Finding Ideas, Themes and Judging a Book by its Cover Part 3

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to my guests for Part 3 of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Author and book cover pics were supplied by Amanda Huggins, Dawn Knox (with Colin Payn), Gail Aldwin, Alyson Rhodes (who writes as Alyson Faye), Jim Bates, and Paula R.C. Readman.

A huge thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks. It has been a joy to discuss and share book cover thoughts! Hope you have all had a good week. Looking forward to giving another talk about flash fiction via Zoom next week.

Oh and my author newsletter goes out tomorrow, 1st May. Do sign up at my landing page – https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – for more details.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share the final part of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Many thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks for their fabulous contributions. For this post, I chat to guests from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Also a shout out goes to #WendyHJones as a comment from her gave me the spark for the idea for this series. As I mentioned for the More Than Writers blog spot I shared yesterday about Finding Ideas (see below), ideas are there. The trick is to spot them and yes they can come from comments from other writers or things you overhear. The clever bit is gathering those ideas up and running with them! (It is also why it is a good idea to keep a notebook on you as we slowly go out and about in the world once again. Never rely on your memory to record a good idea. You do forget!).

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Bonus Post – My Interview by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website

A little while ago I was interviewed by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website. Francesca has been a guest on Chandler’s Ford Today too.

Delighted to now be able to share the link to that interview. Hope you enjoy it and a huge thank you to Francesca and Authors Reach for hosting me.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers blog spot

Pleased to share my latest blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. I discuss Finding Ideas and hope you find it useful. I share a few thoughts on how I find ideas.

Earlier this week I came up with another useful method which was to use a random word generator to come up with a random word and then use that as a topic for the picture site, Pixabay. I then used a random picture from them based on that topic to inspire me to write a story to fit the theme. Good fun and I hope to use that method again.

For my MTW blog, I also take a quick peek at how I find ideas for blogs. Well, that is useful to find ON a blog, yes?!

Hope you enjoy.

Hope you have had a good day. (Lady went bonkers, in a good way, with her girlfriends, Khaya and Coco, in the park today. Wish I had half their energy but there you go).

Have a new ACW blog post to share tomorrow and the final part of my Judging a Book By Its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

Submitted my flash piece to the Bridport Prize. Glad to get that done well ahead of the deadline (end of May so there is still time to enter if you’re interested. There are other categories too including short stories and poetry).

I chatted over on #Val’sBookBundle earlier about whether poor proofreading would put you off reading the story afflicted by it. It wouldn’t necessarily put me off. It hasn’t put me off the book I’ve just read which had so many poor word end splits. But I was itching to get my red pen out. And that is never a good sign.

What is important to remember though is, while books do get out there with this kind of thing happening, we still need to get our books and stories out there and ensure they are at the highest standards possible. We owe it to our wonderful stories to make them the best we can make them so they have the best chance of attracting readers. So take your time over your own proofreading.

For short stories and flash fiction, check them several times before you submit them everywhere.

For a novel, you do need an independent editor here.

The big problem every writer has is we are far too close to our own work to always spot things that need correcting. So it is a question of accepting that and being prepared to invest in our work.

The dream ticket here is having a writer who has got their work polished as much as possible before it goes to an editor. That editor will see what the writer has done, will understand the story, but will pick up the things and ask questions the writer may not have thought of but which, when answered, will strengthen that book and give it a better chance out there.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Will be sharing my author newsletter tomorrow. I issue this once a month on the 1st and I share exclusive flash fiction tales here. I hope later on to gather some of those into a further collection but you do get to have the first read! For more do go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

It is hard to say what I love most about flash fiction. Yes, I am always going to have a very soft spot for the form given it was my way in to having books published with my name on them (and on the front cover too!). But I’ve always loved inventing people. That, to me, has been the big thing about stories so getting to do this all the time for various flash fiction tales is a win-win for me.

I suppose the foundation of all storytelling (and this can apply to non-fiction too) is to have a curiosity about what makes others tick. There has to be a certain amount of curiosity to make you want to find out what happens to the characters or what the writer of the non-fiction piece comes up with as a conclusion.

So my job as a writer is to try to make my characters as intriguing as possible so others will want to read about what happens to them. If I’m intrigued by the characters, others will be too.

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Do you have favourite themes for stories? I’m fond of the “underdog” winning through kind of tale (and you can set those in any environment. A lot of fairytales are based on this). I also like to see justice being done stories (again fairytales often have this as a theme, though not always. You could argue there wasn’t any for The Little Match Girl by Hans Christen Andersen).

I also like characters who are not all they appear to be and the great thing with that is you can take this in two directions. Make the character turn out to be a villain or a hero. You can have great fun going with either of those options. Though I would add there should be some indication early on this character is not all they’re cracked up to be otherwise a reader may feel cheated.

I love it when I read a story like this as I look back at it to see where it was the author planted the first clue to flag up to me as reader I really should look out for what this character is going to do and be. I can learn from that for my own writing and I love that too.


A huge thank you to the wonderful response to my story, Hidden Gems, yesterday. This story came about as a result of using the sixth random word to come up on a random generator. That gave me a topic. I then put that topic into the Pixabay search bar and used the sixth image that came up. I then based the story around that image.

I will certainly use the random word and random image idea again. It made me think outside the box and that is always a good thing.

Am looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter (1st May) and I often share exclusive flash fiction stories here as well as useful tips. If you would like to know more please sign up at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

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Fairytales With Bite – Defining Happy Ever After

Do your characters have a happy ever after or just a happy for now? And how do you define what happy is anyway? So much depends on what your characters want and whether they achieve that (or something better).

Also does one character’s happy ever after mean ruin for others?

That usually is the case with fairytales. Cinderella is a classic case in point but there is no question that the wicked stepmother and the Ugly Sisters had that ruin “coming”. But you are not told that. You see the “coming to ruin” play out as the story goes on and the attitudes and actions of the characters show you whether or not said characters deserve to be brought down.

So we need to set up our characters so a happy ever after or happy for now is seen to be merited. You want the reader to root for their success. (Wishy-washy characters simply don’t do that for me which is why I dislike Miss Price from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park).

Likewise the characters deserving to be brought down – they too need to be fully rounded individuals, who by their actions and attitudes, show the reader they’re not going to be redeemed. And again you get the reader rooting for these folk to get their well deserved comeuppance.

All stories focus on actions and consequences, conflicts and resolutions so a happy ever after or happy for now has to be the logical resolution to what comes before.

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This World and Others – Making Your Characters Stand Out

How do your characters stand out? What is special about them? I feel it is vital for the author to be totally committed to their characters to be able to write their stories up effectively. Therefore something about the character has to grab the author. That same something is likely to be the element which grips a reader.

So ask yourself what is it about characters you yourself love to read about? Can you apply that to your own characters? If you like characters who are feisty but with hearts of gold, those are the kind of characters you want to write because you will write from the heart because you yourself love these.

It may help to list qualities you want to find in a character (and don’t forget the villains here. You need to give plenty of thought to them too. Your hero/heroine has to have an opponent who will test them, bring out the best in them and so on). Then work out ways in which you can show those qualities.

For example, if you love honesty in a character, then you can use that honesty to land that character in trouble. (This could make a great comic piece). They are bound to say things that, with hindsight, might have been better expressed and with less bluntness, for example. That will have consequences.

It will also imply they have got to come up against another character who doesn’t appreciate that honesty. And the second character has to have good reasons not to appreciate it so work out what those reasons could be. Perhaps they dislike being spoken to like that because it reminds them of a family member who used to do so and it caused great upset. Perhaps they don’t like the main character speaking out because the second one is up to no good and they’re concerned they’ll be found out.

Have fun playing with ideas here. But think about the one thing that will make each of your characters stand out. What is it they are best known for? How does that play out in your story? What makes your characters deserve to be written up?

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Reviews, Book Covers, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week.

To those who celebrate Easter (as I do), may you have a blessed one.

Writing wise, not a bad week and there’s another story of mine up on Friday Flash Fiction. This site is a great way to encourage me to write a drabble (a 100-worder) every week! More below.

Always fun to find out what happens next, writing wise!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

Delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post which is on a topic close to many a writer’s heart – Reviews!

I look at why authors need them, my policy on reviewing (including when I review National Theatre Live productions and shows put on by our wonderful local amateur dramatic company, The Chameleons). I also discuss hatchet jobs and share my thoughts about those (!). I also share why paid-for reviews are, for me, a huge no-no.

Like so much in writing, building up reviews does take time and it has to be done the right way to avoid running into difficulties with Amazon especially. Even ignoring that, the policy of paying for a review does make my blood run cold. It just doesn’t seem ethical to me. I want reviews to be honest and with thought put into them.

The old saying goes that he who pays the piper calls the tune but for a review, I want that “tune” to be an honestly considered one and not “bought in”. You really don’t want to be muddying the waters here, to use another old phrase.

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Pleased to share a More Than Writers blog from #WendyHJones tonight. More Than Writers is the blog of the Association of Christian Writers. Wendy’s post this time is all about book covers and, as well as discussing her latest cover reveal (for the lovely Bertie The Buffalo), she invited some fellow ACW members to share their latest book cover and a few words about it.

Many thanks, Wendy, for inviting me to take part in this. And do have a good look – there are wonderful covers here.

(Oh and my CFT post is up tomorrow).


My CFT post this week is all about a subject close to many a writer’s heart – reviews!

I talk about why they are useful, my policy for giving reviews, and share a few thoughts on how to write a review that will be useful to an author.

I also chat about my policy when I review stage productions, National Theatre Live plays etc (and I am so looking forward to being able to go to these things again and review them once more! It has been a long year and even more so for our great local am dram company, The Chameleon Theatre Group).

I also discuss hatchet jobs. Now the big question is do I manage that without carrying out a hatchet job myself? Well, you’ll have to find out tomorrow when I put the link up!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

I sometimes start a flash piece by coming up with an intriguing title. For example, in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, one of my stories is called The Terrified Dragon. I had great fun working out what on earth could possibly terrify a creature that is renowned for causing fear in every other creature that is not a dragon!

I do sometimes use a simple flowchart or spider diagram to work out different possibilities and I then go with the one that I like the most. That choice is nearly always determined by the impact the idea has on me. If the idea makes me laugh the most, or makes me cringe in terror, then it will have the same effect on other readers. I am always thinking about potential impact on a reader and that’s a good thing. I want to write with a potential audience in mind, always.

And good news, I have another story up on #FridayFlashFiction. Nice way to end a week! Hope you enjoy this one. Called Mustn’t Tell. I do like an “open” title which hopefully draws people in!


My latest author newsletter went out earlier today including an exclusive flash fiction story. If you would like to sign up just go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

As well as sharing exclusive stories here, I share writing tips and news, most of which is related to flash of course. This time around I’ve also shared a writing challenge and set a 250 word count for it.

It wasn’t something I planned but the 100 to 500 word mark does seem to be my natural home for flash stories. I gravitate to that word length almost as if I’m on auto pilot. (I’m not by the way! If possible I would save auto pilot abilities for boring tasks such as the housework!).

A screenshot from my latest author newsletter. I also share tips and writing prompts here amongst other things.



There will be a new flash fiction story from me in my new author newsletter, which will be going out tomorrow, 1st April. If you would like to sign up for this, please go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Have submitted another drabble to #FridayFlashFiction.

Am working on material for a third flash collection too so plenty going on to keep me out of mischief!

I’ve found the basic ingredients for a flash fiction story, regardless of length, are:-

  • A character (doesn’t have to be human!).
  • An action (sometimes a refusal to act can be the action).
  • Something indicating the story has to go on.

Get those lined up and you’re well on your way to producing a promising first draft!

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Fairytales with Bite – What Would Your Characters Wish For and Why?

Well, what would your characters wish for and why? Just as interestingly, is there any chance at all of them getting their wish granted? What would the consequences be?

Action and reaction. Cause and consequence. The basic building blocks of all stories.

A character outline is a useful tool for working out what your characters are likely to want and why. (I ignore the basics of wanting food, shelter etc because you can take them as read. Everyone wants those things, understandably). What you want to go into here is deeper than that.

Character A wants a loving relationship because they have had loneliness foisted on them all their life and they want to change that. (Interesting story here: who foisted the loneliness on them and why? Why wait until now to change things?).

Your outline would go into who Character A is, who or what has got in their way (and what happened to them incidentally), what they are planning to do to change things. You won’t have every idea immediately but what you should have is a glimpse into who Character A is and, as a result of that, how they are likely to try to change things. A shy character is going to use more reserved methods compared to an extrovert, say.

Just knowing that will get you off to a good start with your story (and finding things out as you go along is (a) fun and (b) should confirm whether or not you know your character well enough to write their story up.

You may well find you will find out more about your character as you go along and that’s how it should be but you should also find your outline did nail the core elements you needed to know about them before you got started. I always find that aspect reassuring.

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This World and Others – Limitations

What limitations do your characters have? How do they overcome these? Can they overcome them?

If they can’t, do they have ways of getting advantages from their situation? What limitations does your setting have? Can your people only live above ground for certain time periods due to restricted oxygen (or other gas) availability the rest of the time?

I write flash fiction and find the word count restriction there (1000 words maximum) doesn’t stifle creativity. It fuels it. Why?

Because I have had to learn to think laterally to get the most out of every single word I put into my stories. And you can do this with limitations on your characters and settings too. If your characters can’t use magic without weakening themselves significantly, they will themselves limit their use of it (and probably save it for life and death moments. You just would, wouldn’t you?! So what would they do the rest of the time?).

If your setting has limited capacity for supporting life, how would that capacity be used? Who would control it? Would someone find ways of boosting that capacity so more people could live?

All interesting thoughts to explore.

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Characterisation Tips and Happy Hour

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. (Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures).

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshot from ALCS website taken by me for purposes of highlighting their work.

What kind of a week have you had? Interesting one here. I share my latest ACW blog about Characterisation Tips and a new story video, Happy Hour. The latter is one of those where I don’t want to meet the character and I invented them! Ho hum… More below.

CHARACTERISATION - Outlining is a good idea

Facebook – General

Really nice day weather wise today. Lady got to play with a couple of buddies today, the lovely Coco, who is a sweet Labradoodle, and Lady’s “gentleman friend”, a lovely Aussie Shepherd called Bear. Lady came home very tired but happy. The two dogs are happy to share their toys with Lady and she is happy to share hers with them (mainly I think because all of the dogs know the other will give their toy back so win-win here for everyone) so it was a great “play date”.

Many thanks for the lovely comments on my ACW post yesterday about Characterisation Tips and also to those who commented on my latest story video, Happy Hour. Links to both below.

Have sent in another drabble (the 100-word flash fiction type) to #FridayFlashFiction so happy with that.

I’m preparing a new Chandler’s Ford Today series which I hope to share more about soon.

And my new author newsletter will be out on Thursday. Sign up at my website (landing page) if you would like to receive! As well as news, I share exclusive flash fiction here (though I hope these will end up in a future collection) and writing tips as well as other interesting bits and pieces.

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers blog spot

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog More Than Writers and this time I talk about Characterisation Tips. I do love a list and a list of Top Tips is always useful. Hope you find these handy.

Writing flash fiction has honed my characterisation simply because I don’t have the word count room for lots of description. But that’s no bad thing. My favourite parts of the novel, say, are where the characters interact in dialogue and/or action. I find descriptions useful background information but it is not that which draws me into reading a book. It is always the characters which draw me in regardless of the length of the story.

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Missed my hour’s sleep now we’ve gone over to British Summer Time. It’s not summery at all right now though the next week looks promising. Hopefully it will mean Lady and I don’t get a soaking this week. (Good for the soul possibly but never feels great!).

Have just had the delightful task of reading through my two stories for The Best of CafeLit 10, which is due out later in the year. Nice that there were only a couple of amendments to be made. Always feels good pressing the send button sending the corrections back to the publisher.

Looking forward to sending out my latest monthly author newsletter next week. If you want to sign up for this just go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I share a flash tale here, writing tips, as well as news so would be glad to welcome you aboard. As for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, I prepare as much as possible in advance and then wrap up towards the end of the month so I know the newsletter is good to go.

Thrilled to see my piece, One of Those Days, went up on the #FridayFlashFiction website this week. I like the idea here of having a target of writing a 100-word story a week so it is ready for the following Friday when the latest stories go live. You don’t copy and paste (and where is the fun in that anyway? As a way to generate new material, I think this is great. Will be getting on and drafting more shortly!).

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Am looking forward to sharing details of a new Chandler’s Ford Today series soon. Spent a lot of last night catching up with friends from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Association of Christian Writers via two separate Zoom chats. Many laughs on both and all great fun!

Delighted to receive my payment from the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society on Thursday. Every little bit helps, as a certain supermarket would say. If you want to know more about ALCS, do check out the link at https://www.alcs.co.uk/about-alcs

Membership of ALCS is free if you’re a member of the Society of Authors but even if you’re not, the cost is £36.00 for lifetime membership and they take the money out from the first payment due to you. What’s not to like about that? If you’re a writer with works out there, definitely check this out.

Screenshot_2021-03-30 ALCS

Facebook – From Light To Dark and Back Again

Glad to see my video Happy Hour has gone down well though I wouldn’t want to meet my character in this one. Mind you, that’s often the way. I can think of several characters of mine I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near. I take the view if they give me the creeps in the way that is intended, they will do the same for readers, again as intended!

And nobody says an author has to like everyone they invent. (Think about it. On that scale, where would Stephen King fit?! Does he like any of his creations I wonder?!).

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Pleased to share my latest short story video Happy Hour (though you’ll need to see the video to work out who the happy hour applies to!). (I really liked the music track for this).


One aspect to flash fiction writing I love is it is easy to share on social media, especially if you stick to the 100-200 words mark. That means I get creative writing and marketing done in the same post! I like that a lot!

And of course flash stories work well for book trailers too. Book trailers work best when kept relatively short and a great way to keep people watching them is to give them a story! We all want to find out what happens at the end, yes?

Flash and book trailers – match made in heaven there I think.

 

Publication News

Delighted to say my piece, One of Those Days, is now up on the Friday Flash Fiction website. There’s a lovely mix of stories here and I hope to submit more here. See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories and there are categories for longer flashes.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this one!

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/one-of-those-days-by-allison-symes

Goodreads Author Blog – Reference Books

Reference books are dipped into rather than read through as such, but they are invaluable. Other than my combined dictionary/thesaurus, my favourite reference book is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. But I have to watch how long I spent with it. Looking up an entry can so easily led me into looking up others I don’t really need at that moment. The book is a huge, fascinating world of words and their origins. What’s not to like there?!

So which reference books would you not be without and why?

I think it is easy to forget this “section” of the non-fiction world. I know many authors would be lost without these books, myself included. It is not a case of using the nugget of information directly. Often it can be a case of looking something up and that will then affect what I get my character to do. That in turn has a direct result on the story outcome.

So let’s hear it for the reference books then!

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Writing Joys, Podcast News, and Launches in Lockdown 2

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Thanks to #RichardHardie, #FrancescaTyer, and #TeresaBassett for supplying images used below too.

A huge thank you to #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones for their images and book cover photos for my Chandler’s Ford Today Launches In Lockdown series this week.

And I am delighted to say I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show earlier this week. Will share link further down. I talk about writing regular columns for online magazines.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Launches in Lockdown Part 2

What a busy day it has been as there are two posts on here from me tonight!

For this post, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I think if I can make a claim to write a zeitgeist series, this one is it!

Part 2 tonight shares wonderful insights from three authors from the Association of Christian Writers (I’m the Membership Secretary). #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones have all had books out in the very recent past and have plenty of useful tips and thoughts to share in this week’s post.

Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Next week I’ll be chatting to writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

It is very much an Association of Christian Writers weekend for me as I am at an online Committee meeting tonight and tomorrow. Much will be said. Much will be done. All thanks to Zoom!

And it is my turn on the ACW More Than Writers blog too. This month, I use my spot to talk about Writing Joys. I can’t stress enough how important it is to love what you write. (Okay you won’t all the time, nobody does, but you should be looking forward to your writing sessions and what you’re working on most of the time. It is that love for the work which drives you and can help keep you going during the tougher writing times which happen to us all).

Delighted to say my interview with Richard Hardie recently on Chandler’s Ford Today is now up on the Authors Reach website (very much with my blessing!). Authors Reach is Richard’s publishing company and I was chatting to him about the challenges he has faced as an author and publisher during the pandemic. The AR link is https://www.authorsreach.co.uk/post/richard-hardie-authors-reach-and-lockdown – well worth another read!

And tomorrow sees Part 2 of my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown, go live. This week I’ll be chatting to three lovely writers from the Association of Christian Writers – #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones. One of them has also come up with the funniest book title of 2020 in my view. You’ll have to wait for the post tomorrow to find out who the author is and whether you agree with me or not! (Trouble with doing a blog round up in reverse date order is you will already have spotted the answer to this one!!).

PODCAST NEWS –

WENDY H JONES CHATS TO ALLISON SYMES

Am thrilled to share the link to my interview by Wendy H Jones for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. I talk about writing a regular column (for Chandler’s Ford Today), how I find ideas (and keep coming up with them) and the joys of an online magazine.

With more of us using technology to read (smartphones, I-pads etc), it makes a huge amount of sense to have intelligent, interesting, and entertaining content available for that technology. And online magazines do need writers to provide it. Hope you enjoy. And many thanks, Wendy, for hosting me again. It was such fun to do!

Podcast News:  https://www.stitcher.com/show/the-writing-and-marketing-show/episode/writing-a-newspaper-column-81142120

Screenshot_2021-01-27 The Writing and Marketing Show - Writing a Newspaper Column on Stitcher

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A huge thanks to everyone for the great responses so far to my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown. Whether you’ve been launching flash fiction collections (as I have) or longer works, I think it is fair to say the last 12 months have been difficult. But social media and Zoom have helped.

And I think this all shows the importance of networking too. Thanks to networking over the last few years, I have a lovely wide range of people to approach for CFT interviews, but it does also mean that same pool can be invited to my launches.

Naturally this is two-way traffic. I get invited to theirs and I go to as many as I can. You learn from what other writers do and they learn from you too. I love the give and take of the writing world here.

I guess also writing flash is excellent practice for writing short, pithy pieces for your online book launches too!

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Am thrilled to see a great number of views for my recent story video, Dress Sense. The thought of Red Riding Hood giving the Big Bad Wolf fashion tips has obviously gone down well! Many thanks, everyone. (Oh and I think she’s right by the way – see the link and see what you think!).

Dress Sense Video Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVs_GEWh5To

Tripping The Flash Fantastic is on offer in paperback on Amazon at the moment. Go on, pick up a bargain! See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more.

F = Fun to write
L = Lively character(s)
A = Action immediately
S = Stories great for ending with a twist
H = Heroes/heroines are dropped right in it from the start

F = Finite story length but you do have some choice
I = Imagination intense to make an intense story work
C = Character(s) has/have to grip you immediately.
T = Tension, yes there’s plenty of that and not a lot of space to resolve it.
I = Intensity can vary. Reflective pieces can work well but the character has to be compelling to make that successful.
O = Oh my… what is your flash tale’s ‘oh my’ moment?
N = Narrative take? I often favour first person.

Thought I’d share another story video here – hope you enjoy.

Fairytales with Bite – Magical Reading

What kind of books would your magical characters read? Would they read about uses of magic or do they want to get away from all of that? Well, it would make sense if they did. I know when I read I want to escape the every day world and its cares. In a magical world, the magic is the everyday world and its cares! Same old, same old, and all that!

Having said that, maybe they would want to carry out research and use it to improve their skills.
Some suggestions for possible research reading material then though I accept the titles could do with some work (and abbreviating!):-

Fairies – 10001 Things To Do With Your Wand Not Involving Turning People Into Frogs

Witches – How to Sabotage Fairy Spells So They Produce Useless Things Like Glass Slippers – A Beginner’s Guide.

Wizards – How to Produce the Perfect Smoke Ring Without Appearing to Use Magic To Do It

Elves – How To Be A Right Cobbler (see the story of The Elves and the Shoemaker here).

Dwarves – Gold and How To Find It (always of interest)

Dragons – Wing Technique for the Bigger Flying Animal and How To Get It Right and Surprise Your Prey (and I am assuming dragons are very intelligent creatures who can read, so there!).

And talking of dragons, let’s hear another story from their viewpoint.

 

This World and Others – Education, Education…..Er…. What Does Your Fictional World Consider to be Education?

So what would your created world consider to be a good standard of education? Is it just the ability to read and write? Would there be topics like history, geography, any of the sciences etc? And is the education open to all but only a few?

In an uneducated world (judging by our standards only), how would news be communicated to those who cannot read? Does the lack of an education hold people back or have they not known anything else? Is there any sense of people wanting to improve their situation here?

And if so, what or whom is stopping them and for what purposes? (Usually it is a question of being able to control people who don’t enough to question things but what if the ruler has genuine reasons for fearing what education could do? Are they right? What are those fears? How can those fears be misproved and the ruler shown a good standard of education would be beneficial?).

If there are schools, colleges etc., do they resemble what we have here? What are the differences?

And if education has always been around, how has it progressed or is it progressing during the course of your story?

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Looking Ahead

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. (Images created via Book Brush such as the Special Note below use Pixabay).

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Picture of Lady helping me open my box of Tripping The Flash Fantastic taken by Adrian Symes. Can’t help but feel Lady looks very knowing here.

BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-19-3450

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

My turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot. Sometimes the calendar is a direct inspiration for what I write here (I’ve called the piece Looking Ahead!). Well, given we are almost at the end of 2020 (and what a year that has been!), looking ahead does seem to me to be the most juste of a topic to write about!

Further to my earlier post about my Looking Ahead piece for More Than Writers (the ACW blog spot), I should add that if you are usually not a planner for your writing, still jotting down a few notes about what you think you might like to do is helpful.

You are still more likely to achieve more in terms of getting writing done if you write down what you think you might like to do. It is too easy to forget promising ideas when they’ve not been written down. And once you’ve forgotten them, that’s it. Any possibility of doing anything with them has gone. So looking ahead a bit does pay off, even if you decide not to look ahead too far.

For my flash fiction writing, when I know who the character is, I sometimes have the situation where I could put them in two differing stories (often one will be funny, the other anything but). I put down a few notes as to how each story could go and then write up the one I think will suit the character best. I look to play to the character’s strengths here.

The notes I make for the specific story ideas I’ve had will bring out elements to the character not covered by my initial outline as for that I was focussing on who the character is, what their major traits are etc. For, say, a humorous story, I need to look a bit deeper and work out what could be funny about the character so they “play the script” as a good actor would do.

(Never ever underestimate the foil in comedies. They are the ones that bring the humour out and the same is true for a story. Oh and for the record the finest foil the UK has ever produced in my view? Why Ernie Wise of course… Morecambe and Wise simply would not have been the same without him. Eric was the best comic this country has ever produced but he needed the foil to play to – and so does your character, whether or not they realise they are the foil to the situation you’ve put them in).

Cold and wet in Hampshire today. A little snow but ground too wet for it to settle. Brrr….. Perfect night to stay in and write then! I will be back in business with Chandler’s Ford Today this week which, surprise surprise not, given the piece will appear on Friday 1st January will be about the New Year! Sometimes you do just have to go with the calendar for writing ideas…!

I’m also looking ahead a little to a piece I am currently drafting about writing exercises and why they’re beneficial. Will flag this up nearer the time. And I can’t wait to share new series with you called Launches in Lockdown but again more on that nearer the time.

I’ve been focusing on my non-fiction project so fiction work has taken a little bit of a back burner but I am hoping to get back to that shortly. I hope to finish the first draft on the non-fiction by the end of the year (so I’ve got until Thursday basically!), I will then rest it for a while, and then resume working on my third flash fiction book. So plenty to do, all of which will be fun, but that’s the way I like things!

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)I prefer the second one inIndeed - says it all, Happy 2021 everyone

I hope you had as safe and happy a Christmas as possible. Very pleased with my new writing diary (though it has taken me ages to copy across what I need to copy across). This diary is also packed full of useful information for writers and I will be meandering my way through that in due course. Am also enjoying one of Joanna Penn’s non-fiction books which I am sure is going to be of assistance to me in the next year or so. More on that as and when I can!

Slowly getting back into the old writing tasks again though I loved writing a letter this afternoon in reply to one from a friend over Christmas. We’ve been pals (and penpals) for more years than either of us care to remember but it was lovely writing a letter instead of belting out an email or ringing her up on the phone. Can’t recall the last time I did that (though I have written flash fiction as a letter format – see my Punish the Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again. Not sure that counts as proper letter writing though!).

BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939

NO POSTS FOR CHRISTMAS DAY OR BOXING DAY (can’t imagine why!)

24th December – Christmas Eve
Have a safe and as happy a Christmas as possible. Enjoy stories whether in books or on audio or via film or any combination of those! The lovely thing with stories? No calories in them whatsoever so indulge as much as you like! Nobody has ever had to diet because they read too many stories… that isn’t going to change!

23rd December
Will be winding down on the old writing front for a few days though am now relieved to have the present wrapping done and the food shopping in and away. (Lady was interested in the latter. There is no such thing as left over turkey ever again when you have a dog in the house. She has also decided she is very fond of pigs in blankets so will she help “supervise” as I cook Christmas dinner. Oh yes! Mind you, dear Gracie and Mabel took the same views here!).

Hope to be doing a lot of reading over the Christmas break. And it would never surprise me if book sales shoot up again after Christmas given so many of us are now in Tier 4. Increased book sales would at least be something positive!

A story I drafted as a response to a writing prompt has ended up being far longer than I intended so will be looking to cut it back. (Mind you, anything over 1000 words is lengthy to me!). Am starting to flesh out a few thoughts for a theme I need to write to in the New Year. And am getting ever nearer to finishing that first draft of my non-fiction book. So a good way to finish for Christmas I think.

Looking forward to catching up with favourite films etc over the festive period. I see those as another way of taking in stories and a very entertaining way at that!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So pleased at the latest review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks! (And don’t forget writers will always welcome post-Christmas “presents” of thoughtful reviews. What do I mean by thoughtful? Simply, it is clear the reviewer has understood the book they’ve reviewed and what it is meant to be , even if they still don’t like it!).

Delighted to have my lovely new writing diary and have already started scribbling entries into it. Looking forward to using my new Harry Potter notebook at some point too. No doubt I’ll end up jotting some ideas for stories in that in due course.

Ideas for stories do not always come at convenient times which is why the good old notebook and pen will always be useful!

Screenshot_2020-12-29 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

I had a quick look at the random question generator again and this came up. If you could go back in time 1,000 years, what year would you visit? Well, I think I can hazard a guess at one year nobody would choose to visit again – 2020!

The question is an interesting one though and has good possibilities for flash fiction writers. As well as answering the question directly, you could select the time for your character to visit and then tell their story. Equally you can pick the time first and then decide which would be the best character to write about for it. Here, you would be using the time period chosen as a setting, almost a character in its own right.

And another possibility is to have a character out of sync with the time they are in (whether this is due to their being ahead of their time, a time traveller etc, is something else to consider). What is important though is that you have fun writing the story!

Incidentally, you do not need a wealth of detail to conjure up the time period. Specific details are enough. For example, if you set a story during the reign of Elizabeth 1, showing a coin which commemorated the victory over the Armada confirms it is her reign and that it has to be after 1588. So look for specific details to show in the story. They will “punch their weight” here.

Looking forward to sharing my ACW More Than Writers’ blog post later this week. It will be about planning ahead. Sometimes, just sometimes, the calendar is a direct aid to article and story ideas!

Will be having a new CafeLit story up in January and look forward to sharing that in due course.

Just slowly getting myself back into the swing of things again writing wise and hope to be drafting flash stories later. They make for a great warm up writing exercise anyway but also a good way to get back into writing again after a break, which everyone needs sometimes. Hope you had as nice a Christmas as possible. Lady was very pleased that Santa Paws had included her on his nice list!

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

NO POSTS FOR CHRISTMAS DAY OR BOXING DAY (hope you had as safe and as happy a Christmas as possible).

24th December – Christmas Eve

Have as safe and happy a Christmas as possible. I hope you find plenty of book shaped presents waiting for you tomorrow. Happy reading!

23rd December

Do you think the star the three wise men followed to get to Bethlehem would count as the first example of “sat nav”? Just a thought!

There are moments in the Christmas stories which would translate well into flash fiction. For example, what did the innkeeper make of the strange visitors to his stable? It’s not every day that three wise men turn up after all.

And one of my recent CafeLit stories, Finding My Feet, looks at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the footman who had to travel the Kingdom to find the one girl whose foot would fit that glass slipper. What did he make of it all (and for my take on it do see the link!)?

Think of moments. So often they can be turned into stories. Not necessarily long stories but hey that is flash fiction’s strength is it not?!

Goodreads Author Blog Post – Books under the Christmas Tree

I hope there were plenty of books left for you under the Christmas tree this year. I’m happy with my selection, in particular a non-fiction one I’d had my eye on for a while, which I’m sure is going to help me with a major writing project I’m working on.

I’ve got three months now to compile a book request list for my birthday! I think I’ll manage it though!!

Unsurprisingly, Christmas is the biggest market for publishers and writers. With my reader’s hat on, it is perfect given the weather outside (in the UK) is often ghastly, what better thing to do than curl up with a book and a mug or glass of something nice to drink? And finishing the day with a good read has always struck me as an excellent thing to do.

So what made you decide to go for the books on your Christmas list? Was it a case of getting the latest by a favourite author or was there a title that caught your eye? Or both, of course?

Whatever you chose, I hope you have a fabulous time reading (and I know it is post-Christmas now but I think there is still time for the following story!).

Fairytales with Bite – Top Tips for the Aspiring Character

You are a character who wants to come to life on your creator’s page but they’re umming and ahhing about whether you are really the character they want to lead what they laughingly call their story. It is your story, naturally. They just haven’t realised it yet. So what can be done to make your writer give you your proper place in the tale? Top tips include:-

1. Ensure your personality is strong enough. Don’t be a doormat. Doormats not only get trodden on but, far worse, they’re forgotten. That must not happen to you.

2. You must have good turns of phrase so your conversation is unforgettable too. If you can be witty and come out with appropriate one-liners, so much the better. Readers remember those. Your writer should remember that.

3. Are you prepared for adventure? Are you happy for your writer to drop you right in it, several times if need be and usually from a great height? Yes? Good! They can do what they like with you then and they will like that.

Good luck! (And tell your writer to get a move on and get you in the story). (Oh and never tell them who is really the boss!).

BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-20-2435BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-20-2313BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-20-2237

This World and Others – Can Cliches Ever Be Useful?

The answer to the above question should be “like the plague” really! But to be serious can cliches have a place in fiction?

Yes, they can but in different ways.

1. Above all else, they should be used sparingly. Too many of them spoils any good effect you might want to use them for and will just switch readers off. Also, don’t use them in every story you write either. Every now and again but more on this in 2 below.

2. A cliche can be a useful shortcut but choose the right one and aim for it to have a positive impact on your readers. You want them to be able to see why you used it and for there to be no stronger alternative. Most of the time there will be as you come up with your own expressions and these should be the ones you always go for first.

3. You can subvert a cliche. I’ve used “take the Garibaldi” as a subversion of “take the biscuit”. This approach can also help you convey something of character too. Someone who takes the Garibaldi is going to be of a different social standing to someone who “takes the Lidl Rich Tea” for one thing and you can then play on that for effect.

And for flash fiction, where every word has to punch its weight to justify being included, subverting cliches can be a useful tool indeed.

BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-20-2722FLASH - I would hope there would be some flash fiction collections amongst this lot - PixabayFLASH - You can set your characters anywhere in flash fiction - PixabayFLASH - Flash fiction soon teaches you how to cut unnecessary words - PixabayFLASH - Ideas will spark others, something else I love flash fiction for - PixabayFLASH - Always time for this - PixabayFLASH - Flash fiction can only show so much but that is the point - it is all on the focus - PixabayFLASH - Flash fiction, like lightning, is fast and to the point - Pixabay

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Decisions, Transformations, and Useful Questions

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Dawn Knox kindly supplied by her.

Facebook – General

Hope you’ve had a good Tuesday. I see we’re due for sleet in Hampshire on Friday. At least we have made it into December first before any signs of the really cold stuff!

I will be posting Part 2 of a wonderful chat with Dawn Knox on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday and am looking forward to sharing the link for that. She’ll be talking about how she got into flash fiction writing and shares what has been the most fulfilling aspect of her career to date.

One lovely thing about writing is you never know quite where things will lead but this is a good thing. My short story writing led me to discover flash for a start! But the other good thing is you should seek to develop and to improve on what you do. This can lead to trying out forms of writing new to you and discovering you can add another string to your writing bow. More from Dawn on this, along with other lovely things to chat about, on Friday.

Now NaNoWriMo has officially finished, how did I do with my “kind of” version? Well, I was pleased. I’ve carried out the restructuring I knew my non-fiction project needed and added a great deal of useful material to it. So win-win. I’m carrying on with this as I want to get a first draft done by the end of the year but am on track to do that.

 

I’ve been having fun with Book Brush again. This time I created a story video, uploaded it to Youtube, and then used their audio library to add a soundtrack to the video. I always check out licences allocated to things like images and audio tracks and this one is a free to use one. Always, always, check out what the licences say. You don’t want to break copyright. You really, really don’t. I’ve got used to doing this thanks to writing for Chandler’s Ford Today so regularly. (And it’s why I love Pixabay!).

Creating the video was good fun and I hope you enjoy the story. I was particularly pleased with the background I used as the video here as the movement of the word “sale” reminded me of the way Jaws moved through the water! Apt for the tale but click the link to find out why.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers More Than Writers blog spot

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers More than Writers blog. My piece this time is called NaNoWriMo – Doing It My Way. Well it’s kind of appropriate given I haven’t written a novel and I know I’m probably under 50,000 words. So how come I even thought about doing this? See the post for more – and I have found the experience incredibly useful for helping with focus. Hope you enjoy!

 

Facebook – General – and PUBLICATION NEWS – TRANSFORMATIONS


Busy night tonight – I have two posts for you.

It is with great pleasure I share further publication news. I’m pleased to say the three e-books that comprise the stories from the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival writing competition have now been combined to make one wonderful paperback called Transformations. (The three ebooks were To Be…To Become, Transforming Being, and this year’s Transforming Communities).

Link to follow in due course but meanwhile here is the fantastic cover. Many congratulations to all of the other writers who are “between the covers” with me for this one.

Oh and I love the cover for this.

Transformations Medium

SECOND POST

I posted about this topic over on Val’s Book Bundle on Facebook on Wednesday but thought I would expand on the topic here. I asked what people’s favourite part of a book was and my answer was the moment I realise I am rooting for the character(s).

Sometimes I root for them to fail if they’re the villain but the important point is the character is making me react and from that point onwards, I know the story will be fine. No reaction = no interest in the character = no interest in the book!

So developing this further, how can we get a reader to react to our characters?

The simple – and all at the same time complicated – answer to that is to make the reader care about what happens to said character. Simple because it really is down to that. Complicated because just how do you do this?

I outline my characters before I write a story. Sometimes that outline is a brief paragraph, sometimes it’s longer than that, but by the time I’ve done this I have worked out why it is I want to write this character up. I am feeling something for that character. And I can feel something for that character, a reader will. Thinking of questions to ask your character can be useful.

Try these to get you started.

1. What is the character’s main trait?

Can be good or evil or somewhere in between. Think about what would come out from your character if they were really put under pressure if you’re not sure what the main trait might be. Would your character show courage or run away at the first sign of trouble?

Whatever the answer to that is, think about why the answer is as you have given it. If a character would run away for example, is that because they have tried to help before and all it did was land them right in it? Jot down your thoughts. Your story thoughts may well start “sparking” from what you note down.

2. What is it about the character you as their creator like/dislike?

Your readers are likely to feel the same way!

3. Why do you want to write their story? Why does it matter?

If you’re looking to just write a funny story to amuse people, that’s fab. That is just as valid a reason to write as writing a story with purpose behind it. But you still need to think about how your character would amuse people and that will often come down to their main traits. For example, a character who is a loudmouth can set themselves up for a fall and that can be funny or tragic.

An outline doesn’t have to spell out everything. You want some room for your imagination to kick in with other ideas but it is a great place to start!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I use the first person a lot for my flash tales but when I do name a character what do I look for in that name? I look for a name that will reflect something about the character and sometimes I choose age. In my story Identity in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I chose the name Walter. That immediately called to my mind an older gentleman which is what I wanted for this story. (Making this decision was helped along by the fact my maternal grandfather was called Walter!).

Books of names help a lot here of course but looking up articles from old newspapers can also be a good source of information. If you know your character is going to be in their seventies, for example, you can look up articles from around the time they would be born and look at the names in the paper to get a feel for what names were in common usage then. And don’t forget to look up the family announcement pages too. Those can also help trigger ideas.

Names can be a great tag in flash fiction. They can be an indicator of class, as well as age, and you can use that to good effect. Telling details carry weight in short form writing. For a writing exercise I was set at Swanwick once, I came up with the phrase “take the Garibaldi” as I needed to get my character to say “take the biscuit” but I didn’t want to use the cliche.

Cliches are cliches for a reason but you can have fun subverting them, having said that. But if I had put something like “take the Lidl’s Rich Tea” instead, I could’ve indicated likely background of my character just by referring to the supermarket they use. So think of names, personal or otherwise, as useful tags here.

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Eleven months down, one to go! What a strange year 2020 has been. If 2020 had a strapline, it would probably read something like “2020: The Year That Delivered Something Nobody Wanted” or “2020: The Year Everyone Wants to Forget”!

Over on my author Facebook page,I shared the link to a new story video on my Youtube channel called Decisions. It was great fun playing with both Book Brush and Youtube for this but it is the one line stories that work really well for this kind of thing. You don’t want a video to be too long. So therefore the story can’t be too long either. So this will be an outlet I think for my one/two line stories in future. And, of course, it acts as an advert. Looking forward to doing more with this.

One thing I love about any kind of creativity endeavour is it often helps you develop others as you try to improve on what you do and find new ways of doing exactly that.

And do see writing one-or two line stories as good practice for blurb and strapline writing even if your main writing is something else entirely. These also make great warm up writing exercises.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA


Hope you enjoyed The Buddies yesterday. (N.B. See further down for this new story!). I like to mix up how I approach writing flash fiction as it keeps things fresh for me (and hopefully for readers too). Using the various random generators is a great way of mixing things up.

And another way of using the word based ones would be to deliberately place the words generated in the opening or closing lines or somewhere in the middle and then work out a story from there. Equally you can put the words in the title and nowhere else and then crack on with the tale. But there are different ways of using these things so the only limit should be your own imagination here!

Don’t forget to mix up the word counts to write to as well. There’s nothing to stop you taking an opening line and then writing a 50 word story from it. Then see what you can do when you make it 100 words and so on.

Above all enjoy your writing!

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I thought I would take another look at the good old random word generator and I was delighted to find some other parameters to tick. You can select names too! I generated two and came up with Charlie and Elsa.
Things to do here:-

  • Use the names in the story.
  • Turn this into a full name – e.g. Elsa Charlie or Charlie Elsa and put this one character into a story.
  • Use another character who shows the reader what these people/this person means to them. For example in a crime story, Elsa and Charlie could be two people who ripped the narrator off. Equally the narrator could be the one to con them!

So plenty of possibilities here! Now let’s see what I can do here…

The Buddies
The park bench is empty now. It used to be the three of us on there – Elsa, Charlie, and me. Went to school together, even ended up working for the same boss. Always good for a laugh those two. We were known around these parts as the Cheery Trio. Elsa and Charlie married and I was their best man. It was a lovely day. They were married for 55 years, bless them.
I met Mary at their wedding, she was Elsa’s cousin. We all laughed at how that worked out. Mary and I were married for 52. Good years for the most part. None of us had kids though. Just didn’t happen. Had lots of fun trying but sometimes things just don’t work out and you have to accept that and move on.
We’ve all moved on.
But now Elsa, Charlie, Mary and I are together again. Right here on the park bench. We’re allowed out to come here sometimes.
Just a pity you lot can’t see us but we can see you.
No such thing as ghosts?
Ha! The four of us have plenty to say about that!

Ends.
Allison Symes – 28th November 2020

Hope you enjoy!

Goodreads – Christmas Book List

Well, I trust you do have plenty of books on your Christmas wish list! There is a tradition in one of the Nordic countries where Christmas Eve is spent eating chocolate and reading books. I like that – a lot!

Don’t forget audio books. There are plenty of ways to take in stories. Reading will always be my first love but listening to stories comes in at a respectable second. And these are great for people who might not want to sit down with a book but who are happy to listen to a story while doing something else. You take in more than you might think.

Re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and watching the adaptation of it is on my list of things to do and A Christmas Carol will be on the agenda for me to revisit again at some point in the run up to Christmas. I’ll almost certainly be watching the Muppet version. Not only is that a great adaptation, Gonzo, as narrator Charles Dickens, reminds people to go and read the book at the end of the film. I love that and I’d always second that suggestion!

Okay, you know when you’ve got books as presents. The shape is a dead giveaway but it doesn’t matter if you know what’s in the wrapping. There will always be something special about unwrapping a book for Christmas.

And they do make fabulous presents.

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The Joy of Photos – and Finding My Feet

Now there’s a post heading I hadn’t expected to write! All will be explained below…

Image Credit:

  • All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
  • Images from Scotland were taken by me for my Chandler’s Ford Today this week bar one. That was the one with me in it taken by Adrian Symes.
  • Images of me reading at Bridge House and Swanwick events taken by Dawn Kentish Knox and Penny Blackburn respectively.
  • Image of me signing a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again for the talented and lovely Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, was taken by Jennifer C Wilson at Swanwick. We all missed Swanwick this year, cancelled due to Covid.
  • There! I think I’ve credited everyone I need to now! And a big thank you to all for the pictures. Appropriately my CFT post this week touches on the importance of photos!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Double bubble from me this evening. Firstly I talk about The Joy of Photos in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. The great thing with this post is I had no trouble sourcing images for this one at all! I share a few of my favourites, some of which naturally involve Lady, but also discuss the impact of photos on writers.

Not only is there the author pic we all need to have so people know who we are, but then there are the book cover images, book trailers etc. Without still images, there would have been no moving ones either. So photos are definitely something to celebrate.

Hope you enjoy the post! (Oh and I was thrilled to find the Feature Image for this post. Pixabay, my darling people, you came up trumps here!).

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Second post tonight and publication news. My humorous story, Finding My Feet, is now up on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy and that it makes you smile. Great fun to write and one of my favourite kind of tale – that of the fairytale told from a minor character’s viewpoint. It always makes for an interesting perspective! (Teaser below but do follow the link for the whole story).

Screenshot_2020-10-30 Finding My FeetFLASH - Ideas will spark others, something else I love flash fiction for - Pixabay

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

Well, they say you should write about what you know so I did! I talk about prep work for a cyberlaunch in my blog spot this month for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog.

There is no ONE correct way to have any kind of launch, online or otherwise, but whatever you decide to do here, preparation is key. It really does pay off. See the post for more.

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As well as my story page on Cafelit, there is also a page for each of many of the regular writers here. I’ve just updated mine to include an update on my website details and naturally my book list!

And I’ll have a new story on Cafelit on Friday so am looking forward to sharing that (see above!). My CFT post about The Joy of Photos is also out on Friday. (Nice thing for that post is I sourced most of the pics from the ones I’ve taken earlier this year and I discuss why I like them. I also look at how photos play a big part in most writers’ lives).

I talk about preparation for a cyberlaunch in my More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers and will share the link for that tomorrow. Hope it will prove useful. (Again see above).

Idea for a writing prompt: take the same opening line, change just ONE word in it, and then use the line for TWO stories! I’ve done this in Tripping The Flash Fantastic with my tales, Mishaps and Jumping Time.

My opening lines here?

1. Going back in time had its drawbacks.

2. Going forward in time had its drawbacks.

I had a great deal of fun with this and I used the same lead character in both stories. I hope to write more linked flash fiction like this.

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From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to have another funny flash tale on Cafelit this evening. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Cinderella story as this tale will also show!

But surely the story of Cinderella is so well known, it can’t bear any more re-tellings?

Hmmm…. no!

I love writing from the perspective of minor characters, indeed it is how I got into print with Bridge House Publishing over a decade ago now. And it opens up a host of new story possibilities simply because you can (a) invent your own minor character or (b) use one that is already in the canon of the story so to speak.

Have fun with these people. It is their turn to shine!

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Story time! Well, mostly. One thing I’ve been active with this year has been producing videos of me reading from my work and sharing a little of how I came to write the stories.

This is from my winning entry for 2020’s Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition. I was one of the winners and this is an extract from my tale, Books and the Barbarians. Great fun to write. Hope you enjoy!

Video for Books and the Barbarians by Allison Symes. Copyright 2020.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/iqeepkzyud5u7l9/Waterloo%20Art%20Festival%202020%20-%20Allison%20Symes%20Video.mp4?dl=0

As well as my two collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I have a number of flash and other stories in various anthologies. See my Amazon Author Central page for more. See
See my next post tonight for one of my winning stories from one of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competitions (see above and hope you enjoy the video!).

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For my flash fiction writing, as it has to be character led, I focus on getting the character right before I plunge into the tale itself. So my outlining is focussed on working out who my character is and their traits, for good or ill, will play a major part in the story I’m about to write.

That’s because if a character is arrogant, for example, you can bet that arrogance is going to land them right in it during the tale. Indeed, it ought to! What I need to decide then is whether the story is going to be a funny or serious one.

I like to know what makes my character tick before I write them. They do still sometimes surprise me and that’s fine. If the surprise proves to be better than what I originally outlined, I go with the surprise every time!

Fairytales With Bite – Never Ignore the Underdog!

One of the early lessons I learned from reading fairytales is to look out for the underdog! The fairy godmother will be turning up to help them for one thing. You learn quickly that the underdog is likely to turn out to be the hero or heroine. Nor do they let the circumstances in which they’ve become the underdog grind them down.

Also the underdog is generally the nicest character by far. What makes your underdog “worthy” of being helped? What can they do to help themselves improve their situation? Does magic help or hinder their progress?

The underdog never gets the happy ever after ending straight away either. They do have to go through difficult times to get to that point. They usually learn something which helps them develop as a character directly due to the difficult times they’ve been through.

So let’s hear it for the underdog then, albeit they won’t get their just deserts immediately! (Meaning the other qualities they must have are patience and endurance!).

This World and Others – What Convinces a Reader Your Created World is “real enough” to Read about?

I’m convinced by the reality of a fictional world by the little details. Yes, I love a good fantasy map (all hail The Lord of The Rings for that), but I also like to know how a place is governed.

I need an idea of the species that live in the fictional world and whether they get on or not. Politics plays a part too. After all fictional worlds still have to be governed by someone and they are bound to have opposition (whether that’s justified or not).

So a sense of how ordinary life is lived is crucial, as well as reading about the inevitable extraordinary changes your characters will be facing in your story. Those little details help give your creation a solid foundation.

I know they help me visualise things better and that in turn draws me even further into the tale. A character swearing about the dreadful weather will be understandable to everyone even if their species is the most bizarre it is possible to imagine!

And characterisation is of the utmost importance. Your characters may have sky blue pink skin tone and have three heads, but we still need to know what makes them tick, what their motivations are and so on.

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Twitter Highlights

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Character Conversations

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Pictures of Lady are by me, Allison Symes.

Image of Val Penny was kindly supplied by her.

Image of me signing a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again taken by Jennifer C Wilson.

Image of me reading at a Bridge House event was taken by Dawn Knox.

Image of me with Tripping The Flash Fantastic was taken by Adrian Symes (Lady would’ve helped but she has not yet managed cameras!).

And after all that, down to business!


Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers blog – Character Conversations

My turn on the ACW blog today. I talk the talk and ask if you know when your characters SHOULD shut up! See link above for my Character Conversations.

I must admit conversational ping-pong with your characters can be great fun but behind dialogue in fiction, there should be a purpose. There should be a sense of moving the story on.

So I say again, do your characters know when to shut up and talking of which….

Many thanks, everyone, for the great comments on my ACW blog post today about Character Conversations. It is always nice when positive tips are shared in the comments box too!

Am thrilled to say my copies of The Best of Cafelit 9 arrived today. I have two stories in there. Humourless is a flash piece and Green Door is a standard length short story. So good to be between the covers with friends old and new in this one.

Not a bad start to the week then and it is only Tuesday!

 

Appearing on the Christmas Book Hub Facebook Page

Note: I take part in a few selected Facebook groups. A time limited one is the Christmas Book Hub and I have posted about Tripping The Flash Fantastic on there. I thought I’d flag this particular post up for the obvious marketing reasons (!) and to share a little of what I love about writing flash fiction.

Hello, everyone. One thing I love about writing flash fiction is it has to be character led. That in turn means I can set my characters wherever and whenever I want and I do!

Are there Christmas stories in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, my new collection? Oh yes. Re-living The Past and Good To Go are two stories from Santa’s point of view and were great fun to write.

And one of my poetic stories, The Working Man, looks at the Christmas tableau from the viewpoint of a carpenter. Strangely appropriate that!

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Medium


Hope your Monday went well. It was full on puppy party at the park today with Lady having a riotous time with her best buddie, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, and other pals. All went home shattered. Job done!

I’ve written the odd flash tale around dogs (most notably The Magician in Tripping The Flash Fantastic) but mainly getting out and about with Lady is a chance for fresh air and exercise, rather than story inspiration. And that’s fine.

The break away from the desk in itself can help your imagination. Why? Because you are giving yourself time to recharge and that’s important.

Hope you have had a good weekend. As well as the Zoom event yesterday, which was great fun, my box of goodies from a well known print company arrived on the same day.

Now I must admit to still being a big kid when it comes to opening a parcel with my name on it. So what with my copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic arriving and this box of goodies, I have had a very good week. Whether the postie is pleased about it is another matter!

I’ve also been blogging away (as you do – 😊) and hope to share links to these in due course. Many thanks to all those who will be hosting me and those who’ve hosted me recently. I love hosting people on CFT via various mini-series I’ve written and will continue to write but it is also lovely being the guest. It’s good to be put on the spot with questions!

My main writing tasks for the next few days will be my CFT post, more blogs, and preparing for my cyberlaunch. Am so looking forward to that.
I try, with these things, to ensure they’re the kind of event I would want to go to if I was the guest.

Putting yourself in your readers’/potential readers’ shoes is always a good idea. That tip also helps me with my stories directly as I’m always thinking about what impact I want my characters to have on those who read about them and I write accordingly.

Write with your Ideal Reader in mind is always a good idea. Why? Because one of those Ideal Readers WILL be YOU. You have to like what you write. If you do, others will like it too. By also looking at what other Ideal Readers might like with your writing, it helps you to focus on what matters in your story and cuts the temptation to waffle. And that is always a good thing.

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Had a fabulous afternoon at the Zoom event with #GillJames and #DawnKnox. We talked about our work and shared stories. I read Enough is Enough and The Pink Rose from Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

I also talked about my love of flash fiction, how it can benefit all writers regardless of what they mainly write, and shared a Powerpoint presentation. All good fun!

And it was great to see friends, old and new, here too.

In other news, and thanks to a shared tip earlier today from #PatriciaMOsborne, I’ve now used Booklinker net to create shorter links for my two books, From Light to Dark and Back Again, and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Mind you, I think for my next book, I will have to come up with a shorter book title given only 22 characters are allowed! 😆😆

Still this gives me a chance to show my nice new short link for TTFF off! See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Hope your Tuesday went okay. Not bad here. Am busy prepping for blogs I’ll be appearing on fairly soon and also for the launch of course. Plenty to do on my To Do list but am working my way through.

The positive thing about marketing is that it is ongoing and not everything has to be done at once. Not everything can be done at once anyway, which is why working out what you want to do here and “making a plan” so you get it done is a good idea. (Well, it works for me, and naturally I’ve learned from the launch of From Light to Dark and Back Again).

I know marketing does not come naturally to many writers, including me, but working out what you would enjoy doing helps. I love blogging so that is a natural route for me to go. (And material you prep for these things, if it is not all used in the blogs, can always be recycled for use on your website etc).

Delighted to have my copies of The Best of Cafelit 9 reach me today. I have two stories in there. Humourless is a flash piece but Green Door is a standard length short story.

My longer term projects are on the back burner for the moment but I will return to those in due course. And I do have plans for further flash collections as well so plenty to keep the old imagination going for some time to come!

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Delighted to share part of a review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic from Scottish crime writer, Val Penny.

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The Review

Tripping the Light Fantastic is a special little book, the right size to keep in a pocket or a hand bag with stories and poems to entertain while on a bus trip, train journey or just relaxing with a cup of tea.

There are various examples of flash fiction. I had not realised that poems could be considered to be flash fiction until I read this book. The book contains some very short stories with good twists in the tales, longer pieces (still under 1000 words) including Symes’ trademark fairy tales and several neat poems. Tripping the Light Fantastic is varied, clever and entertaining. I highly recommend it to readers of all age groups.

See the full post at https://bookreviewstoday.info/2020/09/24/tripping-the-light-fantastic-by-allison-symes/ and many thanks, Val!


How do I flesh out a character for my flash fiction? Physical appearance doesn’t usually matter for me (though there is an exception in Tripping the Flash Fantastic where one of my characters can change into something very unusual indeed).

I’ve mentioned before that I look for the major traits. I should add I look for the positive and negative ones of these. I look at what these traits could lead to and often by the time I’ve finished doing that, story ideas are coming to me and it is then a question of working out which would be the strongest and most likely to work.

I then write the story! I guess I like a framework in place. I know that doesn’t work for everyone but when you find something that works for you, then play to the strengths of that.

 

It was great to see everyone at this afternoon’s Zoom author event with #GillJames and #dawnkentishknox. It was lovely reading stories from Tripping The Flash Fantastic for the first time too. I read The Pink Rose, also talking a little about how I came to write this one, and Enough is Enough (which I think anyone who has ever dieted would sympathise with!). All great fun.

I think the most important thing to remember when you’re reading work aloud is to slow yourself down. You’re less likely to trip over your own words doing that. (Oh and if you ever needed a reason not to give your characters complicated names, let the thought of reading them out loud be the reason! It is reason enough!).😆😆

Picture below of me reading at the Bridge House event late last year was taken by Dawn Knox and it was great to hear a story from her collection Extraordinary today too. I love being read to just as much as I love reading my own work! And that’s how it should be. The pleasure from stories is very much a two-way thing.

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Dawn Knox

Dawn Kentish Knox. Image kindly supplied by Dawn.

Goodreads Author Blog Reading Aloud –

I had the great joy of reading two stories from my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, today. I chose The Pink Rose and Enough Is Enough. One is a moving tribute to someone special to me and the other is a wry tale about someone who changes her life and gets her own back on those who humilated her.

I love listening to stories and it was great to hear stories from Dawn Knox and Gill James too at this online event.

There is something so soothing, I think, in being read to like this. And, of course, from a writer’s viewpoint, you get to hear the rhythm of dialogue from other people’s stories and you can of course learn from that for your own work.

I loved being read to when I was a kid and later, on becoming a mum, loved reading to my son. The first novel I read to him was Kenneth Graeme’s The Wind in the Willows. Yes, it went down very well with all of us!

Do you remember which book you cherished having read to you when you were a kid? Equally, what was your favourite book to read out loud to your children?

I see storytime like this (and this afternoon’s event was kind of like a storytime for adults I thought) as so important. In our current situation with the pandemic, the joy of stories and books and being read to cannot be lauded loud enough I feel.

Creating Characters

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Also a big thank you to Richard Hardie for the images supplied for my second CFT post which appeared over the weekend, more below.

Facebook – General – bonus Chandler’s Ford Today post

A busy week on CFT for me this time. My second post this week shares news from YA author, Richard Hardie, about his link with Doctor Who. All very exciting and a feather in the cap for Richard. Well done! Check out the post for more details.

Facebook – Association of Christian Writers

More Than Writers blog spot – Creating Characters

It’s my turn on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

I talk about Creating Characters and share hints and tips, including a list of questions that will help you outline your “people”.

Hope you find it useful. (And many thanks to those who have commented on this. Much appreciated).

A good TV or film adaptation of a book only works if the images shown roughly coincide with the images I had from reading the text. The Inspector Morse series did this, as did the Poirot and Miss Marple series (with David Suchet and Joan Hickson). Film wise, I thought Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings had it spot on.

Are there any books you would like to see made into series or films? Which ones and why? Are there adaptations that haven’t worked for you? (I couldn’t get on with the Marple series. For me, Joan HIckson was perfect in the role and that was that).

When it comes to writing my stories, I put myself in my character’s shoes and see the world their way. I don’t always like my characters by the way! (Oh and a big thanks for a tremendous response to my ACW post on More Than Writers yesterday which was all about Creating Characters. Glad it was useful).

What I have found is you DO have to inhabit your character’s space so you can write about them/for them effectively.

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One very tired Lady on the sofa tonight. Had a great big play with several pals, including her “boyfriend”, a lovely Collie gent, and her best pal, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I should imagine they’re pretty shattered as well!

Enjolyed listening to the Movie Music Hall of Fame on Classic FM today. I was right about the top two and pleased about them too. Must remember to find out where the Pink Panther theme came in (and there’s an earworm for anyone of a certain age!).

I usually write with classical music on as I find it helps me relax and when I relax, I’m more productive with the writing. Other things I have to have on my desk are my dictionary, my Scrivener for Dummies guide, my publisher guides (Writers and Artists and Mslexia) and plenty of pens (I know! I’m using a laptop, what do I need pens for? I guess I just like to see them around!).

I don’t have any rituals before writing. I just open my laptop and get on with it but I do like to see the accoutrements on my desk. I suppose it’s a case of Allison going into her comfort zone sort of thing.

And now I am IN my comfort zone, time to get on with more writing then!

 

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I can’t say a particular writer made me pick up my pen and start writing. I’ve loved books and stories for as long as I can recall. I loved writing stories in English lessons at school (and I’ll be talking a bit more about that in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week).

But it took me a long time to figure out I really ought to get around and write seriously. It took two major life events to wake me up here! My only serious regret with writing is NOT starting a lot sooner than I did.

But it is wonderful to say that all of the writers whose books are on my shelves (and the electronic one too!) have added to my love of stories and storytelling. For that I will always be grateful. And then there’s the joy of discovering new writers too.

If I could invent things I would invent:-

1. Elastic time so I never run out of time to read or write.
2. Calorie free chocolate.
3. Calorie free prosecco.
4. A stamina “topper-upper” for those times you could really do with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t know about you but I find it unsettling it is 8.30 pm in August in the UK and it is pitch black out there! (Not due to the weather either). The seasons are definitely shifting. Talk about going from light to dark!

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favourite writing exercises is writing to a set opening line. The ones that work best for me are the ones that can be taken in more than one direction. For example:-

1. The door remained locked despite her efforts.
2. He was on time, as the note insisted, but nobody was about.
3. The fairy godmother was on early shift.

Now all three opening lines here have comic as well as dramatic possibilities. (The door could remain locked because it took her a while to realise she was using the wrong key. He might be on time but what if he turned up at the wrong place and forgot to check? As for the fairy godmother, what could she expect to have to do on early shift that she might not face later on in the day? Definitely scope for humour there and that would almost certainly be the way I’d take these story ideas).

I find it useful to jot down initial ideas from an opening line and then go for the one that is a little way down my list. That is the idea which is not likely to be the obvious one and could well be open to my putting a twist on it, which I always love doing.

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One of my favourite stories in my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, involves a librarian and a snake. Can’t say more than that at the moment but it was great fun to write! By all means, let your mind boggle at the thought of that!

But then that is the fun of fiction. You can write in any genre, any time period, and the impossible isn’t so much in things like fantasy, magical realism etc.

Whatever you write, it is important to enjoy it. I mentioned to a friend and fellow author (the lovely #ValPenny) that you have to enjoy what you write, especially if it is a book, because you’ll be promoting said book for a long time.

You as the writer have got to be able to live with what you’ve written and enjoy living with it too! That’s an aspect to the writing life which isn’t often considered I think.

But commitment to what you write shows up here and not just in the hard work it needs to get those stories written in the first place.

Writing is good for you as it stretches you and develops your imagination. It is also good fun experimenting with different forms of writing and discovering where your strengths are. But even when you’ve found the style of writing that suits you best, writing should still keep pushing you.

Pushing you to keep on producing good work.

Pushing you to discover new markets/competitions for your work.

Pushing you to get better at editing your work and polishing it as well as you can to give it its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world.

Pushing you to develop new skills including but definitely not limited to reading your work to an audience, making the most of technology to produce items that can help you market your work more effectively, and so on.

What writing doesn’t do is allow you to rest on your laurels and that’s a great thing. Why? Because you want to keep on developing. The writing journey should be as much fun as possible. Different things come up along that journey, things you would not have expected when starting out, and by developing you will be ready to tackle those things and have more strings to add to your bow.

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Am looking forward to taking part in the Zoom session with #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox on 26th September. I hope to be reading a story or two, including one from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. You did hear it here first!

I will share the link to the event later in September. You do need to register but the event is free. I’ll also be flagging it up via Chandler’s Ford Today in due course.

Flash is great for reading aloud at events etc. It doesn’t take too long to read. It makes an immediate impact and the “deeper” stories resonate with you and linger long in the memory afterwards. Nothing to dislike there!

And I’ve said before it is a good idea to read your work out loud so you can hear how it flows, whether the dialogue etc comes across as smoothly as you’d like etc. If you trip over your words, a reader almost certainly will. Again with flash, this doesn’t take long. I’ve spotted things I’ve needed to change many a time doing this.

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Goodreads Author Blog Book Dilemmas

What book dilemmas, I hear you ask?

Well, there is the obvious one of which book you are going to read next from your naturally huge TBR pile.

I refuse to believe that doesn’t give you pause for thought from time to time! (I get a little annoyed with myself for doing this. I realise the half hour I spent deciding what I’ll read next could have been spent on reading!).

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll reduce the TBR paperback pile or the one on your Kindle.

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll read short stories or another novel or non-fiction.

There is no one right answer to how you answer these.

I find I read a load of things on my Kindle for a while, then switch back to paperbacks for a bit, and that’s fine with me.

I just need to stop wasting half hours every now and again making up my mind and just get on with what matters – the reading!

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Further Thoughts On The Writing Game

Image Credit:  Pexels/Pixabay unless stated. A huge thanks to my guest authors on this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post for their author and book cover pics.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to share the second part of my CFT series on The Writing Game – and What to Watch For Part 2. Plenty of advice and tips here, Hope you enjoy. A big thanks to all of my guest authors. This week I feature guests from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Topics include handling professional jealousy and checking contracts.

This series is the kind of one I would have welcomed when I was a new writer especially. Why?

Because you don’t realise at the outset how much there is to learn. You don’t know what the pitfalls and hazards are. You’re not aware, to begin with at least, of the difference between vanity publishing and real self-publishing.

It is only when you’ve been writing for a while and you make author friends that you pick up tips and good advice from them, as well as from organisations like the Society of Authors.

If there is only ONE reason to go to writing conferences and events (when such things are possible again), the learning from others is, for me, the most important one. No one author can know it all.

Mind you, there are LOADS of other excellent reasons to go to writing events when you can and via Zoom etc in the meantime.

The nice thing about all of this? Later on, you can share what you have learned with others who, in turn, will share it later. What goes around literally comes around in writing circles – and it should always be to the benefit of the writer!

Hope you enjoy.

Many thanks for my guests this week – #DawnKentishKnox, #GillJames, #AmandaJones, #PaulaCReadman, and #AmandaHuggins.

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Have gone from walking the dog before it became too hot, creosoting fence panels, to editing to about to have a lovely Zoom chat with writer pals.

Am looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my new CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. Full of top tips, this week’s installment shares advice from writers from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Link up tomorrow.

Need to get back to flash fiction writing but hope to do that over the weekend. Am also enjoying preparing material for a blog where I will be a guest. Now off to chat!

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Facebook – General – and the Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – The Reading Challenge

I talk about The Reading Challenge in my monthly spot on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

This month I ask if writers SHOULD find reading a challenge.

So over to you. What do you read that challenges you? What benefits do you find from that? Do you read outside of your usual genres and how do you find that works? Has it inspired your own imagination and, if so, how?