When Wishes Are Not Granted and Launches in Lockdown 4.

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And one good question for all writers to answer is given below.

CHARACTERISATION - If you, as writer, are not convinced by the characters, nobody else will be

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share the link to Part 4 of Launches in Lockdown for Chandler’s Ford Today. My guests this week are #PaulaReadman, #Dawn Knox, and #AmandaHuggins. They didn’t just launch one book during launchdown – oh no! They launched several! For more on why they chose the launches they did for their books, do see the post.

A huge thanks to everyone who has commented so positively on this series, whether directly on CFT or on my FB timeline. If ever there was a zeitgeist series for me to write, this is it I think.

Final part of this series next week. What has been lovely throughout has been the wealth of ideas and tips shared here. Many thanks to all of my guest authors for that but we all hope this will be a source of encouragement for those wondering how on earth they will hold their launches, given we can’t know when restrictions will be lifted etc. Do see this series as a good place to start for some very useful ideas to start you off!

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Delighted to share a link to another great review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. This one comes courtesy of Big Al’s Books and Pals, an American book blogger site. Many thanks to Al and I am all for spreading the word about the joys of flash fiction on both sides of the pond!

As ever, I will put out the word for reviews for authors. Remember they don’t have to be long but they all help. And it is the best way I know of supporting other writers. So win-win there, yes?

Looking forward to sharing Part 4 of Launches in Lockdown for CFT tomorrow. All fantastic thoughts and tips throughout this series and Part 4 continues that fine “tradition”. And a huge thanks to everyone for the positive comments on the series so far – I guess those count as reviews!

Do see the link for the full review and once more thanks to Al!

Not convinced by my phone telling me it is 3 degrees out there. Certainly doesn’t feel like it. Still it does encourage a brisk pace when out with the dog. Lady not at all bothered by the cold (and is almost certainly the only member of the immediate family not moaning about it too!).

I’m preparing a couple of presentations at the moment – yes very exciting. Hope to be able to share more news soon. The writing life can be full of stages and there are times when you realise, yes you have just hit another one. I’m at that point now. All good fun!

I mentioned in my Writing Magazine spot (Subscribers’ News this month) that I discovered flash fiction by accident. It is also true that one thing in writing leads to another and it can be great fun finding out where these different steps take you. My short story writing led me to discover the joys of flash and what I’m working on now is as a result of my writing flash and being published in the form. The writing journey is not always a straight line route but it is important you enjoy the trip!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Do I have favourite flash fiction tales of mine? Hmm… I do know I have more than one! It is like asking me to choose what kind of chocolate I like. There is no way I am going to stick at just picking one!

I am especially fond though of stories with a twist ending and funny tales that make me laugh. The latter often end on a punchline, which in a way is a kind of a twist ending I guess.

I am, I think, most proud of Calling The Doctor, where the mood of the story turns on the last word. See my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again for that.

Having said that, the thing which drives me most as a writer is the wish to keep on improving on what I do. That’s a good thing. It means you’re not resting on your laurels (other green plants to rest on are available though I wouldn’t recommend opting for the holly!).

Also you are striving continually and that means when opportunities come your way, you are more likely to be open to giving them your best shot and who knows where that will take you?

It can be fun finding out though and bear in mind this is from someone who hadn’t even heard of flash fiction when I started out. I certainly didn’t expect to be published in it.

I am going to have news to announce soon which involves flash fiction and I am looking forward to sharing that as soon as I can.

If flash fiction writers had a motto, I guess it would be less is more! We do have to convey a lot in as a few words as possible but that also means we have to make choices from the outset. We have to decide what is relevant for a reader to know. The downside of that is not having the joy of subplots. You do need the longer story forms for that.

But what flash does give you is focus. It is exactly like shining a flashlight on one particular spot and seeing what you can see in that light. Because you can only see so much, the effect is more intense and the impact on a reader more powerful as a result.

Knowing that in advance means you can come up with suitable stories to make the most of powerful impacts. My own favourites are the funny flash tales. A short belly laugh at a tiny tale always goes down well with me. Something of that humour would be lost if it was set within a longer story.

Now I’ve mentioned using various random generators to trigger story ideas. There are some fabulous ones out there – verbs, nouns, adjectives, questions etc. The great thing with all of them is you can set your own parameters such as the number of words you generate. You can choose the first and last letters of the words you want generated in a lot of cases as well so if you like specifics, that is for you!

The ironic thing with having parameters (and this is true for flash fiction as a whole due to its word count maximum) is they can free the writer up to come up with better ideas.

You know you are working with limits so you have to think laterally to make the most of the limits you have. And it does encourage you to cut your wasted words. You want every word to count so you’re not going to leave any in unless it does add something valuable to your story. That alone makes your story stronger and it is a great writing practice to get into and will benefit every form of writing you are involved in.

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Fairytales with Bite – When Wishes Are Not Granted

An interesting line of enquiry to follow for stories set in a magical world is to ask what happens when wishes are not granted.

How does the one making the wish react to that?

Does the fairy godmother, say, have phenomenally good reasons for not granting the wish that perhaps she can’t reveal (at least immediately)?

One good reason here by the way would be to force the person making the wish to find their own way to solve a problem (and it may well be that anger at magical help being turned down might motivate that character to find their own way and learn to manage on their own).

Politics can come into play to a certain extent too. If a fairy godmother was to grant a certain wish, would it land her in trouble with her boss and/or other magical species? If the different species are keeping the peace by agreeing not to use excessive magic, would the fairy godmother’s actions to help your hero/heroine/anti-hero/anti-heroine breach that agreement? What would the consequences of that be?

Interesting story thoughts there!

And don’t forget the possibilities of when wishes are granted that little bit too late.

Now this could lend itself to humour. Do we have an inept fairy on the loose, say? Who reins her in or helps her sort out her timings? Good fun could be had there.

But this would also lend itself to tragedy – for the main character and/or the magical being. Again good stories to be found.

It is worth asking the question “what if” for story planning. Spider diagrams or flowcharts can also be useful in working out what the best ideas. And always write up the one that grabs you the most. It is likely to grab your readers too and you will write the tale up with enthusiasm and that comes through in your writing.

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This World and Others – Working Things Out

How do your characters work things out? Do they rely on their own wit and intelligence? Or are they smart enough to know their own weaknesses and find expert help as and when they need it?

Do they read? Are there libraries (and if so are they like ours?). Do other characters help your “stars” or do they get in the way? And are your characters savvy enough to know that a certain course of action might lead them into conflict with those far more powerful than they are? Can they avoid this? Can they work out better ways of doing things or how to overcome the risk of conflict?

As in real life, some characters will be planners, others will be pantsers. But what if you put your people in situations where they have to act differently from the way they normally would? For example, what if your typical pantser finally finds they do have to plan something out carefully to give them any chance at all of (a) success and (b) survival? How would they handle that? (Initially not well I would expect! But how do they get over that so they do what they have to do?).

As a writer, working things out I find incredibly useful. I like to work things out with regards to my characters first. Who are they? What are their major traits? What are their flaws? Nearly always ideas for stories spring up as a result of answering those questions. It can sometimes show me the mood the story is likely to be too. A pompous character is someone I am likely to put into a funny tale precisely to show them up (and have great fun doing so!).

But there are different ways to work things out for you as the writer and for your characters, It is a question of working out which method would work best for you, this particular character, this particular story.

Happy writing!

Being Interviewed

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Interview News:  It was fabulous being interviewed by Paula C Readman on her blog. More details below.

Facebook – General

Is it me or are the nights drawing in earlier than usual for August? Still I suppose the upside to that is it encourages me to be either at my desk writing or curled up with a good book reading.

Talking of which, most of my reading I do at bedtime. I’m not seeking to analyse a story at this point! I just want to be entertained and go to sleep having enjoyed a good read. I DO, however, make a note of whatever particularly grabbed me about the book/short story. You can learn a lot from that.

I mix up reading fiction and non-fiction too. A good non-fiction book will grip me just as much as an excellent novel etc and reading non-fiction regularly can help trigger ideas for stories. Having said that, you should see my TBR pile, “real” and electronic versions! Still, those will keep me out of mischief for some time and that is never a bad thing!😀

I am delighted to be on the other side of the interview desk tonight with my appearance on #PaulaReadman‘s blog, Funeral Birds to Stone Angels. Hope you enjoy the interview (and do check out the other interviews on here too (see the Guest Book Tour Page). The chats are fabulous and I find I’m always entertained by what other authors have to say. I usually learn something useful too so win-win!).

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

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Delighted to see this on the Waterstones site. Looking forward to seeing Tripping the Flash Fantastic on there too!

I do enjoy writing character thoughts. I love creating dialogue too but with my 100 word stories in particular, I often don’t have room for my characters to get a conversation going!

I can get them to think though and thoughts reveal so much about the character.

What would you make of a character who thought something such as “I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s”?

What would your initial thoughts be? That the character was lazy? Dog tired and just can’t face going out?

A lot of the assumptions you make here will depend on how much of the story you’ve already read.

But what if that was the opening line? You would be expecting to see a lazy character maybe get their comeuppance perhaps? That might be the point of the story. And it may well be BUT one thing I also love is layering so how could I layer that line to get something more from it?

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here.”

Now what would you think? Maybe you would feel more pity for this character now? I know I would.

The lovely thing about layering is you get to direct how it goes and you can throw in a red herring too.

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here. I reckon that agoraphobia she says she has is just an excuse to never go out. It only needs one bus ride to get here. Just what is her problem?”
Allison Symes – 24th August 2020

Any sympathy for this character has now gone right out of the old window, yes?

Work out what you want to reveal about your character and remember you don’t have to share it all at once!

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I can’t say I was impressed with Storm Francis. (I should imagine the Pope might not be too happy at having a storm named after him. I wasn’t impressed there was a Storm Alison a few years back – okay having the second l in the name was probably too much to hope for. I know I can be a right shower at times but a storm? Really?! 😀😀).

Have got an interesting challenge for this week’s CFT post. I’m reviewing the summer! No. Stop it. It is NOT a two word article ending in the word “awful”. Honest. Link up on Friday. Probably best leave it there I think!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope you enjoyed my story, The Special Offer, in my last post. It was great fun to write and I do love using the random generators to trigger ideas. With most of them you can set your own parameters too.

The great thing with all of them is you can choose how to use what you generate. Will the words be a title, a theme, or just be placed in the story somewhere? And you can combine all or any or all of that of course.

With the number generator, you could use the numbers for times (as I’ve mentioned before), but how about a number being used as a house address where something spectacular happens? Or where the number has special meaning for your character?

It can be useful to write down a list of ideas that occur to you. The first few will be the “obvious” ones but those further down the list are unlikely to be so self-evident. THAT is where you may well find the germ of an idea that YOU can turn into something special.

Have fun!

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It was great fun taking part in #PaulaReadman‘s post on her blog today. Just so you know, I do have an interview page on my website, to which I gladly added my appearance on Paula’s blog earlier today. Scroll down and enjoy the read! Hope you enjoy the other interviews on there too. (And Paula is very generous with the cake too!).

It’s always an interesting experience for me being interviewed given I spend a fair amount of time doing the interviewing for Chandler’s Ford Today. Best thing of all? I get to talk about my big fictional love – flash fiction!

 

I hope Monday has been okay for you. Can’t say I’m looking forward to the storm that’s heading to most of us in the UK tomorrow. Still I guess I won’t need any help blowing away the proverbial cobwebs tomorrow!

I’ve just shared on my author page a flash story I created to illustrate a point I was making about layering your characters and not revealing everything about them all at once. I’ll share that story here too.

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here. I reckon that agoraphobia she says she has is just an excuse to never go out. It only needs one bus ride to get here. Just what is her problem?”
Allison Symes – 24th August 2020

Now you’ll notice immediately there’s one thing missing. Something I’ve often said is important to a tale and that is the title. It is the first “lure” into a story for your reader. So how do I go about choosing a title

?Sometimes a title comes about as a result of the theme of the story. Sometimes it can be based on the character name or their attitude. But here what would I go for and why?

I’d probably call this I’m Not Going Again because (a) it fits the story and (b) will hopefully intrigue a reader enough to find out who is the I in the tale and why they’re not going to somewhere again.

The reason why is important in fiction. Readers lap up a story because they have got to find out what happens. And that’s a good thing.

Think of the stories you’ve loved. What kept you reading them?

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I was right not to be impressed with the storm. Oh it was windy and rainy all right, but Lady and I were not sorry to get back home after our walk today. Was nice to see some sunshine later though.

Now when it comes to my flash tales I write a mixture of “sunny” tales and others which are darker in tone. This is partly due to my writing reflecting what I like to read and directly inspired my first book’s title of course.

Also because I cannot write “light” all the time.

I think it was Terry Pratchett who said you needed to have some tragic relief sometimes. The older I get the more I appreciate that.

My first love will always be light prose (and ideally funny with it) but I do think you need the darker stories as well. Doesn’t that reflect the human condition? Okay there is a limit to how dark I go but I love a well crafted crime novel as well as a funny memoir or short story collection. And there will always be room on my shelves for both.

Flash fiction is fantastic here as the form lends itself well to playing with character and seeing what you can do with them. Therefore it gives you plenty of opportunities to write lighter tales and darker ones and every which shade in between.

Goodreads Author Blog –The Wonders of Non-Fiction

The majority of my reading, whether in paperback or on my trusty Kindle, is fiction to be honest. But I’m a fiction writer so you would expect that.

However, my non-fiction “reading diet” has increased over the last couple of years, partly because I also blog for an online community magazine and a good general knowledge, as well as good sources of research, are useful for that.

But I have found I wanted to read more factual work in between the escape from it all in fiction kind of books.

I’ve enjoyed a few of Ben Macintyre’s books and have developed a greater appreciation for what is known as creative non-fiction.

Gone are the days of worthy tomes gathering dust on shelves somewhere and rightly so. You want books to be in the hands of eager readers and that goes for non-fiction too.

And non-fiction writers still have to know their audience and draw their readers in every bit as much as fiction writers must do.

So what do I look for in a good non-fiction work?

1. I still want to be entertained and often that is with a narrative that grips and is telling me an exciting “story”. The only difference with fiction is that here the story is a true one.

2. I want to learn something new and/or back up the knowledge I already have on a topic. (Ideally I’d do both).

3. I want the non-fiction book I’ve picked to encourage further reading on the topic and give me a source of ideas as to where to turn next.

So what are your favourite non-fiction books? Have you made any great discoveries this year?

 

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The Power of Why

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A huge thank you to Wendy H Jones for supplying images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is a real pleasure to welcome Scottish crime writer, Wendy H. Jones, back to Chandler’s Ford Today and for something very special indeed.

Wendy is the only UK author involved with The Power of Why, an inspirational book featuring 23 women who started their own businesses.

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Wendy shares why the question of why matters. Below is a short extract from the blurb for The Power of Why.

The Power of Why

If you are not starting your business by asking yourself “Why?”, then you are starting in the wrong place.

Five main questions should be answered when contemplating starting a business – What, Why, How, When and Where? Often women entrepreneurs do not give thought to the order of these, yet research by top universities shows the most important is Why?

Compiled by Purvi Tantia, this book tells the stories of 23 powerful women from around the world, who share the fears and aspirations which led to their Why. This book should be the starting point for any woman wanting to understand the Power of Why in her life.

Wow! Now that is quite a statement but check out the interview for much, much more. You won’t look at “Why” in quite the same way again, I think.

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Despite not being at Swanwick as I should’ve been, today has been nice.

Firstly, I had my first swim since the lockdown. It was lovely and, yes, I was slow! Second question – correct, I don’t care! I will improve…! But it was so nice to be back and the centre I go to had laid everything out perfectly and the one-way system was easy to use.

Secondly, I was delighted at #PaulaReadman‘s post earlier about her excitement at discovering her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow, is on Waterstones website. Huge congratulations to her. I thought I’d put my own name in the search bar and see below for what emerged!

SCREENSHOT - Allison Books on Waterstones online

Absolutely thrilled at this. Many thanks to Paula as, without her post, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to look. So this came as a nice surprise. Alternative Renditions, the other book shown, is where I had my first story in print published – A Helping Hand. I will always have a very soft spot for that particular tale!

I know that Paula and I would want to give a huge shout-out to our fantastic publisher, #GillJames, for all of her support at Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books.

Oh and finally the temperature has come down a bit in Hampshire. Thunder and rain this afternoon though it looks like there is more to come.

And I’ll be meeting up with some fab Swanwick ladies online shortly so, all in all, a great Thursday! Hope yours was a good one too. (It was so good to chat online with #ValPenny, #BeatriceFishback, #JenWilson,#JuneWebber, and #PennyBlackburn. See you good ladies another time!).

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My CFT post this week will be a wonderful interview with Scottish crime writer, #WendyHJones. She’ll be talking about a very special anthology called The Power of Why and showing why matters, especially to women. Very much looking forward to sharing the link for that on Friday.

(Oh and kudos alert: Wendy is the ONLY UK author featured in this book. Find out more about her involvement with this later in the week).

One of the joys of interviews is being able to set questions in such a way they encourage a discussion. The best author interviews I love reading always do that. What you want to avoid are the straight Yes/No answers so I try to never ask questions where that could be given as a response.

Now here’s a thought for the fiction writers. I outline my characters and work out what I need to know about them before I write “their” story.

So when quizzing your characters to find out more about them and what drives them, use some techniques from non-fiction interviews here.

Again avoid having a character be able to tell you a simple yes/no answer. You want to know why! The answer to why is where you’ll get the “gold” to work with in your story. That is what will show you what makes your characters “tick”.

I said why was important. And Wendy will confirm this on Friday! (Images of The Power of Why and Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by Wendy, all others from Pixabay).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Publication News – Cafelit – Flash Fiction

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

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An appropriate image to go with my flash fiction tale, Sweet Dreams, on Cafelit. Pixabay image.

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Delighted to discover FLTDBA is on the Waterstones website. See the link. Nice to say you can get my book at Waterstones. Most authors dream of being able to say that… I know I have.

I found this out thanks to #PaulaReadman spotting her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow (Chapeltown Books), was on there and I thought I’d just put my name in the search bar and see what happened. So glad I did.

I guess it shows another aspect to making writing friends. They can and do show you aspects to this business you might not have thought of. No one author can know it all after all. And that is something I learned a long time ago!

Mind you, the upside to that and it is a HUGE upside, is that there is always something to learn in writing, whether it is on the creative and/or marketing sides. This in turn keeps you on your toes and that is good.

Well, you wouldn’t want to become stale now, would you?

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Delighted to see this on the Waterstones site. Looking forward to seeing Tripping the Flash Fantastic on there too!

Alternative Renditions Small

A very special book in my memory! My first printed story, A Helping Hand, was in here!

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

What I love to see in flash fiction:-

1. Characters that intrigue me.

2. Characters I could see working well in other flash tales.

3. A punchy funny ending which makes me laugh (where appropriate of course).

4. A “killer” finishing line which wraps up the story and you just know it was the perfect ending for that tale.

5. An equally “killer” opening line which means you just HAVE to read on and until you’ve finished the story (which at least with flash is not going to take too long!).

6. A fabulous twist which I can either see coming (but I am looking for it to be delivered WELL here) OR one where I am wrongfooted by the author. (Always a good hat tip to anyone who can do that to me!).

7. A moment of illumination and reflection in quieter stories which have an impact long after that initial first reading. It is often this type of story I come back to again later when I want reading to soothe or reassure me.

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Fairytales With Bite – Fantastic Settings

No matter where your story is set, or how outlandish your fictional world is, it still has to be populated by characters whom we can understand and either root for, or love to hate. They must generate an emotional reaction in us. Their motives must be ones we can understand.

The setting should also be one we can get behind. After all, we know how our planet works/is run. How is this done in your fictional setting? Are there corrupt politicians for example? (I refuse to believe that could just be on Earth!).

Especially in a fantasy world, some ideas of what it looks like, how the species live, what kind of wildlife is there etc deepen your characterisation of the setting itself. (Setting can often be a character in its own right and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to treat it as one. It means you think it out for a start!).

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This World and Others – 

What Matters to Your Character(s) and Why

Answering that one phrase gives you THE reason for writing the character’s story! From a world building viewpoint, what matters to your character is not the same as what the reader needs to know.

For example, if your character lives on a world where they don’t breathe oxygen but something else entirely, early on in the story the reader will need to know that.

The trick here is not to “tell” the reader this but to show them so they draw their own conclusions.

Yes, you can use description to show the point but an even better way is to have someone else observe it. The main character will not mention they’re breathing Gas X because they do it all the time, obviously, and so why would they draw attention to it?

An outside observer could do so. Say your character is being visited by someone who lives on a different part of the planet. Maybe the quality of their Gas X at home is not as good as it is here. They could comment on that to your main character. Job done. You can also show something of your character’s attitude by how they respond to their visitor.

Regardless of how strange the created world is, what matters to your character is something we should all be able to identify with and sympathise over. All species will need the basics – food, shelter, etc – but think beyond that too.

What is driving your character? Why does their story matter? Why should a reader want to find out? Don’t be afraid to dig deep. Your character has to be emotionally invested in the outcome of the story for your reader to care.

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Hot Weather, Reading, and Missing Swanwick

Image Credit:  All images via Pixabay and/or Pexels unless stated otherwise.

Facebook – General

Today has felt odd. Why? It’s because I should’ve been at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for the next few days, catching up with old friends, learning so much from the talks and after dinner speakers etc. Am missing everyone but can’t wait to be back there next year. It really can’t come around quickly enough!

Meanwhile, back in very, very hot Hampshire, I am cracking on with editing work and CFT interviews. I’m also working on my long term non-fiction project. Though I have the nasty feeling my laptop with its wonderful fan is probably feeling cooler than I am right now!😀😀

 

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Another night where my laptop (with its fab stand and inbuilt fan) is far cooler than I am. Mind you, not that I have ever had any claims to be cool!

I was chatting earlier with a writing chum via email about backing up your work at regular intervals. I lost an evening’s work once thanks to a power cut! I was about to back everything up and shut the PC down for the night when the cut happened and I just wanted to scream.

Fortunately, with power back on, I could recall a lot of what I’d written and typed up as much as I could remember as quickly as possible. I took the view that whatever I could not recall, I would at least get the gist of from what I had typed up and so it proved.

Lesson learned! I now back up every 20/25 minutes or so to memory stick, hard disk, and cloud. I’m not getting caught that way again.

Worth the hassle of backing up nigh on continuously? Oh yes! For the peace of mind alone, it’s worth it.

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Still sweltering in sunny Hampshire. Am grateful Lady is not frightened of thunder. That may come in useful later in the week. Dilemmas of a middle-aged woman Part 1: am I having a hot flush or is it just the ruddy temperature outside? Hmm…

Hope you had a fab weekend. Saw family which was lovely. Glad to be at my desk after a hectic Monday. Now have second fan in the office going at full tilt so, what with my laptop having its own (via its stand), and my other one, some fresh air is being generated. But will be very grateful when the weather cools down (as will Lady). Can’t say the hot weather does much for my productivity though I do find myself singing “Just One Cornetto” to the tune of O Sole Mio when the latter is played on Classic FM! Those of you of a certain age will know why!

Looking forward to sharing a very special interview on Friday. Will have a humorous piece up on Cafelit later in the week too. Flash fiction is great to read at Open Prose Mic Nights as I did last year at Swanwick. Doesn’t take long and a punchline ending usually goes down well at events like that. Hope to do this again next year. (Many thanks to #PennyBlackburn for taking the pic of me reading at last year’s Swanwick. The others were taken by me last year).

Many congratulations to #PaulaReadman on her launch of her debut novel, Stone Angels, today.

Publication day is always a very special moment. It’s just a pity you can’t bottle up the way it makes you feel so you can uncork it again at times when you need a bit of a boost!

Behind the scenes of any publication, there is a lot of hard work. There is a quote about swans which says they look serene but underneath the water their legs are paddling hard to keep them going. Well, pretty much the same is true for writers!

We paddle hard when we write our first drafts, edit them, send those stories out in to the big, bad world, and then cope with rejections. Does it end there? No! You look at your story again, improve what can be improved and submit to more publishers. You always seek to improve what you do. You keep on writing. You keep on editing.

So yes there’s an awful lot of paddling going on!

But publication day? That’s the well earned serene bit (and so richly deserved by the author too!). (The first two images below are of Paula and her debut novel and kindly supplied by Paula for my recent CFT series on The Writing Game – and What to Watch For).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Phew, it’s hot! I don’t use the weather much in any of my stories, partly because I would find it hard to avoid cliche. (It was a dark and stormy night, anyone? Mind you, I do love the Peanuts cartoons that have Snoopy writing and using that as one of “his” lines!).

In my flash fiction, with the limited word count, I have to work out what is vital for readers to know. The weather is rarely amongst vital details! I can imply it though. If I get a character to wear a raincoat, that would be enough for a reader to realise the weather was likely to be wet without me spelling it out further.

And this is one of the things I love about flash. It encourages the writer to use implication and I know as a reader I love being able to work things out for myself.

 

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I hope to share a cover reveal for Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course. Will keep you posted.

As with From Light to Dark and Back Again, I hope to have a cyberlaunch and again will flag up details. I’ve “been” to a few cyberlaunches now and they are all great fun. You do feel drained afterwards but in a good way!

Best ways to support author friends then – no real surprises here but all of these things ARE appreciated!

1. Pop along to their cyber (or other kinds) of book launch and be the friendly face offering support.

2. If you’ve read the book concerned, please, please, please review it on Amazon and Goodreads. It doesn’t have to be a long review either.

3. For a cyberlaunch, someone asking useful questions helps get the discussions going. and encourages others to join in. Think along the lines of helping the author to talk about what made them write the book, what inspired their characters etc. Writers love talking about that kind of thing.

4. Share their posts/tweets etc.

And when launches are possible again in book shops etc., standing your author friend a cup of tea after the event will always go down well!😊

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When I’m reading stories, what am I looking for first and foremost? Well no surprises here when I say the character has got to grip me. If they don’t, I’m unlikely to be reading their story to its conclusion.

But how can you make a character grip an unknown reader? There is no single answer to that but what helps is:-

1. Ensuring your character has an absolute right to have their story told. What do I mean by that? From a reading viewpoint, a reader shouldn’t be able to imagine the story WITHOUT your character.

2. As well as having a reason for being, the character has to have an understandable and strong enough motivation to see the challenges of the story through to a satisfactory conclusion. (Doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy one. The character’s motivation doesn’t necessarily need to be entirely virtuous either. I can understand a character who steals to provide for someone else, say. It doesn’t mean I approve of stealing – I don’t! – but you get the gist).

3. There has to be a point of change. Something has GOT to happen and it has to be vitally important to the character.

4. There have to be obstacles in the character’s way, including other characters who have got good reasons of their own to block Character A.

Getting that right takes time and practice but makes for cracking stories!

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The fan in the office is probably working harder than I am right now… I may’ve mentioned I don’t like the heat much!😀😀

(Lady is fine and keeping cool. For a young dog, who is generally as daft as the proverbial brush, she’s sensible on this which has come as a relief to us and fortunately we are surrounded by trees so lots of shade).

One thing I like about flash is I can draft a story (100 to 250 words, my favourite) in about 15 minutes. It will need a lot of editing to get it into shape, but that’s okay. What’s nice about this is on those days when I know I haven’t got a lot of time, I know exactly how I’ll be spending those pockets of time which might otherwise go to waste.

Yep, drafting flash fiction stories ready for submission later on. And knowing I’ve got a story down ready for working on later always makes me feel better. (Unlike this wretched heat…!).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading In Hot Weather

Currently in the UK as I write this (8th August 2020), most of the country is experiencing a heatwave (30+degrees C).

Yes, yes, I know! I can think of several places where that would be considered to be on the cold side!).

But give me the fact most of us here are finding it hot!

So do you find it easier to read in hot weather, given most of us are not going to feel like doing that much?

Or do you find it harder to read because what you really want is to cool off and reading in itself isn’t going to do that?

Or do you welcome reading because it’s a great distraction from feeling too hot?

I find it easier to read magazines and the shorter form of fiction when I’m finding the weather a bit much. Now is not the time to tackle War and Peace I think!

So over to you then! What do you prefer to read when the thermometer is on the crazy side? What would you recommend?

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The Writer’s Journey: Introducing Paula Readman

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay supplied the pictures unless otherwise stated. A big thank you also to Paula Readman for supplying some pictures for my Chandler’s Ford Today interview of her this week.

Every writer’s journey is unique. For a story of grit, determination and perserverance, check out Paula Readman’s story in my CFT post this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It was a real pleasure to interview Paula Readman for my CFT post this week. While Paula and I have publishers in common, it is also true every writer has a unique writing journey. Discover Paula’s fascinating writing journey in this interview and why grit, determination, and striving to be the best you can be as a writer is SO important to any writer, published or not.

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It is always a joy interviewing writers for CFT but it is also great fun interviewing your own characters. I’ve used this technique for my longer short stories but even with my flash fiction, I’ve outlined what I need to know about a character and why it is I need to know that.

To do the latter, I have to quiz my potential character as to why they’d be, for example, greedy. What has triggered that? There usually is a reason behind it even if it is not a nice or honourable one. From all of that I begin to hear my character’s voice and away I go. I have to hear their voice before I can write about them at all.

Think about what you need to know before you write a character. Some writers need to know what their characters look like. I have to know my character’s voice and what drives them above anything else and I find physical description follows from that.

Sounds a bit odd I know but it works for me. I know my character is well spoken and is driven to prove themselves, for example. I quiz them as to why. Possible answer would be to prove all those who said they’d be a failure wrong. Their voice is to cover up the fact they come from a poor background – sounding upmarket is a kind of armour for them.

I’m then thinking of what my character might look like. They’d want to look smart for one thing so how that would manifest itself? Can I give them a real fad for fancy shoes, say, and make that a quirky trait that comes up in the story?

No two authors go about this process of discovery in quite the same way (which is another reason why it is such fun to interview them!). It is a case of working out what works for you.

I’ve often read of writers keeping magazine pictures of people to inspire how they would describe their characters’ physical appearance. I’ve taken that idea and modified it because I know I’ve got to hear the character’s voice ahead of anything else. Then, like a good actor, I need to know the character’s motivation. And then off I go!

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My CFT post this week will be a fab interview with #PaulaReadman, author of The Funeral Birds (and with more to come later in the year). She shares with me what books (reading and writing them) means to her. Her writing journey is a powerful one and inspirational. Link up tomorrow.

Interviewing other authors is great fun to do. None of us come into writing in exactly the same way. None of us are inspired by exactly the same things. All of us have a unique voice. And we all love books. What’s not to love?!

Many thanks to Paula for supplying her author shot below. And if you’re wondering what the owls have to do with anything, look up the link when I put it up tomorrow! Update:  Hopefully by now you will have seen the CFT post and know exactly what the owls are about though there is a good clue below!

 

Am making good progress on my edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

I always feel a certain amount of relief when I get to ANY editing stage on a book, a short story, or a piece of flash fiction. It means I’ve got something I can work with! And, yes, I have cut my wasted words – very and actually especially! Those went before I submitted the book at all!

Over the course of an average week, I’ll have writing slots where I’ll create new stories for competitions, another book etc.

I’ll then have others where I’m writing non-fiction (covering my CFT posts, ACW blog spots, draft articles I hope to pitch in due course etc. A recent edition to this is preparing various posts I can use either here on on Goodreads for those times when I’m pushed for time. I hope this is going to make me more productive as I would like to schedule more posts in advance).

Then there will be those slots where I’m editing. That can feel as if I’m not doing much but I am, of course. The writing really is in the rewriting. The chances of me writing a perfect first draft is remote. The work is in getting rid of the dross from what I hope will prove to be gold!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Some of my narrators in my flash tales are impartial observers and it is something I hope to use more of as a technique in my stories.

The advantages are that I can get straight into the head of this character, they come to the situation in the tale with no preconceptions (as there is no way they could have any), and what might seem obvious to us could appear alien to them.

That in turn can make us think about how something WOULD look to someone who has never come across it before and therefore doesn’t know what to expect.

So how can you make your observer truly impartial?

By ensuring they are not part of the main set up in the story. They’ve been invited in by someone who IS in that main set up. (Exploring the reasons for that can also make for interesting stories).

For example if your set up is the Court of Queen Elizabeth Tudor, your outsider could be someone who is the servant of one of the ambassadors to that Court. They would never be asked for their opinion by anyone in the English Court or by their boss but they would have some thoughts on what they get to see. Nobody is immune to having thoughts even if you do have to keep them to yourself.

Your impartial observer can share those thoughts in your story though! (And maybe the battle to keep said thoughts quiet knowing they won’t go down well with the boss or the English Court, say).

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As you know, I sometimes use a random word generator to kick start story ideas. This works especially well for flash fiction.

Some of the generators allow you to set your own parameters. For example, you can see how many letters or syllables you want in your selections etc. You can even set the first letter and the last one.

When I use the parameters, I focus on word length and maybe the starting letter but leave it at that. I don’t want to be too prescriptive. If the first word generated doesn’t seem to suit, I trigger another three or so. I’ve usually got an idea I can work on within three or four goes on these things. And they’re great fun. (Bear in mind too you could combine ALL of what you trigger for an idea as well).

It could be useful to have a “stock” of these in ready to submit to competitions and markets as and when you come across suitable ones. (And yes I have a stock of stories in! Every so often I have a big writing session where I write a lot of flash. I know I’m not going to be submitting them anywhere for a while but it does mean when I have market or competition information that interests me, I can go through said stock and find something useful to submit).

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Reading in and out of your genre inspires your own writing. You also take in subsconsciously how stories are laid out. I’ve never understood the attitude I’ve sometimes come across where, when people find you’re a writer, they seem surprised when you reveal you’re a reader as well!

It was the love of books and stories that I read which sparked my wish to be a writer at all. It is the books and stories I still read that fires my imagination and helps me to “up my game”.

So read away, folks, it’s good for you!

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

The first indication I had that fairytales did not necessarily have to have a happily ever after ending was when I read Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid for the first time. That was an eye opener to me as a child. Likewise how dark The Snow Queen is – the image of the ice piercing Kay’s heart still makes me shudder.

The crucial thing for any story, fairytale or not, is that the ending is appropriate. Also the author should deliver on the promise made by the opening of the story. There has to be a proper resolution, whether it’s a happily ever after or not!

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This World and Others –

How To Drop Your Characters Right In The Mire

This is not the be all and end all list. I’m sure you can think of others to add to it.

  1. Use the elements of your created world against your character – unstable terrain, dreadful weather, and so on.
  2. Put them up against a tight deadline.
  3.  Put their loved ones at risk if they don’t complete the task you’ve set them whether this is to actually rescue their loved ones or to do something for an overlord to ensure their loved ones are not menaced at all.
  4. Put them in any other situation where failure is not an option though emotional ties are very good to exploit here. (I know, I know. Authors don’t have to be nice to their creations, okay?!).
  5.  Put them in danger directly.
  6.  Or put them at risk of losing that coveted promotion etc. What will they do to ensure they get what they want?
  7.  Get your character having to defend their reputation etc. Putting them up against a blackmailer here is good. Again what will your character do here?
  8.  Make them The Chosen One for a quest. Get them not to be able to get out of it either.
  9.  Going on the adventure is the only way to salvage a bad situation at home or, if that’s not possible, to escape the consequences of where they’ve mucked up here.
  10. Put them under pressure of society expectations. They can’t let the side down.

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Submissions, Housekeeping, and Anthologies

Facebook – General

Pleased to have submitted another story (a crime short) this evening. Am pushing myself to submit more often and am loving doing so. The nice thing is whatever happens to the stories, there will be things I can do with them later on. Nothing is ever wasted. If one competition doesn’t like it, will the tale suit another? Does it need a closer look and then submitting elsewhere? You have options!

Am working on my novel and also my Amazon Author Central pages (particularly for the US and UK). Hope to share the links for these soon. A big thanks to #PaulaReadman for putting me on to this. I blog regularly and use FB and other social media but this one had escaped me. It always pays to network with other writers because (a) it is huge fun, (b) reassures you that you are not alone in the crazy but wonderful world of writing, (c) you learn all sorts of things that can help you and, in turn, (d) you can help others too. All of that is great.

What has been nice has been looking up the various anthologies I’ve had work in over the years and it makes a nice selection to put up on said pages. So what now? Try to get in more anthologies of course!

A big thank you to my better half, Adrian, for taking the pics earlier today. It makes a huge difference when the writing geek in a family has support from the rest of the family (and something I am very grateful for).

PS  Have put the new pics up on other areas of the website. Housekeeping like this is a good habit to get into!

The writing life is made up of a series of special moments. You start by plucking up the courage to submit work somewhere. You then get your first rejection (almost inevitably) and you try again and again and then, hopefully, comes the great day when a piece of work is accepted. Joy!

But rejections continue to come in long after your first publication credit and you realise the writing life is a roller coaster and you need to learn to cope with the ups and the downs. Yes, even to cope with the ups, because you don’t want those to create the sense you can never better that special moment. You can hamstring yourself here!

You need, I think, to work towards making progress all the time. Progress can include trying forms of writing new to you and that’s a great opportunity to just write for fun. I took up flash fiction because Cafelit had put out a 100-word challenge and I just thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t expect anything to come from it but quickly became addicted to the form and things took off from there.

Progress can include looking at the rejections that come in and, if lucky enough to get comments, to see if there is a common thread.

Some competitions offer critiques for a fee in addition to the competition entry fee. I’ve gone for these sometimes.Some critiques are more useful than others but you literally pays your money and take your choice. You need to work out whether such a thing would be useful to you.

I only enter competitions that have been longstanding ones or where feedback on them is positive. I also go for critiques like these where the blurb tells you what to expect. For a short story, it is never going to be a long critique. What I’m after here is the critic’s general view of how well my story and characters come across. Tickbox critiques can work well here too.

Do you finish reading a story that hasn’t gripped you?

These days, I’m afraid I don’t – life’s too short etc – but I am pleased to say I can’t remember when I last abandoned a story. That’s partly I think because I’m getting better at picking out a tale that’s likely to appeal to me. It’s also because the moment a character has gripped me, I’ve got to find out what happens to them.

So of course you try to replicate that in your own writing. For me, it is always down to the characters which determines whether a story or book is successful or not. For non-fiction, it is the voice of the “narrator” of the piece that has to grip me and therefore determine whether I’m going to like the article or not.

Do you ever find you start a story slowly, then the pace quickens, and before you know it you can’t get the words down fast enough? I’ve likened this to almost taking dictation from your characters and that’s a good sign.

The other positive is that the slow start means you’ve started the story in the wrong place and that will be what you look at first to edit, cut, or rewrite later. You sometimes need to write a start like that to help get you going. The important thing IS to get going and have that first draft down. This is why I always write a story in full and then edit. I know it won’t be perfect straightaway (what is after all?) but that’s okay. The improvement works come later on.

Only the Ten Commandments were written in stone so just be aware you’ll need to go back and change that slow start. It if serves no purpose get rid of it. If there is useful material in there, what can you do to retain that and get it across to the reader in a better way? Sometimes that material can make a separate scene later once the pace has picked up and be a useful “take a breather” scene. Sometimes you can get the character to convey the information. There are options!

By the time you’re drafted your story and then re-read the whole thing, you should also have a better idea of where your tale should have begun. Hey presto, you take it from there!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pushing myself on story submissions though I’ve mixed this up with flash tales, standard length short stories and so on. All good fun!

One of my longer term projects is my third flash fiction collection (which is at a reasonable length as it is now but needs editing. I’ve got some linked flash stories in this one and some historical pieces but would like to add a few more tales to this before I really edit the lot).

My starting point for a flash fiction story is always to work out who is the character who is leading it, what their motivations are, what they stand to win or lose by the end of the tale. All of these have got to be strong enough to keep my interest going (yet alone anyone else’s!) and if the three strands together, then a promising flash fiction story should be the result.

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I use first person a lot in flash fiction as it is so immediate but when I do name a character, it’s usually by Christian name only. This is partly due to the word count restriction but, much more importantly, I can convey what I need a reader to know about a character called Mary just by using that name only.

When I do bring in a surname it’s either a means to show what class/background that character belongs to OR another character is referring to them. That tells a reader immediately the named character is important to my narrator. It makes a useful flag!

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Another advantage to flash fiction is when you are really pressed for time to write, you can jot down something to work with. Whether you then extend those jottings to a full length 1500 words+ story or keep it as something that could work in the flash market is up to you, but you have the option! So never despair if you only have 10 minutes to write, you can get something down in that time.

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My CFT post this week will be about Moments that Matter but in flash fiction every moment matters!

Whatever kind of story you write, you select what the reader has to know, you leave gaps for them to work things out, and end with a satisfying conclusion to your tale. With flash, that whole process is more intense.

Every word must count and play its part. For example:-

She always wore velvet.

She always wore moth-eaten velvet.

Which of those lines would I use in a story? The second one.

This is because the “always” implies there’s a character here who may well be obsessed with what she wears. The “moth-eaten” tells you something about her financial well being (or she’s exceptionally careless about how she looks after her clothes). Yes. these are two extra words to the count but both add weight and meaning to the story so stay in.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What Do You Look For in a Story?

What people look for in a story differs of course but, for me, the primary wish is to be entertained.

I don’t like it when genre fiction is looked down on for not being “highbrow”. That isn’t the purpose of genre fiction. Besides genre fiction CAN be challenging and make readers think.

There is nothing wrong in writing or reading “merely” to be entertained. A good story that can make you forget your troubles for while is wonderful.

One of the lovely things about books/stories is they can take you out of yourself for a while and that is invaluable. In difficult times, I’ve relished those periods when I’ve been able to escape with a good book. The ability to escape for a while is crucial.

I can understand the point of misery memoir but frankly it isn’t for me. I hope others find healing and help through it but I want to switch off the real world when I read and deliberately venture into something I know is totally made up!

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AMAZON CENTRAL

Below is the link to the US and UK pages I’ve set up on Author Central. More will be added as and when I have news/further publications out (there’s optimism for you!).  Hope you enjoy.

https://www.amazon.com/Allison-Symes/e/B07T3HT18L?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

(American)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07T3HT18L

(UK)

There are also pages for me on Author Central France, Germany, and Japan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BRIDGE HOUSE/CHAPELTOWN/CAFELIT/RED TELEPHONE EVENT

Had a wonderful time at the Bridge House/Chapeltown/Cafelit/Red Telephone celebration in London on 2nd December.  It was fabulous to meet up with fellow writers again and to share news of what we were up to and to share some of our stories with each other too.

Facebook – General AND From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been a busy but lovely weekend, especially with the Bridge House event yesterday. One great thing about talking with fellow writers about what you are working on is it DOES encourage you to get on and do it! Am now editing what I hope will be my second flash fiction collection (finally!).

I talk a little about this on my Goodreads blog as well tonight, but I really enjoyed hearing the stories being read out yesterday. There is something special about being read to, especially when many of us only get to do the reading, whether it is to children, or to help us with our own editing. The standard of stories was very high and I enjoyed reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again too.

Already looking forward to next year’s event! (Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for taking the picture of me reading yesterday. All other pictures were taken by me and show some of the many readers/writers at yesterday’s event. Check us out at Cafelit, Bridge House, Chapeltown and Red Telephone Books. You know it makes sense… last minute stocking fillers anyone?).

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Facebook – General

Had a wonderful time in London at the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown/Red Telephone celebration event. (It was for the launch of the Best of Cafelit 6 and Bridge House’s Glit-er-ary anthologies. I have a story in Cafelit 6 this year). Fabulous to catch up with friends, especially Gill James, Dawn Kentish Knox and Paula Readman.

Loved the story readings (one image below is of Gill James reading from her Chapeltown collection, January Stones) and I read three of mine from From Light to Dark and Back Again. I will be writing more about this for a later Chandler’s Ford Today post but for those of you at the event who claimed to be “just readers” (and you know who you are!)… ahem! No such thing as “just”. Writers love readers! Indeed without being readers ourselves, we wouldn’t have become writers.

The image below is of Dawn Kentish Knox with The Great War and Extraordinary, Paula Readman with Glit-er-ary and The Best of Cafelit 6, and yours truly with From Light to Dark and Back Again. Thanks, Paula, for sending the fab photo. All other images by yours truly.

Oh, and I got to fulfil a vague ambition by accident on the way into town. I should’ve taken the Edgware tube to get to Chalk Farm, but managed to get the High Barnet one which stops at Camden Town and goes down another route. So I got off at another stop and caught the right tube which was behind the one I was on. I am a huge fan of Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and I really did have to take a picture of this particular tube station image! Fellow fans of the show will understand why I’m sure. Mornington Crescent! Nice to see the Christmas decorations up at Waterloo too. The chandelier was in the Ladies! They obviously believe in posh loos for pubs in Camden!

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The chandelier in the Ladies at the Princess of Wales pub! Image by Allison Symes

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