CafeLit Publication News and News of a Poorly Paw!

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And the great thing with books and stories? They can take you anywhere in space and time. You just need to enjoy the journey!

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Publication News

Delighted to receive the list of all who will be in The Best of Cafelit 10 later this year. It is a big list too! Always lovely to spot my name in said list!

Congratulations everyone and many thanks to all who voted for my two stories, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of the Day Job, to be included. It will be lovely to be “between the CafeLit covers” with friends, old and new. And don’t forget you can always check out the previous CafeLit anthologies. They are a wonderful mixture of styles and moods with something to suit most.

And if you want to know more, I can do no better than take you to my Amazon Author Central page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

I’ve had the joy of being published in several of these (the most recent being CafeLit 8 and 9). And they make perfect books for dipping into if you are between “big”reads and don’t know which will be your next one.

Give the short form collections a try!

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock up

Am not sorry to see the back of January. Goes on for far too long but in positive news, Lady is going from strength to strength (see poorly paw story further down!), and my snowdrops are in bloom in the garden. That’s a positive for any time but especially for a Monday I think.

Many thanks for the wonderful responses to the Launches in Lockdown series so far on Chandler’s Ford Today. I’ll be sharing invaluable insights from two fab writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this Friday. What my guests and I all hope is that this series will be encouraging and helpful to those writers who are having their launches this year, when none of us can be certain about what will happen and when in terms of lockdown restrictions easing etc.

One thing I have learned as a writer of many years standing (and of course sitting!) is a little encouragement and good tips do go a very long way. I hope they do for you too.


Many thanks for your best wishes over Lady’s poorly paw. Am glad to report she is feeling much better and has cheered up considerably. The claw will grow back so the next time she might experience a little discomfort will be when that comes through again probably in a couple of weeks or so. (A bit like us with teeth really!).

Having said that, Lady is a young, highly active dog, and this is the kind of accident that does happen to dogs like her though Lady would be glad (as would I) if it didn’t happen again! The other good thing though is young active dogs do recover quickly which is a mercy.

Writing wise, I’m setting up interviews at the moment where I’m on the other side of the interview desk. Am looking forward to sharing more details as and when I can.

I’m also working on something else which will end up on my website right here (!) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and again I look forward to sharing more details when I can. It’s been something I’ve been toying with doing for a while and something has cropped up that has told me, yes go for it, so I am!

The writing life is often like this. You make some developments, then you need to build on that so you end up doing more! But this is a good thing. The writing life is not meant to be static. What is lovely is looking back every so often and seeing where you’ve come from while looking ahead to further developments and seeing where they take you. And, as ever, the best thing is to enjoy the journey.

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Hope your Saturday has gone well. Now in dog news, I have to report Lady is recovering from a poorly paw.

Apologies in advance if you’re eating but she managed to rip a claw. Vet removed claw and sealed the wound. Claw will grow back. Not a great day yesterday, Lady understandably feeling sorry for herself, but much better today and is coming on leaps and bounds.

I just need to stop her doing literal leaps and bounds for a couple of days to make sure all is as well as it should be. Huge thanks to Lady’s bestie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her human mum for the fuss and cuddles you gave Lady yesterday. It was the only bright spot in her day yesterday!

Okay that’s the kind of drama no dog owner ever wants to have (but inevitably gets every so often. It’s why you insure your pets!). How about the kind of drama writers want?

I must admit I don’t like melodrama. Never have. It’s always struck me as being over the top but what I do want to see is actions and reactions that arise naturally from the characters and the situation they’re in. (So no aliens landing at Mansfield Park for me. I don’t really get the mash-ups. I understand either genre – sci-fi and classic here – but not the pair together).

I want to be able to feel that yes, this character could do this because they have shown they can be silly so to be silly again is not unexpected and, as a result, the situation they find themselves in has the potential to become very silly indeed. But that all ties up and I guess that is the point.

Character = situation = one develops from the other. For me, the character always comes first. Get them set up correctly and the situations will arise naturally. Even in fantasy with magical elements, this applies. You’ve established your character is in a magical world and what abilities they have or lack so the situation will arise from that.

And the situation will always involve conflict. If a character wants more powers than they’ve got, what will they do to achieve more? Do it the proper way and learn their skills or try to cheat their way to the top? But get your character set up and you can take them where you want to and more importantly take your readers with you.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to say two of my flash tales, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of The Day Job, will be in The Best of CafeLit 10 later this year. Nice start to February! Don’t forget to check out the Cafelit site for a wide range of stories, short and long, at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/

You can find my page at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/Allison%20Symes

And of course it is CafeLit I have to thank for introducing me to the wonders of flash fiction so I am definitely going to plug them whenever I can!

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Hope you enjoy my new story video – The Dragon and The Clock. These shorts are great fun to do and a marvellous way to share one and two line flash tales!

 

I’ve always loved writing and reading dialogue and hearing characters speak. (Also in reading between the lines of what they’re saying so you get a sense of the real character behind what they say).

When I’m reviewing stories, I try to listen to my characters, that the words I’ve given them I can “hear” them saying, and nothing is inappropriate or out of kilter for them. I often speak work out loud, especially dialogue (and the great thing with flash is this is easy to do and doesn’t take long!).

Speaking dialogue out loud is the sure way to pick up any thing that does not ring true or if what looks right written down is tricky to say out loud. If you find it tricky, so will your readers. I try to stick to the Keep It Simple principle for writing (and especially for dialogue). It works.

Now with my flash fiction, I often have stories with only one character. So yes, I do get them to speak out loud. You can, of course, get them to speak into a phone. But much of what applies to dialogue writing can also apply to writing internal thoughts. After all that is the character talking to themselves so again the style of thought, what they’re coming up with, should be apt for the character you’ve created.


I approach writing a flash fiction story in several ways.

  • I have a prepared character I want to put in a situation and see what happens.
  • I have a theme I want to write to (or one I’m having a crack at for a competition, say) so I know what I’m writing about from the get go. It’s a question of picking the right character for this kind of story.
  • I brain storm ideas for titles, pick a few I like and then work out what kind of characters would work for these and then go with the ones I like the most.
  • I know the ending to a story (and this is almost always a twist tale) and it is just a question of working out how the story would get to that point. That almost inevitably leads to the kind of character who would end up in a twist like that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What I Like to See In A Book

Hmm… this is a good statement, isn’t it? I could give chapter and verse here, appropriately, but for me one thing only is key to whether a book is good or not.

It’s all down to the characters. Do they grip me? Do they get me rooting for them to succeed or fail? (Funnily enough, either is fine, and I do love to see a “good” villain get their comeuppance eventually. I blame my love of fairytales for that one).

If a character does not grip me, I switch off. I love Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett is a fabulous character and ahead of her time. She says what she thinks and I love that.

Conversely, I am not gripped by Mansfield Park as I think the heroine there is dull and, to my mind, not worth of being a heroine. Her happy ending does depend on the misfortunes of others, in my view, but Elizabeth had to work for hers and it was by no means certain it would happen until close to the end.

I wanted to see Miss Price do so much more to “earn” her happy ending but there you go. (I guess it’s a kind of warning to all writers that even the best can come up with characters who don’t engage with their readers and I know there are those who love Mansfield Park but it has never done anything for me because of this).

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Twitter Corner

 

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The Interview Fence and Humorous Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And below – well books are such magical places to be, are they not?

 

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Nice big walk with Lady today before the weather set in. Not looking forward to tomorrow. I suspect Lady and I are going to get a good soaking, no matter what time I take her out.

Have drafted answers to second set of interview questions so will be reviewing those and sending them off to the interviewer probably tomorrow.

Now I am on both sides of the interview fence of course. I love questions which draw a writer out of their shell a bit. So questions which always find favour with me will include things like:-

Why do you write what you do? What made you pick that genre?

This is a fab question as it makes you think well why did I pick that route and why am I still sticking with it? In my case with the flash fiction it is because I love the challenge and variety of it. But that sort of question makes you re-evaluate what you’re doing and that’s a good thing. It should confirm you really do love what you write and it is that love which keeps you going during the tougher times of the writing life.

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Hope Monday has been okay for you. Very busy with the old domestics today. Only too glad to get to my desk and write. Writing relaxes me and I always feel so much better for having got something down on the old laptop.

Looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for CFT on Friday. As well as sharing my experiences with Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I’ll be talking to two Authors Reach writers – Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer. Plenty of useful tips and thoughts given “normal” writing events won’t be back with us for a while, even if everything does go well with controlling, and eventually beating, You Know What.

Still one lovely thing about writing is there is always plenty to be getting on with and it is something positive to focus on. My goal for this week is to return the other set of interview questions I’m working on and prepare material for something special I hope to talk more about in the next month or so.

Plus there are always stories to work on and the new idea I referred to yesterday for a draft I’ve got prepared is something else I hope to write up later this week. I always jot down ideas like this in fairly detailed notes when I know I can’t write something up immediately. I’ve found it’s the only way to make sure I don’t forget something important.

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It is great fun being on the receiving end of the interview questions. I’ve just sent one batch back and will be working on another set but what is great is these questions stretch me and make me think. They make me think about what I write but also how and why. That’s a good thing. It pays writers every so often to take a step back and remind yourself of why you do what you do here. I look forward to sharing the links on these interviews later on.

Have drafted a story for submission, rested it for a week, and as so often happens a better idea for how to end the story has occurred to me so that will be going in. That is the whole point of resting a piece of work (and it applies equally well to non-fiction). You need distance between when you first wrote the piece and then when you look at it again.

Time away does help you see things more clearly, including where the story might be strengthened (and that is always worth doing. Someone said you should try not to write the boring bits that people skip when they read. It’s equally true you should try not to write the “weak” bits as people skip those bits too and you want readers hanging on your every written word!).

Had a lovely couple of writing Zooms over the weekend. Great fun to catch up with everyone and a much appreciated morale boost for yours truly – these things always are.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glad I delayed taking Lady out as the weather went from grotty to cold but sunny. She liked that too.

Just to say the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer via Amazon. See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more on that. Many thanks for all of the fabulous reviews so far on this. Would always welcome more of course!

Whether it is for my book(s) or those of any other author, well thought out reviews are always welcome. They don’t have to be long and can be as simple as I liked this book because…. Or my favourite story is …………. etc. A couple of minutes and you’re done and you’re supporting authors too. So what’s not to like?!

Of course one problem all writers have faced in the last 12 months has been the lack of our usual writing events to promote and sell our wares. This is why I wanted to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today.

That starts next week but my interview with Richard Hardie yesterday was insightful as to the challenges faced by publishers. I’ve found it pays to understand something about the way publishers operate as that helps me in turn to tailor my approaches in them in such a way it increases the chances of acceptances! It really does make sense, folks!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Is there anything about longer forms of writing I miss when it comes to focusing on flash ficton storytelling?
I suppose if there is anything, it is the lack of subplots. There simply isn’t the room for any in a sub-500 words flash story. (You can get a simple one in if you write up to the 1000 word limit and I have done this with my story Rewards from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Also this is a good story if you want to be wary of how you upset someone with the power to get their revenge in print!).

But then I do see the joys of novels with their twists and turns as something to savour separately from the flash tales where I do just focus on the one important moment. And the great thing?

Both have their place in storytelling.

Both have their place on my writing and reading lists!

And there’s nothing to stop you writing in more than one form.


Wow! Many thanks for the huge response to my most recent Book Brush adverts involving my flash fiction collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. That came as a very nice surprise after a tiring Monday. (I hadn’t twigged today is so-called Blue Monday. Mondays are tough days regardless of when in the year they are! I wonder if that is why Bank Holiday Mondays seem to be more of a holiday than they are. It’s not just a question of getting a day off, we’re getting a Monday off!).

I thought I’d reshare one of my most popular story videos from my Youtube channel. Last Request lives up to its title! Hope you enjoy. (I often create a new story over the weekend but did not have time to do so this time. Mind you, this story is a good example of the kind of quirky tale I love reading and writing).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXGNt9XndN8

F = Fun to Write
L = Language to be direct and specific
A = Action – conveyed in as few words as possible
S = Story complete in and of itself
H = Hero/heroine but room for only 1 or 2 characters.

F = Fairytales and fantasy work well in a flash format
I = Imagination – let it run riot and then hone what you come up with to produce a piece of hard hitting flash fiction
C = Characters. Have to make impact quickly as flash fiction has to be character led.
T = Truth – flash fiction is as capable of conveying truths about the human condition as an epic novel!
I = Intense. Has to be due to the word count restrictions (but that makes truth hit home quicker and harder)
O = Omnipresent narration can work well in flash.
N = No restrictions on what genre of story you use for flash.

TTFF - posh chairBookBrushImage-2021-1-3-16-443BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939


Have been having fun with Book Brush again re promoting for FLTDBA and TTFF. Easy to do too. (See above pics though the phone one I created a little while ago but is a favourite of mine).

One of the things I do enjoy on the promoting side is being able to share some of the stories. Flash doesn’t take long to read so it makes quite a good advert for itself!

A good advert is one you can remember years later so the ideal for book straplines is to try and do the same with those. This is where flash fiction writing can help, especially practising writing the one-liners. But it takes time, it is not always easy to judge if you’ve got it right so beta readers and the like can be an enormous help here.

Am looking forward to getting my third collection together too. That is one my tasks for this year. I’ve written a fair amount already but will be getting the rest up together while I rest my non-fiction project. These are the two major things I want to submit later this year. I like the balance of having a fiction and a non-fiction to work on and I did find using NaNoWriMo incredibly helpful so will be open to using that structure again.

Below is the video I created for the Waterloo Arts Festival back in the summer of 2020 as that had to go online. I share an extract from my story Books and the Barbarians here and talk a little about my work. Hope you enjoy.

Goodreads Author Blog – Humorous Books

If ever there was a time for humorous books, it is now isn’t it? Something to cheer people up with and I must admit I was pleased to see that sales of P.G. Wodehouse books have gone up during the pandemic. (I hope the same has happened with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books too).

And of course humour creeps into other genres too, including crime and horror. I do love a witty one-liner from a character where you know the character is capable of coming up with such things.

It is a bugbear of mind that humorous books aren’t taken more seriously. They are “proper” literature and shouldn’t be looked down on. If anything a writer capable of writing humour should be lauded simply because it is not the easiest thing to do. Humour is subjective after all.

Mind you, the written word has a huge advantage here. I love “seeing” puns come out, where appropriate to the storyline. Language, and playing with it to make stories, should be fun and I like to see fun in the final results.

I guess this may well be one reason that misery memoir really is not for me, no matter how well written it is. I’ve got to have some cheer somewhere and even a gripping crime novel, with the odd bit of humour in it, will always work better for me than that.

Have you any favourite funny books you turn to for literally light reading relief as and when you need it?

 

Twitter Corner

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Richard Hardie, Authors Reach, and Lockdown

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to Richard Hardie for supplying book cover images and his author photo for my CFT post this week.

And below, from the wonderful Pixabay, a great example of what fabulous books should do – draw you in!

Books invite you into their world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share this week’s CFT post – Richard Hardie, Authors Reach, and Lockdown. Richard is a local (to me!) YA writer and Authors Reach is his publishing company. Richard and I chat about the challenges of lockdown he has faced both as an author and as a publisher.

Richard Hardie head profile-1

Richard Hardie. Image kindly supplied by him.

This post makes a wonderful lead-in to my Launches in Lockdown series which starts next Friday. I will be chatting to other Authors Reach authors, writers from the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and from Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books.

Naturally I’ll be talking about my experiences of launching a book during these strange times as well.

Today’s post with Richard, as well as the series to come, offer I hope thoughts and ideas as to what can be done despite all the current difficulties. It is also good to know you’re not alone out there!

I must admit though the post I would love to write would be the one where I talk about going to live events again and setting up some of my own!

As they say, watch this space!

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I’m currently drafting a flash story for a blog and this is an interesting combination of fiction with non-fiction. I’m sticking to a strict word count to meet the needs of the blog (though this is excellent for flash fiction writing anyway!) and I’m writing the story in the first person from the viewpoint of my lead character. I have a soft spot for them already! To be fair I do like most of my “people”.

Occasionally I write a story with a character I loathe but I still try to get inside their head and work out why they are the way they are.

Do I enjoy making them get their comeuppance? Oh yes! That is one of the perks of the writer’s job after all!

But the fascinating thing with characters is there are infinite varieties to them and, as a result, infinite storytelling possibilities. It is a case of us “digging for gold” here and finding those stories but the process should be a lot of fun.

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Murky and damp day today, not that Lady worried. If she can get to the park and play, she’s happy.

Glad to say I’ll be taking part in two interviews in due course. Have got the questions in for one, am waiting on the ones for the second. It is great fun being on the “other side of the fence” for interviews! I also love looking at the questions I’ve been set and think yes, that’s a great one, it will draw me out.

The best interview questions always do that. You want a writer to share something of themselves and their work and what inspires them. Questions that draw people out are far more likely to achieve that than those where someone could get away with a simple Yes/No answer. (I’ve never seen the point of those kind of questions – where’s the fun in that for either interviewer or interviewee?!).

Oh and before you ask. Yes I do interrogate my characters from time to time. I don’t let them get away with simple Yes/No answers either!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The challenges of flash I think are:-

  • Coming up with new ideas constantly for characters. (I’ve always found story ideas comes from the characters so as long as I know them well enough I will be able to write their tale).
  • Working out whether a 100-word story (or drabble), say, is the best way to tell my latest tale or whether I would be better having a shorter or longer piece to do the character(s) justice. I resolve this one by writing the story, putting it aside for a while, then cutting out my wasted words. I then look at what is left and ask myself line by line is this one really necessary? Does it serve the story? It can be amazing how much can be cut out doing that as only a firm “yes” to both of these questions is enough for me to keep the line(s) in the story. And that is how it should be.
  • Deciding whether to save the latest creation for a collection, or submit it for a competition, or save it for use as a blog post for me on my Facebook page, especially this one (!), or turn it into a story video and put in on Youtube. I sometimes deliberately leave a story as a text tale only for Facebook as I like to mix things up but must admit I have been having a lot of fun creating mini videos using Book Brush!

Still, those challenges mean I have no chance whatsoever of being bored and I like that!

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Looking forward to sharing my CFT post tomorrow. I will be talking to YA author, Richard Hardie, about the challenges of lockdown he has faced as both author and publisher. Richard’s publishing arm is Authors Reach and some of the writers from his stable will be taking part in my Launches in Lockdown series for CFT which will start on 22nd January.

This is going to be a five part series, one of the longest I’ve written, but all of my wonderful guests share great insights as to how they’ve launched books during what has been such a strange period of history. We all hope the series will be a source of encouragement, given, even as things get better overall, “normal” life clearly isn’t going to return all at once. So thoughts and tips about managing online events will always be useful especially given the lack of physical book events will go on for a while (though hopefully only for a short while!).

Writing wise, I am more on the non-fiction side right now with two interviews to prepare for though I have drafted a flash piece for submission to a blog spot later on. The latter was interesting to write. As ever, I found getting inside the head of the character was crucial. Once I hear their voice and see where they’re coming from, the story then flows. It is my character’s story after all!

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It came as a nice surprise to see a friend had shared my You Said story video the other day and there were fab responses in to it from that source. So many thanks, #JuneWebber, and to all who have kindly commented on this.

This poetic flash tale had to be written in the first person but I knew the voice of the narrator at once. Very much the voice of someone who has finally had enough of a situation. And I think I’ve conveyed that in this piece. Video up again below in case you missed it. It is good fun writing this kind of story video but I’ve found they work best when kept short.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_3E9H0Sk-M

Fairytales With Bite – What You Wish For

The well known saying “beware of what you wish for” is so true for us but it should be true for our characters too. It can be great fun making a character fall flat on their face when they so richly deserve it! But you do need to show the readers why the character deserves it so they can cheer along when the comeuppance happens!

Think about what your characters would wish for and why. Are their wishes reasonable? What stops them obtaining these? And where wishes come true, has that helped your character become a better person or has it ruined them? Getting all you want isn’t necessarily a great idea (and that’s equally true for us as well as our characters!).

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This World and Others – What Does Your World Lack?

Is your fictional world self-contained or does it need to trade with other worlds? If the latter, how is this done? What does your world lack that it needs to buy in and could this be used to hold your world to ransom by a hostile power?

Does your fictional world learn to grow/produce the things it needs or, if this is impossible, what can they do to ensure they can’t be held to ransom by said hostile power?

How does your fictional world get on with others around it even when it doesn’t need anything from anyone else? Does it look to create stable relationships, benefiting everyone, or does it take an insular view on things?

How do the attitudes shown here affect the people who live in your created world? If your creation is insular, does it stop its people from reaching out to other worlds in things like cultural exchanges etc?

If your story is set just in the one world, the question about what it lacks is still relevant. A world will have a climate and that will have its advantages and disadvantages. How do your characters cope with this?

What can your world produce? What can’t it produce? Has the climate changed in any way over time? Was your world once able to grow wheat say but can’t now and how has that impacted society? (It would do too – no bread etc so what would replace that as a staple food?).

Jotting down your thoughts to questions like this can help you visualise your world more clearly and that in turn will help you “get it across” to a reader more clearly. You may discover hidden elements that will help you add depth to your story. If your world was once able to grow wheat but can’t now, how do the people in your world react to that?

Learning From Stories

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

Facebook – General

Hope your Tuesday has been okay. Lady and I got a soaking this morning. She dried out quicker than I did. Hey hum…

Lots coming up on CFT in November – two fab interviews I’m looking forward to sharing and naturally I’ll be flagging up the Brechin/Angus Book Fest which I’ll be taking part in. Am also going to be using November to make a breakthrough on my non-fiction project so will not be short of things to do. But that’s always good!

Must admit I’ve not adjusted to the clock change well this time. Keep feeling really tired about 9 instead of about 10. My subsconcious clearly hasn’t been fooled by the change!

I suppose the good thing about the darker evenings is that it does encourage you to stay in, get to your desk and ignore what is going on in the mad, mad world, and focus on what your characters are getting up to instead!

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Pleased to say I’ll have more publication news later this week (Cafelit) and I was delighted to see a friend and fellow Chandler’s Ford Today writer, Mike Sedgwick, on Cafelit too recently.

There is a wonderfully eclectic mix of stories on Cafelit so do check the site out. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/ and the idea is the stories here are long enough to have a drink to (and ideally a bit of cake too. Where would the world be without cake?!).

Great start to the week with another fab review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. All reviews much appreciated.

Plenty on my To Do list right now but am looking forward to sharing my CFT post this week too. I’ll be talking about the joy of photos and even for fiction writers photos make a huge difference. After all we rely on being able to share book cover images, screenshots of fab reviews etc!

And photos can make great story prompts too.

 

Screenshot_2020-10-26 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

Have started subbing stories again and looking forward to getting on with writing more. Have a lovely interview to write up for CFT and am looking forward to that.

Plus will be doing some prep work this week on my non-fiction project ahead of doing a massive stint on this during November. (I am basically looking to complete a first draft if I can. I have written some of the material already but I know it needs reorganising and more material to be added to it).

A big thanks to Wendy H. Jones who updated the #ClubhouseBookshop header today to include book cover images of some of the authors involved in this FB group. (And do check the group out – it will give you fab ideas for Christmas book presents for one thing!).

I’ll give you one guess precisely as to why I was pleased with what Wendy came up with!😂

Screenshot_2020-10-25 Clubhouse Bookshop Facebook

Delighted to have an unexpected guest blog appearance on #MaressaMortimer’s blog (and another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon). See the blog link.

And best of all, I am in very good company with Scottish crime writer #WendyHJones (and her DI Shona McKenzie series) and #LizCarter who has recently released her poetry and short story collection, Treasure in Dark Places.

If you need somewhere to start with your Christmas book buying wish list, folks, you could start here!

Despite the awful weather in the UK right now (and I hope everyone has kept as warm and dry as possible), it has been a lovely day as I’ve had the great pleasure of signing another book and getting that ready to post early next week. I love tasks like that!

Writing wise, I am busy preparing for another blog appearance and for an interview I’m looking forward to carrying out for Chandler’s Ford Today in due course. And I am about to get back to my non-fiction project which I hope to make great steps forward with during November.

Who needs to go outside and get wet then? Oh yes…. Lady but thankfully her walkies are finished for today and even she appreciates cosy time of an evening!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the things I enjoyed most for the cyberlaunch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic was in creating some videos where I read a couple of stories. I then talked a bit about what led me to the write the stories in the way that I have.

I hope to be doing more of that in due course but for now my top tip is, after you’ve got the first draft down, DO take time to think back on why you’ve written the story the way you have. Ask yourself if the story DOES achieve what you hoped it would.

You are going to see the flaws of course. Don’t worry about that. This is a draft after all but if your key point was to show a character overcoming adversity, well check they actually do so and in a way that is realistic to them and to your reader.

A character using magic to help them get out of a situation is okay where your story is clearly set in a world where that is possible. It’s not okay in the middle of a suburban High Street with no previous hint of magic being a possibility. (That scenario is likely to cause unfavourable comment! Mind you, I suppose there could be comic possibilities there! The general point remains though. If magic is a possibility, then it should be flagged up early in the story. You don’t want to risk your reader feeling cheated).

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What do you learn most from stories?

Well, you learn what you love and loathe. But it pays to look carefully at a story that didn’t grab you and ask yourself why that was. There usually is something (for me it’s usually characterisation that didn’t convince me) and then you can take that and hopefully avoid making the same mistake in your own work.

For a story you love, look at what DID grab you and explore why that was. If it’s sparkling dialogue say, look at how the writer has written their wonderful prose. What can you learn from that?

I love playing the guessing game with stories new to me. I do try to guess how the characters will end up. I’ve mentioned before that I love being wrong-footed by authors here but, on the assumption this happens to you too, go back and look at where you think the writer “mis-led” you.

Almost inevitably you will find clues in the story you should’ve picked up on but didn’t on the first read through. And again you can learn from that for your own storytelling.

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Sent off a flash tale today so pleased with that. Hope to be back to writing flash more regularly now though obviously marketing for TTFF will be ongoing.

I am trying to do something on that most days and see it as a long term thing. This is the good thing with marketing. It doesn’t all have to be done by a specific time period. After all I will want to talk about both of my flash collections, do what I can to promote them, for a VERY long time.

The best marketing is in itself creative so I see it as part of the whole writing “package”.

Hope you have a good writing and reading week and I hope you enjoyed The Perfect System yesterday.  Follows below so yes story time!

You know I have a fondness for random generators. Well I was exploring a random verb generator today and came up with the words ride, file, and cling. As ever with these things, you choose how many words you want to generate. You can also set the first and last letter. I tend to just choose the number of words I want. So what can I do with these three then? Let’s have a go…

The Perfect System
‘Your timing is not wonderful, Inspector. I wanted to complete my filing,’ the old lady peered up at her unwelcome visitor. But given she was only 3’10, she peered up at almost everyone. ‘Couldn’t this wait? All I want is to get myself organised and all I get are visitors turning up at all times. Most inconsiderate I call it.’
‘No, Ma’am.This can’t wait. And I’m sorry to disturb you but even in a magical world such as ours, the law won’t wait for anyone and, with yet another disappearance, I must talk to you now. You were the last one to see Draganna alive.’
‘Draganna.. Draganna…oh yes, the tiny fairy who thinks she knows better than everyone else. That is who you mean, Inspector?’
The Inspector coughed. ‘I have heard tale the lady could be bossy, Ma’am, but she didn’t deserve to die.’
‘May I know what happened to her?’
‘Draganna was last seen going for a ride on a dragon. Goodness knows why. The government warn people often enough dragon riding is dangerous. You can cling on as much as you want but if the dragon gets fed up, it just turns its head and either eats you whole or flames you. They are not meant to be used as taxi rides.’
The old lady tutted and went to her filing cabinet. She took out a manilla folder and opened it. Inside was a picture of a girl, a dragon, and a one page report. ‘Is this of any use to you, Inspector?’
The Inspector gasped. ‘That’s Draganna. That’s the dragon. And this page “predicts” Draganna will die by dragon. This is dated a year ago.’
‘And Draganna died when?’
‘Today, Ma’am. Look how…’
‘I want to know, Inspector, why my predictor filing system is out of sync. I will complain to the manufacturers. They don’t make things the way they used to do. I pride myself on my accuracy and I will not stand for my timing system to be out and by a year at that!’
‘Ma’am, that is not the point. You predicted this girl’s death and the way it would happen and it has turned out that way. I think you need to come with me to the station for a chat.’
‘Very well, Inspector, if you insist but may I first go and get my coat?’
‘Of course.’
Out in the hallway the old lady put on her coat, having first had a quick look at the manilla file inside it. It read “Inspector Know It All. Death by enraged elder fairy godmother. Thirty seconds after he escorts her out of the house.’
The old lady smiled. Her timing might be out but her predictions always came true.

Ends
Allison Symes – 24th October 2020

Hope you enjoy!

PS I was so thrilled to find this pic on Pixabay. It tied in beautifully with my story Time for Some Peace on the book trailer for Tripping the Flash Fantastic and it works well again here!  But so you can have another story, I will simply put the book trailer in again! The picture I refer to is the one of the dragon who looks as if she is congratulating herself after a spectacular burst of flame… as you would.

  Book Trailer – Tripping The Flash Fantastic

Goodreads Author Blog – What Drew You Into Reading?

I owe my love of reading to my late mother. I loved reading from an early age and never got out of the habit. I’m phenomenally grateful for what I see as presents – the gift of literacy, the gift of wanting to read, and the gift of enjoying stories of most kinds. Those gifts are priceless I think.

So what drew you into reading? Were you encouraged to read early? Did you discover a wonderful book and wanted to read more by the author? (I was like that with the wonderful works of Terry Pratchett. I first read Jingo and then absolutely had to read the rest of the Discworld series).

What matters is we keep on reading. It’s important not to get out of the habit even if you don’t have as much time for reading as you might like. This is where short story collections play a wonderful role as they are great for dipping into and I would say that even if I didn’t have work appearing in them, honest!

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Swanwick Memories – see below!

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This tweet came up again on a friend’s Twitter feed (hello, #ValPenny!) but it’s a great picture from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and great to share again. I can safely say all of us in this picture are very much looking forward to Swanwick 2021, having missed the cancelled Swanwick 2020 enormously.

A Novel Approach, Favourite Books and a Free Story

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A big thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for supplying many of the photos for her interview on Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I welcome #JenniferCWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today.

This time, we discuss her venture into non-fiction with her recently released book, A Novel Approach.

The theme for this summer on CFT has very much been one of changing direction and Jennifer’s interview continues that idea.

Do check out her thoughts on the benefits of finding a good writing group amongst many other gems here.

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but interviews, I think, are the most fun of all. Why?

Because I always learn something useful, interesting, entertaining, and often all three from my guests. (So thank you one and all!).

No one author can know it all and learning from other writers is a crucial part of how we all develop. Reading interviews and, in my case, hosting them as well, helps enormously here!😊

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We all have favourite books, many of which go back years. So what made you decide Book A was said favourite? Is it a question of working out what books you have you simply can’t manage without and favourite status is conferred upon them due to that?

In my case, one of my favourite books is definitely a nostalgic one as this was given to me by my late parents. Others, such as Josephine Tey’s wonderful The Daughter of Time I came across by accident and I was so happy to find it!

Still others are books written by friends and, not only do I love the stories, but every time I look at the books, I am reminded of happy times meeting up with said friends. (Usually at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Bridge House Publishing or Association of Christian Writer events it has to be said!).

So what are your favourite stories and why do you love them so much? Do you have room in your life for new favourites? (The answer to that should be of course!). Which book is your most recent addition to the favourites list?

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Am delighted to be welcoming #JenWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Jen will be talking about her change of direction into non-fiction writing with her recently released A Novel Approach. There has been a lot of this change of direction in the air this summer! It has definitely been my theme for this year for CFT.

Jen will be discussing how she came to write the book and shares her thoughts about what a good writing group can do for you amongst many other gems. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss especially if you are thinking about writing a novel.

Meanwhile if you want to check the book out do see the link.

 

JenniferCWilson-ANovelApproach-Cover

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Free Story!

I couldn’t resist having another go at the random noun generator. This time I opted for three random nouns and what came up were “shirt”, “marriage”, and “ladder”. Now there’s an interesting mix!

Hope you enjoy the following. A humorous end to the week is always welcome!

THE SPECIAL OFFER

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the sign. “Buy a shirt and your dearest wish will come true”. I’ve seen plenty of dodgy advertising in my time. So I went over to the market trader and challenged him. How on earth could a shirt grant wishes? Especially such a bright one. Vivid purple was never my style fortunately.

‘You’ve heard of magical lamps and rings, why can’t a shirt be magical too?’ was his response.

I guess on logic alone, he had a point, but when I think of
shirts and magic, it is only in terms of being able to get leaky ink stains out of a shirt in one go in the washing machine. And that doesn’t happen often I can tell you. Unlike leaky ink stains going flaming everywhere.

‘Anyway,’ I told the guy, ‘how can a shirt know what my wish is to grant it?’

‘You tell the shirt when you get it home, silly.’

That was me told.

Now don’t judge me here. I did buy the shirt. I needed to get a present for my nephew so I thought a vivid purple shirt would be the thing. (You should see the colour of his trousers. You need sunglasses, I tell you, so a bright shirt would suit him beautifully. Okay, I didn’t envy his mother the task of washing the wretched thing. That purple would be bound to run but I’ve long told my sister she ought to get her boy helping around the house more so she can start by getting him to wash the wretched thing).

Did I make a wish? Yes. For a laugh. I know my sister is concerned about her lad’s prospects so I wished that his life would take off in a good way so she could stop worrying. Covers both of them and it’s a nice wish I think.

I didn’t tell my nephew, or my sister, where I got the shirt or about the advertising for it.

But I was taken aback when a week after I’d given the present, he and his mother came around with news. Robbie was to be married to the young lass who worked at the launderette and knew everything there was to be known about washing colours separately.

Apparently, he’d borrowed his father’s ladder, went around to the young lass’s house, and proposed at the top of the ladder on Valentine’s Day Night. He had meant to do so when he took her out for a meal but lost his nerve.

That is so like him. As was tumbling off the ladder but fortunately he landed in a huge shrub and no damage done. The shrub was all right as well apparently.

The marriage takes place next month and now I’m off to the market stall. If there are any more of those shirts, I’ll get him a load. I’ve made a list of wishes that will be of real help to a young, married couple.

It’s the least I can do.

Ends

Allison Symes – 21st August 2020

 

Flash fiction may be a quick read but it isn’t necessarily a fast write! I get a first draft down quickly but the work is in the editing (as it is with all forms of writing I think).

Honing a story to ensure every word justifies its place in the tale takes time. And I will often rewrite a section to maximise the impact of that part of the story.

I ask myself if the impact is strong enough? Will it affect the reader the way I want it to do? A change of word, sometimes where I place the word in a sentence, can make all the difference.

It is only when I know any further changes to a story would weaken it that I submit the story somewhere.

Was listening to #WendyHJones‘ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this evening and discovered a new term for what I call wasted words. The term was weasel words and I love that.

It is some comfort to know every writer has these literary pests (and mine are actually, very, and that, as I’ve mentioned before).

Still, when it comes to the edit, I know what’s coming out first and I find, with this done, it seems to get the rest of the edit off to a flying start. I find that helpful so maybe my wasted words have some use. They just don’t stay in!

Image of Wendy H Jones below kindly supplied by her. (Do check out her podcast. I was on episode 4 talking about flash fiction).

Fairytales With Bite – 

The Influence of Fairytales on Literature in General

The obvious influence is that fairytales are a genre in their own right, correctly so too. The next biggest influence I think is given most children’s introduction to literature is via fairytales, said stories act as a gateway into the wonderful world of books per se. That has to be a good thing! This was the case for me and I’ve never regretted having a lifelong love of stories and books as a result.

With that comes the influence on those children who go on to become writers. The marvellous Roald Dahl with his works aimed at children was, to my mind, clearly the successor to Hans Christen Andersen (especially as he knew children liked to read about characters who were not goody goody. Know your market always!).

Fairytales for children can lead to fairytales for adults and I would say A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a prime example of that. What an influence that particular story has had on so many of us!

The idea of wrongs being put right isn’t just for crime writing! There’s a good case for saying fairytales were well ahead of the game there.

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This World and Others – Fascinating Facts

When it comes to creating your own fictional world, and thinking of how it is all going to come together, do some research. This is where non-fiction reference books can be so useful to fiction writers. A lot can be done online of course but do go for a variety of books. This will help in ensuring you get facts right but almost inevitably you won’t find all you want in one book.

You want to create a new planet for your characters to live on. Okay. What are they going to breathe? What are they going to eat and drink? What will their climate be like? All of those things you can research based on what you know/can find out here on good old Planet Earth and then adapt for your own purposes.

If you want your creations breathing something other than oxygen, what do they breathe instead and how do their bodies manage this? Think about fish breathing through their gills. What would your people do?

Have fun working this all out and then show readers what they need to know to make sense of it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Creosoting, Ideas, and Editing

How has my week gone? See the title of this post! (Oh and do look out for Part 3 of my CFT series The Writing Game – and What to Watch For – link up for Friday. The whole series has sparkled with great ideas and advice so don’t miss the last installment!).

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

Many thanks, everyone, for the cracking response to Part 2 of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, my current CFT series. All very encouraging (and most writers, certainly all the ones I know, always welcome encouragement!). Looking forward to sharing the equally cracking finale next Friday.

Have got another fence panel creosoted. (If you needed proof the writing life isn’t necessarily glamorous, I’ve just provided it! Lady was not at all happy I kept her indoors while I was working but I couldn’t risk her going back inside a different colour to when she came out! YOU try telling a dog they can’t “help”!).😆

Am enjoying some wonderful books on Kindle at the moment, though I have a long TBR list on there. Still I shall enjoy working my way through. DON’T send help, I shall be fine, thanks! (Am so grateful electronic book shelves cannot collapse under the weight!).

Some pieces are coming together on one of my longer term projects so am pleased about that. I’ve learned over time that when you’re busy on something else, good ideas for other projects you’ve got in mind pop into your head.

I’ve also learned not to fight this. Grab a notebook, jot said ideas down, work on them when you get chance etc. Rome wasn’t built in a day etc…

I’ve yet to work out a way of having ideas occur to me in a more convenient fashion. I don’t think that will be happening any time soon!

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Hope the week ahead proves to be a good one for everyone. I’ll be working on an interview for CFT to appear on 14th August after my current series.

All I’ll say now is it about a very special project and my guest author is the ONLY UK writer taking part in it. They will know who they are from that description! I look forward to sharing more about that in due course.

There will be further interviews later in the month too. There has been a lot of change of direction in the air recently, which has been my underlying theme for CFT this summer! And it is a joy and privilege to share some of those change of direction stories via CFT.

One of the great aspects to the writing life is it isn’t in a straight line. You can go off on this track for a while, come back to what you mainly do, then explore other forms of writing and so on. Enjoyment of what you do writing wise is crucial, whatever you write. If you don’t enjoy it, why would anyone else?

Enjoyed re-watching one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes tonight. Vincent and the Doctor (with Matt Smith as our hero) is wonderfully done. There is a lot of depth to this story. Hallmarks of a great story? When it can bear repeated re-readings/re-watchings etc.

Good challenge for me as a writer too!

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Busy Monday as usual. Still one good thing about that was it meant I had no time to cresote our front fence today. I’ll be back on that tomorrow. I know – the giddy whirl and all that.

I’ve been reading a good old mixture of funny stories and dark fantasy recently. All have made me react. Sometimes in horror at the attitude of the characters – and that is the right reaction too. Other tales have made me laugh out loud. Still others make me wince but I can fathom where the character is coming from. And that is important.

For a reader to enjoy YOUR stories, they’ve got to be able to get behind your characters or at least understand that, in this character’s shoes, they might do the same. So the challenge then is to work out what you want your readers to feel about YOUR creations – and then write it!

 

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Another panel creosoted, one to go. And that’ll be my treat for Thursday! Talking of treats, which do you prefer that relate to words or writing in some way?

Mine are:-

1. Playing a Scrabble-like game on my phone (it’s one where the adverts are at the beginning and end of the game and do NOT interrupt the game. Would the makers of the “real” Scrabble please note that? Thank you!).

2. Dipping into a flash fiction or short story collection in between “day jobs” and just luxuriating in escaping the real world for ten minutes or so at a time. (I save my longer reads for my bedtime read and it is a lovely way to finish the day).

3. I used to like the alphabet sweets (not the jelly type, the harder sugar ones. Yes, I do have some teeth left!). Anyone remember them? These days I’d probably make anagrams out of them before scoffing them because I am just like that!😀😀I am partial to a good anagram and a good sweet!

4. I do like the occasional crossword/arrow word/wordsearch but much prefer Scrabble.

I don’t know if any of these sharpen the old brainbox but I do know they help me relax. I write better when feeling relaxed – and that will do!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve mentioned before that flash fiction is flexible when it comes to format within it. I’ve written acrostic flash tales, poetic flash stories etc., and recently have written some haiku ones. I also like the flexibility of word count within flash.

Unless I’m writing for #ParagraphPlanet (75 words all in!), or a competition which has set a specific word count, I will write to the story requirements. Sometimes a tale simply works better at 150 words rather than 100. That’s fine. I just find the right market or competition for it.

How do I judge what works best? I look at the impact of the story. If it can make the impact I want it to have at 100 words, fine. If it can’t, it stays at 150 or what have you.

Each piece of flash fiction needs to be a contained story with a proper beginning, middle, and end. Each needs to impact the reader because they’ve been gripped by what you’ve put your character(s) through.

But the single person story works well in flash, as does monologue. I’ve tended to use the first person a lot but have heard some wonderful monologues read out at events such as the Bridge House Publishing ones. So having a go at a flash fiction monologue is going to go on my list of things to do at some point.

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Sunday already?
The week flies by, as always.
Shame housework doesn’t!

Allison Symes – 2nd August 2020

The only good thing to be said about housework is once it’s done, it’s done. Oh and the thought of getting to my desk to write is a wonderful spur!

I had hoped the drudgery of housework would free up my mind to come up with some wonderful ideas for flash fiction whilst doing the ruddy work! Not a thing!

All I think when doing said housework is something along the lines of “can’t wait for this to be done” interspersed with “what is Lady barking at now?”. (Answer: usually the postman, sometimes the vacuum cleaner).

There is a kind of writing housework too. Now I don’t mind that kind at all. This is mainly things like:-

1. keeping an eye on what stories I send where (to ensure I don’t unwittingly send something to the same place twice);

2. backing up files regularly as I know I WILL regret it if I don’t!

3. Planning what I’m going to write when and marketing work too. Having a plan is the only way I’ve found to ensure I get this done. It helps me keep a proper balance.

So whatever your writing housework is this week, I hope it goes well!😀

 

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Triggers for story ideas can come from all over the place which, I know, on the face of it doesn’t seem to be all that helpful, does it? How on earth do you filter these out to find out what would work for you because surely not every trigger would suit?

Correct! It IS a question of having an open mind to those triggers. When I’m brainstorming ideas, I write down several. I never go with the first couple. They will be the obvious ideas that will occur to most writers. But dig deeper and hey, you might find something you can bring your unique take and voice to.

Using competition themes (whether or not you enter them) can be useful. I don’t write love stories so I know any love themed competition isn’t going to be for me. But that’s okay. There are plenty of other stories, including relationship ones, to tell.

It is a question of working out what you like to read, what you would LIKE TO read, and what you like to write. In that happy triangle is your writing ground. Have fun with it (oh and keep the weeds out!).😊

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When do I know if a story is ready for submission somewhere?

Basically when I cannot think of anything else to change without it taking away something from the character and/or the plot.

On editing, I usually spot several things I could re-phrase in a better way for the added “oomph” factor (and often to reduce the word count too. Less is more is SO true in flash fiction!).

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –

Stories You Wish Would Never End

Have you any stories you love so much you wish they would never end?

I remember when I first finished reading The Lord of the Rings being just stunned by the sheer scope of it and wanting to dive back into that world immediately.

On a very different front, the same applied to The Wind in the Willows!

Of course, it is good the stories end. A lot of the time it IS the ending that makes the book stand out. An incomplete story is NOT a story. A story has to have an ending.

So I guess it is the entertainment and enjoyment we have had from these favourite stories that we really wish would not end,

The good news is they don’t have to – you simply pick up your favourite book and re-read it!

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Interviews and Good Stories

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated otherwise.

Facebook – General

Well, okay, I grant you, the weather HAS cooled down a lot since my last post but it has been a bit of an odd day here. Squally rain and blustery winds. What season are we in again?! It is June! Having said that, I am grateful for the temperature drop, as is Lady.

If you ask a writer to name their favourite book or story, they’ll usually reel you off a considerable list. (I am also guilty of this).

Ask us to name a book or story we don’t like and we might come up with a few but there won’t be so many. Part of that will be due to the stories in question being forgettable for us. We move on to what we hope will prove to be a more enjoyable read next time (and we do move on. Life is too short to do otherwise).

We want to remember good stories. We want our stories to be good stories people don’t forget.

Yet at the same time any negative reviews for our books and stories stick stubbornly in our heads like glue and those are the ones we SHOULD forget!

Funny old weather again today, though at least Lady and I didn’t get hot on our walk. Good to catch up with family in NZ on Zoom this morning (UK time). Then Zoom church which was lovely.

Also good to meet up with family yesterday for natter and nosh in the great outdoors. Lady had a wonderful time “hoovering” up. For someone who loathes the vacuum, she does do an excellent hoover impersonation. 😀😀

Writing wise, I’ll have a story up on Cafelit again soon and look forward to sharing the link to that in due course. I look at interviews in my spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog this month. Hope to share link on that tomorrow. I’m going to be setting some puzzles in my CFT post later this week too.

Drafting more flash fiction and am pleased with how the edit on my short story (1500 worder) worked out. Hope to give that story another read through and final polish before submitting later this week.

Have a good writing/reading/both week!😊

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Facebook – General – 

and Association of Christian Writers –

More Than Writers – Interviews

It’s always a pleasure to write my monthly post for More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog. This time I talk about interviews.

I look at what I enjoy about them and how you can use them to outline your characters.

I also discuss using open questions for my Chandler’s Ford Today interviews and share some advice for those not yet published or who are just beginning their writing journey. Interviews are useful to think about NOW.

Hope you enjoy.

 

No chance of Lady and I being too hot today – rain for most of the day! Still, the park will look a lot nicer for it tomorrow. And my roses are blooming lovely. A friend gave me the ones I have at the front as the variety is called Allison. They smell nice too (and I do usually as well! 😀😀😆😆!).

Have got a few things coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today which I look forward to sharing when I can. Will be brimming with useful information. That’s about all I can say for now.

Plans for the week including prepping the above things for CFT, giving an edited short story the final read through and then submitting it for a competition, and continuing to work on my longer term projects.

Also plan to write more flash of course. The nice thing with that is when I’m really pushed for time and I know I’ve only got 10 minutes, that’s when I jot down a very rough draft of a flash tale, knowing I can finalise it later. Those 10 minute slots add up over the course of the week and you can get a fair bit done in them. So if you only have little slots of time, use them!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I want my flash stories to do?

Chiefly to entertain of course. Books and stories are wonderful forms of escapism.

While I have nothing against “real life” writing, far from it, I do want stories to amuse, entertain, and/or inform me, but not depress me about the state of the world. I can get that from watching the news.

I do want to be able to identify with the character, whether or not I agree with what they’re doing and/or their attitudes. I want them to be able to make me react, whether it is to inspire pity, make me laugh, or what have you.

The difference with flash is all of that has to be done in a compressed word count but it does make you focus on what matters to your character. You should have no doubt that this story has to be told “by” this character and that what they have to reveal is vital to your readers.

Sometimes that vital element is to make your readers laugh! Both P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett did rather well out of that though neither were up for the Booker or anything like that. I am all for the laughter makers, always have been, always will be.

In between the laughter, that is when I will look for a story to move me in a different way so I come back to the lighter hearted forms of fiction, ready to enjoy that all over again.

But a story that doesn’t make me react in any form is not something I’m going to read again. Indeed it is highly likely I won’t get beyond the first paragraph.

And that serves as a useful pointer for me with my writing. What impact do I want my story to have on others? It is a good thought to keep in mind.

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I’ve just listened to the wonderful Pachelbel’s Canon in D on Classic FM and it made me think of repetition as its theme is repeated throughout.

Repetition can be a useful device in a story though for flash it has to be used sparingly. I don’t use it often because I want to use my restricted word counts in better ways but sometimes it IS the thing to do when the type of story or character needs/would come out with the kind of emphasis repetition gives you.

For this kind of story, I tend to repeat an odd word in close succession to build a “beat”. I used this technique in my story Why Stop Now by repeating the word “here” in the opening sentence (and more than once too!).

I did it for emphasis and it also shows something of the character who is doing the repeating. (Clue: this is one of my tales where it even gave me the creeps so I hope it does the same for you if you read it – it is meant to!).

I think it is true for any writing device that you need to think carefully about why you want to use it and why it is the best thing for your particular tale/character. If you can tick the boxes on those two thoughts, go ahead. It will be the right thing to do.

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I’ve been talking about interviews tonight as it was the topic of my ACW blog spot this month for More Than Writers. I’ve also interviewed my own characters from time to time.

I work out what it is I want to know and then ask a series of questions. Good questions to consider include the following but I’m sure you can think of loads. It really is up to you to work out what you need to know and frame the questions around that.

1. What do YOU think is your best quality? (You can use this one as a test as to whether your character is deceiving themselves or not).

2. What is your biggest weakness? (Again, you can use this to test how honest your character is).

3. What do YOU think others think of you? (You can also get an indicator of how much your character is likely to care about this depending on their response!).

4. What is your biggest fear? (Naturally as author you will make them face up to it too!).

Now for the shorter flash fiction stories, I tend to look at what my characters’ main traits are and how these are likely to land them right in it. (Such good fun that!). And for longer stories, you might want to ask more questions. But I have found, regardless of length of story, for that tale to work I’ve got to know my character inside out and questions like this help a lot with that.

 

I was watching one of the old Ealing comedies late last week (The Lavender Hill Mob starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway). Great story, fab acting, and all packed into about 75 minutes or so. (Flash film, anyone?!).

My overall favourite Ealing comedy is The Ladykillers which, if you’ve not seen it, is dark with its comedy and worth checking out. Again stars Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers. We probably wouldn’t think much of dark comedy being such a “thing” now but back when it came out, I think it may have been a different matter.

What these films have in common is a tightly controlled storyline. Not a thing is out of place. Not a thing could be taken out without the films losing something important. Good lessons for story writers there, regardless of what word count you work to!

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Habits That Annoy!

Aside from the obvious one of people turning down corners of books (which is even more irritating when they’ve borrowed the book from you!), what annoying book habits “get” you?

1. Feeling yourself about to nod off when you’ve been looking forward to reading all day and you’ve managed to read about two minutes’ worth of glorious prose. Yet you know if you make yourself keep reading, you will wake yourself up and then not be able to sleep properly when the time does come for lights out.

2. Not being to make up your mind about reading from your Kindle or paperback bookshelf and by the time you’ve decided, guess what? It’s lights out time again.

3. Looking for THE one book you’re longing to read, knowing you’ve got it somewhere, but can you find it when you want it to hand? Surprise, surprise – no!

4. Managing to pick up that hardback you’ve been looking forward to reading and end up dropping it on your foot. Some of these big beasties hurt when they land on your toes!

5. Having two books come out at about the same time by your favourite authors and not being able to decide which one to read first.

Of course, all of the above COULD just be me but I don’t think so!

Over to you then. Can you add to the list?

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Interviews and Characters

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

For my CFT post this week, I look at why writer interviews are so useful. I also share news of an interview I’ve taken part in, more details on that next week, and share memories of an interview that went wrong and another that involved an Emu! Anyone growing up in 1970s Britain will remember the latter!

I look at what I think makes for a good interview too and share my thoughts on interview etiquette. I also share a little of how I go about interviewing authors for Chandler’s Ford Today (and I hope there will be many more of those later this year).

I discuss the art of interviews as part of my Interviews post on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Good preparation for an interview is important for both parties to it, of course. But it is just as important for writers, as well as interviewers and interviewees, to think of good questions. (In the latter’s case, anticipating questions that are likely to come up gives you time to prepare your answers).

For fiction writers, you may well want to interview your characters to find out more about them and what makes them tick before you write their stories. (I do this as part of my outlining process. I have to ask what the character thinks makes them tick. They don’t have to be right! Other characters may have completely different ideas as to how Character A really ticks!).

For non-fiction writers, it’s a question of working out what research you need to do for your project and there you ask yourself what you think you need to know. As you start working on your project, other questions will inevitably crop up but, having already decided where and how you will research and found answers to those initial questions, you will know where to look to deal with the other ones as they come up!

I often find this to be the case for my CFT posts. I know a thread I need to look into initially to help me write on my topic. Inevitably there will be threads from those initial ones I need to check out to see if they are relevant to what I want to write about. Sometimes they are. Not always. It is important not to be sidetracked but this is where asking yourself what you really need to know first can help. It helps to keep you focussed.

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How well do you know your characters before you start writing your stories?

Particularly for flash fiction, I outline what I need to know about my character before I work out what their story is.

A character who is a loud mouth is going to need a tale that will show this trait in action and the resultant consequences. This could easily be a funny story or a tragic one.

A quiet mouse of a character is going to need a tale that will either show when that trait saves the day or they get so fed up of being treated as a doormat, they rebel. Then you can go into the consequences…

I’m a great believer in getting the character right. Then it is a question of deciding what kind of story they WOULD naturally be at home in and whether that shows them at their best or their worst. Either can be a great deal of fun!

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My CFT post this week will be about interviews and what I think constitutes a good one. It’s a timely post for me as you’ll see when I put the link up on Friday! (I also hope to be sharing more interviews later in the year on CFT too).

Moving on, let’s think of a wish list for writers. My top three wishes would be:-

1. Time expands so you can do all the writing you want and the boring things of life (e.g. housework) somehow magically go away. I do see that as one wish, so there!

2. There are never any tech issues. Computer batteries won’t go too flat. You’ll never get a power cut at any awkward moment (if only!). You’ll always be able to connect to the net. I’m sure you can think of loads to add to that one!

3. Never running out of ideas and enthuasism for writing (again I see that as one wish on the grounds the first bit is no good whatsoever without the second part as well).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I see a novel as akin to seeing a beautiful tapestry on a wall. You step back and literally see the whole thing. You are rightly taken in by its scale and how much it covers. There are so many wonderful threads to follow and your breath is taken away wondering at the mastery in putting such a thing together. You are immersed in the whole world portrayed.

A novella is like seeing one half of the tapestry, complete in and of itself, with plenty of stunning details to take in but simply not as much as the full novel, which is fair enough. But there is more than enough to capture your interest, plenty of threads to follow, again just not so many as the novel, but exactly the right amount for what you want to take in and enjoy. (I’m very pleased to see the form is back. Why? Well, people have all kinds of tastes in reading, not just in genre, but in length of story that they want too. There is plenty of scope for the novella).

A short story is like seeing one quarter of the tapestry. There is still plenty of detail. There are interesting threads to follow but obviously not so many as for a novella or a novel. You are taking in a world in minature and that’s fine. Maybe you want to enjoy some of these before taking in the whole of the tapestry again. (I often read flash fiction and/or short story collections in between reading novels).

Flash fiction is like focusing on one section of that quarter of the tapestry. You can’t see the whole picture. You are literally too close to it. Everything else around that section is blocked from your view. What you DO do is find those wonderful moments of sheer detail that those looking for the bigger picture will overlook as they have so much to take in and follow. They are standing too far back to spot what you are looking at. You are focusing on the ONE most important thing and can tease out every vital detail from that. You will pick up on things missed by the longer forms of creative writing.

And I love them all! (Whatever your preference is here enjoy! Writing and reading are two of the most wonderful things in life).

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Story time again. Hope you enjoy.

Putting My Face On

If I can fake this, I’ve got it made.

I’ve only got to go and meet John at 3. I don’t want to go but it will be the acid test. If I can keep my act together when I meet him, I can keep it together for anyone. Anyone, I tell you.

So if a bit of lippy and rouge are what I need to cover how I feel, so be it.

Well, I say I’ll meet him. It’s really a question of seeing him.

John’s in the Chapel of Rest at the local undertakers.

I put him there.

ENDS

Allison Symes – 6th February 2020

Now this is one of those tales where I knew my lead wasn’t looking forward to meeting John but I then had to work out why. So I did! Could’ve taken this in all sorts of directions but that is the joy of flash. It is open to genre and I fancied this one being a crime tale.

The irony is I can change the mood of the story completely by adding a few words to the ending.

If I added “I put him there – and so wished I hadn’t” – the mood of the story completely changes. Yes, there could still be a crime element but tragedy becomes the lead genre here instead.

So have fun with your flash fiction. Think about what impact you want your character and story to have on a reader.

 

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The story I shared yesterday, Putting My Face On, was something I came up with while out on a walk with my dog, Lady. I mentioned yesterday I could’ve changed the mood of the story by adding a few words. That is one of the arts of flash fiction if you like. You can change mood with a judiciously placed word here and there. The fun bit for you as the writer is working out what mood it is you want to go with!

The story on the book trailer for FLTDBA is one of my favourites. Part of the reason for that is the whole mood of the story turns on the very last word of Calling The Doctor. Do check the trailer out and you’ll see what I mean.

One thing I make sure of is that whenever the twist of moods comes in the story, it IS something that could reasonably be expected from the rest of the tale based on the information given.

Calling The Doctor does this because the conversational style of my narrator here is (a) consistent and (b) ties in with the mental image you will form of the character especially their age and such a conversational style would be appropriate for them and their age. The story leads up to … but that would be telling now, wouldn’t it! But the denouement is appropriate given the facts already stated by my narrator.

And very conveniently here is the book trailer with Calling the Doctor for you to check out!

Fairytales with Bite – Favourite Character Types

We all have our favourite kinds of characters, the ones we instantly gel with when we come across them on the page/on audio/on video etc. Some of mine include:-

  1.  The underdog. I always look out for the character who is bullied, despised, overlooked etc. I am never surprised when this character beats all the odds and has transformed their life by the end of the story. I adore stories like that.
  2. The fairy godmother. I love these. They are the agents through which cruelty and neglect will be put right. (Think Cinderella especially). Sadly we only know cruelty and neglect are so often not put right and even as a kid I remember being aware of that. Fairytales are comforting in that in those you know things will be rectified. I think we all need that comfort sometimes.
  3. The one who sees the error of their ways. Firstly, they too can be used to transform the story. Secondly, I like anyone who can see the error of their ways in life as well as in fiction! I am also very fond of redemption stories. I like to see characters being redeemed (it gives hope for us all!) but it has to be done in a way that makes sense. This is why I think gradual realisation of said errors is far more realistic.

Whatever your favourite kinds of characters, happy reading!

This World and Others – 

What I Like to See in Created Worlds

  1. I like to get a picture of the overall world. This is partly because I’m nosey (!) and partly because I like to be convinced the writer really has thought it through.
  2. I like to see a system of government, even if it is a basic one. A world does have to have someone leading it after all. (Best one here: Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Lord Vetinari from the Discworld series).
  3. I like to know how people live. I love the Middle Earth/Shire scenes in The Lord of the Rings. Okay, I could probably make myself very cosy and comfortable living in a hobbit hole as I’m not tall (that’s my example of understatement for this week!). More importantly, again it convinces me the author has thought this through and recognised different species will have different kinds of home and so on.
  4. A sense of how the different species get on, assuming they do. Where there are conflicts, and I would expect some, I want to see how these originated. Both sides in the conflict should have good reasons for holding the views they do, even if they are only good to them and their people. It should be something a reader can understand.

INTERVIEWS AND UNUSUAL BUS JOURNEYS

Facebook – Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post is part 1 of my interview with fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin. She shares how her around the world bus journey inspired her flash fiction, especially her story, Paisley Shirt, which is the title for her new collection. Part 2 next week will see Gail sharing writing tips and her thoughts on “real” books and ebooks amongst other things. Plenty of insights for writers and readers to come.

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Facebook – General

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be Part 1 of an interview with fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin, whose flash fiction collection, Paisley Shirt, is now out. She shares travel tales from around the globe and looks at where paisley comes from. It is not often the East India Company gets a mention in my posts but it does here!

Part 2 will feature writing tips, a discussion on characters etc. Link to Part 1 will go up tomorrow.

There are so many things I love about interviewing other writers. Some of these things include finding out what inspires them, how links form between something they may have read years ago and a story they’ve written now (it can be amazing what conscious and sub-conscious influences come out when you’re writing), and the tips they’ve found most useful.

I also really love the way Chapeltown Books have such a distinctive image for their flash fiction collections. Okay, so my From Light to Dark and Back Again is one of them. Okay, so I AM biased (!) but if you wanted to see an example of effective branding, I would say this is a good one.

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Facebook – General

What do you like most about interviews (regardless of format)?

I like those questions that draw the interviewee out and interviews that really do seem like it is a conversation written down or broadcast or what have you.

One great thing about writer interviews is that, regardless of the genre being covered, we all face the same challenges of getting the story down, editing it well, hopefully getting it published and then marketing it. That does give a lot of ground in which to find lots of lovely questions to ask!

Sometimes you can strike gold when your interviewee reveals something that you instantly recognize you’ve got to ask them more about. It is often about the most unexpected things too. My CFT post later this week contains such a gold nugget! Link to go up on Friday. All I’ll say now is it involves transport!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The joy of flash fiction is its brevity. No words wasted. A powerful impact on the reader made very quickly. But, as with the standard short story, all moods and emotional reactions can be covered in the form (which is why I called my book what I have!). Indeed, I think it a good thing that there is variety here. I like to see my flash collection as a “selection box” of moods and stories.

I suppose it’s indicative of human nature that no one person likes the same thing all the time. I love humorous fiction but also appreciate crime stories, historical tales and so on and I like to mix up what I read too. I wouldn’t want to just read (or indeed write) one thing all the time. Another joy of flash is that you can sample different styles of writing and moods very quickly. You could even use a flash collection to try out stories in genres you’ve not read before.

Happy reading and writing!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Write what you know, so they say.
But influences come out in your every word.
Sometimes they’re buried away
For years but they will find a way of being heard.
Time means nothing there, you’ll find.
So read widely, both non-fiction or a tall tale.
You’ll feed your creative mind.
Ensure the whole story does not stumble or pale.
Strong “people” reflect our best
While the weak characters will reflect our worst side
Write, rewrite, then let it rest
Every writer has to have a skin made of hide.
Some will not get what you do.
But it’s true you won’t like everything they invent
Rejections can make you blue.
It’s all part of the process you can’t circumvent.
Ask where your story would fit.
Target well, it improves your chances of a hit!

Allison Symes – 15th March 2018

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I have a framed poster above my desk which says “Don’t ever give up on your dreams”. (Good advice. Okay, sometimes the dreams have to change for myriads of reasons. Just because you can’t be a novelist that doesn’t stop you from becoming a short story writer etc). But it also struck me this line could be a great motivator for a character.

What are the character’s dreams? Just what are they prepared to do to achieve them? What obstacles are in the way? Is he/she/it encouraged or are others holding them back? (You could also look into what their agenda was).

Feature Image - Facts and Fiction - image via Pixabay

What writing triggers will help you create your new worlds? Image via Pixabay

Time to find a new place to call home perhaps - what stories could that lead to - image via Pixabay

Time to have another home perhaps? Good stories to be had here! Image via Pixabay

Note taking is an invaluable aid to retaining what you learn at conferences, image via Pixabay

Write, edit, write, edit… image via Pixabay

Nobody gets their ideas spot on immediately, image via Pixabay

Nobody gets their ideas right first go. Image via Pixabay.

Escape with a good book via Pixabay

Escape with a good book, it’s good for you! Image via Pixabay

Fairytales with Bite – What is Behind Your Stories?

In my interview with fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin, for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, she shares with me how her round the world bus trip influenced her flash fiction.  She also shares some of the research she carried out into where paisley comes from given the title of her flash fiction collection is Paisley Shirt.  One of the things I love about these kind of interviews is discovering what has influenced a writer to come up with what they have!  There are so many influences…

This is also why every writer, regardless of genre, should read widely and well in non-fiction and fiction, classic and contemporary works.  You are literally feeding your mind.  You can’t know in advance what book it is you read that will spark off ideas of your own.  You will just know it when you come to it.  So have plenty of fun reading lots of lovely books!  It is good for your own writing.

I used to worry about picking up other writers’ styles doing this but have found it not to be the case.  I read something that sparks off an idea in me and I then write that idea down in my style only because, well, it is the only style I have.  After all, doesn’t every author want their work to be uniquely something from them?  That’s where the joy of writing is – in creating something that is unique to you.

A lot of the fairytales are retelling of stories passed down orally over many generations.  Sometimes there can be agendas behind stories.  Hans Christen Andersen must have had concern for the poor as his agenda behind The Little Match Girl (and probably the hypocrisy of people being horrified at what happened to his character yet doing nothing to allievate suffering themselves).

So what is behind your stories?  Why have you created your characters as you have?  I was surprised when I was looking back at my draft of From Light to Dark and Back Again how often the theme of poetic justice came up.  That wasn’t planned (well not consciously anyway).  I also hadn’t planned the variation in moods of the stories that formed the book (though it did help inspire the book’s title!).  Look back at what you have written and see if you can spot what is really behind it.  It may well inspire other stories!

This World and Others – Character Journeys

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post features fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin, and how her round the world bus journey influenced her flash fiction.

The obvious character journey (well for me it is!) is that of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings.  Everything about this story is epic!  However, character journeys can be much smaller than that.  Scrooge went on a journey of sorts as he transformed from a miserable miser to a generous (and much happier) man in A Christmas Carol.

So what journeys are your characters going on? If it is a physical journey, why are they making it?  Do they like travelling or is is something where they have no choice?  What obstacles must they overcome?  What is the landscape like?  Are they from a background where travelling is normal?  (It generally wasn’t for hobbits so Frodo’s journey was unusual from that angle).

If the journey is more of a character development one, is the journey a good one or a bad?  (People can go from being good to bad, so why not characters?).  Is it a successful journey?  What is the impact of the character change on them and those around them?  Change can threaten others so how is this dealt with?

 

 

 

Interviews and When Less is More for Horror

Facebook – General – Interviews

What are the best questions to ask in interviews? Any that encourage your interviewee to share insights as to why they do what they do and what they think is most important. This is why I always ask writers I talk to for their three top tips.

Yes, there is some overlap (we all encourage people to read widely and well and rightly so), but there are differences too. Also, the order in which writers think certain things matter can be interesting too.

It has also been fascinating, when talking with indie authors, to find out what they loved and loathed about the whole process of self-publishing.

One reason why it pays to read writer interviews is you learn so much from them. Sometimes they can show you a path to follow, other times you realise that this particular way is not for you, but you still learn from it!

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Facebook – General – Settling In

Lady is settling in well though very excitable. Loving the big walks. Fresh air and exercise doing me the world of good too.

Talking about side benefits, how do your characters benefit from what others do? Do those others resent this? After all, nobody likes someone who gets all the glory without doing anything to earn it or, worse, gets the glory THEY earned!

When benefits are unintentional, how do your characters make the most of them? How can they turn a situation to their advantage?

Lady will be going to additional training classes before too long and I’m sure they’ll do her and us the world of good too. In the meantime, if you see a strange middle-aged woman seemingly being dragged around by her lovable dog, it probably will be me!

FEEDING POST - the road is not always clear to see

Is the way clear enough or is training needed to find it?  Image via Pixabay

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What are your favourite genres? I love fantasy (especially fairytales), which will hardly be a surprise (!), but I also love crime fiction, historical fiction (and fact), some thrillers and a wide range of humorous writing.

I’m also very fond of a well written and thought out non-fiction book (and have a particular soft spot for railway history). I’m currently reading a number of books (on Kindle) concerning Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. As a contrast, the other non-fiction I’m reading and loving right now is the joint biography of Morecambe and Wise. So a right old mix then but that’s how I like it!

Some of what I like to read comes into what I write, but not all of it does and that’s fine. It is often those genres I turn to first when I most feel the need to switch off for a while. You really can’t beat a good book for sheer escapism (and the best ones entertain you and educate you at the same time with you barely being aware of it).

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again – Part 2

I sometimes write dark fantasy/light horror (just where DO the boundaries meet?!) and find flash fiction a good vehicle for this. I don’t read or write a lot of horror stories so there is no way I could write longer work in this genre but I DO know what frightens me and find that a good place to start!

Pressing the Flesh from From Light to Dark and Back Again is a good example of the kind of horror I do write from time to time. The images it conjures up are graphic without being overly gory. The 100-word story here says all that needs to be said (without giving too much away, it is a story of meat supplies. Yes, that kind of horror!).

The story would lose its impact if I’d written more. Sometimes with flash fiction, it really is a question of knowing where to stop”.