What Books Mean to Me, Bridge House Publishing, and Random Questions

Image Credit:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of one of my stories from The Best of CafeLit 10. I also took the photo of my books at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Not so cold today and Lady got to play with her pal, Coco, who is a very lovable Labradoodle.

Looking forward to sharing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I’ll be writing about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival and sharing why events like this matter (and not just to the authors taking part either). Link up on Friday.

Am putting finishing touches to my author newsletter too and that goes out tomorrow, 1st December. Can hardly believe we’re almost at December already. (And I do hope you have a good number of books on your wish list!).

Also, I was delighted to come up with a new idea for a flash fiction story when I was taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group recently. Have written it up, polished it, and submitted it. Now fingers crossed time!

It’s my turn once again on the More than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about What Books Mean to Me and the challenge here was to keep to the 500 words limit!

Mind you, it is a topic every writer could go on about at length. We’re inspired by what we read. The more we read the bigger our “inspiration net” from which to fish. And we’re supporting the industry we want to be part of – win-win there I think.

Screenshot 2021-11-29 at 19-35-05 What Books Mean to Me by Allison Symes

Brr… another cold day here. Am grateful for thick clothes, big coat, long scarf, and gloves for walking the dog. Glamorous? Err… no!

I’ll be talking about What Books Mean to Me in my blog for the Association of Christian Writers tomorrow. See link above. The challenge there was keeping that topic to 500 words! You can see how I did tomorrow when I put the link up.

Pleased to see more comments coming in on Moving Along, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction.

Am working on material for another Zoom talk in February and I’m almost there with material for my third flash fiction collection. It will need robust editing before I submit it but I am hoping to get that off by the spring of next year, earlier if possible. I am happy with the material in and of itself but I know thorough editing will sharpen what’s there and I enjoy that process.

But it is also a relief to know I’ve got the book “down”, the stories are a good mix, and editing will improve them still further. What’s not to like there? Do I wish it was a quicker process? Sometimes. But I know I need a decent break between writing the stories and then going back and editing them. Taking the time there has helped me enormously in the past to see more clearly what is working and what doesn’t. It then gives me my best chance of submitting the best I can to a publisher.

Screenshot 2021-11-26 at 19-21-09 Moving Along, by Allison Symes

Hope everyone is okay. Very stormy conditions in the UK today. Hampshire saw snow, sleet, rain, bitter cold, and strong winds for a lot of Saturday. Even Lady wasn’t that impressed. She isn’t usually fazed by the weather.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for sending out on 1st December. I share tips, prompts, video links and all sorts here. Head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if this sounds of interest.

I’ll be talking about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Many thanks once again to Lynn Clement for the recent two-part interview. It is always a joy to interview other writers for CFT as I always learn something interesting/useful to know (and often both).

The great thing with creative writing is that it is an ongoing process to find out what it is you like to write and then to try and get better at it. Good for the old imagination and the brain as a whole. And then there are all those competitions and markets to still try and crack… no excuse for becoming bored then!

Screenshot 2021-11-30 at 20-37-37 The Appeal of AnthologiesCreative writing is a joy

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on Saturday. It will be nice meeting up with Lynn Clement again, whose The City of Stories, has recently been published by Chapeltown Books. I recently interviewed Lynn to discuss flash fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Flash is a wonderful format for sharing on social media. For something to entertain without taking up too much of anyone’s time, it can’t be beaten. And it is easy to share at in-person events too. In the busyness of life, it is great to take time out for a very quick read indeed!

I’ve found it pays me to just get the story written and worry about the editing and word count later. Some flash pieces genuinely do work better at 250 words rather than 100 words, for example. It is only by getting the whole story down and giving myself breathing space to look at it properly later, I can see that yes, this needs to be kept in and that doesn’t.

Over time, you do develop an instinct for what will work better at a slightly longer word count and I’ve learned to trust that instinct when it kicks in.

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Back to my normal slot for story time. Hope you enjoy Going On. This one came about as a result of a question from a random question generator (what can you talk about for hours?). I’ve used the same question as the basis for my story for Friday Flash Fiction this week too. Good fun to do.


Am glad to report there’s a special offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon right now. See link below. And a big thank you to those who have picked up the Kindle version recently too. Much appreciated (and if you have time to leave a review, even better).

I’ve mentioned before I’m often using Sundays to produce new stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction respectively and I often use the random generators to trigger my ideas here.

Having a quick look at a random question generator, the question that cropped up was “what can you talk about for hours”? I don’t know yet if I will use that for my stories tonight but the thought struck me it would be a good question to ask your characters as you outline them. You are sure to find out more about what makes them tick by getting “them” to answer that. It should highlight some of their overall attitudes to life too.

For example, if the answer is “military history”, say, you could then dig deeper to find out why your character is fascinated by that. What does that reveal about them? Could an opponent use this against them in some way? And there’s your story outline as you think about the answers to those questions. Using one question to trigger others works for story outlining.

http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Small.jpg

I often write festive flash fiction. My last Chandler’s Ford Today post of the year usually features some. And I have just written a piece and submitted it on a festive theme. Will report back it if it gets taken. I often share a festive dribble (50 words) or drabble (100) words on my Facebook pages too. (The 50 word ones also work well on Twitter).

I see it as a nice way to wrap up the old year and hopefully the tales will raise a smile or two. Naturally I keep the theme for thee stories light. I do avoid any kind of whimsy though. Even tales featuring Santa will have a bit of a bite to them (albeit a nice bite!).

And when I do write a fairytale kind of story, again apt for the rapidly approaching season, there will be a twist or a sense of irony in the story somewhere. Fairytales were never meant to be twee. I think stories with humour are often the best for getting any kind of message across anyway. It helps to make it palatable.

But what I want most for my festive fiction is for there to be a sense of fun about them. I certainly have fun writing them and I hope that comes across.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Appeal of Anthologies

Naturally I am a bit biased here as I’m honoured to have several of my stories appear in various anthologies over the years. It’s a pleasure to write short stories for these and even more of a pleasure when said tales are accepted.

But, regardless of that, I have always had a soft spot for anthologies. Why? I like to see them as a reading “mixed assortment”. Who ever said that just worked for biscuits or chocolates?! It works for books too!

What I get most from anthologies is the wonderful range of talent on offer. I get to read authors I might not have come across otherwise and, when the anthology is to a set theme, it is fascinating to see how so many different writers bring their own take to that topic.

I deliberately read anthologies, including flash fiction ones, between novels. They do act almost like a “starter meal” for my next longer read. Indeed, if I’m not sure which novel to read next, by the time I’ve come to the end of an anthology, I know which mood (and therefore genre) of novel I want to read next.

So do check the anthologies out. (They’re also useful for seeing if you like the work of an author new to you. If you like their short work, it is highly likely you will like their longer books).

And happy reading – short and long form!

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Book Lists, Writing Days, and Competition

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. I’m off for a short break from 30th October. I plan to keep posting but internet connections may get the better of me so I will see how things go! (Definitely back here on Tuesday, 9th November if I can’t post).

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Chandler’s Ford Today and Association of Christian Writers

29th October – CFT

Am writing on a topic close to my heart for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’m writing about Book Lists. Every writer has two – one for books they want to read and others they want to write! I’m focusing on the ones I want to read for this one. Posts like this are a celebration of books in general and those are always a good thing to celebrate! Hope you enjoy the post.

Book Lists

 

 

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29th October – ACW

It’s a busy night on the blogging front for me today but I am delighted to share my blog on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about Writing Days and I share hints on how to make the most of these as well as how to re-create some of the buzz from events like these when you’re at home. Hope you find it useful (and a big thanks for the wonderful comments already in on this one).

https://morethanwriters.blogspot.com/2021/10/writing-days-by-allison-symes.html

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Am posting very early as this evening I’m off to the theatre again. I’m going to see Murder with Ghosts staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group and I hope to review this show in due course. I’m also meeting up with my lovely editor, Janet Williams, so it will be a Chandler’s Ford Today “works outing” in many ways. Haven’t had one of those since December 2019 when Janet and I were at the Chameleons last show before You Know What disrupted everything. I love a good spoof and the title of this play sounds very promising!

Talking of CFT, I will be sharing my post tomorrow about Book Lists. (You must have at least one on the go, yes?).

It will be a busy day on the blogging front as my post for the Association of Christian Writers is also up tomorrow. Plan to do two separate posts about these. See above.

I may need to share my author newsletter a couple of days early as I won’t be about on 1st November. You know how sometimes things pan out beautifully – one thing comes along, then another, then another and all is well. Well, sometimes you get everything happening at once and I’m at that point right now! Takes deep breath, will stay calm and carry on!

 

Lady had a fabulous time with her best buddies, the Rhodesian Ridgeback and Hungarian Vizler today. It was lovely seeing them run around. Lady has to have a good run once a day (the rest of her exercise is walking) and what is nice is I can always tell when she’s really enjoyed herself. How? On the way home, she will look up at me with bright shining eyes and her tail is going nineteen to the dozen as if to say “thanks, Mum, I needed that.”. Dogs are honest about how they feel. We, and our characters, aren’t necessarily!

If you have a character who has to hide their true feelings, they’ve got to have a decent reason for doing so. It is a common theme in romance of course but it can apply to other genres too. Ironically in crime stories, often you will know who the murderer is, it is case of finding out how the detective finds them out. That wonderful series Columbo was brilliant at that. As the story plays out , we find out how the murderer tried to cover up their tracks and of course they can give away no signs of guilt etc.

So how can we have our character do one thing but feel another? Internal thoughts can of course reveal how they are really feeling. But showing a character hesitating before taking a certain course of action can also show a character who has split feelings.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest #FridayFlashFiction story is called Competition and you find out what could happen when Humpty Dumpty talks with one of the bears from Goldilocks. Great fun to write and a huge thank you for the wonderful comments in on this so far. Feedback is always appreciated, writers learn a lot from it, and a pat on the pack is particularly nice at the end of a busy week! Also a quick shout-out to another friend of mine making her debut on Friday Flash Fiction – well done to #RosemaryJohnson.
Screenshot 2021-10-29 at 17-09-06 Competition, by Allison Symes


I’m looking forward to being at the Brechin/Angus Book Fest from 19th to 21st November where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop and giving an author talk. What is nice about the workshop is there are various ways “into” starting to write flash pieces and I will be sharing some of those for that. I hope these encourage people to give flash a try.

The nice thing with creative writing is there isn’t any competition as far as I’m concerned. We all have our own unique author voice and it can take a while to find what yours is, it took me ages to find mine, but once you have it, away you go.

As well as being published in the form, flash has brought other opportunities to my door, including Brechin, radio interviews, taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights and it has all been great fun. Long may this continue!


Most of my flash fiction tales come in at the 100-word mark (and even more do so now I’m submitting tales regularly to #FridayFlashFiction). It’s also apt as it was the good old drabble as the 100-word story is known which got me into flash fiction writing in the first place.

But I do like to write across the spectrum. It’s good practice. It means you have an even wider of competitions and markets to approach. Having said that, the vast majority of mine still come in at 500 words or under. I do think you eventually find what is your natural writing zone and that appears to be mine!

But I worry about the word count aspect only when I’ve got the story down. Putting it aside to rest for a while, I can come back to the story and read it as a reader would. That makes it easier to spot the flaws and there are always some of those! But I also get to see more clearly thanks to giving myself some distance from that first draft the “heart” of the tale and from that can work out what I need to keep and what needs to come out.

Sometimes it works out a story works better at 500 words rather than 250 and that’s fine. Usually it is a case I have details which add depth to my character(s) and the story would be poorer without those details in so I leave them in.

Fairytales with Bite – Setting Scenes

What aspects of your magical setting does a reader need to know? And how can you indicate this is a fantasy setting where magic will happen? How will your readers find out what your characters can’t do/are banned from doing? (The two aren’t the same and there will be many a story to be had from following the adventures of characters who decide to defy whatever the ban might be).

I’ve talked before about telling details and writing down possibles here can help clarify things for you. (I often use spider diagrams and the like to work out different story possibilities but you can use the same things for working out what scenes have to be in your story and also what needs to be in those scenes).

Fantasy settings can be indicated by things like:-

  • Colour of sky/ground/seas if different from Earth.
  • The kind of buildings that exist
  • Showing a character using magic as a matter of routine
  • What your characters look like. If they’re humanoid how do they differ from us? If they’re not humanoid at all, your readers will need to know what they are to be able to visualise them.

Examples of telling details could be:-

  • Colour of hair (or equivalent) especially if different from us
  • How characters speak, write etc again especially if different from us
  • How the world is governed (you won’t need everything here. What readers need to know is whether your characters live in a free society of under a dictatorship).
  • What would count as standard “powers”? What would be extraordinary? (And you can show that by contrasting two characters with different skill sets. One will be seen to be lower than the other in terms of how their skills are valued – this will also show something of the class structure in your world too).

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This World and Others – The Need to Know Question

Ah but who needs to know what in your created world, that is the question. Forget the to be or not to be question posed by Shakespeare. Information is power no matter what world your characters are in so how is information shared in your setting or is it only available to the privileged few? Is information manipulated before being “allowed out there” and what kind of technology does your world have to share it?

What would happen if your government really does need the populace to take in necessary information but they won’t do so, being cynical of any government pronouncement? How do the powers that be get around that one?

Also who decides who needs to know? Can they be bribed or threatened to make information available to others?

Who needs to know? Is there such a thing as whistleblowers in your creation? What happens to them?

Who creates the information in the first place? Do journalists, writers etc., have any say in what information they produce?

Think about what might happen if a long cherished nugget of information is exposed as a lie. What ramifications would that have?

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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Competition, by Allison Symes – Friday Flash Fiction <a href=”https://t.co/XIwz3UQNlz”>https://t.co/XIwz3UQNlz</a&gt; Delighted to share the link to my latest drabble on Friday Flash Fiction. What happens when Humpty Dumpty has a chat with one of the bears from the Goldilocks story? Find out here! <a href=”https://t.co/n6bde4xJQa”>pic.twitter.com/n6bde4xJQa</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454118628777988101?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Book Lists <a href=”https://t.co/Sqsf1Z3UwL”>https://t.co/Sqsf1Z3UwL</a&gt; My topic for CFT this week is close to my heart – Book Lists. Every writer has two – one for books they want to read and others they want to write! I’m focusing on ones to read. Posts like this celebrate books which is always worth doing!</p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454142514554888194?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>More than Writers: Writing Days by Allison Symes <a href=”https://t.co/494Qu84AS7″>https://t.co/494Qu84AS7</a&gt; My turn on the ACW blog again this month. I share hints and tips on making the most of a writing day and how to re-create the buzz from these when you're at home. Hope you find the post useful. <a href=”https://t.co/uxgfKfKFbH”>pic.twitter.com/uxgfKfKFbH</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454143450144706564?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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Pinch, Punch, The First of The Month and Trying Hard

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Many thanks to Fiona Park for the fab photo of my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at Swanwick 2021.
Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. New story out and a new More than Writers blog post which has attracted a fair few comments but then I did ask about people’s Writing Niggles. It seems to have hit a spot!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s that time of the week again and time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week’s one is called Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me, writing wise. I also look at the origin of the saying and ask why white rabbits are considered lucky. Any thoughts on that? If so pop a comment over on the CFT page. This post will tie in nicely with next week’s one where I’ll be taking a look at sayings and their uses in creative writing.

Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month

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A huge thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on my More Than Writers blog spot yesterday. See further down. My post about Writing Niggles obviously hit a sore spot or several! Mind you, the one comfort here is we all have writing niggles. It is working out a way of (a) managing them and (b) limiting the irritation they can cause you that are the tricky bits to get right.

My post tomorrow for Chandler’s Ford Today is all about Pinch, Punch The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me now (author newsletter send out day!). I also look at the origin of this strange phase (which will also tie in with my post on the 8th October as I will be talking about sayings and their uses in fiction and non-fiction).

Oh and is it just me or have the light levels in the evening just plummeted into complete darkness so far this autumn? There has been no gradual fading of the light. It looks as if someone has gone in and taken the bulb out! Dark by 7.30 pm… I wasn’t expecting that until much later into October.

It’s my turn on the More Than Writers blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This month I talk about Writing Niggles and it is a rare writer indeed that doesn’t have at least one. I share some of mine (yes, some!) and solutions I have found that have helped me. A huge thanks to everyone for the wonderful comments on this subject which have come in already.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Will my hapless Sarah finally make things right with her neighbour in Trying Hard?

Screenshot 2021-10-01 at 18-59-48 Trying Hard, by Allison Symes

One of the biggest things flash fiction has done for me as a writer is to help me understand what “show, don’t tell” means in practice. It took me ages to get my head around that.

Because I have to write to a tight word count, I have no room for “extras” and showing a scene rather than telling it can take up a fair bit of said word count. I’ve found it helpful to focus on one thing I have to show a reader for a story that is 500 words or less. I’ll show two for 500 to 1000 words. So I have to work out what is the most important thing to show a reader and focus on that alone. That in turn does help me keep my word count down.

I’ve mentioned before my “she wears a red coat” and “she wears a moth-eaten red coat” as these are great examples of tight writing and how one word can change perspective. I don’t need to tell you my character is poor in the second example. I’ve shown you (and hyphenated words, since they count as one word for flash fiction, are the flash writer’s best friend). So think of ways in which you could show something.

Anger – character slamming something.

Sadness – character being asked by another character something along the lines of “what’s up with you?” and then getting the first character to sob.

Happiness – Showing your character walking jauntily, whistling a cheery tune etc.

So you can show a mood quickly. Setting can be done with the selective use of detail. A poor house can be shown as characters moaning about the roof leaking again etc. Think about what you want to show and then what words you can use to do that. Always pick the strongest. A roof leaking is far more powerful than characters moaning about how poor they are. Readers do pick things up on context (I love doing this). We just need to give them the right clues so they can.

BookBrushImage-2021-9-30-20-354Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer on Amazon. See link for more.

Will also be sending out my author newsletter on 1st October. I share tips, prompts, flash stories here (and these are often exclusive to newsletter readers) as well as my news. Do head over to my website (the landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where the landing page takes you straight through to the sign-up. There is a giveaway too.

Fairytales with Bite – Seasonal Magic

Do your magical characters use their powers more at certain times of year or spread the use evenly throughout the twelve months? In your fictional setting, do certain seasons encourage the use of magic or, conversely, limit it? In the darker times of year, is magic more difficult? Is there any link to available light levels and when there is light, is it easier for a character to “produce the goods” when it comes to using their powers?

Do physical weaknesses limit magical use? After all, we are prone to colds, the flu etc more in the winter months and that affects how we “perform” so could your characters be affected by something similar?
Also, can your characters adapt their spells to match the time of year? For example, when it is dark and gloomy, are they on call for “lift me up” charms to help get people through these times? (For me a cup of hot chocolate, a cosy home, classical music, and a good book would do this for me nicely!).

Are your people expected to produce more magic at certain times of year? If magic can be equated to energy, are they on call to produce more of this at certain times of year to help keep their environment “going”? (Think Monsters Inc where the monsters need energy from children’s screams and then run into problems when they find youngsters aren’t so easily scared any more).

How do the seasons affect your people? In good ways or negatively and how could that change the outcome of your stories (or do your people “compensate” and, if so, how? What matters here is that you know how things work here even if you don’t need to share all of that with your readers.

You inevitably won’t share it all but you could have a character exploiting weaknesses here to their advantage. You would need to know what they are exploiting, how, and what would be the outcome? Also could the exploited hit back by using your natural world against whoever is trying to pull this trick off?).

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This World and Others – Seasons

I love the seasons. See some of the above pics for proof! The last one with the summer house is from my garden earlier this year. There is beauty to be found in each, even in winter (and there I also have the delicious compensations of hot chocolate, a cosy home etc to enjoy). Okay, so we have the four, but what does your created world have? More or less? Same as ours or totally different?

How do the seasons work in your created world? Especially if you have magical characters, is there anything they can do to influence how the seasons work and, if so, how? What would they gain from this?

Seasons tie in with celebrations too so what seasonal events would your world hold? Why are these things special to them?

As for the climate, can it compare with ours or is yours worse or better? How do your characters manage the ups and downs of the seasons and the climate?

There are seasons in life too. How do your stories reflect this in your characters, especially as they age? Have they learned anything useful from their younger years (especially what not to do) that benefits them now? Do they appreciate the season of “maturity” or do they resent not being young any more?

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Publication News, Alternative Worlds, and Dialogue

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing book covers from #WendyHJones.

Author publicity photos taken by Adrian Symes. Other images (including screenshots) taken by me, Allison Symes. Thrilled with my publication news this week, more below, especially as this is my first non-fiction work in print.

Creativity Matters - and my two flash collections

Facebook – General

Delighted to say my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing arrived this evening. And naturally that means photo opportunity time! (Thanks to my better half for taking the following).

I can confirm you never do lose the thrill of opening a box of books which you know you have written or contributed to. It’s just a pity you can’t bottle that feeling for drawing on later as and when needed!

Oh and given my chapter in Creativity Matters is Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories, I thought my two flash collections should get a look in too.

AND I’ll be chatting to Wendy H. Jones, who compiled and edited Creativity Matters, on Friday for Chandler’s Ford Today about what made her decide to publish other authors. Looking forward to sharing the link.

Hope you have had a good Bank Holiday Monday. Hope you had a great Monday if it wasn’t a Bank Holiday for you. Glad to hear the Inspector Morse theme came top in the Classic FM TV themes countdown. Also glad to hear Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens was in the top 30 as my first introduction to that wonderful music came thanks to it being used as the theme for quirky detective series Jonathan Creek. I suspect most people’s introduction to classical probably does come from TV and film themes and/or adverts.

It has been an odd day weather wise here in Hampshire. Murky and overcast all day. (I can think of some of my characters who could be described like that!). Am busy putting the finishing touches to my September newsletter and will be working on a super two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today to go out in the next couple of weeks or so. More details nearer the time but it has been encouraging I have had no shortage of material for CFT for many, many months now. Long may that continue! Am also working on presentations and workshop materials for use later in the year so plenty going on. And for the other reason I love Danse Macabre, see below!

Bonus Post – 29th August – More than Writers

Sorry, meant to share this earlier as it is my turn again on More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot. This time I talk about Being Back. I refer to my recent visit to Swanwick but also look at being back at live events again and how, whether we can get to these or not, we should definitely “be back” to encouraging other writers.

Screenshot 2021-08-31 at 20-52-12 Being Back by Allison Symes

Wow! The responses are really coming in for The Turn Around, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Many thanks, everyone. The general feel is my characters deserved each other. If you want to check the story out and decide if you agree or not, please see the link below.

Am so looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. This week, I welcome back #WendyHJones and I will be talking with her about her latest venture, Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing. This is the first time Wendy has published other authors, including yours truly (my chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories), and I wanted to ask her what made her decide to follow this path.

I also talk with her about what she has had to learn to do this. Wendy also shares with me how she balances her fiction and non-fiction work and balancing getting her own writing done, as well as publishing others. Link up later in the week (and I am on tenterhooks as my copies of the book are due with me any time. Cue the usual author holding up new book photo later this week I hope!). See above!

Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 17-10-59 The Turn Around by Allison Symes


Great to see the response to my blog round-up post Swanwick 2021 yesterday. Not at all surprised most of these are from fellow Swanwickers!

Just a quick reminder I will be sending my author newsletter out next week (1st September) so if you’d like to sign up for tips, news, prompts etc, please head over to my website (the landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I tend to compile the newsletter as the month goes on as (a) it means I don’t forget anything important and (b) it is easy to just finish off and send at the right time. Mind you, I schedule as many of my blog posts as possible whether it is for Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, or More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot.

Scheduling has been a boon for me but I still wish I had more time to write!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am so thrilled to receive my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writingtoday. (Link is for Hive.co.uk – an alternative to Amazon). The book is edited and compiled by #WendyHJones. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. I’ve mentioned before that I did not know flash fiction as a format existed when I first started writing seriously for publication. I am so glad I discovered it! (Pictures from my better half).

Am pleased to share my latest Youtube video. Hope you enjoy Wondering. Miranda cannot understand her neighbours’ fears about a local inhabitant. There is someone else they should be frightened of – as the video makes clear.


I sometimes have fun with flash stories set in alternative worlds. In A Day Out in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, for example, I have my character on his way to feed the ducks but these are no ordinary ducks and my character is not looking forward to the trip. So you can take elements from what we know right here, such as feeding ducks, and turn it into something comedic, tragic, horrific etc.

And in Job Satisfaction from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I show what a disgruntled fairy is prepared to do as part of her “dentistry work” as she carries out her rounds as the Tooth Fairy. Here I am taking the element of someone being fed up with a client she doesn’t like (with good reason) but setting that with a magical background so my operative has more options open to her than us mere mortals would.

So mix elements up and have fun. See what you can do with them. Taking the ordinary and turning them into extraordinary parts of a story is a great way to come up with some interesting and quirky fiction. And for another example of that, see below.

 


Looking forward to receiving my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing which I now know are on their way. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. Looking forward to doing the “author opening the box of books” pose again! Great fun (and we all need validation. It’s a funny thing but every writer needs it. It is just a question of degree).

It was also great to see a very familiar name (thanks to Bridge House Publishing) on Friday Flash Fiction recently (well done #HannahRuthRetallick). I am also thrilled to see a very dear friend of mine and fellow Swanwicker on CafeLit today with a fabulous story called Marmalade. Go visit and check it out. (Always worth scrolling through CafeLit. Lovely mixture of stories in terms of style and word count. Marmalade was out on 28th August 2021). My sympathy is entirely with her lead character, Annie. More power to your pens, Hannah and #JuneWebber.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Dialogue in Books

I love dialogue in books as long as that conversation is moving the story on in some way. I need the characters to show me something either about themselves or the unfolding plot (and it is often both at the same time) for their conversation to grip me and keep me reading. It is something I have to watch with my own writing as I love setting up my characters for a good “chin wag” but it must always be relevant to the story. So if it isn’t, out it comes.

What I don’t like is where characters can sometimes tell each other stuff they clearly must know. I don’t buy the “character needs reminding” business here. It is usually done because the writer needs to get information across to a reader, they know they mustn’t “tell” the reader and are conscious they need to “show” the information.

I totally sympathise and it was something I did when I was starting out but with time and practice, you learn to be more confident in allowing your readers to work things out for themselves. Flash fiction writing with its limited word count really encourages that. So it is a question of putting in the right clues in the right way so readers do something to work with so they can figure things out for themselves.

I’ve learned over time to put in an odd line or two where I reveal something to a reader rather than have a pointless conversation between characters telling each other what they must already know. It takes less time and word count and you don’t switch your readers off with a conversation they will quickly sense is more to help the author out rather than to help the story along.

But when dialogue does what it is meant to do – move the story along, keep up pace etc., – then it is amongst my favourite parts of a book. I want to eavesdrop what the characters are saying because I know I am going to find out useful, interesting things. And often in dialogue the tension rachets up as well, which I also like.

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Wildflowers, Seasons in Writing, and Flash Moments

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. (I’m especially fond of the one I created below about the best lines, think the imagery works really well here).

All screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here and am looking forward to talking about flash fiction via Zoom to the Byre Writers on Saturday, 31st July.

The best lines conjure images

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I end the standard working week with a gentle post for Chandler’s Ford Today called Wildflowers. I am lucky to live near a nice recreation ground, where I exercise Lady, which has a stunning wildflower meadow as part of that. This post celebrates this year’s wildflower “blooming” and it is especially nice to do so as it has emerged late this year. Indeed, as you will see from my post, I had thought we weren’t going to have flowers out at all here this year.

Now the funny thing is the natural world does not inspire my writing at all. I know it can do for writers but not for me. What it does do is give me a refreshing break from my desk and it is that break which helps “fire” me up for writing on return to said desk.

Hope you enjoy the post – and the pictures. It is a joy to share pictures like this.

Wildflowers

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

I’m posting early for once as I have the great delight of returning to watch live theatre this evening. My local amateur theatre company are exceptionally good and I am looking forward to tonight’s entertainment so much.

Meanwhile, I discuss Seasons in Writing for my More than Writers blog spot this time. Slower seasons may be just what we need at times to recover from intensive work and/or to develop ideas that need more time to come to fruition. I do know, whatever season of writing I am in, I need the support and encouragement of other writers. They in turn will appreciate that support and encouragement from you.

Hope you enjoy the post.


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Got a bit of a soaking out with Lady and my better half this evening. Changeable weather again but Lady did get to play with her best buddie, the Ridgeback, again today so all is right with their world.

Favourite writing tips of mine include:-

1. Get the story out, edit later.

2. Worry about word count (especially for flash) only when you know you have got the story down and there will not be major changes.

3. Fire up your imagination by reading widely, in and out of your genre, and don’t forget the non-fiction. Ideas for stories can come from there.

4. Get the story out, put it aside, then edit it. You need to come back and read the story as a reader would to see where it works and where it could do with work! Only time away gives you the necessary distance.

5. Draft other stories while you’re resting others. I like to see this as a writing – resting – editing – submitting – writing virtuous circle. The idea being you will always have a story to draft and, when not doing that, you will have another one to edit and get ready for submission somewhere.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was a joy to watch The Chameleons perform last night for the first time since their pantomime in December 2019. I was talking about flash moments in stories yesterday, including those stories produced for the stage. There were several in last night’s performance and I hope to write about some of those in my review for Chandler’s Ford Today next week.

And talking of flash, I’m pleased to share my latest drabble from #FridayFlashFiction. This one is called Oddity and is my take on the Demon Barber of Fleet Street story (aka Sweeney Todd). Hope you enjoy. (And yes always go to a barber you know you can trust!).
Screenshot 2021-07-30 at 18-42-48 Oddity, by Allison Symes

Am off to the theatre this evening for the first time in over a year to see our excellent amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, perform once again. This is why I am posting early. I usually post at around 7.30 to 8 pm UK time. For an evening out, my posts were up by 5 pm! But it was worth it. The performances were great and I’ll talk more about what I went to see in my CFT post next week.

I like stories in whatever form they come in – books, audio, and for something like this getting to watch the stories being brought to life. And yes, flash can pop up here too. How? It will be those one liners here and there that strike a chord with me that perhaps are too easy to overlook. It will be those lines that resonate with me the most. I like to think of those as flash moments.

(And of course different people will get different things from the performances they go to watch so will have different flash moments. But maybe, just maybe I will get ideas for stories of my own from those flash moments. Even when that doesn’t happen, I still get to see an excellent performance and discover plays new to me so win-win!).

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I write mainly in the evenings listening to Classic FM. Does that put me off my stride for writing flash stories, blogs etc? Not a bit of it. I find I relax and when I relax, I write and write and write. You get the picture.

A useful way of working out who your characters are would be to decide what their favourite music would be and why. If your character loves, say, Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens above anything else, does that mean they themselves have a quirky nature given the music is quirky? (See my book trailer for FLTDBA above as I use Danse Macabre as the music here if you don’t know the track. I swear you can hear the quirkiness in it and it is why I chose this piece for this trailer. You might also remember the music from the old TV series, Jonathan Creek). Book trailers below.

Of course, you can use almost anything (and not just music) to work out who your character is but it is down to you to decide what you need to know before you write their stories up. I’ve found a bit of time spent working my characters out has saved me a great deal of time later on and I usually find depths to my characters as I explore their personalities more, which in turn adds depth to my story.

Fairytales with Bite – The (Magical) Arts

What role is there for the arts, as we know them, in your magical world? Is there a place for, say, portrait painting when a quick wave of the old wand could produce a stunning picture without any physical effort at all? Do your magical characters turn to “old-fashioned” ways of producing art as a means to unwind?

Are those who do create works of art, as we would understand the process, looked down on or up to because they use “manual” rather than magical ways to do these things?

Also, what role is there for music? Is music created magically? Or does your created world import music it likes from other places, including from Earth?

Do you have characters who prize the arts and those who despise them? What kind of conflicts could that produce in your stories?

For me, our world would be a much poorer place without the arts. That could apply to a fictional world too. (I don’t like dystopian works much, especially after the last year or so with the Covid pandemic hitting us all so hard, but art would be looked down on in such settings at best I feel and that’s no coincidence. A world without art in some shape or form would always be pretty bleak to me).

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This World and Others – Fiction or Fact in Your World

Following on from my Fairytales with Bite post, what emphasis does your created world put on fiction and fact? Is one more heavily weighted than the other?

If, say, your world despises fiction (and the arts) and focuses on plain facts (the sciences, engineering etc as we would know them), what would happen if their “knowledge” is challenged by the discovery of something new? Or if a long cherished theory was debunked? Or if if was proven the world of the arts had health benefits science could not produce? Would your created world suppress these because of its disapproval of the arts rather than accept they got it wrong and there was place for fact and fiction?

There could be interesting character development here. If say Character A was a scientist open to new ideas, how would they react when Character B, their boss, who was anything but open, suppressed knowledge? Would Character A leak the knowledge somehow? What would the consequences be if they did?

If Character A was open to the arts but their boss wasn’t, again what would the consequences be if Character A was caught going to an exhibition or a concert?

Interesting story ideas to explore here I think.

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Genres, Opening Lines, and Publication News

https://morethanwriters.blogspot.com/2021/06/genres-by-allison-symes.htmlImage Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope all is well with you. Glad to share two new stories this time – one from Friday Flash Fiction and another from my Youtube channel. Hope you enjoy. Also have publication news from CafeLit and an update about my contribution to Wendy H Jones’ book on Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing so plenty going on. (Images of me signing my contract for the latter were taken by Adrian Symes).

AE - July 2021 - Whether you love or loathe the characters, they should make you feel something


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

Delighted to share my blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers. I talk about Genres this month and define a few (having fun doing so too!). I chat about why I love ghost stories where the ghost is not the villain, give you pointers regarding major things to look out for in a fantasy novel, and ask you what are your favourite genres and why amongst other things.

So what are your favourite genres and why? Fairytales/fantasy are it for me though I do love crime and historical fiction as well. Is there a book that took you by surprise as to how good or bad it was? For me, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey surprised me in a good way and changed my view about Richard III.

I don’t have any time for the snobbery that can prevail around genre fiction. A good book is a good book and if it is accessible to more people because it is in a certain genre, so be it.

You sometimes have days when there is lots to announce. Today is one of mine!

1. I’ve seen the book cover for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing by Wendy H. Jones where I am contributing a chapter on flash fiction and short story writing. Can’t reveal the cover yet. Looking forward to doing so. It looks great. Trust me on that!

2. Delighted to say From Light to Dark and Back Again is now up on the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop. Oh and the great thing about the bookshop is there are a variety of places to buy from too. See link for more.

3. There will be some fabulous author interviews to come on Chandler’s Ford Today, starting this very Friday, 2nd July, with part 1 of my chat with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews. (I always learn a lot from reading/listening to author interviews which is why I love having writers on CFT).

4. I’ll be on the More than Writers blog spot tomorrow (for the Association of Christian Writers) with a humorous piece about Genres. Looking forward to sharing the link for that tomorrow. See above!

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Hope you have had a nice Sunday. It was lovely having family over in the garden yesterday (and what change in the weather today – it’s chucking it down as I type this!).

I’ll be sharing the first part of a fabulous interview with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews, later this week on Chandler’s Ford Today. Looking forward to sharing that. I always learn so much from author interviews and it is a pleasure to be doing them.

I’m thrilled that so many wonderful comments are coming in on my latest #FridayFlashFiction story, Restless. You can check it out at https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/restless-by-allison-symes

Have sent another story in for them and I’m delighted to say I’ll be having another story up on CafeLit before too long as well. So it has been quite a productive weekend.

Hope you have a good week! (I also hope the weather improves somewhat but we shall see).

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Today (26th June) would have been my Dad’s 84th birthday. It’s a strange day in many ways, as you can imagine. I was pleased he got to see my debut published book, From Light to Dark and Back Again, as my late mum only got to see my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing). There is a kind of symmetry to that I think.

I occasionally use a character’s memories in my flash tales. The obvious two are The Pink Rose in Tripping the Flash Fantastic and They Don’t Understand in my debut collection.

Flash fiction can be a great vehicle for character studies like these precisely because they work best when kept short. The impact on a reader is greater too because of the brevity. What matters is getting across what is the important thing about the character you are writing about. What is it about them that readers have to know?

(Oh and on a very happy note, I’ve booked my train tickets for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to catch up with people there).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do you know your flash fiction or short story character “works”? When they intrigue you enough to write their stories up is the answer that works for me. As I outline my character and discover more things about them, if they grip me at that point, they should do so for a reader as well so away I go.

Also just a quick reminder I share writing tips and exclusive flash stories over at my author newsletter which I issue monthly. The next one is out on 1st July so if you’d like to sign up for this do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you’ll find the relevant sign up form. You’ll receive a welcome email initially with a link to a free pdf download where I chat about flash and share exclusive stories there. (And a big thank you to those who have signed up already – it is great to have you aboard).

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Pleased to share my latest story video here. Hope you enjoy Borrowing.

 

27th June
Delighted to say I’ll be having a flash piece, written as a result of a writing exercise I set for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group, up on CafeLit on 5th July. That is what I call a result and I look forward to sharing it then.

I love opening lines as an exercise. There are usually at least two or three directions in which to take them too. (That makes me feel like a kid with the keys to the chocolate factory!). I suppose the reason I love them so much is I know I am “away” once I’ve got that line down, and knowing who my character is and what they’re capable of, means I’ve got the opening line and a structure in place. I find that so useful.

Funnily enough it’s not a question of then joining the dots. I still have to show my character developing and changing but my structure means the change is reasonable for the character and so will make sense to a reader.

I can still wrongfoot a reader (and often do) but if you then went back over the story you would find the clues were there to indicate the wrong-footing was possible given what you are shown of the character. (I love this when other authors achieve this with me whether it is a short story or a novel. It keeps me on my toes and I have learned so much about how to place things in a story to achieve this).

Have managed to get another flash pieces “off” this weekend – another one to #FridayFlashFiction. I am having so much fun writing the drabbles (100 worders) again as those are what drew me into flash fiction writing in the first place.


One idea for a story is to take a date that is special to you and make it special for your character. The reasons could be the same or the polar opposite. Either way you could write an interesting character study out of this.

Dates mean something for a reason and, especially if you don’t choose the well known ones such as Christmas or Mother’s/Father’s Day, you could show us a character with a unique take on life due to the reason they cherish the date you’ve picked for them.

Also, are there dates your characters would be keen to avoid and what would happen if they can’t get out of whatever is happening on the date in question? There’s potential for comedy and tragedy there – up to you which direction you take it.

But having a special date will reveal something of your character to you as the writer. If that appeals, it will appeal to a reader also. (Also there would be broad sympathy given most of us have dates that mean something to use and not to others).

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Good Story Ending For You?

Story endings don’t have to be happy ones. For some tales, a happy ending would be inappropriate. But what would you class as a “good” story ending?

For me the ending has to be appropriate for the kind of tale being told and for the character.

It was clear in A Christmas Carol, for instance, that Scrooge would have to change. It was a question there of how it would be done. Had Scrooge not changed, there would have been no point in the visitations of the ghosts and there would have been no story.

So I am looking for change to have happened by the end of the story. Being a fairly positive person, I like these changes to be as upbeat as possible. Failing that, I’ll be happy with a kind of “yes, that’s appropriate for this character”.

What you don’t want is a feeling of disappointment that the story hasn’t been closed off properly. There should be no loose ends. The character should have learned something and moved on from the starting point of the story. If that learning something and moving on is something I can identify with, then that makes it an even better ending for me.

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Summer (finally!), The Author Voice, and Mom’s Favorite Reads

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Summer weather now finally here in the UK and I have publication news too – for non-fiction this time and something I hope will be now be a new “regular” for me, Mom’s Favorite Reads. Screenshot of cover image of MFR taken by me, Allison Symes, as was snippet of my piece on flash fiction.

BookBrushImage-2021-6-1-19-5015

Facebook – General

Another glorious day. For once the swimming pool water felt refreshing rather than like a blast from the icy North. (Am sure it is a ploy to make you start swimming quickly and to be fair it is an effective ploy!).

Sent out author newsletter today. Hope those of you who have signed up to it enjoy it. I love putting them together.

Delighted to say I am now in Mom’s Favourite Reads and this time I have a feature article about flash fiction (Flash Fiction and Sharks) in there along with a flash story called Dressed to Kill. Looking forward to contributing more to Mom’s Favourite Reads in due course.

It has been a gloriously sunny and warm Bank Holiday Monday in my part of the world today. This is more like it!

Looking forward to taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival later this year. (Also lovely that many of my writer pals are also going – it will be a blast!). More details as and when.

Also looking forward to giving another Zoom talk on flash fiction at the end of July. Can’t wait to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August too. So a promising summer and autumn lies ahead.

Now I’ve mentioned before that when I have odd pockets of time, I will jot down one or two liners which I will then write up into flash or short stories. Sometimes the ideas I jot down can become blog posts for Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, or More Than Writers. (From next month, I’ll be jotting down regularly ideas for articles for Mom’s Favorite Reads too).

It really does pay to to do this. I was feeling especially tired yesterday, the old imaginative tank was definitely running on low, so I went back over a couple of old ideas and wrote them up. One is a flash story which has become a story video (see my book page at https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes for the link to this – going up shortly after I post this!). Also see further down!

The other story has become a 100-word story I submitted to #FridayFlashFiction. (And I can let you know on Friday whether or not they took it!). I ended up finishing my writing session feeling considerably more cheerful than when I began it because I had something I could work with immediately and so off I went.

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Hope you have had a good Sunday. Lovely to see some “proper” May weather – nice sunshine, decent temperatures etc. Lady relished it when having her usual playtime in the park.

I guess I should’ve known the weather would perk up because my Chandler’s Ford Today post for later this week is called Summer Here, Maybe? There really is a Murphy’s Law for Writers!

On the plus side I do share some good news that has lately come to my attention in this post, discuss holiday reading, and anticipate returning to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later this year.

Mind you, I could easily have written 1000 words on the vagaries of the recent weather!

New newsletter from me out on Tuesday (1st June) so if you want to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I’ve been having great fun with Book Brush recently for a lot of my blog work as it has been great creating images I can use with the captions already in them, captions I invent. The images are still from those marvellous people at Pixabay but prior to discovering Book Brush, I had to add captions in under the image itself which, for me, was not as clear. And, of course, I’m using the same program to create my short story videos – all good fun. (Talking of which I will be sharing two exclusive short story videos in my newsletter on 1st June).

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

I look at why it matters we hear from your characters, and not from you the writer, in my turn on the ACW blog, More Than Writers, this month. When we tell stories, we are showing readers what happens to our “people”. It is “their” story. We just create their roles for them. So let them speak, act, think etc. It is the characters that grip readers, the characters who keep people reading.

Now to ensure I get my characters to do the talking and acting, rather than have my author voice butting in, I outline those people first. I use a simple template so I know enough about my characters before I start writing them up.

If they don’t grip me at that stage by showing me, yes, these characters could do this, do that, really impact a reader this way, then I don’t write those characters up. If they don’t engage with me, they won’t for anyone else. I share a simple template I use a lot to help me get my characters “fit for purpose”. Hope you find this useful.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic is on offer at Amazon. See link for more info.

Also sharing the link for Mom’s Favorite Reads as I have an article on flash fiction and my story Dressed to Kill in there. Will be writing more for MFR in due course.

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Delighted to share my latest story video on Youtube – Mirror, Mirror On The Wall. (Yes, I do love using fairytales and nursery rhymes for story ideas. They can make great themes – and I’ll be talking about finding themes for Chandler’s Ford Today in a couple of weeks’ time). Hope you enjoy!

 

If you like inventing characters, flash fiction is for you. It has always been my favourite aspect to creating stories so this is a win-win situation for me. My favourite kind of character is the quirky type (and my heroine, Mary, from my story Assumptions which is on #FridayFlashFiction, is a good example. Let’s just say nobody is going to con or otherwise hoodwink my older heroines. I once came across the term CroneLit for heroines of a certain age and upwards. I like that).

And flash works brilliantly for those “one-off” situations which you couldn’t justify stretching to a full length short story (1500 words + generally). It also works well for quirky characters. Now to get on and invent some more!

 

Thanks for a great response to my story, Assumptions, on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday. Also thanks for the fabulous response to my contract news the other day. Am looking forward to writing up my chapter on flash fiction in due course.

Now I remain convinced one of the things that has helped flash take off so well in the last few years is technology and a change in reading habits. More of us are reading on screen (and I do so whenever print books are a little less convenient such as if I’m away somewhere – there are only so many books you can pack in a case and the Kindle does get around that issue!).

And something that is easy to read on screen is ideal – flash is perfect for that of course. It is also great to share on social media as a way of entertaining (hopefully!) your readers. It is great here as an advert for your writing work overall and to give something of value to your followers.

Less is more really could be the anthem for all flash fiction writers!

Goodreads Author Blog – What Puts You Off Reading a Book?

I know this is a bit of an odd question for a book blog spot but I think it a valid one. So is there anything which would put you off reading a book?

For me, hype tends to do it. I want to decide for myself what to read and I am always suspicious when a book is hyped. Lots of good reviews is another matter. People say what they think, I do so myself, and that’s fine. It’s when you get the “you’ve got to read this – everyone else is reading it” that tends to make me pause and think “well not everyone”. I don’t want to be told what to read while I am always happy with recommendations.

I still haven’t read Fifty Shades. Really not my style of book. The hype for it wasn’t going to make me change my mind either (if anything, it made me more determined not to do so).

I have got around to reading The Thursday Murder Club and loved that. I had word of mouth recommendations on this one (always the best kind to get) plus I checked out the reviews. (I still think the book was let down by poor proofreading though, always a disappointment and even more so when a big publisher is guilty of it).

So what would put you off reading a book? Is it a question that you know the genres you like and you stick with those no matter what? Comments welcome!

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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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