I gave one of the readings (I went down to the church to record it a couple of weeks back) but the whole service cheered me no end. Yes, sure, it is not the same as being there but it was the next best thing so a huge thanks to all who worked so hard on making this happen.

By this stage of the writing year, my poor old writers’ diary is looking more than a bit tired (as indeed is this writer!). But I do find this an invaluable aid to planning out what I am writing and for when. I know it seems old-fashioned to write with a pen in a paperback diary but it works for me! I didn’t use any of the writing prompts in the diary this year. I will try and make up for that in 2021.

Am almost at the end of the first draft for my non-fiction project so am pleased with that. I am on target to have this written by the end of the year (though possibly not this side of Christmas). There will be no Chandler’s Ford Today post from me this coming Friday (I wonder why!) but I will be posting on New Year’s Day. And I’ve got a good initial draft of a third flash fiction collection to work on while I’m resting my non-fiction for a while so I can resume work on that with a fresh eye in due course.

But I must admit I do hope we can get back to some sort of writing events where we can meet people. Here’s hoping!

Candlelight - Book Brush

Delighted to say it was my recording of my reading Up To Scratch that went out on Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM earlier this afternoon. Many thanks, #HannahKate for picking my story. I hope to share the link to the show in the next couple of days or so.  (Done, see further up!). Well, there is always time for a flash festive fable! (And I do hope to submit stories to Hannah’s Bookshelf in the future. Flash works well on audio given it is so short).

This story was one of those where I had the “voice” for my characters immediately and is a tale told entirely in dialogue. Good fun to do. I’ve always found dialogue tales work best when kept short so they’re a good choice for flash fiction writers.

How do I know when I’ve got the voice for my characters? It isn’t just a question of knowing how they sound funnily enough, It is a question of knowing yes this is the kind of thing they would say, the kind of vocabulary they would use because…. , and also knowing what wouldn’t suit them. For example the two characters in this story would not swear. Therefore, they didn’t!

Oh and to make sure I don’t forget to do this, please find below a little something created using Book Brush this afternoon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTenqfNs3k8

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I love about writing for Chapeltown Books has been helping to choose suitable images for the book covers. For From Light to Dark and Back Again I choose rippling circles with light playing on them. For Tripping The Flash Fantastic I chose a castle with lights shining in it with lightning seeming to strike one end of the castle. That image was not my first choice but it proved to be better than what I had chosen initially given there are historically based flash stories in this book. I also liked the idea of the lightning flash as being a kind of clue to the book genre.

What I do know is you have to be happy with your book covers and a good one will convey something of what the contents are likely to be. You then hope someone picks up the book, looks at the blurb, and looks inside to find out more (before going on to buy it of course). But it is easier for the writer to do the necessary marketing work if they themselves love the cover, the blurb, and the book itself. One of my favourite Wodehouse quotes is “God may forgive Herbert Jenkins Limited for the cover of……… but I never shall”!

Glad to say that has not been a problem for me!

TTFF squareBookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939BB - blue poster for books


Taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights was not something I anticipated doing when I started writing flash fiction seriously but it is a very good vehicle for developing your writing skills, funnily enough. It pays to read your story out loud to yourself a few times before you do an event like this. You’re looking for anything that might make you stumble over your words. If you find anything (and you inevitably do), it’s time for a rewrite. The aim is for a smooth read for you and a smooth listening experience for your audience. Recording a story and playing it back to yourself helps too. All of this helps you hone your editing skills further too so win-win!

The Open Mic for Prose night

Many thanks to Geoff Parkes for this image of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night.

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Quick plug alert! Amazon say that the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic can be with you for 22nd December if ordered today. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more.

If anyone would like a signed copy directly from me, just send me a Direct Message and we’ll take things from there. I would really need to get books off in the post by Tuesday, 22nd December at the latest to have any chance of getting this to you in time for Christmas. If you’re not in a hurry, then just message me anyway and we can sort things out after Christmas and Boxing Days.

And do remember if you are on the receiving end of book presents this Christmas (you are, aren’t you?!), please do review the book in the usual places. Reviews don’t have to be long but they do help the author.

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Horrendous weather off and on in Hampshire today. Mud levels in the local park are quite something now too. Not that Lady minds! I am blessing my dear old mum for leaving me a shed load of old towels. They do for Lady nicely!

Delighted my story Up to Scratch was on the radio this afternoon. Will share a link when I have it. This story was an all dialogue on between two characters only (though others are referred to in the tale).

I like the challenge of writing all dialogue stories from time to time but I think they are best used sparingly. The advantage of “standard” prose stories is I can take you into the heads of the characters and show you their thoughts. I can’t do that if I’ve got them talking to you!!

But that is where the challenge lies. What could a character be reasonably expected to know to be able to say to another character? It’s also got to sound like natural conversation (though without the ums and ahs we all come up with).

This kind of story makes for a good writing exercise too. Try it some time and see what you come up with. I’ve found this kind of story is best kept short (and I keep mine to about the 100-`150 word count length). It keeps the tale tight and to the point and you really don’t want characters wittering on!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Perfect Books To Relax With

What kind of book do you like to relax with? My favourites are fantasy (especially the humorous kind such as Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld stories) and crime (though I am more at the cosy end of the market).

Though right now I am loving Peter Ackroyd’s London, which is a biography of the city. An interesting way of writing up a history and full of fascinating tales. It’s a fairly big paperback but is an engrossing read so very happy to recommend it.

If a writer’s style draws me in, as it does here, it doesn’t matter how big the book is! They’ve got this reader to the end (which is a challenge for all of us writers to ensure we try and do that with our own writing).

I can’t read in the bath. I’d be worried about dropping a book or Kindle in the water. Neither would come out well. This is why my main reading is just before I go to sleep. I am so relaxed then. It’s not the time to read a gripping vampire novel though. Mind you, I wasn’t planning on doing this so that’s okay.

For me books have to be entertaining and help me relax. If I want a challenging read, I will carve out time during the day when my brain is better able to cope with said challenging read!

I hope you have plenty of excellent new reads for Christmas and I hope you have a safe and as good a celebration as possible. If ever there was a year, we all needed books to help us escape, it is in 2020.


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LAST BUT NOT LEAST

My next round-up will be on Tuesday 29th December. I’m having a couple of days off over Christmas though I still plan to write my weekly Goodreads Author Blog post. I am likely to move this to Sunday 27th December.

In the meantime, I wish you all as safe and happy a Christmas as possible in what has been such a strange year and I look forward to seeing you back here next week!

Many thanks for your ongoing support. It is much appreciated!

merry christmas sign

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

CYBERLAUNCH – TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

A self explanatory post from me for CFT this week (well, you can’t get more self explanatory than Local Author Cyberlaunch News – Allison Symes – Tripping The Flash Fantastic – can you?!)

Having said that I do share in this post some thoughts on cyberlaunches, the joy of technology, and how good prep work helps SO much with this kind of event.

Hope you enjoy the post and hope to see you at the Tripping The Flash Fantastic event tomorrow.  See both the CFT post for details and the direct link here.

Screenshot_2020-10-02 Tripping The Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch Facebook

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Well, it has been quite a week but it is lovely to end it looking ahead to the cyberlaunch tomorrow.

I am also delighted to share a fantastic (appropriately!) review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic from Aly Rhodes which came in today. A huge thanks to her and to all of my lovely reviewers so far.

TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC
This is the author’s second collection of flash fiction i.e. where the stories are often very brief ( 100 words) up to maybe 1000 at most; maximum story with minimum wordage. Here in this collection witches play tricks, historic figures give their pov’s (Anne Boleyn), Santa Claus is revealed, dragons fly, and fairy godmothers run rampant.

Symes has enormous fun with these quirky, alternative mini-tales, which often make the reader laugh but sometimes cry too.

My favourites were The Pink Rose, (outstandingly touching), And Then There Are Tuesdays (I was born on a Tuesday so this had resonance for me) and Time To Be Off, the last line cracked me up.

Dip in, sample, taste and savour these short shorts.

And on behalf of ALL writers, I’ll take the chance to say reviews are always hugely appreciated by us all. They don’t have to be long but they help so much.

I use reviews myself as a consumer for everything from book purchases to new groceries to try! So if you’re thinking of reviewing but haven’t done so, perhaps you’re wondering if it’s worth it, then let me say it definitely IS worth it. Please do send them in!


Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
ONE DAY TO GO! Where has the week gone? Time for another story I think.
Look forward to seeing you on my Facebook event page from 7 pm tomorrow.

As well as celebrating the launch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic (and it means so much to me to have a second book out), I would like to see the launch as a celebration of stories. They are always worth celebrating! Cheers!

Tonight I share one of my favourite tales from TTFF – Being Yourself. You may never look at librarians in quite the same way again…🙂😉


Delighted to share another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Many thanks to Gail Aldwin for the following.

TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC

The title sums up this collection exactly! These short stories contain characters including dragons, witches, fairies, ghosts, figures from history and contemporary life. Many stories include unusual observations and viewpoints. Some are funny, others pack a punch. If you enjoy a diverse collection of stories, this is the book for you!

When it comes to reading, as well as writing flash collections, I do love a variety of mood and characters. It is always the characters I want to discover and root for/boo hard at (depending on whether they’re the villain or not). Naturally that love of character comes out in my own writing.

And a little later, I’ll be sharing a brief reading of one of my stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic on my events page, which I hope you enjoy. (I’ve put one of the videos I’ve used up above and will share another here shortly). (Oh and below are three other images I did have in mind for the book cover for TTFF at some point).

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
It’s storytime as the flyer says. I’m reading Judgement Day from Tripping The Flash Fantastic and then share a little of what led me to writing this story. Hope you enjoy. Oh and before I forget, as if I could (!)… TWO DAYS TO GO! (When I put this on Facebook during the week of course. It has been a busy and exciting week as you can probably tell by now!).

Storytime - Judgement Day By Allison Symes


Such good fun to be on a mini blog tour at the moment. I was guest on #PatriciaMOsborne’s blog yesterday. Today I am on Jen Wilson’s blog (see my earlier post for the link). Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s one. And the two things the four of us have in common?

As well as being writers, we are all stalwarts of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. AND two of us are part of the renowned Prosecco Queens’ quiz team of said Summer School!

(Image below is of me taking part in the Open Prose Mic Night at the School in 2019. Many thanks to #PennyBlackburn for the pic. The other image was taken by Cheryl Holland on my phone and features Val Penny and Jen Wilson and other lovely Swanwick friends. We all can’t wait for Swanwick to resume, hopefully, in 2021).

34889c89ed2c7f0164fbf25826dd9ac9.0Always time for a laugh with fellow writers-1

Many thanks to #JenniferCWilson for hosting me on her blog today. It is always great fun to talk about flash fiction. Knowing Jennifer’s own love for history, it was particularly nice to discuss this aspect of my flash fiction writing with her here.

Flash fiction has the huge advantage of being character led and I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want. Great fun! But with Tripping The Flash Fantastic, for the first time, I have written historically based flash fiction. See the article for more about this but it is something I hope to do more of at some point.

Just to confirm the link for my launch event on Saturday can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/1246876649024453

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
I’m on a mini blog tour at the moment with fellow stalwarts from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. It was a pleasure to chat yesterday with Patricia M Osborne on her blog.

Today I chat with Jen Wilson on her blog

Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s blog and it has been great having slots ahead of the cyberlaunch and again just after it.

As I know Jen writes historical paranormal (do check out her Kindred Spirits series), my focus for this blog spot was on my historical flash stories in TTFF.

I’ve mentioned on my posts before that one thing I love about flash fiction is it has to be character-led. That means I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want!

For the first time with TTFF, I have set stories back in time. There are stories in here which are from the viewpoint of Richard III and Elizabeth of York for example, as well as my trademark “fairytales with bite” fiction.

All good fun to do and, of course, history is full of wonderful and not-so wonderful characters. This is an aspect of flash writing I hope to do more of in future.


Time for a listen I think! I had the great joy of being a guest on #WendyHJones’ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this year. My first time on a podcast, great fun to do, and no prizes for guessing what I talked about (though there is a huge hint below!).

Do check out Wendy’s show every Wednesday. All of the episodes are jam packed with tips and advice.

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again –


One of the challenges of any form of fiction writing is ensuring readers can tell your characters apart by the way they speak etc.

Now with flash fiction where I often focus on one character per story, that isn’t a problem as such.

Where the challenge DOES come in is ensuring that in a collection like From Light to Dark and Back Again and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic as well, the characters in the books as a WHOLE are nicely varied. Readers should be able to distinguish between the stories (and thus the characters).

It’s another reason why I like a good variety of mood and tone in my books as that helps with this aspect enormously.


Sometimes when I write my flash tales, I have the character in mind clearly and I then need to think of something for them to do! At other times I have the ideas of a situation to write about but need the right person to “fill” the role, so to speak. So this is why I jot down ideas for stories but also for characters.

Let’s say a competition theme is one of honesty. I could go one of two ways here – use an honest character and highlight the theme via them directly. Or I can use a dishonest character and contrast them with the honest situation. Both would work. It’s then down to me to decide which of the two characters I think is the strongest and I will then write their story up.


This week is going to be focused on my launch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, of course, but I am looking forward to sharing a couple of readings from the new book. (See above!).

How do I choose stories for reading for things like this or for Open Prose Mic Nights and the like? I try to go for a balance of mood. If I read a funny tale, I will read a darker one too. I also go for a balance of lengths too. If I read a 100-worder, I will also read a 250 or something that is a little longer than the first tale I read.

Above all, I try not to go on for too long. Recordings are best kept fairly short (as it effects download time etc). Also a short recording or reading makes it easier to keep your listener’s interest.

Pic below is of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School’s Open Prose Mic Night (and there’s a phrase you don’t want to say quickly!). A huge thanks to #GeoffParkes for the pic.

The Open Mic for Prose night

Fairytales With Bite – The Sting in The Tail


One of the joys of flash fiction writing, which is my big love, is it is a great form for twist in the tale endings. Also, as the form has to be character led, you can set those characters whenever and wherever you want. Your characters don’t have to be human either. I like all of that!

One great thing about using non-human characters is you can use them to reflect aspects of us. Animal Farm by George Orwell does that brilliantly. (Definitely not flattering either).

The most effective stings in the tail are for me where:-

1. The character is an aggravating one and deserves whatever is coming to them!

2. You think a character you’re rooting for has little chance of winning and things change at the very last moment so that they do win out. (The classic fairytales often work on this basis. Think of Cinderella when the Prince insists that all of the women in the household have to try the glass slipper. Had the Prince not been so persistent….)

So think about how and where in your story you are going to place your sting. In my Calling The Doctor from From Light to Dark and Back Again, my sting is in the very last word.

Both book trailers below. (For me it is lovely seeing them side by side).

Hope you enjoy the stories and do think about how you can make your sting have the maximum impact on a reader. Sometimes you can know the sting fairly early on. It is then a question of finding out whether the character deals with that sting in a good way or not and that can be fun too.

This World and Others – Conjuring Up Your World


What do you want readers to imagine when they read your stories? What aspects of your created world are the most important for them to read about and how can you convey that?

I’ve mentioned before it is often the telling detail placed in the right place in a story that has the maximum impact on a reader. I don’t necessarily need to know Character A lives in an “upside down” world.

I do need to know Character A walks on what we would consider to be the sky and a brief showing of how that is done. (For the characters that live in this world it would all be perfectly natural of course, but often a story changes dramatically when a stranger comes into the world and someone has to show them the ropes).

Readers need a sense that if your world were to exist somewhere, it could exist. That is your characters can find food, drink, shelter, there is some sort of government etc. You can unveil this a bit at a time and I can think of no better example to use than Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. You find out more about how Ankh-Morpork is “run” as the series goes on. What he gives you in each story is enough for you to make sense of that story.

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

A self explanatory post from me for CFT this week (well, you can’t get more self explanatory than Local Author Cyberlaunch News – Allison Symes – Tripping The Flash Fantastic – can you?!)

Having said that I do share in this post some thoughts on cyberlaunches, the joy of technology, and how good prep work helps SO much with this kind of event.

Hope you enjoy the post and hope to see you at the Tripping The Flash Fantastic event tomorrow.  See both the CFT post for details and the direct link here.

Screenshot_2020-10-02 Tripping The Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch Facebook

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Well, it has been quite a week but it is lovely to end it looking ahead to the cyberlaunch tomorrow.

I am also delighted to share a fantastic (appropriately!) review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic from Aly Rhodes which came in today. A huge thanks to her and to all of my lovely reviewers so far.

TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC
This is the author’s second collection of flash fiction i.e. where the stories are often very brief ( 100 words) up to maybe 1000 at most; maximum story with minimum wordage. Here in this collection witches play tricks, historic figures give their pov’s (Anne Boleyn), Santa Claus is revealed, dragons fly, and fairy godmothers run rampant.
Symes has enormous fun with these quirky, alternative mini-tales, which often make the reader laugh but sometimes cry too.
My favourites were The Pink Rose, (outstandingly touching), And Then There Are Tuesdays (I was born on a Tuesday so this had resonance for me) and Time To Be Off, the last line cracked me up.
Dip in, sample, taste and savour these short shorts.

And on behalf of ALL writers, I’ll take the chance to say reviews are always hugely appreciated by us all. They don’t have to be long but they help so much. I use reviews myself as a consumer for everything from book purchases to new groceries to try! So if you’re thinking of reviewing but haven’t done so, perhaps you’re wondering if it’s worth it, then let me say it definitely IS worth it. Please do send them in!

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
ONE DAY TO GO! Where has the week gone? Time for another story I think.
Look forward to seeing you here from 7 pm tomorrow. As well as celebrating the launch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic (and it means so much to me to have a second book out), I would like to see the launch as a celebration of stories. They are always worth celebrating! Cheers!
Tonight I share one of my favourite tales from TTFF – Being Yourself. You may never look at librarians in quite the same way again…🙂😉
Smile and wink emojis. BY recording.

8th October

Delighted to share another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Many thanks to Gail Aldwin for the following.

The title sums up this collection exactly! These short stories contain characters including dragons, witches, fairies, ghosts, figures from history and contemporary life. Many stories include unusual observations and viewpoints. Some are funny, others pack a punch. If you enjoy a diverse collection of stories, this is the book for you!

When it comes to reading, as well as writing flash collections, I do love a variety of mood and characters. It is always the characters I want to discover and root for/boo hard at (depending on whether they’re the villain or not). Naturally that love of character comes out in my own writing.
And a little later this evening, I’ll be sharing a brief reading of one of my stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic on my events page, which I hope you enjoy. (Oh and below are three other images I did have in mind for the book cover for TTFF at some point). Use TTFF images 1, 2, 3. See TTFF folder.

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
It’s storytime as the flyer says. I’m reading Judgement Day from Tripping The Flash Fantastic and then share a little of what led me to writing this story. Hope you enjoy. Oh and before I forget, as if I could (!)… TWO DAYS TO GO! Use the jpg download of the flyer AND from my TTFF drive on E drive the Judgement Day story OR use Dropbox to create a link as I did for CFT. Might be better to do that though may be worth trying to import video directly.

 

7th October
Such good fun to be on a mini blog tour at the moment. I was guest on #PatriciaMOsborne’s blog yesterday. Today I am on Jen Wilson’s blog (see my earlier post for the link). Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s one. And the two things the four of us have in common?
As well as being writers, we are all stalwarts of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. AND two of us are part of the renowned Prosecco Queens’ quiz team of said Summer School! (Image below is of me taking part in the Open Prose Mic Night at the School in 2019. Many thanks to #PennyBlackburn for the pic). Swanwick 2019 folder

Many thanks to #JenniferCWilson for hosting me on her blog today. It is always great fun to talk about flash fiction. Knowing Jennifer’s own love for history, it was particularly nice to discuss this aspect of my flash fiction writing with her here.
Flash fiction has the huge advantage of being character led and I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want. Great fun! But with Tripping The Flash Fantastic, for the first time, I have written historically based flash fiction. See the article for more about this but it is something I hope to do more of at some point.
Just to confirm the link for my launch event on Saturday can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/1246876649024453

https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/2020/10/07/spotlight-allison-symes-tripping-the-flash-fantastic/

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
I’m on a mini blog tour at the moment with fellow stalwarts from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. It was a pleasure to chat yesterday with Patricia M Osborne on her blog. Today I chat with Jen Wilson on her blog at https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/2020/10/07/spotlight-allison-symes-tripping-the-flash-fantastic/
Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s blog and it has been great having slots ahead of the cyberlaunch and again just after it.
As I know Jen writes historical paranormal (do check out her Kindred Spirits series), my focus for this blog spot was on my historical flash stories in TTFF.
I’ve mentioned on my posts before that one thing I love about flash fiction is it has to be character-led. That means I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want!
For the first time with TTFF, I have set stories back in time. There are stories in here which are from the viewpoint of Richard III and Elizabeth of York for example, as well as my trademark “fairytales with bite” fiction.
All good fun to do and, of course, history is full of wonderful and not-so wonderful characters. This is an aspect of flash writing I hope to do more of in future.

SECOND POST
Time for a listen I think! I had the great joy of being a guest on #WendyHJones’ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this year. My first time on a podcast, great fun to do, and no prizes for guessing what I talked about (though there is a huge hint below!).
Do check out Wendy’s show every Wednesday. All of the episodes are jam packed with tips and advice.
See https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-writing-and-marketing-show/e/67280384

 

From Light to Dark and Back Again – General

 

9th October
One of the challenges of any form of fiction writing is ensuring readers can tell your characters apart by the way they speak etc.
Now with flash fiction where I often focus on one character per story, that isn’t a problem as such.
Where the challenge DOES come in is ensuring that in a collection like From Light to Dark and Back Again and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic as well, the characters in the books as a WHOLE are nicely varied. Readers should be able to distinguish between the stories (and thus the characters).
It’s another reason why I like a good variety of mood and tone in my books as that helps with this aspect enormously.

8th October
Sometimes when I write my flash tales, I have the character in mind clearly and I then need to think of something for them to do! At other times I have the ideas of a situation to write about but need the right person to “fill” the role, so to speak. So this is why I jot down ideas for stories but also for characters.
Let’s say a competition theme is one of honesty. I could go one of two ways here – use an honest character and highlight the theme via them directly. Or I can use a dishonest character and contrast them with the honest situation. Both would work. It’s then down to me to decide which of the two characters I think is the strongest and I will then write their story up.

 

7th October
This week is going to be focused on my launch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, of course, but I am looking forward to sharing a couple of readings from the new book.
How do I choose stories for reading for things like this or for Open Prose Mic Nights and the like? I try to go for a balance of mood. If I read a funny tale, I will read a darker one too. I also go for a balance of lengths too. If I read a 100-worder, I will also read a 250 or something that is a little longer than the first tale I read.
Above all, I try not to go on for too long. Recordings are best kept fairly short (as it effects download time etc). Also a short recording or reading makes it easier to keep your listener’s interest.
Pic below is of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School’s Open Prose Mic Night (and there’s a phrase you don’t want to say quickly!). A huge thanks to #GeoffParkes for the pic. Swanwick 2018 folder

Fairytales With Bite – The Sting in The Tail
One of the joys of flash fiction writing, which is my big love, is it is a great form for twist in the tale endings. Also, as the form has to be character led, you can set those characters whenever and wherever you want. Your characters don’t have to be human either. I like all of that! One great thing about using non-human characters is you can use them to reflect aspects of us. Animal Farm by George Orwell does that brilliantly. (Definitely not flattering either).
The most effective stings in the tail are for me where:-
1. The character is an aggravating one and deserves whatever is coming to them!
2. You think a character you’re rooting for has little chance of winning and things change at the very last moment so that they do win out. (The classic fairytales often work on this basis. Think of Cinderella when the Prince insists that all of the women in the household have to try the glass slipper. Had the Prince not been so persistent….)
So think about how and where in your story you are going to place your sting. In my Calling The Doctor from From Light to Dark and Back Again, my sting is in the very last word. Do check it out on my book trailer for FLTDBA at https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes
I’ve also had fun with this technique for the trailer for my new book, Tripping The Flash Fantastic. See my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ for more (and the trailer for FLTDBA is here too). Hope you enjoy the stories and do think about how you can make your sting have the maximum impact on a reader. Sometimes you can know the sting fairly early on. It is then a question of finding out whether the character deals with that sting in a good way or not and that can be fun too.

This World and Others – Conjuring Up Your World
What do you want readers to imagine when they read your stories? What aspects of your created world are the most important for them to read about and how can you convey that?

I’ve mentioned before it is often the telling detail placed in the right place in a story that has the maximum impact on a reader. I don’t necessarily need to know Character A lives in an “upside down” world. I do need to know Character A walks on what we would consider to be the sky and a brief showing of how that is done.

(For the characters that live in this world it would all be perfectly natural of course, but often a story changes dramatically when a stranger comes into the world and someone has to show them the ropes).

Readers need a sense that if your world were to exist somewhere, it could exist. That is your characters can find food, drink, shelter, there is some sort of government etc. You can unveil this a bit at a time and I can think of no better example to use than Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. You find out more about how Ankh-Morpork is “run” as the series goes on. What he gives you in each story is enough for you to make sense of that story.

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How Has Your Summer Been?

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

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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EVENT NEWS – 26TH SEPTEMBER 2020

ADVANCE NEWS and bonus post from yours truly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

For example:-

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

Not a lot of info there. Match what exactly?

How about:-

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

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

Better still:-

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

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

 

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Fairytales With Bite –

Which Fairytale Character Should You Be Wary Of?

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

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

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

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This World and Others – Time

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

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

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

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Walkies and Interviews!

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

Hope you enjoy the post.

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

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

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

Transforming Communities Full

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

 

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

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

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This World and Others –

Questions to Ask Your Characters

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

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

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

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Radio News and Preparation

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

RADIO NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

Image from Chat and Spin Radio

The above ties in with my next post too!

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Always plenty of space to fill!  Pixabay

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

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

Now where’s my notepad?😆😆

 

 

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

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

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

 

HONOURABLE MENTION!

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Character summary? Rebellious fairy, soft spot for kittens.

And away I go.