Christmas Plans and Writing Across the Genres

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you had a good weekend, the last before Christmas. Have not finished my preparations for Christmas but am getting there!

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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Am enjoying listening to the carol concerts on Classic FM as I write. Soothing and I can join in with the carols – win-win as I love a good sing. (Of course whether anyone else appreciates me having a good sing is a completely different matter!).

I’ll be taking a couple of days off over Christmas but there will be another blog round up on Christmas Eve. And my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday will be sharing some festive flash fiction. I will probably “pop up” over the period between Christmas and New Year but I don’t anticipate “normal service” being resumed until after 1st January. Whatever you do for Christmas, I hope it proves to be a blessed time for you.

I did manage to get a story submitted for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize. There is still time to enter that one if you’re interested – deadline is 31st December.

There will be a Chandler’s Ford Today post on New Year’s Eve where I will be talking about Out with the Old?

I will take the chance to say a big thank you now to those authors I’ve interviewed for CFT over the last year. I very much hope there will be further interviews to come in 2022.

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A big thanks for all the lovely comments coming in on All In the Blend, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated (and it gives me another excuse to have another read of the wonderful collection of tales on there so win-win!). It is good to be back writing the 100-worders regularly again.

What do I enjoy most? Usually on my draft, I end up at anything between 150 and 200 words initially. What I love is the honing and pruning to get the story to 100 words without losing anything of value. That is where the challenge lies and I find it to be great fun.

Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 19-28-36 All In The Blend, by Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good Sunday. Finally got my Christmas cake iced. Am very late on it this year but it looks good and I shall look forward to having some next Saturday!

Will be slowly winding down as we head towards Christmas but I will be sharing a festive flash fiction post on Chandler’s Ford Today on Christmas Eve. As well as including the link to listen again to the Three Minute Santas flash fiction special hosted by Hannah Kate yesterday, I will also share another story and talk about the delights of writing festive pieces. Hope it will prove to be a very positive note to go into Christmas with!

I plan to do my usual blog round-ups on Tuesday and Friday this week but that will be about it for a few days. Am looking forward to my usual Christmas story intake of favourite films and books too.

My next author newsletter will go out at some point on 1st January though I cannot promise it will be particularly early!

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Delighted to share the first of two posts here tonight. It was a pleasure to have a festive flash piece on Three Minute Santas hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Wonderful to listen to the collection of stories on here. Great start to the 7 day countdown to Christmas! Link below is to the listen again service and the show is divided into two halves – first hour and second hour. I’m on during the first hour with my tale The Night Before Christmas.

Listen Again Page on North Manchester FMScreenshot - Three Minute Santa pageScreenshot 2021-12-20 at 20-21-57 Hannah's Bookshelf pre-Christmas Christmas Special - 18 12 2021Lovely to be on North Manchester FM again

I look at Book Products for my post on Authors Electric this month. I look at what I like here and what I loathe. I also share what I would like to see on the market including a gizmo for ensuring I never lose a notebook or pen again! Now that would be a best seller!

Screenshot 2021-12-18 at 20-12-49 Book Products by Allison Symes

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I like writing across the genres with my flash tales. It’s great fun and I see no reason to restrict myself here. The one restriction that counts for anything here is the 1000 word count limit for any individual flash story.

Given flash has to be character led, I may as well set my characters wherever and whenever I want and see what they come up with. This is where my love of reading over the years comes in as naturally that plays a major part in the kinds of story I love to read (and thus to go on and write myself as you write from the heart).

With my historical flash pieces, the one “conceit” I allow is in getting my characters to speak and think in a style of English we will understand. They are communicating their tales to us and it is a question of ensuring we understand them.

I also think using old English is a little like using accents and dialects in storytelling. You want a little of it to give a “flavour” of the era, perhaps, but not so much it “over-balances” the entire story. Nor do you want to make the story difficult to read (and Old English is difficult to read so again it makes sense to limit it!).

For my flash tales where my word count is restricted, every word has to work hard to justify its place to be in the story at all and, again, gives me a reason for not using old style language. It would, I feel, get in the way.

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It’s Monday. It has been a long day. It’s story time then! Hope you enjoy my poignant festive tale, Getting By.

 

I’ve always sided with character in the character -v- plot debate as I’ve mentioned here before, but flash fiction writing has made that call even easier to make. Why?

Simply because I haven’t got the word count room to give lots of lovely description and intricate plot points. I have got to focus on what my character thinks says, and does – and I absolutely love doing that!

But this is precisely why I need to know my character well enough first and why I find a simple template invaluable in getting to know that character. Think of it as interviewing your character. You do want your character to “say” I do like this, I don’t like that because…

The interesting bit here will be in the because as it will be the reason given which will show you even more aspects to your character. I’ve found that makes it easier to write them and their stories up as a result.

writing-advice707359_S.jpgImage - Allison Symes - Light and Dark - these questions can help you establish which applies most to your charactersCharacter Needs are everythingQuizzing my characters


It was a joy to be on the Hannah Kate show again today with my story The Night Before Christmas. I love the idea of a Three Minute Santas festive flash fiction special show. Flash works really well when read out and this show proves that.

The collection of stories is varied and each of them conjures up its own little world. I loved listening to it and I am all for things like this which promote flash and show what it can do and be. Perhaps flash comes into its own at this time of year when everyone is busy and reading might take a bit of a back seat for a while.

Well, you can still read/listen to flash! Hope you enjoy the stories on here.

Joy to hear stories as well as read them

Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Presents

I don’t know how many books are given as presents at Christmas but it must run into millions. Hardbacks, paperbacks, audio books, ebooks – a fabulous celebration of the written word, fictional and factual. I love that aspect. Yes, I’ve got books on my wish list this year – I always do – no surprises there.

I still have an annual (The Friendship Book which is still going strong after many decades and published by that marvellous publisher, D.C. Thomson of Dundee). I wonder how many kids got into reading thanks to having an annual every Christmas. Certainly they’re a great way to encourage reading.

Comics and comic books can serve the same purpose. Flash fiction, my genre, can do so too because these can tempt the reluctant reader in – you don’t have to read a brick of a novel (a) all at once and (b) as your way into reading. You cam start smaller and build up or read the brick a bit at a time.

The important thing is to read and I hope whatever book presents you receive this year, you have a fabulous time reading them!

 

The BHP book stall

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock upBridge House anthologiesHow many books will be on your wish listBooks as presents

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FINDING IDEAS - The finest way I know to feed my imagination is to readWhere will your fiction take your readers and will it make them laugh

 

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Back From Brechin

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Many thanks to Sarah Archibald for Brechin/Angus Book Festival related material. Also a huge thanks to Wendy H Jones, Caroline Johnston, Tony Collins, Maressa Mortimer, Ruth Leigh, and Sarah Grace for their fab author and book cover photos for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week.  My book cover images are from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Back from Brechin, my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at how the event went, the benefits of events like this, discuss my talk and workshop here, and give a shout-out to the contingent from the Association of Christian Writers who went, especially Wendy H Jones, who hosted us and ferried us around. (A huge thanks also to Maressa Mortimer for her valuable taxi services too!).

There were eight of us all including me and we covered a wide range of writing between us – literally everything from children’s fiction to crime to flash fiction to memoir and narrative non-fiction and YA stories to historical novels and Christian chicklit.

The event was great fun and useful experience, as well as it being the first major book event I’ve taken part in since before lockdown. What with this, and the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August, it is good to be out and about again. I love Zoom but getting together with people at in-person events has been something I’ve missed over the last year or so and it is good these are coming back.

Back From Brechin

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Brrr… back to the biting cold again. Not that Lady worried as she was too busy playing with Coco and Katima, two of her pals today. Mind you, Lady might have wondered why her owner insisted we kept walking around the park instead of staying still to watch her and her pals play. I was trying to get some life back into my feet!

Will be sharing my Back From Brechin post for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. It was such useful experience and good fun taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Link above.

Now I’ve talked before about using a variety of methods to trigger ideas for my short stories and flash fiction pieces. I do much the same for my blog posts. Events I go to are obvious topics to write up but I also look at aspects of writing which intrigue me (and I won’t be the only one to be intrigued – what fascinates one writer will fascinate others) and I adore interviewing other writers. I always learn something interesting and interviews make a great way about sharing who you are and what you do in an entertaining way without being too “in your face” with the old “buy my book” routine.

I’ve learned over time to keep a watching brief out for topics I think might be of interest to others. And that is the point – it is vital to think of your audience, always, regardless of what you write. It is also vital that you enjoy what you write as that comes through. It also makes it easier for you to sustain your writing over time.

 

Today has been one of those days though the highlights were seeing Lady play with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Coco, the lovely Labradoodle. Even better their mutual pal, a very smiley Hungarian Vizler, came and joined in the fun. The other highlight was getting my hair done. But other than that…!

Sent my author newsletter out earlier. See link. Always good fun to put these together.

Looking forward to going to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on Saturday. Will be lovely to catch up with friends. (Zoom and Facebook have been a lifeline but you can’t beat getting together in person where possible).

As you know I blog for a number of places and I can’t recommend drafting posts for future use highly enough. It has often proved a lifeline for me as it means I know I always have something which will be “good to go” as and when I need them. It pays to have a “stock” in of these and whenever I go out by train, I always draft blog posts like this once I’ve finished drafting some flash fiction of course!

Screenshot 2021-12-03 at 19-45-49 Allison Symes - December 2021 - Festive Flash and More

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My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is called Specialist Subject where my heroine, Doreen, finds a way of dealing with the local bore. Find out how via the link. My sympathies are entirely with Doreen incidentally!


Screenshot 2021-12-03 at 17-08-27 Specialist Subject, by Allison Symes

Unless I am writing for a specific website such as Paragraph Planet or Friday Flash Fiction or Mom’s Favorite Reads, I don’t worry about the word count until I’ve got the story down. With the three sites I’ve mentioned, I know their word count, what it looks like on a page, and know what to aim for so away I go.

But if I’m not writing for a specific market, I want to write without having to worry about the word count too much. Once I’ve edited the story so I know it is as good as I can make it, I then think either where can I send this piece (and I will know of a few places, I can also research some) OR I save these for open competitions.

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Amongst the many random generators out there is a random object one. Having a quick look tonight, I set two items as my parameters and came up with the words balloon and box.

Now you could just find a way of getting these words into a story. You could get your character(s) to love or loathe these things and your story is about why they feel this way and what led them to that. In the case of loathing, you could also examine what happens if the character is forced to deal with these items again. They’re in a situation where they can’t avoid the things. How do they handle that?

And you could find a way of framing your title around the items too. Plus you could have two characters with opposing views on these objects. How do they resolve their differences? For the above example, what if one character wants their kid to have loads of balloons and boxes at their party, it’s what they always had, while the other believes these are wasteful and doesn’t want any of them?

I’ve found using the different generators enormously useful in (a) coming up with ideas and (b) making me think differently about how I approach writing a story. They’re fun too!

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytales in the Christmas Season

Fairytales are a popular feature at Christmas of course thanks to pantomime in particular. (Think Cinderella, Babes in the Wood, Sleeping Beauty etc). I enjoy a pantomime where it is clear cast and audience are having lots of fun but overall I prefer reading the original stories.

What I hope the pantomime season does is encourage people to check out the original stories (even if the younger fans might be better off leaving that until they are a little older. Many of the original tales could not be staged as they were originally written).

Where I do enjoy my fairytales at Christmas even more is in certain films. I adore The Polar Express and consider that to be a fairytale (and one with an edge to it too). The same goes for Shrek where I love the way the ogre is the hero here. Fairytales have often been “subverted” and the Shrek films are great examples of that.

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This World and Others – Communal Celebrations

Does your fictional world have communal celebrations? If so, are they based on religion, on seasons of the year, or both? Does everyone take part in these? Are any celebrations from the past now banned and, if so, why was that done? How tolerant are your differing peoples of the celebrations of others?

Communal celebrations serve to bring people together and to lift the spirit (especially winter based events as these are often connected with celebrating light and foreshadowing the return of spring). Are these aims achieved in your fictional festivals? Do your characters join in with the events or choose to abstain? Is joining in compulsory?

What foods and drinks are served and who prepares these? Is magic involved in the celebrations? Answering questions like these will help you to picture what your fictional world would do. If that makes things clearer for you, it will do the same for your readers.

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Time Generation and Must Have Books

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing images kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones. Many thanks to Fiona Park for the image of me signing books at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Other book photos taken by me.
Hope you have had a good weekend. Nice to have a quiet one after my London trip the week before. The dog wasn’t sorry to have me at home either! Image below taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

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Glad to be able to share the Amazon link for the October issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads. Please note it IS a FREE magazine. Plenty of interesting articles to read. My column on flash fiction this time focuses on Light and Dark in Flash Fiction.


It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this time I look at Drawing People into Reading. This post came about as a result of something I experienced at a Book Fair many moons ago. Why is reading considered as boring in some quarters when good books take you into fantasy worlds, science fiction, backwards and forwards in time? What can be done to correct that impression? Any thoughts welcome over on the AE page.

 

Have tried to make the most of nice autumnal weather this weekend given the rain is back next week. Lady had a wonderful surprise when she got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback best buddy today and then Lady’s “boyfriend”, a lovely Aussie Shepherd called Bear, also arrived. Three tired but happy dogs went home, feeling the day was well spent. It is quite a sight to see Lady play fighting with her Ridgeback pal. You stand back, stay out of the way, and enjoy the show! And who can herd the best – a Border Collie cross or an Aussie Shepherd? Hard to pick a winner but both of them ran beautifully, tails going nineteen to the dozen.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for November. Always a joy to put that together. Please head over to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up. As well as news, I share exclusive stories, prompt, and tips here. (I try to make my newsletter something I know I would want to read if I was on the receiving end and I take the same approach with my stories and blogging. It’s a good starting point because I am trying to see things as a reader would and am tailoring my work to what I think a reader would want. It also helps cut out any temptation to put in things that are not strictly needed).

A tip that I’ve found useful many a time when perhaps the week has been especially tiring is a simple one. Just write what you can when you can and don’t beat yourself up. It is important to enjoy what you do and I would rather have a ten minutes writing session that I loved every second of than to have three times that long and I struggle. And for short periods of writing time I take the chance to jot down ideas for future use or might to do some light editing, things I know I can do in the time and which will help me feel as if I have achieved something. That is important too.

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Lady had a Saturday bonus today in that she got to play with her Labradoodle pal, Coco, today. Both dogs went home tired out and happy. I managed to cut our lawn today. I suspect it will be the final cut of the year too.

Writing wise, I look forward to sharing my next CFT post where I’ll be discussing Good Writing Topics. I am also back on Authors Electric on 18th and my theme for that will be Drawing People Into Reading.

And don’t forget if you contribute to Mom’s Favorite Reads, the online magazine, my topic this month is Memories. What 300 word stories can you share on that theme? This edition will be the November 2021 issue. I’ll share the link as soon as I can after publication so you can have a good read (!) but I know some who follow my website are fellow contributors to the magazine.

I like to pick open themes (the reason for which is something I’ll discuss more on Friday for my CFT post) but an early lesson in writing taught me to go that way as I did make the classic writing mistake of boxing myself in on a story. Never again I hope!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Amazon currently have an offer on From Light to Dark and Back Again. See link.

Looking forward to sharing stories from that and Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the Brechin/Angus Book Fest during my flash fiction workshop. One of the best ways of demonstrating what flash fiction is and can be is to read some!

 

It’s a dark, damp, dire Monday in Hampshire so definitely time for story time I think. Hope you enjoy Scrabbled. What message would you spell out on the game board?


I’ve scheduled a new mini-flash tale for tomorrow on my YouTube channel and look forward to sharing the link then. See above!

I’ve also prepared a new story which I hope to submit to #FridayFlashFiction. And I used something different for this one.
I found a time generator! You can choose random times within parameters (which you can change). I chose five times within set hours (9 am and 5 pm). I will definitely do this again. The tale was great fun to write and it made me think about what my character would actively be doing as as well as when. Having specific times in a story meant I had to make my character focus and it gave a nice rhythm to the story too. Assuming FFF take the story, I’ll share the link when I have it.

Now if only I could have a “real life” time generator to help me get all the boring chores done so I had more time for writing and editing etc! Will let you know if my story makes it on to Friday Flash Fiction’s website this week.

Meanwhile you can check out my other videos at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

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I don’t write to the seasons as such though I do like some Christmassy flash fiction stories and have some in both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. But there is no reason why you couldn’t take the seasons as a theme for a series of flash tales.

Likewise, the weather could be a “mood” for your story. Stormy has an obvious link to stormy characters and situations but how could you make “sunny” interesting enough for a reader to want to read on? I think my take on this would be to have a sunny character whose world is turned upside down. Do they find their sunny nature again or is that gone forever? Now there’s the story.

Goodreads Author Blog – Top Ten Must Have Books

Okay, no list is going to be perfect. I suspect some titles will drop out off any list in one year and come back on it again the next year etc but here is my list of Top Ten Must Have Books.

The Lord of the Rings
Pride and Prejudice
Murder on the Orient Express
Raising Steam (Terry Pratchett)
The Code of the Woosters
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Daughter of Time (Josephine Tey)
P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters. (Fabulous book and I love reading books of letters).
The History of Britain (Three volume set based on the TV series presented by Simon Schama some time ago but oh so worth reading).
A Christmas Carol

Which books would be on your list?

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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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