A Great Day, Picture Prompts, and The Incredible Miss Amy

Image Credit:

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Photos of me signing books (big clue there as to why I’ve had a good day!) taken by Adrian Symes. Images of Scottish lochs taken by me, Allison Symes, when on holiday in September. Was pleased with the play of the light on the water on these.

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Facebook – General

As well as the fab comments from #MaressaMortimer earlier today about Tripping The Flash Fantastic (see below), I spent this afternoon signing copies of the paperback for a customer. I then very happily played “Postman Pat” and delivered said books. Good fun and a great way to spend a Tuesday!

I am happy to sign and post books in the UK so please do DM me if interested. (Visitors to my website, please do use the contact form here).

Now I sometimes blog for A Publisher’s Perspective which is run by #GillJames. Today’s piece is based on a Powerpoint presentation I gave at a workshop she ran (the other author taking part was #DawnKnox). But the presentation also makes for a good interview so am happy to share the link here. Hope you enjoy!

Enjoying my workAlways lovely getting to do some signings

Many thanks, #MaressaMortimer, for the wonderful comments here. Much appreciated.

Screenshot_2020-10-20 (2) Maressa Mortimer Facebook

Well, I WAS going to love the above, wasn’t I?!

Delighted to say Tripping The Flash Fantastic is now up on the Association of Christian Writers‘ online book shop under Anthologies and Short Stories. Well, flash, like me, IS short!😊

Am also hoping to share other news soon so watch this space.

It is a difficult balancing act to manage effectively new creative writing, editing work, and marketing without “losing out” on any of these important things.

I have found working in different writing sessions to be a good way of managing things. I also look at the week as a whole and have ideas as to what I would have liked to have achieved by the end of it. I’ve found that useful too. (Largely I do achieve what I set out to do but I also break down longer projects into mini-stages and that works for me).

Screenshot_2020-10-19 Anthologies - Short Stories and Poetry - Christian Writers


Hope you’ve had a good weekend. Plans for the writing week to come are to continue marketing Tripping The Flash Fantastic, write my next Chandler’s Ford Today post, hopefully get some flash tales submitted, and get back to one of my two long term projects.

Am catching up with some of my reading too, which is a joy, and hope to be posting some reviews soon too.

Oh and talking of TTFF. If anyone is after a paperback edition, Amazon DO stock them (as do Waterstones). What you’ll see on the Amazon page is something like “one in stock and more on the way”. AND you can always DM me if you’d like a signed copy.

I mention this as (a) it’s part of my marketing for today (!) and (b) I know it had read temporarily out of stock on Amazon. It’s not. The book is a Print on Demand so that really isn’t an issue.

Screenshot_2020-10-20 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

There is a picture prompt in my writing diary this week of a charming, autumnal woodland scene. (Definitely the sort of place Lady would want me to take her for a good, long walk). Now the challenge here, I think, is to write something and avoid the cliches.

I don’t know if I will write something to this prompt but I do know if I do, I would want to look beyond the picture itself. I would be thinking of the character(s) I would place in this scene.

Maybe one of them loves autumn walks, maybe the other hates them but it is crucial that that they meet at this point. How does the one who hates autumn walks overcome their hatred or are they just driven by the need to get this meeting over and done with? For me, THERE’S the story rather than in the picture itself. The charming scene is a backdrop.

Mind you, I would love to know why anyone would hate autumnal walks on a sunny, dry day as the picture shows it. In the pouring rain, I can understand. I’ve not come across a picture prompt yet that shows a woodland scene when it has chucked it down with rain and there is mud everywhere! I can’t think why that is…!😊.

The important point though is to look beyond the obvious and see what unique element you can bring to your story using a picture or indeed any other kind of prompt.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Today has been a nice day. One of the loveliest moments in an author’s life is to sign books for customers waiting for said books. Am happy to do more of this!!😊

And I am also keen, for obvious reasons, to share the joy that is flash fiction. No more excuses about having no time to read, perhaps? Anyone can manage a 100-word story, right?! (Well I like to think so!).

There are certain lightbulb moments that occur to writers and one of mine was in realising flash has to be character led but it was entirely up to me what I did with said characters.

I have to admit I’m generally not that nice to mine (though you’d expect that really) and it is great fun giving some villain their well deserved comeuppance. So satisfying that… (it’s also satisfying to read too!).

Signing TTFF


I’ve been preparing a piece for submission where I talk about flash fiction being a kind of happy writing accident for me. And it was. I hadn’t set out to write flash. Indeed, I hadn’t heard of it when I stared writing seriously for publication. (To begin with, I just wrote for myself and it must have been a good couple of years or so before I decided I would try and get my work out there).

But, obviously, I am very happy about this kind of writing accident! And it kind of confirms a point I’ve made before about being open to trying new forms of writing.

I started out writing standard length short stories (circa 1500 words) and still write them but flash is my big love, writing wise, and I think always will be.

Will that stop me trying a new form of writing that takes my fancy? Oh no.

You do have to try things sometimes and see where they lead you.

After all flash fiction writing has led me to two published books with Chapeltown Books and being one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition three years in row.

Yes, definitely a happy writing accident and am open to more of them!

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Many thanks, everyone, for the tremendous response to my post yesterday about the random adjective generator. It was great fun using that to come up with my story The Incredible Miss Amy! Keep reading – story follows below (this is the problem with doing a round up post in date order!).

What I like about the random generators is you can use them in so many different ways and all of them can be springboards for new stories.

The random number generator, for example, you could use to set the word count for the story you’re going to write.

Equally you could use the number as a time and have a story plot revolve around the importance of that time. Or the number could have special meaning (for good or ill) for your lead character.

You could take that same one number generated and use it in two or three different ways. That has got to be worth having a go at!


I’ve been having fun with the random adjective generator. Yes, I know. I probably should get out more but it’s tricky right now!

Okay, so what came up on said generator tonight then? Ta da… “fearless” and “mushy”. Now there are two words which aren’t usually seen together…!

So what can be done here?

Well, firstly, you can create two characters, one of whom is fearless, one of whom is…. you get the picture.

Secondly, you have one character who is usually fearless but when confronted by a kitten or a puppy suddenly shows a mushy side to them their friends and family don’t usually see. (They’d probably tease them about it too. How would your character respond to that?).

Thirdly, you can use the words themselves and place them at different points in your story. And this is what I have done below. Hope you enjoy.

The Incredible Miss Amy

Miss Amy took no nonsense from anyone but then given she had the ability to jump hundreds of feet in one go, not much was going to worry her.
That all changed on Tuesday last.
Why?


The fearless Miss Amy had almost squashed that poor defenceless, cute looking furry monster, which somehow seemed to be out on the streets on its own (where was its owner?), with a single bound.

Nor could Miss Amy understand why the locals were all shouting at her to get away from the beast. Had they not seen how she’d almost jumped on the thing from a height of over twenty feet?

Certainly the monster looked startled – for a moment.

It admired fearless humans. They usually did stupid things. And then they became all mushy as he squashed them and then ate them. Whole usually too.

And Miss Amy went down a treat.
Ends
Allison Symes 17th October 2020

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Covers

I’ve been thinking about book covers a lot in the last few months. That’s partly due to the release of my own new book, Tripping The Flash Fantastic, but the book cover is the first thing that draws a potential reader. If they like the cover, they’ll look at the blurb. If they like the blurb, they’ll probably look at the first few paragraphs and then hopefully buy the book. I’ve done this so often myself.

So what is a great book cover? For me, it has to be relevant to the book. It has to be open to different interpretations (so you have to open the book and see which one would be the right one). It has to be attractive, memorable etc.

A tall order? Perhaps but it is so worth getting it right. I don’t know about you but an ill-thought out book cover puts me off from wanting to find out more about the book itself and that would be a shame.

We really do judge a book by its cover!

 

Friends and Traditions

Image Credit:  Mainly the marvellous Pixabay, but also a big thanks to Debz Brown, Paula Readman, and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use their images of the Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I discuss Friends and Traditions in this week’s CFT post. I think the image below from Pixabay may well prove to be a favourite. Just love the thinking behind it.

It is with great pleasure I look back at the Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown Celebration Event which was held at St. John’s, Waterloo, last Saturday.

I must say a big thank you to Dawn Kentish Knox, Paula Readman, and Debz Brown for kind permission to use some of their pictures. The big problem with taking part in an event is not being able to take pictures of yourself doing so! If you ever want to know how to help a writer friend out, do consider taking pics for them!

I also look at what traditions writers could have. Hope you enjoy.

Captions as ever over on the CFT link.

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What kind of picture prompts do you find most useful for generating story ideas?

I prefer “open-ended” images which give me ideas for settings and then I work out what characters would live in those places. I don’t want specifics. I want to be able to fill in some gaps for myself.

I also find quirky pictures don’t work well. They tend to dicate the mood of your story (which inevitably will also be quirky and while I LOVE quirky fiction and write it, I don’t want to write it all the time).

And forget cute pictures of kittens etc. Lovely to look at but dreadful for inspiring story ideas. (I know, that’s not the purpose of cute kitten pics, but whenever I do see a photo, if a story idea is triggered, I see it as very welcome input. You just can’t do that with a cute kitten pic!😀).

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I’m looking at Friends and Traditions for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

I look back at the Bridge House Publishing celebration event held last weekend. I’ll also be looking at how writers can make their own “traditions” by figuring out what works best for them when it comes to settling down and getting the words out.

I also celebrate my lovely celebration of meeting up with other writers. I always come back from doing that with a real “buzz”. Encouragement is contagious! Link up on Friday. Next week I’ll be looking at what makes for a good story. I suspect I’ll have to put a strict word count limit on that one!

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Flash fiction can take many forms. I’ve written acrostic stories which can work well and, of course, you can write a story in a poetic form. A lot of the Christmas carols do this. Think of The First Nowell for example. You have the telling of the Christmas story in one carol there. Good King Wenceslas is also a great story told in song.

But the point remains, whatever the length or format of your flash fiction story, there has to be one central theme to focus upon. Everything else hangs off that, of course, but there is no room for sub-plots (and those are wonderful for the longer short stories, novellas, and novels. I love the fact that every aspect of writing has a purpose and a joy of its own).

I’ve found it helpful to sum up my stories in a line, especially for flash, as that becomes the “peg” I write the story to!

(Oh and one other Christmas tradition I’ve happily upheld tonight is watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. Easily the best film they made and a classic telling of a brilliant story).

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Am listening to a hilarious version of The Twelve Days of Christmas on Classic FM narrated by Joanna Lumley (as at 12th December!). Could well count as a flash fiction story though likely to be towards the upper end of the spectrum. Do check the piece out. It is very funny. (Oh and the writer of this piece has stuck to the “golden rule” of flash fiction by not having too many named characters!).

And talking of Christmas related flash fiction, I hope you enjoy this one.

AN UNEXPECTED STOP
‘You do know at what speed you were travelling, sir?’
‘Er… no… officer, I’m afraid I was concentrating on getting to my next destination. I have to cover everyone on my list, you see, and I don’t have much time. Was it important?’
‘I’ll say so, sir. You will cause chaos flying at that speed. If everyone did that there’d be accidents galore.’
‘But, officer, it’s Christmas Eve, I’m Santa Claus, there’s nobody up here except us and I’d love to know how YOU got here.’

ENDS
Allison Symes

 

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Do I ever feel frustrated by word count limits imposed by flash fiction?

No. If a character has a longer story to tell, then I tell it and it goes on to be a competition entry for, say, a 1500 to 2000 word market.

If I can’t enter a 100-worder flash competition, I can always enter a longer piece for a 250 or sub-500 words kind. I do like that kind of flexibility.

The really important thing is getting the story right and if it works better at 150 words rather than 100, you are better off sticking to the longer word count. There will be a home for it somewhere out there.

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Fairytales With Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 4

Final section with some tricky letters to tackle but here goes!

U = Unique. Your fairy godmother will always come up with a unique way to help you. Pumpkins are often involved and she seems to have a bit of a thing for extremely uncomfortable footwear (for you that is) but she means well so bear with her. Her unique approach will work out.

V = Variety.  Where the fairy godmother will demonstate variety is in the number of ways they transform errant beings into hideous beasts and so on. Naturally there will be a need for someone to set said errant beings free from their horrendous transformation. Naturally the errant being needs to have learned enough humility to recognise they need to be set free. There is no room or point in continued arrogance here. It is that which led to the horrendous transformation in the first place.

W = Wands. A magical being will have their wands on them at all times of course. Fairy godmothers will still have the star on the end. Tradition is a big thing in the magical world and also the end client expects to see something of that nature. Letting people down is not what a fairy godmother does!

X = X-Ray Vision. A fairy godmother won’t “do” a Superman here. Where her vision is at her sharpest is in assessing character. Let’s just say when a being gets transformed into something hideous, there’s always a good reason for it. Nobody has been wrongly transformed to date. So when it comes to reading a character’s soul, your average fairy godmother has wonderful X-ray vision and will not be fooled. (Indeed trying to pretend you’re something you’re not is even more likely to encourage her to ensure you are next on her “to bring down several pegs or so” list).

Y = Yarns. Not wool! What your average magical being likes is a good story. Sometimes they like being the star of said yarn but it naturally has to have a happy ending and make them look good (even if they don’t do so at the beginning).

Z = Zest. Every magical being is expected to be full of zest. Nobody wants a bedraggled and tired looking fairy godmother turning up to help out. Magical beings are expected to keep themselves looking and feeling good, no matter what it takes to do so. (This may explain Snow White’s stepmother’s attitude towards her own looks).

discovery-space-shuttle-1757098_640Even in a fantasy world, the author will share some of its history to make the world seem more real to the readerEven in time travel stories there is a history involved

The best books take you right into their world - it's a painless procedure

Books take you into other worlds.

The perfect way to end a day - with a good book - Pixabay

Fab end to a day I think. Pixabay.

This World and Others – What Is A Good Fictional World

For me a good fictional world has to have the following attributes.

  1. I’ve got to be able to see it in my mind’s eye and either wish to live there or avoid it like the proverbial plague. Sounds like a contradiction, right? What matters here is being able to visualise that world so well it will trigger either reaction in you. That world has drawn you in – job done!
  2. A good fictional world will reflect the lives of different species/classes/genders within it. There generally isn’t one species/class/gender etc. Okay, the story may focus on only one but you should be able to see how that one reacts and acts to the others living in that same world. (They’ll often be the source of conflict driving the story or will be supporting your hero/heroine in some way).
  3. A good fictional world will give some details on its virtues and shortcomings. What do your characters love and loathe about being where they are?

 

 

PROGRESS, PLANS AND MOODS

Facebook – General

Does the mood you are in affect what and how you write? My own answer to that is it depends!

If I’m in a flat state of mind but the writing I’m working on has a character in a similar state, then I can use my own mood to help write that piece! (I get something useful out of being in a flat mood! Ironically that knowledge cheers me up so win-win!).

Sometimes I deliberately write opposite to my mood so, again if I feel flat, I try to put myself in the head of a character in a lighter mood and find myself writing light. Again that can be a mood booster for me. Writing can be amazingly therapeutic at times.

What I do know is writing anything is a good “outlet” and later, once in a better frame of mind, I can evaluate any writing done in a flat state and see what I can do with it. But the great thing is I have still written, I still have work to do something with, so my advice would be, if you feel flat and don’t feel like writing, try to write something, even if it is a very short piece. I’ve found many times once I get started, I keep going, and writing takes me to a different, better place. Again, win-win there, I think.

Drafted first flash fiction story that I’ve created using a picture prompt in my new writing diary. 51 challenges remaining then given there’s one such prompt a week! Also enjoying working on my novel again. I want to try to enter more short story competitions (1500 word type) this year too. I like mixing the writing up. Challenges the old brain and that’s never a bad thing.

Third flash fiction volume coming along nicely though I need to group my stories at some point. Am hoping to get along to Winchester Writers’ Festival and, of course, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later in the year, also the ACW Writers’ Days. I think one of the best things about writing is you never stop learning whether it is how to improve what you do, new places to try to submit work or what have you. That is also a very good thing.

Feed that brain!

Image Credit:  Many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for the image of me reading an example of what flash fiction is at their meeting last year.

Having completed a picture prompt generated story yesterday, I see this week’s prompt in my diary has no picture whatsoever! Still will tackle that prompt later in the week I hope.

I’m planning to share a few of my favourite writing tips and why they’re useful on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. You pick up lots of useful tips from conferences, chatting to writer friends etc., but as is the way with these things, some advice will always be more useful to you than anything else. It can be a question of working out what is going to help you most. Anyway, will share the link on Friday.

Made good progress on the novel and short story ideas over the weekend so will resume work on those shortly. A writing session for me is most useful when I know I’ve made progress on work, whether that progress is editing something, adding a line or two to something already down, or writing a whole new flash fiction piece/draft CFT post.

It’s when I feel I haven’t got anywhere that is most discouraging and that’s when encouragement from writer friends is enormously helpful. I still wish my fairy godmother would turn up though and grant me “elastic time” which I could stretch as and when I needed to without any side effects/damage to history etc. You know I’d use it to stretch my writing time!

Image Credit:  Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture of me reading at the 2018 Bridge House celebration event.

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Am looking forward to sharing book offer related news later this week. Will share info and links soon!

Meanwhile, am making progress on a longer term project (non-fiction) I’d been wondering about doing for a while and have finally got around to tackling. I don’t know yet whether I’ll submit this to publishers or self publish but it is good to have both options on the table.

Am also making good progress on my novel too. My writing times are fairly consistent (which helps a LOT) and I’ve learned how to use which sessions for which projects in a way that suits me best.

I suppose the biggest lessons I’ve learned are to make the most of the time you do have AND accept you are in writing for the long haul. Stamina and persistence are key. (Good luck is a useful extra though!). How like life!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Once I’ve finished a few posts tonight, I’m going to use the picture prompt in my writing diary to draft a new flash fiction piece. The diary has one for every week in the year so that’s potentially 52 new stories to be written!

I do use picture prompts sometimes to trigger stories but tend to use phrases, proverbs, and things like that to get me started on stories. I’ve posted before about mixing up sources for ideas so I will be practising what I preach tonight at least!

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We talk about “moments of illumination” – well, flash fiction could be the written version of those! Such moments are always brief and reveal something not known before. Your flash stories should do that too and be to the point.

From the writer’s viewpoint, this is the fun bit as you get to decide what that moment is in your story. For me, it has to be a turning point, whether you “turn” the character or the direction your story is going in to surprise the reader. It is where twist endings come in because you can save the moment of illumination until then.

I often, when reading stories like this, then go back through the tale to look for any clues I may have missed that hinted at the story ending up the way it has. I usually spot something on that look again read and of course I can learn from that and develop the techinique for my own writing.

When I work out ideas for a story, I focus on the lead character and then plan all sorts of havoc either for them to experience or to be the cause of – all good fun! But I do need to know the lead character’s main trait/attitude first – I use this as a “driver” for working out who they are, what they know they are capable of, and so on.

For me, character is everything. The right characters for the right stories make them spark and come to life for the reader. A good character in a weak plot – both end up being disappointing. You get the feeling the character has been “wasted”.

I’ve found it pays to take my time in outlining a character (and this is a feature of Scrivener I adore. On their fiction setting, you have a template you can fill in to help you plot out a character and I’ve used this several times. Scrivener also have one for working out what the setting of the story is and I have used this but the character development one is really useful. I don’t tend to use it for flash fiction but for longer stories where I’ve got 2 or more characters to flesh out).

Once I’ve got my character, I’m generally well away into writing the story. While editing is always necessary, outlining at the start does stop you going off at an irrelevant tangent and has saved me considerable time.

Will have book offer related news later this week so stay tuned! Links and info up when I have them.

What are the difficulties of writing flash fiction?

1. It is so easy to overwrite and be well over the word count limit. Okay a very good edit will take care of that but the story still has to flow, make sense, and impact on readers, once that editing is done. There’s the real challenge, I think.

2. Knowing where and when to stop! (Having said that, if the idea is a strong one and you can continue it so you end up with a standard length short story, do so. You just enter that piece for standard length short story competitions and markets instead!).

3. Getting people to take the form seriously, though this situation is improving!

Goodreads Author Blog – Story Idea Spotting

Do you ever indulge in story idea spotting when reading a favourite novel? I do!

I love looking for what I think are the influences for a writer. To me this adds extra enjoyment to the story and gives me the perfect excuse for re-reading a book. Not that I really need one but never mind.

It’s my experience you never find all the influences/links in one read through! Sometimes not in two reads either!

Sometimes I know what the writer’s influences are in advance because I’ve read interviews etc and can then have fun seeing how these play out in what they have produced. Other times I don’t know and I get to play detective here.

What I like best is when spotting an influence in a book and it is clear the writer is a fan of another writer I also love. Double whammy!

Reading is fun anyway of course but for me this is extra and I love that.

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