Talking About Writing

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

It has been an odd week – starting with my birthday and my first Covid jab and ending with moving a metric tonne of pea shingle… it’s a long story! But the advice on the keyboard below is worth following!

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Oh and don’t forget my author newsletter sign up can be found here.

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Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my Talking About Writing piece for Chandler’s Ford Today. The last few weeks have been a good learning curve for me as I prepared for a WI talk, an international writing summit, and a radio interview!

I share some thoughts about the prep work I did for all of this (and good prep work always pays off even if you don’t end up using all of the material. I found it boosted my confidence no end just knowing I had material to hand I could use if I needed the extra. And material is recyclable! I am sure I will use at least some of this material in other talks and presentations in due course).

The link to my interview by #HannahKate is in my CFT post and am posting the link here too. Do have a listen. It was good fun and I think that sense of fun comes across in the interview.

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Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. This week my post is Talking About Writing and looks back at various events I’ve taken part in recently where I have done a lot of this! I also share how I prepared for the writing summit, radio interview and WI talk. Allowing enough time for good prep work is vital.

For me, I have to write down what I think I’m going to say. Other writers may just write down a few bullet points. What matters is recognizing what you need as prep and then follow through on that. (The other advantage of writing things down is you can take those notes and turn them into articles or material for other talks etc).

This post also gives me another chance to share the Share Your Story Writing summit and the poster for it. Now this will probably make me sound like a big kid, okay an old big kid (I know!), but I was so excited to see myself on the advertising materials for this event. It was something that hadn’t even occurred to me might happen when I started writing, My focus was on just becoming published and then seeing if I could do it again and then again etc.

I also share the link to my interview with the lovely #HannahKate. If you haven’t had chance to hear this you can tune in via my link in the post tomorrow (though I will add in a quick thank you now to all who’ve given me great feedback on this).


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I post on #Val’s Book Bundle most Wednesdays and this morning I was looking at the diary format for books. This is partly because I’ve always loved things like The Diary of Adrian Mole and am currently reading a fabulous book by #RuthLeigh (The Diary of Isabella M Smugge#doyourselfafavour, #checkitout – those who’ve read the book will know why I’ve put the hashtags in!).

I’ve used the diary format myself in flash fiction. Yes, it is possible! In my Losing Myself in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I use this though I needed pretty much the whole 1000 words allowed in flash to do it. Good fun though and I’d happily use this format again.

This story was interesting to do as I get my narrator to write her diary for the person she wants to read it so it is addressed to that other character. As the diary goes on, you find out more about my narrator and her nemesis, a third character. And I managed to get a twist in the end too – so lots of wins for me there.

This was a story where I knew the beginning and how it needed to end pretty much from the start. It was filling in the gaps for this one where the work was needed but this was where outlining my character helped enormously. What I outlined acted as stepping stones and they are a lifeline!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I sometimes set out to write a 100 word story (aka a drabble) but it doesn’t always meet that target. Sometimes a story simply does work better at 50 words or 500, say, and I know now to leave such stories be and submit them to different markets. I then have another crack at the 100 worder!

The story has to be the appropriate word count length for the story. (You’re not going to write a quest tale in flash fiction, though you could do it as a series of flash fiction pieces and end up with a novella-in-flash).

When I’m looking back at my “finished” piece, I ask myself if the story has the impact I thought it would have and has it said everything I want it to say?

If the answers to those is yes, I submit the story to the appropriate market.

If the answer to either is no, I have more work to do on that tale before it goes anywhere!

The ultimate question here I think is whether the story is at the best I can make it. If it is, off it goes.

Word count is obviously important in flash but the impact of the story is a more important consideration because you want to “wow” your reader. What you don’t want is a sense of anything being watered down because you’re trying to meet a set word count. The jigsaw pieces do have to fit properly! No squeezing the story to make it fit. It will lose resonance and impact.

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The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale. The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.

One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story. In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.

But sometimes I start a story with a powerful moment where you know from that point onwards, something has got to change and quickly. The fun of those stories is in finding out what that change is and what its consequences are – and there are always some! – and it is just as much fun finding that out when you’re writing the tales!

 

Comparisons are a useful device in stories. I use this in Rewards in my From Light to Dark and Back Again where I get my narrator to compare herself to a woman she has come to loathe. You can also save on the word count here.

For example, one line in this story reads “Her blue eyes didn’t sparkle”. That tells you the other character must have blue eyes and hers do sparkle! So I’ve managed to get good description in for two characters in one line and you can tell a lot about the attitude of one of those characters from the way that sentence reads. Someone is clearly not a happy bunny!

Also the fact someone is marking comparisons usually indicates that same someone may well have a self-esteem issue. Why would you want to compare with someone else after all? How else could that insecurity manifest itself in your story? So, though flash has to be short, you can still get in some useful unconscious revelations from your main character.

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Fairytales with Bite – Where do your characters go for advice?

Nobody can know it all. Everyone has problems that are beyond them at times. This equally applies to your characters regardless of how magical they are or how fantastical your setting for them might be. So where would your characters go for help or advice? Who would they turn to?

If they would turn to a wizard, say, why have they gone to them? Is that wizard reliable? What is their track record? Have they ever let people down, deliberately or otherwise?

Is the society your characters live in open to their people getting help when needed? Or does it despise such characters for being “weak”?

If it is a wizard needing advice, where would they go to? What hierarchy exists in your setting? Does it work? Can people fall between the gaps?

Once your characters have got their help or advice, do they act on it? What are the consequences?

Plenty of story ideas there, I think!

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This World and Others – How Open Is Your World?

Tying in with Fairytales With Bite above, just how open is your world in terms of characters being able to admit to weaknesses? Is it open to other species or is it a monoculture?

If the majority are magical, how do they treat those who are not? (An interesting idea to explore here is where the magical ones need the non-magical ones for something vital that cannot be produced magically. Who would be the servant in that servant-master relationship? Would it cause resentment?).

Has your world become open, having learned from its mistakes in the past? What were those mistakes? Are there ramifications coming through from those in the current day?

If your world feels threatened, how does it react? Does it stay open or does it become less welcoming? How do the characters react to the changes? (Another interesting idea here can be when the government is open but the people are not. How does the government react to that?).

I could see some interesting short stories coming from answers to these. There is potential for longer works too, Happy writing!

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Wishing, Reluctant Readers, and Talks

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images from the Share Your Story Writing Summit supplied by the organisers, Creative U. I was on Day 2 of the summit, see below.

Screenshots from North Manchester FM taken by me, Allison Symes, but based on their website. (And Hannah Kate asks wonderful questions! Really enjoyed being interviewed by her).

Fabulous pics of me at Swanwick Writers Summer School taken by #JenWilson and sent to me via my Facebook timeline for my birthday (22nd March). Many thanks, Jen. It was fab to see these pics again.

Screenshot from Tim Taylor’s blog, where I was a guest this week, taken by me from his blog. And there’s a new flash fiction piece from me here. A huge thanks, Tim, for hosting me.

Screenshot_2021-03-18 Creative U

Facebook – General


Have loved being part of the Share Your Story Writing Summit which finishes at the end of today. Good news though – you can still register and download the talks. There is a fee of $97 USD (from 24th March onwards) but you do get 23 workshops for that. I do earn an affiliate fee (as indeed do all of the presenters).

Link is at https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

Good news is you are very quick, you will get the talks for $67 USD but you do need to act fast to get the cheaper rate.

Delighted to report the Covid jabs went well for my better half and I yesterday. We had the Astra Zeneca and I was amazed at how painless it was. I have literally had more pain taking a plaster off! No side effects so far though I did feel more tired than I thought I would be last night.

Hope that stays the case as I know some people have had effects a day or so later. But relieved it has been done and better half and I will enjoy another jaunt to Salisbury in June. (I would far rather feel a bit tired etc than have the dreaded Covid. I know people who have been so ill with it).

Many thanks also for the positive responses to my interview with #HannahKate.

Now writing wise I’m working on a book proposal for a non-fiction project. Am also starting to get material together for a third flash fiction collection. These two projects will easily keep me out of mischief for this year. Am hoping to submit the proposal later in the summer and maybe the flash collection by the end of the year. I know better now than to set definite dates. Life can and does get in the way at times but I have found setting a goal incredibly useful. It helps me focus and I am much more likely to achieve something concrete doing this.

The great thing is though you get to choose to set the goals. For a bigger project it may well help to break it down in sections. Those goals will seem more achievable then and should encourage you to get the next one!

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22nd March – my birthday and covid jab

Firstly, a huge thank you for the wonderful birthday wishes received today. Much appreciated and I was particularly pleased to see some wonderful pics from #JenWilson from previous years at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. See below!

Secondly, glad to report the Covid jab went well for my better half and I. We were impressed with how well organised everything was. It’s an unusual birthday gift perhaps but one that is much appreciated by us. We know people who have been ill with Covid so having the vaccine was a no-brainer for us.

Thirdly, my CFT post this week will be about Talking About Writing, which is a quick look back at how recent events have gone as I have talked about writing a lot lately! This was not something I anticipated doing when I first started writing but it is something worth “getting ready for”. Link up on Friday.

Can you describe what you write to a stranger? Can you share what it is you love about writing what you do? I also share a few thoughts on the prep work I carried out for the radio interview, the summit, and the WI talk. One thing I did learn reasonably early on is that prep work always pays off. And it is not too soon to think about how you will share what you write with others and getting yourself ready to talk about that.

Radio Interview Link

Thrilled to share the link to my interview on North Manchester FM yesterday. A huge thanks to #HannahKate for interviewing me on Hannah’s Bookshelf. Hope you enjoy! It was great fun to do this but agony to only get to choose three books for the Apocalypse Books section of the show. Every writer would want to smuggle in far more than that!

https://www.mixcloud.com/Hannahs_Bookshelf/hannahs-bookshelf-with-special-guest-allison-symes-20032021/



It was a real pleasure to chat to #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM. My interview was broadcast this afternoon but I hope to be able to share the link soon. I chat about flash fiction, blogging, and share some tips that have stood me in good stead amongst the wonderful questions Hannah set me.

Am enjoying watching the talks on the Share Your Story Writing summit. It’s not too late to sign up and if you do it before the summit ends on the 23rd March, you can (a) access the remaining talks for FREE for a limited period and/or (b) get a cheaper rate if you decide you want to purchase the 23 workshops and watch them at a time that suits you.

This is $67 USD until the summit ends. After the summit the price goes up to $97 USD. There is an affiliate link so if you do decide to go for the paid for option I will earn some money from it.

It has been a blast taking part in the summit and being interviewed by Hannah. The writing journey is an interesting one as you can’t know exactly what will happen next. You can make plans, but they may not come off. Or circumstances force plans to change (and haven’t we known all about that over the last year?!).

Am I looking forward to what comes next? Oh yes!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


A huge thanks for the great response to my story video, Wishing. It was great fun to write. I do love exploring the Youtube free to use audio library. There are some great tracks in there.

I mentioned on my author page I’m starting to get together material for a third flash fiction collection. I estimate it takes about a year to 18 months to have a collection ready for submission. Well, it takes me that long!

The editing on a collection is an interesting task. As well as looking at the individual stories, I’m looking for emerging themes, appropriate grouping of stories and so on. My overall aim is a sensible, logical, and enjoyable “flow” of stories for the reader. The lovely thing with that is for my first book, this “flow” directly inspired the title – it really was a case of From Light to Dark and Back Again.

The idea for the title Tripping The Flash Fantastic came from one of the stories in the book. I changed the word “light” from the story to “flash” for the title as I thought it would make a great flag for the book’s genre. And the word “flash” in turn inspired ideas for what could be on the book cover.


My latest story video on Youtube is called Wishing. Hope you enjoy it. There’s a lot of truth behind it!

 

Guest Blog Appearance

A big thanks to #TimTaylor for hosting me on his blog today. Tim set a theme of writing about the pandemic and asked for flash pieces as well as blog posts about it. Now I hadn’t anticipated writing about Covid but the thought of producing a flash story based on it did bring out the “go on, give it a go instinct” in me – and here is the result!
Screenshot_2021-03-23 Welcome, Allison

And to see the rest of the story, do go to the link!


Plenty of marketing for the flash fiction going on this week with my interview on North Manchester FM by #HannahKate today. I hope to be able to share the link for that soon. Also the Share Your Story Writing Summit is currently on and I have been so pleased to receive positive feedback on my presentation, Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It.

Now to resume writing flash fiction! It is always a tricky balancing act for any writer working out just how much marketing to do in relation to creating new material. I don’t think there is any one simple answer to this either. My approach is to look at the week as a whole and try to have a 50/50 split. It doesn’t always work out. This week it will be 80% marketing for example but there will be other weeks when it will be 80% new writing/editing material etc.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Coaxing in Reluctant Readers

I’m a flash fiction writer and one of my hopes for the form is that it may prove to be an excellent way to coax in the reluctant reader. For one thing, with flash fiction stories coming in at a maximum of 1000 words (and often considerably less than that), I’m not asking a reader to commit to too much in one go!

I’ve loved stories and books all of my life (thanks to my lovely much missed mum encouraging and developing that love) but not everyone “gets” stories and books. So how do you reach them and persuade them books can be “their bag” too?

No easy answer to that but I hope films might draw people in to read the books the movies are based on. I also hope audio can be a way in. You can listen to a great story as well as read one. And as I say I hope flash fiction, which reads well on screens, would also help here.

I do know that the love of reading should be encouraged. I think it is a question of convincing people there really are books out there which would suit them.

 

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Places to Go For Writing Advice/Radio Interview/Share Your Story Writing Summit

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images connected to the Share Your Story Writing Summit supplied by Creative U, the summit’s organisers. Images re Hannah Kate’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM come from her link and screenshots taken by me. (Am SO looking forward to sharing the link for the show itself. Will be doing that for the next post and on my Facebook page in the meantime).

A huge thanks to The Disparate Housewives WI affiliated group I spoke to on Wednesday, 17th March. Great fun! Oh and sharks came in re my talk to them about The Ups and Downs of Becoming An Author.

Allison Symes (1)sharks

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


My post this week is called Places to Go For Writing Advice and is exactly what I would have wanted to read when I first started writing seriously. The saying is to write what you know but sometimes that can include what you would have wanted to know when first starting out. It was when I had been writing and submitting work for a while I truly began to realise how big the publishing world is, how much I didn’t know, and began to get an inkling of the kind of things I would need to know (and pronto too!).

Any industry has its charlatans and sadly publishing isn’t exempt. Hope you find the post useful. Oh and the great thing about sharks? You don’t have to get in the water with them. You don’t have to get bitten by them! And the single piece of advice that has stood me in good stead is to always ask questions. My post will show you some places where you can get those questions answered.

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric


My turn on the Authors Electric blog today. I chat about what I love about flash fiction and whether I really should start a Flash Fiction Writing Addicts Anonymous club.

I talk about Flash with A Dash and share what I love about flash fiction writing. If I had to name the top thing about writing flash fiction, it would be the need to invent characters – a lot of them – and to keep doing so! Inventing characters has always been my favourite aspect to storytelling and I get to do this all the time so win-win!

Also a huge thanks to the lovely Disparate Housewives WI group I spoke to last night via Teams. It was great fun (and another opportunity to share my love of flash fiction!). My topic was The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author and my own journey here has been full of twists and turns.

This is an ongoing topic too as the writing life is a moving one, not static at all. Am I looking forward to what comes next in my own writing journey though right now I can’t know exactly what that will be? Oh yes! (Oh and in my Chandler’s Ford Today post coming up tomorrow I will be sharing thoughts on Places to Go For Writing Advice so plenty going on at the moment and I hope the CFT post will be especially useful. More on that tomorrow).


Am delighted to be #ValPenny’s guest on her blog today. I chat about my writing journey which has been full of ups and downs and a few near misses down some cul-de-sacs! I also share a couple of useful tips based on my experiences. (I’ll be talking about this to The Disparate Housewives WI group later tonight on Teams as well. Every writer has a unique writing journey but it is what you take from mistakes made along the way that matters. How you handle these matters and we all make them!).

A huge thank you to Val for hosting me and I hope it is not too long before we meet up again at the wonderful Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was delighted to discover a new (to me) flash fiction site as a result of a comment on my Authors Electric post on 18th March where I talked about Flash With a Dash. The site is Friday Flash Fiction and I hope to check this out more over the weekend. I certainly hope to submit to it in due course.

Now the wonderful thing with the take up in flash fiction writing is there are more competitions and markets available now. Definitely worth taking time out to explore these and see what might suit you. There is bound to be something! Happy drafting!
(Oh and it bears out my point about engaging with readers and other writers. As well as hopefully entertaining them with what you write, they can give you pointers as to useful markets to check out. Win-win here and I love that kind of scenario).

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The Share Your Story Writing Summit is now open so I hope you can come along and listen to the wide range of presenters on a great range of topics. My presentation is on tomorrow and I’m talking about Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It.

The presentations are free for 24 hours but if you can’t make the time slot of your preferred talk or would like to keep the presentations so you can watch them as you wish, you need to go for one of two paid for options.

The price is $67 USD from now until 23rd March when the summit ends. You get access to everything immediately. From 24th March the price rises to $97 USD. Whichever option you go for, you do have full access to 23 workshops from 23 experienced writers. See the link for more details. There is an affiliate fee. If you sign up for either of the paid options via my link, I will earn some money from that.

See https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

And I am beyond thrilled to be taking part in this!

Screenshot_2021-03-18 Creative U

Am thrilled to share the link to #HannahKate for her show on North Manchester FM. I am on her show on Saturday talking about flash fiction and my blogging and I do hope you can tune in between 2 and 4 pm. I will be sharing the link to the show after it has been broadcast as well. (I must admit one of my favourite developments in radio is the Listen Again ability because I know I can’t always tune in for a live broadcast).

A huge thanks to Hannah for a wonderful interview and for questions that really made me think. (That is always a good thing!). It was such fun to do but I do wish I could’ve picked more than three books for the Apocalypse Books section. I can’t think of any writer who would willingly limit themselves to three books if they had the choice not to!
Screenshot_2021-03-17 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 20 March, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate(2)Screenshot_2021-03-17 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 20 March, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate(1)Screenshot_2021-03-17 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 20 March, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

 

Fairytales with Bite – The ABC – Always Believable Characters

Your written world might be fantastical but it is the characters your readers need to react to, root for etc. And for that to happen your characters must be believable. It doesn’t matter what they are but a reader needs to understand what their needs and wants are and they should be ones most of us can identify with.

So how to create an Always Believable Character then?

  • They have to have flaws. We all have them. Instant identification factor for your reader.
  • They have to need something. This can be from the basics (food, drink, shelter etc) to more abstract things (a penchant for nice pictures perhaps). We can all understand these needs.
  • There has to be something or someone getting in their way.
  • They have to work out what they are going to do to overcome that because the point of the story will be they must overcome it to get what they want or need. And readers will want to know whether there is going to be a happy ending or not. (Incidentally if your character gets what they want but they are not as satisfied with that as they thought they would be, that too could be an interesting ending).
  • Where characters are magical, readers need to see how that works to the characters’ advantage and also how it can get in the way. In a setting where everyone is magical, being able to wave a wand about is not necessarily going to help your character much. They will have to find other methods to achieve their objective.
  • Equally where magic will make a significant difference, is there a price to pay for that so your character has to weigh up whether it really is worth them using it. If the use of magic shortens their life, that is going to add another dimension to your story and heighten the drama.

Think about characters you have read and loved. What makes them work for you? What can you learn from that to apply to your own stories?

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This World and Others – What Jobs do your Always Believable Characters do?

Following on from having Always Believable Characters, we also need to look behind the scenes a bit. What do they do to provide for themselves? Do they have employment as we would know the term or are they hunter gatherers? How do your characters manage? What rewards for service can they expect?

Do your characters feel the need to better themselves and, if so, how can they do that? Does that drive them to break out from their society and do something nobody has done before, for example? If someone wants to learn to read because they know their “betters” read and their “betters” have the control, what can they do to learn to read? Do they have to learn secretly and who would be willing to reach them?

Is your world capable of great technological change, which would affect what characters would do for jobs, or does any change come slowly?

If your character has to go on a quest (it’s amazing how often that happens!), what do they leave behind? Is it a wrench to leave it behind?

Now there are some interesting questions to trigger story ideas!

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Superstitions, Characters, and the Love of Story

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. (Some screenshots of my reviews too).

Looking forward to the WI talk I’m giving this week (17th March), the start of the Share Your Story Writing Summit (18th to 23rd March 2021), and the interview with #HannahKate which goes out on North Manchester FM on Saturday, 20th March 2021. (Images connected to the summit were supplied by the organisers, Creative U, or screenshots from their website advertising the summit).

And I have my first Covid jab on 22nd March… it will be a busy and unforgettable few days for all sorts of reasons!

Screenshot_2021-03-05 summit presenters 2021Screenshot_2021-03-06 Share Your Story Writers Summit Facebook

Facebook – General

Lovely big walk with Lady today. Delighted to spot a few early bluebells out and some early blossom. Spring is almost here! It’s hard to say what my favourite season is as all of them have charms of their own. (Yes, even winter – I love seeing the silhouettes of bare trees against a setting sun in the winter months and must try and remember to get more pictures of these).

Thanks for the great response to the heads-up about my CFT post this week, Places to Go For Writing Advice. Feedback is always useful and something writers often cry out for, especially for reviews. It helps us know if we are generally speaking on the right track and reviews, as well as being useful for marketing, can be a great source of encouragement.

Given we spend a lot of time at our desks on our own, hoping our characters are going down well with people (or going down the way they are meant to!), that encouragement is so useful. Go on you know you want to – write a review today!

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My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be Places to Go For Writing Advice and, while this will be especially useful to new writers, I hope everyone can get something helpful from it. This is the kind of broad overview post I would’ve loved to have read when I was starting out so many years ago as it is a good place to start. (It’s also reassuring to know there are places you can go and that there is no such thing as a stupid question either!). I’ll be sharing useful links too. Post up on Friday.

I’m talking to The Disparate Housewives WI-affiliated group on Wednesday night and part of that talk will be about the ups and downs of the writing life. The idea for my CFT post this week has come from that talk. I love it when one piece of writing inspires ideas for other work. (It’s useful too!).


A huge thank you for the wonderful response to my post yesterday about my late mum gifting me the love of books and stories from an early age, which is something I do appreciate more than words can actually say. I was moved by the responses. Thank you, all.

I generally don’t write about mothers in my stories but with one exception. That is Time For Some Peace from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, where I look at motherhood from the viewpoint of a lady dragon. (As you do – and someone had to!).

My main focus on characters is usually centred on them as opposed to their relationships with others. I can and usually do imply the latter through what I show a reader via the character’s own head, attitudes etc. It is a very direct approach and one that works well for flash fiction.

When I outline my characters, I look at their major traits and what reactions are likely to come from those. When I have a longer flash piece, with more than one character in it, then I can let the sparks fly but I have chosen Character A to be that spark generator and it will be seen from their viewpoint. I have, interestingly, come across a competition recently in the Writing Magazine comps guide where the organisers are looking for the same story told twice, but from opposing viewpoints. Now that is an interesting idea and one I hope to explore at some point.


Today would have been my mum’s 87th birthday. One of my fondest memories was when I showed her my first story in print – A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology back in 2009. She was so pleased. I owe my love of stories and books (and therefore writing) to her.

And to all who will find tomorrow a difficult day, for whatever reason, know you’re not alone. Virtual hugs to you all.

I’ve long thought that giving someone the wish to read and to keep on reading is a truly fantastic gift for anyone, whether or not you go on to write your own stories. It certainly inspires me as a writer to try to keep on writing tales that will entertain people.

I’m not a literary writer. I never will be. I have nothing against literary fiction, far from it, but it is just not me. Seeking to entertain people through stories is a fantastic thing to do in and of itself and great fun.

But it is the love of story that sparks all of that.

Thanks, Mum.

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Allison Symes and published works 640 VERSION

Allison Symes and some early works.

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the great response to my video Superstitions yesterday. Much appreciated.

This story hinged on a well known superstition and showing my character is more affected by them than she perhaps cares to admit. This was a case of knowing what the twist would be and then working backwards to getting to a logical start point.

But I do deliberately mix up how I write a story. Sometimes I have a line which I know will make a cracking opening, It is then a question of working out where that line could lead to and going with the storyline I like best.

And I have to be “taken” by the characters. If they don’t grip me, then I can forget any chance of hooking other readers with them. It is useful to know what fascinates you about characters you’ve read and work out what makes them work for you. You can then apply what you discover here to what you then go on to write.

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Am delighted to share a new story video – Superstitions. Hope you enjoy. Am enjoying exploring the Youtube audio library. Good fun to try the different tracks and try to match an appropriate one with the mood of my tale. As for my CFT posts, where I have to think laterally sometimes to find pictures that suit my theme, I am doing this with music, which I had not anticipated doing when I first set the Youtube channel up. It’s good fun though!

Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about my forthcoming interview with #HannahKate. If you can listen live, it is on Saturday between 2pm and 4pm on North Manchester FM. Hannah’s show is called Hannah’s Bookshelf. I will share the link to the show as soon as I can after broadcast and I am really looking forward to doing that. The interview was great fun to do and I can’t wait to share it.

Now I know I’ve mentioned before that interviewing characters is a great technique for a writer to work out what makes the characters tick. I’ve found I write the characters’ stories up with greater depth, even in a restricted word count, because I do know “my people” well enough.

(And it is good to remember it is the character’s story. Why? It helps you focus on getting their viewpoint across without the author voice butting in and, frankly, getting in the way. It’s also a great way to avoid head-hopping because you are focusing on your major character, their needs and wants etc).

But it is down to you what questions you use to find out what you need to know. I need to know what the major traits are, for example, but a good secondary question to that is to ask your characters what made them develop those traits in the first place. A defensive trait for example – what caused your character to develop that as they won’t have been born with it? That could trigger story ideas.

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I will flag this up again later, when I have the link, but my interview with #HannahKate on North Manchester FM will be going out next Saturday, 20th March.

It was great fun talking to Hannah about flash fiction and blogging, my twin writing loves.

It is going to be a busy week as I chat online to a WI group about The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author. I also hope to share some examples of flash fiction as I have found the best way to explain it is demonstrate it! The 100 worders (the drabbles) are especially useful here!

And the Share Your Story Writing Summit begins on 18th March. My topic for that is Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It.

Then there’s the interview with Hannah on the 20th. (And I get my covid jab, the first one, on the 22nd – well I’m pleased about that anyway!).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Gifts

I always love to give and receive books as gifts. For me they are the perfect present and so easy to gift wrap too! Also no calories are involved whatsoever and a good book as I’ve mentioned before will take you to all sorts of wonderful worlds. Books are the places to escape your cares for a while. (This is just one reason why I can’t read misery memoir. When I read, I do want to escape. I guess that is why fantasy IS high up on my reading list).

But flipping this topic, let’s wonder about what books would make great presents for fictional characters.

Scrooge – The Art of Generosity. (He would have got more from this after the visits from the ghosts).
Jane Eyre – Exploring the Attic.
Elizabeth Bennet – Knowing Your Own Mind
Frodo Baggins – Appreciating Your Friends
Miss Marple – Anything from the I-Spy collections.
Hercule Poirot – Hair Care for the Fussy

Okay over to you – what books would you give to fictional characters?

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Twitter Corner

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Share Your Story Summit and Musical Connections

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Book signing images for From Light to Dark and Back Again were taken by my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today, Janet Williams.

Lady looking on unimpressed as I signed Tripping the Flash Fantastic was an image taken by Adrian Symes.

Images from the Share Your Story Writing Summit provided by them to all presenters (and am thrilled to share what follows!).

Details of the summit below. Will also be issuing a bonus newsletter shortly with full details of the summit too. 

To sign up for my newsletter (with giveaway) please sign up here.

3. writers IG 2021

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post for this week. Musical Connections was a joy to write and listen to (see the post for some wonderful Youtube clips) and I hope you enjoy it. Many thanks for the great comments on this so far.

Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to share a couple of posts on topics I hope will be useful. I plan to discuss book trailers and videos and give some useful pointers for where to go for down-to-earth advice when new to the writing game (though that will still be handy for older hands given timely reminders are always helpful! I know I find them handy!).

Thrilled to bits to be taking part in the Share Your Story summit later on in the month and am looking forward to giving a Zoom talk to a WI affiliated group just ahead of when the summit starts.

Slap bang in the middle of the summit will be when my recent interview with #HannahKate will be broadcast, link to follow in due course.

So lots going on but all of it fun and that’s the way I like it!

Quick reminder that my Musical Connections post is up on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow and I hope it leads to plenty of lovely meanderings down Memory Lane. It certainly had that effect on me!

But the big news is I can now share more details of the international writing summit I’m taking part in. This is the first event of this kind I’ve taken part in as a presenter (though I have been to others as an audience member and loved them).

I will be producing a bonus newsletter with full details over the next couple of days so please sign up to my newsletter via my website (allisonsymescollectedworks.com) if you would like that.

I’m planning to produce a quick Local Author News Update post for CFT probably sometime next week outside of my usual Friday slot as well. Will flag these up as and when they’re about.

Meanwhile, the main points:-

Summit is from 18th to 23rd March 2021.

Summit is called the Share Your Story Writing Summit and features a wide range of authors and topics.

There is limited free access with 3 to 4 presenters on any one day of the summit.

Each of the days (and therefore topics on that day) is available for 24 hours only.

BUT:-

Pre-sale Early Bird Pricing – If you would like access to everything (and why not!), then between the dates of 4th to 17th March, you would pay $47 USD. There are 23 presenters and 23 workshops. That is a lot of info for not much money! Bargain…

During the summit itself – March 18th to 23rd 2021 – you can get access to everything for $67 USD.

AFTER the summit itself – March 24th 2021 onwards – You would pay $97 USD

And there is an affiliate link so I will earn a small amount of money if you go for any of the paid versions. You also get to keep the talks and there is a wealth of experience and advice here, all of which will be useful.

So it pays, literally, to get in early, folks! No surprises when I mention my topic is on flash fiction! The link takes you to the summit landing page where you can choose the free or paid for versions. See https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq for more details.

#freesummit #summit #free #shareyourstory #creativity #write #shareyourstory2021

Am so looking forward to being part of this!



Looking forward to sharing news about the international writing summit I’m taking part in soon (from tomorrow onwards so watch this space). See above – I am rather pleased about this! I’m also looking forward to checking out the other topics on offer for this. The range is fantastic but don’t just take my word for it!

In other news, Lady had a fabulous time with her best buddy, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, this morning. You can always tell when a dog is happy when she walks home slowly, tail wagging all the way, gets home, has a drink, and then crashes out, perking up again when she senses my hubby or I are about to have lunch. It is Lady’s role to supervise us having our lunch, of course. We couldn’t possibly eat it all by ourselves.

Plenty of non-fiction work going on at the moment with talks etc., but am getting some flash fiction writing in (and producing the short story videos for Youtube upload on a regular basis helps ensure that too!). I’m starting to get material together for a third collection and that takes time but I am pleased to have made a start on that.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As well as the writing summit, which I flagged up yesterday, I’m waving the flag for flash fiction again in mid-March via Zoom to a WI-affiliated group. On 20th March, my interview with #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM will be broadcast where again I wave the flag for flash and blogging, (I almost typed flag the wave just then – lovely Spoonerism I think!).

Am also drafting flash fiction pieces though I will up the pace on that work once the summit is over.

I do love the variety of writing and try to ensure I enjoy it all. That’s important. Writing and marketing are hard work but a joy and having that joy helps you keep going when times are tough.

I still have “no hears” on submitting work and I always will but I know now I can always submit that work elsewhere when I can get back to the piece in question. Nothing is wasted in writing. What you can’t re-submit somewhere, you can analyse and see if you can work out why it didn’t get placed or what have you. It does pay to do that. I’ve picked things up on a piece later I didn’t see at the time of submission and you can take what you learn there and use it to help you be more successful with other work.

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The big news, as I mentioned on my author Facebook page, is I’m taking part in an international writing summit from 18th to 23rd March 2021. My topic is Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It!

More details on the summit can be found at https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

The summit is free but there are paid for options if you would like to be able to access all of the topics or are not sure you can actually be about on the day in question for the relevant presenters to you. Bear in mind there are 23 presenters on 23 wonderfully varied topics so I strongly suspect you would find several of the topics would be of interest!

I will be issuing a bonus newsletter about the summit sometime over the next couple of days and you can sign up to receive this, and future author newsletters from me, at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/

Allison Symes (1)

PS.  I never dreamt, when I first started writing seriously many many years ago, I would see things like the poster above. I can’t tell you how many rejections I’ve had in my time. I almost certainly could cover my walls with them had I kept them. So being open to trying new forms of writing – flash fiction in my case – has proved productive. Not giving up and developing stamina to take the setbacks on the chin also does. No short cuts but dreams can sometimes come true. (And no fairy godmother in sight either, which is a tad annoying given I write so many stories about them, but there you go!).


Always delighted to wave the flag for flash fiction and am looking forward to sharing more news on the international writing summit I’m taking part in soon where I do precisely that. (Hope to start sharing from tomorrow onwards so watch this space. There is a wonderful range of authors taking part on a lovely variety of topics so there will be something for everyone – see above and this will almost certainly be my big news for 2021, I think).

One thing I’ve found useful at “live events” such as the railway station signing I had for From Light to Dark and Back Again was it is easy to demonstrate what flash fiction is by reading some out! Entertains the public, it always give me useful practice at effectively “open prose readings”, and I’ve made sales that way too.

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Fairytales with Bite – What Counts as a Bad Week in a Magical World?

Well, what does count as a bad week in a magical world? Is it when every spell you use goes wrong no matter what you do? (See The Sorcerer’s Apprentice for more on this and with fab music too!).

Is it when there is too much magic flying about and the results are questionable to say the least? That wizard who wanted to change an annoying junior into a statue for half an hour to teach them a lesson finds it has backfired when that statue walks off complaining loudly and embarrassing him?

Now for your villains of course a bad week for everyone else would count as a good week for them. Hey, we’re villains, doing what we’re supposed to be doing. So what would they do to cause trouble for everyone else? Does it backfire on them? Does the rest of your society eventually get their revenge here?

And who decides whether it is a bad week anyway? How would your created society decide what was good and what wasn’t?

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This World and Others – What Makes Your Created World Stand Out

What makes your created world stand out so you have to write it into life? What attracts you to it? The good news is here is what attracts you here should attract other readers.

My view is your world has to have enough depth to make you want to write about it. Your characters have to be compelling but so does the setting in which you set them. So think about what would make you want to live in the place you’ve invented? Is it the magical elements? Is it the fantastic scenery free from all pollution etc?

What would a reader find that was special about your setting? What would make them want to read more about how life is lived there?


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Characters, Podcast, Interview, Summit and Talk News – Yes, it has been a busy week!

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of Wendy H Jones were kindly supplied by her.

Many thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for the images of me reading at Open Prose Mic Nights at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (pre-2020 obviously!).

Image of me signing Tripping the Flash Fantastic in front of a distinctly unimpressed Lady was taken by Adrian Symes.

And I think the above will be my longest blog post title ever! 

ANNOUNCEMENT:  I launch my author newsletter on Monday, 1st March 2021 and there is a giveaway with it (which you link to in the Welcome to my Newsletter email you receive on signing up). Sign up page here

Newsletter advert

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

After what has been a busy, fun, and especially creative week, I’m delighted to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post which shares some of what I’ve been up to (!) and looks ahead to what is to come.

I’m thrilled to share here the link to #WendyJJones’ podcast, the fabulous The Writing and Marketing Show, where I was her guest back in late January talking about writing a regular column.

I discussed with Wendy, amongst other things, how to find ideas and to keep on finding them. Naturally Chandler’s Ford Today was well plugged here and I should stress that though it is an online community magazine, many of the articles go beyond local.

My posts here are aimed, mainly, at writers and I specifically aim to write posts that will prove timeless and therefore useful to people for longer. So do go and have a look!

I also discuss a little about what is coming up including when my interview with #HannahKate will be broadcast, about the international writing summit I’m taking part in, and about a WI talk I’m currently working on for delivery in mid-March.

See https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/local-author-news-allison-symes-summits-talks-and-interviews/ for more.

And a big thanks to Wendy once again for hosting me on her podcast. Also thanks for her contribution, and to all of my other guests for theirs, to the recent CFT series Launches in Lockdown.

Feedback on that has been good (many thanks, folks!) and I hope it proves useful for anyone planning their launch this year. What was particularly positive about that series was the range of ideas people had for overcoming the obvious difficulties in trying to have launches during a pandemic. I was also encouraged to see though that, despite all the miseries of the last year, book sales went up considerably. Now that is always good news!

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When I first started out as a writer (the last T-Rex had just left the planet to give you a rough idea of time scales!), the thought of talking about my work or networking would have brought me out in a cold sweat (and did. Thank goodness for deodorant!). Now, it’s fine. Why the change?

I cheered up about the thought of networking when I realised it often meant chatting with another writer about my work over a cup or glass of something lovely. They’d ask me about my work. I’d ask them about theirs. Before I knew it, a good conversation was being had and I made new writing pals. So win-win.

(I’ve only ever come across the odd one or two who only wanted to talk about their work and I learned from that this is not the way to make writing pals. It is no coincidence the best writing pals are the ones who take an interest in what you do and of course you take an interest in what they do. I’ve learned something useful from every writer I’ve ever chatted to, regardless of their genre, and it is true that to have writing pals you need to be one yourself first and foremost.).

But I realised before going to my first writing conference all those eons ago that I would have to think of something to say to introduce myself and what I did then writing wise. So I drafted something. The old pen and paper came in handy here, I drafted something useful and it made sure I didn’t forget anything either and it gave me that little bit more confidence when I went to that first conference as I rehearsed it to myself too and I knew I at least had something to say!

I was very nervous but I quickly found writers are a friendly and welcoming bunch and before I knew it I was chatting away as if I’d known these good people for ages. And that’s the way it should be and one of the major things I love about the writing community.

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It was a joy to be interviewed by #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM today. I look forward to sharing the links later but it was a real pleasure to talk about flash fiction and blogging. It is a funny thing I fell into both of those things by accident but the writing journey is unique to each writer. We all face our twists and turns but sometimes those twists turn out to be smashing ones!

In other news, my Chandler’s Ford Today post is going to be a summary of my recent news, including mention of the interview with Hannah, but also includes the link to #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show podcast where I was a guest a little while back talking about writing a regular column. (I didn’t want to interrupt the Launches in Lockdown series, otherwise I would have shared this sooner). I’ll also be sharing a little about what is happening in March as it is going to be a busy month with most of the prep work done for it this month!

It is often the way with the writing life things come in batches and then nothing for ages. You do get used to it!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve found mixing up the way I approach writing flash fiction interesting and useful. It keeps me on my toes for a start! I always start by knowing who my character is but I don’t necessarily write from A to B until I reach The End. Sometimes I write from B to A (and this is a specially good technique for twist in the tales. You know what the twist is and then work back logically to where the start should be).

Sometimes I know the mood of the story I want to write. For example, let’s say I feel like writing a funny story that will make people smile and, better still, laugh. I then think about the kind of character who would serve that kind of tale well.

And I do the same if I want to write a tale that makes you shudder. What kind of character could produce that kind of reaction?

I’m sure you can see from all of that why I think characters are what makes a great story (or not. A promising story can fail miserably if the star performers, your characters, are “not up to the job”. I’ve only ever abandoned a couple of stories in my time and both times it was for the same reason. Weak characters, a story that didn’t grip me precisely because those characters were weak. And my conclusion? It was all my own fault for not getting to know these characters well enough before writing them up. I try hard not to make that mistake now!).


One of the things I’ve found when talking to people about what flash fiction is all about is that demonstrating it by reading one or two of my 100-word stories goes down a treat and does the job nicely! In the days when we could still have live events (hopefully soon to come back again!), I made sales doing that!

And it shows the impact of the very short form in the best way imaginable too.

When taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights, such as the ones at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, it is a great way of finding out whether the impact you think the story has really does have that.

Gauging audience reaction is not just useful for the story you’ve read out but it can guide you as to how approach writing others, especially if the reaction is not quite what you thought it would be (and that happens). Mind you, it is wonderful and appreciated by me when a story does produce the reactions I’d hoped for and people do laugh when I wanted the story to produce that.


I write a mixture of flash tales – ghost stories, historical, crime, fantasy, humorous, slice of life etc – which is why I sometimes describe my collections as “mixed assortments”. They don’t just work for chocolates! But each type of flash I write has its own challenge in that I have to convey the type and setting without using too many words to do so.

With a historical piece, I use the character to take you back in time. That saves a wealth of description for one thing but I can also show you the world that character lives in through their eyes. And what they see tells you the story is set in the past.

With crime, I often show it is one with the last line as twist in the tale endings work so well for this. I also use an interesting first line sometimes to indicate a crime has either just happened or is about to happen.

For fantasy, I often show this via the character. For example in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my story Where The Wild Wind Blows starts with the two words “The Witch” so that shows you immediately this has to be a fantasy setting (as opposed to your local High Street, unless it is a very odd High Street!).

But I love mixing up the kind of flash tales I create and again it keeps me on my toes as I have to work out what is the right approach to them and no two stories are exactly the same here.

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Fairytales With Bite – Who are Your Minor Characters?

For longer works, I like spotting the minor characters who end up playing a major role in the overall story. I try to guess at the start of the tale which of these will end up with a kind of starring role.(For The Lord of the Rings for example, I would put Merry and Pippin in this category. They’re not so important as Sam but they will still play an important role that contributes to the overall plot).

The main thing to make sure of, naturally, is such minor characters really do serve a purpose and are not just there for decoration or to make up the numbers. (Writing flash fiction means I can’t do that. I have to focus only on what serves the story but it is a great technique to develop for all forms of writing, including non-fiction).

So who are your minor characters? What roles do they play? Do the major characters realise the contribution from the minor ones?

I also wouldn’t kill of a minor character for the sake of it. There has to be a good reason for them to go, otherwise the reader will see straight through it. Everything and everyone in the story has to serve a useful purpose, otherwise out they go!

I outline my characters so I know who they are before I write their story up (and I like to think of it as being their story and not mine. That also helps me make sure my author’s voice does not come into it). I do this by asking a series of questions.

For minor characters, you won’t need to know so much but you do have to be crystal clear that they are necessary to your tale and why.

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This World and Others –

What I Like to see in a Fictional World

I could write chapter and verse (appropriately!) on this one so it is a question of working out what is the most important and I think of that in terms of what I think the reader will consider most important. So my suggestions?

Interesting Characters – no story without these. I want to see fully formed characters who intrigue me enough to make me want to find out what their story is going to be. (I also have a soft spot for quirky characters but there has to be a good reason for them to be quirky and in your story).

A Sense of Their World – I don’t need every detail. Nor do your readers, otherwise you run the risk of sending them to sleep with too much description etc. I do need to know where the characters live, how they provide for themselves, and what kind of government they live under (as that gives me a feel for what liberties they have, or don’t have, as the case may be). Even here a broad overview is fine. And you can build up what you “feed” readers, a bit at a time. Think about the “need to know” basis, it’s a good guideline. You as the writer will always need to know more than the reader but not all of that necessarily has to go into the story.

Level of Education – This can be shown by how the characters speak. Readers will deduce what is normal, what is not from context. Also references to books (or not) can indicate whether the society is a literate one or not. It can also be shown by how the characters communicate. If it is an oral tradition, there will be no written records, as we would know them for example.

Conflict – No conflict = no story. Even when the character struggles with themselves, there is conflict. And the conflict should be based on what readers find out about your fictional world from what you choose to show them. We should be able to see Country A hates Country B because…

Resolution – As ever with any kind of story, this doesn’t have to be a happy one but it should be appropriate for what has gone before.

Writing Challenge, Advice, Story Video and Interview News

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. It has been a busy few days but fun!

Picture below gives you an idea of what is coming up (and I am glad to report my recording for the international writing summit last week went very well. Am looking forward to sharing more on that as soon as I can).

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Facebook – General

I had an interesting writing challenge today. Some of you may know I’m the Membership Secretary of The Association of Christian Writers and on our Facebook page today, I was “thrown the gauntlet” by #WendyHJones to come up with a flash fiction piece involving certain words. Those words were “gentle, throat, print, chairs, church”. Now I often use all kinds of random generators to come up with story idea triggers (e.g. random words, numbers, questions even).

So did I meet Wendy’s challenge? But of course… here is the result.

A gentle clear of the throat was all I needed as I looked at my work. The print run was done. The service sheets were on all of the chairs. I checked that three times. I can’t wait until I resume my old task and welcome people back to church.
Allison Symes – 23rd February 2021 – approximately 9.30 am!

I don’t often get to write a piece of flash fiction before I get to take the dog out for her big playtime/walk! Lovely creative and fun start to a Tuesday. Many thanks, Wendy.

Hope your Monday has gone okay. A huge thanks for the great response to my new Book Brush adverts yesterday (see images in next post down). I was pleased with how they turned out.

Finally nailed down a longer flash piece I’d been working on for a while, polished it, and submitted it. Sometimes it goes like that. I know I needed to tighten the piece up but didn’t see immediately how to do it. Time away from the piece worked wonders (so I do take my own advice, at least some of the time!).

Am looking forward to sending my first author newsletter on 1st March. I’ve gone for the 1st as it’s an easy date to remember. It would not surprise me at all if 99.9% of all authors with a newsletter have also gone for the 1st for their chosen date! If you want to know more do check out my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ – you go straight to the sign-up page here. (I’ve changed my original home page to this one as it makes more sense).

If you want to know more about my flash collections, do go to my website and then on to my Books page where you will find my trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will repeat below too.

The plan with the newsletter is to share writing tips, news, and flash stories before they are published anywhere else. Hope to see you aboard (and many thanks to those who have signed up so far).

Newsletter advert

I’ve been having fun with Book Brush again creating a couple of adverts for my website and books. See below! I love this kind of thing but have to make sure I “play” like this once and only once I’ve got my writing done for the day. It’s too easy to lose lots of time with this kind of marketing as it is so much fun.

Seriously though, given every writer has to market their books, you do need to find ways that you can enjoy (and therefore keep going for the long term). I haven’t engaged with Instagram or Pinterest at all but am loving creating the videos for my Youtube channel. So that gives me a visual medium to enjoy working with (and when I add free to use music tracks it’s an audio one too).

You also need to decide what you’re going to try marketing/social media wise, what works for you and what doesn’t, but I must admit I find the hardest thing to get right is apportioning time to writing new material/revising draft material and marketing. It’s not an easy balancing act and every writer I know faces this dilemma.

When you have a new or relatively new book out, you know you’ve got to concentrate on the marketing for some time to give that book its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world. What’s tricky is working out when to stop and back pedal a bit so you can get on and produce new writing that will make it into another book for marketing later on.

I try to make sure some of my writing sessions during the week are for purely writing (though this post counts as both writing and marketing!). Others are for purely marketing or developing materials to use for marketing, If I can look back over the week and see I have managed a good amount on both, I’m happy. I can’t claim any scientific method to this, far from it, but it works for me. I’ve also accepted nobody ever gets this totally right. It is working out what is right for you.

Delighted to share another fab review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks #MaggieFarran.

Reviews help authors more than non-writers, I think, might always realise. If you wonder whether it is worth doing, basically the answer to that is yes, it is! And Maggie’s great example shows a review does not have to be long (or take long).

In other news, I spent Friday night recording my presentation for the international writing summit I mentioned earlier this week. All went well. I loved doing it. Many thanks for all the support and prayers from writing friends. I was calmer than I thought I would be and that helped a lot. And I can really worry when I put my mind to it, trust me on that.

The ironic thing here is you do need a certain amount of adrenaline going here. It helps fuel your creativity funnily enough but if you have too much of it, it tips over into anxiety etc and that definitely does not help you come across well.

As for the summit itself, I hope to have links etc in early March and am looking forward to sharing those.

Next week, I’m due to be interviewed by #HannahKate for her North Manchester FM radio show so am busy getting ready for that. All great fun and I love to talk about writing, specifically flash fiction, so this will be huge fun to do. Will share links for that as and when I have them though it will be after the show goes out. The nice thing here is my publisher, Chapeltown Books, is Manchester based so a nice link there.

Screenshot_2021-02-20 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my A Bad Day for A Fairy Godmother story video yesterday. See below. The Youtube videos are proving to be a great way to share one and two line flash tales. Those one and two liners in turn make great vehicles for humorous/slightly off the wall/both kind of stories, which I adore writing.

And it’s a sad day indeed when there isn’t time for a short, sharp, funny flash tale.

Now it is thought that Cinders’ glass slipper was a mis-translation. It was meant to be a fur slipper (though these days I would hope it would be a fake fur slipper and that’s as “political” as I get, folks). Having said that, the idea of it being the fairy godmother’s spell going wrong was fun to run with so I did! (Oh and no glass or any other kind of slipper was needed for me to do that!).

Am looking forward to being interviewed tomorrow afternoon by #HannahKate for North Manchester FM. Will share links as and when I get them but it will be good to wave the flag for flash fiction.

If you want proof anyone can have a bad day, check our my latest Youtube flash fiction video (made using Book Brush, uploading to Youtube, and then adding a free to use audio clip from Youtube’s audio library. A big thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for putting me on to that. I’ve had a lot of fun picking music tracks for my stories – and music is wonderful for setting mood).

I’ve found over time (a lot of time!) my natural flash fiction “home” is the 100 to 500 words mark.

For the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition though, I had to write to 1000 words and for all three of my winning entries (Progressing, The Professional, and Books and the Barbarians), I came in at about the 990 mark.

Unless a competition or market says it has to be so many words, nothing more, nothing less, I always take off about ten words from the final count to allow for any changes to title and so on. There is always something at the last minute before you submit work that you need to change and you must factor that into your overall word count restriction and give yourself enough time to make any changes. No last minute submissions for me then. I like to know I am well within the date set for entries to be in by too.

Also bear in mind for the majority of these things, the word count is the maximum you write to and, unless the rules state otherwise, it is okay to come in at under that count. I like to do so to make absolutely sure there is no way I’m going over the limit. (In most competitions, going over by even one word is enough to instantly dismiss your entry because it is not fair to do otherwise on those who have stuck to the word count rules so it is worth making sure you do have this right).

For this competition, I felt an appropriate count for me, to give me word count room for changes etc., would be at about the 990 mark. I try to pitch these things so I am not far off the limit but am still under it. And it works!

A tip I’ve found useful is when you’re not sure what to write next, get some drafts done. In my case I draft flash fiction and blogs of course. When you haven’t got a lot of time but could draft something, do so (and the great thing with flash is with its short word count, this can be done in a relatively short period of time. I’ve drafted a 100 worder in 10 minutes for example). Why mention this?

It’s just that you get periods when you are busy marketing in some way so having the time to create something new can be difficult. You do run out of time but by having drafts to hand, I can pull one of those, work on it, ensure I’m happy with it and then get it out somewhere quite quickly. It means even when my main work has to be those other things, some new flash fiction is being created, based on those drafts written a few weeks back. It is worth having a stock of drafts like this.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Sells a Book to You

What would you say sells a book to you once you have read it? You’ve loved the cover, the blurb, and you’ve enjoyed the story but what was the stand out element for you?

For me, it is always about the characters. They have to grip me so I want to follow their story through. They don’t necessarily have to be likeable. They do have to be memorable. I have to understand where they are coming from, even if I disagree with the route they’ve taken. And if a character makes me want to shout at them or what have you, then that’s a good sign. It means they’ve engaged me, even if they’ve annoyed me! I then look further at why they’ve annoyed me too.

What I really dislike are insipid characters because you think what is the point of their story. No writer wants that one!

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Voices, Radio Story, and Relaxing Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School were taken by Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn respectively (and in succeeding years at the school. We all hope to be back there in 2021).

Facebook – General

It is odd not writing about what my Chandler’s Ford Today post is going to be this week, but even I take a week off occasionally. A huge thanks to my lovely CFT editor for the surprise “Legends Box” parcel which reached me today. Lots of nice goodies inside with a flyer saying the sender thought I was a legend!

Better still, all proceeds from these parcels go to the Trussell Trust. Imaginative and positive gift ideas for next Christmas I think and such a lovely thing to do. So many thanks to my editor again and to the people behind the Legends Box idea. I like things like this. My church a few years back supported the Send-a-Cow charity and we managed to send two cows and a goat I believe.

I AM working on CFT behind the scenes however. I am working on what will be an informative mini-series which will hopefully go up in January plus another interesting feature with a writer/publisher. So plenty to look forward to then!

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Delighted to share the link to Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. My story, Up to Scratch, was broadcast here on Saturday 19th December. My story comes in at about the 1 hour 28 minutes mark but the show makes for a wonderful celebration of festive flash fiction. Hope you enjoy. I loved taking part and hope to do so again at some point. A big thanks to #HannahKate and also to #ElizabethDucie for flagging this up to me.

Link:  https://www.mixcloud.com/Hannahs_Bookshelf/hannahs-bookshelf-pre-christmas-christmas-special-19122020/

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One of the highlights of Christmas for me is the Carols by Candlelight service. Of course, this year the way it is held is different. It was pre-recorded and then put on Youtube. It was lovely to be able to sing along. I gave one of the readings (I went down to the church to record it a couple of weeks back) but the whole service cheered me no end. Yes, sure, it is not the same as being there but it was the next best thing so a huge thanks to all who worked so hard on making this happen.

By this stage of the writing year, my poor old writers’ diary is looking more than a bit tired (as indeed is this writer!). But I do find this an invaluable aid to planning out what I am writing and for when. I know it seems old-fashioned to write with a pen in a paperback diary but it works for me! I didn’t use any of the writing prompts in the diary this year. I will try and make up for that in 2021.

Am almost at the end of the first draft for my non-fiction project so am pleased with that. I am on target to have this written by the end of the year (though possibly not this side of Christmas). There will be no Chandler’s Ford Today post from me this coming Friday (I wonder why!) but I will be posting on New Year’s Day. And I’ve got a good initial draft of a third flash fiction collection to work on while I’m resting my non-fiction for a while so I can resume work on that with a fresh eye in due course.

But I must admit I do hope we can get back to some sort of writing events where we can meet people. Here’s hoping!

Candlelight - Book Brush

Delighted to say it was my recording of my reading Up To Scratch that went out on Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM earlier this afternoon. Many thanks, #HannahKate for picking my story. I hope to share the link to the show in the next couple of days or so.  (Done, see further up!). Well, there is always time for a flash festive fable! (And I do hope to submit stories to Hannah’s Bookshelf in the future. Flash works well on audio given it is so short).

This story was one of those where I had the “voice” for my characters immediately and is a tale told entirely in dialogue. Good fun to do. I’ve always found dialogue tales work best when kept short so they’re a good choice for flash fiction writers.

How do I know when I’ve got the voice for my characters? It isn’t just a question of knowing how they sound funnily enough, It is a question of knowing yes this is the kind of thing they would say, the kind of vocabulary they would use because…. , and also knowing what wouldn’t suit them. For example the two characters in this story would not swear. Therefore, they didn’t!

Oh and to make sure I don’t forget to do this, please find below a little something created using Book Brush this afternoon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTenqfNs3k8

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I love about writing for Chapeltown Books has been helping to choose suitable images for the book covers. For From Light to Dark and Back Again I choose rippling circles with light playing on them. For Tripping The Flash Fantastic I chose a castle with lights shining in it with lightning seeming to strike one end of the castle. That image was not my first choice but it proved to be better than what I had chosen initially given there are historically based flash stories in this book. I also liked the idea of the lightning flash as being a kind of clue to the book genre.

What I do know is you have to be happy with your book covers and a good one will convey something of what the contents are likely to be. You then hope someone picks up the book, looks at the blurb, and looks inside to find out more (before going on to buy it of course). But it is easier for the writer to do the necessary marketing work if they themselves love the cover, the blurb, and the book itself. One of my favourite Wodehouse quotes is “God may forgive Herbert Jenkins Limited for the cover of……… but I never shall”!

Glad to say that has not been a problem for me!

TTFF squareBookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939BB - blue poster for books


Taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights was not something I anticipated doing when I started writing flash fiction seriously but it is a very good vehicle for developing your writing skills, funnily enough. It pays to read your story out loud to yourself a few times before you do an event like this. You’re looking for anything that might make you stumble over your words. If you find anything (and you inevitably do), it’s time for a rewrite. The aim is for a smooth read for you and a smooth listening experience for your audience. Recording a story and playing it back to yourself helps too. All of this helps you hone your editing skills further too so win-win!

The Open Mic for Prose night

Many thanks to Geoff Parkes for this image of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night.

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Quick plug alert! Amazon say that the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic can be with you for 22nd December if ordered today. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more.

If anyone would like a signed copy directly from me, just send me a Direct Message and we’ll take things from there. I would really need to get books off in the post by Tuesday, 22nd December at the latest to have any chance of getting this to you in time for Christmas. If you’re not in a hurry, then just message me anyway and we can sort things out after Christmas and Boxing Days.

And do remember if you are on the receiving end of book presents this Christmas (you are, aren’t you?!), please do review the book in the usual places. Reviews don’t have to be long but they do help the author.

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Horrendous weather off and on in Hampshire today. Mud levels in the local park are quite something now too. Not that Lady minds! I am blessing my dear old mum for leaving me a shed load of old towels. They do for Lady nicely!

Delighted my story Up to Scratch was on the radio this afternoon. Will share a link when I have it. This story was an all dialogue on between two characters only (though others are referred to in the tale).

I like the challenge of writing all dialogue stories from time to time but I think they are best used sparingly. The advantage of “standard” prose stories is I can take you into the heads of the characters and show you their thoughts. I can’t do that if I’ve got them talking to you!!

But that is where the challenge lies. What could a character be reasonably expected to know to be able to say to another character? It’s also got to sound like natural conversation (though without the ums and ahs we all come up with).

This kind of story makes for a good writing exercise too. Try it some time and see what you come up with. I’ve found this kind of story is best kept short (and I keep mine to about the 100-`150 word count length). It keeps the tale tight and to the point and you really don’t want characters wittering on!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Perfect Books To Relax With

What kind of book do you like to relax with? My favourites are fantasy (especially the humorous kind such as Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld stories) and crime (though I am more at the cosy end of the market).

Though right now I am loving Peter Ackroyd’s London, which is a biography of the city. An interesting way of writing up a history and full of fascinating tales. It’s a fairly big paperback but is an engrossing read so very happy to recommend it.

If a writer’s style draws me in, as it does here, it doesn’t matter how big the book is! They’ve got this reader to the end (which is a challenge for all of us writers to ensure we try and do that with our own writing).

I can’t read in the bath. I’d be worried about dropping a book or Kindle in the water. Neither would come out well. This is why my main reading is just before I go to sleep. I am so relaxed then. It’s not the time to read a gripping vampire novel though. Mind you, I wasn’t planning on doing this so that’s okay.

For me books have to be entertaining and help me relax. If I want a challenging read, I will carve out time during the day when my brain is better able to cope with said challenging read!

I hope you have plenty of excellent new reads for Christmas and I hope you have a safe and as good a celebration as possible. If ever there was a year, we all needed books to help us escape, it is in 2020.


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LAST BUT NOT LEAST

My next round-up will be on Tuesday 29th December. I’m having a couple of days off over Christmas though I still plan to write my weekly Goodreads Author Blog post. I am likely to move this to Sunday 27th December.

In the meantime, I wish you all as safe and happy a Christmas as possible in what has been such a strange year and I look forward to seeing you back here next week!

Many thanks for your ongoing support. It is much appreciated!

merry christmas sign

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Mulling Over Story News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

(Though the image of Mulling It Over and Transformations under the Christmas tree was taken by me, as was the screenshot for the North Manchester FM radio show. More on that in the posts below!).

Facebook – General

Delighted to say my copies of Mulling It Over and Transformations arrived today. Stunning covers for them both and wonderful stories inside. A great mix of styles and mood. See more over at my Amazon Author Central page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

I have a short story in Mulling It Over and three pieces in Transformations. The latter is the paperback compilation of the three ebooks produced by Bridge House Publishing as a result of the last three years’ worth of Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition winning tales. And I am delighted that I have a story in each of the three ebooks and so three stories in this compilation. Also pleased to say these two books are now listed under my ALCS record (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society).

Can you have too many books under the Christmas tree? Of course not! (My wish list to Santa went in some considerable time ago!). It is more difficult to name favourite books though the great thing is nobody says you can only have so many! Just as well too.

Mulling It Over and Transformations under the Christmas tree


Lots happening this week.

Firstly, I’m taking part in the Christmas Book Hub party on 16th December right here on Facebook. I will be sharing a story video with a Christmassy theme (The Help) and there will be a prize too. I’ll be giving away a signed paperback copy of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on the night. Anyone who likes my story video post will be given a number via a random number generator and the person whose number comes up when I make the draw at about 9.30 pm will be the winner. Lucky dip the electronic way basically but all great fun!

I’ve used random number generators before for my launch in October and for From Light to Dark and Back Again back in 2017. Great fun. I use them sometimes to trigger story ideas too. How? I can use the number to mean something special to the characters in my story, or use it as a time (in seconds), or as door number, or a train time etc.

Secondly, I’m pleased to share the link to the radio show where my story, Up to Scratch, will be broadcast on Saturday afternoon (between 2 and 4 pm) on North Manchester FM. Many thanks to Hannah Kate for picking the story and also to Elizabeth Ducie for putting me on to this.

I will be sharing the link to the show itself after the broadcast. See https://hannahkate.net/north-manchester-fm-hannahs-bookshelf-saturday-19-december-2-4pm/ for more and my screenshot below.

Lovely start to the week after a busy Monday (and Lady was busy too. She had a fab time with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddie this morning and is suitably tired as a result. I expect her buddie is too).

Screenshot_2020-12-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 19 December, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate


Well, I’m glad I raked up leaves yesterday. Today has been a case of soggy Hampshire. Only too glad to be in for a lot of the day AND the countdown to Christmas has now started for me. Why? I watched The Muppet Christmas Carol tonight! One of the best adaptations of that wonderful story and I think the best thing The Muppets did too.

Christmas cards going by post now done and will be off in the box tomorrow.

Writing wise, I’m looking forward to “going” to the Christmas Book Hub Facebook event on Wednesday evening. And my story, Up to Scratch, is due to be part of Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM hosted by Hannah Kate later this week.

When I get more details about the time and/or a link to a playback, I’ll share here. It’s another first for me too in that it will be the first time I’ve had a story of mine narrated by someone else.

One of my Christmas Day traditions is a good read in the evening followed by watching some Morecambe and Wise to finish the day off nicely. Looking forward to all of that. And I hope you have plenty of books listed on your wish list to Santa.

 


Hope Saturday has been a nice day. Have continued my autumn/winter workout by raking up leaves. You appreciate coming into a nice warm house after that. An Options orange hot chocolate drink also goes down well after that!

Making good progress on the non-fiction book, have prepped a blog which will appear later this month (as in December I am keen to get anything like that done this side of Christmas – it pays!), and am delighted to say a flash tale of mine has been picked to appear on a festive flash fiction radio show (and a big thanks to #ElizabethDucie for putting me on to this).

I hope to share more details on that later next week but it will be a lovely way to end the year. Am also preparing something for a Facebook event mid-week, again will share more on that next week. (More on this above).

Am sketching out an idea for what will be my first CFT mini-series for 2021 plus continuing to write flash stories which I hope will make it into a third collection in due course.

But I do hope 2021 will see the return of writing events (as well as continuing to use Zoom to make events more accessible). I have missed the interaction which happens when you go to an event.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am hoping to get my Facebook posts up earlier than normal tomorrow as I will be taking part in the Christmas Book Hub Facebook party tomorrow evening (16th December). Looking forward to this as I know it will be great fun. And I’ll get to spread the word about the joys of flash fiction too.

The challenges of flash fiction, I suppose, are obvious – the reduced word count and finding the right market for your work, though the latter is true for whatever kind of writing you do. You do get used to the word count restriction though and these days, anything over 1000 words, seems lengthy to me even if I’m over by just one word!

It took me a while to realise my natural writing home (bar my Chandler’s Ford Today posts) is the sub-500 words kind of story. It is what most of my stories seem to naturally come in at and that’s fine. You then learn to play to your strengths but this is all part of the writing journey. You find out what you love doing the most writing wise (and this is what will come to you naturally as you are writing from the heart here). You then focus on that!

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New story video time. Please see the link for A Misguided Day Out which I hope you enjoy. (Definitely not seasonal in my part of the world right now!). What I am enjoying doing here is creating the video in Book Brush, uploading it to Youtube and scheduling it, then going back in to edit the video and add an audio track using the free music available in Youtube. All great fun. And little stories make a great quick read when time is off the essence, which I think is true for most of us right now!


What is your favourite part of a story? I’ve always loved the classic fairytale opening of “once upon a time”, but the bit I really couldn’t wait to get to was when our hero/heroine won through. I was always interested in seeing how that was going to be done (and what would happen the nasty beings getting in our hero/heroine’s way). I guess that should have flagged up a career as a writer could well be in the pipeline!

Even as a kid, I knew life wasn’t fair. Stories were a way of sometimes redressing the balance a bit. I still do find it quietly satisfying when one of my villains gets what’s coming to them and all that. And that is why I think I will always retain my love of fairytales and the fantastic (and why I have a soft spot for crime stories too).

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This story came about as a result of a writing prompt where I had to write a “love letter” to a cherished object. No real surprises at what I picked here!

MY DARLING
I love every moment in your company. You do all that you are meant to do but with such flowing grace it is an absolute pleasure to work with you.
I’ve drafted so many stories with you. I save your cousin, the red pen, for the editing of course, but with you, the writing flows. I can just invent and have fun.
You are the humble biro.
More power to you, pen!
Ends
Allison Symes – December 2020


Goodreads Author Blog – Books FOR Santa.

Humorous post from me this time. I know I like to relax at the end of the day with a good book so what would Santa choose when he has completed a task well done for another year? I make some reading suggestions for the great man here

Now I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day I love my reading time. It’s the perfect way to wind down before sleeping. And there is nothing to beat putting your feet up and enjoying a good read unless you are doing that and eating a big bar of chocolate at the same time! (Let’s assume no mess!).

So let’s give some thought to someone who, when they finally get to put their feet up after a task well done, ought to be able to relax with a good book. So just what would Santa read? My list of books for Santa to read would include:-

  • Improve your World Geography Knowledge in Ten Easy Steps
  • How to Get the Best Out of Your Transport
  • Insulating Your Home The Easy Way
  • What You Really Need to Know about Elves
  • The All Time Great Flight Paths
  • A Christmas Carol (Scrooge prior to the ghosts’ visits would definitely be on the naughty list).
  • The Never Ending Story (Santa is likely to have a lot of sympathy with this one).
  • The Ultimate Gift Guide (not that Santa would really need this. It would be more of a case of keeping an eye on any possible competition!).
  • Perfect Parcel Wrapping – You Too Can Do This!
  • 1001 Carrot Recipes

I hope you have plenty of books on your list to Santa. It goes without saying I have!

 

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