The Writing Week, History, and Publication News

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

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Glad to say Nativity, the new anthology from Bridge House Publishing, is now up on my Amazon Author Central page.  I hope it will be added to my Goodreads page soon too. Am getting better at being organised about this sort of thing.

Have finished the first draft of a standard length short story so will probably look at that again to read it afresh next week. Need to outline another story. Want to submit these two stories at the same time. I like to do them in batches!

Am also drafting a couple of blogs, one of which will be my CFT post next week. Picking topics for CFT can be interesting. Times of year can be useful (I nearly always produce a Christmas limerick or piece of festive flash fiction, for example).

When I’ve got events coming up, such as the Richard Hardie/Antony M Brown talk on Tuesday, that gives me the post for that week. I like to do extended posts every so often and invite guest contributions. I’ve found a three part series works well (beyond that, people tend to switch off). Generally though I go for a “wide” topic (this week’s one will be about history) and then look for either my take on it or link it to something in the news or an event which is going on in my area.

What were your favourite subjects at school?

Mine were English and History. No big surprises there. I loved composition as it was called back in the day and enjoyed inventing stories then.

I also used to like the old SRA cards which were colour coded. The card had a story on it, you had to read it and then answer some questions. You could then progress to the next card and so on. I used these at junior school usually either when a teacher was marking or we had a supply teacher in.

History – well it is a great big story when you think about it. There’s “standard” history – the tales of kings and queens. There’s the history of scientific discovery and invention and so on.

And there’s local history too. CFT has two great series going on at the moment on this. One is The Hutments by Peter Russell which I edited. The other are extracts from the journals of Rick Goater’s grandmother who covers social and natural history in her diaries.

I love history for its glimpses into the past (and it makes me so grateful I live when I do now. I wouldn’t have made it to anywhere near my age had I lived in medieval times. I am assuming here I would have been a peasant!).

English obviously feeds directly into my writing and reading. History influences the topics I come up with. (Oh and the other reason I’m grateful to live when I do, despite all that is currently going on, is that in medieval times, it would have been highly unlikely I could read or write at all. The thought of not being able to do either makes me shudder).

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When do you know a book has really got to you?

1. You can’t wait until you can continue reading it.
2. You fear for the fate of your favourite characters (and usually with good cause).
3. You re-read it often.
4. You worry when you discover there will be a film or TV adaptation. How can it do the book justice?
5. You are overjoyed when the film or TV adaptation IS faithful to the book and brings to your eyes the scenes you’d only seen in your head as you read the book.

For me that’s fulfilled by The Lord of the Rings in particular but I also loved the adaptations of Going Postal, Hogfather, and The Colour of Magic.

For me adaptations only work if it comes across that whoever is behind said adaptation HAS been faithful to the book. There’s no point in going away from the original material.

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Publication News

Pleased to receive my copies of Nativity, this year’s anthology from Bridge House Publishing. My humorous fairytale, What Goes Around, is in there. Love the cover (and honestly I still would even if I wasn’t in it!). The joy of opening a parcel with your books in it never lessens.

I’ll be looking at Why I Love History later this week for Chandler’s Ford Today. History plays a major role for all writers and not just historical fiction authors. More details and the link will be up on Friday.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Let’s see what I can do with a phrase taken from a random generator as an acrostic flash fiction story.

TALK THE TALK

T = Touche, the witch thought, someone’s trying to frighten me.

A = All the people I’ve cursed in my time and someone’s fighting back; it has to be one of them.

L = Less than five seconds in and my feet have turned into concrete.

K = Keyword here is preparation; someone’s put so much thought into this, so who’s got the skills for that round here?

T = Turns out I’ve a magical rival who’s clearing the opposition, me!

H = Hell, no; they’re not getting away with this.

E = Extending her arm, the witch reached for her wand and cursed the concrete away.

T = Turning to her desk diary, yes every magical being needs one, the witch flipped the pages.

A = Ah, yes, it’ll be her – she’s had her eye on my cottage and the privileges of being head witch here for ages.

L = Likely she’s assumed I’d die – well let’s show her I’m still very much alive and well and bloody annoyed, how dare she try this on me.

K = Kind of got to admire her nerve, the witch thought, as she uttered the spell that would turn her rival’s cottage into millions of splinters, hopefully with said rival still inside it.

Allison Symes – 16th November 2019

Hope you enjoy.

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Many thanks for all who read Talk The Talk, my flash story that I created yesterday, using a random phrase generator to come up with this as a title (and theme. My character really did talk the talk!). I created this live. I only edited a few words where I realised a tweak here or there would improve the impact.

Normally of course I would prepare a story, put it aside for a while and, once happy with it, I would then share it here or submit it somewhere. But I deliberately use the random generators (word, phrase, number) to create a “live” story with only a light editorial touch on it afterwards.

Can stories created this way be improved? Oh yes, almost certainly but I find it fun to create stories this way sometimes. It also keeps me on my toes.

It makes for a really good writing exercise even if you don’t share the results. You can pretend you are and see what you can come up with in a set time limit, say. You then leave the story at that and move on to the next one.

You can come back and “edit properly” later on. But there is a freshness to a newly created story I adore, which is another reason why I like to create stories this way and then leave them be. Often I find when I DO come back to them later, I still sense that raw energy of creating them and it is usually a case of tweaking words to create stronger images and impact. I always think about the impact of the story on the reader. It helps to keep me focused.

Oh and random number generators can be useful. I’ve used the numbers that come up as times to be used in the story, or as a countdown to something happening. The number 13 could in itself be taken as a theme given it has its own phobia – Triskaidekaphobia. (Just don’t try saying that quickly!). How could that manifest itself in a story?

And do have fun with the random generators. They’re excellent triggers for stories.

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Flash fiction is a great vehicle for dropping your characters right in it! They also have to get out of the situation quickly too but it must all be plausible, even if your characters and/or setting are magical. The characters need to be seen to get themselves out of the situation which is why I have to outline before I get the first draft down. It’s also why I sometimes start the story by working out what the ending is and then deducing how the character could have got to that point.

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I tend to “hit the ground running” with my flash fiction stories. I want to get a reader into the story as quickly as possible (and of course out again at the end of the tale). I mix up the way I do this as it keeps things interesting for me (and I hope for readers).

I sometimes take a reader straight into my character’s thoughts. Sometimes I ask a question I hope will provoke curiosity – the must find out the answer type. Sometimes I will start with a character action, again the type that will trigger the where will this go reaction (and there is only ever one answer to that – read on!).

I mix up using the first and third person for my stories (though I love the immediacy the first person gives you). I also mix up my settings. My first love is the humorous fairytale with a sting in the tale but I adore writing crime and historical ones too. That is the thing I love most about flash fiction – its flexibility with setting. It is just the word count I have to watch!

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Dreams

Do you ever dream of your favourite characters (written by you or others)?

I can’t say I do. I’m also relieved about that. I can think of several of my own characters who I don’t want to meet in any kind of alley. I certainly don’t want them haunting me at night either!

Where I DO dream of characters is in hoping they have the impact on a potential reader I set out to achieve. It’s not really for me to say whether that works or not, only the reader can know. All I can do is give it my best shot.

When reading works by other writers, the ones that stay with me the most are the ones where the characters have the most impact. So that inspires me with my own writing. I’m still glad they don’t disturb my sleep pattern though! (I would not be a happy bunny…!).

I do a lot of my reading at bedtime so I did wonder if I would have strange dreams based on whatever it was I was reading. Hasn’t happened at all. Given I read fantasy, crime, historical, and a good range of non-fiction books, it is just as well. I think some very strange images would be conjured up.

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Reading and Writing

Image Credit: 

As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay. The stained glass window shot is taken by Allison Symes (at Tewkesbury Abbey).

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Publication News

Am absolutely delighted to announce my short story What Goes Around is now published in Bridge House Publishing’s anthology for 2019 called Nativity.

Many congratulations to all of the other writers who are also included in this eclectic collection. Currently available in Kindle but will also be out in paperback. Naturally I will share those details when available!

(It’s going to be a nice task updating my Goodreads and Amazon Author Central pages again! That’s the kind of task no writer will ever mind!).

 

Nativity Full

Am delighted to share this new three part series by Peter Russell on Chandler’s Ford Today. I acted as editor and it was a pleasure and privilege to do so. The Hutments were a community within a community and are now long gone. For anyone interested in local history, do have a read. Part 2 will go live next Saturday.

Feature Image - Hook Road Hutments and My Family

I cannot tell you how much pleasure writing and reading books has given me over the years. They are gifts that keep on giving.

The more widely you read, in terms of both volume and genre, the more room you give your imagination to fire up. Every writer is inspired, and continues to be inspired, by both what has gone before and what is contemporary and that’s exactly how it should be.

I realised long ago that I will never be in competition with any writer for the simple reason I write in my voice and they write in theirs. What inspires each writer is also unique to that writer.

Sure, there will be themes and books in common BUT there will be differences too. It is what we as individual writers bring to the mix that matters and we will bring something unique because we bring something of ourselves to our stories, consciously or otherwise, and we are all different. None of us brings exactly the same thing as the writer next to us (metaphorically speaking).

What I DO know is I owe a huge debt to my late mum, who I lost four years ago today (9th November 2019) to dementia, who taught me to read before I started school. She got into trouble for that. Apparently, I was taught “the wrong way”. Today, she’d probably be given a medal but things were very different back in the 1970s. Oh they were different! Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve done too badly for having been taught “the wrong way”.

One of my treasured memories is her joy in seeing my first story in print (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions back in 2009). That memory will always mean so much to me.

Says it all really

I owe a huge debt to my late mother for her encouraging my love of books.  Pixabay image.

 

Thought it was time to update the cover photo (on my Facebook page).  I’m using this image on this website too. As well as being “branding”, it makes it simpler for me to have a common image running through my Facebook page, website etc.

Happily drafting a new story for a competition. Really like the way the character has come to life. That is one of my favourite aspects to creating new stories, regardless of word count. When that character “takes off” for me, they will do for a reader too. It is then a question of finding the right competition or market to reach the kind of reader I think will enjoy the story the most.

Biggest writing issue for me? Finding enough time to do all the things I would like to do, writing wise, but that’s a nice problem to have. What I loathe is having additional time but not knowing what to do with it – what a waste that is! – so I make sure I always have competitions to draft for etc.

Allison Symes and published works

Image taken by Adrian Symes

Great to hear I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue is back on Radio 4. The word play on this is sublime (as it is on Just a Minute too).

Have completed the draft of a short story. Time to rest it for a bit and work on something else. I’ll probably look at the story again in a couple of weeks’ time. It will only be at that point I can re-read the tale and look at it as a reader would.

I also ask myself questions as to what I think a reader would make of the story and why. I also look for anything that might be considered weak from a reader’s viewpoint – and then either eliminate it or strengthen it.

But the crucial thing is having enough time away from the story before I look at it again. You really do have to distance yourself.

Also looking forward to going to YA writer Richard Hardie’s and Cold Case Jury writer, Antony M Brown’s, author talk and signing session at the Hiltonbury Farmhouse tomorrow from 7.30 pm. Should be fun.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Publication News

Many congratulations to all of the writers in Bridge House Publishing’s Nativity anthology. I have a standard length short story in here called What Goes Around.

I often use well known phrases and proverbs as titles for my flash pieces too. They can make a very useful short cut as they spell out the theme too without me having to repeat it! They’re also open to interpretation too. For a story like What Goes Around that could be humorous or serious. I love the flexibility of that.

Looking forward to the Bridge House celebration event in December. It will be the first time I’ve had a story in the BHP anthology AND two in the Cafelit collection for the year, The Best of Cafelit 8 (The Art Critic and Dignity and Injustice).

I just love that the buzz of being published online or in print or both never goes away. And does it encourage me to keep writing? Of course!

 

I’d not heard of flash fiction when I began writing seriously. I was sticking to the standard length short story (which I still love writing) and drafting a novel. It was when Cafelit issued their 100 word challenge, I thought I would try the form and quickly became hooked. So beware of what you get into then!!!

Having said that, I adore flash. Sometimes when writing a longer story (or more accurately what is MEANT to be a longer story), I realise the material is strong enough for something around the 750 word mark but to get it to, say, magazine requirement, I would have to add at least 250 and probably 500 words to it.

If there is one thing I have learned over the years it is NEVER pad a story. It never works. It comes across, I think, that the good ideas were in the first half of the story and the rest was to get it to the required word count length. I know I’ve read stories where I’ve had the impression and I also think you, as the writer, just know this isn’t really working. So stick with a shorter piece you know DOES work and find an alternative home for it instead.

The lovely thing with flash fiction is there is now a very welcome home for those shorter, strong pieces. So win-win then!

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How do I create a new flash fiction story?

It depends! I know, I know – not particularly helpful is it, but it really does depend on:-

1. Am I writing for a competition with a set theme?

Here I need to focus on the kind of character who would suit that theme best. Once I’ve got them pictured and outlined, away I go. You can tell when you’ve got the character right because it can feel as if they are telling you the story!

2. Am I writing for a competition with an open theme?
I start by thinking about what theme I would like to tackle. I like to give myself room for manoeuvre here so I tend to go for a simple but open theme such as love, justice etc. You can do so much with themes like that. I then look at the kind of character who would suit the theme I’ve chosen.

I sometimes deliberately set myself a word count target even if I haven’t got a competition in mind. This is partly to keep me on my toes and also because I know I’ll find a potential market for it later on.

Again, I outline the character I want to write about and then think about what kind of trouble I can stir up for them. That is the fun bit, always! I also look at what it is about my character that will either get them out of that trouble or land themselves further in it.

For a very short flash (under 250 words), I go for one lightning quick problem the character has got to resolve quickly. They really have to get on with it but there has to be strength in that character so I know they are capable of doing it.

 

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When do I know a flash fiction story is complete?

I put the piece aside for a while, re-read it and then work out what impact the story had on me. I’m usually looking for a strong response whether it is to laugh, scream or what have you.

Sometimes I write more thoughtful flash tales and there I’m looking for impact in terms of just how thought provoking was the story? When it is a character study, did the story leave me with insights as to why that character is as how they have been portrayed? Do I get a sense this character is realistic? Am I glad to have spent time in their company?

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Goodreads Author Blog – Living in a Fictional World

I’ve never really wanted to live in a fictional world.

I wouldn’t mind a guided tour of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (as long as it wasn’t by Rincewind and Twoflower. See The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic for more on why!).

I’d love to visit Middle Earth from Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, though I would give Mordor a miss.

And I never had the slightest inclination to follow Alice down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, Even as a kid, I thought that was a daft idea, though I loved the story itself.

Incidentally is this just me or was Alice either incredibly gullible or greedy? Whenever she saw signs saying Eat Me or Drink Me, she’d just do so. Never thought to question it and then wondered why she suddenly shot up in height etc. (I refuse to believe saying that is a plot spoiler, not after this length of time). Oh well…

I loved the Famous Five by Enid Blyton so a good nose around Kirrin Island would suit me. (I always thought of Kirrin Island whenever I’ve visited Brownsea Island, just off Poole Harbour. It’s the sort of place the Five would visit).

So if there was a fictional world you would visit, which would it be and why?

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