Facebook – General

What aspect of the writing life do you find most enjoyable? I find mixing with other writers at conferences and so on is the best here. I love finding out what others write (and often why too) and their inspirations.

Biggest problem? Finding enough time to read widely so I continue to feed my mind with ideas! Solution: working on it. I read at bedtime but am often too tired to read as much as I’d like to do.

I love that spark of creativity that comes as you write that initial draft. I also love the editing process and I swear I can almost feel that story improving as I take out all of my unnecessary words. I do sometimes wonder how many drafts Shakespeare, Dickens etc went through. I am grateful cutting and pasting is confined to the computer now. I have done this literally and it’s not fun.

What would I like for the future? I’d like people to make time for reading. I’ve heard people say they don’t read. Why? It beats me and saddens me as to why people don’t see the importance of reading.

Feature Image - Flash Fiction - Books are Gateway - image via Pixabay

Says it all really and applies to non-fiction equally as fiction. Image via Pixabay.

Fill that blank sheet with ideas from non-fiction as well as other fiction works - image via Pixabay

The basic necessities of the writer’s life!


Facebook – General and look ahead to Chandler’s Ford Today post

My Chandler’s Ford Today post for this week will talk about what book launches mean for an author and share a report on a recent one by children’s writer, Anne Wan. More details and the link tomorrow.

This post made me think more about the special moments in a writer’s life. The first is completing your first story or article. Okay, it will need a lot of work. Okay, it may never be published but it is proof you are on your way as a writer.

First publication (online or in print) is an obvious special moment. Someone else liked your work enough to want to publish it. (Even those you know who aren’t fond of books or understand your wish to write WILL understand this one is special).

Receiving your first comments on blog posts or your website (and hopefully they’ll be positive ones) indicates you are reaching out to your readers. Going to your first writing conference and meeting with writers in and out of your genre and learning from them and the courses you go to is a stand-out time too. You learn to network from things like this and each course will be a mini-master class.

So what would you count as a special writing moment?

Anne Wan and Allison Symes at Bay Leaves Larder

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

All of my stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again are under 1000 words and most of them are in my speciality, the 100-word tales. But there are some 250-words, 500-words etc tales in there too. The longer stories have room for a greater depth of characterisation, which can make the difference to your tale “working” or not.

Some of these longer flash fiction tales focus on familiar fairytales but others are complete crime stories. They were all fun to write! In all of the stories in the book, the length of the tale is right for that particular story. And that is what matters whatever you write.


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


And Finally – Personal Note:  Mabel

I have sometimes mentioned my border collie, Mabel, when writing online and I am sorry to have to say she had to be put to sleep last week.  She was 13 and had been ailing for some time.  While we knew it was coming, her loss has been and continues to be a huge loss for my family and I.  In the fullness of time, we hope to adopt and rescue another down on its luck collie but right now we mourn Mabel but are grateful for the five very happy years we had with her.  She nearly died five years ago when she was abandoned on a cold January night and tied to a lamp-post.

In the fullness of time, we hope to adopt and rescue another down on its luck collie but right now we mourn Mabel while grateful for the five very happy years we had with her.  She nearly died five years ago when she was abandoned on a cold January night and tied to a lamp-post. She was rescued by animal charity, Oldies Club, who specialise in rehoming older dog.  They send their dogs out to fosterers so reports can be written about how the animals settle into home life and a big thank you must also go to Mabel’s fabulous fosterer, Wendy Nutland.


My two girls, both much missed. Mabel, the border collie, left us last week. Gracie, the bearded/border cross, left us five years ago. And yes it is the same ball. They both loved it.



Local Writers at Hiltingbury Extravaganza

Has been a busy weekend.  I’m sharing the post Janet Williams, Chandler’s Ford Today’s editor, has written summarising the Hiltingbury Extravaganza at the weekend.  There is a lovely “shout out” for the local writers’ stand, which we all appreciate!  Good photo too.  Thanks, Janet.

I wrote a couple of pieces on Facebook over the weekend which I share below.  If your local event supports the writers in your area or gives them a way to showcase what they do, go and support them.  We loved talking to people about (a) what we do, (b) sharing details of creative writing classes and writer get-togethers in our area, and (c) discovering people were pleasantly surprised to find there were more published writers around than they’d realised!

The huge advantage of a team approach to events like this is this kind of show is not something one of us would have done on our own but for a small group, it is ideal.  The costs are shared (mainly insurance and space “hire”, the main reasons you would not run this kind of event on your own) and you can cross-promote and support each other. It also meant a good range of books on our stand with everything from my flash fiction to YA fantasy/time travel to romantic comedy to short stories with settings in our area.


At the HE Book Stand

Part of the book stand at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza



Talking about Flash Fiction at the Extravaganza

Advantages of flash fiction include encouraging reluctant readers given you are not asking people to commit to too much in one go and it can also be a good way for readers to pick up your style of writing etc before reading longer works by you.

I also love the fact that, due to the restricted word count, I can’t spend too long in setting the scene. I’ve found this frees me to set my stories in any dimension and/or time and the tales are all character led. People remember characters rather than plots so this is no bad thing.

I think, based on chats I had with people at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza today, the word needs to be spread more about what flash fiction is and its virtues. Game on then!

Local authors' books at Chandler's Ford railway station

Report from the Book Stand at the Extravaganza

Good turnout for the Hiltingbury Extravaganza. Many thanks to all who came to the book stand. Good to see you all. What was lovely was the number of people who were surprised (in a nice way) to find there were more authors in the area than they’d realized! It was also good to spread the word about the Hampshire Writers’ Society and local creative writing classes too. I hope if only in a small way we’ve encouraged the enjoyment of reading and creative writing this afternoon.

I also managed to have a good look at what was going on in the rest of the show too. Nice to say hello to the good people of Thornden Hall and the Chameleon Theatre Group. Had to have a look at the dog show. My Mabel would happily have rounded all the contestants up if she could so it was as well she wasn’t there. If ever they decide to award an All-Time Herder of Other Animals category, she’s in with an excellent chance of winning it. Likewise, if they offer a category called Dog with the Stare that Could Cut Diamond (what is it with collies here?!).



The glorious Mabel.



Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Loved listening to Danse Macabre by Camille Saint Saens on Classic FM requests earlier today. I had always known this to be the theme from Jonathan Creek (a series I loved) but now I think of my book trailer the moment I hear the opening note!





Away from books and stories, my other great love is music (in a wide range of genres though I particularly love classical). So much music is used to tell stories (e.g. Romeo and Juliet), and a truly great film score adds to the movie in such a way you can’t imagine the film without it (e.g. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter).

I can’t imagine how someone can compose a piece of music (though I have had people tell me they can’t imagine how writers like myself come up with stories out of nothing so maybe this is an “across the arts” thing). All I do know is long may such composition continue! The arts are good for the soul…

Classic music can make a classic film

Hard at work - image via Pixabay











A to Z of Writing Tips Part 3 covers the letters I to K and included in this are my thoughts on the role of the imagination and the Kindle.  I also look at the role imagination plays in non-fiction writing.  J is for Joking.  Do your stories have a joker in the pack and what is their role?  Are they there as “light relief” or do they irritate the hell out of the other characters?


What Really Matters asks what values/beliefs/faith do your characters have and whether these put them at odd with the society you’ve set them in.  How important are families and friends to your characters?  What matters to you as the writer regarding the story?  What do you want to come across through it and why?


Attitude is everything – well it is according to my border collie, Mabel.  I also talk about feeling relieved to be slowly getting back into reading and writing again, after the death of my father, and, yes, it is proving therapeutic.  Dad was a great supporter of my writing so I know he’d be pleased I was getting back to it.


I discuss the point of storytelling and look at its value as a form of escapism, also of trying to make sense of things.


Poetry conjures up images so beautifully. Image via Pixabay. See Sandra Lyn Gordon's wonderful poem on Chandler's Ford Today for another example of great imagery.

Poetry conjures up images so beautifully. Image via Pixabay. See Sandra Lyn Gordon’s wonderful poem on Chandler’s Ford Today for another example of great imagery.

Heavenly books. Image by Pixabay



In fairytales, the outsider often ends up being the hero/heroine.  What reaction would your characters have if an outsider turned up amongst them?  I look at this in The Outsiders.


What If is probably my favourite question to use when trying to generate story and article ideas.  You can apply the question to your characters and yourself, in the case of the former to find out what they really are made of, and as for the latter, to discover what you are made of!  Now where will those discoveries take you?


Just a short post tonight so have put in full here.

Back on the old exercise bike for me tomorrow so I can catch up on my reading. Just as well pixels don’t have calories, or anyone at my cyber launch will have put on several pounds and been the worse for wear in other directions too.

Glad the lighter evenings are here. Mabel is too. Much prefers things when she can see what she’s doing. Now if only certain drivers would take that view…

Do your characters know in which direction they're going? (Border collie is optional!). Image via Pixabay.

Mabel. Image taken by me.


One way through to the magical world but is it all sunshine and flowers? I doubt it! Image via Pixabay



Working with the Impossible looks at the importance of realism in even the most fantastical of settings.  I find the best way to achieve that realism is through realistic characters.  Ones that bicker, crave power, cheat etc etc and those that either try to stop them or are in the way and get trodden underfoot.  I also discuss why using magic all the time in a story is not a good idea.  Characters have to have other ways to resolve things, otherwise there is no tension or drama.


Looking into the Future continues the theme of why too much magic/special powers in a story is not a good thing.  I share what my rebellious fairy godmother character, Eileen, thinks of being able to see into the future.  I also look at time travel (as that can also be used to see what the future brings) and ask whether characters should pay a price for being able to do this.


I meant to put up the classic “author and book” pose today only mud and my border collie, Mabel kind of put paid to that – for today at least.

Come sunrise the fairies (and fairytale witches) must vanish. Image via Pixabay.

Muddy walks and woods – all good fun for Mabel and I. Image via Pixabay.

One of the best ways to escape is with a good book. Image via Pixabay.



Favourite Character Types lists my three favourites.  These are the reluctant hero, the misunderstood character who isn’t the evil so-and-so everyone thought, and the heroine who is as good as the hero and often better.  I give some examples and say what I would have liked to have seen happen with regard to Severus Snape (who comes in the second one on my list).  See what you think.


Anniversaries shares some questions which could lead to interesting stories, such as which anniversaries are banned by the authorities of your ficitonal world and what happens to anyone defying that ban.  Also if Character A thinks a certain anniversary is important but Character B does not, how does that affect their relationship?


I’ve found a way of catching up with my magazine reading – get on the exercise bike and pedal away as I read.  I also share up to date news about Mabel, my border collie, and wonder if inconsiderate swimmers who don’t look where they’re going also happen to be Audi drivers.  So a nice mixed bag here!

Shakespeare had his quill, modern writers have their laptops. Image via Pixabay.

Such a familiar look. Image via Pixabay.


The wonderful world of stories... Image via Pixabay.



What Fairytale Characters could do Without lists 5 things all such characters wish did not happen.  One of these things is magic going wrong and I share why evil witches/wizards and the like never have this problem.


Motives are a crucial building block for successful characterisation.  The two big questions, after all, are what does a character want and what are they prepared to do to get what they want.  I can’t think of any crime story without these elements being answered.  I look at how motives have got to be right for the character you’re portraying (and strong enough to be convincing).  Also if hiding motives (especially if writing crime), you should play fair with your readers and give clues as to what the motives could be.  Okay readers may guess wrong (I actually love that when it happens to me.  I love coming across an author outwitting my intelligent guesses.  Why?  Because that author has written something so powerful and gripping, I am wanting to find out whether I am right or wrong in my guesses long before I do discover the truth.  This, for me, is the very definition of a page turner).


My post will appear later in the week but I will say there is going to be a very special review of 2016 appearing tomorrow, written by a good friend of mine.  Will share more details tomorrow.


Got to see a beautiful crescent Moon and Venus in the sky tonight when walking the dog.  Stunning sight.  I also discuss what I’m reading – and what I’m hoping to catch up on, there is always something to catch up on!

Do your characters know in which direction they're going? (Border collie is optional!). Image via Pixabay.

Mabel. Image taken by me.


Do your characters know in which direction they're going? (Border collie is optional!). Image via Pixabay.



Have you ever wondered if a fairy is allowed to send in their own wishes to Santa (working on the assumption they are definitely not permitted to grant their own)?  Wonder no more!  A Fairy’s Christmas Wish List shares what I think would be on such a list.  And I even include a wish a lazy fairy would ask for too.


I discuss Christmas Customs in tonight’s post.  I share a few of mine but ask what your fictional characters would do in way of celebrating a festival that was important to them/their society?  Does your fictional world observe other civilisations, including ours, and what does it make of our customs and festivals?


This is a “hello, I’m back” kind of post and I share news of how Mabel, my border collie, is doing after she was so ill.  I also hope everyone had lots of lovely books for Christmas!


One of the best ways to escape is with a good book. Image via Pixabay.



In Fairytale Wish Lists I discuss how creating a wish list for your characters can be a great way of discovering what they are really like.  What do they want most in life?  What does this say about them?


One thing I love about the Christmas carols is many of them are stories in song.  I’ve always been fond of these.  On your fictional world, would music be used to convey a story?  If so, who would write these?  What songs would everyone know and what would these commemorate?  I look into this in Stories in Song.


Coming up will be my look into what I like and dislike about Christmas.


More on Mabel’s progress and I share some Christmas cracker jokes!

Books make wonderful gifts. Image via Pixabay.

Stories can be told in song as well on the pages of a book. Image via Pixabay.


Images from the magical world... Image via Pixabay



One Line Fairytales is my variant on the Ernest Hemingway six words short story exercise.  I share three ideas, all of which could be written up as flash fiction or standard length short stories.  May well give them a go myself at some point!


What a Good Book Can Do lists ten benefits of reading a good book (and that doesn’t include the sheer pleasure gained from a marvellous read).  Can you add to my list?


I discuss some of what I’ve been listening to, my favourite “in the run up to Christmas” reads and continue to update on Mabel’s progress.  I also talk about my writing (a brief look back at progress over the year and hopes for the future) and my reading (what I have done, what I would like to do etc).

A truly beautiful library but do the books in it meet my criteria for what makes a good story. I would hope so! Image via Pixabay.

A truly beautiful library but do the books in it meet my criteria for what makes a good story. I would hope so! Image via Pixabay.