Seasonal Stories, Publication News, and a Lady With a Grudge

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. It is always great fun to come up with titles for my posts here. All of the above apparently unrelated topics are covered below! Hope you enjoy.BookBrushImage-2022-11-29-20-3957

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It’s my turn once again on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. Aptly, now we are in Advent, I talk about Seasonal Stories. I talk about writing festive flash fiction and also the importance of planning well ahead for writing for the seasonal markets. I also look at what I love to read over the Christmas period.

Hope you enjoy your seasonal writing and reading.

 

Has been a very busy Monday. Am hoping for a less hectic Tuesday!

One nice task today though was to put in my order for my copies of Evergreen, the latest Bridge House Publishing book. More news on this below. I’m going to be picking up my copies at their celebration event in London on Saturday and am so looking forward to that. These events are always great fun. The event will also be celebrating The Best of CafeLit 11 which was out a little earlier this year.

Looking forward also to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Wednesday this week.

And on Thursday, I send out my latest author newsletter.

Writing Tip: If you use the random generators to trigger story ideas, as I often do, make sure you mix up the ones you use. Firstly it’s not so much fun if you just stick to one or two. Secondly, other generators will stretch you. I didn’t think I could get stories out of the random number generator, for example, until I gave it a go.

 

Hope you have had a lovely Sunday. It’s Advent Sunday today and it was lovely to see the Christmas tree up in our church this morning.

Many thanks for the congratulations coming in on my story Never Old – Ever Green and Good To Go (a title which in many ways is my motto!) appearing in the new Bridge House Publishing anthology, Evergreen. Much appreciated, folks. Now you know what the publication news is in the title of this post!

Also thanks for the great response to my two part interview with Jenny Sanders on Chandler’s Ford Today recently.

Am glad to report I have another super author interview coming up this coming Friday, when I get to talk again to Scottish crime writer, Val Penny. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday. The theme will be “seconds” – it’s an interesting tag for this one.

Hope all who are taking part in Flash NANO are having a great time with it – I am. Can hardly believe we’re almost at the end of the month and the prompts.#

 

Am thrilled to say I am back in print again with a short story, Never Old – Ever Green and Good To Go, in the brand new anthology from Bridge House Publishing. This is called Evergreen – an Anthology and I am pleased to be between the covers again with familiar names and new authors. For more details see The Bridgetowncafe Bookshop link.

And well done, everyone, who has a story in here – the buzz of being published never diminishes. Nor should it!

Screenshot 2022-11-27 at 15-12-29 Evergreen eBook Multiple Hobbs-Wyatt Debz James Gill Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

Screenshot 2022-11-26 at 17-10-44 Evergreen

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Many thanks for the views coming in on Judith, my latest YouTube story. It seems my lady with a grudge has some fans!

Don’t forget my author newsletter goes out on Thursday. My monthly newsletter is a great reminder of how quickly the year is flying.

Will be tackling another interesting challenge from Flash NANO later on. Am so pleased with how things have worked out here.

While my stories need further editing and polishing, to have 30 new stories in a month is great. Would I take part in this again? Oh yes.

May be an image of text that says "What I love about flash is, ike the camera, it makes you focus. WOOZ SN3T SIN"

28th November 2022 – Second post
Almost forgot to mention my new YouTube tale is now out there. See what you make of Judith – a lady with a grudge against… well I’ll leave you to find out! Hope you enjoy it!

28th November
Have selected the pieces I hope to read from From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic for my London trip on Saturday. This is always a fun task!

Am working on a flash piece I hope to enter for a competition (deadline is the end of the year. I will aim to have it sorted and submitted in the next week or two as I always take time off any official deadline to give me time to make sure I haven’t missed anything and still get the story in on good time.

Good rule of thumb to remember here is it is okay for them to be late. It isn’t all right for you to be late! This is probably a hangover from my pre-driving days when I took the same view with buses – and rightly so too!).

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Looking forward to a trip to London on Saturday when I go to the Bridge House Publishing event. Part of the celebrations here include reading stories and I hope to read two or three of my flash pieces here. The nice thing with flash is each story doesn’t take long and I like to mix up story length and mood. Also had fun packing my book bag ready for Saturday (well, I like to be ready for these things!).

Almost at the end of Flash NANO – hard to believe where the time has gone. I’ve got something for each of the challenges set and plenty of editing to do in December but that’s fine.

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Hope you have a good day. Am so pleased to have another publication credit (Never Old – Ever Green and Good To Go is my short story in Evergreen an Anthology published by Bridge House Publishing).

I am making good progress on the Flash NANO challenges – can’t believe the month has almost gone.

And am so looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event next Saturday. Will be good to see people again. Especially since this event has had to be cancelled due to Covid in the past, it will be so nice to meet up.

I’m getting my next author newsletter ready to go out on 1st December. I share flash information and tips here as well as my news. To sign up head over to the landing page at my website – https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Have also spent time today preparing a certain wish list for a certain festive event – books are included – surprise, surprise, not!

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Goodreads Author Blog – ‘Tis The Season To Buy Books!

The 27th November 2022 is Advent Sunday, the day the Church begins the countdown to Christmas. Certainly it is at about this time of year I get present lists up together and books are very much included here! It is a joy to select books for others as well as giving my family a wish list for books I’d like to have.

Okay, you can always tell a book-shaped present for what it is under the Christmas tree but there is joy in spotting those there too!

I like a mixture of books as presents to me. This year I’ve opted for a couple of crime novels and a humorous book which is part of a series I love. Kindle books I tend to get as and when I want them and I often try out authors new to me by downloading their ebooks first. If I really like their work, I will often to go for the next book in paperback.

One thing the pandemic has changed for me is that I haven’t been in to the big shopping centres (and therefore the big bookshops) for a while. I don’t know yet if that will change for this year but I do, whenever possible, support a variety of online retailers, including those who support the independent bookshops. Do look out for those. I also support smaller bookshops when I can. They all have a lovely ambience to them and that’s reason enough to go in and support those!

I hope you have a lovely season buying books and then the great joy of having several to unwrap on Christmas Day!

Screenshot 2022-11-26 at 19-53-57 'Tis The Season To Buy Books!

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Opening Lines, a Reading Acrostic, and a Reader Hub

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots (and photo of Lady) were taken by me, Allison Symes. Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for taking the photo of me reading at a previous Bridge House Publishing event. Very much looking forward to going to the 2022 one!
Hope you have had a good few days – weather stormy and then next day gorgeous sunshine. It’s a case of looking out of the window and thinking big coat or not today then! This will be the position for the next few months – certainly till at least early March.

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Hope you’ve had a good day. Lady got to play with her “boyfriend”, a lovely tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd today. Both got a good run!

Am looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my interview with Jenny Sanders on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. This week we’ll be discussing short stories and flash fiction, other areas in which our paths have crossed, writing wise.

Have booked my tickets for the Bridge House Publishing event in London on 3rd December. Looking forward to that very much. Will be giving a reading at that event too. Flash is ideal for that kind of thing – you cannot go on for too long!

 

To say Lady and I got wet this morning is something of an understatement. Had Noah been passing, we’d have thumbed a lift.

Now I use Book Brush to design graphics with and I love using their tools to help me achieve great images for my blog posts. (I use them all the time for Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, Mom’s Favorite Reads, More than Writers etc). I’ve now set up my Reader Hub page on this (it is a new feature) where I can share pictures, my social media links and a bit about what I write, all in one handy place. Very pleased with this and am sure it will prove useful.
Screenshot 2022-11-21 at 20-00-26 Allison Symes - Author Reader HubProgressing well with Flash NANO. One of my pieces for this I plan to use for my YouTube tale this week so look out for that when I share the link tomorrow. See below. I’ve mentioned before about having a “stock” of stories ready for competitions, markets etc. Taking part in Flash NANO is a great way to build up a good stock!

I’ve shared a couple of my pieces on the Flash NANO Facebook group (as these stories needed little alteration) but I won’t share everything there because I know there is plenty of work to do on my other tales before I want anyone else seeing them! Having said that, I am loving reading what others are sharing here – it does to pay to read in your genre as well as outside of it. It always reminds me of why I love the flash format. And it is such a fun thing to do so win-win!

 

Hope you have had a good day. Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Cat Chat, my new tale (or should that be tail?) on Friday Flash Fiction. I write stories from an animal’s point of view every so often. They’re fun to do. But, as with any story, the character voice must be strong enough to be convincing.

Am looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my interview with Jenny Sanders on Chandler’s Ford Today next week (and again thanks to all who have responded so well to Part 1 where the post was shared on social media yesterday. Lots of memories about schools programming from years ago!) Part 2 will look at where Jenny and I cross paths with regard to short story and flash fiction writing.

Screenshot 2022-11-18 at 16-56-02 Cat Chat by Allison Symes

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Am looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Zoom next week. It is a lovely time to catch up with writing news, share details of competitions etc, and I usually share a short presentation.

Writing wise, I am already beginning to think about stories for a future (fourth) collection. It does take time to build these up but Flash NANO is going to be a good contributor here!

Have got a story in draft which I want to enter for a competition before the year is out. Currently resting it but hope to have another look at it over the weekend. I can’t stress enough how useful it is to have time away from a story as I find I pick up various things to put right having given myself enough distance away from the piece. It really is worth doing.

Time away

It has been the kind of Monday that makes Noah wonder if it’s time to set sail again so definitely time for a new YouTube story from me. This one, Looking and Finding, is one of my responses to the Flash NANO challenges set so far for this year. The 19 word story, all in! Hope you enjoy it. (I didn’t include the title as part of the word count for this or for the Flash NANO challenge itself but this was great fun to write and will resonate with cat owners and Tom and Jerry fans in particular).


What makes for a good opening line for me? It’s something that draws me in, sets up an interesting premise, and gives me that “I’ve got to find out what happens here” feeling. Only one way to do that – read the story – job done! But…

The job is only done if that vital closing line does its job well and delivers on the promise set by the opening one.

This is why I like to outline my flash and other stories. I don’t need to work out everything but I do need to know how I am going to get from A to B with a rough idea of the stopping points on that journey. In a flash tale, even at the 1000 words upper limit, I often only need a line (which will form the basis of Start Point A), a rough line about what happens in the middle, and another line summing up how the story finishes (my finishing point B). For a longer tale I might need a couple of lines for each of the three points of my story.

I’ve found outlining doesn’t take too long and has saved me a lot of grief. I no longer box myself into a corner with my story. I’ve only scrapped two stories in my time because I hadn’t outlined and I did box myself in as a result of that.

Don’t forget my author newsletter goes out on the first of the month and I do share tips here, especially those pertinent to flash story writing. Last time I shared a pdf I’d created for a flash fiction group I run on Zoom (the ACW one). If you’d like to sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – you would be most welcome! A big thanks to all who are already subscribers too.

One of the Flash NANO challenges is in the form of an exercise I’ve done before – to cut a story in half word count wise. It’s a great exercise to work on your editing skills as the story still has to make sense and to not lose anything important to its meaning. This kind of exercise though is not the type you can do in five minutes. What I’m hoping to do with mine is have it done by the end of Flash NANO at the end of the month.

Goodreads Author Blog – READING ACROSTIC

R= Reading is wonderful and inspires further stories to be written.
E = Educational and entertaining – what is there not to like?
A = Animals, aliens, all sorts of characters end up being the heroes and villains in the stories.
D = Dialogue in books and stories is like overhearing an intriguing conversation where you have to find out what happens.
I = Imagination – reading fires this up considerably even if you don’t write yourself.
N = Novels, novellas, short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction, articles, books, magazines – there is something to suit you somewhere!
G = Great reading can cross centuries – there is no time limit on how long a book or story can be good for.

Screenshot 2022-11-19 at 18-01-56 Reading Acrostic

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Publication/Submission News and The Flash NANO Challenge


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Weather all over the place so far this week. Busy week with publication and submission news and the Flash NANO challenge continues… am never short of things to do writing wise. And that is the way I like it!

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Lady and I spent a lot of the day getting wet. When I went out earlier it was to go swimming! You couldn’t make that up!

Writing wise, I’ll be sharing Part 1 of a fabulous interview with fellow Mom’s Favorite Reads contributor, Jenny Sanders, over on Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Link up on Friday. More interviews to come too.

Progressing well on Flash NANO. Also looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting at the end of the month. And I’ve proofread my story – Ever Green and Good to Go – which will be appearing in Evergreen, this year’s Bridge House Publishing anthology. More details on that publication as and when I have them.


Busy day as usual for a Monday. Hope things have not been too hectic with you. Pleased to get my usual batch of stories prepared and scheduled/submitted yesterday. Sunday afternoon is flash fiction writing afternoon! The rest of the week is blogging and more flash writing but I do reserve Sundays specifically for getting new material prepared and out.

It is like responding to “live prompt” writing with a very short deadline to meet and I enjoy doing that. I was pleased that something I prepared for Flash NANO will fit perfectly for something coming up shortly so I have gone and submitted it. Also submitted my third flash collection over the weekend so am pleased with weekend’s achievements.

I have some wonderful author interviews coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today so am looking forward to sharing these with you over the next few weeks.

Author Interviews coming up on CFT

May be an image of laptop and text that says "It took a while to find my writing style, voice for fiction and non- fiction but now I know what these are, I can play to their strengths."

Hope you have had a good day. The service at the War Memorial in the village where we go to church was most moving. Remembering and being grateful for sacrifices made is so important.

What would your characters consider important to remember? What does this reveal about them? What stories and poems do they choose to hold dear? Also what would they be prepared to sacrifice and what would drive them to do it?

And remember you can use a character’s memory as a point of conflict with another character. How would that then play out in your story?

May be an image of text that says "Dream Inspire Courage Harmony We should understand where our characters come from even if we don't agree with them. What dreams do they have? Would we dream the same?"

Many thanks for the comments coming in on my In The Blink of an Eye, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. I’ve loved getting back to the 100-worders (aka drabbles) again. These were what first got me into flash fiction writing at all and is a joy to be writing these weekly for FFF.

For Flash NANO, I’ve found my word count has been variable but that’s okay. They’ll be even more variable when I get to edit these pieces! But it will result in, I hope, thirty new stories written by the end of the month and I know I’ll be doing plenty with those.

Screenshot 2022-11-11 at 08-57-23 In The Blink Of An Eye by Allison Symes

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Am glad my story on YouTube, Time Management, has gone down well. Also thank you for the comment left on this one over on my YouTube channel. Don’t forget you can subscribe to my channel and new subscribers are also welcome. Many thanks to those who already do!

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14th November
You know the drill. It’s Monday. It’s getting dark early. It is still flaming Monday, and it’s time for a new YouTube story from yours truly. I concede I may be a little early with this one given the subject matter (Time Management) but hope you enjoy it anyway!


Flash NANO challenge continues to go well. And I submitted my third flash fiction collection yesterday so fingers crossed time!

Over on my author page, I was thinking about the use of memories for story ideas. Flash can be an ideal form for monologues. So you could focus on one character and one specific memory and how that changed them to create a poignant flash piece. (I did this with my They Don’t Understand in From Light to Dark and Back Again. I think it works well precisely because it has to be kept short and pertinent).

The memory you select has to be something that has changed your character and which would rivet a reader into wanting to find out why the character was changed by it.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections


Flash News: Hannah Kate will be running her Three Minute Santas again on North Manchester FM. See the link for more details but I hope to submit something for this and it is easy to do too. Have since sent something in. Again fingers crossed time!

What I do is prepare my story, edit it, and then when I’m happy, I set up a meeting with myself on Zoom and record it. When you end your meeting Zoom turns the file into a mp4 file for you. Not only can you hear it back, you get the timing for your file too. (And reading your work out is always great for hearing whether your story flows as well as you thought).

3 Minute Santas

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Memory Associations

Books are special for so many reasons. Not least is the fact books have so many positive memory associations for us. I still have my Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales which my father bought for me many, many years ago. I think he saved up cigarette coupons to get the books. You could back then!

You went into what was a effectively a catalogue shop (a bit like Argos) and redeemed the coupons. One irony here is I know I did get a recorder thanks to those coupons thanks to Dad’s smoking habit, which I am glad he gave up much later on. Anyway, I still treasure those fairytale books. The spines are taped up because I read them so much when I was younger.

Then there are the books I inherited from my mum. There are the books I bought for myself to start my own collection off. There are the books I’ve written or contributed to and there are plenty of books on my shelves written by friends. I love them all!

There are books I associate with reading at certain times of the year. There are those I dip back into occasionally but I am just glad to know they’re on my shelves somewhere. For me a home isn’t a home without books in it. They are a great comfort.

So which books have great associations for you? Which books could you not bear to part with under any circumstances?

Screenshot 2022-11-12 at 20-08-03 Book Memory Associations
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Flash NANO, Book Wish Lists, and Podcast News

Image Credits:-
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 start to the week. Wild weather here but progressing well with Flash NANO and I’m about to be on a podcast talking about that very thing. Hope to share the link to the podcast in the next issue on Friday.

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Thrilled to say I was interviewed by #WendyHJones for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, today. Show will go out tomorrow and I’m looking forward to sharing the link.

Our topic? Flash NANO! Flash NANO is an offshoot of NaNoWriMO and is where flash fiction writers get to write 30 flash pieces over 30 days. I’ll be working on my prompt for today later on this evening! Tomorrow’s episode follows on beautifully from her show last week which talked about NaNoWriMo – the A to Z see link for that. It was great fun taking part in this and I am always keen to spread the word about flash fiction – win-win here then!

Screenshot 2022-11-08 at 20-40-00 NaNoWriMo A to Z - The Writing and Marketing Show

Hope you have had a lovely start to your working week. Blustery and wet again here but I did have a lovely surprise this morning. Ruth Leigh, whom I recently interviewed for Chandler’s Ford Today, gave me a lovely shout-out on More Than Writers (the Association of Christian Writers blog spot). See link and screenshot.

Talking of CFT, my post this week will be called Remembering, especially apt at this post goes out on Armistice Day.

And in other news, I will be interviewed myself very soon. See above! Will give more details when I can but looking forward to this a lot.

All in all, it’s not been a bad Monday!

Screenshot 2022-11-07 at 09-21-45 It's All in the Questions

More rain last night, fewer fireworks, Lady dozing off to the second part of Classic FM’s Pet Classics – win-win all around here!
I use a good old-fashioned paper diary bought from my local Post Office to help me plan out my writing. I find this especially useful for the different blogs I write pieces for. There is still much to be said for pen and paper technology!

Having said that, I take my turn every month on the Association of Christian Writers Twitter feed. I draft those tweets in advance and schedule them so I use that kind of technology too.

Am definitely one of life’s planners. I find it invaluable for keeping track of my writing. And today being a Sunday, as well as continuing with Flash NANO later on, I will get some flash pieces ready for submission and scheduling respectively. It’s a nice way to round off the writing week.

May be an image of text that says "Planning out your writing does not have to kill spontaneity, far from it. don't plan to the "nth" degree. I plan enough to get me started and to ensure I get done in a week what I'd like to get done. TOBER NOVEMBER DECEMBER YEARLYPLANNER PLANNER 2019 LNE MON ON"

Hope you have had a good Saturday. There were some fireworks last night but the combination of Classic FM’s Pet Classics, the TV being on, and shut curtains etc meant Lady was okay (and she nodded off during the evening, which is always a good sign). The only positive thing about the wild and wet weather today is it should mean fewer fireworks (I hope). I see some of the supermarkets are now stocking the silent variety. Now that is the way to go with these things. It is the noise which causes the most distress and I do feel deeply sorry for the wild animals. At least I can keep my pet indoors.

A big thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on Old Notebooks, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Feedback always appreciated.

My theme for next week’s Chandler’s Ford Today will be Remembering given it will be Armistice Day.

Memories can make great themes for stories too. You can have characters who struggle with theirs for various reasons from illness to the memories themselves being something they don’t really want to have to face up to and don’t forget false memories. Who has them? What has triggered this? How can they be shown these memories are false?

Progressing well with Flash NANO too. Looking forward to having a go at today’s prompt later on.

Screenshot 2022-11-04 at 09-26-35 Old Notebooks by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Earlier today I was spreading the word about flash fiction and Flash NANO in particular as guest interviewee on Wendy H Jones’s podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. Show goes out tomorrow and I will be sharing the link then.

But I’m always pleased to share the virtues of flash fiction and one perhaps overlooked aspect is the possibilities of getting into print with it. I hope by the end of Flash NANO to have 30 new stories. Once I’ve polished those up, I hope to send some in for competitions. Others I hope to put towards a future collection. And with the rise in the indie press, there are opportunities out there to have flash collections published. I know, I’ve done it!

I also remain convinced that flash is an excellent form of writing exercise for any writer because you have to think about what the story is about and what the reader needs to know and cut out everything that doesn’t serve a useful purpose.

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life

It’s a dark Monday. It’s a wet and windy one. Time for my latest story on YouTube. Hope you enjoy All In The Game, which is based on fact too.

 

How to tell when a flash piece is finished? My take on this is when I know I cannot take another word out without losing something invaluable to the characters/story. As for adding words, again the same criteria applies because you can, to use the English phrase, “over-egg” the pudding and ruin it.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have to justify to myself why I’ve included anything in my story. If I’m not convinced if something is necessary, then a reader is likely to feel the same way. I don’t want them switching off as a result.

When looking back at my earlier stories, I can see now how I could improve these but that is the point. That was the stage of writing I was at then. I have moved on since and rightly so too. I want to try and keep on improving on what I do. That attitude helps fuel my imagination and creativity and I am all for that. I don’t think any writer can feel they’ve “made it”. There are always ways to develop your characters further and to come up with other interesting situations to dump them in. That is the fun bit!

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "Wm ( S)TOP LEARNING Good idea. It can be great fun though getting your characters to learn their lessons the hard way. Makes for good drama."

Flash fiction is the definition of Less is More being true but it is nice being able to exploit that to maximum effect. This is another reason why knowing the last line first is such an effective device for writing flash. If I’m given a prompt which could be an opening or a closing line, I nearly always make it the last one for this reason. I’ve got the impact in that line so where best to place it? Often it is at the end.

Sometimes a story simply does work better at 300 words, say, rather than 100. Usually there are factors such as more in depth characterisation adding to the story which you would not want to lose. My basis for editing any piece of my work is if it adds something to useful to the story and moves it on in some way it stays in. If not, out it comes. So part of my editing process is to go through my story line by line and query its worthiness to be included. I have to be able to justify its inclusion.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Wish Lists

It is the right time of year to start thinking about book wish lists (assuming you don’t have an all year round one. The advantage of the latter is it covers birthdays, anniversaries, feel like a new book days etc). I don’t have a wish list for my Kindle. If there’s a book I’m after for that, I just get it.

But I will be compiling my annual list for the family to pick books from for me for Christmas. That’s always fun to put together. I go for a mixture of hardbacks and paperbacks. Some will be books I’ve been after for a while. Others are recent releases I like the look of – and often detective novels at that. I also make a point in checking out non-fiction releases as I’ve found some gems there.

So what it is that makes you put a book on your own wish list? For me the story is the lure. If I like the sound of it, on to the wish list it goes, whether it is by a big name author or not. Some are the latest in a series I’ve become fond of and others are stand alones. As long as I like the sound of the tale and the characters, I’m putting it on my list.

The nice thing about lists is it is a win-win for my loved ones too. I am easy to buy for! Mind you, I think most writers are. There are always books or stationery items we want. No good asking for an agent or a publishing deal though – you’re on your own for those!

 

 

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Learning From Our Favourite Characters

Image Credits:-
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 weekend. This week sees my latest author newsletter go out and my taking part in Flash NANO for the first time. Weather all over the place here though we still have gorgeous autumn colours to enjoy (the photo below was taken by me during my Northumberland holiday only a couple of weeks ago).

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Where does the time go? Mind you, it wasn’t hard to believe it’s November today. I’ve had heavy rain, gales, hail, all sorts here and that was by lunchtime today! Lady got to have a bonus play with her best buddy today so she was well pleased.

Author newsletter went out today. Received my first Flash NANO prompt which I plan to write up later this evening.

I’ll be reviewing Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery of Mallen Hall for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Always a joy to go and watch The Chameleon Theatre Group. Looking forward to going to their pantomime (Pinocchio the Pantomime) in January – oh yes I am!

Oh and big news – I’ve booked my place for The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, very much being an ”early bird”. If you want to know more about Swanwick, do check their website out.


Screenshot 2022-11-01 at 20-24-19 Swanwick Writers' Summer School

Hope you have had a good start to the week. Lady got to play with her best buddy today, the Rhodesian Ridgeback., so those two went home tired but happy. Went out at the right time too – the heavens opened at lunchtime!

Looking forward to taking part in Flash NANO which starts tomorrow. Good luck to everyone taking part in that and in the NaNoWriMo. Hope you all get plenty written. I’m hoping to write to as many of the prompts as I can with the idea being these might go forward to a future collection of mine.

Separately, don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month so do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to catch the next one “hot off the presses”, so to speak, given it goes out tomorrow. I often share flash tips etc here.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Did appreciate the extra hour’s lie-in this morning as clocks went back in the UK. Even the dog welcomed it!

Many thanks for the fabulous comments coming in on The Caterpillar and The Zebra, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction.

I’ll be reviewing Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery of Mallen Hall for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. It was great to see The Chameleon Theatre Group on stage again.

Also a big thanks for the comments coming in on Learning from Our Favourite Characters, my most recent blog post for More than Writers (the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot).

Will be pretty busy preparing interview questions for CFT for a couple of lovely authors soon. More details on these interviews nearer the time. Once nice thing about it getting darker sooner in the evenings is that it gives me even more incentive to stay at my desk writing away!

 

It’s my turn on the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. For More Than Writers this month, I look at Learning from Our Favourite Characters. For one thing, you can figure out whether you would make the choices they do in the book you’re reading. One of the joys of being a writer is you get to read more too and you can learn so much from what else you read, whether it is contemporary or classic, fiction or non-fiction.

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Received my first Flash NANO prompt and am looking forward to writing that up later. Plan for the month is to write up as many of the prompts as possible. I’ll be worrying about editing in December!

One of the most sensible pieces of writing advice I’ve received (and act on) is to write the story first and worry about editing later. See them as two separate tasks.

That has helped me so much. It means I don’t “hamstring” myself trying to get the first sentence right. I just get the story written and then look at ways to improve it. There always are ways!

Writing Advice

It’s Monday. It’s a darker than normal Monday too – not because of Halloween but because the clocks went back in the UK yesterday! It bucketed down with rain at lunchtime. And it remains Monday. Definitely time for a story on YouTube then. This one, Past Writings, is inspired by a random theme generator and the theme which came up was that of old notebooks. It’s a complete contrast to my zebra video last week (and again a huge thanks for the views coming in on that).

 

I’ve signed up to take part in Flash NANO which begins on 1st November. You receive 30 prompts over 30 days and it is up to you how many stories you write up. If you want to find out more about this head over to Nancy Stohlman’s site at https://nancystohlman.com/flashnano/

Am looking forward to this. Should be fun. And talking of flash fiction, I am glad to say the November issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out and I’m talking about Twists in Flash Fiction this time. Also check out the wonderful stories that came in as a result of my challenge.


One simple thing any reader can do to help a writer is to review their books. Doesn’t need to be a long review. Just needs to be honest and to the point for the book in question. On that note, I’m delighted to have received another five star review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See screenshot. Many thanks to #JoyWood.

Also, there is no “use by” date for these things. Yes, they are especially helpful at the time of a book launch but any author will welcome helpful reviews whenever they come in.

This review mentions signed copies of my books. I’m always pleased to sign my books for people. Just get in contact with me via https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and we can take things from there.

Screenshot 2022-10-29 at 16-31-50 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

Goodreads Author Blog – The ABC of Books Part 2 – N to Z

It’s time for Part 2 of my alphabetical celebration of books.

N = New and old books – read both and have a great reading “diet”.

O = Open up your reading diet to include genres new to you – this is where I’m glad I have many writing friends. I like to read what they bring out. It’s wonderfully entertaining and I’ve got to read books this way I might not otherwise have come across.

P = Paperbacks and the Penguin. Paperbacks are my favourite format and Penguin opened these up for so many – definitely worth celebrating that.

Q = Quirky fiction. Plenty of room for that in the book world – and often it is the quirky books or characters that grab the attention. Who would have thought a trilogy about a brave hobbit would take off?

R = Reading – and across formats as well as genres. Stories can be taken in via the printed word, audio, etc. Enjoy them all.

S = Stories. This is what books give us – yes, even non-fiction. Why? Because in a non-fiction book, the “story” is you finding out something you had not known before on a topic that has grabbed your interest. Or has increased your knowledge on it.

T = Trailers for books. These are great fun and a fabulous way of giving a teaser to a book. I’m all for getting the word about books out there and this is another way to do that.

U = Universes, yes plural. Fabulous books take you into a world of their own (whether it is set here, back in time, or a fantasy planet somewhere). You should lose yourself in a good book!

V = Voice. A good book will show you the author’s voice through their characters and will enthrall you. You’ll look out for more by that writer hopefully too.

W = Words, the powerhouse of books. Books impact you through words, the way the author has put them together, what they get their characters to say and do. The words of characters stay in your memory. Words, and therefore books, are powerful.

X = X marks the spot found in classic pirate fiction such as Treasure Island, and that leads me on to saying (e)xcellence in fiction, especially children’s fiction will encourage a life long love of reading. How do I know? It happened for me!

Y = Young Adult fiction. I am so glad this category exists now. It didn’t really when I was growing up. I did find myself between categories and I’d have loved the YA range. Also a great way to keep people reading and I’m all for that too.

Z = Zestful books – the kind that keep you reading all night. The books that are hard to put down even when you have finished reading them. The very best books of all!

Screenshot 2022-10-29 at 20-39-26 The ABC of Books - Part 2 - N to Z

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Back Home – A Blog Appearance and Flash Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots and holiday photos taken by me, Allison Symes. The week back after a holiday is always a busy one but so far I’ve appeared on a blog and I’ll be running a Flash Fiction group on Zoom soon too. Hit the ground running then, Allison!

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From Seahouses looking across to Beadnell Beach. Weather last week was glorious.

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Good to get back to swimming today. Always a tough one – the first swim after a break.

Posting early today as out this evening. What do you look for in an author interview? I look for information, helpful tips, and something indicating the writer has had their fair share of ups and downs. I don’t know about you but it makes me feel considerably better to know I’m not the only one there!

When I’m on the receiving end of an interview, I look to give tips, share warnings about some of the scams out there which can trip up the unwary writer, and share some of my own ups and downs. It helps to know It is normal for the writing life not to be a straight road.

I’ve learned so much about the writing world from author interviews whether I read them or listen to them on podcasts etc.

Look up author interviews and get a feel for the kind of questions that are asked

Hope you have had a good start to the week. Busy one here. Lady back to enjoying her usual visits to our park (and got to see the lovely Coco yesterday, who is a smashing Labradoodle).

Am pleased to say I am on Gill James’ blog today. I talk about all things CafeLit. Do see link (and many thanks to Gill for hosting me).
Screenshot 2022-10-17 at 13-55-16 Allison Symes talks today about her experince of writing for CafeLit
There is a lot of truth in the saying you need a holiday to get over a holiday! This coming week will be especially busy but it was lovely to get away.

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Group meeting on Wednesday. Always good fun.

Hope to be working on my stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction later on. Now which random generator will I use tonight? Hmm… decisions, decisions – but these are fun ones! And there is a wealth of generators to choose from. You will find one(s) to suit.

I refuse to think about a certain festive event until the end of the month though I will add now if you have a writer in your life, be thankful. We are so easy to buy for. There are always books we want. Pens, notebooks, book-related mugs etc always go down well. So come the end of the month, I will be starting to put my list together! (Oh and the other easy type to buy for are dogs so I shall need to get Lady’s list for a certain person together next month too).

And it will be time to be thinking about festive flash too. I usually write a couple of these. Good fun.

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Had great time in Northumberland. Good weather for most of the week too. We always do self catering as it is easiest option for dog owners. Would happily stay in our cosy cottage again. Great views over farmland and such a comfy place.

For Chandler’s Ford Today I will be interviewing Ruth Leigh to talk about her new book, The Continuing Times of Isabella M Smugge. Isabella is one of those great unforgettable creations who is funny and moving. Once read, want to read more which is a great sign of fabulous characterisation.

Ruth and I will also be chatting about launches and marketing. Part 1 of the interview is up on Friday.

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Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Group meeting on Zoom tomorrow night. The members here live hundreds of miles apart so an in-person gathering is not feasible. Zoom has been (a) a lifeline and (b) made certain things possible and not just for ACW.

Naturally it is good to have a couple of hours to talk flash, have a go at some writing exercises and so on (I have great fun thinking these up by the way!).

Intrigue the reader

It’s Monday and time for another YouTube flash story from me. Transforming Hope is based on a line triggered by a poetry line generator (yes, really!). I adapted the line a little bit to suit my purposes. Hope you enjoy this.

 

When I’m picking flash tales to read at Open Prose Mic Nights, I look for a mixture of moods. I like to mix up funny with more sombre tales as it is a good advert for flash doing that. You can pack a punch with a short piece. You can also make people laugh with a short piece. I love trying to do both.

Life so often is a mixture of light and dark and I think it apt fiction overall reflects that. After all I read to either match my mood or to give me an uplift, depending on how I am feeling so what I write will do this too.

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life

I came across some lovely place names while away in Northumberland. Possible inspiration for future character names, I think. I wouldn’t be the only writer to use place or other names for character names. P.G. Wodehouse famously did this for Lord Emsworth, Galahad Threepwood etc. Emsworth is in my home county of Hampshire.

I also use random name generators. I often just go with the Christian name. I don’t always need a surname. I use names to indicate likely social status, if they’re from this world or not, also age. Names make a great indicator and I find them useful in flash for that as they can be a useful shortcut. A name can tell you things and save a lot of description.

May be an image of ‎one or more people, brick wall and ‎text that says "‎Names can be used to indicate likely social background and much more. ಅe ××××××ב‎"‎‎

Goodreads Author Blog – Non-Fiction Inspiring Fiction

Non-fiction can inspire fiction. How things are made, for example, can trigger ideas for how things would be made in your fictional settings and the characters who would make them.

Equally reading up on science that interests you or a period of history can trigger ideas for characters. I’ve always found getting a character in my head is a surefire way to spark story ideas.

So having a reasonable general knowledge, fuelled by non-fiction reading, is a useful “pool” to fish in for story ideas. And as ever, the wider you read the bigger your “pool” to fish from.

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Goodbye to A Great Lady

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
I spent a lot of Monday, 19th September 2022, along with so many others, watching the funeral of Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. I share some thoughts on that below but there was no way I could call this post anything else. She truly was a great lady. Goodbye for now, Ma’am. We will meet again.

 

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20th September 2022
Most moving moments for me watching the Queen’s funeral yesterday were the corgis, the pony, and the tolling of Big Ben. Have never heard that. (Last time it would definitely have been done would have been for the funeral of the Queen’s father, King George VI. I don’t know if was done for the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill).

Writing wise, don’t forget to use the senses when you can do so in your fiction. We get our characters seeing things, sometimes hearing them, but don’t neglect the senses of touch, taste, and smell. These should figure “naturally” in your story. If your character is in a cafe, we’d expect them to smell food, drink coffee etc.

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Times Past, my story on Friday Flash Fiction. Link here if you missed it – and do let me know what you think of Granny Mary.


Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

 

19th September 2022 – The Funeral of Queen Elizabeth

The late Queen’s funeral was a moving and beautiful tribute to her. I thought the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon was wonderful and the music and processions were just stunning. The flowers were so lovely.

I salute all those who worked so hard behind the scenes on this.

My thoughts and prayers go out to King Charles and the Royal Family,

Long live the King.

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18th September – bonus post – Authors Electric
Apologies folks – I almost forgot to share my latest post on Authors Electric. I talk about Creative Non-Fiction, which is one of the courses I went to during my week away at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August. Hope you find it useful.


Screenshot 2022-09-18 at 20-36-49 Creative Non-Fiction by Allison Symes

18th September 2022
Am glad the weather is keeping okay for The Queue. Not surprised they’re shutting it later on – I hope everyone gets to go through okay. It is kind of bizarre to think of shutting a queue though! Only in Britain I suspect… I did watch a little of the live streaming from Westminster Hall yesterday and found watching it very moving.

I’ll be looking at Looking Back for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. I usually do write an autumnal reflection piece at some point in September or October for CFT and it seemed apt do to this now.

I look back at my decades on this planet with some of the major events from the late Queen’s time and discuss why momentous moments should make us take time out to reflect. We need that time before we can move on. More on Friday.

How do you get your characters to show emotion? I tend to use their dialogue – there are certain things you would say when upset, angry etc that you would not say at other times. I also use gestures.

I can sometimes get other characters to bluntly ask Character A something along the lines of “what the hell is wrong with you?” etc. The important point though is I am showing and not telling here and you can mix up how you do this to keep things fresh and interesting for a reader.

17th September 2022
It is touching seeing The Queue – am glad the weather is keeping okay – at least it is dry! I was told that the Salvation Army are out there issuing out 1000 cups of tea an hour. That has to be a record, hasn’t it? It’s an apt one that’s for sure!

My late mother always used to say if tea was alcoholic, she’d never be sober but I don’t think even she could’ve brewed, yet alone drunk, so much tea in that kind of time scale!

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Times Past, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Link given further up. This story is in letter format. I use this every now and again. It’s a great form for a “two-handed” story with two characters only (and one of them can be “off stage”). It is effectively an all dialogue kind of tale so you need to ensure your lead here has a strong voice. Here, I think you’ll visualise Granny Mary well from what she says in her letter.

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20th September 2022
A day later this week for obvious reasons. Hope you enjoy my latest story on YouTube – Precious.

19th September 2022 – The Funeral of Queen Elizabeth

Whenever there are big occasions, there are stand out moments. These will be the things you treasure. The Queen’s funeral had so many of these moments though seeing the corgis and Her Late Majesty’s pony was an emotional moment.

The beauty of Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel, Windsor were amazing.

And I had to smile a little as the state hearse left London via Chiswick (the A4) and the flyover there. When we used to visit my late father’s family in London, we would often come into the capital that way. Lost count of the number of times we passed by Fuller’s Brewery.

It was lovely to see the flowers on the road and on the hearse too.

God bless the late Queen.

Long live the King.

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18th September 2022

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting held online which will be next week. Always good fun and it has been lovely seeing some of those taking part having stories out there – more power to your pens and laptops, folks!

The great thing with flash is what with the competitions and online and other magazines out there taking this material, we do have more opportunities to build up a track record in being published. That is likely to come in handy I would’ve thought!

And, of course, you can build up a collection of stories too – the indie press is very much your friend here. I must admit this is where I find having a subscription to a writing magazine is useful – I can spot the competitions and markets that might be of interest to me more easily and it proves to be a most enjoyable read while I’m having my lunch so win-win there!

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17th September 2022
Flash is great for humorous tales. It is equally great for twist ones and those stories which manage to make you catch your breath (the “punch in the gut” ones as I like to think of them). So as well as writing different genres, you can mix up the moods of your tales too. This is a huge advantage to having a form of fiction which has to be character led. The mood for the story is led by them and the situation you put them in.

I also feel where I’m writing a story with emotional depth to it such as my Judgement Day in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, then keeping the story short helps with that impact enormously. I’m not diluting it. Also who says you need thousands of words to get a serious point across? It is not necessarily so!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Stand Out Moments

What are your favourite stand out moments in fiction?

In Pride and Prejudice for me it is where Elizabeth meets Mr Darcy again at Pemberley. You just know at that point somehow things are going to be sorted out between them. It is a question of finding out how.

For The Lord of the Rings it is when Sam Gamgee eavesdrops Gandalf’s conversation with Frodo, is hauled in, and is determined to go with his boss, no matter what. You just know at that point Frodo is going to be glad of Sam accompanying him – and so it proves.

Sometimes the pivot point in the book is the stand out moment for me. But in both Pride and Prejudice and The Lord of the Rings, there are several stand out moments. You can’t beat seeing the Ring of Power going into Mount Doom after all but that can’t happen without the earlier stand out moment.

Can there be stand out moments in non-fiction? I think so. It is usually that point where something is shown to you that you’d not realised before and you learn something new or have a theory you had confirmed or challenged (either work. The moment that makes you change your view or have it confirmed is what you remember).

The ultimate stand out moment though is the one that made you glad to have read the book!

Screenshot 2022-09-17 at 20-25-54 Stand Out Moments

 

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Regular Writing and What Makes a Good Read

Image Credits:-
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 had a good weekend. Starting to get rain, thunder etc here. Lady okay with it but does not like being woken up by it. Can’t say I blame her.

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Hope you have had a good day. Not bad here and I managed to get some swimming in as well so that’s good. Managed to duck most of the showers as well – definitely a good day. Lady and I have had plenty of soakings in our time so any time we miss out on that, we feel we have won!

Just to flag up there’s an offer on the paperback on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the link at https://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

Writing Tip 9002.5 or thereabouts: Regular writing is important. So is life. If life does get in the way, don’t feel bad about what you can’t do. Focus on what you can.

If it means you need to have another writing session some when else, then fine, so be it. The writing journey is a marathon and not a sprint. Pacing yourself helps a lot.

I must admit I know there are some nights of the week I know I’m not going to get a lot done so I focus on blogging (just adding a few paragraphs sometimes) or I draft a flash story. It gives me something to work on when I do have more time.

 

Am grateful Lady isn’t fazed by thunder and lightning as we had some in my part of the world at about 11 last night. Her policy here is the same as mine – the sensible one of sleeping through it and letting the weather carry on without you. It’s not as if it needs our help!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Good Interviews. I’ll be looking at what writers can do to help themselves prepare for these as well as looking at interviewing your characters to find out more about them ahead of writing their stories up. Link up on Friday. (And I’m interviewing two great writers for CFT before long – more news nearer the time – so I plan to be practicing what I preach here!).

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)Comments welcome for CFT


Changeable weather today with rain forecast this week. Won’t be that sorry, though it will mean Lady and I will probably get a bit wet. The trees here are shedding leaves early to conserve water so the rain is needed. And Lady and I are used to being “drips” anyway so that’s okay!

Many thanks for the comments in on Fitting In, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. In case you missed it, you can find it here.

Now this story is loosely based on fact. I did have a dog called Gracie and I did fall for her immediately. Inspiration for story ideas can and does come from incidents in life but also from what I read and sometimes an overheard bit of conversation which intrigues me. (Train journeys are great for that by the way).

It’s being open to the possibility you might get a story from something that is important I think. The more you read, the more you are open to being inspired too.Screenshot 2022-09-02 at 09-11-55 The Arrangement by Allison Symes

Hope you have a happy weekend.

Any autumn plans you’re looking forward to? Any books you’re planning on reading this season? I mentioned the other day I’m currently reading Churchill’s Wizards on Kindle (having just finished the excellent Regal Retribution by Jennifer C Wilson).

It’s a lovely contrast in reading material – non-fiction -v- contemporary fiction (historical crossed with ghost). But I love to mix up my reading and ideas for stories come from both sides of my reading diet. I’ll read something and the cogs get whirring and I jot down ideas for another flash story or blog post. Reading feeds the imagination and it pays all writers to keep theirs topped up.

Best of all, it is fun to do!

And talking of reading, why not check out the latest edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads? It is free to download, has a wealth of articles, photos, stories and, of course, my flash fiction column.

This time I’m talking about Questions and Answers in Flash Fiction. I love questions as they give you a great story structure from the word go. Your story has to answer the question set. Your question draws the reader in – they know there will have to be an answer by the end of the story. Do also check out the flash fiction pieces that came in as a result of my challenge – there are wonderful stories here.

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 20-32-31 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine September 2022

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Don’t forget I often post flash fiction videos to my YouTube channel. New subscribers are always welcome (and the current ones treasured!). You can find my channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2022-09-06 at 20-23-13 Allison Symes

 

It’s Monday. It’s time for a story I think. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTubeThe Right Number. No prizes for guessing which random generator I used to trigger the idea for this one!

 

Does geography come into your fiction at all? It sometimes ventures into mine. For example in A Day Out from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I refer to Earth Mark Two. I didn’t have the room in this story to say more than that but you immediately know you’re in an alien environment loosely based on what we know here.

More importantly, I didn’t need to say more than that. As ever it is the telling detail which matters here. You can bring the senses in here too.

For example, if you say Character X was standing by the blood red waterfall, you can deduce they must be on a foreign planet even if you don’t give the name of it.

Also think about how geography might impact your story (the quest tale is the obvious one here but it can be done for the smaller flash stories). If your character is on a mission to deliver cakes, (quite possibly to Grandma’s house), how could the geography get in their way and what do they do to bypass that? There’s the story. Readers will want to know if those cakes did get delivered. There’s your structure.

The geography is what causes conflict and challenge for your character and they will have to resolve it as best as they can to be able to do what they are meant to do. Usually failure is not an option (and you can increase the hazards for your character here by making it clear what will happen if they do fail).

May be an image of ‎tree and ‎text that says "‎Just give your readers what they need to know to picture your world. Everything else they will هll in from what they have read/seen on film.‎"‎‎

I often refer to some of my stories as “fairytales with bite” because they often have a twist and they’re not aimed at children. They often see characters getting their comeuppance. I also like to look at stories from the viewpoint of alternative characters to the well known ones.

Indeed my first story in print was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions. My story looked at an aspect of the Cinderella story from the youngest step-sister’s viewpoint. Great fun to do.

The original fairytales are anything but twee as I’ve mentioned before. They can work so well as in flash fiction format, especially if you want a succinct story focusing on one incident in a character’s life.

My The Poison Pen from From Light to Dark and Back Again looks at the Snow White story from the viewpoint of the crone before the King marries Snow White’s mother and shows early indications of what the crone is like.

This kind of tale can add to the world of the well known fairytales I think. But you need to think about what character you’re going to use for this and work out what you can do with them. In this story’s case, I am showing the crone was like this years prior to the original Snow White story. In other words, she’s got form!

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes You Read?

Leading question, hmm? What makes me read is curiosity first and foremost. I have to find out what happens to the characters in the story. Or I have to find out what an expert is imparting to me via their non-fiction work. I read to escape worries and cares for while. I read because I love stories and finding out things. I read because it is a privilege and pleasure to be able to do so.

Reading fuels the imagination and that is why I think all writers should read widely and regularly, inside and outside of their chosen genre. I’ve had story ideas come to me from reading non-fiction. Occasionally a blog idea will occur to me from reading something in a story. I also see reading as supporting the industry I am part of – makes great sense to me.

Besides, as we go into autumn in my part of the world, what is better than curling up with a hot chocolate and a good book or something fascinating on your Kindle?

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 20-47-58 What Makes You Read

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Opening Lines, Dialogue, and Persistence


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. I use Book Brush for captioning etc. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of Lady.
Hope you had a good weekend. My part of the world is experiencing a heatwave at the moment. Lady and I don’t really “do” heat so won’t be sorry when it cools down again.

BookBrushImage-2022-7-12-20-2651Facebook – General

What do I look for when reading a story by someone else and what can I learn from it for my own writing?

The main thing I look for is how the story made me feel. I then look at why it achieved that. I can then go back over the story (especially if it is a short story or piece of flash fiction) to look at how the author achieved this. It will inevitably be to do with how they portrayed the character.

I sometimes have fun trying to spot the turning point in a character. Sometimes the odd line will prove to be really important to the story later on and I like trying to guess what these might be. Sometimes I guess correctly.

A lot of the time I haven’t so I go back through the piece to see if I can work out whether I should’ve guessed correctly. You can learn a lot from doing things like this, including how to plant your own red herrings when the need arises!

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Wow! What a warm Monday! You’ll be glad to know Lady is fine, drinking plenty, and staying out of direct sunlight. It’s about the only time she is ever remotely sensible, not that I am sorry about this. She got to see her best mate, the Ridgeback, briefly this morning before it really heated up, which cheered both dogs up.

I suspect her buddie, like Lady, has spent the rest of the day curled up somewhere cool, pausing every now and then to get up and have a good drink. It truly is a dog’s life…

I mentioned last week I’d found a title for my “X” feature for this week’s In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Drum roll please… it is going to be (E)xcellence in Fiction – now before you all start shouting at me and saying I am cheating here, let me just say one thing.

You’re quite right!
Am I sorry? No!

I did consider other options such as X-Ray Vision and Other Special Gifts In Fiction. Now I could have written a post on that but obviously It would be heavily weighted in favour of sci-fi and fantasy writing so I thought a broader topic more people can get more out of would be the better idea. Link up on Friday.

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Writing Tip:

Keep it simple is a good maxim to go by for writing dialogue. I occasionally have a pompous character who won’t use contractions or will use complicated words and everyone else around them is wondering what on earth they’re going on about. Keeping the dialogue simple helps increase pace. Your characters can share information more quickly.

It is especially important in fiction for characters to get to the point – readers want to find out what happens after all. We all know those who “go around the houses” a bit in their speech – that’s fine for people we know. It’s not fine in stories. Readers will switch off. When you need a character like that, use the verbosity every so often. Readers will get the idea this character is like that but at the same time won’t be bored to ears by them either. They know to expect it.

I find the more verbose characters work best for humorous pieces (and ideally the story is on the relatively short side too. You don’t want to run the risk of the joke wearing thin long before the reader gets to The End).

Characters can bring each other up to date with story events via dialogue

Hope you have had a good Saturday. It was still well into the 20s temperature wise late last night. Thankfully Lady tends to crash out after a busy day and she loved her time down in the West Country yesterday.

The other half and I decided a day out would do us all the world of good and we had a fabulous time. Nice coastal breeze too. (We always carry water for Lady wherever and whenever we go out, including our local park, so she always has plenty to drink. She enjoyed some paddling yesterday – as indeed did I!).

Comments still coming in for Respect, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Many thanks, everyone. It seems people agree with my character’s attitude to nobody disrespecting her cat! See the link in case you missed the story – and beware the cat!

Do you have a particular kind of character you love to write about? I like the feisty underdog type of character. You know, the one most would overlook or dismiss as being unimportant yet who turns out to be the most important of all. I think this love comes from my love of fairytales and my faith too. (See Matthew 23: 12 – For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted).

Many stories revolve around a “turn around” in fortunes and so often with fairytales, the attitude of the main character will often dictate what happens to them. In Beauty and the Beast it was the arrogance of the prince that got him turned into a beast in the first place.

So what can you do with your characters that acts as a “had this coming” moment and can they redeem themselves or be redeemed someone else? Being redeemed I think for me gives a truly happy ending/happy new beginning.

20220708_122648Screenshot 2022-07-08 at 17-15-37 Respect by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to say I’ll be giving a flash fiction workshop online in September. Looking forward to doing that. I share news and tips on flash fiction writing via my author newsletter as well, which goes out on the first of the month. If interested, please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you can sign up.

I used a random noun generator to help me write my latest YouTube story, Crumbs! Link to video below.The words which came up were cookies and road. I love using the random generators as they’re great ways to get prompts for stories you might not otherwise have thought to write. I also like to mix up which ones I use and all of them are helping me to increase my productivity so win-win there.

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It has been a very hot Monday on 11th July 2022, hasn’t cooled down much since. Time to relax a bit. Hope you enjoy Crumbs! which is my latest YouTube video.

How many stories had I written before getting into print for the first time in 2009? I don’t know to be honest. I wasn’t keeping count of all those rejections! However, it would not surprise me if it was a considerable number.

Where I could get feedback, some competitions offered it, I always took it. I learned a great deal from that, as well as from reading writing advice columns in magazines and reputable websites. Listening to/reading author interviews was also enlightening here.

I was, and still am, greatly encouraged by those stories of people taking a long time to get into print and then they do it. I then became one of those people!

So it pays to persist, it pays to read up on your craft, go to writing events etc. The one thing nobody can give you is the determination to do all you can to improve what you do which greatly enhances your chances of publication. (It is a question of chances.

Always be wary of anyone guaranteeing publication – vanity publishers thrive on this – they’re trying to sell you your dream – and boy do they charge!).

This is where the support of writing friends is invaluable and why again going to writing events, and any opportunity where you can get to meet other writers is such a good idea. What is nice now is there are more opportunities out there – online magazines are now a “thing” as is the independent press. Then there’s print on demand, reputable self publishing services, and places to go to for advice (the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors).

Good luck!

 

I first got into print back in 2009 with a re-telling of the Cinderella story in A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions published by Bridge House Publishing. That was a standard short story but I have re-told fairytales in flash fiction too.

Sometimes I’ve taken a character from a fairytale and shown something of what has happened to them before the “big event” related in the standard fairytale. My Living the Lie is an example of this (Tripping the Flash Fantastic). It looks at the beast in Beauty and the Beast before he goes on to meet her. This kind of story is great fun to do.

And there’s a wide range of fairytales to choose from where you could do this. If you ever wanted to know what happened to a minor character in a story, here’s your chance to do so – you write that story!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Opening Lines

When I have small pockets of time I jot down ideas for potential opening lines for future flash fiction/short stories of mine. It is a good use of time and the opening line is so important in hooking a reader in to reading your story and your books.

So it is worth jotting down ideas for me to work on at a later date. And it is opening lines which draw me into reading a book at all. Every writer knows they’ve got to polish these up and get them as good as possible.

It was a truth universally acknowledged – just that section of Jane Austen’s opening to Pride and Prejudice drew me in. Why?

Firstly, I wanted to know what that truth was.

Secondly, the word universally implies agreement but it also opens up the possibility someone somewhere won’t agree (and I wanted to find out if I might be that someone. I can only find out by reading on).

Thirdly, there is already a hint of irony here and in only six words. Now that is quality writing!

There has to be a sense you’ve got to find out what happens next. That’s how I know an opening line will work for me. If the opening line works, it is highly likely the first page, the first chapter will and so on and before I know I’ve read the book!

Screenshot 2022-07-12 at 08-32-42 Opening Lines

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Flash Flexibility, Writing Workshops, and Supporting Other Writers

Image Credits:-
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. Summery weather at last which Lady and I have loved. I have publication news too so it’s a good start to the week in that department too.

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Facebook – General

Lovely day today and Lady is very happy because she got to “boop” her best mate, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback. Usually the Ridgeback boops Lady. For dogs, it really is the little things in life that bring them the most joy (oh and dinner of course!).

Delighted to say I can now reveal I will have another story on Cafelit on 27th June. Looking forward to sharing the link on that then. The piece comes from a homework exercise I set for members of the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group.

Will be off to the theatre again in July with my lovely editor from Chandler’s Ford Today, Janet Williams, Looking forward to seeing the latest production from The Chameleon Theatre Group. Will review in due course. I should’ve finished my In Fiction series for CFT by then – wish me luck finding something suitable for the letters V and X! I hope my years of Scrabble paying might help here!

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Hope your Monday has been okay. Busy as ever here though the weather was lovely. Glad to say I’ll have further publication news to share soon so that’s a smashing start to the week.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is about Underlining In Fiction. I’ll be looking at how to stress points to a reader without needless boring repetition and talking about planting the right clues. Link up on Friday.

Amazon currently has offers on the paperback of both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the link.

Writing Tip Number 3,004 or something like that but one I’ve found incredibly useful: time away from a piece of work is crucial. You do need the distance in terms of time away from it so you can see where it has strengths and, more importantly, where it hasn’t!

With my judge’s hat on, I can spot those stories where an author has clearly given themselves enough time away from their story as they have then edited it effectively too.

The trouble with editing a story immediately is there tends to be two responses to it – this is a work of utter genius, no work needs to be done to this deathless prose, or this is a work which I really shouldn’t have bothered with, everyone will loathe it. Neither are true. The truth is your story will have promise but needs polishing up and sharpening to show bring its potential out.

Screenshot 2022-06-20 at 20-11-22 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes

Many thanks for the comments in on Time Off, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Some smashing feedback, all appreciated.

Going back to my Authors Electric post yesterday on Writing Workshops, I can’t stress enough how important it is to support other writers (something Friday Flash Fiction does very well, as does CafeLit). Nobody produces a perfect bit of work immediately (and is there any such thing anyway? I can look back at my earlier stories and see immediately how they could be bettered but they were where I was at during that time of my writing life).

We all have to start somewhere. We can all improve on what we do. It takes time and practice. There are no shortcuts for anyone.And people remember those who support them. They also remember those who were unsupportive. Which would you rather be known as – a supportive writer or not? I know what camp I want to be in! (That thought is assisted by the old saying make your words sweet as you never know when you’ve got to eat them!).

18th June – Authors Electric
It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this month I’m talking about Writing Workshops. I discuss what I love about these, whether I run them or go to them, and look at how old school pen and paper can come into their own at these things. Hope you enjoy (and I’m looking forward to running another workshop at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash has more flexibility than you might think. Yes, there is the word count issue but I’ve written stories in the first person, the third, as diary extracts, as well as setting my characters backwards and forwards in time. I’ve written fairytales with bite, crime tales, the odd ghost flash piece etc.

What influences all of this are the kinds of story I’ve loved reading over the years and which I continue to love and read. It really has paid off for me to read reasonably well and widely (I don’t think anyone can claim to be perfect here. Why would you want to be anyway? You want there to be other books and genres to discover after all!).

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Many thanks for the views on my YouTube tale last week (or should that be tail?) – The Unexpected. But it is Monday once again and time for another video. Hope you like this one – The True Picture. I used a random verb generator which triggered the word picture and here is what I came up with for that prompt.

Sometimes I have an idea for what I think will be a flash piece but the story really does deserve a larger word count. So I simply write that piece for the short story market instead (and my stories tend to come in at 1500 to 2000 words for that). Sometimes what I think could make a good short story really does work better as a shorter, tighter flash piece. And that’s all fine.

It’s why it has paid me to ensure I have a foot in both camps when it comes to short form storytelling. What matters is the story is right for the character (and vice versa) and the story has a proper beginning, middle, and end. The story ends with a proper resolution to the dilemma the story is about and sometimes that will come in at a longer or shorter word count that you might have originally anticipated.

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I’m chatting about Writing Workshops for Authors Electric this month (see my author page on this – https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50) and one advantage to flash fiction here is these are easy to share when you want to discuss elements of story writing. They don’t take too long. They also demonstrate the points you’re trying to make. (And it’s another way of spreading the word about flash fiction so win-win there!).

I’ve found flash pieces are especially useful for demonstrating the old advice of show, not tell. Precisely because I don’t have the word count room for description, I do have to get my characters to show the readers what matters. And showing a point gets things across more clearly I find. I’ve been on the receiving end of that benefit many a time from workshops I’ve been to and have always appreciated that.

Screenshot 2022-06-18 at 20-05-37 (4) Allison Symes Facebook

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Covers

For a book to grip me, I have to be gripped by its characters, but the right book cover is what is going to get me to look at the blurb, the opening page, and then go on to buy said book. I want the cover to show me something of the mood/genre of the book, to be attractive, and to intrigue me enough so I do pick the book up in the first place. Not asking much. Hmm…. No wonder book covers are so difficult to get spot on.

My favourite quote on the topic comes from the wonderful P.G. Wodehouse who, in a letter to a friend, said “God may forgive Herbert Jenkins Limited for the cover of……… But I never shall!” Book title deleted here to protect the guilty. I highly recommend the Wodehouse books of letters by the way – there is a wonderful one edited by Frances Donaldson (Yours Plum, the Letters of P.G.Wodehouse which is where I came across this quote) and another which was edited by Sophie Ratcliffe (Wodehouse: A Life in Letters). Both are fascinating reads.

It is some comfort to me as a writer that even the big names didn’t/haven’t always liked the book covers they’ve been “given”. I’ve been fortunate here in that my small indie publisher has ensured I have had some input into my covers which is something I’ve appreciated.

The author ought to have some idea of themes etc that their book cover could draw on though, rightly, the publisher should have the final say given they know what has worked for them already and can drawn on that kind of knowledge one author is simply not going to have.

So then what works for you with book covers? I don’t like over-complicated ones. Indeed my Agatha Christie collection (good old Odhams Publishers) are simply red hardbacks with gold lettering – simple but effective. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has Gandalf striding out in bad weather and again works well (I know immediately this has to be a fantasy quest).

Screenshot 2022-06-18 at 20-24-23 Book Covers

 

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