Festival News, Pockets of Time, and an Online Bookshop

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good few days since the last post. This time, I share a new story video and exciting Festival news for later in the year. The pic below is a big clue!

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 19-44-05 Authors events


Facebook – General

Had a wonderful swim this afternoon. Was able to have a longer session in the pool as we don’t have to pre-book a session any more. Loved that and it was the perfect sunny day to be in the water for a bit. (I suspect Lady would have liked to have joined me. Unlike my other collies, she isn’t fazed by water, but even if it was allowed… well let’s just say she’d cause chaos swimming up to everyone else in the pool to say hello!).

Am looking forward to sharing Part 1 of a fabulous chat with #MaressaMortimer on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

My train tickets arrived today for the first in-person event the Association of Christian Writers have held for well over a year. This will be in October and I am looking forward to seeing so many friends again. Plus in November, as I mentioned the other day, I’m off to take part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival so plenty going on. And I strongly suspect there will be a future CFT post about that Festival from yours truly in due course!

What is the most difficult aspect of storywriting? For me, it is getting started which is why I have to have an outline of some sort to give me the kickstart that I need to get going.

Intrigue the reader
Pleased with work done over the weekend. Managed to get a story out for Friday Flash Fiction. The lovely thing with that is it won’t be long before I know whether it’s on site or not! Have also created a new story video which I’ll share over on my book page on FB shortly. Am drafting future blogs and presentation material for events later in the year. Talking of which…

I’m delighted to share the screenshot below. I’m one of the authors taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival in November. More details to come nearer the time. Looking forward to this immensely. It will also be a joy because other author friends of mine are taking part in this and it will be lovely to see them in person too.

On a side note, I am going to get use out of my railcard this year! I renewed it just ahead of the lockdowns last year. Hmm…now that was a waste of time. It won’t be this year!

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 19-44-05 Authors events

 

The writing journey is not meant to be static


It has been a lovely sunny Sunday here in Hampshire today. Much appreciated by Lady and I.

This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post is the first part of a splendid interview with indie author, #MaressaMortimer. Maressa and I know each other thanks to the Association of Christian Writers. Maressa is the only person I know who has published a book by accident, yes really! For more details on that and for wonderful insights into life as an indie author, do check out the post later this week. Link will go up on Friday, part 2 on the following Friday.

A good use of small pockets of time is to draft blog posts. When I’m not brainstorming for ideas for stories, titles etc., I will start drafting blogs for a general audience as I know I will get to use these later on. I can then choose which market I will use them for. So never despair at having only ten minutes to write on any one day, you can still write valuable things in that time.

I’ve drafted the opening paragraphs to future blog posts, a complete flash story etc in pockets of time like that. And by having just the opening paragraphs of a blog there already, when I do have more time to get back to it, I find I “hit the ground running” with the rest of the text for that blog. Having something there to start me off encourages further creativity I find. I guess it is because it is not an entirely cold start and I have found it is worth doing.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Mine has ranged from going to an ACW Committee Meeting via Zoom to walking the dog to mowing the lawn and now to writing. A right old mix!

Music can trigger memories of stories. I think of that as I enjoyed listening to the Classic FM TV theme countdown on Bank Holiday Monday and many favourite memories came back – Poirot, Morse, Thunderbirds, Eye Level (Van de Valk theme), Black Beauty, Jonathan Creek (which uses Danse Macabre appropriately as its theme) – all thanks to the themes used for the shows.

Thinking of your characters, could you name their favourite TV theme? Why would they choose it? What does that choice say about them? For many of my quirky characters, quirky music such as Danse Macabre and Gershwin’s Walking the Dog would suit very well. Mind you, I think they suit me quite well too! Oh and Lady loves Walking the Dog too… can’t imagine why.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As well as writing flash, I love reading it – and if you want a place to check out various collections, may I recommend you pop over to the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop.

The Chapeltown Books collections stand out thanks to being square with distinctive pictures in the middle of their “cover frame”. You will also find the short story anthologies on here too – and there are a range of options for buying too. It doesn’t just have to be through You Know Who.


Screenshot 2021-09-07 at 21-05-25 The Bridgetown Café Bookshop

Story time once again (and always a nice way to start a week I think). Hope you enjoy Wordsearch.


I’ve sometimes used objects in my opening line to a flash piece. It flags up immediately to the reader this object is important and it is often a case then of finding out why that object is important. I use boots being missing as an opening hook in my Shoplifting from From Light to Dark and Back Again. For Getting It Right I used a shiny red apple which should be an immediate flag to any lover of fairytales!

And there is such a thing as a random object generator if you need somewhere to start. The one that came up on my search engine allowed you to choose how many objects to generate so you could use all you choose or just pick the one or two you like best.

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Am looking forward to drafting more flash stories tomorrow (I often use Sundays for this) ready for submission to Friday Flash Fiction and for use on my YouTube channel in due course. All great fun to do. And if you want to check out my YouTube videos, you can do so here. More subscribers always welcome.

The nice thing about preparing the story videos is I have to think about what would work well visually. Sometimes I can’t find an appropriate video for the story I want to share so I think laterally around my character and/or setting and/or theme and I can usually find something that way.

Goodreads Author Blog – How To Books

Do you like how to books? I love the creative writing ones and have found them useful. My overall favourite is On Writing by Stephen King though I also love How Not to Write A Novel which is funny as well.

What I’m looking for in books like these is information written in a down to earth style. I don’t want jargon or complicated theories. A “kind of” how to book is The Seven Basic Plots which is a huge book but you learn so much from the way the author outlines these plots and you can see for yourself how so many films and books have used these time and again. (With good cause – a great story on a theme which is timeless is always going to work).

I’ve also found things like Scrivener for Dummies useful. A good how to book always has a decent cross-referenced index. I appreciate the art of the indexer far more now. I have read a few non-fiction books without such a thing and you do feel the lack. And every writer needs a source of advice and practical tips to help them along their writing way. I know I’ve appreciated the useful tips and hints I’ve picked up by reading a good quality how to book.

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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

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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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Back to Earth after Swanwick

Image Credits:-

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

Book cover images from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Had a fab time at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (and a huge thanks to Fiona Park for the image of me signing books there recently), but also glad to be back home and at the old writing desk once again. (Lady went bananas on my return and in such a sweet way!). Image below taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

Have started work on my next author newsletter (to go out on 1st September – to sign up for this just head over to my website – landing page – at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com). I share news, tips, exclusive stories etc here. I hope later that some of those stories will make it into future flash collections but newsletter readers get “first dibs” on reading these.

Am pleased to say most of my slots for Chandler’s Ford Today are full until towards the end of next month and that’s always a good sign. Plenty of fantastic interviews to come and I will be sharing Part 2 of Writing Humour with Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh this coming week. Link up on Friday.

I will also be looking back at a wonderful week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for CFT soon too. (It’s a good way to celebrate the fact Swanwick happened at all and gives me a chance to share some of the benefits of going to it).

Writing Tip Time: One writing tip that has always stood me in good stead is to read work out loud, especially dialogue. What looks good on the page or screen does not always read well. If you stumble on something, your readers will too. I’ve made many an amendment to a story due to that alone. It is worth the time. That extra polishing up can make all the difference to whether a story is accepted or not.


Back to the usual writing week after a fab week at Swanwick. I’ll be drafting blogs later this evening but since coming home I have submitted a flash fiction piece for #FridayFlashFiction and I will be sharing a YouTube video of mine over on my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly.  See further down for the video. (I wrote the story for that video yesterday).

I like to have a good balance of non-fiction and fiction achieved over the course of a week and as long as I manage that, which I normally do, I’m happy. I am also carrying out editing work at the moment which is always interesting.

Funny day with the weather today. Think it’s still trying to make up its mind whether it’s summer or not…

I’ve mentioned before I sometimes use random word generators (nouns, adjectives, questions, numbers even) to trigger story ideas but another way to use them is simply to come up with say half a dozen words and ensure they are somewhere in your tale.

I tend to use the generators to trigger themes and/or title ideas, but the “have to use the words somewhere in the story” ploy is one I need to do more often. I’ve always had fun with this when doing these in the past. So I think it pays every now and then to look at prompt types you used to use and perhaps don’t write to so often now and have a creative trip down Memory Lane and revisit these.


Hope you have had a good Sunday. I know every day this week I’ll be thinking back to what I was doing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this day last week! Swanwick gets to you like that but it is in a lovely way.

Just a quick heads up to say my debut flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again – the paperback – is currently on offer at Amazon. (Sounds a bit like a film franchise, you know the kind of thing, when I put it like that. I promise not to name my eventual third collection XXX – This Time It’s Personal!).

Looking ahead this week, Part 2 of a fabulous interview with #FranHill and #RuthLeigh will be on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Have blogs to put up and schedule too and there is always flash fiction to work on. I drafted some while at Swanwick and I need to give some thought as to where I’ll submit those. I have ideas for both. I have the nice task of deciding which I like best. And I am working on workshop material ready for events later in the year. I’m looking forward to sharing details nearer the time.

Learning to plan out what I write when has been a useful tip I have made good use of over the years and it is coming into its own for me now.

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Had a lovely afternoon and evening with family members I’ve not seen for months. Today was the first time in so long that we could have a proper chat and Lady was besides herself with excitement. She loves visitors. She thinks they all come to see her of course. (Oh and she did go bonkers on seeing Mum had returned from Swanwick yesterday. Naturally Lady had to make sure Mum really was back by giving big cuddles to said Mum. Mum did not mind in the slightest!).

Have plenty of blogs and stories to get on with but I will resume my usual writing routine from tomorrow. I always find I need a little bit of “come back to earth” time after Swanwick. Am also looking forward to reading the books I brought back with me though I have already made a start on those. One of my great “home treasures” are my book shelves, packed with signed books by writer pals.

Many thanks for the comments in on my It’s an Ill Wind (up on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday). That was lovely to come home to!

Screenshot 2021-08-13 at 19-12-37 It's an Ill Wind, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Alliteration Always Advantageous – In titles for flash stories or collections? Not necessarily. (There’s some more alliteration for you!).

I am wary of anything that might come across as gimmicky so I use alliteration sparingly. It can work well but I think as something different to the overall “mix” in a collection. I also want to keep titles open to interpretation and/or mood so trying to dream up something with alliteration can mean I restrict myself unnecessarily here. You wouldn’t want a whole book of alliterative titles. I could see that becoming boring.

As with the stories themselves, your titles should have an interesting hook to them. I’ve used random generators (especially the question one) to come up with ideas for titles I can use directly or adapt. Often changing one word makes all the difference. And I want my titles to have impact. So anything gimmicky could reduce that impact.

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16th August
Pleased to share my latest YouTube video based on a story I wrote yesterday. Hope you enjoy Knowing the Basics though I am glad I do not have Sandra’s attitude to flying. I am even more glad pilots don’t have Sandra’s attitude. See the video for why!


I mix up the kind of prompts I use to produce flash fiction. I will often start with my favourite, an opening line, but have worked to a closing line. I like picture prompts too and random words (either to get into the story somewhere or to use as a title and/or theme) also work well for me.

Stories from viewpoints of alternative characters got me into print in the first place with my A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing) but are great fun to do. You do have to put considerable thought into which character you will use for this and why you have picked them.

On switching to Scrivener, I was delighted to discover it comes with character and setting templates in the short story format. I just adjust these to my own use as I don’t need all of the pre-set information given. But it makes a great starting point and thinking about your story before you write it works well for me.

I like to know I have got tracks to follow before getting on with the story. I guess it’s a reassurance to me I have got something to work up into a story in the first place.

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I was glad to take part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic night again. I chose two stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again (Serving Up a Treat and Calling the Doctor). From Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I chose Judgement Day. See book trailer below for Calling the Doctor. I’ve always been proud of this one – I change the mood of the story with the very last word. Great fun to do.

You have a maximum of five minutes to read (and it is always better to come in a little under that time if possible) and the joy of flash here is you can easily do that with one longer piece or a couple of shorter ones.

It does pay to read your stories out loud and/or record yourself reading them and playing them back. I’ve found dialogue I think looks okay on the paper does not necessarily read well and if you trip over something, your reader will too. At least with flash this does not take long and it is a good thing to hear how your story comes across as that is how your reader will take it in.


Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events and Paperbacks

I’ve just come back from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which has been my first live book and writing related event for well over a year. (It was fantastic catching up with old friends again and the array of courses and workshops was as amazing as ever).

Swanwick has its own Book Room for the duration of the school and it was lovely being able to put my two flash fiction collections in there and pick up books written by friends. (Naturally I got them to sign them during Swanwick week and it is always a thrill to be asked by others to sign your own books).

Is the paperback alive and well? They certainly went down well at the Swanwick Book Room! I think the paperback is still relevant as a format. After all, you can’t exactly put a Kindle out on a table for a book event! Nor can the writer be asked to sign a Kindle (well, I’m not aware of any way of doing this anyway).

From the writer’s viewpoint, paperbacks are relatively easy to transport to an event (note I only say relatively as it does depend on the size. Thankfully I am not writing a three volume epic so that helps a lot!). But people do still like physical books and I think it is healthy to have a wide range of formats as not one size suits all.

When I’m away I do take my Kindle to save luggage space but I would never want to be without physical books. There is something about the texture and feel of them too (and I still love that new book “smell”). And long may that continue!

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Talks, Stories, Mom’s Favorite Reads, and Swanwick

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

It has been an interesting few days what with my talk on flash fiction going down well with Byre Writers, some lovely comments on my writing and that talk on Twitter, and looking ahead to seeing friends I haven’t seen in person for two years at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Talking of Swanwick, the image of me reading at the Open Prose Mic Night was taken by the lovely Penny Blackburn. The side image of me reading was taken by the equally lovely Geoff Parkes. All other Swanwick images were taken by me.

I plan to post as normal next week from Swanwick if I can but times are likely to be different. (Looking forward to having these two books in the Swanwick Book Room. Last time I went I only had From Light to Dark and Back Again out).

Framed Flash Collections

Facebook – General

Stories – I can’t imagine my life without them. I don’t care if they’re in written form, audio, film, or what have you, though I love them all. What I want is a good story well told which keeps me engrossed until those magic words The End. And for me that means being gripped by the characters and having to find out what happens to them.

The nice thing is stories come in all manner of styles and word counts. It has been a joy to discover flash fiction as a format (and especially since I’ve been published in it!). Styles and fashions in storytelling may come and go but the basic premise of having a story so good you have to finish reading it remains.

I look at some of the older novels I have on my shelves and the levels of description in them would almost certainly go above a flash fiction word count but most of these were written in pre-television and film days when most people, for example, would not have known what London looked like so did need a description to help them get their bearings in the story they were about to read.

The advantage we have as writers now is not having to do that. We can give a reader the salient details they have to know and they can fill in the rest themselves. Most will have an idea of what London looks like (and it is also easy enough to look things up now. Google Maps anyone?!). So we can focus on the things that will drive the story on (and our pace also increases as a result of that. Particularly useful for short form fiction writing of course).

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Hope you have had a good start to the working week. (So looking forward to being at Swanwick next week!). Lovely to see Lady play with her pals this morning. Lady now happily curled up on sofa, snoozing.

Just to say the August 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out and I have a piece in there about Side Benefits of Writing. See link below for more. Have already submitted a piece for the next issue. It is great fun to write for MFR.
Hope to be sharing further publication news later this month too. Watch this space as they say.

Oh and to flag up Writing Magazine now have a Grand Flash Prize. I hope to have a crack at that one. (First prize is £1000, second prize is £250 and there are other prizes too – definitely worth a go).


Sorry I realised after it was too late yesterday I had sent out my author newsletter a day early. Oops! Mind you, I am finding it hard to believe it is August, given the recent bizarre weather. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

On the plus side, this time next week I should be enjoying my first full day at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Can’t wait for that. Am hoping for good weather (and am looking forward to being out and about on the train again too).

A huge thank you to #JuliaPattison and, separately, #PeterMarshall for your wonderfully encouraging comments respectively about flash fiction and the Byre Writers workshop I ran yesterday. Feedback like this is always welcome but especially so when it comes out of the blue.

Also a huge thank you to the lovely people at The Chameleon Theatre Group for arranging access for me to pictures from their recent comeback production. I will be reviewing their show next week for Chandler’s Ford Today but as well as putting on great shows, The Chameleons take some great pictures too. And I hope The Chameleons have got off to a good start with their charity fundraising for this year which will be for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance Service.

Last but not least, thank you also for the great response to my recent CFT post about Wildflowers. It seems to have struck a chord with people but then maybe we all need to take time out to appreciate the natural world more often, especially after the last very trying year or so.


It was a great joy to talk about flash fiction writing to Byre Writers this morning. Many thanks to #KathrynHolme and to all who came to the talk via the wonders of Zoom for making me so welcome. It was great fun.

One of the nice things about flash fiction writing is it is easy to demonstrate and I usually read out a couple of my published works at talks like this to show what flash can do and be. I like to choose stories with contrasting moods to show this. And, while flash is short, its impact is all the greater on a reader because of that. A well-told flash story can “hit the reader in the guts” very quickly indeed!

I like to mix up whether I produce stories to make readers laugh, shudder, or what have you. I like a nice mix of moods in the stories that I read so I like to reflect that in what I write.

In further news, my author newsletter went out earlier today. If you’d like to sign up for this, please head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

And a week from now I should be at the writing highlight of my year – the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I plan to put up my FB posts as normal but times will differ and I hope to write up a review of this year’s school for Chandler’s Ford Today later on in the summer to give a flavour of what goes on. What am I looking forward to most? Easy-peasy. Meeting up with friends in person whom I have not seen for two years! Can’t wait.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Amongst the many things I’m looking forward to at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School is the Open Prose Mic Night. I’ve taken part in that a couple of times and hope to do so again. Flash fiction works wonderfully for this as, by its nature, it’s difficult to go on for too long (which is the besetting sin of any Open Prose Mic Night!).

And it is a joy to listen to the other participants. It is wonderful to be read to – doesn’t happen often enough for my liking – and the stories they come up with are amazing. I see that very much as an encouragement and Prose Nights are also a good way to test out material and get used to reading to an audience. That in turn is useful practice for book signings hopefully later on.

 

My latest YouTube video is called Not Taking Advice. It follows what can happen when someone doesn’t! Hope you enjoy it.

One of the joys of talking about flash fiction is it is very easy to demonstrate what it is by reading some examples. I did this yesterday for Byre Writers and deliberately mixed up the moods of the stories I read out to show just what flash can do and be.

Another nice thing about submitting regular work for #FridayFlashFiction is I get to read the other stories on there and can genuinely consider this market research! Market research in terms of seeing what other flash authors are doing, the kinds of stories the website likes and so on. That kind of research is never wasted. Best of all, it is great fun.

Oh and talking about flash fiction writing, the latest edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out. I talk about the side benefits of writing in this issue. The theme I set for this issue for flash stories was coming out of your shell.

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Many thanks to the lovely people at Byre Writers for inviting me to talk to them about flash fiction writing this morning. It is always a joy to talk about flash. I shared some ways “in” to creating a flash story and the advantages of flash fiction writing. Even if you mainly write something else, there are still benefits to be had from flash writing.

Am looking forward to taking two books to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School’s Book Room next week. When I last went, I only had From Light to Dark and Back Again out. It will be really nice to see Tripping the Flash Fantastic in the Book Room this time as well. (I am also hoping to see some other books in there by Chapeltown writers).

Glad my Oddity, the latest tale on #FridayFlashFiction, is going down well. The feedback is much appreciated. And if you want to find out what flash fiction is out there, do check the website out. You’ll have a good read as well as get a good “feel” for the kind of stories you can produce for flash.


Screenshot 2021-07-30 at 18-42-48 Oddity, by Allison Symes

Goodreads Author Blog – What Do You Want To See in Your Favourite Books?

What I want to see in my favourite books are characters I can root for. Even when they’re villainous, I want to understand what drives them to be the way they are. Nobody says you have to like characters but you do need to be able to see where they’re coming from.

Stories can reflect on us. Unrealistic characters will not draw people in to read their stories. Yet a character you can understand, no matter how bizarre they and/or their setting might be, will draw people in to find out more.

I like crisp dialogue which gives me enough information to work some things out for myself. I like enough description so I can picture the scene but I don’t want too much of that. Again, I want there to be some gaps I can fill in for myself.

Above all, I want the “have got to keep reading to find out what happens next” to be there throughout the whole book or story. No dull bits. Life is too short for that.

And at the end of the story or book, I want to feel like I’ve been taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions but for that to be a journey I would happily take again because I loved the story and book.

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Favourite Characters and Misunderstandings

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.

Looking forward to giving a talk on flash fiction to Byre Writers later this week. Always good to share the joys of writing and reading flash fiction.

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Facebook – General

Hope your Tuesday has gone well. Glad to be swimming this afternoon. Refreshing and it is the only sport I do with any reasonable proficiency. I don’t use the time in the pool to think out stories or articles funnily enough. Again, as with being out and about in the natural world, it is the break away from the desk that helps the most. (Lady still doesn’t understand why she can’t go with me. She would cause chaos – no chance at all of her keeping to the proper lane!).

I’m a bit later at my desk tonight for various reasons (one of those days for a start!) but what matters is getting there at all and making the most of whatever writing time I have. I won’t be writing so much this Thursday for example as I will be back at our local Ritchie Hall watching The Chameleons in their come back production after the pandemic. Will be so good to see them back (and what with singing in church again on Sunday, it does seem some normality has returned).

But whether I have a long writing session or a short one, I aim to have something done by the end of said session I can either develop further when I have more time or I have flash stories ready for editing later.

I’ve learned to appreciate that if I only have ten minutes to write, say, then I will make the most of those ten minutes.

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Hope you have had a great start to the week. Lady did as she got to see and play with her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Both dogs were so excited to see each other. Always nice to see that!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is going to be a bit different. I am celebrating the glorious wildflower meadow in our local park where the dogs play. It is a wonderful sight. The funny thing is the natural world in and of itself does not inspire my writing. What it does do is give me a much needed break so I can come back to my stories raring to go. Link up on Friday and I share some great pictures too.

Looking ahead a bit, I am relishing sharing a two part interview with two of the funniest writers I know – #FranHill and #RuthLeigh (and it is so appropriate I use a hashtag for Ruth as the interviews will make clear!). That’s coming in August and I am so looking forward to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, the first they have been able to put on since the pandemic began. That will go up in the first week of August, just before I head off to catch up with writing pals at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School after a two year gap. It will be so lovely to see people again (and not just their top halves thanks to Zoom!).

The working of the eye is amazing
Today has been lovely. I got to sing in church for the first time since March 2020 (and yes, I sang through a mask). It was wonderful. Really enjoyed that. Lovely to meet up with other congregation members, some of whom I haven’t seen since the first lockdown (as not everyone is into Zoom etc).

Had a lovely chat with Swanwick friends last night over Zoom. The next time I speak to one of them will be at Swanwick and that is a fabulous thought. So missed that and my writing chums there last year.

More comments coming in on Missing, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Thanks, everyone, the feedback is useful and appreciated.

Am busy getting my latest author newsletter ready to go out on 1st August so if you would like exclusive stories, news, hints and tips etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

Busy week ahead. Am looking forward to talking to Byre Writers via Zoom on Saturday morning about flash fiction.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Cooler today after last night’s thunderstorm.

Glad to share the link to my latest piece for Mom’s Favorite Reads. I talk about Patience in Flash Fiction Writing this time. I look at patience in characters (or the lack of it) and also at accepting the need it takes time and patience to hone your craft.

For example, I like to have a rough template to work to when writing a story and while that takes time (and patience) to begin with to get it set up so I know where I am going with my tale, I have found it saves me a lot more time later on. I also don’t go off at interesting tangents which are unhelpful to the story I am writing. (I would only have to cut these out later precisely because they don’t help the story along).

I also share my flash fiction story on the theme. Hope you enjoy and don’t forget the magazine is FREE to download from Amazon.

Screenshot 2021-07-10 at 16-53-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021 eBook Publishing, Goylake, Howe, Hannah , Smith,[...]Screenshot 2021-07-01 at 20-08-25 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the respond to my latest story video, Misunderstandings, yesterday. See link below. These are great fun to write. I also share exclusive videos on my author newsletter (the next is due out on 1st August), so if you would like to sign up for that, please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I like to write a variety of flash fiction lengths as (a) this keeps things interesting for me and (b) the story length has to be right for the character I’m writing. If they need more room to show me their story, that is what they get and that is when I tend to write the 750 to 1000 word flashes. Most of mine come in at between 100 and 600 and that’s fine too.

Time for another Youtube video. My latest story video is called Misunderstandings and looks at what might happen when a slightly absent-minded fairy comes across someone with peculiarly shaped teeth. Hope you enjoy it.

I’m giving another Zoom talk on flash fiction to Byre Writers on Saturday morning and am so looking forward to that. It is always a joy to talk about flash and to share how, despite the word count restriction, it is more flexible than you might think at first.

After all I have written across many genres thanks to it. I go where my characters take me and I can set them any time and any where and I do. It is such fun to do too! After all, thanks to a challenge by Scottish crime writer #WendyHJones, I wrote a story about The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball! I’ve also written stories about a very creepy ghost, a witch who didn’t cheat in her magical exams (disappointing her mother a bit), and historical tales from the viewpoints of Anne Boleyn and Richard III.

And I am loving getting back to the drabble, aka the 100-worder, for#FridayFlashFiction, but I also love writing across the whole spectrum of flash. My natural home is 500 words or under but it is good to experiment and find out what works best for me. Sometimes my characters do need the whole 1000 words and that’s fine too.

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A huge thanks for the response yesterday to my post about titles. Also thanks to those who have commented on Missing, my latest #FridayFlashFiction story. I like open titles such as Missing as it gives me so many possibilities to play with – what or whom is missing? Are they found again? If someone is missing something, do they get it back? All sorts of stories can come out of writing the answers to those questions.

For flash, where sometimes the title is part of your overall word count allowance, it is even more important to come up with a crisp, intriguing title that will draw readers in and keep them with you. Random word generators can be useful for playing with ideas here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Favourite Characters

Do you have an overall favourite character in fiction? I have too many to count! The characters that stand out the most for me are those who are unpromising at the start of the story and end up being heroes by the end of it. A hobbit is an unlikely adventurer but look what Tolkein did with his characters in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

I am also fond of characters who need redemption and find it. I also like stories where justice is seen to be done and in the right way. (I am not keen on the vengeance type of tale as you just know the character is likely to go too far with it).

I like characters I can understand even if I don’t agree with their attitudes and actions. One of my favourite characters is Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series as there is so much depth to his portrayal which is revealed over the seven novels.

So over to you then. Which are your favourite kinds of character and why?

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Talks, Flash, and the Character -v- Plot Debate

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. Images of Lady, of CafeLit 10 books, and my stories in it, and screenshots all taken by me, Allison Symes.

Summer weather, a mini heatwave, finally here in the UK. The dog and I are busy keeping cool.

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Facebook – General

Many thanks to the lovely people at #DundeeCityWriters for making me so welcome at last night’s Zoom talk. I spoke about short story writing as opposed to flash fiction this time. All great fun.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. It’s a local author news post this time about yours truly where I give an update on what has been happening/is going to happen over the summer for me. And I am glad to share news on both the fiction and non-fiction fronts for the first time here as well.

Lady, you’ll be glad to know, is keeping well and as cool as possible. She’s generally as daft as the proverbial brush but not when it comes to weather like this heatwave a lot of us in the UK are experiencing right now. (I know, it’s July, it is to be expected, but I have no way of telling the dog this!). She drinks plenty, stays in the shade, and enjoys gentler exercise sessions away from the main heat. She can go back to her usual athletic running about when the weather cools. And it will.

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Pleased to be speaking later tonight to the #DundeeCityWriters. Zoom is a wonderful thing!

Great to see so many lovely comments coming in on my #FridayFlashFiction story, The Unpaid Shift. Many thanks, all.

Working away also on my author newsletter. That will come out on 1st August. I share news, tips, writing prompts, and exclusive flash stories here amongst other things. If that sounds of interest, head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you can sign up.

And if you head over to my From LIght to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly, you will find my latest YouTube video as well. See below!

(Lady keeping cool and drinking well. I’m drinking well but do feel as if I’m melting right now. But at least it is the kind of weather you expect for July!).

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

Pleased to share my post on Authors Electric this month. I talk about character -v- plot (and many thanks for the great comments which have come in so far).

I also look at a character I don’t care for much in this post even though I love the author. Mind you, this kind of thing is useful for me as I think about my characters. I do look at what I love and loathe about characters produced by other writers and I can learn so much from that. If a character is dire, I can examine why that is and try to avoid doing this for my own creations.

I also look at how a character makes me react and discuss series novels where a character can develop over time. I also name my favourite example of the latter as my top pick is a masterclass in how a character can develop over several books.

Screenshot 2021-07-20 at 19-35-10 Character -v- Plot by Allison Symes

 

Hope you have had a good day. A huge thanks for the wonderful comments on my The Unpaid Shift currently on #FridayFlashFiction. So enjoying writing the drabbles again. If you missed it, see the link.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week which will be a Local Author News one from me where I have exciting updates to share.

Am also looking forward to sharing great author interviews later on in the summer. So plenty going on here.

But more immediately, I am looking forward to sharing my Authors Electric post tomorrow. This time I’m writing about the character -v- plot debate. Give some thought as to where you stand on that one and maybe pop a comment up when I share the post link tomorrow. See above.

Screenshot 2021-07-16 at 18-47-03 The Unpaid Shift, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the lovely response to Self Defence, my latest YouTube video. These are great fun to write and produce. And they are a great way to use the mini-flash tales which are only a sentence or two. See below for video.

I was giving a Zoom talk to #DundeeCityWriters last night about short story writing but many of the techniques I use for flash I can and do use for the longer tales. For example, I have to have a rough template of what I am going to write and then off I go.

The main difference for a short story (anything over 1000 words) is I need to have some rough pointers for what happens in the central part of the tale so I avoid the dreaded saggy middle! (Not wanted in cakes. Not wanted in stories either!).

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Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube story video. It appears self defence can, in the right circumstances, apply to inanimate objects.


Thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about writing more in the first person for flash. I hadn’t anticipated doing this earlier in my writing career. I’m not sorry about the development as it had been a kind of writing I’d gone out of my way to avoid. Why?

Because all I could see were the limitations of it. You can only see through that one character’s eyes. Everything the character sees, hears, or could be reasonably expected to know is what you have to play with.

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What I hadn’t seen immediately was that kind of framework Is useful for stopping me head-hopping and in making me focus on the lead character. I can’t go off at a tangent here. That in turn encourages creativity as I work out what the lead character can see, hear, be reasonably expected to know etc.

I’ve also come to love the immediacy of the first person narrator.

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I’m writing more in the first person with my flash stories as it is a very easy way to “hit the ground running” with my character. I can literally take you right inside the “I” character’s head and show you their thoughts, actions, and reactions. I can’t “head-hop” either as I have to focus on just that one character.

But when I do have more than one character in a story (usually one of my 500+ word tales), I do work out who the lead character is and who the support will be. I still have to know whose story it is and why and what the role of the support will be. (Of course the support may do anything but support the main character but that’s fine. I just need a defined sense of who does what and why).

Goodreads Author Blog – Annuals

Did you use to get annuals when you were younger? Do you still get them?

I am fond of The Friendship Book (D.C. Thomson – those wonderful Dundee based publishers have produced this for decades). This is one of those books that is always on the present list at a certain time of year I won’t mention yet because we’re still in the summer. I refuse to think of the C word until the autumn at the earliest (and just wish the shops would do the same).

When my family was younger, they loved The Beano annual, and when we could get it, The Bash Street Kids one. They weren’t the only ones to read them either! I still have a soft spot for Minnie the Minx in particular. For anyone who might not know, The Beano is veritable institution amongst comics and again produced by D.C. Thomson and again going back decades. I think I’m right in saying it is well over 50 years old.

I’ve got no time for snobbery around comics, comic books, annuals etc. The important point here is they do get people reading (and the hope is of course they go on to read books with a higher text content later. My family did. What matters is getting that love of reading to develop and annuals and comics can be a great place to start).

I still like comics like The Beano. The world they take you into generally makes you laugh. And I count comics as much a part of the reading life as books.

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CafeLit, Creativity Matters, and an Interview

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.

Screenshot of my stories on CafeLit and Friday Flash Fiction also taken by me and do check out both sites for fabulous tales.

A huge thanks to #PaulaRCReadman for hosting me on her blog this week, more details below. (Screenshot taken by me, Allison Symes, and do check out Paula’s blog).

Many thanks to #WendyHJones for supplying the book cover image for Creativity Matters.

Also thanks to #GillJames for supplying the cover for The Best of CafeLit 10.

As you’ll gather from those last three sentences, the week has got off to a cracking start! (Just a pity I can’t put in order somewhere for more of the same!).

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Facebook – General

Now, as promised yesterday, for news on the non-fiction writing front. I am delighted to now confirm my chapter in #WendyHJones’ Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing will be called Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories? It’s a great honour to be taking part and I am looking forward to being “between the covers” with a lovely range of fantastic authors here. More details to come soon.

And now I can show you the cover too!

It’s not been a bad start to the week, given my news on the fiction front yesterday!

Allison Symes - Contribution to Creativity Matters


Not one but two posts from me tonight. And exciting news to come on the non-fiction front tomorrow too!

But tonight I’m focusing on my fiction news. Now I mentioned yesterday The Best of CafeLit 10 is now out and the lovely #Paula R.C. Readman has interviewed me for her blog specifically about my contributions to this book.

A huge thank you to Paula for hosting me and I’m delighted to share the interview here. It was such fun to take part and always a joy to flag up CafeLit!


Screenshot 2021-07-06 at 20-15-21 Clubhouse Cafelit 10 Chat Allison Symes

More flagging up of the wonderful CafeLit tonight with my second post on this page tonight. I’m pleased to say my story, Choices, is now up on site.

This started life as a writing prompt I set for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group and it was such fun to write up. Hope you enjoy it. My sympathy is entirely with Jamie here.

Screenshot 2021-07-06 at 20-19-54 Choices


Am thrilled to say The Best of CafeLit 10 is now available. I have two pieces in here – Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of the Day Job. (Am also thrilled to say I’ll have another story up on the CafeLit website tomorrow and am looking forward to sharing the link for that then – see above.).

A huge thanks to #GillJames and the team here for bringing out such wonderful collections of short stories. Many congratulations to the other authors who are “between the covers” with yours truly. Looking forward to hopefully being able to have a proper Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books celebration get together later in the year. Missed that so much last year cancelled of course due to You Know What.

 


Hope you have had a good day. It was good to get out in the garden for a while earlier. I would never make any claim to be a “proper” gardener but tidying up where I needed to was strangely satisfying.

A huge thank you for the wonderful responses to When Is Wednesday?, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction.

The feedback on this site is so useful and much appreciated. This particular story resonates as it is one I have written drawing on direct experience of how dementia can be on people. (My The Pink Rose tackles the same theme from a different angle in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Hard stories to write? In some ways, yes. I always feel the “punch in the gut” reaction to moving stories but I should. Stories, even the funniest ones, should make you feel something).

Screenshot 2021-07-06 at 20-24-09 When is Wednesday by Allison SymesBookBrushImage-2021-7-2-19-2735

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the great response to my Spring story video on Youtube yesterday. (I plan to write a post for Chandler’s Ford Today soon about Youtube for Authors and a huge thanks to the lovely #HelenMatthews for seeding that idea. I’m looking forward to sharing the second part of a great interview with her on CFT on Friday. Writers talking to each other = bouncing ideas around and fab conversations! And I know a good idea for a CFT post or a flash fiction story when I hear it. These days, I’ve learned to take said idea and run with it).

Mind you, if my heroine ate all the doughnuts in my latest video, she wouldn’t be running anywhere!). See below for the video link. (Am just hoping my Slimming World consultant likes this one!).

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As well as my new CafeLit story now being live on site (Choices – see my author page for the link), I’m pleased to now share my latest Youtube video. Hope you enjoy Spring, another acrostic tale. I think my Slimming World consultant would appreciate this one!

And on a dull, wet Monday night here in Hampshire, sharing stories online to me seems a great thing to do! Trust me, it was dull and very wet!

Delighted to have further publication news with The Best of Cafelit 10 now available in Kindle and paperback. I have two stories in here and am honoured as the stories in these collections are voted on by regular readers of CafeLit. Thank you to everyone who voted for my two pieces Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of The Day Job.

I have some lovely tasks to do this week as a result of the book being out. One is to let Amazon know I’m a contributor and get the book up on my Author Central Page(Now done – see below!).

I also need to contact Goodreads (again now done, see below!) but the other task is to update my records with ALCS, the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. Plus I need to put my own book order in but these are jobs I will really enjoy doing over the next couple of days or so. Now done. Books on their way! And do register with ALCS if you’re a UK writer with publications out there. More below.

To all writers with publications out there, don’t forget to register with ALCS. You get free membership with them if you’re a member of the Society of Authors but you can join for a one-off lifetime fee of £36.00 if that doesn’t apply to you. Best of all, you don’t pay the £36.00 immediately. ALCS take that from the first payment they give you as you receive your share of monies from copyright licensing. And you can earn money year on year via ALCS. Definitely worth doing!

Screenshot 2021-07-06 at 20-35-17 Allison SymesScreenshot 2021-07-06 at 20-36-15 Author Dashboard


I mix up the moods of my stories as different characters face different things of course. Also Character A might be of the type to, say, not take a serious situation as well as they should do. Character B in the same situation might over-react to it. Both would be interesting takes on a story. What would make Character A “wake up” and do what has to be done? Can Character B be calmed down and enabled to resolve a situation (which they certainly wouldn’t do while over-reacting to it)?

My latest on #FridayFlashFiction is a moving one following a couple of light-hearted pieces by me on there but this is deliberate. Stories reflect life so naturally there should be funny ones, sad ones, and so on. What matters for any kind of story is the characters grip you and make you want to find out what happens to them. See above for story link.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Changes in Reading Tastes

How have your reading tastes changed over the years? My big love reading wise will always be fantasy (especially the humorous kind and you can’t beat Terry Pratchett’s Discworld for that) but I have also developed a taste for crime novels (on the lower end of the gory scale) and historical fiction.

I’ve also developed a taste for non-fiction and have enjoyed some of the Ben Macintyre books and London by Peter Ackroyd, books I wouldn’t have looked at only a few years ago.

Having a Kindle has encouraged me to explore more books too and I will use ebooks as a way of testing out books by authors new to me. I’ve also been reading more flash and short story collections. That of course is linked to my writing taking off in that direction. I want to read in the field I am in and am conscious I need to have a good reading diet of classic and contemporary fiction.

What is lovely is having books on my shelves (including the electronic one!) by writer friends. Becoming more involved in writing myself has led me to discovering what colleagues produce and I am reading more types of books and stories now than I’ve ever done.

So where has your reading journey taken you? Have you discovered a love for a genre new to you?

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Acrostics and Focusing

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. Screenshot of part of my latest story video was taken by me.

It has been a hot few days here but Lady, my collie cross, prefers to keep it cool. Image of Lady and me taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

A bit cooler today. Lady and I weren’t sorry about that.

I’m going to have two blog posts to share on Friday. My Chandler’s Ford Today one is on Brand Recognition and Why It Matters. This is so important for writers given we all have to do at least some marketing. So therefore it pays to think what brand we want to put “out there” that readers associate with us and will like.

I’ll also have a post out on Authors Electric, which is called Reading Into Writing Will Go. Those of you of a certain age will recognise the words “will go” from the way division used to be taught in Maths. So what has that got to do with writing or reading? I look forward to sharing the link on Friday when you can find out!

So look out for two Facebook posts from me on Friday with two links.

Meanwhile back in Hot Hampshire I am so glad I live in a property that faces north. It means more heating in the winter but it comes into its own right now – it is cool here! (It is quite nice that something is cool here because I do know I’m not!).


Baking day – outside that is! Lady had a reduced exercise session before it got too hot. Although she is usually as daft as a brush, she is sensible in warm weather, knows all the shady spots to head to, and is the first of my three collies who willingly drinks water! I rarely go out without water for her and, in these conditions, it is one of the first things I get ready to take with us.

I have a good spot on our patio area where I can do a pavement test (back of hand held down on said area for at least 15 seconds. Let’s just say if I can’t keep my hand there for the required time, Lady doesn’t go out. One issue with going out later in the day is the ground has had time to bake, literally, so please if you’re a dog owner, always carry water with you, and do the pavement test before you go. If in doubt, don’t go). (Lady has happily curled up in the shade for the rest of the day and has been enjoying snoozing and woofing at my shopping delivery man so she has had a great day!).

Writing wise, a huge thanks for all the fabulous comments on my New In Town on #FridayFlashFiction. Feedback always appreciated.

Do you find it harder to write in hot weather rather than cold? Makes no difference to me as I make sure I’m comfortable enough at the old desk but I can understand if concentration levels dip somewhat. (I swear there are times my laptop is cooler than I am!). I don’t use weather in my fiction at all partly because I don’t want to fall into the “dark and stormy night” cliche trap but also I can think of several more important things for a reader to need to know than what weather my character is experiencing. I can only see relevance here if you’re sending your character on a quest (and generally you need longer than a flash fiction piece to do that well!).

Looking forward to sharing my next Authors Electric piece later on in the week too.

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Another warm and sunny day in Hot Hampshire (and a sympathetic salute goes to all hayfever sufferers!).
Stories come in all shapes and sizes but this goes for non-fiction too funnily enough. Especially when I interview someone for Chandler’s Ford Today, I want that person’s story and love to get behind what led them to write the books or stories they have. I suppose this is because (a) I’m nosey and (b) I know no two writing journeys are the same and I find it fascinating and instructive to learn from others here.

For fiction taking a bit of time out to think about what makes your characters the way they are leads to better characterisation (you really have got a handle on your person here) and stronger plot lines. So looking for the story behind the story then is always a good idea. We’re encouraged to dig deeper and not just go for the obvious ideas for stories. Looking into what makes your characters tick in more depth is a great way to achieve that.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glorious weather here. Lady enjoying it – sensibly. Currently curled up behind me in a nice cool study.

Coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today in the next month or so will be a fascinating interview with someone I first met a few years back at the Hursley Park Book Fair, which I wrote about for CFT at the time. Very much small world syndrome here but a delightful one and the interview is a smashing one. I’ll also be sharing how I met this author again as it is a great advert for networking in person where you can and online anyway. Looking forward to sharing more on all of that in due course.

Coming up this Friday for CFT will be a piece called Brand Recognition and Why It Matters – so I combine writing with some marketing for that one! (I also share thoughts and tips here and look forward to sharing this later in the week).

Thrilled to bits my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction, New in Town, has had a wonderful response to it. Acrostic stories are good fun to write though I have found you want something (a) short and (b) open to interpretation for this kind of thing. In case you missed it, here’s the link for it. Oh and it has been a great joy responding to the comments on the site itself on this one. Thanks, everyone.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the response to my acrostic flash tale called Fiction yesterday. Good fun to write and create a video for. I have discovered the joy of animations on Book Brush and used a “pulse” one for Fiction. I use Book Brush a lot for my blog work as it is lovely putting captions into the pictures I use – and they look better I think. Only downside? It is too easy to lose a lot of time playing with Book Brush but there are worse writing problems to have!

But it is creative and part of the old marketing so that’s okay then! (And the videos are a simple way to share mini-flash tales – basically under 100 words or so).

Screenshot 2021-06-15 at 20-42-49 Allison Symes

For the rest of the story you’ll have to go to the link – see below.


Pleased to share my latest acrostic flash fiction story video with you. This one is called Fiction and many thanks for the comment that has come in on this already. Hope you enjoy. There is a time for dancing in the streets…and a time not to!


I’ve mentioned before that titles carry a lot of weight in flash fiction. They indicate mood/genre of the story, freeing up precious word count room for what matters – the story itself. But it pays to keep your title short to maximise the impact of it and to allow for the fact some markets and competitions count the title as part of their acceptable overall word count limit. Do watch out for that! Also shorter titles are more memorable and that’s important to your reader (and therefore potentially to you too). You want your readers to remember your titles and the books they appeared in!

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Glad my story New In Town went down so well yesterday. Acrostic flash tales are good fun to do but work best, as I mentioned on my author page on FB earlier, when kept short and if the word or words chosen can be taken in more than one way. Double meanings, as well as hyphenated words, are great assets to the flash fiction writer!

Twice the meaning for only one “lot” of words and hyphenated words mean you get two words for the price of one. So glad to have discovered that one especially as I have made good use of it in my time. (No. You can’t just hyphenate any words – that would be cheating!).

Misjudging people can be a great theme for any story but I have used it in flash. In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my character, Walter, makes up his mind about the new postman in my story Identity. Can’t say more than that. The story is about whether Walter was right or wrong. But what was interesting here was I didn’t need to give you the postman’s backstory. You just see things from Walter’s point of view and then the story goes on to show you whether he was right or wrong.

I’ve mentioned before that with flash focusing on one character and one important incident is the way to go. Here it was a case of focusing on Walter’s viewpoint and then following it through to a conclusion. I could have brought in something from the postman’s viewpoint to indicate whether Walter was right or not. In not doing that, I’ve made the story more focused and, I think, it has greater impact.

Goodreads Author Blog – Kindles for Kinds of Books?

I love reading. Okay no big news there. I love reading in all kinds of formats and listening to audio books. Again no great breaking news story there. But I wondered if you save your Kindle or other e-reader for certain types of book. I do.

I use ebooks to test out authors new to me and for a lot of non-fiction (especially where the print version would be too big and bulky to handle. I can think of a few tomes here that would break your toes if you dropped the book on your foot – the Encyclopedia Britannica anyone?!).

I also use ebooks for short story and flash collections as these are ideal for reading on a screen.

The Kindle is one of the first things I pack whenever I get to go away (and that still won’t be for a while yet given Covid) and its finest “moment” is saving every avid reader from ever having to worry again about how many books they can fit into their suitcase. I appreciate my Kindle for that alone!

So do you save certain kinds of book for your e-reader and, if so, which?

 

 

 

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Becoming a Flasher Queen, Transforming, and Gossip

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.

Screenshot of Mom’s Favorite Reads was taken by me, Allison Symes. The June 2021 magazine is now available free to download on Amazon – more details coming up.

It has been an interesting few days as tonight’s post title confirms!

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Facebook – General

Pleased and relieved that my better half and I have now had our second Covid jabs so that meant another trip out to the lovely city of Salisbury. A very slick operation and both of us came home wearing our “have had the Covid vaccination” stickers. I suspect we’ll end up having to get a booster every year but that’s fine. Lady now won’t be the only one in our household who has to have an annual booster (though she will remain the only one who gets treats from the vet for being a good girl!). (Lady has also had a good day today, getting to play with her Labradoodle pal, Coco, and having fabulous walks. Lady has now crashed out on the sofa, having thrown the cushions off first. It is her equivalent of an Olympic sport).

Does listening to music (of any kind) trigger memories of stories you’ve written or which you feel link to your characters in some way? Danse Macabre is one of mine as I used it for the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again but every so often I will hear a piece of classical music and think yes that would suit my character because… and I am right, it would. I find that encouraging. If my character is real enough to me to trigger that kind of response, they’ll seem real enough to a reader as well.


Dodgy start with the weather today but brightened up considerably. Lady did too on getting to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddy today, and other pals including a Labradoodle and a Hungarian Vizler.

Glad to report the June 2021 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now available to download FREE from http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B096BGP93Q

(It is available for a wide range of other Amazon stores but I thought it best to just share the UK link here).

My article on flash fiction and sharks is in there along with my story Dressed to Kill. There is a wonderful selection of other flash stories in there too and a wide range of fascinating articles. Do check it out.

Am thrilled to report I am now MFR’s Flasher Queen (!) and am looking forward to contributing regularly to this magazine.

Screenshot 2021-06-08 at 20-25-21 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , Smit[...]


Due to have my second Covid jab next week. It’ll be good to have that done. Nice weather again today. At least it’s feeling like June though we’ll see how long that lasts! My maternal grandfather, whose birthday would have been today, always felt a British summer fell on a Wednesday afternoon… sadly, he was often right!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post later this coming week will be about Finding Themes so I hope will prove to be useful.

Have just submitted another story to #FridayFlashFiction. This time it is a 100-word acrostic. Good fun to do. Best kept short and can be highly effective. You need to choose “open” words which can be taken in any direction. Will keep you posted on how it goes.

Also looking forward to sharing another acrostic tale, this time in a new story video, which will be up on my Youtube channel tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile, if you want to check out my other stories here, here is the link.

Screenshot 2021-06-08 at 20-28-53 Allison Symes - YouTube

And it’s back to the warm sunshine here. Managed to get out in the garden for a bit too.

Went to a highly enjoyable Zoom talk by #WendyHJones about killer first lines today. I always learn something useful from talks like that. And it doesn’t matter what you write – that first line has got to hook, hook, hook your readers in and keep them wanting to read.

In flash fiction, that opening line is even more important. It does a lot of heavy lifting. It sets the tone for what is to come and you don’t wait long for the delivery to come on the promise of that line.

And talking of flash, I’m pleased to share this link for obvious reasons. https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/06/05/flash-fiction/

As well as my article and flash tale here (Dressed to Kill) there are wonderful flash stories by other writers here. Check them out. I loved them. Sure you will too.

Screenshot_2021-06-01 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021(1)Screenshot_2021-06-01 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the great response to my Stories acrostic story video yesterday. It was good fun to write. Also thanks for the great responses to my story on #FridayFlashFiction (Gossip). Preparing the videos and, separately, the drabbles, is proving to be a good way of helping me balance out my fiction and non-fiction writing during the week.

One great thing about story writing is you get to choose what happens to your characters and how they respond to it. In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my story Enough is Enough shows what my character does when she is finally fed up with being body shamed. Let’s just say she’s a feisty soul, my favourite kind of character. You know a character like that is going to act and react in interesting ways! Characters have to seem real and readers need to be able to identify with them, even if they don’t like them. Characters have got to make your readers react.


Time for another story video and this is an acrostic called Stories. As ever I used Book Brush to create the video and then uploaded it to Youtube where I found a free to use audio track to add to it. The nice thing is I don’t have to wait for YT to add the track. As long as I’ve saved it, they’ll process it and when I next come back to YT, there is my video with the music added. I also like the smoke motif on this one. Hope you enjoy.

 


I talked about transformations over on my Goodreads blog yesterday (Transforming Storiessee below for link) – as transformation is the point of all stories, regardless of their length. Something has to change in a story. Something has to happen.

With flash fiction of course I have less word count room in which to do that but the upside of that is you can pack a more powerful emotional punch to the reader. There isn’t the word count room for that emotional impact to be diluted.

And in character studies, you can make the change or transformation as simple as a character realising something they hadn’t before and that it is clear this realisation is going to change their lives from that point onwards. Dramatic transformations are great fun to write and read but don’t neglect the more subtle types. Those are the ones that tend to grip the heart.


It has been a great joy over the last few weeks to have drabbles regularly appearing on #FridayFlashFiction. So how do I come up with the ideas for these? I’ve mentioned before I use odd pockets of time to jot down potential ideas and I am now writing these up so I have something to submit here.

The great thing is plenty of distance in terms of time has passed between when I first jotted that idea down and my writing it up. The ideas have still hooked me (and that is the test. If I suddenly think what was I thinking here, that is not a good sign, ever!).

What this also means is I will have to give myself another brainstorming session to jot down ideas for future use but that’s fine (and it is also fun to do).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Transforming Stories

All stories pivot on change. I write a lot of short stories and even more in the way of flash fiction where word counts are restricted but even in a 100-word story (a form I am fond of) there is a journey for the character. Okay, it is not a long one but it can pack the punch because the form is so short.

Transformations in characters don’t have to be dramatic. A character realising something is a change. Think of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Both of them change – one loses their pride, the other their prejudice – as they realise they do love each other. (And I refuse to believe that’s a plot spoiler after all this time!). Jane Austen was going to call this one First Impressions which is a fine title funnily enough but lacks the emotional punch of Pride and Prejudice I think.

Another favourite transformation for me is Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and the courage Frodo Baggins and Samwise develop in The Lord of The Rings.

So transformation matters then. (It is with some pride I can say I am in a book called Transformations from Bridge House Publishing with three of my stories. It is such a powerful idea to write and read about).

After all it is why we read. We have to find out what happens. And nothing happens without something or someone being transformed.

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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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