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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!😊

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

A Busy Week and Relishing Flash Fiction

Publication News

Delighted to say my short story, Three Wishes, now out on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy it.

Facebook – General

Am on the train again today so out comes Evernote and my trusty stylus! Lovely early morning sun over Hampshire countryside too.

I use my writing sessions on the move as free writing ones. The only thing I like to get done for sure is to draft my blogs for a Saturday. I post them later on the way home when I’d like to do some writing work but am too tired to do much. The creative work I’ll do shortly after my drafting while the old brainbox is relatively fresh!

So will it be flash fiction, a longer story, or a brainstorming session for future stories and posts? Right now as I draft this at 7.36 am, I don’t know but I will have fun finding out!

Am posting this now at 7.58 pm (on Saturday 21st September). Have drafted a fair amount towards a new CFT post for future use. Well pleased.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking forward to sharing a new short story tomorrow when it goes live on Cafelit (done – see above link!). One of my favourite things about writing (and I think it always will be) is not losing the “buzz” of excitement when you know work of yours is going to be published. It also spurs you on to greater efforts and that’s never a bad thing either.

On the flip side, there’s a couple of competitions I haven’t heard back from (which by now I should have done had my stories got anywhere). Still, I can and will look those stories up, edit as necessary and re-submit elsewhere.

I’ve found writing is rarely wasted and that’s true even when I decide not to re-submit a story for some reason. Nearly always the latter decision is due to timing. There has been a spate of stories on Subject X in Magazine Y so they’re not going to need another one on a similar theme from me! But I can “park” my story and see if I can do something with it later on.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Delighted to find out my posts have been liked 1000 times. Let’s see if we can get that up to at least…. oh I don’t know… 1001!!

Am thrilled to share my latest short story on Cafelit called Three Wishes. See above link. Hope you enjoy. Definitely not a flash piece this one but I am very fond of my two lead characters here. Hope you will be too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A big thank you to fellow Swanwicker, Jennifer C Wilson, of the Kindred Spirits series (and The Last Plantagenet and The Raided Heart) for hosting me on her blog today. Good fun!

(Am looking forward to having to update the picture in December when The Best of Cafelit 8 and Nativity (Bridge House Publishing 2019 anthology) are due out!).

cropped-20190622_151100.jpg

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One nice thing about train travel is you can get snapshots of scenes and characters by simply looking out of the window and observing, discreetly, your fellow passengers.

Naturally there are times you hear their conversations when you would really rather not! Even there though, you can use how that makes you feel to inspire creating a character who feels the same way.

Do they suppress how they feel or tell people to shut up? What are the consequences? Where is your character going and why? Do they need peace to be able to focus on what they’ve got to do at journey’s end? What is that, do they succeed, and does the journey affect the outcome?

Food for thought there, I think.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My favourite form of flash tale is the one where not a word could be added or taken out without tipping the balance of it. That can sometimes mean my story has ended up becoming a 25-word tale or, more often for me at least, a 100-worder or more.

It’s also the way I judge a story of mine. I ask myself IS any more needed for this? You CAN over-egg the pudding, to use that wonderful phrase. When I’m pondering, I ask if the details I’m thinking of adding in really will make any difference to the story. If the answer is no, then they stay out. Well, they really would be no point in adding them, would there?

If ever there was a form of fiction where you don’t write a single word more than you have to, it is flash fiction!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s an evening for sharing stories I think. I was pleased to share my latest short story on Cafelit, Three Wishes earlier on. Now for a flash fiction piece. Complete opposite end of the scale when it comes to word count!

EATING OUT
The gull enjoyed the look of astonishment on the day tripper’s face, almost as much as the bird loved the stolen battered cod. Dessert was sorted – the gull went back and pinched the same tourist’s mint choc chip icecream.

Ends

Allison Symes 2019

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Very pleased to be guest blogger on Jennifer C Wilson’s blog today.

I will be starting a new series on Chandler’s Ford Today soon about What Books Mean to Me and I’m glad to say Jennifer will be taking part in that. I asked a number of writer friends three questions and I look forward to sharing their responses soon. I answer the questions myself right at the end of the series. I didn’t make them easy ones, honest!

It has been a good week with Three Wishes out on Cafelit yesterday and it’s only Tuesday. Hmm… time to press on then.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog –

Why are your Favourite Books your Favourites?

I don’t have just one favourite book. Do any of us, come to that?!

The reasons for my favourite books being so favoured vary enormously and can depend on how I’m feeling at any one time. What links the favourites is one solid fact – I couldn’t part with any of them!

So I have favourite books because:-

1. They’re classic childhood stories.

2. They were given to me by loved ones, now passed on.

3. They were given to me by friends and family whom I cherish.

4. They first introduced me to irony and humour in fiction. (Wodehouse, Austen, Pratchett).

5. Sherlock and Poirot are just brilliant, albeit in different ways.

6. The Lord of the Rings – no need to say more!

7. Discworld – likewise!

8. The books are written by me or are anthologies with my flash fiction and short stories in them.

9. The books are written by friends!

10. Some are photo books of my dogs with apt captons for my first two collies and now Lady too.

So why are your favourites your favourites then?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

Waterloo Arts Festival and Ingesting Stories

Facebook – General

Had a fab time at the Waterloo Arts Festival. Loved hearing the extracts from the winning stories for the WAF Writing Competition. St. John’s Church is absolutely stunning and its own artwork incredible.

The theme, and title for the ebook compilation of the winning stories including my The Professional, was taken in very different ways by the writers.

The compilation is called Transforming Being.

Transforming Being Medium

Transforming Beings. Image via Gill James

I love things like this. It is proof, if it were needed, every writer has a unique voice. It is that voice which comes through in the stories. So how do you develop your writing voice?

By writing of course! Lots and lots of writing. There are no shortcuts for anyone here. This is part of the “behind the scenes” work for every writer, as it applies equally well to non-fiction.

The good news is the work you put in here won’t be wasted. Some of it may well find its way into stories or articles which are published later. You will get to find what works and what doesn’t. That will save you time and help you be more productive later on. See it as the ground work you build on later.

Good luck!

Image Credit:  Most of the images below were taken by me but many thanks to Ana Coelho for taking the lovely shot of Paula Readman, Gail Aldwin and I having a great pub lunch and conversation ahead of the Festival today.  Also thanks to Ana for the images of a happy bunch of Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown writers and of me reading from The Professional. It is always lovely to meet up with those writers that for most of the year you can only “see” online!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Managed to draft a 1500-word short story, draft some posts for FB, and prepared my Goodreads blog on the train and while in Costas at Waterloo yesterday ahead of the Festival. Well pleased with that. I love Evernote! All it meant, when I got home after a wonderful day feeling shattered, was all I had to do was post those blogs and that was me done for the day.

I hope the story, once edited and polished, will be submitted for competition. I’ve got a couple of others in mind I want to have a go at too.

Next event is the Winchester Writers’ Festival over the weekend, though I’m only going on the Saturday. Looking forward to the courses, catching up with friends, and making some new ones! Encouragement and inspiration to come from the event I’m taking as read!

Do you play word games at all? I like online Scrabble but have yet to use any of the odd two and three letter words you’re allowed into any writing. Can’t see any immediate use for them!

I occasionally have a go at a crossword (usually the Quick ones. I’ve got to be feeling particularly brilliant to have a go at the cryptic type and that doesn’t happen often enough!).

I find word games a great way to wind down AFTER a writing session. And I’m still playing with words when all is said and done. It is a kind of reward for getting to where I want to be on my stories.

A big thanks to #AnaCoelho for taking the picture of me reading from The Professional at the Waterloo Arts Festival and for kind permission to use the picture. The venue, St. John’s Church, is lovely and has some stunning artwork of its own. Oh and Ana very kindly provided proof that Bridge House/Chapeltown/Cafelit are a happy bunch of writers!

NB  I make no apology for repeating the pics!

Happy writers at the WAF - photo taken by Ana Coelho

Proof positive that Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown authors are a happy bunch. Image taken by Ana Coehlo.

Reading part of the Professional at the WAF. Photo taken by Ana Coelho

Loved reading from The Professional. Many thanks to Ana Coelho for the image.

Sorry for slight delay in posting tonight. Have no idea why but the create post box has literally just appeared so here I am typing away! No idea why it vanished. If anyone has any thoughts on why and how to fix it, please say!

It’s thrown me as I’d not changed anything. Obviously would like to avoid this happening again. All rather bizarre. Facebook, please note – one not happy author here! Also would like to flag this up as it may well happen to others. I have reported it.

On to happier things. I’m looking forward to going to the Winchester Writers’ Festival on Saturday. It’ll be lovely meeting friends, hopefully making new friendships, learning from the courses, and all the lovely conversations you get into over tea/coffee breaks and lunch! Have often picked up news of competitions etc I’d not heard of previously.

Naturally I shall have a good browse around the Book Shop too. Well, you have to, yes?

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Every story has a theme underpinning it. These are planned of course but what is fun is when you’ve written a piece to your chosen topic and, on re-reading it, you find another theme has emerged.

It can be exciting, and sometimes worrying, to discover just what did emerge from your subconscious as you were writing!

I’m sure you’ll have heard the advice to dig deep for your writing. Sometimes you can do that without realising you have!

Of course, what you then do with that writing is up to you!

Good to see more competitions and markets for flash fiction. Always opportunities about.

The problem I think a lot of writers have, and this includes me, is finding enough time to have a crack at all the competitions I’d like to try. As that never really works, I look at a few and go for the ones where the theme appeals most and discard the others. There are some competitions I enter yearly and where I’d love to be shortlisted. If you don’t have a go…

It pays to work out a strategy that works for you when it comes to story submissions. Look at what your writing strengths are and what you most like writing and then find the market/competition to match. For example, I can tell if a piece is going to work best on Cafelit and sure enough I send it there!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pleased to have written and sent off a 100 word story for a competition over the weekend. The competition was flagged up to me by pal, #JenWilson, (who writes the wonderful Kindred Spirit series), and this is one of the great things about the writing community.

Information gets shared. Sometimes you’ll share something that will be of use to others. Other times, you’ll use information that’s of use to you. What goes around comes around etc.

And always take notice of scams doing the rounds. No industry is exempt from these. Sadly, the creative industries are not the exception. If you’re not sure about whether something is a scam or not, check it out. Don’t be afraid to ask.

For competitions, I always check out terms carefully. I don’t submit work to anywhere that wants all my rights (and usually for ever and ever amen at that). If you’re not happy with a competition for whatever reason, move on to others. There are more out there for flash now which is a great thing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Glad to be able to post as the create post box on here has only just appeared. Goodness knows where it went or why it vanished at all. Have reported it. Don’t know if this is just me or whether there has been an overall issue on FB tonight.

On to happier things… Very pleased with how reading The Professional went at the Waterloo Arts Festival on Saturday. It was such a treat listening to the other stories too. I’ll be talking about the joys of reading aloud in my Chandler’s Ford Today post later this week.

Flash fiction is great to read at events of course because it doesn’t take too long. It’s a good way to catch a would-be reader’s attention too. And twist endings, which really grab attention work brilliantly in flash. What I love is when I’ve enjoyed a story like that and then realised how brilliantly chosen the title was. It encourages me to up my own game here.

I usually choose a title and then write but sometimes a better one will occur while doing that. So fine, I change it. As with the body of the story itself, I want the title to be the most appropriate and have the greatest impact on a reader.

Goodreads Author Blog Ingesting Stories

Ingesting? Really? Yes and we all do so more often than you might think, as it’s not just a conscious thing.

You hear snippets of conversation on a train and a writer’s mind will want to fill in the gaps. I refuse to believe that is just me!

A reader’s mind may well be reminded of stories they’ve read based on similar themes to what they’ve overheard. There will be something!

Ingesting stories can also be done via audio books/going to oral storytelling events and so on. We ourselves are stories and our lives reflect tales that have influenced us.

Look at what your favourite stories are and ask yourself why you picked these. It is the reason why these stories speak to your soul that is so fascinating.

Really great stories do reflect what we know of ourselves and humanity in general. We take in those stories with themes that fascinate us most.

The good thing then is to have a healthy reading diet. Stories take us to places we physically cannot go. This is especially true for science fiction and fantasy, but stories should feed our minds and open them.

So ingest plenty of tales (and the best non-fiction is a creative narrative too) and enjoy what’s on the menu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music and Stories

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

One of the joys of writing my Chandler’s Ford Today posts is when I have a topic where I can go to town on finding music clips! The topic of books is one of them.

Many thanks to my wonderful panel – #JenniferCWilson, #ValPenny, #AnneWan, #WendyHJones, and #RichardHardie – for taking part in my mini-series The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels. Hope you enjoy their fantastic insights AND the music I’ve used to go with these!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Had a great night out watching the Chameleon Theatre Group perform three episodes from Blackadder Goes Forth, including Goodbyeee. Review to follow on Chandler’s Ford Today in due course but I will say now it was superbly done and the set, made by the company themselves, was brilliant. Looking forward to sharing more on that.

Adaptations I’m generally happy with if they are faithful to the book/series etc. This is why I loved the Miss Marple series with Joan Hickson – they were faithful to the Christie canon – but the Marple series. No. Didn’t watch it. Just couldn’t bring myself to do so when it emerged they were altering the stories and bringing in characters that didn’t belong in the originals. Really don’t like that.

My CFT post this week will be the final part of my series on the joys and challenges of writing the series novel. As ever, my thanks to to #JenniferCWilson, #ValPenny, #AnneWan, #WendyHJones, and #RichardHardie. Nice range of genres between them too – from children’s to crime (and Wendy writes both!) to fantasy to historical crossed with ghost stories. Link up on Friday.

Glad to report I’ll be having more work on Cafelit later this week and again in November. Will share links as and when.

From what I’ve seen of the set the Chameleons have produced for the stage version of Blackadder Goes Forth, I anticipate a packed house and a wonderful and thoughtful evening of entertainment. Will review for CFT in due course. Do check their FB page out.

No automatic alt text available.

Image may contain: outdoor

thank you text on black and brown board

Pexels image.  There are times when words are inadequate.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So more on my alphabetical list then.

J = Juicy Storylines! Not just for soap operas, honestly, but something every character wants. Now “juicy” can be taken literally of course, but I see it as the storyline being appropriate for the character and taking them and stretching them to see what they are really made of. There’s nothing like a crisis for bringing out the best or worst in someone and that applies just as well to fiction!

K = Kicker. Must admit I needed to look this one up. (It’ll be interesting to find out what I can research for Q!). In journalism it apparently means a sudden unexpected change of events. In fiction we’d usually refer to it as a twist in the tale. I like kicker though. Has bite. And your stories must too, whether they have a twist/kicker in them or not.

L = Lines. Who is getting the best lines in your story? Your hero or your villain? A great story will have this split between the two to prevent either becoming a stereotype or, worse still, boring! Also a villain capable of humour etc means while your reader will not want them to win (possibly SHOULD not!), they will sympathise and identify with the villain to a certain extent. There should be something about each character a reader can identify with. (My inspiration here is Alan Rickman’s masterly portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves!).

About halfway through the alphabetical listing now. So then:-

M = Muse. The best way to feed said muse is to read widely and often (and do include non-fiction and poetry in this too. Different sources of writing are good for you and inspire your own thoughts and ideas in various ways). I’ve also found writing regularly feeds it too. Never worry about what you come out with at first being awful and needing work. That would’ve happened to Shakespeare too! It can and will be put right in the edits!

N = Narrative. Whose story is it? Whose viewpoint is going to dominate? What can that character see and know that the others cannot? Why have you chosen that character to lead the narrative? Answer those questions and your story will be off to a good start!

O = Originality. Reading widely feeds your originality. Partly this is due to what you read, but sometimes it can be because you read something you really don’t like or feel you can do better and that can be the trigger point for your own writing. Also, your voice is unique to you and will come through in your writing, especially if you write often. Regular writing (even if it is short bouts at a time) really does encourage your imaginative “muscle” to start working.

Pressing on with my alphabet topic then, we reach P, Q and R. (Great letters if you can get them out in Scrabble incidentally!).

P = Performance. Do your characters perform well in your stories? Do they live up to what you outlined them to be or have they gone beyond that? Read your stories out loud. Perhaps record them and play them back. Hear how your characters perform. Are they having the impact on you that you want them to have on your reader?

Q = Quizzing. I’ve found quizzing my characters to be a very useful part of my outlining. I don’t need to know the minute details. Nor do I put everything I outline in a story. However, I take my character’s basic traits and quiz them from there. If I decide a character is going to be brave, I will quiz them to find out if there are limits to that courage. I try to find out where that courage comes from. Does their “tribe” prize bravery? Or is it noticeably absent and your character is rebelling against that? What are the outcomes? (There WILL be some and that’s where the drama and your stories are to be found!).

R = Right Word Count for your Flash Fiction. I sometimes write a piece deliberately to a word count and that’s it. Sometimes I think a story will come to 100 words but discover it can be done in 75 or needs to run to 250, say. Be flexible on this. The story is the right length when the lead character has done and said all they have to do/say for the situation you’ve put them in. The great thing with flash fiction is there are so many different categories, that even if your treasured 100 word piece comes in at 500 words, there will be markets and competitions for that out there.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog –

After the End, What’s Next?

If you’ve enjoyed a really good book, what do you do when you finish it? Go on to read more books by the same author, or read more in the same genre, or do you go for something that is completely different in mood and style?

I have done all three of these (though obviously not at the same time!) and it very much depends on my mood at the end of the story. If I’ve loved a gory crime thriller, I may well want something humorous to show the lighter side of life, albeit a fictional one!

With short stories especially, I tend to read a few by the same author before moving on. With novels, if the book has really gripped me, I’ve got to check out what else the author has done, even if I decide I’ll come back to those later.

The important thing though is that whatever you read, you enjoy it so much, you keep on reading, no matter what author, genre, style etc you choose next. Happy reading!

Image Credit:  many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for taking the photo of me reading as guest speaker and for kind permission to use the photo.  Both much appreciated!

Fairytales with Bite – Signs of a Fairytale World

What are the signs of a fairytale world?  How can you know quite quickly you ARE in one (via fiction I’m presuming for the purposes of this post!  If you do find a portal to another world, however, be sure to report back with plenty of details, pictures if at all possible.  We will all want to know!!).

1.  Magic.  The biggest giveaway of course is the use of magic.  The interesting thing to work out when planning your stories though is whether everyone can use magic or just a select few.  If everyone can use it, what are the rules so anarchy doesn’t break out?  Boundaries increase the drama in your story.  If everyone can zap everyone else, that doesn’t make for much of a story.  If only a few can do that but the price they pay is their own lives are forfeit, now there’s a potential story.

2.  Inanimate Objects – The Use Of.  We all know from Disney (see Beauty and the Beast) a teapot, to name one example, is rarely just a teapot!  Sometimes they’re an enchanted victim.  Sometimes these things are portals (also see Harry Potter).  So what uses are the inanimate objects put to in your setting?  Does a particular object convey a particular meaning or power and, if so, what and why?  What are the limits to the use of objects?

3.  Creatures.  Ranging from domestic animals that can talk (hello, Puss in Boots!  Loved Puss in Shrek.  Thought they had the portrayal spot on) to odd creatures that are the stuff of legends to monsters of course.   Basically what you wouldn’t see here!  And there’s nothing to stop you inventing your own.  This is where some knowledge of natural history is invaluable.  Knowing what animals need to survive and how their bodies are designed to handle that should inspire some ideas for how the creatures in your stories will do this kind of thing.

Happy writing!

This World and Others – Music and Stories

In my latest CFT post, the final part of my mini-series on The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels, I get to have some fun choosing music tracks to go with my fantastic panel’s insights.  Many thanks again to Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, Anne Wan, Wendy H Jones, and Richard Hardie for taking part in this three part series.  Hope you enjoy the insights and the music!

Music and stories have long been intertwined of course.  So many wonderful songs are stories set to music effectively.  Music can and does play a part in stories.  It can be used to show character.  Movies, of course, rely on music to help set mood.  Think of the Jaws theme by John Williams.  Every note of that puts pictures and therefore stories in your head (and possibly might put you off swimming in the open sea but that’s another matter!  There are advantages to just swimming in the local public baths!!).

I write with classical music playing.  (I often listen to Classic FM).  Unlike other styles of music, it hasn’t affected my mood (and therefore what I write!).  It does help me relax and I write more (and I hope better) when relaxed.  I’ve also found it helpful to think of the kind of music my characters would be fans of when I’m creating them.  It almost certainly won’t come into the story I write but it fills out my knowledge of the character I’m about to place before a reader.  That has to be a good thing.

And I must admit I loved choosing the music for my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again.   The track used is an adaptation of Camille Saint Saens Danse Macabre (used as the theme tune for the BBC detective series Jonathan Creek).

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fvideos%2F954726234630356%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Stand Alones, Flash Fiction and Fairytales

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Many thanks again to Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, #AnneWan, Wendy Jones, and Richard Hardie for their further insights into the joys and challenges of writing series fiction. Amongst tonight’s topics is how to ensure each book in a series works as a stand-alone, given our series writers can never know which book a reader will actually start with. It isn’t necessarily book 1!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What five things do I like to see in a character? Ideally they have all of the traits I list below but as long as a character has the majority of them, I’m likely to enjoy spending time in the company of that character as I read their story.

1. Courage.
2. Sense of Humour.
3. Loyalty.
4. They, at the very least, respect books; at best they have their own library!
5. Kindness.

Does that rule out the villains? No! Even villains can be kind to their pet cat, have a decent library etc.

Looking at that list, it’s what I like to see in myself and, before you ask, I’m working on the personal library bit! (It’s nowhere near as grand as the one in the pictures below though!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of the things I love about going to writing conferences is that I always learn something pertinent to what I write. And it is not always an obvious link.

I’m off to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day on Saturday, the topic is Writing for Children and Young Adults, which is not directly what I do, but I just know I will pick up useful tips that I can apply directly.

And you never know – looking at what other writers do can help you re-examine whether you are working in the best way you can. It may also inspire a new direction of writing too! What I do know is it will be fun finding out if it does or not and what useful tips I’ll bring home with me.

The great thing with writing is you never stop learning how to improve what you do and that is so good for your brain!

(And networking is always fun!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A = Alliteration. Can be useful for titles in flash fiction (though I don’t use it much) but as with any story, it can grab the attention and help set the mood. Best not overused I think. You want each title to set the tone for what it is to come and a variety of methods for doing that is best. Keeps it fresh for you as the writer too.

B = Backstory. Not a lot of room for that in flash fiction! Best to hint at it through one or two vital details the reader has to know and leave it at that.

C = Character. The kingpin of fiction I think. Get the character right and the plot will come from them. Know your character inside and out – I find it useful to know their chief trait (and I piece together a mental picture of what they are like from there). Find the appropriate starting point for you but it is worth taking the time to know your character well before you start. Your writing will flow better because you write with that knowledge. It does come through in what you write.

As ever, am planning to write flash fiction on the train journey to and from London on Saturday as I head off to a writing day run by the Association of Christian Writers. It’s amazing what you can get done on a smartphone with no interruptions! (Daren’t do this on the Tube though. Always worried I’ll miss my stop! I do think the Tube is a wonderful invention and you never get cold down there either…).

I also sometimes draft non-fiction articles and future blog posts when out and about. I just need a long enough train journey to draft a novel now. 😉😁Hmm….

 

When planning your story (you do, yes?), I find it useful to work out what the obvious ideas might be from a title I’ve thought of, and then work out what could come from those. I don’t plump for the first ideas that come to me. I try to make myself dig that bit deeper to come up with something that fits the theme, makes sense, but is also different precisely because I haven’t gone for the obvious ideas!

Spider diagrams or flowcharts can be useful here. I find I must have a title to kick start the process with, even if I do end up changing it for something better later. It is always a tad annoying that a better title idea crops up when you are writing the story and NOT before you get started, but that is one of those quirks of writing!

Picture of me reading was taken by the lovely #DawnKentishKnox at last year’s Bridge House event. Am very much looking forward to this year’s one too!

 

Gill talks with Dawn and I at the BH event, image taken by Paula Readman

Gill James talks with Dawn Knox and I at a networking event held by Bridge House Publishing last December. Am glad to report Dawn will also be in the Waterloo Festival Anthology. Image from Paula Readman and thanks to her for permission to use it.

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and Allison Symes and books - with kind permission from Paula Readman - Copy

Paula Readman, Dawn Knox and I at the recent Bridge House celebration event. Many thanks to Paula for the image. Also Paula is another winning entry for the Waterloo Festival.

20171202_160214

Dawn Kentish Knox, fellow flash fiction writer, reads some work from her excellent book, The Great War. Image by Allison Symes

Lovely having an appreciative audience, pic taken by Dawn Kentish Knox

I read three stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture!

Book Buying News!

From Light to Dark and Back Again is available from The Book DepositoryDelivery time on the paperback is 1 to 3 business days.  As ever, reviews are always welcome in the usual places.  The great thing is reviews do not need to be long but they all help the writer, even the indifferent ones!

Fairytales with Bite – Flash Fiction and Fairytales

Flash fiction is an ideal vehicle for fairytales.  Why?  Because the best fairytales set up their world quickly, have a definite conclusion, and often pack a powerful punch.  Flash fiction does this too so to my mind flash and fairytales are a match made in writing heaven.

Flash fiction has to be character led due to its limited word count but you can set that character wherever and whenever you wish.  A few telling details can set up a magical world quickly.  For example from my George Changes His Mind (in From Light to Dark and Back Again), I set up a magical world with the opening line “He refused to kill the dragon.”  The telling detail there is in one word – dragon! The story goes on to show what happens and that is the important bit of the story after all.  I don’t need to use thousands of words setting up the magical world in which this is set.  This is not crucial to this story.  What matters is it IS in a magical world and what George goes on to do or not do.

A lot of my stories are either reflections of a fairytale world or set in it and they are great fun to write but I always focus on what the lead character is like.  That is the crucial point of any story I think but in flash where every word must work hard to earn its place to stay there, it is even more so.

This World and Others – Stand Alone

Part 2 of my CFT mini series on The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels looks at, amongst other topics, how to ensure a book stands alone given no series novelist can know at which point a reader will discover their writing.  It is highly unlikely to be book 1.  Indeed I’ve discovered series at the mid point! Many thanks again to my marvellous panellists – Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, Anne Wan, Wendy H Jones, and Richard Hardie – for some great insights.  Very happy to recommend their books to you too.  Great reads one and all albeit for different audiences!

It is true that every writer stands alone, even those that collaborate as they have to go off to write “their bits” before coming back and swapping notes with the other one(s) in the project.  We have to judge whether our work is strong enough to submit and, if there is a choice of places to submit to, which is the best one.  We have to judge whether we have edited a piece enough or if it still needs work.  The call is with us and we are going to get it wrong.  The joy, of course, is when we get it right and a piece is published.

This is where meeting other writers, whether at conferences, online, at courses etc., is invaluable.  There is nobody like another writer to know exactly how it feels when you’re struggling to get the words out or who knows the joy of the words pouring out and work going well.  You do have to share this sometimes for the sake of your own sanity!

I learned a long time ago no writer is a competitor to me.  I write as I write.  I cannot write as you would.  We all bring our unique perspectives to what we write – and that is the great thing about it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

STEPPING BACK IN TIME

Facebook  and Chandler’s Ford Today

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is part 2 of my interview with paranormal historical fiction writer, Jennifer C Wilson.

She shares her thoughts on the joys and woes of writing ghost stories and crossing genres. She discusses the research she carries out and reveals what it was like to go to Richard III’s funeral. How many historical fiction writers can claim to have gone to the funeral of their subject several centuries later?!

Many thanks, Jennifer, for sharing your insights. Good luck with the next in the Kindred Spirits series too.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I must admit, with my dog walking hat on, I am not keen on the nights drawing in so early. (Lady is not that keen either!).

However, with my reading and writing hats on, the earlier nights do tend to encourage me to have cosy nights with something nice to drink (usually hot chocolate!), as I spoil myself with books and stories, whether I am reading them or doing my best to write them!

Yes, I do read and write during the spring and summer obviously, but there is something about the nights drawing in that drives me to my desk/book shelves that bit more readily! So there are compensations to the darkest of the seasons then…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – Round-up Posts from From Light to Dark and Back Again

The real art to flash fiction writing is to be able to say something concisely and leave your readers to fill in the gaps. Good fun to write and read. I suppose in some ways it is the exact opposite of the epic novel.

Plans for next year include trying to enter more flash fiction competitions, hopefully having a second book out, and I’d like to do more with standard length short stories. Whether the plans come off is another matter!

wallpaper-1531107_640

Flash – for light or dark fiction! Image via Pixabay

One great thing about having an author in your life is you won’t be short of ideas for Christmas presents for them!

There are the books they want to read, of course, (there WILL be a big list!) and then there’s the world of nice stationery. There are the notebook fans, writers can never have enough paper for the printer or ink cartridges/toners etc, and as for good quality pens…. lead me to them!

These days you can even buy gift vouchers for conferences, which I think is a fab idea and can make the difference to someone going or not going at all to such a thing.

So have fun choosing (and if you are the writer, get your wish list in!)

Blogging via diaries and tablets, ancient and modern technologies via Pixabay

What ever writer needs. Image via Pixabay

Fairytales With Bite – The Joys and Woes of Writing in Genres

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is part 2 of my interview with paranormal historical fiction writer, Jennifer C Wilson, author of the Kindred Spirits series.  She talks about the joys and woes of writing ghost stories/crossing genres.  If you are looking for ghost stories that are a bit different, do check out her series.  There are two books so far:  Kindred Spirits: Tower of London and Kindred Spirits:  Royal Mile.  The former “stars” Richard III and the latter Mary, Queen of Scots.  The common link here?  Fotheringay Castle – one for happy reasons, the other the complete opposite!

Whatever genre you write in, there will be challenges to overcome and joys to relish!  The important point, regardless of whatever genre you write in, is to ask yourself honestly would your story grip someone who doesn’t know you and who has discovered your stories by accident?  This is where having trusted beta readers can be really useful as they will point out what works and what doesn’t.  Another good way is to make yourself put your work away for a while before you come back to it and look at it with fresh eyes.  It is much easier to read  your book as a reader would if you do this.

One thing I did with From Light to Dark and Back Again was use Scrivener to export the book as a .mobi file so I could actually see what it would look like as an ebook.  By putting it into this format, I found it easier to pretend I was new to the book and so I could read and edit it far more effectively. (The ability to change formats in Scrivener is one of the things I love about it).

The real challenge to genre writing is to win over readers who are NOT already fans of it.  But it is a good challenge and keeps you on your toes as a writer!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Stepping Back in Time

Time travel is possible….  if you’re a good historical fiction writer or wonderful composer like Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is, for me, one of my favourite pieces of music and conjures up the Elizabethan world so beautifully.

As for historical fiction, my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is part 2 of my interview with Jennifer C Wilson.  She writes historical fiction crossed with ghost stories in her Kindred Spirits series.  In the interview, she shares some of the joys and woes of writing ghost stories/crossing genres and discusses the research she does for the historical side of her work.  If you are looking for ghost stories that are different, do check out her series.

Good historical fiction should make you feel as if you have stepped back in time and as if you are the proverbial fly on the wall in whatever era and setting the writer has chosen.  Can you sense the smells of that world?  Can you picture how things would look?

One thing about history I love, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, is the way it shows how others lived.  It makes me grateful for things I think we take for granted – the ability to read and write for the vast majority of us, decent sanitation etc.  It does no harm to reflect every so often how fortunate we are to have these.  They were not always a “given”.

So the secret here then is to give your readers enough information so they can picture and sense your world without giving them so much, they lose all sense of what the story is.   This is true for every genre you care to name too.

CROSSING GENRES AND SECOND BOOK SYNDROME

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Part 1 (out of 2) of my interview with paranormal historical fiction writer, Jennifer C Wilson. She creates a world where the heroes are ghosts and Richard III gets a MUCH better write up than he ever had from Shakespeare!

Jennifer also shares her three top tips for writers, what her trigger for writing was, and names her own favourite historical fiction writers. More next Friday when, amongst other topics, she shares the joys and woes of crossing genres and how being able to go to Richard III’s funeral influenced her writing. Just how many historical fiction writers get to go to the funeral of their leading star is debatable but there can’t be that many!

Many thanks, Jennifer, for your time and for sharing some great insights. Looking forward to sharing Part 2 next week but in the meantime here’s the link to Part 1.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

There will be more Christmassy flash fiction tales from me on Cafelit over the next couple of weeks. (I hope these will eventually make it into my second book). Do head over and check out their Advent Calendar. There are wonderful stories on here. Don’t miss them!

I think flash especially comes into its own at this time of year when people are under pressure, time-wise, to get things done. It is the ultimate in the quick read after all!

Facebook – Posts from earlier this week

What do I find most interesting and useful in author interviews?

Questions that encourage the writer to expand on what they do and why rather than simply allow them to give a Yes/No answer. By giving fuller answers, you have much more of an insight as to what makes that particular author tick. I’ve found reading author interviews to be a good source of encouragement. They also make me think about what I write and why.

Am sharing a photo which has gone up on Paula Readman’s wonderful For Writers Only Who Want to Write without Fear of Rejection. Many thanks, Paula, and also to my better half for getting the Christmas tree up today without which this photo would not have been possible (as they say)…

My book on our Christmas Tree as part of Paula Readman's wonderful For Writers Only Who Want to Write without Fear of Rejection Facebook page. Image by Allison Symes

My book on our Christmas Tree as part of Paula Readman’s wonderful For Writers Only Who Want to Write without Fear of Rejection Facebook page. Image by Allison Symes

Facebook – from earlier this week – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My better half and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary earlier this week. (We can’t believe where the time has gone either). Looking back at wedding photos etc raises smiles and causes some sadness as we recall those we’ve lost. So much has changed in that 30 years – from computers to cars to new forms of storytelling being invented (flash fiction of course!).

It led me to think about what kind of time scale do your characters work on? Can they see the long-term bigger picture or are they of the kind who resolutely sticks to the past and treats all new things with suspicion? Some great stories could come from those questions. Happy writing!

It was good fun reading three stories out from the book on Saturday (at the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown Books/Red Telephone celebration event). As well as good experience for me, audience reaction to each story let me know the emotional impact of each story was precisely what I meant it to be! It is a bit difficult to gauge this accurately when you’re on your own! (I use reading work out loud, when alone, to help me get my dialogue right and this is also very useful).

Love the booklet Inspiring Ideas that has come with this month’s Writing Magazine. Shall be finding this useful! It has picture prompts, tips from famous authors and sets exercises too. Will be staying by my laptop for some considerable time I think. What is nice these days I nearly always turn to the Members’ News and letter pages first in the magazine and see if I spot anyone I know from writing events in there. Glad to say I often do!

I read three stories at Saturday’s Bridge House event. I chose Serving Up a Treat (poetic justice), Making the Grade (humorous magical story) and Pressing the Flesh (horror. This one is also in the Best of Cafelit 6 as it started life on Cafelit). I think of this as a kind of “pick and mix” of my stories (and those old enough to remember Woolworths will know where that term comes from!).

Image: Thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for taking the photo of my reading and to Paula Readman for sending me the image of Dawn, Paula and I together showing off where our stories are! Three very happy authors!

Fairytales with Bite – Second Book Syndrome

It’s funny how things often don’t work out quite the way you think they will.  My initial plan this year had been to have the follow-up to From Light to Dark and Back Again with my publisher, Chapeltown Books, by, say, the end of October.  Hmm…  I am glad to report I am now editing my second book and, if I can, I hope to have it off to Chapeltown by the year end/very early into the New Year.

I can confirm there’s a nice mixture of fairytales with bite in the second volume and, as ever, some of my characters even I wouldn’t want to meet in any kind of alley, yet alone a dark one.  However, they are huge fun to write for!!

Why the hold up?  Well, I’m glad to say it has been for the best of reasons.  I’ve been involved in Book Fairs, signings, extravaganzas and library events ever since From Light to Dark and Back Again came out and these have eaten into my time more than I thought.  I know I haven’t quite got the balance between writing new material and marketing the current book right but also know I will get there eventually.  It is a great comfort to know other writers have this same struggle to get this balance right!

I thought I’d leave this post with an extract from the second book, which has also recently appeared on Cafelit.

Can I also recommend checking out Cafelit’s Advent Calendar of stories?  There is a lovely mix of styles and lengths of story here.  Am glad to say some more of my Christmassy ones will appear in the next couple of weeks.

Oh and if you want to know what to give the writer in your life?  If they have a book out, reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are always welcome!

Allison Symes’s books on Goodreads

This World and Others – Crossing Genres

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Part 1 (out of 2) of my interview with paranormal historical fiction writer, Jennifer C Wilson. She creates a world where the heroes are ghosts and Richard III gets a MUCH better write up than he ever had from Shakespeare!  In her Kindred Spirits series (two so far:  Tower of London and Royal Mile), she combines historical fiction with ghost stories.

Now I’m sure you’ll have come across the maxim you are not supposed to cross genres but some of my favourite books do exactly that.  Jennifer’s series does so brilliantly.  The most famous example of cross genre work is J.K. Rowling with her Harry Potter series – boarding school stories meet magical stories.

When done well, crossing genres can create a complete new sub-section of fiction and bring new life to the two genres crossed.  Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots feels there are only so many plots and so stories are going to come into at least one of the categories he lists in this book.  (A long read but a very interesting one and well worth checking out).

In my own case I cross flash fiction with fantasy, sometimes with crime, sometimes with horror and have a wonderful time doing so!  And, of course, there are those books which are hard to categorise but you just know you love them when you read them.

So mix away but choose your ingredients carefully!  I think it essential to have a thorough love and knowledge of the two genres you’re crossing (so you could work well in either if you ever had to pick one because a publisher or agent wants you to do so.  I also think there will be a stronger element of one genre than the other in the overall mix which is where your natural preferences will take you and this could well be a good guide if you have to pick a category for your work to go in).  It will also show through in your writing that you know both genres well and, as a result, your story will be so much more convincing to the reader.).

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Crossing Genres

There is a theme emerging tonight!

This topic has come up as my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Part 1 of a two-part interview with Jennifer C Wilson, author of the Kindred Spirits series. She crosses historical fiction with ghost stories.

I cross flash fiction with fantasy, sometimes crime, sometimes horror, sometimes character studies. It occurred to me that, despite all the advice I’ve come across in my time to NOT cross genres, some of my favourites stories and books have done exactly that!

When well done, crossing genres breathes new life into both of the genres the new story uses. So mix away! I do think you need to love and know well both genres you’re writing for but as Jennifer says in her interview, the most important thing is getting the story down and worrying about what genre it fits into much, much later on.

Is it me or is creating new sub-divisions of fiction a healthy thing? I see it as creative, inventive and good for storytelling as a whole.

 

What is a Good Fairytale?

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

A quick reminder about the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair is my topic for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Hope to see some of you there. Everyone taking part is hoping this will become a regular event especially since there are no bookshops in Chandler’s Ford now.

We’d all be glad to see fellow writers too and can give information about local writing festivals and creative writing classes too – so do come and ask! There will be signings and special offers too.

Why are events like this important? Well, they give local writers both a voice and another outlet, which helps us all.

Events like this show the community there IS a strong creative writing element within it. (At the earlier Hiltingbury Extravaganza, there had been some surprise expressed at the range of writers and genres respresented there. There will be many more at the Book Fair tomorrow!).

We also hope the Fair will promote the love of books and reading in general.

BookFairPoster8

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Reading your work out loud is useful for helping you to pick up where your sentence construction is perhaps not as smooth and free-flowing as you thought it was (especially for dialogue). It is one of those oddities that something which looks fine written down is not necessarily easy to read out loud.

It is also useful for picking up the rhythm within your story and I’ve found it handy for detecting hidden undercurrents of mood in my flash fiction. It is another oddity that the writer doesn’t always pick up on these immediately! (That in turn helps me when I read the finished work out publicly. It helps me “pitch” it correctly).

I hope to read a couple of my stories at the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair tomorrow. If anyone has questions about flash fiction, please do come over and have a chat.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads – Book Review

I share here my review of friend and fellow writer, Jennifer C Wilson’s excellent novella, The Last Plantagenet?  Novellas aren’t as common as they once were but they work brilliantly for those stories not long enough to make it to full novel status or are far too long for a short story.  I’d like to see more of these.

 

The Last Plantagenet? by Jennifer C. Wilson

The cover of Jennifer’s novella.  Image from my review on Goodreads.

 

Fairytales With Bite

A good fairytale is not necessarily one with a happy ending but, as with other stories, it should show the lead character changed during the course of the tale.  Ideally it will be for the better.  They will have learned something from their experiences and so on.  Sometimes a character does NOT learn from their experiences (the result is usually disastrous – the lesson there is for us readers.  It’s a warning we should learn or risk disaster ourselves).

A good fairytale will also show us something of ourselves/our human nature.  That doesn’t necessarily mean we will like what we see!  The Little Match Girl by Hans Christen Andersen is, to my mind, rightly scathing of those who pitied the girl because she was dead but did nothing to stop her dying, which is the whole message of that story (and the exposure of hypocrisy).

A good fairytale will have memorable characters and there is usually a strong moral message with it (though conveyed in the story.  A good story, of whatever type, will never leave you feeling as if you’ve been preached at).

A good fairytale will keep you gripped to the last world, will conjure up images of its setting and give you characters you can identify with/root for, even if they are strange alien monsters!  A good fairytale will usually see injustices put right too.

 

castle-2115425_640

Fairytales can be considered as “pie in the sky” but the reality is they often convey great truths.  Image via Pixabay (and one of the images used for my trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again).

 

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

One advantage of flash fiction is it has to be character led.  There isn’t the room for lengthy descriptions so your characters “carry” the stories.  So you have to create the world your character comes from via them directly.

This can be done through internal thoughts.  Show what your character thinks about their situation and what has led to it.  That should reveal some insights as to the world he/she comes from.   For example:-

She threw the cup at the wall and watched it smash.  Bloody government.  I’ve already voted once.  Why have I got to do it again?

That reveals at once that the government is dictatorial, voting is clearly compulsory, and any world where you have to vote again (to get it right this time perhaps?) is somewhere you probably don’t want to live if you have the choice.  She is taking her frustration out on a cup so there is no choice element here (and almost certainly severe consequences if she doesn’t vote again).

You can also show something of your created world through what your character observes.  In a flash fiction story, this would have to be a line or two at most (though that does make you stick to the really important things you want your reader to know so is no bad thing).

Description is the obvious way of showing a world but, again, in flash, a line or two at most and focus on what is important to the character (as this also reveals a lot about them).

 

Themes pour out of good books - image via Pixabay

Great Themes pour out of wonderful books but it needs strong, memorable characters to achieve this.  Image via Pixabay.

 

Wishes and Flash Fiction

 

Facebook – General

One week to go to the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair from 10 to 12 at the Age Concern Centre in Brownhill Road. Good range of authors and genres represented. Should be good fun.

If one of my fairy godmother characters could grant me three wishes, what would I choose? (For that matter, what would YOU choose for yourself?). My choices would be:-

1. To send predictive text into oblivion and arrange things so people forgot it ever existed. (I’m counting that as one wish, my fairy godmother character may disagree, but I would sacrifice a wish cheerfully to get this through. Much as I love my smartphone it has confirmed my loathing of predictive text. Complete pain when writing, It rarely predicts anything I can actually use!).
2. To NEVER be interrupted by anything when reading. (Think my fairy godmother character might struggle with this one).
3. For paper jams and power cuts to be a thing of the past. They always happen at the most inconvenient times.

If I could sneak in some extra wishes, I’d go for:-

4. For all people to be able to read and write and to want to read. Reading can easily be dismissed as something people don’t have time for and I’m at a loss as to why. Same people would happily watch a 3-hour film. Maybe reading needs to be seen more as a form of entertainment than it currently is?
5. For genre fiction to no longer be looked down on (though there has been some progress here). Why shouldn’t a book JUST be for entertainment? Why does it have to be worthy as well?

So what would your wishes (+ 2 bonus wishes) be?

More of the books

Local writers’ books  including mine recently on sale at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza.  Hope to see some of you at next week’s larger event, the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair.  Image by Allison Symes

BookFairPoster8

Thanks to Catherine Griffin for the excellent Book Fair poster.  Also to Sally Howard and all in Chandler’s Ford Authors who are organising this event.  Should be good!

Well, what IS your story? Image via Pixabay.

Well, what IS your story? Image via Pixabay.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A flash fiction tale has to be complete in itself with a beginning, middle and end, but its great joy (for me at least) is the ability to imply so much more.

My story, Serving Up a Treat, is a tale of domestic abuse where the character brings an end to it. (For how you’ll need to see the book!). What is implied in this story is the backstory. It is implied that what has been happening to the character has gone on for a very long time.

The “snap” point should be expected so does the piece deliver on that expectation? Yes, it does. You do have to follow through! However, that doesn’t mean you have to spell out every last detail. In fact, with flash you can’t as there simply isn’t the room with the limited word count.

I’ve found flash fiction to be a great way of improving my blog posts, longer short stories etc because it forces you to ask what is REALLY important. What MUST the reader know? What can I drop hints at and leave them to work things out from there?

Photo2988

From my railway station signing. The lovely origami boxes were made by my CFT editor, Janet Williams.  Image by Allison Symes

Writer at work. Image via Pixabay.

Writer at work! Flash fiction stories must be complete in themselves but they can imply so much.  Image via Pixabay.

 

Many thanks to all who’ve reviewed my book so far on Amazon and Goodreads. 

Goodreads – Author Programme – Blog Post

Why do you read? Like me, I suspect you have several answers to this. Mine include:-

1. For entertainment.
2. For education.
3. For research (for a story or post I’m writing. Not quite the same thing as for education above. I define that as reading to learn but for its own sake and not necessarily to “use” elsewhere).
4. Because I always have read and reading is simply part of what I am and do.
5. The book is nearly always better than the film!
6. I like to read at bedtime to help me unwind and have a better night’s sleep.
7. To widen my tastes in books and stories, I have to be prepared to try genres new to me so I see this as a kind of exploration of what’s out there. I have no idea at this stage whether I’m going to like what I read or not so can’t say if I will be entertained!
8. I’m thrilled to be published myself and I do see it as necessary to support the industry I’ve entered. How can I best do that? By buying and reading books! (A kind of self-help here I think).
9. To enjoy what my friends are writing!
10. To explore literary culture. In the last two years, for example, I’ve read and seen more Shakespeare plays than I ever have done and part of this is to expand my knowledge here. (It’s a very enjoyable exploration too and I love National Theatre Live for making it easier to go to see productions).

There is no right order for any of the above reasons for reading but they strike me as all being very good ones to do so!

20170917_145438.jpg

To write books you need to have a deep love for the written word and how else can you develop that other than by reading widely?  Image by Allison Symes

Other News

Many thanks to Jennifer C Wilson for hosting me on her excellent blog a little while ago.  I share the link to my post here (Falling into Flash Fiction), but highly recommend exploring the rest of her site and her paranormal historical fiction works, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, Kindred Spirits:  Royal Mile, and The Last Plantagenet?  Jennifer is published by Crooked Cat but her most recent book, The Last Plantagenet?, is her first self-published novella.

NEW ANTHOLOGY, A BOOK FAIR AND HOW I FELL INTO FLASH FICTION

Facebook – General

Delighted to say I received my copies of The Best of Cafelit 6 today. My flash fiction tale, Pressing the Flesh, is in there but there is a lovely range of short and long stories in the anthology. Highly recommend even if I wasn’t in it (though I admit that does give me an incentive!). Am also looking forward to the Bridge House/Cafelit celebration event in December. It is always good fun and it will be nice to meet other authors in the collections given we usually only get to meet on Facebook. Great and useful though that is, there is something nice about actually meeting the writer though.

The link takes you to the Amazon page for the book.  There’s a nice range of stories from flash fiction to standard length short stories and a good mix of styles.  Go on, have a look!

Looking forward to the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair in the Age Concern Centre in Brownhill Road on 28th October from 10 am to 12 noon. There is a nice range of authors taking part with different genres represented including YA, short stories, romantic comedy, my own flash fiction and many more besides. So there should be something to suit the book lovers in your life (which I hope would include you too!).

BookFairPoster8

My CFT post this week will be an update from Anne Wan about her book launch went for Secrets of the Snow Globe – Shooting Star. This is the second book in her Snow Globe series and these will also be at the Book Fair. Book launches are vital not just for the author but often for the bookshop or other venue in which they are held. Events do get people through the doors.

ShootingStar-BookLaunch-A5Leaflet-FINAL-page-001

Many thanks to Catherine Griffin for supplying the Book Fair poster, to Anne Wan for her poster and the last image shows Anne and I at Bay Leaves Larder in Chandler’s Ford. I had just interviewed Anne for a CFT post when this image was taken.

Anne Wan and Allison Symes at Bay Leaves Larder

Anne and I enjoyed a lovely chat at Bay Leaves Larder when I interviewed her for Chandler’s Ford Today.

 

Facebook – General – Part 2

I thought I’d share a quick post I put up yesterday which looked at why we write.

What is the real reason you write? To express yourself through story? Because you absolutely have to write and could no more stop yourself doing so than hold the sea in a sieve? (I think you’re allowed one bit of colourful description and that’s mine for tonight!).

Deep down for me, there is a feeling I need to give back to the world of story for the great joy it has (and continues) to give me. The way to give back is to create stories of my own and to put them out there.

There is also the sheer love of the written word and a desire to preserve the printed word. (I don’t see the Kindle etc as a threat. It is merely another format for story. I also don’t think anything can ever stop the appeal of a paperback. It is a question of getting stories out there in different formats and leaving it to your audience as to which format they prefer).

Sometimes, especially when feeling bogged down, it can pay to take a little time out to focus on why you write. It can help re-invigorate the old creative spark. Going to see stories performed (by live reading, theatre productions etc) is also good for the literary soul.

The important thing is to love stories and to love writing them. I couldn’t tell you how many rejections I’ve had (I definitely could wallpaper the room of my house with them!) but onwards and upwards has to be the motto. Else you make no progress. It is also true the more you write the more you improve and increase your chances of being accepted.

Stunning place in which to read and review - image via Pixabay

What a place in which to read!  Image via Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was thrilled to be part of Jennifer C Wilson’s blog last Sunday with a piece called Falling into Flash Fiction. I talked about how I came into writing flash (it was a happy accident!) and shared two new stories, which I hope will make it into the follow-up to From Light to Dark and Back Again. (Many thanks to Jennifer for not only hosting me but for also linking to her lovely review of my book. Both are much appreciated!).

The real trigger point was my willingness to have a go at writing flash to see if I could meet Cafelit’s 100 Word Challenge. So do be prepared to try new forms of writing. You never know where it may lead you. I had never anticipated being published in flash format yet here I am!

What is also nice about flash fiction’s growing popularity is that a fair number of well respected competitions are now adding it as a category. For example, The Bridport Prize and the Winchester Writers’ Festival now have flash as specific competitions. There are several online competitions too and then there are the websites such as Cafelit where there is a standing invitation to submit stories.

I very much hope the growth in flash fiction continues. I would love it if people, perhaps reluctant to read, become avid readers, because they loved reading flash and then decided they wanted to read longer works of fiction.

 

Today, I have as a visitor the lovely Allison Symes, to tell us how she fell into flash fiction, and all about the writing form. You can read my review of Allison’s collection From Light to D…
jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com